On the Thread of Time
To dot the I’s and cross the T’s
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 17; Spring 2021)
This article of Amadeo Bordiga was published anonymously (like all the texts of our party) under the title “Le gambe ai cani” (1) on Battaglia Comunista (n°11, 1952) which was the paper of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Internationalist Communist Party); it was part of the political and theoretical fight against an opportunist and confusionist current which prioritized activity at the expense of the programmatic principles. This fight led eventually to a split in the party and the constitution of the one we claim – the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (International Communist Party).
At the end of the Second World War, it was easily to conclude that a few weeks would suffice to dispel the noble yet futile illusion that great armed, revolutionary working class movements would emerge, similar to those at the end of the First World War.
There were two principal aspects of this complex development which we will reiterate once again. The victorious armies, instead of resting content with the unconditional surrender of the enemy’s general staff and government powers, completely suppressed the functions of both, occupying the entire territory of the conquered countries and establishing within them an indefinite state of emergency. From this flowed the uselessness in practice of the favorable power relations that existed between proletarian class and state defeated in war, and the impossibility of a rapid transition from support or acceptance of the war to defeatism. The other aspect was the decomposition of the revolutionary movement of the Third International, which, following on from a series of tactical deviations to the right in 1922, around the time of the formation of the Italian party, bit by bit deserted revolutionary positions until finally it ended up resituating itself on the terrain of the traitor movements of the second International and the First World War; indeed becoming even worse than them.
On the other hand these two factors in post Second World War power relations were apparent not only at the beginning of the war, but from the time when totalitarian bourgeois governing parties were being formed in various European countries. Using this historical fact to establish the inviolable prospect of a new type of “ideological war” at the European level, and “interclassist blocs” within the various nations, the deserters from communism who took their lead from Moscow would wallow in this political perspective in the most crass and disgusting way. The fact that having ceased to be classist and communist they remained totalitarian, and that through their politico-military maneuverings abroad they had had a brief love affair with the bourgeois totalitarian Nazis just compounded their betrayal.
The conclusion to be drawn from these premises was that the time the proletarian movement would take to recover, and rid itself of the old opportunist scabies and the new and even more paralyzing syphilitic sores, was measurable in decades not years, and that the task of those groups that had stuck to, and defended, the position which 99% of the communists of 1919 vintage had deserted, would turn out to be a long and difficult one, beginning with the laborious job of drawing up a balance-sheet of the counterrevolutionary catastrophe; which needed to be examined, understood and utilized to effect a complete reorganization.
It is towards this end that the limited forces available have been working in Italy for the past seven years (forces which are maybe even weaker outside Italy) recovering historical and informational data and carrying out analytical work which has taken a resolute stand against glib pessimism of the type which maintains that since things have gone so wrong then first principles must - if not entirely, at least for the most part - be abandoned and replaced The review, Prometeo, and the newspaper, Battaglia Comunista, have worked hard to maintain this essential cornerstone: the continuity of the theory and the method of action of the communists.
Given the nature of the task and the means needed to accomplish it, clearly any noisy impact on “Italian politics”, as those in radio, the newspapers and election candidates booming out through their megaphones understand it, would be distinctly lacking. In fact, it was decidedly for the best as crude impatience has only ever made a difficult path even longer. After all, Marxism has toiled for a century to boot out those inclined to such emotions; and when it succeeds, and against the prevailing wind too, then that’s a good result.
This work is founded on an appeal to the movement’s fundamental texts and theses, on its experience and on its history from the time it arose, and on the evaluation of recent historical facts in the light of the original Marxist vision: what has been elaborated can be found distributed in various passages and studies, with constant, untiring reference to the essential quotations.
Put bluntly, this is our position: new facts do not lead us to correct the old positions, nor to supplement or rectify them. Today we interpret the original Marxist texts in the same way as we did in 1921 and even before that; and we interpret later facts in the same way; the old proposals regarding methods of organization and action remain valid.
