Part One: A False Vision of the Working Class
One of the banes affecting revolutionary organisations of the Communist Left is the fact that many of their militants previously went through parties or groups of the left and extreme-left of capital (Socialist and Communist parties, Trotskyism, Maoism, official anarchism, the so-called “New Left” of Syriza or Podemos). That’s inevitable given the simple reason that no militant is born with a complete and immediate clarity. However this stage bequeaths a handicap that’s difficult to overcome: it’s possible to break with the political positions of these organisations (trade unionism, national defence and nationalism, participation in elections, etc.) but it’s much more difficult to rid oneself of attitudes, of ways of thinking, ways of debating, behaviours, conceptions which these organisations introduce you to with some force and which constitutes their way of life.
This heritage, which we are calling the hidden legacy of the left of capital, helps to stir up tensions in revolutionary organisations between comrades, provoking mistrust, rivalries, destructive behaviours, blockage of debate, aberrant theoretical positions, etc., which, combined with the pressure of bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology, can cause these organisation serious damage. The objective of the series we’re beginning here is to identify and combat this oppressive weight.
The left of capital: capitalist politics in the name of “socialism”.
Since its first congress (1975), the ICC has addressed the problem of organisations that make false claims of “socialism” while practicing capitalist politics. The ICC’s Platform, adopted by this congress, put forward in point 13: “All those parties or organisations which today defend, even ‘conditionally’ or ‘critically’, certain states or fractions of the bourgeoisie whether in the name of ‘socialism’, ‘democracy’, ‘anti-fascism’, ‘national independence’, the ‘united front’ or the ‘lesser evil’, which base their politics on the bourgeois electoral game, within the anti-working class activity of trade unionism or in the mystifications of self-management, are agents of capital. In particular, this is true of the Socialist and Communist parties.”
Our Platform also concentrates on the problem of groups who put themselves “on the left” of these larger parties, often making “fiery criticisms” of them and adopting more “radical” poses: “All the so-called ‘revolutionary’ currents – such as Maoism which is simply a variant of parties which had definitively gone over to the bourgeoisie, or Trotskyism which, after constituting a proletarian reaction against the betrayal of the Communist Parties was caught up in a similar process of degeneration, or traditional anarchism, which today places itself in the framework of an identical approach by defending a certain number of positions of the SPs and CPs, such as ‘anti-fascist alliances’ – belong to the same camp: the camp of capital. Their lesser influence or their more radical language changes nothing as to the bourgeois basis of their programme, but makes them useful touts or supplements of these parties.”
In order to understand the role of the left and extreme left of capital, it’s essential to remember that, with the decline of capitalism, the state shows that “the tendency towards state capitalism expresses itself in the increasingly powerful, omnipresent, and systematic control over the whole of social life exerted by the state apparatus, and in particular the executive. On a much greater scale than in the decadence of Rome or feudalism, the state under decadent capitalism has become a monstrous, cold, impersonal machine which has devoured the very substance of civil society”. This nature applies as much to openly dictatorial single party regimes (Stalinism, Nazism, military dictatorships) as to the democratic regimes.
In this framework the political parties are not the representatives of different classes or layers of society but totalitarian instruments of the state whose task is to submit the whole of the population (mainly the working class) to the imperatives of the national capital. They equally become the head of networks of cronyism, pressure groups and spheres of influence which combine political and economic action and become the breeding ground of an inescapable corruption.
In the democratic systems, the political apparatus of the capitalist state is divided into two wings: the right wing linked to the classic factions of the bourgeoisie and responsible for controlling the most backward layers of the population, and the left wing (the left with the unions and a series of extreme left organisations) essentially given over to the control and division of the working class and the destruction of its consciousness.
Why did the old workers’ parties become the parties of the left of capital?
Organisations of the proletariat are not exempt from degeneration. The pressure of bourgeoisie ideology corrodes from the inside and can lead to an opportunism which, if not fought in time, leads to its betrayal and integration into the capitalist state.Opportunism takes this decisive step at the time of crucial historic events in the life of capitalist society: up to now the two key moments have been world imperialist war and proletarian revolution. In the Platform, we try to explain the process which leads to this fatal stage: “This was the case with the Socialist parties when in a period of subjection to the gangrene of opportunism and reformism, most of the main parties were led, at the outbreak of World War I (which marked the death of the 2nd International) to adopt, under the leadership of the social-chauvinist right which from then on was in the camp of the bourgeoisie, the policy of ‘national defence’, and then to oppose openly the post-war revolutionary wave, to the point of playing the role of the proletariat’s executioners, as in Germany 1919. The final integration of each of these parties into their respective bourgeois states took place at different moments in the period which followed the outbreak of World War I, but this process was definitively closed at the beginning of the 1920s, when the last proletarian currents were eliminated from or left their ranks and joined the Communist International.
In the same way, the Communist Parties in their turn passed into the capitalist camp after a similar process of opportunist degeneration. This process, which had already begun during the early 1920s, continued after the death of the Communist International (marked by the adoption in 1928 of the theory of ‘Socialism in one country’), to conclude, despite bitter struggles by the left fractions and after the latter’s exclusion, in these parties’ complete integration into the capitalist state at the beginning of the 1930s with their participation in their respective bourgeoisie’s armament drives and their entry into the ‘popular fronts’. Their active participation in the ‘Resistance’ in World War II, and in the ‘national reconstruction’ that followed it, has confirmed them as faithful agents of national capital and the purest incarnation of the counter-revolution”. In the space of 25 years (between 1914 and 1939) the working class first lost the Socialist parties, then, in the 1920’s, the Communist parties and finally, from 1939, the groups of the Left Opposition around Trotsky which supported the still more brutal barbarity of the Second World War: “In 1938, the Left Opposition became the Fourth International. It was an opportunist adventure because it wasn’t possible to constitute a world party in a situation that was going towards imperialist war and thus a profound defeat of the proletariat. The outcome was disastrous: in 1939-40, the groups of the so-called IV International took a position in favour of world war under the most diverse pretexts: the majority supporting the ‘socialist fatherland’ of Russia, but there was even a minority supporting the France of Petain (itself a satellite of the Nazis).
Against this degeneration of Trotskyist organisations, the last remaining internationalist nuclei reacted: particularly Trotsky’s wife and a revolutionary of Spanish origin, Munis. Since then the Trotskyist organisations have become ‘radical’ agents of capital which try to stir up the proletariat with all sorts of ‘revolutionary causes’ which generally correspond to the ‘anti-imperialist’ factions of the bourgeoisie (like the celebrated sergeant Chavez of today). Similarly, they sweep up workers disgusted with the electoral circus by mobilising them to vote in a ‘critical’ fashion for the ‘Socialists’ in order to ’block the way for the right’. Finally they always have great hope of taking over the unions through the means of ‘fighting candidates’”.
The working class is capable of generating left fractions within proletarian parties when they begin to be affected by the sickness of opportunism. Thus within the parties of the 2nd International, this role was played by the Bolsheviks, the current of Rosa Luxemburg, Dutch Tribunism, the militants of the Italian abstentionist fraction, etc. The history of the combats undertaken by these fractions is sufficiently well known because their texts and contributions are concretised in the formation of the 3rd International.
And from 1919, the proletarian reaction, faced with difficulties, errors and the subsequent degeneration of the Third International, was expressed by the communist left (Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, etc.) which led (with great difficulties and unfortunately in a very dispersed way) a heroic and determined struggle. Trotsky’s Left Opposition appeared later and in a much more incoherent manner. In the 1930’s, the gap between the communist left (principally its most coherent group Bilan, representing the Italian Communist Left) and Trotsky’s Opposition became more evident. While Bilan saw localised imperialist wars as expressions of a course towards a globalised imperialist war, the Opposition became entangled in ramblings about national liberation and the progressive nature of anti-fascism. While Bilan saw the ideological enrolment for imperialist war and the interests of capital behind the mobilisation of Spanish workers for war between Franco and the Republic, Trotsky saw the 1936 strikes in France and the anti-fascist fight in Spain as the beginning of the revolution… However, what’s worse is that even if Bilan wasn’t yet clear on the exact nature of the USSR, it was clear to it that it couldn’t support it, above all because the USSR was an active agent in preparing for the war. Trotsky on the other hand, with his speculations about the USSR as a “degenerated workers’ state”, flung the doors wide open for supporting the USSR, which was a means of supporting the second world butchery of 1939-1945.
The role of the extreme left of capital against the resurgence of workers’ struggle in 1968
Since 1968, the proletarian struggle took off again across the entire world. May 68 in France, the “Hot Autumn” in Italy, the cordobazo” in Argentina, the Polish October, etc., were among its most significant expressions. This struggle brought up a new generation of revolutionaries. Numerous working class minorities appeared everywhere and all that constituted a fundamental strength for the proletariat.
However, it is important to note the role of groups of the extreme left in the weakening and destruction of these minorities: the Trotskyists whom we have already mentioned, official anarchism, and Maoism. Regarding the latter it’s important to stress that it’s never been a proletarian current. The Maoist groups were born from imperialist conflicts and wars of influence like those between Peking and Moscow which led to the rupture between the two states and the alignment of Peking to American imperialism in 1972.
It’s been estimated that towards 1970 there were more than a hundred thousand militants around the world who, although with enormous confusion, pronounced themselves in favour of revolution, against the traditional parties of the left (Socialist and Communist parties), against imperialist war, and looked to advance the proletarian struggle that was breaking out. A striking majority of this important contingent were recuperated by this constellation of groups of the extreme left. The present series of articles will try to demonstrate in some detail all the mechanisms through which they undertake this recuperation. We will talk not only about the capitalist programme printed on their radical and “working class” standards but also their methods of organisation and debate, their mode of functioning and their approach to morality.
What’s certain is that their actions have been very important in the destruction of the potential for the working class to build up a wide-scale avant-garde for its struggle. Potential militants have been turned towards activism and immediatism, channelled into sterile combats within the unions, municipalities, electoral campaigns, etc.
The results have been clear:
– The majority have quit the struggle, profoundly frustrated and prone to scepticism towards working class struggle and the possibility of communism; a significant part of this sector fell into drugs, alcohol and the most absolute despair;
– A minority has remained as the core troops of the unions and parties of the left, propagating a sceptical and demoralising vision of the working class;
– Another, more cynical minority, has made careers in the unions and parties of the left and some of these “winners” have become members of parties of the right.
Communist militants are a vital asset and it’s a central task of the groups of the present communist left, who are the inheritors of Bilan, Internationalisme, etc., to draw all the lessons from this the enormous bloodletting of militant forces that the proletariat has suffered since its historic awakening in 1968.
A false vision of the working class
In order to carry out their dirty work of confinement, division and confusion, the unions, the left and extreme left parties propagate a false vision of the working class. They impregnate communist militants and deform their thoughts, their behaviour and their approach. It is thus vital to indentify and combat this.
1. A sum of individual citizens
For the left and extreme left, the workers do not make up an antagonistic social class within capitalism but are instead a sum of individuals. They are the “lower” part of the “citizenship”. As such, all the individual workers can only hope for is a “stable situation”, a “fair reward” for their work, “respect for their rights”, etc.
This allows the left to hide something that is fundamental: the working class is a class that is indispensable to capitalist society because without its associated labour capitalism couldn’t function. But, at the same time, it is a class excluded from society, foreign to all its rules and vital norms; it is thus a class which can only realise itself as such when it abolishes capitalist society from head to toe. Instead of this reality, the left pushes the idea of an “integrated class” which, through reforms and participation in capitalist organisations, can satisfy its interests.
With this overall view the working class is dissolved into an amorphous and inter-classist mass of “citizens” aka “the people”. In such a disorder, the worker is assimilated to the petty-bourgeoisie which cons it, to the police which represses it, to the judge who condemns it, to the politicians who lie to it and even to the “progressive bourgeoisie”. The idea of social classes and class antagonisms disappears, giving way to notions about the citizens of the nation, to the false “national community”.
Once the idea of class is erased from the mind of the working class, the fundamental notion of a historic class also disappears. The proletariat is a historic class which, beyond the situation of different generations or geographical place, has a revolutionary future within its hands, the establishment of a new society which goes beyond and resolves the contradictions which lead capitalism towards the destruction of humanity.
In sweeping away the vital and scientific ideas of social classes, class antagonisms and historic class, the left and extreme left of capital reduce revolution to a pious wish that should be left in the hands of political “experts” and parties. They introduce the idea of the delegation of power, a concept that is perfectly valid for the bourgeoisie but absolutely destructive for the proletariat. In fact the bourgeoisie, an exploiting class which holds economic power, can entrust the management of its business to a specialised political personnel which makes up a bureaucratic layer that has its own interests within the complex needs of the national capital.
But it’s not the same for the proletariat which is both an exploited and revolutionary class which has no economic power but whose sole strength is consciousness, unity and solidarity and its confidence in itself. These are all factors that are rapidly destroyed if it relies on a specialised layer of intellectuals and politicians.
Armed with the idea of delegation, the parties of the left and extreme left defend participation in elections as a way of “blocking the road to the right”, that’s to say that in the ranks of the workers they undermine the autonomous action of a class to turn it into a mass of voting citizens: an individualist mass, each one locked into their “own interests”. In this vision, the unity and self-organisation of the proletariat no longer exists.
