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|Secretary of the Communist Party of Italy|
|Succeeded by||Antonio Gramsci|
13 June 1889|
23 July 1970 (aged 81)|
|Political party||Communist Party of Italy, International Communist Party|
Amadeo Bordiga (13 June 1889 – 23 July 1970) was an Italian Marxist, a contributor to Communist theory, the founder of the Communist Party of Italy, a leader of the Communist International and later a leading figure of the International Communist Party. Bordiga was originally associated with the Communist Party of Italy, but was expelled in 1930 after being accused of Trotskyism. Later on, following the Second World War, he moved more explicitly towards a left communist position and was one of the more notable Western European representatives of this tendency.
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In the Italian Socialist Party
An opponent of the Italian colonial war in Libya, he was active in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), founding the Karl Marx Circle in 1912. He rejected a pedagogical approach to political work and developed a "theory of the Party", whereby the organization was meant to display non-immediate goals, as a rally of similarly minded people, and not a necessary body of the working class. He was, however, deeply opposed to representative democracy, which he associated with bourgeois electoralism:
- "Thus if there is a complete negation of the theory of democratic action it is to be found in socialism." (Il Socialista, 1914)
Therefore, he opposed the parliamentary faction of the Socialist Party being autonomous from central control. In common with most Socialists in Latin countries, Bordiga campaigned against Freemasonry, which he identified as a non-secular group.
In the Communist Party of Italy
Following the October Revolution, Bordiga rallied to the Communist movement and formed the Communist Abstentionist faction within the Socialist Party. Abstentionist in that it opposed participation in "bourgeois elections", the group would form, with the addition of the former L'Ordine Nuovo grouping in Turin around Antonio Gramsci, the backbone of the Communist Party of Italy (PCd'I, Partito Comunista d'Italia) —founded at Livorno in January 1921. This came after a long internal struggle in the PSI: it had voted as early as 1919 to affiliate to the Comintern, but had refused to purge its reformist wing. In the course of the conflict, Bordiga attended the 2nd Comintern Congress in 1920, where he added two points to the 19 conditions of membership proposed by Vladimir Lenin. Nevertheless, he was criticised by Lenin in his work "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920).
For Bordiga, the party was 'the social brain' of the working class whose task was not to seek majority support, but to concentrate on working for an armed insurrection, in the course of which it would seize power and then use it to abolish capitalism and impose a communist society by force. Bordiga identified 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and dictatorship of the party and argued that establishing its own dictatorship should be the party's immediate and direct aim.
This position was accepted by the majority of the members of the PCd’I, but it was to bring them into conflict with the Comintern when in 1921 the latter adopted a new tactic: that of the 'united front' with reformist organisations to fight for reforms and even to form a 'workers' government'. Bordiga regarded this as a reversion to the failed tactics which the pre-war Social Democrats had adopted and which had led to them becoming reformist.
Out of a regard for discipline, Bordiga and his comrades (who became known as the 'Italian Communist Left') accepted the Comintern decision but were in an increasingly difficult position. When Bordiga was arrested in February 1923 on a trumped-up charge by the new government of Benito Mussolini, he had to give up his post as member of the Central Committee of the PCd’I but, on his acquittal later that year, he decided not to reclaim it, thus implicitly accepting that he was now an oppositionist. In 1924, the Left lost control of the PCd’I to a pro-Moscow group whose leader, Gramsci, became the Party's General Secretary in June. At the third Congress of PCd’I, held in exile in Lyons in January 1926, the manoeuvre of the pro-Moscow group was completed; without the support of the Communist International to escape from fascist control, few members of the Left were able to arrive to the Congress, so the 'theses' drawn up by Bordiga were rejected and those of the Stalinist minority group accepted.
He attended his last meeting of the Executive Committee of the Comintern in 1926, the same year in which he confronted Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin face-to-face. In his final confrontation with Stalin in Moscow in 1926, Bordiga proposed that all the Communist Parties of the world should jointly rule the Soviet Union, as a demonstration of the supra-national reality of the workers' movement. This proposal was, however, coolly received by Stalin and his friends. Bordiga accused Stalin of betraying the Revolution, calling the Soviet leader "the gravedigger of the revolution".
