International Communist Party Against Capitalist War

Communism and War
Either Pacifism or Marxism

(Comunismo no.16, settembre-dicembre 1984)

We cannot introduce the Marxist explanation of the relationship between Communism and War, and the consequent tactics and propaganda of the revolutionary party against capitalist militarism, without first tackling the misunderstanding which generates bourgeois pacifism and all of those theories and political movements which set themselves the task of abolishing war, and violence in general, without abolishing capitalist society; which theorize universal peace and “non‑violence” as objectives which can be attained by the human species in a society divided into opposing classes.

The petty bourgeois pacifist, in the name of the abstract ideals of universal peace and disarmament, is forever proposing arbitration as the solution to the international conflicts that arise between States, and this constitutes on the global level the same illusion we get within the borders of the individual nations, such as that a bourgeois parliament can guarantee equitable social and economic conditions without sanctioning the social and economic inequality which is in fact a defining characteristic of societies which are based on property and class.

The pacifist thinks that society proceeds in an evolutive and educative way; if war threatens you just need a march for peace to open the eyes of both the government leaders and the governed to the cruelty and barbarism that the war would produce and, everyone having been convinced, and made conscious of what a crazy mistake it would be, the menace of war would then recede.

Under the capitalist regime war is inevitable.

     «The key to the socialist concept is instead that the ruling class under the capitalist regime is unable to govern and control the forces that are unleashed by the present relations of the forms of production, and it remains in its turn victim of certain inevitable contradictions of the economic regime, which does not respond to the requirements of the vast majority of people. The great Marxist description of capitalist production casts a light on these conflicts and on the impotence of the Bourgeoisie in its attempts to dominate them. Since the instruments of production and exchange are not yet socialized, a rational utilization of them is not possible, and neither is there a correct relationship between needs and production, which is based solely on the interests of the capitalist; and from all this there follows the colossal and extremely damaging economic crises which shake the markets, and the absurd overproduction from which out of abundance there is generated poverty, and unemployment for the wage earners; and as a further consequence the ruin of some of the capitalists themselves, in the interests of whom is assembled the monstrous machinery of the present economy. From this it follows – we will go on to summarize – that modern life is not a continuous evolution towards a greater civilization but is on the path of that fatal parabola which, though an exacerbation of class struggle and increasing malaise among the workers, will end in the final collapse of the bourgeois regime...
     «And yet, parallel with this process, through which the ruling class prepares, without being able to avoid it, for its historical suicide, we witness another absurdity. The development of the means of production in the economic field, the diffusion of culture in the intellectual field, and the democratization of the States in the political field, instead of paving the way for the cessation of war and the disarmament of the fratricidal armies, leads to an intensification of military preparations. Is this a survival from earlier times – the feudal period for instance – is it a return to the age of barbarism, or is it not rather an essential characteristic of the modern, bourgeois, democratic regime? We note, meanwhile, that those State-controlled bourgeoisies who cannot keep the production lines running in peace time, and avert financial catastrophes, are likewise powerless, even if they should actually want it, to stop wars breaking out, which appear as the only, fateful way out from the politico-economic situations they have got themselves into.
     «And, on the other hand, is the damage the bourgeoisie can expect to sustain in a war really so very great? It certainly involves a destruction of capital, but to the bourgeoisie understood as a class, rather than just as the material possessor of capital, what interests it is the preservation of the legal relations that allow it to live off the labor of the vast majority. These relations, existing within each nation, consist of the right to monopolize the instruments of labor, which, in their turn, are the fruit of other labor expended by the proletarian class. As long as, to be extra clear, the law of private property in the land, in houses, in the mines, remains intact, the proletariat, after the devastation of the war, will rebuild machines, factories, etc, and hand them back to its exploiters, suffering once again all the consequences of a lack of consumer goods, but reconstituting the capital necessary for the life of all in order to make it once again the monopoly of the few. Of course, no few members of the bourgeoisie, will, as individuals, be swept away, but others will replace them».

     (From “Il Socialismo di ieri d’innanzi alla Guerra di oggi”, in Storia della Sinistra, p.246).

