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(en) Ireland, Anarchist journal, Red and Black Revolution #13 - Left communism and its ideology By Oisin Mac Giollamoir

Date Fri, 19 Sep 2008 09:14:36 +0300

An introduction and critique by a member of the Irish Workers Solidarity
Movement of left communism. ----- Introduction ----- Anarchism is today finally
emerging out of its long held position as ‘the conscience of the workers’
movement’, as the eternal critic of Leninism and state centred politics. It long
took the side of the working class against the Party, a position Lenin mocked
when he wrote: “The mere presentation of the question—"dictatorship of the party
or dictatorship of the class(1); dictatorship (party) of the leaders, or
dictatorship (party) of the masses?"—testifies to most incredibly and hopelessly
muddled thinking....to contrast, in general, the dictatorship of the masses with
a dictatorship of the leaders is ridiculously absurd, and stupid.”(2)

Interestingly this was not written about anarchists, but rather about the
position held by a Dutch-German Marxist tendency that was part of the Comintern.
This tendency and others comprise what is known as ‘left-communism’.

There has long been a close relationship between anarchism and left-communism,
as left-communism took up many of the positions held by anarchists. The
Dutch-German left developed positions that are indistinguishable from those that
have long been found within the anarchist movement. While anarchism influenced
left-communism in practice(3), left-communism and Marxist tendencies closely
related to it have been a major theoretical influence on anarchism, in
particular over the last thirty years.

While left communist theories have indeed contributed greatly to the anarchist
movement and to anarchist theory, a number of significant theoretical and
tactical mistakes are evident in them. In this article I will trace the
development of these theories and give an introduction to the history of the
German Revolution of 1918-19 and the Biennio Rosso(4) of 1919-20 in Italy. I
will also attempt to highlight the problems of these theories and insist on the
need to develop an anarchist program for today based on the situation of our
class today, as opposed to based on a-historical principles.

What is left communism?
Left communism is extremely difficult to define. There are various strands of
left communism that emerged at different points in the period between 1917 and
1928. Aufheben(5) writes “The 'historic ultra-left'(6) refers to a number of
such currents which emerged out of one of the most significant moments in the
struggle against capitalism - the revolutionary wave that ended the First World
War.”(7) Left communism is generally divided into two wings: the Dutch-German
left and the Italian left.(8) Between the two groups there was no love lost.
Gilles Dauvé, originally a Bordigist, writes: “Although both were attacked in
Lenin's ‘Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder’, Pannekoek regarded Bordiga
as a weird brand of Leninist, and Bordiga viewed Pannekoek as a distasteful
mixture of marxism and anarcho-syndicalism. In fact, neither took any real
interest in the other, and the "German" and "Italian" communist lefts largely
ignored each other.”(9)

The Dutch-German and Italian lefts were tendencies within the Comintern that
ultimately broke with the Comintern and critiqued it from the left. As such left
communism, or ultra leftism, is often defined by its opposition to ‘leftism’.

Aufheben define leftism thus: “It can be thought of in terms of those practices
which echo some of the language of communism but which in fact represent the
movement of the left-wing of capital.”(10) In other words leftism describes
those who are nominally communist but in fact are not. According to left
communists, leftists are those who supported the Soviet Union in any manner,
those who support or participate in Trade Unions, those who participate in
parliament, those who support national liberation movements in any manner and
those who participate in any type of political coalition with non communists.
Left communists on the other hand are opposed to participation or support for
any of these types of struggle because they are not communist or because they
are anti working class. As such, left communists often define themselves
negatively. They oppose themselves to those who do not hold ‘real’ communist
positions. They spend a lot of effort denouncing those who don’t hold these
communist positions of absolute and practical opposition to the USSR, the Trade
Unions, parliament, national liberation movements, political coalitions etc.

In order to fully understand left communism and how and why it adopted these
positions, we need to look at its development. In the revolutionary wave that
followed the Russian revolution, Germany and Italy were the two places that were
closest to having a successful communist revolution; they were also the two
places with the largest left communist tendencies.

