The working class needs a communist party with the following characteristics:
1. The right political line, that is, a line able to gather and synthesize the popular masses’ positive trend in the current stage (capitalism’s second general crisis).
2. An organisational form suitable for carrying out its political line.
It is not the right procedure, to argue about the organisational form without first having dealt with the political line’s question. The organisation springs out of the political line’s realisation in practice.
The organisation must be suitable to the political line. It is the political line that defines the organisation, even though the organisation is the necessary condition for the political line’s accomplishment. It is the political line that decides on the right organisation, not vice versa.
The working class needs a communist party. This, the first lesson that must be readily comprehensible to all of us, a lesson drawn from the historical experience as well as from capitalist society’s analysis. The working class needs a communist party, because the communist party’s leadership can’t be fulfilled by the class as a whole. Only the working class’ vanguard constitutes itself as a party. The (form-party) crisis, of which sociologists and political scientists are talking about so much, is nothing else than the bourgeois, reformist parties’ crisis. The reformist political line is undergoing a crisis because capitalism’s general crisis doesn’t give any chance to the masses to get new reforms, reforms that can be achieved within a revolutionary movement, for which reformist parties are unsuitable. From this situation originated the reformist parties’ crisis, parties that have lost the objective ground (the concrete reforms obtained during the period of human faced capitalism) on which their success was built. The parties of the DC regime have been going through a crisis due to the regime’s crisis, a regime that worked for the reconciliation of conflicting interests (16). Likewise, in all imperialist countries, regimes that have embodied the bourgeoisie’s rule during the period of development and recovery that followed the second world war, are in crisis. In the current period, there are many bourgeois forces ready to promote the masses’ reactionary mobilisation, although their success is prevented by the bourgeoisie’s fear of such a mobilisation, having repeatedly experimented with its possible transformation into revolutionary mobilisation.
The future communist party’s political general line, is derived from the analysis of the situation mentioned when arguing about the proletarian revolution’s form, explained from various viewpoints in the magazine ’Social Relations’ and, extensively publicised by the CARC (17) It may be expressed in the following manner: "Joining up closely and without reservations with the resistance that the popular masses are offering and will go on offering to the development of the crisis, apply and understand the laws according to which this resistance develops; back up, promote and organise it, so as to make possible the working class’ leadership’s supremacy, transforming it in the struggle for socialism, adopting as the main working method and leadership, the mass line".(18)
This political line was put forward years ago. Its first proposition goes back to 1992 (19) and up to now, none of the FSRS (socialist revolution’s subjective forces) in our country have raised any serious objections to it. Are we to believe that it has been generally accepted, or are we facing a situation where, on the one hand, we find out that "a serious theoretic and political debate is necessary" and on the other hand we don’t see any effort towards such a debate or any arguing on what has already been produced? Anyhow, it is certain that none of the FSRS has put forward any proposition in relation to the future communist party’s general political line.
We have repeatedly stated that none of the FSRS, not even the various CARC(committees supporting the refoundation of the new communist party) groups that have put forward and propagandised this line, were able to put into practice this political line, owing to the nature and quality of the forces in question (therefore, leaving out of consideration, quantitative factors that, for a relatively long time, can also be applied to the new communist party). Of what consists this quality that, being absent from the FSRS’s forces, prevents them from putting into practice the future communist party’s general line, but in limited, defective areas? It isn’t class composition, because the communist party will struggle so as to organise in its ranks the working class’ vanguard, though, at its beginning, the party’s class composition will certainly have limits that will be eliminated only through struggle.(20)
We believe that the communist party’s distinguishing features in relation to the FSRS, are a number of peculiarities of which the most important may be stated thus: the communist party is an underground party, though not a secret society. We shall now try to explain the meaning and reasons for this thesis.
