We nevertheless publish the manifesto of the ILC as it gives a good impression of the stage of discussion and elabouration in the mid 1990s which in one way or another paved the way to the AIC.
The fate of mankind depends on mankind’s history. So far, this history had neither a straightforward trend nor a purpose of its own. Until the Russian revolution, unceasing and frequently catastrophic changes have affected only the form of social systems, not their content. Ever since the time when private property superseded community life based on the collective ownership of the means of production — something which made possible an egalitarian enjoying of the consumer goods produced by labour — all social systems have had a common foundation: the division of the people in two opposing classes, and the exploitation of one class by another. Thus there were on the one hand the rich and idle owners of land and factories, and on the other those who had no property and were fettered like slaves to their jobs in order to sustain themselves. Such a division into classes soon gave rise to class struggle. The ruling classes responded with iron and fire to the rebellions of the exploited and oppressed people greedy for justice, thus starting a more and more complex and all-powerful mechanism of violence and repression. The complex repressive machineries which we call states arose out of the early armed gangs created in order to defend the privileges of the ruling classes. But this could not have been enough to maintain the social order; it was necessary to make use of each and every means, to subdue culture, science and religion, which are not neutral tools but means fit to perpetuate class oppression.
When human beings come into existence, they are neither good nor bad, neither violent nor peaceful. They are moulded by their social environment. Thousands of years of barbarism, injustice and blind struggle for primacy gave birth to an anthropologically contemptible being who will be able to get rid of his own inhumanity only through a revolutionary catharsis. History has no aims of its own; only men can fix a purpose for their own history. And the sole purpose which deserves being pursued is communism, that is, a refoundation of civilization on the basis of community, solidarity and collectivism.
At the beginning of the 21st century capitalism, which traces back its genesis in medieval Italy, can celebrate its first millennium of life. With the inception of capitalism — which occurred after a tortuous process of transition and primitive accumulation that lasted several centuries and was paid by the peoples with unprecedented tribulations — mankind experienced very deep and apparently irreversible changes in the more disparate fields. Due to the social use of sciences, the industrialization on a large scale, the mechanization of agriculture and the creation of a world-wide network of transport and communications, capitalism has built a so powerful productive system that it could at last be able to meet the basic needs of mankind (eating, getting dressed, taking care of themselves, living in a comfortable house) as well as a whole series of less important needs (resting, reading, writing, travelling, learning, physically training themselves, participating in political life). Today more than yesterday, however, the antagonistic nature of the capitalist mode of production — the contradiction between the growing development of the social and internationally combined character of production, on the one hand, and the concentration of property and/or of the control over the means of production into the hands of ever narrower oligarchies, on the other — represents an impending threat for the destiny of mankind.
If we take mankind into consideration on a world scale, then it will be easy to remark that only a minority of mankind enjoys the above-mentioned benefits, i.e. the minority who lives in the more «developed» countries. But the wealth of this capitalist class and its entourage corresponds to the enormous exploitation of the mass of the population and at its core, the world-wide industrial proletariat. It is a completely new class, totally deprived of the means of production, owning nothing more than its labour force. The proletariat is a highly concentrated class as never seen in history before, not only for its location in giant factories but also for its social interest. Its struggle necessitates collectivity and solidarity tendentially integrating the entire class as there is no property between them. The proletarian struggle tends to generalisation and internationalisation. As capitalism necessarily creates the proletariat, it does not only produce its undertaker but also, for the first time in history of mankind, a class which is able to end the exploitation and oppression of one class by another. It creates a class which due to its totality is able to understand the inner laws of society, to subordinate by expropriation of the capitalist the productive forces to its conscious control and to open the road to planned development of society.
The reasons for the inequality between the ”developed” countries and the ”Third World”, which do not stop being deepened, go back to the origins of modern capitalism and to the process of its development. The tremendous growth of the West was made possible by two main factors: the unprecedented exploitation of western proletarians and the systematic plundering of colonies. In October 1995 the OECD itself reported about the huge shifting of material resources from the South to the North of the world which occurred with the coming of the imperialist epoch. At present it is the imperialist countries which enjoy the highest percentages of the world’s GNP, whereas in 1820 that record belonged to China and India insofar as their GNP were, respectively, 28.7 and 16 per cent of that of the whole planet.
Should imperialism lose the primary source of its wealth, it will be doomed to collapse. Although it is true that during our century an important section of the western proletariat was able to improve its economic conditions by winning privileges which were unthinkable in the past, this could happen also owing to the intensification of the plundering of the «Third World».
Lenin did not confine himself to an economist analysis of imperialism; he immediately grasped the relevant radical political implications. If «Capitalism has turned itself into a world system of colonial oppression and financial strangulation of an overwhelming majority of the world population by a handful of “advanced” countries.» [preface to the French and German editions of «Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (A Popular Outline)» (July 1920) in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 21.], it follows that the liberation struggle of these people was to take a place of primary importance in the world arena, that it was to be linked to the international proletarian revolution, and that this liberation struggle could be able to proceed toward socialism without waiting for the collapse of capitalism in the West. Imperialism had thus inverted the terms of the question of the transition: the latecomers would be forced to be the first ones to break with capitalism. From then onwards any seriously anti-capitalist struggle in the West was to be immediately anti-imperialist too, in the same way as in the backward countries no struggle could be anti-imperialist without being anti-capitalist at the same time.
The last decades have confirmed Lenin’s analysis. Today’s «underdevelopment» of the colonized peoples, caused by imperialist robbery, is the main responsible for the tensions which stir the world capitalist system. As long as the reins of economy remain in the hands of a handful of multinationals, these peoples will have no way out: their underdevelopment, the abyss which separates them from the strongest countries, will be bound to grow more and more rapidly. The western powers, being aware of the danger of a generalized collapse of their system of domination, respond by arming themselves to the teeth, by using and strengthening their repressive machineries in a desperate attempt to keep on maintaining their world supremacy. What the western powers do actually export in the «Third World» is, above all — war. Where it is not profitable to send their own mercenaries, these powers use the local soldiery and warlords. The armed conflicts which have now reached the ramparts of the western fortress will spread to such an extent that they would eventually burst through the walls; and this will be the end of the already tottering «new world order». It is not excluded that, beyond this point of no return, the imperialist powers will start snapping each other within the framework of a new world war.
A system which is not able to meet the basic needs of a majority of mankind, but on the contrary impoverish it more and more, is doomed to be swept away in spite of the resistance it may offer. The rebuilding of civilization upon new foundations is in the interests of the huge proletariat in the poorest countries as well as of that in the «advanced» countries. The enrichment which bourgeoisified and numbed the western working class is now out of breath. From the late 1970’s on, the western bourgeoisie started taking back what it had given to the proletariat in order to curb down its struggles and bewilder its consciousness. The steadfast worsening of the economic conditions of an ever increasing section of the toilers grafts onto the overall barbarization of the «advanced» bourgeois societies. Indeed, the development of material productive forces couples with a growing social and civil regression. Such a regression, which has already involved an irreversible destruction of the natural environment, is now advancing in the more disparate social fields — bribery, selfishness, individualism, criminality, mafia, drugs, illiteracy, new epidemics. By pushing to the extremes the self-destructive impulses heaped up in the course of centuries, capitalism does not only threat the very foundations of civilization, but brings to the dotage of the Homo sapiens.