Lastly, the parties of the left and extreme left also call for the proletariat to place itself in the hands of the state in order to “reach another society”. They thus use the trick of presenting the capitalist hangman, the state, as “the friend of the workers” or “its ally”.
2. A vulgar materialism that sees only a mass of losers
The left and the unions propagate a vulgar materialist conception of the working class. According to them, workers are individuals who only think of their families, their comforts, a better car or home. Drowned in consumerism, they have no “ideal” of struggle, preferring to stay at home watching football or in the bar with their pals. In order to complete the loop, they affirm that because workers are up to their necks in debt to pay for their consumerism, they are incapable of undertaking the least struggle.
With these lessons in moral hypocrisy they transform the workers’ struggle, which is a material necessity, into a matter of ideal will, whereas communism – the ultimate aim of the working class – is a material necessity in response to the insoluble contradictions of capitalism. They separate and oppose the immediate struggle from the revolutionary struggle whereas in reality there’s a unity between the two since the struggle of the working class is, as Engels said, at once economic, political and a battle of ideas.
To deprive our class of this unity leads to the idealist vision of an “egotist” and “materialist” struggle for economic needs and a “glorious” and “moral” struggle for the “revolution”. Such ideas profoundly demoralise the workers who feel shame and guilt at being concerned for their own needs and that of their nearest and dearest, and are made to feel like servile individuals who only think of themselves. With these false approaches, which follow the cynical and hypocritical line of the Catholic Church, the left and extreme left of capital sap the confidence of the workers in themselves as a class and try to present them as the “lowest” part of society.
This attitude converges with the dominant ideology which presents the working class as losers. The famous “common sense” says that workers are individuals who remain workers because they are not good enough for anything else or they haven’t worked hard enough to progress up the social scale. The workers are lazy, have no aspirations, don’t want to succeed…
It really is the world turned upside-down! The social class which through its associated labour produces the majority of social riches of society is supposed to be made up of its worst elements. Since the proletariat makes up the majority of society, it seems that it is fundamentally composed of cowards, losers, uncultured individuals without any motivation. The bourgeoisie not only exploits the proletariat, it mocks it as well. The minority which lives off the efforts of millions of human beings has the audacity to consider the workers as lazy, useless, unsuccessful and without hope.
Social reality is radically different: in the associated world-wide labour of the proletariat, it develops cultural, scientific and, at the same time, profoundly human links: solidarity, confidence and a critical spirit. They are the force which silently moves society, the source of the development of the productive forces.
The appearance of the working class is that of an insignificant, passive and anonymous mass. This appearance is the result of the contradiction suffered by the working class as an exploited and revolutionary class. On the one hand it’s the class of global associated labour and, as such, it is what makes the wheels of capitalist production function and has in its hands the forces and capacities to radically change society. But on the other hand, competition, the market place, the normal life of a society where division and each against all prevails, crush it into a sum of individuals, each one impotent with feelings of failure and guilt, separated from the others, atomised and forced to fight alone for oneself.
The left and extreme left of capital, in complete continuity with the rest of the bourgeoisie, only want us to see an amorphous mass of atomised individuals. In this way they serve capital and the state in their task of demoralising and excluding the class from any social perspective.
We return here what we said at the beginning: the conception of the working class as a sum of individuals. However, the proletariat is a class and acts as such each time it succeeds in freeing itself from the chains which oppress and atomise it with a consistent and autonomous struggle. Thus we not only see a class in action but we also see each one of its components transform itself into active beings, fighting, taking the initiative and developing creativity. We’ve see it in the great moments of class struggle, as the revolution in Russia of 1905 and 1917. As Rosa Luxemburg underlined so well in The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions: “But in the storm of the revolutionary period even the proletarian is transformed from a provident pater familas demanding support, into a ‘revolutionary romanticist’, for whom even the highest good, life itself, to say nothing of material well-being, possesses but little in comparison with the ideals of the struggle.”
As a class, the individual strength of each worker is set free, gets rid of it shackles and develops its human potential. As a sum of individuals, the capacities of each are annihilated, diluted, wasted for humanity. The function of the left and extreme left of capital is to keep the workers in their chains, that’s to say, as a mere sum of individuals.
A class with the clock stopped on the tactics of the nineteenth century
Generally in the ascendant period of capitalism and more particularly during its greatest heights (1870-1914), the working class could fight for improvements and reforms within the framework of capitalism without immediately envisaging its revolutionary destruction. On the one hand that implied the formation of large mass organisations (socialist and labour parties, trade unions, cooperatives, workers’ universities, women and youth associations, etc.) and on the other hand tactics that included participation in elections, petitions, strikes planned by the unions, etc.
These methods became more and more inadequate at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the ranks of revolutionaries there was a widespread debate which opposed Kautsky, a partisan of these methods on one side and on the other, Rosa Luxemburg who, drawing the lessons of the 1905 revolution, clearly showed that the working class had to move towards new methods of struggle which corresponded to the opening of a new situation of generalised war and economic crisis – in sum, capitalism’s descent into its decadence. The new methods of struggle were based upon the direct action of the masses, on the self-organisation of workers into assemblies and councils, on the abolition of the old division between the Minimum and Maximum programme. These methods come face to face with trade unionism, reforms, electoral participation, and the parliamentary road.
The left and extreme left of capital concentrate their policies on keeping the working class locked into the old methods which today are radically incompatible with the defence of the latter’s immediate and historical interests. Interestingly, they have stopped the clock at capitalism’s “golden years” of 1890 to 1910 with all their routines aimed at disarming and dispersing the working class with voting in elections, union actions, demonstrations programmed in advance, etc., mechanisms which reduce the workers to “good, worker citizens”, passive and atomised, submitting with discipline to all the needs of capital: work hard, vote every four years, march behind the unions, don’t call into question the self-proclaimed leaders.
This policy is shamelessly defended by the Socialist and Communist parties while their annexes on the “extreme left” reproduce it with their “critical” touches and “radical” excesses while defending a vision of a working class as a class for capital; a class which has to submit to all its imperatives while waiting for some hypothetical crumbs which, from time to time, fall from the golden table of its banquets.
Part Two: A Method and Way of Thinking in the Service of Capitalism
The unity between programme, theory, functioning and morality.
In the first article, we denounced the programme for the defence of capital put forward by these mystifiers; now we need to deal with another matter: their way of thinking, the relations between the members, their organisational methods, their vision of morality, their conception of debate, their vision of militancy and finally the whole experience of working inside these parties. Freeing oneself from this way of looking at things is much more difficult than exposing the political mystifications they are peddling, because in these organisations thinking has been conditioned and behaviour poisoned, and this influences their organisational functioning.
The revolutionary organisations of the communist left, being quite fragile, with small numbers of militants, have had to confront this crucial problem. The organisations have been able to reject the programmes of the left and far left capitalist organisations, but what we call their hidden face, namely their way of thinking, their functioning and behaviour, their moral vision, etc., all which is as reactionary as their programme, has been underestimated and has not been subject to relentless and radical criticism.
It is therefore not enough to denounce the programme of the left and far-left groups of capital; it is also necessary to denounce and fight the hidden organisational and moral face that they share with the parties of the right and far right.
A revolutionary organisation is much more than a programme; it is the unitary synthesis of programme, theory and mode of thinking, morality and organisational functioning. There is coherence between these elements. “The activity of the revolutionary organisation can only be understood as a unitary whole, whose components are not separate but interdependent: 1) its theoretical work, the elaboration of which requires a constant effort and the result is neither fixed nor completed once and for all. It is as necessary as it is irreplaceable; 2) the intervention in the economic and political struggles of the class. It is the practice par excellence of the organisation where theory is transformed into a weapon of combat through propaganda and agitation; 3) the organisational activity in developing and strengthening its organs and in the preservation of its organisational acquisitions, without which quantitative development (membership) could not be transformed into qualitative development”
It is clear that we cannot fight for communism with lies, slanders and manoeuvres. There is a coherence between the aspects mentioned above. They prefigure the whole way of life and social organisation of communism and can never be in contradiction with it.
As we have said in the text “The organisational functioning of ICC”:
“The question of organisation concentrates a whole series of essential aspects that are fundamental to the proletariat’s revolutionary perspective: 1) the fundamental characteristics of communist society and the relations between the members of the latter; 2) the being of the proletariat as a class which is the bearer of communism; 3) the nature of class consciousness, the characteristics of its development, deepening and extension within the class; 4) the role of the communist organisation in the coming to consciousness of the proletariat.”
The left and far left of capital, heirs to the falsification of marxism by Stalinism
It can be said that the left and far left groups of capital are political conjurers. They serve up the political positions of capital with a “proletarian” and “marxist” language. They make Marx, Engels, Lenin and other proletarian militants say the opposite of what they wanted to say. They twist, truncate and manipulate the positions they may have defended at a given moment in the workers’ movement, to turn them into their absolute opposite. They take quotations from Marx, Engels or Lenin and make them say that capitalist exploitation is good, that the nation is the most precious thing, that we should allow ourselves be supporters of imperialist war and accept the state as our benefactor and protector, etc.
Marx, Engels and Lenin, who fought for the destruction of the state, have magically, for these groups, become its most enthusiastic defenders. Marx, Engels, Lenin, unconditional fighters for internationalism, have become champions of “national liberation” and defenders of the fatherland. Marx, Engels, Lenin, who spurred on the defensive struggle of the proletariat, have become the champions of productivism and in favour of workers sacrificing themselves in the service of capital.
Leading the promotion of this work of falsification was Stalinism. Stalin systematically led this repugnant transformation. We can refer to Ante Ciliga’s book, The Russian Enigma to illustrate this. It describes in detail this process that began in the mid-1920s:
“The very unique social regime that developed in Soviet Russia was able to inculcate its own ideology in all branches of science. In other words, it tried to merge its own worldview with that of established science, as well as with the traditional ideology of marxism and new scientific discoveries” (page 103 of the PDF edition in Spanish).
To explain it, he recalled that “Hegel (..) had demonstrated that a phenomenon can retain its form while its content is completely transformed; (…) hadn’t Lenin said that often the destiny of great men is to serve as icons after their death, while their liberating ideas are falsified to justify a new oppression and a new slavery?” (page 109).
During his time at the “Communist Academy” in Moscow, he noted that “every year the curricula were changed, historical facts and their appreciation were more and more impudently falsified. This was done not only with regard to the recent history of the revolutionary movement in Russia, but also with events as far back as the Paris Commune, the 1848 revolution and the first French Revolution. (…) And what about the history of the Comintern? Each new publication provided a new interpretation, in many respects quite different from the previous ones” (p. 100), “As these falsifications were introduced at the same time in all branches of education, I came to the conclusion that they were not isolated accidents, but a system for transforming history, political economy and other sciences according to the interests and worldview of the bureaucracy (…) In fact, a new school, the bureaucratic school of Marxism, was being formed in Russia.” (p. 101)
Accordingly, the left and far left parties would use three methods:
– taking advantage of mistakes made by the revolutionaries;
– defending positions that were right when defended by revolutionaries at a previous time, as if they were still valid now, when they had become counter-revolutionary;
– blunting the revolutionary dimension of these positions by reducing them to a harmless abstraction.
The mistakes of the revolutionaries
Marx, Engels, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, were not infallible. They made mistakes.
In contradiction with the mechanistic viewpoint of bourgeois thought, mistakes are often inevitable and can be a necessary step towards the truth which, itself, is not absolute, but has a historical character. For Hegel, mistakes are a necessary and evolving moment of the truth.
This is much clearer when we take into consideration that the proletariat is both an exploited class and a revolutionary class and that, as an exploited class, it suffers under the full weight of the dominant ideology. Therefore, when the proletariat – or at least part of it – dares to think, to formulate hypotheses and to put forward demands and to set itself objectives, it rises against the passivity and stupor imposed by capitalist common sense; but at the same time it can make serious misjudgements and fall back into accepting ideas that social evolution itself or the very dynamics of class struggle have already overcome or cast aside.
Marx and Engels believed that in 1848 capitalism was mature enough to be replaced by communism and advocated an “intermediate” capitalist programme that would serve as a platform for socialism (the theory of “permanent revolution”).
However, their critical thinking led them to reject this speculation, which they abandoned in 1852. Similarly, they believed that the capitalist state should be seized and used as a lever for revolution, but the living experience of the Paris Commune helped convince them of this error and into concluding that the capitalist state must be destroyed.
We could refer to many other examples, but what we want to show here is how the leftist groups use these mistakes as a justification for their counter-revolutionary programme. Lenin was a committed internationalist, but he was not sufficiently clear on the question of national liberation and made serious mistakes with it. These errors, taken out of their historical context, get divorced from the internationalist struggle he waged, and then get turned into “laws” that are valid for all time. These errors are transformed, hypocritically, into a defence of capital.
