International Communist Party Against Capitalist Wars

Reconfirming Absolute Neutrality

(from La Lotta di Classe, no.244, October 17, 1914)

On Tuesday evening the general membership meeting discussing the latest statements of the editor of Avanti! which interprets neutrality in a non-absolute way, as stated in the Manifesto of the Party Management and the Socialist Parliamentary Group, and makes reservations about our party's practical opposition to the war, approved the following agenda:

«The Socialist Section of Cesena confirmed the agenda issued on the evening of September 25 on which absolute neutrality was claimed and the war was execrated;

«Whereas the unexpected statements of the Director of the Avanti! profoundly disturb the animating spirit of the referendum held within the Socialist Party, which was inspired by the Manifesto of the Directorate and the Parliamentary Group in which every war was condemned as detrimental to the moral and material interests of the proletariat;

«Considering also that the Socialist Party cannot remain under the weight of a misunderstanding that harms the precise directive that our Party must have in this special contingency, invites the Directorate to state with the utmost clarity that by absolute neutrality it must be understood to mean the Italian proletariat’s ideal and practical opposition to every warlike attitude of the bourgeoisie, and to shape the immediate action of our Party on this precise concept».

For Active and Operating Anti‑Militarism

(from Il Socialista, no.22, October 22, 1914)

The piece here republished was written as soon as Mussolini's famous article, published in the 18th October of 1914 in Avanti! The issue from which we quote it bears as a headline on the full page Not "pacifism": class antimilitarism, while the article is titled For Active and Operating Anti-Militarism.

This was an extremely difficult moment for the Party, for only a few days later this audacious character would turn his coat one final time, no longer speaking of neutrality of one kind or another, but of open intervention, and inevitably being expelled from the now thoroughly betrayed Party.

At that time, more than worrying about the future record of Mr. Benito Mussolini, there was a lot of worries for the Party over the harmful effect of the ideas cleverly presented in the deceitful pipeline from absolute neutrality to active and operative neutrality. What follows is thus a polemic on the fundamental misunderstanding in the approach to the question of neutralism, and shows from the very first lines how the true Marxist left in the irreducible struggle against the war, and also against the supposedly leftist justifications for the war, had warned and averted the danger of confusing the revolutionary anti-war movement with any relapse into humanitarian, petit-bourgeois pacifism, completely antithetical to Marxist doctrine. All this after clearly premising that socialism can do without anyone, even without Mussolini, as at the time he held a lot of merit in the socialist movement due to all his previous actions. This brief polemic is not about saving Benito's soul, but about fighting against the danger of a breach opening in the solid class ranks of the Party.

The comment may be worth confirming the infallible rule that anyone who wants to draw himself out of the realm of doctrine in order to “be realistic” immediately establishes themselves as a traitor.

The topical issue for all our opponents is the attitude taken by Benito Mussolini. One wants at any cost to open a breach in the anti-war attitude of the Socialist Party, and hopes to succeed precisely through what seemed one of its impregnable bulwarks: the thought and action of Avanti! But not even this time will the Socialist Party give up. It has shown that it possesses a collective consciousness, so stubborn – if you will – to not move away from the program it has mapped out, and so iconoclastic, that it has triumphantly passed, more alive and vital than ever, through the now incessant funeral marches played by all the out-of-tune organists of Italian politicking. Aside from the baleful exaggerations about the scope of Mussolini's thought, from which we have already expressed our open dissent, it’s now certain that socialism can, when necessary, do without him as well, whatever the imposing contribution of energy he has made and is making for the common struggle. This can be seen first of all from the position taken by the party leadership, which has not been shaken by the terrible revision envisaged by Mussolini's heretical and restless wit, and has reconfirmed the line of action of the Italian socialists against any participation of the Italian State in the war.

Let us examine – that being said – from a bird's eye view, the opinion of the Director of Avanti!, so elegantly put forward in the issue of the 18th. It’s better to make a quick psychological analysis of it here than a lengthy theoretical examination. The preoccupation with “being realistic” is tantamount to accepting the polemical – and practical – insidiousness of our opponents, who pretend to place the principles of socialism on any other basis than that of the reality around us, thus demolishing its subversive potential. The preoccupation with “playing into the hands” of the Austro-Germans is another pitfall from which we thought we had escaped during the crisis that led us to our present intransigence. On fait toujours le jeu de quelqu'un (1). The fear of allowing the present to be overwhelmed by the past, while we delude ourselves into working for the future, is exquisitely reformist. The present, when we are about to overwhelm it, will always cry danger against the resurrections of the past. Marxist revolutionism should lead us well out of this pitfall. It seems indisputable to us that Mussolini has faltered. He has fallen into the deception that the events of historical reality tend towards all those who want to overcome them.

Mussolini has thus only arrived at a formula that to the usual disadvantage of being abstract adds the other of being contradictory. Active and operative neutrality? It seems to us that this means nothing.

The concept of neutrality doesn’t matter to socialists, but to the State. We want the State to remain neutral in the war, absolutely, to the last, come what may. To achieve this we act on it, against it, in the field and with the means of class struggle. We don’t want to disarm ourselves in this matter. Our war is permanent, it breaks out sometimes as in June in open insurrection (2), but it never grants armistice. Today we are victims of a mauvais mot (3). Neutralists are we? We are immediately accused of pacifism. We, on the other hand, claiming that the State must remain neutral, remain the open enemies of the State, active and operating. We have many matches to settle with the Salandra government.

Let us act for the political victims. Let us follow up with anti-bourgeois, anti-militarist propaganda and work. Let us not grant ceasefires or truces, let us close the road to the delusional mirage of national unanimity that has dazzled our French and German comrades.

This is not pacifist cowardice. And even less is it “national selfishness”, because it could put the nation in a militarily disadvantageous position when facing the eventual enemy. About which we should have no qualms about. All this in the field of generic evaluation – apart from the analysis of the reality we are witnessing, from which we must not recede from, but which we have carried out and will carry out in all forms of propaganda, believing that so far the conclusions flow from it which do not destroy revolutionary and anti-militarist socialism at all.


1. “You always play into someone's hands.”

2. Reference to the Settimana Rossa” (Red Week), which raged from June 7 to June 14, a gigantic proletarian insurrection after some young workers were killed at an anti-militarist protest. It required around 100,000 troops to put down, with 16 dead. Already here, the proletarian insurrection was betrayed the trade unions and reformist leaders.

3. “Dirty word”.