By Alberto Lombardo (Political Bureau of the CC of the Communist Party-Italy)
Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programs. But if programs of principle are made (instead of sending them back to the time when a program has been prepared by a longer joint activity), the milestones from which the level of movement of the party is judged are elevated in the perspective of the whole world.
(K. Marx – Accompanying letter to the Critique of the Gotha program)
One of the most barbarous destinies that “history” has given to our Masters, to Marx in the first place, is to be cited inappropriately. The example that we report above is among the most emblematic. Try to read only the first sentence, which is the one that is most often reported. It is evident that the general sense of Marx’s thought is not only distorted, but completely overturned. And this is what often happens when the “classics” are “maneuvered” not to grasp the true teaching, but to convey distorted ideas, good only to demonstrate a pre-established thesis. How many times have we heard that Marx “would have missed a forecast”, that Marx had a “deterministic” conception of history, as opposed to an “idealistic” and even “Crocian” (refering to Benedetto Croce, translator note) of Gramsci? That Engels made dialectical materialism a form of positivism …
Each of these statements is “demonstrated” by cutting and sewing. Nothing could be easier today, in the era of the fantastic world of Facebook in which we are all freed from the need to read the classics from beginning to end, there is so much Wikipedia that explains everything and the network where our influencers give us everything what we need and gratifies us. I read an article on the internet written by the guru who from time to time I have chosen as a reference and I already know everything: from monetary technique to medicine.
Whoever takes advantage of all this is obviously someone who has in his hand not so much the whole production of the contents of the network, which is obviously impossible, as his handling and transmission.
In this way the agents of the bourgeoisie are able to attack the proletariat behind them, disguising themselves as allies. This is a technique that only in recent decades could have been implemented, thanks to the most sophisticated techniques (what is done) and technologies (with which tools is used) of information control.
At the time of the tsar, the most power could do was unleash spies and provocative agents and infiltrate them into spontaneous movements to identify the most active and hit them individually: it is forbidden and dangerous to speak against the established power. With the twentieth century, sophisticated procedures of ideological submission and adhesion of the ruling classes were inaugurated which the liberal power had not yet fully experienced. Imperialism has always known how to resort to forms of regimentation to make its own wars and lead the proletarians to slaughter each other; but still the opponents were branded as “defeatists”. The same political movement of the “suffragettes” who invoked the right to vote for women was the subject of police repression and violent intimidation. Fascism was a step forward in the use of organized masses by capital as a weapon against the workers’ movement through the use of disguise and the assumption of aesthetic forms that mimicked the socialist ones by reversing their meaning; all this, however, was associated with a repression of dissent with even more ruthless and terrorist methods.
Today, however, bourgeois power is able to organize dissent. That is, not to repress a movement as a result of a manifestation of opposition, but even to arouse it first, in advance, seizing the signs of bad mood and “creating” “spontaneous” movements to use them alternatively or jointly against the popular discontent, against other competing bourgeois powers , against hostile or inconvenient governments (“Arab springs” and “colored revolutions”, “demonstrations against the socialist dictators” of Latin America and “Hong Kong events”). Not that there are no more genuine “movements” in Italy, as evidenced by the NoTav, the NoMuos, and others. The experience of the comrades who have been militating in them for years are a barrier against the intrusiveness of bourgeois thought. But we see that the numerical difference between historical movements that manage to collect a number of accessions equal to a fraction of movements born yesterday. Today the great demonstrations with oceanic participation are organized by the bourgeois power and with an impressive media force.
The aesthetics of the “remote controlled” movements (movimenti eterodiretti) foresees an always equal articulation based on the simplified recognizability based on a unifying element, for example the umbrellas in Hong Kong.
In Italy we have seen all the colors: “purple”, “yellow”, “green”. Having exhausted the chromatic scale, now we move on to the fish. The element of simplified recognition here is the “sardine”. It should be noted that the connection with the slogan from which it originated has no importance whatsoever, it can be anything. The strength of the message lies in its simplicity and obsessive replication.
But it is not just a matter of marketing, that is, of appealing aesthetics. It is not a product that you must sell one-off. It is a message that must go to intercept intimate impulses already present in the category of subjects present. They must be shaken by their numbness in which they lie for a reason that they must already nurture within themselves. Usually this motivation must exacerbate real or previously induced fears. In Hong Kong, there is a fear that the Chinese judicial system may limit the rights held to date, even if the probability of a Hong Kong citizen to run into those provisions (extradition of criminals) is less than that of suffering a traffic accident, unless he is a registered delinquent. But those who take to the streets are not criminals. They are citizens who have been stirred up by fear. So paradoxically those young people taking to the streets find themselves defending criminals who in any country should rot in jail.