The new communist party has a strategic task that consists of being the revolutionary forces’ accumulation centre: the party, the front, the armed forces. Its task consists of gathering and using the revolutionary forces in their struggle for the revolutionary mobilisation (so as to surpass the reactionary mobilisation or, transform the reactionary mobilisation into revolutionary mobilisation), in the long lasting, popular revolutionary war, in the civil war, that is the synthesis of the popular masses’ struggle against the imperialist bourgeoisie. The working class in order to stand as a class that struggles for power, must stand as an opponent, as a political force on the civil war’s footing (whether conditions to be confronted will have entirely the form of the civil war, or the form of a war between imperialist states and groups).(21)
To lead to victory the accumulation of the revolutionary forces, we need a party that is well-founded on the working class, that has as its main objective the working class’ power establishment and the removal of the bourgeoisie’s power. A party, subordinating everything to this objective, that selects and moulds its leaders, its members, its organisations and relations with the masses in relation to this objective, that must be able to face the bourgeoisie’s preventive counterrevolution and aggression. A party able to take advantage of the communist movement’s 150 year history, that takes up Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the leading theory.
Therefore, the party must be free from the bourgeoisie’s rule. It can’t live and act within the limits set up by the bourgeoisie, as another bourgeois society’s party. Relations between the imperialist groups (and their reciprocal political forces) belong to a different category than the one to which belong the popular masses’ relations (and the working class that is its only potential ruling class) with the imperialist bourgeoisie: they are relations developing according to different laws. In any case, those whom in one way or another, are persisting in regarding these relations as similar, and governed by the same laws, are falling victims to bourgeois politics and militarism. As a matter of fact, agreement behind the masses’ back, and the imperialist war, are the two alternating forms the imperialist groups are using in dealing between themselves. Do we mean that the working class (and its political expression, the communist party) isn’t, however, conditioned by the bourgeoisie? No. We mean that the communist party doesn’t rest upon the bourgeoisie’s tolerance in order to act, and that the party assures its existence and acts, in spite of the preventive counter-revolution which the bourgeoisie resorts to. We mean that the party, thanks to its materialist-dialectic analysis of the situation and, its ties with the masses, averts the counter-revolution’s measures and turns them to its own advantage. The communist party is conditioned by the bourgeoisie as in a war where opponents are reciprocally conditioned, conditioned in each of the war’s stages according to the forces ’ relations in each stage (strategic defensive, strategic balance, strategic offensive), although not subjected to its laws or its State, as the masses, on the contrary, are subjected to in normal conditions.
Since its beginning, the communist movement (22) has clearly stated that the working class would seize power only by means of a revolution.
Subsequently, all revisionists and socialists’ assertions about the peaceful, democratic, parliamentary way to socialism, were, in practice, denied by the same bourgeoisie that (as Engels had already stated in 1895), didn’t have any scruples about "subverting its own legality", each time it became a threat to its power. Taking part in elections and , in general, in other normal bourgeois society’s activities, is, for the workers’ organisation, a useful tool to assert the working class’ autonomy, though since the beginning of the proletarian revolution, such activities have been turned into counter-revolutionary fetters each time they were mistaken for tools for the seizure of power.(23)
The preventive counter-revolution’s establishment as the bourgeois State’s heart, makes methodical the bourgeoisie’s engagement, so as to anticipate and block the communist movement’s development. Thus, it isn’t a new idea that the working class’ power seizure must be accomplished through a revolutionary way. What is new is (since the working class’ power seizure has become, historically, on the agenda) the leadership of its struggle for power. The communist party must be a structure free from the bourgeoisie’s supervision and counter-revolution’s preventive systems; that is, an underground party.
The working class can’t successfully struggle with the bourgeoisie, can’t stand as an opponent struggling for power, (can’t lead the revolutionary forces’ accumulation to the point of overturning the current unfavourable forces’ relations), if it’s leadership is subordinated to the bourgeoisie’s power and laws.
It is not only a question of having an unlawful apparatus; all the parties belonging to the Third International had it: it was one of the conditions for admission to the Communist International, and it was the third of 21 conditions approved by the second congress (17 July-7 August 1920). It read thus: "in almost all European and American countries, the class struggle is entering the civil war’s stage. In such conditions, communists can’t trust the bourgeoisie’s legality. They must establish everywhere, beside the legal organisation, an underground organisation able to perform, at the crucial time, its duty toward the revolution. In every country where, due to the state of emergency or exceptional laws, communists can’t perform legally all their activities, they must, without hesitation, reconcile the legal with the illegal work".
