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After reading our journal for the first or even a number of times, many comrades have rightly asked themselves or us: "What is this OCI?". Even those who find themselves in agreement with what we have to say often wonder: "Where do they come from? Why is it that we have never even heard of them before?". There is also some legitimate perplexity among our more experienced proletarian comrades: they have all too often seen the sudden appearance and equally rapid disappearance of a succession of groups (some larger than ours) that have presented themselves as the "new" and "real" party of the working class.
Our position is very different. In the first place, we are not ashamed to admit that our organisation is still small even though it is anything but recent (as a formalised group and above all as an organised tendency at the heart of the workers’ movement), nor that we find we still have to present ourselves to important sectors of the proletariat for the first time and as outsiders (it is our weakness – a weakness that afflicts not only us but reflects the general weakness of the class forces of the proletariat). Nevertheless, responsibly and without any self-conceit, we lay claim to the fact that we represent something and have something to say.
This is not due to any sort of irrational self-exaltation of ourselves as a group or (worse) as a set of "individual personalities", but because we feel ourselves strengthened by the tradition of theoretical and practical battles to which we belong: the tradition of communism. And we are certain that the proletariat, which has always been the historical subject of this tradition, will inevitably return to being its protagonist. It is here that our future lies: not our own restricted future as a "group", but the future of the proletariat and its party for which we work.

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Who are we? Communists.

We are communists in the authentic sense of the word: the invariable sense conferred upon it by Marxism, from the "Manifesto" of 1848 to the constitution of the Italian Communist Party at Livorno in 1921, from the formation of Lenin’s Third International to the left-wing battle against its subsequent degeneration (with Italians and Russians, such as Bordiga and Trotsky, in the front line).

Being communists means scientifically understanding that, although capitalism has enormously developed and "socialised" production, it has also appropriated the results for its own private purposes by submitting it to the capitalist laws of profit rather than dedicating it to the satisfaction of social needs; that capitalism is based on the systematic and increasing exploitation of wage labour (labour as a good), and is therefore antagonistic towards it; that the famous "self-regulating" market to which capitalism refers is actually a permanently anarchic factor eventually destined to explode under the weight of crises and wars; that the only way out from this anarchy (which is paid for in terms of proletarian suffering and blood) is the destruction of the present system and the organisation of a society finally based on the rational administration of social (and natural) resources for the purpose of satisfying the social needs of man.

The October Revolution in 1917, and the various attempts at revolution occurring throughout Europe after the First World War, represented a concrete effort to put these principles into practice. But are these things of the past?

