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.