LENINISM AND THE ULTRA-LEFT
The following text is a modified version of a mimeographed text written by a small group of French revolutionaries who had been under the influence of the ultra-left movement and now think it necessary to discuss the fundamental theses of the ultra-left. The original text was submitted to a national convention organised by the French group l.C.O. ( Informations Correspondance Ouvrieres ), held in Paris in June, 1969. The part devoted to the analysis of the dynamics of capitalism was written later. We decided to translate the second version of our text into English in order to give English-speaking readers an idea of our work and our problems.
Our critique of ultra-left ideas will concentrate on two points which are closely related : the problem of "organisation," and the content of socialism. Our critique must be historical : our aim is not to oppose ideas with other ideas, but to understand the historical background of the theories we are examining. This procedure is all the more justified since these theories constantly refer to a definite past and to other theories produced by a definite period in the history of the labour movement.
What is the ultra-left ? It is both the product and one of the aspects of the revolutionary movement which followed the first world war and shook capitalist Europe without destroying it from 1917 to 1921 or 1923. Ultra-left ideas are rooted in that movement of the twenties, which was the expression of the struggle of many thousands of revolutionary workers in Europe. That movement remained a minority in the Communist International and opposed the general line of the international communist movement. The term itself suggests the character of the ultra-left. There is the right ( the social-patriots, Noske... ), the centre ( Kautsky... ), the left ( Lenin and the Communist International ), and the ultra-left. The ultra-left is primarily an opposition : an opposition within and against the German Communist Party ( K.P.D. ), within and -- against the Communist International. It asserts itself through a critique of the prevailing ideas of the communist movement, i.e., through a critique of Leninism.
The ultra-left was far from being a monolithic movement. Furthermore, its various components modified their conceptions. For instance, Gorter's open letter to Lenin expresses a theory of the party which the ultra-left no longer accepts. On the two main points ( "organisation" and the content of socialism ) we shall only study the ideas which the ultra-left has retained throughout its development. The French group I.C.O. is one of the best examples of a present-day ultra-left group.