In Defense of the Continuity of the Communist Program
Theses on the Tactics of the Communist Party of Italy
(Rome theses 1922)
(«communist program»; No. 8; February 2022)
The object of the theses presented here concerns the general perspectives that must guide the Party in its actions towards the realization of its program as well as its goal, and the methods it must follow to determine what initiatives to take and what direction to give its momentum.
The problem is not presented in the particular aspects of each of the Party’s different spheres of action (parliamentary, trade-union, agrarian, military, national, colonial questions, etc.). These are not treated separately here as they form the object of other discussions and resolutions of international and national congresses.
The theses presented here follow from the program the Communist Party of Italy adopted at Livorno and is the result of the doctrine and methods shared by both the Communist International and the Party whose program declares that:
«The Communist Party of Italy (Section of the Communist International) is constituted on the basis of the following principles:
1. An ever-growing contradiction between the forces and relations of production has developed in present-day capitalist society, bringing about the antagonism of interests and the class struggle between the proletariat and the dominant bourgeoisie.
2. Present-day relations of production are preserved and maintained by the power of the bourgeois State which, based on the system of representative democracy, constitutes the principal organ for the defense of the interests of the capitalist class.
3. The proletariat can neither break nor modify the system of capitalist production from which its exploitation derives without the violent destruction of the bourgeoisie.
4. The indispensable organ of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat is the political party of the class itself.
Grouping within its ranks the most advanced and most conscious part of the proletariat, the Communist Party unifies the efforts of the working masses by leading them from the struggle for group interests and contingent results to the struggle for the revolutionary emancipation of the proletariat.
The role of the Party is to develop the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, to organize the material means of action and to lead the proletariat in the development of the struggle.
5. The world war was caused by the unresolvable internal contradictions of the capitalist regime that have lead to modern imperialism. And thus a crisis in which capitalist society is breaking apart and the class struggle can only lead to an armed conflict between the working masses and the power of the various bourgeois States.
6. Following the overthrow of bourgeois power, the proletariat can only organize itself into the dominant class by the destruction of the old State apparatus and the creation of its own dictatorship, that is to say, by basing the representative organisms of the State upon the sole productive class and by depriving the bourgeoisie of all political rights.
7. The proletarian State’s form of political representation is the system of workers’ and peasants’ councils already being applied in Russia, the point of departure of the world proletarian revolution and the first stable instance of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
8. The necessary defense of the proletarian State against attempts at counter-revolution can only be assured by depriving the bourgeoisie and all parties hostile to the proletarian dictatorship of the means of agitation and political propaganda and by giving the proletariat an armed organization that can repulse any internal or external attack.
9. Only the proletarian State will be able to intervene systematically in the economic relations of society by carrying out the measures required to assure the replacement of the capitalist system by the collective administration of production and distribution.
10. Such a transformation of the economy and thereby of all the activities of social life will, following from the elimination of the division of society into classes, result in the progressive elimination of the necessity of the political State whose apparatus will little by little be reduced to that of the rational administration of human activity.»
I. THE ORGANIC NATURE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
1. The Communist Party, the political party of the proletarian class, acts collectively on the operational basis of a unitary orientation. The initial motives that cause elements and groups from within this collectivity to organize for unitary action are the immediate interests that the economic situation produces among the different groups of the working class. The role of the Communist Party is characterized essentially by the utilization of the energies thus contained to attain objectives that, in order for them to be common to the entire working class and the result of all of its successive struggles, are integrated beyond the interests of particular groups and the immediate or contingent demands raised by the working class.
2. The integration of these elementary thrusts in a unitary action manifests itself through two principal factors: one is the critical consciousness from which the Party derives its program; the other is the will that, expressing itself in the disciplined and centralized organization of the Party, is the instrument of its action. It would be erroneous to believe that this consciousness and this will can be obtained from or must be expected from mere individuals, for only the integration of the activities of numerous individuals in a collective unitary organism makes their realization possible.
3. The Parties’ and the Communist International’s programmatic declarations contain a precise definition of the theoretical-critical consciousness of the movement. Such a consciousness, as well as its national and international organization, derives from the study of the history of human society and its structure in the present-day capitalist era on the basis of the facts and experience of the authentic proletarian struggle and active participation within it.
4. The proclamation of such a program and nominations to the different functions of the organization would appear to result from democratic consultation among Party delegates. In reality, they are the result of a process that, by the accumulation of experience and the preparation and selection of leadership elements, allows the program to take shape and the Party structure to develop its own hierarchy.
II. THE COMMUNIST PARTY’S PROCESS OF DEVELOPMENT
5. The proletarian Party organizes itself and develops to the degree that the maturation and evolution of society allows the consciousness of the general and overriding interests of the working class to appear. Collective and unitary action thus develops in this sense.
