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Four main issues
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Human history in the 20th century is marked by the development of the first world wave (1917-1976) of proletarian revolution (socialist and new democracy revolutions). In the imperialist countries of Europe and North America this wave exhausted and resulted in the crisis of their communist parties formed under the Communist International of Lenin and Stalin. The revival of the conscious and organized communist movement (COCM) in these countries is a matter that decides the future of humanity. Understanding the reasons for the exhaustion is indispensable. We believe that the Introduction to the collection of Marx's articles Class struggles in France from 1848 to 1850, written by F. Engels in 1895, illustrated the crisis that threatened the COCM of the imperialist countries and that the crisis actually occurred confirms its teachings. Therefore, we send to our English-speaking contacts the Statement 16/2023, that the CC of the (n)ICP circulated in Italy on August 27, 2023. We urge each recipient to study it and we will be grateful to those who send us their remarks and criticisms, if any.

Statement CC Statement CC 16/2023 - August 27, 2023

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Engels and two lessons for the struggle of the communists today

Last August 5 was the 128th anniversary of the death of Frederick Engels (1820-1895). As we know in Italy, among the magazines that in some way belong to organizations that declare themselves communists, only Cumpanis dedicated an article to this anniversary (later reposted by La Città Futura): 5 agosto 1895: muore Friedrich Engels: studiare il suo pensiero, imparare dalla sua prassi (August 5, 1895: Frederick Engels dies: studying his thought, learning from his praxis). The article is signed by the editor-in-chief Fosco Giannini. Apart from clear errors in dating and presentation of Engels' writings, the article has the merit of 1. commemorating and celebrating Engels' work and 2. criticizing openly and with good reason how many, bourgeois intellectuals or self-proclaimed communists, tried in various ways to dissociate or even oppose the work carried out by Engels in the field of theory and that carried out by Marx.

Together with Marx, Engels was the founder of scientific socialism. The discovery that the human species has evolved to its present state from a state essentially no different from that of other higher animal species and the discovery of the laws behind this process allowed "the evolution of socialism from utopia to science": from the dream of a world of justice, freedom and equality that humanity has cultivated for millennia to the science of the activities with which men make their history and, therefore, to the science of building a future world.

Communists are those who use this science to promote the emancipation of the popular masses from the bourgeoisie. This is effective for communists from all over the world, but in a particular way for those of the imperialist countries, where only a profound knowledge of the course of things enables them to lead the popular masses (1) to destroy on their own initiative an order which stifles but, although badly, feeds them and (2) to build a new order that they do not know, which the bourgeoisie hides and denigrates with refined means and from which the bourgeoisie diverts them in a thousand ways.

It is therefore not enough for us the communists to celebrate the work done by Engels or to defend it from criticism and detractors. What is up to us communist is to assimilate, use and develop the work of Engels (together with the work of the other great leaders of the communist movement) in the field of theory and in the field of practice: using the science that Engels helped to found to finally accomplish the enterprise of mobilizing, organizing and leading the workers and the popular masses to the establishment of socialism in imperialist countries. To this very end, two of Engels' teachings are of particular importance to communists today.

1. How the working class succeeds in seizing power in imperialist countries and kick off the socialist transformation of society

It is a fact that the first PCI (the communist party established in Italy in 1921), despite having had Antonio Gramsci among its leaders, failed to fulfil the task of establishing socialism. Today many of those who call themselves communists don’t care about it.

Some don't care about it because even believe that the conditions for achieving this purpose are not yet ripe: a declared exponent of this trend was Oliviero Diliberto, already at the head of the PdCI (Partito dei Comunisti Italiani, Party of the Italian Communists), one of the fragments of the PRC [Partito della Rifondazione Comunista, Communist Refoundation Party], in turn the result of the dissolution of the PCI, which, despite the great forces inherited from the anti-fascist Resistance and the participation in the governments of the National Liberation Committee (1943-1947), took the "parliamentary democratic path to socialism".

Others don't care about it because even today they reduce the struggle for socialism (1) to the promotion of the struggles of the popular masses for claims against capitalists and their state and (2) to participation to the management of the bourgeois state apparatus, the line that Engels already explained in 1895 that it would not lead to socialism. The line that the PCI also officially made its own starting from 1956 (8th Congress of the PCI) and by implementing it the party ended up dissolving.

