(Il Partito Comunista, n. 82-85, 1981)
It may seem to some to be pedantic and academic to deal insistently and meticulously with the problems of the function of communists, or rather more exactly of the Communist Party, in today's process of the resurgence of class struggle which tends, very contradictorily and amid innumerable difficulties, to emerge on the international scale or at least to express weakly and confusedly the first clarifying symptoms of what will inevitably be the class clash of the years to come. This feeling of academia and pedantry might derive from the anti-Marxist observation that since the Party is reduced to a few militants with little influence over the proletariat and minimal possibilities of directing its struggles, there is simply no point in posing the problem.
Conversely, it is always essential that these tasks be made crystal clear to the Party: its very existence as an “organ” of the working class is at stake, and not only in the immediate sense, but in the historical and programmatic sense. For in order to verify and be able to assert that the Party continues without straggling to transmit intact the programmatic baggage accumulated in a century and a half of battles of the communist movement, to march in the track of revolutionary Marxism, it will not be enough to recall the tradition of left communism and to claim the invariant bloc of Marxist theory and revolutionary program. To have the “papers in order” with the history of the communist movement it will be necessary to verify how the Party, even in the depths of the darkest periods of counterrevolution, conveys this baggage in practice, in the reality of the class movement. It would be erroneous to assert that since this “practice”, this “reality”, is reduced to the effects of the Party's possibility of action, a generic reference to the principles of Marxist doctrine is sufficient to feel exempt from posing the problem.
It is also simplistic to say that the problem of the Communists' function in the process of resuming the class struggle can be traced back to a question of petty tactics in the narrow sense, that is, in the sense that it simply means identifying the most effective way of conveying the revolutionary program to the proletarians in the heat of workers' struggles. The function of the Party is a categorical and inalienable assumption of Marxist theory, and its application to contingent practical action is a question that invests the whole range of relations between Party and class, Party and class action, Party and intermediate bodies, Party and soviet. The solution to the problems that today's situation poses for the Party can only be located within the framework of these forms, now definitively and immovably enshrined in precise assumptions that the Party has enunciated in the bodies of Theses that have gradually characterized the definition of its theoretical-programmatic, strategic, tactical and organizational characteristics that it has given itself in the course of its life and in the midst of battles and even painful internal crises.
The Theses always referred first and foremost to the tradition of the Communist Left, meaning by this expression the entire baggage of positions that runs on the “red thread” and seamlessly embraces the centuries-old events in which communists have been protagonists, from the en bloc rise of Marxism in the mid-nineteenth century to the miserable and sometimes miserable diatribes that have torn the Party apart in this unfortunate post-World War II period, reducing it to a few militants but jealously clinging to this gigantic impersonal continuity.
Opportunism always discovers “new phases”
In other words, the answer to the question: what function do the communists have today in the process of rising from the slope of counterrevolution, which is slowly looming on the horizon, is already plotted and written in indelible letters. Once again, there is no need to discover anything, no need for internal or external organizational recipes, no need for “tactical gimmicks” grabbed every time there is an alleged “change of the situation”. The worst thing one could do would be to devote oneself to the discovery of purported “new phases” in history in order to decree the history of the past useless and go in search of new strategies, thus “accelerating” the process of encounter between the Party and the class. For us, who have never feared isolation from the masses and indeed have not disdained to consider it necessary if it means having, against the tide, against everyone and everything, the goal of safeguarding the revolutionary theory and program, the solution to today's problems can be read in the history of the past, in the theses, in the Party's texts, today more than ever, when numerous international events confirm the validity of our positions and program.
This should not, of course, be understood in a trivial sense, thinking that the tactical answer to individual local and contingent problems can be found nice and ready in some past example, or in some already written enunciation, but it should be understood that the solution will not be able to contradict our theses, our principles, and above all, it will not be able to speak of a “new situation”, unforeseen, unpredictable, and therefore a harbinger of “original”, “sudden” solutions, dictated by the alleged need for the Party to impose itself on popularity at all costs, with the consequence of supporting positions that are at least dubious and likely to tarnish the principles and positions characteristic of the Party.
In general, we will say that the question of the Party's function does not change according to “historical phases” but can always be traced back to the fulfillment of all its political and revolutionary tasks, since as only one of these tasks is no longer carried on, the party would cease to be such. However, it is undeniable that the dosage in quantity of these tasks is imposed by the contingent objective conditions. Consequently, in evaluating which must be the pre-eminent functions of communists, reference will be made the the existing situation.
We quote in this regard, without fear of being mocked by “innovators” and “phase discoverers”, what our theses. The Considerations on the Organic Activity of the Party when the Situation is Historically Unfavorable, 1965, say in point 6:
«By avoiding pedantic distinctions, we may wonder in which objective situation is today’s society. Certainly the answer is that it is the worst possible situation, and that a large part of proletariat is controlled by parties – hired by bourgeoisie – that prevent the proletariat itself from any class revolutionary movement; which is even worse than the crushing directly operated by bourgeoisie. It is not therefore possible to foresee how long it will take before – in this dead and shapeless situation – what we already termed as “polarisation” or “ionisation” of social molecules, takes place, preceding the outburst of the great class antagonism».
Written 15 years ago this consideration is integrally valid today: although the control of opportunism is slowly beginning to mark its pace and episodes of struggle and a situation of growing distrust and detachment of workers from political and trade union opportunism are premonitory signs of future recovery, it is nevertheless still undeniable the “dead and amorphous” character of the general situation and “it cannot be forewarned how much time may pass” for distrust and detachment from opportunism to be transformed into organized antagonism to it and consequently positioning on the ground of true anti- capitalist class struggle.
In point 8, the theses summarize:
«Given that the degenerating social complex is focused on falsifying and destroying theory and sound doctrine, clearly the predominant task of today’s small party is the restoration of principles with doctrinal value, although unfortunately the favourable setting in which Lenin worked after the disaster of the First World War is lacking. But this does not mean we should erect a barrier between theory and practical action; beyond a certain limit that would destroy us along with our basic principles. We thus lay claim to all forms of activity peculiar to the favourable periods insofar as the real balance of forces render them possible».
These Theses, moreover, echo the “Characteristic” theses of December '51, which in Part IV state:
«Today we are at the bottom of the depression and a come-back of the revolutionary movement cannot be envisaged in the near future. The length of the period of depression which we are experiencing corresponds to the seriousness of the degeneration as well as to the greater concentration of the capitalist forces... Today we are in the depths of the political depression, and although the possibilities of action are considerably reduced, the party, following revolutionary tradition, has no intention of breaking the historical line of preparation for a future large scale resurgence of the class struggle, which will integrate all the results of past experience. Restriction of practical activity does not imply the renunciation of revolutionary objectives. The party recognizes that in certain sectors its activity is quantitatively reduced, but this does not mean that the multi- faceted totality of its activity is altered, and it does not expressly renounce any of them.” “Today, the principal activity is the re-establishment of the theory of Marxist communism. At present, our arm is still that of criticism: that is why the party will present no new doctrines but will instead reaffirm the full validity of the fundamental theses of revolutionary Marxism, which are amply confirmed by facts and falsified and betrayed by opportunism to cover up retreats and defeats».
And, further on, at points 6 and 7:
«Today, the party registers social phenomena scientifically in order to confirm the fundamental theses of Marxism. It analyses, confronts and comments on recent and contemporary facts, repudiating the doctrinal elaboration tending to found new theories or to indicate the insufficiency of Marxism as an explanation of the phenomena. The same work, demolition of opportunism and deviationism as accomplished by Lenin (and defined in What is to be done) is still at the basis of our party activity thus following the example of militants of past periods of setback of the proletarian movement and of reinforcement of opportunist theories, that found in Marx, Engels, Lenin and in the Italian Left, violent and inflexible enemies. Although small in number and having but few links with the proletarian masses, the party is nevertheless jealously attached to its theoretical tasks which are of prime importance, and because of this true appreciation of its revolutionary duties in the present period, it absolutely refuses to be considered either as a circle of thinkers in search of new truths, or as “renovators” who consider past truths insufficient».
The theoretical-practical unity of the party does not change according to the historical stage
There can be no doubt that the defense and reestablishment of the revolutionary theory and program, together with the «work of scientific recording of social phenomena» and «analysis, comparison, commentary on recent and contemporary facts» remain the tasks to which the party devotes almost all of its forces, not because of its abstract “choice” but because the facts and objective conditions of today impose it as a vital necessity. In a situation in which Marxism is attacked and vituperated on all sides and the characteristic positions of the party distorted, it would be suicidal to consider it a function of secondary importance.
Successive degenerative waves of the international communist movement have on several occasions tragically taught that the firmest guarantee so that the rising curve of the spontaneous movement of the working masses, impelled to struggle by the unbearable sharpening of the contradictions of capitalist society, and the conscious action of the party, meet in the social becoming of the class clash (thus determining to all intents and purposes the revolutionary situation favorable to insurrection against the institutions of bourgeois society), lies in the Party's ability to keep itself firmly anchored in what the revolutionary tradition of Marxist communism has left to it, above historical contingencies and indeed more so in the darkest periods of counterrevolution, which today is far from having ended its degenerative course in the service of capitalist reaction and conservation.
To claim that the phase of the reestablishment of theory has now closed and that it is now a matter of aiming the party's best energies toward penetration within the class, trying to find “new” tactical and organizational recipes that favor it at all costs, would be tantamount to decree the death of the party, consigning it once again to opportunistic deviation. It would mean taking the path of renouncing principles in exchange for “politics that pays”, that produces “immediate effects”, that generates sympathy for the party, but alas, for a party that would be destined to become another party. And it would then serve no purpose; it would indeed become a clear symptom of opportunism to periodically call for “sacred texts” and “great principles”, when they are then trampled upon in practical and contingent action, perhaps behind the much abused formula that “workers don't understand them” or that other no less abused one according to which «it is from the real movement that the party draws lessons for action».