On the one hand, the proletariat only appears in history and acts as a class when it develops the tendency to give itself a program and means of common action, that is to say, when it organizes itself as a party.
6. The proletarian party’s formation and development is not continuous or regular, but passes through, both nationally and internationally, very complex phases and periods of generalized crisis.
Very often, proletarian Parties have experienced a degeneration that has deprived their actions of unity and conformity to the highest revolutionary goals, or at least have attenuated, as opposed to accenting, these indispensable characteristics of its activity. It thus fragmented itself in the pursuit of advantages limited to such and such a group of workers or contingent, reformist objectives, adopting methods that compromised the work of the revolution and the preparation of the proletariat to the realization of its class ends. By such measures, proletarian Parties often opened their ranks to elements that could not yet join in collective unitary action for the supreme objectives. Such a process always led to revisions and deformations of doctrine and program, and the relaxation of internal discipline which, instead of giving the proletarian movement a general staff of adequate and decisive leadership, turned it over to unconscious agents of the bourgeoisie.
7. As a result of new situations and the pressure of events that have provoked the working class to action, it is possible to reverse this misdirection and return to the true class Party. Such a renewal takes the form of a split by that part of the organization which, by defending the program and criticizing the experiences that have been unfavorable to the struggle, and by forming a school and an organized fraction within the old party, has reestablished the continuity indispensable to the life of the unitary organism based upon consciousness and discipline. From this consciousness and discipline a new Party is formed. Such is in general the process which lead from the flawed parties of the 2nd International to the Communist International.
8. The development of the Communist Party, after the conclusion of such a crisis, can be described as «normal» for the purposes of analysis, which does not preclude the return of critical phases in new situations. By offering maximum continuity by means of defense of the Party program and the life of the leadership hierarchy (above and beyond replacement of disloyal or spent leaders), the Party also assures a maximum of useful and efficacious work in order to win the proletariat to the revolutionary struggle. It is not only a question of the edification of the masses, and even less so of putting on display an intrinsically pure and perfect Party, but rather one of obtaining the best return from a real process. As will be seen below, it is a question of making sure that, by means of systematic propaganda work as well as active participation in social struggles, an ever-increasing number of workers advance from the terrain of partial struggles for immediate interests to the terrain of the organic and unitary struggle for the communist revolution. For it is only on the basis of the existence of such a continuity of program and leadership that the Party can not only overcome the suspicions and reticences of the proletariat in its regard, but also channel and rapidly and efficiently frame the new energies won from the unity of thought and action into the unity of movement that is an indispensable condition for the revolution.
9. For the same reasons must be considered entirely abnormal the integration by the Party of other parties or fractions of parties. A group that distinguishes itself by a different programmatic position or by an independent organization does not bring to the Communist Party usefully absorbable elements, but alters the firmness of its political position and the solidity of its structures: in such a case, the increase in manpower, far from corresponding to an increase in the forces and capacities of the Party, could well paralyze rather than facilitate its work in directing the masses.
It is desirable that the Communist International declare as rapidly as possible that it will not tolerate the slightest deviation from these two fundamental organizational principles; namely, that there can only be one Communist Party per country and that one can join the International only by means of individual membership in the Communist Party of a given country.
III. RELATIONS BETWEEN THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND THE PROLETARIAN CLASS
10. The delimitation and definition of the characteristics of the class party that found its constitutive structure as the organ of the most advanced part of the proletarian class do not prevent but on the contrary necessitate that it be intimately connected to the rest of the proletariat.
11. The nature of these relations is deduced from the dialectic that determines the formation of class-consciousness and the unitary organization of the Party. This dialectic leads to the displacement of the vanguard of the proletariat from spontaneous movements arising out of partial group interests to generalized proletarian action. However, far from doing so by denying such elementary movements, their unity is assured by means of the vital experience that results from the struggle to realize these movements, active participation in them, and close attention to their development.
12. The work of continuous ideological propaganda carried out by the Party is thus inseparable from both the Party’s actions and the proletarian movement in all its forms. It would be banal to think that participation in the struggle for contingent limited results is contradictory to preparation for the final and general revolutionary struggle. The mere existence of the unitary organization of the Party, together with the indispensable clarity of its program and its no less vital organizational and disciplinary firmness, is already a guarantee that, far from never attributing to partial demands the value of ends in themselves, we consider the struggle on their behalf a means for gaining experience and training crucial to genuine revolutionary preparedness.
13. The Communist Party therefore participates in all forms of proletarian economic organization open to all workers without distinction on the basis of political conviction (trade-unions, factory committees, cooperatives etc.). Its fundamental position towards organisms of this kind is that they must understand that since all workers find themselves in a given economic situation, it is by constantly defending itself that it will most usefully increase its own sphere of activity. For that end, the Party organizes its militants, who are members of these organizations, into groups or cells dependent upon the Party. Taking a front-row place in the activities launched by the economic associations in which they militate, the Party militants draw to themselves and thus into the ranks of the Party those elements which, in the course of the struggle, have shown themselves to be mature enough to join.
