Sergio Motosi: leader and theoretician of Marxist internationalism

Suddenly, on 12th October 2002, we lost our comrade, Sergio Motosi. The following passages are taken from his funeral service.

Nature can be harsh and cruel to her finest sons. In Sergio Motosi, we lost one of the most impressive representatives of that generation of revolutionaries who came to Marxist science at the end of the 1960s. These were the children of “Leninist tactics for the educational crisis”, a work of Cervetto’s that in the history of our party’s development represents a milestone, a «practical step» on the long road that has led us to the present day.

Cervetto knew how to speak to youth. Motosi, at just over twenty, was someone who knew how to listen. He became the driving force of that first generation of young university students who came to listen to Cervetto.

Motosi was born in 1946 at Pagliari, which was then a typical working-class district of La Spezia. He was representative of that as not yet large section of working-class youth who stayed on at school and studied to go on to university.

Our battle alongside the students, at the end of the 1960s, for the right of working-class children to further and university education, was directed towards these young people. Motosi knew their way of thinking, had grown up with them. From that experience he was always to remember his discussions with young workers: discussions that encouraged them to think in concrete terms, to seek the best way to appeal to their listeners, to make themselves understood. This passion of his to make even the most complex scientific theory clear and comprehensibile was never to leave him, remaining an indelible feature.

When in the autumn of 1965 he enrolled in the Engineering Faculty of Genoa University, he had all the qualities for becoming a first-rate engineer. He also had all the qualities – a likeable nature, a sense of irony, the ability to make people listen – for becoming a first-rate political leader. He was immediately spotted by the leaders of UGI, the union of university students, which had PCI leanings. It was during this period of fierce debate and ideological splits that he was introduced to Lotta Comunista by our comrade Aldo Pressato.

The central issue of the day was the social nature of the USSR. For a young man from a working-class area of La Spezia, politically committed since early adolescence, the idea that this was an issue at all was in itself revolutionary. Socialism was the sum total of every ideal, every hope of social emancipation, every objective that was worth studying for: it was freeing oneself so as to be able to free others. It had become confused with the myth of the USSR, of socialism in one country. It was «fake socialism», which presented itself as the legitimate heir of the October Revolution: a myth that took over even the best of socialist youth.

Motosi was not and had never been an instinctive individual: whatever he had to explain to others, he needed first to understand thoroughly himself. His early militancy in the FGCI had not made of him someone who follows out of blind faith: this tendency, such a marked trait of Stalinism and of the culture of the PCI, could make no breach in his mind, which was that of a researcher and relentless observer. The prospect of a political career – for his and successive generations the natural end point of their culture of blind faith - could make no dent in the moral armour and intellectual honesty of this steadfast youth

Motosi was not immediately enchanted by Cervetto’s theories, but he was the first of that new generation of students to hear him speak who understood completely the extent of his revolutionary potential. Only then did this become the passion of a lifetime. He was not afraid to start again from the beginning: he recognised just how difficult the enterprise would be, and this in itself excited him and made him more capable than most of communicating his enthusiasm. It was in Motosi’s nature to act as a driving force, and he influenced all those of his generation who had the good luck to come into contact with him.

Our comrade Motosi began his revolutionary work while still in the students hall in Corso Gastaldi in Genoa. But after only two years, in 1969, he was sent to breathe new life into our Milan group. It was a difficult assignment: Milan had no workers’ groups to fly the Leninist flag in the big factory strongholds of the PCI – unlike Genoa, which already had this solid background thanks to the work of Lorenzo Parodi and Aldo Pressato’s generation.

The trade union struggles and the ideological crisis that marked the end of the 1960s had given birth to spontaneous political action and grass roots politics: the PCI was full of such currents. The new wave of maximalism failed to confront the problem of cutting the umbilical cord that tied it to the PCI and its State capitalism ideology. For many – for the old warriors of the partisan movement, deluding themselves that they could touch up the decrepit icons of Stalinism, and for those young people brought up to follow blindly - the solution was to embrace Maoism.

Every shade of parliamentary opportunism, plus the fashionable media, tried to make use of these new currents of bourgeois ideology produced by the Italian imbalance, and this encouraged their spread: they became trendy new ideas with which to flirt, in a doubious and squalid game of Chinese whispers. Only the Leninist party was able to make good use of Italy’s imbalance to supply an injection of new young energies that could be used to pull back at least part of its historic delay.

The only choice was between Leninism or one of the bourgeois ideologies that served only the ruling class: there was no third alternative, and both Lotta Comunista and the class enemy knew it.

Reaction to our party was extreme, and employed every weapon at its disposal, from open violence to the most vile slander. Our generation, Motosi’s generation, carries the marks of those years, some of us on our bodies, all of us in our DNA. Opportunism in all its varieties, in all its maximalism and its verbiage, concentrated its fury on our party and its militants, in order to prevent us establishing and developing our party. They failed. Comrade Motosi, founder and leader of the Milan workers’ groups, was at the heart of this clash.