The Dutch-German Left
The German Revolution 1918-1919
In Germany in 1918 there was a wave of mass wildcat strikes that ultimately led
to a revolution breaking out in November which ended World War One. Sailors
mutinied and workers’ councils were set up across the country. The SPD (Social
Democratic Party of Germany) a few years earlier was universally considered the
world’s greatest revolutionary Marxist party, but had in 1914 supported the
drive to war. It took part in this revolution despite opposing it. Thereby, it
“managed to get a majority vote at the first National Congress of Workers’ and
Soldiers’ Councils in favour of elections to a constituent assembly and for
dissolving the councils in favour of that parliament. At the same time the trade
unions worked hand in hand with management to get revolutionary workers
dismissed and to destroy independent council activity in the factories. Councils
against parliament and trade unions became the watch word of revolutionaries.”(11)

At the turn of the year the KPD (German Communist Party) was founded. On the
basis of their recent experiences, the majority of workers in the KPD developed
a revolutionary critique of parliamentary activism and raised the slogan ‘All
Power to the Workers’ Councils’. However, the leaders of the party, including
Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, opposed this on the basis that it was
anarchist(12). The anti-parliamentarian majority were also opposed to the ‘Trade
Unions’ on the basis of their experience of the German social democratic trade
unions opposing the revolutionary movement and actively trying to crush it. On
this point the leadership also opposed the majority. Ultimately, in October
1919, these disagreements led to the leadership expelling over half of the
party’s membership.(13)

These expelled members went on to form the left communist KAPD (German Communist
Workers Party). The KAPD left the Comintern after the Third Congress in 1921 for
reasons that anarchists would be very sympathetic towards. They believed that
the revolution would not be made by a political party but could only be made by
the working class itself organized in its own autonomous organisations. The
organisation that the KAPD worked within was the AAUD(14) (General Workers Union
of Germany); at its height this was an organisation of around 300,000
workers.(15) The AAUD emerged during the German Revolution in 1919. Jan Appel
describes its formation: “We arrived at the conclusion that the unions were
quite useless for the purposes of the revolutionary struggle, and at a
conference of Revolutionary Shop Stewards, the formation of revolutionary
factory organisations as the basis for Workers’ Councils was decided upon.”(16)

Council Communism
Based on their experiences, the left communists in Germany critiqued Lenin’s
arguments in ‘Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder’ firstly on the basis
that although the Bolshevik model of organisation made sense in Russia, as
Germany was more industrially developed different forms of proletarian struggle
were needed.(17) They argued that through self organisation in their factories
workers laid the basis for setting up workers’ councils. They argued that this
form of organisation was the single form of organisation suitable for a
revolutionary struggle of the working class. As such, they argued against
activity in Trade Unions(18), parliament and the primacy of the party.

The KAPD aimed not to represent or lead the working class, but rather to
enlighten it(19), a similar project to the idea advanced by the Dyelo Truda
group: “All assistance afforded to the masses in the realm of ideas must be
consonant with the ideology of anarchism; otherwise it will not be anarchist
assistance. ‘Ideologically assist’ simply means: influence from the ideas point
of view, direct from the ideas point of view [a leadership of ideas].”(20)
However, some left communists, such as Otto Rühle, felt even this was too much.
They left the KAPD and AAUD and, objecting to the involvement of the KAPD in the
AAUD, set up AAUD-E (General Workers Union of Germany – Unitary Organisation).

The majority of those who claim a legacy from the Dutch-German Left, those who
call themselves council communists, tend to take the position of Rühle and the
AAUD-E. For that reason they refuse to form political organisations. Dauvé
explains the theory thus: “any revolutionary organisation coexisting with the
organs created by the workers themselves, and trying to elaborate a coherent
theory and political line, must in the end attempt to lead the workers.
Therefore revolutionaries do not organise themselves outside the organs
"spontaneously" created by the workers: they merely exchange and circulate
information and establish contacts with other revolutionaries; they never try to
define a general theory or strategy.”(21)

Pannekoek wrote in 1936 “The old labor movement is organised in parties. The
belief in parties is the main reason for the impotence of the working class;
therefore we avoid forming a new party—not because we are too few, but because a
party is an organisation that aims to lead and control the working class. In
opposition to this, we maintain that the working class can rise to victory only
when it independently attacks its problems and decides its own fate. The workers
should not blindly accept the slogans of others, nor of our own groups but must
think, act, and decide for themselves. This conception is in sharp contradiction
to the tradition of the party as the most important means of educating the
proletariat. Therefore many, though repudiating the Socialist and Communist
parties, resist and oppose us. This is partly due to their traditional concepts;
after viewing the class struggle as a struggle of parties, it becomes difficult
to consider it as purely the struggle of the working class, as a class

