Wednesday, 12 August 2020

1917-2017: Long live red october! long live the proletarian revolution of the future !

We are certain that this 2017, the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution, will be marked by the most irate and revolting anti-communism. There will be a revival (a ridiculously banal version, as it is suited to a ruling ideology that is inevitably the expression of the progressive putrefaction of the capitalist mode of production and all its social relations) of the campaign of slander, attacks, mystification and distortion, manipulation and misrepresentation through which, ever since the conquest of the Winter Palace, the ideologists of the ruling capitalist class have attempted to deny the need – tragically urgent – for the classless society of communism. Though never succeeding: the same rancour and the same perversion revealed in the ideological and practical mobilization of the ruling class against Red October are all too clear a proof that the terror of communism is ever-present, all the more so, since the dead end in which capitalism is struggling, with no idea how to disentangle itself, is fuelling its worst fears. But there will also, above all (another aspect of anti-communism, even though it may not seem so to the uninformed) be the rhetorical embalming of Red October by all those who, having inherited and carried forward the democratic, social-democratic and Stalinist tradition, have abandoned themselves to exercises in rhetoric in the hope of recovering some last remnants of identity, and naturally they do so using all the necessary shades of distinction, all the acrobatic moves to distance themselves, all the hypocrisy typical of penitents and traitors, all the balancing acts and somersaults that their infamous history has accustomed them to over the arc of a hundred years. Both sides are fluid, superimposable and interchangeable, taking turns to alternate and dissimulate. Above all, they are ready to merge into a single, compact anti-proletarian front the moment it becomes necessary, when our class demonstrates that it no longer intends passively accepting the oppression it is subjected to day by day and threatens to take the path of a class-driven and revolutionary response.

For us, returning to Red October, as we shall be doing in the course of the year, with articles and public initiatives wherever our forces make it possible, is no pathetic “how we were”, the umpteenth example of “frozen memory”. The experience of 1917 (as of the Paris Commune of 1871), the point of arrival of long work by the party beginning in 1848 and pre-supposing the extension of the revolutionary process in time and space (something that the bourgeois counter-revolution in all its democratic, social-democratic, Nazi-fascist and Stalinist forms, has impeded for these terrible, long decades) is living material for us, from which precious and vital lessons can be learned for a future which, in material terms, is inevitably being prepared. For us “Red October” is not a nostalgic slogan, an inoffensive icon: it is a battle cry that we have been spreading with bared teeth and claws ever since, to pass on to the younger generations, who will have to face with a militant spirit the devastating death throes of a mode of production that has reached all the historical limits of its own existence. And which must therefore be destroyed, on pain of unspeakable suffering (by means of exploitation, poverty, famine, devastation, war) for our species, which only in communism can define itself human.

 

 

A hundred years

If we look back to the century that has passed since that 1917 and glance around us at capitalist society’s present “health conditions”, there are more than enough reasons for calling a halt to this mode of production once and for all. Has there, by any chance, been one single moment in these hundred years when the weapons have been silent? Two world wars, an infinite number of wars or more or less “local” squabbles, an endless succession of invasions and coups d’état, incursions and bloodbaths, bombings and ethnic cleansing, with dozens upon dozens, hundreds of millions of deaths, slaughter that seems to have no end to it: in our perfectly civilized Europe , as in the “suburbs of hell”, in Asia or Latin America. Even limiting ourselves to today, this present that causes the bleating “rightful thinkers” so much anguish, the destruction of lives that continues in a Middle East massacred by all the imperialist, regional and world powers – or in an Africa that remains a hunting ground, a horrendous safari for the ex-colonial powers transformed into imperialisms (either predominant or second-rate-but-aspiring) with the joint responsibility of the local bourgeois élites trained and maintained through long decades of capitalist penetration, there should be food for thought… Just as there is food for thought in the striking and exponential development in the design and sales of increasingly sophisticated and deadly arms of mass destruction, with their providential effects on the economy in all countries – more goods to produce and sell (legally or illegally), consume and produce again as soon as possible, in order to gain fat profits to inflate a faltering GNP… Where does all this come from? Do we really want to listen to the stupid banalities of ruling ideology, religious or not? Evil, Folly, Dishonesty, the Baddy, the Monster, Mankind’s Malevolent Nature … Can we really be satisfied with such idiocies that deliver up the present and future into the arms of the petit-bourgeoisie – arms spread in surrender but always ready, “at the call of the Fatherland”, to seize a machine gun against the Current Enemy?

