An article against Bordiga, with extensive Lenin and Zinoviev quotes.
About the author see below.
"Bordigism" by A. Chiarini
In his speech from 4 December 1922 at the 4th World Congress, Zinoviev said:
I do not mean to conceal that we are not at the end of the Italian chapter, but, rather, in the middle of it, or, better, just at the beginning of a new chapter. We will still undergo difficult struggles. ... There will be regroupment. Even with regard to the most prominent leaders, we cannot say where they are going to land. That will be decided in struggle and over time.
At this moment, Serrati returned to the Communist International; the working masses and leftist elements of the PSI, recognizing their past faults, tended again towards the Comintern. As for Bordiga, accentuating his “abstentionist” line, he obstinately opposed the tactic of the Comintern. “Struggle and time” have been factors favorable to the PCI. We traversed a very difficult period, the fascists came to seize power, the PCI was the object of violent repressions, sometimes even its organizations and institutions were sacked. Since then, despite the ordeals it has undergone, despite the interior frictions, the Communist Party has progressed in all respects: number, organization, ideology.
We cannot say likewise of Bordiga: this period of the bloody struggles of the Italian proletariat has not led him to renounce his rigid, sectarian, non-Leninist tactics. On the contrary, Bordiga has accentuated his errors; he has distanced himself even more from the masses and grossly violated the elementary principles of the national and international discipline of communism, principles which he preached with such zeal when he was at the Political Bureau of the PCI. Finally, after having been invited at the 5th Congress to abandon his position of sterile critique to work at the E.C. of the Comintern, Bordiga found nothing better than to organize a secret faction at the center of the party and to launch a campaign of critique against all the activity of the latter. In these conditions, one asks oneself what is the leader of the so-called “Italian Left” driving at.
“Bordigism”, or the “infantile disorder of the left” of the Italian party, has arisen with the party itself. It already has its ideological and organic roots inside the PCI, before the split at Livorno. Criticizing Bordigism at the 5th Congres, Zinoviev asked himself: 'What determines this rigid position of the Italians?' And he responded: 'We must seek the primary source in the old socialist party which housed as diverse elements as Turati, Bordiga, Serrati, who managed to nevertheless get along. Now a reaction has arisen. One wants to have a “pure”, firm, rigorously selected party, even without grand masses as a result. It’s very understandable. But three or four years have already passed since the split of Livorno. Things follow their course and the revolution develops. The Italian movement stirs – the Italian working class will again play a great role. It will enter into play, endowed with a proven experience. This movement will no longer be the same as in 1919–20. It is high time to be done with "fetishes" and to follow the Comintern when it is right'.
Bordiga did not know to rid himself of his fetishes from 1919–20. Even more, in 1925, when the party grew incontestably in its intransigent and persistent struggle against fascism and reformism, Bordiga attempts to sap its force in transforming it into a series of factions almost hostile each against each other and engaged in endless discussions among each other. He does it in the name of who knows what sectarian principles, in the name of the struggle against so-called “opportunism”, whereas his secret faction, disorganizing and weakening the action of the Party, is by itself a manifestation of opportunism.
What was Bordigism in 1919–20, before the foundation of the PCI? It was then quite close to the Dutch school of Left Communists; the principal point of its programme being parliamentary abstentionism. It is on this principle that Bordiga believed it possible to unite the Leftist elements of the PSI in order to effectuate the split. In fact, in the immense mass of the PSI, he was only followed by one small group; the working mass could not understand the principle by which Bordiga wanted to distinguish himself from the reformists and the centrists, not more than it understood his other theoretical conceptions. At this time already, Bordiga wanted the split, but he only succeeded in forming a small “abstentionist” sect, not a communist party.
In 1920, before the Communist Party was formed, Lenin wrote in “Infantile Disorder”, on the position of Bordiga:
Comrade Bordiga and his “Left” friends draw from their correct criticism of Turati and Co. the wrong conclusion that any participation in parliament is harmful in principle. The Italian “Lefts” cannot advance even a shadow of serious argument in support of this view. They simply do not know (or try to forget) the international examples of really revolutionary and communist utilisation of bourgeois parliaments, which has been of unquestionable value in preparing for the proletarian revolution. They simply cannot conceive of any “new” ways of that utilisation, and keep on repeatedly and endlessly vociferating about the “old” non-Bolshevik way. ...
You think, my dear boycottists and anti-parliamentarians, that you are “terribly revolutionary”, but in reality you are frightened by the comparatively minor difficulties of the struggle against bourgeois influences within the working-class movement, whereas your victory—i.e., the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the conquest of political power by the proletariat—will create these very same difficulties on a still larger, an infinitely larger scale. ...