4. Heading to Disaster
The world economy and the productive forces — as well as the peoples and nations — are now at the mercy of the financial speculations of a handful of hyper-capitalist groupings. The latters do not own factories or lands, but they have nevertheless amassed gigantic heaps of money which outnumber even the GNP of the imperialist countries themselves. These heaps of money must yield super-profits in the shortest possible time. They move from one corner of the world to another at the same speed of telematic communications, disregarding the national border lines, the policy of the different governments and the existing treaties. Far from keeping these fluctuating heaps of capital under their control, the states, the governments and the international trusts themselves are subjected to their dictates and to their circulation time. The new free-trade policy is nothing but a capitulation to this mega-capitalism which is crazily looking for super-profits. The monetary, financial, stock and bank collapses occurred over the last decade are but timid signs of what could happen in the future. If tomorrow the brakes applied by the governments to curb this monster would not work anymore, an unprecedented world-wide disaster will become ineluctable. The weakest links of the capitalist system would blow up. Whole nations of the «Third World» will be swept away, thus bringing about a chain reaction of collapses, popular turmoils and revolutions. In the end, the collision wave would sweep away even the western powers themselves, thus breaking the spell of welfare which stands as the basis of social peace and which has temporarily bribed the proletariat. The epoch which we have entered in will be marked by a Lebanonization of the planet. The growing disparity between the domination of imperialism, which today is stronger than ever, and the inability of imperialism to govern the world chaos brought about by its own contradictions, is bound to grow. The continuing development of the capitalist productive forces is not only unable to make up for the planetary unbalances but deepens them, thus giving rise to a tendency — which is now operating since a couple of decades — to Third-Worldize the advanced capitalist countries themselves. This tendency shows itself in many ways: (1) a growth of those sections of the bourgeoisie which are devoted to criminal activities; (2) a rapid expansion of the depressed and deindustrialized areas even in the West; (3) a worsening of the desertification of the countryside and a decrease of the fruitfulness of the land; (4) the aggravation of the state of abandonment and degradation of the large metropolitan suburbs; (5) the rise of the immigration waves from the South to the North and from the East to the West, which escape all state controls; (6) the dismantling of the social and medical services which protected the marginalized social strata excluded from the cycle of production; (7) a decrease in numbers of the industrial workers coupled with an intensification of their exploitation while their wages and living standards, after having risen for 40 years, are bound to fall down; (8) the tendency toward social lumpenization is coupled and counterbalanced by the growth of parasitism, of a new conservative petty bourgeoisie which acts as the main prop for the imperialist governments and expresses its own neo-fascist potentialities in an ever more threatening way; (9) a strengthening of the process of Bonapartization of the Western parliamentary democracies and the militarization of society, and a sharpening of the merely police facet of the states; (10) an accentuation of the purely repressive side of the imperialist command via a transformation of the NATO into the watchdog of the Western stronghold. Capitalism has already become a burden upon the shoulders of mankind. If the latter fails to get rid of capitalism, it will be crushed under its weight.
The collapse of the capitalist mode of production is neither near at hand nor distant. It is here and now, it is already going on. Such a collapse is not a single event but a winding and lengthy process, a whole series of events and strains pointing to the decline of capitalism and bringing forth its decay both in the case that the proletariat will be able to dig its grave through world revolution and in the case that capitalism becomes completely rotten without anybody to organize its burial.
The decline of capitalism is due to the continuous fall of the profit rate caused by the growth of the productive forces and the organic composition of capital. The decline of any social formation based on a division of classes always ends with the collapse of this formation. The capitalist system cannot escape from this historical law. Even if the proletarian world revolution will not be accomplished the bourgeois system may collapse for it represents a dead end.
Today we are living in an epoch where capitalism has already passed the peak of its maximum development within the framework of its conditions of production. This peak is the semi-automation of the production process. Beyond the semi-automation the capitalist formation can only decline ending up in the dissolution of the capitalist relations. In other words - this is the beginning of the decline leading either to the collapse of the classes fighting against each other, or to a new epoch of the proletarian revolution. In this process the proletarian revolution is also a necessary act in order to avoid that the tendency towards the collapse of capitalism brings about the collapse of all possibilities for socialism as well.
5. For Communism
Is it possible to avoid such a disaster? It is greatly improbable. For this to happen, it will be necessary within a short time to wring the reins of the world economy from the clutches of the imperialist groupings through the establishment of an international government which may be able to direct the productive forces and organize the social work on the basis of a development scheme alternative to the current one. Unfortunately today the proletariat, which is the sole class having the strength and the interest to carry out such an upheaval, is completely unprepared to carry out this task. Should the revolution fail to come in due time to thwart the disaster, then it would be the latter that will pave the way for revolution. Communists will be able to fulfil their supreme goal, that is, to guide the revolutionary process, only if two preconditions come to fruition. The first precondition is obviously the existence of a mass revolutionary movement; and the second is a powerful vanguard party having a strong influence on the proletariat of some countries at least. At present this seems to be a faraway illusion: the huge masses of the exploited are paralyzed and, whenever they set themselves in motion, they do not aim to overthrow the capitalist system but only to obtain some deceptive gains, whereas the communist movement keeps on being extremely weak. But the proletarian masses will forge themselves in the world-wide storm, they will give up their hopes in capitalism, they will be forced to engage in the final battle and will find themselves faced with an opportunity to rebuild society upon new foundations, thus taking the fate of civilization in their own hands. Having eventually managed to raise its own head, the proletariat could not help using it. Despite the failure of all the attempts made so far to establish socialist societies, there is no doubt that communism will be once again the final aim for which the international proletariat would be ready to fight. The reason for such a change is twofold: communism is not only a mighty ideal. It is a social pattern which starts from the existing capitalist society and its inherent contradictions and develops them into the class struggle in order to eventually overcome them. Communism is therefore at one and the same time, alternative to capitalism, rationally possible, and progressive. There is nothing more elementary than the idea that it is necessary to deprive the capitalists of their ownership of the means of production, and that such ownership should be granted to the associated toilers in order to ensure a communist partition of the consumer goods and of the wealth — a partition which is no more based upon the criterion of property and the belonging to a given class but on actual participation in the production.
It is bearing this certitude in our minds that we must prepare ourselves to solve and overcome the question of questions, that is, the crisis of the communist movement, its ineptitude, its huge theoretical-practical unpreparedness. We will not come out of this crisis if we do not understand its origins, its causes and organic nature. The crisis of the communist movement is the particular expression of the crisis of the workers movement in general that has lost the motive power for its fights, the socialist prospects. At the same time the class contradictions are the key for a solution to this crisis: The proletariat will be forced to fight again. The highest expression of this fight will be a real communist vanguard that represents the entire movement and its historical interests and is able to link them to the movement.
We will not come out of this crisis without a full understanding of this process, and without a revolutionary rebirth of Marxism, which is the only political theory on the basis of which communism may become again a powerful factor in the world arena. We refer to Marxism as a general organic expression of the interests of the fighting proletarian class and as an instrument to take the class in a conscious and active way to the level of its historic mission.
6. Social Democracy
Instead of being developed along revolutionary guidelines, post-Marx Marxism underwent a harmful involution. The social-democratic Second International was the place in which such a degeneration took place. Far from developing the revolutionary core of Marx’s colossal work, the social democracy buried it while canonizing and handing over to history an orthodox Marxism that was nothing but a variant of the bourgeois positivist thought. Such an orthodox Marxism turned some of Marx’s postulates into dogmas, but they proved to be wrong in the light of historical experience. Its four axioms were the following: (1) the horizon of socialism is all the more near at hand inasmuch as the capitalist productive forces are developed; (2) the course of the class struggle, being constant and steadfast, leads inevitably to the overthrow of capitalism and to the establishment of socialism; (3) the modern proletariat is inexorably bound to fulfil the mission of establishing socialism, and its steady growth makes a violent revolution superfluous and vouches for the possibility of a reformist outlet from capitalism; (4) the workers movement in Europe and in the «advanced» capitalist countries will enjoy a primacy in the process of transformation of mankind owing to its numerical strength, its ramified organization and its cultural level.