It is true that the revolution was subsequently defeated, and that all of us are now suffering the consequences. Capitalism proved to be capable of averting the extension and definitive affirmation of the revolution, of resuming its own "rising" course, and (in the imperialist metropoli) of binding the previously revolutionary proletarian parties to itself by transforming them into its "reformist" appendages and temporarily offering the crumbs of its new-found profits to the masses – but (and this must never be forgotten) always and only to the metropolitan masses! However, this "victory" of capitalism involved another world-wide bloodbath and the subsequent imposition of its financial and armed dominion over the majority of the people living in non-metrolitan areas.
But it is still not satisfied. The crisis has returned and is today unarrestable: it can no longer be "limited" by off-loading its effects onto the second or third world; it is now penetrating the metropoli themselves, and promises the proletariat nothing other than new blood and tears. The bourgeousies and their lapdogs complain about the difficulties of the system and (surprise, surprise!) call out for the "necessary sacrifices", but only communists denounce the real nature of the capitalist crisis: capitalism is not suffering because of a lack of goods, but because of a production hypertrophy due to the fact that demand can no longer be satisfied on the basis of market mechanisms, which coincides with an increasingly evident inability to satisfy social needs. The problems of society can only be solved by stripping private capitalist of this potential social wealth. It is not the proletariat that has to make sacrifices, but capitalism that must be sacrificed!
We are neither "refounded" nor "refoundable" communists. We say that all of the talk about a "regulated market", State-guided "social" capitalism, "workers’ power", and the possibility of gradual "reforms" that will bring together the laws of profit and social needs is nothing but hot air. We say that any "change" or "alternative" based on the denial of the central antagonistic role of the proletariat (strengthened by its communist party) in the anti-capitalist struggle, and its replacement by "alliances" of different classes and parties created by means of electoral and parliamentary alchemies, is nothing other than a lie and a betrayal.
This kind of "communism" is simply the fruit of habits acquired during the previous "reformist" cycle of capitalist development, a nostalgia for the same, and the false hope that it can be maintained and developed – whereas it is already inevitably sliding into the abyss. It may be true that these are aspects that can be fought for inside and on behalf of the proletariat, but the result can only be confusion and defeat because there is no turning back. What is now clearly needed is an explicit acceptance of the reality of the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and between capitalism and socialism – and this can no longer and in no way be avoided by means of (impossible) "reformist" patching.
This is not to say that the communist revolution is just around the corner, and we certainly do not deny the need for immediate and partial defensive action. Our position is simply that this cannot be done by means of "reformist" methods or in a "reformist" perspective: like Marx, we say that the real result of such a struggle must be the greatest possible class unity and consciousness of its antagonistic role, which means communist training for the struggle for power.
In our opinion, the same lesson can be drawn from what is happening in Italy. Far from being simply a perverse design created by Berlusconi, what we are seeing is nothing less than the combined and centralised attack of the Italian and international bourgeoisies against the proletariat which, as such, needs to be confronted and defeated within the context of an equally centralised and decided class struggle. This is the exact opposite of the "reformist strategy", which reduces this struggle to nothing more than a springboard from which to launch new "alliances" with extra- and anti-proletarian classes and parties in view of hypothetic "alternative" governments … which will nevertheless continue to respect the laws of the market, the public accounts (of the bourgeoisie), the urgency of "effective book balancing" and "fair sacrifices for all".

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Where do we come from?

OCI was founded little more than ten years ago, but our political and organisational origins go back much further and reflect the never-interrupted class battle of genuine communists.

Our origins lie with the Italian and international tradition of the Communist left that led the Party of Livorno and the International, and was then crushed by triumphant Stalinism as a result of the exhaustion of the revolutionary wave of the 1920’s. It was subsequently further fragmented into tiny groups that had no influence over the masses, and then further eroded by internal dissent and deviations that were either opportunist (particularly in the case of the "Trotskyists") or sectarian in the worse sense of the term (as happened to many of the so-called "Bordighist" groups and sub-groups).
Stalin proclaimed the theory of "socialism in a single country", claiming that the USSR could "construct socialism" by itself while remaining the bulwark of the international revolution. With the withdrawal of the movement, this watchword sounded attractive to a European proletariat forced to bow down under the yoke of "democratic restabilisation" or (even worse) fascism. It was said that "Stalin is coming!" but, in the meantime – and as the left constantly pointed out – this approach meant destroying the unity of the international communist movement and submitting it to the needs of the Soviet State and, by definition, this process could only lead to a new form of "State capitalism". Furthermore, despite pious Stalinist hopes, and against all of its promises, the end result was the drowning of Soviet "socialism" and its separation from the metropolitan "communist" parties, each of which acted in the name of its "own interests" and its "own national autonomy": i.e. their own capitalism.
The "Berlin wall" (and all of the other pseudo-socialist walls) have recently fallen, but the wall of authentic communism was clearly already weakened by the participation of the USSR in the Second (imperialist) World War as an ally of the American "democratic" brigands and their consorts, and in Italy by the class collaboration in the war of "resistance" side by side with the worst arsenals of our own bourgeoisie and on the tailcoats of the great imperialist powers.

What was it that Stalinist leadership led the workers’ movement into?