If our “Left” and anti-parliamentarian comrades do not learn to overcome even such a small difficulty now, we may safely assert that either they will prove incapable of achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat ... or they will have to hastily complete their education, and, by that haste, will do a great deal of harm to the cause of the proletariat.
Bordigism, at this moment, was at the beginning of its “prosperity” as an extreme reaction against reformism and amorphous centrism; it had its historical place in the Italian movement and, up to a certain point, its justification. "A mistaken, inconsistent, or spineless attitude towards the opportunist parliamentarians gives rise to “Left-wing” communism, on the one hand, and to a certain extent justifies its existence, on the other. ”
In 1920, at the 2nd Congress of the Comintern, Bordiga, under the influence of Lenin and Zinoviev, formally renounced his “parliamentary abstentionism”. He accepted undertaking in the center of the PSI, in concert with other revolutionary elements, a struggle not for “abstentionism” which could find no adherent, but for a truly communist tactic against reformism, against the oscillations of the centrists, against Seratti’s erroneous line, behind which the reformists remaining in the party entrenched themselves. With the split of Livorno, the majority remained in the PSI. After the occupation of the factories and the treason of the reformists in September, 1920, the revolutionary wave temporarily ebbed. Capital launched an offensive in Italy. Fascism developed rather rapidly. In these conditions, the “Italian Left” would have had to break definitively with abstentionism to adopt a truly communist line and concentration all its attention on the formation of a powerful mass party, capable of opposing the mounting reaction and to involve revolutionary elements that had not yet adhered to the PCI.
Nevertheless Bordiga continued to follow his “abstentionist” line, as much in the party organization as in the struggle against social democracy and the reaction. He wrote then his famous “Rome Theses” for the Congress which was to take place in March 1922. These theses, it is true, were rejected by the Comintern, but later return frequently on the table. They are written in an abstract and extremely difficult language, so that very few Italian workers have read them and, in particular, understood them. In either case they do not give a correct idea of the tasks of the party, of its tactics, and of its relations with the masses.
The first chapter of these theses which is titled “The Communist Party’s Process of Development” and which contains nine paragraphs, has as its goal to prove that the Communist International can only accept individual adherents through the intermediary of communist parties. Bordiga wanted to make of this principle an absolute clause of adhesion, just at the moment where the process of the formation of communist parties by the fusion of communist groups and the left of social-democrat parties was hardly finished in Europe. In the Italian Socialist Party itself, after the split of Livorno, began a new differentiation; there formed a left wing which wanted to fix the past error and return to the Comintern. And it is to avoid the influx of new revolutionary elements which were not yet “pure”, which did not yet belong to the “elite”, that Bordiga writes the first chapter of his political theses!
The chapter on the “Relations between the Communist Party and the Proletarian Class” begins with the following paragraph: 'The precise and limited character of the class party, which is the basis of its structure as an organ of the most advanced fraction of the proletariat does not exclude, but demands a narrow contact of the party with the rest of the proletariat'.2
We see by this paragraph how far Bordiga is from the conception which makes of the Communist Party the mass party of the working class. For him, the party is only “the organ of the most advanced faction of the proletariat”, and not its vanguard indissolubly linked with the rest of the masses. This link with the masses, Bordiga does not reject, he demands it, but for him it isn’t the pivot of the party’s action.
In paragraph 16 of his theses, Bordiga declares that one cannot demand, at a given moment (just before a general action, for example), that the party unite under its direction or in its ranks the majority of the proletariat. The dominant thought of the elite of the proletariat must not particularly concern itself with the conquest of the majority of the working class, without which it could conduct its “direct action” against capital.
In the chapter on “Relations between the Communist Party and other Proletarian Political Movements”, Bordiga writes: 'In order to draw to itself those proletarians who support other political movements, the Communist Party cannot follow the method of constituting within them organized groups and fractions of communists or communist sympathizers. ... a method of this kind would compromise the party’s organic unity' (paragraph 21).
Experience, in Italy, has proven the opposite. The organization of groups of sympathizers inside the socialist party has provided excellent results, which would have even been better without Bordiga’s hostile tactics. On the other hand, current events demonstrate it, Bordiga reckons that it is perfectly admissible to organize in the Communist Party groups or secret factions opposing the tactic of the Party and the Comintern. We see it by the current events of the PCI.