How is this falsification possible? One of the most important ways is by destroying the critical thinking of militants. Coherent marxists share with science what it does best: critical thinking, that is, the ability to question positions that, for various reasons, come into conflict with reality and the needs of the proletarian struggle. Marxism is not a set of dogmas produced by the brains of geniuses that cannot be altered; it is a combative, living, analytical and constantly developing method, and for this reason critical thinking is fundamental to it. Suppressing this critical spirit is the main task of the leftist groups, like their Stalinist masters who, as Ciliga said during his time at the “Communist University” in Leningrad, about students and future party leaders, “if it was not written down in the manual, it did not exist for them. You did not question the Party programme. Spiritual life was totally regulated. When I tried to push them beyond the narrow horizon of the programme, to arouse their curiosity and critical senses, they remained deaf. It seemed as if their social skills were blunted.” (p. 98).
Thus, faced with the blind adherence advocated by leftist groups (from the Stalinists to the Trotskyists and many anarchists), proletarian militants and revolutionary groups must struggle to keep alive their critical thinking, their ability to be self critical; they should be constantly willing to scrutinise the facts and, based on a historical analysis, know how to re-appraise positions that are no longer valid.
Positions that had once been correct can become blatant lies.
Another characteristic of the leftist method is to defend previously correct revolutionary positions that have been invalidated or become counter-productive by historical events. Take, for example, Marx and Engels’ support for trade unions. Leftism concludes that, if trade unions were organs of the proletariat in the days of Marx and Engels, they must be so at all times. They use an abstract and timeless method. They hide the fact that with the decadence of capitalism, trade unions have become organs of the bourgeois state against the proletariat.
There are revolutionary militants who break with leftist positions, but fail to break with their scholastic method. Thus, for example, they simply restrict themselves to reversing the leftist position towards trade unions: if the leftist position was that trade unions have always been in the service of the working class, these revolutionary militants conclude that trade unions have always been against it. They make the position on trade unions a changeless, timeless position, so that, if they seem to have broken with leftism, they still remain prisoners of it.
The same applies to social democracy. It is difficult to imagine that the ‘socialist parties’ existing today were parties of the working class during the period from 1870 to 1914, that they contributed to its unity, its consciousness and the force of its struggles. Faced with this, the leftists, especially Trotskyism, conclude: social democratic parties have always been and will never cease to be workers’ parties, despite all their counter-revolutionary actions.
However, there are some revolutionaries who say the same thing, but the other way round: if the Trotskyists speak of social democracy as a party that is and will always be a workers’ party, they then conclude that social democracy is and always has been capitalist. They ignore the fact that opportunism is a disease that can affect the workers’ movement and can lead its parties into betrayal and integration into the capitalist state.
Trapped by their leftist heritage, they replace the historical and dialectical method with the scholastic method, not understanding that one of the principles of dialectics is the transformation of opposites: a thing that exists can be transformed to act in an opposing manner. The proletarian parties, because of the degeneration due to the weight of bourgeois ideology and of the petty bourgeoisie, can transform themselves into their diametrical opposite: becoming unconditional servants of capitalism.
We see this as another consequence of the leftist method: they reject the historical dimension of class positions and the process by which they are formulated. This eliminates another of the essential components of the proletarian method. Each generation of workers stands on the shoulders of the previous generation: the lessons that were produced by the class struggle and by the theoretical effort it made give rise to conclusions that serve as a starting point, but which are not the end point. The evolution of capitalism and the very experiences of class struggle make it necessary for new developments or critical corrections to previous positions to be made. Leftism denies a critical historical continuity by propagating a dogmatic and ahistorical vision.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, the thinkers who heralded the bourgeois revolution elaborated a materialism that was revolutionary in its time because it subjected feudal idealism to relentless criticism. However, once power was seized in the main countries, bourgeois thought became conservative, dogmatic and ahistorical. The proletariat, on the other hand, has in its own genes a critical and historical thinking, an ability not to remain trapped by the events of a specific period, however important they may be, and to be guided not by the past or the present but by the perspective of the revolutionary future of which it is the bearer. “The history of philosophy and the history of social science clearly show that marxism has nothing in common with ‘sectarianism’ in the sense of a doctrine that is inward looking and ossified, emerging from the long road in the development of world-wide civilisation. On the contrary, Marx, the man, was ingenious in that he answered the questions that advanced humanity had already posed. “
The trap of abstraction
Like bourgeois thought, leftist ideology is dogmatic and idealistic on the one hand, and relativistic and pragmatic on the other. The leftist raises his left hand and proclaims some “principles” elevated to the rank of universal dogmas, valid for all possible worlds and for all time. But, with his right hand, invoking “tactical considerations”, he keeps these sacred principles in his pocket because “the conditions are not right”, “the workers will not understand”, “the timing is wrong”, etc.
Dogmatism and tacticism are not opposed but complementary. The dogma that encourages people to participate in elections is complemented by the “tactics” of “using them” in order to “get ourselves known” or to “block the advance of the right wing”, etc. So dogmatism appears to be something theoretical, but in reality is an abstract vision, placed outside historical evolution. The “tactics”, nonetheless, seem “practical” and “concrete” but are in fact a crude and cretinising vision, typical of bourgeois thinking, that does not come from coherent positions but from a purely adaptive and opportunistic daily activity.
This leads us to an understanding of the third characteristic of the leftist method of thinking: it needs to turn the correct positions of revolutionaries into abstractions, taken out of context, in order to blunt their revolutionary edge; as Lenin had said, to render them harmless to capital by presenting them as abstract and inoperative “principles”. Thus, communism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the workers’ councils, internationalism… become a rhetorical flurry and a cynical verbiage in which the leaders have no belief, but which they use shamelessly to manipulate the faithful supporters. Ciliga, in the aforementioned book, underlined “the ability of the communist bureaucracy to do the opposite of what it was claiming, to disguise the worst crimes under the mask of the most progressive slogans and the most eloquent sentences” (page 52).
In leftist organisations there are no principles. Their vision is purely pragmatic and changes according to the circumstances, that is, according to the political, economic and ideological needs of the national capital they serve. The principles are adaptable to circumstances and specific moments, like during party conferences and major anniversaries; and are used as a pretext for accusing militants of “violating the principles”; they are also used as weapons in disputes between factions.
This vision of “principles” is radically opposed to that of a revolutionary organisation, which is based on “the existence of a programme valid for the whole organisation. This programme, because it is a synthesis of the experience of the proletariat of which the organisation is a part and because it is produced by a class which doesn’t just have an immediate existence but also a historic future, expresses this future by formulating the goals of the class and the way to attain them; gathers together the essential positions which the organisation must defend in the class; serves as a basis for joining the organisation“
The revolutionary programme is the source of the organisation’s activity, its theoretical works a source of inspiration and a spur to action. It must therefore be taken very seriously. The militant who comes from leftism and has not found how to detach himself from it, often believes unconsciously, that the programme is just for show, a collection of simple phrases that are invoked on solemn occasions, and so he would like the “rhetorical” stuff dropped. At other times, when he is angry with a comrade or thinks he is being marginalised by the central organs, he tries to “blame them” by using the programme to make his point.
Against these two false visions, we claim the essential function of the programme in a proletarian organisation to be that of a weapon of analysis shared by all the militants and to which all are committed in order to further its development; it is a means of intervention in the proletarian struggle, an orientation and active contribution to its revolutionary future.
The pragmatic and “ingenious” sophisms of leftism do much harm because they make it difficult for a global approach to move from the general to the concrete, from the abstract to the immediate, from the theoretical to the practical. The leftist method breaks the bond that unites these two facets of proletarian thought, by preventing the actual realisation of the unity between the concrete and the general, the immediate and the historical, the local and the global. The tendency and pressure is towards unilateral thinking. The leftist is a localist every day, but displays an “internationalist” approach on public holidays. The leftist sees only the immediate and the pragmatic, but embellishes it with some “historical” references and salutes “the principles”. The leftist is pathetically “concrete” when it comes to developing an abstract analysis and he goes into an abstract haze when a concrete analysis is required.
The destructive effects of the theoretical method of leftism
We have seen, in a very synthetic way, some of the features of leftist thought and its effects on the position of communist militants.
We can look at some of these. The Third International used a formula that only makes sense under certain historical conditions: “behind each strike is the hydra of revolution”.
This formula is not valid if the balance of power between the classes is favourable to the bourgeoisie. Thus, for example, Trotsky used it schematically, considering that the 1936 strikes in France and the courageous response of the Barcelona proletariat in July 1936 against the fascist coup d’état to be “opening the doors to revolution”. It did not take into account the unstoppable course towards imperialist war, the crushing of the Russian and German proletariat, the enrolment of workers under the banner of antifascism. He left out this historical and global analysis and applied only the empty recipe of “behind each strike there is the hydra of revolution”.
Another consequence is a vulgar materialism imbued to the core with economism. Everything is determined by the economy, which reflects the greatest mental short-sightedness. Phenomena such as war are separated from their imperialist, strategic and military roots, in an attempt to find the most fanciful economic explanations. Thus, the Islamic state, a mafia gang, a barbaric by-product of imperialism, could be equivalent to an oil company.
Finally, another consequence of the manipulation made by leftism of marxist theory is that it is conceived of as a matter for specialists, experts, brilliant leaders. Everything that these enlightened leaders cough up should be followed to the letter by the “rank and file activists” who will have no role in theoretical development because their mission is be distributing leaflets, selling the press, carrying chairs for meetings, sticking up posters… i.e. serving as the manpower or cannon fodder for the “beloved leaders”.
This conception is essential for leftism since its task is to distort the thinking of Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc. and for this they need militants who will unquestioningly believe their stories. However, it is harmful and destructive when such a conception infiltrates revolutionary organisations. Today’s revolutionary organisation “is more impersonal than in the 19th century, and ceases to appear as an organisation of leaders guiding the mass of militants. The period of illustrious leaders and great theoreticians is over. Theoretical development has becomes a truly collective task. Like the millions of ‘anonymous’ proletarian combatants, the consciousness of the organisation develops through the integration and transcending of individual consciousness into one common collective consciousness”.
Part Three: A Functioning Which Negates Communist Principles
This series has denounced the least visible part (the hidden face) of the organisations of the left and extreme-left of capital (Socialists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, official anarchism, the ‘new’ left of Syriza, France Insoumise, and Podemos). In the first article of the series we saw how these organisations negate a working class that they pretend to defend, in the second we unravelled their method and way of thinking. In this third article we want to analyse their functioning, the internal regimes of these parties and how their functioning is the very negation of all communist principles and constitutes an obstacle to any movement towards these principles.
The forces of Stalinism, Trotskyism, etc., have carried out a total falsification of proletarian positions in terms of their organisation and behaviour. For them, centralisation means submission to an all-powerful bureaucracy, and discipline is blind submission to a control commission. The majority position is the result of a power struggle. And debate, in the spirit of manipulation, is a weapon to overcome the position of rival gangs. And so we could continue ad nauseam.
It’s possible that a proletarian militant inside a genuinely communist organisation could have a tendency to see its organisational positions and behaviour through the lenses of the grim times that they spent in one or other leftist organisation.
The discipline of the barracks of leftist organisations
When we talk to this hypothetical militant of the need for discipline, they remember the nightmare that they lived through when they were a member of an organisation of the bourgeois left.
In those organisations, ‘discipline’ means defending absurd things because ‘the party demands it’. One day they have to say that a rival part was ‘bourgeois’ and the following week, according to political changes in the alliances of the leadership, this part is now the most proletarian in the world.
If the policy of the central committee is wrong it is solely the fault of the militants who have ‘made an error’ and ‘have not correctly applied what the central committee had decided’. As Trotsky said: “Each resolution of the Executive Committee of the Communist International recording new defeats declared on one hand that everything had been planned and that, on the other hand, it’s the fault of those who interpreted it because they hadn’t understood the line given to them from above”.
Following these traumatic experiences, the militant who has been through these parties feels a visceral rejection of discipline, not understanding that proletarian discipline is something radically different and opposed to the discipline of the bourgeoisie.
In a proletarian organisation, ‘discipline’ means respecting all decisions and that everyone is engaged in reaching them. On the one hand it’s being responsible and, on the other, it’s the practical expression of the primacy of the collective over the individual – which doesn’t, however, mean though that the individual and the collective confront one another but rather express different aspects of the same unity. Consequently, discipline in a revolutionary organisation is voluntary and conscious. This discipline is not blind but based upon a conviction and a perspective.
In a bourgeois organisation, on the contrary, discipline means submission to an all-powerful leadership and the renunciation of all responsibility by leaving it in the hands of what this leadership does or says. In a bourgeois organisation discipline is based on the opposition between the ‘collective’ and the individual. The ‘collective’ here is the interests of the national capital and its state that these organisations defend in their particular field, an interest which doesn’t at all coincide with those of its members. That’s why its discipline is imposed either by fear of public reprobation which could lead to expulsion; or, if it is voluntarily assumed, it is the fruit of a feeling of guilt or of a categorical imperative which provokes more or less periodic conflicts with the authentic interests of each individual.
The incomprehension of the radical difference which exists between proletarian and bourgeois discipline often leads some militants, who have been through the left or leftism and find themselves in a proletarian organisation, to fall into a vicious circle. Once they followed the orders of their superiors as sheep; now, in a proletarian organisation, they reject all discipline and only admit to one order: that dictated to by their own individuality. From the discipline of the barracks they oppose the discipline that everyone can do what they want, that’s to say the anarchic discipline of individualism. It’s to go round in circles, trapped between the ferocious and violent discipline of the parties of the bourgeoisie and individualist discipline (the discipline to “do what I want”) characteristic of the petty-bourgeoisie and anarchism.
