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Table of Contents - Num. 192 January 2018

 

1) War and Peace in Asia in the Chinese Century

2)  Strengthened Anti-Dumping for a “Europe that Protects”

3) The Only Defence is Unity in Struggle

European News
4) The Irish Dilemma and European Rearmament

5) A Reply to Our Lutte Ouvrière Comrades

1917-2017. One hundred years since the October Revolution
6) The Significance of Red October

7) Risky Bets and Calculations in the Instable Middle East

8) Banking Union and European Monetary Fund in the Commission’s Plans

The Asian Giants 
9) The Chinese Dream of Zhejiang’s Small Entrepreneurs

10) Publications

 

War and Peace in Asia in the Chinese Century

Where does our prediction about the next fifteen years as «among the stormiest», characterised by «huge unprecedented tensions», derive from?

From two key trends, in the economic field and in the political field of power relations. First of all, the course of the world’s uneven development. Given the demographic mass that still has to be transformed into urban labour force in the new areas, especially in India and Africa, and given China’s potential for growth, in the completion of that transition and the passage to new skilled production in industry and the services, the relative Atlantic decline and the Asian rise remain the decisive economic processes.

Of the various evaluations we take as our frame of reference those of the IEA, the International Energy Agency, regarding the period between 2016 and 2040. It goes without saying that these are always ‘political figures’, and that crises can easily shift the terms of reference even by a number of years; more than the single figures and deadlines, what interests us are the basic trends, and these remain defined by extensive and intensive capitalist development at a global level, in the uneven rhythms between old and new powers.

We apply our Marxist criterion of international analysis: the economic power relations change, but this is only the premise of strategic change; the study of inter-power relations needs to be «put back on the basis of the system of states». We have drawn from the political confrontation at the highest levels in China – Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th CPC Congress – the explicit terms of a line of strategic and military rise.

According to the IEA the world product in the next twenty years or so will grow at the rate of 3.4% a year; among the old  powers, the USA’s at 2.1%, the EU’s at 1.7% and Japan’s, frozen in its demographic winter, at 0.7 per cent. Among the new powers, China will grow at the rate of 4.5%, gliding from the 5.8 of the first decade to 3.7% between 2025 and 2040; India, about to become the leading demographic power, will grow to be the most dynamic at 6.5%. Roughly speaking, this means that the old powers, growing as a whole at an annual 1.8-2% rate will multiply their clout by one and a half times; China, instead, will triple its product, and India will multiply it almost five times. In absolute terms, taking as our frame of reference the International Monetary Fund’s estimates at purchasing power parity, in a quarter of a century China will have the same clout as the USA, the EU federated in the euro and Japan all together, but India will reach two thirds of the Chinese clout. As a share of the global economy, at least another 10-12% of global clout will shift. Another earthquake, as we have had in the last fifteen years: the old powers will fall from 32 to 22% of the world product, China will rise from 17 to 22%, and India will double its share from 7 to 14 per cent.

Alongside this, precisely by virtue of such a huge upheaval, the lines followed by the major powerhouses of imperialism, in their political expressions as states and powers that confront and balance each other, come into play. Here we apply our Marxist criterion of international analysis: the economic power relations change, but this is only the premise of strategic change; the study of inter-power relations needs to be «put back on the basis of the system of states».

We have drawn from the political confrontation at the highest levels in China – Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th CPC Congress – the explicit terms of a line of strategic and military rise; from now until 2035 Beijing intends to provide itself with a «world class» military force.

From other comparable sources or instances, lines, proposals and strategic studies in the major competing powers are coming that are by now a reply to that intention made manifest by China. Beijing is abandoning Deng Xiaoping’s «low profile» and, with Xi, announces it  wants to «be centre stage in the world». Washington, Paris and Berlin, London, New Delhi, Moscow, Tokyo, and also Brasilia, to mention only the main contenders, are reacting accordingly, weighing up the tools of balance, alliance, or contraposition.

The evaluations in the American ‘National Security Strategy’(NSS) are mixed; this is a document with which every administration acquaints Congress with its guidelines in foreign policy and defence. Over the years, the NSS has sometimes been only a formal obligation, without conceptual depth and with few political implications; on other occasions it has shown itself to be the key to the presidency’s strategic orientation. In 2002, George W. Bush’s NSS formulated the theory of pre-emptive war, as well as the aim of checking every attempt to change the balance to the detriment of the United States at both a global and a regional level. That Bush Doctrine was the inspiration behind the «war by choice» in Iraq, and of its aim to condition China’s rise and its future influence in the Middle East.

