L’associazione Utopia Rossa lavora e lotta per l’unità dei movimenti rivoluzionari di tutto il mondo in una nuova internazionale: la Quinta. Al suo interno convivono felicemente – con un progetto internazionalista e princìpi di etica politica – persone di provenienza marxista e libertaria, anarcocomunista, situazionista, femminista, trotskista, guevarista, leninista, credente e atea, oltre a liberi pensatori. Non succedeva dai tempi della Prima internazionale.



venerdì 9 dicembre 2011


An interview with Roberto Massari by Michele Azzerri

Dear friend and comrade,
this is the English translation of the interview on my idea of revolution made by Michele Azzerri on April 2011. I hope you'll find the time to read it and, if possible, to comment it. It is just an interview (then not a theoretical text) but I consider it a good synthesis of my present approach to the possibility (hope?) of revolution. It has been necessary for me to go through 45 years of revolutionary experiences in various parts of the world and the writing of almost 30 books in order to arrive to such a synthesis: but I know that it might be overcome in the same moment you read it. Luckily that on the ground of principles, the pace of change is not so rapid. So you may still find in it something reasonable. That "reasonable" part can be further discussed and improved. It can be also a mean of political connection between us, provided that you still consider the process of thinking a possible future revolution in the first place as a collective project.
Thanks for giving your attention to it.
Roberto Massari

© Jean Michel Basquiat
To begin with, can you introduce me to Red Utopia - to its national and international profile?
RU is a libertarian political association, which at the moment is comprised of comrades of many origins: Marxists, Libertarian Marxists, Anarchists, Situationists, Trotskyists, Guevarists, Leninists, Feminists, trade unionists, and Christians, if I haven't forgotten anyone.
Everyone is free to maintain his own individual ideology and is not responsible for the ideological positions of the others. We try to operate in a way that allows everyone to learn and understand the positive aspects that come from the various ideological origins. It is therefore a non-ideological association (nor ideologised) in which statutes do not exist, there are no conventions, executive committees, hierarchies, or similar structures. Neither is it obligatory to pay any membership dues. In fact, on closer inspection, there are no obligations whatsoever, apart from respecting the six principles of revolution that we will discuss later on. You are a part of RU because you want to be, at your own pace, without sacrifice, obligations or being made to feel guilty for «non-involvement».
Viewed in comparison with the small political groups, our most unusual characteristic - which was, however, a founding characteristic of the First International until it split - is that we do not have a political programme. Despite the fact that I have personally written many of them during my long life as a militant (as one can read from the collections of my unpublished writings: up to now there are four volumes, dating from the 1960's until 1980; the fifth volume is a work in progress). Leaving aside the controversy with small groups or political factions who utilize the supposed Programme (with a capital P) as a sort of panacea or a tournament of teams, even for more serious organisations adopting a single and obligatory programme is a foolish thing.
In the first place a revolutionary political programme cannot be written once and for all, but it should act as a guide to the course of events and therefore it should be continuously brought up to date in real-time (something that has never happened in history, with the partial exception, however to be discussed, of February-October 1917).
The truth is that the so-called revolutionary Left is continually quarrelling about past written programmes and agendas which are unfailingly left behind by reality. And it is not worth wasting a single word on the texts, often infantile and theoretically unfounded, that small political factions pass off as «Revolutionary Programmes» - they are actually timeless and unrealistic shopping lists.
And also because a political Programme assumes that when there are differences they should cohabit within the same organization and under the same leadership: however, the entire history of Leninism (and of Trotskyist parties) shows that differences can only live together for a short time. There are always majorities that expel the minorities or minorities which sooner or later separate from the majority (which is more or less the same thing): it is only a matter of time.
If all the historical evidence was not enough to prove this, one can recall what happened to the comrades of the old Fmr (the Third International tendency or fraction within the Fourth International of Mandel, Maitan, Frank) when after three years of written and rigorously elaborated criticism of the majority leadership, they were expelled in Italy, Austria, in Portugal and even erased from the history of that organization. The funny and absurd thing is that in relation to the political line of the majority we were right about everything (you can read the almost 600 pages of materials dedicated to this episode material that I have published), even though being right is always relative, tied to a determined context, as well as to a certain accumulation of knowledge.
In the end, it should be said that the existence of a programme that is connected to reality (unlike the dogmatic statements like those of the Bordigists or Trotskyist-Bordigists) inevitably brings new divergences when dramatic changes occur in a national or international context (think of the end of the USSR...). When things like that happen on such a scale, you cannot impede the serious new divergences that arise, and you end up being divided into more than one programme, each one of which will be subjected to the majority-minority dynamic that earlier I was talking about, producing new expulsions or splits and therefore new small political parties if not even new (Fourth) Internationals. I cannot forget for example, the effects (devastating for us in the Fourth International at that time) of the development of the Cuban Revolution in a pro-Soviet direction.
We believe that it is a caricature to organize oneself in the form of a political party, around an alleged political agenda, in order to have the so-called and mythical «political line».
RU believes that you can remain united whilst maintaining and learning to respect differences in political ideologies, different views of reality and therefore also the dissimilar «political lines», which may arise from the diversities. Time will obviously demonstrate soon enough which views were wrong and which were right (or relatively right).
In order for you not to think that this is only wishful thinking, I'll try and give you some examples of what RU has been putting into practice for the past few years, with slow but steady success.
Apart from the old comrades of the ancient Fmr (Third International Tendency and Fraction within the Fourth International) - like Michele Nobile, Pino Papetti, Antonella Marazzi or myself - within RU or in the editorial staff of its blog, there are comrades like Pier Francesco Zarcone who at the time he joined RU was and has remained a member of the Federation of Anarcho-Communists; and Pino Bertelli, who needs no introduction, for having been always an Anarcho-Situationist,; we have a Christian (Valdese) comrade who feels free to continue to fight for the Fourth International, meanwhile the general direction of the RU favours the creation of a Fifth International of movements, associations, etc.
We have a comrade (Humberto Vázquez Viaña), who was part of Che's guerrilla force in Bolivia (the urban network) and has written important books of critical analysis on that experience. We have Cuban comrades and now even Venezuelans (Douglas Bravo the legendary guerrilla commander of the Faln and current spokesperson for Tercer Camino and a member of RU's blog editorial staff). We have comrades from the Cgil [main Italian trade unione] and comrades from grassroots unions. Although we are few in number, we have former members of this and former members of that. I won't make a list, but I do not want to forget to mention that you can be part of RU because you have a real love for cinema or painting or sport: by practising these «arts» one has the opportunity to examine the problems that face all of us, such as how these «arts» are all controlled by established power, or how accessible they are for the rest of humanity (as a species) or if they can be freely practiced on an individual basis.
And of course we have inside RU various sorts of Marxists. Among them an economic and sociology scholar like Michele Nobile, whom without hesitation I consider the foremost theoretical Marxist in Italy today. By which I do not mean a Marxologist, someone who writes about Marxism, but someone who applies the Marxist method of analysis to describe and interpret the real world. There are two books about imperialism by Michele that no one, in this field, should ignore. Zarcone on the other hand defines himself as a Libertarian Marxist, while I define myself as a Marxist Libertarian, even though they stubbornly continue to label me as a «Trotskyist», generally ignoring the basic criticisms that I have made regarding this giant twentieth-century political thinker in my various books, and in my monograph on Trotsky written in the 1990’s. If we really want to use labels, I have as my principal historical reference points Victor Serge and Daniel Guérin, obviously here again without dogmatism; but this does not keep me from being the main promoter of the International Guevara Foundation and still being active today as one of the historical founders of the Association dedicated in France to Charles Fourier.

