Saturday, April 13, 2019

Bordigist program

”Communist Program” is, or was, the English-language publication of the Partito Comunista Internazionale, or perhaps one of its splits (they often used the same name as the parent party and had politics which looked identical to outsiders). In other words, we are dealing with the Bordigist current, the ultra-dogmatic fringe of the fringe of Leninism. The Bordigists are named after Amadeo Bordiga, the first leader of the Communist Party of Italy, later defrocked by Stalin and Bukharin in favor of the more famous Antonio Gramsci. The Bordigists re-emerged after World War II in the form of the International Communist Party (sometimes called Programma Comunista). Found mostly in Italy and France, little material of this current exists in English (or Swedish).

This issue of ”Communist Program” is marked “No. 6” and was published in 1980. The articles give a slightly curious impression. They are dogmatic rather than theoretical, restating various old ”Marxist” positions (complete with the proof texts) rather than analyzing the world situation at depth or develop new theories. Indeed, the platform of this small party explicitly says that members are forbidden to develop new theories – the Marxist program as it looked like circa 1921 is apparently set in stone, period. The Bordigists are known among left-watchers for their strong sectarianism, amply confirmed in this magazine: both united fronts and people´s fronts are rejected, so is the Workers Government slogan, any support for any side in World War II, any participation in ”bourgeois” elections, and any regroupments with ”opportunist” forces to build the party. Even democratic centralism is rejected in favor of organic centralism. The revolution must be extended internationally, and Soviet Russia should have been governed by the Communist International as a whole, rather than by the Russian party alone (a peculiar proposal). What distinguishes the Bordigistas from other ultra-lefts is that they don´t reject work in the labor unions, nor do they oppose national liberation struggles. The latter are seen as bourgeois revolutions against feudalism and are still objectively necessary in the Third World. However, I get the impression that ”Communist Program” regards post-World War II national liberation struggles as fake, really being moments in the inter-imperialist competition between the United States and Stalinist Russia. Or perhaps something deeper has happened, since the article on the Sandinistas declare that even the petty-bourgeois democrats and radicals in the underdeveloped countries are a spent force for revolution, being incapable even of carrying out a genuine 19th century “bourgeois” revolution. It´s never explained why, but it seems to have happened quite recently (i.e. recently from the vantage point of 1980).

While being extremely doctrinaire and frankly somewhat boring, the articles nevertheless also have an undertone of violence and a slight whiff of adventurism. The anonymous writers never tire of emphasizing the violent nature of the revolution, the need for mass terror after the conquest of power (”more than 1793”) and even the need for terrorism (and bank robberies) before the revolution, albeit a terrorism which is connected to mass revolutionary struggles and strictly under the control of the Party. The capitalist system in all its forms is viewed as necessarily violent and intrusive-expansive, making proletarian violence the only possible answer. Fascism is seen as the inevitable end-point of capitalism. Since the International Communist Party rejects all anti-fascist united fronts, it doesn´t really have any strategy to fight the fascist menace, except to go it alone in preparation of the final confrontation. Bizarrely, these brave sectarians then declare: ”It [the party] must do everything in its power to unleash the final attack, and when it cannot do this, it must face defeat: but it must never in a cowardly and defeatist manner beseech the devil of fascism to go away, which would amount to begging stupidly for tolerance or forgiveness from the class enemy” (p. 52) This is simply grandstanding from a bunch of intellectuals who will *never* see military or militant action.

The magazine predicts that the world will soon see a resurgence of proletarian struggles on a massive scale, something which (of course) is yet to happen, 40 years later and counting. A curious trait of Programma is that they don´t believe capitalism can ever collapse – if the working class doesn´t put an end to the system, it will simply continue on its cyclical course of boom, bust, world war and reconstruction. Somebody forgot to pass Programma the memo about environmental destruction, or perhaps they simply didn´t enjoy reading Camatte! Otherwise, I was struck by the strong contrast between the Bordigists´ super-materialist or near-determinist perspective, and the fact that *no* successful proletarian revolution ever happened anywhere in the world since 1871 (the year when capitalism ceased being progressive in the First World, according to Programma). The Russian revolution is only a partial exception to the rule, since Programma considers it a “dual” revolution (presumably proletarian and bourgeois) which later degenerated under Stalin. If conditions are so ripe for socialism, why is the Bordigist current forced to vegetate at the margins of politics in the form of small propaganda groups?

With that observation, I close this review.

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