Revolution or War n°22

(September 2022)

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Response to the ICT on our Theses on the War in Ukraine

In the previous issue of this journal, we published Theses on the meaning and consequences of the war in Ukraine and a letter from the ICT that took a critical yet fraternal position on them. We accompanied it with some quick comments. We reproduce here the letter of response that we sent to the ICT and which tries to go further in the common reflection and political clarification.
It should also be pointed out to the reader that this exchange of correspondence took place before the dynamics of the strikes in the United Kingdom had reached the magnitude that they have since.

The IGCL to the ICT,

Dear comrades,

We would like to respond here to your statement on the Theses on the significance and consequences of the war in Ukraine that we adopted and published on March 2. Firstly, we apologize for the delay in this response. Secondly, we welcome this critical stance which can only help us to clarify our position – without excluding that you can ultimately convince us of some of your critical arguments, or even of the validity of your position; and above all, more importantly, to provide a place, a reference, for a contradictory debate and a fraternal confrontation for all the communist forces of today, old and new, so that they can orient themselves and, for those who wish to, join us in the historical struggle for the party. To clarify where the divergences and differences of approach and method lie and to confront the positions is an essential dimension of the struggle for the future party so that it can equip itself with the clearest and most effective programmatic, political, theoretical and organizational tools possible.

Your letter addresses three essential points: our position on the party; the central place that we attribute to Europe in the historical situation following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine; and our method of analysis which refers to the concept of historical course and which you judge as idealist. A preliminary precision: this criticism is for us of political order and as such completely legitimate.

But first let’s go back to our “positive evolution” on the party issue. The IGCL had to formally adopt, with relative urgency in 2013, the ICC’s basic positions document – excluding the one on Decomposition – as the minimum programmatic framework for a coherent, centralized and united development of its activities. Knowing that we were not then in a condition to pronounce clearly, seriously, on the existing platforms of the ICT and the ICC, it was the only document that mentioned succinctly and clearly the class frontiers. On these, all members could define themselves with seriousness and conviction. Nevertheless, we were already aware of the limits of this platform, especially because of its councilist coloration on the question of the party. In fact, the two nuclei that dissolved to form the IGCL had their origins on the one hand in participation in the then Canadian group of the ICT, the IWG – and thus being on the ICT’s position on the party – and on the other hand, the Internal Fraction of the ICC and its claim – and even defense – of the struggle against councilism in the 1980s that the ICC had led then and has since rejected. From the birth of the IGCL, then, we were conscious that we would have to move beyond these basic positions [1], if only because we were already situating the struggle for the party as a central priority of our group’s activities and intervention. Then, on the basis of this initial orientation, our evolution on this question asserted itself and developed throughout the struggles, intervention in the class struggle, debates and political confrontations with other forces of the Communist Left – including the ICT of course –, process of integration of new comrades, etc., that the IGCL had to carry out since its constitution and which our journal reported and expressed.

This process of political clarification has led to and materialized in our statements on the platforms of the ICC, rejected as openly councilist, and of the ICT, which we consider insufficient for the historical period that is beginning, but whose approach and positions we share. In the end, we have adopted a platform that is based – tries to be based – on the principles and heritage of the Communist Left of Italy, the Theses of Rome and Lyon, and on the 1945 and 1952 platforms of the PCint-Battaglia comunista, and that takes up the approach of the latter. While the coherence of the platform of the ICC of 1976 is provided by the ascendancy-decadence framework of capitalism, too often reduced to reforms possible-reforms not possible to establish the coherence of the class positions, the coherence of the platform of the PCint of then is provided by the question of the party: all the class positions are based and articulated around it and defined by it. It is the methodological approach that our platform has tried to take back, to develop and to adapt to the current historical situation, the one that the war in Ukraine comes to illustrate, clarify and define.

