Friday, 26 February 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.

Why we are not "bordigists”

(The following article already appeared on these pages, but we thought it appropriate to reissue it because of its topicality!)


“I am not a Marxist!”- Karl Marx

As materialists, we know that language is a super-structure, standing in a dialectic relationship to the mode of production that determines and expresses it. We also know that, in a class-based society, the dominant ideology is the ideology of the ruling class and language is immersed in it, giving voice to its basic characteristics, divisions and balances of power, and thus contributing in its turn to influencing society as a whole. In our present times (with a capitalism that has reached its supreme, imperialist phase), individualism, which has always been an aspect of bourgeois ideology directly linked to the mode of production and consumption, increasingly pervades language and through it the whole universe of social relations.

And so we use the term “Marxist” regularly, whilst knowing that it is really an improper use (as Marx’s famous declaration, quoted above, firmly states) and that the term “dialectic materialism” or “communism” would be better. So much for that: usage, conventions and practicality have the upper hand and there is nothing wrong with this, on condition that… On condition that the sense of the exclamation is well understood: as it lies entirely in the refusal (by Marx and all consistent communists) to consider the great work done by him (and by Engels and many other, more or less anonymous militants who, then and later, worked for the communist revolution) as the fruit of genial thought by an individual mind, as an “interpretation of the world” by the umpteenth philosopher. “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it” (XI Thesis on Feuerbach) is not just a slogan: it means that with materialist science’s appearance on the scene of history we are no longer witnessing “philosophical systems” which may quite rightly assume the name of one thinker or founder of a school of thought or another (Platonism, Aristotelism, Tomism, Kantism, Hegelism, etc.), just because they are “personal interpretations of the world”; we are actually witnessing a science, discovered and elaborated thanks to a combination of far broader and more complex historical and social factors than just the single noddle (doubtless of impressive proportions) of the person who materially takes it up, unravels it, explains it and publishes it.

We are not denying the exceptional contribution made at specific moments in history by individuals: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Bordiga… However, we refuse to characterize this contribution as a personal one, almost as if materialism were a construction made of Lego to which everyone can add his or her own “original” piece. This is why we refuse the expression “Marxism-Leninism” (precisely because of its awful revisionist implications): Lenin himself might well have exclaimed like Marx, “I am not a Marxist-Leninist!”, because the expression reeks of bourgeois individualism, trampling underfoot the very heart of the materialist concept of history, overturning and misrecognizing the function of personality in history, attributing to individual x the role of elaborator of concepts that “integrate” what was “conceived” originally by individual y – precisely, more pieces of Lego for a construction in progress, to which individuals can make their own, eclectic contribution. It is no coincidence that “Marxism-Leninism” (not to speak of “Marxism-Leninism-Maotsetungthought”!) would become a political-linguistic expression of the advancing and subsequently victorious counter-revolution, a phenomenon materialistically rooted in the history of the class war and not the fruit of individual actions: that counter-revolution that would overthrow the international communist movement from the mid-Nineteen-Twenties onwards and which, precisely because of the linguistic conditioning mentioned above, we are obliged to call “Stalinism” for the sake of brevity and in the absence of any other, brief definition (to define it, our comrades in the ‘Thirties and ‘Forties used the expression “Centrism”; but today that would be incomprehensible).

Even more so do we refuse the label “Bordigists”, for a series of valid reasons. Far from failing to acknowledge the enormous contribution made by Amadeo Bordiga for his whole life, we know (and confirm this against all his bourgeois “biographers”) that this was Party work and not the individual mental product of an “isolated thinker”: it was the transmission, founded on a rock-solid theoretical basis, of a whole body of historical experience, from militant to militant – and by a militant who had always declared the impersonal nature of the doctrine and practice, obeying it even when flattery might have led him in a different direction – an anonymous militant, who had been trained in an impersonal doctrine, for a cause that reaches far further than individuals and generations. Bordiga and the collective work for the revolutionary Party are inseparable. Moreover, the huge job of theoretical restoration was made possible not only thanks to its being the expression of collective work by the Party, which, if we want to take this viewpoint, saw Bordiga as its spearhead, but also thanks to the political and organizational continuity achieved by comrades who, during the ‘30s, were active abroad, as well as clandestine in Italy - which, over the next few decades, ensured the combination of forces (not all theoretically homogeneous) from which our Party emerged, by selection, in 1952. Thus, once again, a collective, anonymous, impersonal experience: that of shared work by militants united for a historical objective, oriented towards the rebirth of the revolutionary Party.

But this is not all. We are not “Bordigists” because Bordiga’s work (of restoring and re-proposing “Marxist” theory in its entirety, after the monstrous devastations suffered in the counter-revolution, and of working for the reaffirmation of the revolutionary Party) can in no sense be considered an extra, a “new contribution”, a “new interpretation”, a “special variety” of Marxism (or, as the well-paid intellectuals addicted to their own egos say, of “Marxisms”: precisely!). Bordiga was a most efficient tool, “…the splendid ‘machine’,” we wrote in our press in the article commemorating him at the time of his death in 1970, “through which ran […] the current of Marxism’s high potential.” And we continued, “…and we say ‘Marxism’ as we, of the Left, have always understood it, not as an abstract theory to whose budding gems we bow down in a pretence of daily veneration, but as a sharp and shining weapon, whose grip, or aim, we must never let go of - a weapon that must be saved, so that it is not lost in a whirlpool of defeat, by sacrificing everything, first and foremost the ignoble self, just as, in order to use it when the battle is raging, weakness, misery, vanity, stupid pride, the mean little ‘accounts book’ of the individual must be destroyed, to save its healthy or even precious potential in the interests of the ‘class-Party’.” (“On the death of Amadeo Bordiga. An exemplary militancy at the service of the revolution”, Il programma comunista, no. 14/1970).

Bordiga did not add or modify a single comma in the body of doctrine that emerged in the mid-1800s when conditions were mature for it because the bourgeois mode of production had given and said of itself all it had to, experimentally verified (both theoretically and in practice) in the following one and a half centuries through a few, shining victories and many bloody defeats: in the very midst of the counter-revolution he managed to remain in place and gather around himself new generations of militants – the Party.

And so we leave to others the petty idolatry of the “individual” and pay no attention to the pretentious irony (or at times the arrogant ignorance, the vindictive contempt, the disgusting slander) towards “Amadeo Bordiga” and the “Bordigists”. Aware of belonging to a generation of militants that has faced and will continue to face different problems and duties, we pursue the same work in different conditions: amidst errors, inadequacy and uncertainty, but always anonymously, impersonally and collectively. Communist militants – that is all.


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