Considerations on the Party’s Organic Activity When the General Situation is Historically Unfavourable
1. The question of the party’s internal organisation has always been included in the positions of traditional Marxists, as well as of the present Communist Left, which arose as an opposition to the errors of the Moscow International. Naturally this question is inseparable from our overall positions; it is not an isolated sector in a water tight compartment. 2. All the elements of the doctrine, of the party’s general theory, are to be found in the classical texts and are taken up in detail in more recent documents, such as the Rome Theses and the Lyon Theses Inetrnational would be destroyed by a phenomenon just as serious as that which destroyed the 2nd. Today we have used some of this material in our work on organisation (in the limited sense of party organisation, not the broad sense of organisation of the proletariat in its various historical and social forms). Rather than summarise this work here, we refer the reader to the texts themselves and to the major study under way on the History of the Left. 3. Everything concerned with theory and the nature of the party and relations between the party and the proletarian class, which can be summarized in the obvious conclusion that only through the party and the party’s action does the proletariat become a class for itself and for the revolution – all this belongs to pure theory, which all of us accept and which is therefore beyond discussion. 4. We normally refer to as tactics (always with the reservation that there are no autonomous domains) those questions that arise and develop historically in relations between the proletariat and other classes, between the proletarian party and other proletarian organisations, and between the proletarian party and bourgeois and non-proletarian parties. 5. The relationship between tactical solutions (which must never be in contradiction with doctrinal and theoretical positions) and the manifold developments of the objective situation, which, in a sense, lies outside the party, is certainly very variable. But as can be seen in the Rome Theses on tactics, which were draft these for international tactics, the party must master and foresee this relationship. In extremely simplified terms, there are periods when the objective situation is favourable, although the party as subject is in unfavourable conditions. The opposite may also be true. There are also rare but significant examples of a wellprepared party and a social situation that pushes the masses toward revolution and toward the party that foresaw it and described it in advance. As Lenin showed, the Bolsheviks in Russia fall into this category. 6. We might ask ourselves, without indulging in pedantry, “what is the condition of present-day society?” The obvious answer is that it is the worst imaginable; a large part of the proletariat has not only been crushed by the bourgeoisie, but is controlled by parties that operate on its behalf, preventing any revolutionary proletarian class movement. Consequently it is not possible to predict how long it will be until this mortal paralysis is overcome and there are once again signs of what we have defined as a “polarisation” of “ionisation” of social molecules, the prelude to an explosion of powerful class antagonisms. 7. What are the consequences of this unfavourable period for the internal organic dynamics of the party? In all the texts mentioned above, we always stated that the party cannot fail to be affected by the real situation in which it finds itself. As a result, any large proletarian parties now are necessarily and avowedly opportunist. One of the fundamental theses of the Left is that our party must not therefore cease its resistance, but it must survive and transmit the “flame” along the historical “thread of time”. Clearly this would have to be a small party, not because we wanted or chose it that way, but because it is an unavoidable necessity. With regard to the party’s structure, we have refuted a number of accusations, with arguments it
is not necessary to repeat, dating from the degeneration of the 3rd International, and in a number of polemics. We definately do not want the party to be a secret sect, or an elite that refuses any outside contact because of its mania for purity. We reject any formula for a workerist or labourist party that excludes non-proletarians, because this has characterised all the opportunists in history. As can be seen from polemics going back more that half a century, we do not wish to reduce the party to a sort of cultural, intellectual or scholastic organisation. Nor do we believe, as certain anarchists or Blanquists do, that the party can be thought of as a conspiratorial group that plots armed actions. 8. Given that the degeneration of society as a whole is characterised by the falsification and destruction of the theory and corect doctrine, the small party of today must essentially be devoted to restoring the doctrinal principles, even though the favourable conditions under which Lenin accomplished this task after the disaster of the first world war are lacking today. However, we have no reason to raise a barrier between theory and practice on that account. Beyond a certain limit, this would be tantamount to destroying ourselves and our principled basis. We therefore undertake all all forms of activity characteristic of favourable periods to the extent that the real relationship of forces permits. 