War is above all an economic necessity for capitalism, determined essentially by the fall in the average rate of profit, on a global scale. It enables, after the destruction of enormous amounts of constant capital and labor power, a consistent increase in the rate of profit, to take place, and serves the purpose of restarting accumulation in all of the capitalist States, on both the winning and losing sides.

But at the same time, Lenin says: “a war doesn’t break out by chance”. There are economic and social factors which gather momentum over time until the fatal breaking point is reached, followed by a headlong descent into war, with masses, countries, and parties dragged into the slaughter and destruction.

     «Our critics – writes Engels – accuse us of making social upheavals conditional on economic causes alone: if it were so, the revolution would be a matter of easy formulas resolvable with a simple equation. In reality social facts are based on economic determinations, but the causes of social upheavals become superimposed on one another, intersecting in myriad combinations that give rise to processes, attitudes, movements and psychological reactions which themselves become material factors determining the social movement. On the muzzles of certain ancient cannons there was inscribed the words: “Ultima ratio regis”, final right of the king» (from Lenin, “War is the continuation of politics by other means”).

What means? Who, or rather, what prepares them, and how?

In the imperialist age militarism is the direct consequence of the competition between States. The conquest of new markets leads to increased production, to production for the foreign market and its armed defense. In the declining phase of capitalism (which does not at all correspond to a phase of weakness) the enormous scale of production pushes every country into a frenzied search for new markets or into stealing existing ones which are receiving exports from elsewhere. International capitalism arms itself,, and in so doing finds a further outlet for its orgy of production. Militarism itself permeates society as a whole; armies arise as ends in themselves, linked to production and reflecting its course. War becomes an obligatory element in ensuring the existence of capitalist society, whose maximum expression of efficiency and power is expressed by it, with war constituting both the point of arrival and the point of departure of capitalism’s cyclic progression.

It is for this reason that the Marxist cannot, on principle, take a pacifist or anti‑war stance.

Pacifism as an ideology and practical movement is the petty bourgeois reaction to the policy of the nationalist and militarist big bourgeoisie, which justifies war as a means of spreading its social system, or as a means of conquering vital space, for countries which have too little economic space for their excess capital.

The puritan and pacifist petty bourgeoisie, not tied directly to the big business concerns of the big bourgeosie, condemns all wars and naturally these vacuous ideologies collide with the violent forms of bourgeois society. The abolition of war is impossible, as indeed is eliminating the more banal, everyday violence, even if police, court and legal bodies exists to address it.

Marxist communism cannot be pacifist on principle, even if its goal is a society without classes, without wars, without class violence where there is harmony and collaboration in social relations. This is not a contradiction as the theorizers of non‑violence make it appear, because the congruence between the goal and the means to achieve it cannot be immediate in capitalist society, dominated as it is by class violence.

The synthesis between goal and tactical principles can only arise after a difficult historic revolutionary process involving class struggle and class war; and the goal, of a non‑violent society, presupposes the use of revolutionary violence as the one indispensable means to achieve it.

Class dictatorship and revolutionary violence are the immutable principles that history has passed down to the proletariat to achieve the goal of a new society, in which there will no more opposing classes, and no more political domination of one class over another, which is the presupposition of violence today.

Repugnance towards the bourgeoisie’s generic antirevolutionary and humanitarian pacifism can already be found in the earliest writings of Marx and Engels, where their powerful darts are aimed at all movements that set out to avoid war.

Marx and Engels, in their polemic with the anarchists, who are “anti-authoritarians” par excellence, defended the principle of the proletarian dictatorship’s authority, and of the use of terror to repress the defeated class and to commence the process of transformation that leads to socialism.

When Lenin revisited these fundamental cornerstones, he affirmed that not only do the communists differentiate themselves from the pacifists because the latter reject the use of arms in the struggle between social classes, and are incapable of recognizing the historical role of war, but they differ on an even more fundamental point:

