Il Programma Comunista – Elementary Note on Students and the Authentic Marxism of the Left

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Student movements cannot present a history or a historical tradition.

At the time of the liberal bourgeois revolutions, whether republican or only constitutional, the movements or organisms of students did not have any autonomous actions or objectives. The student groups of the time joined the bourgeois, patriotic or Carbonarist revolutionaries, and sometimes, as in Italy in Curtatone and Montanara, they fought in the ranks of independentist organisations. In France it is certain that the students of the time were among the stormers of the Bastille and the sans-culottes, as well as among the soldiers of the revolutionary armies under the command of the former student of the military school Napoléon Bonaparte. In these cases as in others, the only autonomous class, leading the revolutions and aspiring to the new power, was the financial and entrepreneurial big bourgeoisie.

Today, in this rotting 1968, the defence of the autonomy of a student movement by the false communists who succeeded Stalin is nothing more than a new confirmation of the depth of their entanglement in the quicksand of treason and denial. Definitely falling into the depths of the worst social-democratic revisionism, attracted by the prospect of obscene electoral manoeuvres, they developed an absurd thesis according to which students would constitute a social class; they even consider as an extremist left of these incoherent movements, the elements that invoke Mao’s China and that defend on the theoretical level in regard to the state, the formula of “workers’ power”.

Since the false communists of today, heirs of Stalin here as in Budapest, Warsaw or Prague, claim to represent the working class and even the centre of a repugnant and gross organisational and parliamentary unity, we who are the only ones who have remained faithful to the original and invariant doctrine of Marxism, we are entitled to consider as worthy of their cucked face and corresponding stomach, the impassive swallowing and digestion of the absurd theory according to which the gangs of students more or less inflamed by the idea of skipping courses, hanging teachers and cheating on examinations, would form a social class to whom this shameful quotation would be addressed: “Go ahead, young people! Today, it is up to you to play, we offer you at a low price, in pounds sterling or ultra-devalued dollars, the leading role in the world revolution that we had always claimed for the red proletariat”.

The deal is a scam because university students and others are not a real class, nor are all the layers that crowd behind them: intellectuals, such as writers, artists, histrions of different types in which the degeneration of this bourgeois society crystallises: scribblers, daubers, rumour disseminators and hoarse screamers; whereas the working class is a real class that a gang of pimps undresses to prostitute and sell on the market.

According to Marx, the proletariat is a class not only because without its labour it is not possible to produce the commodities that make up the gigantic wealth of capitalist society, whether they are consumer goods or capital goods; but because the proletariat, in addition to producing everything, also reproduces itself, that is, realises the production of producers. It is in this sense that Marx wanted to introduce into his modern doctrine the classical term used twenty centuries earlier by the Romans of antiquity to designate the members of the laborious rabble of their time: proletarians.

By continuing the comparison between the fertile proletariat that should today resign from history in the face of students who are agitating to take its place, it would be easy here to laugh when reading the information on students on French campuses or American colleges for whom the main revolutionary claim seems to be sexual freedom.

Workers of both sexes can by mating engender new workers for the labour armies of the future, while until proven otherwise, students do not automatically engender new students, even in countries where the children of workers and peasants have been generously granted the freedom to study.

The sterile classes cannot demand anything from history; the terrible Bastille, which the French students seem to have attacked, is the wall built by the Ministry of Education to protect the student quarters (a true modern gynoecium) from the incursions of their male colleagues, probably not driven by the duty to give birth to new generations of students, nor by the conviction that the conquest of reproductive power is part of the quest for political power. But if we want to consider even the classes that preceded the odious capitalist bourgeoisie, it is easy to see that as far as their historical dynamics are concerned, the question of reproduction must always be taken into account.

In feudal society, the serfs of the glebe were the progenitors of future serfs, in the same way that the privileges of their exploiters, the feudal aristocracy, were transmitted from father to son.

And at the top of this society, the hereditary principle also applied to the highest degree for the autocratic monarch. History reminds us that the feudal lord sought, through the legendary jus primae noctis, the right of the first night, to dispose for his personal pleasure of the virgin daughters of his unfortunate serfs.

