Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

The Italian Situation and the Tasks of the PCI
“The Lyons theses”

Gramsci; Togliatti
Lyons, January 1926


Five series of Theses were drafted by the majority of the PCI leadership and published in L’Unitá during October and November 1925: 1. on the international situation; 2. on the national and colonial question; 3. on the agrarian question; 4. on the Italian situation and the Bolshevization of the PCI; 5. on the trade unions. By far the most important was the fourth, translated here. It was republished in pamphlet form with the new title given here after it had been approved by the Lyons Congress – by a majority of 90 – 8 per cent to 9.2 per cent for the Left. – Note from “Selections from political writings 1921-1926”

Text from Antonio Gramsci “Selections from political writings (1921-1926)", translated and edited by Quintin Hoare (Lawrence and Wishart, London 1978). Transcribed to the www with the kind permission of Quintin Hoare.


1. The transformation of the communist parties, in which the vanguard of the working class is assembled, into Bolshevik parties can be considered at the present moment as the fundamental task of the Communist International. This task must be related to the historical development of the international workers’ movement, and in particular to the struggle which has taken place within it between Marxism and the currents which represented a deviation from the principles and practice of the revolutionary class struggle.

In Italy, the task of creating a Bolshevik party takes on its full dimensions only if one bears in mind the vicissitudes of the workers’ movement since its origins, and the fundamental deficiencies which have revealed themselves therein.

2. The birth of the working-class movement took place in different forms in every country. What was common everywhere was the spontaneous revolt of the proletariat against capitalism. This revolt, however, took a specific form in each nation, which was a reflection and consequence of the particular national characteristics of the elements which, originating from the petty bourgeoisie and peasantry, contributed to forming the great bulk of the industrial proletariat.

Marxism represented the conscious, scientific element, superior to the particularism of the various tendencies of a national character and origin; and it waged a struggle against these, both in the theoretical field and in the field of organization. The whole formative process of the Ist International was hinged upon this struggle, which concluded with the expulsion of Bakuninism from the International. When the Ist International ceased to exist, Marxism had already triumphed in the working-class movement. The IInd International was, in fact, formed of parties which all called themselves Marxist and took Marxism as the basis of their tactics on all essential questions.

After the victory of Marxism, the tendencies of a national character over which it had triumphed sought to manifest themselves in other ways, re-emerging within Marxism itself as forms of revisionism. This process was encouraged by the development of the imperialist phase of capitalism. The following three facts are closely connected with this phenomenon: the disappearance in the ranks of the working-class movement of criticism of the State, an essential element of Marxist doctrine, and its replacement by democratic utopias; the formation of a labour aristocracy; and a new mass transfer of petty bourgeois and peasants into the working class, hence a new dissemination within the proletariat of ideological currents of a national character, conflicting with Marxism. The process of degeneration of the IInd International thus took the form of a struggle against Marxism which unfolded within Marxism itself. It culminated in the collapse provoked by the War.

The one party which escaped degeneration was the Bolshevik Party, which succeeded in maintaining itself at the head of the workers’ movement in its own country, expelled the anti-Marxist tendencies from its own ranks, and through the experience of three revolutions evolved Leninism, which is the Marxism of the epoch of monopoly capitalism, imperialist wars and proletarian revolution. Thus, the position of the Bolshevik Party in the foundation and at the head of the IIIrd International was historically determined, and the terms of the problem of forming Bolshevik parties in every country were laid down: it is the problem of recalling the proletarian vanguard to the doctrine and practice of revolutionary Marxism, overcoming and completely liquidating every anti-Marxist current.

3. In Italy, the origins and vicissitudes of the workers’ movement were such, that before the War there was never constituted a Marxist left current with any permanent or continuous character. The original character of the Italian working-class movement was very confused. Various tendencies converged within it, from Mazzinian idealism to the generic humanitarianism of the cooperators and proponents of mutual help; and to Bakuninism, which maintained that the conditions existed in Italy – even before a development of capitalism – to pass immediately to socialism. The late origin and weakness of industrialism meant that the clarifying element provided by the existence of a strong proletariat was missing. One consequence was that even the split of the anarchists from the socialists took place after a delay of twenty years (1892, Genoa Congress).

In the Italian Socialist Party as it emerged from the Genoa Congress, there were two dominant currents. On the one hand, there was a group of intellectuals who represented nothing more than a tendency towards democratic reform of the State: their Marxism did not go beyond the aim of arousing and organizing the forces of the proletariat in order to prepare them for the foundation of democracy (Turati, Bissolati, etc.). On the other hand, there was a group more directly tied to the proletarian movement, representing a working class tendency, but lacking any adequate theoretical consciousness (Lazzari). Up till 1900, the Party set itself no aims other than ones of a democratic character. After 1900, once the freedom to organize had been won and a democratic phase began, the incapacity of all the groups which made it up to give it the physiognomy of a Marxist party of the proletariat was manifest.

The intellectual elements indeed detached themselves more and more from the working class. Nothing, moreover, came of the attempt by another layer of intellectuals and petty bourgeois to create a Marxist left in the shape of syndicalism. As a reaction to this latter attempt, the Party was conquered by the integralist faction. This was the expression, with its empty conciliationist verbalism, of a fundamental characteristic of the Italian working-class movement – also to be explained by the weakness of industrialism and the deficient critical consciousness of the proletariat. The revolutionism of the years preceding the War kept this characteristic intact, never managing to transcend the limits of a generic populism or to construct a party of the working class and apply the method of the class struggle.

Within this revolutionary current, even before the War, a “far left” group began to separate itself off; this upheld the theses of revolutionary Marxism, but in a spasmodic manner and without managing to exercise a real influence on the development of the workers’ movement.

This is what explains the negative and ambiguous character which the Socialist Party’s opposition to the War assumed; it also explains how the Socialist Party after the War found itself confronted by an immediately revolutionary situation, without having either resolved or so much as posed any of the fundamental problems which the political organization of the proletariat must resolve in order to fulfil its tasks: first of all, the problem of “choice of class” and the organizational form appropriate to it; then the problems of the party’s programme and ideology; and lastly problems of strategy and tactics, whose solution could have grouped around the proletariat those forces which are its natural allies in the struggle against the State, and could thus have led it to the conquest of power.

The systematic accumulation of an experience which could contribute in a positive way to the resolution of these problems began in Italy only after the War. Only with the Livorno Congress were laid down the constitutive bases of the proletariat’s class party, which, if it is to become a Bolshevik party and carry out its function to the full, must liquidate all the anti-Marxist tendencies that traditionally characterize the working-class movement.

Analysis of the Italian Social Structure

4. Capitalism is the predominant element in Italian society, and the force which is decisive in determining its development. This fundamental fact means that there is no possibility of a revolution in Italy that is not the socialist revolution. In the capitalist countries, the only class which can accomplish a real, deep social transformation is the working class. Only the working class is capable of translating into action the changes of an economic and political character which are necessary, if the energies of our country are to have complete freedom and possibility to develop. The way in which it will accomplish this revolutionary function is related to the degree of development of capitalism in Italy, and to the social structure which corresponds to it.

5. Industrialism, which is the essential part of capitalism, is very weak in Italy. Its possibilities for development are limited, both because of the geographical situation and because of the lack of raw materials. It therefore does not succeed in absorbing the majority of the Italian population (4 million industrial workers exist side by side with 3 1/2 million agricultural workers and 4 million peasants). To industrialism, there is counterposed an agriculture which naturally presents itself as the basis of the country’s economy. The extremely varied conditions of the terrain, and the resulting differences in cultivation and in systems of tenancy, however, cause a high degree of differentiation among the rural strata, with a prevalence of poor strata, nearer to the conditions of the proletariat and ore liable to be influenced by it and accept its leadership. Between the industrial and agrarian classes, there lies a fairly extensive urban petty bourgeoisie, which is of very great significance. It consists mainly of artisans, professional men and State employees.

6. The intrinsic weakness of capitalism compels the industrial class to adopt expedients to guarantee its control over the country’s economy. These expedients are basically nothing more than a system of economic compromises between a part of the industrialists and a part of the agricultural classes, specifically the big landowners. One does not, therefore, find here the traditional economic struggle between industrialists and landowners, nor the rotation of ruling groups which this produces in other countries. The industrialists, in any case, do not need to defend against the landowners an economic policy ensuring a continuous flow of labour from the countryside into the factories, since this flow is guaranteed by the abundant poor rural population which is characteristic of Italy. The industrial-agrarian agreement is based on a solidarity of interests between certain privileged groups, at the expense of the general interests of production and of the majority of those who work. It produces an accumulation of wealth in the hands of the big industrialists, which is the result of a systematic plundering of whole categories of the population and whole regions of the country. The results of this economic policy have in fact been: to create a deficit in the economic budget; to halt economic development in entire regions (South, Islands); to block the emergence and development of an economy better fitted to the structure and resources of the country; growing poverty of the working population; and the existence of a continuous stream of emigration, with the resulting demographic impoverishment.