     «What divides us from the bourgeois pacifists is “our concept of the causal dependence of wars on the class struggle within each country, and the conviction that putting an end to wars will be impossible until class society is abolished, and the socialist revolution is victorious”.
     «Leninism doesn’t say to the capitalist powers: I will stop you from waging wars, or I will attack you if you wage war; it says to them I know very well that until you are overthrown by the proletariat, you will be, whether you like it or not, dragged into war, and I will profit from this war situation in order to intensify the struggle and overthrow you. Only when this struggle has been victorious in all States can the age of wars come to an end.
     «It is a matter of taking a general stance. The Marxist cannot be pacifist or “anti‑war” since this would be tantamount to admitting that war can be abolished before the abolition of capitalism.
     «It is not enough to say that this is a theoretical error. It is a political betrayal, since an illusion such as this does not facilitate the drawing of the masses into a broader struggle, rather it makes it easier to enslave them, not only to capital, but also
to war itself. The proletarian masses led by bad Marxists, who had always called themselves pacifists, have had to go to war against the Germans, because their leaders said that they alone were a threat to peace, like they had to go to war against the Russians for the same reason: they have marched out twice and maybe they will march out for a third time, and from opposing camps, to fight a war “that will put an end to all wars”.
     «It is a matter, let us repeat, of taking a stance. The Marxist is not pacifist for the very same reasons that he is not, for instance, anti‑clerical: a Marxist can see no possibility of a society based on private property having no religion or churches, but he does see churches and religious beliefs becoming redundant as an effect of the revolutionary abolition of private property.
     «The system of wage slavery will endure for as long as its accomplices have us believe that we can, without subverting its economic basis, render it immune from religious superstitions, or rid it of war, or get rid of its other conservative, or brutal aspects.
     «When faced with the prospect of new wars, to put in the place of the dialectical criteria of Marx and Lenin – as much in doctrine as in political agitation – the blatant exploitation of the naivety of the masses as regards the sanctity of Peace and Defense, is nothing other than working for opportunism and betrayal, against which Lenin dedicated himself to building the new revolutionary international super hanc petram; on this rock: CAPITALISM AND PEACE ARE INCOMPATIBLE».

     (from: “Tartufo o del pacifismo”, Battaglia Comunista, no.6, 1949).

Bourgeois pacifism, a characteristic today of all so‑called “left” parties, is incapable of understanding, being a force of social conservatism, that war is a necessary product of capitalism and that nothing can magic it away. It invokes the principle of non‑violence and in the name of that principal condemns all wars, including the revolutionary war of the oppressed class of wage‑earners, and thus it becomes an ideology which conserves the capitalist system by disarming the proletariat in its fight for emancipation and turns it into an auxiliary force of the bourgeoisie.

The peace policy of the opportunist parties complements the terrorism of bourgeois militarism, complements the atomic blackmail of the super-powers, and tries to inculcate, in a relentless propaganda campaign, the false idea that in order to prevent war it is sufficient to mobilize individual consciences, to support a struggle for disarmament, and to organize peace marches and “autonomous” referendums.

The alternative of war or peace is a false alternative: imperialist peace presupposes new imperialist wars, and this ineluctable cycle can be broken only by the proletarian revolution.

Pacifist propaganda disarms the proletariat and prepares the terrain for militarism in such a way as to favor its participation in the next war, alongside its own bourgeoisie. Bourgeois humanitarian anti‑revolutionary pacifism is an auxiliary force of the bourgeoisie (Lenin 3 rd congress of the C.I.).

The Marxist, who is opposed to these conservative, moralist and anti‑ historical positions, does not theorize an abstract position of condemnation of all wars which indiscriminately tars them all with the same brush.

By making an evaluation of each war a specific evaluation determined by the objective conditions is arrived at, with each war requiring a historical investigation into what caused it and which social class benefits from it.

Over the course of history there have been wars between States and Peoples, which, despite all the horrors and bestial manifestations that accompany them, and the misery and torment they have caused, have represented historical progress, have helped humanity’s evolution by facilitating the abolition of harmful and reactionary systems, such as slavery, absolutism and feudal despotism.

The victory of Greece over Persia, even if it led to the collapse of the Asiatic mode of production and introduced a system based on slavery, made the fusion of the Greek and Mediterranean civilizations possible. The barbarian invasions bring an important historic period of civilization to a close but lay the basis for the formation of the European national States. All the national and revolutionary wars conducted by the nascent bourgeoisie against feudal absolutism, including the Napoleonic wars, were wars that were historically and socially progressive.

