Bordigism is a variant of left communism espoused by Marxist Amadeo Bordiga, who was a founder of the Communist Party of Italy and a prominent figure in the International Communist Party. Bordigists in the Italian Socialist Party would be the first to refuse on principle any participation in parliamentary elections.
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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 in 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 Imperial 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 Karl Marx and Friedrich 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. To Bordiga, democracy 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).
As such, 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 like all social formations communism 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 leader of the Communist Party of Italy, he refused to implement the united front strategy of the Third Congress. He also refused to fuse the newly formed party, dominated by Bordigism, with the left-wing of the Italian Socialist Party 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 that was announced in 1921 by the Anglo-Russian trade agreement, the Kronstadt rebellion, the implementation of the New Economic Policy, the banning of factions and the defeat of the March Action in Germany.
For Bordiga, the Western European communist parties' 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.
Although most Leninists distinguish between socialism and communism and Bordiga did consider himself a Leninist, being described as "more Leninist than Lenin", he did not distinguish between the two in the same way Leninists do. Bordiga did not see socialism as a separate mode of production from communism, but rather just as how communism looks as it emerges out of capitalism before it has "developed on its own foundations". This is consistent with Marx and Engels, who used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably. Bordiga used socialism to mean what Marx called the lower-phase communism. For Bordiga, both stages of socialist or communist society—with stages referring to historical materialism—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, but 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.
- "Bordigism". International Communist Current. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
- 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 1 August 2018.