No political line, no ideological homogeneity. What keeps you together?
We remain united on a few (very few) questions of principle that we have elaborated over the past tens of years and that should be valid in Italy or abroad, for scientists or for the newly landed immigrant, for a radicalised woman or a young rebel, for the unemployed or for the elderly retired person, in other words: for everyone. There are six principles at the moment, succinct and easy to translate in every language. We call them «short phrases» [frasette], to lighten them up and apply a bit of irony to ourselves. They fit on half a page and I can quote them for you (with indication in brackets of the historical Internationals that are the references for each particular point):

a) The end does not justify the means, but the means which we use must reflect the essence of the end.
[Priority of ethics (Guevara) and scientific truth above every other consideration]
b) Support for the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and/or for their self determination, independently of their political leaderships.
[Beginning of the Third International]
c) For the autonomy and total independence from the political projects of capitalism.
[The Zimmerwald Left from the Second International]
d) The unity of the workers of the world - intellectual and material workers, without ideological discrimination of any kind (apart from the basics of anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and of socialism).
[First International]
e) Fight against political bureaucracies, for direct democracy and rank-and-file councils.
[Anti-authoritarian International of Saint-Imier and the Fourth International]
f) Save all life on the planet, save humanity.
[Real new historical task of the Fifth International of movements for which we fight].

But the decisive principle is the first one, and here I will pause because it has an important theoretical and scientific meaning. I'll immediately tell you why. Scientific and theoretical discussion has not been moving ahead since the beginning of the twentieth-century. When Bernstein, Luxemburg, Parvus, Trotsky, Kautsky and Lenin were fighting among themselves, all in all it was still a golden age, it was Eden, if not Heaven itself of our history: an age in which it was still important to understand who was right and who was wrong, and based on that, guide the action to be taken.
Well then, starting from the first months following the victory of the Russian Revolution, and already during the first congresses of the Comintern (not to mention what later happened as a result of Stalinism and its successors) it no longer meant anything to be right or wrong.
The classic example is obviously Trotsky, who in the polemic against Stalin was right about everything (from internal politics to foreign policy) without half measures or ambiguity, meanwhile Stalin was wrong about everything, also without half measures.
An unequivocal historical fact that not only did not change the way of the world, but over time became a handicap: it is wrong to be right, because if you are capable of clearly examining reality and furthermore of voicing this opinion out loud, you will be segregated, become the minority, and therefore isolated: look at the history of the Fourth International from the point of view of its being part of the world communist movement; look at the history of the Fmr within the Fourth International (for example our definition of this political current as «centrist sui generis» today more than ever proven by historical events); look at the destiny of Guevara in regards to Castroism; look at the history of Il Manifesto within the Pci; take the episode of Ferrando [Pcl] within Rifondazione Comunista - I would be able to give you hundreds of examples from Portugal, Bolivia, Argentina, France, Venezuela and elsewhere.
Setting aside for the moment the experience of the Fourth, let's take the problem of Maoism. Many Italian intellectuals, 99% of them, suddenly became Maoist at the end of 1968 and during 1969. Those who have not passed away or moved on to other endeavors are, politically speaking, still in circulation: well, there is not one amongst them that has apologized or admitted to have been wrong, not one single person. Many deal with the problem simply by denying having ever been Maoist or stating that they were, but only for a very brief period of time... Another small lie, a mean justified by the end: an end that as such can change at all times to suit the personal needs of the liar.
In order to avoid appearing dogmatic on the subject, I'll return just for a moment to clarify that if it is true that Trotsky was always historically right against Stalin, he was not always right in regards to history. He was late in understanding the horror and danger of the phenomenon of Stalinism; he shared very serious blame along with Lenin, for having cleared the path for Stalin with the liquidation of the workers’ committees and the Soviets, and with the transformation of a centrist party - the Bolshevik party - in a counter-revolutionary dictatorial party; he even attempted to create the Fourth International in a new party form as a caricaturised imitation of what they had once been (albeit badly) Bolshevism and the Comintern. He erred in his choice of his closest collaborators; he did not understand early and for some time the impossibility of fighting Stalinism on its own ground, and much more.