The reaffirmation and defense of theory and the very “explanation” and cataloguing of events in a Marxist key, we have repeatedly said, cannot be considered in a scholastic way; they have a sense of revolutionary militia only if they are, strictly and constantly, in relation to the practical action of the party, which aims at the penetration of its militants within the class and, more generally, as Lenin put it, among “all strata of the population”, wherever the party forces and the actual situation allow communists to bring their propaganda work, proselytism and, when possible, their work as agitators, leaders, promoters of even immediate and contingent struggles, provided they are not in contrast with the general principles.
The solution lies in the right balance among the party's tasks
In an exceptionally clear chapter of the Lyons Theses, under the title: Party Action and Tactics, which we do not quote in full just because of matters of space, we read:
«The party cannot and must not restrict its activity either to conserving the purity of theoretical principles and of the organizational collective, or to achieving immediate successes and numerical popularity regardless of the cost. At all times and in all situations, this activity must incorporate the following three points:
«a) Defence and clarification of the fundamental programmatic postulates in the light of new facts as they arise, that is to say of the theoretical consciousness of the working class;
«b) Assurance of the continuity of the party’s organizational unity and efficiency, and its defence against contamination by extraneous influences that are opposed to the revolutionary interests of the proletariat;
«c) Active participation in all of the struggles of the working class, including those arising from partial and limited interests, in order to encourage their development, but constantly highlighting their connection with the final revolutionary objectives and presenting the conquests of the class struggle as a bridge of passage to the indispensable struggles to come, by denouncing the danger of settling for partial achievements as if they were ends in themselves, to be bartered in exchange for the conditions of proletarian class activity and combativity, such as the autonomy and independence of its ideology and of its own organizations, the party being first and foremost among these.
«The supreme purpose of this complex party activity is the creation of the subjective conditions for the proletariat’s readiness, so that it is in a position to profit from revolutionary possibilities as soon as history presents them, and so that it emerges from the struggle victor rather than vanquished.
«All this is the point of departure for responding to the questions of the relations between the party and the proletarian masses, the party and other political parties, and the proletariat and other social classes».
The conditions for the success of this “complex activity” of the party thus reside in a precise balance, calibrated by the objective and historical situation and the general conditions under which it operates, between the various tasks, to which the party must always be devoted.
Alterating this balance, in a direction or another, would invariably lead the party to either retreat in a sect of “pure thinkers”, scholastically devoted to the “defense of theory” as a mere academic and intellectualistic assimilation of marxist texts and notions, or to a degeneration in a voluntaristic and activist sense, in a spasmodic attempt to “enter the movement” at all costs.
It is precisely this balance that must be safeguarded, and in keeping it at the “right point” lies much of the art of the communist militia in times so far removed from the “ionization” of social molecules, in the direction of a catalyzation of the party.
It seems clear that the question of the function of communists in the process of resuming the class struggle cannot be exhausted in the assertion that it is their task to defend the revolutionary program within the working masses. This is the fundamental aim of the party's action; but for it to turn into an organic development of consequent work, action and tactics, the ways of achieving these aims must be delimited and specified, and the party be uniformed to them in the awareness that only by a correct tactical direction of intervention among the working-class ranks will it be possible to assure it of that indispensable class consensus and support so that it will become de facto, and not only in a historical sense, the “revolutionary organ”.
And so we come to the question of tactics in the broadest and most comprehensive sense that this term has for us.
The “general question of tactics” is defined, in the aforementioned chapter of the Lyon Theses, as:
«The way the party operates in response to specific situations, and relates to other groups, organisations, and institutions of the society in which it moves”...”The general elements of this question must be defined in relation to our overall principles; it is then possible, on a secondary level, to establish concrete norms of action in relation to different types of practical problems and the successive phases of historical development.
«In resolving the general question of tactics on the same terrain as that of the nature of party, the marxist solution must be distinguished both from that doctrinal estrangement from the reality of the class struggle which contents itself with abstract lucubrations, whilst negating concrete activity, and from sentimental aestheticism; which aspires, with the noisy gestures and heroic posturing of tiny minorities, to bring about new situations and historical movements. Also, it must be distinguished from opportunism, which neglects the link with principles, i.e. with the general scope of the movement, and, keeping in view only an immediate and apparent success, is content to clamour for isolated and limited demands without bothering about whether these contradict the necessity of preparing for the supreme conquests of the working class».
Counterthesis: good tactics make good organization
It follows that tactics are strictly bound by the party's program, the party never having to undertake initiatives, launch watchwords or champion actions that might in any way undermine the clarity of its general statements and ultimate aims, on pain of falling into any of the very many variants of opportunism. In this sense, it should be made clear that an approach that presents the issue in the terms: since the party is programmatically firm, it will be able to use any tool, any tactic, since, when even they turn out to be wrong, it will always be able to retrace its steps and “correct its course”.
In fact, an erroneous tactic, such as might be, for example, in the case we are dealing with here, an erroneous approach to work among the workers, derived from an erroneous conception of the function of the communists in the class struggle, if pursued long and vigorously, would eventually have repercussions in the field of more general revolutionary principles and strategy. It will have in this regard never to be forgotten that opportunism within the party has never presented itself as an explicit repudiation of revolutionary principles and program, but as a tactical misapplication which, pursued to the bitter end or corrected at the last moment by resorting to improvisation or eclecticism, in order to somehow parry the error without recognizing its full negative scope and danger, has ended up causing the party to progressively drift away from its original foundations. Classic in this regard is the process of degeneration of the Third International.
On this aspect of the tactical question, again the previously cited chapter of the Lyon Theses is very clear:
«Situations must be studied and understood before tactical decisions can be taken, because this signals to the movement that the time has come for an action that has already been anticipated to the greatest extent possible; they should not lead, at the arbitrary decisions of the leaders, to “improvisations” and “surprises. To deny the possibility of predicting tactics in their broad outlines – not of predicting situations, which is possible with even less certainty, but of predicting what we should do in the various hypothetical scenarios based on the progression of objective situations – is to deny the party’s task, and to reject the sole guarantee we can give that the party members and the masses will respond, in any eventuality, to the orders of the centre.
«In this sense the party is not an army, nor even a state apparatus, that is to say an organ in which hierarchical authority prevails and voluntary adhesion counts for nothing; it is obvious that for the party member there always remains an option of not executing the orders, which doesn’t involve material sanctions: leaving the party. A good tactic is one which, should the situations change and the centre not have time to consult the party and still less the masses, does not lead to unexpected repercussions within the party itself and within the proletariat which could pull in the opposite direction to the success of the revolutionary campaign. The art of predicting how the party will react to orders, and which orders will obtain a good response, is the art of revolutionary tactics: this can only be entrusted to the collective use of the experience gained from past action, summarized in clear rules of action; by entrusting to leaders the fulfilment of these tasks, militants ensure that these leaders will not betray their mandate, and they undertake substantially, and not just apparently, to carry out the orders of the movement productively and decisively. Given that the party is perfectible and not perfect, we do not hesitate to say that much has to be sacrificed to the clarity and to the power of persuasion of the tactical guidelines, even if this involves a certain schematization: should our tactical schemes break down under the weight of circumstances, we will not remedy this by falling back into opportunism and eclecticism; rather, we will have to make renewed efforts to bring tactics back into line with the party’s tasks. It is not just the good party that makes good tactics, but good tactics that make the good party, and good tactics can only be those understood and chosen by everyone in their fundamentals».
Similarly, the question is posed in the Theses of Rome, where in the 5th chapter, in thesis No. 24, we can read:
«The Communist Party’s programme contains the perspective of a series of situations related to a series of actions which in the course of an unfolding process are generally attributed to them. There is, therefore, a close connection between the programmatic directives and the tactical rules. Studying the situation thus appears as an integral part of resolving tactical problems, considering that the party, on the basis of its consciousness and critical experience, has already predicted how various situations might unfold, and hence defined the tactical possibilities corresponding to the actions to be followed in the various phases. Examination of the situation serves as a check on the accuracy of the party’s programmatic positions. On the day that any substantial revision of them should become necessary, the problem will be far more serious than any that could be resolved by means of a simple tactical switch, and the inevitable rectification of programmatic outlook cannot but have serious consequences on the strength and organisation of the party. The latter must therefore strive to forecast how situations might unfold, in order to exercise the maximum possible degree of influence on them; but waiting for situations to arise in order to subject them, in an eclectic and discontinuous manner, to the guidelines and suggestions they have prompted, is a method characteristic of social-democratic opportunism. If communist parties were forced to adapt themselves to this, they would underwrite the ruin of the ideological and militant construction of communism».
And again, at thesis no. 28:
«In a certain sense, the question of tactics consists not just in choosing the right course for an effective action, but also in preventing the party’s activity from going beyond the appropriate limits, and falling back upon methods that correspond to past situations – the consequence of which would be to arrest the party’s process of development to the detriment of its revolutionary preparation».
Party and class action in the Left as in Lenin
It is therefore a matter of identifying and drawing the “opportune limits” of the party, which can only be sought in the Marxist program and theory, in relation to the “study of situations” in which the party operates, understood precisely as an “integrating element” for the study of tactical problems, in the sense that a proper assimilation of doctrine by the party will be able to significantly diminish the chances of tactical stragglers. The examination of situations will have to serve, in a sense, as a verification of the accuracy of the tactical line followed.
The function of the Party in workers' struggles and in the general process of the social clash between classes thus derives, in doctrine, from the historical laws governing this conflict, ultimately from historical materialism. As is specified at the end of our theses on the “Reversal of praxis in Marxist theory”, «the elucidation of the relations between socio-economic and political fact must serve as a basis for illustrating the problem of the relations between the revolutionary party and economic and trade union action”.
It is a fundamental tenet of Marxism that men are impelled to action not by ideas pre-existing to them and communicated to them by higher entities, divine or human, but by definite economic interests springing from the satisfaction of individual physical needs; only in times following action to satisfy them does the individual acquire awareness, the consciousness of his condition of existence and especially of the concomitance of interests he has with other individuals like himself subject to the same material determinations. Consciousness, from individual becomes class consciousness and, as is said in our “Reversal of Praxis”, «in the social class the process is the same: only all the forces of concomitant direction are greatly exalted”.