Such a positive evolutionism imbued the social-democratic policy as a whole: the maximalist radicalism of principles and final aims and the scholastic defence of Marxist «truths» went hand in hand with a practice based on perpetual class compromises with the bourgeoisie. Whereas in its initial, classical stage the social-democratic policy was still a passive reflection of working-class spontaneity, of the mighty fighting movement of the German toilers who aimed at winning new rights and better capitalist conditions of work, it later become the consequence and the theoretical-political form of the increasing bourgeoisification of the upper strata of the proletariat — a bourgeoisification of which the party bureaucrats and mediocre intellectuals were the harbingers and the quintessence. The Fourth of August of 1914 showed where social democracy had gone: it had openly passed onto the camp of imperialism, thus bringing about the bankruptcy of the Second International and the collapse of the European workers movement. That is how the social-democratic parties destroyed with their own hands the western primacy over the world socialist movement which they were so proud of.
The imperialist war had fateful consequences both on the historical process and within the Marxist camp. Bringing forth the Russian revolution, the war showed that the imperialist chain might be broken not where the proletariat was stronger but where the bourgeoisie was weaker, and that Marxism was bound to resurrect as a revolutionary force not where the workers movement had deeper roots and more sound traditions but where it was younger and more refractory to capitalism.
7. Lenin’s Method
It was the Russian proletariat that spurred the revolutionary offensive and overthrew the bourgeois rule, thus starting the most gigantic undertaking ever begun in human history: the building, after a merciless civil war, of the first social system based on collective ownership and ruled by a workers government. The highest result and the synthesis of that revolution — Bolshevism — marked the beginning of a radical break with economism and determinism and delivered a very heavy blow at the positions held by the so-called official or orthodox Marxism within the framework of the world workers movement.
Lenin’s greatness resides in the fact that he founded the revolutionary policy of the present epoch, of the imperialist stage. He conceived the struggle for the political party as the primeval form of the struggle for state power, as the center of gravity of the Marxist battle. Such a work was developed in the field of practice more than on the theoretical plane. Lenin himself was the embodiment of the revolutionary policy — the drawing together of a burning passion and a cool far-sightedness or, to say it with György Lukács, «blood and reason properly mixed». To the passive outlook of the social democrats, according to whom it would have sufficed just to comply with history in order to carry out the socialist revolution, Lenin opposed the active conception that it is necessary to interfere in the mechanism of history in order to subdue history itself to the revolutionary project, to the cause of the working class. Hence the qualities of the revolutionary politician, which should be the following: a passionate resoluteness to upheld the cause of the working class; a sense of responsibility with regard of that cause, considered as a guide for action; clear-headedness and far-sightedness, which are necessary to grasp the course and timing of the social processes and to promptly seize the opportunity for a revolutionary upheaval, for a break-up of the bourgeois state machinery. Lenin understood what western «left communism» ever failed to understand, i.e. that what is theoretically correct may also be politically wrong, that there is a contradiction between theory and politics. Theory is the analysis and the knowledge of objective reality. Politics is the radical rejection of reality, the willingness to subvert it, the subjective action aimed to change it. To the party which passively follows the social processes, Lenin counterpoised the party as an instrument which at a certain juncture must impose on the class what the class itself is only potentially. Lenin does neither deny nor oppose the spontaneous action of the class, but he goes beyond it, directs it, and thereby transforms it into conscious action. The revolution always starts from below, but the order to unleash the final offensive always comes from above, from the headquarters. In September 1917 Lenin wrote to the Central Committee that: «If we do not seize power now, history will not forgive us.» [«The Bolsheviks must Assume Power», in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 26.] And again: «....the party must obligatorily recognize that the insurrection is on the agenda....in this moment one cannot remain faithful to Marxism and to the revolution without considering the insurrection as an art.» [«Marxism and Insurrection», ibidem, (emphasis in original).] One month later Lenin stated that: «It is impossible to let ourselves be guided by the mood of the masses because their mood is ever-changing and escapes any estimate; we must be guided by an objective analysis and assessment of the revolution.» [Lenin’s intervention at the «Meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP(B)» (October 16 , 1917), ibidem.]
Inasmuch as Lenin represented a self-criticism of Marxism, he laid the foundations of the rebirth of Marxism as a revolutionary political party.
8. The Russian Revolution
In the very moment in which the Bolsheviks seized power, they knew they were soon to face the ruthless counter-offensive of counterrevolution. And the counterrevolution did not fail to show itself. The Bolsheviks did not hesitate to establish a regime of «red terror» (war communism) in order to win, and they were aware that this could not only bring about a dangerous depression of the productive system but also a fateful maiming of the regime of proletarian democracy. Within the framework of Lenin’s overall strategy — which regarded the Russian revolution as a particle of the whole and hinged on the necessity to start the European revolution as soon as possible — this was a lesser evil since Soviet Russia, had it remained isolated, would have collapsed sooner or later.
Resisting at all costs, then, in order to grant the European proletariat some time to overthrow capitalism. The hopes of the Bolsheviks, however, were frustrated. Revolutionary crises occurred in Germany, Hungary and Italy between November 1918 and September 1920, but they ended in a defeat of the proletariat. Once the defensive stage of the revolution — which Lenin correctly called a war against world imperialism — had passed off, the Bolsheviks tried to take the offensive in June-July 1920. They routed the Polish troops led by Pilsudski and ordered the Red Army to trespass the Curzon line and to push on to the gates of Warsaw, thus openly defying the imperialist ultimatums. The Bolsheviks did not act in this way only because they hoped to awake the German proletariat, but they even went as far as seeking to sovietize Lithuania and Poland by giving armed assistance to the workers of those countries. In September 1920, during the Ninth Conference of the Bolshevik party, Lenin had no hesitations in justifying such an attempt by stating that: «...we must probe with bayonets to discover whether the social revolution of the proletariat was ripe in Poland.» [«The International Significance of the War with Poland», in Al Richardson (ed.), In Defence of the Russian Revolution. A Selection of Bolshevik Writings 1917-1923, p. 141.]
Bolshevism attained its peak during the summer of 1920, but the proletariat did not take up that banner: the European revolution had already passed beyond its highest point and the international situation could only take a turn for the worse.
A temporary retreat was therefore unavoidable. The failed link-up with the proletarian revolution in the West left Russia isolated and exhausted and, insofar as «war communism» was not even able to supply food for the masses, Lenin’s party was forced to grant some place to private initiative and to reintroduce capitalist-type standards and norms. In the meantime the party and the political system passed through a metamorphosis which proved to be irreversible. As Lenin had acutely diagnosed, they had undergone a profound bureaucratization process, they had moved away from the masses, which were weary and inactive; the revolutionary militants had turned themselves into managers, technicians, bureaucrats. Lenin died prematurely when he was just beginning his battle against this new danger and suggesting several measures of self-defence including Stalin’s dismissal, thus leaving the party without an equally authoritative leader. Trotsky and the left wing of the party accepted the challenge amidst their own mistakes and fateful hesitations, and engaged themselves in the struggle against bureaucratism and for the restoration of workers democracy and a reviving of the soviets, that is, the sole antidotes which could oppose the dangers stemming from the NEP and save the social gains of October; in doing so, they based themselves on the perspective of a radical change in the international situation while looking forward to a new revolutionary tide. But in the end, the left wing was defeated. By that time the party was obeying a bureaucracy which put the defence of its social privileges before everything else. The communist parties adhering to the Third International had to bow before that bureaucracy, thereby turning themselves into submissive tools of the latter’s conservative foreign policy.
