International Communist Party Against Capitalist Wars

Praise of the Aggressor
From Battaglia Comunista, No. 4, 1951


Always and then always the motive of ’homeland defence’, against which Lenin fought his entire life, is the centre of the world’s polemic, by the opposing pre-war propagandas.

Colossal armament plans are supported with a single argument: defence of peace, averting enemy aggression, and in desperate cases resistance to the aggressions.

World ’security’ policy and the organisation of the united nations on the one hand, the ’peace partisans’ movement on the other, like advertising firms work on the same simple scheme (the rule and dogma of modern propaganda technique is only one: simplicity): peace is possible; to the disturbers of it it’s a duty and a right to respond with armed force.

And from each gang is added: we are the pacifists, you are the disturbers and aggressors.

Notoriously, such a historical game has gone well twice for Franco-Anglo-Americans: nous avons - gagné la guerre...!

Today’s Russians, in order not to lose theirs, find nothing more and nothing better. In Marx and Lenin, to whom they refer, everything about war is there: fight for universal peace, and if war breaks out, resistance to the aggressor, defence of the homeland, defence of national independence! Communists are champions of patriotism!

Thus we hear at every turn of articles and speeches theses of this calibre: ’Soviet aggression is impossible’ - ’unmasking of the provocative theory of revolutionary war’ - ’the great Leninist-Stalinist ideology of equality and friendship between nations and the struggle for lasting world peace’ - ’defence of the nation against foreign aggression’ - ’struggle for freedom and national independence’.

Since it is added: we have no double-bottomed policy, we do what we say and say what we do; it must be concluded that the power organisation with its centre in Moscow does not have a plan, albeit a long-term one, to annihilate American and Atlantic imperialism, but would throw all its political and military resources into the furnace for these purposes: first friendship and peace with America and the western bourgeois world - second, national defence in the territories that the Atlantic powers want to further subjugate to their hegemony.

In order to arrive at proving these perspectives consistent with the proletarian and international class struggle, they start from Leninist clarification of Marxism, a fundamental heritage of communist doctrine: "there are no abstract wars or wars in general, but only certain wars, linked to the concrete situation of the historical period in which they develop and to the relations of force between classes and states in the world".

From such an obvious and exact premise, the cabaletta of the homeland defence war is not constructed, nor is the curse of the aggressors. The Marxist and Leninist ’discrimination’ between war and warfare - which NEVER leads to the disgrace of party support for governments at war - makes certain wars in history considered ’wars of progress’, i.e. processes useful to revolutionary development. But it does not lead to the buffoonery of defenceism; those ’concretely’ useful wars, those ’praiseworthy’ wars, are generally wars of attack, of offence, not defence.

In concrete terms, Marxism-Leninism teaches this: historically, the proletarian party can consider a war of aggression useful; it can conduct the sabotage of a war of defence to the hilt.


The ’general rule’ of the defence of the national soil is only in force for the agents of treason and counter-revolution.

On the eve of the great struggles of 1848, the communists, who had just proclaimed their doctrine, hoped to prove it in general revolutionary action. If it was a daring hope to graft onto the trunk of the liberal revolutions the direct attack of the new class struggle against the newly victorious bourgeoisie, as in fact the magnificent proletariat of France attempted, it seemed certain that this cycle would at least extend to Europe all the social and political arrangements that England and France had won before the 18th century. But this was not entirely the case, and the repression of the insurrectional uprisings in the great metropolises was followed by a partial return to power of reactionary and feudal groups, to which the bourgeoisie, precisely out of fear of the rising communist spectre, adapted itself cowardly in many countries. This was followed by a period of retreat of the revolutionary movement and a pause in the formation of the class-based workers’ movement.

Socialists have not always understood well what Marx and Engels’ analysis of this period was, and to be more exact, if they have understood it well insofar as it was an analysis of the relations of force between the classes, they have lagged far behind in understanding it with regard to the relations between states.

The first was carried out in the classic economic works and in Capital; it showed in full light the giant development of modern productive forces, the concentration of them, the formation within the contradictions of capitalism of socialist and revolutionary premises.

States, (let us leave ’nations’ for a moment) are physical facts no less than masses of commodities and factories and farms. They are among the forms and ’relations’ of production, for the theory of economic determinism; they are material machines of force and operate, always, in the military and political struggle as in the social economy.

The evaluation of historical progress is not possible if the investigation into economic and productive factors is not accompanied by an investigation into the factors of political force: parties, governments and states; into the events of their formation, break-up, alliance and clash - and thus into wars.