Can you go back to the main point, to the question of being right which it seems to me that you put in terms of revolutionary ethics.
I said that from a certain point on (the beginning of the twentieth-century, certainly after the October Revolution) being right no longer meant anything, because the decisive and only question was and continues to be: who is controlling the apparatus? That was true in the struggle between the Stalinists and the old Bolsheviks. It was true in the splits that characterised the first years of rebuilding of the Fourth International after the war. It was true of the battle waged by the Third International Tendency within the Fourth International. It has been true in the struggles of all the organized currents we have seen in Rifondazione etc., etc.
I'll repeat and clarify: when I speak in terms of «being right» I also mean to say that knowledge is relative because the elements of evaluation change with time and the individuals themselves that cultivate that knowledge change. The most that is conceded to human beings is to be right in relative terms. The problem is that if it is no longer important who is right and who is wrong - although in relative terms - theoretical discussion is finished, it is of no use, and no longer determines political action. And if revolutionary political action is not determined by theory, the only thing left to determine it are caste interests (the apparatus) or mere improvisation. And this improvisation has often a limited local base, with leaders who are instinctively rebellious elements, but devoid of any theoretical formation or even, a times, just the product of psychological distress or real mental illness (that as such in the beginning can appear to carry creative connotations, but in the long run generate demoralisation, anxiety, and a detachment from reality).
Actually, the first principle of our statement is based on ethics and on love for the historical and scientific truth (within the limits of our capacity for comprehension). Our way of understanding the concept of political association (for the moment Red Utopia, who knows what tomorrow) offers great appeal to self-discipline, to maturity and personal honesty. I've come to the conclusion, after forty-five years of being in the (revolutionary) front line, that if you do not impose values upon yourself, there is no external method to impose them on you (imposition from the outside as opposed to self-imposition). From this point of view democratic centralism or the party apparatus are useless, as useless are the statutes, the programmes, the expulsions, the party splits.
Not even the legal system of the bourgeoisie - which is in effect the most advanced legal system of our age, built upon over centuries of elaboration and experience - can ensure co-existence within an association or any public institution based on fundamental values. Imagine if it can be guaranteed by improvised statutes, created ad hoc by cynical representatives of political castes (established ones or in the making), operating exclusively for the benefit of whomever is running the apparatus at that particular moment. Party or splinter party statutes are a step backwards in respect to the Roman-Mediterranean-Enlightenment-Democratic-Bourgeois legal civilization that I recognize as mine, even if it is no longer enough and I yearn for the next step.

Can we examine another of the six points that you consider important?
Certainly, the second one, regarding the struggle of all peoples for their self-determination, that needs to be supported independently of the political leadership they have. This is a matter of principle. There can be different analysis about self-determination, or overlappings of liberation struggles, or situations that appear impossible to work out or are made that way by imperialism (or in the past by the Ussr) that can support a certain liberation struggle or just a faction inside it... Complicated problems that have arisen in the past, and are still present today, that are resolvable in theory, but not always on the ground in military or operational terms. One may have theoretical difficulty applying this principle (especially if you come from an ultranationalistic background), but nevertheless he must strongly feel that is valid. And for this sentiment we make a particular appeal. A nationalist (Red Utopian) fighter must feel that if a people has decided - for its own reasons, even if historically questionable - to consider itself precisely as a people, this decision must be respected in absolute terms.
It may sound strange but this is the only theoretical heritage of Lenin that I respect in its entirety and that is still hundred per cent valid. If we look back, we can see that Lenin continually oscillated about fundamental issues (from the theory of the permanent revolution that he really never understood to the conception of the party, from the instrumental use of democracy to the Nep, not to mention the freedom of action conceded to the growing bureaucracy); but regarding the question of the people’s right to self-determination, he has always been right and still is today.
By the way, I can easily prove that is the one single theoretical issue about which Lenin did not change sides or zigzag. On the issues I have just mentioned, and others - like terrorism, the unions, the Soviets, the State, the economy of transition, the International, the relationship with the Mensheviks or other parties - he turned about face and back again. On the other end, regarding the people's right to self-determination, from 1913 on he never changed his main position and close to death, his last battle (against Stalin) was precisely on behalf of self-determination. He left us a golden rule: The principle of self-determination is an absolute and not a relative right of the people.

Another point?
The fifth, about direct democracy and against the castes or political bureaucracies. For Italy it has a particular significance as here the political system has degenerated and reached its lowest point in history. Or in other words, it is the country in which the crisis of the parliamentary system is more advanced than anywhere in the advanced capitalist world. This means that in Italy Red Utopia does not participate at all in political elections (elections for representatives in Parliament) and wages campaigns for abstention. For administrative elections the question is more complicated, but also less important. In practice we decide case by case (city by city, province by province, region by region), but in general the practical results are usually the same. The position vis-à-vis the parliamentary elections we have for Italy is also valid in France, the United States, Germany or Japan. In dependent or semi-dependent countries you can decide case by case and according to the political situation. In a recent RU meeting, Douglas Bravo told us that he thinks that even in Venezuela you do not have to participate in the electoral farce, primarily because it is morally harmful for the intellectual training of the youth, as well as for other political considerations regarding the Chavist regime.
Voting or not voting is a tactical choice. The real problem is direct democracy and the deadly fight (yes, deadly…) to wage against the political apparatus, the castes and the bureaucracies that stand in the way of the class struggle which takes place between the more advanced sectors of humanity and the national bourgeoisies. Needless to say, also the refusal of the party form for revolutionaries is part of this radical vision of the degeneration of politics.

Historically, what were Social Democracy and Stalinism? How has the Trotskyist movement differenced itself from these two currents of the labour movement?
Historically the labour movement was and continues to be fundamentally Social Democratic. It is Social Democracy that embodies the continuity of the labour movement. One might not like it, but in 2011 one cannot negate this historical reality. Only the Social Democratic parties have survived in a few important countries and only they have a mass following specifically among the workers. The historical role of the unions explains this permanence and relative hegemony over time. In the various phases of the degeneration process of Social Democracy, other currents have been born; among them a fundamental role was played at the origins by the Leninist-Trotskyist current, although its historical experience was brief. Then there was the longlasting survival of the Stalinist current.
(I’ll leave aside the experience of the relationship between the working class and Peronism, which is fascinating, but complicated and to which I dedicated a book in the 1970's).
Stalinism grew from inside the labour movement and became the organizer of its most combative sections. Many years ago I would have spoken in terms of the most advanced sections, but now I am careful to not say that. The Stalinist labour movement was not the most advanced for the simple fact that it accepted and covered up the great and unforgettable crime against humanity represented by the camps of the Gulag. A notable sector of the Russian and international working class that accepted and went through the experience of the gulag (albeit passively) is a retrograde sector of a social class, condemned to never be able to exercise a dominant social role. This is true in view also of the fact that the international bourgeoisie, on the other hand, has been able to shake off the (co)responsibility of Nazism, that is to say of a similarly atrocious experience, but of shorter duration and quantitatively less tragic then Stalin’s Gulag with its more than twenty million deaths.
Allow me to return again to the pact between Hitler and Stalin that I consider a watershed [a divide] in world history. I no longer stand to listen to people who try to justify that strategic alliance, which was operationally aggressive in regards to Poland, Eastern Europe and the Balkans (not to mention the renewal of the pact with the Japanese adhesion).
Those that support it are morally responsible for the related crimes of Nazism and Stalinism in the first year and a half of the war, including the massacre of unarmed Russian people at the start of Operation Barbarossa (June 1941). The Nazis were able to take advantage of the stupid and blind faith that Stalin had placed in that pact. That’s not all. With time I’ve come to think that without that evil pact the World War probably would never have even begun. In fact, Hitler would not have had the possibility of attacking the West if he didn't have his back covered in the East. Therefore, we also have to blame both Hitler and Stalin equally for the greatest massacre that humanity has ever known.