The defeat of the revolutionary endeavours made in Europe during the years 1918-20 pointed to the unpreparedness of the proletariat and to the corresponding superiority of the bourgeoisie which, being aware of the extreme instability of the situation, exploited the tactical advantages it was enjoying in order to gain a strategic victory. Fascism emerged from the bowels of society as an expression of the organically reactionary nature of the petty bourgeoisie, which was moribund and terrorized by the workers revolution. Having arisen at first as a wild reaction against Bolshevism, fascism soon passed in the service of big capital and became its instrument for a counter-offensive on a larger scale. The first, decisive acid test occurred in Italy, where fascism had originated. The tottering Italian bourgeoisie resolved to confront the nascent socialist revolution in an offensive way, by unleashing a preventive civil war and challenging the proletariat on a new and frightful ground — the ground of the final showdown. Mors tua, vita mea — «Your death is my life», as the old Latin adage says. The fascist paramilitary gangs were a device to attack the organized workers movement and to test its ability to resist. The workers gave an armed response indeed, and they could have even swept away fascism without leaving it the time to strengthen itself; but their struggle was betrayed by the reformists and disregarded by the young Italian communist party which, despite all the warnings coming from the Bolsheviks, failed to understand both the nature of fascism and the situation of preventive civil war into which the country had been plunged, thus helping to bring about the final defeat.
The Italian working class, imbued with pacifism and legalism as it was, proved unable to fight against the rising fascist movement. This struggle could not be carried on while respecting bourgeois-democratic legality and entrusting the defence of the workers movement to the organs of the capitalist state. Quite the opposite! The preventive civil war involved the readiness to launch a frontal attack, to start a preventive armed struggle, to break with bourgeois legality, to set up an armed force based on the proletarian youth, endowed with a prompt inclination to self-sacrifice and with the capability to quickly move from one place to another. It was not possible to bar the road to the fascists by merely defending one’s own emplacements, by simply awaiting their coming in front of the proletarian trenches. Contrary to this, it was necessary to chase them, not to allow a truce to them, to frustrate their raids, and to assault their sanctuaries.
Despite the tremendous defeat in Germany, the European workers movement failed to fully understand the lessons of Italy, i.e. that fascism had to be fought by attacking it, by nipping it in the bud, by laying the bourgeois system waste. Social democracy and Stalinism are largely to blame for the defeat of the German proletariat. The victory of Nazism could have been avoided by carrying out the policy of the proletarian United Front and that of the armament of the anti-fascist workers. The German Communist Party did not throw all its force into the battle. Although it called the social-democratic workers to join the United Front from below it did not take the decisive step in this direction: to begin the armed struggle against the Nazis based on committees and workers’ militias that could have become the organs of the ”United Front from below”. This would not have guaranteed victory, however, but as Marx affirmed after the Commune of Paris, a defeat, however bloody, is always preferable to a shameful capitulation without having fought. But although the working class was disarmed by its leaders, in some countries - most clearly in Spain - it still tried to reverse the situation. But the Stalinists did not want to take any risk. Since the extraordinary self-organization of the masses and their initiative from below were hindering any Stalinist-led bureaucratic revolution, they adopted the cross-class policy of the People’s Front, thus sacrificing the revolution for the sake of making deals with the British and French imperialisms in the vain hope that this would have sufficed to save the USSR from fascism and war.
The victory at Stalingrad remitted the sins of the European workers movement but did not wipe them out, so that the workers movement itself had to do a no less terrible penance: to remain under the heel of Stalinism for another half century and to submit to its stifling hegemony.
After having strangled Lenin’s party, defeated the Left Opposition, and thus firmly seized power, the Soviet bureaucracy put forth its devastating political theory, i.e. «socialism in one country». According to that theory Russia, relying upon its own forces alone, could achieve communism despite the failure of the European revolution. The support of the international proletariat was no longer a precondition for the transition since it would have been replaced by the support of the Russian peasantry. Whereas the temporary failure of the revolution in the West and the advance of fascism brought about in the Stalinist ranks a defeatist conviction that the European workers movement was no more able to act in a revolutionary way, the success of the stormy attempt to collectivize and industrialize the country gave rise to a proper almightiness frenzy among the powerful and centralized bureaucratic apparatus. Behind the worn-out ideological screen of a Marxism-Leninism canonized into a series of intangible dogmas, Stalinism — after having ousted Bukharin — was already moulding and crystallizing a proper independent political thought: the theory of socialism in one country became bureaucratic subjectivism, the more extreme and virulent form of political voluntarism ever to be seen. To the social-democratic fetish of the productive forces, the Stalinists opposed the categorical primacy of the relations of production: if the Russian productive forces had lagged behind, they should now be forced to go forward at any cost. The political subject — which was no longer the working class but the bureaucratic apparatus headed by Stalin — had to break up all the obstacles of an objective nature. It was the brand-new demiurge of history, the true motive force which had to turn Russia into a modern country. And if reality would have refused to bow before that political subject — so much the worse for reality!
There is no doubt that Stalinism drew such a centrality of political willpower from Lenin’s tradition. But in magnifying this aspect and separating it from all other basic elements, Stalinism made a fetish of it in such a way that any reference to Lenin’s conceptions became purely grotesque. The deepest sources of Stalinism are, on the one hand, Russian populism — that anti-capitalist voluntarism which regarded the communitarian traditions of the Russian people not only as something self-sufficient to establish socialism, but also as a lever to save mankind from the disaster to which the bourgeois West would have led it —, and on the other hand, the autocratic — Byzantine at first, and later tsarist — tradition and the enlightened Asiatic despotism of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.
Finally, we would not be able to fully understand Stalin and the invariably anti-humanitarian character of his political system if we do not take its nihilist sources into consideration — a deeply-rooted contempt for human life, the idea that the only hope to save mankind is to hold it under the iron yoke of tyranny, the notion that a people can be driven forward to a great goal only through force and violence, a cynical hatred for the whole hierarchy of those who were under its orders. Stalinism is a modern nihilism grafted on the wounded body of the Russian and international proletariat.
11. The Trotskyist Opposition
We reject the determinist assumption according to which the Left Opposition within the Bolshevik party was defeated only because the course of events was running against it. To be sure, the defeat of the European revolution deprived the left wing of the firmest prop which could have enabled it to influence the social and political processes. The weariness of the Russian proletariat let that battle appear as a vox clamantis in deserto, that is, a voice screaming in the desert. It is true that the only lever which was left to the anti-Stalinists was the Bolshevik party itself — a party that, as Lenin had warned since 1921, was suffering from the disease of bureaucratism. But that lever was used in a wrong way.
The defeat of the left wing can also be explained by its renunciation to struggle for power and to take the reins of the party in its own hands.
