MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Workers Party/Independent Socialist League: Neither Capitalism nor Socialism

Workers Party/Independent Socialist League

E. Haberkern & Arthur Lipow (eds.)

Neither Capitalism nor Socialism


Appendix A

The Myth of Bruno Rizzi


Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, pp. 313–323.


Whenever the theory of bureaucratic collectivism or, indeed, any theory that holds that the bureaucracy is a new, exploiting class is mentioned, the name of Bruno Rizzi is inevitably raised. [1] Like many another author, his reputation is in inverse proportion to the number of people who have read his work. His best known book, La Bureaucratisation du Monde, was published in Paris in September of 1939 and most copies were destroyed by the Nazis. [2] The French popular front government had earlier impounded it because of its virulent antisemitism. [3]

It is clear that most who refer to it have not read it. [4] None of those who refer to it seem to be aware of the pamphlets written in Italian by Rizzi in the forties, in which he emphasized the profascist conclusions he drew from his theory.

Because the most widely known theory of bureaucratic collectivism is the one discussed in this book and because this theory of bureaucratic collectivism was developed as a consistent defense of a third camp political opposition to both Stalinism and capitalism, it is generally assumed that Rizzi’s theory was also an attack on this new class. Trotsky’s characterization of Rizzi in his article The USSR in War as a former adherent of the Fourth International and his implication that Rizzi developed his ideas in that milieu [5] lends credence to this interpretation. But it is false.

Rizzi was never associated with the Trotskyist movement and the Italian Trotskyists would have nothing to do with him. [6] He was a Socialist before World War I and was for a short time, prior to the fascists’ seizure of power, a member of the Communist Party. After the fascists came to power, Rizzi dropped out of active participation in politics. He developed his theory as an explicit justification, one should rather say glorification, of fascism. Mussolini and Hitler, although they had not yet gone as far as Stalin in destroying capitalism, were moving in the same direction. Like Burnham, his profascism was theoretically based on the then almost universal conviction that planned statified property was the answer to the capitalist catastrophe of the Great Depression. Unlike Burnham he did not, initially, have to deal with a public hostile to fascism or with the Trotskyists’ continued commitment to workers’ power and workers’ democracy.

In order to deal with the myths surrounding Rizzi and his place in the development of the theory of bureaucratic collectivism and of new class theories in general it is necessary to give a brief summary of his position as it is found in La Bureaucratization du Monde.

Rizzi begins by referring to all the reports from the Soviet Union on the condition of the working class in that country. The one thing on which all agree, except of course the Stalinists, is that the position of the working class is that of an exploited class with even less rights than those that are permitted in capitalist countries. The Communist party is, in Rizzi’s phrase, nothing but a dog which the shepherd, Stalin, uses to keep the sheep in order.

He has no illusions, however, that this class has anything in common with the capitalist class. It comes to power because capitalism has failed:

The possession of the State gives the bureaucracy possession of all goods, moveable and immoveable, which, in being socialized, do not any the less, belong ‘in toto’ to the new ruling class ...

This new form of society resolves, from the social point of view, the unsustainable antagonism which renders capitalist society incapable of any progress. In capitalist society, the form of production has been collective for a long time, because the whole world takes part, directly or indirectly, in the production of every kind of good. But the appropriation of goods is individual, that in consequence precisely of private property. In socializing property and in submitting it effectively to the direction of a class, acting as a complex harmony, the antagonism that exists in the capitalist system is made to disappear, replaced by a new system. [7]

While rejecting Trotsky’s arguments and those of his followers who maintained that the Soviet Union was still a workers’ state, Rizzi had no quarrel with the idea that nationalized property was progressive: Socialism is, in the final analysis, an economy of distribution and division of products. It is not possible until production is so vast that any increase in consumption, even an increase in the requirements of the state, is met.

