International Communist Party Back to C.L. index - No. 1


No.52 - Spring 2024

Updated on August, 2023
War and "indifferentism"
The Labour Movement in the United States of America – Part 18. War: For capital, a panacea for all ills (cont.)
The Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today – Part one (cont.): Struggle for power in the two revolutions: 69. After April, onwards to the great struggle - 70. Legal preparation or preparation for battle? - 71. The post-April phase - 72. The struggle in the countryside - 73. The demands of the urban workers - 74. The First All-Russian Congress of Soviets - 75. The line-up at the Congress - 76. Lenin’s interventions - 77. The Bolshevik position - 78. “Popular” revolutions - 79. “Revolutionary democracy” - 80. Political economic measures
Summaries of two previous Party General Meetings:

Bringing the words of communism back into the hearts of proletarians of every country Video conference meeting, 26–28 May 2023 [RG 146]

The revolutionary doctrine of the working class on the historical failure of capital and the only redemption from the reemergence of the monsters of economic collapse shines brightly Video conference meeting, 29 September–1 October 2023 [RG 149]

Report abstracts:
     Theoretical topics: Marxist Theory of Knowledge: Heresies – Marxist Crisis Theory, Theories of surplus-value (David Ricardo, Thomas Robert Malthus)
     Historical topics: Course of the global economy: The course of world capitalism, The course of the economic crisis: A general overview – Origins of the Communist Party of China: Submission to the Kuomintang at the Fourth Congress of the International – Military Question: Russian Revolution (The second Kuban campaign, The first two battles of Tsaritsyn) – The Agrarian question: Historical background – Rise of the labour and communist movement in the Ottoman Empire: Introduction – History of the International Communist Party
    Current events: African blowback of the crisis in the imperialist hierarchyStill a neo-Ottoman Turkey: The Turkish bourgeoisie and the elections (A fragile compromise, Elections are always against the interests of the proletariat) – The selfless proletarian fight against pension reform in France: The Intersyndicale weakened, then ended the struggle, A first assessment – The continuity between democracy and fascism in Italy: The fascist-democratic interpretation in the “material constitution” of the state – Navigating contradictions: Japanese imperialism amidst stagnation and capital exports – The working class in Latin America: Report to the September 2023 General Meeting – The Party’s trade union activity in Italy, Report to the May 2023 General Meeting, Report to the September 2023 General Meeting
From the Archive of the Left:
     – Party and proletarian class organisations in the tradition of revolutionary communism (1975) (Part 1 of 3)





War and “indifferentism”

One thing is absolutely clear to us, who have historically been against all wars between imperialisms and have only fought for the war between classes for over a century: all warfare between the bourgeois states is the rule of the capitalist world, which has reached its full spread over the entire globe, at the lowest point of degeneration.

We communists do not stand for the victory of any one bourgeoisie over the other, but we are not indifferent to the unfolding historical drama. Analysts, career soldiers, journalists, sold out to the instructions of the big bourgeois tycoons or disciplined by the state, and big publishing groups linked to big national capital, go to great pains to explain to us the intricate relationships of the troops on the ground, the strategies in action, the prospects more or less favourable to one or the other side.

Which “victory”, a term that can now only be relative, or which cease-fire or armistice, occurs, must be a reason for us to study and analyse, because revolution is also the historical product of how the clash between the capitalisms of the world, between the imperialist monsters, evolves, as well as the dynamics of capitalism as a universal mode of production. But over everything, the absolutely necessary rebirth of the party of the revolution is required. The party has an obligation to understand, to analyse, obviously in the context of its capabilities, everything that is happening, both overt and covert.

But without its “war on war” there is only one true loser, the international proletariat, particularly that of Ukraine and that of Russia. This war is against them, men brought to opposite sides by the capitalists, disguised on the one hand as a defence of national freedom against the invader, on the other hand as a defence of the threatened Russian national integrity.

On these issues, which are not those of the pro-letarians of the two nations, but opposed to their class interests, both in the invaded nation and in the invading nation, the same lie that has always been repeated in previous wars and gave justificatory substance to the carnage of the First and Second World Wars, gathers strength and resonates. The current massacre is being played out on this infamous heap of patent falsehoods, imposed on the general public of the East and West.

In the West, pro-invasion propaganda is by far predominant, reaching disgusting levels of stupidity, while the bloody and equally lying publicity of the invader is rigorously silenced. One is reminded of the accounts of famous newspaper columnists for the edification of the populations during the First and Second World Wars. The tones are the same, the same lies propagated to drive proletarians to the slaughter, to stir up hatred among proletarians by smearing the “enemies”. Those of today enjoy no less barking and brazen techniques.

Only to a Party which unconditionally places itself on the side of the proletariat, which ‘has no fatherland’ and no flag, and is against bourgeois fatherlands and bourgeois flags, only to such a Party, which in the storm of war does not lose sight of the goal of the international communist revolution, which is both far and near, only to this Party, which is absolutely above and against all fighting parties, is it given to identify the historical consequences of one outcome or another of the bourgeois wars.

It is in this sense that we are “not indifferent”.

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The Labour Movement in the United States of America

Part 18
(continued from last issue)

War: For capital, a panacea for all ills

The union as an institution: cooperation to the bitter end

As the country had been at war for some months, the bourgeoisie could not admit voices of dissent because they were often accompanied by economic struggles (which never completely ceased during the war).

The repression of any class struggle worthy of the name and the “patriotic” and anti-worker mobilisation that accompanied it were soon flanked by another initiative aimed at countering the influence of anti-war propaganda within the workers’ movement.

The development of the US economy in the second half of the nineteenth century was accompanied by a vigorous growth of presence on international markets, especially after the crisis of the 1890s. The value of exports increased fivefold in the fifty years between 1860 and 1910, from 400 to 1,919 million dollars: but in the following five years it grew by 50%, reaching 2,966 million dollars in 1915. Since the 1890s, in fact, there has been a sharp increase in the attention paid to foreign markets. Entrepreneurs, financiers, and political leaders saw in commercial expansion, in the conquest of new markets, the indispensable solution to the dilemmas posed by growth. The end of the process of internal colonisation, the so-called “closing of the frontier”, induced the ruling class to look abroad for new spaces for the placement of surplus goods and capital. On this basis, the young American imperialism took its first steps: first, by consolidating its economic and political dominance over the two Americas, and secondly by trying to extend its influence over the Pacific area and the Far East. The “open door doctrine”, enunciated by Secretary of State John Hay in 1899 with regard to China, provided this expansionist drive with a “general strategy”, based on the pursuit of economic penetration in new markets rather than on the classic colonial practice of territorial conquest. At the beginning of the new century, therefore, the United States entered decisively into the international competition between the great powers. Twenty years later, at the end of the First World War, they were already in a position of clear predominance.

While big capital led this epochal advance, a newly formed working class was amassing in the cities, whose characteristics were continually modified, and even disrupted, by the continuous waves of migration from Europe. The differences produced by the different experiences at home intersected and overlapped with religious, cultural, and ethnic divisions. The latter became particularly relevant towards the end of the century and in the first fifteen years of the 20th century. The migratory flow reached the highest peaks, touching the average of almost one million arrivals per year, in the period between 1900 and 1914. Above all in this period, the influx of emigrants of Slavic or Latin origin from the Mediterranean or eastern areas of Europe became by far predominant, while in the 19th century the immigrants were mostly of Anglo-Saxon, German or Scandinavian origin. As land became more and more expensive, and the possibility of leaving Europe with even a small amount of capital became more and more rare, there were no other possibilities open to immigrants than life in a poor quarter of the city, working in a factory, or in a remote mining village. In the urban areas all the tensions deriving from the impact between an extremely composite and differentiated working class and an industry that was growing and changing its characteristics under the pressure of mechanisation and the search for maximum efficiency were concentrated.

In the course of what was called the “Progressive Era” all social components underwent a rapid evolution. The large corporation in a position of quasi-monopoly certainly represented the antithesis of the previous ideals of American democracy of a rural kind, whose central figures, the farmer and the small independent businessman, had given life to the culture, and the myths, of individualism. The organisation of the trusts constituted, on the economic level, a mortal threat to that culture, because their ability to control the market and prices eliminated every possibility, and even semblance, of free competition. In the political field, the concentration of wealth offered the possibility of corrupting and controlling public affairs on a scale hitherto unthinkable. For this reason, the fight against trusts had already constituted, in the last decades of the 19th century, one of the battle horses of rural populist agitation. Particularly rooted in the agrarian states of the Midwest, the populist movement had demanded, and in part obtained, around 1890, public control over railroad tariffs (Interstate Commerce Act) and measures to control respect for the rules of competition (Sherman Act). But the agitation against the trusts continued to remain, at least until the beginning of the World War, one of the central themes of the American political scene. The anti-monopoly controversy became, in fact, one of the battle horses of the “progressive” reform movements.

Exponents of the old ruling elites such as Theodore Roosevelt, intellectuals, professionals, merchants, generally the most open-minded members of the middle and upper classes, reacted openly in the face of the pressing radical change of status that threatened them. While on the one hand they saw the rise of the new, arrogant power of financiers and industrialists who, at the head of great economic empires, accumulated an enormous power of conditioning on the life of the country, on the other hand they felt the threat of a growing working class that tended to the organisation of strong unions and, at least potentially, to the construction of a socialist alternative.

Faced with the social upheaval resulting from the rapid growth of an industrial economy, the agitation of a “progressive” nature chose the dual path of denunciation in front of public opinion and the political battle at local and central level. In the early years of the century became famous journalists nicknamed muckrakers (shovelers of manure): they brought to light numerous scandals, abuses, episodes of corruption in the public life of the cities. It spread with them a publicity of denunciation first, and then analysis of the social plagues produced by the boom in industry and urbanism: dilapidated neighbourhoods, poverty, child labour and women in appalling conditions, accidents at work. But while attacking monopoly big business, they never lost sight of the danger posed by the working class, whose uncontrolled union organisation and growing presence of socialism and related ideologies were feared above all.

Big business had clear objectives: stability of the financial system, predictability of market trends, elimination of the harmful effects of competition, elimination or reduction of labour conflicts.

For this reason, the major reforms, especially at federal level, ended up being supported, and often designed and managed, by the most politically “enlightened” exponents of big financial and industrial capital. Thus, the reorganisation of the banking system, implemented in 1913 with the Federal Reserve Act, was directly inspired by the bankers, who created a more elastic and efficient credit structure. Similarly, the regulation of competition in the railways, the new Clayton law on trusts, the establishment of the Federal Trade Commission (responsible for the supervision of any monopolistic activities), the modification of protective tariffs, were all reforms launched with the consent of large industrial capital. The men of the large corporations participated directly in the conception and planning of reforms that were presented as an attempt at public control over certain aspects of the economic structure. And they were the ones called upon to be part of the federal commissions charged with administering and applying the reform laws. In this way, the control of major economic interests over politics was realised, the use of political instruments to rationalise the economic system, defined as “political capitalism”. It was a question of institutionalising the guidance of politics operated by capital, which is inseparable from the capitalist system of production, but which the bourgeoisie always tries to hide, so as not to highlight the class character of the state; and which only appears in the light of day when the bourgeoisie is forced to resort to the authoritarian solution.

The reforming thrust of big capital also had as its primary objective the pursuit of a “rational” and “efficient” harmony between classes, to prevent the emergence of an aggressive and organised working class, with all the dangers that this would entail.

The State sharpens its weapons of control

On the whole, in the first phase of the war, the administration’s labour policy was quite incisive and innovative even if its major results were limited to industrial sectors directly responsible for supplying the armed forces or building the structures and machinery necessary for their operation. In all sectors where the government intervened directly to regulate working conditions, wages rose (at least nominally) to levels required by the union pay scales, even where this had not been established since the first agreements, as in the case of shipyards. This was partially due to the pressure that the union leaders in the various agencies could exert, but the main reason was undoubtedly that the workers’ struggle would have exploded and extended much further without these measures, eliminating any possibility of guaranteeing social peace and making it impossible to use unions as instruments of conciliation and workers’ “empowerment”.

As far as working hours are concerned, the maximum limit of eight hours was established everywhere as the base time, while overtime hours – 50% or even 100% more than base pay – practically became the rule given the enormous demand for production. The government’s realisation of this long-held goal of the labour movement was necessary for the conciliation of labour and capital, and if it often was the tripartite agencies granting this measure to the workers without struggle, it is equally true that it was often forced from the employers without any government intervention. The bosses as a whole accepted this government policy and only in special and sporadic cases was any opposition exercised.

From the unions’ point of view, it allowed a considerable strengthening of their organisations firstly, within the workplace, because of the greater freedom they had towards the entrepreneurs, thanks to the governmental action against anti-union discrimination, and because of their growing rank and file; and secondly, more generally, because of the power they were gaining through the integration of production into the governmental apparatus.

The counterbalance to this process was the repression and destruction of the forces of the workers’ movement, which represented the only organised alternative to the conservative unions; this also constituted a valid deterrent for all those who could think of not respecting the peace agreement by the government and the leaders of the AFL

All these factors, on the other hand, while contributing to the strengthening of the unions, also shifted their main reason for strength from the ability to successfully face the employers to the permanence of cooperative relations with the government: that is, they made the unions less and less “self-sufficient”, as they liked to call themselves, and increasingly linked to political balance and to their orientation in a liberal sense. This produced some rather important changes within the AFL organisation itself, wherein all tendencies towards bureaucratisation and transfer of power to the top management of the unions were accentuated.

In January 1918, the United States Employment Service (USES) was born: a federal employment office, it was responsible for regulating the labour market. In general, its work was aimed at planning and organising a distribution of the workforce more in line with the needs of production sectors, thus remedying the chaos of the first year of war caused by the anarchic race of entrepreneurs to hire labour. Additionally, the USES supported and often directly organised new flows of labour, which should recreate a large reserve of labour for the bosses since the reserve once constituted by European immigrants – in addition to no longer being available during the War – was no more able to be used as a means of social stabilisation, because it had revealed itself to be the main subject of the proletarian struggle.

In March 1918, President Wilson decided to transform the War Industries Board (WIB) into an autonomous agency – answerable only to the President – whose director had the immense power to prioritise certain kinds of production and the distribution of supplies among the various sectors of the administration. Additionally, within the WIB there was also a Price Fixing Committee, which had to fix and control the prices of several industrial products. Ultimately, the war had the effect of creating ideal conditions for the self-regulation of industry, clearing any controversy about trusts and realising on a large scale the interactions between state and industry – a cooperation that the bourgeoisie is only able to temporarily achieve when the survival of its class is in peril. Stalinist statism was born in Washington.

The last among a series of agencies created by the administration, the National War Labor Board (NWLB) was born in April 1918 to perform a dual function: firstly, to be the central agency for mediation of labour conflicts, coordinating the work of all the other operating mediatory agencies, acting as the ultimate authority in this regard; secondly, to set up and select new conciliatory structures for productive sectors not already under con-trol. This was, in theory, solely with the war inter-est in mind, but in reality these powers extended much further and, in this way, the NWLB became a court of appeal for disputes not resolved locally.

The right of workers to organise themselves in trade unions and to deal collectively, through their representatives, with employers was formally recognised, and it was explicitly stated that employers could not fire workers because they belonged to a trade union or because they carried out legitimate trade union activities. The experiences of various agencies were thus recognised, and in particular of the President’s Mediation Commission, which entrusted a decisive role to collective bargaining for the containment of conflicts, and which at the same time, however, confined the possibilities of organisation and trade union activity of workers within the boundaries of the “patriotic” choice of cooperation for the elevation of war production. It is clear that the term “legitimate” did not apply to all activities considered de jure legal; it was also a political judgement: the door was left open to the repression of all workers who did not respect the agreements and the social truce decided by the unions. The right to collective organisation was, therefore, once again subordinated to the condition that it had aims and methods matching the official policy of the administration and its union allies.

Throughout the war period the claim on which the industrial proletariat fought periodically everywhere was the eight hours. It was the insistence of the workers for the eight hours, and their stubbornness to organise and fight for them, that made this measure so general and widespread during the war; the attitude of the NWLB and other agencies to adopt the reduction of hours was the result of such pressures. The action of the workers in particular was decisive in making even the most reluctant bosses accept the eight-hour and other measures proposed by the tripartite agencies.

Another focal point of the NWLB were the aforementioned shop committees, having an unprecedented spread and beginning to play an important role in obtaining the settlement of disputes directly in the workplace, on the largest possible scale, through conciliation and negotiation carried out personally by the workers and managements concerned. By the end of the war, the shop committees had lost all semblance of being instruments of workers’ struggle and organisation and became company unions – yellow unions – the nucleus of the reaction of capital within what was designated the American Plan; it was essentially the confirmation of the 1915 Rockefeller plan.

On the whole, the action of the tripartite agencies in the field of wages did not produce great changes; for the workers the improvements in living standards during the war were largely illusory. Although wages had increased in monetary terms (compared with 1914) by 11.6% in 1916, by 30% in 1917, and by 63% in 1918, this was hardly enough to keep up with the pace of inflation; in fact, in real terms, wages increased (compared to 1914) by 4% in 1916, by 1% in 1917, and by 4% in 1918. The regulation of working conditions by the government had not done anything other than prevent a net devaluation of wages with respect to the increase in the cost of living, and this result was also obtained above all through the constant pressure exerted by workers with strikes or with the simple threat of struggle.

The real and important changes taking place in the wage structure were the increase in the real wages of less skilled workers and the consequent decrease in the wage differences between the highest and lowest paid sections of the proletariat; these were due to the fact that unskilled workers – generally not organised in unions – had been able to take advantage of a shortage of the reserve workforce (thanks to the concomitance between a very high production demand, the employment of a certain part of the workforce in the armed forces, and the virtual disappearance of the high migratory flow) to impose their demands on both the bosses and the government.

The bourgeois solution: patriotism–democracy–corporatism

The key feature of the last year of the war was undoubtedly the decisive entry of the government into the field of relations between the bourgeoisie and the industrial proletariat. The establishment of the National War Labor Board and the War Labor Policies Board represents the start of a labour policy aimed on the one hand at coordinating and centralising the government’s conciliatory activity and on the other hand at coordinating and – up to a certain point – planning production, mainly intervening on wage and working conditions: an intervention caused by the war contingency, first foreseen and then real, which, as indeed in other countries in similar situations, requires perfect co-ordination of resources to achieve the goal of victory. In these cases, the bourgeois state does not hesitate to strike even the capitalists who do not comply with its regulations, a characteristic that in peacetime is more typical of manifestly dictatorial regimes, but even in that case the measure is linked to some form of emergency because the bourgeoisie prefers total anarchy of production, which it calls – rather pompously and crassly – “freedom”.

It goes without saying, however, that it is the proletariat that bears the brunt of emergencies and is made to sacrifice the most, by fair means (patriotism, vague promises, propaganda) or by brutal ones (threats of enrolment, repression, anti-union laws).

Indeed, the constitutive document of the NWLB gave official character and maximum authority, to collective bargaining and its tools, strengthening the boundaries within which it could develop, and thus constituting a powerful deterrent against any temptation to break the balance that had come to exist between the bosses, government, and conservative unions.

The consolidation of cooperation between these groups, and its centralisation under the protection of the state and government, tended to rather quickly assume authoritarian and orderly connotations. The wage policy of government agencies, thus, while meeting some of the proletariat’s demands in order to eliminate the most important causes of class conflict – establishing minimum wages and tying numerical wages to the trend in the cost of living (i.e., compensating for inflation) – also traced precise boundaries beyond which workers’ demands could not go. Beyond these borders there was only head-on confrontation with the state apparatus and with the broad political and trade union alignment that supported its policy.

It is good to remember that the spread and consolidation of collective bargaining, however extensive, especially during the war, never undermined or weakened the legal systems hitherto used to fight the unions. The target of these means had simply been redirected away from unions and towards radical organisations; they were far from done away with. The use of injunctions and legislation against trusts for the persecution of workers’ organisations, including conservative unions, would quickly make a comeback in the post-war period. However, even if temporarily, a much more solid institutional framework was established in the face of workers’ struggles, capable of intervening harshly in those conflicts where some of the cardinal points of its activity were questioned; its greater compactness accelerated the integration of trade unions and, as we have seen, managed to overturn even the behaviours and choices most rooted in their tradition.

All these factors led to a decrease in strikes in 1918, although if compared to the pre-war years the figures still remained very high (in 1918 there were 3,353 strikes compared to 4,450 in 1917 and 1,593 in 1915), but above all they put the government in a position to put an end to any social unrest that contested the guidelines of its policy. The administration therefore decisively imposed itself both on those companies (a few) that rejected the decisions of the NWLB by not accepting any form of bargaining with their organised employees, and above all onto struggling workers that broke the trade union truce and made demands that the conciliation agencies refused to accept.

What actually took place with the war was the political and institutional response given to the labour movement by big business. The dual policy conceived by the NCF towards the organised labour movement, centred on integration and cooperation with conservative unions and on the simultaneous frontal battle against the anti-capitalist and radical forces, reached its maximum extension with the world conflict and its own temporary triumph. Around it a large unity of entrepreneurs and more generally of the ruling classes was formed, as well as a certain consensus of vast sectors of public opinion, favoured and nourished by the climate of emergency and national unity that the war had brought with it.

Even the consequences of the practice of trade union agreements were, or at least tended to be, of a dual nature: on the one hand, unions accentuated their bureaucratic character, escaping more and more from the control of their rank and file and thereby disposing of their character as organisations of struggle; on the other hand, radical organisations and spontaneous workers’ struggles outside “legal” bargaining were isolated, marginalised, and repressed. But above all, the AFL and the unions were seen as instruments for the maintenance of social peace in the factory and as guarantors of equilibrium and consensus on a social level. As Commons wrote: ‘American workers’ organisations, however aggressive they might have been, were found to be the first bulwark against the revolution and the strongest defenders of constitutional government.’

This betrayal did not earn the unions a safe place in the government structure, but only a temporary political position that the post-war period would cancel.

A synthesis, one hundred years later

Our Party’s research work on the American labour movement – ended so far by the entry of the United States into the First World War on 6th April, 1917 – started with the seventeenth century, when the lack of resources suited for robbing the continent forced England, a colonial power in the region, to focus on the exploitation of labour to fill the coffers of the bourgeoisie and aristocrats. This labour, necessarily, had to come from outside – from Europe and Africa – consumed and replaced by ever new waves of immigrants; this is one of the constants that characterises the development of capitalism across the Atlantic, and especially of its working class. Another constant of the class struggle in North America has been violence: the United States can boast the bloodiest history of the labour movement in the ranks of the industrialised nations.

After the war for independence from England had begun with a massacre of proletarians in Boston, it was the workers of the cities who fought and won the war while the bourgeoisie was divided into two camps, English and American; the proletarians did not obtain any advantage except the generalised economic development of the country, largely to the benefit of the bourgeoisie. This national development was mainly built off of the strong exploitation of the proletariat, including women and children, while trade union associations were struggling to take off; the political movement suffered the same fate, despite numerous attempts to create a workers’ party, a problem that continued to exist throughout the nineteenth century.

A peculiar aspect of the working class in North America was its constant renewal due to the continuous migratory flows, which brought in the country the English, Irish, Germans, in a first phase, and subsequently emigrants from southern and eastern Europe. This phenomenon – accompanied by the growing attraction exerted by the western territories, where it was easy to obtain land to cultivate – meant a continuous renewal and reshuffling of the composition of the working class, causing immense difficulty in developing class consciousness and in the formation of workers’ organisations, both economic and political. The trade unions, which existed in large numbers since before the civil war, suffered the repercussions of the frequent crises, being born and disappearing with extreme ease.

The Civil War in 1861–1865 represented a further setback for trade union formation, which was nevertheless followed by a period of considerable activism due to the influence of the militants of the First International, who imported the socialist doctrine from Europe.

In the years following the Civil War, in parallel with the tumultuous economic growth, the working class grew both in number and combativeness, and great national strikes took place. Towards the end of the 1970s, the Knights of Labor developed, which – unlike trade unions – organised all workers, including non-skilled workers, women, and children. Despite its numerous successes, however, the leadership of the Knights of Labor did not like the weapon of the strike, and this attitude in the long run led to real betrayals of the struggling workers, and therefore to the decline of the organisation in flavour of trade unions, now united in the American Federation of Labor; which, in spite of the fact that its member unions continued to keep unskilled workers away, began to rise rapidly in the late 1880s.

Unfortunately, the trade unions – narrow and often localistic, aiming for partial results for the working-class aristocracy – was not what was needed in a country where a ravenous bourgeoisie would not retreat before anything to impose its terms. Against the struggling workers, in addition to the vigilantes of the company or rented from the Pinkerton agency, the local militias were always present, while the judges, always ready to submit to the demands of the bosses, did not spare injunctions and sentenced the strikers to severe penalties, often involving imprisonment. Not infrequently, in the most important cases, when all these resources were not enough, federal troops intervened. In addition to this complex bourgeois apparatus, there were numerous cases in which the AFL unions themselves sided with the bosses, or even organised scabbing. Many struggles were characterised by armed clashes, wounding and killing many.

With the rise of the new millennium, the interest of the AFL to present itself as a bulwark for the survival of capitalist society is clear, just as the Industrial Workers of the World was born with opposing union and political aims. The latter represented an example of militancy and dedication to the cause of the working class, but it was always a minority movement due to its fusion of the party and the union form; nevertheless, this did not prevent it from conducting great and hard struggles, especially in the western side of the country.

The final part of the period treated in this work – ending with the entry of the US into the first world war in 1917 – saw a growing attention and presence of the federal state in trade union matters, with the intent to eliminate the pressures of the most extreme sectors of the bourgeoisie and to organise in a homogeneous way the conditions of exploitation of the working class, in order to minimise the conflict between capital and labour, with preparation for entry into war in mind. This was done by peaceable means if possible, by ruthless ones whenever necessary. These ruthless means were, among other things, a harsh persecution of all non-cooperative trade union agitators and the outlawing of the IWW, even with the enactment of special laws, such as the Espionage Act and the law against criminal syndicalism.