Even today they don't even ask themselves why the PCI dissolved and fragmented. Much less they try to understand why in various imperialist countries the communists have come to be part of the country's government (from post-war Germany to France, Spain, Italy and Portugal), but they have never gone beyond. Or they liquidate the issue with theses such as "the betrayal of the leaders", "the strength of the bourgeoisie", "the corruption of the working class and the popular masses of the imperialist countries" forgetting that during the first wave of the proletarian revolution, let’s say up to about the 50s, two world wars and Nazi and Fascist dictatorships were the "concessions" that the bourgeoisie made to the working class and popular masses of European countries!).

In the Introduction to the first reprint (in 1895) of Marx's articles Class struggles in France from 1848 to 1850 Engels gives a clear answer to this question which he presents as his own self-criticism and on behalf of Marx (died in 1883): Engels maintains that, contrary to what he and Marx thought [and what most of those who proclaim themselves communists in Italy in 2023 still think today – Engels didn't think he had to say this and we add it for him], the form of the socialist revolution is different from the form of bourgeois revolution. The socialist revolution does not “break out” but must “be built”.

At the end of the 19th century, at the beginning of the imperialist epoch of capitalism, the working class had already made some attempts to seize power: in France in 1848-50 and in 1871 with the Paris Commune, in Germany with the participation on large scale in general elections. At that point, it was possible and necessary to understand how the working class would be able to seize power into its own hands and kick off the socialist transformation of society. The conditions were met for addressing the problem of the form of the proletarian revolution. In 1895, in the Introduction to the reprint of Marx's articles Class struggles in France from 1848 to 1850, Engels summed up the experience of the working class up to then and clearly expressed the thesis that "the proletarian revolution does not take the form of an insurrection of the popular masses which overthrows the existing government and in the course of which communists, who participate in the insurrection together with other parties, seize power". In other words, the proletarian revolution could not take the form of a popular insurrection in the course of which communists, the most capable party of being the spokesperson for the aspirations of all the popular masses even in the political field, and which contributed the most to preparing the insurrection, it seized power, that is, placing itself at the head of the state and transformed it according to the needs of the socialist transformation of society.

By its nature, the socialist revolution had to take the form of an accumulation of revolutionary forces that the communist party carried out while operating under the bourgeois regime, despite the manoeuvrers with which the bourgeoisie would try to prevent it: the working class must prepare, up to a certain point, "the instruments and conditions of their power already within the bourgeois society".

The events surrounding the publication of Engels' Introduction confirm the importance it has in the debate on the form of the socialist revolution in imperialist countries. Engels finished it on March 6, 1895. The Vorwärts (Forward), organ of the German Social Democrats, immediately published it but with such forgeries that Engels openly protested with the leaders of the party. Later in 1895, Engels' version of the Introduction was republished in a booklet with the collection of Marx's articles, but with the omission, approved by Engels of some sentences that the German government could have used as a pretext for the anti-socialist law it was preparing. The complete text of the Introduction was published in the USSR in 1934: it is the one we have in Italy (see, for example, the version published by Editori Riuniti, 1962, edited by Giorgio Giorgetti).

Revisionists in the beginning of the 20th century (E. Bernstein & Co.) and modern revisionists (Khrushchev, Togliatti, etc.) repeatedly tried to "pull to their side" Engels' 1895 Introduction. "Gradual accumulation of revolutionary forces within bourgeois society? Sure! Here are our ever more numerous, capable, influential parliamentary groups heard by the government, our votes growing from election to election, our trade unions which have millions of workers registered and which ministers and industrialists listen to and question with respect, our flourishing cooperatives, our good publishing houses, our high-circulation newspapers and periodicals, our always crowded events of all kinds, our cultural associations that gather the cream of the country's intelligence, our broad network of contacts and presences in places that matter, our followers in all categories. Here is the accumulation of revolutionary forces which makes us capable of governing!".

It is a great violence to make Engels say these things. Despite never seeing the events of the 20th century, he warned against illusions and the fact that the electoral progression of the German Social Democrats, a sign of the progress of socialism in the working class and its growing hegemony over the popular masses, would not have continued indefinitely. Engels warned that the bourgeoisie would "subvert its own legality" when its own legality would turn against it.