Does the 2017 ‘National Security Strategy’ really identify the bases of a Trump Doctrine? It is hard to tell; the outpourings of Trump’s tweets and his histrionic postures on TV with a view to the American electoral market act as a veil. Undoubtedly the mark of the men of the Establishment who are attempting to orientate his foreign policy _  first of all Herbert McMaster _ can be seen in those pages. This makes us think of the NSS as a lasting guideline, quite apart from the presidential improvisations.

From other comparable sources or instances, lines, proposals and strategic studies in the major competing powers are coming that are by now a reply to that intention made manifest by China. Washington, Paris and Berlin, London, New Delhi, Moscow, Tokyo, and also Brasilia, to mention only the main contenders, are reacting accordingly, weighing up the tools of balance, alliance, or contraposition.

We point out four aspects. First, the emphasis on restructuring and internal economic strength as the base for national security, a thesis that ultimately associates the NSS with Barack Obama’s doctrine. In some ways the «America First» vision is similar to the previous presidency’s «retrenchment», an inward-oriented policy dressed up in the assertive rhetoric of nationalist and unilateralist proclamations.

Second, a deliberately flaunted realist conceptual framework, in contraposition to the liberal optimism of the previous thirty years. We read in this: a central, permanent fact in history is «the struggle for power», and the present epoch is no exception. The United States has to respond to the growing economic, political and military power; this requires the revision of the assumption according to which «engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false». We find traces of what many years ago, at the beginning of the global crisis, we defined as the «ideological crisis of globalisation». And we find the sanctioning, in the official American doctrine, of the recent admission of McMaster and Gary Cohn, in which a watershed in the American doctrine could already be glimpsed: the world is «an arena», in which the nations compete and fight.

Third, China, together with Russia, is identified as the main challenger, alongside the «rogue states» Iran and North Korea and international terrorism. China and Russia are «revisionist powers», they «want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests». For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and «for its integration into the post-war international order» would liberalise China: on the contrary China «China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others», spreads features of its «authoritarian system», and «is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world», after the American.

For the most part, the challenge of China and Russia, the NSS recriminates, does not occur openly. They know that the United States «often views the world in binary terms» with states being either at peace or at war, when it is actually «an arena of continuous competition». Hence America’s adversaries «are patient and content to accrue strategic gains over time», without provoking a direct military response and thus making it harder for the United States and its allies to respond, until a «new status quo» emerges from these «incremental gains».

We observe that in Marxist science terms this is the nature of imperialism, in which war and peace follow each other and interweave on the terrain of the «contention» of the big concentrations of capital and their states. The theses of the NSS reveal the advance in Atlantic decline; the USA suspects the rules of the ‘Washington Consensus’, the old post-WWII order centred on the Monetary Fund, BIS, WTO and World Bank, are being turned against it; as America sees it, Beijing is advocating a reformed globalisation to disguise its rise in power. The real «revisionist power» is the United States, Zhao Minghao takes the opportunity of retorting in the ‘Global Times’.

Fourth, the ‘National Security Strategy’ officially sanctions the «Indo-Pacific» line and the so-called Quad, the quadrilateral agreement with India, Japan and Australia. The initiatives along the «Silk Road» are seen as «geopolitical aspirations», a threat to the «sovereignty» of the other regional actors, and an attack on the «stability» of the area and the free flow of trade. «China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reach of its state-driven economic model and reorder the region in its favour»... whence the role India takes on in American eyes, now listed as «a leading global power» and a «strategic partner» in defence.

This is perhaps the real strategic about-turn sanctioned by the NSS, and allows us to weigh up other interventions. We are thinking above all of the Atlantic Council document ‘The Sino-Indian Clash and the New Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific’, in which the advisability of a «convergence» between Washington and New Delhi in maritime defence in order to balance China is argued, and the American and Japanese contribution to the development of India’s military shipbuilding industry is envisaged.

The ‘National Security Strategy’ officially sanctions the «Indo-Pacific» line and the so-called Quad, the quadrilateral agreement with India, Japan and Australia. The initiatives along the «Silk Road» are seen as «geopolitical aspirations», a threat to the «sovereignty» of the other regional actors, and an attack on the «stability» of the area and the free flow of trade.

One of Raja Mohan’s interventions on the Russian site ‘Valdai’ is of rare clarity in motivating the new orientation of the Modi presidency; it almost seems that the authority of the experienced Indian writer is being expended on a clarification with the old Russian ally. New Delhi, writes Mohan, «has no intention of abandoning its independent foreign policy», but is responding to «structural changes in the distribution of power». It should be remembered that India signed a treaty of peace and friendship with the USSR in 1971, «in the wake of Sino-US rapprochement». After the end of the Cold War, in its «unipolar moment», the United States threatened to roll back India’s nuclear programme and to intervene in the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir; hence New Delhi had «good reasons to join the Eurasian coalition led by Moscow and backed by Beijing».