State intervention also included a strong involvement of the collaborationist trade unions – those of the AFL in particular – with regard both to social peace and to the war effort, an involvement that the trade union movement adhered to with enthusiasm, being almost integrated into the state; it was so for a time in fact, but never in a completely formal way. Nevertheless, in fact, the “responsible” trade union is accepted by the bourgeoisie in its structure of government, a historical event that will soon be imitated in all capitalist countries, either in a disguised manner (democratic regimes) or in a directly institutional manner (dictatorial regimes).

A peculiar characteristic of the class struggle in the USA, which differentiates it from that which took place in Europe in the same years, at least in the more industrialised countries, was the scarce penetration of the socialist party into the class due on the one hand to the theoretical and organisational weakness of the parties that succeeded each other and on the other hand to conditions outside the class, such as the great distances between industrial concentrations, the virulence of the reaction of the bourgeoisie, the fluidity of class composition – often multi-ethnic and multilingual, with successive migratory waves, each time of proletarians less evolved than those already present (except in the case of the migration of the Germans in the central period of the 19th century, generally socialist workers); in fact, after the civil war and especially between 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War, immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe was almost exclusively composed of former peasants, who required years of factory work to acquire class consciousness. This, combined with the prevailing individualist ideology – derived from a past of pioneers – conditioned the development of the proletariat in both a political and union sense.

But it is clear that the most important, and most feared by the workers, was the first type of injunction: it was not only issued on the basis of the opinion of the entrepreneur and his version of the facts, but also had the advantage of a very rapid procedure, so as to be a formidable instrument of intervention against a strike or other action of struggle from its very beginning. In this way, an enormous amount of power was concentrated in the hands of judges whose conservative and pro-patron positions cannot be doubted: it is enough to think, for example, that in the federal courts alone, in the period between 1901 and 1921, the magistrates granted an injunction at the request of the entrepreneur 70 times and refused it only once! So what was supposed to be an “extraordinary remedy” under common law quickly became the “usual legal measure” in the attack on workers’ struggles and their organisations, and in fact it was used on the most diverse occasions.

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The Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today

"Struttura economica e sociale della Russia d’oggi",
in Il Programma Comunista no. 10, 1955 to no. 4, 1956

Part One
Struggle for power in the two revolutions
Chapters 69 to 80

[ Full text ]

Summaries of two previous General Meetings

Bringing the words of communism back into the hearts of proletarians of every country
Video conference meeting, 26–28 May 2023 [RG 146]

As arranged in good time and convened by the party’s international centre, a general meeting was held from Friday, 26 May to Sunday, 28 May. Individuals and local groups were connected by tele-conference.

At the Friday preparatory meeting, which was reserved for comrades, 11 countries were represented, at the Saturday and Sunday sessions, which were also open to serious candidates, 13.

At this meeting, too, communication between the different languages was felicitously resolved by providing those present with written translations, in English, Italian and Spanish, of both the section and group reports for Friday (also drafted and sent to the centre in advance) and the extended reports for Saturday and Sunday. Further additions, information, requests for clarification and proposals from individuals are translated immediately. This is such an arrangement that all comrades can fully get to know and appreciate our work everywhere and in its entirety.

The Party prides itself on the fact that all its activity, including meetings – although it always requires great commitment and sometimes has to deal with issues that are not easy and immediate to resolve – takes place in total order and discipline. In a natural and spontaneous way, we work together for communism, without having to rely on statutes, laws, or regulations. Not because we would be attracted by the bourgeois myth of freedom and anarchy, which is always individualistic, but because we can go beyond these miseries, the party being a structure not traversed by opposing class interests.

This is how it will be for the communist society, and before it, also for the reborn party that is strong and world-wide.

Order of business
Friday: - Report of the work of the groups and sections, coordination, planning and organization of initiatives for the coming months

- Heresies
Saturday: - The course of global capitalism

- New labour combativeness in the United States

- The working class in Latin America

- Marxist theories of crisis – theories of surplus-value

- The development of capitalism in Mexico

- The origins of communism in Turkey

- Still a neo-Ottoman Turkey
Sunday: - Pension reform in France

- The civil war in Italy after the First World War

- The Party’s trade union activity in Italy

- The military question in the Russian Revolution – the second Kuban Campaign

- The agrarian question: Historical background

- The origins of the Communist Party of China

The revolutionary doctrine of the working class on the historical failure of capital and the only redemption from the re‑emergence of the monsters of economic collapse shines brightly

Video conference meeting, 29 September–1 October 2023 [RG 147]

The general meeting of the Party was convened from Friday 29 September to Sunday 1 October. Some 70 comrades from 10 countries were connected by tele-conference.

As usual, the Friday session, reserved for militants, was devoted to the organisation of the meeting and our general sessions, those on Saturday and Sunday to the presentation of reports, to which those seriously interested in engaging in our disciplined work are also admitted.

On Friday, the working groups updated each other on their many activities. The comrades came to the meeting after they had worked together, in growing understanding, even from distant countries, through a daily correspondence that, in respectful, pragmatic, and dense ways, we pride ourselves on resembling the lifelong correspondence between Marx and Engels.

Out of this collective work come results perfectly in tune with Marxist doctrine and our best Party tradition. These works and activities, in terms of variety, consistency and coherence, given the minuscule size of our membership, truly appear to be a ‘miracle’, materially determined by the historical urgency of communism. It is made possible not by the exceptional skills of today’s comrades, but by the organic method of our work, free of the miseries of bourgeois civilisation: individualism, infighting, and competition.

We listened to the reports of the local groups, of the progress in our press initiatives, periodicals, and monographs, of intervention in the trade unions in the various countries, of the possibilities of disseminating our words, to be formulated ever better in relation to the current monstrous convulsions of the dying world of capital.

Order of business
Friday: - Well‑developed reports of the activity of each section and working group

- The continuity between fascism and democracy in Italy

- The agrarian question in the feudal epoch
Saturday: - Japan in the Economic Crisis

- On the history of the International Communist Party

- Theories of surplus-value: Robert Malthus

- Labour struggles in Latin America

- Democracy: false friend of socialism

- The Red Army in Germany, 1919
Sunday: - The military question in the Russian Revolution – The first two battles of Tsaritsyn

- Strikes and union activity in the United States

- The course of the world economic crisis

- Origins of socialism in the Ottoman Empire

- The Party’s trade union activity in Italy

- The recent coups in African states

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Report Abstracts

A – Theoretical Topics

Marxist theory of knowledge

Part III: Heresies

In the 11th and 12th centuries cities were born or reborn, particularly in north-central Italy and Flanders, but also in northern France, Burgundy, Provence, and Rhenish Germany. The pre-bourgeois merchant and petty-nobility classes settled there, which first clashed and then merged and gave rise to the bourgeoisie around the 13th century. In central-northern Italy, in those same centuries, the Communes established themselves, which tended towards real autonomy from the empire and self-government, more markedly than in the other regions of the former Carolingian Empire.

Together with the cities and the bourgeoisie, ‘heresies’ appeared, in an incomparably more evident manner than in previous centuries. Such religious conceptions, heretical or not, always had at their basis ‘millenarianism’, the expectation of the end of time, messianism and the model of the first Christian communities, where all goods were pooled.

These conceptions did not constitute an ideology useful to the bourgeoisie, but were often taken up by merchants and bourgeoisie as well. To this we can give two explanations. The first, and most obvious, consists in the dominance of a religious ideology that saw the return to the origins as the only possible remedy against a present ‘degenerated’ due to the ‘corruption’ of the Church and the Empire, institutions that should instead have marched on the tracks of divine Providence. This ideology was shared not only by the bourgeoisie and the nobility, but also by peasants and urban plebs.

The second explanation, which interests us most, is that the nascent bourgeoisie felt, albeit confusedly, the need to oppose the entire feudal system, which all millenarian and pauperist conceptions criticised. In the absence of its own ideology, the bourgeoisie made use of such censures, accepting along with them the conceptions of which they were part, whether heretical or not.

The ‘dream-need’ of communism

Patarenes, Cathars, Waldensians, Spiritual Franciscans, Fraticelli, Michaelites, Dulcinians: these were the main heresies between the 11th and 14th centuries.

In our press, we have dealt with the ‘“dream-need” of communism’. Communism only became a real possibility with the rise of capitalism, when communist sentiment was joined by communist reason, i.e., our scientific historical programme, from the mid-19th century. Before then, communist sentiment, which had been present since antiquity in opposition to successive class societies, could only take the forms of millenarianism, messianism and utopianism.

Generally, heresies were not born as such, and if doctrinal divergences remained, they were often tolerated. When they did not obey the authority of the pope and bishops, preaching new principles and creating new religious orders without their permission, they ceased to be so.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, the Church’s attitude was not yet unequivocal: measures against heretics ranged from conversion, confiscation of possessions (certainly the most widespread measure) and in the most ‘obstinate’ cases imprisonment and the death penalty.

There was a turning point with Pope Innocent III and his decretal Vergentis in senium of 1199, which drew on Roman law, the codes of Theodosius and Justinian, and the penalties then reserved for Manicheans. Heresy was equated with the crime of lèse-majesté, and the crime against the emperor became a crime against God. Conversely, crimes against the emperor could be punished as heresy. Sometimes the common people of the cities and the peasants killed and burned the alleged heretics before the Church pronounced itself, but it is also true that the city institutions often participated unwillingly in episcopal and inquisitorial initiatives against heretics. This was sometimes out of sympathy for them, but mainly out of fear of having their autonomy curtailed in favour of the bishop, the Inquisition, and the Church.

The apocalypse

The term comes from the Greek ἀποκάλυψις (apokálupsis), meaning manifestation, revelation, appearance, discovery. The Apocalypse of John, written at the end of the 1st century, had this meaning. In later centuries, the term took on the meaning of death, fear, and terror.

Today, the apocalyptic vision is greater in the atheist, rationalist bourgeoisie than in those with religious beliefs. The bourgeois, whether atheist or religious, feel the smell of death of their class that has no future, because they cannot and do not want to believe in a future without capitalism, without the bourgeoisie. ‘The world has no future’ – so they say. Hence their black and gloomy visions of the future, populated by nightmares of environmental, climate, food, nuclear, demographic disaster, etc. Of course, all this for them is not due to the capitalist system of production, but to the imperfection, or wickedness, of human nature.

Even science fiction creates worlds, beyond appearances, very similar to the real one: not even in fantasy can the bourgeoisie conceive of a world not shaped by capitalist relations of production.

The hope, the certainty in the ‘kingdom of heaven’, the future of the subaltern classes that preceded the birth of the proletariat, were inherited by the communists.

Communist sentiment and reason

All the groups of the medieval centuries in question, heretical and otherwise, steeped in millenarianism, messianism, and Joachimism, may make us smile at their ideological views, but they are on our side of history. The term ‘compagno’, meaning 'comrade’, comes from the Latin ‘con panis’ and indicates those who eat at the same table. This term was commonly used by Franciscans.

It is only with the birth of capitalism and the reflection on it, culminating in the Manifesto of the Communist Party of 1848, that sentiment is united with reason and science, giving rise to our historical programme. In the name of the common communist sentiment, with the various Waldensians, Franciscans, and Dulcinians, we sit at the same table and share the same bread, the fruit of the earth and human labour.

This same bread that capitalism turns into stone. The latter is not just a metaphor: Marx himself describes how already in his time flour was mixed with marble dust, to increase the weight of the bread, and thus sell it at a higher price and profit.

The reality of capitalism is worse than any fantasy, and it is worse than whatever “conspiracy” the bourgeoisie concocts to give an easy explanation for what they do not know, cannot, and do not want to understand.

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* * *

Marxist crisis theory –
Theories of surplus-value

David Ricardo (cont.)

We resume the exposition of the chapter on theories of crises concerning Ricardo, which will go into the study of the bourgeois conception of the fall of the rate of profit, accumulation and consequently the crises of overproduction, the utmost horror of every apologist, hired to deny the catastrophe to which the abominable last classist mode of production constantly tends.

The language used at this juncture by Marx is far from simple and straightforward, but every great scientific achievement is dutifully preceded by a good deal of effort, and this we require of the communist reader whose brain muscles must train to learn the theory of the liberation of the proletariat.

The amplitude of space devoted to Ricardo in Theories of Surplus Value allows the same principles to be taken up again and again so as to approach the crux of the matter in stages.

One of the most important points in the Ricardian system is the discovery that the profit rate has a tendency to fall.

According to Smith, this would occur as a result of increasing accumulation and the accompanying increasing competition of capital. Ricardo retorts to this argument by stating that competition can equalise profits in the different branches of production; however, it cannot lower the general rate of profit.

The tendency for the rate of profit to fall is also derived from the increase in the rate of land rent, but this tendency of rent does not actually exist, and with that falls its effect on the fall in the rate of profit.

Second, the research rests on the erroneous assumption that the rate of surplus-value and the rate of profit coincide, and that therefore a fall in the rate of profit corresponds to that of surplus value.

Ricardian theory thus rests on erroneous assumptions: 1) that the existence and growth of the land rent are conditioned by the decreasing fertility of agriculture; 2) that the rate of profit is equal to the rate of surplus-value and can rise or fall only in inverse proportion to how the wage declines or rises.

At this point, it is necessary to shift attention to the arena where all the contradictions and antitheses of bourgeois production come to explosion: the world market. Precisely because all the contradictory elements reach their climax here, apologetics unleashes its worst weapons and, instead of investigating what the contradictory elements that explode in the catastrophe consist of, it contents itself with denying the catastrophe and insisting, in the face of the regular periodicity of crises, that if production conformed to the schoolbooks the end of prosperity would never come. Apologetics, then, consists in the falsification of the simplest economic relations and especially in holding firm to unity in the face of antithesis.

In order to show that capitalist production cannot lead to general crises, all conditions and determinations of form, all principles and specific differences, in short capitalist production itself, are denied, and in fact it is shown that if the capitalist mode of production, instead of being a specifically developed, peculiar form of social production, were a mode of production left behind its crudest origins and its antitheses, its own contradictions, and therefore also its explosions in crises, would not exist. The crises are eliminated through reasoning that denies the first presuppositions of capitalist production, the existence of the product as commodity, the splitting of the commodity into commodity and money, the moments resulting from this of separation in commodity exchange, and finally the relation between money or commodity and wage labour.

What, then, are the conditions that make crises possible?

  1. The general possibility of crises in the process of the metamorphosis of capital is given, doubly so: insofar as money acts as a means of circulation, separating buying from selling; insofar as it acts as a means of payment, where it operates at two different moments, as a measure of values and as a realization of value.
  2. Crises that result from price changes that do not coincide with changes in the value of goods.
  3. The general possibility of crisis is the metamorphosis of form of capital, that is, the temporal and spatial separation of buying and selling.
  4. Crises can also be generated by disproportionate transformations of surplus capital in its various elements.
  5. Crises arising from disrupted transformation of commodities into money.

The final chapter addressed the contradiction between the development of productive forces and the limitation of consumption.

Ricardo believes that the commodity-form is indifferent to the product; further that the circulation of commodities is only formally different from barter; that exchange-value is here only a transient form of material exchange; that therefore money is simply a means of circulation.

He is forced to believe that the bourgeois mode of production is the absolute mode of production, thus without any specific determination. Thus, he cannot even admit that the bourgeois mode of production implies a limit to the free development of the productive forces, a limit that comes to light in crises.

It comes to light, among other things, in overproduction, a fundamental phenomenon of crises, which Ricardo is forced to deny. The difficulties Ricardo and others raise against overproduction rest on the fact that they regard bourgeois production as a mode of production in which there is no difference between buying and selling. Or as social production, such that society, as if according to a plan, apportions its means of production and its productive forces to the extent that they are necessary for the satisfaction of its various needs, so that each sphere of production touches the share of social capital required for the satisfaction of that need.

This fiction arises from the inability to understand the specific form of bourgeois production. And this misunderstanding arises from being sunk into bourgeois production, understood as simply production, just as someone who believes a particular religion sees in it simply religion and outside of it only false beliefs.

Thomas Robert Malthus

The exposition of Malthus’ general theory concludes the series of reports devoted to the analysis of the main exponents of ‘classical’ economics.

Malthus takes a position that tends to distinguish himself from Smith and Ricardo, convinced that he is introducing innovative hypotheses and alternative solutions into the economic debate. While economics would be a science, it is closer to the moral and political sciences than to the natural sciences, with the result that the theoretical scheme takes on eclectic connotations. This position is well expressed by a quotation from the Principles of Political Economy we have been reading. To demonstrate this, it has been recalled that the theory of value is not rejected by Malthus, but is considered only as a limiting case, that is, valid only in the exchange between two commodities produced with capital of equal organic composition, thus not being generalisable; on the contrary, the general principle should be sought in the law of supply and demand.

Malthus’ first concern is to erase the Ricardian distinction between ‘value of labour’ and ‘quantity of labour’. Since what a quantity of labour is exchanged against, namely wages, constitutes the value of this quantity of labour, it is a tautology to say that the value of a given quantity of labour is equal to the mass of money or commodities against which this labour is exchanged. This simply means that the exchange value of a given quantity of labour is equal to its exchange value, also called wages. But it does not at all follow that a given quantity of labour is equal to the quantity of labour contained in wages or in the money or commodities in which wages are represented.

According to Malthus the value of a commodity is equal to the sum of money to be paid by the buyer, and this sum of money is valued by the mass of common labour, which can be bought with it. But by what this sum of money is determined, is not said. It is the vulgar representation of it in common life in which cost price and value are identical; it is the image of value proper to the philistine entangled in competition.

Seeking internal solutions within the classical school to the problems posed by Smith and Ricardo, however, the transition to the vulgar conception is made. In fact, he is forced to derive surplus value from the fact that the seller would sell the commodity above its value, that is, at a greater labour time than that contained in it. In this way, however, what the capitalist would gain as seller of one commodity, he would lose as buyer of another, in a reciprocal swindle.

Where then would the buyers come from who pay the capitalist the amount of labour that is equal to the labour contained in the commodity plus its profit? The only exception is the working class.

Since profit derives precisely from the fact that workers can only buy back part of the product, the capitalist class can never realise its profit by means of worker demand. Another demand is necessary. For the capitalist to realise his profit would therefore require buyers who are not sellers. Hence the need for landowners, those on pensions or sinecures, priests, etc., with the result that Malthus champions the maximum possible accretion of the unproductive classes.

Malthus’ theoretical conclusions are therefore in line with his own role as apologist. Ricardo represents bourgeois production as such, as signifying the freest unfettered deployment of social productive forces. Malthus, too, wants the freest possible development of capitalist production, produced solely from the misery of those who are its chief architects, the working classes, but it must at the same time accommodate the ‘consumption needs’ of the aristocracy and its branches in the state and church.

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B - Historical Topics

Course of the global economy

The course of world capitalism

The past two years have been particularly chaotic.

After a prolonged period of deflation following the great crisis of 2008-2009, inflation has returned. Initially, production could not keep up with demand, leading to congested ports due to a shortage of container ships. Consequently, prices for transportation, raw materials, and energy skyrocketed. This upward trend extended to grain prices, driven by a combination of a general drought and China’s large demand to feed its population and animal herds. The imperialist war between Russia and Ukraine, which commenced in February 2022, temporarily sent both energy and grain prices soaring.

What’s more, starting in March 2022, the Fed began raising interest rates to combat inflation and restore a “normal” economic situation. This move was followed by all other major central banks, excluding Japan. However, after years of near-zero or even negative interest rates, such a hike is not without consequences and is expected to contribute to increased chaos.

The incidental and underlying causes of the return of inflation have been explained in previous reports. A further factor was the ‘just in time’ practice of companies minimising stocks in order to lower production costs. Thus, when the period of Covid quarantine came to an end in most of the big imperialist centres, in order to replenish themselves, companies simultaneously issued orders to suppliers. The demand was so sudden and colossal that they could not meet it. Similarly, the monopolistic shipping companies, which had hitherto had a surplus of container carriers, were unable to meet the demand and freight rates began to rise. The result was a logistical bottleneck and a surge in prices.

Given their monopoly position, producers and multinationals in the sector have seen speculation result in significant price fluctuations, yielding stratospheric returns in both 2021 and 2022.

The suspension of gas and oil supplies from Russia imposed on Europe under the pretext of the war in Ukraine sent prices soaring. These peaked in July–August 2022; since then, they have fallen, the price of a barrel of oil even dropping to $70 for a time.

Fearing a drop in prices due to the looming recession, OPEC+ initially curtailed production by 2 million barrels in October, followed by an additional 1.1 million in May, and has plans for another reduction of 1.6 million starting in July. Oil prices saw minimal impact from the announcement, briefly rising to $80 before settling back below $72 by late May. Natural gas, reaching a peak of €350 per MWh, subsequently retreated to below 30, nearing pre-Covid levels of around $20 per MWh.

In addition to these immediate causes, there had been insufficient investment in the past decade due to low prices. Today, as a result of the sharp rise in prices, investments are being directed toward hydrocarbons, and those in renewable energy are being reduced. The average cost of producing oil offshore is $18, onshore $28. The rest is rent.

Despite the stronger dollar reducing import prices, inflation in the United States surpassed that of Europe in 2021, prior to the Ukraine invasion, and during the initial half of 2022. However, the situation reversed thereafter. Following peaks in June 2022 for the U.S. and October 2022 for the Eurozone, inflation steadily declined, as evident in the displayed graph at the meeting. In the United States, inflation began to decrease earlier, despite ambitious investment plans, due to earlier and more rapid increases in interest rates. Consequently, although both regions are experiencing falling inflation, it is currently higher in Europe than in the United States.

The decline in average inflation in the Eurozone hides a disparity between countries. While Germany has traditionally been one of the European countries with the lowest inflation, it is not surprising that the country that drew on cheap Russian supplies ended up leading the inflationary surge, followed by Italy and the United Kingdom. In France, where Russian gas accounted for only 17 percent of imported gas, inflation has remained lower; but here we still do not have a drop in inflation, even though shrinking consumption is exerting deflationary pressure, as in other countries.

Indeed, in addition to causing repeated banking crises due to the devaluation of low-interest bonds, rising rates also induce a decline in consumption, which in turn leads to a contraction in production, or at least a sharp slowdown in its growth.

The most severely affected nations are in Asia, with Japan and Korea leading the list, followed by Germany. The United States is also grappling with a significant slowdown, despite substantial investments and efforts to bolster household consumption. As depicted in a chart, Japan has been in a continuous recession since September 2021. Germany, aside from four months showing positive year-over-year increases, has consistently experienced negative trends since September 2021, with annual growth ranging from -0.1 percent to -5.5 percent.

The UK, on the other hand, has been in the midst of recession since October 2021, which explains the numerous strikes and demonstrations that are rocking the country.

Similarly, since September 2021, France has fluctuated between slightly positive and slightly negative annual increases, with the largest gap ranging from +1.8 percent to -2.8 percent.

Italy offers a slightly better picture, but since June 2022 negative increases have exceeded positive ones.

Poland, which experienced a notable surge in production since becoming a member of the European Union, has witnessed a slight downturn in the industry over the past three months. This follows a marked slowdown between October and December and is concurrently influenced by a decline in international demand.

On the other hand, as seen in the graph, the drop in production in South Korea is spectacular. While Germany is heavily dependent on world markets, particularly those in China, Europe, and North America.

India seems to be escaping global deflation for now, with relatively high increases. This is due to its poor integration into the world market and the relative weakness of its industry relative to its demographic weight.

After a recession from August 2021 to March 2022, Brazil experienced a slight recovery from July 2022 to November 2022. The -1.1 percent annual decline recorded in December is indicative of a return to recession.

In Turkey, after a sharp slowdown in industrial production from July 2022, the increases have now turned negative, dropping to -7.5 percent by February 2023.

Canada, a major exporter of commodities, particularly oil, has seen all its increases remain positive, but slowing sharply since June 2022, from 5.8 percent annually in May 2022 to 1.7 percent in February 2023.

In conclusion, the steadfast old mole persists in its splendid subversive efforts. The contradictions within the economic undercurrents intensify, creating immense pressures that will inevitably rupture the capitalist framework, akin to a colossal volcano unleashing accumulated forces.

Driven by necessity, the proletariat of the whole world will be on the move again, directed by its class party, to resume its place in history.

Decline in inflation

The surge in interest rates has initiated a global economic decline, bringing the world to the brink of a recession. Consequently, there has been a noticeable decline in inflation. After reaching its peak in June 2022 at 9.1% in the U.S. and in October 2022 at 10.6% in Europe, inflation dropped to 5.5% in Europe and 3% in the U.S. by June 2023. However, there was a slight resurgence of inflation in the U.S., reaching 3.7 in August. This phenomenon is attributed to the summer season and government incentives aimed at stimulating industrial production and supporting the development of new technologies.

In Europe, there are indications that the inflation disparity among various countries is narrowing. In June, the highest recorded inflation values were 6.3% in the United Kingdom and 4.9% in France. A significant contributing factor to this trend is undoubtedly the escalation in fuel prices, closely linked to the upward trajectory of oil prices.

In a bid to bolster oil prices, OPEC+ has consistently reduced daily production. This strategy has led to a significant imbalance between supply and demand in the third quarter, reaching 1.6 million barrels per day – the highest level since 2021. To counteract this decline, countries dependent on oil consumption are depleting their stocks. In August alone, they withdrew 76.3 million barrels, bringing reserves to their lowest point in 13 months. Consequently, this depletion has contributed to a surge in prices, with Brent crude oil from the North Sea reaching $94 per barrel in September 2023.

The escalation of prices cannot be solely attributed to certain countries’ monopolies on hydrocarbon production. Another contributing factor is the under-investment observed in the raw materials and energy sectors over the past decade, coupled with speculation that identifies opportunities for significant profits.