Has there been a single moment when the capitalist economy in its phase of expansion and accumulation of capital, as in the recession phase of overproduction and crisis, has not crushed human lives – millions and millions of lives in the advanced West, as in “developing countries”, an ever-swelling mass of proletarians who possess nothing except their own labour to pour into the prisons of the factories, the mines, more or less clandestine sweatshops, in the camps and on the seas, in the streets or in the offices? How many millions of billions of surplus-labour hours have been extracted from those muscles and nerves, those bodies exhausted by the rate of production, the poisons and the machines, those brains annulled by endless labour with no future prospects apart from a series of identical days, chained to the production line? How many millions of murders at the workplace (and assassinations of rebellious or battlesome proletarians, in the picketlines, in strikes or demonstrations or more “simply” in proletarian neighbourhoods) have been perpetrated by the ruling, bourgeois class using its armed wing, known as the State, in these hundred years? How many billions upon billions of hours have been stolen from the lives of children, women, elderly people, accumulating torment after torment? How many billions upon billions of hours in the useless search for a job, driven to resignation and often to suicide, have assailed, tormented and exhausted those who were thrown out of their jobs, not only by the exceptional nature of the crisis but also by the normal practice of production processes based on the anarchy of production? How can all this suffering be “quantified”? At times, when describing the living and working conditions of clandestine workers, proletarians struck by the collapse of a mine or burned in a factory fire, some bourgeois ideologist, some pen-pusher, even goes so far as to speak of “things reminiscent of the industrial revolution” – as if, in those circumstances, there had somehow been a “return to the past”. No! These “things” have accompanied and will continue to accompany capitalism yesterday, today and tomorrow, for the whole span of its lifetime, which consists in continuous upheavals and technological innovations.

“But what else can be done?” replies the right-thinking person. Exactly.

In today’s cynical vocabulary, one of the most frequently used words is “refugee”. But just how many millions of “refugees” can be counted in the span of these one hundred years, fleeing from poverty and famine, wars and devastation, lack of work and social and political oppression? Huge migrations, movements of entire populations amidst unheard-of suffering –going where? Where is a “where” that might somehow save these lives from destruction in a world dominated by a capital that can only grow on conditions that it destroys, the eternal competition of all its different segments in industry, locally, regionally and nationally, founded on the motto, never before so effectively translated into practice, of “mors tua, vita mea”?

The right-thinking bleater worries about environmental collapse, the exponential increase in violence against women and children, the growing meanness in social life at all levels, the progressive degeneration of inter-personal relations: “racism”, “populism”, “male chauvinism”, “paedophilia”, “women as sex objects” … And, the poor innocent!, he demands “more police control, more soldiers, more State intervention,” – as though these were not amongst the (skillfully used) tools of the same ruling class that is responsible for these disasters. Or “more culture”, as if it were purely a matter of ignorance, of individual backwardness. Instead, these poisons, material and ideological, chemical and psychological, have always accompanied the “magnificent and progressive fates” of the class society founded on the generation of plus-value, on the search for profit, the commodification of individuals and the masses – always, ever since it fought the just and necessary battle against the previous mode of production, the feudal mode (and it did so by taking up arms). It would be sufficient to look at how Africa has been reduced by the penetration of capital, first colonial and then imperialist, with the desertification of immense areas, endemic famine for entire populations, ethnic wars purposely fuelled (divide et impera), the endless migrations to escape hunger or disease; or to study (but materialistically, not moralistically) “women’s conditions” in “advanced” as well as “backward” countries, in lay countries and in strictly religious ones, to realize this!

At this point, there will be some who object: “But we have travelled to the moon, we have invented antibiotics, we have the Internet!” Is it worth replying?

Today, try as it may, the ruling class is unable to solve the crisis of its own mode of production. On the contrary, new and devastating crises loom on the horizon and the clashes between imperialisms are becoming increasingly serious. And so explosive materials are accumulated which, when all other “solutions” prove to be impracticable, will lead to another generalized conflict, no longer local or limited to one area – a third world war.