Europe at The Center of The International Situation

We will limit ourselves here to the few comments we published in our last journal on this question. The theses insist on the return of Europe to the forefront of the historical situation both on the imperialist level and in the class struggle, which would make us forget-underestimate-the reality of the fundamental Chinese-American antagonism, according to your letter. We do not believe that there is a real divergence between us. In fact, the theses try to underline and warn the international proletariat of the historical significance of the war in Ukraine and in Europe. In itself, the ravages and the imperialist powers involved are similar to those of the war in Syria. In itself, there is no notable difference, except for establishing a macabre count of deaths and massacres. However, one and the other do not have the same historical significance, except to drone out that war is permanent in the imperialist phase of capitalism, which does not allow to see the reality of the course of events and therefore the concrete, political stakes of the situation.

The fact that the first conflict marking an important step towards the generalized war does not oppose China and Taiwan, which was a probability, but Russia and Ukraine, makes of Europe the epicenter of the situation for the moment and challenges in the first place the proletariat in Europe; proletariat having like the others its own historical experience; experience which is certainly the richest of all the other fractions of the world proletariat up to now; experience which does not prejudge in any way its capacity to struggle en masse in the period to come, knowing that for the moment it is largely absent – the ICT is right on this point. Claiming this does not mean that we exclude in advance any reversal of the international situation that would make Asia the epicenter of the situation at another time, or even a whole period, and the Pacific Ocean the main theater of imperialist polarization and generalized war if it were to occur. Nor that the proletariat in China and Asia can’t take the initiative of an international revolutionary wave in the face of a war that would affect it directly, as the Russian proletariat did in 1917. If there is a divergence on this point, it lies rather in the fact of establishing the probability – and not the prediction – of future events according to the analysis of current events and their dynamics, which are determined by the perspective of the generalized imperialist war and the class confrontations that the bourgeoisie cannot fail to seek to impose. For the time being, due to the war in Europe, the aggravation of the crisis that it provokes in its turn (inflation and increased exploitation), the redoubled and brutal anti-proletarian attacks of the European bourgeoisies for their ’re-armament, and due to the historical experience of the proletariat of the continent – all material and historical facts – we consider more probable a mass proletarian reaction to the war and to the crisis starting from Europe than from America, Asia or Africa. This probability is neither a prediction, nor does it exclude in an absolute way that it could be different, the situation remaining the same. [2]

Permanence of the class struggle?

While stating that war is permanent under capitalism in its imperialist phase, just in itself, is not of great use today, and even turns one’s back on consequent internationalism, on the other hand recognizing or not that the class struggle – the struggle between classes – is permanent represents an important theoretical and political stake [3]. For example and for the most caricatural, there are Bordigist groups that deny the existence of the proletariat, and therefore of the class struggle, in the absence of the party. Others believe that the proletariat does not exist, and therefore the class struggle does not exist, as long as it does not struggle openly for its revolutionary historical objectives. We know that this is not your position. But we don’t know to what extent we differ in our conception and understanding of the dynamics of class struggle - between classes [4].

You criticize our assertion that “the bourgeoisies of Western Europe have difficulties in ‘making the fraction of the international proletariat that has the greatest experience of the workers’ struggle against the crisis and also against the imperialist war accept the indispensable degree of submission to the march to war’. Unfortunately, it seems to us that this is not the case, on the contrary, we see that for about half a century our class has suffered all the attacks coming from the bourgeoisie without responding or without responding adequately.”

