The immediate program of the revolution - Amadeo Bordiga

A short article on revolutionary demands, by Amadeo Bordiga, from 'Sul filo del tempo', May 1953.

  1. With the resurgence of the movement which occurred on a world scale after the First World War and which was expressed in Italy by the founding of the PCI, it became clear that the most pressing question was the seizure of political power, which the proletariat could not accomplish by legal means but through violence, that the best opportunity for reaching that end was the military defeat of one’s own country, and that the political form after victory was to be the dictatorship of the proletariat, which in turn is the first precondition for the following task of socio-economic overthrow.

  2. The “Communist Manifesto” clearly pointed out the different measures are to be grasped as gradually possible and "despotic" - because the road to complete communism is very long - in dependence upon the level of development of the productive forces in the country in which the proletariat first attains victory and in accordance with how quickly this victory spreads to other countries. It designates the measures which in 1848 were the order of the day for the advanced countries and it emphasizes that they are not to be treated as complete socialism but as steps which are to be identified as preliminary, immediate and essentially “contradictory”.

  3. Later in some countries many of the measures at that time considered to be those of the proletarian dictatorship were implemented by the bourgeoisie itself: i.e. free public education, a national bank etc.

    This was one of the aspects which deceived those who did not follow a fixed theory, but believed it required perpetual further development as a result of historical change.

    That the bourgeoisie itself took these specific measures does not mean that the exact laws and predictions on the transition from the capitalist to the socialist mode of production have to be changed in their entire economic, political and social configuration; It only means that the first post-revolutionary, the lower and final higher stages of socialism (or total communism) are still antecedent periods, which is to say that the economics of transition will be somewhat easier.

  4. The distinguishing mark of classical opportunism was to make believe that the bourgeois democratic state could accomplish all these measures from first to last if only the proletariat brought enough pressure to bear, and that it was even possible to accomplish this in a legal manner. However these various “corrections” - insofar as they were compatible with the capitalist mode of production - were in that case in the interest of the survival of capitalism and their implementation served to postpone its collapse, while those which were not compatible were naturally not applied.

  5. With its formula of an always more widely developed popular democracy within the context of the parliamentary constitution contemporary opportunism has taken up a different and more evil duty.

    Not only does it make the proletariat think that a state standing over classes and parties is capable of carrying out some of its own fundamental tasks (which is to say it diffuses defeatism with regards to dictatorship - like social democracy before it), it deploys the masses it organizes in struggles for “democratic and progressive” social arrangements in diametrical opposition to those which proletarian power has set as its goal since 1848 and the “Manifesto”.

  6. Nothing better illustrates the full magnitude of this retrogression then a listing of the measures to take after the seizure of power in a country of the capitalist West. After a century these “corrections” are different from those enumerated in the “Manifesto”, however their characteristics are the same.

  7. A listing of these demands looks like this:

    1. “De-investment of capital” means of production are assigned a smaller proportion in relation to consumer goods.

    2. “Increase of production costs” - so that as long as wages, money and the market still exist - more remuneration is exchanged for less labor time.

    3. “Drastic reduction of labor time” - by at least half as unemployment and socially useless and damaging activities will shortly become things of the past.

    4. A reduction in the mass of what is produced through an “under-production plan” which is to say the concentration of production on what is necessary as well as an “authoritarian regulation of consumption” by which the promotion of useless, damaging and luxury consumption goods is combated and activities which propagate a reactionary mentality are violently prohibited.

    5. Rapid “dissolution of the boundaries of the enterprise” whereby decisions on production are not assigned to the workforce, but the new consumption plan determines what is to be produced.

    6. “Rapid abolition of social services” whereby the charity hand-outs characteristic of commodity production are replaced by a social (initial minimum) provision for those incapable of work.

    7. “Construction freeze” on the rings of housing and workplaces around major and small cities in order to spread the population more and more equally throughout the land area of the country. With a ban on unnecessary transportation, limitation of traffic and speed of transportation.

    8. “A decisive struggle against professional specialization” and the social division of labor though the removal of any possibility of making a career or obtaining a title.

    9. Immediate politically determined measures to put the schools, the press, all means of communication and information, as well as the entire spectrum of culture and entertainment under the control of the communist state.

  8. It is not surprising that the Stalinists and those akin to them, together with their parties in the West today demand precisely the reverse - not only in terms of the “institutional” and also political-legal objectives, but even in terms of the “structural” which is to say socio-economic objectives.

