We would like to thank you for the letter that was sent to us, in moving forward in the debate and confrontations necessary for the regroupment of the Communist Left, we send you a response clarifying and addressing some of the comments you made on our revised points of unity. [1.]
First of all, it should be made clear: you refer to our points of unity as a “platform”, but it is not that, it is something simpler; it is the basic unifying positions that constitute our collective, but not a platform detailing our mid-term tasks, strategies for taking power, or our tactics for intervening in struggles. We do foresee adopting a platform, but our grouping is still developing a perspective and still in the stage of what you described as a ‘discussion circle’. With this clarification established, we can move on to addressing your comments on our formulations.
The contention on point 2 is that this phrasing is “unclear” and can leave a space open for concessions to leftism, bourgeois radicalism, etc. It is precisely the opposite case. “Overcoming” captures more what we were intending to mean than “replacement”. Perhaps we were trying to be too technical with terms, but we use “supersession” in the sense that Hegel or early Marx used it: a sublation, a determinate negation, a simultaneous preservation and cancellation of the thing. This is more precise than to say something like “abolish” capitalism, because there’s more room to have multiple meanings behind “abolish”. We don’t want to simply and purely “negate” capitalism like the anarchists do, we want to sublate/supersede capitalism. We want to preserve socialized production and cancel/negate private ownership of production. To say we want to simply “abolish” or purely negate capitalism can be interpreted to mean to cancel/negate both socialized production and private ownership, amounting to resorting to a more archaic mode of production instead of superseding into a higher mode of production.
We agree with your assertion regarding point 12 that the dictatorship of the proletariat must be established outside and against the bourgeois parliament or legislative bodies, but this doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of standing in elections on tactical grounds and doing so for purely propaganda purposes. If combative workers are mobilized onto the electoral terrain, it may be necessary for revolutionaries to stand in elections to attempt to pull the workers away from the electoral terrain and onto the proletarian class terrain. We do understand that, in this historical period, running in elections is rarely, if ever, a productive tactic for communists. However, to elevate our abstentionism from the level of tactics to the level of principles is to inhabit the ahistorical anarchist conception of the parliamentary question; our abstentionism is a tactical one. Even Amadeo Bordiga polemicized against the anarchist version of abstentionism in 1913. [2.]
In the rising phase of capitalism, communists ran for seats in the legislative bodies to pressure the bourgeois state to grant concessions to the proletariat through reforms; but in the declining phase, with the advent of state-capitalism, the executive body has overtaken the legislative body as the locus of political power within the bourgeois state, meaning there is no longer any use for communists to try to gain seats in any legislative body of the bourgeois state. This conceptualization can also be found in Marc Chirik’s early pamphlet on decadence theory: “In this (ascending) period, the state, even though it already tended to raise itself above society, was still largely dominated by interest groups and factions of capital who mainly expressed themselves in the legislative part of the state. The legislature still clearly dominated the executive: the parliamentary system, representative democracy, still had a reality, and was the arena in which different interest groups could confront each other.” …but in the descending period, “the legislature, whose initial function was to represent society, has lost any significance in front of the executive, which is at the top of the state pyramid.” [3.] We cannot win reforms that truly elevate the proletariat — it is only against the system of reformism and bourgeois “representation” that we propose the tactical possibility of using elections to denounce the sham that is their basis. We do not however believe this is a tactic that canjust be used at any point in time — it’s a tactic that must be used minimally and is only potentially useful during a period of real class combativity. Additionally, we ask the International Group of the Communist Left what their assessment is of the Internationalist Communist Party (Battaglia Comunista) running in the 1948 parliamentary elections in Italy? Do you sympathize more with the Bordigist faction that would eventually constitute into the International Communist Party (Il Programma), or do you agree with PCInt’s intervention in the elections?
There may be a misunderstanding with regards to what is being referred to in point 13. Let’s look at the section of the text that may be the cause of the confusion: “It is hypothetically possible for communists to collaborate with other communists who mistakenly believe that it’s possible for communists to build from the ground-up unions that still have the function they had in the rising phase of capital, but to work with those who unionize and intervene on the behalf of the existing union-apparatus is to amount to working with those who act on behalf of the state-apparatus.” This is an implicit reference to the Bordigist parties that believe it is possible to build “red unions”. We are simply not rejecting the possibility of working with other genuine militants who have confused positions on the role of the union-form in the decadent phase of capitalism. To address the hypothetical posed: What do we do if the union-bureaucracy is forced, for a brief moment, to advocate for the extension and unity of a struggle? We support the extension and unity of the struggle, of course. We do not, however, endorse the union-bureaucrats, and we keep ourselves very honest and clear regarding their nature as saboteurs of class struggle. As soon as the struggle intensifies outside the control of the bureaucracy, there is no doubt they will change their tune, and it would be foolish to abandon vigilance towards them just because today they are advocating for the extension of the struggle—tomorrow they will be its gravediggers.
Agreed that point 15 is vague. Communists do not make a fetish of pacifism and armed struggle will most likely be necessary. The point is that the revolution cannot be reduced to a military campaign, to the building up of a military force and the conquest of “workers’ territory” through military maneuvers.We would affirm that the formation of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War was a necessary decree for the Bolshevik Party, but also reflected the isolation of the Russian Revolution and not at all a policy to prefer in conditions that don’t make it an absolute necessity. We agree with the International Communist Current’s statement that the military terrain is “home ground of the bourgeoisie” [4.]. This is also why we would have agreed with the ratification of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, because throwing the Bolshevik Party into a battle with the German Empire on the military terrain could have only meant guaranteed defeat and an even quicker degeneration of the revolution than what had, in fact, occurred.
To conclude our response to your letter, it should be noted that this is a positive contribution in the strengthening of ties between the groupings of the Communist Left and the progression of the ‘party-in-process’. In fact, Gulf Coast Communist Fraction perceives this letter as a contribution to the development of its own collective from a ‘discussion circle’ to a full political component of the future party.
Fraternally, Leigh O’Rourke and Antonio Lakhan of Gulf Coast Communist Fraction
- The “Bordigist” Current (1912-1952) by Philippe Bourrinet. http://www.left-dis.nl/uk/bordigist.pdf. 2014
- ‘The Proletarian Struggle under Decadence’ by Marc Chirikin International Review No. 23.https://en.internationalism.org/ir/023_proletariat_under_decadence.html. 1980
- ‘Why the Alternative Is War or Revolution’ by International Communist Current in International Review No. 30.https://en.internationalism.org/ir/030_war_or_revolution.html. 1982