Wednesday, 20 October 2021

WHAT DISTINGUISHES OUR PARTY: The political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin, to the foundation of the Communist Party of Italy (Livorno, 1921); the struggle of the Communist Left against the degeneration of the Communist International, against the theory of „socialism in one country“, against the Stalinist counter-revolution; the rejection of the Popular Fronts and the Resistance Blocs; the difficult task of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and organization in close interrelationship with the working class, against all personal and electoral politics.

Capitalist Disasters, Not “Natural Disasters”

Spelled “Katrina”, Pronounced “Capitalism”

When, some months ago, the tsunami wrecked the coasts of the Indian Ocean, we wrote that it was not a story of destiny and of the backwardness of the Third or Fourth World, but a story of capitalism – capitalism that, on the one hand, is incapable of predicting and containing the forces of nature (towards which it finds itself an antagonist) and, on the other - being interested solely in the extraction of profit - exasperates the destructive effects on the material and social plane (the “greenhouse effect”, which is supposed to be behind the recent, particularly virulent hurricanes is purely a “capitalistic effect”!). 
We have seen the proof in the hurricane Katrina which, at the end of August (a summer marked as never before by “natural” and social disasters) devastated whole areas in the south of the United States, the most advanced capitalist country from a technological point of view and a model for so many boobies who believe that “progress” (this obscene modern divinity) can be measured by quotations in Wall Street.  And so devastation spread to fill New Orleans and its surroundings, areas amongst the poorest in the United States (still, ten years ago, in the “City of Jazz”, 46% of the children in the city lived “in poverty”, 7000-10000 persons were homeless, of whom 43% were young people under the age of eighteen…), caught up in the tremendous mechanisms of tourism, of the second most important merchant port in the country, of the great off-shore oilfields, and of a ruthless and aggressive form of profiteering, only possible in the imperialist phase of capitalism: and it hit, in particular, the black population, recent and less recent immigrants and the French-speaking communities of the marshlands, all of whom live from fishing and working on the oil rigs or the docksides. In all this, it was assisted by water from the skies and from the earth, from that same Mississippi that has such a long history of floods, during which (for the last time ten years ago), it has made mockery of all the technological inventions built to contain it.
In 1951, following the devastating floods in Italian Polesine (the area surrounding the delta of the River Po), whilst briefly summing up “the relationship that exists between the millennium-long process of humankind’s work technology and the relationships with the natural environment”, we wrote: “Ultra-modern high capitalism is showing serious signs of retreat in the fight to provide a defence against the attack on the human race by the forces of nature, and the reasons are purely social and class-based, so much so that they reverse the advantage deriving from the progress in theoretical and applied science. But let’s continue to wait, before laying the blame to it, until we have aggravated the intensity of climatic precipitation due to atomic explosions, or ‘made fun’ of nature so far as to risk making the earth and its atmosphere uninhabitable tomorrow, perhaps blowing up the very skeleton of it by having set in motion ‘chain reactions’ in the nuclear patterns of all the elements. For now, let us establish an economic and social law of parallels between the greater efficiency in exploiting humankind’s work and life and the increasingly lesser efficiency of a rational defence against the natural environment, interpreted in the broadest sense.”
Enough comment and food for thought for the time being, as the dead are once again counted and the “fleshpots of reconstruction” are opened up.

From the New Orleans Disaster: More Basic Truths for the Proletariat

In the previous, short article, we briefly touched upon the effects of Hurricane Katrina, then in the process of battering the southern coast of the United States. We reminded readers of the Marxist ABC as far as environmental issues are concerned: basically, the more capitalism proceeds through its phase of imperialist putrefaction (complete with the deployment of all that ultra-sophisticated technology which sends so many “dullard worshippers of progress” into ecstasy), the less it is able to cope with the might of nature. This is especially true when the destructive power of such might increases precisely as a consequence of the chaos and anarchy implicit in a capitalism obsessed with profit. In other words, the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina (and, a few weeks later, by Hurricane Rita: this odd bourgeois attribution of names is mystifying to say the least) actually had much less to do with “natural catastrophe” than phenomena of an openly social and economic nature.1

