Amadeo Bordiga's contribution to a programme of what fundamental principles communist organisations should organise themselves around, explaining historical materialism and criticising the Bolshevik conception of socialism in the process.
Amadeo Bordiga 1946
The Fundamentals for a Marxist Orientation
First Published: in Prometeo 1946;
HTML Mark-up: Andy Blunden 2003.
The Fundamentals for a Marxist Orientation
1. Marxism is not a matter of choice between conflicting opinions, in the sense that Marxism is connected with a historic tradition.
2. Orientation of the dialectic method of Marxism; the contradiction between the productive forces and social forms; classes, class struggle, party-conformism, reformism, anti-formism.
3. Interpretation of the characteristics of the present historic period, dialectic evolution of historic forms.
Political example: monarchy and republic.
Economic example: mercantilism.
Social example: the family.
Ideological example: Christian religion.
4. The Capitalist cycle: revolutionary phase, evolutionary and democratic phase, fascist and imperialist phase.
5. Proletarian strategy in the democratic-pacifist stage: Proletarian tactics in the phase of Imperialism, and of fascism.
6. The Russian Revolution: errors and deviations of the Third International; retrogression of the proletarian regime in Russia.
7. Present status of the problem of proletarian strategy; historic rejection of all support to liberal-democratic demands; negative solution to the argument for support of forces which lead capitalism into its most modern phase, monopolist on the economic plane, totalitarian in the political domain.
Before convincing anybody, it is necessary that they understand well the positions which we present. Persuasion, propaganda, proselytising comes later.
According to our conceptions, these opinions are not the result of the work of prophets, apostles, or of thinkers who hold that the brain gives birth to new truths, permitting of many followers.
The process is the opposite. It is the objective, impersonal work of a social vanguard which concentrates on and makes clear the theoretical positions which their common conditions of life bring them to as individuals, well before consciousness of them.
The method of Marxism is therefore anti-scholastic, anti-cultural, anti-revelation (illuminist). In the existing theoretical vacuum, reflecting the practical disorganisation, one must not be astonished, nor complain if the presentation of our position results at first in alienation instead of drawing closer, of a possible adherent.
Every political movement which presents its programme, claims for itself historical precedent, tradition, either recent or in the distant past, national or international.
The movement of which this magazine claims for itself are well, clearly defined origins. But as against the other movements, it did not originate from a revealed word (revelation), or from super-human beginnings. It does not recognise the authority of unchangeable texts, nor as points of reference, each question of legal rules, nor in any manner whatsoever recognise anything innate or inborn in the thoughts and senses of man.
This orientation can only be traced in terms of Marxism: Socialism, Communism, the political movement of the working class. It is a pity that these terms are abused. In 1917, Lenin considered it a fundamental question to change the name of the party, returning to the name Communist from the Communist Manifesto of 1848. Today, the great abuse of the name, Communist, by the parties which are far outside of any revolutionary class line, still creates immense confusion; movements that openly preserve bourgeois institutions, daring to say that they still are proletarian parties, like those of the Spanish anti-Franco parties.
The historic line of which we claim to be part is the following:
The Communist Manifesto of 1848, the fundamental works of Marx and Engels, which in classic fashion, restored revolutionary marxism against the revisionists-opportunists, which accompanied the revolutionary victory in Russia, 1917; the fundamental works of Lenin: the declaration which established the Third International and up to the First and Second Congress; the positions held by the Left in the succeeding Congresses, presented from 1922 on.
Limited to Italy this historic line is connected with the Left current of the Socialist Party during the war of 1914-1918; with the founding of the Communist Party of Italy at Leghorn in January 1921, with its Congress of Rome in 1922, with the activity of its left-wing dominant until the Congress in 1926; since then organising outside of the Communist Party of the Comintern; alien to it.
This line does not coincide with the line of the Trotskyist movement of the Fourth International. Trotsky revolted late, and Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, and the other Russian groups of the Bolshevik tradition still later, against the wrong tactics supported up to 1924, finally recognising the deviation, aggravated up to the overthrow of the fundamental political principles of the movement. Today the Trotskyists claim to have restored these principles, but their tactic of false manoeuvring, and of their liquidationist line, is falsely defined as Bolshevik and Leninist.
The basins of all investigation must be a consideration of the historic process as a whole; its development till now, and an objective examination of present social phenomena.
This method has been well stated often, but frequently as misleading in regard to its application. The fundamentals of the investigation of the material means by which human groupings satisfy their needs, that is, by an examination of productive technique, and inn connection with the development of which, economic relations arise. In the course of different epochs, these factors determine the superstructure composed of the legal institutions; political, military and the dominant ideologies.
The contradiction between the productive forces and the social forms manifests itself as a struggle between the classes who have antagonistic economic interests. In the final stages, this struggle becomes the armed struggle for the conquest of political power.