To understand how we can place ourselves within the various currents of the labour movement, it should be mentioned that the basis of thought for Red Utopia is actually one of not accepting even the split of 1872-74 of the International Workingmen’s Association - the First International - in which the main responsibility lies with Marx. We consider that split (against Bakunin and the Anarchists) as the first great tragedy that opened the door to all the others. With that split it was acquired the principle that only one political line must prevail, that you must accept it as a rule and those who do not accept it must leave and create their own International. Which is exactly what the Anarchists with little success tried to do, in contrast to all of the other factions that were present within the International Workingmen’s Association: Owenists, Saint Simonians, Cooperativists, Proudhonians, Mazziniani, Garibaldini, Fourierists, various forms of Marxists, Independents, Anti-Czarists, and various branches of Anti-Hapsburgists etc.
Without being too lengthy: that separation started the beginning of a process which broke the labour movement in two. I often repeat this phrase: with the separation, the Marxists came away with the reason while the Anarchists came away with the ethics. These two marvelous faculties of the human species from that time on have never met again on a mass level. In addition, the Marxists no longer have the reason and the Anarchists no longer have the ethics. It has all trickled away into small parties, small groups, local interest associations, etc.
Without that separation probably the degeneration of Social Democracy would have been different, perhaps minor and not major. We'll never know. History is not made of «what ifs», but there is no doubt that the separation influenced the process of the statist and pro-capitalist degeneration of Social Democracy.
Red Utopia is not so foolish to think of asking the struggling humanity to take a step backwards (even though as a dream I quite like the idea). I think, although, that one of its objectives should be to overcome that separation, certainly from a theoretical point of view, but also from a practical stance (according to ours small possibilities), by our example and by our mere existence.

Today, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and «really existing Socialism», and the parallel slipping of Social Democracy into social-liberalism, do categories such as Social Democracy and Stalinism still make sense ?
No. They no longer make sense.

Not even Trotskyism at this point?
No, Trotskyism was never an interpretative category in a historical sense, other than perhaps during the bloodiest phases of the battle against Stalin. I believe that not even Trotsky himself would have thought that, in founding the Fourth International in 1938 and in taking note that it no longer existed by 1939. Therefore, besides the battle in that specific time, Trotskyism (hoping that we agree on the meaning of the term) never had any practical, historical function of any significance.
On the theoretical ground, however, it had great merits. In any case, on this level, no other current can compete with it. The books, the magazines, the intellectuals - from Naville to Mandel, from C.L.R. James to Serge to dozens of other prestigious minds - are there as proof. Not to mention the many others that were drawn to Trotskyism and then moved away from it.
While denying that Trotskyism played a concrete historical role in combating Stalinism, I have however to concede that 1) at least it tried for tens of years and paid an indescribable human price, 2) no other current was able to do more or better. Actually, those that could, adapted themselves to Stalinism sooner or later. Think about the Italian Socialist Party...

As you've just said, interpretative categories such as Stalinism, Social Democracy and Trotskyism are no longer valid. What about Reformist or Revolutionary?
Not even those. Because Reformism does not exist and in fact has never existed as a historical reality. Yearning for revolution instead exists. But, precisely, it is an aspiration, a spiritual and mental matter, a theoretical fact even though, for some people I know, in the Internet age it has become something essentially virtual. I do think that nobody could consider as real «reformism» the fact that certain parties take part in the parliamentary game and propose measures in order later to win the elections. This is not Reformism. As I have said previously, also in regards to this subject, the theoretical debate has not moved ahead since the beginning of the twentieth-century when Reformism seemingly took on the appearance of statehood, taking shape in the action of the German Social Democracy. But then it went the way we know, with the vote of war credits in 1914.
At the beginning of my political life (the second half of the 1960's) people used «reformist» as an (insulting) epithet when referring to Social Democrats who were not at all reformers. Reforms were made by the bourgeoisie. The large scale nationalisations in France were made by De Gaulle, the nationalisation of electric energy in Italy was done by Fanfani [Christian Democracy]. And they were governments with a Christian Democratic hegemony that instituted the regional decentralization, approved the Labour Statute, abolished regional wage differences or adopted the new family legislation. If ever existed a Reformism, it was put into practice by the bourgeoisie in those countries where it could provide adequate social surplus in order to do so (exemplary but limited in time, the experience of the ultra-reformist first Perón government).
To be «reformist» is a latent aspiration of bourgeois ideology, corresponding to the meaning of the word: that is to reform the system. We know, starting from the beginning of the twentieth-century - and Marxism (with Rosa Luxemburg in first place) already amply explained it - that a structural reform of the capitalist system is no longer possible. But the aspiration remains as an ideological fact and not necessarily in bad faith: the anti-global movement or the theoretical world of «degrowth» [sustainable negative growth] are full of reformist aspirations for the capitalist system that obviously have no chance of being realised until the private control of the main means of production will exclude from decision-making the world of material and mental workers (and within this, first of all the scientific world).
Social Democracy in general was not reformist, even though at times has exploited the allurement of reforms in order to better insert itself in the state apparatus and from there force the workers to pay the price of capitalist accumulation and economic crisis.
Those of us who belonged to the ex-extreme left, who at the time denounced as «reformists» the pro-Soviet communist parties (Pci, Pcf, Pce - before the fairy tale of Euro Communism), were wrong. Where has there ever been a Stalinist or Communist Party reformism? Did anyone see it in Allende's Chile? Or in D’Alema’s government? Or from Mitterand’s Union of the Left?
Today, when we use the word «reformist», for example in regards to Rifondazione Comunista in Italy, it borders on the ridiculous because this mini-caste, this electioneering apparatus, every time it entered the government (Italian Communists twice, the Bertinotti’s party only once), went there only to do the same things that the ex-Communists, the ex-Socialists, even the Fascists, the Right and Berlusconi did. We shall never forget that the vote in favour of the military mission in Afghanistan (in July 2006) saw the two branches of the Italian Parliament offer unanimous support, from the Fascists of Pino Rauti to the two senators of Sinistra Critica/Fourth International (Turigliatto and Malabarba), passing through the Italian Communists, Rifondazione, Greens, Gays, women and linguistic-ethnic minorities.