Over production at present is nothing but the saturation of the capitalist market. To provide what is required for the inhabitants of the earth, the maximum production of 1929 has to be multiplied. A task of that kind cannot be met by capitalism and its supporters who, after having murdered 10 millions of men from 1914 to 1918, are of a mind to recommence what their ‘immortal principles’ demand. Such a task is assumed by the state and by the class which has the courage to make itself master of the state. Only the productivity of the state – not the speculation of individuals – rationalized, perfected, electrified can give a new impulse to production and achieve greater wealth for humanity ... [8]

The published sections of Rizzi’s work are sections one and three. These sections contain Rizzi’s speculations on the development of Russia and New Deal America. The third section, entitled Quo Vadis America? argued that the New Deal was also the first installment of socialism. A proposition which many New Dealers – and their right wing opponents – agreed with. The second section, according to Pierre Naville the French Trotskyist who had seen it, was an apologia for Mussolini’s Italy. It did not appear in the published book. Apparently, Rizzi felt it might be too strong for a French public. He had already been repulsed by the French Trotskyists in emigration because of his pro-fascism.

Nevertheless, the published sections, especially an appendix Where is the World Going?, are full of examples of Rizzi’s indiscriminant dictator worship.

The political program that followed was spelled out again and again. Internationally, the progressive dictatorships had to partition the earth into reasonably sized autarchies which would provide the nationalized economies proper scope for rational planning:

At this historical conjuncture, in order to provide space and raw materials for fascism and national socialism (Rizzi here refers to Russia – EH), that is to say, to divide the world in a rational manner and then exploit it rationally, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and the world proletariat must ally themselves to ward off the last blow of the old sorcerer of capitalism. [9]

This rational division of the world was especially necessary because the monstrous forms which the ‘autarchies’ have taken are the result of capitalist encirclement:

The political forms which you see today in Italy, Germany and Russia are not those which the new society chooses to begin its task. You see a militarized, police state which is the product of historical necessity. In Russia, the bureaucracy has to finally finish the job of establishing itself on the throne which historically was left to it and which it had, of necessity, to snatch from the proletariat. In the midst of economic and political tempests it has performed miracles, and the Russian proletariat has performed them too in supporting it all. The bureaucracy finds itself once more in a crisis of under production and the preparation for world war is a deadly threat to it, as it is for everyone. After the hostility we have shown this bureaucracy we must guard against any grudge. [10]

Characteristically, Rizzi assumes the posture of a man who has risen above the partisan battle and can view the victory of his former enemies with equanimity. [11] They are, after all, only the products of historical necessity. At one point, Rizzi looks down with pity on the great dictators. They are only “prisoners, even if prisoners in a golden cage.” The philosophical detachment is only the other side of political impotence and defeat. It masks a grudging admiration for the strength of the victors.

This division of the world into “seven or eight great autarchies” left no room for the rights of small nations. The principle of the right of small nations to self-determination, which had played such a role in the antiwar left wing in 1914–1918 and had become a point of honor in the early communist movement, was one of the principles which Trotsky had accused the Stalin regime of abandoning. Rizzi had no use for it. Having dissolved the connection between socialism and a mass movement from below, democratic principles of any sort became so many obstacles:

Far from us is the desire or wish to be brutal with respect to those little peoples who are highly civilized and live tranquilly and inoffensively. We believe it will not be necessary to sacrifice them completely and that they will of their own accord attach themselves to the autarchy that offers them the most favorable conditions of economic integration. But, if one wishes peace in the world and the growth of production, it is necessary to find a peaceful means to provide space and the raw materials necessary for the construction of the German and Italian autarchies. The sacrifice of the independence of some small state or other is a necessity long since proved for the development of the economy. Since the autarchy has as its aim economic organization and not political hegemony it will not even be wise to deal harshly in the matter of the customs, languages, culture and liberty of the populations. [12]

This was written between the Nazi rape of Czechoslovakia and the partition of Poland by Hitler and Stalin. Both actions, as is well known, were taken in the interests of peace.

What remains for the working class? Rizzi time and again returns to the proposition that it has forfeited any claim to lead society. That is the job of the bureaucracy. What is more, the transition to socialism was purely a matter of economic rationalization, democracy had nothing to do with it. The progressive economy was all to use Burnham’s 1937 phrase. Nevertheless, the working class had a role to play as an auxiliary force. It was to act as a political and economic fifth column pressuring the French, British and American bourgeoisie to concede to the autarchies the space and peace they needed to develop towards socialism. The anti-war slogans of 1914–1918 are used over and over – against the French, British and American plutocrats not against the progressive dictators who have begun to build a new order alongside their proletarians.