This method is denoted by the following expressions: historic materialism, dialectical materialism, economic determinism, scientific materialism and the communist critique.
The important thing is always to apply the results to the facts and not to a priori postulates, to clarify and explain human phenomena; not to myths or divinities; not to principles of right or natural ethics, such as Justice, Equality, Fraternity and other abstractions similar to them devoid of any sense. Most important, one must not capitulate to the pressure of the dominant ideology, or take refuge in illusory postulates, without a clear perception or without acknowledging it, when action intervenes anew, just at the most burning moments and at the instant of decisive conclusions. The dialectic method is the only one which overcomes the current contradiction between continuity and rigorous theoretical coherence on one hand, and on the other hand, the capacity to face critically old established conclusions in formal terms.
Its acceptance hasnt got the character of a faith, or a fanaticism of school or party.
The productive forces which consist in the main of the men adapted to production, in their groupings and in addition, the tools and mechanical means that are used, operate within the framework of forms of production.
We understand by forms, the disposition, and the relationships of interdependence within which is developed productive and social activity. We understand these forms to be all the established hierarchies (family, military, theocracy, politics). The state is all of these: the prerogatives and the tribunals connected with them; all the rules and dispositions of an economic and legal character which resist all transgression. Society assumes a given type as log as the productive forces maintain themselves within the framework of its forms of production. At a given moment in history, this equilibrium tends to be broken. From diverse causes, among them the progress of technique, the growth of population, expanding communication, increasing the productive forces. Those in contradiction with traditional forms, tending to break this framework in pieces, and when successful, one finds oneself in the presence of a revolution: the community organises itself into new economic, social and legal relationships. New forms take the place of old.
The dialectic method discovers, applies, and confirms its solutions on the grand scale of collective phenomena, and in a scientific and experimental manner, (methods that the thinkers of the bourgeois epoch applied to the natural world in the course of an ideological struggle which was the reflection of the revolutionary social struggle of their class against the theocratic and absolutist regimes, but which they were unable to extend into the social domain). They drew some conclusions acquired on this plane concerning the solutions of the problem of individual conduct, in opposition to the method employed by the schools of their religious, legal, philosophic and economic adversaries.
These held the standards of collective conduct on the inconsistent basis of the myth of the individual, held that being is individual spirit, mind, soul, and immortal, existing as juridical and civil subjects, existing as unchangeable units of economic policy, etc... Science has endeavoured to go beyond the many hypotheses on the material indivisible individual, to the study of atoms and to reduce them to irreducible units; it has defined complex points of meeting of lines of force radiating from the external field of energy; thus today one can say the cosmos is not the function of units, but that every unit is the function of the cosmos.
Those who believe in the individual and speak of personality, dignity, liberty, of the duties of a citizen, do not employ marxist thinking. That which moves man is not opinions, or beliefs or faiths, nor any phenomena whatsoever of so-called thought, which inspires their will or action. They are moved to act by their needs which are the interests arising from the same material necessities beckoning groups all over simultaneously. They collide with the limitations imposed by the surrounding social structure opposed to the satisfaction of these needs. They react individually and collectively in a sense which for the general average is determined in advance of the play of stimuli and reactions that give birth in the brain to sentiments, thoughts and judgements.
This phenomena is naturally of great complexity and perhaps in some cases are the reverse of the general law that is verified, however. But that as it may, whoever holds that individual consciousness, moral principles, opinions and decisions of the individual or the citizen, intervenes as moving cause in place of social and historic facts, has no right to be called a Marxist.
The contradiction between the productive forces and the social forms is manifested as a struggle between classes who have antagonistic economic interests. In the final stages, this struggle becomes the armed struggle for the conquest of power.
Class, struggle of classes, party
From the Marxist point of view, the class is not a concealed statistical data, but an organic active force, and it manifests itself when the simple convergence of economic conditions and interests widens into action and common struggle.
In these situations the movement is guided by the regroupments and organs of the vanguard, of which the modern form evolved is the class political party. The collectivity, from which the action culminates in the action of a party, operates in history with an efficiency and a real dynamic unable to be attained on the limited scale of individual action. It is the party which arrives at a theoretical consciousness of the development of events, and as a result, an influence on their future, inn the sense determined by the productive forces and by the relations of factors determining them.
One cannot clarify principles and directives without simplification, in spite of the great difficulty and complexity of problems. With this inn mind, we recognise therefore three types of political movements which include all the characteristics.
Conformist: the movements which struggle to preserve the forms and institutions in power by prohibiting all change, claiming immutable principles. They are of a religious, philosophic and legal character.
Reformist: the movements which, in not desiring the sharp and violent overthrow of traditional institutions, profit from the very strong pressure of the productive forces on them and sanctions gradual and partial changes of the existing order.
