Amadeo Bordiga

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Amadeo Bordiga
Leader of the Communist Party of Italy
In office
Succeeded by Antonio Gramsci
Personal details
Born13 June 1889
Resina, Kingdom of Italy
Died23 July 1970(1970-07-23) (aged 81)
Formia, Italian Republic
Nationality Italian
Political party Communist Party of Italy
International Communist Party

Amadeo Bordiga (13 June 1889 – 23 July 1970) was an Italian Marxist, a contributor to communist theory, the founder of the Communist Party of Italy (PCd'I), a leader of the Communist International (Comintern) and later a leading figure of the International Communist Party. Bordiga was originally associated with the PCd'I, but he was expelled in 1930 after being accused of Trotskyism.

Marxism Economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Communist Party of Italy communist political party in Italy (1921–1943)

The Communist Party of Italy was a communist political party in Italy which existed from 1921 to 1926 when it was outlawed by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime.


Later on following World War II, Bordiga moved more explicitly towards a left communist position and was one of the more notable Western European representatives of this tendency.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Left communism political ideology

Left communism, or the communist left, is a position held by the left wing of communism, which criticises the political ideas and practices espoused by Marxist–Leninists and social democrats. Left communists assert positions which they regard as more authentically Marxist than the views of Marxism–Leninism espoused by the Communist International after its Bolshevization by Joseph Stalin and during its second congress.


Italian Socialist Party

Bordiga was born at Resina in the province of Naples. An opponent of the Italian colonial war in Libya, he was active in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), founding the Karl Marx Circle in 1912. He rejected a pedagogical approach to political work and developed a "theory of the Party", whereby the organization was meant to display non-immediate goals as a rally of similarly minded people and not a necessary body of the working class. However, Bordiga was deeply opposed to representative democracy which he associated with bourgeois electoralism:

Province of Naples Province in Campania, Italy

The Province of Naples was a province in the Campania region of southern Italy; since January 2015 has been replaced by the Metropolitan City of Naples.

Italo-Turkish War 1911–12 war between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy

The Italo-Turkish or Turco-Italian War was fought between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ottoman Empire from September 29, 1911, to October 18, 1912. As a result of this conflict, Italy captured the Ottoman Tripolitania Vilayet (province), of which the main sub-provinces (sanjaks) were Fezzan, Cyrenaica, and Tripoli itself. These territories together formed what became known as Italian Libya.

Italian Libya 1934–1943 Italian possession in North Africa

Italian Libya was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy located in North Africa, in what is now modern Libya. Italian Libya was formed from the Italian colonies of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania that were taken by the Kingdom of Italy from the Ottoman Empire in 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War of 1911 to 1912. The unified colony was established in 1934 by governor Italo Balbo, with Tripoli as the capital.

Thus if there is a complete negation of the theory of democratic action it is to be found in socialism (Il Socialista, 1914).

Therefore, Bordiga opposed the parliamentary faction of the PSI being autonomous from central control.

In common with most socialists in Latin countries, Bordiga campaigned against Freemasonry which he identified as a non-secular group.

Freemasonry group of fraternal organizations

Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons that from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. The degrees of Freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow, and Master Mason. The candidate of these three degrees is progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other members that he has been so initiated. The degrees are part allegorical morality play and part lecture. Three degrees are offered by Craft Freemasonry, and members of any of these degrees are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by their own bodies.

Secularism, as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the "indifference to, or rejection or exclusion of, religion and religious considerations". In certain context, the word can refer to anticlericalism, atheism, desire to exclude religion from social activities or civic affairs, banishment of religious symbols from the public sphere, state neutrality toward religion, the separation of religion from state, or disestablishment.

Communist Party of Italy

Bordiga in a 1920 drawing by Soviet-Jewish painter Isaak Brodsky Amadeo Bordiga.jpg
Bordiga in a 1920 drawing by Soviet-Jewish painter Isaak Brodsky

Following the October Revolution, Bordiga rallied to the communist movement and formed the communist abstentionist faction within the PSI, abstentionist in that it opposed participation in bourgeois elections. The group would form with the addition of the former L'Ordine Nuovo grouping in Turin around Antonio Gramsci the backbone of the Communist Party of Italy (PCd'I), founded at Livorno in January 1921. This came after a long internal struggle in the PSI as it had voted as early as 1919 to affiliate to the Comintern, but it had refused to purge its reformist wing. In the course of the conflict, Bordiga attended the 2nd Comintern Congress in 1920, where he added two points to the Twenty-one Conditions of membership proposed by Vladimir Lenin. Nevertheless, he was criticised by Lenin in his work "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920).

October Revolution Bolshevik uprising during the Russian Revolution of 1917

The October Revolution, officially known in Soviet historiography as the Great October Socialist Revolution and commonly referred to as the October Uprising, the October Coup, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Bolshevik Coup or the Red October, was a revolution in Russia led by the Bolshevik Party of Vladimir Lenin that was instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917–23. It took place through an armed insurrection in Petrograd on 7 November 1917.

Abstention is a term in election procedure for when a participant in a vote either does not go to vote or, in parliamentary procedure, is present during the vote, but does not cast a ballot. Abstention must be contrasted with "blank vote", in which a voter casts a ballot willfully made invalid by marking it wrongly or by not marking anything at all. A "blank voter" has voted, although their vote may be considered a spoilt vote, depending on each legislation, while an abstaining voter hasn't voted. Both forms may or may not, depending on the circumstances, be considered to be a protest vote.

