International Communist Party Against Capitalist Wars

The Crimes of Nationalism
(from L’Avanguardia 294, 6 July 1913)

The news coming in these days from the Balkan peninsula ought to make all those so-called anti-militarists think, who are still stubbornly advocates of a distinction between wars of conquest and wars of independence. The representatives of that worn out subversivism that sits between business democracy and social... democracy, many of whom still plague and hinder our revolutionary action, see the wreck of one of their most stubbornly held dogmas: that of national autonomy, from the news of conflicts between yesterday’s allies.

This erroneous belief that consists in believing that the bourgeoisie can still today defend, by means of war, a cause of people‘s freedom, and that the proletariat must in such cases follow it, ceasing the class struggle in order to rush to the battlefields, rallying around national flags, this belief, let us say, had induced more than a few socialists to sing hymns to the war of the four Balkan states against Turkey.

The hymn was almost general, and the can-can of rhetoric that greeted the Turk’s exit from Europe, or nearly so, was outright deafening, and covered even the screams and moans of the victims slaughtered in a savage war, in which the civilized Christian soldiers showed that European barracks education had brought them to a greater degree of ferocity than the barbarous and Muslim ones.

But today, having made peace (this noun, from Lausanne onward, must have changed meaning!) the victors, in dividing the spoils – sorry, in studying the problem of autonomies and races... are squabbling in earnest, and it seems that the historical- geographical problems will still be solved by means of the cannon – which after all, in so many other similar cases, has been the only authoritative method of interpreting the democratic, but nebulous, rights of the peoples.

All irony aside, we’ll note that the present moment allows us to assert that the motives of the Balkan war were the greed for domination of the dynasties and the wealthy classes that surround them, and that it had nothing to do with the peoples’ thirst for freedom. This thirst was if anything let down, exploited, drowned in blood. And we see that in the current era a cause of freedom cannot be defended with war. National sentiment is founded on something else entirely, on sinister, miserable and reactionary racial hatred, which all those who have a sense of freedom should oppose. Those who stir it up and unleash it in the people – who are still deluded into thinking it benefits them to change masters – are the bourgeoisie, which wants to push us back into the darkness of the past and divert us from attacking its practical institutions.

Let no half-baked theory about the fated evolution of bourgeois society, of the need for it to be helped to suppress the remnants of the feudal economic and political regime, come out of this. Let the advocates of wars of independence remember that the same sophistry serves to defend the infamous wars of colonial conquest and the murderous theories of imperialist nationalism. The militarist principle is one, and it cannot be split. Grant it Domokos and it will lead you to the “oasis purges” in Tripoli. We must beat militarism on the whole front, and hold its crimes against it.

So today we cast at the four Balkan states, and at the four crowns that represent them, their criminal association, hidden in bad faith under the name of freedom. And let us hope that the Balkan proletariat will still find under the Serbian or Bulgarian military uniform the impetus of revolt against the new massacre to which it is being dragged, that it will find the impetus of solidarity and true fraternity, which is not that which bound the four dynasties together for aggression, but that it makes the peoples rise up against that common enemy, which does not line up under the flags of the crescent, but lurks in the dark little houses of the working man, whether Turkish and Serbian, or Bulgarian, or Greek, in the poor desolate little dwellings visited by misery and death: bloody, dynastic, bourgeois militarism.