On several occasions, we have considered the fundamental question of the party (1). Even more so for this question than for any other, it seems essential to us to conceive it non-separately and to place it in the whole of the communist programme More than any other programmatical issue, the "question of the party" has been extracted and separated from the rest of the programme, has been conceived as a "question in itself" (the "deus ex machina"), be it in trying to "bypass the party", "cause of all evil" (2) or in transforming it into an "ideal should be" to which the proletarian movement has to be modelled (3). Not one of these conceptions (and all their numerous sub-products which all derive from the same social-democratic mould) manages to perceive the party as the social force historically determined to impose communism violently.
Within the capitalist mode of production that dominates the whole planet dictatorially, two social classes, two social projects exist, always more antagonistically, and oppose each other always more violently: the capitalist social project - wage-slavery, personified by the bourgeoisie, and which, as a product of past history, dominates our present, our immediacy - and the communist social project - the World-wide human community, born and personified by the proletariat. From the most global point of view, it is the capitalist social project that determines the law-and-order party and it is the communist social project, non immediately perceptible reality that determines the party of revolution. The capitalist forces, unified against the proletariat in a single party, even if this single party takes the shape of several "parties" which all defend the same programme, are those which maintain, under different forms (parliamentary, bonapartist,...) the capitalist mode of production, salariat, camouflaged and unified in the bosom of fictitious communities (religion, nation, people,...), communities of capital (4). Antagonistically opposed to these fictitious communities, the proletariat affirms itself as the social force (5) that, from the beginning of its existence, organises its struggle to destroy capitalism, to impose a new, at last human community. In this meaning communism, as far as its theory goes, is at the same time a description of the new community that the proletariat is historically forced to achieve and a description of the action the proletariat takes in order to impose its programme; it is therefore a description of the prefiguration of communism: the party. The essential determination of the proletarian party, therefore, is not one or another circumstantial event at the present time, but is directly communism itself. "Bounding over the entire cycle, communism is the knowledge of a plan of life for the species, i.e. for the human species" (Bordiga - "Property and capital"). That's why the tasks, the central activities of the party never vary, for they are not, just like the party, determined by immediate reality, but directly by the whole historical arch, from primitive communism up to full communism. Consequently the party is communist because in the present it represents the future and acts for its accomplishment. The party is the indispensable condition for the instauration of communism, and in the same time its prefiguration. This prefiguration in no way means the constitution of utopian communities where full communism reigns (return to the phalansteries of Fourier and other anarchist communes) but means that in the bosom of capitalism a social force exists, which acts, which has its own interests, which structures, organises and centralises itself, unifying itself in order to oppose and violently destroy the existing order, and to achieve its own essence: classless society. The whole capitalist society divides itself more and more into two enemy sides, into two organised forces, into two classes, two parties: one, the party of capital; the other, the party of communism (6).
Revolutionary Marxism principally retains the most general, the most abstract level... capitalism against communism... in order to understand the social classes and their antagonism, rejecting this way any statical, sociological, economic view of the classes. "Classes are not statical data but organical acting forces. They determine and define themselves in the struggle as a movement of opposition to other classes" ("Class and party" in "Rupture with the ICC", brochure in French of the ICG). When Marx states "The proletariat is revolutionary or isn't at all" (Marx to Engels-1865), he expresses that either the proletariat really acts as a class, i.e. as a force bearing a communist project, as a party, or it does not exist as a class, a party, leaving nothing but individuals, atomised citizens, sociological workers, producers and reproducers of capital (7). In the same way, Bordiga explained that "In the salient characters of its movement one can identify a class" (Party and Class - 1921), insisting also on this central element of our theory, namely that a class only exists when it reveals its interests, its programme, when it organises into a party. As we noticed on several occasions, the working class is the revolutionary class within the capitalist mode of production because it bears the new social project, communism the world-wide human community. Consequently, we can only grasp the very existence of the working class as an organised social force acting to impose its proper programme, antagonistic to all existing social order, violent negation, destruction of capitalism, i.e. of the law of value, of salariat. This action, this struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is its permanent historical tendency to constitute itself as the universal party. This way, the permanent affirmation of the communist left has been illuminated: the proletariat acts as a class only when it constitute itself into a party. "When we discover a social tendency, a movement directed towards a precise goal, then we can identify the existence of a class, in the real sense of the word. But this means that the "class-party" exists, in a substantial, if not formal way". (Bordiga - Party and Class - 1921).
The Marxist methodology (against Kantian theories) explains that the contents - here the historical programme - is not a thing in itself to which a certain form "adheres"; on the contrary, it is the contents itself that gives birth to the form it already contained in a latent way. It is the historical party that expresses the contents and the revolutionary moving forward of the working class. This is why, without ever identifying party and class, the revolutionary Marxism defines the transition of the proletariat from a non-class to a class for itself (9) by its contribution, its organisation into a party.
When Marx writes the famous sentence in the manifesto of the party, in 1847: "This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being destroyed by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier."
Or still elsewhere, in the statutes of the First International, in 1872: "In its struggle against the collective power of the possessing classes, the proletariat can only act as a class by constituting itself into a distinct political party, opposed to all old parties, formed by the possessing classes. This constitution into a political party is indispensable to assure the triumph of the social revolution and of its supreme aim: the abolition of wage-slavery."
Marx expresses undoubtfully that the only possible organisation of proletarians fighting for communism is the organisation into a party, that there exists but one and unique movement that, even if it might disappear in certain counter-revolutionary periods because of the "competition between workers", rises up again, always firmer, always clearer... that this movement is nothing else but the organisation, the unification of the proletariat into a class, and consequently into a party. The permanent movement of the workers to associate themselves, to centralise themselves, to unify themselves to defend their own interests, workers' associationism, is the motor of the organisation into a party, of the organisation of the most conscious proletarians around the nuclei that have been able to draw the conclusions from past struggles, that have been able to intransigently defend the communist programme, giving birth this way, during a period of international struggle, to the world-wide communist party. So the only motor is class-practice (in this sense that theory, of course, is one aspect of this practice, just like strikes, propaganda, armed struggle... are), with clashes "spontaneously" giving birth to multiple crystallisation, to organisations of struggling proletarians, more or less ephemeral, which, in order to go on opposing themselves to capital, have to unify themselves, centralise themselves and have to understand always more clearly the very movement that animates them, in connection with past struggles. For the proletariat, drawing more and more critical conclusions from its past means holding the key of humanity's future always more firmly. This permanent tendency towards associationism for struggle, the formal structures of which are periodically destroyed, is the historical tendency of the proletariat to organise into a party.
The essential determination of the proletariat's struggle to destroy capitalism is its revolutionary programme: communism. Communism, borne by the proletariat, is not, in spite of all vulgar materialists, the simple and immediate product of the sociological place of workers in the capitalist mode of production, but is the product of the whole development of humanity, which historically determines (Marxism is an implacable historical determinism) the place of the proletariat at one pole of the production process, and therefore, determines the material interests that flow from it, necessarily engendering communism, at one and the same time as a movement of destruction of capital and as the affirmation of the new community (10). It is the whole of the development of the productive forces, it is the cycle of value that determines, as a product of the whole history of class-societies, the proletariat, collective and associated producer of value, at one pole of the production relationships, and, at the other pole, the bourgeois class, personification of capital, whose function is to manage this value, and that lives from it.