Since they tend to draw in their wake most of the workers in these organizations and win leading positions, they thus become natural vehicles for Party orders. The work that they accomplish is not limited to propaganda or recruitment or electoral campaigns within proletarian assemblies: it is organizational work that develops in the thick of the struggle and helps the workers to derive the most useful conclusions from their actions.
14. The work and orientation provided by communist groups tends to give the Party definitive control of the organs leading such economic associations. National trade-union federations in particular appear to provide the surest way of leading non-organized proletarian movements towards the Party. The Party considers that it has every interest in avoiding splitting the trade-unions away from other economic associations. That is why it is not opposed to such movements as their leadership may decide upon on the pretext that these would be lead by other parties. This would not prevent the Party from undertaking the widest possible critique of either the actions themselves or their leaders.
15. Not only does the Communist Party participate, as has just been described, in the life of the proletarian organizations engendered naturally by real economic interests; not only is the Party in favour of the growth and reinforcement of such organizations but by means of its propaganda it provides evidence in support of problems that are of real interest to the workers, problems which in the development of the situation can lead to the rise of new organisms of economic struggle. By all such means and through a thousand channels, the Party enlarges and reinforces the influence it has upon the proletariat, thus deriving advantage from every action or possibility of action in social life.
16. It would be a completely erroneous conception of the Party to think that it requires of each of its members considered in isolation a perfectly clear critical consciousness and a total spirit of sacrifice. Likewise would it be wrong to expect the Party to limit its influence to revolutionary unions of workers brought together in the economic realm on the basis of sectarian criteria and consisting only of proletarians prepared to accept given methods of action. On the other hand, nor can it be expected that, at a given moment or on the eve of general actions, the Party would have a majority of the proletariat under its control, still less a majority from within its own ranks. Such a precondition cannot be postulated without taking into account the dialectical process of development of the Party itself. It makes no sense, not even abstractly, to compare the numbers of workers within the disciplined and unitary organization of the Party or under its control, with disorganized or dispersed workers, or even those affiliated with corporatist organisms that are unable to unite them organically. The conditions to which relations between Party and class must answer in order to effectively produce generalized actions as well as the means by which to bring these about are defined below.
IV. RELATIONS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY WITH OTHER PROLETARIAN POLITICAL MOVEMENTS
17. The fraction of the proletariat organized in other political parties or sympathetic to them is particularly resistant to groupings within its ranks under Communist Party influence. All bourgeois parties have some proletarian members but those that interest us here are the social-democratic parties in particular as well as the syndicalist and anarchist currents.
18. The Party must develop a relentless critique of the programs of these movements and demonstrate their inadequacy for the emancipation of the proletariat. Such a theoretical polemic will be all the more efficacious to the extent that the Party can best argue that experience confirms the long-standing programmatic criticism it has developed in opposition to these movements. That is why in polemics such as these, one should never cover up methodological divergences, not just in terms of particular problems of the moment but especially with respect to greater extensions of proletarian action.
19. Furthermore, these polemics must be reflected in the realm of action. Communists must not refuse to take part in the struggles of proletarian economic organizations even when these are lead by socialists, syndicalists or anarchists, unless the entire mass should spontaneously rebel against these actions. They can nonetheless demonstrate that the erroneous methods of its leaders condemns such action to powerlessness or, at a given point of its development, utopianism, whereas the communist method would have produced better results in terms of the general revolutionary movement. In these polemics, communists must always distinguish between the leaders and the masses, laying at the feet of the former the responsibility for errors and mistakes. Nor should they give up an opportunity to denounce just as vigorously the work of leaders who, despite revolutionary sincerity, favour dangerous and erroneous tactics.
20. The Communist Party has as essential objectives the gaining of ground within the proletariat, as well as the increase of its manpower and influence at the expense of the currents and political parties of dissident proletarians. On the condition that the programmatic and organizational profile of the Party never be compromised, these objectives will be met through participation in real proletarian struggles on grounds that can simultaneously be those of action in common or in reciprocal opposition to them.
21. In order to attract proletarians belonging to other political movements, the Communist Party will not follow the method of organizing communist fractions or sympathizers within these movements, although it is normal to employ such a method in order to penetrate trade-unions from whose ranks one is not attempting to develop organized communist groups. Applied to political movements, such a method would compromise the Party’s organic unity, and this for the reasons stated above with respect to the organizational development of the Party.
22. Nor should it be forgotten in propaganda and polemics that numerous workers already ripe for the unitary and revolutionary conception of the struggle only joined the syndicalist and anarchist ranks in reaction to the degeneration of the old social-democratic parties. The vigour of communist polemics and struggle against the latter will be a factor of the first order in bringing these workers over to the revolutionary terrain.