The decisive moment of that battle occurred indeed at the Twelfth Congress of the party in April 1923. Instead of waging a frontal attack on Stalin as requested by Lenin, who was paralyzed and therefore unable to attend the congress, Trotsky drew back and agreed that Lenin’s testament — in which Lenin called for the immediate and irrevocable dismissal of Stalin from the post of general secretary — should not be known by the delegates. As Trotsky was later to admit, this was the decisive moment and his own hesitation was fateful and prejudicial to the subsequent struggle; he called the Twelfth Congress «the last congress of the Bolshevik party». [L. Trotsky, ”La IV. Internationale et l’URSS. La nature de classe de l’état soviétique.” In: Oeuvres. Vol. II. Juillet—Oct. 1933, p.262.] And six years later Trotsky himself stated that «Our joint action against the Central Committee at the beginning of 1923 would without a shadow of a doubt have brought us victory. And, what is more, I have no doubt that, if I had come forward on the eve of the Twelfth Congress in the spirit of a ”bloc of Lenin and Trotsky” against the Stalinist bureaucracy, I should have been victorious even if Lenin had taken no direct part in the struggle. How solid the victory would have been is, of course, another question.» [L. Trotsky, My Life. An Attempt at an Autobiography, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth 1975, p. 501.] Thus Trotsky, the organizer of October and the head of the Red Army, wavered at the decisive juncture and failed to fight to take Lenin’s place since he considered that the struggle for power was something below his own dignity: «Independent action on my part would have been interpreted, or, to be more exact, represented as my personal fight for Lenin’s place in the party and the state. The very thought of this made me shudder.» [ibidem.] Here is a deeply-rooted limit of Trotsky, who was an incomparable leader in periods of revolutionary rise but became uncertain, wavering, almost a dwarf when the political struggle unfolded within the framework of a retreat, of an ebb tide. In this regard, Trotsky was quite different from Lenin, who had lucidly understood the stern laws of politics according to which, under each and every situation, it is necessary to fight in order to conquer, and this means fighting to seize power insofar as the struggle for power is the quintessence of the class struggle, all the more so when the party holds the levers of the proletarian state. Whereas Trotsky romantically despised any struggle for personal power, Lenin started instead from the assumption that sometimes the predominance of a given class involves a concentration of power into the hands of a single person, even within the framework of the so-called «proletarian state». While accepting a compromise with Stalin, Trotsky believed that the time factor would have assisted him against the bureaucratic clique. He was sure that a revolutionary revival was imminent in Europe and thought it was going to sweep Stalinism away. But this conviction did not even make Trotsky try to expand the fight of the Russian opposition to all parties of the Communist International and to coordinate it internationally. However, he was wrong on both points. No objective process can make up for the shortcomings of the revolutionary leadership.
The Trotskyist movement started as a maimed movement insofar as it accepted the inability of the Russian left to fight resolutely against the Stalinists and the moralistic, idealistic scruples of the Russian left about using the means which were required by that struggle, theorizing such scruples through the mysticism of the workers democracy and of the proletarian state.
12. The Soviet Union
What was the class character of the social formation which emerged from those grim years? And what was its fate? The world bourgeoisie had an interest in giving credit to the official Stalinist lie, i.e. that the USSR was a socialist society in which the principles of Marx and Lenin were being carried out. Trotsky gave a completely different definition of the Stalinist social formation: it was a workers state which was undergoing an unceasing process of bureaucratic degeneration — a process which, without a new proletarian revolution, would have inevitably led to an open capitalist restoration. However, as long as the Stalinist bureaucracy would have defended the collectivized relations of production from the attacks coming from the world bourgeoisie, the dictatorship of the proletariat remained an expression — however disfigured — of the social supremacy of the proletariat. The social rule of a given class can take different political forms, and the Russian experience already sufficed to extend this historical law to the phase of transition from capitalism to socialism: the forms and methods through which the proletariat will exert its own supremacy are bound to change according to the course of the international class struggle and the different national traditions.
The more the USSR progressed and overcame its own backwardness, the more the bureaucracy sharply collided with the collectivized productive forces. This depended from its relationships to the system of production, from the parasitic way in which the bureaucracy took possession of the social wealth. Being compelled to act within the framework of collective property and unable to face the masses on the ground of a regression to the old property relations, the bureaucracy was turning itself, along its own path, into a feudal-type caste devoted to a purely unproductive consumption of the social surplus-product. A caste, therefore, which was foredoomed to collapse owing to its own antagonism with the productive forces and with the collectivist mode of production. A caste which turned Soviet collectivism into a modern version of the Asiatic mode of production. Such a regime could have survived for centuries in the Middle Ages, but not in the second half of the 20th century — a period marked by a new, powerful rise of capitalism. By the early 1950’s the Stalinist system of command economy, which had ensured the industrialization of the country, entered into an open crisis and proved unable to pass from a merely quantitative development of the productive forces to their qualitative development in order to satisfy the new needs of the masses and of the society as a whole. After Stalin’s death the USSR was at a crossroads: toward socialism or capitalism? But socialism implied supporting the world revolution and clashing with the imperialist system, as well as a revival of the proletarian democracy and the dissolution of both political despotism and the bureaucracy itself as a privileged parasitic caste. With Khrushchevism, the Stalinist bureaucracy took another road: a foreign policy based on the peaceful coexistence with imperialism and an internal policy based on capitalist-type economic and political reforms. As a bulwark of the world order and as a gendarme of the domestic order, at a certain moment the Kremlin bureaucracy acted as a longa manus, i.e. a cat’s paw, of the international bourgeoisie, as a comprador bureaucracy. With the gradual but complete insertion into the world division of labour and the consequent, devastating enforcement of the law of value, the imperialist bourgeoisie became de facto the external ruling class in the USSR.
13. Shifting to the East
The anti-fascist winners of the Second World War managed to paralyze the revolution in Europe but not on a world scale, since the revolution spread to the East. Having been driven back in the West, the good old mole kept on digging in the East; thus it demolished the imperialist system in its weakest points and broke up Yalta’s restraints. A dying man cannot bury his gravedigger. The Chinese revolution marked the second phase of the world revolution and shifted the centre of gravity even farther from the main ganglions of the imperialist nervous system, to its extreme periphery.
There the proletarian and plebeian masses accepted the challenge and resolved to fight the final showdown. After the tragedy of 1925-26, the class struggle took the form of an armed struggle for power, turned itself into a proper war and had no hesitations in submitting itself to the special rules of war. We must not let ourselves be deceived by the phenomenon of the protracted people’s war, by its taking the appearance of a pre-capitalist Jacquerie; as a matter of fact, it was one form of the international civil war or, to say it better, its outpost.
Any fetishism of war as the supreme form of the class struggle is alien to us. Contrary to this, the true supreme form of the class struggle is the revolution, which in turn is the highest form of the class war and does not obey to any other rules than the immoderate, intemperate rules of an all-out offensive.
The law of the uneven and combined development — a law which indissolubly links the most backward areas of the world to the most advanced capitalism — operates even on the political ground. In the same way as the American Indians did not await for twenty centuries to lay down their bows and arrows and take up the guns, so the Mao Zedongs and the Hồ Chí Minhs did not await a proletarian victory in the West to feel themselves authorized to do what the Russians had done. Heading formidable peasant armies and being caught in the grip of the mortal struggle between imperialism and socialism, these distant nephews of Thomas Müntzer acted as a Jacobin vanguard; however, they were not to follow the footsteps of Robespierre and Just, but those of Lenin and Trotsky. They very soon understood that, in order to carry out the democratic expectations of the semi-proletarian peasantry, of the workers and of the urban plebs, there was no other way than seizing all power and breaking with the imperialist system, liquidating the comprador bourgeoisie and the maimed national capitalism and building a new society upon collectivist foundations. The Marxist theory of permanent revolution was brilliantly confirmed by the Chinese and the Vietnamese revolutions, but with an unexpected variant: the motive force of the break with imperialism was not the very weak urban working class of these countries, but the poor peasants in the countryside, with their rifles at their shoulders, led by Stalinist parties which had broken with the Kremlin and were acting as substitutes for the lacking proletarian leadership. Whereas the Cuban Revolution, that started with the action of a guerrilla-group linked to the peasants, could not have won without the determined appearance on the scene of action of the urban working class and the agricultural workers, whose leadership the Castroites took after having chosen to join the anti-imperialist camp.