9. This question should be developed in more detail, but as we are now in a position to draw some conclusions for the organisational structure of the party in a difficult period. It would be a fatal error to divide the party into two groups, one devoting inself to study and the other to action. Such a distinction would be fatal for the entire party develops within itself organs specialized for various functions (such as propaganda, proselytism, organisation of the proletariat, trade union work, etc., and later, armed organisation), but the number of comrades delegated to such functions means nothing in itself, because in principle no comrade should be alien to any of them. It is a mere accident of history that, in the present phases, comrades working on the theory and history of the movement seem too many, while those prepared for action seem too few. It would be senseless to try to determine how many comrades should be occupied in one activity or another. We are all aware that when the situation becomes radical inumerable elements will flock to our side immediately and instinctively, without having had to obtain any academic diplomas along the way. 10. We are conscious of the fact that, ever since Marx’s fight against Bakunin, Proudhon and Lasalle, and in all subsequent phases of opportunist infection, the danger of degeneration has always been tied to the influence of petty-bourgeois false allies on the proletariat. Our infinite distrust of the contribution of these social strata must not and can not prevent us, following the monumental lessons of history, from utilizing exceptional elements which the party will employ in restoring the theory, without which we would be dead and which must be disseminated in future throughout the revolutionary masses. 11. The high voltage discharges that have leapt from the poles of our dialectic have taught us that the comrade, the communist, revolutionary militant is someone who has been able to forget, renounce, free his spirit and soul from the classification in which the civil state of this putrefying society has placed him. It is someone who sees himself and integrates himself into the millenial perspective that unites our tribal ancestors fighting against wild animals with the members of the future community, living in the fraternity and joyful harmony of social humanity. 12. Historical party and formal party. Marx and Engels, who formulated this distinction, had no need to be in a formal party, and they were correct in that their work placed them in the line of the historical party. However, no militant today could therefore imagine that he had the right to choose between being in line with the historical party and snubbing the formal party. Certainly Marx and Engels were
not supermen of a distinct kind or race, but it is necessary to have a correct dialectical and historical understanding of their position. Marx says: The party in its historical sense, and the formal or ephemeral party. The first notion implies continuity, and our thesis is that the doctrine remains invariant since Marx formulate it, not because it was discovered by a genius, but as the recognition of the results of human evolution. But there is no metaphysical opposition between these two notions, and it would be stupid to express them in a formula such as: I turn my back on the formal party and return to the historical party. When we deduce from our invariant doctrine that the revolutionary victory of the working class can only be achieved throught he class party and the dictatorship of that party, when, guided by Marx’s own words, we state that before the existence of the revolutionary communist party the proletariat might be a class for bourgeois science, but not for Marx or for us, the following conclusion is necessary: the victory requires the existence of a party worthy of being called both the historical party and the formal party. In other words, it requires that real action and history have resolved this apparent contradiction – which has dominated a long and difficult past – between the historical party, i.e., the content (the invariant historical program), and the contingent party, i.e., the form, acting as the force and physical practice of a decisive part of a fighting proltariat. This synthetic presentation of the doctrine must also be applied to past historical stages. 13. With the founding of the 1st International in 1864 the collection of small groups and leagues that grew out of workers struggles was transformed for the first time into the International party stipulated by the doctrine. This is not the place to recapitulate the history of the crisis of that International, which Marx took the lead in defending against the infiltration of petty-bourgeois programs, such as Libertarianism. The 2nd International was reconstituted in 1889, after Marx’ death, but under Engel’s control, although his instructions were not always applied. For a time, the formal party tended to represent the continuity of the historical party, but the bond was broken in subsequent years by the International’s federalist, non-centralist system, by the influence of parliamentary practice and the cult of democracy, and be the nationalist outlook of certain sections, which no