On this question, as on all others, we totally and simultaneously reject the ideology of formal invariance (the orthodoxy of form) as well as that of all kinds of revisionist innovators (the heterodoxy of content). As our theses indicate, we oppose them with a constantly deepening and ever more precise determination of the programmatical implications invariably contained in the communist struggle.
This is why these theses are neither the umpteenth version of some sacred text nor a conglomeration of ideas susceptible to being changed, in total or in part, according to the will of some or other militants (even if in the majority). They are rather an expression, a "snapshot" of a moment of permanent collective activity of programmatical restoration, of which there were formulations in the past and certainly will be in the future, but which are all present on the historical line seeking to express theoretically the communist practice of rupture from the whole capitalist society.
As far as this eminently practical theoretical activity is concerned, the work of communist factions is always the same: To perceive and express, against all ideologies, what in the immediate reality announces the historical future, what within and against capitalism constitutes its negation and announces communism, to synthesize the experience accumulated in the development of revolution and counterrevolution. It is concerned with an indispensable part of communist action, not only in the sense that communist factions constitute a part of and a coherent organic expression of the movement of destruction of the present society, but also because it is through them that the proletariat condenses its experiences and transforms them into directives for future action or, better said, COMMUNISM THUS ENGENDERS ITS HISTORICAL DIRECTION (2).
So for us the problem is neither to invent "new theories" (which always implies repeating the same old crap in a new form) nor to discover new "historical subjects", nor to promote "new practices". On the contrary, we have to continue to demonstrate the invariable consequences of the contradiction between capitalism and communism, present ever since Capital conquered production and subsumed the whole of humanity in its being.
The advantage of such a document is that it allows us to set out in a very synthesized and global manner the whole of the fundamental positions that direct our activity and it can serve as an explicit reference of the programmatical framework within which our militancy develops. At the same time this kind of text has the disadvantage of being easily considered by fetishists of form as being an A to Z of revolutionary theory, who consider that, once formulated, it would be able to solve all the problems with which the communist movement will be confronted, however embryonic and dispersed it may be today. On our part, we consider these theses to be an acquired base, the result of several years of militant activity and which will serve to direct and demarcate our future militancy.
The theses of communists are not and never have been "theorizations" about how the world should be reformed, inventions or ideological nonsense. On the contrary, they are the theoretical expression of the real movement of abolition of the existing order. As such, they synthesize the real and practical determinations of the proletariat in its subversive movement, forming at the same time a decisive and indispensable part in the practice of this movement in its struggle to give itself a revolutionary direction and to constitute itself as a worldwide historical force.
Throughout the centuries-old history of the Communist Party, the theses of communists have been asserted, developed themselves and become more and more precise along with the very development of the revolutionary movement (including the lessons learnt from its successive defeats). However, this does not mean that the successive formulations of these theses can be left to be freely interpreted nor that they lend themselves to any of many boasting innovations. As theoretical expressions of the invariant antagonism between capitalism and communism, these successive formulations are necessarily imperfect and unfinished. We can assert that all formal manifestos produced throughout the history of the party and up to the total victory of communist revolution contain and will continue to contain various erroneous positions or even positions alien to the interests of the proletariat. Nevertheless, each one of these successive formulations, insofar as they are real concretisations of the communist direction of the movement, reaffirms - on a different level of abstraction - the invariant foundations of this movement. This is why each generation of revolutionaries does not start again from scratch but, on the contrary, its practical activity is directed by invariant foundations that must not be revised, but must be developed and pushed forward to their ultimate consequences.
In opposition to this revolutionary activity, counter-revolution, especially social-democracy as the general party of formal pseudo-continuity and real programmatical revision, does exactly the opposite. Even when it claims it is the heir to proletarian leaders from the past, it uses only isolated quotes, taken out of context in the name of formal orthodoxy, yet always attacks the very foundations of the invariant antagonism. The whole revisionist production is based on a general reinterpretation of capitalism, on a supposed change in the nature of capitalism and consequently of the proletarian struggle in order to define its invariant counter-revolutionary programme.
It seems indispensable here to give an example of what we've just stated which will clarify the reading and general meaning of our theses.
"THE PROLETARIAT HAS NO HOMELAND" is a central and invariant thesis of our party all along its history. It contains and determines a whole series of fundamental practical orientations. But what is the origin of this assertion and what are its implications? Contrary to what bourgeois Marxism pretends, this decisive thesis is not the invention of some brilliant theoretician, but expresses the reality, the very life of the proletariat.
