The International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party was formed in 1983. In order to give clearer expression to our existence as a united international organisation we decided to change the name of the organisation to the Internationalist Communist Tendency in 2009.
The International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party
The International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party was formed in 1983, as a result of a joint initiative by the Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt) in Italy and the Communist Workers' Organisation (CWO) in Britain. There were two main reasons for this initiative. The first was to give organisational form to an already-existing tendency within the proletarian political camp.
This had emerged from the International Conferences called by Battaglia Comunista between 1977-81.
The basis for adherence to the last of these conferences was the seven points for which the CWO and PCInt had voted at the Third Conference. These were:
• Acceptance of the October Revolution as proletarian.
• Recognition of the break with Social Democracy brought about by the first two Congresses of the Third International.
• Rejection without reservation of state capitalism and self-management.
• Rejection of the Socialist and Communist Parties as bourgeois.
• Rejection of all policies which subjects the proletariat to the national bourgeoisie.
• An orientation towards the organisation of revolutionaries based on Marxist methodology.
• Recognition of international meetings as part of the work of debate among revolutionary groups for coordination of their active political intervention towards the class in its struggle, with the aim of contributing to the process leading to the International Party of the Proletariat, the indispensable political organ for the political guidance of the revolutionary class movement and the proletarian power itself.
The second was to act as a focus for organisations and individuals newly emerging onto the international scene as capitalism's deepening crisis provoked a political response. In the event, the first decade of the Bureau's existence was hardly one of a massive revival in the class struggle. On the contrary, as we have said, workers' response to increasing attacks by capital have in the main been limited to sectional conflicts, even if militant (such as the British miners' strike of 1984-5 or the continuous struggle of Spanish shipyard workers) and were as a result defeated. International capital has thus been given a breathing space in which to restructure at the cost of millions of workers' livelihoods, increasing austerity measures, worsening conditions of work and the terms for the sale of labour power.
In this context, it is not surprising that there were relatively few newcomers to proletarian politics during the Eighties. Many who did make an appearance later disappeared as political isolation overwhelmed them. Nevertheless, despite the unfavourable objective situation and our own modest forces, the organisational existence of the Bureau has been consolidated. As well as sharing responsibility for world-wide correspondence and where possible organising face-to-face meetings and discussions with the political elements we come into contact with, the IBRP issued several international statements and distributed them in various languages in the countries concerned at crucial points over recent years.
"The proletarian revolution will be international or it will be nothing. International revolution presupposes the existence of an international party: the concrete political expression of the most class conscious workers who organise together to fight for the revolutionary programme amongst the rest of the working class. History has shown that attempts to form the party during the revolution itself were too little too late."
Aware of this, the IBRP aimed for the creation of the World Communist Party as soon as the political programme and international forces exist for this. However, the Bureau always declared itself for the Party, and did not claim to be its sole pre-existing nucleus. The future Party will not be the simple expansion of a single organisation.
Before the world Party can be formed the precise details of the revolutionary programme will have to be clarified in all its related aspects via discussion and debate amongst its potential constituent parts.
The organisations which eventually come to form the world Party must already have a meaningful existence inside the working class in the area from which they spring. The proclamation of the international Party (or its initial nucleus) based on little more than the existence of propagandist groups would be no step forward for the revolutionary movement.
At the time of its formation the IBRP declared that the objective of every revolutionary organisation today must be to strive to establish themselves as a revolutionary force inside the working class; this in order to be in a position to point the way ahead in the class struggle of today as a precursor to organising and leading the revolutionary struggles of tomorrow. The lesson of the last revolutionary wave is not that the working class can do without organised leadership, nor that the Party is the class (a metaphysical abstraction of latter-day Bordigists). Rather, that leadership and its organisational form (the Party) is the most important weapon that the revolutionary working class has. Its task will be to fight for a communist perspective in the mass organs of proletarian power (soviets). The Party, however, will remain a minority of the working class and is not a substitute for the class in general. The task of establishing socialism is one for the working class as a whole. It is a task which cannot be delegated, not even to the class-conscious vanguard.
At the sixth congress (Milan, 1997) the Internationalist Communist Party decided to adopt the IBRP Platform as its general programmatic document (political platform), as did the CWO, alongside the specific documents and Congress Theses of both organisations.
The IBRP Becomes the Internationalist Communist Tendency
When the Bureau was founded in 1983-84, some clear guidelines were established.
• We were not the Party, not even foreshadowing it, but an organisation in which those who wanted to participate in the struggle for the future Party — international and centralised — of the working class, could fight, discuss and work together towards this purpose. We expected that important movements of the proletariat would raise new class organisations, with new contributions and topics, not to mention inevitable contrasts and stimuli. One of our main tasks was to bring the experience of the class struggles of the past, assimilated in the evolution of the internationalist communist left, to the new generation of workers who were ready to continue the class struggle.