In December 1926 Bordiga was again arrested by Mussolini and sent to prison in Ustica, an Italian island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Here he met with Gramsci and they renewed their friendship and worked alongside each other despite their political differences. Bordiga was concerned about Gramsci's ill health, but nothing came of a plan to help him escape the island. In 1928 Bordiga was moved to the Isle of Ponza. Here he built several houses, returning after his detention in 1929 to finish them.
Following his release Bordiga did not resume his activities in the Communist Party, and was in fact expelled in March 1930 accused of having "supported, defended and endorsed the positions of the Trotskyist opposition" and been organisationally disruptive. With his expulsion, Bordiga left political activity until 1943. He was to refuse to comment on political affairs even when asked by trusted friends. However, many of his former supporters in the PCd'I went into exile and founded a political tendency, often referred to as Italian Communist Left. In 1928 its members in exile in France and Belgium formed themselves into the 'Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy', which became in 1935 the 'Italian Fraction of the Communist Left'. This change of name was a reflection of the Italian Left's view that the PCI and the other Communist Parties had now become 'counter-revolutionary'. The 'Bordigists', as they became known, with their theory of the party and their opposition to any form of 'frontism', held that program was everything and a gate-receipt notion of numbers was nothing. Bordiga would again work with many of these comrades following the end of World War II.
International Communist Party
After 1944, he first returned to political activity in the Naples-based Fraction of Socialists and Communists. But, when this grouping was dissolved into the International Communist Party (ICP), Bordiga didn't initially join. However, he did contribute anonymously to its press, primarily Battaglia Comunista and Prometeo, in keeping with his conviction that revolutionary work was collective in nature, and his opposition to any form of (even incipient) personality cult. Bordiga joined the ICP in 1949.
When the current split in two in 1951, he took the side of the grouping that retained the name, publishing its Il Programma Comunista. Bordiga devoted himself to the Party, contributing extensively. Amadeo Bordiga remained with the International Communist Party until his death at Formia in 1970.
On the theoretical level, Bordiga developed an understanding of the Soviet Union as a capitalist society. Bordiga's writings on the capitalist nature of the Soviet economy, in contrast to those produced by the Trotskyists, also focused on the agrarian sector. In analyzing the agriculture of the Soviet Union, Bordiga sought to display the capitalist social relations that existed in the kolkhoz and sovkhoz, one a cooperative farm and the other a wage-labor state farm. In particular, he emphasized how much of the national agrarian produce came from small, privately owned plots (writing in 1950) and predicted the rates at which the Soviet Union would start importing wheat after Russia had been such a large exporter from the 1880s to 1914.
In Bordiga's conception of Stalinism, Joseph Stalin and later Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and so on were "great romantic revolutionaries", i.e. bourgeois revolutionaries. He felt that the Stalinist regimes that came into existence after 1945 were extending the bourgeois nature of prior revolutions that degenerated as all had in common a policy of expropriation and agrarian and productive development, which he considered negations of previous conditions and not the genuine construction of socialism.
Bordiga proudly defined himself as "anti-democratic", believing himself to be following the tradition of Marx and Engels. However, Bordiga's hostility toward democracy was unrelated to the Stalinist narrative of the single-party state. Indeed, he saw Fascism and Stalinism as the culmination of bourgeois democracy. Democracy to Bordiga meant above all the manipulation of society as a formless mass. To this he counterposed the "dictatorship of the proletariat", to be implemented by the Communist Party, based on the principles and program enunciated in The Communist Manifesto (1848). He often referred to the spirit of Engels' remark that "on the eve of the revolution all the forces of reaction will be against us under the banner of 'pure democracy" (as every factional opponent of the Bolsheviks in 1921 from the monarchists to the anarchists called for "soviets without Bolsheviks" — or soviet workers councils not dominated by Bolsheviks). Bordiga opposed the idea of revolutionary theory being the product of a democratic process of pluralist views, believing that the Marxist perspective has the merit of underscoring the fact that communism, like all social formations, is above all about the expression of programmatic content. This enforces the fact that for Marxists, communism is not an ideal to be achieved but a "real movement" born from the old society with a set of programmatic tasks.