In the modern imperialist wars which began in 1914 none of the sides were fighting on the side of progress, they were simply wars between imperialist exploiters, wars between slave-owners fought to consolidate slavery (Lenin), and thus the duty of all socialists yesterday, and of communists today, was, and remains, that of struggling against all belligerent bourgeois governments, in all countries.

Communists defend in given cases the nature of a war, but faced with imperialist war, the duty of communism is to engage in open sabotage finalized towards revolutionary defeatism and to transforming the character of the war from an imperialist one into a civil war.

Capitalist Militarism
     «Militarism denotes a phenomenon at once intricate, complex, many‑sided, and at the same time most interesting and significant by reason of its origin and nature, its methods and effects. It is a phenomenon deeply rooted in the life of class-organized societies, yet it can assume within similar social systems the most varies forms, according to the special natural, political, social, and economic conditions of individual States and territories.
     «Militarism is one of the most important and most vital manifestations of the life of most social systems, because it expresses in the strongest most concentrated and exclusive form the national, cultural, and class instinct of self‑preservation».

This is what Karl Liebknecht asserts in his celebrated pamphlet “Militarism and Anti‑militarism”, published in 1907, and for the writing of which the head of the international social democratic youth organization would be put on trial, persecuted and condemned for high treason.

Liebknecht highlighted, in his materialist analysis of the phenomenon, that the deciding factor in every social relation of power is, in the last resort, the superiority of physical force, which as a social phenomenon does not appear in the form of the greater physical strength of some individuals. [the last sentence is a direct quote from Liebknecht].

     «Force, affirms Engels in his polemic with Dühring, is no mere act of will, but requires very real preliminary conditions before it can come into operation, that is to say, instruments, the more perfect of which vanquish the less perfect; moreover, that these instruments have to be produced, which also implies that the producer of more perfect instruments of force, vulgo arms, vanquishes the producer of the less perfect instrument, and that, in a word, the triumph of force is based on the production of arms, and this in turn on production in general – therefore, on “economic power”, on the “economic order”, on the material means which force has at its disposal.
     «Force, nowadays, is the army and navy, and both, as we all know to our cost, are “devilishly expensive”. Force, however, cannot make any money; at most it can only take money that has already been made – and even this does not help very much – as we have seen, also to our cost, in the case of the French milliards. In the last analysis, therefore, money must be provided through the medium of economic production; and so once again force is conditioned by the economic order, which furnishes the resources for the equipment and the maintenance of the instruments of force. But even that is not all. Nothing is more dependent on economic pre‑conditions than precisely the army and navy. Their armaments, composition, organization, tactics and strategy depend above all on the stage reached at the time in production and communications. It is not the “free creations of the mind” of generals of genius which have revolutionized war, but the invention of better weapons and changes in the human material, the soldiers; at the very most, the part played by generals of genius is limited to adapting methods of fighting to the new weapons and combatants».

It is therefore not the physically stronger person who holds power, but the armed apparatus of the historically formed ruling classes, the State, this being a highly articulated apparatus which provides instruments of power to the social group which controls it, a group which is in somewhat of a minority with respect to society as a whole and is somewhat spineless and lacking in vigor, in the physical sense too, in the present putrescent phase of capitalism, but which through the army, the police, the Law, schools, culture and the church effectively has power and deploys it in a dictatorial manner throughout the whole of society.

Liebknecht continues:

     «There is nothing specifically capitalistic about militarism. It is, on the contrary, an essential aspect that is typical of all systems of class society, of which the capitalist system is the last. Certainly, capitalism, same as any other system of class society, develops its own specific type of militarism; militarism in fact, by its very essence, is a means to an end, or to several ends, which varies in accordance with the kind of social system, and is achievable in different ways in accordance with this diversity. This is brought to light not only by the military organization, but also by the other aspects of militarism which manifest themselves when militarism carries out its tasks.
     «An army based on universal military service corresponds best to the capitalist stage of development. And although this is an army drawn from the people, it is not an army of the people, but an army against the people, or an army that is increasingly manipulated with this end in view».