This work is neither entrusted to individuals nor committees, much less so to bureaus. In timing and quality, it is part of a unitary operation that has been unfolding for over a century, going well beyond the birth and death of generations. It is not inscribed in anyone’s curriculum vitae, not even of those who have spent an extremely long time coherently elaborating and mulling over the results. In this work of elaboration of key texts, and also of studies interpreting the historical process that surrounds us, the movement prohibits, and has to prohibit, personal, extemporary and contingent initiatives being taken.
The idea that some obliging bloke, with pen and inkwell and an hour or so to spare, starts writing texts from scratch, or else, the Cyrenic, long-suffering “base” is urged to do so by some circular letter or by some ephemeral academic meeting, whether noisily public or in secret, well, it is just childish. The results of such efforts should be disqualified from the outset; especially when such an array of dictates is the work of those who are obsessed with the effect of human intervention in history. Is it men in general, particular men, or a given Man with a capital M who intervenes? It’s an old question. Men make history, it’s just that they have very little idea how and why they make it. As a rule, all the ‘fans’ of human action, and those who mock what they allege to be fatalist automatism, are generally the very people who privately nurture the idea that their own wee bodies contain that predestined Man. And they are the very ones who do not and cannot understand anything at all: they fail to see that whether they sleep like logs, or realize their noble dream of rushing around like men possessed, history will not be affected one iota.
Coldly cynical, and totally lacking in sympathy for any of these super-activist specimens so convinced of their own importance, to them, and to every synedrion of innovators and would-be helmsmen, we repeat: Go back to sleep! You can’t even set an alarm clock.
The task of setting the Theses in order and straightening out all the dogs’ legs veering off on all sides – a task which always arises when least expected – needs considerably more than a short speech or an hour or so at some little congress.
It isn’t easy to compile an index of all the places where it was necessary to plug the holes, a work evidently seen as inglorious by those born to “pass into history”, whose style, rather than patching up, is to totally destroy. Still, we think a small index might be useful, even though it obviously won’t be perfect and will contain repetitions and inversions. We will compare correct with erroneous theses: we won’t however call the latter anti-theses since such a term is easily confused with antithesis, which suggests two different theses side by side in opposition. We prefer to use the term counter-theses.
Also, purely for clarity’s sake, we will divide the points we wish to make into three obviously interconnected sections, namely: History, Economy and (in inverted commas) Philosophy. We completely disregard those theses which are blatantly bourgeois and opposed to our own, and whose refutations are well-known, and sometimes we consider as counter-theses notions which are, more than anything, just incorrect formulations, but ones which have nevertheless prevailed as bad habits and given rise to much misunderstanding.
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HISTORICAL COUNTER-THESES AND THESES
Toward the beginning of the 19th century, society became divided into two opposed classes: the bourgeoisie (owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (wage earning workers).
According to Marx, there are three classes in fully-industrialized countries: capitalists (manufacture, trade, banking), landowners (at least where the land can still be bought and sold freely) and wage earning workers.
In all countries, and above all in countries where industry is not highly developed and during the period before the bourgeoisie has seized political power, other classes continue to exist in varying degrees, e.g., the feudal aristocracy, craftsmen, peasant landowners. First the bourgeoisie, and then the wage-earning proletariat, begin to have an historical weight in different periods in different countries: Italy (15th century), Netherlands (16th century), England (17th century),France (18th century), Central Europe, America, Australia, etc. (19th century), Russia (20th century) and Asia (today). As a result, it is necessary to distinguish various areas in the world, characterized by different configurations of class forces in struggle.
The proletarians are indifferent toward the bourgeoisie’s revolutionary struggles against feudal power.
The proletarian masses fight eerywhere in insurrections to overthrow feudal privilege and absolutist power. In different countries and historical periods the greater part of the working class naively believed that the victory of bourgeois democratic movements would be a conquest, even for the poor citizens. Another fraction, however, did see that the bourgeois fighting for power were exploiters, but, influenced by reactionary socialism, they sought to ally themselves to the feudal counter-revolution out of hatred for the bosses. The most advanced fraction adopted the correct position: There are no civic and ideological demands in general that are shared by exploiters and exploited; but the bourgeois revolution is necessary, either to open the way to large-scale production based on the association of masses of workers, which would lead to a higher standard of living and higher consumption among the impoverished strata of society, or to make possible a future social – at first proletarian – administration of the new productive forces. The workers therefore fight alongside the big bourgeoisie against the nobility and clergy, and even (see the Manifesto of 1848) against the reactionary petty-bourgeoisie.