But the main point is not "what Engels really said". The main point is that facts, reality, events have repeatedly shown that those accumulated forces of which the revisionists speak have melted like snow in the sun in every sharp confrontation and sharp crisis of society that has placed on the agenda the seizing of power in each case in which they were led by the revisionists and were the only or main "revolutionary forces" that the working class had accumulated (it is enough to recall Italy in 1919-1920, Indonesia in 1966 and Chile in 1973). The forces were able to serve their purpose only when they were the legal extension, the legal arm of a party and of a working class which was otherwise accumulating the real and decisive revolutionary forces (it is enough to quote Russia in 1917). The reality of the development of the proletarian revolution during the period 1914-1945 showed, even in imperialist countries, that communist parties united the working class and asserted the leadership of the working class over the other popular classes when and to the extent they were able to organize the popular masses in the war against the existing regime of the imperialist bourgeoisie. As long as their action was centred on the attempt to persuade Social Democrats, Catholics, etc. to form a common legal opposition front, a common claiming front, a common anti-fascist front, their action had little results. On the contrary, they managed to lead workers, being them Catholic, socialist, non-party workers, etc., and they also forced other organizations’ leaders to follow them, when they took the lead in the war that the masses had to engage given their practical conditions.

2. On the origin and nature of the general crisis of capitalism

Many intellectuals who declare themselves Marxists and deal with the crisis refer to the Marxist theory of cyclical crises of the 19th century. Actually, the crisis we have been dealing with for more than forty years to now also involve cyclical crises, but they are only a secondary feature of the general crisis of capitalism. Regarding its origin and nature, we report below large excerpts from the article Le origini e la natura della crisi generale del capitalismo (The origins and nature of the general crisis of capitalism) published on La Voce (The Voice) No. 61- March 2019.

"Engels, in the 1886 Preface of the English edition of Book I of Capital, clearly outlines the beginning of the first general crisis of capitalism, even though he does not yet expose its origin, nature and historical role. Engels, referring to all the countries where the capitalist relationships of production was already dominating the economic field (that is, in Marxist terms, countries where capital had already formally subsumed the complex of economic activities), writes:

While the productive force grows in geometric proportion, the expansion of markets proceeds, at best, in arithmetical proportion. The decennial cycle of stagnation, prosperity, overproduction and crisis, which from 1825 to 1867 was regularly reproduced, seems, it is true, exhausted; but only to land us in the hopeless swamp of a lasting and chronic depression. The coveted period of prosperity finds it hard to come; whenever we think we see the warning signs, they go up in smoke again [K. Marx, Il capitale, Editori Riuniti Publishing, editorial series Le Idee 93, Book I, 8th edition, page 56, June 1974 edition].

Today we benefit from knowledge of the history of the decades following when Engels wrote these lines. It is clear today in the swamp that Engels noted in 1886, bourgeois society grew struggling to cope with its troubles. Every capitalist must enhance his own capital and comes up against the proletarians he hires and with the competing capitalists in the race to be competitive: whoever loses dies. The class of capitalists must keep the oppressed classes subdued and make the whole of society work. In the last decades of the 19th century, these contradictions had already developed – at growing levels and on increasingly broad scale – into the economic, political and cultural features of the imperialist epoch of capitalism.

In L’imperialismo, fase suprema del capitalismo (Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism) (written in 1916 and published for the first time in April 1917), Lenin details the five main economic features of the imperialist epoch, also considering their chronological development: 1. monopolies marginalize free competition between capitalists in the production of commodities; 2. financial capital takes over the capital invested in the production of commodities and made the latter a mean to its end; 3. the export of capital takes over the export of commodities; 4. some major capitalist powers split up the world and establish the colonial system (the Berlin Conference for the partition of Africa took place between November 1884 and February 1885); 5. a few large monopolies bring together the whole world production of the most important commodities.

This course of things would lead to the First World War (1914-1918) and unleash the first world wave of proletarian revolution (1917-1976). The exhaustion of the first wave would then unleash the forty-year period of the second general crisis which we are now grappling with.