7. Just as it does not naturally control the entire economy, so too the industrial class does not succeed in organizing single-handed the whole of society and the State. The construction of a national State is only made possible for it by the exploitation of factors of international politics (so-called Risorgimento). Its reinforcement and defence necessitate a compromise with the classes upon which industry exercises a limited hegemony: in particular, the landowners and petty bourgeoisie. Thence derives a heterogeneity and weakness of the entire social structure, and of the State which is its expression.

7 bis. There was a typical reflection of the weakness of the social structure, before the War, in the Army. A restricted circle of officers, lacking the prestige of leaders (old agrarian ruling classes, new industrial classes), had beneath it a bureaucratized caste of junior officers (petty bourgeoisie), which was incapable of serving as a link with the mass of soldiers, undisciplined and abandoned to themselves. During the War, the Army was forced to reorganize itself from the bottom up, after an elimination of the upper ranks and a transformation of organizational structure which corresponded to the appearance of a new category of junior officers. This phenomenon foreshadowed the analogous upheaval which fascism was to accomplish with respect to the State on a vaster scale.

8. The relations between industry and agriculture, which are essential for the economic life of a country and for the determination of its political superstructures, have a territorial basis in Italy. In the North, agricultural production and the rural population are concentrated in a few big centres. As a result of this, all the conflicts inherent in the country’s social structure contain within them an element which affects the unity of the State and puts it in danger. The solution of the problem is sought by the bourgeois and agrarian ruling groups through a compromise. None of these groups naturally possesses a unitary character or a unitary function. The compromise whereby unity is preserved is, moreover, such as to make the situation more serious. It gives the toiling masses of the South a position analogous to that of a colonial population. The big industry of the North fulfils the function vis-a-vis them of the capitalist metropoles. The big landowners and even the middle bourgeoisie of the South, for their part, take on the role of those categories in the colonies which ally themselves to the metropoles in order to keep the mass of working people subjugated. Economic exploitation and political oppression thus unite to make of the working people of the South a force continuously mobilized against the State.

9. The proletariat has greater importance in Italy than in other European countries, even of a more advanced capitalist nature: it is comparable only to that which existed in Russia before the Revolution. This is above all related to the fact that industry, because of the shortage of raw materials, bases itself by preference on the labour force (specialized skilled layers). It is also related to the heterogeneity and conflicts of interest which weaken the ruling classes. In the face of this heterogeneity, the proletariat appears as the only element which by its nature has a unificatory function, capable of coordinating the whole of society. Its class programme is the only “unitary” programme: in other words, the only one whose implementation does not lead to deepening the conflicts between the various elements of the economy and of society, or to breaking the unity of the State. Alongside the industrial proletariat, there also exists a great mass of rural proletarians, centred above all in the Po valley; these are easily influenced by the workers in industry, and hence easily mobilized for the struggle against capitalism and the State.

In Italy, there is a confirmation of the thesis that the most favourable conditions for the proletarian revolution do not necessarily always occur in those countries where capitalism and industrialism have reached the highest level of development, but may instead arise where the fabric of the capitalist system offers least resistance, because of its structural weakness, to an attack by the revolutionary class and its allies.

The Policy of the Italian Bourgeoisie

10. The aim which the Italian ruling classes set themselves from the origin of the unitary State onwards, was to keep the great mass of the working people subjugated and prevent them from becoming by organizing around the industrial and rural proletariat – a revolutionary force capable of carrying out a complete social and political transformation, and giving birth to a proletarian State. The intrinsic weakness of capitalism, however, compelled it to base the economic disposition of the bourgeois State upon a unity obtained by compromises between non-homogeneous groups. In a vast historical perspective, this system is clearly not adequate to its purpose. Every form of compromise between the different groups ruling Italian society in fact becomes an obstacle placed in the way of the development of one or other part of the country’s economy. Thus new conflicts are produced and new reactions from the majority of the population; it becomes necessary to intensify the pressure on the masses; and the result is a more and more decisive tendency for them to mobilize in revolt against the State.

11. The first period in the life of the Italian State (1870-90) was that of its greatest weakness. The two elements which composed the ruling class, the bourgeois intellectuals on the one hand and the capitalists on the other, were united in their aim of maintaining unity, but divided on the form to be given to the unitary State. There was no positive homogeneity between them. The problems which the State tackled were limited: they concerned rather the form than the substance of the bourgeoisie’s political rule. Everything was dominated by the problem of balancing the budget, which is a problem of pure conservation. Awareness of the need to enlarge the basis of the classes which ruled the State appeared only with the beginnings of “transformism.”

The greatest weakness of the State in this period consisted in the fact that outside it, the Vatican grouped around itself a reactionary and anti-State bloc made up of the landowners and the great mass of backward peasants, controlled and led by the rich landlords and priests. The Vatican’s programme had two elements: it sought to struggle against the unitary, “liberal” bourgeois State; and at the same time, it aimed to form the peasants into a reserve army against the advance of the socialist proletariat, stimulated by the development of industry. The State reacted to the sabotage carried out by the Vatican at its expense, with a whole quantity of legislation that was anti-clerical in content and aim.

12. In the period from 1890 to 1900, the bourgeoisie boldly tackled the problem of organizing its own dictatorship, and resolved it through a series of political and economic measures which determined the subsequent history of Italy.

First of all, the conflict between the intellectual bourgeoisie and the industrialists was resolved: Crispi’s rise to power was the sign of this. The bourgeoisie, thus strengthened, solved the question of its foreign relations (Triple Alliance), and so won the necessary security to try and enter the field of international competition for colonial markets. At home, the bourgeois dictatorship established itself politically by restricting the right to vote, so reducing the electorate to little more than one million voters out of a population of 30 million. In the economic field, the introduction of industrial-agrarian protectionism corresponded to capitalism’s aim to obtain control of all the national wealth. Through it, an alliance was forged between the industrialists and the landowners. This alliance stripped the Vatican of a part of the forces it had grouped around itself, especially among the landowners in the South, and brought these into the framework of the bourgeois State. The Vatican itself, moreover, saw the need to put more stress on the part of its reactionary programme which related to resisting the working class movement, and took position against socialism in the encyclical Rerum Novarum. The ruling classes, however, reacted to the danger which the Vatican continued to represent for the State by giving themselves a unitary organization with an anti-clerical programme, in the form of freemasonry.

The first real progress of the working-class movement in fact took place in this period. The establishment of the industrial-agrarian dictatorship posed the problem of revolution in its real terms, determining its historical conditions. In the North, an industrial and rural proletariat emerged, while in the South the rural population, subjected to a “colonial” system of exploitation, had to be held down with a stronger and stronger political repression. The terms of the “Southern question” were laid down clearly in this period. And spontaneously – without the intervention of any conscious factor, and without the Socialist Party even drawing any indication from this fact for its strategy as the party of the working class – for the first time in this period there occurred a convergence of insurrectionary attempts by the Northern proletariat with a revolt of Southern peasants (Sicilian Fasci).

13. Once it had broken the first attempts by the proletariat and the peasantry to rise up against the State, the strengthened Italian bourgeoisie was able to adopt the external methods of democracy to impede the progress of the working-class movement. The bourgeoisie also used the political corruption of the most advanced part of the working population (labour aristocracy), in order to make the latter an accomplice to the reactionary dictatorship which it continued to exercise, and to prevent it from becoming the centre of popular insurrection against the State (Giolittism). However, between 1900 and 1910 there was a phase of industrial and agrarian concentration. The rural proletariat grew by 50 per cent at the expense of the categories of tied labourers, share-croppers and tenant farmers.

The result was a wave of agricultural agitation, and a new orientation of the peasantry which forced the Vatican itself to react, with the foundation of Catholic Action and with a “social" movement which in its most advanced forms actually took on the appearance of a religious reform (Modernism). This reaction on the part of the Vatican, aimed at maintaining its grip on the masses, was matched by an agreement between Catholics and the ruling classes to give the State a more secure basis (abolition of the non expedit, Gentiloni pact). Again towards the end of this third period (1914), the various partial movements of the proletariat and the peasantry culminated in a new unconscious attempt to weld the different mass anti-State forces into an insurrection against the reactionary State. This attempt already posed with great clarity the problem which was to appear in its full dimensions after the War: i.e. the problem of the proletariat’s need to organize within itself a class party which would give it the ability to place itself at the head of the insurrection and give it leadership.

