Letter of the Political Bureau of the PCI to the CC of the RCP 

(October 1926)

Antonio Gramsci

In this letter of October, 1926, Communist Party of Italy and Antonio Gramsci clear indicate that they fully support the majority of the Central Committee of the RCP which was headed by J.V. Stalin and subjected to criticism the opposition groups headed by Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky. Gramsci considered that ‘In the ideology and practice of the opposition bloc there are reborn the whole tradition of social democracy and trade unionism, a tradition that has prevented, until now, the Western proletariat from organizing itself as the ruling class’.

Dear Comrades:

The Italian communists and all class-conscious workers of our country have always followed your discussions with the greatest attention. On the eve of each Congress and each conference of the R.C.P. we have always been confident that, despite the harshness of the polemics, the unity of the Party was not in danger; moreover, we were sure that upon reaching a higher ideological and organic homogeneity, through such discussions, the Party would be better prepared and equipped to overcome the many difficulties inherent in the exercise of power in a workers’ state.

Today, on the eve of your XV Conference, we do not have the same assurance as in the past, we feel very anxious; it seems to us that the current stance of the opposition bloc and the harshness of the polemics in the CP of the USSR demand the intervention of the fraternal parties. It is precisely this deep conviction that impels us to send you this letter. It could be that the isolation in which our Party is forced to live has led us to exaggerate the dangers relating to the internal situation of the Communist Party of the USSR; in any case our judgments about the international repercussions of this situation are not exaggerated and, as internationalists, we must do our duty.

The internal situation of our fraternal party of the USSR seems different and much more serious than in the preceding discussions, because we see materialized and verified a split in the Leninist central group that has always been the core leadership of the Party and the International. A split of this kind, regardless of the numerical results in the votes of the Congress, may have the most serious repercussions, not only if the minority opposition does not accept with the highest loyalty the fundamental principles of revolutionary discipline of the Party, but also if it exceeds, in the course of its struggle, certain limits that are higher than any formal democracy.

One of the most precious teachings of Lenin has been that we must study deeply the judgments of our class enemies. Well, dear comrades, the fact is that the newspapers and most notable statesmen of the international bourgeoisie are carefully contemplating the organic nature of the conflict in the fundamental core of the Communist Party of the USSR, they are counting on a split in our fraternal party and they are convinced that this will lead to the disintegration and the slow death of the proletarian dictatorship, that this split will result in the catastrophe of the revolution that the invasions and insurrections of the White Guards failed to achieve.

The same cold circumspection with which the bourgeois press today tries to analyze the Russian events, the fact that try to avoid, as far as it is possible, the violent demagogy that characterized it in the past, are symptoms that should give pause to the Russian comrades, to make them more conscious of their responsibility.

There is yet another motive for the international bourgeoisie to take account of the possible split, or the aggravation of the internal crisis within the Communist Party of the USSR. The workers’ state in Russia has existed already for nine years. It is true that only a small minority of the labouring classes, and even of the communist parties themselves in other countries, are able to reconstruct in its whole the full development of the revolution and to find, even in the details that make up the daily life of the State of the Soviets, the continuity of the red thread leading to the general perspective of the building of socialism. And this is not only in those countries in which there is no freedom of assembly and freedom of the press has been completely suppressed or is under unprecedented limitations, as in Italy (where the courts have confiscated and prohibited the printing of books by Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, Zinoviev and finally even the Communist Manifesto), but also in countries where even our parties are free to provide their members and the masses in general sufficient information. In these countries, the large masses cannot understand the discussions that take place in the Communist Party of the USSR, particularly when they lead to the current violence and affect not one aspect of the detail, but the whole political line of the Party. Not only the working masses in general, but the very mass of our parties see and want to see in the Republic of Soviets, and in the party that is in government, a united combat unit acting in the general perspective of socialism. And it is only because the masses in Western European see Russia and the Russian party from this point of view, they accept voluntarily, and as a necessary historical fact, that the Communist Party of the USSR should be the leading party of the International, so today only the Republic of Soviets and the Communist Party of the USSR constitute a formidable element of organization and revolutionary impulse.