Where the bourgeois victory was followed by a counter-revolution (feudal or dynastic restoration), the workers did not become involved in this struggle between two of its enemies.
In every armed struggle for and against a restoration (e.g., the coalitions against the French revolution and the republican revolutions of 1830 and 1848), the proletariat necessarily fought in the trenches and on the barricades alongside the bourgeois radicals. The dialectic of class struggle and civil war has shown that this assistance was necessary for the victory of the landowning and industrial bourgeoisie. But immediately after the victory the bourgeoisie opened a fierce attack against the proletariat which sought social reforms and political power. Such is the unique scheme of the inevitable succession of revolutions and counter-revolutions. The proletariat’s insurrectional support to the bourgeoisie is the historical condition enabling it to one day overthrow it after a series of attempts.
The working class is indifferent toward every war between feudal and bourgeois states and every insurrection for national liberation from foreign domination.
The formation of national states based on the most uniform racial and linguistic characteristics is the optimal condition for the replacement of feudal production by bourgeois production, and every bourgeoisie fights for this goal, even before the reactionary nobility has been overthrown. For the workers, organization into nation-states (as especially in Europe) is a necessary stage since it is impossible to arrive at internationalism (proclaimed by the very first workers’ movements) without going beyond the narrow local production, consumption and demands characteristic of the feudal era.
As a result, until the completion of organization into nation-states in 1870, the proletariat had a class interest in fighting for freedom in France, Germany, Italy and the Balkan states. During the alliance in armed actions, class ideologies became differentiated and the workers began to break out of nationalism and patriotism. The victories against the Holy Alliance, against Austria in 1859 and 1866, and finally against Napoleon III in 1870, were of primary importance for the future of the proletarian movement, as were the victories against Turkey and Russia in 1854-55 and 1877. On the other hand, in all their works, Marx and Engels regarded defeats suffered by the adversaries of these countries as negative, as Lenin recalled in his thesis on the war in 1914. All these criteria apply to the modern Orient.
As soon as the bourgeois had seized power on all the continents populated by white races, all wars are wars of imperialist conquest. Therefore no workers movement has any interest in common with warring governments; the class struggle must be extended to defeatism. The victory of one or the other of the belligerents has no influence on the further development of the class struggle and the proletarian revolution.
According to Lenin, as of 1871, and after the period of “peaceful” capitalism, all wars are imperialist: their ideological acceptance is treason. In 1914 every workers’ party in the Entente countries and the Central powers had to fight against the war to transform it into a civil war, especially by exploiting a military defeat. Though any alliance with the bourgeoisie in regular or irregular armed action was excluded, the problem of the possible effects of different military solutions nonetheless had to be taken into consideration. It cannot be imagined that when such immense forces come into conflict the victory of one would have the same effect as the victory of another. In general, we can say that the military victory of the older, wealthier and most politically and socially stable bourgeois states is the least favorable outcome for the proletariat and its revolution.
There is a direct link between the unfavorable course of the proletariat’s struggle over the past 50 years (which has multiplied the time predicted by Marxism for the victory of communism at least by three) and repeated victories by Britain in the wars against Napoleon, and later, Germany. English bourgeois power has been stable for three centuries, and while Marx counted heavily on the American civil war to topple it, this war did not engender a force able to defeat Europe, but instead one that would be the sustain of British power and gradually became the center thanks to the wars it fought on its side and not after a direct conflict.
In 1914, Lenin indicated clearly that the defeat of the Czar’s armies would be the most favorable solution because it would hasten the outbreak of class struggle in Russia. He fought with all his strength against those who stated that the victory of Germany over the Anglo-French alliance would be the most favorable result, while inveighing just as fiercely against German social-patriots.