14. The greatest economic concentration in the industrial field occurred in the post-war period. The proletariat reached its highest level of organization; and this corresponded to the maximum disintegration of the ruling classes and the State. All the contradictions inherent in the Italian social organism came to the surface with extreme violence, as a result of the reawakening to political life of even the most backward masses that was brought about by the War and its immediate consequences. As always, the advance of the industrial and agricultural workers was accompanied by a massive agitation of the peasant masses, both in the South and in the other regions. The great strikes and the occupation of the factories took place simultaneously with occupations of the land.

The resistance of the reactionary forces once again operated along traditional lines. The Vatican allowed a real party to be formed, alongside Catholic Action, which aimed to integrate the peasant masses into the framework of the bourgeois State by apparently satisfying their aspirations for economic redemption and political democracy. The ruling classes in their turn implemented in the grand style their plan to corrupt the working-class movement and destroy it from within, by dangling before the eyes of the opportunist leaders the possibility that a labour aristocracy might collaborate in government, in an attempted “reformist” solution of the problem of the State (left government). But in a poor and disunited country like Italy, the appearance of a “reformist” solution to the problem of the State inevitably provokes a disintegration of the cohesion of State and society; for this cannot resist the shock of the numerous groups into which the ruling classes themselves and the intermediate classes fragment. Each group has its own need for economic protection and political autonomy; and in the absence of a homogeneous class nucleus capable of imposing – through its dictatorship – a discipline of work and production on the whole country, routing and eliminating the capitalist and landowning exploiters, government is made impossible and the crisis of power is continuously open.

The defeat of the revolutionary proletariat in this decisive period was due to political, organizational, tactical and strategic deficiencies of the workers’ party. As a consequence of these deficiencies, the proletariat did not succeed in placing itself at the head of the insurrection of the great majority of the population, and channelling it towards the creation of a workers’ State. Instead, it was itself influenced by other social classes, which paralysed its activity. The victory of fascism in 1922 must be seen, therefore, not as a victory won over the revolution, but as a consequence of the defeat suffered by the revolutionary forces through their own intrinsic weakness.

Fascism and its Policy

15. Fascism, as a movement of armed reaction which set itself the task of fragmenting and disorganizing the working class in order to immobilize it, fitted into the framework of traditional Italian rulingclass policies, and into capitalism’s struggle against the working class. It was, therefore, favoured in its origins, in its organization and in its development by all the old ruling groups without exception – but especially by the landowners, who felt most threatened by the pressure of the rural populace. Socially, however, fascism found its base in the urban petty bourgeoisie, and in a new rural bourgeoisie thrown up by a transformation of rural property in certain regions (phenomena of agrarian capitalism in Emilia; origin of a category of middlemen in the countryside; “land grants"; new divisions of holdings).

This circumstance – together with the fact that it found an ideological and organizational unity in the military formations in which wartime tradition lives again (arditismo), and which serve for guerrilla actions against the workers – allowed fascism to conceive and carry out a plan of conquest of the State, against the old ruling strata. It would be absurd to call this a revolution. The new categories which are regrouped around fascism, however, derive from their origin a homogeneity and a common mentality of “nascent capitalism.” This explains how it has been possible for them to fight against the politicians of the past, and how they have been able to justify this by an ideological construction which conflicts with traditional theories of the State and its relations with citizens. In substance, fascism merely modifies the programme of conservation and reaction which has always dominated Italian politics, through a different way of conceiving the process of unification of the reactionary forces. It replaces the tactic of agreements and compromises by the project of achieving an organic unity of all the bourgeoisie’s forces in a single political organism under the control of a single centre, which would simultaneously direct the party, the government and the State. This project corresponds to the determination to resist to the last against any revolutionary attack; it thus allows fascism to win the support of the most decisively reactionary part of the industrial bourgeoisie and of the landowners.

16. The fascist method of defending order, property and the State tends, even more than the traditional system of compromises and left policies, to shatter social cohesion and the political superstructures which go with it. The reactions which it provokes must be examined in relation to its application in both the economic and in the political field.

In the political field, first of all, the organic unity of the bourgeoisie in fascism was not achieved immediately after the winning of power. Centres of a bourgeois opposition to the régime remain outside fascism. On the one hand, the group which remains faithful to the Giolittian solution of the problem of the State has not been absorbed. This group is linked to a section of the industrial bourgeoisie and, with a programme of “labourist” reformism, exerts an influence on layers of workers and petty bourgeois. On the other hand, the programme of basing the State upon a rural democracy in the South and upon the “healthy” part of Northern industry (Corriere della sera, free-traders, Nitti) is tending to become the programme of a political organization of opposition to fascism with a mass base in the South (National Union).

Fascism is compelled to struggle very fiercely against these surviving groups, and to struggle even more fiercely against freemasonry, which it rightly considers as the organizing centre of all the traditional forces supporting the State. This struggle, which is the sign of a break in the bloc of conservative and anti-proletarian forces, whatever the intentions, may in certain circumstances favour the development and self-assertion of the proletariat as a third and decisive factor of the political situation.

In the economic field, fascism acts as the instrument of an industrial and agrarian oligarchy, to concentrate control over all the wealth of the country in the hands of capitalism. This cannot fail to provoke discontent in the petty bourgeoisie, which believed that with the arrival of fascism the hour of its rule had struck.

A whole series of measures are being adopted by fascism to encourage a new industrial concentration (abolition of death duties; financial and fiscal policy; heightening of protectionism), and to these there correspond other measures favouring the landowners and directed against small and medium farmers (taxes; duty on grain; “the grain battle”). The accumulation which these measures achieve is not an increase in the national wealth, but the plundering of one class in favour of another: in other words, that of the working and middle classes in favour of the plutocracy. The intention of favouring the plutocracy is shamelessly revealed in the plan to legalize the preference share system in the new commercial code; a little handful of financiers will in this way be enabled, without restriction, to dispose of vast masses of savings originating from the middle and petty bourgeoisie, and these categories will be stripped of the right to dispose of their wealth.

On the same level, but with bigger political consequences, must be placed the plan to unite the issuing banks, i.e. in practice to eliminate the two big Southern banks. These two banks today fulfil the function of absorbing the savings of the South and the remittances of the emigrants (600 million): in other words. the function which in the past was fulfilled by the State through issuing treasury bonds, and by the Banca di Sconto in the interests of a part of Northern heavy industry. The Southern banks have been controlled until now by the ruling classes of the South themselves, which have found in this control a real basis for their political domination. The elimination of the Southern banks as issuing banks will transfer this function to the Northern big industry which controls, via the Banca Commerciale, the Bank of Italy. We shall thus see the “colonial” economic exploitation and impoverishment of the South increased, and the slow process of detachment of the Southern petty bourgeoisie from the State accelerated.

The economic policy of fascism is completed by the measures aimed at raising the value of the lira, stabilizing the trade balance, paying war debts and encouraging the intervention of Anglo-American capital in Italy. In all these fields, fascism is carrying out the programme of the plutocracy (Nitti) and of an industrial landowning minority, at the expense of the great majority of the population, whose conditions of life are being made progressively worse.

All the ideological propaganda and the political and economic activity of fascism is crowned by its tendency to “imperialism.” This tendency expresses the need felt by the industrial/landowning ruling classes of Italy to find outside the national domain the elements to resolve the crisis of Italian society. It contains the germs of a war which in appearance will be fought for Italian expansion, but in which fascist Italy will in reality be an instrument in the hands of one of the imperialist groups which are striving for world domination.

17. As a consequence of fascism’s policies, deep reactions are provoked among the masses. The most serious phenomenon is the sharper and sharper detachment of the rural populations of the South and the Islands from the system of forces which rule the State. The old local ruling class (Orlando, Di Cesaro, De Nicola, etc.) no longer exercises in a systematic fashion its function as a connecting link with the State. The petty bourgeoisie thus tends to draw closer to the peasantry. The system of exploitation and oppression of the Southern masses is being carried to extremes by fascism; this facilitates the radicalization of the intermediate categories too, and poses the Southern question in its true terms, as a question which will only be resolved by the insurrection of the peasants allied to the proletariat, in a struggle against both capitalists and landowers.