The proletarian revolution’s experience during capitalism’s first general crisis (1910-1945), has made plain that countries, where communist parties could carry out all their work legally (if their work was successful in spite of the preventive counter-revolution), turned into countries where communist parties couldn’t any longer do so. In countries where the imperialist bourgeoisie didn’t have the necessary forces to realise independently such a change, for instance, France who in the 1930s, favoured foreign aggression and occupation to make this change possible . Where the working class has not given up its struggle for power, the class struggle has entered the civil war stage. Therefore, the working class must lead the struggle for the seizure of power, as a civil war. Anyhow, communist parties, if they intend to be so, can’t, and don’t have to trust "bourgeois legality". Communist parties were able to carry out all their work legally only where the working class had already seized power: in the socialist countries and red bases.
Experience shows that having an underground apparatus able to go into action "at the crucial time", isn’t sufficient to make communist parties able to lead, successfully, the masses, nor to avoid being decimated. The revolutionary forces’ accumulation and formation must be realised within bourgeois society, but only gradually and therefore, not through a legal way. The communist party must avoid (using the right tactics) being forced into a decisive engagement before having secured its revolutionary forces’ superiority over the imperialist bourgeoisie. So it isn’t enough, to build an underground organisation "beside the legal one". It is the party that must be an underground party. It is the underground organisation that must lead the legal organisation and ensure, no matter how, the party’s freedom of action and uninterrupted duration. The communist party must be an underground party, and from a clandestine position, lead all legal organisations useful and necessary to the working class, to the proletariat and to the masses. This is the legacy from the proletarian revolution’s first wave.
Experience has extensively shown that communist parties, so as to successfully fulfil their task, must "reconcile the legal work with the illegal work", meaning that the illegal work leads and is the foundation of the legal activities. Meaning that the illegal work is the main work and that legal activities are subjected to it. The illegal work is absolute, the legal activities are conditioned, relative to the forces’ relation between the working class and the imperialist bourgeoisie, and relative to the ruling class’ decisions. Experience has likewise shown that the necessity to reconcile the legal work with the illegal isn’t an activity to be carried out only in countries where "due to exceptional laws or state of emergency" the bourgeoisie has already put a limit on the legal activity. It is a necessary activity to be carried out in every country before the bourgeoisie puts into function exceptional laws, or a state of emergency, and before the bourgeoisie enforces over the political activities of the proletariat more stringent limits than those enforced on the ruling class’ groups. The imperialist bourgeoisie, anyhow, inflicts on the working class’ political activity, on the proletariat and on the masses, concrete limits that don’t apply to the ruling class’ members (lack of time, money, places, culture, arms etc.), and in practice, makes the right legally recognised, rights void of any meaning a mockery to the great majority of the popular masses.
The third of the 21 conditions for admission to the Third International had been conceived with the aim of changing into bolshevik parties (Bolshevisation) the old socialist parties that, like the PSI, had joined the Communist International under the pressure of the masses, though they were inadequate for the role of the masses’ leaders in their country’s revolutionary movement.(24) The third condition was introduced so as to improve the "revolutionary inadequacy" of the old socialist parties queuing for admission to the Third International. The third condition was worked out so as to reconcile the resistance by socialist parties to transform themselves into parties fit to perform the task of the period. Finally, experience shows that the third condition was inadequate. In the imperialist countries, communist parties that came to life and embraced the third condition, manifested their unfitness to perform their duty, due also to the curtailed conceptions in relation to the underground work, persisting within their circle, conceptions that the third condition absorbs.(25)
It follows, that to conceive the communist party’s activity as a strategically legal activity, to conceive legality as the rule and underground work as the exception (put into practice during emergencies), not anticipating the bourgeoisie when seeking the party’s elimination, and not building the party with civil war as its function, means to ignore the proletarian revolution’s laws. Communist parties that followed such a line of action (from the Italian communist party to the Chinese, (26) German, Spanish, Indonesian, Chilean, etc.) paid dearly for it.
A clandestine position doesn’t stop the development of a wide legal activity related to the objective situation, on the contrary, it makes possible all sorts of legal activities, and less "revolutionary" initiatives that become tools for binding and organising the masses’ backward sections on the side of the revolution. However, an underground organisation can’t be improvised, and a party planned as a legal party for carrying out chiefly legal activities, that fall victim to the bourgeoisie’s initiative is unlikely to be able to react effectively when outlawed and persecuted. Moreover, a legal party won’t be able to resist effectively persecution, infiltration, corruption, intimidation, blackmail, and counter revolution’s preventive, terrorist actions, such as the "dirty war", "low intensity operations", and other tools that the imperialist bourgeoisie is equipped with so as to counter the proletarian revolution’s development. A legal party can’t gather and train the revolutionary forces gradually produced by the movement of society, can’t engage them, little by little, in the struggle for the further development of the revolutionary process, thereby training and forming them.