The proletariat must convince itself, and soon, that the fascist movements are a kind of anti-capitalist movement; they must demand an alliance with them ... the proletariat (must) push for the creation of an anti-capitalist bloc to which it will adhere all the national anti-capitalist forces, that is to say the fascist forces which have detached themselves from capitalism and the petit bourgeoisie who will provide the largest number of technicians for the new ruling class. [13]

Part of the ideology of this bloc, as might be expected, was to be antisemitism. Rizzi carefully distinguished his antisemitism from that of the Nazis. It was not racial. Rather, it was based on two ‘sociological’ premises. The first was that the Jews have culturally adapted themselves to capitalism as an economic system to such an extent that they could not be assimilated into the new society as a whole. There was, of course, nothing personal about this. Rizzi pointed out that two of the most well known anti-capitalist writers – Marx and Trotsky – were Jews. Rizzi made it a point to emphasize how much he owed to them.

We respect and honor Marx and Trotsky and a few others of our obscure friends of the Jewish race. Certain isolated and very beautiful flowers can grow in dung heaps, but as a whole the Jewish people have become a capitalist dung heap. [14]

Some of his best friends ...

The second problem with the Jews, connected with the first, was their internationalism, what Stalinists in the forties were to call ‘cosmopolitanism’. Since Stalinism and fascism were both heavily dependent on nationalism and the glorification of the nation state, antisemitism and xenophobia were inevitably elements in their ideology.

It is hard to see, after all this, what there was to Rizzi’s theory other than pure and simple adaptation to the fascist regime. Even the relative ‘moderation’ of his antisemitic views as compared to the Nazis was not unusual for an Italian fascist.

After all, Italian fascism had never been that much concerned with racial ideology. It was always more ‘sociological’ even ‘marxistical’ in its glorification of the state.

Nevertheless, even if Rizzi’s theory was, in the final analysis, only a grand rationale for adaptation to fascism by a man who had always been on the periphery of the working class movement, it still had to be taken seriously. In the first place, Rizzi could have found other ways of adapting to fascism personally. He could have just dropped out. Instead, he felt a need to work his way through old convictions to a new position. He generalized his personal despair with a theory that ‘proved’ that the working class could never lead society out of its impasse.

In the second place, the ideological bridge to his pro-fascism was the progressive statified economy which was the central plank in the socialism of so many on the left. The Webbs, George Bernard Shaw and Lincoln Stephens among many other, less well known, ‘progressives’, also saw Mussolini as well as Stalin as a model anticapitalist dictator. In their case it was not the pressure of local authorities but the attraction of authoritarian state planning itself that led them to identify the regimes of Stalin and Mussolini.

But what about the Trotskyist movement? There was no profascist tendency there and Trotsky’s opponents in 1939–40, for whom ‘Bruno R’ was apparently a kind of stalking horse, were at the opposite pole from him on the issue that was tearing the Trotskyist movement apart. The dispute, beginning in 1937, had been provoked by Trotsky’s insistence on the slogan ‘unconditional defense of the USSR’ and the differences on this point had become irreconcilable with the Hitler-Stalin pact. But Rizzi had been in favor of collaboration between, if not the unity of, the fascist and working class movements before the pact. The imperialist division of Poland could have made no difference to him given his views on the rights of small nations and he clearly had overcome any revulsion he might have had towards Nazism. What connection he had with Trotsky’s internal opponents is a mystery.

Here are three possible suggestions why Trotsky dragged the unfortunate Rizzi into the debate:

  1. Clearly, Trotsky intended to frighten his polemical opponents, and, perhaps even more, his wavering supporters with the possible consequences of their opposition to the idea that Russia was still a workers’ state. “If you admit that a new class has arisen capable of defending historically progressive collectivist property then you must admit that socialism is nothing but a utopia. You must admit as Rizzi does that the working class cannot hold power. You must reconcile yourself to the grim task of defending the slaves of this new class and give up all thought of remaking society.” It is doubtful that Trotsky took this position of extreme fatalism seriously.
  2. Throughout this debate, Trotsky tried to shift the ground of the argument from the defense of the Russian state in the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact, where he was floundering, to the ‘higher ground’ of the class nature of the Russian bureaucracy, where he knew his opponents were divided and only beginning to think through their position. This would account for his silence with respect to Rizzi’s voluminous comments on just this matter of the war. Rizzi’s position here was embarrassingly close to the one Trotsky was defending. If Rizzi argued that Hitler as well as Stalin was fighting a progressive war, he also based it on the progressive character of nationalized property.
  3. Finally, there was this underlying question of progressive collectivist property itself. If the pessimism of Trotsky’s prognosis was partly sham, polemical demagogy, everything he had written since 1923 on the matter of collectivist versus private property indicated that on this point his confusion was genuine. He had no answer to those, like Rizzi, who argued that it was Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini who were taking this next step forward for the human race. Instinctively, Trotsky rebelled against this conclusion. He would be on the side of the oppressed slaves of the new order, but he was unable to counter the argument that totalitarianism, if it could abolish private ownership of the means of production, was really the wave of the future. He projected this position onto his opponents inside the Trotskyist movement, with what justification we have seen, but it was also his position.

Rizzi himself has claimed some responsibility for the development of the theory of bureaucratic collectivism within the Trotskyist movement. [15] If anything the remarks by Trotsky, which until 1948 were all that American Trotskyists had seen of Rizzi’s ideas, inhibited thought along these lines. If Rizzi’s real, pro-fascist, views had been known they would likely have had an even more discouraging effect. In any case, Rizzi himself states that it was the arguments of “B and C”, presumably Burnham and Craipeau that started him thinking about these questions. As it turned out, when, in 1948, a copy of his book was obtained by American Trotskyists, it was easily dismissed. Adherents of Carter’s theory of bureaucratic collectivism could counter that it was Trotsky, not they, who was close to Rizzi. [16]



1. Daniel Bell, The Strange Tale of Bruno Rizzi, The New Leader, September 28, 1959, p. 20.

2. The book was not that difficult to obtain, however. It was catalogued and microfilmed by the Hoover institution and was listed in the National Union Catalogue. It was listed under B for Bruno R which is how Rizzi signed his books and how Trotsky referred to him.

3. Bruno Rizzi, The Bureaucratization of the World, translated with an introduction by Adam Westoby (The Free Press, New York 1985).

4. Leon Trotsky does seem to have had access to copy directly or indirectly. See his references in In Defense of Marxism.

5. The USSR in War, in Defense of Marxism, Pathfinder, 1973, p. 10)

6. Pierre Naville, Le contrat social, 1958.

7. Bruno Rizzi, La Bureaucratisation du Monde (Paris 1939), pp. 25, 26. In Westoby’s translation this passage can be found on page 50.

8. Ibid., p. 240.

9. Ibid., p. 314.

10. Ibid.

11. The pose here is similar to that taken by a far more serious political writer, Isaac Deutscher.

12. La Bureaucratisation, p. 250.

13. Ibid., pp. 324, 325.

14. Ibid., p. 300.

15. In 1958, Hal Draper, one of the two principal American proponents of the thesis that the bureaucracy was a new ruling class visited Rizzi at his home in Italy. Rizzi claimed he had “proof” that James Burnham had pirated his book in The Managerial Revolution. Rizzi spent some time frantically searching for this “proof”. When he was unable to find it Draper asked him what the “proof” was. Rizzi claimed that he had an invoice indicating that one (1) book had been sold in New York. When asked how he knew the recipient was Burnham Rizzi replied “Who else could it have been?” For a more detailed treatment of Rizzi and his claims see my article in Telos, No. 66 and the other articles on this question in that issue.

Rizzi’s exchange with Isaac Deutscher and the Italian leftist Alfonso Leonetti reprinted in this issue of Telos is especially interesting. Hal and Anne Draper were both struck by the evidence of Rizzi’s mental instability when they met him in 1958 and Adam Westoby mentions in the introduction to his translation that Rizzi had been institutionalized at one point. In his letter to Deutscher reprinted in Telos Rizzi claims to have had a political conversation with Mussolini at the request of the SS officer who held Mussolini in protective custody. Both Deutscher and Leonetti clearly regarded this as a fantasy and evidence of Rizzi’s instability.

16. James M. Fenwick, The Mysterious Bruno R., The New International, September 1948, p. 216.

Last updated on 8 November 2020