The Russian revolution was only the outbreak of the proletarian revolution in a country where the bourgeoisie was weakest and from which the struggle could spread to other countries.
Obviously the proletarian revolution can only be victorious on an international scale. It can and must begin where the relationship of forces is most favorable. The thesis that the revolution must begin in the country where capitalism is most developed and then spread to other countries is pure defeatism. But in its refutation of the opportunist position, Marxism poses the historical problem quite differently.
Despite the violent struggles of Chartism in 1848 Marx did not believe that the class revolution would originate in industrial England. He counted on the French proletariat to fight on after the February republican victory. Moreover he thought the process would be accelerated by the double revolution in Germany where feudal institutions still held power, and he translated the strategy of the German proletariat into two precise tactics: first with the liberals and the bourgeois, then immediately afterwards, against them.
For at least twenty years, particularly after 1905 when the Russian proletariat came to life as a class, the Bolsheviks fought to apply the same tactic in Russia. This depended on two things: first the decrepitude of feudal institutions which, despite the cowardice of the bourgeoisie, were condemned to collapse, and secondly, the inevitability of defeat in the war of 1914, which, after the war of 1905 with Japan, gave the revolution its second chance.
Being directly linked by doctrine and organization to the parties of countries in which bourgeois regimes had long been established, the Russian proletarian party committed itself to waging the struggle for a liberal revolution against Czarism and for peasant emancipation from the boyars, and then to leading the Russian working class into power.
In history many revolutions have been lost: some because they did not succeed in seizing power; others because they were ravaged by armed repression (the Paris Commune); still others – without military repression – after a collapse of the social structure (Italian Communes). The double revolution of 1848 in Germany was won militarily and socially at first, but was lost in the second stage. Russia’s double revolution triumphed in two phases of civil war (1917 and 1919-21) and in the first stage of the socio-economic struggle, but was beaten in the second – the transition from capitalism to socialism – not as a result of foreign invasion, but because of proletarian defeats outside of Russia (1918-1923). The efforts of the Russian power today are directed not towards socialism, but towards capitalism which is in revolutionary march on Asia.
The proletarian revolution, which could have had its centre in Germany in 1848, and Russia in 1917, probably will not arise again from an event in one country. It is not likely that China, for example, will have such a broad influence, especially since it is already in the process of passing from feudalism to bourgeois regime.
The weak link for a new international revolutionary wave to commence in any particular location, since then could only be constituted by a capitalist country that loses a war.
It is clear that the institution of totalitarian regimes in capitalist countries has nothing to do with the counter-revolutions dealt with in theses 2 and 3, or the regimes that they established. On the contrary this was an expected consequence of economic and social concentration of the productive forces. It is therefore treasonous to envision the necessity of a proletarian bloc with the bourgeoisie to restore political and economic liberalism by adopting the method of the Resistance. When conflicts arise between bourgeois states, it is also erroneous to support the side opposing the one that attacks Russia in order to defend a regime that, “after all”, was created by a victory of the proletariat. In any case, the outcome of the second imperialist world war could have no possible influence on the prospects of the class struggle and the resurgence of the revolution.
It is correct, but insufficient, to say that the justifications of World War II as a “crusade”, a conflict of “ideologies”, a defense of democracy against fascism, were as mystifying as those of 1914 that glorified liberty, civilization and nationality. These propaganda formulas concealed the same aim in both wars; the conquest of new markets, political and economic supremacy. However, capitalism will not fall without a series of explosions in the unitary systems which are the territorial class states. It is this process that must be analyzed and, if possible, hastened.
It cannot be hastened by a political or military solidarity between the proletariat and its bourgeoisie in the phase of imperialist wars. It is nonetheless important to decipher the process and adapt the strategy of the revolutionary International to it. The Russian policy has replaced this principled orientation with cynical alliances by the “Soviet” state, which clearly shows that the USSR is part of the constellation of world capitalism. This is the proletarian movement’s point of departure; it is an arduous, difficult road, and the first step is to understand.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Moscow concluded a treaty with Berlin. The importance of this historic event cannot be stressed enough, especially as it was accompanied by “Marxist” arguments regarding the imperialist and aggressive nature of the war conducted by London and Paris, with a call to communist parties in both blocs not to support the war effort.