This is the description the Left gives of modern militarism (from “Yesterday’s socialism in the face of today’s war”, L’Avanguardia 25 ottobre 1914, in Storia della sinistra comunista, p.247):

     «Given the progress of technology, the cannons, the explosives, the ships that are built nowadays are incomparably more powerful that the old weaponry. The development of bourgeois economy and the enormous importance assumed by the organizations of the State, through their centralizing of so many vital functions, allow the latter to invest financial resources in preparation for war on a scale that was entirely unknown to the old monarchs and condottieri of every past epoch. What is more, the obligations placed by modern States on individuals, under the veneer of democratic civilization, are becoming so strict that the State can dispose of enormous numbers of armed citizens, absorbing every able‑bodied citizen down the very last man. The military State has at its beck and call a huge number of soldiers and veterans trained in the use of arms thanks to obligatory conscription, which was introduced following the French Revolution (indeed in France it was decided by the Convention). The immense railways networks, which modern States have the capacity to organize, make it possible to deploy and mobilize in a few hours huge numbers of people, who can be recruited, armed and moved to the border in their millions at amazing speed. Pause to consider modern mobilizations for a moment! What greater insult to individual liberty, than that which is made possible by the very latest resources of so‑called civilization and the formation of States with bourgeois governments operating under democratic directives?
     «Wars in ancient times were nothing like this. The armies were much smaller and were composed for the most part as a technical necessity of veterans, all non‑mercenary volunteers, and forced recruitment was limited, episodic and much more unlikely than it is today. Most workers were left to work in the fields or at their trade; you became a soldier either because it was your profession, or you had made a free choice – todays’ enormous masses and massacres on the battlefield with modern weaponry was unknown. Even the barbarian invasions were migrations of peoples, who were on the move with their families, their herds and tools, with a view to seizing pleasant, fertile land for the greater good of all – even if achieved by brute force – whereas the modern soldier, if he evens survives the war he fought in and maybe won, goes back to the same old life of exploitation and misery, or probably worse, after having left his family at home to be supported by the State… with a few pennies.
     «Wars in feudal times were different again. The barons personally took up arms and put their own lives at risk, with their retinue of a few thousand armed men, for whom war was a profession and with the attendant risks that go with any profession. The war we are witnessing then is not a return to barbarian or feudal time but is a historical phenomenon of our own time, which came about not despite modern civilization but because of it; because of the capitalist regime which conceals under the appearance of civilization a most profound barbarism. The potential for and inevitability of war is built into the structure of modern States, which under the regime of political democracy maintain the current economic slavery and extend their own excessive power, apparently based on the consensus of all, to the point that a handful of ministers, representing the ruling class, can place millions of men in the line of fire in the space of 24 hours, and send them to their death without them knowing where they are going, or why, or against whom they are being sent: a shocking fact and representing the maximum of arbitrary tyranny that the human multitude over the course of the centuries has ever suffered.

Liebknecht adds:

     «The army of the capitalistic order of society as well as that of other systems of class society serves a double purpose.
     «It is first of all a national institution destined to attack a foreign country or to be protection against danger from without. In short, the army is destined for use in international complications or, to use a military expression, “against the external enemy”.
     «But militarism is not only a means of defence against the external enemy; it has a second task, which comes more and more to the fore as class contradictions becomes more marked and as proletarian class-consciousness keeps growing. Thus the outer form of militarism and its inner character take a more definite shape: its task is to uphold the prevailing order of society, to prop up capitalism and all reaction against the struggle of the working class for freedom. Militarism manifests itself here as a mere tool in the class struggle, as a tool in the hands of the ruling class. It is destined to retard the development of class-consciousness by working together with the police and the courts of justice, the school, and the church. The task of militarism is, above all, to secure for a minority, at whatever cost, even against the enlightened will of the majority of the people, domination in the State and freedom to exploit.
     «Thus we are confronted by modern militarism which wants neither more nor less than the squaring of the circle, which arms the people against the people itself, which dares to force the workers (by artificially introducing by every means the distinction of class according to age into our social organization) to become oppressors and enemies, murderers of their own comrades and friends, of their parents, brothers and sisters and children, and which compels them to blight their past and their future. Modern militarism wants to be democratic and despotic, enlightened and machine‑like, nationalist and antagonistic to the nation at the same time. All the same one must not forget that militarism is directed also against the nationalist “enemy” at home – in Germany, for instance, against the Poles, Alsatians and Danes.