In the historical becoming, the relations between all individuals in society are conditioned by the existing relations of production and are expressed in the struggle between the various social classes that embody these relations. It is through this struggle, generated by the imperious necessity of defending the interests of their own existence, that individuals belonging to the oppressed and exploited classes learn to acquire an increasingly precise consciousness of the means and organizational forms to be adopted for defensive action against the exploiting classes.
At a certain degree of development of a mode of production, social relations come into strident contrast with the existing forms of production, and in increasing numbers of individuals belonging to the classes oppressed by the existing mode of production which has become anti-historical, there emerges a consciousness of the need to break these relations through a revolutionary process leading to the overthrow of the power of the privileged classes possessing it, to replace it with the power of the new classes embodying the social relations corresponding to the new mode of production.
There is no doubt that initially only a small minority acquires consciousness of the entire revolutionary process and thus the ability to direct and influence the members of the class whose political and historical interests it represents. In this minority the consciousness-will-to-action relationship is reversed and it can consciously influence the revolutionary process. Not only that, this influence becomes indispensable to the successful conclusion of this process. This minority is none other than the party.
«In the party, the contribution made by all the individual and class influences which flow into it from below are shaped into the means of establishing a critical and theoretical view, and a will to act, which makes it possible to instill into individual proletarians and militants an explanation of situations and historical processes, and an ability to make correct decisions about actions and struggles».
From “Party and class action”:
«Basically, the task of the proletarian party in the historical process is set forth as follows.
«At all times the economic and social relationships in capitalist society are unbearable for the proletarians, who consequently are driven to try to overcome them. Through complex developments the victims of these relationships are brought to realise that, in their instinctive struggle against sufferings and hardships which are common to a multitude of people, individual resources are not enough. Hence they are led to experiment with collective forms of action in order to increase, through their association, the extent of their influence on the social conditions imposed upon them. But the succession of these experiences all along the path of the development of the present capitalist social form leads to the inevitable conclusion that the workers will achieve no real influence on their own destinies until they have united their efforts beyond the limits of local, national and trade interests and until they have concentrated these efforts on a far-reaching and integral objective which is realised in the overthrow of bourgeois political power. This is so because as long as the present political apparatus remains in force, its function will be to annihilate all the efforts of the proletarian class to escape from capitalist exploitation.
«The first groups of proletarians to attain this consciousness are those who take part in the movements of their class comrades and who, through a critical analysis of their efforts, of the results which follow, and of their mistakes and disillusions, bring an ever-growing number of proletarians onto the field of the common and final struggle which is a struggle for power, a political struggle, a revolutionary struggle.
«Thus at first an ever-increasing number of workers become convinced that only the final revolutionary struggle can solve the problem of their living conditions. At the same time there are increasing numbers who are ready to accept the inevitable hardships and sacrifices of the struggle and who are ready to put themselves at the head of the masses incited to revolt by their suffering, all in order to rationally utilise their efforts and to assure their full effectiveness.
«The indispensable task of the party is therefore presented in two ways, as factor of consciousness, and then as factor of will: the former translates into a theoretical conception of the revolutionary process which all members must share; the second into the acceptance of a precise discipline that ensures a co-ordinated effort and thus the success of the relevant action».
The grafting that is to lead to the proletarian revolution can only have as its basis the encounter between the spontaneous action of the masses driven by the need to organize in order to defend their immediate living conditions and the conscious directing and organizing activity of the party.
But the party has, in a sense, a class-independent life and development in that the consciousness of socialism does not spring directly from the class struggle.
In this connection we quote a beautiful page written by Kautsky and taken up by Lenin in “What is to be done?”:
«Many of our revisionist critics believe that Marx asserted that economic development and the class struggle create, not only the conditions for socialist production, but also, and directly, the consciousness [K. K.’s italics] of its necessity. And these critics assert that England, the country most highly developed capitalistically, is more remote than any other from this consciousness Judging by the draft, one might assume that this allegedly orthodox Marxist view, which is thus refuted, was shared by the committee that drafted the Austrian programme.
«In the draft programme it is stated: “The more capitalist development increases the numbers of the proletariat, the more the proletariat is compelled and becomes fit to fight against capitalism. The proletariat becomes conscious of the possibility and of the necessity for socialism”. In this connection socialist consciousness appears to be a necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle. But this is absolutely untrue. Of course, socialism, as a doctrine, has its roots in modern economic relationships just as the class struggle of the proletariat has, and, like the latter, emerges from the struggle against the capitalist-created poverty and misery of the masses. But socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia [K.K.’s italics]: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without [von Aussen Hineingetragenes] and not something that arose within it spontaneously [urwüchsig]. Accordingly, the old Hainfeld programme quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat (literally: saturate the proletariat) with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task. There would be no need for this if consciousness arose of itself from the class struggle».
In the conflict of interests between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the former can, at best, arrive at what Lenin, in “What is to be done?” calls «tradeunionist consciousness, that is, the consciousness of the defense of one's own contingent, factory, category interests; “the conviction” -as he calls it- “of the need to unite in trade unions, to lead the struggle against the bosses”. To this consciousness the proletariat comes spontaneously through the class clash with the big bosses, the government and the state apparatus that administers their interests. In this clash, the party has a duty to actively participate in all the implications that the daily defense struggle takes on, working to «raise the tradeunionist consciousness to the social-democratic level”.
This statement summarizes in an exemplary way the relationship between party and class action. The party “imports from the outside” the revolutionary program within the workers' movement, thus bringing it closer to the revolutionary political struggle, distancing it from the influences of bourgeois and opportunist ideology that inevitably permeates the spontaneous movement of proletarians struggling to defend their immediate interests in the absence of the party's political action and agitation.
To the quote from Kautsky given earlier, Lenin follows up with the excerpt:
«Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement, the only choice is — either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a “third” ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or an above-class ideology). Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology... for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade- unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy».
The Pyramid: Party-Soviet-Trade Unions-Class
The conscious action of the party within the workers' movement, and thus within the organizations it spontaneously gives itself, is thus essential and indispensable to direct the proletariat toward revolutionary struggle. The party's action becomes all the more vital toward those bodies which, like the Soviets in pre- revolutionary Russia, express a more expressly political organizational form of the tendency of the working class to place itself as antagonist to the enemy class in the supreme struggle for the conquest of power, but possible only if the party succeeds in imbuing these bodies with its revolutionary direction. For this reason, the Communist Left has irreversibly established a hierarchy of forms in which at the head stands the Party and thereafter, in order, Soviets, Trade Unions, Class. That is, Party, Trade Unions, Class, in historical periods when there are no Soviets. This hierarchy corresponds to the function of the Communists in the revolutionary process and, more generally, in the historical evolution of this process, which starts from the class that spontaneously organizes itself into trade unions (or at any rate into organisms of an immediate defensive character), and creates, in the heat of the social clash, the organisms of proletarian political power, realized on the sole condition that the whole is influenced and conquered by the revolutionary Communist Party.
This pyramid of functions, if it has so far found unique factual expression in the Russian Revolution, was not its “specificity”, but corresponds to the becoming of the social clash between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie at the historical scale and is therefore a hierarchy that will have to substantially reproduce itself in the future class warfare of the revolutionary proletariat.
The organizational forms of the future proletarian associations of immediate defense against capital may not correspond to the traditional trade unions, as our Characteristic Theses state, but «any phase of decisive increase in the influence of the party among the masses cannot take place without a layer of organisms with an immediate economic purpose and with high numerical participation being placed between the party and the class, within which there is a network emanating from the party (communist trade union nuclei, groups and fractions)”. To deny this concept, or even to simply evade it by thinking of a different intertwining of the formation of intermediate bodies and the functions of the party in this process, is to destroy the entire scientific construction of Marxism.
Having posited this general assumption, elementary for us and repeatedly analyzed in all the facets in which it has historically materialized, it remains to analyze the relationship between party, class and class action in the light of the current situation.
The very lucid approach given to this question by Lenin in What is to be done? is set in a period when, in tsarist Russia, there was an almost generalized proletarian awakening, when vast masses of workers were rapidly becoming aware of their condition as exploited, and trade union agitations of a economical character were on the agenda. Lenin then sets up the exact relations between the “conscious element” and “spontaneity” by harshly flogging the “economists” and related currents, who had in common the position of exalting the spontaneity of the movement, practically denying the function of the party, of the “social democrats”, whom they accused of “undervaluing the spontaneous element”. The social background, as our Theses also recognize, in which Lenin places the party-spontaneity relationship on a correct basis is thus extremely favorable. His Theses have the comfort of being able to be tangibly confirmed by the reality of the movement. Profoundly different is the situation today.
Today: outside and against the regime unions
The current gap between the depth of the crisis of the capitalist economy and the combativity of the proletariat is enormous. The grip of opportunism on the labor movement is still very strong. The proletariat of big industry, the backbone of the economy, reacts passively to the increasingly heavy blows of the bosses and the government in increasingly blatant cahoots with the official trade unions and “leftist” parties. While it is undoubtedly true that the openly collaborationist attitude of the regime's trade unions has provoked among the workers a profound crisis of distrust, acknowledged by the bonzes themselves with concern, and that as a result the ranks of workers willing to follow the directives of the national trade union centers are considerably thinning, it is equally true that this distrust is being translated for the time being, at least among the great mass of workers, into a heightened hesitation to take the road of class-based workers' associationism and recourse to struggle.
The episodes of class confrontation which, nationally and internationally, have characterized the social scene in recent years have allowed the party to now be able to rule out the possibility that the indispensable revival of immediate class organization can come about through the conquest of the current official trade union organizational apparatuses, real supporting pillars of the state and employers' institutions, which as such appear to an increasing number of proletarians, and to foresee therefore that the organizational reconstitution of the proletariat on a class basis can only be envisaged as a “rebirth ex- novo” of organisms, outside and against the present regime trade union apparatuses. If, in the process that will lead to this rebirth, we cannot exclude a priori that local or peripheral fringes of the present factory or trade union organizations can be involved, we can, however, exclude that the present trade union organizations can be reconquered to the correct classist approach through a simple ousting of the bonzes from the top structures or through internal work of intervention in its territorial structures, regional or national, which have now become irreversibly impermeable to the real class struggle, and in which any remnant of grassroots union life that could in any way justify the continued existence of communists in them has all but disappeared.
