Introduction

We need to begin, first of all, by explaining that the aim of our present exposition is not to systematically examine every economic, historical and political aspect of the communist scheme and its programme, nor to provide an exhaustive treatment of what we might call the 'connective tissue' which binds all these different aspects of communism together, by which we mean our original and completely distinctive way of resolving the questions of the relationship between theory and action, economy and ideology, determining causality and the dynamics of human society; that is, the method which Marxism, and Marxism alone, has used since it first appeared in the first half of the 19th century, and which, for brevity's sake, may be referred to as the philosophical aspect of Marxism, or dialectical materialism.

Moreover, if we tried to systematize these concepts in order to explain our particular view of the function of the individual in society, of the relation of both individual and society to the State, and the significance our doctrine attributes to class, we would be laying ourselves open to the usual accusation of abstractionism; we would thus risk being misunderstood, and appear as though we had forgotten a key element of our doctrine; namely, that the formulas needed to unravel these questions are not fixed for all time, but are variable within a succession of great historical periods, which for us are equivalent to different social forms and modes of production.

Therefore, though asserting the consistency with which Marxism has responded to events in different historical situations, our 're-proposition' will be closely linked to the wretched, world-encompassing, phase which has been affecting the revolutionary movement against capitalism for the last few decades – and will certainly affect it for many decades to come. Our aim will be to set the cornerstones of our science back in their correct position, realign the ones which our enemies are most keen to undermine, and take action to compensate against their deforming tendencies.

In order to do that, we will focus on the one genuinely revolutionary doctrine's three main groups of critics, paying particular attention to the criticism which most stubbornly claims to be drawing on the same principles and movements as ourselves.

The reader might recall that a similar theme was developed during our 1952 meeting in Milan (Invarianza storica del marxismo nel corso rivoluzionario, in Programma Comunista, nos.1-5, 1953, and reproduced in nos. 5-6, 1969). The first part of the report lay claim to the historical invariance of Marxism which, it was maintained, is not a doctrine still in the process of formation but rather one completed in the historical epoch appropriate to it, that is, the period which witnessed the birth of the modern proletariat. It is a touchstone of our historical vision that this class will go through the whole arc of the rise and fall of capitalism using the same unaltered theoretical armoury. The second part of the report – "The False Expedient of Activism" – developed a critique of the perennial illusion of "voluntarism", portraying it as an extremely dangerous and degenerate form of Marxism which continues to be exploited whenever there's an outbreak of the opportunist disease.

Survey of the Opposition

In the first part of that report, we divided our position's enemies into three camps: those who deny the validity of Marxism, those who falsify it, and those who claim to be bringing it up to date.

Today, the first group is represented nowadays by the open defenders and apologists of capitalism, who portray it as the ultimate form of human "civilization". We won't be paying too much attention to them; they have already received a knockout blow from Karl Marx and this frees us to apply the same knockout blows to the other two groups. (We put here in parentheses here, once and for all, that our declared "re-proposition" does not aspire so much to a definitive polemical victory, but aims, within the limits of this summary, to clearly define our positions and our characteristic features, and to show how they haven't changed at all in over a 100 years).

The defeat of Marx's deniers, today only doctrinal (tomorrow social) is confirmed by the fact that as every day goes by more and more of them are compelled to "steal" the truths discovered by Marx; but having found it impossible to destroy these truths when stated clearly (we revolutionaries have no such fears about their classical theses) they join the second group, the falsifiers, or (why not?) the modernizers.

The falsifiers are those who have been historically defined as "opportunists", revisionists or reformists, i.e. those who have eliminated from the integrated whole of Marx's theories – as though it were possible without destroying it in its entirety – the prospect of revolutionary catastrophe and the use of armed violence. However there are also many falsifiers among those who claim to accept violent rebellion: they are just as bad, and just as prone to the superstition of activism. What both of them share is an aversion to the identifying, discriminating feature of Marx's theory: armed force, no longer in the hands of particular oppressed individuals or groups, but in the hands of the liberated and victorious class, the class dictatorship, bugbear of social-democrats and anarchists alike. We might have entertained the false hope in 1917 that this second group, rotten to the core, had been laid out by Lenin's blows; however, although we considered this victory as definitive in the realm of doctrine, we were also among the first to warn that the right conditions existed for the re-emergence of that infamous breed. Nowadays we can see it both in Stalinism, and in the Russian post-Stalinism which has been current since the 20th Congress of the Russian Communist Party.

Finally in the third category, the modernizers, we put those groups which, despite considering Stalinism to be a new form of the classical opportunism defeated by Lenin, attribute this dreadful reverse in the fortunes of the revolutionary labour movement to defects and inadequacies within Marx's original doctrine; which they claim to be able to rectify on the basis of evidence which historical evolution has provided subsequent to the theory's formation; an evolution, according to them, which contradicts it.

In Italy, France, and elsewhere there are many of these groups which have totally dissipated the first proletarian reactions against the terrible sense of disillusionment arising from the distortions and decompositions of Stalinism; from the opportunist plague which killed off Lenin's Third International. One of these groups is linked to Trotskyism, but in fact fails to appreciate that Trotsky always condemned Stalin for deviating from Marx. Admittedly, Trotsky also indulged rather too much in personal and moral judgements; a barren method as evidenced by the shameless way in which the 20th Congress has used precisely such methods to prostitute the revolutionary tradition much more than even Stalin himself.

Every one of these groups has succumbed to the disease of activism, but their enormous critical distance from Marxism means they have failed to see that they are making the same mistakes as the German Bernsteins; who wished to build socialism within parliamentary democracy by opposing their everyday practice to what they saw as the "coldness" of theory. The activism of these groups is likewise akin to that of Stalin's heirs, who have smashed to pieces Marx, Lenin and Trotsky's positions on the internationality of the socialist economic transformation in an indecent display of armed might, with which, whilst exacerbating their hunger for power, they claim to have built this new economy already.

Stalin is the theoretical father of this method of "enrichment" and "modernization" of Marxism, a method which, whenever and wherever it appears, destroys the vision of world-wide proletarian revolutionary strength.

Thus, whilst we adopt a standpoint which opposes all three groups simultaneously, it is the misleading distortions and arrogant neo-constructions of the third group which most urgently need to be addressed and set to rights. Being contemporary they are better known, but it is still difficult for today's workers, following the ravages of Stalinism, to relate them to the old historical traps; against which we propose one stance and one alone: a return to the fundamental communist positions of the 1848 Manifesto, which contains, in potential, our entire social and historical criticism, and which likewise demonstrates that everything which has happened since, all the bloody struggles and defeats experienced by the proletariat during the course of the last century, only serve to confirm the validity of what some people foolishly wish to abandon.