However, within the chronic crisis of the capitalist mode of production, periods of recession are anticipated to be succeeded by a new wave of deflation. However, within the chronic crisis of the capitalist mode of production, periods of recession are anticipated to be succeeded by a new wave of deflation. Central banks will then once again have to rush to the rescue of capital to keep it from collapsing.

Industrial production

The general trend is not only moving towards a sharp slowdown, but even toward recession.

In the United States, despite the government injecting hundreds of billions of dollars to support industrial production and modernise it by developing new technology branches, there has been a noticeable slowdown, with growth approaching zero since December 2022. In terms of industrial production, which includes shale oil and gas, there is only a slight growth of 0.2% in the first eight months of 2023 compared to the entire year of 2022. Conversely, when considering manufacturing production alone, there is a decline of 1.7%, contributing to a 15-year decrease, bringing the sector to -7.6% from its peak in 2007.

Although a few hundred billion dollars in government aid will allow American industrial production to modernise and cope with the “energy transition”, this will not prevent the spread of the historical crisis of the capitalist mode of production.

Japan’s economy continues to trudge along. After a recovery of 5.1% in 2021, compared with -10.1% in 2020, and the very modest 0.2% growth in 2022, Japan will record -1.6% in 2023, bringing the level of output to -19% from its peak reached in 2007.

South Korea, after years of relatively strong growth, averaging 2.8%, is now in the midst of a recession with a 6.1% drop in industrial production in the first seven months of the year! This figure is not to be dismissed lightly; it represents a robust downward trend, signalling a formidable crisis of overproduction.

Germany has been in recession since September 2021. Along with Belgium, it was one of the few Western European countries to have surpassed the high reached in 2008 but has now lost its gains.

From 2014 to 2018, Germany’s growth was weak (1.5% annual average) but steady, while in the other Western European countries’ growth picked up only during the two-year period 2017-18, marked by a favourable international economy, and then declined from 2019 onward in all major imperialist countries, including China. In the first seven months of 2023, German industry recorded a very slight gain over 2022, by 0.21%. However, the level of production fell 7.7% from its 2018 peak, while compared to that of 2008 we have a minus 0.7%, in other words, German capitalism is back to where it started.

The energy tariff choice made by the German bourgeoisie has been imposed on all of Europe by aligning the price of electricity with the price of gas. This ensures that German industry is not disadvantaged compared to French industry, which benefits from cheaper energy due to nuclear power. The French bourgeoisie agreed to sacrifice its own industry, seeking gains from increased energy rent, and aimed to enrich itself at the expense of the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie by privatising electricity production. A growing mass of parasites bought electricity from EDF at low prices to sell it at a higher price on the “free market”.

The German bourgeoisie for energy supply had bet on Russian cheap gas. But after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian imperialism, Germany found itself forced to buy oil and gas from other suppliers at high prices, thus reducing the competitiveness of its industry in the face of China and the United States. While the latter produces shale gas and oil, China buys most of its hydrocarbons from Russia at a 30% discount. The Kremlin thus becomes increasingly dependent to Chinese imperialism.

Similar to many older imperialist countries, Germany invests relatively little in infrastructure and digital technology, and a portion of its industrial apparatus is obsolete. This weakness undermines the competitiveness of German capitalism.

For years, Germany has heavily invested in China to capitalise on the booming market of the giant nation. The remarkable development of Chinese capitalism in the first two decades of the century significantly contributed to increasing the average rate of profit and offered a gigantic market, thereby extending the life of the capitalist mode of production for several more decades. This became possible because, starting from the 1950s, Chinese state capitalism developed a formidable industrial base with the necessary infrastructure that facilitated the inflow of investments. German monopolies in the automotive, mechanical, and chemical industries, by making massive investments in China, generated fabulous profits for years. However, as Chinese capitalism, having acquired know-how from the West, has seen its growth slow down, it is now capable of competing in sectors like machine tools, chemicals, and motor vehicles, which constitute the strengths of German capitalism.

China stands as Germany’s largest trading partner, with the interchange between the two countries reaching $300 billion. However, Germany’s trade deficit is steadily growing – a trend that could intensify with the increasing competition from Chinese electric cars, whose prices are highly competitive. Europe, and particularly Germany, lags behind in this sector and struggles to compete with Chinese production. After years of reluctance to invest in the production of batteries, magnets, and electric motors, European industry, especially German industry, finds itself fighting for survival. The lucrative car market could slip away entirely from the middle class, as Europe proves incapable of producing vehicles that can compete in terms of both price and quality. In its senile crisis, German capitalism faces the risk of succumbing to far stronger imperialist powers.

French capitalism, like German capitalism, experienced a slightly better industrial output growth of 0.51% in 2023 compared to 2022, which had witnessed a mild recession. However, the overall picture is even less optimistic than in Germany. In comparison with 2019, production is 4.9% lower, while it remains 12% below its 2007 peak. In other words, the level of production is very close to that of 2009, during the worst times of the overproduction crisis. Despite various measures taken, the older imperialist states are evidently struggling to overcome the crisis that occurred between 2000 and 2009.

The other great sick man of Europe is the United Kingdom. After the strong recovery in 2021 from the fall of 2020, Britain has been in recession again since October 2021. If we compare the index for the first seven months of 2023 with those of 2022, we have a -1.4%, a decline that follows that of -3.7% in 2022. If we compare the 2019 index with the high reached in 2000, we find that in 2022 industrial output is still 6.6% lower than it was 22 years earlier. Hence, British capitalism has been in recession since the 2000s. But, as if by magic, the statisticians of the British bourgeoisie have manipulated all the indices. If we take the average of the first seven months of 2023, a year of recession compared to 2022, also in recession, we get a surplus of 1.5% over the 2000 index! Thus, the British bourgeoisie would have us believe that British capitalism is doing better than German capitalism.

Even this foolishness is for us a confirmation of their decadence: soon the bourgeoisies of all countries will no longer be capable of producing reliable statistics. Instead of industrial production they will rely on the far more dubious GDP statistics.
The situation in Italy is not any better. Following a robust recovery in 2021 with a growth rate of +11.7%, which came after a decline of 11% in 2020, growth dwindled to +0.4% in 2022 before turning negative in 2023 with a decline of -2.7%, based on indices for the first nine months of the year. Despite positive performances in 2017 and 2018, Italian capitalism had managed to narrow the gap with the 2007 peak by a still significant 17.6%. Despite the post-pandemic recovery, industrial production is still 20% lower than it was in 2007.

In Poland, the accumulation of industrial capital has maintained a notable average annual growth rate of 5.4% for a few years. This growth is particularly remarkable when juxtaposed with the decrepit capitalisms of the Old Continent.

But the with recession at the beginning of the year, production recorded a 1.7% drop in the first six months.

World trade shows a slowdown in exports as of October 2022, but they have fallen sharply for most major imperialist countries. The exports of China, Korea, the United States and Belgium have decreased by about 10%. Those of Japan by 5%. Chinese imports decreased 15% in July on a year-on-year basis. As usual, the decline in imports is synonymous with a domestic recession.

We can conclude that, as expected, after two years of growth in 2017 and 2018, global capitalism is once again in recession. It should be noted that the old imperialist countries, with the exception of Belgium and Germany, have never regained the levels they reached in 2007: all the recovery of the last two years has been lost and the scale of production in most of the major imperialist countries is now close to that of 2009!

China has also felt the impact of the recession, experiencing notable bankruptcies in the real estate sector, such as Evergrande. The overall scenario involves high unemployment rates, with at least 20% of young people facing joblessness, a decline in consumption, and a return to deflation. With this crisis, there is a looming threat to an entire sector of China’s petty bourgeoisie and middle class, risking financial ruin.

On a global scale, the colossal debt of companies, households, and states is accumulating, not to mention the devaluation of trillions of bonds. Consequently, the situation is considerably worse than it was in 2009.

In the current state of affairs, as all capitalisms strive for survival, we can anticipate an increasingly fierce trade war. However, a time will come when the failure of a few major companies, subsequently leading to the collapse of a large bank, will set off a chain reaction. The “every man for himself!” approach will inevitably be triggered for the major imperialist states, and some may be compelled to declare bankruptcy.

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Origins of the Communist Party of China

Submission to the Kuomintang at the Fourth Congress of the International

The orientation of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International on the Chinese question, favouring the cooperation of the Communist Party of China with the Kuomintang as the Communists began to enter in the Nationalist Party, was formalized in a resolution of the Executive of the International on January 12, 1923:

  1. The only serious national-revolutionary organisation in China is the Kuomintang, which has its base partly in the democratic-liberal bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, partly among the intellectuals and workers.
  2. Because the independent workers’ movement is still weak in that country, the central task for China is the national revolution against the imperialists and their feudal agents within the country; moreover, as the working class is directly interested in the solution of this revolutionary-national problem, while still remaining insufficiently differentiated as a fully autonomous social force, the CEIC believes that the KMT and the young CPC must coordinate their action.
  3. Accordingly, under the present conditions, it is advisable for CPC members to remain in the Kuomintang.

In this way, the International was taking up the proposal advocated by Maring, who had already tried in the first half of 1922 to push Chinese Communists to join the Kuomintang. The indication that the resolution gave to the CPC therefore went beyond the need to “coordinate the action” of the party with what was considered to be the only true national-revolutionary organisation, and formalised what had in fact already begun, with the first Communists beginning to join the Kuomintang individually from the second half of 1922.

This tactic, as is also suggested in the first point of the resolution, started from a misunderstanding about the nature of the Kuomintang, which would have as its “base” partly the democratic-liberal bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, partly the intellectuals and workers.

Thus vanished the criticisms that only a year earlier, at the Toilers Congress in early 1922, Zinoviev himself, alongside Georgy Safarov, had made against the Kuomintang, also making the serious mistake of setting aside what the theses of the Second Congress had indicated about the need to ‘always preserve the independent character of the proletarian movement even in its embryonic form’. Thus, the first steps were being taken toward abandoning the defence of the party and its programmatic and organisational autonomy, as the 1920 theses clearly stipulated.

Ties with the Kuomintang went beyond the internal aspect of cooperation with the CPC, affecting also the diplomatic plane of relations with the Soviet state. Toward the end of January 1923 in Shanghai there was a meeting between Joffe, from August ’22 head of Soviet diplomacy in China, and Sun Yat-sen, who, after his expulsion from Canton, was well disposed to move his party “to the left” and to receive Soviet help against its domestic and foreign rivals.

On the Soviet side, after unsuccessful negotiations with the Peking government had been attempted in past years and a certain openness had also been shown toward the warlord Wu Peifu, who had imposed in central China and whose initial anti-Japanese attitude had resulted in a reconciliation with the Anglo-Saxon imperialists, it began to point more and more firmly to Sun Yat-sen as an aspirant to power in China. To make a deal with Sun Yat-sen, Soviet diplomacy showed him the benefits of aligning with the less powerful CPC, backed by the strength of the Soviet state. This involved temporarily setting aside communist and revolutionary objectives in China. Thus, on January 23, 1923 Joffe and Sun Yat-sen drafted the following statement:

Dr. Sun Yat-sen maintains that neither the communist order nor the Soviet system can at present be introduced into China, because the necessary conditions for a successful establishment of communism or Sovietism do not exist there. This opinion is entirely shared by Mr. Joffe, who also thinks that the supreme and most urgent problem of China is to realise national unification and achieve full national independence; and, in connection with this great task, he assured Mr. Sun Yat-sen that China has the warmest sympathy of the Russian people and can count on the support of Russia.

The initial relations between the Russian proletarian state and then-extant Chinese bourgeois governments, in a political context characterised by the division of the country, became from 1923 onward an alliance. Starting from the pretext that China was not ripe for communism and the soviet system, that is, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, it came to circumscribe the tasks of its revolution within a framework compatible with a bourgeois order, of which Sun Yat-sen was the main protagonist.

A Menshevik policy was in fact sanctioned insofar as, at that time, China was not economically much more backward than Russia of 1917, where the Bolsheviks had instead first fought for a radical, albeit democratic, revolution led by the proletarians and poor peasants against all other bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class parties. Reversing Lenin’s teachings on tactics in so-called double revolutions and the International’s indications for the proletariat of the colonies and semi-colonies, the new course pushed the party of the proletariat into submission to the bourgeois leadership.

In February 1923, Sun Yat-sen reclaimed leadership of the Canton government, leading to strengthened ties between himself and Soviet Russia.

That February of 1923 saw the suppression of the strike of the railroaders on the Peking-Hankow line, the last of the wave of strikes initiated in 1919 that had peaked in 1922. This event was read as a confirmation of the weakness of the CPC and the need to bind itself to the Kuomintang.

In reality this alleged weakness of the Communist Party of China did not entirely correspond to the actual situation, for while at the beginning of 1923 the Party’s membership was effectively small, it was also true that the Party had taken over the leadership of many trade unions which had undergone great development precisely in the course of 1922, thus establishing even then a notable influence on the young Chinese working class, still uncontaminated by the contagion of that reformism and opportunism which had already taken firm root in Europe. Moreover, during 1922 the proletarian movement had demonstrated a great capacity for struggle, and the repression of February 1923 had caused only a momentary interruption of the vigorous class action that would shortly thereafter resume with superior force, culminating in the great movement of strikes of 1925-1927.

But the Communist Party will arrive at this important stage of the class clash in China with an organisation bound hand and foot by its alliance with the Kuomintang.

The oil production table shows that the United States remains the largest producer, with 562 million tons, compared to Russia’s 488 million and Saudi Arabia’s 455 million. The latter two could, if they wanted, increase their production, but they deliberately keep it low to keep prices high. This is the law of monopolies. This explains the high price of both gasoline and diesel as production is kept slightly below market demand. This is clearly seen in the last column, where production is well below the level reached in 2019, as increments, apart from Canada, range from -7 to -13 percent!

With the argument that the Communist Party was underdeveloped in China, the same argument that was used in Europe to push Communist parties toward “united front” tactics, it was denied the possibility of any autonomous action within the Chinese revolutionary process. What’s more, according to the executive of the Communist International, only the dissolution of the Kuomintang could have led to the successful revolution of the bumbling national bourgeoisie.

The Third Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in June 1923 in Canton, then declared, ‘Everyone work for the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang must be the central force of the national revolution and assume its leadership’. This call for collective effort and support for the Kuomintang emphasised that the Kuomintang should play a central role in the national resolution and take charge of its leadership. Additionally, it also approved, based on the January resolution of the executive, the tactic of individual entry into the Kuomintang.

Such an approach meant the abandonment of the correct indication of a radical, and, in perspective, communist revolution, and the capitulation before the Chinese bourgeoisie that would lead to the bloody defeat of the working class in 1927.

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The military question in the Russian Revolution
The second Kuban campaign

Denikin, after the conquest of Ekaterinodar, decided to cross the Kuban River and conquer the strategic Stavropol on the edge of the Kalmyk Steppe. He counted on the economic support of the anti-Bolshevik forces, on the possibility of managing the autonomist thrusts of the various Cossack groups, but above all on the crisis of the Red Army of the Caucasus, repeatedly defeated even though numerically superior. This, under Sorokin’s command, had 75,000 troops distributed among several separate and independent armies, of which only the Army of Taman, entrusted to Matveev, the most experienced and aggressive, was considered to be the only one capable of regaining the initiative. Moscow was more concerned about the new Tsaritsyn front against the Don Cossacks and the Volga front attacked by the Czechoslovak army, so it considered the Kuban a secondary front.

Matveev intended to unite his army with Sorokin’s through a long march from the Black Sea coast towards Armavir. Also joining the Reds were 25,000 displaced persons fleeing for fear of fierce reprisals from the whites. Denikin, sensing the danger of the joining, sent adequate Cossack cavalry forces to interpose themselves between the two Red armies in the Majkop district. However, they lingered in fierce and unprovoked repression of 2,000 workers in the area who were slaughtered because they were considered Bolsheviks. They were, however, caught between Taman’s and Sorokin’s Armies, who on 11 September 1918 began a series of attacks on the Whites, who were forced to retreat, leaving the Bolsheviks free to make their way to Armavir, where they could rejoin. In revenge, the Cossacks returned to Majkop and killed 4,000 civilians, who were later found in mass graves.

Sorokin and Matveev’s units were reorganised into the 11th Army, placed under the command of the undisciplined Sorokin. These were joined by the newly elected Revolutionary Military Committee of the Front (RMSR), in accordance with Trotsky’s recent instructions on the reorganisation of the Bolshevik army. Made up of military members of the army and political members elected by the soldiers of the unit in action, this committee had decision-making autonomy in all operational-strategic matters. In this regard, the following passage from Trotsky’s military writings was quoted:

Command, therefore, was somewhat split. The commander retained simple military direction; the work of political education was concentrated in the hands of the commissars. But the commissar was above all the direct representative of Soviet power in the army. Without hindering the properly military work of the commander and without under any circumstances diminishing the latter’s authority, the commissar had to create conditions such that this authority could never act against the interests of the revolution.

Denikin, in order to annihilate the 11th Army once and for all, reacted by setting up an encirclement of the Bolsheviks entrenched between the Laba and Kuban rivers from five directions, with the aim of cutting off all possibility of supplies and escape routes. An ambitious plan for his limited forces, which resulted in three weeks of hard fighting at the end of which Sorokin’s counterattack forced the Whites to give up and retreat.

The never-ending disagreements over the conduct of operations between Sorokin and Matveev were rekindled when precise directives came from Moscow to move immediately towards Tsaritsyn to bring relief to the Tenth Army; while Matveev proposed the immediate transfer by rail to Tsaritsyn, on the contrary Sorokin intended to descend to the east to control Stavropol, then south to Grozny and the oil fields against the Terek Cossacks, and finally to head for Tsaritsyn.

Sorokin had his plan adopted despite the protests of Matveev, who refused to carry out his orders in the following days. Sorokin convinced the RMSR to have him arrested and shot.

On 7 October, the same day as Matveev’s execution, Sorokin’s elaborate manoeuvre to conquer Stavropol began, for whose defence Denikin sent adequate reinforcements. The commander of the Steel Division, Zhloba, also disagreed with Sorokin’s decision, disregarded his orders, and headed for the quickest route to defend Tsaritsyn. This other disobedience triggered strong internal disagreements, to the point that some members of the Military Committee, falsely accused by Sorokin of treason, were arrested and shot. The entire HQ fell into complete chaos to the point where it was unable to issue safe and precise orders and did not even know the exact location of its forces and the outcome of battles.

Denikin took advantage of the immobility of the 11th Red Army and the weakening of some sectors and occupied Armavir. For fear of the sure Cossack reprisals, the number of volunteers who joined the Red Army grew, but the supply problem and the quality of the troops worsened.

Nevertheless, on 28 October, Taman’s Red infantry attack on Stavropol caused the Whites to retreat more than 30 kilometres from the city, but the Red HQ, still in chaos, did not take advantage of the favourable situation to disperse Denikin’s formations, which received new military supplies from the Allies, thus enabling a broad counter-attack to recapture the strategic Stavropol, the last supply point for the 11th Army. The situation worsened for the Bolsheviks when the surviving members of the Military Committee declared Sorokin a traitor; he sought refuge among the Stavropol soldiers he believed to be loyal to him. On 2 November, he fell into the hands of Matveev’s former fighters and was immediately shot.

In the following days, Wrangel’s White cavalry, in repeated attacks lasting days, succeeded in occupying the city while what remained of the 11th Army, on 20 November, began a long march across the steppes separating it from Astrakhan. The white cavalry sent in pursuit had to give up, mired in mud.

The causes of the defeat of that valiant army were twofold: lack of supplies and chaos due to internal strife.

Having reached the cities of the lower Volga, the former 11th Army began to reorganise, first having to beat Spanish flu and typhus.

End of the Kuban campaign

Denikin’s White troops also suffered heavy losses, including their best commanders, in combat and from disease, but were still sufficient to control the North Caucasus. By their contrast, the Red forces throughout that vast region numbered as many as 150,000, of which, however, only 60,000 were available for combat. The main unit consisted of what remained of Soroki’’s Army, Taman’s Army, and new volunteers from the region, totalling 88,000 men and 75 cannons. This was arranged on a 250-kilometre line, away from both Astrakhan and Tsaritsyn, its southern flank protected by the weak 12th Army stationed at the foot of the Caucasus range.

The strategic command of the Caucasus-Caspian organised an offensive to regain the lost positions.

On 28 December 1918, the 11th Army attacked the centre of the Volunteer Army’s array of counter-revolutionary forces, with the aim of cutting the enemy front in two and then outflanking the northern wing behind it and preventing it from connecting with Ekaterinodar and the Don. Other units attacked and bypassed the southern front in a similar manoeuvre; others still were destined for the reserve and rear.

After violent and costly fighting, the Volunteer Army retreated to Stavropol; in the confusion of the attack, a Taman division left a dangerous gap that allowed Wrangel’s cavalry to mount a devastating counterattack that forced the Soviet forces in that sector to retreat. The initial deployment disintegrated, other isolated groups were attacked from behind and forced to retreat. In the southern sector the Red offensive also failed, leaving the 11th Red Army with heavy losses of manpower and materiel. Demoralised and surrounded on three sides by the enemy with the Caspian Sea behind, unable to reach Astrakhan in winter, it decided to fortify on secure positions and reorganise to regain the initiative.

Wrangel’s cavalry with continuous attacks in different directions prevented these manoeuvres to such an extent that by the end of January, there was no longer a single Soviet front in the Caucasus, but isolated sections of what had been the valiant 11th Army.

The Red HQ then decided to retreat to the Caucasus mountains counting on the support of the local Bolsheviks. The retreat was severely hindered by Wrangel’s cavalry, who with new attacks managed to break the army into several sections that headed for different locations. Determined to deliver the final blow to the retreating revolutionaries, the white cavalry between 27 January and 6 February 1919, attacked the smaller groups that were defeated and captured..

Red commanders were offered to join the whites and upon their refusal were immediately hanged; as a rule, all Bolshevik political commissars taken prisoner were shot immediately.

On 6 February 1919, Wrangel’s troops conquered the major cities and reached the Caspian Sea with 31,000 prisoners, 8 armoured trains, and 200 cannons. The survivors of the 11th  Army, now without any possibility of sustaining adequate fighting, undertook the difficult journey to Astrakhan in terrible physical and atmospheric conditions due to the cold, snow, and a typhus epidemic that even killed the commander-in-chief Levandosvsky.

Of the initial 80,000 members of the 11th Army, only 13,000 reached Astrakhan. In fact, an entire Bolshevik army group ceased to exist after what was considered the heaviest defeat of the entire civil war.

The Caucasus Armies were reorganised and dislocated. The 12th Army was sent in the direction of Chechnya, where the Bolshevik leadership of the former 11th Army had taken refuge. With the exception of Chechnya and Dagestan, the entire Caucasus was now under the control of the counter-revolutionaries.

This victory, with the rear well secured, allowed the counter-revolutionaries to bring relief to the Don Cossacks in trouble at Tsaritsyn.

First battle, July–September 1918

The White General Krasnov was supported by the Krug, the Cossack assembly, and especially by German economic and military aid. He had a modest force of about 40,000 soldiers, 610 machine guns, and 150 artillery pieces. Krasnov managed to extend his control over other Cossack territories and on April 17, 1918, he founded the Don Republic, which covered an area more than half the size of Italy, with less than 4 million inhabitants, half of whom were Cossacks and the rest poorly supported peasants and migrant workers.

The conquest of Tsaritsyn, an important railway junction connecting the centre of Russia with the lower Volga and Caucasus regions, was vital for Krasnov. From the south, most of the grain, foodstuffs and fuel travelled there to the large Bolshevik-controlled cities of the north and all the raw materials needed by the Soviet war industry and the Red Army, which was engaged in defending the ‘encircled fortress’ of the revolution on an 8,000-kilometre front.

Moreover, the Cossacks, having conquered the city, would have been able to join forces with those of Ataman Dutov, on the offensive on the Volga 450 kilometres further north. This conjunction would have facilitated an advance on Moscow.

The plans drawn up by the White Cossack Denisov for the first battle for Tsaritsyn envisaged an offensive in two directions: the main one directed at the town; a second to contain any Red relief coming from much further north.

The Soviet defences, distributed along the course of the Don, were numerically equivalent to those of the enemy. But they were poorly co-ordinated with each other and deployed mainly in defence of Tsaritsyn, weakening the sectors north of the city.

The defence had armoured trains which, moving quickly on the outer railway ring, could assist the Red defenders by cannonading the enemy; the same was true of the river gunboats on the Volga.

The White attack in the north, characterised by the strong numerical superiority and the lack of Red co-ordination, disrupted railway communications with Moscow, isolating the city and rendering partial Red successes in the central and southern sectors futile. The Red troops had to retreat and re-deploy.

Strict decrees were issued against deserters, spies, and saboteurs, and younger conscripts were mobilised and hastily trained.

On August 22, the reorganised Red Army launched a counter-offensive in two directions, breaking the enemy lines with repeated bayonet assaults, driving them back along the entire front. Further Red victories in the following weeks pushed the Cossacks back across the Don to their original positions, decreeing the failure of Krasnov’s first offensive.

The Cossacks suffered heavy losses: 12,000 dead, wounded, and prisoners; but the revolutionary losses were worse: 50,000 dead, wounded, and prisoners, despite taking dozens of machine guns, 27,000 rifles, 3,000 horses, and a large amount of ammunition in spoils.

A telegram from Stalin to Lenin on 6 September ends: ‘The enemy is routed and retreating behind the Don. Tsaritsyn is safe! The offensive continues’. Trotsky, President of the Revolutionary Military Council (RVS) and head of the Red Army, instead telegraphed Lenin with the request to immediately recall Stalin to Moscow because: ‘The battle for Tsaritsyn, in spite of superior forces, has in any case gone badly’.