Getting back to present day. The crisis of the economic system and of the social capitalism of today proposes more conflicts. Is the conflict between capitalism and labour still the principal contradiction of the capitalist system? If so, how does it compare to other conflicts around the question of gender, the environment or civil rights?
I find it difficult to answer you because since a long time I have freed myself from Hegelian terminology and the Hegel’s presence in Marx; therefore whether the contradiction between capitalism and labour is the principal one or not is a language that I have difficulty in understanding. I do not know anymore what does it mean, because I can no longer accept this type of formal and abstract terminology: it's good for all sorts of plays on words or to build upon it the academic careers of those Marxologists whom I have already mentioned.
There is no doubt that capitalism (i.e. the imperialist bourgeois class that is still subdivided in memberships of national states) dominates on a world scale, and dominates everything: the material, spiritual and virtual world. It governs all types of conflicts, wars, economy, exploitation, ideologies and above all it dominates the exponential growth of the all-pervasive mechanisms of the society of the spectacle. At least about one thing there are no doubts: the enemy continues to be capitalism and it is not a virtual fact, since they are physical individuals who make up the bourgeoise, even if they are difficult to detect behind the various types of firms or capital companies (private, mixed, etc.). This social class has become the principal enemy not just of the workers, but of the ever increasing masses of citizens of the world, independently of their position in the production process: members of the human species who can work or not, can be poor or rich, male or female, young or old, religious or atheist - but who are beginning to experiment on themselves, and therefore are beginning to understand that the survival of capitalism endangers the survival of the Earth.
Not by accident the sixth short phrase of RU is «save life on the planet, save humanity». Personally, since I strongly believe it and I picture to myself the physical concept of species (completely incompatible with the language based on Hegelian contradictions that I was speaking of earlier), I expect that the human species be capable by its instinct of survival to get rid of capitalism. Frankly I don’t think any longer that the workers alone will be capable to free us from capitalism, because they already had the historical chance, and they squandered it early in the twentieth-century when they allowed that in their name the great hope of communism would transform itself in the system of the worst crimes against humanity that we have ever seen. As you can see, we always come back to Stalinism; and unfortunately it will be necessary to come back to it again and again until humanity will not have rejected it, thereby assuming a historical task that the labour movement was not capable of fulfilling.

Are you saying that the subject of social transformation is no longer the working class struggle but rather all humanity?
Almost all of humanity in its conscious parts, even though I prefer to use the term taken from the biological sciences («species») rather than that taken from philosophy or literature («humanity»). Having enough time, I could attempt to explain the difference.
Humanity or the species that it is, it becomes interesting at this point to understand the dynamics, the formation and diffusion of the process through which the acquisition of consciousness takes place. The growth of consciousness, in fact, proceeds according to the classic principles of unequal and combined development (another fundamental theoretical contribution by Trotsky): sometimes it can take place in geographical places (like Cuba in the very beginning of the 1960's), at times in a specific movement (for example the collective communities of Catalonia in 1936-37), at times with regard to one of the sexes at a particular moment (the launching of the new feminist movement in the '60s), the gay movement in certain countries, at times in certain cultural communities (I think of some Situationist experiences, but also, why not, of the present Red Utopia and of the many analogous experiences that are certainly growing without our knowledge). Experience has abundantly demonstrated that these developments never have a positive evolution if they are lived by the isolated intellectual, preoccupied only with himself, his own books, his own career, and centered on his own narcissism. I can't think of a single positive example, although I have known many clever intellectuals from all over the world - at times really clever - but not interested in the construction of collective processes of acquiring consciousness…

Excuse me if I interrupt. The consciousness that you speak of has historically been the class consciousness, to be intended today in the terms you have proposed, or is it a different type of consciousness?
It is a consciousness that first of all must have a negative connotation, namely it has to be anti-capitalist. When for example we commit ourselves to the feminist movement, we affirm that the feminist movement should merge the criticism of male-chauvinism or of patriarchalism with anti-capitalism, although this is not the really the case in any country yet. The feminist movement was anti-capitalist in a few instances, limited to some countries (Usa, France, Italy...) and at its beginnings (the end of the 60's and the beginning of the 70's). But in a general this has never happened, even if we hope that someday it will arrive.
Therefore, regarding the global enemy, it's very clear: it is capitalism. And this is something we need to come to terms with, in the thousand and one different ways offered by the «biodiversity» of human beings.
However, to such a so clearly exposed enemy, it does no longer oppose itself a single, social entity, endowed in its Dna with the seeds for transformation, but various layers or social sectors to the extent that they are capable of obtaining awareness. (The term «movements» would suffice, but I do not think it works for Italy where - in the minds of many political organizers - it is identified with huge spectacular parades, or with purely protest strikes or with momentary bursts of insubordination at a local level over problems like water, garbage, incinerators and related issues.) Layers and sectors whose struggles may no always take a physical, visible form, but who succeed in some way to prove the impossibility of solving some specific social and/or cultural problems.
There could be for example a radicalization of nuclear scientists in one or more countries who denounce in the press or on the Web the danger of new nuclear plants. It's not essential that they strike or demonstrate in the streets: it is an opinion movement that could have a profound effect in an anti-capitalist sense. The same could apply to any current of judges that oppose the anti-democratic nature and the class character of justice. Or to city planners coming forward with a white paper about building speculations. Or to publishers who stop running behind the trends set by television... Or to television viewers who begin the turn off their damned cathode boxes... In short, various examples of social unrest that are inevitably destined to conflict with the capitalist system if they want to be consistent with their own objectives.
In order for their development to occur it is fundamental from the beginning the stage of propagandistic popularization (in this we publishers would have a potentially giant responsibility). But as soon as the first steps forward take shape, the fundamental problem becomes that of direct democracy. Until this problem is not resolved, the so-called «natural leaders» of these movements will inevitably end up on the candidates list for the next administrative elections or within the organizational career of some union or political party, or in a showcase on television readily manufactured by the society of the spectacle. While two years later no one remembers a thing about «the movement» (look at the airport in Vicenza or the Tav in Val di Susa).