While the idea of working class struggle being ‘purely the struggle of the
working class’ is essential, it hides major theoretical and practical problems.
Firstly what does it mean to take the side of the class and as opposed to a
party? What does the working class without a party look like? What does is mean
to reject parties? If we take Dauvé’s understanding, that this rejection of
partyism is a rejection of any attempt ‘to elaborate a coherent theory and
political line’ then we face a problem(23). If any attempt to elaborate a
coherent theory and political line is forbidden then how can the class develop a
coherent theory and political line to guide itself through a revolution and to
victory? How can the class think strategically if strategic thinking is banned
lest it be oppressive or vanguardist?

In a revolution there will be a number of conflicting theories and political
lines being put forward. To claim otherwise is highly naïve. If those of us who
believe that ‘the emancipation of the working classes must be achieved by the
working classes themselves’(24) don’t enter the revolution prepared with a
program explaining how this can be achieved the revolution will, like all prior
workers’ revolutions, fail.

It was precisely the lack of a program that spelled the failure of the
anti-state position in Russia and in Spain(25).

The Dyelo Truda group explains the failure in Russia:

“We have fallen into the habit of ascribing the anarchist movement's failure in
Russia in 1917-1919 to the Bolshevik Party's statist repression, which is a
serious error. Bolshevik repression hampered the anarchist movement's spread
during the revolution, but it was only one obstacle. Rather, it was the
anarchist movement's own internal ineffectuality which was one of the chief
causes of that failure, an ineffectuality emanating from the vagueness and
indecisiveness that characterized its main policy statements on organization and

“Anarchism had no firm, hard and fast opinion regarding the main problems facing
the social revolution, an opinion needed to satisfy the masses who were carrying
out the revolution. Anarchists were calling for a seizure of the factories, but
had no well-defined homogeneous notion of the new production and its structures.
Anarchists championed the communist device "from each according to abilities, to
each according to needs," but they never bothered to apply this precept to the
real world…Anarchists talked a lot about the revolutionary activity of the
workers themselves, but they were unable to direct the masses, even roughly,
towards the forms that such activity might assume...They incited the masses to
shrug off the yoke of authority, but they did not indicate how the gains of
revolution might be consolidated and defended. They had no clear cut opinion and
specific action policies with regard to lots of other problems. Which is what
alienated them from the activities of the masses and condemned them to social
and historical impotence.

“Upwards of twenty years of experience, revolutionary activity, twenty years of
efforts in anarchist ranks, and of effort that met with nothing but failures by
anarchism as an organizing movement: all of this has convinced us of the
necessity of a new comprehensive anarchist party organisation rooted in one
homogenous theory, policy and tactic.”(26)

While the German Left neglected the need for a program and denounced all parties
as oppressive or at least as vanguardist, the Italian Left took a completely
different angle.

The Italian Left
Bordiga and the Biennio rosso(27)
The Italian Left was in its early stages under the political tutelage of one
man: Amadeo Bordiga. After joining the Youth Federation of the PSI (Italian
Socialist Party) Bordiga quickly rose to prominence by aligning himself with the
golden boy of that Federation; Benito Mussolini. The vitality of the Youth
federation was the main reason for the PSI growing from 20,459 in 1912 to 47,724
in 1914. Ultimately, Bordiga broke with Mussolini on the question of supporting
World War One. Bordiga asserted that supporting wars was a betrayal of Marxist
‘principles’. He was intransigent on points of principle and on the question of
the communist program and defended a rigid textual analysis of Marx. He wrote:
‘By Marxism we understand the method laid down by Marx and many others, that
…culminates in the diagnosis of the daily class struggle between bourgeoisie and
proletariat, constructing a prophecy and a program with a view to the
proletarian triumph’(28) Bordiga’s orthodoxy set him firmly against the
revisionism of the leaders of the PSI. He held that a fresh start bringing about
a renewal of principle was needed within the party.