Much has changed since then: if the «principal external challenge» in the 1990s seemed to come from the United States, it now comes from China. With China’s GDP five times larger than that of India and its defence spending four times bigger, the «collapse of parity» between India and China means that New Delhi must «find external partners to bridge the widening strategic gap». Since Russia has drawn closer to China, «Moscow no longer appears to be in a position to help Delhi balance Beijing»; India «has had no option but to turn to the US and Japan to construct an Asian equilibrium».

 

This is perhaps the real strategic about-turn sanctioned by the NSS, and allows us to weigh up other interventions. We are thinking above all of the Atlantic Council document ‘The Sino-Indian Clash and the New Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific’, in which the advisability of a «convergence» between Washington and New Delhi in maritime defence in order to balance China is argued, and the American and Japanese contribution to the development of India’s military shipbuilding industry is envisaged.

 

Having said this, India will not become a junior partner for the United States. New Delhi is «acutely conscious» that Washington and Tokyo have their own compulsions to stay engaged with Beijing and also that both China and Russia are eager to carve out «accommodation» of their own with America. This «dynamism among the great powers» is very much part of life «in our multipolar world».

«As the weakest of the major powers, Delhi would want to stay engaged with the continental as well as maritime powers with the sole objective of improving its own weight in the world order. There is no room for sentimentalism in Delhi as India becomes a part of the new geopolitical jousting in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific amidst China’s rise and American retrenchment».

At the gala of the American Academy in Berlin held in New York, Henry Kissinger maintained with Thomas Friedman of the ‘New York Times’ that there are those in China who think that «the decline of the United States is a foregone conclusion», and those in the USA who believe that «conflict with China is inevitable». «If these people were to take the helm in their hands», the two supertankers America and China «would head towards war, and this conflict would be worse than the First World War». This does not seem to be a different concept from the one expressed last year in ‘The Atlantic’, right after Trump’s election. According to Kissinger, between the two possible orientations in China of confrontation or strategic negotiations, Xi probably inclines towards talks with Washington, but we will be able to be sure of this only in «twenty years or so». Meanwhile the USA’s politics «will have to be sufficiently calibrated» as to be able to deal with both prospects.

Hence the answer is that there are two possible strategic crises, and that the USA has to prepare for dealing with both of them. We can add that in this two-handed ambivalence, the military hand is in any case geared to lending strength to the diplomatic hand. Even Joseph Nye, the theoretician of soft power, uses an argument of hard power in support of his thesis that there will not be a war. The Rand Corporation Foundation has been charged by the Pentagon to «think the unthinkable», i.e. a «war with China». There will be no clash, writes Nye, because in the Rand calculations war would cost 5% of the USA’s GDP and 25% of China’s.

Moreover, we can observe that Kissinger, while fearing the risk in Washington of a hostile line to China in power, at the same time makes use of it, to show the Chinese the terrible face of a possible threat: hence the ‘war party’, the various Rands who argue that a war with China must be planned for, also serves, paradoxically, a political line of agreement.

Unity and scission, we observe again, are inseparable in the imperialist dynamic. This is why to a certain extent we can adopt as our own the answer to this strategic bifurcation; Kissinger’s «twenty years or so» completely overlap the «fifteen years» of our measurement of the second part of the new strategic phase, in which Beijing has announced the aim of a «world class» military force for 2035. Hence is a major war to be foreseen in these 15 years?

Our answer is expressed in two arguments. First, it is not we who predict it, but it is the ruling class at its highest levels, in all the powers and not only in the USA and China, which are basing their strategic calculations on the evidence that a war cannot be excluded. The two-handed ambivalence – negotiations on the one hand and preparation for power counterweights and war devices on the other, is also present in Japan, India, etc., and, at bottom, in Europe itself with its renewed CFSP, Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Second, as early as twelve years ago, when we began our reflection on the new strategic phase, we recalled Arrigo Cervetto’s theses about the dilemmas of «strategic forecasts» in ‘L’Europa e lo Stato’ (‘Europe and the State’). When the turn of events in the class and state struggle presents a bifurcation or a plurality of outcomes, strategy must base itself on alternative hypotheses, knowing that within the spectrum identified by those ‘pure’ cases the real result will still be different – one of the many possible intermediate gradations. Cervetto’s reference was to Lenin’s strategy regarding Russian development and to the alternative between the Prussian way and the American/French way. In our editorials ‘Our Strategic Forecast in the Asian Era’ and ‘The Driving Force of International Politics’, we also mentioned the dilemmas of Spring 1918, when Lenin weighed up two alternatives: the prevalence of the «pro-war party» among the powers of the Entente, united in stifling the October Revolution, or their division into «hostile groups» with the granting of more time to the revolutionary strategy.