One thing has never been well understood: having developed on the data of English capitalist evolution and the French political revolution the critique of bourgeois society and the doctrine of class struggle, the founders of Marxism united their aversion and hatred of the German bourgeoisie with the most fretful impatience at the delays in its development and victory. In a hundred texts by Marx and Engels, in addition to the prodding for the rise of a giant industry in Germany, which they did not see but which they well foresaw, they also scolded the delay in the state settlement of an anti-feudal bourgeoisie and the prospect of Germany’s march towards great national unity, a path that the French and English bourgeoisies had already followed and imposed centuries before the conquest of power. For them, it is a disgrace that the German bourgeoisie has not fulfilled its national tasks: the German proletariat will push it to achieve them. However, if the proletariat has to suffer this unfortunate historical delay for its full entry into action as a class, it is already ahead in theory - if it cannot wrest the productive forces from the capitalists before they have wrested them from the landowning feudal lords, it has already wrested from them the power of revolutionary criticism, which has become sterile and useless in their hands, and it only makes them despise the bourgeois even more for it.

Historically, the lesson of this period in which we take stock of a revolution that was three-quarters aborted (1848 to 1870) and in which proletarian class action cannot yet be brought to the fore, is this: Germany will not emerge from feudal darkness without going through a period of national and military endeavours. This is an objective observation, not the core of the politics of the emerging socialist proletariat. And this also applies to other countries: Italy, Hungary, Slavic nationalities and so on. In the background of the big picture lies the enigma of the Moscow colossus, against which the onslaught of the Napoleonic and bourgeois armies shattered without remission.

It is disconcerting that after years and years, decades and decades, of Marxist propaganda and debate one still has to say such basic things: but this dialectical and determinist construction of the relationship between wars and revolution, in which the ’national settlement’ of the great bourgeois state units is shown as a condition, a point of passage, a historical ’means’ on the road to class-based social revolution throughout the world, is coupled with the exaltation ’in principle’ and ’in general’ of national liberty and the independence of the fatherland, which unites in the bosom of each nationality the ruling class and the exploited class, and the achieved territorial unities are not meant to be broken by civil war, but to be arranged in an abstract pacifist world plan of mutual ’respect’ between peoples. One has to be flat as an intellectual collaborator of ‘L’Unità’, of that cohort of petty-bourgeois who joined Stalinism out of personal opportunism and careerist cowardice, and that today find the same Stalinism too burning and, due to the same opportunism (in that theoretically incubated and bred environment) abandon it, one has to be one of those who have not yet finished being parvenus of the workers’ movement to become its deserters, to unite the aims of Marx’s First International with the 1867 Geneva Congress for Peace, with Garibaldi, Hugo, Blanc and comrades.

Even in those years, Marxist criticism fell mercilessly on the historical vision of these petty-bourgeois patriots and humanitarians: while the Marxist perspective did not hesitate to accept the passage through a series of terrible wars towards the final deployment of the workers in civil wars, pacifist democratism set itself on the path of lies that has been trodden by the movements - concealing the most slaver imperialism - of the Wilsonian League and the Trumanian U.N. of today.

When Engels comments in 1874 on his ’Peasants’ War in Germany’ written in 1850, he says he wrote it ’under the immediate impression of counter-revolution’. This impression (and how much the impressions of revolutionaries override the dirty calculations of the political careerist who seeks out the victor in order to edge towards him!) was clearly that Germany lacked the tradition of a great national and popular movement of struggle against the feudal principalities, and above all of a unified movement that would bury the sewer of federalism and the hundred courts of petty princes. Engels wanted to show that the Germans too, in 1525, had had a revolutionary civil war, but not as victorious as those that cut off the heads of kings, and he showed its links with the religious Reformation movement, a cover for true social substance.

Since then, for Engels, the history of the German people is a history of shame for not having been able to provide that national effort which, bourgeoisie at the head, the English and French masses had been able to provide.

The victory of Waterloo over the armies of the first Napoleon is not enough to fill this serious historical gap, although official Germany boasts it as the crowning glory of a glorious war of defence and independence: in this victory not a modern bourgeoisie came on the scene, but the alliance of feudal powers, which left indelible traces of subservience to the Tsar in the governments of Berlin and Vienna. Victorious or vanquished, it was Napoleon who fought for the irrevocable advance of the modern, capitalist social mode throughout Europe, he, the lord of the offensive!

Engels therefore puts Blucher’s tradition after that of the early revolutionaries, the extreme left wing of the peasant war, and compares Thomas Munzer with the Levellers of Cromwell’s revolution and with Babeuf’s Equals, forerunners in embryo of the workers’ war.