However, these deductions cannot yet lead us to prospect what the organizational form to be taken by future class organizations should be. We wrote in '1969 in the study “Party and Class Organizations in the Tradition of the Communist Left” (“Il Programma Comunista” No. 21): «organizational forms must arise from, the real process in relation to general class interests. The party does not invent forms. The party shapes them with its historical program to bend them to the tasks and aims of the revolutionary struggle. The opposite is false, that is, that the party subordinates itself to formal preconstitutions to which it reduces its program, that is, its historical and political action”.
The first weak attempts to oppose the official policy of the trade unions in these years had the characteristic, at the mostly episodic level, of struggle committees, of workers' coordinating bodies whose process of formation and dissolution was linked to the immediate thrusts of which they were an expression. Having ceased these thrusts, these bodies have all had the characteristic of closing in on themselves, dissolving in polemics inspired by political clashes between the various tendencies existing within them, so that there is not yet. today, a significant attestation on class bases of combative worker strata to which reference can be made to assert that it will be from their quantitative expansion that new future class organizations will spring. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that, with ia gradual deterioration of the economic and social situation, these episodes will be destined to multiply and take on greater consistency, also organizational. This situation thus poses again in very topical terms the question of the relationship that must exist between the party, the class and the immediate organizational expression of the latter, in the various implications that this takes on and above all will take on.
As we have already observed, the current, extreme weakness of this actual process makes it more difficult to be able to fully understand this relationship. all the more so since the party is practically absent while its inability to influence events today is a decisive, certainly the most historically tragic, component of the current situation that must be kept in mind.
Given, from what we have seen above, that the task of the party is to import the revolutionary program into the workers' movement, and that this task can only be successfully accomplished on condition that the party does not deny workers' struggles in defense of workers' conditions, but rather knows how to insert itself into them and win the confidence of the workers by actively participating in them, what must be the specific tasks of the party toward these struggles, and more generally toward the demands and organizational aspects of the workers' movement? What, in other words, is the function of the communists in relation to the “tradeunionist consciousness” of the workers?
In this regard, it is important to refer again to Lenin. If in What is to be done?, at the height of the development of the economic demands movement in Russia, Lenin is compelled to polemicize against those who exalt the spontaneity of this movement, demanding that the party should submit to it, already in the “Project and Explanation of a Programme for the Social Democratic Party” of 1895-96, thus at the dawn of this movement, Lenin places this question in its proper light.
Cooperating in organizing and directing the struggle that the workers have already begun
Point B-1 of the “draft programme”, which Lenin himself, in the “explanation” calls “the most important”, reads:
«The Russian Social-Democratic Party declares that its aim is to assist this struggle of the Russian working class by developing the class-consciousness of the workers, by promoting their organisation, and by indicating the aims and objects of the struggle».
In explaining this point, after asserting that it
«indicates how the aspiration to socialism, the aspiration to eliminate the age-old exploitation of man over man, is to be made with the people's movement arising out of the conditions of life created by the large factories and workshops», Lenin writes: «The Party’s activity must consist in promoting the workers’ class struggle. The Party’s task is not to concoct some fashionable means of helping the workers, but to join up with the workers’ movement, to bring light into it, to assist the workers in the struggle they themselves have already begun to wage. The Party’s task is to uphold the interests of the workers and to represent those of the entire working class movement. Now, what must this assistance to the workers in their struggle consist of? The programme says that this assistance must consist, firstly, in developing the workers’ class-consciousness».
Thus it is clear that the party does not evoke the movement, does not voluntaristically determine it using some “fashionable means”, but “joins” the already existing movement, which therefore itself will have been able to determine itself even without the party's activity. In this movement the party “brings light”, “sustains” the struggle that «they (the workers) themselves have already begun», and in this activity of its intervention, it «develops their class consciousness».
What is to be meant by class consciousness it is Lenin himself who explains in the following passages:
«What is meant by workers’ class-consciousness follows from what we have said on the subject. The workers’ class-consciousness means the workers’ understanding that the only way to improve their conditions and to achieve their emancipation is to conduct a struggle against the capitalist and factory-owner class created by the big factories. Further, the workers’ class-consciousness means their understanding that the interests of all the workers of any particular country are identical, that they all constitute one class, separate from all the other classes in society. Finally, the class- consciousness of the workers means the workers’ understanding that to achieve their aims they have to work to influence affairs of state, just as the landlords and the capitalists did, and are continuing to do now.
«By what means do the workers reach an understanding of all this? They do so by constantly gaining experience from the very struggle that they begin to wage against the employers and that increasingly develops, becomes sharper, and involves larger numbers of workers as big factories grow.
«There was a time when the workers’ enmity against capital only found expression in a hazy sense of hatred of their exploiters, in a hazy consciousness of their oppression and enslavement, and in the desire to wreak vengeance on the capitalists. The struggle at that time found expression in isolated revolts of the workers, who wrecked buildings, smashed machines, attacked members of the factory management, etc.
«That was the first, the initial, form of the working-class movement, and it was a necessary one, because hatred of the capitalist has always and everywhere been the first impulse towards arousing in the workers the desire to defend themselves. The Russian working-class movement has, however, already outgrown this original form. Instead of having a hazy hatred of the capitalist, the workers have already begun to understand the antagonism between the interests of the working class and of the capitalist class. Instead of having a confused sense of oppression, they have begun to distinguish the ways and means by which capital oppresses them, and are revolting against various forms of oppression, placing limits to capitalist oppression, and protecting themselves against the capitalist’s greed. Instead of wreaking vengeance on the capitalists they are now turning to the fight for concessions, they are beginning to face the capitalist class with one demand after another, and are demanding improved working conditions, increased wages, and shorter working hours.
«Every strike concentrates all the attention and all the efforts of the workers on some particular aspect of the conditions under which the working class lives. Every strike gives rise to discussions about these conditions, helps the workers to appraise them, to understand what capitalist oppression consists in in the particular case, and what means can be employed to combat this oppression. Every strike enriches the experience of the entire working class... This transition of the workers to the steadfast struggle for their vital needs, the fight for concessions, for improved living conditions, wages and working hours, now begun all over Russia, means that the Russian workers are making tremendous progress, and that is why the attention of the Social-Democratic Party and all class-conscious workers should be concentrated mainly on this struggle, on its promotion».
We note, en passant, how today this process of progressive acquisition of class consciousness by the workers is still almost entirely to be accomplished, opportunism having succeeded in eradicating from proletarian minds and hearts even that confused sense of hatred for the capitalist which is the elementary condition for determining the first thrusts to action, albeit “vindictive” and individualistic.
In the passage quoted above, the relationship between party-consciousness and spontaneity of movement is thus the same as that described by Kautsky. The “aspiration for socialism” proper to the revolutionary consciousness that only the Party can possess has in a sense an existence independent of the proletarian movement, which spontaneously, can arrive at the “tradeunionist” consciousness that workers acquire «by drawing it unceasingly from the very struggle they begin to wage against the manufacturers”. The great problem to be solved in order to determine a revolutionary situation lies in “fusing” these two, somewhat distinct, elements of the proletarian movement.
That is why the Party cannot limit itself to an enunciation of its revolutionary program, but must make the most of this enunciation by struggling with the workers, helping them in their process of progressive acquisition of class consciousness. What, therefore, does “helping the workers” mean? It is Lenin again who answers:
«Assistance to the workers should consist in showing them those most vital needs for the satisfaction of which they should fight, should consist in analysing the factors particularly responsible for worsening the conditions of different categories of workers, in explaining factory laws and regulations the violation of which (added to the deceptive tricks of the capitalists) so often subject the workers to double robbery. Assistance should consist in giving more precise and definite expression to the workers’ demands, and in making them public, in choosing the best time for resistance, in choosing the method of struggle, in discussing the position and the strength of the two opposing sides, in discussing whether a still better choice can be made of the method of fighting (a method, perhaps, like addressing a letter to the factory owner, or approaching the inspector, or the doctor, according to circumstances, where direct strike action is not advisable, etc.)».
Foresee the forms, favor their appearance
To get into the heart of the class clash, then, even in its smallest and most particular aspects; to fight with the workers for their immediate needs, to be spokesmen for their most basic demands. «Enlighten them – it is Lenin himself who uses this expression – with the watchwords, the explanations» of the party by leading the movement toward the “consciousness of socialism”, that is, toward the realization that only by gaining political power under the leadership of the party will it be possible to solve their problems once and for all.
The concept of “helping the workers” should obviously be extended to the efforts they conduct to organize themselves on the class ground.
«The second type of assistance – Lenin adds - should consist, as the programme states, in promoting the organisation of the workers. The struggle we have just described necessarily requires that the workers be organised. Organisation becomes necessary for strikes, to ensure that they are conducted with great success, for collections in support of strikers, for setting up workers’ mutual benefit societies, and for propaganda among the workers, the distribution among them of leaflets, announcements, manifestoes, etc. Organisation is still more necessary to enable the workers to defend themselves against persecution by the police and the gendarmerie, to conceal from them all the workers’ contacts and associations and to arrange the delivery of books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc. To assist in all this — such is the Party’s second task».
It is precisely to this task that our Characteristic Theses r refer where they state that «the task of the party in unfavorable periods, of passivity of the proletarian class, is to foresee the forms and encourage the appearance of organizations with an economic purpose for the immediate struggle”. Encourage the appearance: this is the exact expression. It means that the party cannot, on the basis of a pure will to action, take the place of the process of forming class organizations, cannot “create” them, found them, build them on the basis of its own will, just as it cannot hold itself aloof when this process, this tendency of the proletariat to class organization is underway, even if only among minorities of proletarians who are combative and willing to fight. In this sense, while on the one hand the party is not a “doer of trade unions”, on the other hand it does not wait passively for them to form and then later intervene to win them to its own address, but actively participates in this process, even becoming a promoter of class organization where its communist groups operate in the factories, on the condition that this promoting action meets with the workers' instinctive and spontaneous tendency to implement it.