In the chapter on “the tactics of the Communist Party, paragraph 29, Bordiga writes:
The general tactical norms adopted in the future need to be clearly specified within not too rigid limits, becoming clearer and fluctuating less as the movement gains in strength and approaches the final victory. Only such a criterion as this can allow us to approach ever closer to effective centralization within the parties and the International needed for the direction of action; in such a way that orders emanating from the centre will be willingly accepted, not just within the communist parties but also within the mass movement they have managed to organise. ... Thus it is incumbent upon the parties and the International to systematically explain the ensemble of general tactical norms since it might eventually call on its own ranks, and the strata of the proletariat which have rallied around them, to put these tactical norms into practice and to make sacrifices on their behalf; and they must demonstrate how such norms and perspectives for action constitute the inevitable route leading to victory. It is therefore a necessity to take decisions which appear to restrict the possibilities for action, but which alone give a guarantee of the organic unity of action in the proletarian struggle.
Thus, Bordiga thinks it suffices to elaborate in advance for a long period of time a catechism of “tactical norms” in order to obtain not only the maximum of success, but also the maximum centralization and submission to these norms by the Party members and all the masses “capable” of following the Party. According to him, this will allow the “direct tactical action of the Party”, that he calls the “assault on bourgeois power with the forces at the Communist Party’s disposal (paragraph 30).
At the 3rd Congress of the Communist International Terracini, defending Bordigism against the Russian delegation, said that 'the theses should therefore not assert that the main task of the Communist Party consists of winning the majority of the proletariat for the principles of communism. ... this is suitable only for the reformists and not for the theses proposed for the Third International. ... the words 'theory of the offensive' have a certain meaning, which we must clearly understand. We are convinced that this will be of significant benefit for the revolutionary struggle. We should not reject this theory; rather we must try to understand its meaning. ... The term aims to stress that a dynamic tendency will now replace the static one.'
Lenin, in his short reply, rose up energetically against Bordigism:
If the Congress is not going to wage a vigorous offensive against such errors, against such “Leftist” stupidities, the whole movement is doomed. ... We Russians are already sick and tired of these Leftist phrases. ... In Europe, where almost all the proletarians are organised, we must win the majority of the working class and anyone who fails to understand this is lost to the communist movement; he will never learn anything if he has failed to learn that much during the three years of the great revolution. ... “Dynamic tendencies”, “transition from passivity to activity”—these are all phrases the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries had used against us. ... But the fact that-even now, after three years of the Communist International, we are arguing about “dynamic tendencies”, about the “transition from passivity to activity”—that is a shame and a disgrace.
This astounding blow wrought by Lenin against the “absurdities of the left” of Bordigism will at the enlarged Executive of February 1922 however not impede comrades Roberto and Terracini, bound by an imperative mandate, to defend Bordigism again and to come down against the tactic of the united front. At this Executive plenum, Roberto – faithful to Bordiga's theses – interpreted as follows the 21 conditions elaborated by the 2nd Congress: “We have applied these conditions and insisted that it’s necessary for grouping educated and conscious elements into a network of the elite, in order to help the masses and lead them to attack the last citadels of capitalism”. And further: “I was expecting something else from Zinoviev’s speech, especially since my comrades and I (ie the Italian delegation) have an imperative mandate on this question that must be taken into consideration since, after all, we aren’t puppets … The instinct of the masses comes not, like Minerva, straight out of Jupiter’s head. It is we who have awakened it, and who have stood watch on its growth with a maternal concern, after we have separated from the social democrats and whose treason we have unmasked”.
Terracini, rising up against the tactic of the united front, said:
In following the tactic that the Executive proposed to the parties, we will in all probability conquer the masses, but, in place of communist parties we will have parties absolutely identical to the old ones”. And, in finishing his speech: “We adopt the theses on the united front, but they are not applicable in any country – not from any lack in discipline, but for internal reasons. We will have the ridiculous spectacle of a decision taken on a vast scale for the strongest organizations, without its application being possible even in the most restrained limits.
In these citations we see false conceptions on the party and its role, on the masses and their relations with the party, on the united front, that these Italian delegates, linked by the “imperative mandate” of Bordigism, defended after the 3rd Congress.
Bordiga fought systematically against the tactic of the united front, which he consented to accept on the “economic terrain” but not on the political terrain. This absurd conception was criticized by Zinoviev as well as by Thaelmann who, speaking in the name of the German delegation at the 5th Congress, declared: “We cannot consider this counter-revolutionary theory of the syndicalist movement as a communist theory”.