By 1918 the toll of World War One for Italy was over 680,000 dead and over a
million wounded. The working class flocked to the PSI as it became more and more
radicalised. By 1919 the PSI, which just 7 years previously had 20,459 members,
had grown to over 200,000. In 1919 as workers returned home from the war they
found themselves caught in a spiral of inflation and mass unemployment as the
Italian economy struggled to adjust to the influx of returning workers.

Starting in April 1919 and continuing through to August there was widespread
popular rioting. The government tried desperately to put down the insurgent
workers, killing workers in Milan, Florence, Inola, Taranto, Genoa and other
cities. In Turin at the end of August new shop stewards’ organisations were
formed in the Fiat plant. These shop stewards organisations in turn formed a
factory council. This new type of grassroots workers’ organisation spread
quickly across the workplaces of Turin. Through the use of these factory
councils on October 31st the workers adopted a program to restructure the unions
turning them into organisations of workers’ democracy. This program stated its
purpose was to “set in train a practical realisation of the communist
society.”(29) At a meeting on December 14-15, the proponents of this new factory
council system were able to win the endorsement of the entire Turin labour
movement. By February 1920 over 150,000 workers in the Turin area alone were
organised in the new council system. At a conference of the anarcho-syndicalist
union the USI (Italian Syndicalist Union) in early 1920, the USI placed itself
firmly on the side of these new organisations and agitated strongly for their
development outside of Turin. This saw the USI grow from 300,000 in 1919 to
800,000 at the peak of the movement in September 1920.(30)

In response to these movements, at their Bologna congress in 1919 the PSI
adopted a revolutionary program(31). The following month, on the back of this
program, they received 1,800,000 votes making them the biggest party in the
Italian parliament.(32) However, despite this program being adopted, the PSI was
divided with some in the parliamentary party, such as Filippo Turati, fully
opposing the program and actively trying to sabotage it. Turati stated that the
PSI must not excite “the blind passions and fatal illusions of the crowd”. He
claimed parliament was to workers’ councils as the city was to the barbaric
horde. These sentiments resulted in Bordiga pushing hard for Turati’s expulsion
from the party. Antonio Gramsci attacked Turati accusing him of having “the
mocking skepticism of senility”.(33) Even Serrati, the party’s centrist leader,
at this point was attacking Turati accusing his politics of being based on a
‘puerile illusion’. He wrote that is was “…painful that a socialist deputy, one
of those in whom the masses most believed, should dedicate more obstinacy and
energy to fighting Bolshevism than to opposing all the attempts at the
mystification of socialism that are coming…from the bourgeoisie.”(34) However
this was nothing but words from the party leader and Bordiga attacked Serrati
for not expelling Turati. Bordiga also called for an end to the parliamentary
party’s power (this would undercut Turati’s influence) and took up an
abstentionist position. He wrote: “Elections, while the bourgeoisie have power
and wealth in their hands, will never do anything but confirm this privilege.”(35)

The first four months of 1920 saw high levels of struggle in Italy, reaching
their peak in April. At the Fiat plant in Turin a general assembly called for a
sit-in strike to protest the dismissal of several shop stewards. In response the
employers locked out 80,000 workers. In Piedmont, the region of Italy of which
Turin is the capital, a general strike ensued involving 500,000 workers. There
were also strikes around Genoa lead by the USI and in Milan workers’ councils
like those in Turin emerged under the influence of the USI. In the rest of the
country unions under anarcho-syndicalist influence, such as the independent
railway unions and the maritime workers unions, came out in support. However,
despite appeals from the Turin movement to the PSI and the PSI-led trade union
the CGL (General Confederation of Labour) for the strike to be extended across
Italy, the PSI and the CGL failed to act. Gramsci, who was working hard through
his journal “l’Ordine Nouvo”(36) to support the council movement, commented
bitterly on the PSI leadership: "They went on chattering about soviets and
councils while in Piedmont and Turin half a million workers starved to defend
the councils that already exist."(37) Ultimately the strike was defeated.
Gramsci wrote: “The Turinese working class has been defeated. Among the
conditions determining this defeat…was the limitedness of the minds of the
leaders of the Italian working class movement. Among the second level conditions
determining the defeat is thus the lack of revolutionary cohesion of the entire
Italian proletariat, which cannot bring forth…a trade union hierarchy which
reflects its interests and its revolutionary spirit.”(38) Gramsci blamed the
failure of the movement simultaneously on the ineffectuality of the leadership
of the PSI and the CGL and on the inability of the movement itself to throw up a
new leadership, organic intellectuals, who would act as a new hierarchy.