The middle and poor peasants of the other parts of Italy too are taking on a revolutionary function, although in a slower fashion. The Vatican – whose reactionary function has been taken over by fascism – no longer controls the rural populations completely through the priests, Catholic Action and the Popular Party. There is a part of the peasantry which has been reawoken to struggle in defence of its own interests, precisely by the organizations authorized and directed by the ecclesiastical authorities. Now, under the economic and political pressure of fascism, this element is intensifying its own class orientation and beginning to feel that its destiny cannot be separated from that of the working class. A sign of this tendency is the Miglioli phenomenon. A very interesting symptom of it is also the fact that the White organizations – which since they are a part of Catholic Action are directly controlled by the Vatican – have had to enter inter-union committees with the Red peasant leagues: an expression of that proletarian period which the catholics indicated from 1870 onwards was imminent for Italian society.

As for the proletariat, activity to shatter its forces is finding a limit in the active resistance of the revolutionary vanguard, and in a passive resistance of the broad masses, who remain fundamentally class-conscious and give signs that they will begin to move again, as soon as the physical pressure of fascism is relaxed and the stimuli of class interest make themselves more strongly felt. The attempt via the fascist unions to split their ranks can be considered to have failed. The fascist unions, changing their programme, are now becoming direct instruments of reactionary repression in the service of the State.

18. Fascism reacts to the dangerous shifts and new recruitment of forces provoked by its policies, by subjecting the whole of society to the weight of a military force and repressive system which hold the population riveted to the mechanical fact of production – without any possibility of having a life of its own, expressing a will of its own, or organizing to defend its own interests.

So-called fascist legislation has no purpose other than to consolidate this system and make it permanent. The new political electoral law, the modifications to the administrative structure with the introduction of the podesta in rural communes, etc., are designed to mark the end of any participation by the masses in the country’s political and administrative life. The control over associations prevents any permanent “legal” form of organization of the masses. The new trade-union policy strips the Confederation of Labour and the class unions of any possibility of negotiating agreements, in order to exclude them from contact with the masses who had been organized around them. The proletarian press is suppressed. The class party of the proletariat is reduced to a purely illegal existence. Physical violence and police persecution are utilized systematically, above all in the countryside, to strike terror and preserve a situation of emergency.

The result of this complex activity of reaction and repression is an imbalance between the real relationship of social forces and the relationship of organized forces, so that an apparent return to normality and stability in fact corresponds to an intensification of contradictions ready to break out at any instant in new ways.

18 bis. The crisis which followed the Matteotti assassination furnished an example of the possibility that the apparent stability of the fascist régime might be shaken from below, by the sudden outbreak of economic and political conflicts which have grown sharper without being noticed. At the same time, it furnished proof of the incapacity of the petty bourgeoisie in the present historical period to lead the struggle against industrial/landowning reaction to any outcome.

Motor Forces and Perspectives of the Revolution

19. The motor forces of the Italian revolution, as is now clear from our analysis, are in order of their importance the following:

(a) the working class and the rural proletariat;
(b) the peasantry of the South and the Islands, and the peasantry in the other parts of Italy.

The development and speed of the revolutionary process cannot be predicted, without an evaluation of subjective elements: i.e. of the extent to which the working class succeeds in acquiring its own political profile, a precise class consciousness and an independence from all the other classes; and of the extent to which it succeeds in organizing its own forces, i.e. in de facto exercising leadership over the other elements and above all in concretizing politically its alliance with the peasantry.

One may in general assert, basing oneself moreover upon Italian experience, that one will pass from the period of revolutionary preparation to an “immediately” revolutionary period when the industrial and rural proletariat of the North has succeeded in regaining – thanks to the development of the objective situation, and through a series of specific and immediate struggles – a high level of organization and combativity.

As for the peasantry, that of the South and Islands must be included in the front line among the forces upon which the insurrection against the industrial/landowning dictatorship must rely, although one should not attribute to them decisive importance unless they are allied to the proletariat. The alliance between them and the workers is the result of a natural and deep historical process, encouraged by all the past experience of the Italian State. For the peasants of the other parts of Italy, the process of orientation towards an alliance with the proletariat is slower and will have to be encouraged by careful political activity on the part of the proletarian party. The successes already obtained in Italy in this field indicate, moreover, that the problem of breaking the alliance of the peasantry with the reactionary forces must be posed, to a great extent, in other western European countries too, as the problem of destroying the influence of Catholic organizations on the rural masses.

20. The obstacles to the development of the revolution do not derive only from fascist pressure, but are also related to the variety of groups into which the bourgeoisie is divided. Each of these groups strives to exert an influence on a section of the working population, to prevent the influence of the proletariat being extended; or on the proletariat itself, to cause it to lose its profile and autonomy as a revolutionary class. In this way a chain of reactionary forces is created, which starts from fascism and includes: anti-fascist groups which do not have a large mass base (liberals); those which have a base among the peasants and petty bourgeoisie (democrats, war-veterans, Popular Party, republicans) and in part also among the workers (Reformist Party); and those which have a proletarian base, and tend to maintain the working-class masses in a condition of passivity and to induce them to follow the policies of other classes (Maximalist Party). The group which leads the Confederation of Labour should also be considered from this point of view, i.e. as the vehicle of a disintegrative influence of other classes upon the workers. Each of the groups we have mentioned holds a part of the Italian working population in its grip. Modification of this state of affairs can only be conceived of as the result of a systematic and uninterrupted political activity of the proletarian vanguard organized in the Communist Party.

Particular attention must be accorded to the groups and parties which have a mass base – or seek to create one as either democratic or regional parties – among the agricultural population of the South and Islands (National Union; Sardinian Action Party; Action Parties of Molise, Irpinia, etc.). These parties do not exercise any direct influence upon the proletariat; but they are an obstacle to realizing the alliance between workers and peasants. Orienting the agricultural classes of the South towards a rural democracy and towards regional democratic solutions, they break the unity of the liberation process of the Italian working people; prevent the peasants from bringing their struggle against the economic and political exploitation of the bourgeoisie and the landowners to an outcome; and prepare their transformation into white guards of reaction. The political success of the working class in this field too is dependent upon the political activity of the proletariat’s party.

21. The possibility that action by so-called democratic anti-fascist groups might bring down the fascist régime would only exist if these groups succeeded in neutralizing the activity of the proletariat, and in controlling a mass movement that would enable it to brake the latter’s development. The function of the democratic bourgeois opposition is rather to collaborate with fascism, in preventing the reorganization of the working class and the realization of its class programme. In this sense, a compromise between fascism and bourgeois opposition is in train, and will inspire the policies of every “centre” formation which emerges from the ruins of the Aventine. The opposition will only be able to become once again the protagonist of the capitalist régime’s defence activity, when fascist repression itself no longer succeeds in preventing the unleashing of class conflict, and the danger of a proletarian insurrection, welded to a peasant war, appears grave and imminent. The possibility that the bourgeoisie and fascism itself may resort to the system of reaction concealed by the appearance of a “left government” must, therefore, be permanently present in our perspectives (division of functions between fascism and democracy, Theses of the Fifth World Congress).

22. From this analysis of the factors of revolution and its perspectives, the tasks of the Communist Party can be deduced. The criteria for the Party’s organizational and political activity must be related to the analysis, from which the basic coordinates of its programme derive.

Fundamental Tasks of the Communist Party

23. Having victoriously resisted the reactionary wave which sought to engulf it (1923); having contributed with its own actions to marking a first halt in the process of dispersal of the working-class forces (1924 elections); having taken advantage of the Matteotti crisis to reorganize a proletarian vanguard which, with notable success, opposed the attempt to instal a petty-bourgeois predominance in political life (Aventine); and having laid the basis of a real peasant policy of the Italian proletariat – the party today finds itself in the phase of political preparation of the revolution.

Its fundamental task can be indicated by these three points:

(a) to organize and unify the industrial and rural proletariat for the revolution;

(b) to organize and mobilize around the proletariat all the forces necessary for the victory of the revolution and the foundation of the workers’ State;

(c) to place before the proletariat and its allies the problem of insurrection against the bourgeois State and of the struggle for proletarian dictatorship, and to guide them politically and materially towards their solution, through a series of partial struggles.

