Introduction to the Bordiga archive

Introduction to the Amadeo Bordiga archive on the Libertarian Communist Library

Bordiga (1889-1970) was an influential member of the Italian communist movement and leader of the Absentionist Fraction of the Italian Socialist Party and for a time leader of the Italian Communist Party, before resigning in favour of Gramsci, under pressure from Lenin.

He is probably best known in the English speaking world as being criticised by Lenin in "Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder" for his opposition to parliamentary activity. He nonetheless remained loyal to Lenin and Bolshevism up until Stalin started to call the Soviet variant of capitalism "socialism".

At first glance, there seems to be little of interest to revolutionaries in Bordiga's work. He supported the Bolshevik programme of a disciplined party holding power in a transitional state, and seemed to have little interestin proletarian self-activity. He could be regarded as a principled Leninist.

Despite the superficially orthodox Leninist appearance of Bordiga, there are significant contributions that his work and that of the movement herepresented, offer to the communist movement. His objection to parliamentary activity gave birth to a principled opposition to democracy as such. His critique of the councilism of Gramsci and others developed into a critique of self-management. He also made an important contribution to the understanding of the capitalist nature of the Soviet Union. Together these aspects of his work provide a vital correction to the errors of councilism particularly of the Cardan/Castoriadis variety, but also of the German/Dutch communist left, communist-anarchism and the situationists.(The opposite could also be said, that the German left, the situationists and the communist-anarchists provide vital corrections to Bordigism.)

The work of Bordiga and the Italian left can be regarded, to some extent at least, as representing one pole of a continuing dialectic within the communist movement. Theoretical and organised communism bases its ideas and practice on the real movement of the proletariat in its antagonistic struggle against capital. Theoretical communism is an attempt at adistillation of the lessons learned by proletarian struggle. However, there is a continual contradiction in this endeavour. The learning of lessonsfrom previous struggles tends toward an ever more coherent theory manifesting itself as a principled programme. But adherence to this programme necessarily means maintaining a critical attitude to proletarian struggles. Therefore what tends to happen in practice is that theprincipled communists tend to become more and more distanced from theactual struggle of proletarians. Bordigism as a principled movement basedon an invariant programme is one of the purest examples of this pole (alongwith the impossiblism of the World Socialist Movement).

The opposite pole to this dialectic is represented by such movements as Autonomism, and to a lesser extent the councilism of Echanges et Mouvement. Autonomists in particular make continuous efforts to remain in touch with the proletariat's struggle. This unfortunately leads to a continual revising of political positions or rather a refusal to hold to any principal. For example, the uncritical attitude of many Autonomists to the Zapatistas in the Chiapas, shows an unwillingness even to insist on the proletariat's autonomy from nationalist movements.

As we have said before, what is needed is a synthesis of the principled theory of those influenced by Bordiga, for example, with the thosetendencies that stress self-activity and spontaneity, and which keep in touch with the latest developments in proletarian struggle and classcomposition.

Although Bordiga's work is available in Italian and French, very little has been translated into English. As such, this archive starts small, and will grow slowly. However, it is hoped this collection can provide a useful tool for a continual development of revolutionary ideas and practice.

For more information on Bordiga see Note on Pannekoek and Bordiga in "The Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement" by Gilles Dauv"š and Francois Martin, and "Communism is the Material Human Community - AmadeoBordiga Today" by Loren Goldner.

The following five texts appeared in the chapter "Bordiga's Polemic" of the book "Antonio Gramsci - Selections from Political Writings 1910-1920"