No juxtaposition between revolutionary tasks and the direction of trade union struggle
Understanding this question thoroughly is most important for the purpose of not slipping into attitudes contrary to the principles of the party. The intertwining of the party's activity in the trade union field and the action of revolutionary communist programmatic direction can never be understood, whatever the situation, as something separate, something “alternative”.
Profoundly anti-Marxist would be, for example, to argue that given the present situation, of astronomical distance of the class from the revolutionary program and therefore given the very low class consciousness of the workers, it is a matter for the party to set aside its political and programmatic statements and general directions on immediate class struggle, to rush headlong into an exclusively minimalist union work, asserting that “the workers do not understand” and that it is therefore a matter of saying only what they are believed to be able to understand, that is, only those aspects related to their contingent defense.
It would be likewise wrong, presuming that workers “do not understand” even this, to maintain that the duty of the party is to import the tradunionist consciousness within the class through a minimalist work, unconnected to its general political and also union directions. To do this is tantamount to saying that the proletarian “tradeunionist consciousness” is a direct result of the party, and that without its intervention the proletariat would not achieve it. The whole history of the labor movement proves that the proletariat achieves such consciousness spontaneously, under the thrust of the real conditions of its existence, rendered precarious every time the contradictions of the capitalist society blow up in an acute form.
Having come to the realization that in order to effectively oppose capitalist exploitation, it is necessary to fight hard with the weapon of the strike to hit the employers' interests, and that to do this it is necessary to organize, that is, to achieve a “tradeunionist consciousness”; although this way workers have taken a big step forward, they have not yet taken the revolutionary road. For this to happen, the active presence of the party in this process, the conquest by it of the leadership of the movement, is indispensable. A party that must therefore pre-exist this process and, independently of it, be attested to its correct positions. Tradeunionist consciousness and organization do not bring the movement out of its state of subjugation to bourgeois ideology, inasmuch as the workers, while fighting against the bosses and their state, nevertheless remain prey to the illusion that they can stably defend their conditions of existence within the capitalist economic and social system
Obviously, the presence of the party in the class movement for demands constitutes a powerful factor in accelerating the movement itself, giving it a revolutionary character. To the extent that the party succeeds in increasing its influence among the workers and their organizations, it succeeds in directing the latter progressively toward open confrontation with all the state and parastatal institutions of the bourgeoisie, thereby also succeeding in wresting concessions on the immediate level. But of these battles the party does not make the ultimate goal of its action and considers them the means to the end of revolutionary insurrection for the seizure of political power.
In the final analysis, we will say that class-based workers' organizations can be fully expressed only when directed by the party, and that therefore party action is indispensable to all general class action.
From Party and Class Action:
«The party is the indispensable organ of all class action even if we consider the immediate necessities of the struggles which must culminate in the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie. In fact we cannot speak of a genuine class action (that is an action that goes beyond the trade interests and immediate concerns) unless there is a party action».
It is therefore a mistake to set “political work” against the “trade union work” of the party and to argue that, depending on the situation, one should have more or less importance than the other.
In a minor piece of writing, in a letter to Gusiev dated October 13, 1905, thus in the revolutionary period, when the struggle for power assumes central importance, Lenin, referring to the Odessa Committee's resolution on the trade union struggle, writes:
«The first part... is quite good: to undertake “leadership of all manifestations of the class struggle of the proletariat” and “never to forget the task” of leading the trade union struggle. Splendid. Further, the second point, that the task of preparing for an armed uprising comes “into the forefront”, and... “in consequence of this the task of leading the trade union struggle of the proletariat inevitably recedes into the background”. This, in my opinion, is wrong theoretically and incorrect from the point of view of tactics (...) An armed uprising is the highest method of political struggle. Its success from the point of view of the proletariat, i.e., the success of a proletarian uprising under Social-Democratic leadership... requires extensive development of all aspects of the workers’ movement. Hence the idea of contraposing the task of an uprising to the task of leading the trade union struggle is supremely incorrect».
The idea of pitting union work against political agitation, depending on the situation, is wrong. The party, today, is not “reduced” to doing “tradeunionism” just because the class is far from the assault for the conquest of political power, on the contrary it considers the direction of immediate struggles in the pre- insurrection period all the more necessary. We shall then say that the task of communists, in all situations, is to denounce to the workers their general condition as exploited, point out to them the real class enemies and expose all those who pretend to act in the interests of the workers and instead subordinate them to those of the national and corporate economy. The task of the communists is to present the revolutionary communist program to the workers, clarifying through agitation, propaganda and proselytism the profound contradictions of capitalist society and pointing out the only revolutionary viable way to overcome them. Communists will point this out to the workers not only through the assumptions of doctrine but in the heat of their struggles, actively participating, wherever possible, in the daily battles, encouraging the work of organization and immediate demands action, so as to appear to the workers as the true and sole representatives of their interests.
Communists must perform these tasks always, in all possible situations. The situation outside the party does not determine the nature, the quality of the tasks to be carried out, but the preponderance of certain tasks over others, but not in the sense that one is more or less important than the other, that political agitation becoming more or less important than intervention in struggles; external events determine the different quantitative combination of these tasks.
It should never be forgotten, moreover, that “external situations” means events external to the party in the sense that they do not depend on its will, but that nevertheless the party can, to a certain degree of development and penetration among the masses which is certainly not the present, influence these events. In a certain sense, the party itself is a product of the “external situation” and therefore between the party and the external situation there is a continuous dialectical relationship of interdependence which results in the principle that the party will never change its revolutionary program and its theory of Marxist interpretation of events according to the external situation. but it will have to take this into account in the tactical application of its program, bearing in mind also that the degree of the party's influence is an integral part of this situation.
From the “Characteristic Theses”:
«Events, not the will or decision of men, thus also determine the area of penetration of the broad masses, limiting it today to a small corner of the overall activity”.
Two opposite but converging deviations
Returning to today's situation, the almost total absence of the proletariat from the scene of the class struggle determines, among the political groups or organizations that pretend to refer to the revolutionary tradition of the proletariat and perhaps even to the Communist Left or at any rate place themselves in an area of purported “extreme left” a series of profoundly mistaken positions about the issue we are dealing with.
Overall, to summarize. although they often take on different nuances, these positions can be traced to two. For some. the lack of reaction of workers to the increasingly heavy blows of capital and to the increasingly evident collaborationism of the trade union centers, leads to the conclusion that trade union claims system, and consequently the class economic organization of the workers, now belong to the past, are to be considered an archeological relic of the workers' movement, for which it would be a matter of immediately making the “political leap”, proceeding to the “destabilizing attack on the system”, either through individual terrorism or the so-called “mass illegality” or, at best, as factory workers' actions, but considered at the level of sabotage actions or individual or “minority” attacks, or by theorizing that the task of the communists should be to organize the workers, skipping over the “struggle for economic demands”, considered “backward” and incapable of “producing political consciousness”, or, again, by theorizing that yes, the proletariat will organize into class bodies, but these will already have a “political program”, discriminating in comparison with the other “more backward” workers, and will already automatically have a “revolutionary content” insofar as they will immediately place themselves on the terrain of the “struggle against the system.”
There is no need to bother with the great theoretical issues to show how far these positions are from revolutionary Marxism. It will suffice to refer to the daily reality of these dark times that, even from the depths of the apathy in which the working class now lives, the episodes which have seen a number of workers move even if only temporarily to the terrain of the real class struggle, have had as their content the “backward claims” of the defense of the workplace or of wage increases or of normative contractual improvements, and certainly not the “proletarian counter-power”, or the “political struggle against the system”. We will merely observe that these positions are typically anti-materialist: idealistic those that would have as the party's task that of organizing the workers immediately on the “political level”, insofar as they assume that men, and in this case proletarians, act not under the impetus of material determinations, but of the “idea”, of the intellectual understanding of their social situation and of the historical path to be taken to find a solution to it; spontaneist those that pretend that the “need for communism” springs up in the worker. or, more exactly, in their “worker-mass” or “worker-social”, directly from his daily life and that therefore every individual action to satisfy an immediate need is equivalent to a “revolutionary action”.
The latter, deniers of both Party and economic organization, cannot. even be ascribed as “deviations” from Marxism; to which, for that matter, they don’t even claim to refer. They are simply the ideological expression of the mentality and the objective drives of the under-proletariat, of what they call, with a euphemism, the “marginal proletariat” as well as of the petty bourgeoisie, rebellious and enraged by not being able to participate in the sharing of the cake of workers' surplus-value. The drama lies in the fact that they unfortunately succeed in intercepting and burning up healthy energies of proletarians sincerely oriented to class struggle.
Impotence of trade union “brigatismo”
However, there is another tendency that seems to oppose this, pursuing the opposite criterion; a tendency that is more subtle, because it is apparently closer to Marxism and therefore more dangerous and insidious, according to the classic cataloguing of deviations typical of the Communist Left. This tendency, always starting from the assumption that the proletariat is struggling to get back on the class path, reacts to what for the sake of convenience of expression we might call “politicism” by throwing itself headlong into “pure tradeunionism”. That is, it is claimed that the workers are susceptible to struggle only if they can see a “reference point” consisting of elements previously organized on the basis of simple, very simple, minimal claim objectives, and that the task of the party and of the communists must therefore be to try to create, wherever possible. these “organized references” without which, they say. the proletariat would not move. For them, any indication to the proletarians of general watchwords and organizational perspectives, even on the trade union ground. is just a “velleity”, as “not understood” today by the workers. to whom it is necessary to prospect only “what they can cunderstand”, or rather what they delude themselves that they can understand. For them, the only road that can lead to “have workers moving” is that which passes through the “prior organization” of workers “vanguards” which in themselves, outside the real context of the situations in which they act, would be likely to constitute a valid “point of reference” for the class. And these “vanguards”, in order to stand as such, must present themselves before the factories with “specific platforms and indications” that can meet the favor of the workers. From here to the launching of any watchwords, unconnected to the more general ones or the revolutionary program the step is short and they have abundantly accomplished it. The party, the communists, will therefore today have the task of “importing tradeunionist consciousness within the class”, of agitating minimal indications in order to urge the workers to act, facing the preventive organizational consciousness of these nebulous “vanguards”.