The Construction of the Communist Party as a “Bolshevik” Party

24. The organization of the proletarian vanguard in a Communist Party is the essential feature of our organizational activity. The Italian workers have learnt from their experience (1919-20) that where the leadership of a Communist Party, built as the party of the working class and as the party of revolution, is missing, no victorious outcome of the struggle to overthrow the capitalist order is possible. The construction of a Communist Party which really is the party of the working class and the party of revolution – in other words, that is a “Bolshevik” party – is directly related to the following basic points:

(a) the party’s ideology;

(b) its form of organization and degree of cohesion;

(c) its capacity to operate in contact with the masses;

(d) its strategic and tactical capacity.

Each of these points is closely linked with the others, and cannot logically be separated from them. Each of them, in fact, points to and contains a series of problems whose solutions are mutually interconnected and overlapping. Examining them separately will only be useful if it is borne in mind that none of them can be resolved, without all being tackled simultaneously and brought to a solution.

The Party’s Ideology

25. The Communist Party needs complete ideological unity in order to be able at all moments to fulfil its function as leader of the working class. Ideological unity is an element of the Party’s strength and political capacity; it is indispensable, to make it into a Bolshevik Party. The basis of ideological unity is the doctrine of Marxism and Leninism, this last being understood as Marxist doctrine adapted to the problems of the period of imperialism and the start of the proletarian revolution (Theses on Bolshevization of the April 1925 Enlarged Executive meeting, numbers 4 and 6).

The Communist Party of Italy formed its ideology in the struggle against social-democracy (reformists) and against the political centrism represented by the Maximalist Party. However, it did not find in the history of the Italian workers’ movement any vigorous or continuous current of Marxist thought that it could invoke. Moreover, there is no deep or widespread knowledge in its ranks of the theories of Marxism and Leninism. Hence, deviations are possible. Raising the Party’s ideological level must be achieved by a systematic internal activity designed to ensure that all members have a thorough awareness of the immediate aims of the revolutionary movement, a certain capacity of Marxist analysis of the situation, and a corresponding capacity for political orientation (party school). Any conception must be repudiated which asserts that factors of revolutionary consciousness and awareness, which constitute ideology, can be realized in the Party without being realized in a vast number of the individuals who make it up.

26. In spite of the beginnings of a struggle against rightist and centrist degenerations of the workers’ movement, the danger of rightist deviations is present within the Communist Party of Italy. In the theoretical field, this danger is represented by the attempts to revise Marxism made by comrade Graziadei, in the guise of a “scientific” refinement of some of the basic concepts of Marx’s doctrine. Graziadei’s attempts certainly cannot lead to the creation of a current, and hence a faction, which endangers the ideological unity and the cohesion of the party. However, they imply a support for rightist currents and political deviations. In any case, they point to the need for the party to carry out a deep study of Marxism and to acquire a higher and more solid theoretical consciousness.

The danger that a right-wing tendency might be created is linked to the general situation in the country. The very repression exercised by fascism tends to nourish the view that, since the proletariat cannot soon overturn the régime, the best tactic is one whose aim is, if not an actual bourgeois-proletarian bloc for the constitutional elimination of fascism, at least a passivity of the revolutionary vanguard and non-intervention of the Communist Party in the immediate political struggle, thus allowing the bourgeoisie to use the proletariat as electoral troops against fascism. This programme is expressed through the formula that the Communist Party must be the “left wing” of an opposition of all the forces conspiring to bring down the fascist régime. It is the expression of a profound pessimism concerning the revolutionary capacities of the working class.

The same pessimism and the same deviations lead to an incorrect interpretation of the nature and historical function of the social-democratic parties at the present time. They lead to forgetting that social-democracy, although it still to a great extent conserves its social base in the proletariat, must so far as its ideology and the political function it fulfils are concerned be considered, not as a right wing of the working-class movement, but as a left wing of the bourgeoisie, and as such must be unmasked in the eyes of the masses.

The right-wing danger must be fought through ideological propaganda, by counterposing the revolutionary programme of the working class and its party to the right-wing programme, and by ordinary disciplinary means whenever the necessity arises.

27. There is a similar connection between the origins of the Party and the general situation in the country on the one hand, and the danger of a leftist deviation from Marxist and Leninist ideology on the other. This is represented by the ultra-left tendency led by comrade Bordiga. This tendency was formed in the specific situation of disintegration and programmatic, organizational, strategic and tactical incapacity in which the Italian Socialist Party found itself from the end of the War up to the Livorno Congress. Its origin and fortunes are, moreover, related to the fact that, since the working class is a minority in the Italian working population, there is a constant danger that its party will be corrupted by infiltrations from other classes, and in particular from the petty bourgeoisie. The far left tendency reacted to this condition of the working class and to the situation in the Italian Socialist Party with a particular ideology, i.e. a conception of the nature of the Party and its function and tactics which conflicts with that of Marxism and Leninism.

(a) The far left, ignoring or under-estimating the Party’s social content, defines it as an “organ” of the working class, constituted through the synthesis of heterogeneous elements. In reality, when defining the party it is necessary above all to stress that it is a “part” of the working class. The error in defining the party leads to an incorrect approach to organizational problems and problems of tactics.

(b) For the far left, the function of the Party is not to lead the class at all moments, striving to remain in contact with it through all changes in the objective situation, but to form and prepare cadres, who can lead the masses when the evolution of the situation has brought them to the party and made them accept the programmatic and principled positions it has fixed.

(c) As regards tactics, the far left maintains that these must not be determined on the basis of the objective situation and the position of the masses, in such a way as always to be in line with reality and provide a constant contact with the broadest layers of the working population; instead, they must be determined on the basis of formalist concerns. Ultra-leftism is characterized by the idea that deviations from the principles of communist politics are not to be avoided by the construction of “Bolshevik” parties capable of carrying out, without deviating, any political action required to mobilize the masses and for the victory of revolution; but that they can be avoided only by imposing rigid formal limits of an external kind upon the party’s tactics. (In the organizational field: “individual recruitment", i.e. rejection of “fusions” – which can in fact, always given the right conditions, be a very effective means of extending the party’s influence. In the political field: misrepresentation of the terms of the problem of winning a majority; trade-union united front, but no political united front; no difference in the way of combating democracy, according to the degree of mass support for counterrevolutionary democratic formations, or to the imminence and gravity of a reactionary danger; rejection of the slogan of workers’ and peasants’ government.) As a consequence, the situation of mass movements is only examined in order to check the line which has been deduced on the basis of formalistic and sectarian concerns. Thus, in determining the party’s policy, the specific element is always missing; the unity and completeness of vision which characterizes our method of political enquiry (dialectic) is broken; the activity and the slogans of the party lose their effectiveness and value, remaining simply propaganda activity and propaganda slogans.

As a consequence of these positions, political passivity of the party is inevitable. “Abstentionism” was an aspect of this in the past. This allows us to relate ultra-leftism to maximalism and to rightist deviations. It is, moreover, like the rightwing tendencies, the expression of a scepticism concerning the possibility for the working-class masses to organize, from within themselves, a class party capable of leading the broad masses and at the same time striving to keep them bound to it at all times. The ideological struggle against ultra-leftism must be waged by counterposing to it the Marxist and Leninist conception of the proletarian party as a mass party. And by demonstrating the need for the latter to adapt its tactics to situations in order to be able to modify them; in order not to lose contact with the masses; and in order to acquire continually new zones of influence.

Ultra-leftism was the official ideology of the Italian party in the first period of its existence. It is advocated by comrades who were among the founders of the party and made a very great contribution to its construction after Livorno. There are, therefore, factors which explain how this conception was for a long time deeply rooted in the majority of comrades. It was not so much critically evaluated by them in any thorough-going manner, as it was the consequence of a widespread state of mind. It is thus evident that the leftist danger must be seen as an immediate reality; as an obstacle not only to ideological unification and refinement, but to the party’s political development and the effectiveness of its activity. It must be combated as such, not just through propaganda, but through political action and, if necessary, through organizational measures.

28. One element of the party’s ideology is the degree of internationalist spirit which has penetrated its ranks. This is very strong among us as a spirit of international solidarity, but as the awareness of belonging to a world party it is not so strong. One thing which contributes to this weakness is the tendency to present the far left’s conception as a national conception ("originality” and “historical” value of the positions of the “Italian Left”), which is counterposed to the Marxist and Leninist conception of the Communist International and seeks to replace it. Hence, the origins of a kind of “party patriotism", which shrinks from becoming integrated into a world organization, in accordance with the principles which are proper to that organization (refusal of responsibilities, international faction struggle, etc.). This weakness of internationalist spirit provides the terrain for an echo within the party of the campaign which the bourgeoisie wages against the Communist International, describing it as an organ of the Russian State. Certain of the far left’s theses on this question coincide with habitual theses of the counter-revolutionary parties. They must be combated with extreme vigour, and with propaganda designed to show how the Russian party historically plays a predominant and directive function in the construction of a Communist International, and to show what the position of the Russian workers’ State – first and sole real conquest of the working class in the struggle for power – is, with respect to the international workers movement (Theses on the International Situation).

