Some Questions for Discussion within the Organization-1974
1: The Politico-military Organization
“The political class struggle cannot be advanced without a specifically military capacity”. Our November 1970 decision to undertake the construction of an armed proletarian vanguard. The criteria which we have set as the foundation of this transition are known but we will recapitulate them.
-the point of origin of the new revolutionary sequence is the political vanguards of the working class of the large factories of the industrial and metropolitan centres.
-it is on the basis of the political needs of this revolutionary strata that we began the construction of the armed revolutionary vanguard.
-by armed vanguard we do not understand the armed wing of an unarmed mass movement, rather its highest point of unification its perspective of power. From its beginnings the armed vanguard is the revolutionary power of the exploited classes which fights against the system for the creation of a communist state and society;
-although concealed within the strictest secrecy the armed vanguard does not renounce a development along lines internal to the forces of the area of workers autonomy.
The question of clandestinity was posed in its real terms only after May 2nd 1972. Until that point, caught as we were in a situation of semilegality, it was seen more in its tactical and defensive aspects than in its strategic significance. The prejudice which opposes “clandestinity” and the “mass line” delayed this recognition. It was the offensive launched by the authorities against the organization on May 2nd which put an end to any doubt on the fact that clandestinity is an indispensable condition for the survival of an offensive politico-military organization which operates within the imperialist metropoles.
From May 2nd onwards we started to construct the armed proletarian vanguard on the basis of the most hermetic clandestinity. However, as we have said in the first point the condition of clandestinity does not prevent the development of the organization along lines internal to the forces of the area of worker’s autonomy. Beyond the condition of absolute clandestinity, a second condition appears in our experience, in which the militant although belonging to the organization, operates “within the movement” and is therefore constrained to move and appear within the political forms the movement assumes in legality.
From a political point of view, this second type of clandestine militancy is at the basis of the construction of the articulations of revolutionary power; from a military point of view it is the foundation for the development of the worker and popular militias. Operating “on the basis of clandestinity” enables a decisive tactical advantage over the class enemy whose personnel and installations are on the contrary, exposed. This advantage comes to be completely negated when clandestinity is understood in purely defensive terms. The defensive conception of clandestinity implies or conceals the illusion that in the final analysis the confrontation between the bourgeois and the proletariat plays out on the political terrain rather then that of war and that the military aspects are essentially only tactical and supportive aspects.
This erroneous conception is still present within some “autonomous assemblies” like that of Alfa Romeo, i.e when they state: “we believe that in this historical moment the political leadership must be completely responsible before the masses, although developing functional models of clandestinity necessary for the survival of the revolutionary organization”.
But it is clear to all that when they say “the political leadership must be responsible before the masses” they are confusing being a “legal organization” with being a “recognized organization”.
That amounts to passing off a political problem (being a recognized leadership) as an organizational one (being a legal organization). It concludes by not understanding that you can be a “recognized leadership” without being a “legal organization”.
3: The Offensive Approach
The problem of war, of the immediate relevance of the armed struggle understood as the proletarian side of the crisis of the regime, is not a problem of the defence of threatened political spaces, of “defence of democracy”. On the contrary it is a problem of attack, of armed struggle for communism. Our organization is constructed for a war of movement from this perspective. It is an instrument of initiative which aims to force the bourgeoisie into the position of defending an ever growing number of targets, across an ever widening space and of an ever greater diversity of types. It is this perspective which demands respect for two principles that are also two practical advantages: high mobility and structural agility.
By high mobility we mean the capacity to continually change the points and fronts of attack in such a way as to break the continuity of encirclement, not providing fixed targets and compelling the class enemy to engage in a perennial pursuit. Structural agility means that in this phase of the war, the columns must not undergo the conditioning of a cumbersome organizational structure. Complex systems to the extent that they are indispensable must be directly managed by the central logistical front.
4: Living Among the Masses
Our point of view is that due to the historical and social conditions of our country the armed struggle must be waged by an organization which is the direct expression of the vanguard of the working class movement. In this stage we must develop a guerrilla activity linked to the political needs of this vanguard. Rooting the armed struggle in the movement firstly means compelling the vanguard of the movement to directly practice armed struggle. Our military initiative must be increasingly carried out alongside the people. A growing portion of the movement must be involved in our military initiative. Particular attention must be paid to the systematization of the relation between the organization and the people, between the fronts and the people.
If now, for the mass front, the problem of the relation between the front and the people which preceded that of the brigade, has come to be gradually clarified, for the other two fronts it is a question of a major creative effort to avoid the repetitive tendency to assert that it is necessarily justified given the different tasks and environment. Even the mass front, must make a greater creative leap for the BR to take on an aspect of effective local revolutionary power.
5: The Columns
Our strategic choice to develop the organization by way of [urban] centres, implies from the organizational perspective, an analogous process of growth through columns. The column is the minimum organizational unit which reflects, synthesizes and mediates within itself all the complexities of the centre and its tensions with the complexity of the organization, its strategic framework and its political line. The columns are total politico-military units. They are able to operate on all fronts within a significant sector of the class. From a political viewpoint they are centralized through the strategic leadership and the fronts. From an organizational viewpoint they are independent and rely on their own apparatus. The formation of new columns must occur through parthenogenesis and not the aggregation of new elements.