When the modern bourgeoisie appeared, Marx, at the same time as he analysed its historical and social dynamics, stigmatised its custom already criticised by the defeated feudal nobility. The bourgeois newcomers, while hypocritically continuing to profess the ideal of the Catholic feudal family, not only covet the workers and their daughters, but, as the Manifesto writes, find their greatest pleasure in mutually seducing their wives.

Today in this increasingly disintegrating human society, and especially in the powerless consciousness it has of itself, we see not only theorisations that make students a social class, but we even hear about the struggle of generations, as if society were divided into two camps: adults and young people.

If we wanted to apply our criterion of reproduction, we could have fun with the fantastic image of a community where the elderly would beget the elderly and the young would beget the young, obviously at odds with the biological principle that those who are born first also reproduce first, and those who reach the end of their lives no longer have the capacity to do so.

Since the end of the First World War, as Marxists professing the original classical doctrine, we have had to rise more than once against the artificial theorisation by some of a new class that more or less coincides with the forms of power.

Ultra-modern America, all inflated from having been able to exploit since the end of the First World War a Europe that is now bloodless, where the power of industrial capitalists was historically born, presents us with the myth of technocracy: it is no longer the rich or the bosses of large companies who run things, but scientists and technicians at all levels who until now have only been forming one layer of officials or accomplices of the former.

Let us go through the entire historical interval between the First World War and the first workers’ revolution, and the geographical interval between the far West and Greater Russia. There, it was clear that a double class revolution had thrown at the feet of the triumphant proletariat both Tsarist feudal absolutism and capitalism, which had tried to take its place. However, even in the camp of Marxist theorists – and, as will be understood, we are referring here to the great Trotsky – hesitations appeared on the question of proletarian power and its nature; a Russian workers and Marxist opposition claimed that power had fallen into the hands of a new class that was neither the bourgeoisie nor the proletariat, but which seemed to be the bureaucracy constituted in the shadow of the new state.

While standing in solidarity with the courageous Trotskyist opposition against the actual disease of the communist dictatorship that was soon to become Stalinism, the Marxist left, which we are not going to stop by and call Italian, categorically denied that the bureaucracy was a social class and could seize power; it considered this perspective false because it broke with the classical and orthodox historical chain of events advocated by Marx. In the clash between Stalin’s power and the generous opposition of Trotsky and so many other heroic comrades, it was unfortunately the latter who succumbed to a higher force, and these sinister events marked the fall of the great revolution. These so-called new forms, which claim to have originated in the powerful matrix of history, are therefore not a new fact that would have to be discussed to refute their class characteristics: they are only pseudo-classes; yesterday the bureaucracy or technocracy, today students or intellectuals, or the one we could call in memory of Molotov the arseocracy[1], are only indistinct and vague forms that cannot, like real classes, be heralds of new historical perspectives for troubled human communities.

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Let us return for a moment to the chronological method to expose the evolution of the relations between the student youth and the socialist proletariat, at least as far as Italy is concerned. We can recall the first socialism at the end of the nineteenth century, when the party had the support of the famous writer Edmond De Amicis, whose little Marxist and revolutionary work on “civil struggles” it recommended to young people. De Amicis was a pacifist, he hated violence as much as Luther King, whose corpse is still warm; the same whiny and soft mentality was shared in England by the Fabians and in France by Malon’s supporters against whom Marx was not stingy with ferocious epithets. To justify his watered-down socialism, De Amicis even tried in a chapter to explain to young people as he could the Marxist economy; but it was to send those who had the possibility to some university courses of the time, explaining that they would find more information there than in these shallow pages of vulgarisation.

At that time, only the Faculty of Law offered a course in political economy, naturally according to orientations that Marx would have called vulgar economics; it was distinguished by the names of Pantaleoni, Loria, then Einaudi, against some of whom Engels had to argue. Obviously, for the good socialist with a dash of roses De Amicis, for whom Bissolati and Turati[2] were dangerous subversives, these pale university economics courses were excessively theoretical: he could not think of any more authoritative sources.

In 1911, Italy celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of national unity under the flag of the Savoy monarchy. Although led at the time by right-wing elements, the socialist party had the merit of encouraging the proletariat not to consider these manifestations of glory to the bourgeois homeland as its own, and as a general rule it refused to send its representatives there.