We know Bordiga’s attitude in regards to the antifascist movement of the Arditi del popolo, while the Communist Party did nothing to take direction of the movement and even prohibited its members from supporting it.
Between the 3rd and 4th Congress what Bordiga condemned a priori with such energy began to be realized in Italy. Under the pressure of the masses who aspired to the Comintern and recognizing the heavy fault committed by their leaders in Livorno, there formed in the center of the PSI an important Left, which had for its goal the hunt on the reformists and to bring back the Socialist Party to the Comintern, that is to say operate its fusion with the Communist Party. Bordiga decided that this influx of insufficiently pure revolutionary masses was a great misfortune for the Communist Party and that it was necessary to mobilize all of our forces to battle the “opportunist” tactic of the Comintern on this question. According to him we were going to commit an astonishing “heresy” in supporting this left and that “urgent” measures would need to be taken to prevent the fusion. When, at its Congress in October 1922, the Socialist Party purged itself of reformists and adopted Serrati's resolution on the return to the Comintern, the delegation from the Communist Party to the 4th Congress, on Bordiga’s proposition, received the “imperative mandate” to fight the possible tactic of fusion of the PSI and PCI. The 4th Congress abolished once and for all “imperative mandates”. Nevertheless the 5th Congress still had to against fight against Bordigism.
At the fourth congress, Zinoviev, treating the Italian question, expressed himself like this:
We will have debates, not only with the Maximalists but with the Italian Communists. On many questions, we do not have agreement. They have adopted a programme that it is not Marxist. We have criticised it and rejected it. And these viewpoints are deeply rooted in the Italian Party. There is still a touch of abstentionism in the Italian Party. ... Bordiga no longer advocates anti-parliamentarism – he fell into step on this – but its spirit is still there. We saw that with regard to the united front as a programme and a tactic. (Riddell, pp. 107–08)
One knows the adventures of the fusion of the CP and the leftwing of the socialist party and the resistance to this fusion by Bordigism; one knows how this resistance favoured the elements of the rightwing in the PSI, who seize Avanti and leading organisations of the socialist party.
The declarations of Bordiga on centralisation and discipline at the fourth congress are interesting. It is appropriate to recall them to him, because they are a condemnation of his present attitude towards the PCI and that which he probably soon will have towards the Comintern. 'Our International', Bordiga said, 'is too often seen as something external to the parties that belong to it. Sometimes the parties, or factions within them, permit themselves to carry on a polemical discussion with the International that its often public and insulting.' p. 184 The Central Committee of the PCI could recall to the factionalist Bordiga the words which he expressed at the fourth congress:
We see ourselves compelled to deal with too many organisational and disciplinary questions, at a time when we note that the enemy has launched reaction against us in a way that makes the negotiations and the entire procedure required in such cases almost impossible. (Riddell p. 185)
After the fifth congress, despite his declarations on discipline and centralisation, Bordiga departs still further from the line of the Comintern. For him, the whole tactic of the Comintern begins to turn bad. True, he does not make concrete propositions on the subject of the questions on which he does not agree with the Comintern, but he stresses his 'position of critique'. Inside the communist party he retreats increasingly to his 'abstentionist' position and refuses to apply the directives of the Comintern. When the party consigns him a mandate of deputy in parliament, he refuses; when the party invites him to collaborate in the Central Committee, he refuses likewise, forgetting the words which he pronounced at the fourth congress:
I agree with the view that these resignations must be prevented (It is inadmissible that comrades quit their posts). We could also try a rule that has been successfully applied in our party, namely, that all resignations are immediately accepted, and the comrade who resigns cannot reassume his place in the party for the next one or two years. I believe that this system would lead to a significant fall in the number of resignations. (Riddell, p. 936)
All the while when closing himself up in his ivory tower, Bordiga estimates that it is time to form a "left" inside the Comintern, because, in his view, the tactic of the latter is already too opportunist. He probably judges this manner of acting perfectly legitimate and compatible with 'a genuine centralisation, i.e. a synthesis of the revolutionary movement's spontaneous vanguard in every country, in order to end the crises of discipline' (p. 936). Bordiga said at the fourth congress: 'We must explain to all groups and all comrades who belong to the International the meaning of the pledge of unconditional obedience that they make when they join our ranks'.
