Continuing this discussion within the framework of the IBRP comrades' text was one of the points at the agenda of the meeting we have had, beginning of November. For our part, we begun by taking position on its content and by underlining the points of agreement we have with it :
- communist consciousness is understood, not as a simple consciousness of being exploited as working class and "having to struggle in order that exploitation ceases" but as "consciousness of the length of time, the means, the forms of the struggle, of the tactic, of the strategy and of the political program" to destroy capitalism and to set up communism ;
- "the party isn't something outside the class" ;- "the party is born in the class. It makes its own all the demands of the class struggle, from the more minor economical ones, to the more general and strategical, right up to the complete political programme" ;- "the relation is a dialectical relation not between a class and a party which is separated from the first one and which brings it consciousness from outside, but from inside of this class itself..."- this "doesn't mean that the rank and file of the proletariat, in its struggle, can't develop levels of political consciousness" ;- "the party as political instrument of the class, must always be present and must seek to be the point of political reference in every moment of the class struggle" ;- "we also consider as dangerous the thesis that preaches the need for the party only in revolutionary times" ;- in the phases of counter-revolution and of historical retreat of the proletariat, it can happen that the party disappears, "but this doesn't prevent the vanguards from carrying on the effort to give a minimum of political and organisational continuity according the situation" ;-in any historical circumstances, "the party [...] can't avoid the attempt to be the point of reference for the class struggle whatever its level".
So it's from this basis that the discussion has developed. Firstly, the whole participants noticed we share the same position on the party which is fundamental.
Then the debate focused more particularly on the question of consciousness. Our fraction underlined that class consciousness develops essentially within and by the party, within and by the communist organisations when the party doesn't exist.
We question the IBRP text passage, which is one of its positions of always, according to which "the economic struggle arises, produces what it can produce on the level of demands, and then declines without leaving political traces if there is no intervention of the revolutionary party whose task is to act to transform any economic struggle, whether won or lost, into political knowledge to be returned to in the next struggle, at an even higher level of class consciousness".
We stressed that Lenin, and thus the IBRP which takes back the same formulation, could present a contradiction between considering the working class as able to only get to "trade-unionist" consciousness and the need for the party "to raise the consciousness" in the working class as says Lenin himself. For the IBRP comrades, to say that the fundamental characteristic of the working class is to be unable to overcome a "trade-unionist" consciousness doesn't mean it can't sometimes, in its struggles, realize great steps forwards, and even political advances. It's precisely for this that Lenin insisted on the need to raise consciousness. But if the class makes those steps forwards "without the party", this means that the latter is whether late, or that it's missing. It's true the party isn't infallible and that it can make mistakes and being late. Hasn't been the case for the bolchevik party until Lenin's return to Rusia ? But it's as well certain that that situation expressed a weakness and that ,without the bolchevik party and its "reorientation" of April 1917, the October Revolution would have never occurred. Hasn't been the case in Germany during the bloody defeat of 1919 with a completly missing (or almost completly missing) party ?
Once this point has being clarified, our fraction - which claims to be the continuation of the political and organisational struggles led by the ICC in the years 1970-1980 against the councilist tendencies which then existed within it - recalled that the ICC had suffered from drifts of councilist kinds which were linked to the conditions of its constitution. In particular, there have been tendencies to conciliation with, not to say introduction of, the idea that the party could not, and in a certain way should not, be constituting itself but during revolutionary periods ; or still that communist consciousness could emerge without the party. This precision has been the opportunity for us to recall that the political struggle against councilism, the today economism, is still with us today. It's a permanent and central question to fight against since it's today one of the main dangers the proletariat and the communists are confronted with.
The discussion also precised what the IBRP means when it takes back Lenin's expression on consciousness "brought from outside". We already saw that this "outside" was corresponding to "the outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers" (Lenin), to the "outside the immediate workers struggles". For the comrades, to say that the party brings consciousness from outside doesn't mean the party is outside the class. It's one part of it. If, according to the comrades, we don't understand that consciousness comes from the outside the immediate struggles, then we presuppose that the class as a whole can develop consciousness. And then,there is no need for the party.
If we take back the Rusian example, it's true that in February 1917, a memory of the 1905 experience existed within the working class. This being said, this "memory" was much more spread precisely within the revolutionary ranks than in the other "parts" of the class.
For our part, and even if we don't take back the "outside" expression, we share the essence of the position and the political struggle it implies against councilism. We agreed too to affirm that today the need for the party was even stronger because the very strong ideological campaigns of the bourgeoisie against Communism since the end of the USSR and stalinism for one part, and because the sophistication of the ideological weapons of the bourgeoisie for the other.