The Basis of Party Organization

29. All problems of organization are political problems. Their solution must enable the party to carry out its fundamental task of ensuring that the proletariat acquires complete political independence; giving it a physiognomy, a personality and a precise revolutionary consciousness; and preventing any infiltration or disintegrative influence from classes and elements which, even if they have interests contrary to capitalism, are not willing to take the struggle against the latter to its ultimate consequences.

First and foremost, there is a political problem: that of the basis for organization. The party organization must be constructed on the basis of production and hence of the work-place (cells). This principle is essential for the creation of a “Bolshevik” party. It depends on the fact that the party must be equipped to lead the mass movement of the working class, which is naturally unified by the development of capitalism in accordance with the process of production. By locating the organizational basis in the place of production, the party performs an act of choice of the class on which it bases itself. It proclaims that it is a class party and the party of a single class, the working class.

All objections to the principle that bases party organization on production derive from conceptions which are related to classes alien to the proletariat, even if they are presented by comrades and groups who call themselves “far left.” They are based on a pessimistic view of the revolutionary capacities of the worker and of the communist worker, and are an expression of the anti-proletarian spirit of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals, who believe they are the salt of the earth and see the workers as the material instrument of social transformation rather than as the conscious and intelligent protagonist of revolution.

There are being reproduced in the Italian party, with respect to cells, the discussion and conflict which led in Russia to the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, with respect to the same problem of choice of class: of the party’s class character, and the way in which nonproletarian elements can join the party. This fact, moreover, has a very great importance in relation to the Italian situation. For it is the social structure itself, and the conditions and traditions of political struggle, which in Italy make the danger of building the party on the basis of a “synthesis” of heterogeneous elements – i.e. the danger of opening the way through these for a paralysing influence of other classes – far more serious than elsewhere. This danger, moreover, will be made all the more serious precisely by the policies of fascism, which will drive whole strata of the petty bourgeoisie on to the terrain of revolution.

It is certain that the Communist Party can be solely a party of workers. The working class and its party cannot do without intellectuals, nor can they ignore the problem of grouping around themselves and giving a lead to all those elements who, in one way or another, are driven to rebel against capitalism. Thus the Communist Party cannot close its doors to peasants; indeed it must contain peasants and use them to tighten the political bond between the proletariat and the rural classes. But it is necessary to reject vigorously, as counter-revolutionary, any conception which makes the party into a “synthesis” of heterogeneous elements – instead of maintaining, without any concessions of this kind, that it is a part of the proletariat; that the proletariat must mark it with the imprint of its own organization; and that the proletariat must be guaranteed a leading function within the party itself.

30. There is no consistency in the practical objections to organization on the basis of production (cells), according to which this organizational structure would not allow us to transcend the competition between different categories of worker and would leave the party at the mercy of functionarism. The practice of the factory movement (1919-20) has shown that only an organization adapted to the place and system of production makes it possible to establish a contact between the upper and lower strata of the working masses (skilled workers, unskilled workers and labourers), and to create bonds of solidarity which eliminate the basis for any phenomenon of ‘labour aristocracy’.

Organization by cells leads to the formation within the party of a very large layer of leading cadres (cell secretaries, members of cell committees, etc.), who are part of the masses and remain within them even though they exercise leading functions – unlike the secretaries of territorial branches, who were necessarily elements detached from the working masses. The party must pay particular care to the education of these comrades, who form the connecting fabric of the organization and are the instrument for binding it to the masses. From whatever point of view it is considered, the transformation of its structure on the basis of production remains the party’s fundamental task in the present period, and the means to solve the most important of its problems. We must insist upon it, and intensify all ideological and practical work relative to it.

Solidity of the Party Organization. Factionalism

31. The organization of a Bolshevik Party must at all moments in the life of the party be a centralized organization, led by the Central Committee not just in words but also in deed. An iron proletarian discipline must reign in its ranks. This does not mean that the party must be ruled from on high with autocratic methods. Both the Central Committee and the subordinate leading bodies are formed on the basis of election, and on the basis of a selection of capable elements carried out through the test of work and through the experience of the movement. This second element guarantees that the criteria for the formation of the local leading groups and of the central leading group are not mechanical, external and “parliamentary", but correspond to a real process of formation of a homogeneous proletarian vanguard linked to the masses.

The principle of election of the leading bodies – internal democracy – is not an absolute one, but relative to the conditions of political struggle. Even when it is restricted, the central and local organs must always consider their power not as being super-imposed, but as springing from the party’s will, and must strive to accentuate their proletarian character and to multiply their links with the mass of comrades and with the working class. This last necessity is felt particularly keenly in Italy, where reaction has imposed and continues to impose a strict limitation of internal democracy.

Internal democracy is also relative to the degree of political capacity possessed by the local bodies, and by the individual comrades working in the localities. The activity which the centre carries on to increase this capacity makes possible an extension of “democratic” methods, and a growing reduction of the system of “cooptation” and of interventions from above to sort out local organizational questions.

32. The centralization and cohesion of the party require that there should not exist organized groups within it which take on the character of factions. A Bolshevik Party is sharply differentiated in this respect from social-democratic parties, which contain a great variety of groups, and in which factional struggle is the normal method of working out a political orientation and selecting a leading group. The Communist Parties and International emerged after a factional struggle waged inside the IInd International. Establishing themselves as the parties and the world organization of the proletariat, they chose as the norm of their internal life and development, in place of factional struggle, the organic collaboration of all tendencies through participation in the leading bodies.

The existence of, and struggle between, factions are in fact incompatible with the essence of the proletarian party, since they break its unity and open a path for the influence of other classes. This does not mean that tendencies may not arise in the party, and that these tendencies may not on occasion seek to organize themselves as factions; but it does mean that a vigorous struggle must be conducted to prevent this latter eventuality, by reducing tendency conflicts, theoretical discussions and the selection of leaders to the form appropriate to communist parties, i.e. to a process of real and unitary (dialectical) evolution and not to “parliamentary” modes of debate or struggle.

33. The working-class movement failed as a result of the impotence of the PSI, brought about by the faction struggle and by the fact that each faction, independently of the party, carried on its own policy, thus paralysing the activity of the other factions and that of the party as a whole. This experience provides a good terrain for creating and maintaining the cohesion and centralization which must characterize a Bolshevik party.

Among the different groups from which the Communist Party of Italy drew its origin, there subsists some differentiation, which must disappear as the common Marxist and Leninist ideology strikes deeper roots. Only among the followers of the anti-Marxist ideology of the far left have a homogeneity and solidarity of a factional kind been long maintained. Indeed, an attempt was made to pass from concealed factionalism to an open factional struggle, with the setting up of the so-called Comitato d’Intesa. The intensity of the party’s reaction to this crazy attempt to split its forces gives a sure guarantee that any attempt in this field to take us back to the habits of social-democracy will meet with no response.

The danger of factionalism to some extent also exists as a result of fusion with the IIIrd-Internationalists from the Socialist Party. The IIIrd-Internationalists do not possess a common ideology, but there exist links between them of an essentially corporate nature, created during the two years in which they were a faction inside the PSI. These links have been steadily weakening, and it will not be difficult to eliminate them totally.

The struggle against factionalism must above all involve propaganda for correct organizational principles. But it will not succeed until the Italian party is once again able to consider the discussion of its own current problems and those of the International as something normal, and to orient its tendencies in relation to these problems.

The Functioning of the Party Organization

34. A Bolshevik Party must be organized in such a way that it can function in contact with the masses, whatever the conditions may be. This principle takes on the greatest importance among us, because of the repression exercised by fascism with the aim of preventing the real relation of forces from being translated into a relation of organized forces. Only with the greatest concentration and intensity of party activity can one succeed in neutralizing at least in part this negative factor, and in preventing it from hampering greatly the revolutionary process. It is, therefore, necessary to take into account the following.

(a) The number of members and their political capacity; they must be enough to allow a continous extension of our influence. It is necessary to combat the tendency artificially to restrict membership; this leads to passivity and to atrophy. Every member, however, must be a politically active element, capable of disseminating the party’s influence and translating its directives into action on a daily basis, and leading a part of the working masses.

(b) The utilization of all comrades in some practical work.