Revolutionary: (we adopt the provisional term anti-formists); the movements which demand and put into practice the attack on the old forms, and which even before knowing how to theorise about the character of the new regime, tend to break from the old, provoking the irresistible birth of new forms.
Conformism, reformism, antiformism
All schematisation presents the danger of errors. One might ask himself if the marxist dialectic is unable likewise to construct or contrive a general picture of historic events, in reducing their whole development to a series in the domination of classes, which are born revolutionary, become reformist and end up conservative. The advent of the classless society with the revolutionary victory of the proletariat poses a term suggestive of this development (that which Marx called the end of human pre-history).
But this term appears to be a metaphysical construction, like those false philosophies of the past. Hegel (as the epoch of Marx already proved) reduced his dialectic system to an absolute construction, falling, unconsciously, into a metaphysic that overshadowed the destructive part of his critique (i.e. philosophy reflecting the revolutionary struggle of the bourgeoisie). From this fact, Hegel continuing the classic philosophy of German idealism and of bourgeois thought, stated the absurd thesis that the history of action and thought must finally crystallise itself into a perfect system, in the conquest of the Absolute. The Marxist dialectic eliminates such a static conclusion.
Engels, in his classic exposition of scientific socialism, (as a theory opposed to Utopianism, which placed reliance on social reform through propaganda for the adoption of projects by the more comfortable classes of society, by a writer or a sect) seems perhaps to admit of a general rule or law of historic movement when he uses the expressions such as progress forward, world progress. These vigorous formulas of propaganda should not make one believe he has discovered a recipe in which is enclosed the infinite world of possible evolution of human society, a formula which is a substitute for the habitual bourgeois abstractions of evolution, civilisation, progress, etc.
The marvellous advantage of the dialectic method of investigation is essentially revolutionary. It manifests itself by the implacable destruction of innumerable theoretical systems which time after time, reveal the domination of privileged classes. For this cemetery of broken idols we must substitute, not a new myth, not a new sentiment, not a new credo, but the realistic expression of conditions of fact and of the most likely development that can be foreseen.
For example, the correct marxist formulation is not, one day the proletariat will take political power and destroy the system of capitalist society and construct the communist economy; but the opposite: only by its organisation as a class, and therefore in a political party, and the armed installation of its dictatorship, will the proletariat be able to destroy the power of the capitalist economy and render possible a non-capitalist, non-commercial economy. From the scientific point of view, one cannot exclude a different end to capitalism, such as a return to barbarism; a world catastrophe caused by armies at war having the character, for example, of a pathological degeneration of the human race. (The blind and those condemned to the disintegration of radio-active tissue, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a warning of other forms of destruction that cannot be foreseen at present).
The revolutionary Communist movement of this period of convulsions, must be characterised not only by the theoretical destruction of all conformism and reformism of the present world, but also by its practical positions. Its tactics can have no common road with any movement whatsoever, conformist or reformist, in no sector, nor for any period of time. It must be based above all, on the historically acquired knowledge that capitalism has exhausted its initial anti-formism, that is to say, it is not its task any longer to destroy pre-capitalist forms, and of resistance to the restoration of these pre-capitalist forms.
This is not to deny that as log as powerful forces developed capitalism, there was an accelerated, unprecedented rhythm in the transformation of the world economy. Under these conditions the proletarian class was able and did, in a dialectic manner condemn it from a doctrinal viewpoint and supported it in action.
An essential difference between the metaphysical method and the dialectical method resides precisely in that.
A given type of institution, political and social organisation is not good or bad in itself, to accept or reject, after examining its characteristics according to general principles or rules.
In following the dialectical interpretation of history one finds that each institution has had successively, a role and influence, at first revolutionary, then progressive, and finally conservative.
The dialectical evolution of historical forms
The question is, to put in its proper relationship each aspect of the problem, the productive forces and the social factors:
It is a metaphysical position which declares in principle: Authority or liberty, royalist or republican, aristocrat or democrat, and refers in polemic to rules placed outside of the historic context. Plato had already in his first tentative system of political science, gone beyond the mystical absolutism of principles, and Aristotle followed it in distinguishing three types the power of one, the few, -the many, the good forms and the bad: monarchy and tyranny aristocracy and oligarchy democracy and demagogy.
The modern analysis since Marx, goes much further. In the present historic phase, nearly all political formulas of propaganda use the worst traditional motifs of superstitious religions, legal forms, and philosophies of all sorts.
It is necessary to oppose this chaos of ideas the reflection of the chaos of relations of interests of a society in decay.
In order to introduce this analysis, it is necessary to proceed to an analogous evaluation of the well-known relationships of preceding historic epochs.
Beginning with the economic forms, it is in no sense necessary to declare oneself a partisan in general of communist or private economy, liberal or monopolist, individual or collective, nor praise the merits of each system according to the general well-being: in following that method one falls into Utopianism, which is the exact opposite of the Marxist dialectic.