longer saw themselves as armies at war with their own states, as the Communist Manifesto had indicated. An overt revisionism appeared, depreciating the historical objective and exalting the contingent, formal movement. When the 3rd International arose after the disastrous collapse, in 1914, of all sections in pure democratism and nationalism, we recognised in it, in the years immediately after 1919, the complete convergence of the historical party with the formal party once again. The new International was born overtly centralist and antidemocratic, but the historical process by which the federated sections of the destroyed International were integrated into the new organisations was particularly difficult, and it was hastened by the desire to immediately extend the conquest of power in Russia to the other European countries. The section that formed in Italy on the ruins of the old party of the 2nd International was especially quick to grasp the necessity of welding the historical movement to its momentary form not because of the merits of any individuals, but for historical reasons. It had waged very determined fights against the degenerated forms, resising infiltration not only by currents infected with nationalism, parliamentarism and democratism, but also by currents (such as Maximalism in Italy) which allowed themselves to be influenced by petty-bourgeois extremism, e.g., anarcho-syndicalism. This Left current fought especially hard to make the conditions of admission rigorous (construction of the new formal structure). It applied them fully in Italy, and when they yielded dubious results in France and Germany, it was the first to point out the danger for the whole International.
A proletarian state had been built in one country, while power had not been conquered in the other countries. This historical situation made the clear organic solution – that of keeping the leadership of the world organisation separate from the Russian secats of the reo lution. To effect the transitio from this faithfully transmitted traditions to an effort to create a new organisation of the international party without historical rupture, it is not possible to organise on the basis of a selection of especially qualified individuals versed in the historical doctrine: we must make organic use of the most faithful forty years ago and the present line. The new movement cannot expect any supermen, nor will it have a Messiah, but must be founded on a rebirth of the tradition entails not only transmitting theses and research seeks to transmit its mandate, both intact and robust, to a young guard preparing itself for new revolutions that will perhaps require only ten years before they appear on the stage of history. But the names of these militants, young and old, is of no consequence to the revolution. Transmittiog this tradition correctly from generation to generation (the names of the living and dead actors matters little) means not only transmitting critical texts and using the doctrine of the communist party in a manner faithful to the classics. It also means joining the class battle that the Marxist Left (we don’t confine ourselves to Italy alone) waged in the midst of the fierce struggle of 1919 and in the following years, and which was broken less by the relationship of forces vis a vis the enemy class than by the tie that subordinate it to a centre which had ceased to be the centre of an ephemeral party infected with opportunism, which ultimately led to the historical defeat of the movement. Without abandonning the principle of centralised world discipline, the Left tried to conduct at least a defensive revolutionary combat to save the proletarian vanguard from collusion with intermediate strata and their defeat-prone parties and ideologies. When we were deprived of the historical possibility of saving, if not the revolution, at least the nucleus of its historical party, we were forced to resume our work, in the present objective situation of total paralysis, with a proletariat deeply infected by petty-bourgeois democratism. But this nascent organisation, utilising all the docrinal tradition and practice confirmed by the historical verification of our predictions, also applies this tradition to its daily activity, striving to re-establish contact on an ever-widening scale with the exploited masses. It purges its structure of one of the initial errors of the Moscow International by doing away with the thesis of democratic centralism and the use of voting mechanisms, just as it has eliminated any concession to democratic, pacifist, autonomist or lbertarian positions from the mentality of every last member. This is the direction in which we are striving to make further progress, using the bitter lessons of the past to prevent new crises in the path of the historical party, and eliminating the wretched abortions we have seen in the history of so many doomed formal parties. Here too, we follow the warnings of our original mentors regarding the difficult fight against the influence of a bourggois milieu dominated by commerce, personal adulation and the vulgar quest for power and popularity by gnomes who all too often resemble those Marx and Engels already swept from their path in the ernest hope they would never return.
Considerations on the Party’s Organic Activity When the General Situation is Historically Unfavourable