Can you give me your interpretation of the current social-economic crisis? What are the causes?
On a theoretical level, broadly speaking I acknowledge what has already been said by Rosa Luxemburg, that since awhile capitalism does not find new territories for expansion (valorization of capital) neither from outside nor from within. I think therefore that at a maximum level of abstraction you can still define it as a crisis of an overproduction of capitals that overlaps with an overproduction of goods (existing, however for the latter, the possibility of new placements). They are two sources for the crisis that are structurally distinct and do not always coincide. I feel uncomfortable, however, in speaking about these macroeconomic problems in a few phrases, and quite frankly I would prefer to refer to the two volumes by Michele Nobile that I have already mentioned (one from 1993, more relevant than ever, and one from 2006, in the «Red Utopia» series).
In relation to the economic crisis by tradition I situate myself among the anti-catastrophists (and since I have been preaching prudence in this area for almost forty years, I am further strengthened in my beliefs). If you go back and read certain documents of the battle we fought as Third International tendency, you will find many polemics against the economic catastrophism that raged in the Fourth International of the 70's, which at the time had a great thinker like Ernest Mandel as its direct leader.
Today, when I read the short obituaries written by small groups or individual thinkers (I call them the «of themselves ideologists» [«I da soli ideologici»]) it brings a smile to my face and I do not feel the need to start a debate because it will be enough to wait for time passing by, to show how many cards the international bourgeois can play in order to resolve its own economic problems, as long as they remain only economic. If only I could read a single line of self-criticism on the part of the new generation of catastrophists. Nothing: they always appear to be already thinking about the next obituary of the system, believing that at a certain point the final crisis will actually arrive. Who knows, perhaps one day they will end up being right; but at the moment they are only confusing their own dreams with reality. (Apart from the fact that I do not dream at all of a collapse of the system due to an inability to overcome the economic crisis - I imagine the transfer of power being more dignified, more collective and more constructive.)
I see the alternation of the economic crises, with their cyclical recovery ever more frequently (as already explained by Kondratiev’s theory of long waves - another unfortunate victim of assassination by Stalinism and highly respected by Trotsky), but I do not see any subsequent political crisis of the international bourgeoise worse than what they had in the last ten years, not in political terms, not in cultural terms. Maybe I see it as less heavy and I think that from the end of the Second World War, this is a period for them of maximum political splendor. I obviously hope that, as happens with great empires (the Roman empire for example), that the height of power and manoeuvrability leads to a period of new and effective decline and therefore of high vulnerability for the system.
The history of capitalism is a history of crisis after crisis. Capitalism has grown over the centuries passing through and by resolving its own crises, mostly with non-economic devices, i. e. political or military. One must not undervalue the capacity of capitalism to regenerate itself in every latitude of the globe and under the most unpredictable political regimes. Capitalism has the possibility to rid itself of the effects of the crises either with traditional methods: making the workers pay for them, waging wars - which are primarily destruction of goods, but also of productive forces that allow the restarting of the economic mechanism - or devising new solutions, e.g. in the technical-computerized field or with further huge growth of the society of the spectacle. Don't ask me how China connects to all of this (a capitalist country under a one-party bureaucratic dictatorship), otherwise we will never finish our discussion.
In short, Capitalism has all the possible and imaginable leeways, because it is not rivaled by any credible adversary. The labour movement does not seem destined to start up again (and as I have already stated, it will not make a comeback without first a rejection of the monstrosity that Stalinism represented also for the same labour movement), without counting the new problems that arise along the way, like the diffusion of Islamic fundamentalism, the exponential growth of nationalism, the charismatic diffusion of the domination by the society of the spectacle in the so-called Third world, and so forth.
Between the Nineteenth and Twentieth-centuries the opponent of the bourgeoise had appeared in all its fearfulness: and it was the labour movement in many key European countries (but also in the Usa at the time of the Iww, the Wobblies). The only limit to this social formation’s arrogance and ability to manoeuvre world destinies is, as I said before, the preservation of humanity and of the species.
Historically, Capitalism is incapable of coping with the problems of saving the Earth, firstly because it doesn't have the experience as a class. Secondly, it cannot deal globally with the demands of the environment, because this poses a contradiction in terms for that class: the search for profit at all costs is incompatible with the socialization of the main means of production on a world scale. Today, if you want to think in terms of the principal contradiction, in homage to the Hegelian tradition of Marxism, it is between the saving of the species and that of Capitalism (that is the private management of the main means of production). As such it is incurable and it will remain incurable unless the human species decides to collaborate and work together to solve the problem, suddenly overcome by a self-destructive rampage. In such a case it would demonstrate that it is not a species and that the scientists, before and after Darwin, were wrong.

In the building of «another possible world», to use the phraseology of the no-global movements of a few years ago, or in other words of an alternative society in general, are the coordinates of «revolution» and «internationalism» still valid? If so, what type of revolution and what type of internationalism?
Yes, now more than ever and increasingly. For the second part of the question, I have run out of space and will therefore refer back to the previous answers.

Today, how would it be possible to re-propose a concept of revolution?
As always, it is easier negatively: abolishment of capitalism and the private ownership of the principal means of production on a world scale. This has to be the final aim of a revolutionary process. Instead, positively describing revolution means to be able to construct a rational system of running the economy and social relationships on a world scale. This is the innovation. The perspective of gaining power in just one country is no longer existent. It is unthinkable, it is out-of-date and besides unobtainable.

