Letter to the North American communist left

To Workers’ Offensive

Comrades,

Just over a month ago Klasbatalo was working on a formal letter to Workers’ Offensive, with the goal of opening a formal channel of communication. While an effort was made on Facebook, we feel it best to facilitate this exchange over email. Unfortunately, Klasbatalo found itself in crisis as two members left, putting the letter on hold. Now that Klasbatalo has regained its footing, this exchange can begin again. We are sending this to Workers Offensive, Internationalist Workers Group, Gulf Coast Communist Fraction and the California comrades currently participating in the Intransigence project. We hope that a more formal channel of communication will allow groups as wholes, rather than individual posters, to engage in the formulation of these letters. We hope these letters will take up topics of program and positions, as well as a foundation for stronger fraternal relations.

Klasbatalo is currently being integrated into the Internationalist Communist Tendency. While of course we wish to see the ICT gain strength and influence across the continent, our primary goal in this letter is to engage with you as first and foremost fellow left-communists. We all know too well how isolating this continent can be for small left communist groups and we strongly wish to build relations with those who defend the positions of the communist left. This exchange could be based upon direct points and positions from the ICT’s platform and/or your own. If you agree, we suggest you start a political discussion between all of us to clarify our positions on both sides, and better trace our differences if necessary. For us, divergences do not mean automatic political rejection, but rather a space for clarification and if necessary a situation to find possible common work around reconcilable disagreements. We look forward to hearing from you and your ideas regarding this exchange.

Internationalist greetings,

Klasbatalo
Montreal

To Klasbatalo

Internationalist greetings to our comrades in Montreal from South Florida! We welcome the initiation of more formal communication between our organizations that will not only further facilitate the regroupment, and we hope eventual unification, project towards a North American Communist Left, but also assist in the development of our own organizations’ positions. It was only four months ago, after this letter was sent, that the Gulf Coast Communist Fraction was formed, and our expectations have already been exceeded in terms of the progress we’ve made in establishing a presence as an internationalist group in a region as isolated as our own. We have been closely coordinating with Workers’ Offensive, which has already yielded a more sophisticated political position on the union question for our Fraction, and collaborating in the general project towards a North American Communist Left, including the three of our organizations and the Internationalist Workers Group, and its publication, Intransigence. Both Workers Offensive and Gulf Coast Communist Fraction look forward to the correspondence with Klasbatalo Collective in the effort that these conversations between groupings of the Communist Left will provide a deeper orientation to the wider milieu.

We understand that Klasbatalo requests that WO and GCCF our discussions and debates over political positions revolve around the platform of the Internationalist Communist Tendency, as Klasbatalo is completing its integration into the ICT. Both WO and GCCF would respond to their request by suggesting that we utilize a set of questions on fundamental positions as the point of departure for our correspondence, instead of the platform of a specific organization. Considering that these conversations will help edify our own positions as well as understanding each other’s positions, it would be useful for our discussions to not risk amounting to either affirming or denying the positions presented by the platform of the ICT. As an alternative, both of our organizations recommend that all parties in this discussion agree on a set of questions on fundamental positions that will be debated on. For example, GCCF would propose that the questions this correspondence concerns itself with be the following points:

  1. Conditions for the formation of the party.
  2. Engagement with trade union struggles.
  3. Theory of crisis and capitalist decline.
  4. The period of transition.

We propose that these be the points that our conversation focus on, the reason being that these points appear to be the most contentious and spark the most compelling dialogues and important elaborations among the Communist Left. We, of GCCF and WO, are hesitant to have our engagements consist in concurring with one another about the counterrevolutionary nature of national liberation struggles and so forth. Therefore, it would be best to narrow the discussion down to the most pressing points of contention among the North American Communist Left.

WO-GCCF look forward to receiving a reply from Klasbatalo, in addition to the fortuitous dialogue with our comrades throughout North America that this project will bring about.