When we began our reflection on the new strategic phase, we recalled Arrigo Cervetto’s theses about the dilemmas of «strategic forecasts». When the turn of events in the class and state struggle presents a bifurcation or a plurality of outcomes, strategy must base itself on alternative hypotheses, knowing that within the spectrum identified by those ‘pure’ cases the real result will still be different – one of the many possible intermediate gradations.

Returning, then, to the fifteen-year time span of China’s military rise, we ask again: is a war to be expected? A scientific analysis, in fact, leaves open the two possibilities of a major war or a temporary agreement within a framework of growing tensions, which include the various intermediate hypotheses of regional conflicts, limited or between great powers, but only in the Asian theatre. And it forecasts these two possibilities not in an arbitrary way, but because this is the confrontation at the highest level of the ruling class, which is no longer considering those two possibilities at an analytical, but at a decision-making, level, and is in fact transmuting the ambivalence of that predictable development into rearmament plans in China, Japan and India and, consequently, in the USA and the EU, as well as into the various diplomatic negotiating lines... precisely the two hands of Xi, Abe, Modi, Trump, Putin, Ms Merkel and Macron.

This is our forecast for the next fifteen years; it goes without saying that in the ambivalence of this dual possibility our «general task» of rooting the Bolshevik model in Europe is the link that will allow us to face every development and ‘complication’. But, in the prediction of such a complex and tormented phase, the urgency of stretching our energies to the full on every front – theoretical, political, and organisational – goes without saying.

At a general theoretical level, the reference to the law of motion of the imperialist alliances should be compared with the consideration that a possible bifurcation requires strategy to formulate/predict the various possible developments – in this case, agreement or clash between Washington and Beijing, the ruling power of the old order and the challenging power. Lasting alliances are impossible, alliances that share out all the areas are impossible, a global Yalta is impossible; every alliance can only be provisional and partial.

Therefore, in the two hypotheses for the next fifteen years, a war would confirm that imperialism is unable to maintain the world order... or, an agreement would, by its very nature, be provisional and partial, because it would push scission elsewhere, i.e. Sino-US agreement would take place to the detriment of other powers. The «Thucydides trap», is often quoted in these times – a formula the American analyst Graham Allison derived from the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens: in the dynamic of uneven development, the ruling power is pushed to wage war in advance, before the challenging power becomes strong enough to overturn the power relations, or it is the challenger itself that is pushed to a surprise attack.  The limit to these reflections, and also what is left unsaid in Kissinger’s theses in ‘On China’ and ‘World Order’, is that the imperialist clash or agreement is not two-sided, between China and the USA, as it was not two-sided between Britain and Germany in 1914. In fact, at the time, the USA was the real winner, exploiting the clash between Britain and Germany. This ‘illustration’ of power relations is being used in the debate in India, by the theses that are reluctant to accept the Quad and the Indo-Pacific strategy. Deependra Singh Hooda, the former Chief-of-Staff of India’s Northern Command, quotes in ‘Indian Express’ a thesis of John Mearsheimer, an exponent of American realism. One of the strategies used by the great powers against an adversary is buck-passing: «A buck-passer attempts to get another state to bear the burden of deterring or possibly fighting an aggressor, while it remains on the sidelines. The buck-passer fully recognizes the need to prevent the aggressor from increasing its share of world power but looks for some other state that is threatened by the aggressor to perform that onerous task».

Returning, then, to the fifteen-year time span of China’s military rise, is a war to be expected? A scientific analysis, in fact, leaves open the two possibilities of a major war or a temporary agreement within a framework of growing tensions, which include the various intermediate hypotheses of limited conflicts. And it forecasts these two possibilities not in an arbitrary way, but because this is the confrontation at the highest level of the ruling class.

As is evident, then, the eventuality of China’s military rise from now to 2035 occurring within the framework of negotiations between Washington and Beijing in no way contradicts the law of motion of imperialist alliances nor, prospectively, the regularity of the breakdown of order; it will only mean that the combination between wars and alliances, between unity and scission, will have passed from a phase of convergence between the United States and China... with a plurality of successive outcomes: in preparation for their catastrophic future clash; or in their competing in passing the buck of the clash onto other contenders; or again in the combination in the USA between convergence with China and manoeuvres to steer others, India first of all, to balance China; finally, in the combination in China between convergence with the USA and a balancing act with others (Europe, Russia, even Japan), in order to divert the opposite balancing pressure exerted by Washington through the Indo-Pacific.