A hundred years. Seems like yesterday.

 

The need for communism

 

Capitalism is not just the umpteenth embodiment of the devil: we know very well what its progressive function was in combatting and defeating the previous mode of production – the feudal. But now its own time has come and it must ring its own death knell. This is why we return to Red October (and the Paris Commune), to look towards the future: to the necessary struggle and organization for overthrowing this mode of production which, even in its death throes, will not die of its own accord, and indeed will make these death throes even more toxic and destructive.

On all levels, economic as political, in society as in the environment or in interpersonal relationships, the need for communism is becoming keener every day – and more urgent, because the ideological and material poisons, the general upheaval, the worsening living conditions of the vast majority of the world population have reached unprecedented levels which could even threaten the very future of our species.

For decades, the dominant ideology has insisted on the “failure of communism”. In actual fact the chapter on communism has yet to be written. Communism as a radically different mode of production compared to the capitalist mode, has never existed, either in Russia or in China or in Cuba, or in the variegated geography of the “national socialisms” invented in the course of decades of counter-revolution. This is not a recent argument of ours. Ever since the mid-1920s, communists have led a long and bitter fight, which could well be called heroic, to make manifest, at both a theoretical and a practical level, the false and ominous myth of “socialism in a single country”, with all the destructive consequences this has had on the workers’ and communist movement. The experience of our organization demonstrates this with impeccable clarity: all the work of analysis that has been done, consisting of writings and documentation, and the long and direct line of open battles carried forward by our comrades from generation to generation, against any form of revisionism and opportunism. And it is not our intention to summarise all this here1.

In 1917, right in the midst of the world war, Tsarist Russia was the weak link in the imperialist chain. Siding with France and England and later with the United States, i.e. with one of the two bourgeois groups involved in the conflict, it was a largely backward, rural country with its capitalist development still in an embryonic state, despite already having set out along the path. But the whole world was in an electrified state in those years at the turn of the century, capitalism had already entered its most aggressive, imperialist phase, and everywhere (in Europe as in the Americas and in Asia) great, instinctively class-based proletarian movements were shaking its foundations, questioning its very survival. The “globalization” residing in the DNA of capital (which now, in its imperialist phase, has become anonymous and impersonal, no longer necessarily linked to the “figure” of the individual capitalist but rather embodied in the State-entrepreneur and -policeman) was thus accompanied by a necessarily worldwide dimension in revolutionary prospects and processes: already the Paris Commune, in the words of Engels, had been the proletariat’s first worldwide class war. The revolution growing at the very heart of bourgeois society could only be of an international nature and scale.

Given the economic and social conditions in Russia at the time, the October Revolution, guided by the Bolshevik party (and pre-announced by the tentative 1905 revolution, put down amidst bloodshed) was – and could not fail to be – a “double revolution”, as Lenin demonstrated so well in texts such as Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” (1905) and the “April Theses” (1917), following in the tracks of Marx and Engels’ analyses of the “permanent revolution” 2 : a communist revolution on the political plane (since it is grounded on the proletariat and is directed by the Bolshevik party) but with democratic-bourgeois tasks on the economic and social plane, particularly due to the strong presence of the peasantry. It was therefore a question of seizing power against the Tsar and against the bourgeoisie and, once this was safely secured, introducing capitalism in Russia under State management through its vital nerve centres, doing so in close connection with the “pure revolution” (exclusively proletariat, without social-democratic tasks) in a fully developed Western world. From the very beginning this was the strategy of Lenin and the communists: Russia was supposed to resist until power had fallen into the hands of the communists in the key countries of Europe, first and foremost (in view of the highly developed forces of production) in Germany. Lenin’s vision did not contain an iota of utopianism: “socialism in a single country” was impossible in any case and especially in a backward country like Russia. Not until power was firmly in the hands of western comrades, would the two “halves” be able to join and merge, and then the “path to socialism” would open up. Just to prove how clear this strategy was to the proletariat, it will suffice to quote the episode narrated by John Reed in his Ten Days that Shook the World: “A soldier from the Rumanian front, thin, tragical and fierce, cied: ‘Comrades! We are starving at the front, we are stiff with cold. We are dying for no reason. I ask the American comrades to carry word to America, that the Russians will never give up their Revolution until they die. We will hold the fort with all our strength until the peoples of the world rise and help us. Tell the American workers to rise and fight for the Social Revolution” (Chapter II)3.

