The Prometeo group, which is named after Prometheus, consists of three or four Italian communists who are officially known as the Italian Left Fraction of Communism. “They are extremely rigid and doctrinaire,” explained Max Shachtman, with a certain amount of admiration.
— Geoffrey Hellman, “The Trotskyists”
The New Yorker (December 16, 1939)
Prometheus was the tragic hero of Aeschylean drama, the titan who stole fire from the gods and bestowed it upon man. For this he was punished, chained to a rock and daily disemboweled by a giant bird of prey.
Karl Marx, whose favorite ancient poet was Aeschylus, called Prometheus “the most eminent saint and martyr in the philosophical calendar.” Marx was caricatured as the titan during his time at the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, bound shirtless to a printing press with his guts about to get torn out by a Prussian eagle. In Capital, the proletariat would be similarly compared. “The law which always holds the relative surplus population or industrial reserve army in equilibrium with the extent and energy of accumulation,” wrote Marx, “rivets the worker to capital more firmly than the wedges of Hephaestus held Prometheus to the rock.”
Over half a century later, when revolutions broke out across Europe following the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917, the name Prometeo was revived by the Italian communist Amadeo Bordiga. Known for his stubborn commitment to an invariant program, Bordiga led the PCI from the time of its foundation until his ouster at the hands of Stalin and subsequent arrest by Mussolini. Some of his followers washed up on the shores of New York City, where they were put to work guarding the doors at meetings of the local Trotskyist milieu. Dutifully they kept the lookout against Stalinists, Pinkertons, infiltrators, and cops.
While numerically few, and not quite as “rigid” or “doctrinaire” as our namesake, we are nevertheless steadfast in upholding an internationalist line rooted in the political autonomy of the working class. A revolutionary party would be premature without a revolutionary movement — putting the cart before the horse, as it were. For now, our task is much more modest: we are still searching for common ground. Presently confusion reigns, whether in the form of big-tent electoral campaigns carried out under the auspices of the Democratic Party or the numerous micro-sects that claim to be the true vanguard of proletarian consciousness.
Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the growth of likeminded groups in cities throughout North America as well as overseas. Journals like Intransigence aim at the regroupment of revolutionaries around shared principles of the communist left, which will serve to orient us moving forward. Toward this end, Prometeo hopes to establish a foothold in New York from which to organize events, engage existing networks, and coordinate with similar efforts in other cities. Marxists, anarchists, and all those interested in overcoming capitalism are invited to participate. Contact us if you’d like to get involved.