Classes do not exist by themselves, nor as fixed entities, but exist only as active forces. Classes determine themselves by their practice, on basis of the pole they hold in the production relationships and on basis of the interests determined by those relationships. This is why the revolutionary or reactionary character of a class can only express itself antagonistically to the other class, one as bearer of a human community, the other as conservative force of the relations of production that envelop and hinder the productive forces of humanity. In capitalism, the bourgeoisie as personification of the capitalist mode of production, necessarily is reactionary in front of the revolutionary class: the proletariat. When we state that there can be no class without party, this essentially means that there can be no human collectivity being historically determined without the existence as an active force, of its programme, its social project. Therefore, to try to define the working class without its essential characteristic, i.e. to be a revolutionary class, bearer of communism, can only be counter-revolutionary. If, tendentially, the proletariat at first, by instauring its class dictatorship, but afterwards the whole of humanity, organises into a universal communist party - knowing that when the whole of humanity is organised into a party, this party ceases to exist, for having engendered the universal human community, nevertheless it is completely erroneous to identify class and party (i.e. to put an equation mark between them), because, not only it is methodologically absurd to identify a being with its most fundamental characteristic, but most of all, it is extremely dangerous to identify the human collectivity with the project, the programme that it embodies only tendentially, (and in the same way as this collectivity is only tendentially conscious of its project) and which therefore only tendentially becomes the project, the programme, the party of all members of this collectivity.
From the point of view of historical materialism, it is communism that defines the proletarian movement, it is the party that defines the class. But this historical reality exists today only as a more or less strong tendency to destroy capitalism. Communism isn't obvious (the Italian communist left defined it as "a fact already passed") but for an extreme minority of the collectivity, of the class, which however will be historically forced to realise communism. For the larger majority of proletarians, the heterogeneity of consciousness still predominates, while as a process, considered as a whole, the communist movement is the first movement of history completely conscious, the first movement for which it is the consciousness of communism that precedes and determines action. This process where, more and more, for the proletariat, it is its consciousness, its programme that determines its action, is the process of reversal of praxis, because, contrary to vulgar materialism, it isn't the immediate reality that determines the being, but its historical moving forward. This fundamental process of the reversal of praxis isn't the apanage or private property of this or another formal party, but is a real movement that takes a concrete form and expresses itself through communist nuclei, groups, fractions... and even individuals. Those, "in return", "have the task to unify themselves, to centralise themselves internationally, in order to constitute, on basis of their practical-theoretical convergence, the world-wide communist party" ("Presentation" - Le Communiste No 6). So, today, just like yesterday and tomorrow, it is communism that defines, that characterises the movement, the programme of the working class. In the same way, Marx explained how "it is anatomy of man that is the key to anatomy of ape", it is the superior stadium, communism - ultimate product of the evolution of class-societies, of the cycle of value - which is the key to the "anatomy" of the working class. The proletariat is communist, or isn't at all. It organises into a party, or it isn't but a number of atomised individuals ("non-class") producing and reproducing capital. "It is from the description of communist society that Marx and Engels drew the characteristics of the party-form" ("Origin and Function of the party-form" - Invariance No 1 - 1968).
Note: (*) When in this chapter we criticise as well the "Leninist" conceptions (which of course, we find in Lenin himself) as the antithetic, the "anti-Leninist" conceptions, in fact we want to demolish the bourgeois ideologies and practices, products of the triumphant counterrevolution. Those ideologies both come from the falsification, the plundering of the revolutionary programme, in order to keep only the form, while transforming the contents in the same time. "Leninism" therefore has nothing to do with Lenin's practice/critique. And, besides, historically, "Leninism" (and consequently its antithetic "anti-Leninism") only manifested itself at Lenin's death, as a mummification and a distortion of Lenin's own critical method. "Leninism" is nothing else but Stalinism, its opposite, "anti-Leninism", nothing else but anti-Stalinism of stinking democrats.
The methodological foundations of the Leninist theory of the Party (developed as soon as 1900 particularly in "The immediate objectives of our movement" and in "What is to be done?" in 1902) essentially are nothing else but a remake, radicalised (mainly due to the different political situation of Germany and Russia), of the dominant theory within Social-Democracy - the Second International - of which Kautsky was the uncontested master and guardian of the "orthodoxy" (a "quality" he held formally from the ageing Engels). If today militants of the numerous Leninist groups immediately associate the qualification of "renegade" to Kautsky's name (see "The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky"), they do this, without realising that if Kautsky was a "renegade", it is in the first place because he was the theoretical master of the whole social-democracy, and consequently of Lenin (but also of Pannekoek, Luxembourg,...). For the whole of this conceptions, be it, as we see it here, about the party, but also about capital, imperialism, "philosophy", revolution, about the national question... Lenin never broke away completely from the social-democratic interpretations, i.e. from the understanding and the bourgeois practices of the workers' movement, from the understanding of the proletariat as an exploited class, but not as a revolutionary class. And if we recognise Lenin as a revolutionary, it is fundamentally on basis of his action which, de facto, to a large extent was in contradiction with his own theories. Although Lenin tried in practice to rupture with Social-Democracy (particularly by organising the armed insurrection of October 1917), he never really pushed on those attempts to rupture until the clear affirmation of communism, which implies the refusal of the whole of the reformist conceptions characterising the Second International from its very foundation (11). As to the question of the party, of consciousness, etc., Lenin was and claimed to be a disciple of Kautsky, whom, besides, he often quotes:
"...socialist consciousness would be the necessary, direct result of proletarian struggle. This, however, is completely wrong (...). Socialist consciousness today can only emerge on the basis of solid scientific knowledge (...). In fact, it is in the brain of certain individuals belonging to this category (bourgeois intellectuals) that contemporary socialism was born, and it was by them that socialism was transmitted to the most developed proletarians, who introduced it into the proletariat's class struggle later on, wherever conditions enabled them to. This is how socialist consciousness is an element imported from the outside into the proletariat's class struggle, and does not spontaneously arise from it."
Lenin uses the same non-Marxist idea:
"The political class-consciousness can only be brought to the worker from the outside, i.e., from the outside of economic struggle, from the outside of the sphere of the relationships between workers and bosses." ("What is to be done?")
These quotations are often used to criticise the Leninist conceptions of the party (particularly by the "anti-Leninist" current), but without realising how the practice of the fraction grouped around Lenin tried, in reality, to break up with the conceptions of Lenin himself (e.g. when Lenin has to call upon the "spontaneous" movement of the proletarians who are organising the insurrection, in order to force the central committee of the Bolshevik party to formalise this preparation in progress) and without understanding all implications of the criticism of the idealist-worker conception of "importation of consciousness from the outside". To criticise this conception does not mean, as councilists do, to deny the organisation of proletarians into a party, but, on the contrary, means to understand the workers' movement as a unity, to place each spontaneous expression of the proletarian struggle into the historical line of the constitution of the party, to place each struggle in the totality that constitutes the communist programme.
Whoever says workers' struggle, says political struggle. "All class struggle is a political struggle" Marx stated. Whoever says political struggle, says unity of the struggle, of the movement (even non-conscious) and of its historical intrinsic goal. Besides, the proletarian movement cannot be conceived, as we already wrote, without its goal, without its programme. The essence of the kautskyist/Leninist falsification is based on the separation of the struggles and the movement, on one hand, and the aim: communism, the party, on the other hand. While Bernstein (rightist social-democrat) crudely expresses this falsification: "The goal is nothing, the movement is everything", the kautskyist orthodoxy can only answer him by introducing a mediation, reforms, the transition-programme, the "party"... between the movement and the goal, and confirm the dichotomy completely. As a matter of fact, it is because Kautsky, just like Lenin, agrees with this separation, that he is forced, in order to answer to the obvious revisionism of Bernstein, to introduce a new element from the outside, so as to "join together again" what he conceives as being separated.