The classic example of Engels on Communism as the negation of the negation is well known. The first forms of human production were Communist. Private property next appeared; a system much more complex and efficient. From this, human society returns to Communism. This modern communism would be unrealisable, if primitive communism had not been superseded, conquered and destroyed by the system of private property. The marxist considers as an advantage, this initial transformation. What we say of communism applies as well to all other economic forms such as slavery, serfdom, manufacturing capitalism, industrial capitalism, and thus consequently.
The petty-trading (mercantile) economy, in which objects satisfying human needs cease to be directly acquired and consumed by the primitive producer, which is the end of barbarism, becoming objects of exchange, through barter at first, with money developing as a means of exchange later, represented a great social revolution.
It made possible the adaptation of different individuals to diverse productive work (division of labour), enlarging and differentiating enormously the character of social life. One can recognise at the same time the changes from one stage to the other in stating that after a series of types of economic organisation, based on the common principle of mercantilism (slavery, feudalism, capitalism) the trend today is to a non-mercantile economy, rejecting the thesis that production is impossible without monetary exchange of merchandise as a conformist and reactionary principle.
The abolition of mercantilism can succeed today, and only today because of the fact of collective labour and the concentration of productive forces. Capitalism, last of the mercantile economies, in realising this development and concentration, makes possible the breaking of the bonds within which all use-values circulate as merchandise and in which human work itself is treated as such.
A century before this stage, a critique of the mercantile system, based on the general reasoning at the base of its philosophy, legal or moral code would have been sheer folly.
The various types of social systems which have successively appeared and lived out their collective life, differentiating themselves from primitive individualism, going through an immense cycle, the relations within which the individual life and movement becomes more and more complex, cannot be individually judged as favourable or unfavourable. They must be considered in relation to their historic development which comprises a variable role in the diverse transformations and revolutions.
Each of these institutions surges up as a revolutionary conquest, develops and reforms in the long historic cycles, becoming finally a reactionary obstacle and conformist.
The institution of the family appears as the first social form at the time inn the human species when the bond between parents and offspring prolongs itself well beyond the period that is physiologically necessary.
The first form of authority as then born, exercised by the mother, afterwards by the father over their descendants, even when they are physically developed and vigorous. At that stage we are therefore in the presence of a revolution since there appeared the first possibility of a collectively organised life which constitutes the base of development which leads ultimately to the first form of organised society and the State.
The new social system of a more vast nature, contains and disciplines the institution of the family, as inn the first cities, states, and aristocratic regimes, afterwards in the bourgeois regime. All are based on the institution of inherited taboos (conventions).
There then appears the necessity of an economy which supersedes the play of individual interests. The institution of the family, with its too narrow limits, becomes an obstacle and a reactionary element in society.
Without denying its historic role, the modern communists, after observing that the capitalist system has already deformed and dissolved the sanctity of the family institution, fights it openly and proposes to supplant it.
The different forms of the State, monarchy and republic alternate in the Course of history, in a complex manner and are represented in one or the other historic situations as revolutionary, progressive or conservative.
It can be admitted that before it disappears, capitalism attains the liquidation of dynastic regimes which today are few in number. But, on this question, one must not proceed to absolute judgements situated outside of time and space.
The first monarchies appeared as the political expression of the division of material tasks; such elements as the family unit, or the primitive tribe were assigned to defence or pillage, by armed attack against other groups and peoples. The others turned to the hunt, to fishing, to agriculture or the first beginnings of artisanship. The first warriors and kings attained therefore, the privilege of power at major risk. Yet social forms still appear there of a most developed and complex nature, previously impossible, representing the road toward a revolution in social relationships.
To successive epochs, the institution of monarchy made possible the establishment and development of vast national state organisations against the federations of principalities and small nobility. It had an innovating and reforming function. Dante is the monarchical reformist at the beginning of Modern Times.
More recently, the monarchy and republic has assumed in the wealthier countries a stricter form of power of the bourgeoisie.
It used to be possible for republican parties and movements, of a revolutionary. reformist, and conservative character to exist side by side.
As for the rest, some accessible and simplified examples were the revolutionary Brutus who hunted Tarquin; the reformist Gracchi who looked to give to the aristocratic republic a content conforming to the interests of the plebeians: the reactionary and conformist traditional republicans such as Cato and Cicero, who struggled against the grandiose historic evolution represented by the expansion of the Roman Empire with its legal and social forms, in the antique world.
Among modern examples it suffices to point out as respectively antiformist, reformist and conformist, the three republics of France; 1793, 1848, and 1871.
The crises arising in the economic forms are reflected not only in political and social institutions, but also in religious beliefs and philosophic opinions.