In the USSR ("the motherland of socialism"), it led to an explicit recognition of the capitalist nature of its socio-economic structure and its "savage" adjustment to the needs of "modernisation" (at the hands of the nomenklatura of its "communist" party and State, and not by means of "external counter-revolutionary agents"!). In Italy, it led to the equally explicit abandoning of even merely verbal links with communism by the old Italian Communist Party (PCI), and the full acknowledgement of the "eternal" laws of the market, "national interests" and the bloc of the "progressive" classes (from wage-earners to the great "productive" bourgeoisie) – the posthumous recognition of a process that had already been completed.
In both one and the other case, the result has been a full adhesion to the needs of capital (including imperialist drives outwards). The proletariat is simply called upon to form ranks in response to the promise that such an environment will allow the "progressives" to safeguard the "compatible" marginal aspects of the social state.
Throughout all of these decades, although increasingly reduced in number and obliged to face an infinity of internal crises, the residual communist forces have continued to raise their voices against this liberal ("social-imperialist") drift and indicate the future to come. But they have so far lacked any real weight because they have been unable to equip themselves with a real communist party that goes beyond the ardent phases of the social and political struggle: this is no accident, but the long-term result of the scorching defeat of the 1920’s.
However, the reality of today is leading to a return to the "old" and "forgotten" antagonistic perspective of revolutionary communism, and there is nothing that the "false progressives" or the people nostalgic for the defunct combative reformism of the "old PCI", can do to exorcise it. As the proletariat and our comrades will immediately realise, the struggles of the last few months demonstrate that the conflict in course is not between "savage" and "socially regulating" variants of capitalism, but between capitalism and wage labour – and it is precisely as a result of the development of this conflict that we expect not only to see the strengthening of our own organisation, but also a general reinforcement of the autonomous organisational capacities of the proletariat, of which we are both a part and an acting organ.
This will necessarily mean the recovery on the part of the proletarian vanguard of the analyses and perspectives developed throughout the previous course of the communist left: these are not "ideas" distilled by a few individual brains "outside" the movement, but the scientific anticipation – in militant contact with the working class – of the battleground upon which it will have to fight. It is this that is the fruit of the self-consistent and continuous work of generations, from Marx (and before) onwards.

Is it we who are living in the past, or is it the others? We say the latter: i.e. capitalism is a historically superseded system that has long given the best of itself. Utopia is not communism but (more than ever) the "reformism" that has by now been definitively put into its place by the inexorable laws of putrescent imperialist capitalism.

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How do we work?

Our organisation carries out the centralised tasks of verifying, confirming and developing the cardinal theoretical and programmatic points of the communism "of always". In doing so, we do all we can to establish ties with similar forces in the rest of the world because we are well aware that the destiny of communism and its party is international and internationalist.
The central element of the life of the organisation is the editing and distribution of publications – a task that all of our militants are called upon to undertake. We hold regular meetings (some restricted to militants, others open to sympathisers and the "general public") with the aim of discussing in more detail the subjects dealt with in our publications, and comparing our position with the positions held by the other political forces present in the workers’ movement. Far from being "intellectual", this is eminently practical work without which any type of intervention would come to nothing: in addition to fighting seriously, the members of the proletariat must study seriously in order to become conscious militants capable of directing the struggle and the movement.
At the same time, our militants are committed to associating themselves with every aspect of the everyday life and problems of the members of the proletariat by actively participating in all of their struggles, unconditionally supporting them and never failing to intervene on the basis of the total autonomy of their positions and organisation.
We do not see any of these struggles as "insignificant". None of them is to be disdained simply because it is still directed by reformist organizations. We do not "preach the good news" or speak of radiant futures detached from the present. We are militants who are convinced that only a concrete material struggle will make it possible to clarify the reality of the situation and develop the necessary party political struggle.
We can take the example of the current struggle against Berlusconi’s budget. It is obvious to us (but not at all to the masses) that its coming into effect as a result of the work of uncontrasted "reformist" leaders would be a disaster for the present (and above all the future) fate of the proletariat. This is not an inevitable outcome, but it can only be avoided by radicalising the struggle itself (whatever it is and regardless of who has declared it), by encouraging the confrontation of the antagonist forces involved, and by favouring the appearance of at least the embryo of communist political leadership. To this end, it is essential that the largest possible number of enraged proletarians enter the field because only such a demonstration of strength can lay the foundations for subsequent events: a decided and internally consistent opposition to the bourgeois bloc and at least the beginnings of autonomous conditioning against "reformist" sirens.
This is what we are working for, without sectarianism but also without any cowardice – as is well known by the workers who have known us for longer and seen us more closely.

It is now the time for whoever shares (or is in any way interested in) our positions to understand that we are not talking about mentally abstract "ideas" divorced from the material struggle on the ground, and to begin to take part in the activities deriving from them at all possible levels. This can begin by taking an active part in our discussions, and cooperating with our press by making comments, offering informative contributions, providing news coming from the working class, and so on: subsequently, they can ask to join directly in the work of the organisation as sympathisers and future militants.