Within the brief space of three years, he had broken ideologically with the PCI and had assimilated Cervetto’s scientific teachings, which he defended with total dedication. From the struggle with theory to practical struggle, overnight. Not an easy thing to do at the age of 23, but the bond with the PCI had to be broken, and political struggle dictated the timescales. It took revolutionary fervour and rock-solid dedication to the cause, iron will and fierce courage. Comrade Motosi had more than enough of such qualities.

The generation of Cervetto, Parodi and Pressato had amassed the capacity for scientific analysis and the political experience to lead the party through high seas and storms. Motosi placed himself at their disposal: it was with young people like him that Lotta Comunista took its first steps. After the basic battle to establish and defend the party came new phases of development. Dedication to the cause, militancy as a life choice, was what allowed the achievement of our unprecedented task, the development of a party on the Bolshevik model. Today we can see the next step – establishing our party in the industrial heart of European imperialism.

Our party’s development calls all of us to unprecedented tasks, and this is what makes political struggle exhilirating. After leading the Milan workers’ groups, Motosi was called to work at Centre, in response to the need to strengthen our scientific paper, of which the proletariat can go justly proud – to make of it, as Cervetto said, the “Economist” of the working class. Motosi wrote over a hundred articles for the paper, while it is literally impossible to assess his contribution to the collective work of developing theory. It was at this time that Motosi worked closely with Cervetto, and would continue to do so for decades to come. In this role, Motosi showed himself to be a master in depicting nuances of character and the farcical features of the human comedy, as played out by the politicans of the bourgeoisie.

Scientific knowledge and strategic analysis need to be transformed into a political weapon: our theory is not only scientific formulation, but part of a struggle to establish the party and win support for a future revolution – a difficult but absorbing process. The theoretical basis of strategy is condensed into “political synthesis” capable of piercing the brain and there become impressed with a conceptual certainty that can shape a way of being.

At a difficult period of history for our party, when the energies to build a youth movement were lacking and the workers of the big factories were being hammered by «The attacks of imperialist policies on wages» as our editorial was entitled in Ocotber 1976, we played the card of a more detailed agitation.

Thus the national document was born, and Motosi was its main author. The restructuring crisis, the woldwide shake-up that also reached the shore of our peninsula, was the vain attempt of the bourgeois groups to resolve the imbalance solely by increasing production, and the working class found itself helpless and in «disorderly retreat». The national document was an attempt to provide for our young, inexperienced cadres a tool to help them make links with sectors of the working class that had emerged disillusioned and broken from the organisations of political opportunism.

The "document" did its work. For its timely analysis we would recall "A test of arms and power", written in 1982 about the Falklands War, which ended by quoting Lenin: «Those whose thought cannot overleap the limits of relations under capitalism are incapable of understanding that a fully conscious working class cannot support any of the bourgeois capitalist groups of prey».

This work was a search for the most effective scientific synthesis, carried out under Motosi’s guidance, and frequently issuing directly from his pen.

Motosi was the very personification of modesty, but if there was one thing he was proud of, it was his theory on the intellectual nature of petit-bourgeois terrorism. His contribution to uncovering these origins was a key moment in his scientific observation and formulation. It gave the working class a guide to deciphering and consigning to its counter-revolutionary slot this new phenomenon that was to tie Italian politics in knots for years.

In his political and scientific activities, Motosi more than once showed himself to be a keen analyst of social stratification: under his lens passed the issue of immigration into Italy, along with the fresh tasks this would pose for the party. It was at his urging that "Second-class Proletarians" appeared in our newspaper as early as January 1978.

Motosi never stopped seeing the often as yet imperceptible changes that might point to the birth of a fresh social phenomenon. He paid attention to those class levels that take no part in politics during a counter-revolutionary phase such as the present, but are of immense importance during a revolutionary process, as was demonstrated in Russia in 1917 and in Germany in 1918.

He always kept a sharp eye on the growth and spread of the proletariat throughout the world, on the conditions and contradictions that might bring about change in this «inflammable material».

But analysing the development of the world proletariat was not enough for him: had it been humanly possible he would have jumped into his car to see the latest concentration for himself. Our party’s development was widening our circle of contacts and friends beyond our organisational boundaries.

Motosi took on this work. At 50 he could speak a number of languages, including French and English, he studied Russian, and did not retreat even in the face of German. He had plenty of fish to fry, and he, who came from and loved the sea, knew how to reel up fish both exotic and rare, as indeed he himself had been.

This, in our few words, was our comrade Motosi, to whom, with sad hearts, we bid farewell: the lessons he taught us, his militant example, will remain in our hearts and minds.