The consequence is falling into a voluntarist attitude set roughly in this way: the class does not move, one must “make it move”. This requires comprehensible goals and a minimum of vanguard elements. organized with this view and perspective; one must therefore “build up in the factories these reference points” and the party should work toward this end. Once again the approach is overturned with respect to the reality of class struggle. These people will never understand that workers do not move. nor will they ever move, because a group of “more conscious” workers will have brought forward platforms or specific objectives on which to struggle, but, again, only if driven by objective material conditions; the communists, we repeat, will be able to “help” this process, never determine it, and much less can more or less organized. generical “vanguards” do it. Indeed, it must be said that, in the present situation, to speak of vanguards is at least improper in that the real vanguards will be expressed only by a broad and deep general class movement, just as only this movement will determine the rise of real class bodies which precisely will organize these vanguards. At best, wanting to push the workers to the action when their predisposition to struggle does not exist, is what good Marxists have repeatedly called “revolutionary impatience”, which has often been a not negligible component of the worst tactical and then strategic, of principle, deviations. From the tactical point of view it leads, on the one hand, to the formulation of immediate directions that do not meet the predisposition to struggle of the workers and thus to an activist voluntarism that grinds claims and platforms to a halt, ridiculing communists before the most combative and conscious workers; on the other hand, it leads inevitably to expedientism, to the search for the “recipe” to accelerate the process of resuming the class struggle, even to the alliance, perhaps with the initial excuse that it is only on the trade union demands terrain, with political formations from which the party must differentiate itself programmatically and organizationally in a clear and profound way. Such a way of setting the issue also suffers from a certain gradualism typical of all forms of opportunism. It is said: we agree with the big general watchwords, but these are not understandable today. Let us therefore limit ourselves to the “little things” of everyday, the minimal issues that workers can understand; when they’ll have then taken the first step, we will put forward the next step. It leads finally to the position according to which it is in the actual movement of struggles that the party learns to set up the right tactics while, viceversa, the actual movement serves, if anything, to verify the accuracy of a tactical action predetermined by the party on the basis, as we said at the beginning, of fidelity to principles and program and analysis of the situation as an “integrating element”. It leads to improvisation and the continual discovery of “different situations”, for which it is necessary today to indicate the opposite of what was indicated yesterday, in the continual search for the “novelty” that makes one reconsider everything.
Interestingly, this tendency, which would seem to be opposed to the first, is conversely its natural complement. Indeed, common to both is the conception that it is a matter of devising expedients to “get the proletariat to move”, expedients that boil down to being the example, the “organized and operative reference” that needs to be given to the proletariat as minorities previously organized on the “terrain of confrontation and political counterpower” for the ones. on that of the trade union struggle, for the others. In fact, it is not by chance that the latter, often finding themselves in agreement with the former on this, end up falling into positions that we might call “trade union brigatismo”, aiming at confrontation at all costs. at “minority struggles” against opportunism, at organization alternative to it, regardless of situations, at boycotting strikes proclaimed by the trade union centers. even when the forces to promote alternative actions do not exist, etc. It is no coincidence, too, that similarly, the latter (spontaneists) harbor ill-concealed sympathies toward the former (idealists) whom they consider to belong to that “revolutionary area” which they imagine to be extended to anyone who in some way apparently opposes the state and the established order and which for us, conversely, according to the teachings of the Communist Left, is delimited by party boundaries.
Cornerstones of party's intervention in struggles
How should communists approach this question in today's situation? In our Characteristic Theses, point 10 of Part IV, it reads:
«The acceleration of the process depends not only on the profound social causes of historical crises, but also on the proselytism and propaganda of the party, even with the reduced means at its disposal. The party totally rules out the possibility of stimulating this process by means of devices, stratagems and manoeuvres aimed at groups, leaders or parties who have usurped the name “proletarian”, “socialist” or “communist”... There are no ready-made recipes that will accelerate the resurgence of the class struggle. No manoeuvres and expedients exist that will get proletarians to listen to the voice of the class; such manoeuvres and expedients would not make the party appear to be what it truly is, but would be a misrepresentation of its function, to the detriment and prejudice of the effective resurgence of the revolutionary movement, which is based on the situation having really matured and the corresponding ability of the party to respond, being fit for this purpose only because of its doctrinaire and political inflexibility. The Italian Left has always fought against resorting to expedients as a way of keeping its head above water, denouncing this as a deviation from principle which in no way adheres to Marxist determinism. Along the lines of past experiences, the Party therefore withholds from making and accepting invitations, open letters or agitation slogans aiming to form committees, fronts or agreements with other political organisations whatever their nature».“Proselytism and propaganda of the party, even with the reduced means at its disposal”: this is the point. In this work of propaganda, the party does not hide the ultimate aims of its action, just as it does not avoid outlining to proletarians the process they will have to go through for the whole revolutionary arc of the class to be accomplished. Even when the party intervenes in workers struggles for demands with minimal and immediate content, the purpose of its action is to broaden its influence among the workers, so its propaganda must aim at this result.
It cannot limit itself to “tradeunionism” in the sense of indicating to the proletarians the specific objectives for which they must fight, which as a rule are already known to the proletarians and for which they start a struggle, it must be able to connect these however necessary indications with the more general perspectives of the class struggle, it must “enlighten” them on the road to be taken, indicate the limits of their struggles, propagandize the necessity of class organization and the extension of the struggle, without for that matter assuming professorial attitudes, but calibrating in the most correct way possible the practical help of the militants with the propaganda of the more general political and union positions that characterize the party and distinguish it from all other political formations that may be present in the struggle.
If these struggles express an organization of the most combative and conscious proletarians, there is no doubt that the our militant workers will intervene in them and every effort will have to be made to win them over to the Communist directives, taking care, however, not to close these bodies to workers who have not yet matured the consciousness to follow them. The effort that will have to be attempted, once the struggle ends, is that this organization does not dissolve, does not reflux into nothingness, but continues an action of its own among the workers, maintaining a continuous relationship with them on the basis of their contingent problems. Only in this way can these organizations, even if small and weak, effectively become a “point of reference” for the class, and only thus can the communists in turn become a reference for those more conscious proletarians who pose the problem of overcoming the limits of the immediate struggle.
The question of organization prior to struggle must also be put in correct terms. To assert that only with the existence of a workers' organization of an immediate character is it possible to start a struggle is erroneous in that generally it is the struggle itself, the workers' will to immediate action, that generates struggle committees or similar workers' organisms, and this is consistent with the Marxist thesis that workers come to tradunionist consciousness on their own, driven by their needs. It is on this spontaneous tendency toward organization that the action of the communists must be grafted, helping it as said above by “developing” this consciousness, through active propaganda in the heat of organization and action, of the more general positions of the party. However, it would be wrong to say that a workers' committee can only originate directly from a struggle. It can also be formed on the basis of a tendency of more conscious workers' elements to unite in order to undertake agitation and propaganda work in the workplaces where they operate, and if this committee thus formed succeeds in inserting itself among the workers with tenacious work of orientation on even the most minimal questions to be addressed and demanded, it will be able, once the struggle has erupted, to constitute a powerful factor in accelerating its radicalization and extension, an accelerating factor which will be all the more valid and effective the more the Communists have succeeded in directing it in the right classist direction.
We shall then say more properly that the relationship between previously organized vanguards and the remainder of the workers is a problem that can be solved only in the light of the concrete situations that arise from time to time and cannot be dismissed with statements of principle. In all factories and workplaces there are generally those workers whom we are wont to call “more combative” as they are more sensitive to issues related to the defense of the immediate interests of the workers, and therefore more likely to pose as organizers and to be at the head of struggles when they erupt, or to be the catalysts, the famous “point of reference” of the tensions and discontents of the other workers.
The determination, the drive to organize of these “vanguards”, can only be in close connection with the propensity to be considered as such by the majority of other workers. Otherwise their preventive organization cannot be considered a “reference” for the organization of a class opposition to the bosses and opportunism. It is therefore erroneous to envisage the prospect of constituting artificial micro- organizations that act independently of the propension of the rest of the workers to follow their lead, and that claim to “teach”, maybe by “practical example”, by “minority struggles”, by ”vanguard action”, how to struggle.
Proletarian class struggle is not the product of the will of previously organized minorities, it is not the result of teaching of conscious elements to others who are not, but the result of a much more complex and profound process that has as its determining and triggering cause the economic and social contradictions of the capitalist mode of production that blow up with harsh evidence in periods of productive crisis in which capital is naturally driven to increase the exploitation of wage labor. In this far from linear process, ever-widening ranks of proletarians spontaneously take to the ground of open and intransigent struggle against the bosses and all their accomplices. There then emerge those elements better equipped with organizational capacity and more sensitive and aware of the immediate tendencies and aims of the movement and the means to better struggle and more effectively counter the attacks and resistance of the class enemy.
If today, even in the presence of an acute crisis of the capitalist system of production and a heavy attack by capital on the living conditions of the entire class, this process of class-based deployment of the proletariat is struggling to determine itself and takes mostly episodic and marginal forms, the causes are to be found in half a century of the history of the capitalist economy and the workers' movement, which have determined the economic, political and social conditions that are still disastrous from the class point of view, certainly not in the lack of “organized vanguards”, this being an effect and not a cause of the absence of a broad class deployment.