The communist party, therefore must have an underground leadership, must be a party that builds itself up from a clandestine position and, from that position, weave its "spider’s web" and start, in every field, its manifold action. It must be strategically an underground party (hence, it will always have its clandestine, strategic hinterland) that devotes a section of its members to the legal work for the masses’ mobilisation. It develops all legal structures allowed by the current, concrete conditions. In our country, the numerical relation between the legal and the illegal work for the current period and, for an indefinite length of time to come, will be tipping toward the legal side.
The new Italian Communist Party must have an underground, strategic leadership, although currently the masses still carry out the majority of their political, economical and cultural work in a legal way and few workers are ready to enter an underground activity. Defence and attack activities, nowadays, are largely carried out openly, permitted by the bourgeoisie, and though discouraged, not prohibited. It is useless to attempt (by propaganda and/or example) to persuade workers and the popular masses to quit the legal ground (the Red Brigades’ militarist deviation consists just of this). Any attempt in that direction gives to revisionists, economicists and bourgeois a free field of action, as the bourgeoisie will surely prevent and outlaw cultural and political activities carried out by the masses. (It is certain that is going to be the direction the bourgeoisie will take; it is enough to look at "developments" already realised regarding freedom of strike action, thought expression, propaganda and workers’ elective meetings. The bourgeoisie doesn’t have any other choice, even if it knows, by experience, the dangers implied in taking such measures.). Only gradually, alongside the development of the communist party’s action, of the working class and the masses (their organised resistance to the crisis’ development to the war of extermination led by the bourgeoisie), only then, on the basis of experience, will the working class, the proletariat and the popular masses shift part of their struggles, of their forces, on to the war’s side, that only then will become the main form of struggle along which the communist party will be able to lead the masses to victory.
In the early 20s, the PCd’I had underground machinery, but not an underground leadership. In 1926 it was outlawed and (forced to become clandestine) lost its leadership (Antonio Gramsci). Even in July 1943, it didn’t care to take the opportunity on Fascism’s collapse to build an army. It went on relying on the alliance with democratic parties, for a peaceful change from Fascism to a new bourgeois regime and, in September 1943, allowed the dispersal of its main army due to its inability to form a real leadership. It didn’t take advantage of the power vacuum and military equipment that the flight of the King, together with the great majority of his officers, had made available to anyone able to fill it. Only during the following months, did the communist party place war on the front stage, building its anti-nazi, anti-fascist armed forces, and thus forcing all the other political forces (that didn’t want to lose relations with the masses and wanted to have a say after the war) to follow the lead.
The KPD (German communist party) during the 20s, tried numerous revolts (not accidentally unsuccessful) and, in 1933 allowed the capture of its leadership (Ernest Thaelmann). It kept underground organisations, but wasn’t able to mobilise on the war plane either communist workers (even though the KPD had obtained 5 million votes in the 1933 elections) or social democratic workers, jewish or other sections of the masses, victims of the nazis’ political persecution.
The PCF (French communist party) in 1939 (the French government declared war on Germany on the 1st September) found itself in such a disorganised state that allowed the capture of thousands of its members, together with thousands of anti-fascists leaving the organisation almost wiped out. M. Thorez, PCF’s secretary, answered the government’s summons to arms! In June 1940, the PCF "asked" Reynaud’s government to arm the masses against the nazi army which since 10 May was spreading all over the country. Obviously, the answer was the "French" government’s decree ordering every "Frenchman" possessing firearms to hand them in to local police stations. Only after July 1940, following disputes between French imperialist groups that led to civil war (De Gaulle’s manifesto from London dated 18 June 1940), the PCF started, with tenacity and heroism, to rebuild its organisation. Only in 1941, and gradually, the PCF adopted the revolutionary war as its main struggle.