On the other hand, Italian students, more or less guided by their teachers, were in the front line of the tricolour celebrations. Moreover, in previous years and until the tragic year of 1898, they had applauded the monstrous colonial expeditions, while the socialist proletariat had been able to oppose them, including through courageous street clashes. At the turn of the century, there was therefore nothing in common, but a complete antithesis between Italian students and workers.

The reader who is lucky enough to be part of the younger generation should not believe that there were no student strikes at the beginning of the century. The problems of school orientation were still more burning than they are today, given the recent tradition of the new secular state’s struggle against the church that dominated the entire school organisation.

While the workers openly opposed the church, without idealising the cultural function of the modern class state, students increasingly turned away from clerical circles and institutions to join the blocist and Freemasonic orientations of what was then called the popular left. Throughout Europe, the good radical bourgeois on the left repeated Victor Hugo’s words like a sacred sentence: “In every French village there is now a lighted torch, the schoolmaster; and a mouth trying to blow it out, the priest”[3]! We must send schoolteachers and priests back into the arms of the bourgeoisie with kicks.

In all the student movements we saw more or less eloquent young speakers shouting: “Down with the priests!”. They harangued their audience as follows: “If you are royalists, you must hate the priests who still dream of taking Rome from you; likewise, if you are Republicans. If you are radical, you too must be anti-clerical. Maybe you are socialists? You too must come into the great family of enemies of the priests”. A little later, in the early years of this century, a great struggle took place in France (Combes’s Ministry) to expel priests, laybrothers and less from their last positions in the school.

At the level (as we would say today) of adult politics, this secularist, Freemasonic and popular unity orientation quickly became dominant, leading the Marxist and revolutionary wing of the proletarian parties to fight it as a very serious danger. The correspondence between the student movements and the well-known method of the Freemasons seems clear to us. The masons achieved their objective of castrating the labour movement by classically promising their affiliates, especially the youngest ones, easy, prestigious and remunerative careers. Young people have always been the first to respond to such calls, and this phenomenon had and still has a significant impact. Half a century ago, those who were excited when they heard: “what a wonderful career you’ll have when you grow up” still had their baby teeth; today, even babies know the neologism “sfondare[4]“.

***

The Marxist left quickly rose up against the deplorable and guilty hesitations of the socialist right, which tended to accept calls for the “bloc” in parliament and in local institutions; it affirmed the incompatibility of a policy of collaboration between parties that profess to be from opposing classes. This opposition was more marked in Italy than in other countries and it made it possible better than elsewhere to defend the proletariat against the ideological influences of bourgeois democratic radicalism which, as everyone knows, was the cause of the international catastrophe of August ’14. In Italy, in the historical confrontation between neutralists and interventionists, students provided a favourable environment for the manoeuvres of war criminals, sometimes under the guidance of their teachers who recalled the words of the famous prophet who had rang on the shore of Quarto during the “Radiant days of May”[5].

We can see in these events the first roots both of the successive twenty years of fascism so defamed and of the new blocism whose patsy is no longer the black cassock of the priest, but the black shirt of the militiaman. Deception does not change throughout history, the danger is always the same: breaking the borders between the really antagonistic classes that are always and everywhere the boss bourgeoisie and the working proletariat.

In this conflict, now a centuries-old battle, we have always found the most formidable trap to be the phantom classes, the false classes which, like today’s intellectuals, offer themselves to play the role of matchmaker and swindler to hide the inexorable historical line that leads to the world victory of the proletariat when it arrives in all countries at its revolutionary dictatorship.

Source: Il Programma Comunista, No. 8, May 1 – 15, 1968

[1] Molotov, who represents the archetype of the Soviet bureaucrat and who was Stalin’s second for a very long time, was called “stone arse” by him.

[2] Bissolati and Turati were reformist socialist leaders.

[3] This sentence, attributed to Victor Hugo, was repeated in a number of anticlerical publications.

[4] Italian: to make a name for oneself.

[5] In May 1860, Garibaldi, the hero of the struggle for Italian national unity, left the Quarto shoreline (near Genoa) for his first military expedition against the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel II.

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