In Italy, a country where fortunately there is still an anti-fascist sentiment preserved by family traditions, at a time when the racist and xenophobic right has raised its “people” for a call to arms with equally instrumental motivations – accusing the government today for things that they tehmselves did in the previous government – the appeal against the danger of “fascism” has come in the right moment (casca a fagiolo).
The fight against the Mafia was one of the battles that the Communists and the whole Sicilian workers’ movement have led since the immediate post-war period with a tribute of blood that would require an entire article only to summarize it in brief. Well, every year in Palermo thousands of students, very young, are “deported” with a ship to participate in a demonstration officiated by the main exponents of this bourgeois power, an event that conveys a vision of the mafia completely distorted, completely comfortable according to this vision the mafia is a wrong “culture” to be eradicated that has no bearing on economic or social aspects (of class I miss talking about it!). Even historical figures such as the communist militant Peppino Impastato are bent to this vapid and harmless “narrative”. The “short circuit” that is created is the following: “the mafia is a bad thing, the state fights the mafia, so the state is a beautiful thing”; the attacker or even the criticism of the (bourgeois) state is the mafia; this is the time to join us all to fight “the octopus”. Let it be said in parenthesis, in the popular neighborhoods of Palermo the poor people (popolo minuto) hate any uniform because it represents precisely that State from which they have always received the worst oppression and therefore the short circuit works in reverse: the State is bad, the State fights the mafia and so the mafia is beautiful. A great result for those who say they want to eradicate the mafia! And in fact, those who really fight the mafia in popular neighborhoods every day say that they want less police uniforms and more teacher uniforms. Until a few years ago, communist and social opposition leaders were able to take an autonomous position, until police repression broke out and criminal complaints came. From that moment the square was “armored” and a participation – however critical and separate – was impossible and all the components of the movement and even democratic representatives dissociate themselves from it. If today we wanted to try to go to that square with an alternative position, the only result would be to bring water to the mill of the bourgeois power: to make numbers in the best case, to be arrested in the worst. However, the repulsion of those present would certainly be aroused in that orgy of “anti-mafia parata”.
And therefore we must limit ourselves to a campaign to be carried out with the usual methods fed with perseverance and humility, made of meetings, debates, individual discussions to make the conscience and the awareness of what happens . Trying to pass this stage thinking that “since there is a large mass gathered out there” we can “go fishing” is completely unrealistic.
Another opposite example. Demonstration of workers called by the concertation unions on a reductive, losing platform, which to define as a rearguard is to ennoble it. Meanwhile we underline a fundamental difference with a movement generated by the bourgeois power as an organization of dissent: the demonstration of the workers instead arises from a class necessity, but is diverted and caged by the agents of the bourgeoisie. This fact already places it in a perspective that cannot be assimilated to the first. What does the party do? Of course it goes there. He takes his positions, he talks to the workers who will naturally be divided between those who reject our words and those who maybe stop to talk. Even if the result were to be null in terms of explicit consents obtained immediately, even if we did not dive into a big sea but we only spoke with a few dozen workers, the political result is high. We will have the opportunity to return to that workplace tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, gaining credibility even if we do not go just to ask for a vote, but to show our class interest. By their nature those workers are naturally led to recognize how our positions are those that they would like to embrace but do not dare, because they are trapped by the renouncing logic of the concertation union. The soil is fertile.
As for the “Friday for future” or “sardine” demonstrations. It is not that one must establish whether to go or not based on the number of participants, but on the basis of the possibility that our message can be received even if by a minority, having also very clear the nature of the genesis of that movement. And not just because our militants could be engaged in a more politically profitable activity, but because to mix ourselves in certain situations is really negative. A similar argument could be made for any other mass demonstration: from “Not one less” (Non una di meno) to the manifestations of the “pitchforks” (forconi). Certainly at a demonstration of “sovranisti” where there is already the hat of the right is just disqualifying even to be seen, on the other hand sectors of the “sovranisti” that have no class location, which are pervaded by technicalities to the limit of conspiracy, with much fatigue could be useful to talk. A precise rule is really difficult to give, it must be the militants and the leaders of the place who can judge, certainly in harmony and with central coordination and not by their own. However the criterion cannot be “rich dish, I thrust into it” (piatto ricco, mi ci ficco) as is done in poker.
For the Communists, there is only one aid to the analysis and the subsequent modality of intervention with respect to the relationship with the movements: DISTINGUISHING between the ones AGAINST the system and those WITH the system. If in France, for example, the ‘yellow vests’ tended to be in the first category (and in fact the bourgeois power attacks them with a “South American” police virulence), in Italy the “sardines” are mostly in the second (and are blessed and exalted).