After seizing power, these peasant parties/armies could but immediately and thoroughly plagiarize Russian Stalinism by pushing forward a complete but bureaucratized, politically authoritarian and autocratic, collectivism. In a context characterized by social backwardness, by the low cultural level of the peasantry and by the absence of bodies of proletarian counter-power, the political-military cadres — who were already accustomed to having paternalistic-authoritarian relations with the masses and were assigning the latter the role of a mere partisan-type support — soon became a caste of managers and bureaucrats ready to defend their own social and political primacy. Whether or not their governments broke all ties with the capitalist mode of production or kept it despite the liquidation of the national bourgeoisie, depended on the relation of forces between the classes in the country, on the current policy of imperialism and the workers state and above all on the relation of forces in the political leadership, the power of the left wing in the movement.
If we look at the course followed by the old mole, we will see that it was digging according to a definite geometry, i.e. following the line of least resistance and thus trying to encircle the imperialist bulwarks. Such an encirclement was not enough to conquer those bulwarks because the western proletariat, far from rising, entered into a protracted historical catalepsy.
14. The Iron Curtain
Fascism was not overthrown by the proletarian revolution but by a joint war of the «democratic» imperialism and Stalin’s Russia. Despite the partisan Resistance movement, the proletariat played only a subsidiary role with regard to the powerful Allied armies and was not able to shirk their tutelage. Only in Yugoslavia, due to the strength it had gathered on the battlefields, the partisan army headed by Tito managed to escape from the imperialist-Stalinist grip, thereby turning the liberation war into an anti-capitalist class war. Getting along notwithstanding the Yalta agreements, in which the victorious imperialist powers and the USSR negotiated together the post-war world order. The successful Yugoslav revolution laid the foundations of the second proletarian state after the Russian one.
Contrary to the Yugoslav Communist League, the other European communist parties supinely accepted to carry out the orders coming from Moscow. To the West of the so-called «iron curtain», they were bound to stifle the incipient revolutionary process, to help the rebirth of the capitalist states and to hand the power over to the bourgeoisie. The armed partisans in Italy, Greece, France were disarmed as the world order of Yalta did not “foresee” any revolution in the territories awarded to the control of “democratic imperialism”. If necessary the workers and partisans that did not follow the commands of Yalta were oppressed violently. But in the East, taking advantage of the presence of the Soviet occupation forces, the Stalinists had to be ready to seize all power if the «anti-fascist» imperialist powers attempted — as they actually did — to pose a threat to the strategic geo-political interests of the USSR. After the first signs of a world-wide crisis, the Kremlin decided to surround itself with a series of buffer countries which had to act as a sanitary cordon to prevent any new attack from the West. In the countries occupied by the USSR, the cold war became transformed into a cold revolution, into a liquidation of the bourgeoisie from above, manu militari. The Red Army and the native Stalinist parties were the tools by which the Eastern European countries were structurally assimilated, i.e. politically and economically assimilated, to the USSR. Stalin did not even try to stir up a proletarian revolution in these countries; he did not follow the footsteps of Trotsky’s Red Army which had advanced toward Poland, but those of Hitler in Ukraine, by using his military strength to impose the bureaucratic social system with cynical brutality. Every intention of the working class to give expression to its class independence had to turn against the imposed bureaucracy and was oppressed violently as counter-revolutionary. Having been imposed from above and cold-bloodedly, the collectivization of these countries always remained flawed and stunted, hanging by the slip-knot of the USSR’s strength and supremacy. The explanation for the miserable collapse of these countries lays therefore in their own genesis; the cold revolution could but result in a cold counterrevolution, that is, a reinstating into the imperialist system with no repercussions.
The Yugoslav events, on the contrary, are glaring evidence that what has been bred by a civil war can be strangled only through a civil war.
15. The Fourth International
Today it is clear that the fate of the Fourth International — which was handicapped from birth due to the defeat of the Russian Left Opposition — was substantially prejudiced. After having tried in vain to act upon the Stalinist parties, the movement founded by Trotsky hinged its own development on the certitude of a revolutionary revival of the European proletariat, and especially of the German proletariat. Contrary to this, the proletariat suffered new and tremendous defeats that paved the way to fascism and to a world war which was even more destructive than the previous one and was not followed by a revolutionary wave comparable to the «two red years», 1919-20. The Fourth International was completely disoriented and unprepared to face the situation emerging from the Second World War. Stalinism, which had been given up far too early, came out extraordinarily strengthened from the frightening war events while the centre of gravity of the international revolution did not shift to the West but ever more to the East, and further on to the vast periphery of the imperialist system. This time, too, the lever which had been chosen to act upon history and the social processes proved to be the wrong one. That was the first reason for the decline and premature degeneration of the Fourth International.
A second reason was the basic fault of the program on which the Fourth International had been founded. Trotsky had based such a program on the catastrophist and eschatological analytical foundation according to which capitalism had attained its terminal stage, the productive forces were not going to be developed any more but could only regress and, had the oncoming world revolution failed to occur, mankind would soon have been plunged into barbarism. Resting upon such foundations, the Fourth International was not only unable to play any leading role, but it could only break its head.
Instead of correcting such mistakes, the leadership of the Fourth International deepened them by prognosticating an imminent Third World War, by nonsensically talking about the transformation of that war into an international civil war of which the Stalinists, however half-heartedly, were to become the anti-imperialist guide. Hence the decision to liquidate the national sections of the Fourth International in order that they could enter the Stalinist parties with the aim of regenerating them.
The ensuing chain of splits and the embittered factionalism were nothing but the epiphenomenon, the form assumed by the agony of a movement which had proved unable to correct its analyses and project in due time. The incapacity to understand the development of society was the reason why the IV. International was unable to intervene in the process and change it. At the same time the incapacity to build a Leninist party with roots in the class struggle caused its incapacity to understand the real process of development in theory. Theory elevated above the revolutionary practice and degenerated to a mere abstraction. That’s why the movement failed to be prepared for the strategic, long-run battle that was awaiting it. Instead of discovering the reasons for the crisis of the movement and breaking with that sterile Trotskyist orthodoxy, instead of following Lenin’s example and bringing the analyses and the program up to date in order to rebuild the national parties and the International as a whole, the varied Trotskyist tendencies fought against each other in the name of the Fourth International in the same way as the religious sects had done at the time of the Christological disputes. Lacking an authoritative international leadership, every sect went along its own path. The time when it would have been right and proper to fight to reunify the movement on the basis of a new program, and therefore around a new leadership, is now far behind us. The Fourth International cannot be regenerated since it is dead. It cannot be rebuilt because its own foundations proved to be false. It can only be founded again, and on new political foundations.
16. The Long-Drawn Paralysis
The reason for half a century of substantial social stability in Europe, the United States and Japan does not reside in the «economic boom» in itself but in the Keynesian, welfare-state policies adopted by the imperialist governments to corrupt the western proletariat and to counterpoise the expansion of Stalinism. As a matter of fact, from the end of the 1940s imperialism devoted a considerable portion of its super-profits to enable the capitalist governments to allot the newly-produced wealth to all sections of the population.