While Gramsci felt the councils were the institutions through which the
dictatorship of the proletariat could be exercised, Serrati claimed that the
councils could not be used to initiate revolutionary action.(39) He argued that
“The dictatorship of the proletariat is the conscious dictatorship of the
Socialist Party.”(40) On this Bordiga was firmly on the side of Serrati. He
argued that through exclusive emphasis on the economic sphere and on the
stimulation of consciousness Gramsci had forgotten that the state would not
simply disappear in a revolution.(41) Of course on this Bordiga was right, as
anarchists learnt so tragically in Spain. He wrote: “It is rumoured that factory
councils, where they were in existence, functioned by taking over the management
of the workshops and carrying on the work. We would not like the working masses
to get hold of the idea that all they need do to take over the factories and get
rid or the capitalists is set up councils. This would indeed be a dangerous
illusion. The factory will be conquered by the working class - and not only by
the workforce employed in it, which would be too weak and non-communist - only
after the working class as a whole has seized political power. Unless it has
done so, the Royal Guards, military police, etc. - in other words, the mechanism
of force and oppression that the bourgeoisie has at its disposal, its political
power apparatus -will see to it that all illusions are dispelled.”(42)

On this Bordiga raises two significant issues. Firstly, as noted, until the
revolutionary class has seized power, thereby removing all power from the hand
of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie will use its state to crush the working
class, even if it has to wait almost a full year to do this as happened in
Spain. Secondly communism is not simply the seizing of control of the factory or
the capitalist enterprise by those that work in it. Communism is not
transforming workplaces into democratic co-operatives, as Bordiga notes:
“revolution is not a question of the form of organization.”(43) Communism is
when wage labour and the enterprise is abolished and all capital is captured by
the working class as a whole and put to work for the benefit of the human
community, not for profit. As Bordiga writes elsewhere: “Socialism resides
entirely in the revolutionary negation of the capitalist ENTERPRISE, not in
granting the enterprise to the factory workers”.(44) It is precisely this
insistence on the importance of the content of communism, the abolition of wage
labour and the market economy with the incumbent division of labour, that makes
Bordiga of any interest. A major problem however is in Bordiga’s understanding
of how the state is destroyed and how the content of communism is realized. He
writes: “Only a communist party should and would be able to carry out such an

Since 1915 Bordiga had been insisting on the need for a theoretically pure
communist party. After a second revolutionary upsurge in September 1920 he got
his way.

Lynn Williams describes this revolutionary upsurge: "Between the 1st and 4th of
September metal workers occupied factories throughout the Italian
peninsula...the occupations rolled forward not only in the industrial heartland
around Milan, Turin and Genoa but in Rome, Florence, Naples and Palermo, in a
forest of red and black flags and a fanfare of workers bands... Within three
days 400,000 workers were in occupation. As the movement spread to other
sectors, the total rose to over half a million. Everyone was stunned by the
response."(46) Gramsci once again threw himself into the struggle, while Turati
and the reformists went as far as to advise the government to use force against
the occupiers of the factories.(47) Ultimately due to the complete betrayal by
the PSI and the CGL of the working class, the revolutionary opportunity was
missed. After this, Bordiga took his chance to push for a split and by
threatening to go it alone, brought Gramsci with him. At the Livorno Congress of
the PSI in January 1921, the party split. 14,965 voted for Turati and the
reformists, 58,783 voted for the Communists (Bordiga and Gramsci) and for a
split and 98,028 voted for Serrati and unity. So on the 21 January, the PCI
(Italian Communist Party) was founded.

