International Communist Party Marxist Theory of Knowledge

Yes, we are dogmatists
Il Partito Comunista - 1984, n. 114


     «Revolutionary Communists must be those who, having been collectively tempered by the experiences of the struggle against the degenerations of the proletarian movement, firmly believe in the revolution, and strongly desire it, but not like someone who believes he can claim a credit, expect a due payment, and would sink into despair and discouragement if the due date was to be delayed for only one day».

So we wrote in Party and Class Action in 1921. Since then, not one but a thousand due dates have elapsed, to the extent that all who are impatient or distrustful of the Revolution are no longer in despair over its “inexplicable” delay, but are now openly claiming that “reality” itself would disprove Marxism, forcing us – the “Talmudic”, the “dogmatic”, the “sectarian” – to stand apart from reality and the real life of the masses. These are accusations that have always been leveled against Marxists throughout history and have peaked in the present historical phase of absolute domination of the bourgeoisie, which began precisely with the Stalinist degeneration of the Communist International, a cornerstone of which asserted that the Party should always, in any situation, “align with the masses”. We have consistently refuted such accusations, but we’ve also decisively affirmed from the very first germs of this new degeneration, contrary to the notion that the Party should always align “with the masses”, that the proletariat is not a class without the Communist Party, which is and remains such only if it knows how to keep intact, especially in proletarian defeats, revolutionary theory and programs.

It is precisely in such decisive thesis that immediatist opportunism sees us placing ourselves “outside of reality”, and our “dogmatic” affirmation of communism opposing reality itself.

But how do they explain that only “dogmatic” communism is capable of giving a materialistic explanation of reality, while all other “more realistic” views have expressly renounced it? They began with the assertion that they were “closer” to the masses. Rooted in stark opportunism, they claimed that the centralized Party and State would sacrifice the “autonomy” of the proletariat. They claimed that the theory of the Party’s primary function in the Revolution, and through the historical span that will end with the destruction of the global bourgeoisie, impedes the Revolution itself. In contrast, our thesis-theorem is opposite and accurate: the Party alone possesses the consciousness of the future historical course and the will to achieve specific goals, for which insurrection, governance, dictatorship, and the class’s economic plan are tasks of the Party; and for this very reason, throughout its lengthy historical course towards the Revolution, the class increasingly relies on the Party, distinguishing it from other transient entities. Thus, ‘the class is such only to the extent that it has the Party.’

The Revolution is the most authoritarian fact there is, we have always asserted. It is obvious to everyone that the authority of the bourgeoisie is concentrated and centralized in its state.

Where does the authority of the proletarian class movement rest? The body of revolutionary workers in all countries is unrestricted by time or space and does not distinguish between races, nations, professions or even generations. It is a vast convergence of militants of the revolution of consistent formation from all shores and all ages. And the only body that allows its living synthesis is the political party, the internationally based Communist Party.

In The Fundamentals of Revolutionary Communism, we wrote:
     «Therefore Party and State are at the heart of the Marxist viewpoint. You either accept or reject it. Searching for the class outside of its Party and its State is a waste of energy, and depriving the class of them means turning your back on communism and the revolution».

In this lies the essence of our vision, and therefore we advocate for a body of doctrine that no one is allowed to change throughout the historical arc from its appearance to the disappearance of classes. Does this mean we are being “dogmatic”? We have never succumbed to such an accusation, but we simultaneously have always unveiled the deceptive confusion that the bourgeoisie and opportunism have deviously concealed in the very notion of dogma. In this regard, we wrote in Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today (First part, 95):

     «Dogma arose in a determinate time and society as the first embryo of science, and not of an abstract science but of a science that was instrumental to praxis: both to hand down the traditions of praxis (of experience, of even primitive social activity), and as the basis of practical norms, of an ethical code. The dogmatic form arose out of the interests of classes who wanted to preserve a social structure and its control. Religion is not for us and does not appear as a response to the need to understand the world, but to the much earlier and absorbing need to control society.
     «In essence for a Marxist, dogmas, historically, were guides for action. The phrase that Marxism is not dogma but a guide for action is therefore nonsense, when said by a Marxist.
      «It exposes us to confuse ourselves with two bourgeois positions: one that the present class science has emerged from the fetters of revealed and authoritarian dogma, and thus makes equal law for them bourgeois overlords and for us. The other that by condemning the fideist dogmas all that was needed to have the right to guide human action has been done and the period of revolutions has ended»

The notion of dogma, as truth revealed by a supernatural entity ordinary mortals cannot claim to understand but only respect and repeat, is a notion that is socially and historically dead and buried. In this sense, Marxism is the utmost negation of all dogmatism. However, precisely to prevent confusion with the alleged anti‑dogmatism of the bourgeoisie, Marxism has always declared that truth in class-divided society is class truth. Hence, opposed to the truth of the ruling class, the revolutionary class has only to assert its own truth. It is precisely such an assertion that, by denying the opposite truth, appears dogmatic to all those who are in search of “absolute truth”. What they do not understand is that the truth of the ruling class is also a truth and can only be denied by the opposing truth, the revolutionary truth. Especially in non‑revolutionary times, to prevent the latter from being completely obscured by the easily recognizable and adoptable truth of the dominant class, it becomes necessary, if required, to assert it dogmatically. This is the “dogmatism” and “sectarianism” of both us and Lenin: the certainty that every truth of the bourgeoisie is opposed by a proletarian truth even when the latter is difficult to discern with those instruments of analysis which can only be rendered available by the bourgeoisie itself. Our opponents have always said that this means denying “reality”, but we have always let them rant, and proceeded forward.