The bureaucratic centralisation of all bourgeois organisations
Centralisation is another concept which produces a reaction among militants who have been affected by the poison of the influence of the left.
They associate centralisation with:
– all-powerful tops to whom one must submit without complaint;
– a crushing pyramid of a bureaucracy and its control apparatus;
– a total renunciation of all personal initiative and thought, replaced by a blind obedience and tail-ending towards the leadership;
– decisions are not taken through discussion with the participation of all, but through the orders and manoeuvres of the leadership.
In fact, bourgeois centralisation is based on these concepts. That is due to the fact that within the bourgeoisie, unity only exists when faced with imperialist war or the proletariat; as for the rest there is an incessant conflict of interests between its different fractions.
To put some order into such a mess, the authority of a ‘central organ’ must be imposed by will or force. Bourgeois centralisation is thus necessarily bureaucratic and top down.
This general bureaucratisation of all the bourgeois parties and their institutions is even more indispensable in the ‘workers’’ parties or the left who present themselves as defenders of the workers.
The bourgeoisie can submit to this iron discipline of the political apparatus because it enjoys a total and dictatorial power in its own enterprises. However, in an organisation of the left or extreme-left, there’s a carefully hidden antagonism between what is claimed officially and what really happens. In order to resolve this contradiction, it needs a bureaucracy and a vertical centralisation.
In order to understand the mechanisms of bourgeois centralisation practiced in the parties of the left of capital, we can look at Stalinism which was a real trailblazer. In his book, The Third International after Lenin, Trotsky analyses the methods of bourgeois centralisation practiced in the Communist parties.
He recalls how, in order to impose bourgeois policies, Stalinism “adopted a secret society with its illegal Central Committee (the septemvirat) with its circulars, secret agents and codes, etc. The party apparatus created within itself a closed and out of control order which had exceptional resources at its disposal not only for this apparatus but also of the state which transformed a party of the masses into an instrument charged with camouflaging all the manoeuvres and intrigues.” (idem).
So as to wipe out the revolutionary attempts of the proletariat in China and to serve the interests of the Russian state’s imperialist appetites in the years 1924 – 28, the Chinese Communist Party was organised from top to bottom, an illustration of which is given by the witness of the local committee of Kiangsu making the following reference: “(The Central Committee) launched accusations and said that the Provincial Committee was no good; which in its turn , accused the base organisations and said that the Regional Committee was bad. The latter began to make accusations and said that it was the comrades working on the spot who were at fault. And the comrades defended themselves saying that the masses were not revolutionary enough” (idem).
Bureaucratic centralisation imposes a careerist mentality on party members, where they submit to those above, and distrust and manipulate ‘those below them’. It is a clear characteristic of all the parties of capitalism, of the left and the right, which follow the model that Trotsky saw in the Stalinist Communist parties and denounced in the 1920’s: “it is formed of entire teams of young academics through manoeuvres which, though Bolshevik flexibility, understood the elasticity of their own backbone” (idem).
The consequences of these methods are that “the rising layers have been impregnated at the same time with a certain bourgeois spirit, a narrow egotism and small-minded calculations. One can see that they have the firm will to carve out a place for themselves without concerning themselves about others, a blind and spontaneous careerism. To get to this point, they all have to prove a capacity for unscrupulous adaption, a shameful and sycophantic attitude towards the powerful. It’s what we see in every gesture, on every face in this respect. This was indicated in all the acts and speeches, generally full of crude revolutionary phraseology” .
Reclaiming the real meaning of the proletarian concepts of organisation
It is necessary to reclaim – by analysing them in a critical manner – all the concepts of organisation that the workers’ movement has used before the enormous catastrophe which saw the first steps of the Socialist parties towards the capitalist state and later the transformation of the Communist parties into the Stalinist forces for capital.
The proletarian position on questions of organisation, even if they have the same name, have nothing to do with their falsified version. The proletarian movement has no need to invent new concepts because these concepts belong to it. In fact those who have changed their terminology are those on the left and extreme-left of capital, these are the ‘innovators’ who adopt the moral and organisational positions of the bourgeoisie. We are going to look again at some of these proletarian concepts and how they are in total opposition to Stalinism, leftism and, in general, to any bourgeois organisation.
Centralisation is the expression of the natural unity which exists within the proletariat and, consequently, among revolutionaries. Thus, in a proletarian organisation, centralisation is the most coherent form of functioning and is the result of voluntary and conscious action. Whereas centralisation in a leftist organisation is imposed by a bureaucracy and manoeuvring, in a proletarian political organisation, where different interests do not exist, unity is expressed by centralisation; it is thus conscious and coherent.
In a leftist organisation on the other hand, as in any bourgeois organisation, there exist different interests linked to individuals and factions that in order to conciliate these different interests, and this requires the bureaucratic imposition of a faction or a leader, or a type of ‘democratic coordinator’ between the different leaders or factions. In all cases power struggles, manoeuvres, betrayals, manipulation, and obedience are necessary in order to ‘grease’ the functioning of the organisation because otherwise it falls apart and breaks up. On the other hand, in a proletarian organisation “Centralism is not an optional or abstract principle for the structure of the organisation. It is the concretisation of its unitary character. It expresses the fact that it is one and the same organisation which takes positions and acts within the class. In the various relations between the parts of the organisation and the whole, it’s always the whole which takes precedence”.
Within leftism, this “one and the same organisation which takes positions and acts within the class” is either a farce or a monolithic and bureaucratic imposition of a ‘central committee’. In a proletarian organisation it’s the very condition of its existence. It is a matter of laying before the proletariat, after a collective discussion and according to its historic experience, everything that takes its struggle forward and not to fool it into fighting for interests which are not its own. For this reason, it is necessary to make a common effort of the whole organisation in order to elaborate its positions.
Within leftism, faced with the decisions of the ‘leadership’ that are sometimes judged as absurd, the militants at the base look after and act themselves by deciding in local structures or affinity groups the positions that they think are correct. In some cases this is a healthy proletarian reaction faced with the official policy. However, this localist measure of each for themselves is counter-productive and negative in a proletarian organisation and within such an organisation “the conception according to which this or that part of the organisation can adopt, in front of the organisation or of the working class, the positions or attitudes which it thinks correct instead of those of the organisation which it thinks incorrect. This is because:
- if the organisation is going in the wrong direction, the responsibility of the members who consider that they defend the correct position is not to save themselves in their own little corner, but to wage a struggle within the organisation in order to help put it back in the right direction;
- such a conception leads a part of the organisation to arbitrarily impose its own position on the whole organisation with regard to this or that aspect of its work (local or specific).” (idem, Point 3).
The approach of contributing from any part of the organisation (whether a local section or an international commission) in order to reach a correct position, with the effort of all, corresponds to the unity of interests which exists in a revolutionary organisation between all its members. On the other hand, in an organisation of the left, there’s no unity between the ‘base’ and the ‘leadership’. The latter’s aim is to defend the general interests of the organisation, which is that of the national capital, whereas the ‘base’ is torn between three forces, all of which go in different directions: the interests of the proletariat, the responsibility for the capitalist interests of the organisation or, more prosaically, that of making a career in the different bureaucratic levels of the party. It’s the outcome of an opposition and separation between the militants and the central organs.
The members of revolutionary organisation today have a great deal to learn about all of this. They are tormented by suspicions that the central organs will end up by ‘betraying’, they often hold the prejudiced position that the central organs are going to eliminate all dissidence through bureaucratic means. A mental mechanism spreads which states that ‘the central organs can make mistakes’. That’s perfectly true. Any central organ of a proletarian organisation can make a mistake. But there should be no fatality over making errors and if errors are in fact made, the organisation has the means to correct them.
We can illustrate this with an historic example: in May 1917, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party made an error in advocating critical support to the Provisional Government that came out of the February revolution. Lenin, returning to Russia in April, presented the famous April Theses in order to start up a debate in which the whole organisation was engaged to correct the error and redress the orientation of the party.
What this episode shows is the gap that exists between the preconceived idea that ‘the central organs can be mistaken’ and the proletarian vision of combating opportunism wherever it manifests itself (among the militants or within the central organ). All proletarian organisations are prey to the pressure of bourgeois ideology and that affects every militant as much as the central organs. The struggle against this pressure is the task of the whole organisation.
Proletarian political organisations provide the means of debate to correct its errors. We will see in another article of this series the role of tendencies and fractions. What we want to underline here is that if the majority of the organisation, and above all its central organs, tend to be mistaken, minority comrades have the means to fight this drift, as Lenin did in 1917, which led to him demanding an extraordinary party conference. In particular, “a minority of the organisation can call for an extraordinary Congress when it becomes a significant minority (for example two-fifths). As a general rule it’s up to the Congress to settle essential questions, and the existence of a strong minority demanding that a Congress be held is an indication that there are important problems in the organisation”.
The role of the Congress
There are the sickening spectacles of congresses of organisations of the bourgeoisie. It’s a spectacle with hostesses and an open bar. The leadership comes to show off and make speeches to the applause orchestrated by the warm-up team or to make their TV appearances. The speeches provoke the most absolute disinterest, the one and only aim of the congress is to be told who’s going to take on which key posts of the organisation and who’s going to be sacked. The great majority of these meetings are not given over to discussion, clarification and the defence of positions, but to attribute quotas of power to the different ‘families’ of the party.
A proletarian organisation must function in a manner diametrically opposed to this. The point of departure of the centralisation of a proletarian organisation is its international congress. The congress brings together and is the expression of the organisation as a whole, which, in a sovereign manner, decides the orientations and analyses which must guide it. The resolutions adopted by the congress define the mandate of the work of the central organs. It cannot act arbitrarily according to the designs or whims of the members, but must take its point of departure of their activity from the resolutions of the congress.
The Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1903 led to the well-known split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. One of the reasons for the split and the strong controversy between the two parties of the organisation was that the latter had not respected the decisions of the congress. Lenin, in his book One step forward, two steps back fought this disloyal attitude which was itself a bourgeois attitude. If one isn’t in agreement with decisions of a congress, the correct attitude is to present divergences clearly and push for patient debate in order to reach clarification.
“The highest moment in the unity of the organisation is its International Congress. It is at the International Congress that the programme of the ICC is defined, enriched, or rectified; that its ways of organising and functioning are established, made more precise or modified; that its overall orientations and analyses are adopted; that a balance sheet of its past activities is made and perspectives for future work drawn up. This is why preparation for a Congress must be taken up by the whole organisation with the greatest care and energy. This is why the orientations and decisions of a Congress must serve as a constant point of reference for the whole life of the organisation in the ensuing period.” In a proletarian congress there are not circles from which conspiracies are hatched against rivals, but discussion in order to understand and take positions in the most conscious way possible.
In bourgeois organisations the corridors are the heart of the congress with gossip, conspiracies against rivals, manoeuvres and intrigues fomented. The corridors are the place where the congress is really decided. As Ciliga said: “The sessions were tedious, the public meetings were pure verbiage. Everything was decided in the corridors”.
In a proletarian organisation ‘the corridors’ have to be forbidden as centres of decision and made moments of rest where fraternal links between militants can be established. The heart of the congress must be situated solely and exclusively in its official sessions. There the delegates have to very carefully evaluate the documents submitted to the congress by demanding clarifications and formulating amendments, critiques and propositions. The future of the organisation is at stake because the resolutions of the congress are not a dead letter or mere rhetoric, but consciously taken agreements that must serve as a guide and orientation to the organisation and serve the fundamentals of its activities.
The orientations and decisions of the congress have to engage the whole of the organisation. That doesn’t mean that everything becomes infallible. Regular international discussions can lead to a conclusion where there are errors to correct or that the evolution of the international situation undergoes changes that it’s necessary to recognise. That can even lead to the convocation of an extraordinary congress. In the meantime, that work has to be undertaken rigorously and seriously with debate on the widest and deepest international basis. That has got nothing to do with what continually goes on in leftist organisations where the losers in a congress get their revenge by proposing new positions which are used to settle their accounts with their victors.
The central organs
In a proletarian organisation the congress gives the orientations which define the mandate of a central organ which represents the unity and continuity of the organisation between congresses and following them. In a bourgeois party, the central organ is an arm of power because it has to submit the organisation to the needs of the state and the national capital. The central organ is an elite separated from the rest of the organisation and has to control it, supervise it and impose its decisions on it. In a proletarian organisation, the central organ is not separated from the organisation as a whole but it is its active and unitary expression. The central organ is not an all-powerful privileged summit of organisation but a means of expressing and developing the whole.
“Contrary to certain conceptions, notably so-called ‘Leninist’ ones, the central organ is an instrument of the organisation, not the other way round. It’s not the summit of a pyramid as in the hierarchical and military view of revolutionary organisation. The organisation is not formed by a central organ plus militants, but is a tight, unified network in which all its component parts overlap and work together. The central organ should rather be seen as the nucleus of the cell which co-ordinates the metabolism of an organic entity” (“Report on the structure and functioning of the revolutionary organisation”, Point 5).