There remains Lenin’s assumption that imperialism is unable to guarantee order; hence the historical trend towards the breakdown of the balance is a rule. In his ‘A World in Disarray’, Richard Haass quotes another of Kissinger’s statements: «the momentum of global upheaval has outstripped the capacities of statemanship». Even at the highest levels of the ruling class, war and peace in Asia remain the unknown factors of an irresoluble equation.

Lotta Comunista N° 568, December 2017

 

A Reply to Our Lutte Ouvrière Comrades

In its N° 186 September-October issue, the monthly ‘Lutte de Classe’, of the French organisation Lutte Ouvrière, signalled out Lotta Comunista in two articles.

Dear comrades,

We confess our initial surprise on reading in the September-October issue of your periodical the references to Lotta Comunista in the article ‘Bordiguisme et trotskysme’, as well as a selection of a number of passages from our correspondence in the article ‘Un échange de lettres entre Lutte Ouvrière et Lotta Comunista’.

Upon reflection, however, your dual intervention seemed to us a real opportunity for clarification, in the spirit with which you conclude the second article: «It is desirable, and also indispensable, that organisations that are inspired by revolutionary communism and that, moreover, militate in neighbouring countries should compare their points of view, even if they have very different histories and political traditions».

Maintaining, as is your right, your polemical position, you clarify that this comparison cannot be interpreted as a «blind endorsement» of our action, but it goes without saying that this is reciprocal. One need only think of the crucial question of self-financing, about which, moreover, Lotta Comunista has been the object of odious delations and smear campaigns on various occasions. We have never hidden that complete financial autonomy is a vital question for us: in order to be truly immune to every influence, a revolutionary organisation must not depend on anyone. And yet we have never thought that maintaining relations with you, as we have done since the early ‘70s, could even remotely mean a «blind endorsement» on our part of your practice of accepting electoral expense reimbursements from the bourgeois state.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Said with fraternal sincerity, what emerges from your writings is that you do not really know Lotta Comunista. You do not know its history, making really embarrassing mistakes, and you do not know its positions, as you seem to echo by hearsay old caricatures that would baffle anyone in Italy who really knows our party.  Since we cannot abuse your space, we will limit ourselves by way of example to four questions; if you want, we will deal on another occasion with other aspects about which your reconstruction is insufficient, starting from the history itself of the PCd’I and Bordighism.

 

1. The history of Lotta Comunista. It is really hard to understand why you do not mention in your article our origins in libertarian communism. By chance the first volume of the GAAP (Anarchist Groups of Proletarian Action) documents, published in collaboration with the libertarian publishing house Biblioteca Franco Serantini, Pisa, has become available in these very weeks. The review we put at your disposal, published in the October issue of our newspaper, is sufficient to clarify the enormity of this omission.

Lotta Comunista recalls the birth of its own «original group» with the GAAP foundation on 24-25 February 1951. Not only did such of its historic leaders as Arrigo Cervetto, Lorenzo Parodi and Aldo Pressato militate in it, but there was also a close relationship, in France, with the Fédération Anarchiste, later Georges Fontenis’ FCL (Fédération Communiste Libertaire). Beginning in 1950, this relationship with Fontenis’ libertarian communists also led, in 1954, to the foundation in Paris of the ICL – Libertarian Communist International.

 

2. Our alleged organisational derivation from Bordighism. Your reconstruction pays the price of mere similarities of denomination; in your excuse is the fact that the labyrinth of acronyms is just as intricate here in Italy as there in France. The Leninist Groups of the Communist Left were not such because they derived from the Bordighist Communist Left, but because they were the final product of the Movement of the Communist Left (MSC), which had nothing to do with Bordighism. Four groups participated in a first founding initiative in December 1956: the GAAP, which had become the Libertarian Communist Federation – a section of the Libertarian Communist International, in which Cervetto led the by now Leninist current and Pier Carlo Masini the anarchist; the Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Communist Groups – Fourth International, led by Livio Maita; Onorato Damen’s Bordighist splinter group, Communist Battle; and the Milanese group of Communist Action, a maximalist group that had left the PCI with the crisis of Stalinism, led, among others, by Bruno Fortichiari, one of the founders of the PCd’I in 1921.

On the same basis, therefore, that Communist Left could be said to be Leninist, libertarian, Trotskyist, maximalist, and in only one of its components dissident Bordighist. Almost immediately, however, Maitan’s Trotskyists and Damen’s Bordighists withdrew from the initiative; hence the MSC was made up of the merger of only the Libertarian Communist Federation and Communist Action.