A first self-critical remark: our exact formula which is “one of the difficulties [it is not the only one] for the bourgeoisies of Western Europe... is to impose... the degree of submission indispensable to the march to war” should have specified march to generalized imperialist war in order to avoid any confusion. On the substance of the question, it would be blind to deny that the proletariat does not succeed in preventing local imperialist wars; just as that “there has been no mass opposition to the war, of the class as such, neither in Ukraine, nor in Russia and, unfortunately, not even in the ‘West’.” [5] Or even more widely that the proletariat does not suffer all the attacks coming from the bourgeoisie without a real response to the stakes. But, these objective facts, verifiable and verified, do not take away anything from the necessity for the bourgeoisie to impose the various and multiple sacrifices, additional to those already imposed in the past, that the march and the preparation to generalized war require. The impotence of the international proletariat to prevent local wars, and here in the first place the impotence of the European proletariat in the face of the war in Ukraine, does not take away from the fact that the bourgeoisie, especially the European bourgeoisies, because of the war on their own soil, will have to develop a war economy – as the French president Macron says, and as the rearmament of Germany illustrates – which, just like the crisis, will be paid for by the proletariat in one form or another. Is this not already happening with the brutal explosion of inflation and the intensification of exploitation in the workplaces? Is this not what the most enlightened fractions of the bourgeoisie are preparing when they warn that: “the truth must be told to European public opinion (...) To think of pressing Russia without sacrifices is an illusion. While the Ukrainian army, leaders and civilians are putting up heroic resistance to the Russian invader, the time has come for the European political leaders to clearly face the price of solidarity and to prepare public opinion for it.” (editorial [6] in the French newspaper Le Monde, February 26, 2022, emphasis added)

From these objective, verifiable and verified facts, we can note that the factor “march to the generalized war”, product of the exacerbation and the impasse of the economic crisis of the capital, becomes a direct factor of the course, of the dynamics, of the events of the international situation and of the class struggle; at least the one that the bourgeoisie begins to lead and will develop for the needs of the generalized war, the one that the military experts call high intensity war and for which many staffs, American, British and French to our knowledge, have been trying to convince their governments to prepare themselves for some years. The war in Ukraine [7] will have finished convincing them. From the previous analysis and, today, on the basis of the empirical recognition of the facts in movement, the class struggle can only be exacerbated, if only because of the bourgeoisie itself. Isn’t that what your platform itself rightly foresees – long before the war in Ukraine?

“Once again the question of imperialist war or the proletarian revolution is being placed on the historical agenda and imposes on revolutionaries throughout the world the need to close ranks. In the epoch of global monopoly capitalism no country can escape the forces which drive capitalism to war. Capitalism’s ineluctable drive towards war is expressed today in the universal attack on the working and living conditions of the proletariat. The material conditions for an international proletarian struggle against their exploiters therefore exist.”

It is therefore highly probable that one of the central stakes of the class confrontation that is opening up will be the capacity, more or less great, of the bourgeoisie to impose on the proletariat the sacrifices necessary, beyond what has already been imposed, for this preparation for the war economy and the march towards generalized war. Also, because of the war in Ukraine, the Russian imperialist and military threat on the whole continent and the direct consequences on the living conditions of the proletariat in Europe, it is probable that the heart, the center, of this first massive class confrontation can occur in Europe. This is what we are saying today.

Today, two months after your letter, this likelihood seems to be confirmed with the first skirmishes of this massive class confrontation as a direct result of the war and the crisis – the war in Ukraine only aggravates the inflation which was already exploding before. Numerous strikes and proletarian struggles, even social revolts, tend to develop, in particular for wage increases, in Europe and on other continents (Sri Lanka, Ecuador...); let us repeat once again: in reaction to bourgeois attacks. The fact that the former remain largely controlled by the unions, that they do not take on a character that some would call radical, even revolutionary, that they would consider only economic and not political, does not take anything away from the dynamic, from the tendency, towards proletarian reactions. From this class confrontation, of which nothing in today’s situation allows us to delimit precisely the terms, the conditions and the terrains of confrontation, except that they will be determined – economically, politically and ideologically [8] – by the march to war, it is possible, not to say that is is likely at the time of writing, that the proletariat will succeed in clearing the way for an adequate response to the stakes of the situation, by slowing down the march to war, or even in clearing the way for its own revolutionary perspective as an alternative to the generalized war. But we are not there yet and nothing, except our hopes and our all too limited action allows us to affirm today that it is likely that the proletariat will succeed in slowing down, and then opposing the dynamics towards war, and even less to clear the way for its own perspective, that of the proletarian insurrection and dictatorship.