The role of the sections
The structure of leftist organisation is hierarchical. It goes from the national leadership to the regional organisations, themselves divided into ‘fronts’ (workers, professionals, intellectuals, etc.), and, at the bottom of all this, the cells. This form of organisation is inherited from Stalinism which in 1924 imposed the famous “Bolshevisation” under the pretext of “going to the working class”.
This demagogy masks the elimination of the structures of workers’ organisations based on local sections where all the militants of a town come together in order to provide themselves with global tasks and a global vision. Opposed to this, a “Bolshevisation” structure divides the militants holding them in a milieu bounded by factory or enterprise, according to the job or the social sector… Their tasks are purely immediate, corporatist and they remain stuck in a hole where only the immediate, particular and local problems are treated. The horizon of militants is closed down and instead a historic, international and theoretical vision is reduced to the immediate, the corporatist, localist and the purely pragmatic. It is a major impoverishment and allows the leadership to manipulate things at its convenience and, therefore, submit to the interests of the national capital while masking this with a popular and workerist demagogy.
The results of this famous “Bolshevisation”, in reality the atomisation of militants inside ghettos of the workplace, was described very well by Ciliga: “The people I met there – permanent collaborators of the Comintern – seemed to incarnate the narrowness of the institution itself and the greyness of the building which accommodated it. They had neither range nor depth of vision and showed no independent thought. I waited for giants and I met dwarfs. I hoped to learn from real masters and I met lackeys. It was enough to go to a few party meetings to see that the discussion of ideas only played a completely secondary role in this struggle. The principal role was played by threats, intimidation and terror”.
In order to strengthen this isolation and theoretical ignorance of militants even more, the ‘central committee’ designates a whole network of ‘political commissars’ submitting strictly to its discipline and responsible to act as a conveyer belt transmitting the orders of the leadership.
The structure that a revolutionary organisation must provide itself with is radically different to this. The main task of the local sections is to study and pronounce on the questions of the organisation as a whole, as well as analysing the historic situation and the study of general theoretical themes considered necessary. Naturally, that doesn’t exclude, but gives sense and body to local activities and intervention, the press and discussions with comrades or interested groups. However, the sections must hold “regular meetings of local sections and put on the agenda the principle questions debated in the whole organisation: this cannot be stifled in any way” (idem). At the same time, the “widest circulation possible of different contributions within the organisation through the intended instruments for this effect” is necessary. The international discussion bulletins are the means to channel this debate and for discussion to spread throughout all the sections.
Part Four: Their Morality and Ours
The series we are publishing on the radical differences (class differences) between on one hand the left and extreme left of capital and, on the other, the small organisations which claim the heritage of the Communist Left, has so far had three parts: an erroneous vision of the working class; a method and mode of thought at the service of capitalism, and a way of functioning that is against communist principles. This fourth part is given over to the moral question in order to demonstrate the abyss that separates the morality of the parties which pretend to defend the exploited and the proletarian morality that any real communist organisation has to practice.
The proletariat has a morality. Arising from this, its organisations must have one that is consistent with its historic combat and the communist perspective that it carries. Whereas amorality, the absence of scruples, pragmatism and the most abject utilitarianism is rife in bourgeois organisations, within a proletarian organisation a coherence between programme, functioning and morality must necessarily exist.
Morality within bourgeois organisations
What sort of morality prevails in a bourgeois party? Quite simply “anything goes”: manoeuvres, coups, stabs in the back, intrigues, lies and the worst hypocrisy. Stalinism gives us a striking example with its demands upon its militants to commit the most disgusting acts in the name of ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’, the ‘defence of socialism’, etc. Just like Stalinism, the Trotskyist groups extol the same moral pragmatism and a blind and unscrupulous support for the theoretical errors made by Trotsky in his book Their morals and ours which otherwise contains valid reflections and elements.
For their part, the ‘Socialist’ parties are presented as the champions of positive feelings: ‘solidarity’, ‘inclusion’, the ‘historic memory’, ‘political correctness’ and ‘good sense’.
All this verbiage is radically contradicted by their actions within government where they pitilessly attack the working class, repress strikes with a ferocity that has nothing to learn from the right, and take measures such as those against immigrants for example which show a pure racism. As to their internal functioning, they show a pattern of the most refined intrigues, subtle changes of alliances, and wars of clans. The Socialist parties are experts in the worst tactics of infiltration, of destruction from within, creators of Trojan Horses etc. Similarly, their proverbial know-how concerning the management of ‘dossiers’ which affects both their ‘friends’ of the high-command as well as their enemies who they try to tie-up with false alliances or evict from places of power.
What moral baggage has been imposed on militants who have been in bourgeois parties in general and more specifically the left and extreme left?
1. Blind obedience to the leaders.
2. Pragmatism and abject utilitarianism.
3. The absence of scruples in the name of the ‘cause’.
4. Unconditional submission to the imperatives of the national capital.
5. Accept the carrying out of actions which deny the most basic morality.
6. Specialisation in manoeuvres and disguised intrigues through ‘brilliant tactics’.
All this is justified with a hypocrisy which belongs to a bourgeoisie which defends the worst barbarity and the most outrageous wrongs in the name of the ‘highest morality’: solidarity, honesty, justice… It’s the famous double morality: the politicians and the leaders have their morality which consists of enriching themselves through all sorts of sordid trafficking, getting rid of rivals (party comrades included) and maintaining themselves in power at any cost without hesitating to commit the most reprehensible actions. At the same time, they defend ‘another morality’ for their subordinates, for the members, for the shock troops of the party who, as we said earlier, must practice rectitude, sacrifice, obedience, etc.
Is all morality bourgeois or religious?
In order to destroy the proletarian instinct of morality in militants, they strongly insist on the fact that all morality is ‘bourgeois or religious’ and that, from this, the militant can only rely on ‘political considerations’ to orient their conduct and behaviour. This argument is based on the fact that: “It’s clear that in all societies divided into classes, the dominant morality has always been the morality of the dominant class; and this to such a point that morality and state, but also morality and religion, have almost become synonymous in popular opinion. The moral sentiments of society as a whole have always been used by the exploiting class, by the state and by religion in order to sanctify and perpetuate the status quo so as to submit the exploited classes to their oppression. The ‘moralism’ thanks to which the dominant classes have always used to break the resistance of the labouring classes through the installation of a guilty conscience, is one of the great scourges of humanity. It is also one of the most subtle weapons of the dominant classes in order to ensure their domination over the whole of society”.
Moralism engenders in us a feeling of guilt. They make us feel guilty about eating, fighting for our needs, wanting to feel good. This, according to moralism, expresses an exclusive and egotistic sentiment. How can one dare to eat when people are starving in the world? How can one drink and bathe in water while every day the environment degrades still more? How can you sleep on a comfortable mattress when immigrants sleep on a hard floor?
The morality of the bourgeoisie is rather that of the decadent bourgeoisie of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries which consists of making workers think that the minimal means of subsistence available to them (somewhere to live, food, clothing) or the conveniences that they have (electrical goods, TV and internet, paid holidays) are insolent luxuries obtained from the backs of the poor of the world, a ‘privilege’ in a word, obscuring that these are the very means for the pursuit of their exploitation.
Moralism and its advocates of the left and extreme left want us to feel guilt for all the woes in the world caused by capitalism, making a social problem a problem of individuals. Thus, the scourge of unemployment is individually caused by the 212 million unemployed individuals in the world.
In general guilt destroys conviction and combativity. This society propagates the feeling of guilt as a way of life and makes accusations against others a means of individualist struggle, of some against the others, making some feel culpable at a given moment then looking to make others responsible at another time. It’s not contradictory to feel guilty at one moment and to make accusations against others the next; that makes up part of an inhuman and individualist morality which always circles around someone’s ‘fault’. The fight against this, whether it comes from capitalist propaganda and its party specialists or whether it springs from relations between militants as a form of individualism, is a central combat of proletarian morality.
The fight against bourgeois moralism should not lead us to reject morality. We have to make a distinction between moralism and morality: “the perversion of the morality of the proletariat in the hands of Stalinism is no reason to abandon the concept of proletarian morality, in the same way that the proletariat must not reject the concept of communism under the pretext that it has been recuperated and changed by the counter-revolution in the USSR. Marxism has demonstrated that the moral history of human society is not only the history of the morality of the dominant class. Exploited classes have ethical values which are their own and these same values have had a revolutionary role in the history of humanity. Morality has nothing to do with the notion of exploitation, the state or religion; the future belongs to a morality which goes beyond exploitation, the state and religion”.
“The conception of morality in the workers’ movement, although, let us say, it was never the centre of attention, of debates or theoretical preoccupations, has nothing to do with the version given to us by leftism. Morality is not an ‘idealist’ or scholastic question which only interests the imitators/continuators of the philosophies of the Byzantine Empire who debated about the sex of angels while the Ottomans attacked the defences of Constantinople. Morality, as any social product of human beings, is by definition one of the main characteristics of the social relations with which we have provided ourselves.
“A reality that could be summed up as meaning, collectively calibrated, of whether the form and orientation that we give to the relations we have with each other is adequate or not… Should it be foreign to the proletariat, a class which is both the fruit of determined social relations but which is equally the bearer of other types of relations, an otherwise much higher form of organising our social existence? If the question hasn’t really been raised in the past it is because the workers’ movement counted on a long and rich tradition of organisational life in which the majority of its militants observed certain rules for debate, addressed each other as comrades, lived with each other and were ready to give assistance as well as confidence and solidarity when that was necessary; in other words, they obeyed the very nature of the proletarian class: the class of solidarity, confidence, carrying the real creative capacities of humanity and a real human culture”.
In reality, the individual bourgeois wants a morality for the exploited majority (the morality of slaves as Nietzsche said) and ‘another morality’, much more ‘supple’ and free from any scruples, for the dominant class. For capital, all means (including murder) are fine if they allow an increase in profits or the advance of power. As Marx said, capital was “born in muck and blood” and all means were used in its expansion: massacres, slavery, sordid alliances with the feudal classes, state assassinations, conspiracies… Don’t forget that one of the first ideologues of the bourgeoisie was Machiavelli and the word Machiavellianism is used to define moral degeneracy and the scandalous absence of scruples.
Double morality is the habit which is best fitted to the ideology and methods of capital. It is the mirror of the ferocious competition of each for themselves which reigns in the relations of capitalist production: “In all the business of speculation everyone knows that one day the collapse will come but everyone hopes that it sweeps away their neighbours after he himself has collected the rain of gold and safely put it away. ‘Après moi le deluge!’, such is the slogan of every capitalist and all capitalist nations”.
The proletariat firmly rejects double morality. In its struggle its means must be in line with it aims; you can’t fight for communism by using lies, rumours, manoeuvres, duplicity, feelings of guilt, the thirst for notoriety, etc. Analogous attitudes must be energetically fought and rejected as being radically incompatible with communist principles. With these ‘moral shortcuts’ one doesn’t move forward a millimetre on the difficult road to communism; the contrary is true and one finds oneself tied hands and feet from a conduct that belongs to the capitalist system; it’s to allow oneself to be contaminated by the laws of its functioning and becoming detached from the revolutionary perspective.
For the ICC, proletarian morality has a central role: “One finds in our statutes (adopted in 1982) the living concretisation of our vision on this question. We have always insisted on the fact that the statutes of the ICC are not a list of rules defining what is or isn’t allowed, but an orientation for our attitude and our conduct, including a whole coherence of moral values (notably regarding relationships between militants and towards the organisation). That’s why we ask from everyone who wants to become members of our organisation a profound agreement with these values. Our statutes are an integral part of our platform.”
The moral combat
But developing an organisational functioning and relations between comrades based upon the moral criteria of the proletariat is not an easy task; it needs an assiduous fight. Today the proletariat is suffering from a serious problem of identity and confidence in itself and this, in the general historic context of what we call the decomposition of capitalism, increases the difficulties of the living and daily practice of a proletarian morality not only within the working class as a whole but also within its revolutionary organisations. What present society exudes from all its pores in a widespread and deadly way is the absence of scruples, dishonesty, scepticism, cynicism… an endless attack on proletarian morality.
Contrary to the idea that Stalinism has given of communists as individual fanatics capable of anything in order to impose ‘communism’, they have always shown a solid moral attitude and with that they have expressed the importance of the question of morality for the workers’ movement.
A prejudice exists against marxism which makes it difficult to understand its solid anchorage in moral criteria. Faced with Utopian Socialism, marxism defended the necessity to situate communist positions not in moral positions but in a scientific analysis of the situation of capitalism, the balance of forces between the classes, the historic perspective, etc. However, one mustn’t deduce from that that Marxism must be solely based upon scientific principles while rejecting moral ones: “Marxism has never denied the necessity or importance of the contribution of non-theoretical factors in the ascension of the human species. On the contrary it has always understood their indispensable character and even their relative independence. That is why it has been capable of examining their connections in history and recognising their complementary nature”.
Marxism is not a cold ideology (as the Greek author, Kostas Papaioannon made out in the 1960s) seeing militants as pawns of the ‘Central Committee’ manipulated at will in a game of chess against the dominant class. In their relations between themselves and towards the organisation, as towards the proletariat, militants carry themselves with the strictest moral rectitude.