The turning point in this perspective was then to be The Communist International, founded in 1919 (N.B. right in the middle of the civil war, with Russia in the stranglehold of all capitalisms, the enemies of yesterday, now – against the proletariat – all allies) for the purpose of coordinating the world’s communists under a single organization. The delay and defeat (N.B. weapons at the ready) of the revolution in Germany meant that the revolution in Russia remained isolated and in the end folded in on itself: peasantry and petit-bourgeoisie, material economic forces, gradually gained the upper hand both inside the Bolshevik party and in the Communist International, already undermined by tactical and strategic wavering, which we vigorously opposed, from comrade to comrade4.

Stalinism” was the political expression of these prevailing economic forces: of a ruling class as impersonal as the capital that it expresses, and grounded on the peasantry and petit-bourgeoisie. The “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasants” was gradually replaced by the impersonal dictatorship of capital; this was followed by a rapid upturning, from both a theoretical and a practical point of view, of all the lynchpins of the communist doctrine, on both the economic and political planes. It was accompanied by the relentless elimination of all the Bolshevik “old guard”, a necessary precondition for taking part in the second world massacre, through an alliance first with one and then with the other of the two imperialist sides.

We must not waste any more words on recalling all the lies hurled at our class by the counter-revolution in the course of the decades: from the “socialist nature” of the USSR to the “collapse of communism”. Neither socialism, nor communism have ever made an appearance in Russia (and even less so in the other countries which, following Stalinism, theorized their “own” “national socialism”). The need for communism is thus revealed in all its great urgency.

 

The conditions for the proletarian revolution

 

Revolutions are not invented, or made: this is one of the great lessons of Red October, firmly anchored in the theoretical and practical experience of the 1905 Russian Revolution, the Paris Commune of 1871 and 1848 in Europe. Revolutions develop from objective conditions, from material conditions, that drive (oblige) enormous masses, exasperated and unaware, to rebel in the attempt to finally shake off the régime that is oppressing and massacring them. Yes, unaware: the revolution is not and cannot be the result of spreading “class consciousness”, which is sparked off in some mysterious way by “being a proletarian”, as many upholders of this spontaneous process (or reformists) would have it, soaked as they are in bourgeois and petit-bourgeois “culture” and “idealism”.

So you want a revolution of the unaware?” they will exclaim with horror. It isn’t a matter of “wanting” or “not wanting”: materialistically, this is how the revolutionary process develops. The proletarian masses do not move because they possess a clear vision of the tactics, strategy, programme and aims of communism. They move, or will move, because they are exasperated, because they are unable to live (or survive) any longer, because they are tormented by hunger, poverty, war, massacres, because the social and political crisis is now generally widespread and even the ruling class is staggering and unable to cope. These, in a nutshell, are the objective conditions necessary for the revolutionary process to unravel.

Do they suffice? No, of course not. Another condition is required, this time subjective, but closely interwoven with the objective conditions: the operational presence, acknowledged and supported by a decisive part of the militant avant-garde, of the revolutionary party.

Over to Lenin: “As long as the question was (and in so far as it still is) one of winning over the vanguard of the proletariat to Communism, propaganda is in the forefront. In this case, even circles, with all the weaknesses characteristic of the circle spirit, are useful and produce fruitful results. When it is a question of practical action by the masses, of ranging, if one may so express it, vast armies, the alignment of all the class forces of a given society for the final and decisive battle, then using propaganda alone, the mere repetition of the truths of ‘pure’ communism, are of no avail. In these circumstances one must not count in thousands, like the propagandist, who belongs to a limited group that has not yet directed the masses; in these circumstances one must count in millions and tens of millions. In these circumstances we must not only ask ourselves whether we have convinced the avant-garde of the revolutionary class, but also whether the historically effective forces of all classes -- positively of all the classes of a given society without exception -- are aligned in such a way that everything is fully ripe for the decisive battle; so that 1) all the class forces hostile to us have become sufficiently entangled, are sufficiently at loggerheads with each other, have sufficiently weakened themselves in a struggle which is beyond their strength; that 2) all the vacillating, wavering, unstable, intermediate elements – the petit bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeois democrats – have sufficiently exposed themselves in the eyes of the people, have sufficiently disgraced themselves through their practical failures; and that 3) among the proletariat a mass sentiment in favour of supporting the most determined, boldest, revolutionary action against the bourgeoisie has arisen and begun to grow strongly. Then revolution is indeed ripe; then, if we have correctly gauged all the conditions previously indicated and briefly outlined, and if we have chosen the right moment, our victory is assured” (Lenin, Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, 1920) 5.