Bordiga and the Party
The party failed to take off. It fact many of the 58,783 that voted for it in
the PSI left. Within a year the membership had fallen to 24,638.(48)

A major reason for this was that the Biennio Rosso of 1919-20 had ended. A
revolutionary opportunity was missed and many simply ceased to be engaged in
revolutionary class struggle. Bizarrely this did not bother Bordiga or the PCI.
Bordiga wrote: “…the centre of the doctrine…is not the concept of the class
struggle but that of its development into the dictatorship of the proletariat,
exercised by the latter alone, in a single organization, excluding other
classes, and with energetic coercive force, thus under the guidance of the
party.” In other words, for Bordiga the issue was not class struggle but the
purity of the communist program and the ability of the party to seize control of
the state. Loren Goldner notes: “For Bordiga, program was everything, a
gate-receipt notion of numbers was nothing. The role of the party in the period
of ebb was to preserve the program and to carry on the agitational and
propaganda work possible until the next turn of the tide, not to dilute it while
chasing ephemeral popularity.”(49) Bordiga wrote: “When from the invariant
doctrine we draw the conclusion that the revolutionary victory of the working
class can only be achieved with the class party and its dictatorship”(50)
Bordiga was fully comfortable with the party being small and isolated away from
class struggle. What was important for him was that it was fully communist and
defended the communist program from those who would dilute it or pervert it from
its course, from its realization. Jacque Camatte explained this position in
early 1961 in an article published in Bordiga’s journal 'Il programma
comunista': “The proletariat abandons its programme in periods of defeat. This
programme is only defended by a weak minority. Only the programme-party always
emerges reinforced by the struggle. The struggle from 1926 to today proves that

In all the parties of the Italian Left you find a similar insistence of their
role as defenders of the invariant communist program of the proletariat. While
they differ over what exactly the invariant doctrine/program of communism is(52)
the insistence on the real existence of an invariant doctrine/program runs
through all of them.

However as has been pointed out by many, communism “is not fundamentally about
the adoption of a set of principles, lines and positions.”(53) As Marx writes:
“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal
to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real
movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this
movement result from the premises now in existence.”(54) Even Engels writes,
“Communism is not a doctrine but a movement; it proceeds not from principles but
from facts. The Communists do not base themselves on this or that philosophy as
their point of departure but on the whole course of previous history and
specifically its actual results in the civilised countries at the present
time….Communism, insofar as it is a theory, is the theoretical expression of the
position of the proletariat in this struggle and the theoretical summation of
the conditions for the liberation of the proletariat.”(55)

Of course the simple fact that anarchism/communism is not an ideal to be
realized or a set of principles but a real movement is so obvious it may seem
strange to emphasis it. Anarchists have long realized this, the Dyelo Truda
group writes: “Anarchism is no beautiful fantasy, no abstract notion of
philosophy, but a social movement of the working masses.”(56)

But what is the ‘real movement which abolishes the present state of things’? The
answer of course is class struggle.

While the Italian Left insisted on the communist program that was to be realised
by the party for the working class, the Dutch-German Left insisted that the
class did not need a party or program; indeed they would be obstacles to the
working class realising communism.

In the Italian Left we find the communist program separated from the working
class. In the Dutch-German Left we find the exact same. The difference is that
the Italian Left insists on defending the communist program from impurity while
the German Left insists on defending the working class. The solution surely is
to unite the two, the working class and communism, and say ‘The working class is
the communist subject’. This is the position adopted by most left communists today.

However, the first problem with this position is that the working class is not a
communist subject. Communism is not always already-realised in the working
class. We must remember that the working class is not communist rather it is
capable of producing communism. The working class does not interest us because
of what it is, it interests us because of what it can do (and obviously because
we are part of it).

Secondly, as Guy Debord noted: “history has no object distinct from what takes
place within it”.(57) Communism arises today as a possibility not as a future to
be realised. It is not a real future towards which we work. The communist
project is not teleological. In simpler terms the idea that history develops
towards a fixed end, communism, is completely wrong. Communism is something that
emerges and develops out of struggle today. Communism is not something that can
be discovered or defended rather it emerges from class struggle. Therefore, all
we can do is engage in class struggle and try to push things forward, try to
turn the class that has the potential to create communism into the class that
does create communism.

The job of communists is not to defend the ‘interests’ (i.e. the communist
program) of the working class from corruption, as so many left communists seem
to believe. Firstly, because there is no communist program to be defended.
Secondly, because the working class does not have any interests outside of
struggle, i.e. it has not permanent interests which can be defended.