And of course, we criticise Leninism and anti-Leninism not simply as bourgeois ideologies, as wrong ideas, but mainly as counterrevolutionary practices on which the bourgeois ideas and ideologies can grow. Because large fractions of the proletariat did not break away from union practices, from reformist and legal politics, the theorisation of these counterrevolutionary practices could impose themselves as easily as they did on the third International, dialectically reinforcing this way the bourgeois practices of the proletariat. It is because union practices still persisted within the proletariat that the Unionist Red International could be created in 1920-1921 as easily as it was, and, by its creation reinforce and answer for such practices. So the problem of ideologies within the proletariat can never be reduced to the simple question of "wrong ideas", "wrong consciousness" (to which it would be sufficient to oppose a "true consciousness"), but it takes its roots in the real existence of social forces acting in a conformist way, giving a material basis to those ideologies. This is why each time we stress the fact that ideologies are first of all material forces; if a religious ideology exists, it is first of all through and because of the reality of the earthly force of its army of priests and mollahs, of its Vatican-State, of its capitalist interests. To destroy religion does not simply mean to destroy the religious idea, but first of all to destroy the social forces, the mode of production on which the religious idea was based, justifying this mode of production. "The religious world isn't but the reflection of the real world." ("Capital" - Marx)
Lenin, like all his followers, also uses most of this theory about a "double workers' movement", a "double centralisation" on the one hand the "spontaneous" movement that cannot bypass the "trade-unionist" consciousness, i.e. "economic" consciousness (we would almost say the "alimentary" consciousness), and on the other hand the "political" consciousness, the "communist" one, existing in itself and having to be introduced into the "spontaneous" movement by bourgeois intellectuals, converted to "socialism".
So, for Lenin, workers can only become conscious about the fact of being exploited; they need help from outside to realise that their force is revolutionary. This conception of Lenin and Kautsky is in direct opposition to Marx' s position, defined very clearly in his circular letter to the leaders of the German Social-Democracy: Bebel, Liebknecht, Brack...
Once more, we can find in Lenin's works the Kautskyist separation, which in theory separates the subject from the object, the being from the consciousness, separates movement and goal, exploited "class" and revolutionary "class", "economic" struggles and "political" struggles, "immediate" struggles and "historical" struggles... (12) and which in practice has led to the criminal separation between the "economic movement" organised by reformist unions and the "political movement" organised by the parties of Social-Democracy (traced from the model of German Social-Democracy), only busy with "universal suffrage" and parliamentary trickery. This separation of the workers' movement also meant the liquidation of the revolutionary programme and led astray workers' struggles, directing them in the perspective of a reform of the system. The counterrevolution that established itself with the defeat of the Paris commune and the dissolution of the first international dominates that period entirely (from 1871 until the beginning of this century, 1905), and this is not only because of open repression, but also, and most of all, under the more vicious influence of reformist, unionist, legalist, parliamentary ideologies. In opposition to the first International, which aimed at uniting proletarians from all over the world into one organised force to destroy capitalism, the second International, set up in a period of complete counterrevolution, divided the movement directly, not only, as we have already seen it, into "economic" and "political" movement, but also broke away from its internationalist character by grouping the proletarians according to their countries, in a more or less federate manner, and so it laid down, from the very start, all the bases for its participation in the first world-wide butchery of 1914. And although the third International rose up as an attempt to break away from the bourgeois rottenness of the second International, and this in a period of revolutionary struggles in the whole world, it did maintain, to a large extent, in affiliation with Kautsky-Lenin, not only the double organisation on the one hand the third ("political") International, and on the other hand the "economic" I.R.U., but it also maintained the organisation according to the countries, conceived as an addition of the different national parties, directed by an executive (which was in fact the Bolshevik party).
To this counterrevolutionary separation of the workers' movement - "economic"/"political", "immediate"/"historical",... -reproduced as well by the "Leninist" current as by the "anti-Leninists" (who substitute the word "soviet", supposedly pure from any deviation, to the word "union"), correspond the legalist ideologies - "pacific way for socialism" -, reformist, parliamentary,... and the "non-political" ideologies, "managerist", unionist... as we have already written in one of our reviews:
"At the very source of the existence of unionism there is the counterrevolutionary separation between, on the one hand, the so-called "immediate" struggles - "struggles" against the "consequences" of the system, which are left to the trade-unions and to the ignorant workers - and on the other hand the co-called "political" struggles - the so-called revolutionary "struggles" left to the professionals of politics, to parliamentarians and other rascals - unionism is therefore, historically, the perfect complement of reformist and parliamentary politics. The social-democratic separation between class and party gets its prolongation with the separation between the class organised in the unions and/or the soviets, the "immediate" or "economic" struggle and the "political" or "revolutionary" party/struggle. Therefore unionism, product of those separations, can only mean the "struggle" within the framework of the system, reproducing and reinforcing it, and is incompatible with the real communist struggle for the abolition of wage-slavery." (Action Communiste No 6 - "Concerning a certain balance-sheet about the activity of the group "Unemployed on struggle")
The proletariat's force expresses itself, at each wave of international struggle, not by the divisions, but by its capacity to unify, to centralise all the proletarian expressions that are dispersed into one single force, bypassing all the old organisational forms, produced and set by many years of counterrevolution. This is how it is only during periods of revolutionary struggle that the bourgeois separations are really bypassed, and so is the competition between workers, so as to constitute, in tendency, the beginning of a new community, which has to impose itself as a dominant class, as a workers' state (semi-State), before negating itself through its generalisation to the whole humanity (extinction by its extension to the whole world).
This way, the first International, the I.W.A., with all the limits typical of its period - the difficult disengagement from the "utopian socialist" phase, from the period of the Proudhonist, Lassalist, Saint-Simonist sects -, materialised the "Organisation of proletariat into a class, and consequently into a party", much more clearly than the second "International", still-born, and also than the third International, which very soon (13) degenerated into counterrevolution. Indeed, the aim of the I.W.A. was "the abolition of all class-regime" and it directly organised, as its first task, the unification of all the proletarians, in struggle all over the world: "first article: The Working Men's Association has been established in order to create a centre of communication and cooperation between the workers' associations of all countries, which long for the same aim, i.e. mutual help, progress and the complete emancipation of the working class" (Statutes of the I.W.A. - Marx/Engels). Obviously this first International isn't an organisational model that we should try to reproduce today, but it expressed "more purely" the proletarian answer of always, the organisation of proletarians from all countries, from all conditions, from all ideological origins... around the international fraction that was best able to theoretically and practically defend the historical interests of the movement, in this case Marx and Engels. It is somewhat in the same way that, everywhere in the world, from 1917 onwards, internationalist fractions, groups, "parties"... recognised themselves in the communist and destructive character of the revolution in Russia, and that, without knowing the programmatical positions of the Bolsheviks, and being nearly always more radical than the latter, recognised themselves in the party of Lenin (14). This way the tendency of always became clear: revolutionary periods are periods of unification, of fusion, in the heat of the struggle, between the various proletarian forces the counterrevolution had dispersed and destroyed. The periods of counterrevolution, on the contrary, confirm themselves as a generalised dislocation of the proletarian forces, as a forced and imposed return of the few minorities that still resist to the state of "sects", a situation that can only be bypassed in a new revolutionary period. In opposition to the Kautskyist vision, which considers the party as growing gradually until it includes all workers (the same as the Leninist conception of the mass-party) in order to, after having educated them, "pass on to socialism pacifically", the Marxist vision, considers the existence of the party as a qualitative step deriving from the fusion and the centralisation, in a revolutionary period, of thousands of workers' groups - products of the heterogeneousness of the class - under the single direction of the fraction that was best able to preserve, defend, restore, theoretically and practically, the programme of communism. It is during those short but very intense moments of world-wide and general unification of the proletariat that the unique organisation of the proletariat into a class, and consequently into a party takes a concrete form in the clearest way and that the central position of Marx: "consciousness can be nothing but the conscious being" (German Ideology) takes a concrete form in the most visible manner, and the proletariat can be nothing but the social-force imposing communism, imposing the party.