• We also did not want to create post-boxes, a warehouse, that simply repeated the orthodoxy of the dominant and experienced organisation. We recognised that only by having real experience in their respective areas/states, the various cores could develop into authentic communist organisations able to contribute their own experience to enrich the practice of the future Party.
• Our orientation has always been towards the working class as a whole rather than towards existing political groups, however close we may consider their positions. Although we sometimes engage in polemical exchanges with other groups, our aim was not simply to unite groups of intellectuals or theoreticians but to build a real organisation that sought ways to link up with the struggles of workers on the ground in order to maintain a continuity of consciousness between the struggle of one area and that of the next. This is why we continue to feel the need for class-rooted Party bodies such as factory, work or territorial groups, which group militant workers in the same area.
The IBRP has never deviated from these fundamentals, the groups in France, Canada, the United States and Germany — who joined the Bureau — acted within this framework. What we asked of the groups that affiliated with it was to have a basic document defining the organisation, a regular publication, a defined orientation towards the working class, and an ongoing practice that reflected that.
In the text 25 Years of the Bureau: Balance Sheet and Perspectives we analysed the reasons why we had not been more successful. Firstly, there is the fact that revolutionary minorities reflect the actual conditions of the class consciousness of the proletariat at a specific time. We do not live outside the working class or the real movement of history. Just at the time of the founding of the Bureau, the great class struggles (Polish strikes, strikes by Spanish porters and British miners), isolated as they were in their respective countries, were defeated or on the way to defeat. These defeats paved the way for capitalist restructuring and pushed back workers’ resistance a generation.
There are, of course, some things beyond our control and, as our original comrades on the Committee of Intesa said in 1926:
"It is a mistake to think that in every situation expedients and tactical manoeuvres can widen the party base since relations between the party and the masses depends on the objective situation."
What we can do, however, is act on the analysis we have carried out and improve the functioning of our organisation. This was the main task at the Bureau meeting in Milan in September 2009 which saw delegates from all sections present.
"We expect the crisis not only to continue but to deepen (in one way or another). We expect that the world working class will be made to pay for any policy of so-called recovery. We also expect that the current acceptance of austerity etc. by the working class to give way to increasing resistance and anger. We also expect inter-imperialist rivalries to become more acute and for many to become the innocent victims of intensified war. In this circumstance revolutionaries need to be as prepared and organised as possible."
For this reason, the Bureau, at the Parma assembly of May 2008 (see A New Development for the International Bureau), decided to take a step towards greater centralisation of activity. This was not a break with our previous positions, our founding documents have always predicted a time when the expansion of the Bureau would require at the same time a greater centralisation of its activities. The Bureau was conceived as a tool to participate in the process of forming an international and centralised Party of the proletariat, but at the same time we did not want, due to our very existence, to close this process prematurely. We had thus hesitated to create central bodies and instead relied on a common bond of trust and discussion. This still exists, and has become even stronger in recent years, but such a way of operation was somewhat awkward, particularly when it came to responding, with official positions, to sudden events or questions from individuals or groups about our work. In light of all this, at the Parma meeting it was agreed to establish a kind of "secretary" called a liaison committee between the various affiliated organizations. Its purpose was: to respond quickly to international issues, on behalf of the Bureau, to have responsibility for correspondence and discussion with other groups, to organise delegations in places where we were invited, to coordinate the preparation of international declarations, as well as the preparation and organisation of international conferences. The liaison committee worked well, but it was not fully representative of the entire organisation and it was unclear what its relationship was with individual members. At the 2009 Milan meeting, it was decided to take a further step forward from the IBRP’s organisational change, in order to better address the challenges of the near future, following the main decisions that were then taken.
• The basic framework and approach defined in our original documents remains unchanged. We have however to recognise that the Bureau has gone beyond its original membership and that in this event, as our original documents foresaw, we would gradually move towards a more centralised activity as the Bureau expanded. In view of this we decided that the Bureau should become the centralised coordinating body of our international organisation. It will be the link not only with the affiliated organisations in each country but with individuals in different countries. It will conduct all affairs relating to the functioning of the organisation as a whole (such as relations with other groups, correspondence, international statements and policies etc).
• The committee of liaison becomes the International Bureau, composed of one representative for each country where we are truly present which currently means Italy, Canada, UK, US and Germany.
• In order to give clearer expression to our existence as a united international organisation we decided to change the name of the organisation to the Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT). This does not express any alteration in the relationship between our groups nor does it mean that individual groups will abandon their responsibilities for deepening their presence inside the working class in the geographical areas where they are present. All the groups will retain their distinct methods of operation to suit the conditions where they work and will retain their individual names. Thus, for example, the CWO is still the CWO, but “British affiliate of the ICT”. Individuals in various countries are directly members of the ICT and are the responsibility of the International Bureau.
• Comrades responsible for the website would seek to find ways to make content available in various languages and thus improve international effectiveness.