    The cause of this is their coordination with the party which presides over the Russian state and its fraternal countries, where the task of social transformation remains that of transition from pre-capitalist forms to capitalism: With all the corresponding ideological, political, social, and economic demands and pretensions in their baggage aiming towards a bourgeois zenith - they turn away with horror only from a medieval nadir.

    Their Western cronies remain nauseating renegades insofar as the feudal danger (which is still material and real in insurgent areas of Asia) is non-existent and false with regards to the bloated super-capitalism across the Atlantic and for the proletarians who stagnate under its civilized, liberal and nationalist knout it is a lie.

Posted By

Jun 6 2016 22:22


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Apr 12 2018 03:52

Thanks for the English Translation.

In sinistra the source is mentioned as: «Il Programma Comunista», Nr.1, 1953

Apr 17 2018 23:17

Thanks for this, Craftwork.

Looking at the Italian, I thought the beginning of the second point could be more precisely translated.
If you mind I'd suggest something like:
"The 'Communist Manifesto' clearly pointed out that the successive social measures which render themselves gradually possible or are brought about 'despotically' - the road to complete communism being very long - are different according to the degree of development of productive forces in the countries in which the proletariat first attains victory, and according to the pace with which this victory extends itself to other countries."

Noteworthy that this transitional programme - quite the opposite of Bolshevik productivism or so-called 'socialist accumulation' - has a lot in common with Loren Goldner's sketch of a similar thing, here: (under 'Program' and 'Tentative final remarks')

Feb 20 2020 20:54

Where you can see Bordiga as a sky god, worshipped by Maoist angels, and his contribution on the immediate measures of the proletarian revolution is read out by a robot voice which hints at a large US tech corporation.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Feb 23 2020 17:16

Point 7, section 9 comes out with this shit, which could have been written by Mao or Xi Jinping (they certainly carried out this part of his terrifying program):

“Immediately determined political measures to put the schools, the
press, all means of communication and information as well as the entire
spectrum of culture and entertainment under the control of the communist

Can anybody explain that just because this repulsive Leninist opposed Stalinism that makes him any the less a proponent of state capitalism than Stalin or Lenin even if he makes gestures towards abolishing wage labour and the commodity form? How can anybody who wants to contribute to attacking dominant social relations say the remotest thing positive about this authority figure, this promoter of party politics, even if, along with almost everybody throughout the world history including Stalin or Churchill or your racist neighbour down the road, he said some occasionally pertinent things?

Nobody who wants to contribute to a revolution should even tolerate a Bordigist one minute if they’re to maintain a minimum of integrity.

Mar 6 2020 06:05

Nymphalis Antiopa, I don't see the problem with that quote. The exact same idea worded in a 'nicer' way by say a council communist would be:

"Immediately determined political measures to put the schools, the press, all means of communication and information as well as the entire spectrum of culture and entertainment under the control of the workers themselves / workers' councils / dictatorship of the proletariat."

The alternative would be a revolution where the bourgeoisie would still have hold of education, media and communication in general. That would be a huge problem. It seems obvious to me that all that would be expropriated from the bourgeoisie. Imagine a revolution where The Sun has no problems publishing. There's nothing wrong with censoring capitalists. Debord, inspired by Clausewitz, was adamant that in order to win a battle you needed to cut the enemy's communication lines. It's what they already do with us, "freedom" of the press is a sham.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.

The German Ideology

Just as the presence of the ruling ideology does not suffice to maintain existing social relations, but must in turn be supported by the material forces of the state apparatus, so a counter-ideology will remain just this unless it can produce material forces stronger than those reflected by the ruling ideology. If this is not the case, the quality of the counter-ideology, whether it is merely intuitive or based on scientific considerations, does not matter and neither the intellectual nor the worker can effect a change in the existing social relations. Revolutionaries may or may not be allowed to express their views, depending on the mentality that dominates the ruling class, but under whatever conditions they will not be able to dislodge the ruling class by ideological means. In this respect the ruling class has all the advantage, since with the means of production and the forces of the state it controls instrumentalities for the perpetuation and dissemination of its own ideology. As this condition persists until the actual overthrow of a given social system, revolutions must take place with insufficient ideological preparation. In short, the counter-ideology can triumph only through a revolution that plays the means of production and political power into the hands of the revolutionaries. Until then, revolutionary class consciousness will always be less effective than the ruling ideology.

Paul Mattick

I think you might've confused revolutionary measures with a description of communist society. Bordiga is not saying the State would continue to exist in a communist society.