In opposition to this "monist" totalising conception, we find all the reactionary "theories" that originate from the social-democratic falsifications and define "the class and the party" separately. Therefore, (and this is the essential part of their "theory") they have to look for the many "tricks", "transition programmes", "intermediate programmes", "transmission belts",... that could possibly "link" the class to its party. The basic methodological error of all these "theories" lies in the dichotomy they lay down between two concepts - class and party -, which, for sure are different but can in no way be separated. In the same way, life cannot be defined separately from man, from the animal or from the living vegetal. If "life" existed separately from man, only then the problem of the "link" between man and life would arise. In the same way as in the Marxist concept of merchandise, the exchange-value cannot exist, and therefore be defined, without its support, which is the exchange-value; the concept of class cannot exist without its tendency to constitute itself into a party. The Kautsky/Lenin filiation on the question of the party, be it in the classical Leninist version - Trotskyist, Stalinist, Bordiguist.... - or the antithetical version - anti-Leninist, councilist, anarchist,... - corresponds therefore, as well for its methodological foundations, for its theory as for its practice, to a counterrevolutionary understanding of the party, meaning the liquidation of the real historical line of the constitution of the party, meaning the out and out fetishisation of the formal aspect - the organisation as an aim in itself, being constructed any time and any way, - inevitably bringing about democratic, bureaucratic, followist practices,... at the expense of the real movement, the invariant programme, the historical party.
In addition to the question of separating movement and consciousness, class and party, the Kautsky-Lenin tradition also obliterated the essential difference Marx made between the party in its historical meaning and the multiple groups, leagues... existing at one or another time, in one or another place: the formal "parties".
"Talking about the party, I give its historical meaning to this concept." (Marx to Freiligrath - 1860)
Marx, like Bordiga after him, (see "The substantial existence of the party") always stresses forcefully the essential difference between on the one hand the permanent historical tendency of the proletariat to constitute itself into a party, to affirm itself as a conscious class, and on the other hand the various materialisation, more or less clear, of such a tendency, in time and in space. "The "League", like the "Society of Seasons" in Paris, like a hundred other societies, weren't but one episode of this history of the party, which spontaneously springs up from the soil of modern society" (The letter of Marx to Freiligrath - 1860). In the same way, Marx and Engels synthesised magnificently the communist programme in the famous manifesto of 1847, which, even if it was "ordered" by a formal "party" - the "Communist League" - has a validity, a contents that bypass this narrow framework of the little communist militants' group to such an extent that today nobody would ever dare to restrict the universal significance of the manifesto to the simple programme of the League. The manifesto is a direct achievement of the party "in its large historical acceptation".
Moreover, the invariant line of the party being the line of the historical party, its different formal expressions throughout the past have all been more or less marked by their limits - limits of the non-integral restoration of the revolutionary programme, because of the more or less important influence of the bourgeois ideology - and so they have been not only ephemeral (see Marx) but also contingent and limited. It is obvious that such a contingent and limited character is entirely relating to the action of these "formal" parties in history. The more they separate themselves in theory and practice from the historical and invariant line of the communist programme, the more their "limited and non-historical" characteristics are important, the more their communist quality transforms itself, first sliding towards centryism, and afterwards towards counterrevolution. As "Bilan" stated: "Parties do not die, they betray".
Inversely, the everlasting task of communist fractions and nuclei is to represent the historical programme in the present. The more this central task of theoretical and practical restoration is entirely assumed, the more the historical party, in the immediate reality, takes a concrete form. This is why the task of communist nuclei is not to constitute, to direct a formal "party" but to be the central direction pole of the combating party, the party that, in reality, organises armed insurrection and imposes communism upon the whole world. The universal party that will impose the definite victory of the proletariat is the historical party acting presently as the centraliser, in time and in space, of the whole communist programme (16). In this way, the historical line of the constitution of the party always exists; only its various formal expressions, because of the counterrevolution force, disappear or betray.
"After the League was dissolved on my request, in November 1852, I never belonged (nor do I now belong) to any secret or public organisation; so, for me, the party, in this quite ephemeral meaning, has ceased to exist for eight years already..." (Marx to Freiligrath)
In a period of dominant counterrevolution, only the very small groups and fractions that are firmly anchored to the historical programme can manage to subsist, expressing the perenniality of the party line more or less adequately, while being in the same time completely in opposition to the whole immediate reality. The only compass is the invariant contents of the programme. "It is the attachment to this being (the human being, which is man's real "Gemeinwesen"), which is apparently denied during counter-revolution periods, (just like today, when revolution seems utopian to most people), that allows one to resist". (Origin and function of the party form - Invariance, 1968). It is in such dark times that communists, following Marx, declare : "I've always neglected the proletariat's momentary opinion" (Marx - 1850). This was not only the position of Marx, but also of Lenin in 1915 and of the Italian fraction of the communist left in the thirties, which passionately fought for the intransigent defence of the communist programme and against any artificial foundation, on confused programmatical bases, of new parties, which, consequently, would inevitably be bound to join the counterrevolution (see the struggle of the "Bilan" fraction against the foundation of the IVth Trotskyist International).
In those most sombre periods of the workers' movement, the tasks of the communist groups, nuclei and fractions do not vary either. Only the relationship between those various tasks - theory, direct action, propaganda, agitation, international centralisation, etc. - varies, and in view of the extreme-weakness of these groups, it is the most central, the most directly historical tasks that should come first. In the same way, in an insurrectional period, although the whole of the tasks have to be maintained, obviously it will be the tasks on which the military victory depends that will then dominate. As Bordiga expressed it very clearly in his "Considerations on the organic activity of the party when the general situation is historically unfavourable": "So we claim all forms of activity that belong to a favourable period, but only to the extent allowed for by the real balance of forces" (1965). The real activity of the party, in its historical acceptation, is to assume the whole of the tasks of always, while the relationship between them is determined by our relative strength: the more the communist forces are concentrated and powerful on a world scale, the more the whole of the tasks will be reinforced on all levels of communist action. Only our capacity, be it very limited, to assume this totality, to answer programatically on all levels of the workers' struggle, will put us in the historical line of the party. This everlasting struggle of communists is the only real preparatory work to the "spontaneous" rise of the party. This way, to break the entirety of activity, of the communist practice, under the pretext of assuming one or another of those tasks "better" or "more thoroughly" (be it the "theoretical",the "military" tasks or the "action in today's struggles") means in fact to destroy the activity of the party in favour of immediate results, in favour of one or another aspect that will consequently become hypertrophied and as it degenerates rapidly into the activity in itself, into the apology of this particular form having become privileged compared with the totality, this task loses its communist character. Once again, this means putting forward the contingent and limited aspects to the detriment of the total aspect, the historical aspect.
Unfortunately, today this is the case of a large majority of the weak communist forces. As a matter of fact, the catastrophic course of the capitalist crisis - the essential motor of the proletarian struggle - is only getting worse from day to day; struggles, revolts break out more and more often and radically, while the "communist forces" keep "discussing", "lingering on", "playing"... and are unable to assume the tasks for which they were made. Dispersion exists everywhere and under many forms.
Some try to artificially compensate the real lack of programmatical and organisational restoration through "old tactical solutions": they "go to the masses", they drown themselves in the smallest local conflict in order to find "the solution" to the crisis of the communist movement and in the end they lose everything altogether, as well the programmatical tasks as the tasks of action, agitation and propaganda within local struggles, because it becomes clear that they cannot fulfil the tasks neither of the struggle that is going on, nor of the potential future development of this struggle. Activism has become the absolute master; in order to unite just anybody on just any basis, one should agitate, "carry out opinion polls", "sound the feelings of workers",... but, most of all, one should not at any price consider the basic questions, the revolutionary programme, which means abandoning the programme.