The bourgeois and social-democratic parties, for the same reason, are exploiting the internal polemics and conflicts in the Communist Party of the USSR; they want to fight against the influence of the Russian revolution, against the revolutionary unity that is being forged throughout the world around the Communist Party of the USSR.

Dear comrades, it is extremely significant that in a country like Italy, where the state and party organizations of fascism have managed to crush every important expression of independent life of the great masses of workers and peasants, it is significant that the fascist newspapers, especially in the provinces, are full of articles, technically well prepared for propaganda, with a minimum of demagogy and insulting language, which seek to demonstrate, with evident effort at objectivity, that now, according to the expressions of the best-known leaders of the opposition bloc of the Communist Party of the USSR themselves, the Soviet State is changing, from all evidence, into a pure capitalist state, and that therefore, in the worldwide duel between fascism and Bolshevism, fascism will prevail. This campaign shows well how enormous is the sympathy enjoyed by the Republic of Soviets among the great masses of the Italian people, who for six years in some regions have not received more than a little illegal party literature; this also shows that fascism, which knows very well the actual Italian internal situation, has learned to work with the masses and try to use the political stance of the opposition bloc to definitively break the strong hostility of the workers towards the Mussolini government and to achieve, at least, a state of mind in which fascism appears as an inevitable historical necessity, notwithstanding its inherent cruelty and calamities.

We believe that in the framework of the International, our party is the one that is suffering the greatest impact of the grave situation in the Communist Party of the USSR. And not only for reasons that are, let us say, external, related to the general conditions of the revolutionary development in our country. You know that all the parties of the International have inherited from the old social democracy and the different national traditions existing in each country (anarchism, syndicalism, etc.) a mass of prejudices and ideological motives that represent the cause of all the deviations from the right and left. In recent years, and particularly after the Fifth World Congress, our parties were arriving, through painful experience, through painful and debilitating crises, at an effective Leninist stabilization; they were becoming true Bolshevik parties. Our proletarian cadres were being formed at the base, in the factories; the intellectual elements were being subjected to a rigorous selection and to a harsh and severe ordeal of practical work in the field of action.

This restructuring was taking place under the guidance of the Communist Party of the USSR, in its united structure, and of all the great leaders of the Party of the USSR. The sharpness of the current crisis and the threat of a split, whether open or latent, is paralyzing this process of development and restructuring of our parties, it crystallizes the right and left deviations, retards once more the success of the organic unity of the world Party of the workers. It is particularly about this aspect that we consider it our internationalist duty to draw the attention of the most responsible comrades of the Communist Party of the USSR. Comrades, in these nine years of world history you have been the organizing and promoting element of the revolutionary forces of all countries; the role that you have played is unprecedented in the whole history of humankind in its breadth and depth. But today you are destroying your own work, you are degrading and running the risk of destroying the leading role that the Communist Party of the USSR had won under the leadership of Lenin; it seems to us that the violent passion of the Russian questions makes you lose sight of the international aspects of these Russian questions themselves, that it makes you forget that your duties as Russian militants can and should be realized only in the framework of the interests of the international proletariat.

The Political Bureau of PCI has studied with the utmost promptness and attention possible all the problems that are now being discussed in the Communist Party of the USSR. The questions confronting you today may confront us tomorrow. In our country as well the rural masses form the majority of the working population. On the other hand, the problems inherent in the hegemony of the proletariat will be presented to us in a manifestly more complex and acute form than in Russia itself, because the density of the rural population in Italy is enormously greater, because our peasants have a very rich organizational tradition and they have always managed to make the specific weight of the masses felt very sensibly in the national political life, because in our country the Church’s organizational apparatus has two thousand years of tradition and has specialized in the propaganda and in the organization of the peasants, in a manner unequaled in any other country. While it is true that our industry is more developed and that the proletariat has a notable material base, it is also true that this industry does not have raw materials in the country and therefore finds itself more exposed to the crises; therefore the proletariat can only play its leading role if it shows a great spirit of sacrifice and is fully freed of all remnants of reformist or trade union corporatism.