In the West, the capitalist development and prosperity brought about a process of social decomposition, of de-proletarianization of the working class. Whereas the traditional petty-bourgeoisie kept on being reduced in numbers, the composition of waged labour changed radically due to the absolute decrease of the industrial proletariat and the abnormal growth of the clerical sections of labour, which we can call the new petty-bourgeoisie. Unproductive work overcame productive work in several economic sectors. The production of surplus-value started relying on the shoulders of more and more reduced layers of the workers and shifted to the backward countries simultaneously with the growth of a labour aristocracy whose wages exceed by far the world average wage. Such a labour aristocracy ceased to be a minority, as it had been during the first decades of our century, and became a majority within the proletariat of the imperialist countries. The wage was only one entry of the total income earned every month by these new western semi-proletarians. In some countries this additional income consisted of black work, savings, social security and so on. With the passing of the years, they could not only enjoy the increasing comforts of the rotten western consumerism, but they were also able to buy a home and save remarkable amounts of money which, bearing some interest, brought them closer to the bourgeoisie, associated them to its business in the exploitation of backward peoples. Only a minority of the working class was marginalized and excluded from that process of petty-bourgeois degeneration.
In a sense, we can state that only during the last half of this century the bourgeoisie managed to complete its own revolution, thus carrying out the aims of 1789. Capitalism has temporarily averted its own collapse by distributing property, i.e. freedom and equality on the bourgeois ground. But this is a «freedom» conceived as a conventio ad excludendum, obtained at the expense of three-fifths of the world population, a Jacobin equality which granted some crumbs to the toilers and the monopoly of the means of production to the bourgeoisie. Such a contradictory process of social decomposition could but manifest itself politically, through a proper political degeneration. Under the guidance of the «reformist» parties and unions, the «workers movement» acted in the first place as a factor of conservation of the imperialist order; it was organically caught into the system of bourgeois rule and, as it happened during the 1970s, it was more and more unable to act as a vehicle for the more radical proletarian demands. The reforms achieved by these «workers» parties were not disruptive at all with regard to the bourgeois system, but they were functional to the defence of domestic social peace and aimed at deepening the corruption of the proletariat, obtained as they were at the expense of the peoples living in the periphery of the imperialist world. Faced with a revolutionary wave coming from the South of the planet, the «workers movement» failed to lower the drawbridge that would have allowed to bring the decisive struggle into the besieged capitalist citadel, and took part in the defence of that citadel in order to keep out the revolution. Something happened little by little, more serious than the Fourth of August of 1914. The class conflict, which did actually show itself, hardly took real revolutionary forms. Such a protracted period of low-intensity conflict left showy traces upon the western proletariat. We reject any economist metaphysics with regard to the concept of social class, too. For us, antagonism is not something optional but a basic condition for the existence of the proletariat as a social force, otherwise the proletariat would only be the variable part of capital. The working class is either revolutionary, or it is nothing.
17. The Cold Counterrevolution
The Gorbachevite perestroika marked the last stage of the slow bourgeois degeneration of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Such a bureaucracy was, at one and the same time, the main agent and the first cause of the restoration of capitalism. After decades of imperceptible destruction of collectivism — something that caused the Stalinist countries to be caught into the imperialist system — the bureaucracy, which had become more and more independent from the proletariat, relied on the world capitalist forces in order to make a counterrevolution possible in the most painless way, and to transform itself into a proper bourgeoisie. The bureaucracy decided to promote and lead the final act of social counterrevolution when it felt strong enough to control the inevitable dismembering social processes and to check a possible proletarian opposition — or, to say it better, when it understood that no revolutionary response was to take place.
The implosion of 1989-91 showed that the bourgeois metamorphosis of the Stalinist bureaucracies had already reached that breaking point beyond which there could only be a definitive counterrevolution. Yeltsin was the most brutal embodiment of this reactionary process. He was able to seize political power through a coup d’état only because he was the longa manus of imperialism. And he kept the power by using an iron fist against any opposition whatsoever and by sending his troops to dissolve the same bourgeois parliament which had crowned him as a Bonaparte only two years earlier.
The proletariat was the only social force which could have stopped such a pseudo-democratic counterrevolution. But in a situation marked by a decline of the class struggle in the West and by a retreat of the anti-imperialist movements throughout the world, the Russian and Eastern European proletariat — deprived as it was of its own class consciousness and of a Marxist organization after half a century of stifling bureaucratic regime — did not only fail to stop the drive toward capitalist restoration but was also overwhelmed by the march of events. A proletarian class consciousness did not exist, but there was a bourgeois consciousness which had penetrated in the East due to the strategic offensive of the imperialist powers — an offensive which was economic, military, political and cultural.
Caught in the middle of the accelerating events, the proletariat let the bureaucratic-collectivist systems collapse, thus revealing its inability to act independently for the defence of its own interests, and lined up with the democratic and counterrevolutionary mass movements. This can be explained only with the wide scope of the devastations brought about by Stalinism which, after having stifled the initiative, the action and the democracy of the proletariat, definitely injured the capacity of the working class to act. Here is how a chain process was started which brought the international workers movement to enter in the most serious crisis it ever knew during our century. It will take a long time before the world proletariat is able to heal its lacerated wounds.
In Yugoslavia the process of capitalist restoration provoked a civil war also because the memory of the revolution carried out in the 1940s was still fresh, its traces were still visible, the left was still alive, and the counterrevolutionary forces dared to wear the same Ustaše, Moslem and Četnik uniforms against which Tito’s partisans fought so bravely. Having failed to demolish Yugoslavia through a war, imperialism is now attempting to do that through the blackmail of its gallows-peace.
18. A New Working Class
During the 1980s, in the very moment in which this process of bourgeoisification was attaining its peak, it started creaking. The overproduction crisis manifested itself in a more and more serious way after the 1970s, when the bourgeoisie had managed to avert it. Capitalism could no longer afford the luxury of Keynesianism. Thirsty for profits, it started sweeping away some gains of the western proletariat by cutting several unproductive outlays, by thoroughly dismantling the Welfare State, by lowering wages in order to conform them to the world average wage. In short, it started breaking one-sidedly, but with the approval of the «workers» parties and unions, the social compromise with the proletariat.
By means of radical restructurings of the social system, the market of labour and the factory itself were transformed from top to bottom. The flexibility of the labour force is now completely prevailing in the market of labour, where all the gains that had been won in the course of a whole century of struggles are under attack and the labour force is at the mercy of the time of circulation of capital. The new proletarian generation is not going to enjoy the same privileges of the older generation. The workplace is unceasingly moving with the same speed at which capital changes its place in the market. The importance of the workplace is exceeded by the importance of the working relationship as such — abstract, deprived of any durability and of any contractual guarantee as it is. Properly speaking, a worker does no longer have a sure workplace but a space — the market — in which he must continuously move to be hired by capital for some time and in a provisional way. Whereas the most aged workers can expect to escape such a mechanism, the young workers are bound to become clones of the Mexican or Maghrebian workers; the only difference lays in the vastness of the space in which they have to run after capital in order to put their labour force at its disposal.
In the factory, informatics and robotics enabled capitalism to re-establish its tyrannical rule — the same rule which had been questioned by the workers of the Taylorite assembly line. The young workers are fettered to a harsh machinism brought to its furthermost limits, which leaves no room for any gratification of labour whatsoever, whereas all hints of working-class independence from the process of valorization of capital are completely thwarted. The Fordite workers were turned into total workers, that is, workers totally submitted to a process of which they do not know the inner mechanism — to a process which demands their complete submission. Within such a framework, the working-class antagonism is either complete and subversive or it is nothing. Either a sabotage of the mechanism as a whole or a total submission to it. Under these conditions, the unions can only play a corporative role; their only task is to keep the labour force under control ever more directly in order to serve the interests of the bosses’ enterprises. Today more than ever, communists must have an orientation toward the exploited working-class youth, which is the main lever of the future proletarian party. This means that we must equip ourselves, find new ways for our political intervention, resort to a new language, overcome propagandism and intellectualism, be able to link up with the more exploited and dynamic proletarian layers and be ready to play a leading role in the proletarian struggles since these struggles will breed the raw material of the future International.