Others, on the contrary, retrench themselves in the ivory tower of "theoretical work" they consider as a preliminary separated from the rest of the tasks. The pretext is no longer "to go to the masses", or "to know the workers", but to solve all the programmatical questions before being able to take a clear position on such or such event (17). Here also militant work, considered as a whole in its real communist meanings is being destroyed. Communist theory, as a matter of fact, can only draw its function and its force from the bosom of the entirety of revolutionary praxis: "We cannot, however, draw up a barrier between theory and practical action, because this would mean, once certain limits are passed, to destroy ourselves as well as all the bases of our principles" ("Considerations on the organic activity of the party when the general situation is historically unfavourable").
There are other deviations - militarism, propagandism, localism, sectarianism... - and they can complete one another. But they all put forward one particular form as being the solution, around which the "true party" should be constructed. Once more, this means confounding between today's formalizations, which are still essentially determined by immediate and therefore capitalistic reality (a more or less important deviation of all today's groups), and the historical tendency towards the constitution of the party that, through its concrete form as a single world-wide force, the party of revolution - full and complete existence of the historical party in the immediate reality - will necessarily mean the destruction, the bursting of all old forms, of all groups that claim being the party today, of all groups that act as the "constructors of the party" but in fact have only constructed some more or less fixed forms that will necessarily be bypassed and destroyed by the revolutionary contents of the proletarian movement.
The task of communist nuclei is not to "build parties" but on the contrary, to act consciously and voluntarily in function of historical reality, in order to prepare and to direct the rise of the party and in order to prepare the militant and theoretical executives capable of directing it towards the new community. When Marx clearly states that "our designation as representatives of the proletarian party comes from nobody else but ourselves", he once more neglects all "democratic representation", all electoral and "majority" mystique, which is what all humanist and bourgeois philanthropists will always blame him for. "Our only designation as representatives of the proletarian party" comes from the programme we defend, from our intransigent defence of the historical interests of the proletariat, even if this should mean, as it means to most communists most of the time, standing at counter-current of the dominating ideas, even amongst workers. So what defines the workers' vanguard, the real direction of the movement, is neither the democratic designation election, possibility to revoke... and other democratic libertarian bullshit - nor the self-proclamation of being the direction, but the real capacity to direct the movement towards communism. As Marx defines it in the Manifesto, communists are not necessarily these who call themselves "communists", "internationalists", "revo1utionaries", but those who, in the reality of struggles, are "the most determined fraction", those who "involve all the others", not towards an "ephemeral victory" but towards "the interest of the whole of the movement", those who in each struggle "put forward the interest shared by the whole proletariat, independently from each nationality". Therefore it is in view of a real total practice action, theory, propaganda, agitation... - that communists define themselves and that they prove the validity of their conception of the world. It is this real direction that is always determined, not by the "immediate success" but by the revolutionary watchword: "abolition of wage-slavery" (Marx "Salary, price and profit"), which will enable the movement to not always start again its history, its weaknesses, its hesitations, its lack of decision, to not always make the same mistakes, and which will enable the movement to reappropriate its own past, and therefore its future. "Whoever commands the past, commands the future" (G.Orwell - "1984").
And if, as we see further on, we criticise the conceptions and practices of the "constructors of parties", we always more firmly oppose to them the necessity of the "construction", of the preliminary formation of the executives, of the direction of the party as the indispensable organ to the crystallisation of the universal party. It is only this conscious and voluntary work, starting before the emergence of large movements, of constituting a central nucleus assuming programmatical restoration to the best, as well as world-wide centralisation of revolutionary forces, action in struggles and propaganda..., that will allow, in the right time, i.e. in a revolution period, to summon up the proletarian forces still dispersed into one force directed by a single world-centre, the directing organ of the party. Such preparatory work - like an old mole digging out the soil of society without nearly anybody noticing - has to be reinforced, centralised, organised constantly... so that the next revolution wave won't get lost but will be able to do away with this old world. The central task of communists is to work internationally for the constitution of a centre, of the direction of tomorrow's party. Communists have no interests different from those of the rest of the proletariat in struggle, they are only the vanguard, the real direction of the struggle and they organise themselves consequently.
Another essential question in the Marxist theory of the party concerns the process of its constitution. Its basic premise is that the fundamental determinant of the class, and therefore of the party, is "the soil of modern society": the capitalistic mode of production giving rise "spontaneously" (Marx) to the tendency of the constitution as a party. This spontaneous rise means in the same time the ineluctable appearance of the forces giving birth to the party and the necessary crystallisation, centralisation of these forces into a single organisation. This centralisation, which expresses the passage of the party from its substantial form to its real and complete existence, is only possible because of the preliminary formation of the militant and theoretical executives of the communist minority, the only one that can allow for all class-attacks to move forward in a communist sense. This way we have clarified the spontaneous process of the rise of the class-party, which, in the Marxist understanding, implies a preliminary factor of preparation, organisation and direction of this "spontaneity", a process that was synthesised by the communist left through the following sentence: Just like revolution, the party cannot be created, but has to be directed.
"One does not create neither parties nor revolutions. Parties and revolutions have to be directed by uniting all useful revolutionary experiments on an international level, in order to assure the chance of victory of the proletariat in this battle to the utmost, as this battle is the inevitable outcome of the historical period we are living. It seems to us that this must be the conclusion." (Party and class action -1921 - Rassegna Communista)
This understanding liquidates as well spontaneism as Leninism, dilettante queuism and activism of "constructors of parties".
Indeed, for spontaneism, the class is directly, all of a sudden, revolutionary. The preparatory work, theoretical and practical, of communist nuclei, the indispensable organisation of this spontaneity, is denied. All what is left to do, for communists, if they are still necessary, is to "comment" class struggle, and to the most, to illuminate, to guide by their sole ideas, the working class. More sophisticated forms of spontaneism do exist, among which, the various councilist, democratic, culturalist, educational, anti-substitutionist, libertarian (18), etc. variations. But at the same time other forms of spontaneism exist, camouflaged behind the ultra-partyist phrases and affirmations, which, beyond their formal affirmations about the need for the party, can only conceive their activity either as being exclusively propagandist (joining this way, through activism, propagandist councillism), or exclusively "theoretical" without understanding how the communist programme is a praxis, the undissociable unity of theory and practice.
On the other pole (as we have already seen), we can find the "Leninist" theories, more or less derived from a reduced interpretation of "What is to be done? ", of the "construction of the party" conceived as an addition of "union-militancy" - reproducing unionism, be it in "official" unions or in "open", "immediate" groups... - and "political militancy", with its whole counterrevolutionary problematic of the minimum-programme, the transitory demands, the "bridge to be established between class and party, between movement and goal, which are this way considered as separate entities. Of course, this conception denies the spontaneous rise of the party from the soil of old society and opposes to it a whole plan of construction, in reality a plan of individual recruitment of proletarians, which requires the infiltration of all groups where one can find "sociological proletarians" - unions, sport and cultural clubs, etc. - in order to obtain, through many manoeuvres, the direction of these organisations and to direct large worker masses. But this direction is only possible at the cost of abandoning the communist programme and adopting a bourgeois programme since the dominating ideology is the one of the dominating class. When those militants manage to get to the head of bourgeois organisations, this means their liquidation at short term either as leaders or as communists. It always means the liquidation of the party itself, of its programme, which, just like its militants, gets dragged along an activist/opportunist spiral, transforming itself rapidly into a single bourgeois, unionist practice. This process, which has already dragged many groups into the bourgeois camp, is caricaturally completed by a series of "supple tactics" (of compromission), all justified for the sake of "realism" and "concretism" and based on Lenin's leaflet "The infantile illness of communism: leftism", which has unfortunately become famous. Those "tactics" include trickery as well as the meticulous elaboration of all stages of the continuous claims that should unfailingly drag proletarians to revolution. All these artificial constructions, these various stages, these lists of transitory demands, besides the fact that they try to model the movement according to their ideological schemes, at best have no influence at all for they will be completely bypassed by the generalised launching of the movement, and, at worst, they will be real brakes to the struggle which does not proceed gradually but by qualitative bonds and which, in order to advance, shouldn't fix itself any preliminary limits, but, on the contrary, should tend to want everything, to take everything. As we have already seen, it is the very contents of the movement that bypasses all transitory stages invented by "constructors", which are, in most cases, nothing but new obstacles to the struggle.