And again: “The basic law of revolution, confirmed by all revolutions and in particular by all three Russian revolutions in the twentieth century [1905, February 1917, October 1917 – ed.] is as follows: for revolution it is not sufficient for the exploited and oppressed masses to be aware of the impossibility of living as in the past and demanding changes; for revolution, it must be impossible for the exploiters to live and govern as in the past. Only when the “lower layers” of society no longer want the past and the “higher” ones can no longer live as they did in the past, can the revolution be victorious” (Lenin, Ibid, Chap. 9).

From these two quotations (amongst the many possible ones), it is clear that the decisive element, without which (and history itself demonstrates this tragically and bloodily) any “assault to the sky” is destined to be defeated, is the revolutionary party, the organ directing the revolution, of any mass movement bursting out of the subsoil of a society now going through a chronic crisis.

Only these two elements, interacting in a dialectic relationship (objective and subjective conditions: a proletariat determined, under the pressure of determining material conditions, to put an end to the existing régime; a party which, over time, through long work in contact with the class and its defensive and aggressive battles, has gained its trust, in a practical and material sense), only through these two elements, interacting in a dialectic relationship, can the revolutionary process aimed at seizing power develop and affirm itself. This is the great lesson we learn from Red October. How pathetic are those “historians”, opinion-leaders, or scribblers (they have always existed and plenty more will continue to in this 2017!), who blab on about the October Revolution being a “surprise move” by Lenin: a putsch…! And they blithely forget (or keep quiet about) what prepared October: the 1905 revolution, the unceasing class war by Tsarism (ally of “democratic countries”) against the Russian proletariat and peasantry, the untold suffering caused at the front and in the back lines, the repeated episodes of mutiny and insubordination in the army, the fall of the Tsar and those days of July, the Bolsheviks’ conquest of the Soviets, the armed opposition to Komilov’s reactionary attempt … a whole process fermenting and maturing (and not only in Russia!) and which the Bolsheviks managed to fuel and organize, over the months and the years. And which would have its outcome, not in the “great day” (or “night”), but in the ten days that shook the world. A revolution is not made or invented but organized and guided: on condition that its preparation has been fought for previously and that it is the revolutionary party that organizes and guides it, towards the conquest of power.

 

The issue of power

 

This is what it was all about then and what will be the issue tomorrow, too (a tomorrow we must prepare): the seizing of power. Not hypothetical improvements within society as it stands. Not repairs, embellishments, greasepaint to hide the wrinkles. Briefly, not democratic and reformist illusions. The objective of the proletarian revolution is to seize power: i.e. to destroy the bourgeois State which, with all its apparatus, is the political-military-financial-police-ideological organ of the ruling class – not to “occupy” it, almost as though it were an empty room to be thoroughly re-decorated, or a simulacrum to be brought back to life. In a class society the State is not a neutral, non-partisan organism that takes responsibility for mediating, “for the good of everyone”: no, it is the tool, by which the ruling class exercises its power over the whole of society and first and foremost over the class it rules.

The proletariat, guided by its party, will therefore seize power and exercise it with all the strength, determination and boldness it possesses when it manages to shake off the mortal embrace of opportunist, reformist and counter-revolutionary parties. It must exercise this power both to defend the ongoing revolution from all the external and internal attacks (which will be – once again history offers proof of this – furious, merciless, bloody), and to carry out all those despotic interventions in the economy and in society that can free the forces of production from the straitjacket of obsolete and historically outdated juridic forms and relationships . It must do this by means of its own dictatorship, directed by its own party, as a bridge towards a classless society and thus (only then) also Stateless; and it will have to do all this in an international, worldwide perspective and dimension, not local or national, on pain of defeat.