These then are the general characteristics of militarism, and in particular of capitalist militarism.

Today after two imperialist wars, both won by the western bloc, German-Prussian militarism has been brought to its knees and the United States and Russia has assumed the mantle of model militarism.

The bourgeoisie has taken militarism even further, multiplying military expenditure and the disease of militarism a hundredfold compared to the beginning of the century, when it was more or less restricted to Europe, and it has now invaded the entire globe. As Lenin affirmed, “The natural tendency of imperialism is to amplify the phenomenon of capitalist militarism and militarize the whole of society, above all in the moments of acute economic and social crisis”.

Characteristics of war

In his pamphlet Socialism and War, written at the height of the war in July‑August 1915, Lenin considered the defining characteristics of the imperialist war then underway, distinguishing them from the previous wars of modern history.

     «Historical types of War in Modern Times. The Great French Revolution ushered in a new epoch in the history of mankind. From that time to the Paris Commune, from 1789 to 1871, one of the types of wars was the war of a bourgeois-progressive, national-liberating character. In other words, the chief content and historical significance of these wars were the overthrow of absolutism and feudalism, the undermining of these institutions, and the overthrow of alien oppression. Therefore, they were progressive wars, and during such wars, all honest, revolutionary democrats, and also all Socialists, always sympathized with the success of that country (i.e., with that bourgeoisie), which had helped to overthrow, or sap, the most dangerous foundation of feudalism, absolutism and the oppression of other nations.
     «The Difference Between Aggressive and Defensive War. The epoch of 1789‑1871 left deep marks and revolutionary memories. Until feudalism, absolutism and foreign oppression were overthrown, the development of the proletarian struggle for Socialism was out of the question. When speaking of the legitimacy of “defensive” war in relation to the wars of this epoch, Socialists always had in mind precisely these objects, which amounted to revolution against medievalism and serfdom. By “defensive” war Socialists always meant a “just” war in this sense (W. Liebknecht once expressed himself precisely in this way). Only in this sense have Socialists regarded, and now regard, wars “for the defence of the fatherland”, or “defensive” wars, as legitimate, progressive and just. For example, if tomorrow Morocco were to declare war on France, India on England, Persia or China on Russia, and so forth, those would be “just”, “defensive” wars, irrespective of who attacked first; and every socialist would sympathize with the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal States against the oppressing, slave-owning, predatory “great” powers.
     «But picture to yourselves a slave-owner who owned 100 slaves warring against a slave-owner who owned 200 slaves for a more “just” distribution of slaves. Clearly, the application of the term “defensive” war, or war “for the defence of the fatherland” in such a case would be historically false, and in practice would be sheer deception of the common people, of philistines, of ignorant people, by the astute slaveowners. Precisely in this way are the present‑day imperialist bourgeoisie deceiving the peoples by means of “national ideology and the term “defence of the fatherland” in the present war between slave-owners for the fortifying and strengthening of slavery.

     «The Present War is An Imperialist War. Nearly everybody admits that the present war is an imperialist war, but in most cases this term is distorted or applied to one side, or a loophole is left for the assertion that this war may, after all, have a bourgeois-progressive, national-liberating significance. Imperialism is the highest stage in the development of capitalism, reached only in the twentieth century. Capitalism now finds the old national States, without the formation of which it could not have overthrown feudalism, too restrictive. Capitalism has developed concentration to such a degree that whole branches of industry have been seized by syndicates, trusts and associations of capitalist billionaires, and almost the entire globe has been divided up among the “lords of capital”, either in the form of colonies, or by enmeshing other countries in thousands of threads of financial exploitation. Free trade and competition have been superseded by the striving for monopoly, for the seizure of territory for the investment of capital, for the export of raw materials from them, and so forth. From the liberator of nations that capitalism was in the struggle against feudalism, imperialist capitalism has become the greatest oppressor of nations. Formerly progressive, capitalism has become reactionary; it has developed the forces of production to such a degree that mankind is faced with the alternative of going over to Socialism or of suffering years and even decades of armed struggle between the “great powers for the artificial preservation of capitalism by means of colonies, monopolies, privileges and national oppression of every kind».