From the basic premise, which determines the rise of the party from the soil of modern society, we can derive the following: the party is being directed centrally and directly on a world-wide level - organic centralism: centralisation, in time and space -. Its full and entire existence therefore can only be materially possible when there is an international wave of class struggles like in l9l7-l923. In this sense, we can state that a real and effective embodiment of the party, its world-wide existence (no longer only as a tendency, no longer substantially) can only be possible when there are powerful acting proletarian forces, which, for sure, to a large extent are still unconscious of their movement when the period is a clear period of revolution, of reversal of the balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and this can only be considered on a world-wide level. In these circumstances, in the heat of the struggle, the many communist nuclei, groups..., spread all over the world, which have most adequately assumed the preparatory tasks, manage to unify, to centralise themselves in order to effectively direct the world-wide communist revolution. The party therefore does not proceed from a pure and single matrix, nor from any particular geographical zone or from a single communist cell, but on the contrary, it rises "spontaneously" from the flanks of our decaying society, and the guarantee of its true revolutionary contents comes precisely from the impersonal militancy of communist nuclei, which, at the right moment, enables them to avoid making the same errors again and enables them to direct the movement until definite victory. Identifying today's communist nuclei with tomorrow's party, besides the megalomaniac character of such identification, means misunderstanding the two fundamental aspects of the existence of the party, which are its spontaneous rise and, preliminarily to this rise, the indispensable maturation prepared by extreme minorities among small communist groups, which, at decisive times, will be the only ones capable of giving a full communist direction to the party. Understanding this essential difference - quantitative and qualitative - between the party of revolution and those groups which, in spite of all changes of names or other vicissitudes, tirelessly prepare its rise, means being able to work today at this central task of assuming, from now on, despite our weak forces, all the tasks that will in a revolution period, determine the proletarian victory.
The exiled communist left of Italy ("Bilan" - "Prometeo") had already perceived this reality when it defined, on the base of the fundamental change of the balance of forces between capitalism and communism in the thirties, the tasks of the fraction: to criticise past experiments always more radically; to fight all falsifications more and more in order to restore the communist programme while rejecting organisational voluntarism, activism, artificial construction of the "Party", which, during this counter-revolution period, can only serve the enemy (as was shown by the creation of the Trotskyist "International"). In this sense, the non-activist direction of the fraction (Vercesi, Pieri, Jacobs...) gave it the theoretical and practical capacity (as it was one of the few groups in the world really able to do this) to interpret and to intervene, from a proletarian point of view, against the imperialist war launched in Spain to destroy the proletariat (1936-1939). But a few years later, this position of "falling back", in a counter-revolution period, on the most fundamental tasks, of refusing ephemeral success in the "conquest of the masses" was defeated to the advantage of the voluntary creation without principles of the "Party" in Italy around Damen in 1943-1945, even though Vercesi just like Bordiga stuck on to a position of return to the more fundamental task of programmatical restoration (which more particularly provoked the 1952-scission).
Through this historical experience, we can see how the capitulation of communists before the difficulty of advancing at counter-current, to the advantage of popularity and of immediacy, inevitably carries them away onto the road of degeneration, of the liquidation of the programmatical experiences of the workers' movement. Communists therefore, even in a revolution period, will remain an extreme minority, even though they represent the interests of the large majority of mankind, of the whole humanity; this is not due to our own will, but because the balance of forces in favour of the proletariat cannot be imposed durably but after the world-wide victory of revolution, after a period of revolutionary dictatorship. Only through the destruction of the universal bourgeois State, of wage-slavery and of all its defenders - priests, bosses, trade-unionists, leftists... - the communist party can become a "mass-party", the "party of humanity", the new victorious community, the communist society. The communist party, even while acting for the interests of humanity, while directing millions of proletarians during the struggle and insurrection, will remain an extreme minority of proletarians united by the programme defending the historical interests of the proletariat and consequently the interests of the liberation of mankind.
The characteristics of tomorrow's party, of its "way of life" flow inevitably from communism as the essential determination of the party.
"Being understood that the party is the prefiguration of communist society, it cannot adapt itself to some mechanism, some principle about life, about organisation which in some way is linked to bourgeois society; the party has to carry into effect its destruction." (Origin and function of the party-form - Invariance No 1)
This problem is not just a technical, a mechanical one, it concerns the very life of the party because for communism there can be no antagonism, for any reason whatsoever, between the "principles" (strategy) and the "tactics", between programmatical affirmations and daily practice. "One cannot mechanically separate the political and the organisational questions." (Lenin - First congress of the CPR)
A few years ago already, we had tried, by a brief statement of theses, to synthesise the few existing programmatical experiences on this question (mainly due to the communist left of Italy) while at the same time outlining our own principles of behaviour. We have copied that document here because it still expresses, in its main aspects, our orientation and this in perfect accordance with the central theses of this text "Communism and Party".
1. The communist social movement exists and affirms itself for and as the unification of the last exploited and revolutionary class in human pre-history: the proletariat. The material base for this unification derives from the universalisation of the production relationships, entirely achieved by capitalism.
2. But where we talk about a movement of unification and unifying (A), this presupposes first of all a separation. Indeed, if the communist movement is the unification/affirmation of the proletariat as a class for itself, this movement is the anti-thesis of the capitalistic movement, which aims at atomising all individuals (negation of classes) as "citizens" and consequently at achieving the perfect separation/reification: democracy.
3. Consequently, the proletariat's tendency to unite is fundamentally anti-democratic and. totalitarian because it aims at solving the contradiction between salaried work and capital by the dictatorship of the proletariat, the dictatorship of the revolutionary and exploited class forced to always act in the sense of the very negation of the bases of its domination (this explains the dying away of classes and of the workers' state). This is why "Communists do not have any codified constitutions to propose. They have a world of lies and constitutions to destroy, crystallised in the law and force of the dominant class. They know that only a revolutionary and totalitarian mechanism of force and power, without excluding any means, can possibly prevent the infamous residues of a barbarous epoch to rise up again, and prevent the monster of social privilege, hungering after revenge and servitude, from holding up its head again, launching once more its treacherous cry of Liberty" (Bordiga - 1951).
4. Marxism categorically rejects all anti-authoritarian, all democratic and federalist conceptions, which in fact are nothing but the organisational acceptance of the reality of capitalistic separations and of their ideologies. As a matter of fact, those ideologies in practice are but the addition (i.e. the acceptance) of all particularisms, of all localisms, of all corporatisms... of all separations/categories of capital, the fetishism of decisions made by a majority and consequently the political surrender to the dominating ideas, which necessarily emanate from the dominating class. Here we reply again, with Engels: "A revolution most certainly is the most authoritarian thing possible, its is the act through which one part of the population imposes its will on the other part by means of guns, bayonets and cannons, which indeed are authoritarian means; and the victorious party, if it doesn't want to lose the fruits of its struggle, has to maintain its power by the fear those weapons inspire to reactionaries." (On Authority)
5. Communism, therefore, as a social movement, is by essence (necessity) centralist and organic because it tends to act as a class for itself, as one and one only body - organism - united (i.e. passing dialectically beyond the internal separations) through its historical interests. The communist movement can only act as an organ - quite united and homogeneous - on the condition of being strictly centralised. In this way, communist centralism can only be organic. The movement has to centralise itself to be organic. The centralisation of the movement is organic.