The job of communists is to get stuck down into the grim and grit of real
struggle as it is happening with all the contradictions that are involved in it.
We must be active in class struggle pushing hard for anarchist-communism.
Wherever class antagonism emerges as revolutionaries we must be there advancing
the revolutionary cause.

When Marx writes that communism is ‘the real movement’ not an ideal, when Engels
writes that communism is an expression of ‘the proletariat in struggle’ and not
a doctrine, when the Dyelo Truda group writes that anarchism is ‘a social
movement’ not a philosophy, they mean it. We are interested in class struggle as
it is, not as it is idealised.

In our analysis of history we look for class struggle, but we must not look for
it as an independent trend: independent, separate or autonomous from capital and
capitalist ideologies. It is always only as a trend within capitalism, and
previous forms of class based society, that class struggle exists and interests us.

Class struggle arises from the contradiction of capital. If capital's effects
can be found everywhere then likewise its contradictions can be found
everywhere. Or put otherwise, the revolutionary subject emerges due to the
contradiction between people’s needs and desires and the limits put on them
under capitalism.

Our politics must begin always at this point; at the contradiction in our daily
lives between our needs, our desires, what we see is possible and the
constraints capital puts on us by operating according to an alien logic that
forces us to abandon our needs, our desires, our dreams and work according to
its dictates. Our revolutionary politics must always begin with working class
resistance to this experience, it must be an intervention not to assert or
defend 'communism' or 'the working class' as ideal forms against impurities, but
rather to search for the quickest, speediest and most painless route from here
to where we want to go.

1 The term dictatorship of the proletariat is used to refer essentially to the
institutions through which the exploited and excluded bring about a
revolutionary change in the structure of society. It does not necessarily refer
to a party dictatorship.

2 Lenin, V.I. ‘Left-wing Communism an Infantile Disorder’

3 See the influence of the FAUD on the Dutch-German left and the IWW on the
Italian Left.

4 The ‘missed’ Italian revolution of 1919-1920, in English: Two Red Years

5 Aufheben say that they recognise ‘the moment of truth in versions of class
struggle anarchism, the German and Italian lefts and other tendencies.’

6 Ultra leftism is a derisive synonym for left communism. Although the term
ultra leftism is normally used pejoratively, it is not in this case as Aufheben
consider themselves to be, to some degree, part of this tendency.

7 Aufheben #11, ‘Communist Theory - Beyond the Ultra-Left?’

8 In most countries where there was a party aligned to the Third International
there was a left communist tendency. Aside from the Dutch-German and Italian
left, the most significant left communist tendencies were in Russia and Britain.

9 Dauvé, G. ‘Note on Pannekoek and Bordiga’

10 Aufheben #11, ‘From Operaismo to Autonomist Marxism’

11 Aufheben #8 ‘Left Communism and the Russian Revolution’

12 Dutch Group of International Communists (GIK), ‘Origins of the Movement for
Workers' Councils in Germany’

13 Ibid.

14 The Dutch left communists drew a distinction between workplace organisations
like the AAUD, the IWW and the British Shop Stewards movement and ‘Trade Unions’.

15 It is worth noting that simultaneous to this the anarcho-syndicalist union
the FAUD (Free Workers' Union of Germany) had roughly 200,000 members. The
membership of the AAUD and FAUD often overlapped. Ibid.

16 Appell, J., ‘Autobiography of Jan Appel’

17 Gorter, H., ‘Open Letter to Comrade Lenin’, Antagonism Press, pp.16-26

18 It is important to note that the Dutch-German left did not reject workplace
organization but rather the reformist unions that existed in Germany. Even of
these Gorter wrote that “It is only at the beginning of the revolution, when the
proletariat, from a member of capitalist society, is turned into the annihilator
of this society, that the Trade Union finds itself in opposition to the
proletariat” -Open Letter p.28

19 Dauvé, G. ‘Leninism and the Ultra Left’, in ‘Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the
Communist Movement’, p.48

20 Dyelo Truda Group, ‘Reply to Anarchism’s Confusionists’

21 Dauvé, G. ‘Leninism and the Ultra Left’, in ‘Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the
Communist Movement’, p.48

22 Pannekoek, A., ‘Party and Class’ in ‘Bordiga Vs. Pannekoek’, Antagonism
Press, p.31

23 As Pannekoek defines the party as “a grouping according to views,
conceptions”, Dauvé’s interpretation seems fair.

24 By this we mean the working class must emancipate itself through the use of
its autonomous institution of social power [soviets, councils etc.] and not
through the representational process of a party seizing control of the state
‘for’ the working class.