A little time after the fifth congress, at the conference of the federal secretaries of the Italian communist party and in the press, Bordiga and a few of his friends spoke more or less openly of the necessity of forming inside the Comintern a faction of the left. This would to be the mission of the PCI and if the executive of the Comintern or the fifth congress persisted, if they want, despite Bordiga and his friends of the "left", to follow the tactical line of the fourth congress regarding the fusion of the terzini (Third-Internationalist faction), it is clear for Bordiga that one has to form a faction of the left inside the Comintern. Thus, in an article of the Bordiga group, one reads:
It is absolutely necessary that our party takes resolute position against the tactic of fusion of the International. We have had enough invocations to discipline. ... In the Communist International, the Italian section has a revolutionary task: to act in accordance with the directives of the Rome congress. This mission conforms to the whole tactic and the whole program of the Comintern. We must be even more frank: if the fifth congress evolves still towards the right, the PCI must take the initiative for the formation of a faction of the left (which one can just simply call "communist") in the Comintern, in order to fight and overcome the opportunist communism.
So, if the fifth congress does not annul all the decisions of the third and fourth congress, if it does not adopt as a basis the famous "Rome theses", presented at the congress of the PCI in 1922 (and repelled then by the E.C. of the Comintern), the mission of the PCI would be to organise a "faction of the left" inside the International.
After the death of Lenin, the main worry of Bordiga is not to apprehend the essence of Leninism and to teach it to his party which has need of it. What worries him above all, is that the Comintern, which inclines towards "opportunism", will, after the death of its great leader, slide at full speed on the slippery slope. Bordiga and his "friends of the left" want guarantees, which they can find only in the formation of a faction inside the Comintern and in the return to the Rome theses.
At the fifth congress, Bordiga acts as a diplomat and strains himself, by commenting on them in his fashion, to cushion his allusions to the formation of a faction of the left inside the Comintern. On the other side, he attacks the theses of the political commission of the congress, hoping to find support among the German comrades. But he is forced to observe that there exists an abyss between Bordigism and the German left. Thaelmann and Ruth Fisher, in name of the German delegation, condemn the inconsistent critique and the non-communist line of Bordiga. In her report, Ruth Fisher remarks that 'the contradictions between the two resolutions arise from the fact that Bordiga in his speech, attacks not so much the deviations of the right, as the Comintern and its Executive Committee. He seeks the causes of the errors committed by all the parties and those of the German defeat not so much in the deviations by the right, but in the position of t he E.C. of the Comintern and above all in the resolutions of the fourth congress'. Further on, Ruth Fisher observes that the counter-project of Bordiga, 'objectively is a justification of opportunism in the Comintern'. Thaelmann stresses in his speech that Bordigism, since its birth, is nothing but an uninterrupted sequence of deviations of Marxism and of Leninism, often going up to a complete anti-communist conception of various problems. He declares that the congress must demand of Bordiga that he takes the whole responsibility of his tactic and that he pronounces himself clearly on each question.
Bukharin is even more categorical regarding the deviations of Bordiga: 'A comrade who is not able to justify the position which he occupies can not pretend to remove opportunist heresy from the Comintern'. And further on: 'Bordiga and his friends have the ideas of the revisionists and not of the Marxists. They do not understand the mass movement: that is why consciously or not, that want to transform our party into a sect. The Comintern will not permit it and will act severely, because it represents that genuine communist conception, justified by the experience of numerous struggles of the proletariat'.
After the fifth congress, the majority of the Italian comrades convinced themselves of the errors of Bordiga; the workers' movement revives itself; fascism goes through a crisis; our party develops rapidly thanks to the correctness of its tactic. But Bordiga encloses himself in the most complete abstentionism and does not want to deal with any work. In the beginning, he tries to make of the journal Promoteo, edited in Naples, his ideological organ. But the Central Committee judges not useful the continuation of this publication where deviations of communism manifest themselves. Then, in the question of Trotskyism, Bordiga pronounces himself in the same sense as the French syndicalists and the rightwing in the Comintern.
Despite everything, the period which follows the fourth congress marks one of the most happy developments of the PCI. In full agreement with the Comintern, our party deploys a feverish activity in all domains. It starts to understand and to apply the tactic of the united front; it comes closer to the masses, opens widely its doors to the workers and wins members among the poor peasants. It launches slogans comprehensible to the masses. In a word, after a long period of 'half-abstentionism', it finally turns to the masses. It also acquires an increasing importance in the political life of the country. In the face of fascism and the liberal-democratic opposition, a third force begins to rise: the labour and peasant mass, grouped around its vanguard, the communist party. During this period, the party has almost tripled the number of its members. It expands, reorganises, reinforces itself, matures politically and ideologically. In respect to the latter, as the Italian comrades themselves recognise, it still has to do a lot. Ideological clarification and effective bolshevisation: these are the essential objectives that the Italian communist party are set.
