What is the Communist Left?

‘Nuevo Curso’ on the communist Lefts that broke with the III. International, and their political heirs

In a concise overview ‘Nuevo Curso’ sets out the primary points of rupture for the left communist currents that have emerged against the degeneration of the Communist International (1919 – 1927), and attempts to trace their main contemporary political heirs or continuations. Special attention is paid to the left communist current in Spain around Grandizo Munis (1912 – 1989) that broke with Trotskyism on the question of the defense of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The article testifies of the comrades’ vision of left-communism and its currents as a whole, and of their open, critical attitude toward the contemporary political milieu that lays claim to their respective heritage(s), including the Spanish Left they refer to in particular.

» During and after the isolation and defeat of the Russian Revolution, (1) a series of tendencies appeared in the bosom of the young communist parties that tried to confront the first signs of degeneration of the soviet state (workers’ councils or committees) and their consequences for the development of the first revolutionary wave. Their first positions will resist above all the growing influence of the new Russian state on the International. In the besieged Russian state, with its proletariat in disarray, to resist while hoping for the World Revolution, or at the least the revolution in Europe, became increasingly contradictory with the interests and tasks of the world revolution itself. The III. Congress of the International passed from denouncing the betrayal of social democracy – with its participation in the imperialist war – to the “united front”, an attempt to win over the latter’s rank and file without questioning the nature of those parties that had recruited millions of workers to cut their throats against each other in defense of national capital.

What in principle are justified opportunist attitudes about the “haste” and the need to resist in Russia, will soon become a conflict of interests. The Russian state, in which the NEP was already beginning to consolidate what Lenin had defined as a state capitalism”, will begin to put pressure on the International: if the revolutionary movement was not strong enough to overthrow capitalism in the central countries, at least it had to ensure the non-intervention against Russia by supporting “left” governments. The problem is that this resulted first in precipitation, drowning the remains of the German revolutionary movement, and then in a frontal confrontation between the interests of the world revolution – which needed to break with the movements of “national liberation” and “the left” in order to develop – and those of the Russian state that prioritized nationalists and “progressives” according to its own interests. The latter can be summarized by the formula of “socialism in one country”, which meant nothing else than the subordination of the revolutionary movements of the world to the supposed “construction of socialism in Russia”, that is to say of a state capitalism that is almost totally state-controlled. First the betrayal of the mass strike in Great Britain, and above all of the Chinese revolution immediately afterwards, by the Russian party and the International represent a point of no return marked by piles of corpses of tens of thousands of workers.

From then on, each consolidation of the state bureaucracy born from the Bolshevik party will become a new setback for the revolution and each setback for the revolution in a new country will reinforce the bureaucracy in Russia. All in a “crescendo” that will result in the policy of the “popular fronts” – alliances with the “democratic” sectors of the bourgeoisie – and in an open leadership by the stalinized CP’s in the repression of the last revolutionary movements, in particular in Spain.

In the course of this process, during the 1920s, 30s and 40s, different communist Lefts” were formed. First in Russia, Germany and Holland, then in Italy and France, and somewhat later in Spain, Mexico and other countries. Each one tries to confront the degeneration of the communist parties in each country and simultaneously to understand this in a global framework. The central issues will be, first of all in view of the results, to affirm the impossibility of an alliance with sectors of the bourgeoisie, be it social democracy or the “national liberation” movements. Then, the very nature of the state that has consolidated in the USSR (2) and the attitude to be taken against it – and against the “resistances” the latter supported during the Second World War. The importance of this work of refounding communism, especially stands out if we compare it with the attempts of Trotsky since 1928 to bundle the International Left Opposition.” The Fourth International, lacking the foundation of a critique that went beyond the barbarities of Stalinism to a deepening on the mistakes of the Russian revolutionaries themselves, including Trotsky and Lenin, will be condemned to explode miserably shortly after Trotsky’s assassination by betraying the most basic position: internationalism.