In this way, in the first Manifesto of the Communist Party (deserving of this name, in the full sense of the word) Marx and Engels formulated a reality that up until then, in different forms, had been part of this ABC of the communist movement and which all subsequent formulations of the Programme have taken up since.
But the reality of the proletariat having no homeland is not a contingent reality, nor a reality that can be given dates of a beginning or an end, nor should it be confused with its first theoretical formulation. It is, on the contrary, an essential and permanent reality of the proletariat as an historical being, determining it in opposition to the whole bourgeois system. As the negation of this bourgeois society, it contains decisive definitions of the society to come (the abolition of all nationality, of all borders, etc.).
Put differently, before Marx and Engels ever formulated it, this invariant reality of the communist movement in opposition to any country was already a reality: the proletariat never had and never will have a homeland. Its own existence contains the abolition of all nationality (3).
So we shouldn't be surprised that other more or less clear expressions of this central aspect of the communist programme have also been formulated in other parts of the world, before or after this Manifesto, by other communist militants who didn't even know about Marx or Engels - because they are merely expressions of the life and practice of our class.
The theoretical assertion of this extremely explicit thesis in the Manifesto, marks a decisive and irreversible forward step of the party itself. It became an essential basis for all subsequent formulations from which there is no going back and it constituted itself as a war cry for the proletariat in struggle.
This is not the place to detail the progression that led militants like Marx and Engels to formulate this thesis. But it is important to stress that this thesis is not only a negation in its form, but also in its content, inasmuch as the real movement of the proletariat is the negation of the homeland - essential in order to understand the methodology of the theses that we are presenting below.
The general method of the exposition - the opposition communism/capitalism and, during capitalism, communism as its practical negation - is founded on the fact that all positive programmatical determinations are contained negatively within Capital itself (including counter-revolutionary experiences). Better said, under the reign of capitalism, communism, as the revolutionary movement, is this negation.
It is not possible to go through all the theses that are indissociably linked to the central assertion that "the proletariat has no homeland", nor can we mention all the conclusions and implications that Marx and Engels deduced from it. However, we want to stress that it is based on a certain level of perception of Capital as a worldwide reality, of communism as a universal movement and of internationalism as a decisive element in the practice of the proletariat. Without these invariant bases, the cry of "Proletarians of all countries, unite", as well as the directly internationalist conception of the party and of the programme (the Manifesto itself does not have a homeland!!!) would have been no more than empty phrases. What is decisive in the historical line of the party is the continuity from generation to generation of revolutionaries, which is not about inventing or revising anything but developing in their own revolutionary practice the determinations contained within the real subversive existing movement.
Revisionism does exactly the opposite. It may or may not use quotations from Marx or Engels or any other revolutionary leader, but its invariant characteristic will always be to question the very foundations of the practical determinations of the proletariat. For this purpose, it will always, absolutely always, start by saying that the society has changed, that capitalism is not the same as before, that the workers' struggle has changed as well... and then it ends up defending anything, even the homeland. On this question, let's look at what Bernstein wrote:
"But has social democracy, as the party of the working class and peace, an interest in keeping the proletariat defensive of the nation? There are various reasons which would push one towards a negative response, above all if one takes as the starting point the assertion of the Communist Manifesto: The proletariat has no homeland. Yet this assertion may be a lot more valid for the workers in the forties (4) who lacked political rights and access to public life; but currently it has already lost a great deal of its veracity... and will continue to lose it more and more as the worker ceases to be a proletarian and is transformed into a citizen.
The worker who, in the state, in the municipalities... is an elector having the same rights and participating for the common good of the nation; the worker whose children are educated and whose health is protected by the community, in the same way that it guarantees him security against misfortunes... this worker will before long have a fatherland by the very fact of being a citizen of the world; in the same way that nations become closer together without losing their own individuality...
Currently there is a lot of talk about the conquest of political power by social democracy and in any case, judging by the strength which it has achieved in Germany, it is not impossible that a series of political events could lead it in a short period of time to assume a decisive role in this country. But precisely because of such an eventuality and taking into account the distance which separates the neighbouring peoples from this objective, social democracy must assume a national character...