That is why the last enlarged Executive (meeting) has viewed as one of the principal tasks of the PCI the struggle for ideological unity, against all deviations. The resolution of the enlarged Executive says: 'The most important task of the PCI is to arrive at a complete ideological clarity and to defeat the deviations, in particular those of Bordiga, which are, at the present moment, the most dangerous'. The resolutions distinctly notes the errors of Bordiga: his abstentionism, his conception of the role and of the tactics of the party. It declares that Bordiga departs from Leninism in all the important questions and that, despite of his apparent intransigence and leftism, his deviations approach in practice those of the right'.
The Italian party now is absorbed in an important work: strengthening of its positions, organisation of cells, struggle against the fascist reaction and the divisive politics of the social-reformists. Nevertheless, the C.C. has decided to open shortly a big discussion on the essential questions of the life of the party and of the Comintern. This discussion, according to the memo of the C.C., must contribute to give to the party a real bolshevik cohesion and to make understandable the principles of Leninism to the communist masses. But, to the great surprise of all the party, this ideological discussion was preceded by an incident that shows that Bordiga and his friends wanted to transform it into a factional battle. This incident confirms the correctness of the resolution by which the enlarged Executive stressed the danger of the Bordigist deviations.
The pessimism of Bordiga regarding the tactic of the Comintern refers now to the PCI. Before the fifth congress, Bordiga spoke of a faction of the "left" inside the Comintern. Now that the PCI tightly follows the line of Leninism and it has already registered serious success, Bordiga and his Italian "left" want to organise a faction inside it.
The left estimates that there is no better moment to constitute a faction. After having tried all illegal procedures, Mussolini lets parliament vote a law on "secret associations", whose goal is to suffocate the party by legal means. The social-reformists had recourse to the most odious manoeuvres to divide the trade unions or to provoke the mass expulsion of the communists. The fascist trade unions (in full accord with the government) try to establish a legal monopoly of the fascists trade unions and to make illegal all the others. And it is at this moment that the party is absorbed in this struggle, in which it is obliged to strain all its forces, that one organises a faction of the "extreme left", no doubt in order to pass from the "static tendency" to the "dynamic tendency".
It is in the beginning of April that the extreme left has decided to concretise its abstentionist position by the formation of a faction. For this purpose, it has edited a publication artistically ornamented by the hammer and sickle with the inscription: Committee of agreement (Comitato d'Intesa). In the name of this committee, a secret, strictly personal memo has been sent to all members of the party know as sympathetic to the left.
The Central Committee, this memo says, is convinced that the left represents just a group of intellectuals, incapable of renouncing their abstract sectarianism... It is inadmissible that one pretends to ignore the existence of a whole tendency. The Italian left thinks that the moment has come to talk openly with the comrades (prevents not the memo being secret, strictly personal); it considers that the activity of the party and the political situation of the country demand of the comrades of the left that they immediately adopt a position of critique of the whole activity of the party and its theoretical basis ... For this goal, a group of tested comrades united in the Committee of agreement occupies itself (as if the party had asked them!) to not only inform the comrades, but also to establish as soon as possible an adequate connection for the coordination of the work.
That is why the group of the left advises its followers to put themselves in contact with the comrades with posts in the different centres and to find their safe addresses. All this, in order to "coordinate the work". (See L'Unita of 7 June 1925.)
In the beginning of May, the Central Committee convokes a plenary session in Rome to examines the current questions, among which, that of the opening of a great discussion in the press of the party. But the Committee of agreement, on the same day, convokes a secret conference of the faction in Naples, the citadel of Bordiga. The Central Committee unfortunately does not possess the minutes of this conference, which would allow it to have a more precise idea of the plan of action of the factionalists. But some letters of the participants of the conference, addressed to the Committee of Action a few days later, are characteristic enough. Here is an extract of one of them:
Dear comrades of the Committee of Agreement,
After having thought about numerous questions that were treated at our last session in Naples, I have become convinced that our position is wrong. I believe that the disagreements which can arise in the Comintern should be settled by an open discussion in the congresses, without for this having to form factions and weaken the party by the abstentionism of whole groups of comrades ... In reality, instead of reinforcing our ideology and our party against opportunism, we unconsciously help the development of forces of disintegration inside the party. That is why I will not continue the work which was agreed in Naples. (L'Unita, 24 June 1925.)