We are not interested in "recruitment" campaigns. We are not looking for fictitious "militants" who simply serve to swell our membership. We want to develop real militants – and real militance requires collaborating not only in the "practical" work indicated by the organisation, but also in the organic whole of its theoretical, programmatic and political positions. These are the militants we are looking for, but their acceptance will depend on their willingness to undertake such a long process and our own sense of commitment. The important thing is to begin, and we believe that there is no lack of opportunities for doing that.
We do not want to increase the numbers of our organisation "for its own sake". Our real strength lies in the capacity of our organisation to bring together and increasingly influence the reactivation of ever broader sectors of the masses. We are perfectly aware that the road leading to the eradication of the opportunist infection that has weakened us for decades is long and difficult, and therefore that we cannot expect any immediate detachment of decisive segments of the proletariat from "reformist" influences.
It is for this reason that we are absolutely not "sectarian", but believe in a united front of the masses (and also condemn any attempt to preconstitute any other type of trade union, political or other organisation). At the same time, we are absolutely "sectarian" and "dogmatic" – as some like to call us – when it comes to defending our theoretical, programmatic and political foundations. Here, we are not prepared to cede one iota of the heritage transmitted to us by one and a half centuries of Marxism because this is not something for us to protect "for ourselves"; it is for, and belongs to the proletariat.

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An appeal

Our journal has gained a still restricted but regular readership, which mainly consists of proletarians who see us constantly and unflinchingly at their side not only in times of struggle, but also when there is no struggle or the idea of struggle is rejected. But it also includes young non-proletarians who in any case suffer the devastating effects of today’s society, and who we call upon to fight at the side of the proletariat because it is only through the proletariat that any solution can be found for the so-called "youth question"; we show them that communist commitment encapsulates and solves in itself all of the problems that bourgeois ideology presents as "specific" in order to divide the class front and make vain every attempt at change (in terms of education, associations, their commitment to "pacifist" and "voluntary work", "ecology", the drug question …). Furthermore, it includes women who are sensitive to the problem of the "dual oppression" suffered by female workers, as well as immigrants who have decided not to allow themselves to be trapped in a ghetto (not even in that of the – profit making – "charity" that they are sometimes "conceded"). Finally, we invest as much of our energies and financial resources as we can in order to supply comrades in other parts of the world with translations of our publications (so far available in English, German, French, Serbo-Croat and Arabic).
We do not ask these readers to "join us at once", or to give us any kind of "blank cheque". But we do ask them to help us to produce a journal that is increasingly rich in "external" contributions, to explain to us the problems they have to face, to make comments and criticisms, and to contact us directly. We also ask them to make financial contributions towards a press that they are beginning to appreciate. Whoever follows us with interest can no longer fail to realise that it is now time for them to break out from their individual isolation or small "family" groups – it is now time for them to work for a real organisation of communist militants and to dedicate some of their own financial resources to the same end.

We do the impossible thanks to the spontaneous and total commitment of our members; we have no doubt that our communist "readers" will also do their part.

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(Livorno, 1921)

  1. The current capitalistic social regime is leading to a growing contrast between the forces of production and production relationships, thus giving rise to an antithesis of interests and a class struggle between the proletariat and the dominant bourgeoisie.
  2. The production relationships of today are protected by the power of the bourgeois State which, whatever form of representative system or elective democracy it may adopt, constitutes the organ that defends the interests of the capitalist class.
  3. The proletariat can no longer break or modify the capitalist system of production relationships that lies at the origin of its exploitation without violently destroying bourgeois power.
  4. The indispensable organ of the proletarian revolutionary struggle is a class party. By bringing together the most advanced and decided part of the proletariat, the Communist Party unifies the energies of the working masses by diverting them from struggles based on group interests and their contingent results to the general struggle for the revolutionary emancipation of the proletariat. The party has the task of spreading revolutionary theory among the masses, organising the material means of action, and directing the development of the struggle of the working class by ensuring the historical continuity and international unity of the movement.

From Che Fare No.33 (November/December 1994)

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