This is an indispensable condition for maintaining its power. It must prove its aptitude as the ruling party and a ruling class, in being up to the task of safeguarding, with the same firmness, class interests and the interests of the nation."
Bernstein, The Premises of Socialism and the Tasks of Social Democracy, Ch. IV, Texts and Possibilities of Social Democracy.
There is no need for us to stress any further the very clear political consequences of such a methodology of revision. However, in general, things are far more complicated. Indeed, Marx and Engels themselves did not draw all the inferences from this essential thesis of the communist programme, in the same way, for example, that the generation of revolutionaries of 1917 did not manage to assume the implications of other central theses of the programme, such as "destruction of the bourgeois state" or "abolition of wage labour", etc. On the basis of an un-finished reappropriation of this reality of the proletariat "that has no homeland", Marx and Engels oscillated between different positions on the national question, defended some totally contradictory positions, many times directly antagonistic to proletarian internationalism. The ambiguities of Marx and Engels on social-democracy (the very basis of the constitution of which was antagonistic to this thesis, ie. national parties for the defence of democracy!!!) were also related to this only partial programmatical reappropriation; and so was the fact that Engels completely revised this central thesis to demand German national defence and participation in imperialist war. Indeed, between the thesis that asserts that "the proletariat has no homeland" with its immediate consequences (internationalism, directly international organisation of the proletariat, opposition to the nationalism of one's "own" bourgeoisie, consequences which all arise from the very life of the proletariat fighting against its direct exploiters and thus develop an internationalist practice) and Engels' nationalist, bourgeois, imperialist position of 1891, when the outbreak of war between the German state and the Russian and French states appeared imminent, there lies an abyss, a very profound programmatical rupture, a complete revision.
Remember that Engels stated that if Germany were attacked "all means of defence would be good; we would have to launch attacks on the Russians and their allies, whoever they may be" and he even suggested that in those circumstances "we might perhaps be the sole truly warmongering and determined party"! (5) As is well-known, this is exactly the pro-imperialist position that social-democracy went on to develop.
This example allows us to show clearly why counter-revolution and revisionism could, and still can, in many cases, play at orthodoxy (the general practice of the "Marxist" wing of social-democracy whose great ideologue was Kautsky) either because Marx and Engels themselves developed the implications of this thesis only halfway, or because Engels himself revised this thesis completely, under the pretext - as always - of particular conditions of capitalism at that moment.
To this, we oppose the historical attitude of communists. For us, it is not a matter of modifying this central thesis, nor putting it on the same level as a whole of contingent and confused sentences that go along with it (like stating that the struggle of the proletariat will be international only in its contents but not in its form (6). Neither do we want to follow Marx or Engels throughout their full or partial renunciations. Without doubt, the issue must be to develop all the consequences of this thesis. However, such a development is neither ideological nor invented. It is not a question of sitting at a desk and trying to invent further clarifications. No, for us it was struggle itself, the gigantic opposition between revolution and counter-revolution that clearly marked the frontier between participation in the wars of national liberation or any other imperialist wars on the one hand and revolutionary defeatism on the other; this permitted a theoretical and everlasting understanding of the other implications that Marx and Engels had not yet assumed. Since then, revolutionary defeatism and internationalism have constituted a truly appropriated basis, a fundamental starting-point for successive generations of revolutionaries. It is in this manner, through successive programmatical reappropriation, that the whole of the theses of communism develop and assert themselves!
This permits a clarification of the real contradiction between the invariant programme and the constantly developing theoretical theses of communists. It is this contradiction that all formalists (who defend the invariance of the theoretical programme of Marx and Engels), all revisionists and all "innovators" come up against.
The proletariat does not have a homeland and never did have one. In reality, the proletariat acts as such only when it is struggling against exploitation, against "its" own bourgeois and against "its" own state. Such practice is part of the true community of international and internationalist struggle that the communist vanguard struggles to centralise effectively: this is and always has been a central axis of communism.
Marx did not invent the communist programme: he only expressed a level of its appropriation. In the beginning of the century and all over the world, the communist left did not invent anything either during its fight against imperialist war, but synthesized, by means of theses, central slogans and precise directives, the reality of the communist movement.
Our task is exactly the same. These theses (7) reflect one further step in the collective, impersonal, international effort of the communist programme asserting itself generation after generation.