From 1942 to 1948 the Spanish communist Left, that had been born as a founding group of Spanish communism (3) and had constituted a central part of the bundling encouraged by Trotsky, led the rupture of the healthy sectors of the Fourth International with the latter’s betrayal of internationalism. Despite the harsh conditions of militancy under the Franco regime it embarked upon a fruitful theoretical revision (4) that, on key issues such as the rejection of trade unionism, would bring it closer to the evolution of the communist Lefts that had withstood the hardest years of the counterrevolution: the German-Dutch, the Italian and the French, that was born from the latter.

Today it can not be denied that the Italian Left has been historically and organizationally the most solid, nor can it be “shelved” from the evolution of the other Lefts. It is tempting to reduce the communist Left and what it meant to its major bundling poles since the 1970s: the ICT for the Italian Left, the ICC for the French Left and the extinct FOR, who continued its publications until the 1990s, as regards the communist left in Spain, perhaps adding some of the publications and circles by which the positions of the German-Dutch Left have been maintained. But this would be a mistake. The communist Left was more than a series of more or less common positions; it was even much more than a sum of the last coherent internationalists, regardless how important this may be. The communist left was above all the expression, the response of the class to the need of clarifying its historical defeat. In responding to a universal need of the class, the communist left was a global phenomenon albeit – as a natural expression of a painful and profound defeat – it saw itself fragmented.

In the Spanish-speaking world, it is no coincidence that “new” or “late” communist leftists have taken the critique of Trotskyism as their starting point. (5) The two best-known examples are the Mexican communist Left in the late 1930s (“Grupo de Trabajadores Marxistas”) and an attempt towards the communist left in Argentina in the 1980s and 1990s (“Emancipación Obrera”). In fact, today, the historical relationship of the Spanish communist Left with the agonizing bet that the Fourth International had been until its II. Congress, has become a potential for development. The evolution of the Spanish communist Left, its contribution to the understanding of the History of the 20th century fully in force, especially of issues that continue to be in our daily lives in Spain, Argentina or Mexico, today constitutes an undeniable contribution to the development of class consciousness and an impulse toward the “party in becoming” that we need so much. Of course, the Spanish communist Left also had its weaknesses, especially in its economic analysis of the years of post-war reconstruction – and its inability to see that they had come to an end. But it had also been the first to make a “Luxemburgist” analysis of the mechanisms of the permanent tendency toward crisis as early as the 1930s. To continue its work today is not to repeat time and again the “best performances” of a fetish frozen in time, but is to resume the debate with the remainders of the communist Lefts and especially with the results of the evolution of the Italian Left, to further enrich the already rich analytical, political and historical instruments that the present generations have received from the whole of the left communist. «

Nuevo Curso, May 3rd, 2018

Source: https://nuevocurso.org/que-es-la-izquierda-comunista/

Translation: H.C., May 8, 2018. Emphasis by the editor.

“The delegates, filling four stage-coaches, set off for the mountains. The passers-by looked on curiously at the strange procession. The delegates themselves joked about the fact that half a century after the founding of the first International, it was still possible to seat all the internationalists in four coaches. But they were not skeptical. The thread of history often breaks then a new knot must be tied. And that is what we were doing in Zimmerwald.”

Leon Trotsky, My life (1930), Ch. XIX, Paris, and Zimmerwald (6)

A number of classical texts from the Spanish left around Munis are referenced here in footnotes. These are directly available in Spanish from Nuevo Curso’s online ‘mobile library’.

1Breve historia de la Contrarrevolución (A short history of Counter-revolution), https://nuevocurso.org/files/2018/04/contrarrevolucion-movil.pdf

2 Partido-Estado, stalinismo, Revolución (Party-State, Stalinism, Revolution), https://nuevocurso.org/files/2018/04/partido-estado-stalinismo-revoluci%C3%B3n-movil.pdf

3 El Comunismo en España 1920 – 1970 (Communism in Spain 1920 – 1970), https://nuevocurso.org/files/2018/04/comunismo-espa%C3%B1a-movil.pdf

4 Pro Segundo Manifiesto Comunista (For a second Communist Manifesto), https://nuevocurso.org/files/2018/04/manifiesto-movil.pdf

5 Cincuenta años después del trotskismo (Fifty years after Trotskyism), https://nuevocurso.org/files/2018/04/cincuenta-a%C3%B1os-despues-del-trotskismo-movil.pdf