Two years later, Moscow allied itself with London, Paris and Washington, and devoted all its propaganda to showing that the Allied campaign against the Axis powers was not imperialist, but an ideological crusade for freedom and democracy.
It is of the greatest importance for the proletarian movement not only to establish that revolutionary tactics were abandoned in both cases, but also to understand that the Russian state, while acquiring the forces and resources with which to advance in a capitalist direction, also helped to bring about the most conservative outcome to the war. In fact, through a gigantic military effort, it helped England to escape ruin, thereby enabling it to weather the storm once again unscathed. The defeat at least of England would have been a very favorable condition for the fall of the other bourgeois states, beginning with Germany, and for the spread of the revolutionary conflagration through Europe.
The current antagonism between the United States and Russia (followed by their respective satellites) should not be viewed as anything but two imperialist countries to be combated with equal force. By no means would a victory of one rather than the other – or a lasting compromise – create very different conditions for the revival of the communist movement and for the world revolution.
The equialence can only be accepted insofar as it signifies condemnation of any support to capitalist states in a possible third world war, any participation in a partisan war in either camp, and any directive that might lead the proletariat to renounce autonomous defeatist actions wherever it has enough strength. On the other hand, to go beyond this would be not only a false position, but an insane one as well. There can be no Marxist party without a clear vision of the path that leads to the world revolution, even if history withholds favorable conditions for a time. We can never achieve such a vision unless we ask ourselves why there have never been revolutionary struggles between capitalists and proletariat in the United States and Great Britain, vital centers of capitalism. It is not possible to answer this question unless we relate this to the observation of the success of all the imperialist enterprises of exploitation of the rest of the world.
Two blocks appeared; in the first, the systems of power in America and England have no other objective than the preservation of world capitalism; they are prepared for it by a long historical living force of movement in the same direction and they go with a sure step towards social and political totalitarianism (inevitable premise of the final antagonist clash); in the satellites of this bloc we have an advanced bourgeois regime.
In the second, the conditions are the opposite: we find the European and extra-European territories where the more recent bourgeoisie still struggles socially and politically against the feudal remnants; the state formations there are young and of less solid structure; this bloc is further reduced to using the democratic and collaborationist illusion of the outside classes only; it has already burned all the resources of a single party and totalitarian government, thus shortening the cycle. It will obviously enter into crisis as soon as crumbles the formidable capitalist system whose center is in Washington, and which controls five-sixths of the area in which the economy is ripe for socialism and the class of pure proletarians is numerically large.
The success of the revolution will depend upon a civil war in the United States, which an American victory in a new world war would delayed by a period that can be measured in half centuries.
Since the authentic Marxist movement today possesses insignificant forces, it is not able to send large proletarian forces destroy from within any of these blocks even though, in principle, this is one of its tasks. Its primary function is to organize (necessarily small) groups of proletarians who have understood the key role played by Moscow and the parties in its orbit over the past thirty years in consolidating capitalist power in the largest states – which it did first by applying tactics of betrayal, then by sacrificing tens of millions of proletarians in the second imperialist war. They bear the greatest responsibility for tying the masses to an illusory perspective of well-being and freedom under the capitalist regime and “western Christian civilization”.
The way in which the proletariat under Moscow’s influence “fights” this cursed civilization in the western countries, is, in fact, the best guarantee of its survival, even if it is the East bloc countries that initiate a third imperialist war.
ECONOMIC COUNTER-THESES AND THESES
The cycle of the capitalist economy gradually reduces the workers’ standard of living, finally leaving them no more than they require to stay alive.