Compartmentalization is a general law of the revolutionary war in the metropole. It is one of the principle foundations of our organizational security. Our experience has shown that those who ignore this law or don’t apply it with absolute rigor are inevitably destined to destruction.
Marighella: “We must avoid everyone knowing the others and all knowing all. Everyone must know only what relates to his work”.
Che: “In clandestine conditions, no one, absolutely no one must know anything which is not strictly indispensable for his work and must never speak of it in front of anyone.”
In our organization it is necessary to implement a vertical compartmentalization (between the various bodies at all levels) and a horizontal compartmentalization (between columns, between fronts, between brigades, between the comrades of a single organizational structure). It is necessary to keep in mind that even the best compartmentalized structure cannot endure for long without real discretion from its militants. Namely discretion is a rule of conduct which is fundamental for the urban guerrilla.
Compartmentalization does not mean: “compartmentalization of political debate and all information”. The Executive Committee (EC) and the different fronts in order to avoid this danger must maintain and extend the practice of issuing informational and political reports and summations which enable broad political debate even in a situation of absolute organizational compartmentalization.
7: The Fronts
The fronts are a recent acquisition of our organizational experience. They are constructed in response to the need to develop the organization of struggle in specific sectors (i.e large factories, counter-revolution). They are not service structures. The fronts divide and traverse the organization vertically. Therefore they are the most appropriate channel through which to fulfil the task of centralization of political debate. The fronts to be enhanced in this stage are three: the front of the large factories; the front for struggle against the counter-revolution; and the logistical front.
The front for struggle against the counter-revolution must set as its objective the seizure of outposts for its strategic existence, and in addition: the perfection of the intelligence apparatus, the development of the attack on the state already initiated with the Sossi campaign and a line of action which leads to the hegemony of our strategic discourse among the forces of militant anti-fascism. The logistical front first of all must exist. Its tasks are defined by the necessity of perfecting and developing logistical (bases, instruments, means, documents); military (weapons and military training); industrial (laboratory); and assistance (medical, legal and fugitive) structures.
8: Regular and Irregular Forces
Our organization is based in two types of forces. The regular forces and the irregular forces. Both are essential for our existence, but each plays a different role. The regular forces are comprised of the most able and willing cadre which the armed struggle has produced. They are completely clandestine and the militants who comprise them have cut every tie with legality. Our experience has shown that without regular forces it is impossible to create and construct stable revolutionary bases like the columns and the fronts. The regular forces therefore have a strategic character and their fundamental tasks are determined by the requirements for the survival and development of the fronts and columns.
The irregular forces-whether brigades or cells-also have a strategic character but the militants of these forces live in legality. Their clandestinity is organizational, not personal. It is this situation which imposes limits on their initiative and it is these “objective” limits which define the distinction with the regular forces.
However the partisan workers of the irregular forces play a role which becomes more decisive the more the civil conflict develops. They have two fundamental tasks: winning the broadest possible support for the organization and constructing the centres and articulations of revolutionary power. From a political point of view there is no difference between the militants of the regular and the irregular forces. Both contribute with an equality of rights and duties to implementing the general political line of the organization. Therefore militants of the irregular forces can also be part of the Strategic Directorate of the organization, even if they obviously cannot participate in the leadership of the Fronts and Columns, or the Executive Committee.
9: The Strategic Directorate
In the beginning of our history there is a group of comrades who making the decision for revolution have won an indisputable vanguard role in combat. This historic nucleus has led the organization up to now and insofar as possible has subjected every fundamental decision, victory and defeat to discussion by the comrades of the regular and irregular forces.
Now with the growth of the organization and of its influence, its complexity and its political and military responsibilities, this historic nucleus has become insufficient. A redefinition and broadening of the total leading cadre of the organization is necessary. Therefore the formation of a revolutionary council which collects and represents all the tensions and revolutionary energies acquired in the fronts, columns and irregular forces is proposed for discussion by the comrades. This council must be the highest authority of the BR. This council must be assigned the indisputable function of strategic leadership of the organization. It will formulate the general guidelines and the political line of the organization. It must be recognized by all as having:
-The right to issue and apply revolutionary laws and regulations.
-The right to judge and to apply disciplinary corrections in relation to those members of the organization who have engaged in incorrect or counter-revolutionary conduct.
-The right to approve and revise budgets.
-The right and the power to modify the structure of the organization.
The council will normally meet once or twice annually or in extraordinary session when there is a request from at least one column, a front or the EC.
10: The Executive Committee
To the EC falls the task of leading and coordinating the activity of the fronts and the columns as well as conducting the business of the organization between one council and another. Cells and individuals who carry out their militancy separately can also be linked to the EC. It is accountable for its work directly and exclusively to the council and nominated and recalled by the same.
The three fronts must be represented on the EC in a way which enables an efficient centralization of information and rapid implementation of directives. All military actions of a general character which involve the organization in its totality must be approved by the EC. In the case of particularly important decisions the EC can have recourse to consultation with representatives of the columns. The EC has the responsibility of management of resources and of the property of the organization.
This note is not the endpoint of the discussion on organization rather it is a point of departure. Obviously it is modifiable and integrable. The discussion in the fronts and the columns must be carried forwards to a final draft and to the identification of the strategic leadership.
Provisional translation by Joshua Depaolis.