23. Obviously one cannot be a member of both the Communist Party and another political party. This incompatibility extends to all movements which, without calling themselves parties, have a political character, as well as all associations whose conditions of membership have a political orientation; for instance, freemasons.
V. ELEMENTS OF TACTICS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY DRAWN FROM AN ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION
24. In the preceding points, the general criteria guiding relations between the Communist Party and other proletarian organizations were established in the light of the very nature of the Party. Before discussing tactics proper, it is necessary to consider what elements a study of the overall situation bring to their determination. The program of the Communist Party foresees that in the course of the development which has been generally attributed to it, it will accomplish a series of actions in correspondence with successive situations. There is thus a close connection between programmatic directives and tactical rules. Analysis of the situation therefore is a complimentary element in the solution of tactical problems since, in its critical consciousness and experience, the Party had already defined a certain development of these situations, and had thus delimited the possibilities of action corresponding to each of these. Analysis of the situation permits more exact control of the developmental perspectives that the Party has formulated in its program; but if ever such an analysis entails substantial programmatic revision, the problem will not be solved by a simple tactical about-face: the programmatic vision itself will be inevitably subject to rectification with grave consequences for both the organization and the strength of the Party. It must therefore attempt to predict the development of situations so as to be able to deploy in each situation all the influence it can bring to bear. Only to wait for situations to develop, and basing itself on eclectic and shifting attitudes, is the method characteristic of social-democratic opportunism. If Communist Parties should ever succumb to this kind of drift, they will have contributed to the destruction of communism both as ideology and as militant action.
25. The Communist Party only possesses unity and only tends towards the development prescribed by its program to the degree that it contains within its ranks that fraction of the proletariat that has overcome the tendency to move solely in response to the immediate thrust of particular economic situations. This overcoming occurs precisely by means of political organization. If critical consciousness and initiatives of will have only very limited value for individuals, they are fully realized in the collective nature of the Party, and even more so to the extent that it presents itself as the precursor of forms of human association which, instead of passively submitting to the laws of economic facticity, will be truly able to rationally direct them because they will have overcome the formlessness of present-day economic organization. That is why the Party’s overall activities, far from being subject to situational immediacy, are related to it by the interplay of rationality and will.
26. However, the will of the Party must not be exercised capriciously, nor must its initiatives be extended arbitrarily. The limits of both are precisely set by the program and by assessment of possibilities and opportunities for action deduced from the analysis of contingent situations.
27. It is by situational analysis that one can determine the respective strengths of the Party and enemy movements. The Party’s first concern must be the correct assessment of the portion of the proletariat that will follow it if it undertook an action or engaged a struggle. In order to do this, the Party must have an accurate idea of the pressures of the economic situation on the masses and the spontaneous upheavals that these can lead to, along with the developments that Communist Party initiatives and the attitude of the other parties could bring to these upheavals.
Whether it is a time of growing prosperity or, on the contrary, of hardship and crises, the influence that the economic situation has upon the class combativeness of the proletariat is a complex one. Nor can such an assessment be deduced from cursory examination of a situation at a given moment, as it is necessary to take into account the previous evolution, as well as the shifts and variables of all the preceding situations. For example, a time of prosperity can give rise to a powerful trade-union movement which, if followed by a period of crisis and pauperization, can rapidly lead to revolutionary positions that entail the possibility of victory for the broad organization of the masses such a movement will have achieved. On the other hand, a period of progressive impoverishment could stress such a trade-union movement to the extent that in the next period of prosperity, it could no longer provide material for revolutionary organization. These examples (which could be inverted) prove that «the graph of the economic situation and that of class combativeness intersect according to complex laws, the latter being dependent upon the former, but without formally corresponding to it.» The rise of one can correspond, in given cases, to the rise or fall of the other, and conversely.
28. The integrating elements of such an analysis are highly complex. One would have to examine not only the effective tendencies of the proletariat’s ability to give form to and develop class organizations, but also every kind of response, including psychological ones, produced on the one hand by the economic situation and on the other hand by the attitudes and social and political initiatives of the ruling class itself and its parties. On the political plane, situational analysis would include the positions of the different classes and parties in relation to State power, as well as an assessment of their strength. In this perspective, the normal course of the development of situations in which the Communist Party could be lead to act with increased efficiency, while at the same time delineating ever more clearly the limits of its tactics, can be categorized in five broad phases. These are: 1. Absolutist feudal power. 2. Bourgeois democratic power. 3. Social-democratic government. 4. An interim period of civil war in which the bases of the State are shaken. 5. Proletarian power of the dictatorship of workers’ and peasants’ councils. In a sense, the tactical problem consists not only in selecting the right approach for efficacious action, but also in making certain that the actions of the Party not go beyond the opportune limits that, by reverting to methods corresponding to phases already completed, would halt the Party’s development and, far worse, cause it to lose its revolutionary preparedness. The following considerations refer to actions of the Party in the second and third political phases mentioned above.