(c) The unitary coordination of the various kinds of activity, by means of committees in which the whole party is articulated as a working body among the masses.

(d) The collegiate functioning of the party’s central organs, seen as a condition for the establishment of a homogeneous and cohesive, ‘Bolshevik’ leading group.

(e) The capacity of comrades to work among the masses, to be continuously present among them, to be in the first line in every struggle, to be able on all occasions to take and keep the position which is appropriate for the vanguard of the proletariat. This point is stressed because the need to work clandestinely, and the incorrect ideology of the “far left” have resulted in a limitation of our capacity to work among the masses and with the masses.

(f) The capacity of the local organisms and of individual comrades, to confront unforeseen circumstances and take up correct positions even before directives arrive from the leading bodies. It is necessary to combat the form of passivity – once again a residue of the false organizational conceptions of ultra-leftism – which consists in only being able to “wait for orders from above.” The party must be characterized by “initiative” at the base; in other words, the base organs must be able to react immediately to every unforeseen and unexpected situation.

(g) The ability to carry out “underground” (illegal) activity and defend the party from reaction of every kind, without losing contact with the masses – indeed making that very contact with the broadest layers of the working class serve as a defence. In the present situation, defence of the party and its apparatus that is achieved by confining oneself to carrying on simply an activity of ‘internal organization’ must be considered as an abandonment of the revolutionary cause.

Each of these points must be considered with attention, because it indicates both a weakness of the party and a progress which it must achieve. They are all the more important insofar as it is to be foreseen that the blows of reaction will further weaken the apparatus linking the centre and the local organizations, however great the efforts made to keep it intact.

Strategy and Tactics of the Party

35. The strategic and tactical capacity of the party is the capacity to organize and unify around the proletarian vanguard and the working class all the forces necessary for revolutionary victory; and to lead these in fact towards the revolution, taking advantage of objective circumstances and of the shifts in the balance of forces which they bring about, both among the working population and among the enemies of the working class. With its strategy and tactics, the party “leads the working class” in major historical movements and day-to-day struggles alike. One form of leadership is linked to the other and conditioned by it.

36. The principle that the party leads the working class must not be interpreted in a mechanical manner. It is not necessary to believe that the party can lead the working class through an external imposition of authority. This is not true, either with respect to the period which precedes the winning of power, or with respect to the period which follows it. The error of a mechanical interpretation of this principle must be combated in the Italian party, as a possible consequence of the ideological deviations of the far left. For these deviations lead to an arbitrary, formal over-estimation of the party, so far as its function as leader of the class is concerned. We assert that the capacity to lead the class is related, not to the fact that the party “proclaims” itself its revolutionary organ, but to the fact that it “really” succeeds, as a part of the working class, in linking itself with all the sections of that class and impressing upon the masses a movement in the direction desired and favoured by objective conditions. Only as a result of its activity among the masses, will the party get the latter to recognize it as “their” party (winning a majority); and only when this condition has been realized, can it presume that it is able to draw the working class behind it. The need for this activity among the masses outweighs any party “patriotism.”

37. The party leads the class by penetrating into all the organizations in which the working masses are assembled; and by carrying out, in and through these, a systematic mobilization of energies in line with the programme of the class struggle, and an activity aimed at winning the majority to communist directives.

The organizations in which the party works, and which tend by their nature to incorporate the whole mass of workers, can never substitute for the Communist Party, which is the political organization of revolutionaries, in other words of the vanguard of the proletariat. This excludes any relationship of subordination, or of “equality” between the mass organizations and the party (Stuttgart trade-union pact; pact of alliance between the Italian Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour). The relationship between trade unions and party is a special one of leadership, which is realized through the activity which the communists carry out inside the unions. The communists organize themselves into fractions in the unions, and in all the mass formations, and participate in the front rank in the life of these formations and the struggles which they wage, upholding their party’s programme and slogans there. Every tendency to separate oneself off from the life of those organizations, whatever they may be, in which it is possible to make contact with the working masses, is to be combated as a dangerous deviation, indicating pessimism and generating passivity.

38. In the capitalist countries, trade unions are the specific organs grouping the working masses. Activity in the unions must be considered essential for the accomplishment of the party’s aims. The party which renounces the struggle to exercise its influence in the unions and to win leadership of them, de facto renounces winning the mass of workers and renounces the revolutionary struggle for power.

In Italy, activity in the unions takes on particular importance; for such activity makes it possible to work with greater intensity, and with better results, at that reorganization of the industrial and rural proletariat which must restore it to a predominant position vis-a-vis the other social classes. However, fascist repression, and especially fascism’s new trade-union policy, are creating a quite particular state of affairs. The Confederation of Labour and the class unions are finding themselves stripped of any possibility of carrying on an activity of organization and economic defence in the traditional forms. They are tending to become reduced to mere propaganda offices. At the same time, however, the working class is being driven by the pressure of the objective situation to reorder its own forces on the basis of new forms of organization. Thus the party must manage to carry out activity to defend the class union and demand freedom for it; and at the same time it must encourage and stimulate the tendency to create representative mass organisms adapted to the system of production. With the class union’s activity paralysed, defence of the workers’ immediate interests tends to be carried out through a fragmentation of resistance and struggle – by factory, by category, by workplace, etc. The Communist Party must be able to follow all these struggles and exercise a real leadership over them: ensuring that the unitary and revolutionary character of class conflicts is not lost in them, and indeed taking advantage of them to aid the mobilization of the whole proletariat and its organization along a fighting front (Trade-union Theses).

39. The party leads and unifies the working class by taking part in all struggles of a partial nature, and by formulating and agitating around a programme of demands of immediate interest to the working class. Partial and limited actions are considered by it as necessary steps to achieving the progressive mobilization and unification of all the forces of the working class.

The party combats the conception according to which one should abstain from supporting or taking part in partial actions, because the problems which interest the working class can be solved only by the overthrow of the capitalist order and by a general action on the part of all the anti-capitalist forces. It is aware of the impossibility for the workers’ conditions to be improved in a serious or lasting way, in the period of imperialism and before the capitalist order has been overthrown. However, agitation around a programme of immediate demands and support for partial struggles is the only way of reaching the broad masses and mobilizing them against capital. Moreover, any agitation carried out or victory won by categories of workers in the field of immediate demands makes the crisis of capitalism more acute, and accelerates its fall subjectively too, insofar as it shifts the unstable economic equilibrium upon which it bases its power today.

The Communist Party links every immediate demand to a revolutionary objective; makes use of every partial struggle to teach the masses the need for general action and for insurrection against the reactionary rule of capital; and seeks to ensure that every struggle of a limited character is prepared and led in such a way as to be able to lead to the mobilization and unification of the proletarian forces, and not to their dispersal. It upholds these conceptions inside the mass organizations leading partial movements, or against the political parties which initiate them. Or else it gives force to them by itself taking the initiative in proposing partial actions, either within the mass organizations or to other parties (united front tactics). In every case, the party utilizes the experience of the movement in question, and of the outcome of its own proposals, to increase its influence – demonstrating through facts that its action programme is the only one which corresponds to the interests of the masses and to the objective situation – and to transport a backward section of the working class onto a more advanced position.

Direct initiatives by the Communist Party for partial actions may occur when it controls a notable part of the working class through mass organisms; or when it is certain that one of its direct slogans is followed likewise by a notable part of the working class. The party will not, however, take this initiative unless – depending on the objective situation – it leads to a shift in its favour of the balance of forces, and represents a step forward in the unification and mobilization of the class upon revolutionary terrain.

It is excluded that a violent action by individuals or groups can serve to shake the working-class masses out of their passivity, if the party is not closely linked with them. In particular, the activity of armed groups, even as a reaction to the physical violence of the fascists, only has value insofar as it is linked to a reaction of the masses or succeeds in provoking or preparing one. Then it can acquire the same value in the field of mobilization of material forces that strikes and specific economic struggles have for the general mobilization of the workers’ energies in defence of their class interests.

39 bis. It is an error to believe that immediate demands and partial actions can have a purely economic character. With the deepening of the crisis of capitalism, the capitalist and landowning ruling classes are compelled, in order to preserve their power, to limit and suppress the proletariat’s organizational and political freedoms. Consequently, the demand for these freedoms furnishes an excellent terrain for agitation and partial struggles which may lead to the mobilization of vast layers of the working population. All the legislation with which the fascists in Italy suppress even the most elementary freedoms of the working class, must therefore provide the Communist Party with themes for agitating among the masses and mobilizing them. It will be the Communist Party’s task to link each of the slogans it launches in this field with the general directives of its activity: in particular, with the practical demonstration of the impossibility for the régime installed by fascism to undergo radical limitations and transformations in a “liberal” and “democratic” direction, without a mass struggle being unleashed against fascism that will inevitably culminate in a civil war. This conviction must be disseminated among the masses insofar as we succeed, linking the partial demands of a political character with those of an economic character, in transforming “revolutionary democratic” movements into working-class, socialist revolutionary movements.