What kind of lesson have we to draw from all such historical experience? That we have to build the new communist party from a clandestine base. This is strategical not a tactical matter. It is a decision to be taken now, so as to be able to carry out today’s and tomorrow’s tasks. The long-lasting, revolutionary popular war, is our communist movement’s strategy and the current leading activity. Peaceful struggles are an aspect of the communist movement’s tactics, and are now the most widespread aspect of the masses’ activity. We can’t afford to suffer the bourgeoisie’s initiatives, nor let the masses’ mobilisation precede us. We must take the initiative, precede the bourgeoisie and arrange our present, limited forces, so as to be able to organise and lead into struggle all the forces that capitalism’s general crisis development will produce. Forces that will be expanded by the communist party’s correct activity. Lenin was able to create a centre (stable and impregnable by the tzarist police for the party’s activity in the Russian empire) in coming to Europe when it was still possible to travel. He didn’t wait to be forced underground by the enemy. From the operational point of view it is less difficult to go underground while still a legal organisation than when we are already chased by the police and, taken by surprise by our opponent’s initiative. We must take the example of the great Lenin, an example that history corroborates as correct, and adapt it to our condition.
What has been said up to now should be sufficient to clearly discriminate between the enterprise we work for (an enterprise that we call all the FSRS to work for), and all plans for "revolutionary parties within the law". What has been said should also suffice to discriminate between our enterprise and the various secret societies active in our country. Nevertheless, we will add a few more words about our argument. After the defeats suffered by the Red Brigades at the beginning of the 80s, the so called "strategic retreat line", hasn’t led to self criticism in relation to the militarist deviations. Deviation, that was the main reason for the defeat. Nor, did it lead to the forces’ build up for the reconstruction of the communist party, (27) quite the contrary, it has led to the birth of a certain number of secret societies. During that period, the bourgeoisie tried to consolidate its victory and, the movement’s right (that represents the bourgeoisie’s interests) stood for the liquidation of the revolutionary organisation, for getting back to a "lawful struggle". What the bourgeoisie was trying to get by means of persecutions, torture, special prison terms, rewards to informers "repentants or dissociated", the right of the movement forwarded by means of its liquidationist line. Credit must be given to comrades (that have formed secret societies) for their opposition to the right, and to the revolutionary organisation’s liquidation. This is the positive side of their action. The negative side is revealed by their activity’s general sterility and, by the communist movement’s need for a communist party, not a secret society. Marx and Engels had already, during the 1840s, confronted and solved this same problem over which we are now arguing. The criticism by Marx and Engels of the secret society as an organisational form, is summed up in the manifesto of the communist party " The communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions". The secret society’s most distinctive feature consists of its existence being known only to members. Members that are initiated by stages (initiation’s stage) to the knowledge of objectives, conceptions and methods of the society’s structure and functioning. Such a structure has been, and is suitable for associating around a leader or a tiny group of people, where each has a direct interest in protection and in general, for advantages that a secret society offers to its members. Such a structure is fitting to the bourgeoisie, due to its competitive position and the same structure is also fitting to some trades, in so far as their members aren’t numerous, is a fact corroborated by history as well as a conclusion that can be drawn by reasoning over the above two circumstances. It is likewise obvious that it isn’t an organisation suitable for gathering and training the countless revolutionary forces and raising up to political struggle a class prevented, by current social relations, from political activities. Marx and Engels took part in the Just men’s League (that became the communist league) at the beginning of 1847, after its members decided to drop the characteristics of a secret society. The struggle against secret societies was a constant factor for Marx and Engels in the following years. In the letter to F. Bolte of 23 November 1871, in the middle of the struggle against the secret society created by Bakunin within the international, Marx stated that "the International has been founded for the replacement (with the right organisation for the working class’ struggle) of the socialist or semi socialist sects. The socialist sects’ development and the development of the workers’ real movement are always inversely related. In so far as sects have (historical) justification, the working class isn’t yet ready for an independent historical movement. As soon as it is ready, all sects become fundamentally reactionary....the International’s history has been a constant struggle by the General Council against sects...." The secret society’s structure is irreconcilable with a broad gathering of working class’ forces, of proletarian and popular masses’ forces around the party. It is irreconcilable with democratic centralism as the party’s organisational principle. It is of vital importance to the communist party, to make sure that its existence, its programme, statute, orientations and particular lines, become widely known to the masses. The communist party doesn’t struggle for its own hold on power, but does struggle for the working class’ power seizure, for the building up of a "waning away" State power, namely, it struggles for a situation where the rule of the masses is exercised, as widely as possible, by the masses themselves. In the book ’What is to be done?’ Lenin, upheld the need for an underground party where professional revolutionaries were the main component, though the structure he had in mind didn’t have anything in common with a secret society. We may recognise the merits of secret societies that in our country, in the 80s, gathered around comrades that had been left by the defeat without guidance, and in very poor organisational conditions. Nevertheless, the absence of significant results by their activity should be a further proof to any comrade that doesn’t see the inconsistency of a secret society with the communist movement. What we care most about, is to make evident the discrepancy that exists between an underground communist party and a secret society. Which is the main source for the communist party’s forces? The masses. And how can the masses possibly lend their strength to the party if they don’t know the party’s programme, orientations and least of all, of its existence? Conceiving the party as a secret society means holding a world conception that underestimates the masses’ revolutionary potentiality and, overestimates the bourgeoisie’s power. The secret society is born out of a conception (very much like the militaristic conception) that places on the forefront techniques and, on doing so, drives the revolutionaries to engage the bourgeoisie in a field (covert operations’ techniques, conspiracies, etc.) where it is much stronger than us. On the contrary, we must be linked with the masses and force the bourgeoisie to engage in a field advantageous to ourselves. It follows, that in the long run, a secret society drives the revolutionaries to certain defeat. In conclusion, the secret society is born out of an interclass conception of the world (like militarism), that lies in this: techniques are always the same for any social class. Militarists say: all classes fight their war using similar techniques. Secret society’s followers say: conspiracy and clandestine operations are carried out by different social classes using similar techniques. We, on the contrary, believe that each class (if it does want to win) fights after its own fashion. The working class, as a vanguard class can drive the reactionary class, that is the imperialist bourgeoisie, to engage in its own terrain. The popular, revolutionary war, doesn’t consist of an imperialist group wanting to snatch some wealth from another imperialist group. The popular, revolutionary war, consists of winning over the popular masses’ leadership.
We are now left with the last objection: is it possible to form an underground party?
We are absolutely convinced that the forming of an underground party is necessary and possible. In the past, the working class did have, on various occasions, underground parties: in Tzarist Russia, Nationalist China, in Italy during fascism, and in other countries. Modern revisionists, have always fostered the idea of a powerful, omnipotent, terrorist bourgeoisie, when aiming to prevent the working class from having an indispensable tool for its revolutionary war. Priests’ threatening slogans, such as : "God is everywhere", "God sees everything", "God is almighty", have been replaced (by revisionists and bourgeoisie’s spokesmen) with "the CIA sees everything, is everywhere, is almighty" etc. and are fostering a band of murderers, spies, and mercenaries thirsty for money and advancement. Their opinion reads thus: if in the USA, revolutionary movements weren’t able to develop, it was due to the CIA and the FBI’s almighty power. In Italy, if the Red Brigades have been defeated it is, "thanks to the State that finally has decided to struggle in earnest". The ruling class’ omnipotence has always been a topic of the ruling class’ terrorist propaganda, and an excuse to opportunists and defeated groups without any will for self criticism or for recognising their mistakes. Were the ruling classes’ fierceness and wits, able to halt the movement of emancipation of the oppressed classes, history would have been halted at slavery’s era. Bourgeois society is full of contradictions and unstable factors, functioning, thanks to an unlimited number of institutions and dealings which have to rely on the deception and trampling of the masses. On the whole, it is a society that, compared with previous class society, has many areas favourable to the oppressed classes’ activity. The chances for building up an underground communist party, finally depend on its ties with the masses and, this, in its turn, depends on the party’s political line, and on its consistency with the objective conditions of the masses’ struggle (although the masses aren’t fully aware of this). This, is the key to success or defeat of a communist party. No matter how fierce and widespread the bourgeoisie’s preventive counter-revolution, it has never been able to stop the activity of a communist party equipped with a correct political line, thanks to which, it has always been able to draw from the inexhaustible resources made up of the working class, proletariat and popular masses. It is exactly like the party we wish to build, the new Italian Communist Party.