Inadequate dykes and dams, poorly constructed cities built in inappropriate locations, heavily cemented blots on the landscape; natural defences torn to pieces, neglected prevention and safety measures for evacuation, disorganized emergency services and assistance, the neediest and most poverty-stricken members of society abandoned to their own fates, etc., etc. It’s been the same old story for over two hundred years. “How can things like this happen?” ask the dewy-eyed. “And even in the most economically and technologically advanced country in the world?” Whether the question is in good faith or not, it matters little.
Capital goes where profits can be made in as short a time as possible. This is particularly true in prolonged and acute periods of crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing.2 Indeed, under the present conditions, capital is in big hurry to increase its own value and lay its hands on surplus value, transforming it immediately into goods and money (or investing it in stocks in the idle hope of speeding up the process of self-valorization). This Dantesque inferno is of its own making. Capital doesn’t want to know about slack time or unproductive costs: so the 14 billion dollars mentioned by Coast 2050, a document produced several years ago by a number of local authorities with a view to outlining a safety project for the coastal areas of Louisiana, are unproductive and useless, come what may catastrophe-wise.
And when catastrophe strikes, a) a fair amount of surplus product is destroyed, and this is not too bad (aren’t wars fought for this very reason?); b) there is always the “big business” of reconstruction for private and public vulture enterprises alike (there is already mention of “big plans” on the part of Halliburton and company; but even the U.S. Administration has been dusting up their interventionist, welfare-state-oriented rhetoric typical of such moments – regardless of Neocon cum-Neo-Liberalist “principles”); c) considerable numbers of the industrial reserve army (read: the unemployed, the marginalized and long term temps) are directly hit, and their conditions are only destined to worsen. The dewy-eyed may call it cynicism, but the truth is that this is the law upon which the capitalistic mode of production is founded, and a history of “natural catastrophes” confirms this with alarming evidence while openly declaring that, in reality, what we are staring in the face is nothing if not economic and social catastrophes.3 And as far as the issue “capitalism-nature” is concerned, this can suffice.
What we wish to talk about now is something different.
First of all (and this is the first “basic truth”), the New Orleans disaster has once again lain bare (not that there were any doubts!) the essentially classist nature of American society. This classism is expressed (and often concealed) in different forms of “discrimination”, be it racial, ethnic, sexist or whatever. At the time of the disaster – and in contrast to what was surely expected – the American “people of the abyss” were there to be seen by everyone: a great proletarian and sub-proletarian mass of blacks, immigrants from countries near and far and poor whites. These people never appear in those official statistics which are so openly and optimistically manipulated. They only manage to survive by selling – or under-selling – their labour and, day after day, in “normal” as well as “exceptional” times, they are the designated victims of the capitalistic machine – so much for the puerile rhetoric of “greater wealth for everyone”, “technological progress”, “democracy” and all the rest of it.
Secondly, (another “basic truth”), the disaster revealed once and for all how terrified the ruling class is of this class, thus giving the lie to idiot notions concerning its supposed disappearance or non-existence. No-one can seriously entertain the idea that the proletariat and sub-proletariat of the cities and swamps of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama seriously wanted to attack the stronghold of state power. And yet, even before the touch-and-go and much delayed emergency services got their act together, the police and army were sent in to occupy militarily… not a far-away territory militarily to be crushed under the iron heel of the world’s strongest imperial power, but entire regions of the nation, potentially threatened with social disorder and assaults on the sacred divinity which goes by the name of “private property”. The bourgeoisie has an experience in ruling for over three centuries, and during this time the ghost of class struggle, social conflict, proletarian revolution and assault on the state has never ceased to haunt it (and there have been several grandiose moments when its domination has faltered or even been toppled). The bourgeoisie knows who its historical enemy is, and so its primary concern was to make its iron fist-like presence felt, regardless of how genuine the threat to its stability really was: own up the imbeciles who spoke of a “lack of state intervention”! Protect private property, keep control of the territory, nip any sign of exasperation or revolt in the bud: these were the main concerns. Everything else could – and would have to – wait.
Thirdly, it may be true that social stability was never really under threat, but it is also true to say that in those days and weeks of chaos, the anger of America’s disinherited grew considerably: they got armed, shots were fired against helicopters, supermarkets were looted for essential items … In reaction to the crisis and the breakdown of a decade-long social equilibrium and inertia, there was insubordination, unlawfulness, and a general abandonment of submission to the state and established norms, laws and hierarchies. Let it be understood: we won’t allow ourselves to be taken in by any romantic exaltations of all this, and neither shall we fall into the trap of assuming that a massive class struggle is about to take place in the United States. We leave such naive illusions and delirious visions to others. Yet these nonetheless remain facts, and they do constitute another “basic truth”: that individuals, social groups and classes act when spurred on by material needs, anger and suffering – by the material impossibility of day-to-day survival. This is indeed fertile ground for the growth and development of that process which – through a generalised classist revival and the presence/intervention of the revolutionary party in that revival – may lead us in the direction of the communist revolution, the seizing of power and the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship. It matters little how far away such prospects seem today.