The whole participants also insisted on the importance of the permanent struggle for "maintaining the party" and to steady its political and organisational continuity. Even though it happens moments where this organisational continuity can't be temporarly posible. This question, the struggle for the existence of the party, is a permanent data of the revolutionaries' activities what ever is the period and what ever are the conditions in which this struggle occurres.
We agree with the position the IBRP has defended since a long time on the question of "class identity" : "But class identity doesn't mean communist consciousness (...). [It]" remains a kind of bourgeois consciousness" (Revue Communiste 2, La conscience de classe dans la théorie marxiste, 1984) ; "Indeed class identity alone can be compatible with reactionary ideology. Sometimes the most reactionary workers are amongst the most conscious of belonging to the working class" (Revolutionary Perspectives 25, Class Consciousness and Working Class Organisation).
This question is even more important to stress since the ICC, the new opportunist ICC, made it its new slogan, "regain class identity", in all occasions and in all circonstances, and for every situation. And especially when the workers are on strike, it means when they actually affirm their class identity in the struggle.
We all reject the position of Perrone-Vercesi within the Italian Fraction who saw the disappearance of the proletariat during war and who, consequently, defended the dissolution of the fraction. One comrade recalled that MC, old militant today disappeared and who has been at the origin of the ICC constitution, defended the need of the party and had even presented his adhesion to the party built-up in 1943 in Italy and whose organisationalcontinuity is today the IBRP. The "historical" criticism of the ICC isn't that the party couldn't constitute itself in1943 or 1945 (even though it's easier to look at it clearly 60 years later). The criticism is on the conditions of its constitution - political confusion, hasty regroupment without political clarification...
The comrades of the IBRP have precised that if we agree on the fact the party must permanently make the effort to be the point of political reference for the working class, then the question of the constitution of the party in 1943 doesn't pose itself.
For our part, as for the IBRP, the discussion of this question must consider the real and concrete conditions which existed at that time : on one hand the living conditions during the war - repression, lack of information, of communication and of links - and on the other hand the necessity for assuming the tasks and the political leadership in a period and a place where the working class tended to emerge on its own class ground against war for one side, and for the other in front of the bourgeoisie which attempted to enlist the workers on the antifascism ground within the "resistance" and the "partisans".
As it can be seen, the discussion itself has come to bring supplementary, additional, elements of political clarification in regards to the text of the comrades from the Bureau. Amongst these elements of clarification, some correspond to precisions and points of agreement. Others are raising other interrogations, or may be disagreements.
Amongst the points of precision and agreement, we want to underline three of them :
- communist consciousness is basically developed within and by the party ;
- sometimes the proletariat can express political advances, "in advance on the party", on the struggle level, but then it matters to notice it's an "a-normal" situation and a situation of weakness of the party, and thus of the class, above all if the party is unable to correct the situation, without being able to take back the advances to its own account and to draw all their political consequences ;
- the effort of political and organisational continuity is a permanent political struggle what ever is the historical period, even in a situation of counter-revolution ; and, consequently,.the permanent fight for the party, what ever is the period and what ever are the possibilities and the concrete forms of its existence, is a permanent necessity.
The discussion enabled too to point out the agreement of our fraction with the criticism the IBRP was making of the passages quoted of our text. These passages, in themselves, open precisely the way to what our fraction rejects : communist consciousness understood as a direct and mechanical product of the workers struggles. Actually, in the statement we made about an other document of the IBRP, we put fowards the idea that class consciousness is a process, a dynamic, and above all a practice. We were implying the fact that this dynamic and this practice were expressed by the whole working class. To understand from this statement that consciousness develops and has its origin in the class as a whole - it means the class without the party - there was a small margin we didn't care to clarify (1).
There is still a lot of points to clarify. For instance, our fraction thinks that the quesion of the relation between the economical struggle and the political struggle as Rosa Luxemburg presented it in The Mass Strike (1906), is certainly a question we'll have to discuss with the comrades to see the degree of agreement and disagreement we can have in order to clarify at the best this question... of today. What we're convinced of, and certainly the IBRP comrades too, is that their text and the points of clarification to which we arrived, are the framework, the basis, for carrying on the process of political confrontation and of regroupment. And, for our part, we're also convinced that this clarification doesn't concern only our fraction and the IBRP. Of course, it establishes common foundations and strengthens the links and the close collaboration of our fraction with the Bureau. But it goes far beyond. This clarification process directs itself and must call the attention of all the political groups claiming the inheritance of the Italian Communist Left. It directs itself to all the communist militants who seriously want to fit themselves in the historical struggle of the proletariat and in particular who want to participate to the process of constitution of the world party of the proletariat. It represents an important moment, a step, of this process at the theoretical and political levels.
The internal fraction of the ICC, November 2005.
1. The fraction will try to express this point of view with more clarity, to deepen it within its own ranks firstly bebore going back to it publicly.
Communist Bulletin Nš 33 - Internal Fraction of ICC