In reality, the breakthrough had not taken place. Denisov, to ease the pressure, had retreated slowly, engaging in only limited engagements that succeeded in stopping the Bolshevik counter-attacks.

The great work of reorganisation of the Red Army directed by Trotsky had produced an efficient military and hierarchical structure organised by fronts and armies with an audacious plan to reintroduce professional soldiers into the Bolshevik army, the selection of whom was entrusted to a special commission headed by Lev Glezarov. At the beginning of the civil war, the officer corps of the Red Army consisted of 75% former tsarist officers, often used as military specialists, a proportion that rose to 83% by the end of the civil war in 1922. It is recorded that out of 82 tsarist generals commanding in the Red Army, only 5 defected. If necessary, their loyalty was secured by holding their families hostage.

Among the former officers who served the revolution and distinguished themselves for their remarkable skills was Tukhachevsky, who joined the Red Army in 1918. Due to his strategic and leadership skills, he was entrusted with the command of the First Army in 1918 at the age of only 25.

Second battle, September–October

In the second half of September, Denisov launched a new offensive to conquer Tsaritsyn in two directions: the first from the north-west, entrusted to General Fitzhelaurov, with 20,000 men, 122 machine guns, 47 artillery pieces and two armoured trains, was to cut off communications with the north. The second, entrusted to General Mamontov, was the main attack from the west with 25,000 soldiers, 156 machine guns, 93 pieces of artillery and no less than 6 armoured trains, means now considered indispensable for operations in that vast theatre of battle.

The Bolshevik defences had about 40,000 men, 200 machine guns, 152 artillery pieces and 13 armoured trains. As organisation improved, a network of fortifications was erected around the city with trenches and other defensive works.

Stalin opposed Trotsky’s plan to reintroduce former tsarist officers before the RVS.

In fact, there were two military councils on the Southern Front: the official one with Sytin and his General Staff, and Stalin’s with Voroshilov. This produced a series of orders and counter-orders that cancelled each other out and created havoc.

The White offensive was developed in the central and southern sectors in order to cut the links to Astrakhan and the Caucasus, and wedged itself into the Red defensive lines, coming within about 40 km of Tsaritsyn, completely cutting off the Bolshevik’s extreme southern flank.

From October 8 to 11, the offensive intensified around Old Sarepta (modern-day Krasnoarmeysky Rayon, Volgograd), on the southern segment of the railway ring that encircled the city. For the counter-revolutionaries, taking that station meant disrupting Tsaritsyn’s defence system and opening up a wide gap in the southern sector.

The first decisive attack by Mamontov’s White Cossacks was blocked by armoured train fire and repeated bayonet counter-attacks by Soviet infantry so that the White General halted the operation while waiting for reserves.

Stalin sent telegrams for reinforcements and provisions, but received no reply; Voroshilov bypassed the military hierarchy and addressed Lenin directly. On 15 October, Vācietis, the commander-in-chief of the Red Army, answered him, placing the responsibility for the catastrophic situation on Stalin, but because of the obvious state of danger, he sent him reinforcements.

The Whites attacked between the Voroponovo and Chapurniki railway stations. Here Voroshilov had a double line of trenches built.

On October 15, Mamontov launched 25 regiments. The well-organised Russian defences stood firm against the first attack.

A few kilometres further south, at Beretovka, two Soviet regiments, made up of young peasants who had just enlisted, mutinied, killed their commanders, and went to meet the Cossacks. The latter mistook them for an infantry assault and pelted them with fire while they were also hit from behind by fire from the Soviet trenches.

In the meantime, the valiant Zhloba Iron Division arrived with 15,000 men, who, with forced marches, even at night, using a defiladed route, managed to get behind the Cossacks and hit them near Chapurniki. The Cossacks under fire from the front and from behind resisted for not even an hour, suffering the loss of 1,400 men, 6 cannons and 49 machine guns; the sector commander with his entire staff was taken prisoner, forcing the Whites to retreat westwards.

October 16: Mamontov captured Voroponovo, albeit with heavy losses. The Soviets, short of ammunition, were forced to stem the White advances with repeated bayonet counter-attacks in order to re-establish themselves for the defence of Sadovaya station.

The counter-revolutionary vanguards arrived, only 7 kilometres from Tsaritsyn, at the last line of trenches and barbed wire near Sadovaya station, where Voroshilov organised the last defence. He gathered all available firepower, including armoured trains, and concentrated his fire on the sectors where the enemy was advancing.

October 17: After the preventive bombardment ceased, the Cossack infantry advanced according to their classic fighting pattern in orderly, compact rows with their flags flying. When they reached 400 metres from the Red trenches, they were hit by a wall of fire that created huge holes in their tight ranks. The Red infantry came out of the trenches to pursue the retreating enemy, who fell back to the west. The railway ring around Tsaritsyn thus remained under Bolshevik control.

After this heavy defeat, Mamontov launched an attack in the northern sector. The Whites bypassed Tsaritsyn from the north in two directions, blocking river traffic on the Volga. Voroshilov, through rapid movements along internal lines, succeeded in re-establishing the defences, which were also strengthened by the arrival of experienced Latvian regiments from the eastern front, which restored numerical supremacy in favour of the Reds.

October 22: the advance towards Tsaritsyn from the north was halted and the Whites pushed back about 30 kilometres from the town, allowing rail links with the rest of Soviet Russia to be restored in November.

This notable defeat deprived Krasnov of any hope of linking up with Dutov’s Cossacks, who were operating east of the Volga; the Cossacks’ morale plummeted as they became less and less motivated to fight far from their home territories. The arrival of the cold season led to a gradual slowdown in all operations.

November 11: The armistice stipulated by Germany signalled its defeat and exit from the war, depriving the Cossack formations of all support, forcing Krasnov into a more open approach towards Denikin’s Volunteer Army, which was mainly supported by the British and French.

The failure of the Army of the Don at Tsaritsyn, although superior in combat, was due to a number of causes: the strong attachment of the Cossacks to their homeland often led them to desert when news of danger came from their villages; they used their otherwise-effective cavalry in a way ill-suited to the new modalities of modern warfare: not rapid troop movements, but old-fashioned, reckless, galloping charges, which were stopped by machine guns emplaced in fortified positions.

Voroshilov’s and Stalin’s decision to implement a mobile and active defence, which let the Cossack impetus vent itself in bloody assaults and then move on to bayonet counter-attacks, was possible because the fighting quality of the Red troops improved markedly, battle after battle.

The rift between Stalin and Trotsky, which came to constitute a kind of ‘military opposition’, was absolutely unconscionable in the midst of the civil war for the defence of the proletarian revolution. Lenin, pressed by both sides, finally called Stalin back to Moscow.

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The agrarian question

At these meetings a comrade presented the first chapters of a report on the agrarian question in the Marxist tradition. It will be structured as follows: Historical background; Capitalism and agriculture; Economic theory of rent; The struggles of the labourers; today and tomorrow.

Historical background
The slave mode of production

Let us first take up the texts of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Kautsky, and our Party to recall what we have written so far on this vast and fundamental subject.

We mentioned the agrarian question in the Athenian state, the essentials of which Friedrich Engels well summarises in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. In his conclusion he states:

The debtor could count himself lucky if he was allowed to remain on the land as a tenant and live on one-sixth of the produce of his labour, while he paid five-sixths to his new master as rent.… If the sale of the land did not cover the debt, or if the debt had been contracted without any security, the debtor, in order to meet his creditor’s claims, had to sell his children into slavery abroad. Children sold by their father – such was the first fruit of patriarchal right and monogamy! And if the blood-sucker was still not satisfied, he could sell the debtor himself as a slave. Thus the pleasant dawn of civilisation began for the Athenian people.

The mode of production in the Roman Empire also rested on agriculture. In The Foundations of Christianity, Kautsky writes:

The basis of the mode of production of the countries making up the Roman Empire was agriculture; crafts and trade were much less important. Production for self-consumption still predominated; commodity production, production for sale, was still slightly developed. Craftsmen and merchants often had farms as well, that were in close connection with their domestic activities; their work went principally toward producing for their households. The farm supplied provisions for the kitchen and raw materials such as flax, wool, leather, wood, from which the members of the family themselves made clothes, house furnishings and tools. It was only the surplus, if there was any, over and above the needs of the household that was sold. This mode of production required private property of most of the means of production, including arable land but not forest and pasture, which could still be common property. It would include domestic animals but not game, and finally tools and raw materials as well as the products made from them.

Possession of land, however, implies having the necessary labour power to work it, without which nothing can be produced. Even in prehistoric times we find among the wealthy the search for labour power in excess of that in the family’s hands.

Such labour forces, however, could not take the form of the wage earner. Early ones could be found, but rarely and temporarily, such as for harvesting. An active family could easily procure the few means of production needed for an independent unit of agricultural production. Moreover, family and community ties were still strong, so that the occasional misfortunes that could render a family landless were mitigated by the help of relatives and neighbours.

Kautsky again: ‘Permanent labour forces outside the family could not be obtained at this stage of history in the form of free wage labourers. Only compulsion could supply the necessary labour for the larger landed estates. The answer was slavery.’

The description of the period of the rise of the Roman Empire until its dissolution continued, illustrating how the productive techniques and tools gradually improved to obtain greater harvests, the exploitation of peasants, and particularly of foreign peasants.

The phenomena of over-exploitation of land and the depletion of soil fertility were described, phenomena which led to starvation of the farmers themselves, and to the need for wars of conquest in order to always have new land available.

At the conclusion of this first report we returned to reading Kautsky:

With the enormous human masses at its disposal the state built those colossal works that still astound us today, temples and palaces, aqueducts and sewers, and also a network of magnificent roads that linked Rome with the furthest corners of the empire and constituted a powerful means of economic and political unity and international communication. In addition, great irrigation and drainage works were constructed…. As the financial might of the Empire weakened, its rulers let all these structures go to pieces rather than put a limit to militarism. The colossal constructions became colossal ruins, which fell apart all the sooner because as labour power became scarcer it was easier to get materials for newer construction by tearing down the old edifices instead of getting them from the quarries. This method did more harm to the ancient works of art than the devastations of the invading Vandals and other barbarians.

The feudal mode of production

A general picture of that socio-economic formation in Europe – before turning to our Marxist classics – can be obtained in Georges Duby’s Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West. We read:

[I]n the civilisation of the ninth and tenth centuries the rural way of life was universal. Entire countries, like England and almost all the Germanic lands were absolutely without towns. Elsewhere some towns existed: such as the few ancient Roman cities in the south which had not suffered complete dilapidation, or the new townships on trade routes which were making their appearance along the rivers leading to the northern seas. But except for some in Lombardy, these ‘towns’ appear as minute centres of population, each numbering at most a few hundred permanent inhabitants and deeply immersed in the life of the surrounding countryside. Indeed, they could hardly be distinguished from it. Vineyards encircled them; fields penetrated their walls; they were full of cattle, barns, and farm labourers.

All their inhabitants from the very richest, bishops and even the king himself, to the few specialists, Jewish or Christian, who conducted long-distance trade, remained first and foremost countrymen whose whole life was dominated by the rhythm of the agricultural seasons, who depended for their existence on the produce of the soil, and who drew directly from it their entire worldly wealth.… Ninth-century Western Europe was peopled by a stable peasantry rooted in its environment. Not that we should picture it as totally immobile. There was still room in rural life for nomadic movements.

Movements take place in the summer for pastoral transhumance or transport on wagons; some periodically venture out to gather wild produce, for hunting, or for robbery, in search of booty; a portion of the rural population also participates in the “adventures” of war.

Newcomers were kept outside the ‘enclosures’, second-class inhabitants. The inventories of the time categorised them precisely as ‘guests’, whose presence was tolerated but who did not have the same rights as other inhabitants. These strict legal limits prevented colonisation from occurring in random order and curbed their displacement from their habitat.

In the report, the comrade gave an extensive account of the peculiarities that characterised agricultural production in feudal times, getting to the other aspect that characterises the mode of production of the time: the equipment used in working in the fields. It was noted that these implements were mostly made of wood. There were two types of ploughs, simple and mouldboard, mouldboard offering a decided advantage over the simple one. It economised labour; the farmer in one pass was able to sufficiently turn the land, thus aerating it and rebuilding the fertile elements: periodic spading was no longer necessary. Moreover, the mouldboard plough could also be used in heavy soils that were impractical with the simple one. It made it possible to extend the cultivated area, but it also demanded a far greater pulling force, an equipment of more vigorous work animals.

Next, the poor use of metals was mentioned:

The labourers on the enormous property of Annapes, which reared more than 200 cattle at the time, disposed of no more than two scythes, two sickles and two spades if we count iron tools alone. And here, too, the essential metal tools were used to shape the wood. For the rest of the work it was utensilia lignea ad ministrandum sufficienter – tools enough, but wooden ones – and they were not worth counting.

So, apart from cutting tools for sawing grass or wheat or felling trees, all agricultural equipment, and particularly that for ploughing, was normally made of wood.

Each estate possessed no more than a small workshop provided with iron tools intended only for the manufacture or repair of other tools….  All the Carolingian documents place the blacksmith on an equal footing with the goldsmith and picture him as the maker of unusual and precious equipment. He is hardly ever to be found in the inventories of rural estates.… It is the same in all the regions about which we have information (except perhaps Lombardy where the ferrarii appeared much more frequently in manorial inventories, and where on the estates of Bobbio, Santa Giulia di Brescia and Nonantola many village tenures supported regular rents in iron, and more precisely in ploughshares), the impression remains everywhere the same, that very little metal was used for peasant implements.

In ninth- and tenth-century Europe, even in large estates, the economy had few wooden tools, but resorted to the labour of many individuals, shaping the villages that became heavily populated to care for the surrounding fields.

In contrast, wide uncultivated fringes remained, due to the lack of implements capable of overcoming the nature of the thick, wet, and dense soils. There were also vast areas of free vegetation useful for feeding livestock, hunting, and gathering wild products.

To increase labour productivity, mills were introduced:

One can see quite clearly how the manors were equipped with milling machinery.… Installing a water mill was certainly a costly and delicate matter. The arrangements of canals, and trans-porting, fashioning, and setting in place the millstones meant a substantial investment and the maintenance of the conveying machinery also required regular expenditure. Even so, such contrivances were by no means unusual on great estates in the ninth century and it appears that the number of water-driven mills was rapidly increasing around Paris: of the 59 mills recorded in the polyptych [an inventory of the Abbey’s assets compiled between 823 and 828 by Abbot Irminone] of St. Germain-des-Pres, eight had just been constructed and two recently renovated by Abbot Irminone…. The estate mills [were] available to the local peasant farms in return for payment…. [In] one royal manor in northern Gaul, Annapes…as much grain was brought to the manorial granges from its five mills and brewery as was harvested on the entire arable area of the estate…. In spite of taxes and the pre-emption on their own harvest, peasants found it to their advantage to make use of the manorial mills.

It was recalled how bread was the staple food, even in the less civilised regions of Latin Christendom.

We then went on to describe how agricultural production was organised, which can be summarised in these three points:

1) In the texts, the description of harvests and sowings and, more frequently, that of the grain benefits owed by the peasants, prove that, generally, the fields, both those of the peasants and those of the lords, produced not only winter grains, but also spring grains, and in particular oats.

2) The arrangement in the agricultural calendar of corvées for ploughing required of the serfs by the lordships indicates that the ploughing cycle was frequently ordered according to two sowing seasons, one in winter, the other in summer or spring.

3) Ploughing plots in large estates often appear in groups of three; for example, in about half of the domains of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés described in the Irminone polyptych, surveyors counted three, six, or nine lordly fields. This arrangement suggests that cultivation there was organised according to a ternary rhythm.

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Rise of the labour and communist movement in the Ottoman Empire

Documentary evidence of the existence of currents and parties with left positions is limited to a period of twenty-five years, from 1909 to 1934. But it is a period marked, in the Empire first then in Turkey later, by several decisive historical events: the 1908 revolution, the Italo-Turkish War, the Balkan Wars, the First World War, the Armenian genocide, the emergence of the national independence movement against the occupation of parts of Turkey by the Entente, Mustafa Kemal’s victory against aggression by Greece and against internal reactionary uprisings, the exchange and transfer of Greek-Turkish populations, and finally the consolidation of Kemalist power and the defeat of the left wing of the Communist Party.

For this reason, the comrades presenting this report have first sorted the documents by period, to deal later with the particular circumstances under which the individual documents they present were written.


It is appropriate to provide the reader with some background information on the history of the Ottoman Empire, which expanded over a wide geo-historical region.

Factories began to spring up in the cities. The growing power of the non-Muslim bourgeoisie led even in remote villages to the establishment of schools to teach positive science. New ideologies such as liberalism and nationalism spread. In turn, peasants began to immigrate to the cities, forming most of the new working class.

Soon the rulers of the Ottoman state were faced with an alarming situation. At first, they tried to suppress this undesirable development of new social classes, namely the bourgeoisie and the urbanised proletariat, by repression, but this only fanned the flames of nationalism and led to wars of national liberation, many of which succeeded in creating new nation-states, as happened with the independence of Greece in 1829, Bulgaria in 1876 and Serbia in 1878. The number of non-Muslims, such as Armenians, Greeks, and Jews, who remained within the social structure of the empire, and especially their relative weight within the newly formed industrial bourgeoisie, remained very significant.

Western capitalism joined local demands for reform.

At the same time, the Ottoman bureaucracy began to call for a solution to the Empire’s unsuccessful attempts over the previous centuries in competing with European states: modernisation of technology, ways of conducting business, industry, and science. They too began to advocate the introduction of capitalism into the Empire, and even bourgeois democratic reforms.

After the 1830s, private industries quickly began to replace artisans even among Muslims.

Facing pressure from the bourgeoisie, bureaucrats, and officials, in 1839 the monarchy issued the Imperial Edict of Reorganisation. This ushered in the reform period, in Ottoman Turkish ‘Tanzimat’, which culminated in 1876 with the declaration of the First Constitutional Regime.

The appearance of capitalist relations resulted in the emergence of harsh struggles between the young proletariat, formed by the urbanisation of the peasant masses, and the newly emerging bourgeoisie. The first protests in the factories began as early as 1800. Initially, the most common action of the labour movement in the Empire was sabotage of the means of production, but at the end of a few decades such actions were superseded by strikes. The first recorded strike occurred in 1863, in the Ereğli coal mines, but this weapon of struggle did not spread until the early 1870s in a wave of labour unrest that culminated in the strikes of 1876. At this time industry was developing rapidly and many technicians and skilled workers were sent to Turkey from countries such as England, France, and Italy. Foreign workers soon took to striking together with the natives. The natives, still lacking experience in labour struggles, benefited from the strikes of the European workers who worked alongside them.

Sultan Abdulhamid II, who would rule the empire with an iron fist for decades, responded to the struggles of 1878 with a wave of repression that for a time caused a decrease of strikes. However, it could not prevent in the long run the entrenchment of the labour movement.

The chronology prepared by the speaker highlights the stages of this development.

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On the history of the International Communist Party

The series of reports concerning the history of our party is intended to present it in its continuity and uniqueness.

A peculiar characteristic of ours is that we have no kinship with anyone; in fact, those who appear closest are actually the furthest away, and we have always been very careful not to assimilate or approach any other so-called related political grouping.

The year of our current Party’s birth is unquestionably 1952. But, as we have written, this is not a turning point or an adjustment of course, but rather to pick up the thread of the past by welding it to the present and projecting it into the future.

It is certainly no coincidence that in every Party publication we never omit to print our ‘distinction’: ‘The line from Marx to Lenin, to Livorno 1921, to the struggle of the Left against the degeneration of Moscow’, etc., etc. In fact, we fully claim our deep roots and recognise as an integral part of our tradition all the work and theoretical elaboration of the Marxist Left already present and formed within the PSI since the dawn of the 20th century.

Nonetheless, our current party has very different characteristics from those of the parties of the time, due to a historical selection that draws on both the victories and defeats of the international workers’ movement and its parties.

If until 1914 the two souls, the reformist and the revolutionary, could coexist within the same parties and the 2nd International, it was the outbreak of the imperialist war that was to separate and define the irreconcilability of the two opposing tendencies: on the one hand the social-democracy, at the service of capital and their respective bourgeois homelands, on the other the revolutionary, for the sabotage of war, its transformation from war between states into war between classes, the violent seizure of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The same happened after the experience of the Stalinist counter-revolution. Throughout the course of the Second World War, almost the entire proletarian movement suffered a blatant subservience to the interests of capitalist preservation, signing the liquidation, officially and unofficially, of the Third International.

No political organisation other than our own current, anchored in the Italian Communist Left, was able to take the criticism of Stalinist degeneration all the way. Consequently, the leadership of the international proletariat can only be taken by the unique, unitary International Communist Party.

When one speaks of the Italian Communist Left in most people’s minds, one thinks of its abstentionism. We can say that this was, at the time, a very important aspect from a tactical point of view, but not one of principle. On the contrary, until then the Communist Left had elaborated other fundamental characteristics of internal party life and relations between comrades: organic centralism, rejection of any kind of personalism, the possibility for each comrade to participate in Party work.

In this regard, the extended report will include extensive quotations from our classic texts, demonstrating how the current party is in perfect continuity with the tradition of the Left.

Organic centralism. As far back as 1922 we proposed abandoning the organisational concept of ‘democratic centralism’ and replacing it with the more appropriate ‘organic centralism’.

The communist parties must realise an organic centralism which, with the maximum compatible consultation of the base, ensures the spontaneous elimination of every grouping tending to differentiate. This is not achieved by formal, mechanical hierarchical prescriptions, but, as Lenin says, with just revolutionary policy. (Lyon Theses, 1926)

Function and role of the leader in our party.

Leaders, too, are a product of the party’s activity, the party’s working methods, and the trust the party has attracted. If the party, in spite of the variable and often unfavourable situation, follows the revolutionary line and fights opportunist deviations, the selection of leaders, the formation of a general staff, take place in a favourable manner, and in the period of the final struggle we will certainly not always have a Lenin, but a solid and courageous leadership. (6th ECCI, 1926)

Discipline and fractions.

The appearance and development of fractions is indicative of a general malaise in the party, and a symptom of the non-responsiveness of the party’s vital functions to its aims, and they are combated by identifying the malaise in order to eliminate it, not by abusing disciplinary powers to resolve the situation in a necessarily formal and provisional manner. (Platform of the Left, 1925)

We see no serious drawbacks in an exaggerated preoccupation with opportunist danger…. Whereas very grave is the danger if on the contrary…the opportunist disease spreads before one has dared to vigorously sound the alarm in some part of the party. Criticism without error does not harm even the thousandth part of what error without criticism harms. (‘The Opportunist Danger and the International’, 1925)/p>

How then was it possible that the party that was born in Livorno, founded on similar foundations, later degenerated? The answer is that it was not a national problem, but an international one, and the parties of the 3rd International were spuriously born for historical reasons, from more-or-less left-wing splits of the old social-democratic parties, from unions between non-homogeneous groups, and even the Communist Party of Italy could not completely escape this defect of origin. The degenerative process also depended on the weaknesses that had historically characterised the process by which the new international organisation was formed, which, when the revolutionary ebb occurred, affected its ability to react to the unfavourable situation.

The report then went on to expose the stages of the degeneration of both the international revolutionary communist movement and the Communist Party of Italy.

The tactical errors of the International led to a long series of defeats, starting with that of the revolution in Germany, which was paid for with the impossibility of winning over, after Russia, another large country to the revolution, of decisive importance for the development of world revolution.

The degenerative phases of the 3rd International could not but be reflected within the Communist Party of Italy.

After 1924, the Ordinovist group, having taken over the leadership of the party, began a violent campaign against the Left. In preparation for its 3rd Congress, in Lyon in 1926, the voting procedures imposed were so fraudulent that the Left, which a year earlier at the Como conference had been joined by almost all delegates, was confined to a derisory minority.

At the same time in the International and the Russian party, the Stalinist counterrevolution was now registering its final victory over what remained of the leftist and internationalist revolutionary tradition.

Through falsification of documents, fabrication of plots, and other such expedients, the new Russian party leaders managed to get the better of the real leaders of the Russian revolution. The avenues of deportation opened up to Trotsky and the other comrades as the Russian party and the International, by now Stalinised, imposed as a condition for remaining in the International the acceptance of the new opportunist theory of “Socialism in one country”.

In the Party born in Livorno in 1921, by then on the verge of complete Stalinisation, true internal repression had begun against exponents of the Left since 1925: expulsions, suspensions, denigrating press campaigns, blatantly provocative actions, became ordinary practice.

More than one bourgeois historian or presumed revolutionary strategist has highlighted the “inability” of the Italian Communist Left to take advantage of the auspicious occasion and form an international opposition in competition and opposition to the degenerate Moscow opposition. Indeed, that was what some comrades and leaders of the international extreme left groups expected. Is the Left wrong in stubbornly sticking to its principles? This will be the theme of the next reports.

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Current Events

C – African blowback of the crisis in the imperialist hierarchy

A rapid succession of coups over the last three years has reshaped the political landscape of sub-Saharan Africa, affecting numerous countries in that part of the continent where France’s economic, political and cultural influence was greatest. There is talk these days of a probable deadly crisis in what was christened ‘Françafrique’ in the mid-1950s

The coiner of this term was Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who served as president of the Ivory Coast for 43 years, from the moment of independence. The African leader most obviously subservient to the old colonial power, with which he wanted to maintain close commercial ties that propitiated a period of relative economic prosperity, passed under the publicist label of the ‘Ivorian miracle’, intended to give the term Françafrique a positive meaning.

However, this concept, not incorrectly understood as a legacy of colonial rule that had only recently ended (the independence of most African countries dates back to 1960), acquired negative connotations over time that far outweighed the slavish optimism of the Ivorian president, especially after the Ivory Coast’s little “miracle” came to an end in the late 1970s as a consequence of the slowdown of the cycle of capitalist accumulation in the old metropolis.