This must be achieved in particular with respect to agitation against the monarchy. The monarchy is one of the props of the fascist régime; it is Italian fascism’s State form. The anti-monarchic mobilization of the mass of the Italian population is one of the aims which the Communist Party must set itself. It will serve effectively to unmask certain of the socalled anti-fascist groups who have coalesced in the Aventine. It must, however, always be accompanied by agitation and struggle directed against the other basic pillars of the fascist régime, the industrial plutocracy and the landowners. In anti-monarchic agitation, the problem of the form of the State will, moreover, always be posed by the Communist Party in close connection with the problem of the class content which the communists intend to give the State. In the recent past (June 1925), the connection between these problems was achieved by the party through basing its political activity on the slogan: “Republican Assembly on the basis of Workers’ and Peasants’ Committees; Workers’ Control of Industry; Land to the Peasants."

40. The task of uniting the forces of the proletariat and all the working class on a terrain of struggle is the “positive” part of the united front tactic; in Italy, in the present circumstances, this is the party’s fundamental task. Communists must see the unity of the working class as a concrete, real result to be achieved, in order to prevent capitalism from implementing its plan of permanently fragmenting the proletariat and making all revolutionary struggle impossible. They must be capable of working in every way to achieve this end. Above all, they must become capable of drawing close to the workers of other parties and those without a party, overcoming unwarranted hostility and incomprehension, and in all cases presenting themselves as the advocates of unity of the class in the struggle for its defence and liberation.

The “united front” of anti-fascist and anti-capitalist struggle which the communists are striving to create must aim at being an organized united front, i.e. at being based on bodies around which the masses as a whole can regroup and find a form. Such are the representative bodies which the masses themselves are tending to create today, from the factories and on the occasion of every struggle, since the possibilities for the trade unions to function normally began to be limited. The communists must take account of this tendency among the masses and be capable of stimulating it, developing the positive elements which it contains and combating the particularist deviations to which it may give rise. The matter must be considered without fetishization of any particular form of organization, bearing in mind that our fundamental purpose is to achieve an ever-increasing mobilization and organic unity of forces. To accomplish this purpose, it is necessary to be able to adapt ourselves to every terrain offered us by reality; to make use of every agitational theme; and to stress one form of organization or another, depending on what is needed and depending on each one’s possibilities for development (Trade-union Theses: chapters dealing with internal commissions, agitational committees and factory conferences).

41. The slogan of workers’ and peasants’ committees must be considered as a synthetic formula for all the party’s activity, insofar as it proposes to create an organized united front of the working class. The workers’ and peasants’ committees are organs of unity of the working class, whether mobilized for a struggle of an immediate nature or for political actions of broader scope. The slogan calling for the creation of workers’ and peasants’ committees is thus a slogan to be implemented immediately, in all cases where the party succeeds through its activity in mobilizing a fairly extensive section of the working class (more than a single factory, or a single category in a locality). But at the same time it is a political solution and an agitational slogan appropriate for a whole period of the party’s existence and activity. It makes evident and concrete the need for the workers to organize their forces, and counterpose them in practice to those of all groups of bourgeois origin and nature, in order to become the determining and preponderant element in the political situation.

42. The tactic of the united front as political activity (manoeuvre) designed to unmask so-called proletarian and revolutionary parties and groups which have a mass base, is closely linked with the problem of how the Communist Party is to lead the masses and how it is to win a majority. In the form in which it has been defined by the World Congresses, it is applicable in all cases in which, because of the mass support of the groups against which we are fighting, frontal struggle against them is not sufficient to give us rapid and far-reaching results. The success of this tactic is related to the degree to which it is preceded or accompanied by an effective unification and mobilization of the masses, achieved by the party through action from below.

In Italy, the united front tactic must continue to be utilized by the party, insofar as it is still far from having won a decisive influence over the majority of the working class and the working population. The specific Italian conditions ensure the vitality of intermediate political formations, based on ambiguity and favoured by the passivity of a great part of the masses (Maximalists, Republicans, Unitary Socialists). The centre group which will very probably emerge from the collapse of the Aventine will be a formation of this kind. It is not possible to struggle fully against the danger which these formations represent other than through the united front tactic. But one should not rely on achieving success except on the basis of the work carried out simultaneously to wrench the masses from their passivity.

42 bis. The problem of the Maximalist party must be considered in the context of the problem of all the other intermediate formations which the Communist Party combats as obstacles to the revolutionary preparation of the proletariat, and towards which it adopts (depending on the circumstances) the united front tactic. There is no doubt that in certain regions the problem of winning a majority is specifically linked for us to the problem of destroying the influence of the PSI and its newspaper. The leaders of the Socialist Party, moreover, are situating themselves more and more clearly among the counter-revolutionary forces acting to preserve the capitalist order (campaign for the intervention of American capital; de facto solidarity with the reformist union leaders). Nothing allows us to rule out entirely the possibility of their aligning themselves with the Reformists, and subsequently fusing with them. The Communist Party must bear this possibility in mind and must already set itself the aim of ensuring that – in the event of it occurring – the masses still controlled by the Maximalists but nevertheless conserving a class outlook detach themselves decisively from them, and link themselves as closely as possible to the masses grouped around the communist vanguard. The good results achieved by the fusion with the IIIrd-Internationalist faction that was decided upon by the Fifth Congress have taught the Italian party how, in given conditions, with a shrewd policy, results can be achieved which could not be obtained through the normal activity of propaganda and organization.

43. While it advances its programme of immediate class demands, and concentrates its activity upon achieving the mobilization and unification of the working-class forces, the party – in order to facilitate the development of its own activity – may present immediate solutions to general political problems, and put forward these solutions among the masses still supporting counter-revolutionary parties and formations. This presentation of, and agitation around, intermediate solutions – far removed both from the party’s own slogans, and from the programme of inertia and passivity of the groups we wish to combat – allows us to assemble broader forces behind the party; to counterpose the words of the leaders of the counter-revolutionary mass parties to their real intentions; to push the masses towards revolutionary solutions; and to extend our influence (example: the “Anti-parliament”). These intermediate solutions cannot all be foreseen, because they must in all cases be adapted to reality. But they must be such as to be able to constitute a bridge towards the party’s slogans; and it must always be evident to the masses that if they were to be realized, this would lead to an acceleration of the revolutionary process and a beginning of wider struggles.

The presentation of, and struggle for, such intermediate solutions is the specific form of struggle which must be used against the so-called democratic parties – which are in reality one of the strongest props of the tottering capitalist order, and as such alternate in power with the reactionary groups – when these so-called democratic parties are linked to sizeable and decisive layers of the working population (as in Italy, in the first months of the Matteotti crisis), and when a serious reactionary danger is imminent (tactic adopted by the Bolsheviks towards Kerensky during the Kornilov coup). In such cases, the Communist Party will obtain the best results by advancing the actual solutions which would be those of the so-called democratic parties, if they were in fact capable of waging a consistent struggle for democracy with all the means required by the situation. These parties, thus subjected to the test of deeds, will unmask themselves before the masses and lose their influence over them.

44. All the particular struggles led by the party, and its activities on every front to mobilize and unite the forces of the working class, must come together and be synthesized in a political formula which can be easily understood by the masses, and which has the greatest possible agitational value for them. This formula is the “workers’ and peasants’ government.” It indicates even to the most backward masses the need to win power in order to solve the vital problems which interest them; and it provides the means to transport them onto the terrain of the more advanced proletarian vanguard (struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat). In this sense, it is an agitational slogan, but only corresponds to a real phase of historical development in the same sense as the intermediate solutions dealt with in the preceding paragraph. The party cannot conceive of a realization of this slogan except as the beginning of a direct revolutionary struggle: i.e. of a civil war waged by the proletariat, in alliance with the peasantry, with the aim of winning power. The party could be led into serious deviations from its task as leader of the revolution if it were to interpret the workers’ and peasants’ government as corresponding to a real phase of development of the struggle for power: in other words, if it considered that this slogan indicated the possibility for the problem of the State to be resolved in the interests of the working class in any other form than the dictatorship of the proletariat.