Idealism and Historical Course

The conception and analysis of the class struggle and of the current historical situation, the one opened by the war in Ukraine, that we have just presented in the previous part is related to our use – attempt of use – of the method that we associate to the concept of historical course - the same that the ICC abandoned at its 23rd congress in 2019. We know that this is a major difference between us. But we think it is important to clarify it in order to know as well as possible what the real points of divergence are and without formalistically focusing on the... formula itself.

We do not start from the idea of course towards class confrontations, to reduce all the facts to this one, or to deny them when they appear too openly in contradiction with the idea to be reduced to it. We try to reject any idealist speculation, trying to base ourselves on the evolution of the relation of force between proletariat and capitalism according to its relation to the perspective of the generalized imperialist war such as it acts and realizes itself concretely; that is to say today from the war in Ukraine, its significance and its consequences. These latter, war, its meaning and consequences, being verifiable and verified, at least partly to date, allow us to draw probabilities, not predictions, in terms of the course of events, of the situation, in order to be able to adapt our activities, our intervention, according to these probabilities and advance corresponding orientations and slogans for the fights of our class, even if they can still remain only very general [9].

An example? This is the fundamental reason why we have joined the ICT Call for the constitution of NWBCW committees. Precisely because it is based, and could only be based, on the recognition of the historical alternative of revolution or war to be able to warn clearly about the practical, material consequences that the on-going imperialist war in Europe has in relation to the generalized imperialist world war and what it implies for the proletariat. It is therefore based on the dialectical understanding that the additional sacrifices that the bourgeoisie is going to try to impose, for and in the name of the war, involve, and raise the necessity, the conditions and the perspective of proletarian reactions. Example of the contrary approach? The abstract declaration of principle of the ICC without any proposal of concrete action and orientation towards the proletariat, impotent by the very fact that it ignores, in fact rejects, any danger and any dynamics towards generalized war, not allowing it to advance orientations and watchwords of concrete action, except its classic antiphon and on every occasion for a new Zimmerwald!

The permanence of the antagonism between the classes means that the struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, capital and labor, is itself permanent, a constant. Whether the course of this struggle between the classes, its dynamics, is unfavorable or not from the point of view of the historical and immediate interests of the proletariat, does not change anything about the permanence of the antagonism in movement between the classes. To try to understand the dynamics, what we call the historical course, of the class struggle, i.e. towards an aggravation or a lull, an acceleration or a slowing down, of the confrontations and to define the most probable evolution of the relation of forces between the classes, is precisely one of the central tasks of the party, the political leadership and vanguard of the proletariat. It is up to it to adapt its activities and its intervention, orientations and slogans, to the stakes and to the different battles that arise according to the moments and the places. That it can be mistaken in the definition of what is most probable cannot be ruled out, just as the probability does not come true for different conjunctures. This is why it is necessary to constantly verify whether the facts confirm or not what has been defined as probable; and if necessary to adapt, modify, as soon as possible and as well as possible, the orientations and the watchwords, the tactics. But to reject any analysis and research of what is the most probable, of what the dynamic indicates, weakens considerably the capacity of comprehension and analysis, which has become superfluous, and can only produce a dogmatic and static approach and defense of the principles and slogans valid in all times and places; that is to say, abstract and without utility for the different moments and battles that the proletariat finds itself confronted with.