When some of the exponents of Communist Action’s Milanese maximalism became infatuated with Maoism in the early ‘60s, the change of name into Leninist Groups of the Communist Left, as well as our newspaper, ‘Lotta Comunista’, emerged from the crisis of the Movement of the Communist Left in 1965. In no way, therefore, can the Leninist Groups of the Communist Left be defined as a derivation of Bordighism: if, however, the reference was to the December 1956 four-party initiative, from which the Movement of the Communist Left sprang, then our degree of kinship with Bordighism would be equal to that with... Trotskyism!

 

3. Lotta Comunista and Bordiga’s theory. More interesting than the organisational question, which was not to be traced back to Bordighism, but if anything to anarchist communism, is our relationship with Amadeo Bordiga’s theory and analysis. It has its decisive point in its analysis of the USSR as state capitalism, and in this sense Cervetto found himself observing that Bordighism is a current that «was also one of our foundation stones». As for the rest, let us tell you that your reconstruction is really coarse-grained and peppered with howlers. If you want to criticise us, it is in the interest of both of us that you should do it on the basis of our real positions, and not by following dated ‘hearsay’.

A few examples. As regards abstentionism, between Lenin and Bordiga we think that Lenin was right and Bordiga wrong. In fact ours is not abstentionism on principle – we have participated in the vote in various referendums. Ours is strategic abstentionism, inspired by the key consideration of the crisis of parliamentarianism in the different and new conditions of the era of imperialism. For the owners themselves the Chambers are no longer at the centre of legislative decisions, hence their use as a ‘parliamentary tribune’ no longer makes sense. It seems to us that France itself offers the greatest proof of this crisis of parliamentarianism; moreover, it is by now clear that the majority of workers and wage earners do not vote. We do not understand why precisely we revolutionaries should reintroduce that parliamentary virus into our class, relegitimating a bourgeois institution that the owners themselves have rendered meaningless.

The theory of imperialism is precisely what we do not accept in Bordiga because of his liquidatory vision of the «almighty dollar», the excessive power of American imperialism that would wipe out every possibility for action, and because of his mechanical identification of financial strength with state power. Here, if anything, Bordiga draws close to the theorisations of «totalitarianism», derived for Nikolai Bukharin’s non-dialectical vision.

In the relationship between economics and politics, in which you believe you see in us the imprint of Bordighist mechanicism, Cervetto’s urging went in the opposite direction. His exhortation, in both international and Italian political analysis, was to investigate the specific regularities of politics. The international contention had to be «put back on the basis of the system of states»; study of the struggle of the political currents had to investigate the multiform combination springing from the interweaving of the determining factors of economics with history, political cultures, and the «moral factor», i.e. national characteristics.

To get to the crux of the matter, what we criticise in Bordiga has many points in common with what we criticise in Trotsky. Both of them underestimated the historical trend towards capitalist development, conceiving of the ‘20s and ‘30s as a historical trend towards stagnation, with the political and strategic consequences that this involved. This left the new generation, after 1945, without tools to deal with the huge cycle of capitalist development that would characterise the following decades, with its consequences for our revolutionary party’s political tasks: a long counter-revolutionary phase, the emergence of new powers, and a fierce contention between old and new powers that would stop, however, at partial crises and limited wars.

Without seeming to you know-alls, these are necessarily only brief mentions of the most clamorous points at which, alas, you demonstrate you do not know us. If you have the patience to read the three volumes of our history that we have published since 2012, you will find an orderly exposition of our positions in their theoretical and political terms: the first two books have already been translated into French (‘Lotta Comunista: le groupe d’origine, 1943-1952’, and ‘Lotta Comunista: vers le parti stratégie, 1953-1965’)*. The third (‘Lotta Comunista. Il modello bolscevico 1965-1995’ – ‘Lotta Comunista: the Bolshevik Model 1965-1995) came out this year and will shortly be published in your language, too.

 

4. The question of the science-party. Your reference to our conception of the science-party as a kind of professorial pretention, almost as if we were obsessive ‘straight-A students’ convinced, moreover, of wanting to impose «science» by brute force, is truly a caricature. Please, be serious!

Seeking an example that is as close as possible to your tradition, IMEMO, the Institute of World Economy and International Affairs, founded in Moscow by Evgeny Varga when he was still Trotsky’s valid collaborator, comes to mind. The motto chosen by Varga was «To know the enemy is half the victory»: we believe it to be one of the most fitting definitions for our science-party, in two accepted meanings.

The first is defensive. To know the ruling class, the owners, its groups, its fractions, its political parties and its states with which capitalists fight among themselves, allows our class not to be grasped and influenced precisely by those capitalists struggling for their clashing interests. There is not only the extreme case of war, in which the working masses of the different countries are roused to fanaticism by nationalist ideologies and pushed to kill each other on the opposite fronts, there are a thousand other concrete cases in which the working class maintains its independence only if it studies its enemy, if it learns to «know who it is faced with», as Marx wrote beginning his study of international politics.