6. This communist movement has existed ever since the existence of proletariat. It materialises in time and space, particularly through the existence of communist groups, fractions and parties, which are in the same time a product of the tendency to the association of the worker movement - the tendency to organic centralisation - and an agent, voluntary and conscious, of centralisation/unification - organicity of the class. The programme of communists, indeed, is nothing but the synthesis of the aims and means of the historical movement taking place under our eyes.
7. The general laws that determine the communist movement also determine the action and organisation of communist minorities. The party therefore acts like a body and is centralised, it centralises itself in order to act as a body; its internal system is organic centralism (B). "For us democracy cannot be a principle; centralism on the contrary is undoubtfully one, since the essential characteristics of the party organisation have to be the unity of its structure and movement. The term of centralism is sufficient to express the continuity in space of the structure of the party; and to introduce the essential idea of the continuity in time, i.e. the continuity of the aim we are tending to and of the direction we are going in spite of the successive obstacles we have to surmount, and the more so, to link into one formula these two essential ideas of unity, we would propose to say that the communist party founds its organisation on "organic centralism" (Bordiga - 1922).
8. The foundation of the unitary action of the party is its programme. The internal centralisation therefore can only be political (its corollary being technical decentralisation, division of tasks). The function of the political centre is to synthesise the whole of the organisational activity and to direct this activity in perfect harmony with the programme. The permanent link between the centre and the periphery is indispensable to a dialectical functioning of the organisation, to synthesise all experiences, all practices, of each "section", "commission", "cell", of each part of the organisation, and in the same time, to direct these in an unitarian and solid action. "One doesn't create neither parties, nor revolutions. One directs parties and revolutions by unifying all useful revolutionary experiences on an international scale, so as to assure to the utmost the chances of victory for the proletariat in the battle that is the inevitable outcome of the historical period we are living." (Bordiga - 1921)
9. Once more, we have to refuse all democratism on principle, because the question is not, for the "basis", to check from time to time the "summit", nor for the latter to impose any orientation. There is no need for checking the centre, because the centre hasn't got the power - delegation - to change the programme - principles and tactics - of the organisation. The corollary of this conception is the permanent and real development of consciousness formation and information - of each militant so that he can be directly and politically engaged with the whole of the organisational praxis. This is how each militant answers for the general orientation of the organisation, and how the latter guarantees the practice of each of its militants (C). Consequently, in a communist organisation, the point can never be "to delegate" one's power, nor therefore "to elect" the centre. As a matter of fact, delegating means renouncing to the possibility of direct action, and the so-called sovereignty of democratic law is nothing else but an abdication, most often in favour of rascals" (Bordiga - 1951).
10. The question of discipline and self-discipline has to be considered in the same way; strict self-discipline is required as far as the application of organisational orientations goes because the latter is in accordance with the political programme, which constitutes the voluntary base of adhesion for each militant. One can only call on discipline if there is political agreement; if the latter doesn't exist any more, the call for discipline is nothing else but a bureaucratic move in order to suppress political disagreement (proceeding most of the time from minorities) and reveals the incapacity of the organisation to solve the new problems raised by class-struggle.
11. Programmatically (see "the democratic principle") we know we have to make a distinction between the democratic mechanism (decisions made by a majority) and its fetishism (the majority by definition is right and the minority is wrong). And if we have to use the mechanism of decision by a majority technically (if another, more appropriate means existed, we would have to use it immediately) it can only be by deliberately clearing it from its democratic mystic ("one man, one vote", "democratic control", elections, electoral campaigns...), the apanage of all bourgeois organism. "The democratic criterion is for us, up to now, only a material and accidental element in the construction of our internal organisation and in the formulation of our party-statutes; it isn't its indispensable platform. This is why, as far as we are concerned, we will not set up as a principle the well-known organisational formula of "democratic centralism" (Bordiga - 1922).
(A) As Lukacs asserts it, the concept of unity ("unity of subject and object, finite and infinite, being and thinking", etc.) has the disadvantage that the terms object, subject, etc. express what they are beyond their unity. They no longer mean what their expression states in their unity (History and Class consciousness - 1922).
(B) Obviously the internal regime of an organisation, even if it must conform itself to its political principles, cannot be considered as a guarantee "in itself" of its action and practice. "The party can be or not be adapted to its task, which is to give an impulse to revolutionary action. In fact, this question doesn't concern the party in general but the communist party, which isn't guaranteed against thousands of dangers of degeneration and dissolution; it isn't made equal to its task by its statutes nor by simple measures of internal organisation but by positive characters that grow in the same time as it grows itself because it takes part in the struggle as an organism with an unitary orientation, which it owes to its own conception of the historical process, to a fundamental programme contained in the collective consciousness and to its discipline." (Bordiga - 1922)
(C) Here we see how organic centralism is not unilateral (from periphery to centre) but how it also requires that every militant should himself be a centralising agent (contrarily to the Stalinian vision of the omnipotent centre and the unconscious militants) to really be, at any time, "the arms and the eyes" of the organisation. So, the corollary of the synthetic function of the centre is the personal responsibilizing of each militant, his full understanding of his praxis.
Of course, such theses are only a rough shape yet of the practical understanding of organic centralism. What we are definitely sure of, and this is essential, is what we do not want. It is in the whole of the worker practice, inside the general and universal development of the class struggle, that organic centralism, organic (of the total) and organisational answer to the needs of the proletarian struggle does and will affirm itself, doing away with all the democratic rules and fetishes. There can be no party without organic centralism. Organic centralisation - the class organicity - is the concentration of all proletarian force and power. It is the organisation into one unique party. This way, the historical line of constituting the party takes shape around the centralisation in time and space into one living acting body. This is what we call organic centralism.
Following that reasoning it is obvious that, just like we reject both Leninism and anti-Leninism, we do reject democratism (controls by militants, elections and revocability of the leaders,...) as well as its bureaucratic and militarist complement (prestige, congressism, functionarism, followism, predominance of "technicians",...), both responding to the "democratic centralism" formula. Such formula as its name points it, bears all disadvantages in itself: democratic functioning (completed by "Bolshevisation", i.e. the organisation, on the base of the professional and thus corporatist cells) is one of the most perfect models of functioning for the bourgeoisie's organisations. The bourgeoisie too needs a perfect adequation between its programme, the programme of capital, and its way of functioning: democratic mechanism. Such is the coherence of counterrevolution.
From a historical point of view, democratic centralism was an attempt, on the part of the Bolsheviks, to conciliate the necessary dictatorial direction of the actions in order to be able to answer to the needs of the struggle properly (in a general mood of clandestinity) with the dilettantist, academic and tricky way of life of the social-democracy. This is what gave birth to the anti-natural centralisation of worker actions - the programme of communism - and democracy - the programme of capital -. But it turned out to be practically inadequate and wrong because each time Lenin or Trotsky made a class position triumph (see defeatism, the April theses, the Duma's boycott, the insurrection preparation...) they did it strictly anti-democratically. Lenin openly took no account of all internal democratic rules when he called upon the vanguard militants and threatened the Bolshevik "party" of resigning. On the contrary, each time the point was to confirm a bourgeois policy, this was done with the great pomp of majority, in strict democratic legality (see the IInd, IIIrd, IVth and Vth congresses of the "communist" International). We could never repeat enough that Lenin's only "revolutionary parliamentarist" practice was to have the constituent assembly dissolved with bayonet-thrusts. We will also destroy parliament, even against the majority of workers' opinion.