29. To develop organically, the Communist Party must possess a critical method and consciousness that lead it to formulate a program. It is precisely for this reason that the Party and the Communist International cannot grant maximum tactical liberty and elasticity to the decision-making centres, leaving the determination of tactics to the latter’s judgment on the basis of an overview of the situation. The Party program is not characterized by a simple goal that can be reached by any means, but is that of a historical perspective in which means and ends are intimately related. In the various situations, tactics must therefore harmonize with the program and, to that end, the general tactical principles for successive situations must be precise within certain limits. To be sure, these need not be rigid but always increasingly clear and less fluctuating as the momentum gains force and approaches the final victory. It is only thus that maximum centralism in both the Parties and in the International can be attained; that is to say, that the decisions for action taken by the centre will be adopted and executed without resistance not only from the Communist Parties, but also from those parts of the mass movement that the Parties will have succeeded in controlling. It must not, in fact, be forgotten that the root of acceptance of the organic discipline of the movement consists not only of the initiatives of individuals and groups as a result of development of the situation, but in a continuous and logical progression of experience that brings them to rectify their perspective of the road to be taken to obtain the greatest efficiency in the struggle against the conditions of life that present-day social organization imposes upon the proletariat. That is why, before calling upon their adherents and those proletarians who will follow them to act at the sacrifice of themselves, the Parties and the International must be able to systematically provide an overview of their general tactical principles and to demonstrate why they constitute the only road to victory. If the Party must therefore define the terms and limits of its tactics, this is not from a desire to theorize or schematize the complex movements it could be lead to undertake, but is the result of practical and organizational necessity. Such a process of definition might seem to limit the Party’s possibilities of action, but it is the only guarantee of the continuity and unity of its intervention in the proletarian struggle, and it is for these very concrete reasons that it must be undertaken.
VI. «INDIRECT» TACTICAL ACTIONS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
30. Conditions do not always present themselves for «direct» tactical action, since this implies an assault upon bourgeois power by the Communist Party and the forces at its disposition. Far from limiting itself simply to proselytizing and propaganda, the Party can and must exert its influence upon events by regulating its relations with other parties and social or political movements and by exerting pressure upon them in order to determine development of a situation favorable to its own ends and hasten the moment where decisive revolutionary action would be possible. What initiatives or attitudes to adopt in such cases constitutes a delicate problem. In order to be effective, the first condition must be that they in no way appear to be in contradiction to the Party’s long-range ends as concerns the struggle proper, according to the program it alone defends and on the basis of which the proletariat will fight at the decisive moment. The propaganda of the Party does not only possess theoretical worth; above all it results from the positions the Party adopts daily in the real proletarian struggle, in which it must continually advance the necessity for the proletariat to embrace the communist program and methods. Any attitude that would relegate to second place the integral affirmation of this propaganda or make such-and-such a contingent result an end in itself and not a means towards a greater end, would lead to a weakening of Party structures and an ebb of its influence upon the revolutionary preparation of the masses.
31. In the phase defined above as that of bourgeois democratic power, political forces are generally divided in two currents or «blocs»: the left and the right who fight for leadership of the State.
The social-democratic parties, that are coalitionist in principle, adhere more or less openly to the left bloc. The Communist Party is not indifferent to the development of this struggle, be it by raising points or making demands that interest the proletarian masses and concentrate their focus, or because a victory by the left could in reality smooth the way to the proletarian revolution. As concerns the problem of the tactical opportunity of coalitions with political elements of the left, this must be examined without either falsely doctrinal, stupidly sentimental or puritanical a priorism. One must begin from the fact that the Commmunist Party is only capable of initiating momentum to the degree it can pursue with continuity the work of organization and preparation from which comes the influence that would allow to call the masses to action. It can thus not permit itself tactics in response to occasional or momentary criteria, even on condition of foreseeing a sudden about-face, or reversal of fronts that would transform yesterday’s allies into enemies when such tactics proved insufficient. If the Party does not wish to compromise its connection with the masses and the possibility of reinforcing it at a moment when that will be of the utmost necessity, all of its public declarations and attitudes have to express its continuity of method and intention; that is to say, be in complete harmony with its propaganda on behalf of the final struggle and its preparations towards that end.
32. In preparing the proletariat both ideologically and practically for the revolutionary seizure of power, one of the essential tasks of the Communist Party is to mercilessly criticize the program of the bourgeois left and any program that would make use of democratic and bourgeois parliamentary institutions for the resolution of social problems. Most of the time it is only by means of demagogic falsifications that the bourgeois right and left manage to interest the proletariat in their divergences. Obviously these falsifications can not solely be demonstrated by means of theoretical criticism: it is in practice and in the thick of the struggle that they will be unmasked.