It is in relation to historic situations and social crisis that one must consider the legal norms, religious positions, or philosophies, since each appear successively under the revolutionary banner, reformist banner, or conformist banner.
The movement which bears the name of Christ was antiformist and revolutionary. To state that in every man there exists a soul of divine origin and destined to immortality, whatever his social position or caste, was equivalent to rise up in revolution against the oppressive forms, and the slavery, of the Orient. As long as the law permitted the human person to be an object of transactions; to be merchandise like an animal; to state the equality of believers meant a slogan of struggle which came up against the implacable resistance of the theocratic organisation of judges, aristocrats, and military, in the state of antiquity.
After long historic phases and the abolition of slavery, Christianity became official religion and pillar of the State.
We recognise its reformist cycle in the Europe of modern times in struggling against the excessive connection of the Church with layers of the most privileged and most oppressive.
Today there is no ideology more conformist than Christianity, which already in the period of the French revolution, made its doctrine and organisation the arms for the most powerful resistance by the old regimes.
Today the powerful network of the Church and religious confession on every hand reconciles and is officially in accord with the Capitalist Regime. It is employed as a fundamental means of defence against the danger of proletarian revolution.
In regard to the social relationships of today, which it acquired long before; that each particular individual represented an economic enterprise, theoretically susceptible of an active or passive commerce, the superstition which encloses each individual in the circle of a moral reckoning of his acts, and the illusion of a life after death determined by this reckoning, is nothing but the reflection in the brain of man of present bourgeois society founded on private economy.
It is therefore impossible to lead the struggle for breaking through the framework of an economy of private enterprise and individual moral reckoning, without taking a position openly anti-religious and Anti-Christian.
The capitalist cycle
In the principle countries, the modern bourgeoisie has already gone through three characteristic historic stages.
The bourgeoisie begins as an openly revolutionary class and leads an armed struggle to break the chains with which feudal and clerical absolutism tied the productive forces of peasants to the land and the artisans to medieval corporations (guilds).
The necessity of liberation from these chains presents itself at the same time as that of developing the productive forces, which with the resources of modern technique, tends to concentrate the workers into great masses.
In order to give a fee development to these new economic forms, it is necessary to batter down by force, the traditional regimes. The bourgeois class not only lead the insurrectionary struggle, but established after its first victory, an iron dictatorship, in order to put an end to the monarchies, the feudal lords, and the ecclesiastical dignitaries attempts to return to power.
The capitalist class appears in history as an antiformist force, leading the process of breaking all material and ideological obstacles; its thinkers throw over the criteria of the antique world and its old beliefs in a most radical manner.
For the theories of the authority of divine right, they substitute those of popular sovereignty, of equality, and political liberty and proclaim the necessity of representative institutions. Pretending mercy, they claim the power will be the expression of a collective will, manifested freely, without restraint.
The liberal and democratic principle appears clearly revolutionary and antiformist in this phase, so much so that it is not applied by pacifist or legal methods, but goes over to violence and revolutionary terror, through which the victorious class defends itself against the attempts at reactionary restorations by its dictatorship.
In the second phase, the capitalist regime becomes stabilised. The bourgeoisie proclaims itself the representative of the higher development of the whole social collectivity of its welfare, and goes through a relatively tranquil development of productive forces; of submission of the whole world, adapted to its system; of intensification of the economic rhythm as a whole. This is the progressive and reformist phase of the capitalist cycle.
In this phase, parliamentary democracy functions parallel to the reformist orientation. The directing class is interested that its own organisation appear susceptible of representing and reflecting the interests and demands of the working class. Its government pretends to satisfy them with the economic measures and legislation designed to allow the legal norms of the bourgeois system to be maintained.
Parliamentarism and democracy are not revolutionary slogans any longer. They take on a reformist content which guarantees the development of the capitalist system in warding off the violent clashes and explosions of the class struggles.
The third phase is that of modern imperialism, characterised by the monopolist concentration of the economy, the formation of unions and capitalist trusts and the great State plans.
The bourgeois economy transforms itself and loses the characteristics of classic liberalism, in which each business enterprise was autonomous in making its economic decisions, and in its relations to exchange. A more and more strict discipline is imposed on production and distribution. The economic indices of production and distribution are no longer the result of the free play of forces, but the influence of associations of capitalists at first, of organs of banking and finance afterwards, and finally the direction of the State. The political state, which in the Marxist parlance, was the executive committee of the bourgeoisie, and was as much government as police protector, asserted itself more and more as the organ of control and even of administration of the economy.
This concentration of economic powers in the hands of the state is not to be interpreted as a step from private economy to a collective economy. To do so, would be to ignore that the contemporary state expresses uniquely, the interests of a minority, and that all nationalisation realised in the framework of commodity exchange, leads to a concentration which strengthens the capitalist character of the economy at the very point of its weakening. The political development of the parties of the bourgeoisie in this contemporary phase (as Lenin clearly proved in his critique of modern imperialism) lends itself to the most narrow forms of oppression; the advent of totalitarianism and fascist regimes was this manifestation.