Even if democratic centralism already was, in Lenin's days, an anti-natural aberration, it quickly became, within the Stalinian, Trotskyist and even councillist parties, the panacea when an irremovable direction wanted the majority of the "uneducated" base to endorse any decision (except as it is logical in case of inter- fraction settlements of account, when a part of the "former" direction, chosen as scapegoat, is liquidated. See the tragi-comical reversals of the Chinese and Russian "communist" parties...). It is therefore most funny to notice that in all those so-called revolutionary "parties", which function because of democratic centralism, any change of orientation (sometimes even of 180° ) will always be democratically endorsed, since those parties carry on their bourgeois policy democratically. Once again, there is a class frontier between communism and democracy. The way of life of our party can only express our project, the human community, tendentially. But we can by no means tolerate or emphasise practices, attitudes, functioning... in contradiction with our programme. On the contrary, we have to destroy them, as we act to destroy the old world.
We have tried, through this contribution to the "big" question of the party, to redefine some basic concepts of the Marxist theory - destruction of all ideologies - in the only outlook of communism, of re-unifying the species. Acting for this reunification cannot be conceived but as a whole, as a one and only movement of unification destroying all the mediations imposed by the old world. There aren't several revolutionary movements, parties, orientations... to be chosen according to "free thinking": there is only one revolutionary movement, one party, one orientation, one direction that establishes the truth, from the proletarian point of view, by its own practice, by the setting up of the proletariat's dictatorship -obviously the dictatorship of the party - aiming at abolishing salaried work, as a transition to the new community, to full communism. This is why the "true" world communist party is the one that will lead us to definitive victory, and not the chimerical reproduction of past forms, of unfailing pseudo-recipes : the ideal party hovering in the Leninists' heads and in the heads of their enemy brothers: the anti-Leninists.
"The class lives, fights, advances and triumphs through the working of the forces it has engendered in the pains of history. The class starts from an immediate homogeneity of the economic situation, which seems to us to be the first motor of the tendency to go beyond, to break the present production system. But to assume such a great task, it must have not only its own thinking, but also the proper will to reach the purposes defined by research and criticism and also its own organisation of fight that canalises and uses the efforts and sacrifices most efficiently. All this makes up the party." (Bordiga - "Class party" - 1921) (underlined by us)
(1) Namely in "Class and party" - "Rupture with the ICC" (Brochure of the ICG); "Presentation" (Le Communiste No 6); "Contribution to the grouping of revolutionaries" (Le Communiste No 7).
(2) In the whole of the democratic-managerist currents, no doubt, the councillist current is the one that has most openly repudiated the Marxist understanding of the proletariat's organisation into a party (see namely the ICC brochure "Communist organisations and class consciousness" and the more recent text "Beyond the party" of the Junius Group, edited by Spartacus).
(3) We are here taking into account the "hard" Leninist conceptions of the "party", built stone by stone on the base of the use of "supple tactics" and not the more populist Leninist currents, whose conceptions of the mass "party" and of the unique front, are but the exact - not even radicalised - reproduction of the social-democratic parties. So, we mean the conception expressed in "What is to be done?" when we criticise the Leninist conception of the party, and not what the epigones of "Leninism" have done with it.
(4) About this question, please see our text: "From man's alienation to human community" in "Le Communiste No 14.
(5) When we use the term "social" (social movement, social project, social revolution...), it is by no means to follow the temporary fashion of the small European extreme-left, but to signify the totality of our movement, our project and our revolution represent, which can never be identified with one of its aspects: economic, philosophical, political, military... (One could use the term "political" in the same totalizing and totalitarian contents, if that term was not commonly interpreted in the sense of the simple superstructural representation of the government).
(6) Marx, even if the formalists don't agree with this, opposed the whole of the party of anarchy to the party of order (see the social class struggles in France): "However varied the socialism of the big fractions of the party of anarchy were, they agreed on one point: to claim that socialism is the means of emancipation for the proletariat and that the emancipation of the proletariat is its aim."
(7) All vulgar materialists don't go beyond the sociological or even strictly economic definition of the working class, which inevitably drags them onto the bourgeoisie's ground and makes them consider the proletariat as the exploited class that reproduces capital and not as a revolutionary class.
(8) In the same way, within the capitalistic mode of production, the form - value of exchange - necessarily proceeds from the substance of the value: abstract work (see the Capital).
(9) The proletariat's extreme situation as a "non-class" is that of its only existing "for capital", its complete atomisation, its dissolution within the people. The full domination of counter-revolution within purified democracy - fascist or antifascist - almost completely succeeded in achieving that state of class denying during the period before the 2nd world war (see "Bilan").
"As to us, we shall use the concept "non-class", rather than the "more classical" "class for itself" in order to better indicate that the difference between "class in itself" and "class for itself" expresses on one hand the inexistence of the proletariat as a revolutionary class and on the other hand its affirmation as such." (Le Communiste No 14).
(10) Historical materialism does not rely on simple and immediate reality - the place of one and another individual or group of individuals in bourgeois society - to deduce its social project, its political programme mechanically. The caricature of this vulgar process is workerism, for which everything depends on the work done by each individual to determine his "individual" nature of class! On the contrary, historical materialism relies on the material and historical reality of the whole "arch" of history - from primitive community to communism - to claim that from a historical point of view, a human collectivity, the proletariat, a class exploited in the capitalistic mode of production, is the revolutionary class that will impose communism on humanity and will free it from reigning need. (See our text "Some criticisms on dialectical materialism" in Le Communiste No 13)
(11) We consider "State and Revolution", the various texts "Against the stream" explaining the defeatist revolutionary positions, and: "What is to be done?" (not reduced to the simple questions of "setting up the party" and "external consciousness" but expressing the necessity of the struggling party) as Lenin's most important attempts to break with the bourgeoisie by restoring the communist programme partly.
On the other hand, in our text "Some lessons from October" (in Le Communiste No 10/11) we had largely explained how Lenin himself had to change the whole programme of his "party" (see the April theses) while desperately fighting against all executives and "old bolsheviks" (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin...) who were by no means different from the Mensheviks. As J.Barrot says "Russian revolution took place contrary to the ideas expressed in "What is to be done?" (The "renegade" Kautsky and his disciple Lenin)
(12) This wrong and dichotomic conception that separates "immediate" and "historical" struggles did even appear in some of our texts. For us also, it materialises a lack of rupture with the old Leninist and/or councillist conceptions.
(13) We shall not here develop the complex question of the late creation (in 1919) and of the extremely rapid involution of the IIIrd International. We would simply like to say that if this creation definitely materialises a class attempt, the direction that has been followed since the very beginning of its existence (Moscow's executive headed by Zinoviev) very early lead the C.I. to give up the communist programme (see the elimination of the "leftist" executives between the Ist and IInd congresses, the setting up of the 21 conditions, the exclusion of the KAPD, the frontism, the inter-classist alliances, among which the "national-bolshevism"... "socialism in one only country",...).
(14) Namely the multiple groups that had a defeatist position during the first world war and organised themselves before the creation of the C.I. See the abstentionist fraction of the Italian S.P., the IKD in Germany; the C.P. of Van Overstraeten in Belgium; the communist FORA in Argentina/Chile... the Pericat-group in France; the C.P. of S.Pankhurst; the Indian C.P.; the IWW and SLP in the USA; the Dutch C.P...
(15) We give this example although we know how delicate it is to exemplify a social process by physiological functioning. Of this example we only want to keep the dialectical image that expresses a non-separate and non-identical reality.
(16) This disqualifies, from now on, all "parties" that, in non-revolutionary days, claim to be the "parties of revolution" while one of the bases of the Marxist understanding of the rise of the party is precisely that the latter should not "proclaim itself" at any time but should crystallise and centralise, on a world scale directly, the reality of the communist forces directing the revolutionary wave.
(17) This is, among others, the case of the "Communism or civilisation" group, which is busy publishing and planifying questions, and postpones its actions "to transform the world" to many decades. What we are criticising is not the fact of undertaking such a work but (in addition to some of their positions) the fact of undertaking ONLY that work.
(18) They all share the pathological bourgeois fear of "violating" the purity of the class (as understood, of course, in the most economist sense).