The aim of the left is not a step forward to an interim stage somewhere between the economic and political capitalist system and a proletarian system. In general, its political demands tend to lead to improved functioning conditions and the defense of modern capitalism, be it as a result of the content proper of these demands as well as the illusion they give the masses of being able to use current institutions for their emancipation as a class. This applies to demands for widening of the suffrage and other guarantees for the improvement of liberalism, as it does for anticlerical policies and the overall politics of freemasonry. It applies as well in the case of economic or social reforms: either they will not be realized, or they will be only on condition and with the aim of blocking the revolutionary thrust of the masses.
33. If the coming to power of a left bourgeois government or even a social-democratic government can be considered as a step towards the final struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, this is not because it would provide useful economic or political bases or, even less so, because it would give the proletariat greater liberty of organization, preparedness or revolutionary action. It is the Communist Party’s duty to proclaim what it knows not only because of Marxist criticism, but from bloody experience: such governments will allow the proletariat freedom of movement only as long as it considers and supports these governments as its own representatives. But at the first assault of the masses against the institutions of the bourgeois democratic State, they will respond with the fiercest reaction.
It is thus in a wholly other sense that the coming to power of such governments could prove useful; namely, to the degree that their deeds would constitute for the proletariat a real experience that would allow it to conclude that only its dictatorship proper can bring about the defeat of capitalism. It is obvious that the Communist Party will only be able to make efficient use of this experience to the extent that it would have denounced beforehand the bankruptcy of such governments and will have preserved a solid independent organization around which the proletariat will be able to group when it will find itself forced to abandon the groups and parties whose governmental experience it would have initially supported.
34. A coalition of the Communist Party with parties of the bourgeois or social-democratic left would thus harm the revolutionary preparation of the proletariat and would render utilization of the governmental experience of the left difficult. Furthermore, it would practically and considerably retard the victory of the left bloc over the right. In fact, if the clientele of the bourgeois centre over which the two blocs battle orients itself towards the left, it would be rightly because it is convinced that the left is no less a conservative enemy of the revolution than is the right.
For it knows that the concessions it proposes are for the most part apparent only, and when they are effective, it is because they are aimed at braking the revolutionary upsurge against the institutions supported by the left as by the right. As a result, the presence of the Communist Party in a coalition of the left would cause it to lose a large part of its clientele, in particular in terms of electoral support, a loss that the support of the Communists could not compensate for. Such a policy would probably retard the experience as opposed to accelerating it.
35. It is undeniable that the left bloc espouses demands of interest to the masses and that often correspond to their real exigencies. The Communist Party does not ignore this fact and would not support the superficial thesis that such concessions are to be refused since only the final and total victory of the revolution warrants the sacrifices of the proletariat. Such a position would serve no purpose since its only result would be to reinforce the influence of the democrats and social-democrats over the proletariat. Instead the Communist Party would invite the workers to accept concessions from the left as an experience over whose outcome the Party would not seek to conceal its pessimism, insisting on the need for the proletariat not to throw away its political independence and organization if it does not wish to emerge damaged by the experience. It would incite the masses to demand of the social-democratic parties that they keep to their engagements since they have made themselves the guarantors of the possibility of realizing the promises of the bourgeois left. By its independent and uninterrupted criticism, the Party would prepare to gather the harvest of negative results that will come from these experiences, denouncing the united front of the entire bourgeoisie against the revolutionary proletariat and the complicity of the so-called workers’ parties that, by upholding the coalition with a part of the bourgeoisie, have made themselves its agents.
36. The parties of the left and the social-democrats in particular often affect demands of such a kind that only an appeal to the proletariat for direct action could bring them about. In fact, if the struggle were engaged, the insufficiency of the means proposed by the social-democrats for the realization of their program of working-class measures would become immediately apparent. At that moment, the Communist Party could espouse the same demands and make them more precise; in fact, prominently put them forward as a banner of struggle for the proletariat as a whole in order to force the parties that only spoke of them out of simple opportunism to work for their realization. Be it a question of economic demands or even of a political character, the Communist Party will propose them as the goal of a coalition of trade-union organizations. It would, however, not form leading committees of struggle and agitation on which it would be represented with the other parties; in this way, it would be better able to keep the attention of the masses focused on the specifics of the communist program and preserve its freedom of movement for the moment when it would have to expand the platform of action by going beyond the other parties, now abandoned by the masses after this demonstration of their powerlessness. Thus understood the trade-union united front offers the possibility of overall actions involving the entire working class. The communist method can only emerge victorious from such actions, as it is the only one capable of giving content to the unitary movement of the proletariat, and the only one not to share the slightest responsibility for the doings of parties that affect verbal support for the cause of the proletariat out of opportunism and with counter-revolutionary intentions.