From this realist, and we believe Leninist, point of view, the Political Bureau of PCI has studied your discussions. So far we have expressed the opinion of the party only on the strict question of the discipline of the factions, wanting to stick to the recommendation that you made after the XIV Congress to not bring the discussion of your problems to the sections of the International. We declare at this point that we consider fundamentally correct the policy of the majority of the CC of the Communist Party of the USSR and that obviously the majority of the Italian party will state this in this sense if it is necessary to address the issue. We do not want, and we consider it unnecessary, to make agitation and propaganda with you and with the comrades of the opposition bloc. We have not made a list of all the particular questions, with our position on each one. We repeat that we are impressed that the position of the oppositions affects the whole of the political line of the CC, that it goes to the heart of the Leninist doctrine and the political activity of our Party of the Union. At issue is the principle and practice of the hegemony of the proletariat, the fundamental relations of the alliance between the workers and peasants that is being questioned and put in danger, that is, the pillars of the Workers’ State and of the Revolution.

Comrades, it has never in history been the case that a ruling class, as a whole, has living conditions inferior to those of certain elements and strata of the dominated and subjected class. History has reserved this unprecedented contradiction to the proletariat; in this contradiction lies the greatest dangers for the dictatorship of the proletariat, particularly in countries where capitalism has not achieved a great development and has not been able to unify the productive forces. And it is from this contradiction, which also appears elsewhere in some respects in some capitalist countries in which the proletariat has objectively reached a high social function, from which arise reformism and syndicalism, the corporate spirit and the stratifications of the labor aristocracy. And nevertheless, the proletariat cannot become the ruling class if it does not overcome this contradiction with the sacrifice of the corporatist interests; it cannot maintain its hegemony and dictatorship if, despite having become the ruling class, it does not sacrifice its immediate interests for the general and permanent interests of the class.

In effect, it is easy to be demagogic on this matter; it is easy to dwell on the negative aspects of the contradiction: “Are you the ruler, or a poorly dressed and poorly fed worker? Or are you the NEP man, with his fur coat and all goods of the earth at his disposal?” The reformists also, after a revolutionary strike that has increased the cohesion and discipline of the masses, but has further impoverished the workers, say: “Why have you fought? Now you are worse off and poorer.” It is easy to be demagogic in this area and it is hard not to do so when the question has been raised in terms of the corporatist spirit and not one of Leninism, of the doctrine of the hegemony of the proletariat which is situated in one determined position and not in another.

This is for us the essential element of your discussion, where the root of the errors of the opposition bloc resides and the origin of the latent dangers contained in its activity. In the ideology and practice of the opposition bloc there are reborn the whole tradition of social democracy and trade unionism, a tradition that has prevented, until now, the Western proletariat from organizing itself as the ruling class.

Only a firm unity and a firm discipline in the Party that rules the workers’ State can ensure the proletarian hegemony in the NEP regime, that is, in the full development of the contradiction that we have emphasized. But unity and discipline in this case cannot be mechanical and forced; they must be loyal and out of conviction and not that of a prisoner or besieged enemy detachment who only thinks of an evasion or a surprise escape.

This, dear comrades, is what we meant to say to you in the spirit of friends and brothers, even if we are younger brothers. Comrades Zinoviev, Trotsky and Kamenev have contributed vigorously to educate us for the revolution, they have corrected us, sometimes forcefully and with severity; they have been our teachers. We direct ourselves especially to them since they are primarily responsible for the current situation, because we want to be sure that the majority of the CC of the USSR does not intend to crush them in the struggle and is willing to avoid extreme measures. The unity of our fraternal Russian party is necessary for the development and triumph of the world revolutionary forces; for this every communist and internationalist must be willing to make the greatest sacrifices. The damages caused by an error of a united Party are easily surmountable; those of a split or a prolonged situation of a latent split may be irreparable and fatal.

With communist greetings,
Political Bureau of PCI
[Antonio Gramsci]

Source: ‘La Caja de Herramientas’, Biblioteca Virtual UJCE.

Translated from the Spanish by George Gruenthal.

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