Gulf Coast Communist Fraction
and Workers’ Offensive, Florida

To the Gulf Coast Communist Fraction and Worker’s Offensive

Thank you for your reply and suggestions regarding the course of our exchange. We are also glad to see that we share a similar outlook. A recognition of the need for fraternal discussion amongst left communist groups; for the goal of clarification and deepening of programmatic questions. As well, recognition that this process is of the utmost importance towards a real revolutionary nucleus, and eventually, the formations of the world communist party, a necessary organ, without which the proletariat would head blindly into deceptive struggles. The four topics of exchange that you suggest are good markers to start with. Although, based on GCCF “Theses on Unions” we suspect we are already in close agreement. Nonetheless, it is of course a topic we can touch on, however we would suggest widening it to a more general topic, like “the role of communists in working class struggle.” With this in mind, we are glad to start the exchange by discussing “the conditions for the formation of the party.”

Firstly, before speaking about this topic, it will be useful to clarify how Klasbatalo conceives of the party. This can be read in our platform; nevertheless, we wish to briefly touch upon it here. For us the party is able to emerge as the proletariat solidifies itself on the stage of history. While the foundations of its theoretical consciousness may emerge as well as militant organized ranks may appear prior to the complete solidification of the proletariat, these elements find themselves in one or another contaminated by the theoretical ideas or political goals of other classes. It is only when the proletariat is completely solidified, caused by the economic (and later political supremacy) of the bourgeoisie, that history is left with two classes facing off in a struggle to the death. It is here that the proletariat emerges as the universal class capable of imposing its own image on society. This, given, with the proletariat’s unique tendency towards its own struggle, enables the conditions for a minority of workers to become conscious of and move towards the proletariat’s own historic program.

Klasbatalo affirms that it is only a minority of the class which can rise to this political status on two main premises. First of all, the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling class, whether through the daily routines capitalist society or simple fact that the bourgeoisie controls the intellectual organs of society for its own ends. Second, unlike other classes, the proletariat cannot slowly build its power in bourgeois society in the same way the emerging capitalists built their economic foundations prior to the seizure of political power over the aristocracy. While the proletariat may win economic victories, their class organs are subject to disappearance or integration into capitalist society without the seizure of political power. There is one exception to this rule, one proletarian organ can persist through the bourgeois order, the party.

Klasbatalo regards the relationship between party and class in a dialectical manner. As correctly pointed out by the committee of Intesa: “it is mistake to think that in every situation expedients and tactical maneuvers can widen the party base since relations between the party and masses depend in large part on the objective situation.”1 The party cannot be understood as an isolated unit but rather as a historical one. It is true that the objective situation of the class will affect the party, its strength, its tactics (but never principles) and work. However, Klasbatalo rejects any vulgar mechanistic understanding of this relationship. While there is a relation, it is not a fatalistic one, as we are dealing with human beings and their relations and not automatons. Historically speaking, it is correct to say there exists a tendency towards the formation of the party in periods of rising class struggle but it is faulty to claim that the rise of class struggle automatically produces the party. The history of struggle is full of examples of communists being behind the revolutionary outbursts of the workers, at times leaving the formation of the revolutionary party fatally late. To this we point to Germany and Italy during the great revolutionary wave after World War I, and even May ’68, which some on the communist left denounced as petit-bourgeois because it happened in a period which not deemed revolutionary.

Furthermore, this conception of the development and formation of the party finds in itself the rejection of the historic role of the party. While as we noted we do not reduce the problem of revolution to a problem of will we do not find truth with this faulty conception’s flipside. As revolution is conducted by human beings it does in part remain a problem of will, the revolutionary will of the proletariat being clearest and most centralized in the party. It is the role of communists to place themselves on the front lines of the class battle, tying the programmatic thread with the specific confrontation, unifying specific struggles in various branches of economic and political life to their common element; the proletarian struggle against capital. Such is the role of the party, which is indispensable for the victory of the proletariat, it takes on this role at all times, while never abandoning its principles in light of the object conditions. Now, the comrades of GCCF may reflect: “The minority of the French Fraction of the Communist Left had an analysis that greatly differed from that of the communists who formed the Internationalist Communist Party; they viewed the strikes in Northern Italy to not signify the possibility of the coming revolutionary wave, but to be the swansong of a proletariat defeated by imperialist slaughter.”2 However, we would like to remind you of the decisiveness of Lenin’s approach: “It is our duty to help the masses to become conscious of these moods, to deepen and formulate them. This task is correctly expressed only by the slogan: convert the imperialist war into civil war; and all consistently waged class struggles during the war, all seriously conducted ‘mass action’ tactics inevitably lead to this. It is impossible to foretell whether a powerful revolutionary movement will flare up during the first or the second war of the great powers, whether during or after it; in any case, our bounden duty is systematically and undeviatingly to work precisely in this direction.”3 It is true that revolution depends on the outcry of the workers, but just as true, it depends on the active intervention of communists in the struggle, pointing to the historic task. While we must analyze the objective conditions to best connect principles and tactics we cannot do so under a blanket schema to which history must fit. Rather, the day-to-day grind of trying to find where exactly we are in history. We have no crystal ball.