Communists are not anarchists who imagine that the “new world”, the “new order”, rise like the sun, on the morrow of the “great day”. A bitter fight awaits us: before they could say they had defeated all the concentric attacks by all the capitalist countries allied against them, the Bolsheviks had to defend the power they had won over long years of siege, of unheard-of suffering, against enemies, and not only external ones, who would not accept their defeat. Here again, we shall not repeat what communists have always maintained and upheld over the span of over a hundred and fifty years of bitter fighting, both in theory and practice: once again, the texts of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, our own texts, will suffice, the very experience of the workers’ and communist movement suffices. There is nothing more to add!

We must seize power!” Lenin repeated with hammer-like insistence before October. This is a slogan always brandished by communists, even when the situation is not yet mature, since it has to penetrate into the daily struggles of the proletariat: in the sense that it is always, despite everything, a matter of power relations. The proletariat fighting in its strikes and picket-lines against the boss’s henchmen and the legal and illegal armed gangs of the bourgeois State must understand not only that, beyond passing victories (which are nonetheless necessary for survival), it is power that makes the difference – the power of organization developed throughout the territory, class solidarity above and beyond any internal divisions, the dogged response to any attack by the enemy. Yet, despite the partial victories that can be won, the ultimate and supreme problem is that of power, their own power, won and exercised in an organized manner with no misgivings or weakness, against the old ruling class.

This is true for any aspect, any “problem” resulting from the capitalist mode of production. For example, how is it possible to impose merely an effective reduction in working hours, eliminating exploitation, harmful working conditions, inequalities of all descriptions, growing unemployment, and reorganizing the whole of the industrial system so that it really is at the service not of profit but of the needs of the human species, without power resting firmly in the hands of the proletariat and its Party? Or again: can we really delude ourselves that the problem of the environment, the present, growing hydrological and geological upheavals - the fruit of capitalist anarchy - can be solved, without the central, centralised and centralising power working not only for today but also for future generations?

If we fail to understand the need for this power, we inevitably relapse into a logic of faint-hearted reformism, which becomes all the more frustrating as the destructive potential of capitalism grows and advances. On the other hand, merely by understanding the need for seizing power, and thus for a centralised, militant organization that has this objective, and only in this way, can even partial struggles be firmly and unrelentingly carried out for the defence of living and working conditions, in the awareness of the proletariat’s own strength and making sure this force and power is felt by the enemy, whether it be the bosses or the State with their terrorist practices.

 

Against imperialist war

 

Bread, land, peace!”: this was the Bolshevik party’s direct and effective summary of its programme and it managed to gather the proletarian class and poor peasants around itself, thanks to long, preparatory efforts. “Bread” and “land” mean the reorganization of society in open antagonism to the laws of Capital, which, on the contrary, exploits, impoverishes and starves: this is a situation that has been going on since the dawn of the industrial revolution and the affirmation of the capitalist mode of production… Marx, in Capital, and Engels, in The Situation of the Working Class in England, amongst their many other works, had already revealed this. And during the 1800s, that effective synthesis, “bread” and “land” had always constituted the core of the programmes of all those parties worthy of being called socialist. A third element necessarily had to be added to them during the bloodbath of the first world massacre: “peace”. The obscene betrayal of European social-democracy, aligned (with the exception of small groups of comrades) in favour of war credits in their respective States, had represented the break with the whole tradition, theory and practice of Marxism. Those small groups of comrades met in Switzerland (at Zimmerwald in 1915, at Kienthal in 1916) to reset the compass: against imperialist war, civil war for the seizing of power.

Once more, no new invention, no “coup de main” by Lenin or whoever else: communism is no bleating Christian pacifism, it is a battle cry, the class war to put an end to all wars, destroying once and for all the last, class-based society that those wars inevitably produce. Here, we immediately see the measure of that other immense, disgusting betrayal perpetrated by Stalinism, then triumphant (even, and amidst bloodshed, over the communist “old guard”): that of taking sides first with one and then with the other of the imperialist fronts in the second imperialist massacre! “Peace” could thus only mean “War on war”, the seizing of power - the dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasants directed by the communist party – the immediate suspension of any military activity on the fronts of the imperialist war, even at the cost of serious concessions.