At the same time, if anger and exasperation are not channelled in the direction of political revolution (the organization and extension of the struggle, the overcoming of any kind of fragmentation, the identification of tactical and strategic targets and of the real class enemies, etc.), there is a real risk of action losing its focus and degeneration into a “war of everyone against everyone” – revealing yet another side to the social and economic putrefaction currently afflicting bourgeois society. If a revolutionary guide and class party are missing – in other words, if there is no fully conscious, leading organism endowed with steadfast principles and theories, an idea of the road to be taken and the strategies to be exploited along that road, a tough organization ready for the struggle, plenty of experience and tradition (even of a minority nature) – if there are no instruments of this kind, then all the anger, exasperation and radical ideas in the world are of no use whatsoever. And painful, sterile defeat is inevitable.
Nearly thirty years ago there was an energy blackout in New York City and a long night of chaos ensued. At the time, readers of our press were reminded of certain “basic truths for the proletariat”: a) the vulnerability of the capitalistic mode of production, especially at a time of maximum centralisation; b) the violence and the revolt that oozes from all the pores of bourgeois society. And in conclusion we said:
“The two truths are – indeed, they must be – so for the exploited too, with the wholly dialectical difference that, rather than being a source of terror, they constitute a certainty of  victory. But the reality of a third unshakable truth won’t be lost on the exploited in the wake of New York’s big night: the ‘lightning flash’ – or even a succession of lightning flashes – is not enough. A necessary condition, yes, but it is not enough to bring about the collapse of bourgeois society and the proletariat’s seizure of power. The bourgeoisie, having wept over their inventory of ‘social wealth’ destroyed in one night’s merry making by the innumerable potential revolutionaries it harbours in its bosom, can also afford the luxury of a recurring ‘great celebration’, provided the energy accumulated as a result of its contradictions (and released at an unpredictable moment in history) does not find, in turn, the organ not so much of its extension in space as its concentration and its orientation towards the decisive target [ - that is, towards the destruction of the bourgeois state and all its political levers of centralised social and economic control], to replace them with even more powerful and centralised political levers which act in contrasting fashion to those of the defeated class [albeit today still dominant]. These levers are bound up with the transformation of society, not its conservation.
“That organ is the class Party, centralised and centralising; that target is revolutionary conquest and the maintenance and dictatorial exercise of power. Without these two inseparable terms the 
lightning flash of the ‘big day’ – or, rather, to stick to the point, the ‘big night’ – comes and flits across the surface of the social and economic bourgeois set up, alarming those who dominate and filling with joy those who are dominated, but – to the relief of the former and the dismay of the latter – ultimately leaving nothing behind but the ashes and scraps of just another early dawn morning, no different from the rest.
“The bourgeoisie knows this: for a century now, either directly or through its lackey opportunists, it has worked hard to arouse or keep alive in the exploited a sense of superstitious respect for its order and a sense of revulsion – more superstitious still – for both ‘the organization of the proletariat into a class’, which for Marx means: ‘and so, into a party’ [The Communist Manifesto, 1848]; and their ‘organization into ruling class’, which for Marx means: ‘and so, into revolutionary and dictatorial power’. Knowing this, and in obtaining, propagandising and applying conclusions from this which are opposite to those of the bourgeoisie, is at once the raison d’être of revolutionary communism and the certainty that the great emancipation movement of the working class will be victorious”4.
“New York’s big night” came and went, like so many other “big nights” or “big days” have come and gone, and the desperate anger of the disinherited in and around New Orleans will pass (or become milder, or be channelled) too. There will be other “big nights” and “big days”, and some will elude themselves that a percentage of the surplus value produced – the mythical “social riches” – can be grabbed back in a “big collective party” of some kind. And there will be other disasters, social and not natural, in the wake of which the desperation of entire masses anywhere in the world will become rage, disobedience and revolt. What is also certain is that none of this will help bring about the collapse of a villainous mode of production if that organ indispensable for the organization and direction of the proletarian movement – the class party – will still be absent from history and the world stage. Proletarians from countries everywhere will be forced to realize this as a result of the selfsame material facts, and they will have to dedicate their energies (delivered from the insatiable hunger of vampire-like capital) to the divulgation and implanting of the party’s programme, its theories and its organization – the only conditions by which the proletarian can emerge victorious from its century-old battle against the domination of the bourgeoisie.

1. In the meantime, another hurricane has caused 1500 deaths in Guatemala, and an earthquake has provoked some 40 thousand victims in Afghanistan: the same argument applies here too, of course.

2. On the subject of the worldwide crisis afflicting the capitalist mode of production, see the detailed essay “Il corso del capitalismo mondiale dal II dopoguerra verso il III conflitto imperialistico o verso la rivoluzione proletaria”, published in our journal in Italian language, Il programma comunista (no.4/2005), where it emerges that even the most powerful form of imperialism – that of the United States – has run out of steam.

3. Our party has already dedicated ample space to this issue. Cf the following articles which have appeared in our press: “Piena e rotta della civiltà borghese” (1951), “Omicidio dei morti” (1951), “Politica e ‘costruzione’” (1952), “Pubblica utilità, cuccagna privata” (1952), “Specie umana e crosta terrestre” (1952), “Spazio contro cemento” (1953), “Drammi gialli e sinistri della moderna decadenza sociale” (1956), “La leggenda del Piave” (1963).

4.“Dalla grande notte di New York, tre verità semplici per il proletario”, Il programma comunista, no. 15/1977.

International Communist Party

(International Papers - Cahiers Internationalistes - Il Programma Comunista)


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