On the United Front
Bordiga resolutely opposed the Comintern's turn to the right in 1921; as General Secretary of the PCI, he refused to implement the "United Front" strategy of the Third Congress. He refused, in other words, to fuse the newly formed PCI, dominated by "Bordigism", with the left wing of the PSI from which it had just broken away. Bordiga had a completely different view of the party from the Comintern, which was adapting to the revolutionary ebb which was announced, in 1921, by the Anglo-Russian trade agreement, Kronstadt, the implementation of the NEP, the banning of factions and the defeat of the March Action in Germany. For Bordiga, the Western European CPs' strategy of fighting this ebb by absorbing a mass of left-wing Social Democrats through the "United Front" was a complete capitulation to the period of counter-revolutionary ebb he saw setting in. This was the nub of his critique of democracy. For it was in the name of "conquering the masses" that the Comintern seemed to be making all kinds of programmatic concessions to left-wing Social Democrats. For Bordiga, program was everything, a gate-receipt notion of numbers was nothing. The role of the party in the period of ebb was to preserve the program and to carry on the propaganda work possible until the next turn of the tide, not to dilute it while chasing ephemeral popularity.
Bordiga provided a way of seeing a fundamental degeneration in the world communist movement in 1921 (instead of in 1927 with the defeat of Trotsky) without sinking into mere empty calls for "more democracy". The abstract formal perspective of bureaucracy/democracy, with which the Trotskyist tradition treats this crucial period in Comintern history, became separated from any content. Bordiga throughout his life called himself a Leninist and never polemicized against Lenin directly, but his totally different appreciation of the 1921 conjuncture, its consequences for the Comintern, and his opposition to Lenin and Trotsky on the united front issue illuminates a turning point that is generally obscured by the heirs of the Trotskyist wing of the international left opposition of the 1920s.
For Bordiga, both stages of socialist or communist society (sometimes distinguished as "socialism" and "communism") were characterised by the (gradual) absence of money, the market, and so on, the difference between them being that earlier in the first stage a system of 'rationing' would be used to allocate goods to people, while in communism this could be abandoned in favour of full free access. This view distinguished Bordiga from other Leninists, and especially the Trotskyists, who tended (and still tend) to telescope the first two stages and so have money and the other exchange categories surviving into "socialism". Bordiga would have none of this. For him no society in which money, buying and selling and the rest survived could be regarded as either socialist or communist; these exchange categories would die out before the socialist rather than the communist stage was reached.
- Peregalli, Arturo; Saggioir, Sandro (1998). La sconfitta e gli anni oscuri (1926-1945. Milan: Edizioni Colibri.
- Goldner, Loren (1995). "Amadeo Bordiga, the agrarian question and the international revolutionary movement" (PDF). Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory. 23 (1): 73–100. doi:10.1080/03017609508413387. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amadeo Bordiga.|
- The International Library of the Communist Left - Bordiga Page
- Bordiga Archive at Marxists.org.
- Archives of "Sinistra comunista 'italiana' " - Hundreds texts of Bordiga at "n+1" Review
- Libertarian Communist Library Amadeo Bordiga archive
- Antagonism Bordiga Archive (Archived 2009-10-25)
- Bordigism - Adam Buick (Archived 2009-10-25)
- Loren Goldner, Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today
- International Communist Party
- Earlene Craver The Third Generation: The Young Socialists in Italy, 1907-1915
- Philippe Bourrinet, The "Bordigist" Current, (1912-1952) at "Left Wing" Communism - an infantile disorder?
|Party political offices|
| Leader of the Communist Party of Italy
Antonio Gramsci (as Secretary of the Italian Communist Party)