However, Engels in the 1886 Preface does not connect the long depression and the paths already taken by the bourgeoisie to deal with it with the absolute overproduction of capital that Marx points out in chapters 13, 14 and 15 of Book III of Capital, which Engels would deliver to the press only in 1894. In those chapters Marx illustrated both the inherent tendency of capitalism towards absolute (i.e. not limited to some sectors, but extended to the entire economy) overproduction (overaccumulation) of capital (due in turn to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall inherent in the capitalist mode of production) which sooner or later would become a crucial factor in the course of things and the measures that the capitalists by their nature would resort to delay a catastrophic outcome. Our readers can find a synthesis of Marx's three chapters in Rapporti Sociali (Social Relations) n. 8 (November 1990), Marx e la crisi per sovrapproduzione di capitale (Marx and the crisis due to overproduction of capital) and a comprehensive illustration of the crisis due to absolute overproduction of capital in the Avviso ai naviganti (Notice to sailors) 8 – 21 March 2012.

The connection was made neither by Engels nor by the communist leaders in the years following the publication of Book III of Capital, nor by Lenin despite the intense debate that took place between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th on the course of things. In addition to Lenin, R. Hilferding (Financial Capital, 1910), Rosa Luxemburg (The accumulation of Capital, 1913), N. Bukharin (Imperialism and the world economy, 1916) also intervened and many other Marxists also intervened.

This gap in understanding the conditions of class struggle (…) contributed to those limitations in understanding the course of things which prevented the conscious and organized communist movement from establishing socialism in any imperialist country during the first world wave of the proletarian revolution (1917-1976). (…)

Understanding the origin and nature of the first general crisis of capitalism is crucial to understand the political and cultural history of the last century and to draw lessons from it. This has to be done, in order to successfully face the second general crisis underway today (in which we have been involved for more than forty years), make it the ground where the socialist revolution develops and put an end to the crisis with the establishment of socialism. In the face of the persistent crisis, today both the bourgeois right and the bourgeois left elaborate, propagate and implement cures that do not take into account the cause and nature of the crisis. Both cures based on the theory of supply (government must take measures to increase the profits of capitalists who employ proletarians in the production of commodities) and cures based on the theory of demand (government must give money to proletarians and other workers, so that they increase consumption and therefore buy more commodities) confirm the collective nature assumed by the economy. But neither one nor the other has put and will put an end to the crisis because, after the exhaustion of the first wave of the world proletarian revolution, the initiative in the economic field is once again in the hands of the capitalists and the engine of the capitalist economy (that is, what pushes a capitalist to employ proletarians) is not the production of commodities but the production of profits: the obstacle lies precisely in the fact that beyond certain limits the increase in the production of commodities would not cause an increase but a decrease in the mass of profits and no capitalist would hire more workers to make less profit. Competition and rush to be more competitive move the crisis from one country to another, but they don't put an end to it.

Today the production of commodities is an appendix of financial and speculative capital. Therefore the wealth of bourgeois society appears less and less as a "huge collection of commodities" (usage values, i. e. goods or assets which satisfy needs but they are produced as they bear exchange value, that is only if and when they are saleable products). Instead, wealth appears more and more as a "gigantic collection of money". And, since by its nature, money (which has become fiat money) can increase in quantity beyond any limit, while the quantity of commodities cannot, this also affects the nature of the commodities. They are in fact less and less intended to satisfy needs created by the general development of human society (the development of civilization made products such as tools, weapons, paper, buildings, etc. needs to be satisfied) and more and more intended to create new needs in the population which has purchasing power (that is, money), to increase the mass of money that their sale accumulates in the hands of each individual capitalist. Useless and harmful major public works (e.g. TAV [High-speed train linking Turin to Lyon], TAP [Trans Adriatic Pipeline], Bridge over the Strait of Messina, etc.), quickly obsolete or in any case perishable goods, packaging (with enormous use of plastic materials) and advertising, presentation of goods that prevails over its quality with all that follows from it: these and other similar laws determine the quantity and quality of the commodities produced. The bourgeoisie does not limits itself to satisfying needs created by the general development of humanity. Within the limits permitted by the division of society into classes of oppressed and oppressors, the bourgeoisie shapes the system of social relations and individual conduct on the measure of the commodities of which, in order to enhance its capital, on its own initiative each capitalist manages to impose the use, with the result that "everyone" deprecates. All this sharpens the moral and intellectual crisis of the popular masses of the imperialist countries. Basically, in order to sell, the bourgeoisie not only satisfies needs, but always creates new needs disconnected from the activities necessary to live and progress: while they introduce 5G technology (enhanced data transmission to cell phones) while even in imperialist countries more and more people cannot access medical care. It is like a food producer who, in order to sell more, induces people to spend the money they have to gorge themselves in a thousand ways, regardless of their health and their lives.