For Lenin the fundamental concept, in disputes with the chauvinist traitors, was the total, no holds barred, sabotage, with no ifs or buts, of the bourgeois imperialist wars; but at the same time admitting in such cases that socialists are not against war per se.

Firstly, Lenin supports in his countless writings from 1915‑16 the wars of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, which, even if they came to an end in Europe in 1871, are still relevant outside Europe and particularly in the Eastern and Asiatic zones. The Paris Commune marks the date of the historical juncture when the bourgeois revolutionary wars in Europe come to an end, opening the way to the imperialist wars that would follow. After 1871 the European proletarian movement is transported onto the revolutionary level and makes a break with the nation. Marx passed judgement in his famous formula: “BY NOW ALL NATIONAL ARMIES ARE CONFEDERATED AGAINST THE PROLETARIAT”

And then Lenin acknowledges another fundamental type of war: the civil war between opposing classes, which are, he adds, unavoidable wars of social progress and ones which will only end when the division of society into classes ends. However, as well as these two types of just wars he allows for a third: tomorrow’s revolutionary war which is no longer bourgeois but socialist.

     «The Socialists cannot overlook the positive significance of revolutionary wars, i.e., not imperialist wars, but such as were fought, for instance, between 1789 and 1871, with the aim of doing away with national oppression, and creating national capitalist States out of the feudal decentralized States, or such wars that may be waged to defend the conquests of the proletariat victorious in its struggle against the bourgeoisie» (Resolutions of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party Groups Abroad, Collected Works, volume XXI).
Our anti‑militarism

From the identification of the different historic types of war there derives an understanding of the relationship between war and revolution, and of how the unvarying Marxist tactical plan can be articulated in diverse situations and how this understanding has developed over the historical course of the workers’ movement, as also from an examination of social democracy’s anti‑militarist tactic in the 2nd International.

Aversion to bourgeois militarism is an integral part of the historic tradition of the international revolutionary proletarian movement, even if in the last century it was mostly the anarchists who flew under that banner and made it their piece de resistance, with a negative influence on the socialist labor movement.

The stance of the left Marxists, in the First and Second Internationals, was always opposed to the anti‑militarism of the anarchists. Anarchism considers militarism to be a completely self‑sufficient phenomenon, a subjective product of ruling class policy, as an evil in itself. It views the anti‑militarist struggle as a series of individual acts determined by the individual conscious wills, like sabotage, rejection of conscription and the use of arms, and these means as sufficient to prevent wars and proletarians from getting massacred.

Setting out from this idea, anarchism is ready to support all individual actions, ignoring the real relations of force. Anarchist anti‑militarist action has always ended in empty pacifist anti‑war slogans, rather than in concrete actions in terms of proletarian organization.

Opposed as they are to conscientious objection, to refusal to take up arms on an individual basis, to exaltation of the individual gesture, Marxists have always defended instead the notion of class and class action.

Communists fight against the heavy burdens that bourgeois militarism imposes on the working class, above all in the army, which organizes mainly proletarians, by conducting classist revolutionary activity within society and above all in the armed forces, so that the machine of bourgeois militarism seizes up under the blows of proletarian action and with the aim of forming an illegal party organization within the army, preparing thereby the subjective conditions for revolutionary defeatism and the organization of the armed proletariat.

Our aversion to militarism has always been characterized by features that are clearly distinguishable from the anarchist conception of it.


     «Militarism dominates and is swallowing Europe. But this militarism also carries within itself the seed of its own destruction. Competition of the individual States with each other forces them, on the one hand to spend more money each year on the army and navy, artillery, etc., [thus more and more hastening financial catastrophe] and on the other hand, to take universal compulsory military service more and more seriously, thus in the long run making the whole people familiar with the use of arms; and therefore making the people more and more able at a given moment to make its will prevail in opposition to the commanding military lords. And this moment comes as soon as the mass of the people – town and country workers and peasants – has a will. At this point the armies of princes become transformed into armies of the people; the machine refuses to work, and militarism collapses by the dialectic of its own evolution (…) And this will mean the bursting asunder of militarism from within, and with it of all the standing armies» (Engels, Anti‑Dühring).