<i>LOrdine Nuovo</i>

L'Ordine Nuovo was a weekly newspaper established on May 1, 1919, in Turin, Italy, by a group, including Antonio Gramsci, Angelo Tasca and Palmiro Togliatti, within the Italian Socialist Party. The paper was the successor of La Città futura, a broadsheet newspaper. The founders of L'Ordine Nuovo were admirers of the Russian Revolution and strongly supported the immediate creation of soviets in Italy. They believed that existing factory councils of workers could be strengthened so that they could become the basis of a communist revolution. However, Amadeo Bordiga, who would become the founder of the Communist Party of Italy, criticised the plan as syndicalism, saying that soviets should only be created after Italy had come under communist control.

For Bordiga, the party was the social brain of the proletariat whose task was not to seek majority support, but to concentrate on working for an armed insurrection in the course of which it would seize power and then use it to abolish capitalism and impose a communist society by force. Bordiga identified the dictatorship of the proletariat and the dictatorship of the party and argued that establishing its own dictatorship should be the party's immediate and direct aim. This position was accepted by the majority of the members of the PCd'I, but it was to bring them into conflict with the Comintern when in 1921 the latter adopted a new tactic, i.e. that of the united front with reformist organisations to fight for reforms and even to form a workers' government. Bordiga regarded this as a reversion to the failed tactics which the pre-war social democrats had adopted and which had led to them becoming reformist.

The proletariat is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power. A member of such a class is a proletarian.

In Karl Marx's critique of political economy and subsequent Marxian analyses, the capitalist mode of production refers to the systems of organizing production and distribution within capitalist societies. Private money-making in various forms preceded the development of the capitalist mode of production as such. The capitalist mode of production proper, based on wage-labour and private ownership of the means of production and on industrial technology, began to grow rapidly in Western Europe from the Industrial Revolution, later extending to most of the world.

Communist society type of society and economic system

In Marxist thought, communist society or the communist system is the type of society and economic system postulated to emerge from technological advances in the productive forces, representing the ultimate goal of the political ideology of communism. A communist society is characterized by common ownership of the means of production with free access to the articles of consumption and is classless and stateless, implying the end of the exploitation of labour.

Out of a regard for discipline, Bordiga and his comrades (who became known as the Italian communist left) accepted the Comintern decision, but they were in an increasingly difficult position. When Bordiga was arrested in February 1923 on a trumped-up charge by the new government of Benito Mussolini, he had to give up his post as member of the Central Committee of the PCd'I. On his acquittal later that year, Bordga decided not to reclaim it, therefore implicitly accepting that he was now an oppositionist. In 1924, the Italian communist left lost control of the PCd'I to a pro-Moscow group whose leader Gramsci became the party's General Secretary in June. At the Third Congress of the PCdI held in exile in Lyons in January 1926, the manoeuvre of the pro-Moscow group was completed. Without the support of the Communist International to escape from Fascist control,[ citation needed ] few members of the Italian Communist Left were able to arrive to the Congress, so the theses drawn up by Bordiga were rejected and those of the Stalinist minority group accepted.[ citation needed ]

Bordiga attended his last meeting of the Executive Committee of the Comintern in 1926, the same year in which he confronted Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin face-to-face. In his final confrontation with Stalin in Moscow in 1926, Bordiga proposed that all the communist parties of the world should jointly rule the Soviet Union as a demonstration of the supra-national reality of the workers' movement. However, this proposal was coolly received by Stalin and his friends. Bordiga accused Stalin of betraying the revolution, calling the Soviet leader "the gravedigger of the revolution".

Under arrest

In December 1926, Bordiga was again arrested by Mussolini and sent to prison in Ustica, an Italian island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where he met with Gramsci and they renewed their friendship and worked alongside each other despite their political differences. Bordiga was concerned about Gramsci's ill health, but nothing came of a plan to help him escape the island. In 1928, Bordiga was moved to the Isle of Ponza, where he built several houses, returning after his detention in 1929 to finish them. [1]


Following his release, Bordiga did not resume his activities in the PCd'I and was in fact expelled in March 1930, accused of having "supported, defended and endorsed the positions of the Trotskyist opposition" and been organisationally disruptive. [1] With his expulsion, Bordiga left political activity until 1943 and he was to refuse to comment on political affairs even when asked by trusted friends. However, many of his former supporters in the PCd'I went into exile and founded a political tendency often referred to as Italian communist left.

In 1928, its members in exile in France and Belgium formed themselves into the Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy which became in 1935 the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left. This change of name was a reflection of the Italian Communist Left's view that the CPd'I and the other communist parties had now become counter-revolutionary. The Bordigists, as they became known, with their theory of the party and their opposition to any form of frontism, held that program was everything and a gate-receipt notion of numbers was nothing. Bordiga would again work with many of these comrades following the end of World War II.

International Communist Party

After 1944, he first returned to political activity in the Naples-based Fraction of Socialists and Communists, but when this grouping was dissolved into the International Communist Party (ICP) Bordiga did not initially join. However, he did contribute anonymously to its press, primarily Battaglia Comunista and Prometeo, in keeping with his conviction that revolutionary work was collective in nature and his opposition to any form of (even incipient) personality cult. Bordiga joined the ICP in 1949.

When the current split in two in 1951, he took the side of the grouping that retained the name, publishing its Il Programma Comunista. Bordiga devoted himself to the party, contributing extensively. Bordiga remained with the ICP until his death at Formia in 1970.


On Stalinism

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. [2]

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.

On democracy

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.

On communism

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 coherent 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.

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  1. 1 2 Peregalli, Arturo; Saggioir, Sandro (1998). La sconfitta e gli anni oscuri (1926-1945. Milan: Edizioni Colibri.
  2. 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.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Leader of the Communist Party of Italy
Succeeded by
Antonio Gramsci
General Secretary of the
Communist Party of Italy