This last point is vital for understanding that, in our epoch, social decomposition makes morality within the revolutionary struggle all the more important. “Today, faced with ‘each for themselves’, the tendency to the disintegration of social tissue and the corrosion of all moral values, it will be impossible for revolutionary militants – and more generally a new generation of militants – to overthrow capitalism without clarifying the question of morals and ethics. Not only the conscious development of workers’ struggles but also a specific theoretical struggle towards a re-appropriation of the work of the marxist movement on these questions, has become a question of life or death for human society. This struggle is indispensable not only for proletarian resistance to the manifestations of the decomposition of capitalism and its ambient amorality, but also to re-conquer the confidence of the proletariat in the future of humanity through its own historic project”.
The difficulty that revolutionary generations meet today is that, on one side, a proletarian morality based on solidarity, confidence, loyalty, conscious cooperation and the search for truth, is more than ever necessary, but however, the historic conditions of the decadence and decomposition of capitalism as well as the difficulties of the working class make this appear more utopian, more impractical and more senseless.
As our text on ethics said: “the barbarity and inhumanity of decadent capitalism are without precedent in the history of the human species. It’s true that it’s not easy after the massacres of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, and faced with genocides and permanent and generalised destruction, to maintain confidence in the possibility of moral progress (…) Popular opinion confirms the judgement of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) according to which man is by nature a wolf for man. According to this vision, man is fundamentally destructive, a predator, egotistic, irredeemably irrational and his social behaviour is below that of most of the animal species”.
There is however another element which adds a supplementary difficulty to the development of morality: the gap between the natural sciences and technology and the still more accentuated lateness of social sciences as Pannekoek observed in his book Anthropogenesis: a study in the origins of man: “Natural sciences are considered as the field in which human thought, in a continuous series of triumphs, has developed with the greatest vigour, the conceptional forms of logic… On the contrary, at the other end of the scale there remains human actions and relations in which action and thought are principally determined by passion and impulses, by arbitrariness and unpredictability, by tradition and belief… The contrast which appears here, with perfection on one side and imperfection on the other, signifies that man controls the forces of Nature but doesn’t control the forces of will and passions that are inherent in him. Where he stands still, maybe sometimes going backwards is in the manifest lack of control over his own ‘nature’. Evidentially this is the reason why society is so late behind science. Potentially man possesses domination over Nature. But he still doesn’t have domination over his own nature”.
This situation of ignorance and incomprehension of these profound aspects of the human condition make it very difficult to confront this phenomenon that social and ideological decomposition constantly makes worse: “the development of nihilism, suicides among youth, despair (such as that expressed by the ‘no future’ of urban riots in Britain), hatred and xenophobia which animates ‘skinheads’ and ‘hooligans’, … the tsunami of drugs which is becoming a mass phenomenon and powerfully involved in the corruption of states and financial organisations, spares no part of the world and particularly hits the young, who express the flight into chimeras and more and more, madness and suicide… the profusion of sects, the re-emergence of the religious spirit, including in some advanced countries, the rejection of rational, constructive and coherent thought, including in certain ‘scientific’ areas … ‘each for themselves’, marginalisation, atomisation of individuals, the destruction of family relations, the exclusion of the old, the smothering of affection and its replacement by pornography”.
The unity between aims and means: the ends don’t justify the means
Whereas all bourgeois parties (whether of right or left) have the objective of managing the present so as to conserve capitalism, the revolutionary organisation is at a point between the present and the communist future of the proletariat. For this it cultivates the moral qualities that have already been mentioned and which will be the pillars of a future world communist society. These qualities are constantly threatened by the weight of the dominant ideology and capitalist decomposition. To defend them requires a permanent effort, a tireless critical spirit and vigilance alongside a constant theoretical elaboration.
For revolutionary organisations, this culture has a place as much inside the organisation (internal functioning) as to the outside (intervention). It’s not a matter of isolating the organisation from the world and enclosing oneself in small self-managed communities (which is the reformist error of anarchism) but within itself exists a permanent struggle for the development of these principles. As Lessing the seventeenth century German poet said: “There is something that I love more than truth: the struggle for truth”. In a revolutionary organisation, principles are as important as the struggle for them.
The struggle for communism can’t be reduced to a simple question of propaganda: explaining what a future society is; showing the proletariat’s historic role in overcoming the contradictions of capitalism, etc. That would be a unilateral and truncated concept. Contrary to the modes of production that preceded it, communism cannot emerge from outside the proletariat, but only with the full consciousness and the massive subjective engagement of the proletariat. In the revolutionary organisation, the struggle to live in a coherent manner with communist principles is still more decisive. The struggle for communism is impossible without permanent vigilance and a response against behaviours of envy, jealousy, lies, intrigues, manipulation, theft, violence towards others.
In one of his polemical excesses, Bordiga affirmed that one could arrive at communism even from the basis of a monarchy.
Through this he wanted to demonstrate that the important thing was to get to communism’ whereas ‘the way of getting there’ mattered little, any method would do. We categorically reject such a way of thinking: in order to get to communism it’s necessary to know how to reach it, the means must be symbiotic with the communist end. Against the pragmatism of Stalinism and Trotskyism, who blindly follow “the ends justify the means” maxim, the proletariat and its revolutionary organisations must maintain a clear coherence between ends and means, between practice and theory, between action and principles.
Morality and the individual/society conflict
The dominant morality oscillates between two alternatives which appear to be opposed but which gravitate around the conflict between the individual and society, which not only doesn’t permit a resolution of the question but rather aggravates it.
On one side we have exacerbated individualism in which the individual does ‘what’s good for them’, at the expense of others. On the other hand we have the submission of the individual to the ‘interests of society’ (a formula behind which is hidden the totalitarian domination of the state), which, fundamentally, is presented under two forms: that of a collection of anonymous and impersonal individuals (the form preferred by the Stalinists and Trotskyists) and that of the Kantian moral imperative which leads to individual renunciation and sacrifice for others (Christian morality is also found in this tendency).
In reality, these two moral poles are not opposed. On the contrary they are complementary since they reflect two aspects of the dynamics of capitalism. On one side, the utilitarianism of Bentham is an idealist vision of the ferocious competition which is the motor force of capitalism. Here, each individual struggles for their own well-being without any consideration for others and this is supposed to be for ‘the good of all’, that’s to say the ‘good’ of the good functioning of the capitalist system (against feudalism), not respecting privileges or acquired positions other than submitting to the functioning of a cut-throat society of competition.
A second component of the utilitarian and amoral pole is the deformation of the theory of Darwin which is turned into ‘Social Darwinism’. According to this vision natural selection is the result of a ferocious and pitiless war in which the ‘fittest’ triumph and the weak’ are eliminated, thus allowing ‘the amelioration of the human species’. We can’t develop here a defence of Darwin’s materialist concept of evolution but what is clear is that this moral vision of ‘Social Darwinism’ constitutes an idealisation dressed up in pseudo-scientific clothes, giving the stamp of approval to the very existence of capitalism which is effectively the war of each against all, a reality which is exacerbated by the decomposition of the system.
Faced with this barbaric moral impudence, Kant and other theoreticians glimpsed the result of the chaos and destruction that capitalism carried within it. From this basis it advocated another moral pole that, in all appearances, was opposed to it: the famous moral imperative. The latter constituted a type of ‘restraint of unchained egoism’ in order not to destroy social cohesion. It is a ‘critical’ acceptance of the barbarity of competition while trying to put limits and rules on it so as to avoid its destructive excesses. Capitalism leads to the destruction of humanity because within its DNA it carries the annihilation of the social character of humanity acquired throughout the many millennia of its existence. The Kantian moral imperative, which wants to put a brake on this tendency, is nothing more than an idealist version of the role of a ‘regulator’ and guarantor of the minimal social cohesion that the state assumes, a role which is accentuated under decadent capitalism through the chaos and self-destruction that its contradictions let loose. Kantian moralism is the other side of utilitarianism. The tendency which developed within Social Democracy from the end of the nineteenth century under the slogan ‘return to Kant’ wasn’t content to attack and demolish marxist materialism, it also attacked a proletarian morality which has nothing to do with the moral imperative.
Stalinism and Trotskyist groups have propagated the idea that communist militancy is the blind sacrifice of the individual to the moral imperative incarnated by the superior interests of the ‘Party’ or of the ‘Socialist fatherland’.
The rejection of this barbaric morality which lead to blind submission and the self-destruction of militants have, in numerous cases, led to the other extreme of bourgeois morality: the excesses of the cult of individualism which is characteristic of the petty-bourgeoisie, one of the most exacerbated expressions of which is anarchism.
Proletarian morality: a fight to overcome the conflict between society and individual
The proletariat carries within it the solution to the conflict between individual and society. As the Communist Manifesto said, under communism, “in place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, comes an association where the free development of each one is the condition for the free development of all”. Under capitalism, associated labour at the world scale of the proletariat has the perspective of going beyond it: if labour in common goes much further than the sum of individual labour, the contribution of each one is unique and indispensable for the result of labour in common.
Revolutionary organisations are under constant attack through the individual/society conflict under the form of individualism. Already, in numerous texts, we have looked at the problem that we have briefly raised here. This individualism which makes out it is ‘free’, ‘rebellious’ and ‘critical’ is, in reality, a prisoner of all the destructive impulses incubated by capitalism (competition, egoism, manipulation, culpability, rivalry and the spirit of revenge) and exercises a heavy weight of the life of revolutionary organisation. Its ‘revolt’ goes no further than the blind and stupid polarisation ‘against all authority’, which leads it to be a direct factor of disorganisation and tension between comrades. Finally, its ‘criticism’ is based upon distrust and rejection of all coherent thought, replacing it with speculation, prejudices and the most extravagant interpretations.
This individualism is diametrically opposed to solidarity, which is not only one of the vertical pillars of the proletariat but also of the functioning of revolutionary organisations. We have amply treated this issue in our text of orientation on confidence and solidarity in the proletarian struggle.
Part Five: Debate – A Brutal Conflict for the Bourgeoisie, an Indispensable Means of Clarification for the Proletariat
This article is part of the series The hidden legacy of the left of capital in which we are proposing how to come to grips with something that is difficult for numerous groups and militants of the Communist Left: it’s not only a question of breaking with all the political positions of the parties of capital (populist, fascist, right, left, extreme-left) but it is also necessary to break with their organisational methods, their morality and their way of thinking. This rupture is absolutely necessary but it is difficult because we live daily with the ideological enemies of the liberation of humanity: bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat. In this fifth article of the series, we are looking at the vital question of debate.
The proletariat, the class of debate
Debate is the source of life for the proletariat, a class which isn’t an unconscious force struggling blindly and motivated by the determinism of objective conditions. It is on the contrary a conscious class whose combat is guided by an understanding of the necessities and possibilities on the road to communism. This comprehension doesn’t arise from absolute truths formulated once and for all in the Manifesto of the Communist Party or in the privileged spirit of brilliant leaders but it is a product “of the intellectual development of the working class (which must come from) common action and discussion. Events and the ups and downs of the struggle against capital, defeats more so than its successes, can only make the combatants feel the insufficiencies of all their panaceas and lead them to a fundamental understanding of the real conditions of workers’ emancipation”.
Revolutionary proletarians stand upon the gigantic debates of the masses. The autonomous and self-organised action of the working class is based on debate in which hundreds of thousands of workers, youth, women, retired, actively participate. The Russian revolution of 1917 was based on a permanent debate of thousands of discussions in localities, the streets, tramways… The days of 1917 have left us with two images that well illustrate the importance of debate for the working class: the blocked tramway because its occupants, driver included, decided to stop and discuss a topic; or a window to the street from which a speaker launches a speech gathering a crowd of hundreds of people coming together to listen and speak.
May 68 was also a permanent debate of the masses. There is a flagrant contrast between discussions of workers in the strikes of May during which there was talk of how to destroy the state, how to create a new society, of union sabotage, etc., and that of a student “assembly” in Germany in 1967, controlled by “radical” Maoists during which it took three hours to decide how to organise a demonstration. “We talk to each other and we listen to each other” was one of the most popular slogans of May 68.
The movement of 2006 and 2011 (struggle against the CPE in France and the Indignados movement in Spain) were founded on the living debate of thousands of workers, youths, etc., and on unrestricted discussion. In occupied places “flying libraries” were organised, recalling an action that appeared with great force during the Russian revolution of 1917, as John Reed underlined in Ten Days Which Shook the World: “All of Russia learnt to read, and they read (political economy, history) because people desired knowledge. In all towns, big or small, on the front, each political fraction had its journal (sometimes it even had several). Pamphlets were distributed in their hundreds of thousands by thousands of organisations and were spread into the army, the villages, the factories and the streets. The thirst for learning which had been repressed for so long took on a real delirious form with the revolution. From the first six month from the Smolny Institute alone trains and trucks loaded with literature saturated the country. An insatiable Russia absorbed all printed matter as the warm sand absorbs sea water. And this wasn’t from fairy stories, falsified history, diluted religion and corrupt and cheap novels but social, economic and philosophical theories, the works of Tolstoy, Gogol and Gorky”.