Consequently these theses, that guide and will guide the conscious and organised activity of our small group, are not our property (we do not claim their paternity). They are a synthetic expression of the sum of experiences of our class and of our party throughout history and, as such, belong to them only.
Different texts have been published in our central and agitative reviews (in Spanish, French, English, Arabic, Portuguese, German, Turkish, Hungarian, Kurdish...) that develop and explain these theses and constitute the basis of the process of their historical appropriation, which is why we've published a summary of the main texts that have been published in French and Spanish so far, as an annexe to these theses. It is important to note that if, on some subjects, the texts are elaborated in far greater depth than the few lines on that subject in the relevant thesis this is because, for a large number of them, the task remains embryonic and an enormous amount remains to be done (this revolutionary task can only be completely achieved by the very realisation of social revolution). These theses are not some mythical point of arrival but are working theses, a synthesis of our practice on the basis of which we continue our activities. We leave the belief that any text could guarantee against deviations, betrayals, splits, etc to political paranoiacs. The only guarantee that we have comes from the globality of our implication, resides in our adhesion not to a group, to a party or to a leader, but to communism, to the real movement of abolition of everything that separates us from ourselves. But, dialectically, this movement only exists when it centralises itself, organises itself, directs itself, i.e. when it constitutes itself as party.
The organisation, preparation, structuring and leadership of this party is the impersonal production of factions, groups, militants who have forever assumed the task of the international formation of revolutionary cadres and of the preparation of the worldwide leadership of the communist revolution.
Our central preoccupation, since the formation of the ICG, has been and is to assume, according to our limited forces and the present state of the communist movement, all the tasks and necessities of the movement. What characterizes communists practically is not their assuming one or other task according to the period, as the only one that can be realised (tasks which for some may be "theoretical", for others "propagandist" and for others "military"). If this were the case, then communists would differentiate themselves from the rest of the proletariat by entirely partial determinations, taking on a number of minor tasks compared to the rest of the proletarian movement.
On the contrary, the essence of revolutionary praxis is to assume all tasks and necessities of the movement whilst, of course, taking into account the balance of forces and the priorities that it determines. All these tasks must be assumed while always putting forward the historical and worldwide interests of the movement; these determine themselves not in relation to immediate or contingent situations, but always in relation to the totality, to communism. This and only this, is the historical line of the reconstitution of the PARTY.
If the written expressions of life and of the struggle have always been criticised by militants (a logical expression of the dynamics of life regarding things that are set in writing and thus fixed), we must also remember that language itself is a veil produced by the domination of Capital, through which it is extremely difficult to communicate any content escaping this domination: the same contradiction is ever-present when we express a movement through language that only allows for set categories. Similarly, a concept may express a different content in different languages, according to different realities lived by the proletariat.
To fill these gaps and to lessen the burden of these weaknesses which we know are unavoidable, we have tried to work on these theses in four different languages so as to unify the expressions of the reality we want to transmit. The result of this is a rather "impure" and "heavy" language. On top of this, the content of concepts that have been historically and socially defined does not have the same meaning for us as for the citizen, not even the most politicised amongst them. This is the case, for instance, for expressions like "party", "proletariat", "class", "democracy", "Capital"; on these points it is necessary to take the contributions that we've produced on these various subjects as a reference.
The translation of our main contributions into different languages, reflects this effort for centralisation and homogenization in our central reviews. To stress this tendency towards homogenization, and because we feel it is more appropriate, we've decided to call all our central reviews "Communism" (our French central review used to be called "The Communist"). With respect to continuity between our publications the following statement by Bordiga in 1953 is clear enough:
"To follow the continuity of our contributions, our readers should not feel bothered by the changes of the titles of our reviews, changes that occur because of different episodes of minor events. Our contributions can easily be recognised through their indivisible organicity. It is typical of the bourgeois to put a label on each commodity produced, to put the name of an intellectual on each idea, to define each party through its leader... but on the proletarian side it is clear that when the mode of exposition examines the objective relationship of reality, this can never be reduced to the personal opinions of stupid competitors, to the praise or insults for heavyweights or featherweights. In this case, the judgment is not defined by contents but by the good or bad faith of the person who's pleading. Our task is hard and difficult but it will only achieve its aims while respecting its own nature and without using the artifices of bourgeois publicity techniques, without using the dirty tendency to worship men."