Mar 6 2020 11:07

BFT, Valid point but the same criticism of Goldner's texts mentioned above applies to this with the added importance of criticising Bordiga's and some other Left Communist's understanding of the role of 'The Party and the State' in the 'long road' to communism.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Mar 12 2020 14:05


Thanks for enlightening me to the fact that the media and education are in the hands of the bourgeoisie, and that the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class – inspired by your example, I’m now off to tell my grandmother how to suck eggs.

Proletarians certainly need to practically (not just “theoretically”) suppress all hierarchical forms of “education”, media and culture – but that goes for both bourgeois forms and Bordigist or Leninist forms. Any revolution that doesn’t involve immediately determined anti-political measures to abolish schools, give free reign to all forms of communication other than those of the ruling class, that doesn’t abolish culture, ‘entertainment’ and education as separate spheres, is a petrified pseudo-revolution, ie not one that abolishes all that exists independently of the free association of individuals.

Why do you not answer my point that this part of his statist programme could have been written by Mao or Xi Jinping? The uninterestingly political (as opposed to interestingly anti-political) Bordiga supported the crushing of Kronstadt and remained a faithful adorer of the obnoxious self-defined state capitalist Lenin till the end of his life. Given this, to substitute Bordiga’s “the communist state” for the “nicer” version - “the workers themselves / workers' councils / dictatorship of the proletariat." is a typical political manipulative sleight-of-hand. It would be like saying there’s no difference between totalitarian China and anti-state assemblies of recallable delegates, or that there’s no difference between a National Socialist and a libertarian socialist – just that the latter is a “nicer” version.

There is no “transitional stage” (as you imply) between “revolutionary measures” that involve the state and “communist society”. Given that “communism is the real movement that abolishes the present state of things” (also from The German Ideology) – the whole ideology of the “withering away of the state”, whether in the mouth of Lenin or Bordiga or Thatcher, has invariably been used to justify the state’s reinforcement. I mean - putting pseudo-education in the hands of the state, the monologue of the media in the hands of the state and all the other false separations generated by class society in the hands of the state would invariably involve the reinforcement of the state, the reinforcement of hierarchical power and the reinforcement of a new class but this time self-defining themselves as the "most class conscious" - ie because of their ability to recognise their mutual class interests in merely representing proletarian needs and desires. – those, who like Lenin, think of themselves as most suited to educate and imbue culture on the masses because “the working class exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness.” (Lenin, “What is to be Done”). Something you clearly believe of yourself – hence your teacher role and your excessive resorting to the authority of quotation — fragments of Marx and Mattick torn from their own context and development, and ultimately from the general framework of their period and from the particular options (sometimes appropriate, sometimes erroneous) that were expressed within that framework. The proletarian tigers of wrath are wiser than your statist horses of instruction.

If you saw no problem with that quote, you should have gone to Specsavers.

Spikey Mike:
What’s valid about his point?

Mar 13 2020 05:54

As far as I can tell, what bordigists call a "proletarian state" is workers' councils under control of the party. I have a problem with that last part and agree with your criticism of vanguardism. What intrigued me, however, is that you picked out that particular measure to make that point. So I supposed that it was the censorship in itself that bothered you. As I said, workers seizing printing presses or occupying radio stations and such is something I view as inevitable in a revolution. So the picking out of that particular point seemed off to me. But it seems we are in agreement.

Why do you not answer my point that this part of his statist programme could have been written by Mao or Xi Jinping?

Because it's clearly slander and adds nothing? I mean Bordiga is clearly a different beast from these. I am aware of the bordigist view of Kronstadt, yes. But I am also aware of their interesting analysis of capitalism in the USSR. I wouldn't lump them in the same category.

It depends on what you mean by transitional stage. If by that you mean revolution then yes I do believe in one. If by that you mean a distinct 'in-between' society then no.

Something you clearly believe of yourself – hence your teacher role and your excessive resorting to the authority of quotation — fragments of Marx and Mattick torn from their own context and development, and ultimately from the general framework of their period and from the particular options (sometimes appropriate, sometimes erroneous) that were expressed within that framework.

Well no actually I don't believe in that at all. I am very critical of the Kautsky-Lenin thesis that workers' can't become class conscious without exterior help. A view which reduces said consciousness into an accumulation of knowledge, which I agree is erroneous. You might want to lay off the psychoanalysis. How are the two quotes excessive? I frankly don't see how they were torn out of their context.