In another letter, a comrade having participated at the conference in Naples writes:
I consider it impossible for me to do the work decided in Naples. Why? Because I'm not at all convinced that the reasons given by the left against the Comintern are correct. Regarding Bordiga, I am convinced that after the congress of the party he will continue to defend his position and that, for him, the sole outcome will lie in the split. I am convinced that the factional activity that we want to carry our among the comrades will give them distrust towards the Comintern, something which I consider as extremely harmful to our party. I should have, no doubt, declared this at the meeting in Napels. (L'Unita, 24 June 1925.)
In early June, the Bordiga faction, estimating that the preparatory work had been already sufficiently advanced, let the Committee of Agreement send a letter to the Central Committee. This letter was supposedly as response to the decision taken on 26 May by the C.C. for the preparation of the discussion. In this letter, the signatories rejoice over the projected discussion and declare 'that they have the same conception of the essential tasks of the party'. They consider 'that the ideological confusion can be overcome only by an unlimited discussion, without bias'. Moreover, they propose 'that at the provincial conferences, the comrades of the different tendencies have the possibility to intervene in the discussion'. The authors of this letter perfectly know that in the party there is a sufficient freedom of discussion. But that is not what they are after. What they want, is to break the party into factions and into groups and to give to these factions they right to delegate to the provincial conferences comrades recognised by them. Furthermore, these 'tested comrades' propose that the representatives of the different factions (that is to say the secret factions) can choose representatives to the congress of the party. In other words, they propose that the delegates to the congress are nominated by the committees of the factions. They end their letter in the following way:
Because the preparation of the congress demands activity and discipline on the part of the members ... the signatory comrades declate to the political bureau of the Central Committee that a "Committee of Agreement between components of the left" has organised itself.
Bordiga, for practical reasons, as he has explained, did not think it necessary to sign this letter. (See L'Unita of 7 June 1925.)
These extracts of documents published in L'Unita, the central organ of the PCI, nicely show the blind sectarianism of Bordiga and his friends of the left.
The political bureau has responded by a vigorous statement and has undertaken in L'Unita the critique of these deviations of the left, thereby expressing the opinion of the immense majority of the party. Certainly, it will not be an easy thing to make all Italian comrades understand the danger of the anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist deviations of Bordigism. Although their deviations often become an obstacle to the development of the party, the C.C. up to now has spared the extreme lefts in view of the services which they have rendered during the formation of the party and during the struggle against reformism and Maximalism. For many still inexperienced comrades, Bordigism, which drapes itself in the cloak of leftism, can appear as the "genuine communism", as the revolutionary Marxism. But its factionalism, its sectarianism, the inconsistency of its critique, its disagreement with Marxism and Leninism have already opened the eyes to many members of the party.
In its statement of 7 June (published in L'Unita, the political bureau declares that the bloody experience of the last years of reaction and of fascism have not thaught anything to Bordiga and his "friends of the left". These believe still to be in 1919–20: they preserve intact their social-democratic ideas regarding organisation; they imagine that the working class, absorbed by the daily struggle against the fascist government and the half-fascism of the opposition, will let themselves be distracted in order to follow them in their factional and divisive manoeuvres against the Comintern. 'The party has already reacted and will react still more vigorous against manoeuvres of groups of irresponsible elements that, demoralised by the objective difficulties of the situation in Italy, have list all political orientation and believe to be able to resolve everything by phrases and ultra-left attitudes'.
The factional attempt of the "critiques" by the extreme left thus has had the response which it deserved. The PCI has since long left behind Bordigism and no longer wants to feed itself with the substitutes and the "correctives" which Bordiga brings to it instead and in place of Marxism and revolutionary Leninism. The provincial conferences that have already taken place have strongly condemned the factionalism of Bordiga. Certainly, the latter experiences little pleasure in seeing himself compared to Paul Levi and to (Ludovic-Oscar) Frossard in the columns of the central organ of the party (L'Unita, 11 June 1925). But the fault lies with him, as well as with those who follow him and drain the authority of the party at the moment when it is obliged to extend all its forces to repel its enemies armed to the teeth.
In an article titled "Fighting and isolating the erosive factionalism", L'Unita of 27 June 1925 poses this question: How was it possible that the comrades of the extreme left did not foresee the reaction which their activity would provoke? And it responds like this:
These comrades have morally lost contact with the party; they no longer sense they spirit of the party which, in contact with ever greater masses, expands and unfolds itself in an increasing large sphere. They are enclose themselves in a rigid sectarianism, in an attitude of opposition, of distrust and of suspicion. Blinded by their sectarian spirit, they did not see during these last years the political struggle, the intense life of the party, the faith, the passion which animates all its members. Their moral connection with the party and the working class is so thin, that the smallest shock suffices to sever it ... The extreme left begins to sense that the political experience of one year of revolutionary activity has matured the political capacity of the party, which is now capable of understanding the problems of tactic. The comrades of the "left" have had to realise that their basis progressively narrows, that the ground escapes from under their feet. They have wanted to fix this situation by organising a faction.