Reviewing in 1874, after the Commune, the parallel drawn between the defeated revolutions of 1525 and 1848, Engels quotes his own lapidary phrase. In 1525 the small Germanic princes won against the peasants, and behind them stood the small bourgeoisie - in 1848 the great princes, namely Austria and Prussia, won. But behind these stood the big bourgeoisie. And behind the big bourgeois stand the proletarians.

The dirty trick of opportunism is all here: for it to stand behind is the same thing as to stand arm in arm with the bourgeoisie.

Twenty-five years later Engels proudly adds: I regret that with this sentence I have done too much honour to the German bourgeoisie! This, terrified by that comrade-in-struggle which is pressing at its heels, the proletariat, is slows down the march of history, and bows to the bureaucratic and military dynastic powers of Austria and Prussia, ia adapts itself among feudal leftovers. We, Engels concludes, if the world remains quiet (i.e. if a workers’ insurrection does not skip, and it did not skip unfortunately for the parliamentarist and reformist orgies, the stages of history) “ we might perhaps in 1900 see a Prussia free of all feudal constitutions, a Prussia which has finally reached the point where France was in 1792!”

The Berlin regime is reactionary... the big bourgeoisie are too cowardly to take power away from it; despite this it is the only unitary force, and only on the path of unity and centralism can the historical arrangement be accomplished that gives us the optimum conditions for class revolution.

The Marxist rule is that between states, as between classes, the resolving rule is force, not law or respect for common principles and ideals.

If, therefore, we follow the application of this rule to wars, we can with a certain degree of propriety of language speak of ’justified’ wars, but in no case will we find the stupid rule applied: every defensive war is just, whoever the aggressor.

This is the rule that, in defiance of every line written by Marx and Engels and Lenin, the Stalinist party schools teach. If they teach it without believing it, and think they are doing good manoeuvre with it, it only makes the situation of the movement’s hierarchies more laughable when they get angry because the ’puppet Marxists’ so manufactured repeat it crassly outside the classroom, and commit themselves to the fatherland, whoever the aggressor may be. The partisan of the fatherland is worth the partisan of peace.

Let us also Marxistically distinguish between war and war, that is, between periods and periods of war; let us follow Engels and Lenin in this: in most cases we will find ourselves on the side of the aggressor, and against the fatherland. And many times on the side of the warmonger and not the pacifist. But the workers’ party in its manoeuvre will be equally against, i.e. not alongside, but behind, the forces of war and invasion that play out, despite themselves, the inexorable knots of history.

1848. Piedmont attacks the great Austrian empire to conquer Lombardy. A war of liberation, in the bourgeois sense, but undeniably one of attack, offence and invasion. You don’t liberate anyone without attacking their captor. For Marxists, this is a great aspect of the great revolutionary wave in Vienna and Milan. Engels deplores that for the sake of patriotic deception the same rebels in Vienna enlisted to fight in Lombardy. This intervention against the Italian revolution on the German side is called ’a fratricidal war’ by Engels. The settlement of the modern national state is as pressing to Marxists in Germany as it is in Italy. Engels repeats this in 1893 in the preface to the Italian edition of the Manifesto: ’In Italy, in Germany, in Austria the workers did nothing from the beginning but bring the bourgeoisie to power. But in any country the reign of the bourgeoisie is not possible without national independence. The revolution of 1848 was therefore to bring about the unity and autonomy of the nations that had hitherto lacked it: Italy, Germany, Hungary. Poland will follow in its turn’.

1849. War of Prussia against Denmark for the conquest of Schleswig-Holstein. Exquisite war of aggression and invasion against a very weak enemy. Yet Austria, condemned for its war of defence against Piedmont, is praised for its war of offence against the Danes. The inhabitants of that province are Germans, who have long fought against the Danish oppressor. Unlike the reactionary campaigns in Poland, Italy, Bohemia, Hungary, ’this is the only popular war, the only partially revolutionary war’. Here is served an example of a revolutionary war accepted by Marxism. It is waged by a feudal state, and constitutes classic military aggression. However, Engels, writing in 1852, certainly does not praise the General Staff; the regular German army did everything in its power to fool and disperse both the local popular revolutionary formations and the German volunteers. Valiant partisans have been playing the fool for a century.