The second accepted meaning of the science-party is offensive. To know the ruling class means knowing its contradictions, its weak points, the clashes between economic groups and those between the political forces and the states, in order to use them to the proletariat’s advantage. This is why science-party is a similar concept to that of strategy-party: one need only think again of war and Lenin’s strategy of revolutionary defeatism, of his calculation of how the «locomotive of war» would influence the states, classes and political forces, bringing the masses to accept the Bolsheviks’ solution as inevitable.

We can draw some examples among the many of how, at crucial moments, being or not being a science-party has made all the difference for our party’s practical tasks.

 

1950, the Korean War. The widespread perception at the time was that of an imminent Third World War; among the Trotskyists this was theorised by Michel Pablo, alias Michalis Raptis, in his pamphlet ‘The Coming War’. A part of the anarchist movement sided with the West, out of hatred for the USSR: this was Occidentalism. Those who were influenced by the USSR were affected by the pacifist campaigns fuelled by Moscow: this was Orientalism. Believing a war between the USA and the USSR was imminent underrated the existence of European imperialism; the USA and the USSR were actually in agreement over keeping Europe divided and subjugated: the suggestions of a Third Force were influenced by the European powers.

According to Cervetto, believing at the time that war was really imminent was a fatal mistake that prevented there really being a politically autonomous party: the existence of «European imperialism» was not seen, and by not seeing it there was the risk of ending up tagging along behind it. In 1953, precisely in the debate within the GAAP, the scientific knowledge of the real forces of unitary imperialism (not only the USSR, not only the USA, but also Europe that was beginning to break away from the United States) allowed us not to be seized by any of the three: neither by the Occidentalists, nor by the Orientalists, nor by the European supporters of the Third Force. This had practical significance later on in blocking Masini’s attempt to take the libertarians into Pietro Nenni’s PSI, which had converted to Europeanism.

 

1957, the ‘economic miracles’ or the ‘Thirty Glorious Years’. What were the prospects for the global development of capitalism in the ‘50s? Our 1957 ‘Theses’ stated that a long development cycle was unfolding: the immediate tasks for a class party derived from this.

There was no imminent revolution, as the maximalists, prisoners of their «psychological time», hoped; future wars and crises would be limited wars and partial crises for a long time. However, capitalist development would gradually increase the contradictions in the system of states, creating new powers, pushing the USSR’s imperialist state capitalism against China’s young capitalism, increasing the trend towards European unification, etc. Our party could grow and root itself by exploiting those contradictions of development, but being well aware that the basic trend in the masses was towards social-democratisation and not towards revolutionary radicalisation.

 

1973, the oil crisis and the world crisis. Many expected a general crisis. For us it was a «restructuring crisis»; the old powers’ contradictions still found plenty of room in the development of the new markets and in the young capitalist countries. However, the nature of the class struggles changed as a consequence; they would no longer be wage offensive struggles, but defensive struggles in restructuring... whence our primary task of organising an «orderly retreat» of our class wherever possible... whence also the need to give the priority to our work of education and organisation, undoubtedly a «general task» that must always see the commitment of a class organisation, but which also became the foremost task at that moment.

 

1989-1991, the strategic divide of the end of Yalta. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the USSR and its state capitalism, and the relaunching of Deng Xiaoping’s «opening-up» in China were the first signs of a «new strategic phase».

Great powers, with China in the lead, were now emerging from the area that in our 1957 ‘Theses’ was that of «backwardness»: almost 2/3 of the world population. Between the end of the ‘90s and the beginning of the new century, with China becoming a member of the WTO, the euro federation, and the Gulf War triggered by the USA to pre-empt China, the «new strategic phase» was proclaimed.

As a consequence, our party’s tasks have changed: the contention is between «big continent-size powers»: if the owners in the Old Continent come to agreements to fight off the competition of China, the workers also have to «think at Europe level», but they are also obliged to seek an alliance with the new Chinese proletariat in order not to be caught up in the employers’ campaigns against the ‘yellow peril’. This is what our science-party is today: to know the forces at play and their development, in order not to be trapped by the influence of America, Russia, or Europe - and why not of China? -, which would like to use the workers in their clashes, and to know the contradictions among the big economic groups and their states, in order to benefit the world proletariat. This is why, for both of us, it becomes vital to root a revolutionary force in the heart of European imperialism. Nothing less than this, comrades: it is not merely a question of knowing our reciprocal positions via «books» and «newspapers», or of comparing ourselves as militants of «neighbouring countries»! The employers are organising themselves on a European scale; the workers must do the same, and look towards the world from Europe.