One of the greatest examples of “anti‑dogmatism”, viscerally opposed to our method, was the famous 20th Congress of the PCUS in 1956. The so‑called “creative Marxism”, once championed by Stalin, was taken to extremes by accusations against Stalin himself of “dogmatism”, supported by quotes from Lenin; quotes that falsified him much worse than Stalin. We titled the commentary on such further degringolade in the abandonment of Marxist principles Dialogue with the Dead precisely to highlight that we could no longer have any connection with the living that we once had with Stalin himself, even if it was a fierce battle.

Khrushchev affirmed: «We cannot regard theory in a dogmatic way, as people separated from life…Theory is not a collection of petrified dogmas and formulae, but a militant guide to action. Theory separated from practice is dead. And Mikoyan in a rebuttal: Most of our theorists only repeat and disguise in different forms already known quotations, formulas and theses. And Suslov: Our work takes place in a mechanical repetition of known formulas and theses, with the result that pedants, dogmatists, detached from life are formed. Our propaganda was directed toward the past, toward history, at the expense of actuality».

For Marxism, these individuals are not only actually all dead in the present, we believe, but have always been dead, although, while alive, they had the impudence to quote Lenin from his early works in which he stated that Marx’s theory should not be regarded as something complete and intangible because it contains the general directives that apply particularly to England. We thus comment in the above Dialogue on this dubious claim of theirs:

     «… Lenin was then in fierce struggle with two wings of the Russian anti‑Czarist movement: the populists, who refused to accept Marxism, claiming that in Russia the proprietary peasants, and not the workers, had the socialist task – and the legal Marxists, who, with the usual version of economic England, and political Europe, deduced from Marxism the conclusion that in Russia, in order to struggle against capitalist enterprises, it was necessary to hold a neutral legality toward autocratic government. Lenin needed from then on to build the revolutionary method that united immediate armed action with proletarian class aims, and he laid against those two wings the foundations of his monumental historical edifice.
     «Young Lenin could not have known, as we do, from adult Lenin, that theory is, right from its origin, “complete and intangible”, it is that whoever lightly gives up a flap of it, loses it all. However, already in his youthful formula, cornerstones and general directives, valid everywhere, are placed at the center of Marx’s theory. What are these? The whole of Lenin’s work and life itself answer, and not two sentences (…) Our right to keep Lenin from the gang of “dogmatists” lies in the fact that he himself, as long as he lived, held this term as a title of honor and as opposite of opportunist and “free critic”».

The history of “anti‑dogmatic” crusades did not end in 1956. Far from it, it has always been the refrain of immediatist opportunism, worse when posturing as “leftism”. Such tendencies have ceaselessly attempted to portray our unproductive organizational selections as indicative of a crisis of our method, and in particular of our organizing principle which we call “organic centralism”, which for most is just a vacuous formula to mask “bureaucratic centralism”. They invite us to finally abandon our “sectarianism” and finally take the path of “dialectical materialism”, that is, to abandon the Left tradition in order to embrace other “more genuinely” revolutionary traditions. The utmost effort of such breed, who up the communist ladder has gone only a thousandth of the steps, consists in preaching to the unliberated communists: envy your oppressors, imitate them, and become liberated! In a word, their aim is not to direct the revolutionary proletariat against capitalist society; on the contrary, they derive their political creed from the late bourgeois revolution and do not realize that the albeit respectable bourgeois principles of the revolutionary epoch are now miserable pieces.

According to them, the dialectics, substituting our so‑called “sectarianism”, should teach us that we do not hold the monopoly on the fight for communist consciousness. On the contrary, many groups and parties are leading this struggle and we do not realize this precisely because we are suffering from the disease of dogmatism and sectarianism. If we then hold against them that all those who think communism consists in the insipid liberation of the human-person and not in the integration of individuals into a society that is finally humane and not based on class oppression, where the human-species is affirmed and not the human-person, they add to the accusations of dogmatism against us those of utopianism and scientific blindness. They argue that modern science, rooted in bourgeois values, raises so much the human-person to the extent of making each individual the universe’s center. And since science is always “new” we would not only be dogmatic, sectarian, utopian, but also Talmudic. We have always stubbornly retorted and still retort that, on the contrary, if we were to write the textbook of Marxist philosophy we would welcome therein this well found formula: “science is repetition of the old”.

Let our opponents continue to see in this a pure and simple “dogmatic mysticism”; as usual, we will not change a comma to either our program or our method of work, let alone revising the principle of organic centralism.

In the clash for political power, the proletariat will need a body that both represents its authority and knows how to act in a unified and cohesive manner to give proletarian action maximum revolutionary efficiency.

Such an attitude, which, in addition to cohesion and decisiveness in action, must also possess the ability to adequately assess historical transitions, depends on having long foreseen and theoretically prepared for them: here is the materialist, not at all mystical, meaning of our tenacious Party work, which has in the luminous victory of October a precious and fundamental historical reference point. This is the work of a single Party, carried out in constant and continuous opposition to that of all others. Our concluding theorem is therefore clear‑cut: it is false that our healthy dogmatism and sound sectarianism prevent us from seeing the life that flows around us; on the contrary, it is true that they are precisely the premise both for recognizing in this life today the life of the class adversary, and for affirming tomorrow the life of the proletariat and of Man‑Species over the death of the bourgeoisie and opportunism.