If debate is the vital nerve of the working class it is even more so for its revolutionary organisations: “Contrary to the Bordigist standpoint, the organisation of revolutionaries cannot be ‘monolithic’. The existence of disagreements within it is an expression of the fact that it is a living organ which does not have fully formed answers which can be immediately applied to the problems arising in the class. Marxism is neither a dogma nor a catechism. It is the theoretical instrument of a class which through its experience and with a view towards its historic future, advances gradually, through ups and downs, towards a self-awareness which is the indispensable precondition for emancipating itself. As in all human thought, the process whereby proletarian consciousness develops is not a linear or mechanical process but a contradictory and critical one: it necessarily presupposes discussion and the confrontation of arguments. In fact, the famous ‘monolithism’ or ‘invariance’ of the Bordigists is a decoy (as can be seen in the positions taken up by the Bordigist organisations and their various sections); either the organisation is completely sclerotic and is no longer affected by the life of the class, or it’s not monolithic and its positions are not invariant.“.
Why do they talk of “debate” whereas in reality it’s a battle?
However, militants who have been in bourgeois political parties have themselves experienced that this “debate” is a farce and an evident source of suffering. In all bourgeois parties, whatever their colours, the debate takes the form of a “battle with cudgels”, the famous painting by Goya in the Prado Museum in Madrid. The electoral debates are just rubbish, full of insults, accusations, dirty laundry, traps and underhand coups. These are spectacles of denigration and the settling of accounts conceived as boxing-matches where reality and truth count for nothing. The sole stake is to see who wins and who loses, who can con and lie the best, who can manipulate feelings with the most cynicism.
In bourgeois parties, “free expression” is pure humbug. Things can be said up to a point but not beyond calling into question the dominance of the “leadership”. When this threshold is overstepped a campaign of lies is organised against those who have dared to think for themselves and this when they are not directly marched out of the party. These practices have taken place in all the parties where the tormenters and their victims both use it. Rosa Diez, a leader of the Basque PSOE, has thus been the target of a virulent campaign of accusations by informers from within her party “comrades”. She wouldn’t align with the orientation, in force at that time, for collaboration with Basque nationalism and they made her life impossible up to her quitting the party. She then founded the UYPD (which attempted to hold a centrist position, then taken up by Ciudadanos) and, when rivals and opponents appeared in her own boutique they dealt out the same fate, even reaching new depths of sadism and cynicism that would have made Stalin shudder.
In general debate is avoided in bourgeois parties, whatever their complexity. Stalin forbade debate, profiting from a serious error of the Bolshevik Party in 1921: the prohibition of fractions, a measure put forward by Lenin as a false response to Kronstadt. Trotskyism equally blocks debate within itself and practices the same type of exclusion and repression. The attempt to expel the Left Opposition happened inside a Stalinist prison (!) as witnessed in the book of Anton Ciliga , quoted in previous articles in this series: “To the ideological struggle in the Trotskyist ‘Collective’, was added an organisational conflict which, for some months, relegated ideological questions to a second level. These conflicts characterise the psychology and habits of the Russian Opposition. Both right and the centre give to the ‘Bolshevik militants’ the following ultimatum: either they dissolve themselves and stop their publication or they will be expelled from the Trotskyist organisation.
“In effect the majority thought that there was no need to have a sub-group within the Trotskyist fraction. This principle of the ‘monolithic fraction’ was basically the same as that which inspired Stalin for the whole of the party”.
In the congresses of such organisations, no-one listens to the presentations which consist of boring displays where one thing and its opposite are affirmed at the same time. Sectoral conferences are organised, seminars and many other events which are nothing but public relations operations.
“Debate” in these organisations arises when it’s a question of turfing out the clique in power and replacing it with it with a new one. This can be for various reasons: factional interests, deviations regarding the defence of the national interest, bad election results… From here the “debate” breaks out which turns out to be a struggle for power. On some occasions “debate” consists of when a faction invents a convoluted and contradictory “theses” and is violently opposed to that of rivals, resorting to ferocious criticisms through words, incendiary adjectives (“opportunist”, “abandonment of Marxism”, etc.) and other sophisticated pretexts. The “debate” becomes just a succession of insults, threats, airing dirty washing in public, accusations… punctuated now and again by diplomatic acts of approval in order to “show” the wish for unity and that one appreciates one’s rival who are “comrades” after all. There finally comes a moment when equilibrium between the contending forces is established making the “debate” a sum of “opinions” that everyone defends as their property, which results in no clarification but rather a chaotic sum of ideas or “conciliatory” texts where opposed ideas sit one with the other.
Thus we can conclude that “debate” in bourgeois organisations (whatever their place on the political chess-board which ranges from the extreme-right to the extreme-left) is a farce and a means of launching personal incendiary attacks, which can cause serious psychological consequences for the victims and which shows the striking cruelty and a complete absence of moral scruples of the persecutors. Finally, it’s a game in which sometimes the persecutors become victims and vice-versa. The terrible treatment that they have suffered can be inflicted on many others once they have obtained power.
The principles and means of proletarian debate
Proletarian debate is fundamentally different. Debate within proletarian organisations responds to radically different principles than those we have just seen in bourgeois parties.
The class consciousness of the proletariat (i.e., the self-developed knowledge of the ends and means of its historic struggle) alone gives birth to an unlimited and unhindered debate: “Consciousness cannot develop without fraternal, public and international debate” as we affirmed in our text: The culture of debate, a weapon of the class struggle. Communist organisations, which express the most advanced and permanent effort for the development of consciousness in the class, need debate as a vital arm: “… among the first demands (that these) minorities express is the necessity for debate, not as a luxury but as an imperative need, the necessity to take others seriously and listen to what they say; it is also necessary that the process is not brutal but an arm of discussion, nor should it be an appeal to morality or to the authority of theoreticians”, as the text continues.
In a proletarian political organisation, debate must be the opposite of the repugnant methods that we’ve denounced above. It’s a matter of finding common ground of a shared truth where there are no winners or losers and where the only triumph is that of common clarity. Discussion is based on arguments, hypotheses, analysis, doubts… Errors are part of the route which leads to operational conclusions. Accusations, insults, the personalisation of comrades or organisational structures must be categorically forbidden because it’s not a question of who says it, but what is being said.
Disagreements are necessary moments in coming to a position. Not because there’s a “democratic right” but a duty to express them when one isn’t convinced by a position or when one senses it is insufficient or confused. In the course of a debate positions are confronted and sometimes there are minority positions which, with time, become that of the majority. Such was the case with Lenin with his April Theses which, when he presented it on arrival in Russian in 1917, was a minority position within a Bolshevik Party that was dominated by opportunist deviations imposed by the Central Committee. Through an intense discussion, widely participated in by all the militants, the party became convinced of the validity of Lenin’s positions and adopted them.
The different positions expressed within a revolutionary organisation are not fixed postures which are the property of those who defend them. In a revolutionary organisation, “divergences do not express the defence of personal material interests or particular pressure groups, but they are the translation of a living and dynamic process of the clarification of problems which are posed to the class and as such are destined to be re-absorbed with a deepening of the discussion and in the light of experience” (“Report on the Structure and Functioning of the Revolutionary Organisation”, quoted above).
In proletarian organisations there can be no “enlightened minds” that must be followed without question. It is clear that there can be comrades with greater capacities or who possess a greater mastery in certain domains. There are certainly militants whose devotion, conviction and enthusiasm contains a certain moral authority. However, none of all that confers on them a particular privileged status which makes this or that militant a “brilliant leader”, a specialist expert on this or that question or a “great theoretician”. “There’s no supreme saviour, no god, no Caesar, no tribune, producers save yourselves and let’s decree common salvation”, are words from the battle hymn of the Second International.
More precisely, as noted in the text on Structure and Functioning, “Within the organisation there are no ‘noble’ tasks and no ‘secondary’ or ‘less noble’ tasks. Both the work of theoretical elaboration and the realisation of practical tasks, both the work in central organs and the specific work of local sections, are equally important for the organisation and should not be put in a hierarchical order (it’s capitalism which establishes such hierarchies)”.
In a communist organisation it is necessary to fight against any tendency to follow blindly, an error consisting of aligning oneself, without thinking, to the position of a “clear militant” or to a central organ. In a communist organisation, every militant must maintain a critical spirit, not to take anything as read but analyse what the subject is including that coming from the “leadership”, the central organs or the “most advanced militants”. This is the opposite of the state of things which exists in bourgeois parties and most particularly in their representatives on the left. In these latter organisations blind following and the most extreme respect for the leaders are the norm; and in fact these tendencies already existed in the Trotskyist Opposition: “The letters of Trotsky and Rakovsky, which dealt with the question of the agenda, were smuggled into the prison and gave rise to numerous comments. The hierarchical and submissive spirit in front of the leaders of the Russian Opposition never ceases to amaze. One phrase or a speech from Trotsky was a hallmark. Further, as much as the Trotskyists of the right and left gave these phrases a true meaning, everyone interpreted them in their own way. The complete submission to Lenin and Stalin which reigned in the party was equally present in the Opposition but in relation to Lenin and Trotsky: all the rest was the work of the Devil” (Anton Ciliga, Op. Cit., Page 273).
A very dangerous idea exists which it is necessary to formally reject: there are “expert” militants who, once they have spoken “have said everything”, one “couldn’t say it better” and others limit themselves to taking notes and keeping quiet.
This vision radically repudiates a proletarian debate which is a dynamic process during the course of which many efforts are made, including some erroneous, in order to confront problems. The superficial vision, rooted in the mercantile logic of only seeing the “product” or the final result without distinguishing it from everything that led to its elaboration, of only focusing on the abstract and timeless value of exchange, leads one to think that everything comes from “brilliant” leaders. Marx did not share this point of view. In a letter addressed to Wilhem Blos in 1877, he wrote: “Neither of us (Marx and Engels) cares a straw for popularity. Let me cite one proof of this: such was my aversion to the personality cult that at the time of the International, when plagued by numerous moves — originating from various countries — to accord me public honour, I never allowed one of these to enter the domain of publicity, nor did I ever reply to them, save with an occasional snub. When Engels and I first joined the secret communist society, we did so only on condition that anything conducive to a superstitious belief in authority be eliminated from the Rules”.
During the course of a debate, hypotheses and opposed positions are formulated. Some approximations are made, some errors committed and there are some clearer interventions; but the global result doesn’t come from the “most far-seeing militant”, rather a dynamic and living synthesis of all of the positions integrated into the discussion. The finally adopted position is not that of those were “right”, and it does not imply any antagonism to those who were “wrong”; it is a new and superior position which collectively helps to clarify things.
The obstacles to the development of proletarian debate
Evidently, debate isn’t easy within a proletarian organisation. It doesn’t evolve in a world apart but it must bear all weight of the dominant ideology and the conception of debate that it carries with it. It is inevitable that “forms of debate” which belong to bourgeois society and which assails us every day through the spectacles of its parties, its television and its rubbish programmes, social networks, electoral campaigns, etc., have infiltrated into the life of proletarian organisations. A constant struggle has to be undertaken against this destructive infiltration. As our text on the culture of debate cited previously shows:
“Since the spontaneous tendency within capitalism is not the clarification of ideas but violence, manipulation and the winning of majorities (best exemplified in the electoral circus of bourgeois democracy), the infiltration of this influence within proletarian organisations always contains the germs of crisis and degeneration. The history of the Bolshevik Party illustrates this perfectly. As long as the party was the spearhead of the revolution, the most lively, often controversial debate was one of its main characteristics. As opposed to this, the banning of real fractions (after the Kronstadt massacre of 1921) was a paramount sign and active factor of its degeneration”.
This text pointed to the poisonous heritage which Stalinism left in the ranks of the workers and which weigh on communists, a good number of whom began their political life in Stalinist, Maoist or Trotskyist organisations and think that the ” These militants were brought up politically to believe that exchange of arguments is equivalent to ‘bourgeois liberalism’, that a ‘good communist’ is someone who shuts his mouth and switches off his mind and emotions. The comrades who today are determined to shake off the effects of this moribund product of the counter-revolution increasingly understand that this requires the rejection not only of its positions but also its mentality.”
In fact, we must fight the mentality which falsifies debate and which festers from every pore of the bourgeois world and particularly vulgar Stalinism and all its appendices, notably those who feign a greater “openness” such as the Trotskyists. It is necessary to be clear and decisive in the defence of a position but that doesn’t mean arrogance and brutality. A discussion can be combative but that doesn’t mean quarrelsome and aggressive. We can call a spade a spade but one can’t deduce from that that one should be insulting and cynical. It is not necessary to look for conciliation and compromise but that shouldn’t be confused with sectarianism and a refusal to listen to the arguments of others. Once and for all, we must open up a route out of the milieu of confusion and distortion that Stalinism and its avatars maintain.
Individualism: the enemy of debate
Although the bureaucratic collectivism of the bourgeois parties, with their monolithism and brutal constraints, constitute an obstacle to debate, it’s necessary to protect oneself against what appears as its opposition whereas, in reality, it is its complement. We refer here to the individualist vision of debate.
This consists of everyone having “their own opinion” and this “opinion” is private property. Consequently, to criticise the position of a comrade becomes an attack: their “private property” has been violated because it belongs to them. To criticise this or that position of this or that comrade would be the equivalent of stealing from them or taking their food.