For us, the active role of communists runs deeper on a practical level, which can be summed up in three points:

  1. communists learn about communism from workers’ struggles and an overview of the historical development of class forces, as well as their balance — i.e., from the real experiences of the working class;
  2. building links with the class;
  3. the training of cadres.

The first point is a basic statement which is often horribly overlooked. It is the existence of the class that radiates the proletariat’s historic program and the moment-to-moment situation the class finds itself in where the question of practicality arises. While it would be silly to say the only place the communist critique is formed is in the immediate struggle, for there is no denying that the formulation of communist ideas is often done in observation through, historic, global, analytical overview. The question is to what extent does the isolation of communist from workers struggle impact the formulation of communist theory. The problem here is when this is reduced to a level of extreme passivity. Such has the tendency to produce scholasticism and frameworks completely removed from the on-the-ground struggle. Secondly, we recognize the importance of building links with the class. As stated before, communists cannot win on theory alone. While it is true that the revolutionary minority need their positions based firmly in the historic revolutionary being of the proletariat, it would be foolish and disastrous to imply that communists only enter the struggle in the decisive moments expecting to win on a theoretical basis alone. Despite the difficulties in situations of class defeat, it is of the utmost importance that communists continuously build links with the class. Failure to do so will mean communists will enter into major battles in a relationship with the class on day one. Communists must fight for the right to be heard. Thirdly, communists must intervene in minor struggles for the training of their militants. We cannot expect even the most theoretically grounded circle of communists to be successful in unifying the class and pushing them in the communist direction if the militants have no training in day-to-day groundwork. The ability to agitate and understand concrete developments inside the struggle is of utmost importance. Communists only capable of droning on about arcane knowledge of past epochs are more suited for cocktail parties than class battles.

We do not want to be accused of dancing around the topic. For us, the conditions for the formation or the future world party is the real work of revolutionaries today in tune with the objective conditions of the class. We have been in the epoch of wars and revolutions for over one hundred years and the current crisis of capital is decades long and deep. It is true that assaults on the working class tend to produce an impulse of struggle by workers. However, historically this is not in perfect correspondence with the assault. For us, history itself does not solve the problems of history. History is made by human beings, though we of course recognize that we don’t get to choose what history we make. For us, “the relationship between party and class is dialectically linked, with both on the same level — i.e., placing special emphasis on neither the party nor the class.”4 We understand this relationship as two active poles, subject-subject. There is the constant danger of overemphasizing one of these poles. As we have said above, the reduction of the role of the party into a passive category, negates the role of the party. It is the active role of the party that deepens and unifies class struggle, but not outside the objective struggle of the class itself. By treating the party as a passive object, it reduces the development of the party to that of an organ trailing behind the development of a class which mechanistically reaches a level of consciousness ahistorical to the actual process. It is true that the proletariat of Russia and the world were pushed to struggle by imperialist war and assault on living conditions. But just as well, we see the Bolsheviks continuously drawing the links between the class and determining the best methods of agitation in relation to both the specific class situation and the overall revolutionary program. Despite the various short comings of the Bolsheviks, it is in those early years of underground militancy and the October insurrection to which we can point to and draw lessons from.

Klasbatalo
Montreal

Notes

1 Amadeo Bordiga, Onorato Damen, Bruno Fortichiar, Mario Lanfranchi Luigi, Mario Manfredi, Bruno Repossi, and Carlo Venegoni. Platform of the Committee of Intesa. (1925).
2 Gulf Coast Communist Fraction, The Need for Communist Fractions: A brief introduction. (Florida: May 30, 2018).
3 Vladimir Lenin. Socialism and War. (Geneva, Sotsial-Demokrat, 2015).
4 Onorato Damen. Axioms of Revolution Theory and Practice. (Prometeo, 1974)