On the other hand, it would be suicidal for communists to draw the conclusion that it is the matter of “waiting” the appearance a large class movement, before undertaking an action of immediate direction of proletarians towards the aims of economic struggle and the indispensable class organization. It would mean to assert that communists have a passive, not active, role in the process of proletarian class struggle. The Party knows that the resurgence of class organizations is an obligatory stage in the process that will lead the proletariat to meet with the communist program, and as of today its militants have a duty to propagandize among the workers this necessity and to work actively to ensure that this prospect materializes wherever the Party's propaganda work encounters workers who are serious about organizing on the terrain of class struggle, beyond their own political convictions in the awareness that today only certain more conscious proletarian minorities are likely to dispose themselves immediately on the class terrain, and in the conviction that even when this happens, these minorities will have to take into account that they are such and carry out their work among the workers in the modesty of this awareness, without adventuristic swerves.
The Party's indication is therefore correct. where it can reach with its word, to the organization of workers in the workplaces independently of union opportunism, in the perspective of the reconstruction of a class organizational fabric that only the real movement of workers will be able to determine. It is an indication that the Party addresses indiscriminately to all workers. not only and not so much to their vanguards.
Party instruments for this address in the factories and workplaces are the communist groups. The communist group, made up exclusively of militant communist workers and their close sympathizers, is an organ in the exclusive dependence of the Party. indeed an organ of the Party, and has the task of carrying the Party's political positions among the workers where it acts, inserting its proselytizing and political propaganda action on workers' struggles and grassroots demands. It will therefore be his duty, in addition to actively participating in every demonstration of workers' struggles and in grassroots organizations, which have come into being even on the basis of minimal objectives, to be the spokesman for the indication for independent class organization and, if the conditions exist. also the promoter of concrete initiatives in this direction and to invite workers to join bodies which have come to be formed on class bases.
It would instead be a grave error if the communist group fell in the attitude to “speed things up”, to formally constitute itself into an immediate trade union body. In this way we would fall into the mistake of considering the party as a “trade union builder” or “forerunner of union forms”. To do so would be to fall into the illusion that the Communists' example would be enough to induce other workers to organize. Worse still, it would distort the function of the communists, in the claim of having a greater following among the workers if the purely party-oriented character of factory party organs is downplayed, leaving the belief that they have only union content and are therefore open to all workers who only accept the methods of class struggle. The Communist group will point out to the workers the need for the revival of class bodies and to work for it, without falling into the tendency to pre-establish contrived bodies, detached from workers, with no follow-through in the workplace, which would only appear as a different way of organizing and acting of the Communists or, worse, a reversal of program, to the serious detriment of the Party.
There is no doubt that the Communist group must adhere to grassroots bodies that arise on the impetus of struggles, or workers' demands, or attempts at organization by more conscious and combative workers, constituting in them the Communist trade union fraction, which will attempt to strengthen their development and take over their leadership.
It is therefore undeniable that Party’s action must also take place within these organisms with no restraint whatsoever.
The issue must however be better deepened since, in the present situation, the workers who are likely to organize in committees of a trade union character, lacking a generalized workers thrust in this direction, are workers in most cases joining political groups which, in a way or another, make reference to the working class and, as stated by already quoted theses, “usurp the name of proletarians, socialists and communists”, bearers of the erroneous positions we have mentioned; a visible and clear-cut organizational separation must be kept with them, in a way that it appears such to the eyes of the workers and of anyone following in any way party action and life.
There is no such situation today that could justify tactical action that could take the shape of the watchword of the “united trade union front” as the Party posed it in 1921. At that time the Party enjoyed influence over vast sectors of the labor movement and issued the call to the existing trade union confederations for general action by the entire proletariat, above political divisions, against capital's attack on the workers' living conditions, in defense of wages and the unemployed. Today there are no trade union organizations likely to defend the interests of the workers, and the party's influence is nil, so it is impossible for the party to work in such an immediate perspective, and nothing else, unfortunately, it can do but recall in its propaganda the need for proletarian unity on the terrain of the class struggle, above ideological and party divisions. However, communists cannot disdain work within those small bodies that tend to form today under the pretext that they are “of few elements” and moreover “politicized”. This would lead us to the erroneous conclusion recalled above that it is necessary to wait for the proletarian forces to unfold at the general level, for the spurious workers to emerge from “ideological” indoctrination. Without pedestrianly aping the tactics of the “united trade union front” which in a historical sense encompasses an indication of infinitely greater scope, and not only in a quantitative, but also in a qualitative sense, than we can today. we do not say realize, but neither prospect in the immediate term, Communists have a duty to side with and work jointly with all those workers, whether few or many, who declare and above all seriously demonstrate their willingness to devote themselves to the cause of defending the immediate interests of the class to which they belong, outside of political preconceptions.
But of this work the Party must delineate the limits and characteristics in order to avoid dangerous stragglers. and the issue is very delicate since, we repeat. we are not today in the presence of a real proletarian tendency to class organization, or better this tendency has been manifested for the time being only in an episodic form giving rise to workers' committees which almost always suffer the nefarious influence of small groups and parties which tend to characterize them as “political” organisms and thus distort the classist contents on which they generally arise, or which tend to close themselves in a sectoral. localist and almost corporative vision, lacking, or being in them extremely weak, the influence of the Party.
Lenin 1905: in certain organizations, under certain conditions
It should be said, to start with, that intervention in proletarian defensive bodies must be carried out with a definite “party spirit”. The expression is again Lenin's, and we find it in a 1905 paper, The Socialist Party and Non-Party Revolutionism, in which Lenin analyzes the question of the participation of “social democrats” in the organizations that were then springing up outside the party sphere, particularly the Soviets, but not only these, what he calls “nonparty organizations”.
«Is it permissible for socialists to participate in non-party organisations? If so, on what conditions?
What tactics should be pursued in these organisations?
«The answer to the first question cannot be an unconditional and categorical “no”. It would be wrong to say that in no case and under no circumstances should Social-Democrats participate in non-party organisations. (...) But undoubtedly socialists should confine these “certain circumstances” to narrow limits, and should permit of such participation only on strictly defined, restrictive conditions. For while non-party organisations, as we have already said, arise as a result of the relatively undeveloped state of the class struggle, strict adherence to the party principle, on the other hand, is one of the factors that make the class struggle conscious, clear, definite, and principled. To preserve the ideological and political independence of the party of the proletartat is the constant, immutable and absolute duty of socialists. W Whoever fails to fulfil this duty ceases to be a socialist in fact, however sincere his “socialist” (in words) convictions may be. (...) What tactics should we pursue in the non-party unions? First of all, we should use every opportunity to establish independent contacts and to propagate the whole of our socialist programme».
We certainly do not want to make mechanical equivalences between the kind of organisms of that period and those of today, but precisely because the present organisms are living a stunted life in a situation certainly not comparable to that in terms of class combativeness and present social ferment, this constant concern of Lenin's about the “strict party spirit” is particularly valid today. In practice, referring to the present day, this means that, when operating in these committees the Party must see first and foremost an opportunity to popularize its revolutionary program. What this means in practice is that workers' militants must constantly intervene as revolutionary communists. never camouflaging themselves behind the label of mere combative workers and that their action must appear clearly aimed at ensuring that the bodies in which they act are permeated by their class Party orientation without this entailing the exclusion of those workers who do not subordinate themselves to that orientation and without for this reason abandoning the organization if that orientation does not fully take up but nevertheless shows that the organization seriously pursues action on anti-opportunist and anti-collaborationist ground. In this sense, both the positions that want to give these bodies a “political program” discriminating against the workers, and those that tend to form bodies “neutral” to political struggle and party influences, i.e., mere “technical” organizations of workers' struggles, irnpermeable to any “external” political influence, are to be strongly rejected.
The free clash of political tendencies within the unions is one of the indispensable conditions for our work in them; otherwise the Party would find itself in the condition of being unable to act according to its aims and purposes. There is no contradiction between the open character that trade unions must have, that is, the free membership of proletarians eager to fight simply on the terrain of direct class confrontation, and the effort that the Party must conduct to extend its political influence in them with a view to winning their leadership.
In this connection we quote Lenin again from the Resolution of the 1913 summer meeting of the CC of the POSDR with party officials:
«All activities in legal working-class associations must be conducted not in a neutral spirit, but in keeping with the spirit of the decisions of the London Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. and of the International Congress in Stuttgart. Social-Democrats should recruit members for all working-class associations from the widest possible working-class circles, and urge all workers to join them irrespective of their party opinions. But the Social-Democrats in these associations should form themselves into Party groups and by prolonged and systematic activities secure the establishment of the closest relations between the associations and the Social-Democratic Party».
The sense of our “Party spirit”
The Party must maintain a clear organizational distinction from all other existing groupings within the unions, and from the unions themselves, whose initiatives it may publicly support or criticize, regardless of the participation of its militants in the organization. Within the unions, communists will make their workers' forces available for the performance of practical work, inviting other workers to join them, provided that the real conditions for this membership exist, i.e., an ongoing tendency of certain workers to organize on class and anti-opportunist positions. Militants must also reserve the right to distance themselves from any initiative and position that contradicts or may confuse the Party's political positions and must give this distinction as much resonance and officialdom as possible. Otherwise, workers will be led to believe that Communists share positions that do not characterize them, and the Party would suffer serious harm as a result.
Another condition for our participation is that they should not be “ghost unions”, formed by political groupings seeking notoriety and labeling themselves “workers' groups” for the occasion, and whose members represent no one but themselves. The Party is on principle opposed to any agreement with other political organizations, an aspect it would inevitably come to assume in such a situation. It must not be forgotten that workers judge the Party not so much by its programmatic statements as by the behavior of its militants in relation to them.
Similarly, it is the Party's inescapable duty to pay the utmost attention to and actively intervene in every even minimal workers' demonstration that tends, even if only on an instinctive level, to express opposition to capitalist oppression and opportunist collaborationism, banishing from its bosom falsely “purist” attitudes, that is, attitudes that tend to theorize the Party's inactivity under the pretext that these are “only” amorphous and insignificant movements and therefore “not worthy of consideration” for the Party's external activity. One would thus end up falling into the attitude of “parlor revolutionaries” who look down from the heights of their “Marxist cognitions” on the trivial and infecund real movement, judging it professorially “immature” to have to get their hands dirty by intervening in it.