These regimes constitute the most modern political type of bourgeois society in its present evolution. This will become always more evident as the road to be travelled by the whole world. A parallel aspect of this political concentration resides in the absolute predominance of a few great states at the expense of the autonomy of impoverished and minor states.
The appearance of this third capitalist phase is not to be confused with the return of forms of pre-capitalist institutions, since this phase is accompanied by a growth to giddy heights of an industrial and financial dynamic, ignored in quality and quantity in the pre-bourgeois world.
Capitalism repudiates the democratic and representative apparatus and establishes centres of government absolutely despotic.
In some countries it has already theorised and proclaimed the formation of one totalitarian party, and hierarchical centralisation. In other countries it continues to employ democratic slogans which are henceforth without content. All are marching inexorably in the same direction.
For a correct evaluation of the contemporary historic process, the correct position is the following: the period of liberalism and democracy is closed. The democratic demands, which had formerly a revolutionary character, afterwards progressive and reformist, are today anachronisms and clearly conformist.
Proletarian strategy in the different phases of the capitalist cycle
The cycle of the proletarian movement corresponds to that of the capitalist world.
During the formation of the great industrial proletariat, the critique of the economic, juridical and political formulations of the bourgeoisie makes its appearance. One discovers that the bourgeois class neither liberates nor emancipates humanity. It substitutes its own class domination and its system of exploitation for that of the other class which preceded it, and this discovery is theorised.
The workers of all countries do not struggle at all times by the side of the bourgeoisie in order to overthrow feudal institutions, and they do not fall into the trap of reactionary socialism, which, brandishing the spectre of a new, merciless capitalist employer, calls upon the workers to ally themselves with the leading monarchical and agrarian classes.
Even in the struggle that the young capitalist regimes lead to prevent reactionary restoration, the proletariat is unable to refuse support to the bourgeoisie.
The strategy of the proletariat begins to anticipate anti-bourgeois movements in the same spirit of the insurrectionary struggle as carried on at the side of the bourgeoisie, in a manner arriving immediately at the simultaneous liberation from feudal oppression and capitalist exploitation.
One finds an embryonic manifestation of this fact in the Great French Revolution with Babeufs League of the Equals.
Theoretically, this movement is immature; but the bourgeoisie exercising in its victory, an implacable repression against the workers who had fought for its interests, were given a significant historic lesson.
On the eve of the bourgeois and national revolutionary wave of 1848, the theory of the class struggle was already completely elaborated. The relationships between bourgeoisie and proletarian are henceforth very clear on the European and world scale.
Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, projected the alliance with the bourgeoisie against the parties of monarchical restoration in France and Prussian conservatism; at the same time that the immediate development towards a revolution envisaged the conquest of power by the working class. In this historic phase, the attempt at workers revolt is mercilessly repressed, but the doctrine and strategy of the class corresponding to this phase confirms itself on the historic road of the marxist method.
The great attempt by the Paris Commune to produce in the same situation and corresponding to the same historic evaluation, which at the time the self-same French proletariat, after having overthrown Napoleon III, assured the victory of the Bourgeois Republic, attempted still, at the same time, the conquest of power, and gave for some months, the first historic example of its class government.
What is most significant and suggestive in this episode is the anti-proletarian alliance, without conditions, of the democratic bourgeoisie with the conservatives and with the victorious Prussian Army in order to crush the first attempt at the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In the second phase, in which reformism is connected to the framework of bourgeois economy, representative and parliamentary systems are largely made use of. An alternative of historic significance poses itself for the proletariat.
Theoretically the question is posed as to the interpretation of revolutionary doctrine considered as a critique of bourgeois institutions and all the ideologies it defends.
The overthrow of capitalist domination and the substitution of a new economic order will take place with the violent collision, or will be able to arrive at a new economic order through gradual change and the use of parliamentary legalism.
In practice, the question is, to know whether the party of the working class must any longer associate itself with the bourgeoisie against the forces of pre-capitalist regimes, (those last are disappearing at the present time). At least allied with an advanced and progressive party of the bourgeoisie, more disposed to reform of its organisation.
The present revision of Marxism developed during the idyllic intermediate period of capitalism between 1871 and 1914. It falsified directives and the fundamental texts of the doctrine. It established a new strategy, according to which vast economic and political organisations of the working class must prepare a gradual transformation of the whole capitalist economic machine by penetrating and conquering the political institutions legally.
