My Encounter with the Italian Left

July 20, 2013 at 7:04 am (Uncategorized) (, )

One of the reasons people travel is to see new or different things. So what would a trip to Italy be without meeting representatives of the Italian left?

if that sounds flip, it shouldn’t. The Italian left in its many forms has a long-standing tradition, even if, in my opinion, it has not lived up to it.

The tradition is little known outside of Italy except through Lenin’s screed Left-wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder. In it, Lenin castigated the Italian and the Dutch- German lefts for their opposition to his ideas. After their expulsion  from the Communist International, both trends underwent political evolutions while ignoring each other: the Italians saw the Germans as anarchists, while they were viewed at leninists. In truth, both had something to learn from the other. (The ICC has published two quite excellent books on this subject and history, and are recommended.)

But enough history. I met with comrades of the International Communist Party for a short chat at their office. We talked about the origins of Internationalist Perspective and. its evolution, their party, the unions, the party and the process of revolution. There wasn’t much agreement between us.

The ICP has a theory they refer to as invariance. Essentially, they hold that Marx and his followers have completed the communist programme and that the task of the PARTY is to win people to it.  To my mind, this has more in common with religious propaganda than Marxism. I argued that the world in which Marx wrote was a different one than today, but got little track. It was important for them that they were consistent with Marx and Lenin. And there is a logical consistency to their ideas, but they are wrong. IP recently published the first part of a major article on our relationship to the communist left which can be found on our web site.

language problems prevented a fuller discussion; I probably came across as an anarchist, they as more Leninist. I’ll likely return to this point later.


  1. Schalken said,

    First of all, happy birthday, though I’m a little bit late with that.

    Second, I hope you’re enjoying Italy if you’re still there. If not, I hope you enjoyed it.

    Third, which ICP this was? I think there are three, one publishing Il Comunista, one publishing Il Partito Comunista, and one publishing Il Programma Comunista. I have no idea the differences between any of these ICPs, but it might

    Also, if you don’t mind my asking, was this brief meeting with the ICP just a personal whim, or does it represent some kind of IP effort to keep in touch with other groups? Does IP have any kind of stance on groups like this? I think the ICC considers them to be part of the “proletarian camp,” despite their aggressively retrograde politics, but I don’t know how other left communist groups consider them.

    I think you are brave for meeting with them! It seems to me they are vastly more “sectarian” than any other groups on the communist left, to the point that it seems to me they might not be any more welcoming to somebody laying claim to only _some_ of the heritage of the Italian Left than they would be a person in an obviously capitalist party.

    Lastly, I agree that the ICC’s book on the Italian Communist Left is good. I think it does a good job of making the point that, after the 20s, it was groups like Bilan that really developed the ideas of the Italian left, while Bordiga really stagnated as a thinker. That said, Adam Buick (of the SPGB?) once wrote a nice article on Bordiga’s conception of socialism/communism, something Bordiga fleshed out well after his heroic contributions to the Italian left.

  2. fischerzed said,

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, and yes, we are still enjoying ourselves in Italy.

    I met with members of the group which publishes Il Partito Comunista, but like you, I’m not sure what the differences are between the three groups.

    The meeting was a personal initiative – I’ d never met anyone from that tendency,and simply wanted too (I’m just curious) IP doesn’t really use the term proletarian camp. We often refer to pro-revolutionaries which is broader that the pc term.

    The ICP were friendly enough although we obviously didn’t have much in common. But their approach was a bit of an organizational fetish much akin to the Trotskyists who have a legacy fetish too. It reminded me a little of the De Leonists or the SPGB; not in terms of the politics, but in their absolute conviction that theirs is the ONLY way.

    I seem to remember the piece by Buick that you mention, but it’s been years. I was always more attracted to the German-Dutch than the Italians, but there is valuable stuff within that tradition.


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