Now, Bordiga and his friends of the "left" appear to realise the danger that the road on which they engaged themselves represents. In any case, the latest news concerning the dissolution of the Committee of Agreement prove that, among the ranks of the extreme left, one begins to see clearly. Let us hope that the formal dissolution of the Committee of Agreement will be followed by the complete disappearance of factions in the PCI.
At the fourth congress, Zinoviev, ended his speech on the Italian question, saying:
In this period of domination of fascism, each militant must give the maximum effort, unfold all his capacities, prove his dedication to our cause ... If each militant fulfills his task, he is certain that, despite the trials and setbacks of every kind, the Italian workers will achieve victory.
Le "Bordiguisme", A. Chiarini, source: Volume 2 of 1925, pp. 116–26 (August issue) in L'Internationale communiste: organe trimensuel du comite executif de l'Internationale communiste.
Translated by Jake Bellone and Noa Rodman.
About the author.
(based on this page in Italian: http://www.russinitalia.it/dettaglio.php?id=897)
Anton Michajlovič Haller, 1893–1935. The Italian Socialists, towards which he exerts a role as observer on behalf of the Bolsheviks, know him as Antonio Chiarini, pseudonym created by the translation from the German of his last name, "hell", "clear". (aka Tomo, Efim, Mordko, Cain, Chaim, Anton and variants of the surname Gheller, Heller, Haller, Geller, in Russian: Антон Михайлович Геллер/Антонио Киарини, Киярини, Кьярини).
In Italy since 1911, studied in Florence. In autumn 1919, he is commissioned by the Florentine socialist student group to learn about the student organization of Turin, then pivot of the Italian labour movement. In May 1920 he travels to Russia together with the delegation of the Italian Socialists, convened in July to the Second Congress of the Third International.
In the months preceding the Congress, Chiarini receives instructions directly from Lenin, who in June 1920 sends different material printed in Italian and orders him: "Make a list of the most important documents and translate them, which prove that the reformists (and Turati and Co.) do not accept either the discipline or deliberations"(Lenin e l'Italia, p. 431). As observed by Antonello Venturi, "Geller's work was intended to be mainly used to counter the conciliatory objections of Serrati", on which in Russia during the Congress of the Comintern strong pressure is put in order to achieve the isolation of the reformists, the Turati wing, within the party.
He had arrived in Italy with the precise position of "liaison" of the Comintern, a position subordinate to that of the true representative of the International in Italy, which was always entrusted to Ljubarskij, but not without its "technical" importance; it was up to him to send punctually to Moscow detailed accounts of what was being published and discussed in Italy on the problems of the PSI (Venturi, p. 248). In October 1922 he goes to Moscow with a large Italian delegation to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (Spriano 1976, p. 228), after which he remains in Russia, while maintaining contacts with the Italian Communist Party. From the limited biographical information available about him, it seems he died of illness in Moscow between 1934 and 1935.
Bruno Fortichiari wrote of Chiarini, whom he re-encountered in Moscow in 1923: "although a zealous official of Moscow, he had always behaved correctly."
Gramsci's letters in A Great and Terrible World The Pre-Prison Letters, 1908-1926 (Editor and translator: Derek Boothman), which contains mostly negative comments on Chiarni, states that by March 1924 he had been relieved of Italian duties. Gramsci wrote in a letter of 1.3.1924 to Togliatti and Scoccimarro:
...in 1921, before the publication of Il Comunista I was invited to Rome by Chiarini who, without explaining much of the question, invited me to join the Executive as a counterweight to Amadeo’s influence and to take over his place.
Cf Da Bordiga a Gramsci (Paolo Spriano, 1967), pp160–1.
- 1Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922, John Riddell 2012, p. 1050.
- 2There is a poor translation on http://international-communist-party.org/BasicTexts/English/22TeRome.htm , in which this part reads: The specification and definition of the characteristics of the class party, which is the basis for its constitutive structure as organ of the most advanced part of the proletarian class, does not mean that the party need not be bound by close relations with the remainder of the proletariat – indeed it demands that it should be.