25 On the failure of the Spanish revolution, see ‘Towards a Fresh Revolution’ by
the ‘Friends of Durruti’ Group and ‘The revolutionary message of the 'Friends of
Durruti'’ by George Fontenis.

26 Dyelo Truda Group, ‘Reply to Anarchism’s Confusionists’

27 For an excellent account of the forgotten and ignored anarchist involvement
in this period of Italian history see Dadà, ‘A. Class War, Reaction & the
Italian Anarchists, Studies for a Libertarian Alternative.’

28 Davidson, A. ‘The Theory and Practice of Italian Communism: Vol. I’, Merlin
Press p.78

29 Wetsel, T. ‘Italy 1920’, Zabalaza Books, p.6

30 Wetsel, T. ‘Italy 1920’, p.9

31 This program among other things made the PSI a member of the Comintern.

32 Davidson p.91

33 Davidson, A. ‘The Theory and Practice of Italian Communism: Vol. I’, p.92

34 Ibid

35 Ibid

36 It is worth noting that despite the oft repeated claim that “l’Ordine Nouvo”
was the organ of the factory council movement, this is something of a crass
simplification. Consider the fact that in 1920, while “l’Ordine Nouvo” was a
weekly paper with a circulation of less than 5,000 the anarchist “Umanitá Nova”
had a daily circulation of 50,000.

37 Wetsel, T. ‘Italy 1920’, p.10

38 Davidson, A. ‘The Theory and Practice of Italian Communism: Vol. I’, p.95

39 Davidson, A. ‘The Theory and Practice of Italian Communism: Vol. I’, p.95

40 Introduction to ‘Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks’, International Publishers, p.xxxiv

41 The anarchists of the UCAdI (Anarchist Communist Union of Italy) were also
aware of this, stating in April 1919: “We must remember that the destruction of
the capitalist and authoritarian society is only possible through revolutionary
means and that the use of the general strike and the labour movement must not
make us forget the more direct methods of struggle against state and bourgeois
violence and extreme power.” Quoted in ‘Dadà, A. Class War, Reaction & the
Italian Anarchist’, p.15.

42 Bordiga, A., ‘Seize power or seize the factory?’

43 Bordiga, A., ‘Party and Class’ in ‘Bordiga Vs. Pannekoek’, Antagonism Press,
p. 43

44 Bordiga, A. ‘Proprieté et capital’. Quoted in ‘Lip and the Self-Managed
Counter Revolution’ by Negation, Repressed Distribution, p. 50

45 Bordiga, A., ‘Seize power or seize the factory?’

46 Quoted in Wetsel, T. ‘Italy 1920’, pp.11-12

47 Davidson, A. ‘The Theory and Practice of Italian Communism: Vol. I’, p.96

48 Davidson, A. ‘The Theory and Practice of Italian Communism: Vol. I’, p.103

49 Goldner, L., ‘Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga
Today’, http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/bordiga.html

50 Bordiga, A. ‘Considerations on the party’s organic activity when the general
situation is historically unfavourable’

51 Camatte, J., ‘Origin and Function of the Party Form’

52 In 1952 the Italian Left split with, on the one hand Bordiga and those around
Il Programma Comunista, and Damen and those around Battaglia Comunista on the
other. Damen opposed work in the trade unions while supporting parliamentary
activity, he also opposed absolutely national liberation movements, while
Bordiga took the other side of these debates. The four International Communist
Parties all descend from Bordiga, while the International Communist Current and
the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party descend from the Damen side.

53 Aufheben #11, ‘Communist Theory - Beyond the Ultra-Left?’

54 Engels, F, & Marx, K. ‘German Ideology’ in ‘Collected Works: Vol. 5’, p.49

55 Engels, F. ‘The Communists and Karl Heinzen’, Second Article,

56 Dyelo Truda Group, ‘Organizational Platform of the General Union of
Anarchists (Draft)’, http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=1000

57 Debord, G, ‘Society of the spectacle’, Paragraph 74.
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