Highlighting some unmentionable aspects of the relations of the Elysée Palace with the 14 former overseas territories on African soil was an essay published in 1998 entitled La Françafrique, le plus long scandale de la République by the economist François-Xavier Verschave. In this book, beyond the usual jeremiads about the lack of democracy in African countries, some characteristics of the relations between the old colonies and the former metropolises were rather realistically identified. Françafrique was defined quite correctly as:

a nebula of economic, political and military actors, in France and Africa, organised in networks and lobbies, and polarised around the monopolisation of the two rents: raw materials and public development aid. The logic is to prohibit initiative outside the circle of the initiated. The system recycles itself in criminalisation.

While we have been witnessing for many years the Elysée’s growing agitation over the fate of its African sphere of influence, a turning point in this regard can be established with the war conducted in 2011 in Libya by NATO and strongly desired by the French president at the time. What was loosely perceived as the first step in a campaign of colonial reconquest (the term ‘neo-colonialism’ is inadequate for us to describe the phenomenon given that it is about imperialist spheres of influence in which the movement of capital prevails over military occupation and the institutional presence of colonial metropolises), was even then a sign of the difficulty for France to sustain the contest between powers for the control of African markets.

A misleading interpretation sees the Libyan enterprise as an ‘error’ from which serious consequences for French policy in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa would follow. But the premises of that mistake were all in the relative decline of France as a power and the appearance on the scene of new competitors whose lesser capitalist maturity was compatible with greater economic vitality.

The overthrow of the decades-old Gaddafi regime was seen by Sarkozy as an opportunity to get his hands on the Libyan oil rent by beating the competition, in the case of Libya primarily the Italian one, and to strengthen his control over neighbouring Niger, at that time one of the main suppliers of uranium needed by the French nuclear industry.

On the other hand, France is also not spared by the greed of the imperialist metropoles attempting to appropriate control of energy resources, and their associated rents to compensate for the meagre profits resulting from their industrial decline.

If, in our Marxist view, politics is presented as a condensate of economics, we find nothing particularly strange in observing how weak economies, in which capitalist modernity has disrupted traditional social organisation, starting with the introduction of extractive industry, correspond to weak political forms.

The states of sub-Saharan Africa came into being on the basis of borders arbitrarily drawn according to the interests of the former colonial powers, on territories that were heterogeneous in terms of physical geography, fragmented from an ethnic and linguistic point of view, and characterised by very disparate historical traditions.

Their perennial political instability poses a problem of understanding and analysis that does not seem within the reach of bourgeois publicists. Take for instance the raging Jihadist guerrilla warfare of the last fifteen years.

The prevailing narrative on this persistent scourge in sub-Saharan African countries seeks to explain the difficulties of local governments, and their Western allies, especially in religious motivations, with vast territories falling under the military control of the faithful who fly the flag of fundamentalism. As usual, the depiction of the bourgeois world turns reality upside down to rest on its head. It describes with the façade of affiliation with internationally known acronyms of radical Islamism the subjection of individuals from marginalised social groups and peripheral rural communities to fierce economic and military pressure by armed militias or regular troops from states that in other ways prove to be fragile and shaky.

While the most trivial publicity explains everything by “Islamic fanaticism”, the proliferation of armed groups is more often than not due to the attempt of local communities to organise self-defence against the predatory attitude of private paramilitary groups deployed in defence of mining concessions and the regular forces of the various states. Multinational corporations, in order to control the areas where the riches of the subsoil are extracted, increasingly make use of mercenaries. Often, the affiliation of local armed groups to international jihadism comes only later.

But explaining these aspects of the economic and political life of sub-Saharan Africa is too embarrassing for the partisan and lying information of the capitalist metropoles: better a convenient depiction of a fanaticism moulded in Islamic schools and by preaching mullahs, all of which, when they exist, are presented as epiphenomenal manifestations of the devastation previously developed in the social structure.

The civil war in Mali, which broke out in early 2012 and has been ongoing ever since, has had catastrophic effects for France’s sphere of influence in the region. In this conflict, which has torn the north of the country apart and pitted Tuareg independence formations and jihadist militias against the central power, the ineffectiveness of an armed intervention with two French-led military missions, Operations Serval and Barkhane, could be measured.

The French failure became manifest with the two coups in Mali less than a year apart. The first was in August 2020, when Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was overthrown by the army, which formed a National Committee for the Health of the People to manage a ‘transitional phase’. Nine months later, in May 2021, the army, impatient with the hesitancy of the transitional authorities in managing the internal war, carried out a second coup d'état in which Colonel Assimi Goita, who had already led the first coup, solidly assumed the leadership of the country. The military junta let Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group into Mali, while French troops had to leave the country.

A similar script played out in Burkina Faso where an equally rapid succession of two coups resulted in the rise to power in September 2022 of army captain Ibrahim Traoré who, like his Malian counterpart, had played a leading role in the first coup. As a pretext for the second pronouncement of the armed forces, the ineffectiveness of the fight against the jihadist militias is also mentioned.

In reality, discontent due to the dramatic rise in food prices contributed to the coup plotters’ action. Social instability is also determined by the high number of internal refugees from areas under the control of jihadist groups. To support the war effort, the junta has made agreements to buy weapons from Turkey to supply drones, and with North Korea, and admits the possibility of using Wagner Group mercenaries.

Relations with France have deteriorated and Ouagadougou has denounced the military treaty that has bound it to the former colonial power since 1961.

The state budget could not support the regime’s military commitments against the jihadist militias, and so new taxes were resorted to, aggravating the plight of a proletariat mostly forced into destitution and increasingly having to bear the burden of the “war on terror”.

Last March, the Unité d'action syndicale (UAS), the country’s primary trade union centre, denounced the compulsory enrolment in the army of many of its members and demanded their immediate release. Meanwhile, for their part, the authorities claim to have recruited 90,000 men for the ‘Volontaires pour la défense de la patrie’ (Volunteers in defence of the fatherland, or VDP) corps.

Burkina Faso’s new strongman poses as a continuation of the work of Thomas Sankara, the military man who led the country for four years in the 1980s, flying the flag of national sovereignty in what turned out to be a rather unrealistic manner, clashing with France and ending up murdered by his deputy, Blaise Compaoré.

The figure of Sankara is still today passed off as a sort of popular hero, and the fact that he advocated an improbable third-world socialism has aroused the sympathy of those who, even in the oldest industrialised countries, are in search of substitutes for the proletariat and go so far as to place their expectations for change in the military caste of the peripheral countries. Even today there are those who, in a logic completely alien to the tradition of the workers’ movement, find pretexts to appreciate the career military man in power as long as he is willing to launch populist and demagogic buzzwords.

Ibrahim Traoré has made a career out of the “fight against terrorism” and domestically pushes the accelerator on the militarisation of society, aware that the enlistment of volunteers exerts a strong appeal on the masses of youth, who are the vast majority of the population and who have little chance of finding employment and see a prospect in the profession of arms. Once again, war becomes a way to sculpt society in the image and likeness of capital, framing the workforce with military discipline, creating proletarian reserve armies by depopulating rural areas, intercepting investment and aid from external imperialist powers interested in supplanting rival imperialisms.

It is no coincidence that last July Traoré met with Putin near St. Petersburg, while the head of the Burkinabè junta himself met with a Russian military delegation at the end of August to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. Meanwhile, Russia is confirmed as the main supplier of arms to the Sahel countries.

Completing the picture of the decline of Françafrique was the coup d'état in Niger on 26 July. The overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum was once again justified by the military, which set up the ‘National Council for the Protection of the Homeland’, ‘because of the deteriorating security situation and bad governance’.

To speak of ‘bad governance’ in one of the poorest countries in the world where, for what bourgeois statistics are worth, the illiteracy rate among the adult population exceeds 70% and where life expectancy at birth is around 61 years, sounds like an understatement. A semi-populated country until just a few years ago, two-thirds of whose territory lies in the Sahara desert, it has seen that third of fertile or semi-fertile land progressively eroded where, since the 1970s, severe drought waves have undermined agriculture, leading to significant social setbacks. In Niger, over 80% of the population still lives in rural areas where a subsistence economy prevails and transhumance is widespread in livestock farming.

In the countryside, there never existed a definite ownership of land and the right of possession was based on a customary rural code in which, until recently, the so-called right of the axe was recognised, whereby the first person to come on a piece of land took possession of it only for clearing it. In the many decades of independent Niger’s history, successive governments have failed to establish definite criteria for the allocation of property rights. This indefinite ownership of land, in an era of recurring droughts and climate change, has made the settlement of disputes between neighbours and between them and nomadic herders more complex and uncertain.

Complicating matters is the demographic dynamic of a country that has seen its population multiply by ten since 1950, from 2.46 million to over 25 million today. With the world’s highest fertility rate, albeit slowly declining, still above 7 children per woman, at current rates Niger’s inhabitants will reach 35 million by 2030. The country’s population is now the youngest in the world; 49% of it under 15 years old.

In addition to the low level of urbanisation, the low level of industrialisation is evidenced by an electricity network that reaches less than 20% of the population. The lack of modernisation of the road network, especially in the north of the country, is also due to the lack of aid from international donors who, it is said, do not want to make it easier for migrants to cross the desert. On the difficult and unsafe routes across the desert, illegal trafficking of drugs proliferates, including cocaine, cannabis, and opioids, especially tramadol, destined, after crossing Libya, for Europe and the Middle East.

The lack of investment in infrastructure has also slowed down the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources. The auriferous ones are very important. Uranium mining in the Arlit area of Agadez province by the French company Orano (formerly Areva) has declined from its peak in 2007 due to lower global demand after the Fukushima disaster. An attack by al-Qaeda in the Maghreb in 2013 forced a costly reinforcement of the security apparatus. These factors have eroded the mining income and for several years now have led France to diversify uranium supplies needed for its mighty nuclear industry by increasing imports from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.

That the French bourgeoisie in recent years has shown little inclination to invest in the former colonies is due to the fact that capital, by its nature anarchic, betrays the love of the fatherland as soon as the mirage of higher profits and fabulous rents appears in new lands. This explains how the gradual dissolution of Françafrique is a process to which the old metropolis also contributes. Exemplary in this respect is the liquidation in 2022 of the French group Bolloré’s African logistics empire, with the sale of Bolloré Africa Logistics to the Italo-Swiss group Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) for over €5 billion. The company employs over 20,000 people and is present in 46 African countries where it controls 42 port terminals, railways, warehouses, etc.

In Niger, the company was involved in the never-completed project of building the country’s only railway, which was to connect the capital Niamey to Cotonou, a major port city in Benin. It was a pharaonic project involving more than 1,050 kilometres of railway, the most important link between Niger, a landlocked country, and the Gulf of Guinea. But the project was only realised in a small part and stalled in the middle of last decade. Niger thus remains without adequate connections to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

The partial loss of interest of French capital in Africa is counterbalanced by the growing penetration of China, which has meanwhile become the second largest investor in Niger. The crisis in the uranium sector is matched by a growth in the oil industry, with China among the main investors. Among the Dragon’s projects is a 2,000-kilometre pipeline that is intended to connect Niger’s under-exploited oil fields with the ports of Benin and thus with international markets.

This passing of the baton in Africa, and therefore also in Niger, between France and China is a process that has been going on for quite some time if already ten years ago in an article in our newspaper, we wrote:

In the last decade, all the countries defined as French-speaking Africa have suffered the economic penetration of China, which has taken advantage of the relative withdrawal of French capital, which has preferred to go and invest in areas with a higher profit margin, such as Asia. Chinese competition became more and more pressing with huge capital investments, export of very cheap goods and specialised teams to command the construction sites of Chinese firms. Roads and bridges, railways and various infrastructures have paved the way for Chinese ‘neo-imperialism’ in those lands that for centuries were the exclusive preserve of Western powers and in many cases exclusively of France. (‘Mali and the Ivory Coast – Economic and Military Battleground between Imperialisms’, Il Partito Comunista no. 358).

Last July’s coup saw the emergence of US-trained soldiers, led by the head of the presidential guard Abdourahamane Tchiani, who overthrew the civilian government at a time when there was a heated struggle within the establishment for the leadership of PetroNiger, a state-controlled company recently created by the deposed president Bazoum that seems to have good future prospects for development. We do not know precisely whether there is a strong link between the internal dispute within the Niger bourgeoisie over the national oil and the maturation of the coup; however, it remains quite likely that this aspect was at least one motive that the military coup plotters considered when they decided to take action.

The consequences of the regime change on relations with France were not long in coming. Since the first days after the coup, demonstrations in support of the military – we do not know to what degree orchestrated by the new regime or how spontaneous these are – have targeted French diplomatic missions and interests in Niger. French soldiers are preparing to leave the country, while diplomatic relations between the two countries are close to breaking down.

The United States, which has a military presence in the country, does not seem poised to withdraw. The Biden administration did not explicitly condemn the coup and did not even call it what it was so as not to be forced to issue sanctions against Niger. The US base in Agadez, one of the most important for the deployment of drones, will probably continue to be operational and should have been the subject of negotiations during the meetings between Victoria Nuland, the Deputy Secretary of State under the Biden administration, and the ruling junta in Niamey. The agreements reached probably envisage the relocation of the 1,100 US military personnel to the Agadez base alone after the abandonment of the one in Niamey, held by the Americans together with French soldiers. In the meantime, the Italian military presence with 350 soldiers does not seem to be questioned by the Niger junta, and neither is that of the German military advisers.

But the picture brought about by the wave of coups that upset old balances in sub-Saharan Africa still seems to be evolving. The Elysée Palace’s plan to restore the deposed Niger president to power by means of an intervention by the countries of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, has been frustrated by the opposition of Mali and Burkina Faso, which have entered into a joint defence treaty with Niger.

It is, however, a fracture that brings the final collapse of Françafrique closer, an event that far from ending the struggle for the division of African resources and land between the major imperialist powers, would only intensify it. In the future evolution of political arrangements and alliances in this region of the world, it is all too easy to foresee the development of another gigantic fault zone in a geo-historical area that is increasingly crucial for inter-imperialist rivalries.

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Still a neo‑Ottoman Turkey

As the economic crisis deepens and the government’s prescriptions for dealing with it fail, at least partially, the Turkish bourgeoisie found a diversion in the demand of democratic freedoms, the protest against cronyism and generalised corruption. A heterogeneous set of grievances against the ruling party came to the attention of the voters: disrespect for civil rights, women, minorities, Kurds, homosexuals, and trans people; lack of merit in access to state organs and offices; hostile stance toward Western-style secular democratic principles; arbitrary arrests of opponents and journalists and subsequent court convictions.

Some space has been given to the oppression of the working class, but in the enfeebled forms in which it is denounced by every bourgeois opposition force, insisting on the lack of safety in the workplace, wages below subsistence and the legally established minimum, the legal presence of child workers in factories, etc.

The opposition had therefore declared this year's elections crucial, that “the people” would finally make the “right decision” and that “Turkey” would thus emerge from this difficult situation. Many leftist parties adhered to this rhetoric.

Thus was presented a “polarised” society in which, even significant sections of the working class, there an expectation that “this time” opposition could achieve real electoral “victory”. “turkey” would return to path parliamentary democracy and solve its problems peacefully, according democratic standards european state become country ‘better able compete with world’.

The Turkish bourgeoisie and the elections

Instead, this election round has also been yet another showdown between bourgeois gangs. All indications are that there will be at least a temporary compromise between the warring factions, with the coven of the victor Erdoğan trying to grab the lion’s share.

One of the internal contrasts within the Turkish bourgeoisie is between the organisations of the industrial bosses. The large industrialists were traditionally organised in the TÜSİAD (Turkish Industry and Business Association), founded in 1971, with more than 2,100 members representing 4,500 companies, which fuel 80 percent of foreign trade, employ 50 percent of the workforce, and pay 80 percent of business taxes. In contrast, a new, relatively small but rapidly growing business league is organised in the MÜSİAD (Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association), founded in 1990, with 13,000 members controlling 60,000 companies. The TÜSİAD declares itself secular and pro-Western, the MÜSİAD Islamist and pro-government.

On the external front, TÜSİAD favours close relations with the West, particularly the United States, while MÜSİAD supports the current government’s policy of aspiring to become a relatively independent regional imperialist power.

In the early years Erdoğan was supported by the TÜSİAD, and openly supported EU membership. But after the time of the Gezi movement in 2013, Erdoğan and the TÜSİAD drifted apart until Erdoğan accused the TÜSİAD of siding with the opposition. Erdoğan, in addition to being a politician, is the head of one of the largest “families” in Turkey today, with some clout in the newly organised bourgeoisie in the MÜSİAD.

Between the “old” and “new” bourgeoisie, the major accusation boils down to that of “unfair competition”, of the high-flying bourgeoisie, favoured by the government, often employing immigrant workers at very low wages and in poor conditions, while large industries are mostly obliged to hire within the framework of legal regulations. Another issue is over government policies on interest rates.

A fragile compromise

Despite what he said in election propaganda, Erdoğan’s first move after the elections was to extend an olive branch to the big bourgeoisie. Mehmet Şimşek, known for his closeness to strict Western-style economic policies, was appointed powerful minister of treasury and finance: a clear attempt to soften the financial markets. In addition, controversial figures such as Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu found no place in the cabinet.

The TÜSİAD immediately accepted Erdoğan’s generous offer, calling for stability and reforms. Some journalists and opposition economists went further and, endorsing Mehmet Şimşek’s appointment, agreed that ‘we are all in the same boat’.

With the resolution of the crisis in Turkey, the U.S. in particular will not hesitate to normalise relations with Erdoğan, in exchange for Sweden’s permission to join NATO, and perhaps with the delivery of F-16s, denied after the purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system.

All these facts suggest that in all likelihood a compromise has been reached on Turkey and its place in the imperialist hierarchy.

But the economy remains in severe crisis, inflation is still over 40 percent annually, and a significant recovery in accumulation is certainly not in sight. In short, it would be wrong to think that the warring parties have permanently resolved their differences.

Elections are always against the interests of the proletariat

None of the parties that participated in the elections promised lighter working conditions and hours, or wage increases to counter inflation. No party called for more rights for oppressed minorities or refugees fleeing war.

When considering who has been harmed and who has benefited from the common positions of the opposing parties, it is clear that everyone is actually on the side of the bourgeoisie and never the workers.

Democracy is a system in which there is no place for parties opposed to the bourgeoisie. The participation of communists in elections, besides being of no effectiveness toward the seizure of power by the working class, is now also to be ruled out as a propaganda forum, because of the serious misunderstandings it inevitably engenders in the class about the revolutionary aims of the party.

Bourgeois democracy throughout the world today no longer contains any progressive aspects. All the more so for workers and the oppressed.

Even these elections in Turkey, beyond the seemingly red-hot climate between the two camps, were kept within the democratic institutional framework and did not have the disruptive, perhaps even bloody, outcomes that a propaganda interested in dramatising that filing ritual was hinting at. In fact, the aim of the ruling class is to shift the attention of proletarians to interclass issues and to prevent any detailed and non-generic reference to the working-class condition, even by artfully emphasising and magnifying the minimal and insignificant program differences between the parties in the field.

Turkey’s elections proved once again that the bourgeoisie will, behind the democratic mask, as long as it can, never give up an iota of state repression. Turkey’s oppressed groups (women, Kurds, homosexuals, trans people, immigrants, etc.) know this: genocide, torture, massacres, forced migration, executions, unjust sentences, and similar disgusting and monstrous events are not a thing of the past!

As much as the bourgeois states try to hide it, as much as they deny it, these abominations continue to be committed.

The Kurds, women, the discriminated, who pay the price for these cruelties, will never be able to mitigate the oppression they suffer through the instrument of elections. Before the elections, the parties of the bourgeois left claimed that ‘you can solve your problems by voting for us every four years’. This attitude only reinforces the illusion that the solution lies in voting rather than in subordinating every social demand to the strength of the working class, its independent organisation, unionisation, and strikes, and not the illusion that it is easier to achieve socialism through reformism, “common sense” and an electoral victory.

The will of capital will always come out of the ballot box. It will not be education that will open voters’ eyes. Nor will their status as exploited wage earners or oppressed minorities. The dominant ideology will always be the ideology of the ruling class. Only in the Communist Party is the condemnation of bourgeois society consciously guarded.

The idea that the young proletarian and oppressed generations will move toward communism solely due to the effect of social evolution and the increasingly cosmopolitan environment, access to more information thanks to the Internet, and the rapid increase in the number of students in universities and the migration from rural to urban areas is completely wrong.

In fact, these elections have shown that right-wing tendencies are on the rise even in the younger generation. Many, including young people, complain that the current government is not racist enough, that immigrants are the cause of their problems.

Once again it has been shown that the road to workers’ liberation does not go through bourgeois democracy.

The true Communist Party does not give up its principles and is not afraid to express them, lest it lose supporters or, worse, votes! The true Communist Party has nothing to do with bourgeois democracy, which stinks like a sewer, and where we’re fed filthy lies of all kinds.

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The selfless proletarian fight against pension reform in France

The Intersyndicale weakened, then ended the struggle

In Il Partito Comunista no. 422, we presented an account of the great anti-pension-reform movement in France, focusing on the internal reactions within the CGT. Its 53rd congress took place in March, during which there was a considerable strengthening of the internal opposition, characterised by opportunist positions in the trade union-political field, which coexist with a certain confrontational character with respect to the collaborationist leadership. Here we update on the evolution of the resistance movement and its conclusion.

The apex of the movement was in March 2023, as the discussion of the pension reform in parliament approached, then following its approval, in order to obtain it, the government resorted to Article 49-3 of the Constitution (an institution similar to the “vote of confidence” in Italy), which allows parliamentary discussion to be circumvented.

On Tuesday, April 4, 2023, the heads of the eight trade unions forming the Intersyndicale coalition had met to prepare for the following day’s meeting with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne at the Hôtel Matignon (the Prime Minister’s residence in Paris), agreeing only to discuss withdrawal of the pension reform bill. But the PM reiterated the government’s determination not to back down from its positions.

The eleventh day of national strike mobilisation took place on Thursday the 6th, still with a high turnout: 2 million demonstrators according to the trade unions (500,000 according to the Ministry of the Interior), 400,000 of them in Paris. There were also fewer strikes, especially in Parisian public transport (RATP) and trains (SNCF).

Electricity and gas workers went on strike for a few hours and blocked production, but in workplace assemblies, fewer and fewer renewed their strikes from day to day. The same happened at the petrochemical refineries and terminals. Workers at some of these plants had only a few days earlier been condemned and forced back to work by the courts.

The Intersyndicale’s tactics, with individual national mobilisation days falling one or more weeks apart, remained the same from the beginning of the mobilisation on January 19. Given the strength expressed, it was seen by its most combative component as a way not to grow but to dampen and eventually extinguish the movement.

The day after the meeting with the government, the Intersyndicale meeting set Thursday, 13th April as the twelfth day of a national, multi-industry strikes and demonstrations. The date was chosen because on the following day the Constitutional Council would rule on the legitimacy of the reform. But what did the Intersyndicale expect from this institution of the bourgeois state? Heedless of the discontent expressed in the demonstrations, the Council, composed of 9 “wise men”, has, of course, validated the social security reform in its entirety and has not even given its approval to the requested popular referendum, viewed favourably by the Intersyndicale and called for by France Insoumise.

The popular referendum is always an instrument to be rejected by class unionism because it subjects the interests of the workers also to the vote of the classes who also guarantee their privileges on the exploitation of the wage-earners. Inter-class democracy, the founding principle of the bourgeoisie, is the opposite of the workers’ struggle, which is based on the opposite principle: the realisation that only by the force of strikes can the ruling class be bent, which is otherwise in a strong position vis-à-vis the working class and in its ability to divide it. That is why the workers must refuse to subordinate their living conditions to the opinion of the members of the parasitic and exploiting classes!

Following the verdict of the Constitutional Council on April 14, the Intersyndicale decided on a new day of united mobilisation for May Day. International Workers’ Day thus became the 13th mobilisation. Although it did not reach the figures of the best days (3.5 million demonstrators according to the Intersyndicale on March 7, 23, and 28), it brought together 2.3 million demonstrators throughout France (782,000 according to the prefecture). The last united May Day march in France was in 2009. In Italy, we are still waiting for the leaders of the rank-and-file unions to make the first one!

The Intersyndicale met again on May 2 and agreed to a new day of action on June 6. This was because on June 8, a small parliamentary group, the LIOT (Libertés, indépendants, outre mer et territoires), made up of independent and Overseas Territories MPs, was to present a bill to the National Assembly to repeal the reform and confirm the retirement age of 62. The Intersyndicale has thus subordinated the movement to the deadlines of the bodies of the bourgeois institutions, be it Parliament or the Constitutional Court, deluding the workers as to their nature and the possibility of their use in the defence of proletarian interests, confusing and distancing workers from the realisation that it is only on the strength of the strike, extended and generalised, that they can defend themselves.

Therefore, already after the Constitutional Court’s verdict, the Intersyndicale started to spread out the national mobilisation days, calling the next one 17 days later (on May Day) and the following one on June 6, after a further 36 days.

After the fourteenth day of national mobilisation, on June 6, the Intersyndicale blew the whistle.

But not the working class. Indeed, the day demonstrated the persistence of mobilisation, despite a loss of momentum: 900,000 demonstrators throughout France, 300,000 of them in Paris, according to the CGT.

Once the demonstration had started, CFDT General Secretary Berger made it clear that he saw it as the final act of the dispute: that ‘the game is over’, and he called on the trade unions to ‘bring their weight to bear in the future balance of power’ on other issues: purchasing power of wages, housing, working conditions, etc. This was a twisted way of saying that the CFDT, and the majority of the Intersyndicale, intended to abandon the anti-pension mobilisation and reopen the “social dialogue”, which in Italy we call concertazione (and which in English we call ‘class collaboration’).