("Fil du Temps" - 1953)
This is why our "Programmatical Theses" are not some "platform" in the reduced, conformist and showy sense in which various sects define themselves as the centre of the earth. The communist programme is not a biblical text guaranteeing against all possible deviations, a tablet of stone to cling to in order to safeguard virginal purity. In this way the term platform has been mystified with the intention of making it pass for a synonym of communist programme (as if it were possible to reduce the communist programme to any text, whichever it was!). Counter-revolution claims such a platform will be a formal guarantee for the future. Moreover, pretension of pretensions, it also claims that it contains the answers to all questions raised by proletarian struggles. It was against such fetishism of "platforms", of "programmes", that Marx asserted, more than a century ago, that one forward step of the real movement was worth more than a dozen programmes.
To all fetishists of platforms and of ideal parties, to all militants of formalistic invariance who believe they will not deviate an inch because they trot out a platform or recite phrases by some or other proletarian leader, we can easily recall their readiness to adopt new phrases, new platforms, a new group, new practices and to insult their former comrades... Finally, to all those who hide their miserable individualism, their sectarianism and federalism behind fine words on the ideal "party" or the perfection of "revolutionary cadres", basing themselves on quotations of the leaders of the past, we counter them with something we wrote some time ago in our central French review (Intro, "Le Communiste" No.6):
"For us communists, what really matters is not some or other quotation from Marx, Lenin or Bordiga, nor some or other position taken up at a certain moment. What really matters is to grasp the invariant content, beyond its more or less clear expressions, to grasp the red thread linking the communist practice of always, to be on the side of the proletarian struggle against all capitalist barriers. Beyond the understanding at a particular moment, beyond formal expressions, beyond consciousness expressed by proletarian banners or texts the real immediate struggle of the working class against exploitation, has always been - yesterday, today and tomorrow - anti-frontist, antidemocratic, anti-national."
Our enemy, the capitalist social relationship personified by the bourgeois class, has always been the same. Our necessities and demands will also always be the same: the struggle against exploitation, against the intensity and extension of labour... Our methods of struggle, direct action (revolutionary violence and terrorism), organisation outside and against all structures of the bourgeois state, armed insurrection, the worldwide dictatorship of the proletariat for the abolition of wage labour... have always been the same. It is to this real invariance, to this real organic continuity between the communist factions of yesterday and today, that we want to contribute by means of these programmatical theses.
2. Despite all the difficulties presented by formal-logical and bourgeois language, we are trying to express, in the most precise possible way, the subject of revolution at the same time as our concept of communism. For us the concept of communism is not an ideal to be applied, but the movement of destruction of the society of capital and the society resulting from this practical negation.
Contrary to what idealists believe, the true subject of the revolution is not an inspired individual wearing his conscience and his will on his sleeve. Nor is it a group of militants, even if its action in terms of historical leadership is decisive. Nor is it the whole of the proletariat seen as a group of workers. The real subject of the revolution is only the proletariat as a force constituted as a party, as a communist organic centrality that abolishes established order. Despite what social democracy may think, it is not the leadership which transforms the "trade unionist" proletariat into a revolutionary force. On the contrary, it is the proletariat as a revolutionary force which determines the creation of a revolutionary direction (not from an immediatist, contingent and localist point of view, but from a historical, general and international one).
Against the current of dominant ideology and at the risk of shocking, we can state, if we put ourselves at a higher level of abstraction, that it is not communists or the proletariat which turn social movement into communist movement but, on the contrary, it is communism as a historical movement which, for the first time in history, finds in the proletariat a truly revolutionary class capable of imposing communism as an effective negation. It is communism which co-opts the most historically decisive elements of the class, those which always put forward the interests of the whole of the proletariat as the leadership of the party and the Revolution to come.
3. "And finally, while the bourgeoisie of each country maintains particular national interests, big industry creates a class for whom its interests are the same in all countries and for whom nationality has already been abolished." Marx - Engels: "The German ideology".
6. A large number of Marxist-Leninist organisations operate such a revision, stressing such phrases as being the most essential. This allows them to "cheat" with theory up to the point of justifying nationalism.
7. The same kind of arguments could be developed for each of the central theses of the communist programme (negation of the bourgeois state, of democracy, of value, of frontism) by pointing out the opposition between the attitude of communists with their successive theses and the attitude of revisionism directed against them, be it shameless or not.
THESES OF PROGRAMMATICAL ORIENTATION