The capitalist mode of production arose and supplanted other modes of production (also based on the division of humanity into classes of exploited and exploiters, oppressed and oppressors) as a mode of production capable of increasing the productivity of labour, i.e. increase the quantity of goods that people produced in a given working and therefore capable of making men overall freer from nature and richer in terms of time and means to exercise superior human activities, the specifically human activities (from which, however, the mass of the population remained and remains excluded). The general crisis of capitalism erases these conditions for the success of capitalism and makes its replacement a necessity for the survival of the human species.

The absolute overproduction of capital generates (1) ecological disaster, (2) exploitation of women reduced to an advertising tool and a sexual object, (3) psychological, intellectual and moral deformation of the new generations and mistreatment, (4) unprovoked crime (that is, without the reasons that the deficiency of production gave once to war and crime), (5) general insecurity and widespread use of drugs that only demagogues like Salvini & Co. are perhaps truly convinced to be able to cure with more cops and more severe criminal penalties, (6) emigration that exceeds by far that of the beginning of the last century (when from Italy alone, with a population less than half of the present one, in the 60 years following the Unification (1860) more than 15 million workers emigrated at an annual rate which in 1900 exceeded 350,000 permanent emigrants registered - Del Carria Proletari senza rivoluzione (Proletarians without revolution), Edizioni Oriente, 1966, volume 1, pages 251-252).

But the transformations induced by the crisis, in turn, increase the spontaneous resistance of the popular masses to the course of things and increase the potential allies of the proletariat in the socialist revolution. Oppression arouses spontaneous resistance, widens the gap between the popular masses and the ruling class. The popular masses learn from their experience: they are not "infinitely manipulable", as the bourgeois left thinks and as the intellectuals of "total social control" (Renato Curcio – a representative of Red Brigades – & Co.) theorize. This spontaneous resistance which due to its crisis the bourgeoisie cannot stop nurturing, is the ground that needs the work of communists to become a rising tide and sweep away the capitalist system."

Acquiring, applying and developing these two teachings of Engels is essential to succeed in building a communist party which is up to the task that the progress of the second general crisis of capitalism and the consequent revolutionary situation in development pose to it and which takes full account of the experience of the first wave of the proletarian revolution: a party capable of mobilizing, organizing and leading the Italian and immigrant popular masses to establish socialism in Italy and contribute to a new wave of the world proletarian revolution (socialist and new democracy revolution).

The Caravan of the (new)Italian Communist Party, the group of communists who since the 80s worked to create the conditions for the foundation of the (new)Italian Communist Party in 2004, gave its answer in the booklet Federico Engels 10, 100, 1000 CARC per la ricostruzione del partito comunista (Frederick Engels 10, 100, 1000 CARC for the reconstruction of the communist party), published in 1995, the centenary of Engels' death. The answer is taken up and framed in the Manifesto Program of the (new)Italian Communist Party (in chapter 3.3). The line of the People's Bloc Government (exposed in Avviso ai naviganti 7, March 16, 2012) has "translated into detail" this answer, after the second general crisis of capitalism, i.e. development of transformation (the absolute overproduction of capital) which marks the end of capitalism as a system of commodity production and ushers in the imperialist epoch, entered its acute and terminal stage.

Leaving unanswered questions of principle raised by your opponents and simply define them “fanatics”, is not the same as opening a discussion, but insulting”. What Lenin said during the struggle against the Mensheviks also applies to the conduct of a large part of representatives of the Italian conscious and organized communist movement towards the Caravan of the (new)Italian Communist Party. The slow pace with which our work progress is often alleged as evidence against the world conception on which it is based, even if those who invoke it are unable to show that, guided by another view, others in our country have advanced faster than us in promoting the rebirth of the conscious and organized communist movement.

On the occasion of the 128th anniversary of Engels' death, this is the message and the appeal that the Central Committee of the (new)Italian Communist Party launches to every member of the Caravan of the (new)Italian Communist Party and to every politically advanced worker, to all those who want to put an end to catastrophic course of things imposed by the imperialist bourgeoisie and advance the ongoing socialist revolution which opposes it.

The second general crisis of capitalism is worsening!

Discontent and intolerance is growing among popular masses!

Victory of the ongoing socialist revolution depends on us communists!