Fraternally, the IGCL, July 13rd 2022



[1. “The new group, the International Group of the Communist Left (IGCL), has adopted a political platform based mainly on the common positions of two main currents of the international communist Left, the ICT and the ’historic’ ICC. This platform comes in the form of the basic positions as they were published on the back of the FICL’s Communist Bulletin and previous ICT publications. The adoption of a platform in the form of concise positions means that the group, although it refers to the positions of the ’historic’ ICC, does not unilaterally claim this single stream of the communist Left only, but as well that of another historical left communist trend, which essentially defends the same positions and is represented today by the Internationalist Communist Tendency. For this reason, given this format, the platform will require greater development and argumentation in the future.” (Resolution on The Foundation of The IGCL, November 2013, RoW #1)

[2. There are several contingencies, themselves probable, which could call this probability into question if they were to occur in the short term: the explosion of a brutal financial or stock market crisis that could erupt at any moment because of the gigantic and generalized indebtedness, itself destined to deepen because of the new armament expenditures; or, a generalized famine on the African or Asian continents, fanned by the blockage of Ukrainian wheat and the explosion of energy prices, which would provoke social upheavals such as the one in progress today in Sri Lanka.

[3. Even in the darkest moments of the counter-revolution, during the Second World War itself, workers’ struggles, sometimes mass ones, developed and participated in establishing, admittedly at the margin, a slightly modified balance of power between the classes; from 1942 – the mines in France –, then in Italy in 1943 until being one of the factors in the constitution of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista and even in Nazi Germany in 1944-1945. There can be little doubt that the memory and fear of 1918 and of the international revolutionary wave of the post-First World War, dictated the massive bombing of German cities, then the military occupation of the country and the detention of German prisoners of war in the expectation that the German state would be reconstituted and strengthened. Even in the depths of the counter-revolution, class antagonism remains a factor, an element, of the situation and its development.

[4. We specify for two reasons: on the one hand, some people understand the struggle of the classes only as the class struggle, that is to say that they see, or take into account, only the proletarian struggle without taking into consideration the class enemy, the other pole of the contradiction. Then, to this difficulty or confusion, is added the fact that in certain languages, in English for example, the "class struggle" and the "classes’ struggle" seem to be translated, to our knowledge, in the same way, by Class struggle; and that "Struggle of the classes", or "between the classes", does not exist.

[5. At least for the time being, because we do not exclude that it could be overturned in the more or less near future in one or more European countries, including Russia – we think the blood-letting and poison of nationalism in the ranks of the proletariat of Ukraine makes class reactions from it less likely.

[6. We reproduce part of the quotation from the French newspaper Le Monde that we used in the theses. There are others of the same order and with the same political preoccupation to prepare public opinions for the sacrifices to wage war against Russia. While strikes for wage increases have broken out in various sectors in France, especially transport, in direct connection with the new inflation that everyone equates not only with the crisis but now directly with the war, the media and politicians – to what extent is it the same in other countries? – keep worrying about the social situation and the risk of movements and struggles in the coming months.

[7. The continuous escalation in the supply and use of more massive and destructive weapons in Ukraine, for example the 50,000 bombs that the Russian artillery throws daily on the Ukrainian lines and which raises the question of their production on both sides, forces each side, North American, Western and Eastern European, Russia of course, to relaunch and increase their production lines which are no longer able, for the moment, to supply each front.

[8. The defense of democracy against autocracy and dictatorship for the Western countries and the shameless use of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians to the Russian invader and the bloodletting of which they are the first victims are already ready-made arguments (cf. the quotation from the newspaper Le Monde reproduced above) against the class egoism of which any strike and workers’ struggle would be the expression and which it would be necessary to forbid and to repress in the name of national unity and the needs for the war.

[9. We can’t deal here with the place of the factor communist groups and political direction in the reality of the current balance of forces, in spite of their general isolation and the weakness of their influence, both real, especially without movement of the class, without massive ’open’ struggle. For all that, the party-class link is not limited, is not summarized, to the simple immediate observation of the isolation of the first with respect to the second, especially if we consider that “the concept of class must not suggest to us a static image, but instead a dynamic one.” (Party and Class, CP of Italy, 1921) But this is another debate to be clarified between us.