In Marxist theory, wealth is increasingly concentrated in an ever diminishing number of large units under capitalism, thereby producing a growing impoverishment of the masses. However this theory does not deny that the capitalist system of production has considerably expanded production of consumer goods by liquidating small scale production and local consumption and, accordingly, satisfied the needs of all classes on a gradually expanding scale. But Marxist theory states that in so doing, the anarchy of bourgeois production wastes nine-tenths of these colossal energies, mercilessly expropriates all small holders of reserves of consumer goods, and thus vastly increases the number of people without reserves who must spend their earnings from one day to the next, such that the greater part of mankind is defenseless against the phenomena inherent in the capitalist system –such as economic and social crises and the horrible destruction caused by war – defenseless against the bourgeois policy of intensified class dictatorship, predicted more than a century ago.
Capitalism no longer exists when the worker receives that part of the surplus value which has been extorted from him (the entire product of labor).
Capitalism no longer exists when the collective of workers receives not the ten percent of the profit that is consumed by the capitalist class, but the ninety percent that is wasted by the economic anarchy of capitalism. This is not achieved by a different method of accounting for exchange values exchanged but by depriving consumer goods of their character as commodities, by abolishing money wages and organizing general< productive activity on a centralized, planned basis.
Capitalism no longer exists when groups of producers controls over and manage all the single enterprises, which trade freely between them.
The system advocated by cooperativists, syndicalists and libertarians, i.e., exchange of commodities between free and autonomous enterprises, is neither historically possible nor theoretically socialist. In the capitalist era this would even be retrograde in a number of sectors already organized on a large scale in response to technological advance and the complexity of social life. Socialism or communism exists only when the entire society forms a single association of producers and consumers. Any economic system based on autonomous productive units perpetuates both factory despotism and the anarchic adaptation of expended labor to the consumption needs of the members of society. The labor expended today is at least ten times greater than is necessary.
State management of the economy and state-run enterprises do not constitute socialism, but they modify the character of capitalism that was studied by Marx. They therefore also modify the perspective for its demise by pointing to a third, unexpected form of post-capitalism.
The demand for economic neutrality of the state was put forward by the bourgeoisie against the feudal state. Marxism has demonstrated that the modern state does not represent all of society; it represents only the ruling class, i.e., the capitalist class. From the very beginning, it showed that the capitalist state is an economic force in the hands of capital and the capitalist class. State intervention and state capitalism represent the submission of the political state to private capital. The only prospect that they hold out is the predicted aggravation of class antagonisms and the final explosion, which is a confrontation not between a mere majority and a minority, but between physical forces, between the proletariat organized into a revolutionary party and the existing state.
Given the unforeseen character of the modern form of economy, Marxism must, if it wishes to remain valid, seek a third class which comes to power after the bourgeoisie – the individual owner of capital – has all but disappeared, and which is not the proletariat. This class, which rules in Russia and enjoys privileged status, is the bureaucracy. In America it is the class of managers, i.e., the technical and administrative corporate executives.
Every class regime has had its administrative, judicial, religious and military bureaucracy. As a whole, this bureaucracy is an instrument of the class in power, but it is not a class, because a class is a group of individuals that have an analogous relationship to the means of production and consumption. No longer able to feed its own servants (the Manifesto) , the class of slave owners had already begun to break apart, even though the imperial bureaucracy still ruled, combated and cruelly repressed the anti-slave revolution. Many of the aristocracy had already had a taste of the guillotine even though the military and clerical structures of the state were still fighting to preserve the ancient regime. It is impossible to speak of a bureaucracy in Russia without introducing an arbitrary distinction between the big-wigs and the rest of the population. In state capitalism, everyone is a bureaucrat. The enigmatic Russian bureaucracy and the American “managerial class” are only instruments without an independent existence or history, which world capital uses against the working class. The class antagonism tends to assume a form that confirms the Marxist prognosis and interpretation of economic, social and political phenomena and disproves all pre-Marxist theories. In no way does it confirm any of the new schemas, which are nothing more than products of the reigning confusion.