19. The World Revolution
The western workers movement tried to resist the offensive waged by capitalism over the last two decades by relying on working-class parties and unions which were becoming increasingly enslaved to imperialism. As a result, the proletariat had eventually to haggle over some of its historical gains — its ability to struggle, its self-organization in the factories and in the society, its independent class bodies — and sold them out for come consumerist privileges which were a by-product of the above-mentioned gains.
Capitalism is now compelled to take back those privileges. But even a negative deed may have a positive facet. The privileges were the source of the corruption which paralyzed any antagonistic undertaking; and the new pauperization can lay the foundations for the future unity of the world proletariat. Such a process, which is bound to deeply change the western societies, will sharpen the crisis of the organized workers movement. It is the task of communists to begin with the defence of the organized proletariat against the attacks and thus facilitate the unification of the fighting parts of the old and the new workers movement. New tendencies will arise, and other tendencies will rise again, as if it were a new beginning of the workers movement.
But it will be necessary to get rid of the traditional notions of left and right. They make no sense if they are not related to the composition of the social classes and to their struggle on a world scale. From the standpoint of the existing social order, Saddam Hussein is to the left of Jessie Jackson, a Serbian Četnik is not to the right of a well-fed German pacifist, and an Hamas fundamentalist is closer to the communists than an Israeli labourite.
The revolutionary communist movement did not quit the stage only because it is the conveyor of an imposing world proletariat which never stopped growing in numbers, even though it is no longer concentrated in the «advanced» countries, and which kept on fighting as it could. If in the West there are still several communists, this is due to the fact that some layers of the proletariat were not integrated into the corporative mechanism and an exploited, antagonistic minority continued to exist. We could and should organize precisely such a minority, which is the raw material of the communist revolution.
The social bloc that will carry out the revolution in the West cannot be conceived in narrow national terms. The strongest ally of the exploited and oppressed minority in the West is not the old and new petty-bourgeoisie of the imperialist bulwarks but the huge proletariat of Eastern Europe, of the backward countries and of the Far East.
Perhaps the Portuguese revolution of 1974-75 can stand as a proper pattern for the future world revolution. In itself, it was the last of the old proletarian revolutions and the first of the future ones. The Portuguese proletariat entered the stage spurred by the liberation struggle of the colonial peoples. It accepted the challenge, lowered the drawbridge of the besieged fortress, linked its battle to the battle of the slaves and entered the arena of the struggle for power. Like the Chiapas rebellion, which was a continuation of the ancient peasant guerrilla warfare but also the forerunner of the American revolution which is now taking its first, difficult steps and, while being still a child, has already worn a military dress. Or like the European revolution, which can be carried out only as a result of the flaking of the neo-colonialist system, and through the welding of the working-class struggle in Europe with the struggles of the oppressed proletariat in the Maghreb, the Mideast, the Balkans and Russia.
20. Refound the Proletarian International!
The compound character of the Comintern, the failure of the European revolution, the fascist offensive and the triumph of Stalinism in the USSR did not allow the western communist movement to take up and develop the Leninist experience, neither theoretically nor in practice. Trotsky took on such a task but, driven by the urgent need to oppose the Stalinist onslaught, he could only save what could be saved. On the other hand, the «left communism» in Europe and in the western world as a whole revealed its complete bankruptcy precisely on that ground. Apart from Bordiga, who opposed to social-democratism and Stalinism a hyperbolic version of Kautsky’s paralyzing determinism, the «left communists» — beginning with Rosa Luxemburg — did not understand anything of Lenin’s political lesson and remained imprisoned in their exasperated neo-Hegelian subjectivism, which was coupled with the metaphysics of the working class and with the fetishism of its spontaneous struggle, according to which the voluntaristic element should be the sole guiding criterion for party action.
The descending curve of the revolution could but bury «left communism» for a long period; but it arose again for a short time after the May 1968 events in France, and then disappeared when that cycle of social struggles come to an end.
It is only by taking as our point of departure the rediscovery and the defence of the foundations laid by the Bolshevik experience and practice that we will be able not only to develop a modern revolutionary action but also to theoretically refound Marxism, thus equipping ourselves in view of the decisive battle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
What are, in short, the conceptual foundations of a modern Marxism?
It is true that the powerful development of the modern productive forces is a necessary precondition for the passing of mankind to socialism; but with the coming of imperialism the antagonist character of these forces and of that development was widened — the productive forces become destructive and their development could bring about a collapse of civilization. We shall not keep everything we will inherit from the bourgeoisie. Many things will have to be destroyed and radically reconverted, not only in the superstructural sphere but also in the economic foundations. In the passage from capitalism to socialism, the elements of rupture are stronger than those of continuity. In order to use the material productive forces in a communist way, they must indeed be freed from their capitalist form and content. This cannot happen as a spontaneous process but only through a conscious control by which the associated toilers, relying on a plan, will suppress the blind laws of the market. The means which are used by a given class are dependent from the character of its mission and the nature of its tasks. The proletariat, in itself, is a mere object fit to be exploited, and in order to play a revolutionary role it must become conscious and organize itself to attain its goal. Such a consciousness and organization do not ripen automatically, as a function of the numerical and social strength of the proletariat. Its strength depends first of all on its political power. Without a revolutionary party which has a revolutionary strategy and program, the class of the exploited is politically impotent. The class struggle leads to socialism only provided that it is conducted in a revolutionary way, only if it does not confine itself to a mere overthrow of what exists but aims to carry out its project through the seizure of political power. Within such a framework, the most numerous and «developed» proletariat does not enjoy any primacy. The law of uneven and combined development tells us that such a primacy is due rather to the proletariat which is facing a weak bourgeoisie and a stunted capitalism unable to carry out its own revolution and to develop its own productive forces; to the proletariat which is more refractory to capitalism insofar as it knows and directly endures the decaying and barbaric facets of capitalism; to the proletariat which will be able to breed a Leninist political vanguard resolved to seize power. An epicentre or a nerve-centre of the world revolution does not exist any longer. Capitalism, which is an accomplished world-wide system, is still strong in its heartlands but it is unsteady in its «backward» periphery; and it is precisely from this periphery that new, devastating social conflicts will start and reverberate on the heartlands, thus bringing in a sharpening of the class struggle and the final showdown between revolution and counterrevolution.
The question of questions is therefore, today more than ever, the building of a political party which is able to fight for proletarian dictatorship. This is certainly a long-drawn and winding work which can be carried out only internationally, within the framework of the rebuilding of a new proletarian International which must have Marx’s theory and Lenin’s method as its foundations.
As historical experience as a whole teaches us, no proletarian party — let alone an International — can arise without a series of fusion processes which, by transversally cutting across the proletarian left, will unify and cohere its most uncompromising sections. Such processes cannot be started within four walls, nor on the basis of theoretical disputes. It is the class struggle that will ascertain which tendencies are actually revolutionary, and it is on the ground of the class struggle that it will be decided which forces are able to give rise to a strong, cohered, homogeneous International. We know that a fusion process (which should not be an unprincipled reconciliation) is possible only when there is a tendency which has won a political and organizational hegemony on the battlefield, that is, when it has proved in practice that its program and methods have started bearing remarkable and visible results.
Today we fight with the weapons of criticism in order to unite on a world scale the best detachments of the proletarian vanguard, but we also know that in order to build the future International it will be necessary to pass, without hesitations, to the criticism of weapons.