There is no doubt that this movement is “eterodiretto” (italian word that means person or an organisation unable to take decisions autonomously due to the influence or control of an external body), that there is nothing spontaneous here and there is an accurate preparation behind it. It would be a question of understanding why certain sectors of the monopoly bourgeoisie are so eager to create all this. Of course the conflict that has opened up in these days on the ESM (european stability mechanism) is one of the most acute points of friction between sectors of Italian capitalism, those of the Europeanist camp and those of the anti-Europeanist camp. Another article would be needed to examine the links that link the economic interests of the various sectors of the Italian bourgeoisie to their respective political projections. Suffice is to note here that it must be clear as the sun for the communists that there is no good or bad capitalism. In reality the result obtained is the following short circuit: “you are against Salvini, Salvini is against the ESM, you must stay with the ESM, what they say against it are only the lies of the fascists”.
This “short circuit” wants to get everyone against the new “fascist” danger, from the PD to the sardines, from the new electoral law of PD-Lega responsabilty to the resolution that equates communism to nazism. To do this, however, they must demonize the Resistance and above all the communists, with incredibly untruthful historical reconstructions such as «grim pages, like gunfights unleashed by the communists “who intended to maintain numerical and political supremacy over all other forces”. Very common events in Emilia and Romagna, the heart of the red partisans, who did not hesitate to come to strategic agreements with the Nazis to eliminate the rival partisans ». Who does not understand this slanderous game, is either lacking in analytical skills or is a complicit.
Perhaps in a square the reception of our message may be more probable, while in others there are really negative conditions. For example, in Palermo the comrades judged the intervention to be impractical. The predominance of the political element dominated by Orlandism and the PD was so overwhelming that even the attempt was useless. Other elements of the opposition have instead carried out this attempt not bringing the flags, but only a banner of an association. They were isolated and eventually driven out. Not even the result of capitalizing on this attitude as a denunciation of the arrogance of the organizers was obtained. Those few who had sympathy for them, kept it; all the “democrats” who were there and witnessed the scene, branded them as provocateurs who wanted to put the political hat on the demonstration, eventually obtaining a negative result. We do not exclude that in other squares with a less characterized hegemony and a capacity to mobilize our party the results could be different. But we all saw in Florence, in a red region in a square even while expecting a minimum of receptiveness, an absolute majority of protesters hurled themselves at a comrade who displayed a red flag with a hammer and sickle.
An essential thing links all these situations and must characterize our voice at the central level.
In this context, it is essential that the Communist Party raises its voice as strongly as possible to expose the strategy of the bourgeoisie before the popular classes. Whatever limitations in this campaign, let us remember with largely unequal weapons, is fatal.
Speaking of the trade union demonstration, for example, having to go our militants to bring a flyer and try to talk to those workers, could the party in its central national propaganda ever think of mitigating the controversy against the union leaders? Of course not! Does this make immediate penetration of the message of our comrades more difficult? Of course yes! It would be easier to follow the “entryist” tactic that certain sectors theorized in the past decades. This can guarantee to some militants perhaps to take on some role of secondary visibility within a reactionary organization, but at the expense of the strength of their message. But in the long run expressing an intransigent position at a national level on this or that issue, does not weaken the intervention of militants in workplaces or in the territories where they intervene. Indeed, a clear and intransigent position, even if sharp if necessary, can only help the militant who leads an action of agitation or propaganda in hostile but fertile ground. Instead, in an infertile terrain it is not a bad thing to go, if it is believed that in any case the effect of “visibility” can overcome the other negative aspects.
Our task as agitators and propagandists is not to sell soaps, it is not to embellish our message to make it acceptable and to ensure that our customer purchases our product at least once. It’s infinitely more difficult. It consists in buying an uncomfortable product, of which our interlocutor just does not want to hear about, because we are going to disturb him in his shell with the reassuring “narration” that power has created for him, even if it does not constitute a lie that it clashes with the reality that he lives on and with the oppression that he lives on. Only if we manage to tune into his problems can we shake him.
He knows his problems without us telling them to him. The solution we propose is socialism. In the middle we must be able to see a realistic, concrete, but not opportunistic, gradualist, reformist path of struggle.
To think that we can solve this historical problem of the communist movement through aesthetic elements is an understatement. The theme of developing a revolutionary strategy in a non-revolutionary situation in advanced capitalist countries is the historical problem on which the movement of communist and workers’ parties questions itself today and none of them refers to the problems of aesthetic innovation.