Once again the Russian comrades were able to plant this slogan in a general atmosphere of refusal to go on being massacred in the trenches, not only by the Russian proletarians and poor peasants, but also by a large part of “proletarians in uniform” in Europe, the United States and even Australia. We have already documented (and it will be useful to continue doing so) the episodes of fraternising on both sides and the spontaneous refusals of imperialist war that kept happening in those bloody years. What was Caporetto in Italy, if not an immediate “No!” to the massacre, complete with the shooting of war-mongering officers by proletarians in uniform, unfortunately abandoned to their own devices by a wavering and legalist socialist party, (and there were many more heroic acts of resistance which deserve to be brought to light, such as the revolts in Turin in August 1917)? In Germany the sailors of the German fleet anchored at Wilhelmshaven and at Kiel rebelled several times in the course of those two tragic years, 1917 and 1918, even managing to set up a soviet of soldiers. In France, starting as early as 1916, there was a whole series of acts of insubordination culminating in the widespread mutinies of spring 1917 in the horrendous Chemin des Dames and other locations (30 thousand soldiers refusing to fight; something like 3 500 convictions, of which 554 were death penalties, around fifty of which executed) and in the episode of the revolt by the Russian soldiers stationed at La Courtine, with the institution of a local soviet (an episode long hushed up by the French authorities, but recounted with abundant references and in great detail by John Reed in his Ten Days that Shook the World). The English soldiers posted in France were no exception to all this (particularly at the time of the bloodshed and horrors of the battles of Ypres and Passchendaele), supported by a vigorous anti-military movement at home, in the proletarian areas of Clydesdale, South Wales, Yorkshire and Lancashire. In the United States, the Industrial Workers of the World conducted a determined anti-military campaign based on class and were victims of ferocious and pitiless repression, and the left wing of that enormous charabanc that constituted the Socialist Party of America obliged the party to at least assume a neutral position and contrary to war. In Australia a great stir was caused by the arrest in September 1916 of the “twelve of Sydney”, militant workers who were members of Industrial Workers of the World, accused of treason and sedition because of their intense work against the draft.

These are just a few examples. However, they demonstrate on the one hand how wide-ranging mobilisation (even instinctive, spontaneous) was against the war by the world proletariat, and on the other hand the always international and internationalist perspective animating the Russian comrades in brandishing those three, brief words in the slogan “Bread, land, peace”. Quite a different thing to “Lenin paid by the German high command”, as repeated at the time (and obstinately repeated today, too) by the stupid bourgeois parrots of all colours! As is well-known, peace came, with the Brest-Litovsk treaty, signed on 3 March 1918, a few months after the conquest of the Winter Palace, putting an end to the slaughter of proletarians on either side of the eastern front. “Typical of Russia”? “Typical of 1917”? No. “typical” of what must make its comeback today, too, at the core of the daily work of theoretical clarification and propaganda, agitation, proselytism and organization of the world communist party. “War on war” or – better still – the “transformation of imperialist war into civil war for the seizing of power” was no chance event for the Russian comrades: it was the point of arrival of a whole body of work, both clandestine and not, in contact with the proletarian class, and revolving around revolutionary defeatism, or the task of disintegrating the Tsarist army, dismantling the hierarchies, creating soldiers’ soviets … work that cannot be improvised, like all the tactics and strategies of communism, but was a long time in preparation and – once again – presupposed the assiduous and militant presence and intervention of the revolutionary party. On pain of disaster.

Revolutionary defeatism is, in fact, an integral part of communist strategy and develops in diverse fields and periods, not only in the military field and in wartime. This means that it presupposes an understanding of the bourgeois State’s class nature, as well as all its ramifications and the need for it to be overthrown: Marx, Engels, Lenin, and 1848, 1871 and 1905 teach us the lesson. In turn, this implies long, deep-rooted work alongside our class, to reintroduce the awareness that the national economy is not something to be safeguarded and defended, on the altar of which living and working conditions should be sacrificed; and that its “higher needs” are a trap to catch the proletariat and lead it, bound hand and foot, to the “defence of the Nation”, in a war of fraticide against other proletarians. To sum up, the transformation of the imperialist war into civil war for the seizing of power, or revolutionary defeatism in a class society, will not be possible unless renewed development is seen, under the pressure of material events and thanks to the intervention of the revolutionary party, of a class antagonism that refuses any sort of negotiation, of “union sacrée”, of identity of interests between Capital and Class, and that assumes its own organizational structures for the defence of its living and working conditions in the territory and outside the bars of the workplace (or lack-of-workplace).