This vision is seriously false. Knowledge doesn’t give rise to “personal reasonableness” or to the “intimate conviction” of each individual. What we think is part of a historical and social effort linked to labour and the development of the productive forces. What each person says is only “original” if it is involved in a critical manner in a collective effort of thought. The thought of the proletariat is the product of its historic struggle at the world level, a struggle which doesn’t limit itself to its economic combats but which, as Engels said, contains three interconnected dimensions: economic, political and ideological struggle.
Every proletarian political organisation is linked in the critical historical continuity of a long chain going from the Communist League (1848) up to the small existing organisations of the Communist Left. In this historic line, positions, ideas, appreciations and the contributions of each militant are involved. While each militant aim to extend knowledge still further, they don’t consider this an individual effort but one with the objective of taking as far as possible the clarification of positions and orientations for the whole of the organisation of the proletariat.
The idea that “everyone has their opinion” is a serious obstacle to debate and is complementary to the bureaucratic monolithism of bourgeois parties. In a debate, where everyone has their opinion, the result can either be a conflict between victors and vanquished or it can be a sum of different, useless, contradictory opinions. Individualism is an obstacle to clarity and, as in a monolithic party, the question of “here’s my opinion, take it or leave it”, means that there is no debate when each person puts forward their “own opinion”.
For the development of an international proletarian debate
Proletarian debate has a historic nature; it welcomes the best of scientific and cultural discussion which has existed in the history of humanity: “Fundamentally, the culture of debate is an expression of the eminently social nature of mankind. In particular, it is an emanation of the specifically human use of language. The use of language as a means of exchange of information is something which humanity shares with many animals. What distinguishes mankind from the rest of nature at this level is the capacity to cultivate and exchange argumentation (linked to the development of logic and science), and to get to know each other (the cultivation of empathy, linked among other things to the development of art)”.
The culture of debate has its roots in primitive communism but made some vital advances in Ancient Greece: “Engels for instance refers to the role of the general assemblies of the Greeks of the Homeric phase, of the early Germanic tribes or of the Iroquois of North America, specifically praising the culture of debate of the latter”.
“Debate arose in response to practical necessity. In Greece, it develops through the comparison of different sources of knowledge. Different ways of thinking, modes of investigation and their results, production methods, customs and traditions are compared with each other. They are found to contradict, to confirm or to complete each other. They enter into struggle with each other or support one another, or both. Absolute truths are rendered relative by comparison”.
Our text on the Structure and Functioning of the Organisation sums up the fundamental principles of proletarian debate:
- “rejection of any disciplinary or administrative measure on the part of the organisation with regard to members who raise disagreements: just as the minority must know how to be a minority inside the organisation, the majority must know how to be a majority, and in particular it must not abuse the fact that its position has become the position of the organisation and annihilate debate in any way, for example, by compelling members of the minority to be spokesmen for positions they don’t adhere to;
- the whole organisation is interested in discussion being as wide-ranging and as clear as possible (even when it deals with divergences of principle which can only lead to an organisational separation): it’s up to both the minority and the majority to do all they can (obviously without this paralysing or weakening the tasks of the organisation) to convince each other of the validity of their respective analyses, or at least to allow the greatest possible clarity to emerge on the nature and significance of these disagreements.
- To the extent that the debates going on in the organisation generally concern the whole proletariat they should be expressed publicly”
The proletariat is an international class and for that its debate must have an international and centralised nature. If debate is not an addition of individual opinions, it can no more be the sum of a range of local opinions. The strength of the proletariat is its unity and consciousness which aims to express itself at the world level.
International debate, integrating the contributions and experiences of the proletariat of all countries is what gives clarity and a global vision which makes the proletarian struggle stronger.
 Point 4 of the Platform of the ICC.
 The classical parties of the right (conservative, liberal, etc ) complement their part of the control of society through the parties of the extreme right (fascist, neo-Nazi, right populists, etc.). The nature of the latter is more complex; see in this regard “Contribution on the problem of populism”, International Review no. 157
 For a close look at how opportunism penetrates and destroys the proletarian life of an organisation, see “The road towards the betrayal of German Social-Democracy”, International Review no. 152.
 Point 13 of our Platform.
 See our Spanish article: “Cuales son las diferencias entre la Izquierda Comunista y la IV Internacional?”
 We are not talking here about the small internationalist anarchist groups, who, despite their confusions, lay claim to many working class positions, showing themselves clearly against imperialist war and for the proletarian revolution.
 There are a number of examples: Durao Barroso, ex-President of the European Union, was a Maoist in his youth; Cohn-Bendit, European Parliament Deputy and councillor to Macron; Lionel Jospin, ex-Prime Minister of France was a youthful Trotskyist; Jack Straw, ex-British Home Secretary and the state’s renditioner-in-chief was a left-wing, “firebrand” student leader.
 We should recognise that consumerism (promoted during the 1920’s in the United States and after the Second World War) has helped to undermine the spirit of protest within the working class, since the vital needs of each worker are deformed by the part played by consumerism, transforming its needs into individual affairs where “everything can be had through credit”.
 See the book in Spanish: “Debate sobre la huelgade masas” (texts of Parvus, Mehring, Luxemburg, Kautsky, Vandervelde, Anton Pannekoek).
 The left and far left of capital could be seen to correspond to this passage that the Communist Manifesto devotes to bourgeois socialism: “They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightaway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires, in reality, that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but to cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie. (…) It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois – for the benefit of the working class.”
 “Report on the function of the revolutionary organisation”, (International Review 29), https://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR029_function.htm
 “The question of organisational functioning in the ICC”(International Review 107) https://en.internationalism.org/ir/109_functioning
 In turn, Stalinism was inspired by the dirty work of social democracy, which betrayed the proletariat in 1914. Rosa Luxemburg, in ‘Our Program and the political situation; Address to the Founding Congress of the German Communist Party (Spartacus League)’, 31 December 1918, 1 January 1919, denounced it: “You see from its representatives where this Marxism stands today: it is enslaved and domesticated by the Ebert, David and others. It is here that we see the official representatives of the doctrine that, for decades, has been passed off as pure, true marxism. No, this is not where true marxism leads us, into the company of the Scheidemanns and counter-revolutionary politics. True Marxism fights against those who seek to falsify it.”
 Ante (or Anton) Ciliga (1898-1992) was of Croatian origin. He joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and lived in Russia from 1925 onwards, where he became aware of the counter-revolutionary degeneration of the USSR. He joined Trotsky’s left-wing opposition. He was arrested for the first time in 1930 and sent to Siberia and was finally freed in 1935. After this he settled in France where he wrote a very lucid account of everything that had happened in the USSR, in the Third International and in the CPSU, in the book cited above. The PDF version in Spanish, whose quotations have been translated, can be found at: http://marxismo.school/files/2017/09/Ciliga.pdf. Subsequently Ciliga moved further and further away from proletarian positions, sliding towards the defence of democracy, especially following the Second World War.
 On this subject see: “Communists and the national question (1900-1920) Part 1” (International Review 37, 1983) https://en.internationalism.org/ir/037_natqn_02.html
 See our pamphlet, Unions against the Working Class https://en.internationalism.org/pamphlets/unions.htm
 Lenin, The Three Sources and the Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913)
 “Report on the structure and functioning of revolutionary organisations”, International Review No. 33 (1983), point 1
 This error byTrotsky was even used by Trotskyism to describe any situation of revolt and even a guerrilla-based coup d’état like the one in Cuba in 1959 as a “revolution”.
 “Report on the function of the revolutionary organisation”
 The Third International after Lenin. https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=the+communist+interna…
. Ante Ciliga, The Russian Enigma
 “Report on the Structure and Functioning of Revolutionary Organisations” (January 82) point 3. https://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR033_functioning.htm
 For an analysis on how the Bolshevik Party fell into this opportunist error and how through the means of debate it succeeded in righting it, see “The April Theses of 1917: signpost to the proletarian revolution”, 1997, https://en.internationalism.org/international-review/199704/2088/april-t…. Also read the chapters pointing to this period in Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution.
 “Report on the Structure and Functioning of Revolutionary Organisations”, Point 6.
 For a more global analysis of these differences see our article in Spanish: “What are the differences between the Communist Left and the IV International?”
Also see in French “Revolutionary Principles and Revolutionary Practice” and in English “The Communist Left and the Continuity of Marxism” https://en.internationalism.org/the-communist-left. Also, in English, “The International Conferences of the Communist Left (1976-1980). Lessons of an experience for the proletarian milieu” (International Review no. 122, 3rd quarter 2005).
 See our preceding articles in this series: I, II and III. https://en.internationalism.org/content/16603/hidden-legacy-left-capital-part-one-false-vision-working-class https://en.internationalism.org/content/16654/hidden-legacy-left-capital-ii-method-and-way-thinking-service-capitalism https://en.internationalism.org/content/16715/hidden-legacy-left-capital-iii-functioning-which-negates-communist-principles
 The German Social Democratic Party (SDP) gives a perfect example of this behaviour which it said had nothing to do with – a pure lie. It was the SPD which repressed the revolutionary attempts of the proletariat in Germany in 1918-1923, causing a hundred thousand deaths and it also ordered the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (1919). More recent was the actions of the Social Democratic government of Schröder in 2010, which brutally attacked the living conditions of the workers, implementing for example the junk contracts of 400 euros a month.
 Trotsky himself defended an ambiguous position on these manoeuvres.
On the one hand he recognised that “for the dominant classes, propertied, exploitative, educated, their experience of the world is so great, their class instinct so exercised, their means of espionage so diverse, that in trying to fool them, by making out one is something one is not, one is drawn into a trap not by enemies but by friends”. At the same time however, he says, “the auxiliary subordinate value of these manoeuvres must be strictly used as means in relation to the fundamental methods of the revolutionary struggle” (The Third International after Lenin).
This theorisation of the manoeuvre in general, without clarifying the fact that it can only be used against the class enemy but never against the working class, nor its revolutionary organisations, has helped Trotskyist organisations justify all sorts of manoeuvres against the working class and against its own militants.
 “Marxism and Ethics”, International Review 27 and 28 https://en.internationalism.org/ir/127/marxism-and-ethics; https://en.internationalism.org/ir/128/marxism-and-ethics-pt2 (unless mentioned otherwise, quotes come from this text).
 “Marxism and Ethics”
 “Machiavellianism, the consciousness and unity of the bourgeoisie”, International Review no. 31, fourth quarter, 1982.
 Marx, Capital, Volume 1, part 3, chapter 10.
 “Decomposition, the final phase of decadent capitalism”, International Review no. 107, fourth quarter 2001.
 This doesn’t mean that there haven’t been differences in the conception of morality, some more utilitarian as in the case of Lenin and others more coherent as in the case of Rosa Luxemburg. It’s a question that should be deepened.
 We can give two examples here: in 1839-42 probably the most important mobilisations in the history of the proletariat in Britain and their principal motive was indignation and the horror aroused in sectors of the proletariat of the terrible exploitation that their class, men, women and children were suffering, particularly in the textile industry. The second is the spontaneous strike that broke out in Holland in 1942 against the deportation of Jews by the Nazis.
 “Decomposition, the ultimate phase of decadent capitalism”, International Review no. 107, fourth quarter 2001.
 For example, see the text of Anton Pannekoek “Marxism and Darwinism” (parts one and two published in International Review no. 137 and 138.
 “Report on the structure and functioning of the revolutionary organisation”, International Review no. 33, (January 1982).
 https://en.internationalism.org/ir/111_OT_ConfSol_pt1 International Review, no. 111, fourth quarter 2002.
 Parts one to four of the series are published on our internet site.
 Preface to the German edition of 1890 of the Communist Manifesto, Engels.
 See https://en.internationalism.org/ir/125_france_students and our international leaflet distributed in 2011 “From indignation to hope”.
 Ten days that shook the world, chapter one, John Reed
 https://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR033_functioning.htm International Review no. 33 (January 1982).
 See our article in Spanish “Electoral debate is the opposite of a real debate”. https://es.internationalism.org/cci-online/200802/2185/debates-electorales-lo-contrario-de-un-verdadero-debate
 In the garrison of Kronstadt, close to Saint Petersburg, sailors and workers rose up. Soviet power brutally repressed this movement which signified a very important step towards the degeneration of the proletarian bastion of Russia (see https://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR003_kron.htm). In a false conclusion from these events, the Bolshevik Party, now in full opportunist degeneration, decided at its Tenth Congress to temporarily forbid fractions within the party.
 An “isolation” prison in Verkhneuralsk on the Ural River.
 The Russian Enigma
 In the war of succession in the Spanish conservative Popular Party (PP), the six candidates proclaimed daily that they were “friends”.
 A recent example of this was the celebration of the last party congress of the ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Left Republic of Catalonia, an independentist party) during which the leadership imposed a “conciliatory” line with central Spanish government. However it allowed its rank-and-file to “radicalise” its intervention with a hotchpotch of “independent” and “disobedient” amendments which referred to both “autonomy” within Spain and independence from it.
 See https://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/fred/4818/culture-debate-weap…, International Review no. 131, fourth quarter, 2007.
 See “Lenin’s April Thesis, signpost to the proletarian revolution” in International Review no. 89