The polemics of this phase, divided the proletarian movement into opposing tendencies. Although in general, the question of the necessity of insurrectionary assault to break the bourgeois power was not posed, the left marxists resisted extremely vigorously, the tactic of collaboration in the unions and on the parliamentary plane. Therefore the left marxists were opposed to the proposition of support to bourgeois governments and opposed the participation of the socialist parties in ministerial coalitions.
In the third phase capitalism faces the double necessity of continuing to develop the productive forces and avoid the break-down of the equilibrium of its organisation. That is why it is compelled to abandon liberal and democratic methods, leading to an equal concentration in the hands of the powerful state organs, of economic life, and political domination. In this phase as well, two alternatives are posed for the workers movement.
Theoretically we must state the strictest form of domination by the capitalist class constitutes a necessary phase; the most developed and modern that capitalism has reached, in order to arrive at the end of its cycle, exhausting its historic possibilities.
Therefore the sharp use of political-police methods is not a temporary phenomena, after which we would return to forms pretending liberal tolerance.
From the tactical viewpoint, it is false and illusory to pretend that the proletariat must begin a struggle to press capitalism to return to liberal and democratic concessions, because the climate of democratic politics is no longer necessary for the ultimate growth of capitalist productive energies, an indispensable premise for the socialist economy.
In the first revolutionary bourgeois phase, the question was not only posed by history, but found a solution in the parallel struggle of the Third and Fourth Estates; the alliance between the two classes being an indispensable step on the road toward socialism.
In the second phase, the question is legitimately posed of a parallel action between democratic reformism and the proletarian socialist parties. If history has given reason to answer, No, by the left revolutionary marxists to the revisionist right wing, and the reformists, they cannot be considered conformist before the fatal degeneration of 1914-1918. If in effect they believed the wheels of history turned at a slow rhythm, they still did not attempt to turn the wheels back. It is necessary to render this justice to Bebel, JaurÃ¨s and Turati.
In the present phase of Imperialism, which has seen the most avid and ferocious world wars, the question of a parallel action between the proletariat and the democratic bourgeoisie is no longer posed historically. Those who maintain the opposite view, no longer represent an alternative version or tendency of the workers movement. They have made nothing but the complete passage to the conservatism of Conformism.
The only alternative posed today and to which it is necessary to answer to, is the other. The development of the world capitalist regime is centralist, totalitarian, and fascist. Must the working class be allied to the movement that has become the sole Reformist aspect of the domination of the bourgeoisie? Can Socialism in its beginnings, be installed through this inexorable advance of State Capitalism? Should the working class help to disperse the last traditional resistance of the free-enterprisers, liberals, and bourgeois conformists of the first period?
Or, on the contrary, must the workers movement, hard struck and dislocated for being incapable of realising its independence from class-collaboration in two world wars, reconstruct itself by rejecting such a method and the illusion that the bourgeois regime represents historically a bourgeois pacifist organisation susceptible of legal penetration, or at least, most vulnerable to the pressure of the masses (answers which constitute two forms equally dangerously defeatist in relation to the whole revolutionary movement)?
The dialectic method of Marxism answers this question of an alliance with the new modern bourgeois forms, for the same reasons that yesterday it fought the alliance with reformism of the democratic and pacifist phase.
Capitalism, dialectic premise of socialism, has no need of help in being born (affirming its revolutionary dictatorship), nor to grow (in its liberal and democratic phase).
In the modern phase, it must inevitably concentrate its economic and political forms in a monstrous unity.
Its transformation and its reformism assures its development at the same time as its conservatism.
The movement of the working class will reject succumbing to bourgeois domination by refusing aid to the developing phases, necessary to capitalism. The working class must recognise its forces outside of these antiquated perspectives, by freeing itself from the burden of old traditions and denouncing the whole historic epoch in which the working class retarded its own development because of tactical harmony with all forms of reformism.
The Russian revolution
The most burning problem of contemporary history in the present epoch from the end of the world war, was the crisis of the czarist regime; its feudal state structure; and its backward capitalist development.
The Left Marxist, Lenin, and the Bolsheviks has already developed for decades its position with the strategic perspective of leading the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, simultaneously with all the anti-absolutist forces, for the overthrow of the feudal empire.
The war permitted the realisation of this great goal, and concentrated in the brief span of nine months, the passage of power from the hands of the dynasty, aristocracy and clergy, to that of the proletariat, while on the way, it passed through a government of bourgeois democratic parties.
This great development gave the world an enormous push on questions relating to the class struggle; the struggle for power; to the strategy of proletarian revolution, and to the regroupment of tendencies.
In this brief period, the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary party went through all the phases: struggle by the side of the bourgeoisie, who were uneasy over the downfall of the old feudal state and tried to construct its own property system; split with and struggle against the reformist and gradualist parties of the workers movement, until the exclusive monopoly of power was in the hands of the working class and the Communist Party.