Therefore it is one of those historic lessons that we have learned from the experience of Social Democracy and Stalinism?
Yes. People that haven't already understood this lesson have not learned from history.
Returning to the concept of revolution, I am not clear how the revolution will take place, but I know that it will have to cope both with the negative and the positive aspects that I mentioned.
Regarding the revolutionary process, however, I will say one clear-cut thing: enough with the apparatuses that in the past have substituted themselves to the social classes and today would like to do the same with the destinies of the species. It is not possible for these apparatuses to turn out to be socially better than the bourgeois class, which on the other hand has demonstrated an exceptional historical aptitude in realizing its own interests in all possible and imaginable fields. The unrealistic attempt to overcome such a bourgeoisie with opposing apparatuses, was already insane when it was first proposed in the beginning of the Twentieth-Century, today is only laughable.
Everything that is extraneous to the social body, that overlaps it or slips in beside it, is negative and will therefore be seen by the same citizens as something alien to the social body. Would you like me to radicalize the concept? Ok, the apparatuses are all negative, political parties are all negative, their historical function has been fundamentally negative: the bourgeoisie has understood this for a long time and for this reason has utilized its own apparatuses and its own political parties, but without identifying itself with any of them. When it did occur for a while (look at the late Italian Fascism or German Nazism) it has thrown them off with a shrug.
Seen in relation to the single objective (the single item, as comrades of the American Swp would have said in the past, before they transformed themselves into a propaganda center for Castroism in the States) or in relation to the solution of a confined problem, namely in an immediate sense, the small parties and their surrogates (like youth social centers [Centri sociali], solidarity associations with foreign countries, certain municipal councils or rank-and-file trade unions, commitees, etc.) can also be capable of playing a momentarily positive function: for example in helping newly landed immigrants, the young people of the Federation of the Left [Prc and Pdci] (in truth, very few), are likely to do better than the Red Cross or the National Police (Carabinieri). The same for removing refuse from the streets or saving young people from drugs. Frankly, I do not see more than this.
On the other hand the damages that are done by these small parties and their apparatuses I could name by the hundreds. Actually, we have listed them in two books of the «Red Utopia» series (in my publishing house): the mythical The Red Racketeers [I Forchettoni rossi] and The False Left [Le false sinistre].
With this, I do not wish to say that I am against all types of organizations. For instance I am in favour of unionism, even if I mean it in terms that are very different from what we see. In the political field as long as we agree on the libertarian principle (no obligations to political programmes), anti-hierarchical (no institutional leaders, conventions or statutes - although there will always be degrees of major or minor effort and influence) and a focus on volunteering (no paid officials, no careers or economic benefits). RU has the enormous presumption to be the first revolutionary regrouping that has managed to put into practice three things that seemed impossible: 1) operating collectively (for the moment as international political community) without an apparatus; 2) granting constructive coexistence between different ideologies, drawing a dividing revolutionary line only on the basis of certain principles; 3) placing ethics above all else.

Coming to the next question. Regarding the concept of revolution and the consequent transformation of society, how would you place the question of power? In the last few years, within the social movements we have heard many times the slogan «change the world without taking power». Is the question of power still central?
This slogan is suspect and susceptible to various interpretations. Each one gives it the meaning he wishes (now is the concept of «buen vivir» that has come into fashion...). It certainly responds to an extremely strong need for pacifism, but still does not remove its ambiguity. I know that real power exists and I believe that it should be destroyed. Without a doubt. We do not have to «take power»: we have to destroy it and substitute it with the organizations that will be built and composed by those that participate collectively in this process. Luckily I do not have clear ideas about what type of organization: to have them it means to enter into the description of a utopian perspective, often silly, always naive.
At a factory level I would be for sure in favour of workers’ self-management, but that doesn't mean that the same choice is also valid for neighborhoods. In general terms I would fight for a decentralized system based on several communities (micro or macro-communities, depending on the size of the “thing” to manage) that coordinate themselves in a pyramidal sense, trying to reach a certain form of centralization. But I must repeat that I am not clear about what would substitute the destroyed state apparatus - certainly not another State and not the Soviets either, due to how they let themselves to be deprived of authority in just a few months, the last time they rose up and took power.
On this ground I still believe in the necessity of violence, even though I would very much like that it wouldn't occur. But unfortunately the process of reacquiring social ownership of the principal means of production will not be peaceful, except maybe for the last ones who enter the fight, after the first victories - as Guevara said. I am not a pacifist as I was instead as a high school student (during the first struggles for conscientious objection) and I stopped being one in 1966 when, in front of the US Embassy, the police beat me up while I was sitting on the ground, in the front line, but with my back to them. There was Vietnam and the year after Che Guevara was going to die. How could one continue to be a pacifist?
I would like to be able to be a pacifist again (in which case I would choose Gino Strada as a model), but non-violence will only be a slogan as long as there are wars, parliaments that vote them and soldiers that are willing to fight them because no one tells them to desert, but above all because as mercenaries they make big money.

What would you like to say about the theme of internationalism?
From a personal point of view my political life has always been, 100 per cent, one of internationalism. I joined the Fourth International in 1966 (when I was twenty years old), but I already had a certain familiarity with it because my sister, Rossana Massari, was already associated since 1961.
After the expulsion from the Fourth International in 1975, we gave rise to an international organization - the Marxist Revolutionary Fraction - with its principal section in Germany, other smaller ones in Italy, Austria, France, and with relationships in Portugal, England and a few other countries. We decided to dissolve the international Fraction and the national organizations in 1980 in order not to sustain the umpteenth small international party.
In 1983 I held a meeting in Florence with a few comrades that were still around and I explained why the era of the Fourth International was historically finished while it had been opened the era of the Fifth. Luckily I had kept a recording of that long account and recently I have been able to transcript and publish it. I did it for our discussion as RU regarding the proposal made by Chávez to create a Fifth International on April of 2010. We decided to participate in that project and we wrote him a letter-document explaining we believed that a Fifth International should be built on the basis of our six principles or similar procedures. But Chávez dropped the idea of building the Fifth International without even a word (probably playing heavily the nationalist opposition of the Cuban government that never had shown any intention of participating).
But we didn’t give up and we went ahead. Our blog opens with a dedication to the necessity of constructing the Fifth International - an International which must be composed fundamentally by movements, associations etc., but founded on the above listed principles. For the moment we limit ourselves to set the example that the libertarian model can work. For the future we plan a book by many authors to be written on this theme.

My questions are finished. Are there any arguments that we have not touched on in which you would like to come back to in order to expand on them or give more details?
We haven't talked about the society of the spectacle, which for us at RU is fundamental. I am referring to the concept taken from the title of the book that Guy Debord wrote in 1967 (one of the books that I sell the most as a publisher and that was edited by our expert in Situationism - Pasquale Stanziale), and to the actualization of that critical vision of the society in which we live. It would take a long time to explain it here, but almost all of us in RU believe that the society of the spectacle is today the main weapon of domination in the hands of capitalism, but also that as a critical theory of present societies it perfectly explains the politics of all the existing parties (big or small) and of their bosses.
The example is Bertinottism [from Bertinotti, ancient leader of the party called Rifondazione in Italy] (amply analyzed by me in the book on the Red Racketeers) and from this point of view it is almost didactic. The society of the spectacle (book and theory) entered into the theoretical baggage of the Red Utopians and strongly demands to be developed in relation to the Fifth International.