And revolutionary defeatism means internationalism. It is clear that the refusal to side with national capital in day-to-day class conflicts or alongside the “threatened Nation” in those crucial phases that lead to the inter-imperial conflict, implies an international and strategic vision and perspective, no matter whether this is clear to the majority of the proletarian masses. Indeed it is in the outburst and deepening of the real class war – i.e. a war that draws strength from clashes with the bosses, the State and their political and union lackeys, at the same time fuelling more widespread social antagonism – that class and internationalist solidarity is reborn and reinforced. On the other hand, either the revolutionary process develops internationally (not in the stupid and banal sense of “contemporarily” but in the substantial sense of its perspective), or this process is at risk of involution and finally defeated, as much due to external factors (attack by the bourgeois state coalitions) as to internal ones (the lingering-on of counter-revolutionary material forces – economic and social). Paris 1871 and Russia 1917 are dramatic proof of this.

And so revolutionary defeatism and internationalism. Today the world of Capital increasingly finds itself amidst fire and flames: there is no need to make yet another list of the daily massacres that are the cause of upset and lament amongst “fine souls”, right-thinking people, wherever they are placed. What is more: in all the hotbeds releasing flames, a great deal more explosive material has accumulated – the pre-conditions for a third world conflict. This is why the experience and teachings gained from October 1971 are more topical than ever, because this is what we shall have to go through once again. And if it is not possible to prevent the outbreak of the worldwide, inter-imperialist conflict, we shall have to work to transform it into civil war to seize power. Proletarians beware: the hour of the plunge into the chasm is drawing closer and closer!

 

The need for the party

 

At this point it is superfluous to add once again that all this implies the need for the revolutionary party, the only force able to translate into the language of the present the lessons of October 1917, which are in turn a summing-up of the enormous theoretical and practical heritage of Marxism. Those lessons are valid today as tomorrow but only on condition that deeper and stronger roots are established worldwide for the political organ without which the proletariat, despite the generous battles it has always fought and always will fight as protagonist, will never be able to get rid of the present mode of production. And this is the urgent task, that cannot be delayed, of all those who are driven by the monstrously destructive nature of capitalism to sense and want communism: not as a nostalgic slogan or rhetorical proclamation or existential need, but as a cross-generational perspective.

Our Party alone, having experienced the high and low points of events in the communist movement for over a century now, having conducted a constant and unrelenting struggle against all forms of revisionism and opportunism, weathering the manifestations of the hugest and cruellest counter-revolutions that have ever struck the proletariat, is able to translate these lessons into the revolutionary strategy necessary for victory against our historical enemy: the bourgeoisie. We alone, from the very beginning and in particular at the first, troubling signs of the future counter-revolution deep within the Russian Party and the Communist International, have led this battle right out in the open, we alone can fully lay claim to October 1917. Not as a date in the calendar to be bowed down to in devout reverence, but as a battle cry.

1 Amongst our many works, we at least wish to remember: Dialogato con Stalin (1952), Russia e rivoluzione nella teoria marxista (1954-55), Struttura economica e sociale della Russia d’oggi (1955-57), Bilan d’une révolution (1967), Perché la Russia non è socialista (1970).

2 See at least: “The Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League” (1850).

3 See also “Il bolscevismo, pianta di ogni clima”, Il Soviet, 23/2/1919 (now in our Storia della sinistra comunista, Vol. I, Edizioni il programma comunista, 1992, pp. 343-344).

4 See Storia della sinistra comunista, Vols. III and IV, Edizioni il programma comunista, respectively 1986 and 1997 (Vol. V will be available in the coming months). See also our recent pamphlet La crisis del 1926 nel partito russo e nell’Internazionale Comunista (2016).

5 See our “L’estremismo, malattia infantile del comunismo”, condanna dei futuri rinnegati (1960-61), Edizioni il programma comunista, Milano 1973.

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