The historic repercussion of these facts on the workers movement was a crushing defeat for revisionism and collaboration. The proletarian parties of all countries oriented themselves toward the armed struggle for power.
But the false interpretations produced by the application of Russian tactics and strategy to the other countries, relying on a Kerensky regime and applying a politics of coalition, which pretended support as a rope supports a hanging man, in order to deal the death blow at a decisive turning of events, were ruinous.
It is forgotten that in Russia, the successive phases of the movement relied intimately on the late formation of the political state of the capitalists. Whereas in the other countries this capitalist political state had been stabilised for a century, or at least for some decades and was stronger because its legal structure was most clearly democratic and parliamentary.
It is not understood that the alliance between Bolsheviks and non-Bolsheviks in the insurrectionary battles, and even sometimes to prevent the attempt at feudal restoration, represented historically the last example of such a relation of political forces. The proletarian revolution in Germany, for example, if it had been victorious, as Marx waited for the crisis of 1848, would have followed the same tactical line of the Russian Revolution: in 1918, the bourgeoisie would have been unable to win if the revolutionary communist party had had sufficient forces to sweep away the bloc of the Kaiser, the bourgeoisie, and the social-democrats in power in the Weimar Republic.
The International Communist movement swung completely away from the correct revolutionary strategy when Italy, presenting the first example of a totalitarian type of bourgeois government, assigned the proletariat to the struggle for liberty and constitutional guarantees within an anti-fascist coalition, a strategic position fundamentally false.
To confuse Hitler and Mussolini, reformers of the Capitalist regime in the most modern sense, with Kornilov or the forces of the restoration and of the Holy Alliance of 1815, is the greatest error of evaluation and signifies the total abandonment of the revolutionary method.
The imperialist phase, matured economically in all modern countries, appeared and will appear, in its fascist political form as a given succession of immediate relationship of forces between states and states, class and class in the various countries of the world.
This phase could be considered as a new opportunity for the revolutionary assault by the proletariat. But the proletariat is not taking the opportunity to do so. To confuse the forces of the communist vanguard with the illusory aim of stopping the bourgeoisie from abandoning its legality, or to demand a restoration of constitutional guarantees to the parliamentary system, is false. On the contrary, the proletariat must accept the historic issue of this instrument of bourgeois oppression and the invitation to struggle outside the legality in order to attempt to smash the rest of the apparatus police, military, bureaucracy, and juridical of the capitalist power and the State.
The passage of the Communist Parties to the strategy of a great anti-fascist bloc, aggravated again in the anti-German war of 1939 with the slogans of national collaboration, partisan movements of committees of national liberation, up to the scandal of ministerial coalition, has signified the second disastrous defeat for the world revolutionary movement.
There can be no revival of the proletarian revolutionary movement as long as theory, organisation and action is not freed in struggle against this kind of politics which solidarises the socialist and communist parties inspired by Moscow.
The new movement must base itself on a political line precisely the opposite of the slogans of these opportunist movements, whose anti-fascism put them in a position completely in line with the fascist evolution of the social organisation.
The new revolutionary movement of the proletariat must base itself on the following line:
1). Reject the perspective according to which after the defeat of Italy, Germany and Japan, the phase of return to democracy would be reopened. On the contrary, confirmation that the war was accompanied by a transformation to fascist methods of government in the victor countries, even if the reformist and labourite parties participated in the government. Refuse to demand the return to liberal forms an illusory demand and not to the interests of the proletariat.
2). Confirmation that the present Russian regime has lost its proletarian character, along with the abandonment of revolutionary politics by the Third International. This has lead back to the reestablishment of bourgeois content, in the political, economic and social forms of Russia. This evolution is not a return to antique forms of autocratic tyranny. or pre-bourgeois forms, but is the advent, by a different historic road of the same type of social organisation at present essentially evolved by State Capitalism of countries with a totalitarian regime. A regime in which the great State plans open up a road of important development and give those countries a high imperialist potential.
In face of such a situation, we do not demand that Russia return to parliamentary democratic forms, which are in decay in all the modern states. On the contrary, we work for the reestablishment of a completely revolutionary communist party in Russia.
3). Reject all invitation to national solidarity with classes and parties, who yesterday claimed the over-throw of that which they called totalitarian, in combating the Axis states, only in order to reconstruct it by legal methods, through the reconstruction of world capitalism, ruined by the war.
4). Reject the manoeuvre and tactic of the united front; that is, reject the invitation of so-called socialists and Communists, which cannot result in anything proletarian issuing forth from their so-called proletarian unity.
5). Struggle against all ideologies which attempt to mobilise the working classes of different countries on the patriotic front for the third Imperialist War. Against the demand to fight for Red Russia against American-Anglo-Saxon Imperialism. Against supporting the democracy of the West against Stalinist totalitarianism in a war falsely presented as anti-fascist.