If science-party means this, then it is not a programme, as the Bordighists argued, nor is it the spontaneous product of the movement, as the Luxemburgians and councilists maintained, nor does it derive from a front from below of heterogeneous groups, as Trotskyism has sometimes argued. But it will be political practice, not ridiculous enlightened pretensions, that will sanction in its results whether those scientific analyses and the indications for work that derive from them are valid or not.

Unasked for advice is seldom effective, but the question is so important that we accept the risk of not being understood. Comrades, be proud of your tradition and remain faithful to the memory of Leon Trotsky and his teaching. But do not stop at this; have the ambition to be the science-party of the Trotskyist movement. We do not know how Trotsky would have answered the questions raised by the imperialist Yalta division, if he had not fallen as a martyr at Stalin’s hands; we do not know how he would have faced the evidence of development in the decades of the ‘economic miracles’. We do not know how he would have evaluated the emergence of China as a great power. You can do this, if you have a scientific imagination. Trotsky felt himself to be a ‘patriot’ of his time; he loved his century, the twentieth, as the century of huge changes and revolutions. You can take Trotsky into the Third Millennium.

Finally, as regards the question arising from our exchange of letters, we advise you to read the chapters ‘The Battle of Genoa’ and ‘The Battle of Milan’ in the volume that will shortly be published in France. As you do not know Lotta Comunista in its history or its positions, so you do not show that you grasp the extent to which those battles were crucial: a struggle for the existence of our party but also, especially in Milan, literally for the lives of many militants. To tell the truth, also those who, here in Italy, did not live that experience directly cannot succeed in representing it.

It was the formative battle of the second generation of Lotta Comunista: since then, the successive generations of ever more numerous youths have grown up determined never more to accept delations and slander, from anyone. If someone has played with fire through naivety or thoughtlessness, as we seem to understand from your correspondence, he knows what to do.

On the other hand, we observe that this misunderstanding is not only recent. As early as November 1973, in one of your ‘Information Bulletins’, you believed that you saw a contributory cause of the ostracism campaigns against us in our political conceptions. Certainly, Lotta Comunista was attacked «by qualifying it en bloc as a ‘fascist’ and ‘provocative’ group, in the purest Stalinist style». But, you wrote, «it seems that Lotta Comunista is also partly responsible». In your opinion, we did not have a «political attitude» towards the «far left» - what, for us, were the petty-bourgeois intellectual groups, aiders and abettors of Stalinism -, nor towards the PCI, «with which ‘brawls’ seem[ed] frequent. As regards this, always according to your bulletin, Lotta Comunista showed a certain «triumphalism», considering itself already «the Party» and «tending to reject the others en bloc».

After almost forty-five years, perhaps an update is necessary.

 

The Editorial Office of Lotta Comunista

Lotta Comunista N° 568, December 2017.

 

 

TROTSKYISM AND BORDIGHISM

From the French bimonthly, the part of the article that criticises Lotta Comunista.

«Nowadays, the Communist Left [Bordighist, Editor’s Note] has exploded into different small groups without any influence, without ever really succeeding in spreading outside Italy. An exception is the Lotta Comunista Group, which has grown numerically and which [like Onorato Damen’s Communist Battle, Editor’s Note] represents an attempt to overcome the limits of the Bordighist groups. In effect it presents itself with the name of Leninist Groups of the Communist Left, thus completing the reference to the Bordighist Communist Left with its reference to Lenin.

In fact, Lotta Comunista draws on Lenin much more than on Bordiga, but it keeps most of the characteristics of the Bordighist current. Its analyses and those of its founder, Arrigo Cervetto, remain characterised by this formalist version of Marxism which sees in political phenomena the direct and mechanical effect of economics, a conception that does not have much to do with Leninism, nor, in effect, with Marxism. The analyses themselves testify to a misunderstanding of the imperialist phenomenon as Lenin described it.

Contrary to what Lenin maintained in his book on extremism[1], Lotta Comunista demands ‘strategic abstentionism’ that leads it to refuse to present itself at elections as a matter of principle. Finally, its Leninism consists in presenting itself as the ‘science-party’, which by definition would be a kind of revolutionary party, thanks to the pertinence of its leaders’ Marxist analyses. Here again, nothing is farther from Leninism than this self-proclamation, which on the other hand sometimes leads the group to want to impose its ‘science’ by brute force. A recent correspondence between Lutte Ouvrière and Lotta Comunista, from which we publish some extracts, is edifying in this regard».



* Published  in English “Lotta Comunista: The Origin 1943-1952” (2015) , “Lotta Comunista: Towards the Strategy-party 1953-1965” (2017) Ed. Science-Marxiste

[1] ‘Left-Wing’ Communism: an Infantile Disorder.

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