There is also a new discipline we have begun working on as RU, and for which we are desperately asking for help from professionals in the psychiatric field. I am referring to political psychopathology.
We have published small texts about paranoia, narcissism, cult of the charismatic leader, etc. and we have begun to apply these categories (this diagnosis) to the behavioral study of ideological groups, micro-parties, their leaders, their rituals and their reassuring hierarchies.
In other words, after tens of years dedicated to theoretical and political polemics against political factions, small groups or single intellectuals who have demonstrated themselves to be substantially deaf to criticism and not open to debate, we have decided to no longer analyze these groups on the basis of the political line they are proposing (and which they themselves mostly do not believe in). We rather analyze them as examples of political psychopathologies, i.e. personality disorders, mental illnesses, hysteria, paranoia.
None of us can exclude the possibility that these pathologies could be found also inside Red Utopia. It happens that even among ourselves these symptoms can appear, and when it occurs, it puts our libertarian, ethical and collective criteria to a difficult test. It would be mere illusion to think that RU is an island of psychological well being and mental health, hidden away from the laws of capitalism, social frustration and from the society of the spectacle.
This type of behavioral interpretation of politics was a very important discovery for me, although many years ago Antonella Marazzi was already pushing me in this direction. It was a time when I was extremely high-informed about the political lines and the history of all the main political factions, in Italy and abroad (from England to Latin America...). Since several years, instead, I have started to clearly see that they are not political phenomena, but rather personality disorders. For these factions or groups (about which one often wonders how they were born or why) the so-called «political line» or the «Leninist theory of the party» or the «Programme» are only psychological covers for insecurities, already analyzed in his own time by Wilhelm Reich.
The small apparatus, the group complicity, the Leninist or Trotskyist discipline, the rite of the conventions etc., are only psychological expedients to alleviate the widespread mental uneasiness in our alienated society. For the craftier ones, however, they can turn out to be career opportunities. We won't run out of examples of this either.
The fact remains that young people who join the militant factions, small groups etc. are insecure people who feel the need to be dominated, to identify themselves from within an apparatus. Probably they have problems with their paternal or maternal figures and they are looking for substitutes with the authority figures that they never had in their family. There, in the hierarchical structure of small political factions or groups, they will find them (for a certain time, of course, but not forever…).

In conclusion, can you give me a definition of Communism?
Communism is the movement, primarily ethical and necessarily collective, of the more aware sectors of humanity that struggle to remove the private ownership of the means of production from Capitalism in order to safeguard the survival of the species.
Well, it is a definition, so it has to contain only the essentials. But it seems to me that I haven’t left out anything important...

Bolsena, April 10, 2011

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RED UTOPIA ROJA – Principles / Principios / Princìpi / Principes / Princípios

a) The end does not justify the means, but the means which we use must reflect the essence of the end.

b) Support for the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and/or for their self determination, independently of their political leaderships.

c) For the autonomy and total independence from the political projects of capitalism.

d) The unity of the workers of the world - intellectual and physical workers, without ideological discrimination of any kind (apart from the basics of anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and of socialism).

e) Fight against political bureaucracies, for direct and councils democracy.

f) Save all life on the Planet, save humanity.

(January 2010)

* * *

a) El fin no justifica los medios, y en los medios que empleamos debe estar reflejada la esencia del fin.

b) Apoyo a las luchas de todos los pueblos contra el imperialismo y/o por su autodeterminación, independientemente de sus direcciones políticas.

c) Por la autonomía y la independencia total respecto a los proyectos políticos del capitalismo.

d) Unidad del mundo del trabajo intelectual y físico, sin discriminaciones ideológicas de ningún tipo, fuera de la identidad “anticapitalista, antiimperialista y por el socialismo”.

e) Lucha contra las burocracias políticas, por la democracia directa y consejista.

f) Salvar la vida sobre la Tierra, salvar a la humanidad.

(Enero de 2010)

* * *

a) Il fine non giustifica i mezzi, ma nei mezzi che impieghiamo dev’essere riflessa l’essenza del fine.

b) Sostegno alle lotte di tutti i popoli contro l’imperialismo e/o per la loro autodeterminazione, indipendentemente dalle loro direzioni politiche.

c) Per l’autonomia e l’indipendenza totale dai progetti politici del capitalismo.

d) Unità del mondo del lavoro mentale e materiale, senza discriminazioni ideologiche di alcun tipo (a parte le «basi anticapitaliste, antimperialiste e per il socialismo».

e) Lotta contro le burocrazie politiche, per la democrazia diretta e consigliare.

f) Salvare la vita sulla Terra, salvare l’umanità.

(Gennaio 2010)

* * *

a) La fin ne justifie pas les moyens, et dans les moyens que nous utilisons doit apparaître l'essence de la fin projetée.

b) Appui aux luttes de tous les peuples menées contre l'impérialisme et/ou pour leur autodétermination, indépendamment de leurs directions politiques.

c) Pour l'autonomie et la totale indépendance par rapport aux projets politiques du capitalisme.

d) Unité du monde du travail intellectuel et manuel, sans discriminations idéologiques d'aucun type, en dehors de l'identité "anticapitaliste, anti-impérialiste et pour le socialisme".

e) Lutte contre les bureaucraties politiques, et pour la démocratie directe et conseilliste.

f) Sauver la vie sur Terre, sauver l'Humanité.

(Janvier 2010)

* * *

a) O fim não justifica os médios, e os médios utilizados devem reflectir a essência do fim.

b) Apoio às lutas de todos os povos contra o imperialismo e/ou pela auto-determinação, independentemente das direcções políticas deles.

c) Pela autonomia e a independência respeito total para com os projectos políticos do capitalismo.

d) Unidade do mundo do trabalho intelectual e físico, sem discriminações ideológicas de nenhum tipo, fora da identidade “anti-capitalista, anti-imperialista e pelo socialismo”.

e) Luta contra as burocracias políticas, pela democracia directa e dos conselhos.

f) Salvar a vida na Terra, salvar a humanidade.

(Janeiro de 2010)