37. Another scenario could take the form of an attack by the bourgeois right against a democratic or socialist government. Even in such a case, the Communist Party would not proclaim solidarity with governments of this kind: if it welcomed them as an experience to be undergone so as to hasten the moment when the proletariat will be convinced of their counter-revolutionary aims, it can obviously not now present such governments as victories worth defending.
38. It could happen that a government of the left would allow right-wing organizations, the white bands of the bourgeoisie, to keep up their attacks against the proletariat and, instead of coming to its support, would refuse it the right of responding by force of arms. In that case, communists would denounce such complicity as the true division of labour between the liberal government and the irregular forces of the reaction, in which the bourgeoisie would no longer debate the respective merits of democratico-reformist anaesthesia or violent repression, but employs them both simultaneously.
In that situation, the veritable and worst enemy of the revolutionary preparation is the liberal government who leads the proletariat into believing it will defend it to preserve legality so that the proletariat not arm or organize itself. Thus, on the day when under the pressure of events the proletariat will be forced to struggle against the legal institutions that preside over its exploitation, the government will easily be able to crush it with the help of the white bands.
39. It can also happen that the government and the parties of the left that comprise it invite the proletariat to participate in armed resistance against attacks from the right. Such an appeal only conceals a trap. The Communist Party would greet it with the proclamation that arming the proletarians means the coming to power of the proletariat and the proletarian State, as well as the destruction of the state bureaucracy and the traditional army since neither of these would follow the orders of a legally constituted government of the left from the moment it called the people to the armed struggle. Only the dictatorship of the proletariat could thus bring about a lasting victory over the white bands. As a result, the Communist Party will neither practice nor espouse the slightest «loyalism» towards an endangered liberal government. On the contrary it will show the masses the risks of consolidating that government’s power by giving it the proletariat’s support against an uprising from the right or an attempted coup d’etat. Leaving control of the army to the government parties, that is, surrendering without having overthrown the current political and state forms, would be tantamount to consolidating the very organism called to oppose the revolutionary advance of the proletariat at the precise moment when that advance will have imposed itself as the only possible outcome against all the forces of the bourgeois class.
VII. «DIRECT» TACTICAL ACTIONS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
40. In the case considered above, the demands presented by the bourgeois left and social-democratic parties as the objectives to be attained retained the attention of the masses, and in turn were subscribed to with greater clarity and energy by the Communist Party though all the while openly criticizing the means proposed by the others for their realization.
But there are other cases where the immediate and pressing needs of the working class, whether for further gains or simple self-defense, would be met only with indifference from the left or social-democratic parties. If because of social-democratic influences over the masses, the Communist Party does not dispose of sufficient force to be able to appeal directly to them, it would take up these demands and call for their realization by a united front of trade-union proletarians. This would avoid having to make an offer of alliance with the social-democrats, and the Party could even proclaim that they have also betrayed the contingent and immediate interests of the workers. Such a unitary action would find communist militants at work in the trade-unions, leaving the Party free to intervene in the event the struggle took another course, as it would inevitably find the social-democrats, and perhaps even the syndicalists and anarchists, against it. If the other proletarian parties refused to back the trade-union united front demands, the Communist Party would content itself with criticizing them and demonstrating their complicity with the bourgeoisie. In order to destroy their influence, it would above all have to participate on the front-lines of the limited proletarian actions the situation would not fail to give rise to and whose objectives would be those for which the Communist Party had proposed a united front for all local organizations and categories of workers. This would allow it to demonstrate concretely that in opposing the spread of such movements, the social-democratic leadership is only preparing their defeat. Naturally, the Communist Party will not only content itself with laying the blame for erroneous tactics before the other parties. With all the wisdom and discipline required, it will keep a steady watch for the right moment at which to go beyond the resistance of the counter-revolutionaries; that is, when a situation arises such that in the course of the development of the struggle nothing further will stand in the way of the masses responding to the call to action of the Communist Party. Such an initiative can only be taken by the Party centre; in no case can it be taken by local Communist Party organizations or communist-controlled trade-unions.
41. More particularly, the term «direct tactics» designates actions of the Party when the situation obliges it independently to take the initiative of attacking the bourgeois power so as to topple it or deliver a mortal blow. In order to be able to undertake such an action, the Party must dispose of an internal organization solid enough to warrant the absolute certainty that orders from the centre will be perfectly executed. It must moreover be able to count upon the discipline of the trade-union forces it controls so as to be sure that a large part of the masses will follow it. In addition it needs military formations of a certain efficiency and, so as to be able to keep control over the direction of the movement in the likely event it would be outlawed by emergency measures, requires an underground apparatus and especially a network of communications and liaison that the bourgeois government would not be able to control.