PHILOSOPHICAL COUNTER-THESES AND THESES
Since opinions are determined by economic interest, in modern society the bourgeois party represents capitalist interests, and the party made up of workers represents socialism. All problems can therefore be resolved by means of consultation, not of all citizens – the bourgeois lie of democracy – but of all workers, whose interests are identical and whose majority has a clear vision of its general future.
In every epoch, the dominant opinions, culture, art, religion and philosophy are determined by the position of human beings in the system of production, and by the resulting social relations. Consequently, in every epoch, especially at the apogee of any given historical cycle, all individuals tend to hold opinions that not only are not eternal truths and do not originate from an enlightenment of the mind, but are, in reality, alien to the interests of the individual, category or class, because they are, to a great extent, modeled on the interests of the ruling class and the institutions it has created.
Only after a long, painful conflict between interests and needs, after long physical battles caused by class antagonisms, does a new point of view characteristic of the oppressed class form. This new doctrine attacks the ideological defense of the established order and strives to destroy it by means of violence. The physical victory is only a prelude to a long period in which traditional influences and lies are dismantled. For a long time to come, only a minority of the liberated class is able to take a resolute position on the path of the new course of history.
Class interest determines class consciousness, and consciousness determines revolutionary action. The expression “inversion of praxis” signifies the opposition between bourgeois doctrines, which hold that each citizen forms his own political opinion for ideal or cultural reasons, and acts according to this opinion, even against his group interests, and the Marxist doctrine, which states that each individual’s personal opinion is dictated by group and class interests.
In the correct conception of Marxist determinism, the inversion of praxis signifies that each individual acts according to contingent determinations (which are not only physiological needs, but include many influences from traditional forms of production). He only tends to have a more or less imperfect “consciousness” of his own action and its motives after having acted. This also holds for collective action, which occurs first as a spontaneous form under the influence of material conditions before being formulated in the form of an ideology. On the other hand, the class party is made up of the vanguard elements of the class and society who possess a theory enabling them to predict the course of history. The party, which does not act on the basis of whim or momentary enthusiasm, but acts in a rational way, is alone able to intervene in the struggle “consciously” or with “will”, as the philosophers say. The conquest of class power and the dictatorship are functions of the party.
The class party constructs the theory of the revolution. When faced with new situations and events, it transforms the theory in response to the needs of the moment and the requirements and tendencies of the class.
The theory is nothing other than a prediction of the course that will be followed by events that have not yet unfolded, the conditions and premises for which it is possible to recognize in the preceding phase. A revolutionary class struggle and the party that represents it are real facts (and not a theoretical illusion) to the extent that the new theory forms in Toto when the class appears in history alongside the new system of forms of social production. The continuity, in time and space, of the class theory and party, is the proof of the correctness of the revolutionary prediction.
Every physical defeat of the forces of the revolution is followed by a period of disarray that manifests itself as a revision of specific aspects of the doctrine, which the revisionists attempt to justify by claiming that new facts or events have appeared in the meantime.
The correctness of the revolutionary theory will be revealed if and only if, once the historical course is completed, there is confirmation that after each physical defeat the revolutionary forces are reconstituted on the same basis and program defined when class war was “declared” (1848).
For Marxists, to attempt to renew or modify the theory is to admit one has deserted it. The theory is not a philosophical or scientific fantasy that demonstrates a “truth”, but a sum of historical lessons derived from the century-old struggle of the modern proletariat.
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These few brief notions have been developed and explained in a number of party texts and reports to congresses and meetings. The fact that we have had to cut off dangerous improvisations does not mean that this work can be considered a monopoly or exclusive privilege of any individual. These questions can certainly be re-ordered more carefully and explained in more detail. With patience and work – seven hours a week for seven years – we could do better. If then stage burners come, and in bunches, we will repeat what the notoriously emotionless Zinoviev said : such people come only once every five hundred years– and he spoke of Lenin.
We will wait for their embalming; we are not living up to them.
(1) “The legs of the dogs”. This refers to the Italian expression “raddrizare le gambe ai cani” (to straighten the legs of the dogs) which means to do something impossible. Bordiga thought that it was impossible to get the confusionists back on the right track.
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