Even in this delicate matter then, to participate or not, and in what way. to the committees or coordinations that are born, die, live stunted and contradictory lives, it is necessary to find the right balance between two fundamental criteria for the life of the Party among the class: on the one hand, the unquestionable necessity for communist militants to participate actively in every manifestation of struggle or even only of predisposition to it in order to deal with the daily and contingent problems of class defense, without any prejudice toward the qualitative and quantitative consistency of this phenomenon, be it even this tendency, limited to a few more conscious elements of a factory, of a category, of a company; on the other hand, the equally unquestionable necessity that this action cannot be confused with a propensity to «accept or launch invitations, open letters and words of agitation for committees, fronts and mixed understandings with any other movement and political organization», as our theses state without possibility of equivocation.
It is clear that to this end each committee is a case in itself that must be analyzed and faced taking into account the above. It is therefore impossible to draw up a kind of “manual of behavior” to which comrades can refer to determine whether or not one should work in that committee. According to our fundamentals, we may try to list schematically the conditions for us to join them:
1) The committee or coordination should not be an artificial clot of “union fractions” of various political groups or even political groups that for the occasion give themselves a “trade union” label, outside any real connection with workers' struggles or with tendencies toward the organization of combative workers' sectors. In such a case it can only become an intergroup parliament which, generally, in the eyes of the workers appears as yet another extremist political group and within which, for us, it would become extremely difficult to maintain that political autonomy which must always distinguish us. Communists do not seek the “trade union alliance” with other groups or political parties, but work to further the process of class reunification of workers and their struggles. Within the scope of this work they do not exclude the active participation of workers from other parties in this process, and therefore they are not prejudiced against them, but this can only be the result of this process and corresponds to the Marxist view of the class clash according to which it is determined by the material conditions in which the proletariat lives and acts, not by “political ideologies”, religious beliefs, or similar “categories of thought”. It is therefore not a matter of seeking alliance with other parties to “determine” this process, but of agreeing to work alongside their workers' militants when they correctly stand on the ground of defending the immediate interests of the working class.
2) The committee must not manifest closure toward the free expression of political and party positions and programs. Otherwise the communists would find themselves unable to carry out their main task: to import the revolutionary political program among the workers. Should closures to this effect be manifested in a workers' committee even arising out of struggle, a battle must be waged so that they do not prevail.
3) The observation that it is overwhelmingly made up of politicized elements cannot constitute a reason for abandoning or refusing to join a workers' committee. If anything, this characteristic must give militants an awareness of the limitations of such a committee and of the great difficulties of the work to be done in it since today it is difficult to agree, even on the most elementary trade union ground, with elements of political tendencies that differ from our own.
4) The fact that these are workers who are still backward even only on the ground of the defense of their immediate interests and therefore, although they have shown ample willingness to fight on anti- collaborationist positions, still suffer under various forms and manifestations the influence of opportunism and its political and trade union organizations cannot be a hindrance to joining a workers' committee. In this case the active work of the communists will be aimed primarily at showing them in facts the dangerousness and inconsistency of these illusions, accompanying them slowly and progressively. without adventurism and professorial attitudes, in the evolution of their convictions. This is precisely what is to be meant when, with Lenin, we speak of the task of the communists to “develop” the consciousness of the workers.
5) No adherence will be recognized by the communists toward those organizations, even workers' organizations, behind whose acronyms are hidden precise political groups and therefore toward committees that are in fact the union “long hand” of political parties or groupings with an “ideological” background and therefore in fact closed to workers who do not share their political theses.
6) Full adherence, on the other hand, will be accorded to committees which, albeit amidst a thousand difficulties, contradictions and errors, spring from workers' struggles or even just from the spontaneous tendency of certain workers to organize themselves to deal with their problems of existence and work. The number of workers involved in this process, whether many, few or very few, will never constitute a prejudice to membership.
The necessity of the class economic organization is a party's programmatic cornerstone
The function of communists in the process of resumption of class struggle that is to characterize the social scene of the coming years cannot therefore be that of remaining aloof, of observing from outside or above its formal becoming, but that of fertilizing it with their own active militant participation, directing the movement toward revolutionary program and quantitative extension, and the very practical possibility of this work will depend on the forces that the Party will be able to bring into play, as well as on the actual situation, the former dialectically linked to the latter, in the sense that they themselves will be, these forces, a product and a factor of the situation; to the extent that on the one hand the Party will have been able to keep itself firm, without counterproductive tactics and useless organizational inventions, on the path of always, and on the other hand the objective conditions will have allowed the encounter between the conscious will of its action and directives and the spontaneous action of the masses, increasingly driven to action by the pressure of capitalist and opportunist forces.
In this sphere, the Party has the duty, as of today, to outline to the proletarians the process that they will have to carry out entirely in order to bring to positive completion the role of gravediggers of capitalism that history has assigned to them.
This is the meaning of the perspective of the reconstruction of the class union that communists point out to the proletariat. The Party cannot predict today through what routes this prospect will materialize, but it is a fundamental assumption, repeatedly recalled in the Party's bodies of theses, that no revolutionary situation will be able to determine itself, and that therefore the historical encounter between the Party and the class is unthinkable, without a vast and ramified network of economic organizations being deployed between them for defense against the attacks of capital. Nor does this process depend on the will of the Party, since it can only be the organized expression of the spontaneous deployment of the proletarian demands, under the stimulus of the constant aggravation of their living and working conditions. But this deployment will have to produce itself, and the Party has a duty to work in and for this historical perspective, whose explicit and non-episodic organizational determination is perhaps closer than we ourselves may think.
The need for independent class organization must therefore be disseminated everywhere; it must be a programmatic cornerstone of the Party, its political badge, and not a secondary one.
It is not a question of conducting a battle for the class union brought from the height of the political consciousness of the Party. It is not a question of making every minimal episode of proletarian struggle an “action for the class union”. In this way we might make of this historical perspective an ideological battle with the erroneous assumption that the minimum thrust of a union action is sufficient to bring a worker to the consciousness of class organization, or with the equally erroneous assumption that the party must be the bearer of this consciousness within the class. The proletariat will instead attain this awareness through a long and tormenting process of which the first episodic flashes of struggles that exploded outside and against the official trade unions in recent years constitute in a certain sense its prehistory, the first weak and fragile concrete step. However, in these episodes, as well as in general in workers' struggles where the slogan of the Party can be delivered, the perspective of the need for independent classist organization must be brought clearly so that the workers are induced to see in the communists the most coherent and consequent bearers of this material perspective.
In conclusion, the Party does not set itself up as a builder of class organisms, but its militants have the duty to present to the proletarians this essential necessity of the struggle for the defense of their own interests and to actively participate in the organizational drives that go into this direction, where it is possible and where there is a predisposition in this sense of workers, even if of small minorities, subject to the conditions mentioned above.
In this work and for this action the Party has nothing to innovate either in doctrine, revolutionary program or even less in internal organization, being its action in line with the entire tradition of the Communist Left. It has only to continue on the path it has always taken, without false illusions, without wavering, without haste and impatience, in the knowledge that the whole arc of events starting from the first spontaneous proletarian demonstrations against capitalist oppression, and leading, through a complex development of situations, to the proletarian revolution directed by the Communist Party, is still entirely to be accomplished, but its salient stages are known to the Party, and only in it do they live as a crystallization of a social process that begins with the appearance of the proletariat on the scene of the history of class struggles and unfolds through a century and a half of battles, of many tremendous defeats, and of a few but luminous victories, from all of which the Party has drawn irreversible lessons and positions at the critical points, up to the miserable present day, on the eve of social upheavals and tensions, in which the greatest tragedy is the Party's inability, given its meager forces, to “bring light” to the labor movement.
Once again we have nothing to innovate, and never will contempt be deep enough for those who pretend to glimpse in the events of today the conditions for changing course, for discovering new organizational and programmatic lines of action, under the illusion of forcing the hand of the social laws of the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
As we wrote in our 1974 preface to text No. 2: (The Party Program),
«The present strength of the Party depends not on anyone's will, but on the scrupulous and jealous preservation and observance of its constituent elements and their practical implications, and secondly on the favorable development of social contradictions. Depending on this, the Party grows, develops, and becomes a decisive social force for the final clash against the regime of Capital.
«These functions exclude the possibility of the Party returning at the head of the fighting masses, as in the glorious 1917-26 period, by virtue of tactical expedients, diplomatic contrivances, promiscuous juxtapositions with other alleged leftist political groups, innovations of sibylline significance in the field of the complex intertwining of the party and class relationship. Just as they rule out the Party strengthening its membership by returning to bureaucratic exercises of a bogus formal discipline, the counterbalance to the restoration of democratic practices now forever expelled not only from our midst, but also from the “state and society”. Gimmicks, these, that kill the Party as an organ of the class, even if they were to produce an increase in its membership. Expedients that betray the eagerness of leaders and semi-leaders to “break through”, under the illusion that we can get out of the ghetto, in which the real Party is forced, certainly not by its own will, but by the semi-secular pressure of the victorious counterrevolution on the world scale, deforming the tasks and nature of the Party itself. The best demonstration of the inanity of such maneuvers, rather than drawing it from the critique of ideas, can be verified by historical experience. The power relations between the social classes have not changed at all, in spite of the fact that, by Trotskyists of various tendencies, by leftists of a thousand colors, the adjustment of the Party to the situations, a “realistic” policy, consisting of a continuous change of course, has been preached to the four winds.
«If the Party's perimeter is today narrow and its influence on the proletarian masses almost nonexistent, the reason must be found in the class struggle, in historical events, and one must have the courage to conclude either that Marxism must be thrown out and with it its political party, or that Marxist communism must remain invariant. Even from this materialistic and historical verification, having anticipated it in doctrine, the Left has drawn the fruitful lesson: nothing to innovate, nothing to change. Steady at our place!».