In offensive actions, it is the fate of very lengthy preparatory work that is at stake. Before taking such a heavy decision, the Party will therefore have to have thoroughly studied the situation. It will not suffice that it be able to count on disciplined forces it directly manages and control, nor can the possibility be dismissed that the bonds uniting it to the most vital fraction of the proletariat won’t be broken in the course of the struggle. It will also have to be assured that its influence over the masses and the participation of the proletariat will grow in the course of action, since the development of the latter will awaken and put into play widespread tendencies within the deep layers of the mass.
42. It will not always be possible to proclaim openly that the overall movement unleashed by the Party has as its aim the overthrow of bourgeois power. Except in the case of an exceptionally rapid development of the revolutionary situation, the Party could engage in action on the basis of slogans that are not those of the revolutionary seizure of power, but can only, in a sense, come about by means that the masses would consider to be only immediate and vital demands. In the limited sense that these slogans would be realizable by a government that would not yet be the dictatorship of the proletariat, they give the Party the possibility of putting a stop to the action at a certain point where the organization and combativeness of the masses would not be harmed. This could prove useful if it appears impossible to continue the struggle to the end without compromising the possibility of taking it up again effectively at a later point.
43. Nor can it be excluded that the Party could deem it opportune to directly put forward a slogan for action knowing that it is not yet a question of taking power, but only of continuing a battle in which the prestige and the organization of the enemy will be shaken, which would materially and morally reinforce the proletariat. In that event, the Party would call the masses to the struggle either for objectives that can truly be reached or for more limited objectives than those it would propose in the event of success. In the Party’s plan of action, these objectives would be ordered successively in such a way that each success would constitute a platform from which it could strengthen itself for the struggles ahead. Thus could be avoided as much as possible the desperate tactic of throwing oneself into the struggle where the only possible outcomes are either the triumph of the revolution or, in the contrary case, the certainty of defeat and the dispersal of the proletarian forces for an unforeseeable time. Partial objectives are indispensable for maintaining control over the action, and these can be formulated without their coming into contradiction with the Party’s critique of their economic or social content; that is, when they are considered only as ends in themselves whose attainment would satisfy the masses and not as the occasion for struggles that are a means and a step towards the final victory.
To be sure, determining these objectives and the limits of action is always a terribly delicate problem; it is from experience and in the selection of its leaders that the Party learns how to assume this supreme responsibility.
44. The Party does not subscribe to the belief that when the proletariat lacks combativeness, it is enough for a daring group to throw themselves into the struggle and attempt feats of arms against the bourgeois institutions for their example to awaken the masses. It is in the development of the real economic situation that the reasons must be sought that will bring the proletariat out of its prostration. If the tactics of the Party can and must contribute to that awakening, it will be by means of far deeper and sustained work than the spectacular gesture of an vanguard hurled to the assault.
45. However, the party will use its forces and discipline for actions conducted by armed groups, workers’ organizations and even whole masses when it has full control over them in terms of planning and execution. Such actions, which may have a demonstrative and defensive value, will be designed to offer the masses concrete proof that with organization and preparation it is possible to counter some of the ruling class’s resistance and counter-attacks, whether they take the form of terrorist actions by reactionary groups, or police prohibition of certain forms of proletarian organization and activity. The goal will not be to provoke a general action, but to give the demoralized and defeated mass the highest degree of combativeness through a series of actions that combine to awaken in it a feeling and need for struggle.
46. The Party will absolutely avoid letting the internal discipline of union organizations be violated by local organizations and by the communists active in them during this kind of local action. Communists must not provoke ruptures with the national central bodies directed by other parties, since, as indicated above, these must serve as indispensable supports for the conquest of such bodies. However, the Communist Party and its militants will follow the masses attentively, giving them all their support when they respond spontaneously to bourgeois provocations by breaking with the discipline of the inaction and passivity imposed by the leaders of reformist and opportunist unions.
47. In the situation that characterizes the moment when state power is being shaken and is about to fall, the Communist Party, deploying its forces to the maximum, and conducting the as much agitation as possible for revolutionary actions, will not lose any opportunity to influence moments of unstable balance in the situation by making use of all the forces that may momentarily be marching with it, though its action must remain independent. When it is certain of taking control of the movement once the traditional State organization has collapsed, it will be able to make transitory agreements with other movements fighting in its camp, without - and this is important - expressing this in mass propaganda or slogans. In all these cased, the only measure of the appropriateness of these contacts and the appraisal that must be made will be success. The Communist Party’s tactics are never dictated by theoretical a prioris or ethical and esthetic concerns; it is solely dictated by the need to conform to the methods and reality of the historical process, in accordance with the dialectical synthesis of doctrine and action that is the heritage of a movement which will be called upon to become the protagonist in the broadest social transformation, the leader of the greatest revolutionary war in history.
International Communist party