It was with great pleasure that we received your long and interesting letter about our document “On the Future International” and this turned to satisfaction when we read that you substantially agreed with its main contentions. As you say, one document in isolation can only deal “succinctly” with many of the issues it raises, but, as we said in our introduction on the website, we saw it as part of a series which included previous writings on the party-class issue (see www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2016-08-28/the-revolutionary-party-and-the-working-class and www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2016-10-13/the-party-question).
Today we would also add the document on www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2019-01-22/a-decade-since-the-financial-crash, which gives our perspectives for the coming period. These set the framework for our tasks in the present period and perhaps we should incorporate these into our future discussions.
However, we very much like the framework and method of the document you sent to us. Not only does it accord with our reading of Marx but it also adopts the kind of political culture we believe is needed as the basis of the future International. We particularly endorse the perspective that you quote from Marx’s letter to Nieuwenhuis:
“What is to be done, and done immediately at any given, particular moment in the future, depends, of course, wholly and entirely on the actual historical circumstances in which action is to be taken.”
This was always Marx’s method — to look at the specific historic circumstances of the time as the basis for any action. He did not pretend that he knew “the course of history” or maintain the idea that there was only one outcome to the struggles of the future. He knew from the beginning that the class war would end “either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” (Communist Manifesto) This we take to be the meaning of your comment “we cannot afford to let a sense of inevitability become the host for theoretical and programmatic complacency.”
And we also find ourselves very much in agreement with your statement later in your letter where you write:
Alongside this program, though, there is an urgent need to be able to take hold of events as they are today, to analyze them and draw practical conclusions from them about the activity of proletarian communists in our time.
For the time being we only talk of a platform (based on how we understand working class experience). We tend to think of the program as the product of the formation of the International (and it will be the communist program incorporating all the positive and negative lessons (the “what must not be dones” from working class historical experience) from our past. We certainly do not see the next revolutionary wave as appearing in anything like the same shape or guise as the last. The re-running of the same failed experiment hoping to get different results is, as Einstein pointed out, the definition of madness.
One obvious experience we have taken on board is the relationship of the class and the party or as we could perhaps better state it “the international.” The recent anniversary of the German Revolution has caused us to reflect more on the absolute disaster that the failure of the Second International to abide by its own resolutions in August 1914 and go over to the class enemy. The fact that the working class brought that imperialist war to an end in the various revolutions and revolts that emerged in response to the privations of war but without an international to coordinate and guide their struggles was ultimately one of the reasons for the failure of the last revolutionary wave. The Third International was formed too late (despite the best intentions of internationalists like Lenin at the time) and yet it had to be formed too hurriedly and under the prestigious influence of the Russian communists who had conducted the only successful revolution. What we are fighting for today is an internationalist body which coordinates the revolutionary forces which are emerging even today as nuclei of the future international. These nuclei have to increase in number (but we are not talking of the Kautskyist mass party idea where the party is equated with the class) and in influence in the wider class movement. This will only happen when the class itself starts to move against capital in a more determined and conscious way than it has hitherto but when it does move there needs to be in place at least the skeleton of an international which is capable of leading the fight against all the attempts to recuperate the struggle in defense of the system.
The ICT is not that international nor will it be its only nucleus but we hope that our method of working and our analysis will make a major contribution to its future creation. As preparation for that we have thus spent a great deal of our effort over the years not only to analyzing the operation of the capitalist economic system but also analyzing the composition of the class and its working conditions (right down to the gig economy and the current precarity of the whole workforce). We also have no messianic illusions about where we stand today. Broadly speaking (and in extreme synthesis) our perspective is that the working class has been in retreat for decades but that the capitalist crisis is more and more out of control. How this will end up is anyone’s guess but we can only do what we can to prepare the ground for a future class awakening by giving it something to rally round which is not compatible with the preservation of the system. As we wrote elsewhere,
The crisis of capital today opens up new and favorable spaces for a revolutionary orientation of the best of the working class vanguard. This will be possible by reconstructing, as soon as possible, a solid but inevitably minority organization, based on a consistent theoretical and political system capable of giving a complete picture of the situation and its prospects. An organization that can really serve as a point of reference for the politically advanced elements of the class. (Il P.C. Internazionalista e il «bordighismo» del secondo dopoguerra [from the pamphlet of the Internationalist Communist Party, now in course of translation])
We also agree with you that, currently, there is a strange inversion where many young people are going beyond mere “anti-capitalism” and are coming to an understanding that what is required is an entirely new mode of production and yet a new wave of workers’ struggles is not yet evident. We saw this begin with the bursting of the financial bubble ten years ago. A new generation brought up under austerity and with diminishing hopes for a half-decent future are now reading, studying and debating to acquire a new world-view not seen in previous generations. They are coming to us only in small numbers, but the fact is that they are coming to us, and it feels like a political revival, especially in the English-speaking world, is taking place.
Our task is to participate in the discussions provoked by these new groups and individuals and to place before them the programmatic basis which we think the working class has acquired already. Obviously, this will require a lot of debate and there will be plenty of false ideas promulgated by many who claim they are “left communists” but who are in fact actually simply “academic Marxists” or aficionados of communization whose affiliation with the working class is, to say the least, doubtful.
At the end of your piece you refer to the long struggle the members of the Workers’ Group have had to shake yourselves free of the methodology and positions of the left wing of capital. It would be good to hear more about this struggle particularly as your experience could be instructive to the newer comrades coming to “proletarian communism” (as translators of the Russian communist left’s documents, we know the reference!). You also mention that there are some disagreements with the Communist Left of Italy so it would be useful to explore these in our next exchange. We have begun, and we have begun well. Let’s hope the further exploration of our tasks today ensure that we come closer “together” and that you also develop a dialogue with our U.S. comrades of the Internationalist Workers’ Group.
The International Bureau of the ICT