On June 7, predictably, the President of Parliament invoked Article 40 of the Constitution (rejection of a bill if it creates additional expense for the state) against the LIOT motion. The next day, the LIOT withdrew the bill. This was yet another miserable result of trade unions’ tactic of relying on the institutions of the bourgeois regime.

On June 16, the Intersyndicale met for the last time before summer. In the wake of the announcement by the head of the CFDT, the joint communiqué “noted defeat”: ‘The Intersyndicale and the protesters failed to convince the government to backtrack on raising the retirement age from 62 to 64’. Sophie Binet of the CGT, for her part, added that ‘with another President of the Republic, in another country, we would have won’.

In other words, according to the leaders of the two largest French regime unions, it was impossible for the working class to win: the defeat was the result of Macron’s “denial of democracy” and “numerous forcings”, not of the combination of factors inherent to the class struggle: the conduct of the Intersyndicale and the proletariat’s combativity. For them, there is no class struggle, but rather the contraposition of “democracy” and “authoritarianism”.

The French proletariat, in a social fabric that has changed since the 1980s with the deconstruction of big business and increasing precariousness, was faced with a government determined not to give in, a repressive apparatus strengthened and recently trained against the Gilets Jaunes. In the face of this, the regime unions, anxious to avoid class struggle, diverted it into parliamentarianism, begging the government to negotiate in order to finally force defeat and return to the table of “social dialogue” as soon as possible.

Having cashed in on its victory, today the French government announced it would continue the offensive with the reform of the Revenu de Solidarité Active (RSA), a social welfare benefit for the most destitute, and a new immigration law to further divide the workers. In the meantime, spending on armaments has increased, both for the war in Ukraine and for internal repression.

A first assessment

The movement had already started before the introduction of the reform. 2022 was a particularly intense year for trade union struggles in various sectors: the school workers in January, then the childcare workers, the strike of the precarious postal workers led by the rank-and-file union SUD, strikes in RATP with demands around questions of maintenance and safety, the nuclear power plant stoppages led by the FNME-CGT (Fédération nationale des mines et de l'energie), and above all the strikes in the petrochemical refineries and terminals led by the combative FNIC-CGT in October to demand wage increases (‘Le lotte operaie in Francia’, Il Partito Comunista no. 419). Finally, there was the strike of SNCF train conductors on December 23–25, organised by a group of workers operating outside the unions.

Also worth mentioning in November was the movement of SNCF signalmen at the Bourget 2022 marshalling yard in the Paris region involving 80 railway workers, often new recruits with no tradition of strike action, organised with SUD Rail. Initially, they opted for strikes of 59 minutes every day during peak hours, which corresponded to 3 hours of traffic stoppages due to the stop and restart procedures. In January 2023, in the absence of any response from management, they switched to two 59-minute strikes per shift, and so on until April. Then, with the start of the pension reform, whole days of strikes were called, on a 23-day rotation starting on March 7, with a large number of strikers.

While the union delegates recognised the importance of union unity and organisation, especially within the youngest workers who had no tradition of struggle and were among the most precarious workers, the attitude of the Intersyndicale was criticised by the most combative part of the CGT and SUD Rail. For five months, the Intersyndicale did not commit itself to extending the rolling strikes, isolating the petrochemical, garbage, electricity, and railway workers, who were left alone to face injunctions and repression. This conduct is consistent with the explicit rejection of a broad, indefinite strike and centralised organisation, which would have meant uniting demands, supporting organisation at the grassroots, with the aim of blocking the economy. Instead, union unity was based on a strategy of pressure on the government, which a large part of the workers understood had nothing to do with them.

Some trade union militants were in favour of going so far as to block production by mobilising and coordinating forces to hit certain strategic logistical points (transport, energy, ports, etc.). But the Intersyndicale did not intend to bring the economy of national capital to a halt. As Alexis Antonioli, secretary of the CGT at the Total Energies Normandy refinery pointed out: ‘We knew that all the isolated strike days would not sway the government. When you have that kind of strength, you can't say that you weren't strong enough…. We had a radical base, but a leadership whose line was to say that there would be no rolling strike’.

Not even after the government pushed through the reform on March 16, arousing the indignation and anger of extensive layers of the working class and a further sharpening of their combativeness, did the Intersyndicale change its behaviour. Neither did it react to the repressive actions by employers and police, which hit workers and union militants with greater force and brutality than in the past.

Today, the workers face a regime more determined not to give in, ready to use the most violent repression to achieve its goals, which ultimately boil down to intensifying the exploitation of the working class. The moment of physical confrontation with the bourgeoisie is thus approaching for the proletariat. But the workers still have to rebuild their class union organisations and reconnect with the revolutionary party.

Nothing will stop Macron and his clique, even if they lose their seats. For the bourgeoisie, it is better to have a right-wing, or far-right party like Marine Le Pen, than to give it to the workers’ movement.

It will be the pugnacity of the proletariat – which is sending clear signals worldwide that it has resumed its historic march – that will allow it to reconnect with its party, a decisive factor for the victory within the trade union organisations against opportunist leadership and against collaborationist regime unionism.

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The continuity between democracy and fascism in Italy
The fascist-democratic interpretation in the “material constitution” of the State

Bourgeois propaganda, whether democratic or fascist, tends to emphasise the antithesis between democracy and authoritarianism, between fascism and anti-fascism. We have always maintained that anti-fascism in fact constitutes a feigned opposition to fascism and collaboration of bourgeois factions in their common war against the proletariat.

If the bourgeoisie, in their daily propaganda, deny the continuity between fascism and democracy, some of them in more specialist studies, intended for a more restricted audience, admit this continuity.

The fascist state proclaimed itself anti-liberal and totalitarian. It emphasised the separation between the liberal regime and fascism. It emphasised the so-called fascist revolution. However, it governed to a large extent using pre-fascist institutions. The Albertine Statute remained in force, albeit modified in many parts. The Crown and the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy remained in existence, albeit disempowered. The Royal Edict of 1848 on the press was retained, even if it underwent profound modifications…. In many cases the Fascist legislation consisted of a collection of norms from the previous sixty years, updated and made more suitable for the new regime…. When presenting the laws for the defence of the state to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the kingdom in 1925–28, Alfredo Rocco could always show their connection with pre-fascist legislation and illustrate the element of statutory continuity…. This continuity of institutions is accompanied by the continuity of the technical-political personnel.

The author goes on to speak of the

reproduction within the corporations of the then-so-called class conflicts (between workers and employers). For the most intelligent corporatists, the fascist state did not annul social unrest within a generic solidarity. It subsumed it into the state, keeping it under control.

We go on to read of

rationalising measures… not unlike those that had been adopted by the historical Italian Right. On the contrary, these measures, in many cases, collected obsolete norms from the liberal age, enhanced them and framed them in an organic context. In other cases, they revived institutions and procedures from the first years after Unification or even from the Kingdom of Sardinia.… measures to deal with the economic crisis. Here there is maximum correspondence with choices made outside Italy, especially in the banking sector and public enterprises.


Just as there is continuity between the liberal-authoritarian state of pre-fascism, there is continuity between the state of the fascist period and the post-fascist democratic state. Two-thirds of the rules collected in 1954 in a code of administrative laws were adopted in the fascist period…. Some of these sets of rules even collect pre-fascist regulations, so that their codification in the fascist period acts as a bridge between pre-fascism and post-fascism…. The continuity is not only ensured by the permanence of the rules, but also by the personnel: a large majority of the top public personnel of the democratic age come from the ranks of the bureaucracy formed in the fascist period…. The idea of fascism as a parenthesis, of a sharp break between the fascist period and republican Italy, therefore, is wrong. Or, rather, it corresponds more to the need of contemporaries to establish a distance between fascism and themselves, than to the reality of the facts.

In the second chapter we read:

Defining the ‘fascist state’ is difficult because, apart from its proclaimed totalitarian nature, its roots lie in liberal Italy and its institutions survive the fall of fascism; because a part of its institutions is no different from those created in the same years in other parts of the world…. Fascism itself solemnly proclaimed that it wanted to build a totalitarian state…. It aspired to be totalitarian, because it proclaimed ‘everything in the state, nothing outside the state’. The ‘fascist state’ was thus able to combine a wide variety of ideological legacies and to link up with conservative Catholic social doctrine. It exploited all the elements of authoritarianism of the existing state, introducing new elements, of a Caesaristic and totalitarian type…. The very rupture constituted by the liberation and the 1948 Constitution becomes less important in this perspective: one thinks of the ‘continuity’ between certain statements of the 1942 code (and of the 1927 Labour Charter itself) and certain provisions of the 1948 Constitution…[and] of the ‘continuity’ constituted by the permanence of so much of the legislation of the 1930–40 period.

We now come to Chapter 3:

Legislation on the freedom and status of persons was completed in 1926, with the new Public Security Law. This retained the same structure as the 1889 Zanardelli Code, with the addition of Title I, on police measures. But, on the one hand, it broadened the sphere of action of the public security, on the other hand, it contained more restrictive regulations on the right of assembly, shows, printing houses, foreigners, and updated the discipline of forced domicile, which had become police confinement, widening its scope.

Hence, Fascism

did not aim to change or completely replace the pre-existing legal order, but inserted itself into it in such a way as to exploit the authoritarian elements…multiplied the state-social organisations…. It aimed to dominate the economy with a technique similar to that followed in the political field: by reducing conflicts and transporting them to the state sphere, where they could be kept under control…. State domination of politics, society, and the economy was never full: bureaucracy, schooling, religion escaped, in different ways, from fascist control; corporatism as a planning tool had to make way for the sectoral planning of a former Nittian like Beneduce.

We certainly cannot be satisfied with Cassese’s analyses, but we started with these, which basically prove us right, in order to refute the alleged radical difference between fascism and anti-fascist democracy, and Benedetto Croce’s definition, a not disinterested nonsense, of fascism as a “parenthesis” in Italian history.

(to be continued)

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Navigating contradictions
Japanese imperialism amidst stagnation and capital exports

So-called analysts appear to be overlooking the implications of the changes in the Bank of Japan (BoJ) policy that followed the leadership transition last April. Ueda Kazuo succeeded the outgoing President Kuroda Haruhiko at the conclusion of his second term.

The entirety of the financial markets, corporate capitalism, international institutions overseeing financial and trade regulations, and the global credit system are now compelled to consider the unexpected resurgence of $3.4 trillion in liquidity stemming from the Japanese economy. This capital return, initiated under Kuroda’s leadership from 2016 onward, is the outcome of a pivotal shift in inflation and interest rates. Japan is on the brink of deciding to depart from its previous highly accommodative credit policy.

An upheaval of such magnitude would first impact the global bond market, which is already grappling with the lingering repercussions of being at the core of the U.S. Fed’s inflation-reducing strategy.

Japanese investors, aiming to enhance their profits, have long prioritised opportunities in foreign countries. Local capitalists are widely recognised for their eagerness in acquiring assets globally, ranging from real estate to shares in the sovereign debt of various countries, including Brazil.

This expansive investment approach traces its origins back to the Nakasone era, when he served as the prime minister from 1982 to 1987. During this period, the Japanese bourgeoisie had embraced the idea of exerting control over the entire corporate and banking world by strategically investing their capital everywhere.

When taken to its extreme, the mindset of expanding Japanese influence solely through the spread of capital evolved into a self-fulfilling prophecy, namely that individuals and entities holding the country’s major assets would amass enough power to give Japan a significant degree of control over the entire global capitalist economy.

These wild dreams were abandoned in the late 1980s, as a crisis struck the country, bringing an end to the expansion of Japanese capital and ushering in an era of stagnant growth, minimal wage increases, and restrained government spending.

Kuroda’s policy, previously closely aligned with Abenomics, is now transitioning towards a more restrictive approach known as a ‘buyback’, as discussed in previous reports. This shift has faced open criticism from other players in the capitalist economy, including the BlackRock fund, expressing concerns about the market’s inability to absorb the large “fluctuations” in prices and the “excessive force" with which it may spill over into the markets.

Most indicators suggest a considerable risk which will have a significant impact on Japan’s technology industry. This is in the wake of a global escalation of the imperialist feud involving the United States, NATO, Russia, and China, along with their respective allies. The anticipated contraction in GDP for both the first and second quarters is a crucial indication of this outcome. Unofficially, several sources associate these contractions with each other in a causal relationship.

The inflation trend mirrors what is observed globally, showing a gradual decline. This outcome is attributed to central bankers’ inability to promptly rein in inflation. In March, “core” (primary, excluding energy and food) consumer prices increased by 3.2% compared to the previous year, marking a slowdown from the 42-year highs of 4.3% in January and 3.3% in February. This deceleration is a consequence of government subsidies aimed at curbing individuals’ energy expenditures. Despite this decline, the figure remains well above the BoJ’s target, indicating that the reduction in prices may not occur as swiftly as desired.

Retail sales in Japan have maintained an annual growth rate of +6.6%, surpassing the previous forecast of +5.8%. This growth has been primarily driven by the automotive and domestic sectors, especially department stores. Additionally, industrial production relative to domestic output saw a notable increase of 4.5% in February compared to January, surpassing the forecasted 2.7% increase. While these figures seem impressive, they are undermined by the modern tricks of bourgeois economics of lowering expectations on economic indicators, making it easier for them to be exceeded by reality. However, various signals suggest that the current momentum may be approaching its end.

The recent imposition of export bans impacting the production of integrated circuit manufacturing machinery is anticipated to solidify what is already indicated in market forecasts during the second half of the year. Weaknesses in the IT sector have resulted in a decrease in demand for services, hitting a low point just when Japanese capitalists anticipated the post-pandemic “big rebound”. The resilience of Japanese capitalism appears to be sustained primarily by declining energy prices, injecting fresh vitality into consumer spending that is not driven by net growth or additional structural factors.

Increasing consumption would necessitate raising wages, but “spring talks” on this issue have been postponed. This delay is attributed to the fact that the Bank of Japan (BoJ) shows no intention of slowing down the pace of rate hikes anytime soon. Consequently, the BoJ is attempting to highlight the rebound in industrial production to portray the country as “stable”. Against the backdrop of a deteriorating labor market, Kishida’s approach is an attempt to portray the workers’ plight as temporary and recoverable. March data indicates a rise in the unemployment rate (2.6% in February compared to 2.4% in January), while in the same months, the ratio of jobs to job applications dropped from 1.35 to 1.34.

The trend was propelled by weakness in the manufacturing sector and strength in the services sector. These same sectors are largely responsible for the surge in output through January, leading to the perception that their improvement may be temporary.

The strategy advocated by the Japan Trade Union Confederation, focusing on the policy of raising wages, was met by businesses and corporate industries with a wage increase of +1.4% in April (the start of Japan’s fiscal year). However, this increase was limited to just one month. Additionally, the April data revealed a 0.3% decrease in overtime pay, marking the first decline in two years.

The impact of the shunto, the spring wage negotiations, went no further and certain conditions were stipulated by Kishida. He stated that he would support an increase in nominal wage growth only if long-term inflation remains around 2%. Official government data persistently refute that such a condition has been achieved. The inflation-adjusted real wage time series reveals the thirteenth consecutive year-on-year decline (3%), under pressure from the significant increase in consumer prices, which continues to erode nominal wage growth

Household spending, down 4.4% in April, marks the highest drop since February 2021. This scenario is shaping a situation where consumption is not significantly driving the economy. Instead, the country is grappling with the repercussions of the global economic slowdown, given its role as a major exporting nation within the broader framework of international capitalism.

Spending on services decreased by 1.9%, while a sharper drop was seen in the demand for goods, down 3.4%. The decline in demand for physical products is particularly noteworthy, resembling a situation seen in Italy where the domestic market struggles to compensate for the loss of projection in external markets. The current Cold War-like environment doesn't provide the same opportunities, highlighting the vulnerability of firms across various industries. There is a looming risk of a long-anticipated financial shock, especially if the debt repurchase plan implemented by the BoJ goes awry.

In terms of foreign policy, Japan is becoming more involved in the imperialist feud among bourgeois powers, aligning itself with the U.S. and NATO against Russia. This involvement is accompanied by an increase in offers of aid to the Ukrainian military, exemplified by the delivery of several military vehicles to Kiev in May. However, Japanese imperialism, positioned for a potential large-scale resurgence, adopts a low-profile tactic of taking sides when convenient. The timely offer of humanitarian aid to the victims of the Kherson flood may be a case in point of this strategic approach.

Nevertheless, the obstacles hindering the expansion of the Japanese economy are compelling the state to make compromises on its control over vital assets, such as big industry. This is evident in the decision to transfer Toshiba to private control in a $14 billion deal with the Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) group. Official comments suggest that this move is a response to high-interest rates and reduced availability of favourable loan terms.

Energy security remains a weak point, with recent government decisions imposing new sanctions on Russia, ruling out the exploitation of the oil and gas field associated with the Sakhalin-2 project. This project had been a subject of substantial investment by both Russian and Japanese state-run industries at the time.

These signs of potential growing insecurity over fossil fuels are prompting the Japanese middle class to advocate for significant progress in the development of hydrogen-fuel alternatives. The Kishida cabinet recently set a goal in the first week of June to increase hydrogen production to 12 million tons by 2040, a level six times higher than today. The plan is supported by $107 billion in funding over 15 years, aimed at creating hydrogen-based supply chains for both the public and private sectors. Realistically, the government views this as one option among others, including “clean coal” and energy from nuclear power plants, to address the complex issues surrounding decarbonsation.

These specific policies are expected to have a significant impact on Japan. The Kishida cabinet’s ambitious declarations to transition Japan into a “hydrogen society”, where energy supply and demand are centred on hydrogen, stem from the anticipated shortage of LNG, projected to persist until at least 2025. The competition from European countries to secure this energy source is anticipated to further intensify the shortage, prompting Japan to prioritise the development and utilisation of hydrogen as an alternative.

Therefore, big industry, which significantly influences, if not entirely directs, most government actions, sees the commercialisation of pure hydrogen and ammonia as its final option to prevent further erosion of its position in the global power rankings.

Despite Matsuno Hirokazu’s confident statement that Japan has all the necessary elements to achieve the triple aim of decarbonisation, stable energy supply, and economic growth, the country will have to grapple with the consequences of the Fukushima power plant disaster for many years to come.

This strategy is complemented by the expectation of progress in microchip production, with Taiwan’s TSMC poised to share its knowledge with the Japanese corporate sector to reclaim the top positions it once held in the global market. However, in a more practical sense, Japan is faced with competition from U.S. plans to “reshore” chip production facilities. This, in turn, sparks joint competition and a race against time to steal raw materials and semi-finished products.

Apart from the striking resemblances with Italy, especially in the approach taken by the Italian bourgeoisie to persist with its long-standing policy of low wages, this type of economic development strongly suggests that in Japan, the post-Covid-19 recovery is already largely concluded. The current phase illustrates the rapid global progression of the economic and financial crisis, with which the Japanese bourgeoisie is increasingly unable to cope, forcing it to fall back to the strategy of mitigating the war between the classes.

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The working class in Latin America
Report from our comrades

For May Day, from Mexico to Patagonia, we witnessed the traditional parades of workers who bowed to the demagogic policies of governments, or who anticipated in vain possible announcements of wage increases or “improvements” in working conditions, waiting for crumbs to fall from the table of the bosses’ banquet. In every country the ruling demagogue has made his promises with the support of business and the various union centres subservient to capital.

If we exclude countries like Venezuela and Cuba, where nominal wages are close to zero, Colombia, Brazil and Peru stand out with the lowest minimum wages. However, we know that even in Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay, which have the highest minimum wages in the region, workers survive at the cost of much deprivation, for food, health care and hygiene. On the other hand, the prevailing wage patterns in the different countries tend to lower what is paid to retirees and laid-off workers to abysmal levels, and deprive the vast masses of unemployed and hidden unemployment: workers in the informal economy, ‘self-employed’, day labourers, etc., of all resources.

Real wages are being eroded by inflation and employers’ rapacity, seeking to maximise the exploitation of workers. All this is leading to a deterioration in the living, eating and health conditions of proletarian families.

In Colombia there have been no government promises of any kind for the workers. The trade union centres have reserved the workers the role of extras, to make them join the event organised by President Gustavo Petro, who needed to show “popular support” for his anti-proletarian policy. Petro called on ‘Colombian citizens’ to mobilise in support of the reforms his government has proposed to the Congress of the Republic. Workers’ discontent was channelled towards the institutional mechanisms of bourgeois democracy, pushing the workers’ struggle into the background in relation to its plans for labour reform.

In Brazil, the trade union centres mobilised the workers and obtained from the Lula government only the adjustment of the minimum wage from 1,302 to 1,320 reais (R$) per month (about US$267 US, an increase of 1.38%) and income tax exemption for those earning up to 2,640 R$. The teachers went on strike demanding a wage increase. They denounce that the implementation of the table announced by the government will reduce the total salary, which will affect the pension calculation. For example, if a teacher with 40 hours of work earns R$ 3,529.74 per month as a basic salary, with bonuses their salary is R$ 4,500 (about US$911): this worker will not receive any increase. Similarly, the government’s salary adjustment has not benefited the school’s administrative staff.

The strike in the Federal District ended after 21 days with an agreement to pay a higher salary in the second half of this year, and not in 2024 as previously planned.

In Mexico, the president met with the clowns of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de Mexico) to have lunch and share demagogic speeches without any reference to possible wage increases. Independent unions mobilised for workers’ demands.

In Argentina, there were major street demonstrations in which the unions rejected the government’s agreements with the IMF and demanded measures to control inflation. Argentina is among the countries with the highest cost of living increases in the world. In March the price increase was 7.7% and on a yearly basis it reached 104.3%.

In Bolivia, President Luis Arce led the workers’ march with the Central Obrera Boliviana, where he announced a five per cent wage increase that will raise the minimum wage to 2,362 bolivianos, equivalent to US$340. The labour minister stated that the increase seeks to compensate for last year’s inflation, which was 3.2%. But the reality is that this wage is insufficient to meet the basic needs of workers. In a statement that makes clear how the main trade union centres are integrated into the bourgeois state, the demagogue Arce claimed that his government ‘is strong because the trade unions are strong’. In fact, successive governments have managed to promote and maintain their anti-worker policies thanks to the treacherous work of the trade union centres.

At the same time, state teachers, who have been in conflict with the government since mid-March, demonstrated outside the official parade. State teachers are demanding better salaries and more recruitment, but dialogue with the Ministry of Education has so far been fruitless. Despite being affiliated to the Central Obrera, the teachers have complained that this organisation does not represent them. Meanwhile, for their part, entrepreneurs have claimed that the wage increase ordered by the government will increase unemployment.

In Venezuela, after months marked by the harsh struggle of school workers demanding wage increases, the government managed to capitalise on the mock march on May 1, mobilising mainly workers in state-owned companies and institutions thanks to government-provided public transport. Alternative mobilisations to that of the government, demanding wage increases, took place in several states of the country, but with low participation. In the capital Caracas, an important attempt at an alternative march took place, with a large participation of workers, which was diluted along the way, partly due to the strong police siege that slowed it down, and partly due to the absence of a class-based trade union leadership that would have provided the necessary guidance.

The government announced an increase in bonuses, but kept the minimum wage at 130 bolivars (about US$5 per month). With the bonus policy, the government decreases the cost of labour (holidays and allowances are calculated on the basis of the minimum wage) and can also reduce the cost of dismissing employees.

After the May Day announcements, workers’ discontent and their opposition to trade union confederations and federations increased. In the region of Guyana, with a large development of iron, aluminium, steel and other processing companies, there were significant manifestations of hostility by workers towards the regional representatives of the CBST (Central Bolivariana Socialista de Trabajadores). There were reports of protests at CBST industrial plants in Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (CVG), SIDOR (steel), ALCASA (aluminium), FERROMINERA (iron) and VENALUM (aluminium). As a result of these protests, some sectors of the trade union movement in these companies are promoting the holding of trade union elections, where they have not been held for the renewal of union leadership for some eight years.

Opportunists and trade unionists still manage to keep the workers demobilised, disorganised, divided and subservient to the politics of class conciliation with the capitalist bosses and governments of the day.

In general, the labour movement is devoid of class-based trade union references. There are sporadic combative initiatives at trade union level that still fail to grow in influence, partly due to the confusion caused by the presence of nationalist positions, defence of national sovereignty and inclinations towards electoral participation and parliamentarism. The large trade union centres of Latin America, old and new, maintain a policy of class conciliation, far from any call to struggle.

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The Party’s trade union activity in Italy
Report to the May 2023 General Meeting

From the beginning of February to date, trade union activity in Italy has continued to take place in the different spheres that we have already listed in the last report:

As already mentioned, it rises from the most general level – propaganda among the masses in the streets – gradually to more and more characterised and specific levels, up to our press, where the class union line is made explicit in all its aspects and in its connection to and descent from the communist programme and theory.

We also organised a public meeting of the Party in Turin on April 30, the day before May Day, at the headquarters of Confederazione Cobas, on a trade union issue: Gli scioperi in Francia, Gran Bretagna, Germania, Grecia sono l’inizio dell’nevitabile estendersi della lotta di classe internazionale. Presto anche in Italia i lavoratori si dovranno mobilitare. Quali le condizioni per dimostrare tutta la loro forza e determinazione?.

In general, the labour movement in Italy remains in a condition of weakness and passivity, and this is reflected in our activities in the areas listed above.

If we take a look at the overall situation of the class struggle in Italy, the last general movements of a certain strength – inter-categorical, involving the generality of the class – were in 1992, against the agreement that completed the revocation of the ‘sliding scale’ – which provoked a protest at the top of the regime unions and a strengthening of grassroots unionism – and that of 1994, against the Berlusconi government’s first pension reform.

