Introduction to L’operaio americano (1954)

Battaglia Comu­nista, a. XV, n. 2 (feb­braio-mar­zo 1954).

Montaldi in Paris, 1953.
Mon­tal­di in Paris, 1953.

The doc­u­ment with which we start off this issue was writ­ten by Paul Romano, an Amer­i­can work­er. There exists an Amer­i­ca that no one talks about, which is to be found beyond the myth of the refrig­er­a­tor, the auto­mo­bile, and the tele­vi­sion, and beyond the myth of afflu­ence for all. It is the Amer­i­ca of the fac­to­ry: an unknown Amer­i­ca whose his­to­ry is made of strikes, exploita­tion, and pro­le­tar­i­an mis­ery. The pro­tag­o­nists of this sto­ry are the work­ers, and Paul Romano is a work­er who writes about the life of the work­ers.

It is no coin­ci­dence that such a deeply inter­est­ing doc­u­ment comes from the most high­ly indus­tri­al­ized coun­try in the world, to counter the lie that the Amer­i­can pro­le­tari­at has no class con­scious­ness.

We know the dif­fi­cul­ties through which the rev­o­lu­tion­ary van­guard must move in the Unit­ed States. The group that Paul Romano belongs to was formed with­in the Amer­i­can Trot­sky­ist orga­ni­za­tion, but split off fol­low­ing a pro­found dis­agree­ment. At the heart of this dis­agree­ment lay the refusal to adhere to the watch­word of “uncon­di­tion­al defense of the USSR,” which con­sti­tut­ed the clas­si­cal plat­form of Trot­sky­ism, rep­re­sent­ed in the Unit­ed States by the Social­ist Work­ers’ Par­ty; the eval­u­a­tion of the USSR as state cap­i­tal­ist; the same analy­sis of the cap­i­tal­ist sit­u­a­tion as that of the Work­ers’ Par­ty, anoth­er wing of Amer­i­can Trot­sky­ism, which did not present any­thing fun­da­men­tal­ly new, while this group stressed the con­cen­tra­tion and sta­ti­za­tion of the econ­o­my; and, final­ly, dif­fer­ences over their polit­i­cal tasks, since the seizure of pow­er by the pro­le­tari­at remained fun­da­men­tal to the group that pub­lished “The Amer­i­can Work­er” in 1947. Formed in 1950 as an inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tion, since Octo­ber 1953 the group has pub­lished a bimonth­ly news­pa­per, Cor­re­spon­dence, of which ten issues are already out. “The Amer­i­can Work­er,” as much as the news­pa­per Cor­re­spon­dence, express­es with great force and pro­fun­di­ty this idea, prac­ti­cal­ly for­got­ten by the Marx­ist move­ment after the pub­li­ca­tion of the first vol­ume of Cap­i­tal, that the work­er is first of all some­one who lives at the point of pro­duc­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist fac­to­ry before being the mem­ber of a par­ty, a rev­o­lu­tion­ary mil­i­tant, or the sub­ject of com­ing social­ist pow­er; and that it is the pro­duc­tive process that shapes his rejec­tion of exploita­tion and his capac­i­ty to build a supe­ri­or type of soci­ety, his class sol­i­dar­i­ty with oth­er work­ers, and his hatred for exploita­tion and the exploiters, the tra­di­tion­al boss­es of yes­ter­day and the imper­son­al bureau­crats of today and tomor­row. The devel­op­ment of this fun­da­men­tal idea is the prin­ci­pal con­tri­bu­tion of this group to the rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment of today. But the doc­u­men­tary val­ue of Paul Romano’s book resides also in this: that it reveals the con­di­tions of the work­ers to be uni­ver­sal. For this rea­son, we invite the com­rades, the work­ers, the read­ers to write to Battaglia, to com­pare their own sit­u­a­tions to that of the “Amer­i­can work­er,” which is to say, with the work­er of all coun­tries – the work­er with whom they feel some­thing sim­i­lar and yet see some­thing dif­fer­ent.

—Trans­lat­ed by Salar Mohan­desi

Author of the article

was an Italian historian and militant.