The last strong national sectoral strike movement, which developed spontaneously with so-called ‘wildcat’ strikes that repeatedly violated anti-strike legislation, was the public transport workers’ strike of December 2002–January 2003, which also developed outside and against the regime’s unions and which strengthened grassroots unionism in the sector (‘Disamina e bilancio dello sciopero dei tranvieri’).

As far as factory strikes are concerned, we had the 21-day strike at FIAT in Melfi in April 2004 (‘Cobas e Fiom alla riprova di Melfi’), and ten years later the 35-day strike at ThyssenKrupp in Terni in October-November 2014 (‘Terni, Uno sciopero di 35 giorni tradito dai sindacati di regime’).

A number of considerations must be made regarding this direction:

Since 2011, there has been a developing reorganisation of grassroots unionism in the logistics sector, chiefly but not exclusively in SI Cobas. This movement has been considerable, leading to the formation of what is now the second largest grassroots union, SI Cobas, with approximately 20,000 members, but has remained confined to this category, with only minor exceptions.

The first rank-and-file trade union became Unione Sindacale di Base, which was formed in 2010 from the merger of the previous Rappresentanze Sindacali di Base with parts of Confederazione Unitaria di Base and the small SdL (Sindacato dei Lavoratori). Membership can be estimated at around 40,000. Compared to its origins in 2010 and to the tradition of the main founding organisation – the RdB – the USB has partially changed its character over the last 13 years, reducing the number of members in the public sector (down to around 16,000), a sector in which the RdB was almost exclusively organised, and growing in the private sector.

It would seem to be the triumph of the social peace always coveted by the bourgeoisie. Instead, we know it to be the prelude to a new explosion of class struggle, whose material conditions day by day the advancing crisis of capitalism prepares in the subsoil of society, and whose first manifestations are already well observable internationally, both in the social protest movements that, for the moment, have retained their inter-class character – as in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – and in the strengthening of the trade union struggle in France, Great Britain, Greece, Turkey and the USA.

All of these countries have experienced the same process of weakening of the trade union movement that we have described for Italy, albeit in different forms and to different degrees, but a so-called reversal of the trend seems to have already occurred in them, which is not yet evident in Italy.

The weakening of the workers’ struggle was reflected in the regime unions themselves, which in Italy saw both a decrease in their membership and an increasing difficulty in mobilising the workers in the rare actions they took, mostly demonstrations instead of strikes. But the leadership of the CGIL, the CISL, and Uil only appear to lament this. The weakness of the working class is in fact the best guarantee of their control over it.

On the whole, rank-and-file unionism – due to both adverse objective reasons and the damaging action of its opportunist leadership – was unable to counteract this progressive weakening of workers’ struggles and, like regime unionism, suffered a decline in membership and mobilisation capacity.

In those categories where it had been most successful in the 1980s and 1990s, on the wave of movements of struggle outside and against the regime unions, it lost most of its members: school, railway workers, health, tram drivers, airport workers, fire fighters.

However, the picture varies among the different trade union organisations.

Cobas Scuola, and in general the Cobas Confederation to which they belong, appear to be in serious decline.

Fiat’s offensive, started in June 2010 by then CEO Marchionne, led to the almost complete destruction of the Slai Cobas, which had developed in the Arese (closed in 2005), Termoli, and Pomigliano plants. Small grassroots union groups remained in the factories of Melfi, Termoli, Pratola Serra, and Atessa.

The CUB, which was founded in 1992 and was then present in several categories and industries, and which had made a federative pact with the RdB, giving rise to RdB-CUB, has also suffered a sharp decline, in particular as a result of two factors the birth in 2010 of the USB, which took over parts of the CUB; the agreement called the Testo Unico sulla Rappresentanza of January 2014 between the bosses and the regime unions, accepted first by Confederazione Cobas, then by the USB, then by other minor grassroots unions, and never by the CUB, which resulted in its exclusion from the RSU (united union representative bodies elected within companies).

The crisis of overproduction, in the absence of an already implanted and robust class-based trade union movement, had a depressive effect on workers’ combativeness, especially in the manufacturing industry, leading to a retreat of grassroots unionism from previously won positions.

In contrast to what has been outlined so far, a movement has developed in the logistics sector that has given rise to the formation of SI Cobas, and the smaller Adl Cobas. The USB is also a partial counter-tendency to the general backwardness of base unionism.

After this minimal review, we come to union activity in the past four months. The low level of conflict was confirmed. As in previous years, having consumed the autumn mobilisations, already weak in themselves, the following months expressed an even lower level of general mobilisations.

Added to this was the breakdown of the fragile unity of action of base unionism, between the leaderships of the USB and SI Cobas, in the national demonstration in Rome on 3 December, in which we participated by carrying out propaganda work.

This led the USB leadership to call a general strike for Friday, 26 May, convened and organised without involving any other grassroots union, the outcome of which was, despite the leadership’s proclamations, negative.

We summarise our activity from February 2023 to date.

On Saturday 25 February, the USB called a national anti-war demonstration in Genoa with the slogan: ‘Down with weapons, up with wages!’ Behind the slogan, appreciable, there is, however, the ill-concealed pro-Russian stance of its leadership group.

Five days earlier, on Monday February 20, we took part in the USB Liguria confederal coordination, in preparation for the demonstration on the 25th. In it we reaffirmed that the ongoing war in Ukraine is imperialist on both fronts; that only the workers will be able to stop the general imperialist war that is ripening; that the strikes and the demonstration against the war and in defence of wages are a first step on this road.

Two days earlier, on Saturday February 18, we had spoken at an assembly called by the Genoese SI Cobas in the dockerworkers’ hall. The assembly had as its theme the war in Ukraine and a book written by the political front that runs SI Cobas was being presented there. It was therefore a case of using the trade union for a function unrelated to it, as an organisational tool of a political group. There is dissatisfaction within this union over this conduct.

We intervened by explaining that at the trade union level, the unity of action of the workers and, to this end, the unity of action of combative trade unionism is fundamental; on the other hand, opportunism is characterised by acting in an inverted way: it makes political frontism (the SI Cobas leadership has formed a political front with Stalinist groups) and trade union sectarianism, dividing and weakening the workers’ fighting actions.

Also on 25 February, we took part in the successful national anti-war demonstration called by the USB, distributing a Party leaflet entitled Il massacro dei proletari ucraini e russi continua e prefigura quello mondiale cui il capitalismo vuol condurre l’umanità intera. Solo la rivoluzione internazionale dei lavoratori potrà impedirlo!.

With a trade union militant from the opposition in CGIL, we distributed the leaflet calling the national assembly of the CLA (Assemblea pubblica. Salute sicurezza repressione nei posti di lavoro e sul territorio), scheduled for Sunday March 3 in Genoa, which was attended by some thirty people. It was an opportunity to expound in some detail on important issues concerning the relationship between trade unions and the Party and the question of the unity of action of combative unionism. This was done with the introductory speech given by our comrade (Questioni cruciali del sindacalismo di classe discusse ad una assemblea del CLA). The text of this speech was translated by our comrades into English and is published in no. 57 of The Communist Party (‘Crucial Questions of Class Trade-Unionism Discussed at a Meeting of the CLA’). The speech was an opportunity to counter the inconsistent arguments of the speaker at the 18 February assembly organised by the Genoese SI Cobas.

On March 8 in Genoa, we took part in the International Women’s Day demonstration, distributing the party’s leaflet, translated into our press in 16 languages (It is capitalism that prevents women’s liberation).

We paid special attention to following the strike movements in France and the UK, and reporting on them in our press. This was done in the May–June issue of Il Partito Comunista, with two articles entitled ‘In Francia la lotta generale di classe travolge i bonzi della Cgt’ and ‘Nel Regno Unito scioperi e manifestazioni annunciano il risveglio della classe operaia’.

What happened there, and especially in France, had a certain reflection among the militants of combative unionism in Italy. Delegations, one from the USB, one from Fiom, went – separately – to one of the demonstrations in Marseilles.

In France the movement was directed by a collaboration of multiple unions including all the unions, those openly collaborationist and regime, such as the CFDT, those covertly so, basically the CGT, and the only one that could be considered a base union, the SUD. The most combative parts of the CGT, of Force Ouvriere, and of the SUD distinguished themselves by not breaking the unity of the strikes called by the collaboration, trying to prolong them in the sectors and companies where they were able to do so.

This example was repeatedly used by us – at the assembly of the Genoese SI Cobas, at the confederal coordination of USB Liguria, at the assembly of the CLA – to explain that in Italy it was necessary to indicate, not certainly a trade union front with the regime unions, but certainly a unity of action of the combative trade unionism, which was absolutely necessary. All the trade union-political opportunism that runs the grassroots unions ignored this need, despite filling their mouths with high-sounding phrases like “do as in France”.

On March 25, in Genoa, we published an appeal by the Genoese CLA for grassroots trade unionism in the city to promote a united presidium in solidarity with the movement of struggle in France, which in those days was reaching its climax, even facing some repressive episodes of a certain gravity (‘Per un'azione unitaria del sindacalismo conflittuale in solidarietà con la classe lavoratrice in Francia’). This appeal, sent to all local union leaders and circulated among our union contacts, also went unheeded.

On March 30 in Rome, the USB organised a national conference with the issue of wages at its centre. We followed the entire conference, broadcast on the union’s Facebook page. Guests and speakers included former INPS president Tridico, close to the 5 Star Movement, the head of this bourgeois party Giuseppe Conte and a retired university professor of economics. The conference showed the patently contradictory trade union-political line of the USB leadership, typical of opportunism.

On the one hand, the USB leaders correctly state that the current crisis is a ‘systemic’ crisis of capitalism and overproduction, and that the only way to defend and increase wages is through struggle. On the other hand, they delude themselves, and delude the workers, that the way out of the economic crisis of capitalism is in a return to a policy of strong state intervention, which for them is not bourgeois but democratic. They claim, as does a part of the left in the CGIL, the establishment of a new Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, which was set up in 1933, during fascism, at the height of the Great Depression, and which in the post-war period progressively expanded its areas of intervention to include some 1,000 companies with more than 500,000 employees in 1980.

This policy, which relies on nationalisations of companies crushed by the weight of the crisis, has nothing anti-capitalist about it; in fact, it was undertaken by fascism, as well as by Nazism and the Anglo-Saxon democracies. It is a path practised – and justified a posteriori with ideological patches – by every bourgeois state in the face of catastrophic crisis in order to make productive structures barely survive at the expense of the exchequer.

The bourgeois state’s policies of intervention in the economy to ‘save strategic companies for the country’ – as repeated by both regime trade unionism and the opportunism at the head of the base unions – through nationalisations, have the aim of leading the proletariat towards the slaughterhouse of imperialist war, the only political-economic policy capable of saving bourgeois privileges and domination. Political nationalism, at the basis of which is economic nationalism, is fundamental to this end, as well as keeping certain factories and production facilities in operation. The nationalisation of industries under capitalist rule “nationalises” the proletarian masses in the sense that it regiments them in nationalist ideology. It brings us closer, not to socialism, but to imperialist war.

Thus, while the USB leadership correctly claims strong wage increases and points to the path of struggle to achieve them, it contradicts this struggle with a political direction that is nothing but the classic social-democratic one, which failed already with the World Wars.

The USB conference in Rome, rather than the issue of how to obtain wage increases, focused on the question of the ‘legal minimum wage’, for which the USB leaders trust not in the mobilisation of the workers but in the demagogic support of bourgeois politicians. Tridico and Conte’s calls and speeches are framed in this context.

This is why we published two articles in our press: the first on the decline of wages in Italy (‘Il declino costante dei salari in Italia’), the second on the issue of the ‘legal minimum wage’, which we called a mirage to divert workers from the necessary fight for wages (‘Miraggio del salario minimo per deviare la combattività operaia’).

Many, even within the USB, recognise that without a general struggle of the entire working class of the appropriate strength, a minimum wage law would resolve itself into a downward compromise between the bourgeois parties, who piggyback on this utopia for mere electoral purposes. On the other hand, if the conditions were in place to express a movement of such strength, then it would not be convenient to channel it into the kind of parliamentary politics from which such a law could be expected, but instead it would be better to have a direct confrontation with the bosses to obtain wage increases.

It is true what the regime unions claim, that wage levels should be regulated not by law but by bargaining. But they do this because, conducted in their preferred manner, i.e., without a fight, bargaining guarantees that the bosses will pay low wages. The solution, however, does not lie in the illusion that the downward bargaining of the regime unions can be circumvented by imposing, with supposed support from parties of the bourgeois left, a law to protect wages. This fully social-democratic, and fascist, illusion rests on the idea that capitalism can be conditioned by democracy, with rules that come to protect the living conditions of proletarians and their class unions.

On this level rests the other erroneous claim of the restoration of the sliding scale, put forward by the USB and other trade union currents, for example the Trotskyist opposition currents within the CGIL. Yet another is that of a law on union representation, which, according to USB leaders, would guarantee class unionism the right to be recognised.

These opportunist currents perpetuate the falsehood that democracy is what it says it is, and not instead a form of bourgeois class rule – ‘the best political envelope of capitalism’, said Lenin – complementary to totalitarian and openly fascist forms of government, and which does not change the bourgeois nature of the state at all.

In response to the USB leadership’s most recent address at the March 30 conference, we stated that if it is true that the only way to defend wages is through struggle, then those left-wing bourgeois parties that the USB leadership deludes into thinking they can help the workers should be put to the test as to their real intentions. And not with the demand for a minimum wage, but with the abolition of the anti-strike laws, which prevent a large part of the working class from fighting, specifically those categories that have been fighting in recent months in France and the UK.

The article on the minimum wage addressed another diversion used, in this case by regime unionism, to keep workers from returning to the struggle: that of “tax reform”. At the final assembly of the 19th Congress of the CGIL, in Rimini, General Secretary Landini called it ‘the mother of all battles’. The main exponent of the trade union fraction that heads Fiom–CGIL in Genoa, which declares itself combative and held its congress in Genoa in December 2022 under the slogan ‘For a class union’, agreed with this statement by the great piecard. In the article we also denounced this opportunism that masquerades as class unionism.

We distributed the party newspaper at the May Day event in Turin.

On May 13 in Florence, we took part in a demonstration called by the SI Cobas of Prato against the police repression of its two young local leaders. We distributed a specially prepared leaflet to the 600 or so participants (Per la rinascita di un forte movimento sindacale di classe contro sfruttamento e repressione). The workers in the procession showed great attachment and trust in their union.

Three major strikes took place in logistics. One on April 7 in the major couriers (Brt, Gls, and Sda), members of the employers’ association Fedit, which succeeded in causing substantial delays in their activities. A second took place at the Coop warehouse in Pieve Emanuele, south of Milan. A third important strike was conducted by the smaller Adl Cobas, which has been supporting SI Cobas for years, at the warehouse of Commit Siderurgica, a steel company in Veggiano, in the province of Padua. A fourth major strike took place at the Stellantis plant (formerly Fiat) in Pomigliano d'Arco, in the province of Naples. We reported and commented on these struggles in the July–August 2023 issue of Il Partito Comunista (‘Ultime dal sindacalismo di regime in Italia’).

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Report to the September 2023 General Meeting

In Italy there remains a general condition of passivity and resignation of the wage-earning masses, with sporadic struggles that are still unable to trigger a widespread, let alone general, movement.

The same applies to what cannot even be called opportunism, but rather openly patronistic politics, conducted in Italy by the leaders of the regime unions: CGIL, CISL, UIL, UGL.

This condition persists despite the general weakening of the trade union movement and the organisations controlled by the pro-bourgeois trade union fractions at the head of the regime’s trade unions, and opportunists at the head of the combative trade union bodies, i.e., the opposition areas within the CGIL and the grassroots unions. The weakening, produced by the objective conditions of capitalism, is aggravated by such leaderships.

In July, the CGIL metalworkers’ federation, Fiom, called a four-hour strike divided by region. We drew up a leaflet which we distributed at the strike demonstration in Genoa on July 7.

Just as we witnessed the smallest demonstration organised for the general strike called by CGIL and UIL in Genoa on December 16, 2022, with even greater certainty we can say the same for the procession organised for the metalworkers’ city-wide strike: never so few in number.

Our leaflet, which we published in no. 424 of our Italian-language newspaper, Il Partito Comunista, pilloried and hit out very effectively at both the national leadership of Fiom–CGIL and the opportunism of the trade union fraction of the political group running the Genoa Fiom. This local political union leadership had celebrated the Fiom–CGIL provincial congress in December under the slogan: ‘Conscience, struggle, organisation. For a Class Union’

Our leaflet first of all attacked the Fiom national leadership. This, like the confederal leadership, on the one hand denounces low wages, to show the workers that it is a bastion in their defence, and on the other hand does not demand real wage increases, i.e. on the basic wage and paid by the companies, but a reduction in taxes on wages. In fact, in the Fiom leaflet for the 7 July strike, one of the demands was not for ‘wage increases’ but for ‘enhancing and supporting labour income’.

In Italy, the leadership of the CGIL has not used the term ‘working class’ for years and even tries not to talk about wages, but about ‘income’ The work of demolishing every idea, principle and practice of class, begun by its leadership since the reconstitution from the top of the union in 1944, continues to this day and advances towards ever new frontiers of shameless disavowal.

In our leaflet we commented: ‘They don't even have the courage to name the wage, which they call income, as what’s pocketed the parasitic social classes who live off the backs of the working class’.

A month before the July 7 strike, at the beginning of June, the Fiom national secretary had praised the metalworkers’ labour contract signed two years earlier together with FIM and UILM because, according to him, it ‘defends the purchasing power of wages’. This was because an average increase of about 6.6 per cent had been triggered in May because the contract provided for an automatic adjustment to inflation through a periodic review. But the increase started in June and was not retroactive, i.e. it did not recover the purchasing power of wages lost from the end of 2021 to May 2023, i.e., since inflation had started to run. In addition, the adjustment was based on the HICP index. This consumer price index, proposed in 2009 by the CISL and UIL and initially rejected by CGIL, only to accept it completely as of 2012, does not include the prices of imported energy goods. Which, as is well known, are a key component of the inflation of the last two years in Italy.

On the editorial side, in the July and September newspapers, we published articles on the youth revolt in the French suburbs; the repression against workers’ struggles by the Venezuelan bourgeois regime, cloaked in “socialism”; strikes in the USA, particularly in the UPS and auto industry; strikes in Argentina and Brazil; and, finally, in Fiume, Croatia, where garbage collectors organised to fight outside the regime’s union.

In Italy, activity in the Coordinamento Lavoratori Autoconvocati continued. On June 8, a communiqué was published in solidarity with the Coordinamento Macchinisti Cargo (CMC) in view of the ninth strike organised by this organisation, called for the following day.

On June 25, an assembly was held in Florence, on the theme of Health, Safety, and Repression in the workplace and in the territory, at the end of which a motion of solidarity was drawn up with the workers in struggle, organised with SI Cobas, at the Mondo Convenienza company in Campi Bisenzio (Florence), and €350 was collected to give to the workers. At the assembly it was decided to work on a mobilisation in September/October on this theme as well as in the direction of the establishment of a broader coordination to work on this issue.

On July 19, the CLA issued a new communiqué in solidarity with the CMC, for the tenth strike scheduled for July 21.

On July 23, an extended meeting was held, in person and online, to implement the commitments made at the June 25 assembly in Florence. The minutes of the meeting were published on July 30. A mobilisation day in Bologna, in front of the court, was decided for October 12.

On September 2, a communiqué was published about the railway massacre in Brandizzo (Turin) two days earlier, in which five railway maintenance workers lost their lives.

*  *  *

In addition to the trade union report, presented at the end of September, we add here the fact that, since the day of mobilisation promoted by the CLA and other organisations, a permanent collaboration between these bodies has sprung up, which for the time being has given itself the name ‘Coordination of 12 October’. It includes: the CLA, the CMC, the trade unions SGB, CUB Trasporti, and Sol Cobas, activists of the CGIL group ‘Le Radici del Sindacato’, families of the victims of the Viareggio railway massacre and the Torre piloti in Genoa, the Assembly of 29 June, and Medicina Democratica.

(back to table of contents)

From the Archive of the Left

Party and proletarian class organisations in the tradition of revolutionary communism

from Il Partito Comunista nos. 12–14, 1975

(Part 1 of 3)

Economic struggle and political struggle

Continuing to elucidate the question of the united front, let us return to the basics of our Marxist conception. The working class is compelled to struggle against the capitalist regime by the need to defend its conditions of existence, its wages, its labour, its very life. This struggle, which takes place on the terrain of the economic conditions of the workers, is transformed at certain critical moments into a political struggle, into a struggle for the conquest of political power, because at such moments the very defence of the workers’ living conditions can only be done by wresting political power from the hands of the bourgeoisie, by establishing the dictatorial power of the proletarian class, on the basis of which alone is possible the destruction of the capitalist mode of production and the reorganisation in a communist sense of the economy and society. The conduct of the political struggle can only be entrusted to a fighting organism that has arisen and is suited to this purpose: the class political party.

Proletarian organs and political party

The first consequence that follows from this Marxist approach to the problem, and which is verified by the entire history of the proletarian movement, is the objective necessity, because it is not dependent on individual will, of the manifestation of proletarian action and organisation on the terrain of economic struggle. This defensive action of the working class is common to all workers regardless of their ideology, their political convictions. Its root lies not in a fact of ideas or will, but in the real material circumstances in which workers live. This action is expressed in an appropriate organisational form: the economic, trade union organisation, which brings workers together as wage-labourers, as those subject to the material pressure of the capitalist mode of production. The workers’ organisation for the conduct of the economic struggle, therefore, does not bring workers together on the basis of adherence to a purpose, to a political programme, but brings them together as workers, as wage-labourers who are in the same material situation, who feel they have the same immediate interests to defend.

The final end, the acknowledgement that the economic struggle itself is insufficient and must therefore transcend into a general political struggle of the entire class for the conquest of power, and the provision of material and ideal means for this struggle, is the proper task of the political party. The Party, therefore, is not defined by its social composition, nor by the environment in which it recruits its members, nor by an organisational structure placed on the surface of the working class by category or by workplace; it is defined, on the contrary, precisely by its tendency towards an end and therefore by its revolutionary political programme. One adheres to it only insofar as one accepts its theory, programme, principles, aims, and one can be a worker or non-worker. One becomes, in Lenin’s formula, a ‘professional revolutionary’.

There is thus a clear distinction between organisations that qualify as being of workers, i.e., bringing together all the wage-labourers of a given company, production category, or industrial sector, with a view to the defence of contingent interests common to all, and the political organisation of the proletariat, characterised by its positions and aims. A clear distinction, which in no way signifies the absence of relations and reciprocal bonds, but rather the execution of class functions that cannot coincide in the same organisation, just as in the human body the brain does not coincide with the stomach, although there is a very close and indispensable connection and reciprocal influence between one organ and the other.

In fact, the political consciousness of the working class, of its general aims, surpassing companies and categories, and historical aims, thus surpassing the very succession of generations of workers, is materialised in a specific organ, the class political party, which brings together only a minority of the class, on the basis of adherence to a goal, a programme, and specific political positions. This political organ ‘imports’ (Lenin’s formula) political consciousness into the strata of workers that the situation sets in motion.

But this importation does not take place in the sense of a dissolution of the political party in the workers’ organisations, nor does it resolve itself in an ‘educational’ work that should raise the consciousness of the proletarian masses until the moment when the special party organ is no longer needed, or this will be reduced to a simple technical element of conducting the struggle. On the contrary, it comes about through an action that tends to influence the workers’ organisations, to establish the closest links between them and the party organ, to strengthen this same organ through the passage to it of those proletarians who acquire, in the course of the struggle itself, the consciousness of the Party’s aims and who accept its positions integrally and en bloc.

The proletarian class manifests its existence historically and materially in the famous pyramid form that expresses the complexity of its class struggle and organisation: Party–Soviet–Union. None of these class organs can be considered useless or “outdated”: it is in the existence of all three, and in the intersection of their relationship and vicissitudes, that the class struggling for its complete emancipation manifests itself.

In our 1951 text Revolutionary party and economic action, we defined the factors of the revolutionary process as follows: 1) a large, numerous proletariat of pure wage-earners, 2) a sizeable movement of associations with an economic content including a large part of the proletariat, 3) The presence of the specific class party organ and its influence on the economic bodies of the class itself through its organised network of communist groups in the economic organisations.

On the same basis and in the same sense is our classic assertion: only the political Party represents the revolutionary purpose of the class. The other class organisations, which are so insofar as they bring workers together, can be influenced and subjugated to non-revolutionary, bourgeois, social-conservative, even counter-revolutionary directions and perspectives.

This happens not only because the bourgeoisie tends to influence the working class with all its powerful material and spiritual means, and to corrupt it in a thousand ways, the most damaging of which is always that of opportunism, but also because, at least on an immediate and partial level, the interests of individual groups and strata of workers are not at all incompatible with the permanence of the capitalist mode of production, with bourgeois rule, even if on a general and historical level they contradict the interests of the class as a whole. It is only at certain critical moments in history that even immediate and partial interests of workers’ groups come into open contradiction with the capitalist mode of production, and it is at these moments that the only body that has a historical and global vision of class interests can usefully win over the immediate workers’ bodies to its influence.

This applies not only to trade union, economic organisations, but also to bodies, such as soviets, that express the workers’ tendency to revolutionary struggle.

All workers’ organisations must therefore be won over to the revolutionary perspective by the action within them of the revolutionary organisation, the political party. Otherwise, they are powerless from the revolutionary point of view, while remaining workers’ organisations.

We find here a fundamental and constant line of the Marxist approach. Workers as such can at best arrive at the consciousness of the need to defend their living conditions and to organise themselves for this defence. The transition from this elementary, ‘trade unionist’ consciousness to political, socialist consciousness only takes place through the intervention and influence of the political party. Otherwise, the economic struggle and economic organisations may be subject to non-revolutionary perspectives and directions, may be directed according to bourgeois politics. Trade-unionism, Lenin says, is the bourgeois politics of the working class.

Role the party in the Theses of the Communist International

These elementary notions we have recalled are the result of the experience of the entire world proletarian struggle over a century. They were the basis of the gigantic work carried out by the Communist International. We quote from Theses on the role of the Communist Party in the proletarian revolution (1920):

2. Until the time when state power has been conquered by the proletariat, and the proletariat has established its rule once and for all and secured it from bourgeois restoration, until that time the Communist Party will only have the minority of the working class organised in its ranks. Until the seizure of power and during the period of transition the Communist Party is able, under favourable conditions, to exercise undisputed mental and political influence over all the proletarian and half-proletarian layers of the population, but is not able to unite them organisationally in its ranks.…

3. The concept of the party and that of the class must be kept strictly separate. The members of the “Christian” and liberal trade unions of Germany, England and other countries are undoubtedly part of the working class. The more or less significant sections of workers who still stand behind Scheidemann, Gompers, and company are undoubtedly part of the working class. It is very possible that, under certain historical circumstances, the working class can become interspersed with numerous reactionary layers. The task of communism does not lie in accommodating to these backward parts of the working class, but in raising the whole of the working class to the level of the communist vanguard. The confusion of these two concepts – party and class – can lead to the greatest mistakes and confusion. Thus it is clear, for example, that during the imperialist war, despite the moods and prejudices of a certain section of the working class, the workers’ party had to oppose these moods and prejudices at any cost and represent the historical interests of the working class, which demanded that the proletarian party declared war on war.…

The rise of the soviets as the basic historical form of the dictatorship by no means decreases the leading role of the Communist Party in the proletarian revolution. If the “Left” Communists of Germany (cf. their appeal to the German proletariat of April 14, 1920 signed ‘The Communist Workers’ Party of Germany’) declare: ‘That the Party too adapts more and more to the idea of Soviets, and takes on a proletarian character’ (Kommunistische Arbeiterzeitung, no. 54), then this is a confused expression of the idea that the Communist Party must dissolve itself into the soviets, that the soviets can replace the Communist Party.

This idea is fundamentally false and reactionary.

In the history of the Russian revolution we experienced a whole period in which the soviets marched against the proletarian party and supported the policies of the agents of the bourgeoisie. The same thing could be observed in Germany. The same thing is also possible in other countries.

On the contrary, the existence of a powerful Communist Party is necessary in order to enable the soviets to do justice to their historic tasks, a party that does not simply “adapt itself” to the soviets, but is in a position to make them renounce “adaptations” of their own to the bourgeoisie and White Guard social democracy, a party which, by means of the Communist factions in the soviets, is in a position to take the soviets under the leadership of the Communist Party.

We have reported this long quotation in order to compare it with the Theses on trade unions and workers councils because, from the admission that only the party is the revolutionary organ of the class, communists have never implied a devaluation of the importance of the immediate organisms of the class itself, but rather their exact characterisation: organisations, the trade unions and soviets, whose function does not derive from their more or less revolutionary nature, but from their characteristic as workers’ organisations which become organs of the revolution only insofar as they subordinate themselves to the political direction of the Party.

Closed party – open workers’ organisations

We are on two globally opposite and divergent paths, we, and all “leftists” then and now. We are on the side, with the International and with Lenin, of the ‘most precise and sharpest distinction between the notions of party and class’. The Party, the political organ of the class, is the sole repository of class consciousness insofar as it possesses, as a collective organ, an interpretative theory which allows it to read the facts of history, it possesses a set of principles and aims which are based on this theory, a programme which describes the entire cycle of the proletarian revolution, a set of tactical lines which are correlated to the principles, the aims, the programme and according to which the fighting organ orients itself in the various contingent situations. This historical heritage, which is nothing other than the condensation of the teachings of the practical struggle of the proletariat on a world scale and over the course of more than a century, cannot belong to any workers’ generation, to any workers’ group driven to the struggle by contingent demands. It can only belong to a historical organism that has never ceased the battle by maintaining a continuity of thought, action and organisation in the ups and downs of the class struggle and that has thus been able to draw the lessons of all past struggles and forge on this basis a clear and inflexible direction for the conduct of future struggles.

Representing the preservation, defence and utilisation in practical struggle of this monolithic block of positions, the Party can only be closed and strictly delimited in its organisation. The political direction of the Party is indispensable to lead the proletarian struggle in the revolutionary sense, but it is a result of the historical and global course of this struggle, it is not something that can be questioned or democratically submitted to the approval of each group or category of workers that the situation pushes to the struggle. One accepts it, even without understanding it individually, recognising it as the irreplaceable weapon of the revolutionary class struggle. And only those who accept it entirely and globally enter the party organisation. The Party is therefore an organism closed to all those, even proletarians, even combatants, who do not accept its positions en bloc.

Workers’ organisations, both economic and political of the soviet type, have a useful function in the class struggle because they are open, i.e., they are constituted in such a way as to include as many workers as possible from a company, category, or locality. For the same functions they propose, they need to unite all the workers who are in the same economic conditions or on the same territory. A workers’ organisation that exists for the purpose of conducting the economic struggle against the bosses, which is not suitable for bringing together in principle all the workers of the category to which it is addressed, would thereby nullify its function. The same can be said of Soviets which, being territorial bodies of the workers in order to exercise power, must necessarily be open to all workers in a given locality.

Not only that, but as these bodies are open to all workers, to the exclusion of those belonging to other social classes, they must also necessarily be open to all political ideologies within the proletariat, to the influence of all proletarian parties. They cannot discriminate against workers on either a political or religious basis. Only in this way can they fulfil the function for which they were born and live in the events of the class struggle.

Communists, advocates of the utmost closure of the class political organ, have always been those who have not only always understood the nature and necessity of the immediate workers’ bodies, but have also always been those who have defended their working-class, i.e., open, character against all deviations, not only opportunist, but also “leftist”.

Naturally, just as there is a class delimitation in the physical sense, whereby only those belonging to a particular class, that of wage-earning workers, organise, so there is a delimitation from the organs of the bourgeois state, from the influence of openly bourgeois parties that deny in principle the workers the real right to defend their living and working conditions through class struggle and autonomous class organisation. That is, they deny the very function for which the immediate organisations arise. But this is the only organisational delimitation of these bodies.

“Left” communism in 1920 and today

Far be it for us to draw a parallel between the “leftism” that we could call serious, the “leftism” of the Germans, who were roundly condemned in 1920 by Lenin, and who to a large extent represented, like the earlier Italian or French anarcho-syndicalism, a response of large groups and strata of workers fighting against the betrayal of social democracy, and the "leftism" of the more or less numerous fringe groups of today’s “leftists”, who represent nothing more than petit-bourgeois burst that has nothing to do with the working-class movement. The only accomplishment of this “new leftist comic opera” has been to divert the small number of workers who felt the need to oppose the unbridled opportunism of the national, official Communist parties into their various false and impotent positions.

We draw the parallel only to demonstrate the irreversible and total divergence of the Marxist Communist Party’s approach from that of these alleged “neighbours”, showing that it dates not from today but from fifty years ago, and taking into account the proportions and seriousness of the matter.

The “leftism” of the German communists in 1920 started, like that of today’s “leftists”, from a pole opposite to our Marxist one; from the most complete ‘confusion of the concepts of party and class’. This confusion, which is tantamount to being out of the Marxist mainstream forever, led the German KAPD, like the Italian Ordinovists, to a failure to understand, on the one hand, the primary function of the Party and the necessity of its existence as a centralised and disciplined organ for directing the revolutionary struggle, and on the other hand, and consequently, to a denial of the function of the immediate workers’ organisations.

Avid supporters of the Party “dissolving into the Soviets”, of “workers’ democracy”, of the Party and the dictatorship “not of the bosses, but of the masses”, they at the same time argued for the “destruction of trade unions” as outdated forms of proletarian organisation, and were for the formation of workers’ organisations based on ideological foundations.

The proletarian party had to “open up”, the immediate workers’ organisations had to “withdraw into themselves”. The same trait – here is the validity of the historical parallel – characterises all the “leftists” of today. While they doggedly fight against the dogmatism and sectarianism of the party, they are incapable of understanding the necessity of the immediate economic organisations of the proletariat, and invent various forms of workers’ “committees”, “collectives”, “leagues”, which are nothing but the trade union duplication of their political organisations.

Unions and Soviets

When we talk about immediate working-class bodies we are faced with another question from the usual “form-researchers”.

Are these immediate bodies to be the Soviets or the trade unions? Economic organisms or political organisms? The appearance of the Soviet form in fact made a big impression since 1917 on the petty-bourgeois who saw the class struggle as a theatrical performance. It was said then that this was the new form finally discovered of proletarian organisation and that this form would render both the political party and the trade union useless.

It is hard for the petit-bourgeois to think that the struggle between the classes arises from the stomach, i.e., from the immediate, everyday needs of the masses and not from ideas, and he finds it very hard to convince himself that the workers arrive at the “heroic” act of attacking bourgeois power and founding a new society from the vulgar fact of not wanting to starve. Consequently, trade union organisation has always been frowned upon by the petit-bourgeois, who in his heart strives to “overcome” it and move directly to “superior” forms of struggle. We will spare the reader the myriad alleged demonstrations concerning ‘overcoming the struggle for demands’, the ‘trade union form itself’, etc., with the corollary that only adequate “education” can lead workers to revolution. He has, unfortunately, perhaps more knowledge of them than we do.

In any case, the question has arisen and is posed thus:

The Soviets, or Workers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Councils, are the organs by which the working class exercises political power after it has revolutionarily overthrown the power of the bourgeois State and suppressed its representative organs (parliament, city councils, etc.) They are the ‘State organs’ of the proletariat.

The Soviets are elected exclusively by the workers, as all those who use wage-labour and otherwise exploit the proletariat are excluded from electoral rights. This is their substantial characteristic, all other modes of their constitution being entirely secondary.…

Workers’ councils arise at the moment of proletarian insurrection. However, they can also arise at a historical moment when the power of the bourgeoisie is going through a crisis and historical consciousness and the propensity to assume power is widespread in the proletariat. The revolutionary question lies not in the formal creation of the councils, but in the transfer of political power into their hands.

The instrument of the political struggle of the proletariat is the class party, the Communist Party…

(Theses on the constitution of workers’ councils proposed by the Central Committee of the Communist Abstentionist Fraction of the PSI, 1920)

The above facts show that certain preconditions are necessary for the creation of soviets. We can and must organise workers’ Soviets and transform them into soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies only under the following three conditions: (a) A mass revolutionary drive in the widest circles of workers, soldiers, and the toiling masses; (b) A deepening of the economic and political crisis to such an extent that power begins to slip out of the hands of the established governments; (c) The maturing in the ranks of considerable layers of workers and above all of the Communist Party of the firm decision to engage in a decisive, systematic and planned struggle for power…

Attempts by individual communist groups in France, Italy, America and England to create Soviets which nevertheless do not embrace large masses of workers, and which therefore cannot wage a direct struggle for power, only damage the real work of preparing the Soviet revolution…

Without revolution, the Soviets are impossible. Soviets without proletarian revolution inevitably turn into a parody of Soviets. Real mass Soviets appear as the historically given form of the dictatorship of the proletariat…

(Theses of the Third International on the conditions of establishment of workers’ councils, 1920)

The Soviets are thus the organisms that the working class forges for the conquest of power and the exercise of dictatorship, a conquest and exercise that is, however, only possible insofar as these workers’ organisations that express such need and necessity are permeated and influenced by the political party, the only organism that can truly conquer power and exercise dictatorship.

The Soviets, therefore, are not characterised by their orientation or their intrinsically revolutionary nature, but by their workers’ structure which makes them suitable, once they are conquered by the party’s influence, to assume and exercise political power. But above all, and this is what we want to emphasise, they do not constitute a substitute form for workers’ organisations of an economic, defensive, trade union nature.

They represent a different function of the class which in a thousand ways can be combined with the defensive, economic function, but which does not annul it or render it useless. Leaving behind the mechanism of “forms of organisation” and aiming at the substance, we would say that workers need class economic organisations to conduct their daily struggle against the effects of capitalist oppression, and therefore on the economic terrain (a thousand forms, a thousand possible combinations; one and irreplaceable function: to be organisms constitutionally accessible only to workers, to serve the defence of wages, of workplace, of daily bread). Whereas in periods when the social struggle is close to turning into a struggle for power, workers need, and therefore arise, workers’ organisms suitable for exercising the state functions of the proletarian dictatorship.

In terms of forms, it can even be the workers’ economic defence organisations themselves that, as the struggle radicalises and under the influence of the party, can assume the function of the political assault on bourgeois power and the destruction of the bourgeois state.

When we speak of the immediate organisms of the working class, we therefore mean to speak, beyond the specific and contingent forms, of the organisms that the class is forced to give itself, driven by its unavoidable needs. We speak of functions and needs rather than forms. And to argue that the working class can do without immediate economic organisms is no more or less to argue that it can do without the struggle for demands. It means denying the fundamental assumption of all Marxism that political struggle is nothing but the critical precipitation at certain moments, and under the influence of the party, of the very struggle that workers wage to defend their living conditions.

Economic struggles organisms and political party

In another respect, our Marxist vision combats the mechanistic approach of the “form-seekers”. If without revolution the Soviets become a parody and are condemned to die, if their tendency to conquer political power can only find its outlet, its realisation only under the direction of the revolutionary class party, degenerating otherwise to empty forms powerless to realise themselves, the same, a fortiori, applies to the workers’ economic defence organisations and to the economic struggle itself. Workers’ struggles and organisations are rendered null and ineffective, they close themselves off in the defence of narrow corporate interests, in the defence of one group of workers at the expense of another, they become powerless to the very function for which they arose when they are influenced and directed by bourgeois, conservative, anti-revolutionary politics. Their very function of economic defence is only ‘completed and integrated’ when the class political party is at their head, just as the immediate results that the workers wrest from their daily struggles only become stable and real achievements through the proletariat’s conquest of power.

Immediate economic bodies can only fully perform their function by subordinating themselves to the revolutionary orientation, and are subject to becoming powerless to perform this same elementary function by subordinating themselves to a bourgeois or opportunist orientation.

But this reality cannot be disentangled in formal terms by hypothesising workers’ organisms per se capable of not being influenced by the class adversary, constitutionally or physiologically suited never to betray even immediate class interests. The contradiction is resolved in the heart of the historical dynamic of the class struggle that drives workers to forge weapons for the defence of their daily bread and sees around these class organisms the death struggle between the political direction of their subjection to the demands of social preservation, to the bourgeois state, to the point of becoming a cog in the machinery of the state, and the direction that tends to bring them into the field of revolution and therefore also to strengthen, extend and deepen their action.

If today’s tricolour trade unions are the result of the subjugation of workers’ organiations to fifty years of reactionary bourgeois politics, the Red unions of 1921–26 were the result of the conquest of the immediate workers’ organisms to the revolutionary direction. Historically, the economic organisms of the working class are faced with the alternative: either submit to bourgeois politics, and thus become, in the long run, ineffective for the very purposes of class defence on the economic terrain, or submit to the revolutionary orientation and lead the economic struggle to its historically culminating and definitive point: the conquest of political power, the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship.

But while this may be distasteful to those who view history in a mechanistic and formalistic manner, this does not detract from the fact that, in reality, economic struggles and workers’ economic organisations form the concrete, material basis of revolutionary action. Historically, the bourgeoisie has always attempted to subjugate the workers’ movement and economic organisation to its interests, knowing full well that the revolutionary political struggle of the proletariat could be grafted onto this ground, which is ineliminable because it springs from the very bowels of capitalist society. Historically, the Communist Party has countered this process step by step, knowing full well that without the party’s conquest of the network of immediate economic organisations it is impossible to undertake the conquest of political power.

Historically, the revolution has lost its battle on the world scale, and the consequence has been, and could not but be, the enfeoffment to the bourgeois state of the workers’ organisms. But the party knows that the wheel of the revolutionary process will be set in motion again to the extent that the working class will be capable of expressing its organisms of economic struggle once more, thus re-proposing the real terrain on which the clash between revolution and counter-revolution will be played out once more.

The Communist International and trade unions

This is how the Theses of the 2nd Congress of the International on trade unions and workers’ councils re-proposed the Marxist view of the relationship between the party and economic bodies. The task of the communists was not then, as it is not now, to invent “new forms” of organisation and struggle, but to work on extending their influence into all the immediate organisms of the proletariat, knowing that only this action of the party can transform them into organs of the revolutionary struggle. And since the workers were organising and fighting in the reactionary unions, led by the worst opportunists, the task of the communists was to remain in these bodies and win them over to the party’s influence:

In order to gain victory in the economic struggle, the great working masses who hitherto remained outside the trade unions are flocking to their ranks. In all capitalist countries there is a strong strengthening of the trade unions, which are now an organisation no longer of the advanced part of the proletariat alone, but of its great masses. By flocking to the trade unions, they seek to make them their fighting weapon. The increasingly bitter class contrasts force the trade unions to take the lead in strikes, which engulf the entire capitalist world in mighty waves and constantly interrupt the process of production and exchange. By raising their demands in parallel with rising prices and increasing misery, the working masses upset the foundations of every capitalist calculation, this elementary assumption of every orderly economy. The trade unions which, during the war, had become organs of influence of the working masses in the interests of the bourgeoisie become organs of destruction of capitalism…

In view of the influx of powerful working-class masses into the trade unions, in view of the objectively revolutionary character of the economic struggle that these masses wage in opposition to the trade union bureaucracy, communists must in all countries enter the trade unions to make them organs of struggle for the overthrow of capitalism, for communism. They must take the initiative in setting up trade unions where they do not exist.

Any voluntary alienation from the trade union movement, any artificial attempt to create particular trade unions without being forced to do so by exceptional acts of violence by the trade union bureaucracy (dissolution of local revolutionary groups in the trade unions by opportunist centres) or by its narrowly aristocratic policy, which prohibits large masses of low-skilled workers from joining organisations, represents a grave danger to the communist movement. It threatens to hand over to opportunist bosses working in the service of the bourgeoisie the most advanced workers, most endowed with class consciousness.

The weakness of the working masses, their indecision, their accessibility to the fictitious arguments of the opportunist bosses, can only be overcome, as the struggle intensifies, to the extent that the broadest strata of the working class learn, through their own experience, through their victories and defeats, that on the basis of the capitalist economic system human living conditions can no longer be achieved; to the extent that the advanced communist workers learn to be, in the economic struggle, not only the propagandists of the ideas of communism, but also the most decisive leaders of the economic struggle and of the trade unions…

Since communists attach more importance to the aims and nature of trade union organisation than to its form, they must not retreat from a split in the trade union organisations, if renouncing the split were to amount to renouncing revolutionary work in the trade unions, renouncing the attempt to make them an instrument of the revolutionary struggle, renouncing the organisation of the most exploited sectors of the proletariat. But even if such a split proves to be necessary, it must only proceed if the communists succeed, through a relentless struggle against the opportunist leaders and their tactics and through the most active participation in the economic struggles, in convincing the broad working masses that the split is being undertaken not for remote revolutionary objectives still incomprehensible to them, but for the concrete and most immediate interest of the working class in the development of its struggles for demands. Communists, should a split become necessary, must consider with the utmost care whether it will not lead to their isolation from the working masses.

The tendency to create factory councils, which animates workers in various countries more and more every day, originates from the most varied causes (struggle against counter-revolutionary bureaucracy, demoralisation after defeats in the purely claiming struggle, effort to create organisations that embrace all workers), but it always and everywhere leads to the struggle for control of industry, the specific historical task of factory councils. It is therefore a mistake to want to organise factory councils with only workers already on the terrain of the dictatorship of the proletariat. On the contrary, the communist party’s task is to take advantage of the economic ruin to organise all workers and arm them for the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

From what is written in the Theses we reconfirm a conclusion found in all our post-World War II texts. It is not the political line of the trade union, however fetid it may be, that determines the exit of communists from it. Communists must soldier on in the economic organisations, even if they are directed by a counter-revolutionary policy, and work to win them over on other conditions: 1) That they be allowed to carry out the work of revolutionary influence in the union (in other words, that the union in fact allows the expression of political currents within it). 2) That no preclusion be placed on the organisation of all workers in a particular category or branch of industry. Given these conditions, the communists do not pursue the break-up of the existing trade unions, but work within them to undertake their conquest, ‘perhaps with a beating’.

Should these conditions no longer exist in a given trade union body (which in fact means that it is losing its very nature as a trade union) communists do not advocate the organisation of only those workers who follow party policy or adhere to certain positions, but rather the rebirth of economic bodies open to all workers and within which they can carry out their revolutionary work.

The Red International of Trade Unions (Profintern)

The Profintern, in line with the above, did not aim to unite only those workers who accepted the principles of revolution and communism, but those trade unions and economic bodies of all workers (factory, trade, industry) that were won over and submitted to the revolutionary direction.

Its Statutes state in point 4:

Any economic organisation of a revolutionary class character which accepts the following conditions may become a member of the International of Red Trade Unions:

1) Recognition of the principles of the revolutionary class struggle;

2) Implementation of these principles in the day-to-day struggle against capital and the bourgeois state;

3) Recognition of the necessity of overthrowing capitalism by means of social revolution, and of establishing, in the period of transition, the dictatorship of the proletariat…

7) Unity of action with all revolutionary organisations and with the communist party of its country, in all defensive and offensive actions against the bourgeoisie.

The trade union bodies that adhered to the Red International remained workers’ bodies open to all workers of whatever opinion or ideology they were. It was these same economic bodies of all workers that recognised the influence and direction of the communist orientation, without losing their character as trade union bodies. This was completely opposite to the claim of the “left” then, as now, to create bodies that brought together only those workers who shared revolutionary principles. The Theses of the Red Trade Union International itself (voted on at its First Congress in 1921) raged against this anti-Marxist position:

The gathering of revolutionary forces in the trade union movement must be done through factory and enterprise councils. These councils must be elected by all workers in a given firm, regardless of their political and religious views. The attempt to create factory and enterprise councils in the form of cliques of members of the same tendency, as is the case with the Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund in Germany, constitutes in itself a caricature of factory councils and discredits among the masses the very idea of such an organisation.

In reality, under the pseudonym of factory councils, the Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund merely constitutes its fraction nuclei, an indisputable right for every organisation: but it is useless in this case to attach such pompous labels to these nuclei…

The anti-revolutionary attitude currently being adopted by the trade union bureaucracy, the help it has given to the repression of the workers’ revolutionary movement, has led a section of proletarians and revolutionaries throughout the world to break away from the trade unions and create new, purely revolutionary organisations of their own, hence the watchwords ‘destroy the trade unions’, ‘outside the trade unions’ which find a certain sympathy among the most desperate revolutionary elements, made pessimistic by the inertia of the masses. Such tactics of driving out the revolutionary elements, and abandoning the trade unions, millions of proletarians, to the unchallenged influence of the traitors of the working class, play into the hands of the trade union bureaucracy and must therefore be decisively and categorically rejected. Not destruction, but conquest of the trade unions, i.e., of the masses organised in the old trade unions: this is the watchword around which the revolutionary struggle must be organised and develop…

The advocates of the Red International would be making a most serious mistake… if they abandoned the trade unions and shut themselves up in the small revolutionary trade union groupings. The workers expelled from the unions must not disperse, but must remain organised in the same framework to which they belonged before their exclusion, continuously acting as a regular and legitimate member of the union that expelled them…

The task of the revolutionary elements of the trade union movement therefore consists, not in detaching the best and most conscious workers from the trade unions and forming small organisations of them, but in infusing the trade unions with a revolutionary spirit by remaining within them, claiming the revolutionary aspirations of the working-class day by day, and thus trying to transform them into instruments of the social revolution.

All organising work in the old trade unions must be aimed at combating the passivity and betrayal of the trade union bureaucracy in the course of the struggle for the day-to-day interests of the workers. Conquering the trade unions means conquering the workers’ mass, which can only be conquered by systematic and stubborn work, by continually highlighting the contrast between the tendency of compromise and class collaboration and our strictly revolutionary tendency. The motto ‘outside the trade unions’ prevents us from conquering the masses and thus distances us from the social revolution'.

Another blow to the “form-worshippers”, this time to the “union-form-worshippers”, who are still numerous today. The Theses in fact continue:

But it would also be a mistake to regard trade union organisations as an end in themselves. Trade unions are not an end, they are the means to the end; and so, while we reject the watchword of ‘outside the trade unions!’, we must in the most resolute way also assert ourselves against the fetishism of organisation and the watchword of ‘unity at any cost and without reservation’. Conquering the unions does not mean seizing the union treasury and union property, but conquering the souls of union members. Many comrades forget this distinction, often confusing the union with its premises, its till, and its management. Such point of view must be categorically rejected by the revolutionary class unions These are for unity and against the split, but they do not fear the split: here is a point that must be clear to each of us.

Fifty years of unchallenged opportunist domination of the workers’ unions combined with the capitalist tendency for unions to be subservient to the state and its machinery, and the almost absolute absence of the proletariat from the revolutionary struggle, have undoubtedly given today’s unions a far more reactionary characteristic than those of 1921, have managed to deform their practice and organisation itself in a far more deleterious way than what the opportunists of the first post-war period could do, pressed behind by a proletariat in struggle at the European level. The tricolour unions of today are certainly not the class unions of 1921. This changes the terms of the party’s tactics towards these unions, but it does not at all change the general terms of the party’s position towards the class economic bodies that the workers, having returned to the struggle, will be forced to reconstitute. Along the lines of its Marxist tradition the party, unlike all other pseudo-revolutionary groupings, points to the resumption of class action on the economic terrain and the rebirth of class economic organisations conquered by the party and open to all workers as the road to the resumption of revolutionary struggle.

(continued in the next issue)