1859. War of Napoleon the Third, allied to Piedmont, against Austria. Another case of war of offence and at the same time of national liberation for the Italians. The analysis by Engels, who was moreover well versed in history and military art, is truly profound. It tends to show that the Germans had no interest, not even the bourgeois and liberals, in stifling Italian unification and intervening on the Mincio and Po, even though they considered it inevitable that they would tend to beat Bonaparte on the Rhine. Little Napoleon’s stunted victories at Magenta and Solferino are laughed at, his presentation as the liberator of the oppressed is mocked, and the French policy against the formation of a united Italy, including Naples and Rome, is highlighted. But the thesis that Prussia and Germany should, for reasons of their military defence on the Rhine, hold Lombardy in their own power, fiercely stigmatising German military and chauvinists, is shown to be hollow. In a first writing Engels argues this thesis before war broke out; in a second one, after the peace of Villafranca imposed by neutral Prussia on France and Austria, he condemns the French annexation of Nice and Savoy in turn justified by French militarists with reasons of ’security’ and natural borders, i.e. strategic-military. The same reasoning for which today the United States has borders on the Elbe and the Yellow Sea...

The first study, when it switches from military to political considerations, contains a decisive defence of the Italian national thesis, refuting the old view that Italy must depend on the Germans or the French. Firmly condemning any German domination over Lombardy-Venetia, Engels counters the German patriots that even for Germany it had been difficult until then to escape ’the mission of being under French or Russian rule’. So difficult, that even today, 1950, we are still there!

Engels’s second study directly calculates, in 1860 and before Garibaldi’s expedition, the population figures of the new Italian state, by then only 11 million inhabitants, and openly expresses an apologia for this historical achievement, the merit of which he gives to Bonapartism, with obvious reason, as he rebukes it, in addition to the extortion of Savoy and Nice, for the possession of Corsica. To this first point he adds, in conclusion, two others of interest to the Germans: the claim of Bonapartist France to push its ’natural’ military border to the Rhine, and the Russian threat, historically convergent with the French one, against German unity. Incitements to a German nationalism? Only for fools. These are the necessary prospects of German unification, the sole basis of a great proletarian movement framed in the revolutionary international.

The conclusions are, however, tremendously radical, and are now worth us burying the silly formulation of defence. As a scholar of military science, Engels is rightly an ’offensiveist’ and not a ’defenceist’, as a sociologist he is for the theory of force and not for the theory of humanitarian nappies.

The phrases are no more and no less than these, and they follow the reminder of all tsarist threats and abuse: ’Must we tolerate such a game being played with us for much longer? Does the Rhine land have no other fate than to be dominated by war, so that Russia has a free hand on the Danube and the Vistula? That is the question! We hope that Germany will respond immediately with sword in hand’. After recalling that the peasant revolution is rumbling on in Russia, Engels concludes: ’Apparently Germany is called upon to explain this fact to the Russians not only with the pen but also with the sword. And if this happens, it is a rehabilitation of Germany that counterbalances the centuries of political shame’.

So much for the partisan of peace!

1866. War between Austria and Prussia: the latter has understood the lesson of alliance and not enmity with the new Italy. This war was also one of aggression on the Italian-Prussian side: Italy swallowed up Venetia despite the military blunders of Lissa and Custoza, and as for Prussia, Engels derides the victory at Sadowa as a contest of technical blunders by the generals of both sides, but he puts the balance sheet on the credit side. The cowardly German bourgeois who ’has 1848 in his bones’ is even afraid that he won at Sadowa. However, the asset of the aggression of Germans against Germans is considerable: Prussia set a good centralist and revolutionary example by swallowing, although legitimist, three crowns ’by the grace of God’, and secured control of all of North Germany. This was pleasing for this reason, that one could not more clearly and dialectically state: ’In Germany is left only one serious enemy of the revolution, the Prussian government’.

1870. Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon attacks and ends in disaster. ’What was right after Sadowa and the division of Germany, is confirmed right after Sedan and the founding of the sacred German empire of the Prussian nation’. And here some truly great words: ’So little can these spectacular movements of so-called great politics do on the directive of historical movements.’ You, bourgeois politicians, look on in astonishment at the military débâcle, the siege of Paris, the oath of Versailles and the empire; we, Marxists, see the capitalist transformation of Europe continue unceasingly, we see the revolutionary antagonist forces measure themselves and succumb in the Paris Commune, we see the European and world Commune of tomorrow emerge not from bleats of peace but from a social war made up of a centuries-old chain of collisions, without remission and without quarter.

What, then, was confirmed right?

The very territorial vastness of the empire compared to the kingdom of Prussia and the centralisation of the state are positive results, replacing a feudal monarchy with a ’Bonapartist’ monarchy, along the lines of that which in France, thanks to defeat, gave way to the bourgeois republic, massacring once again the insurgent workers. "Bonapartism is in any case a modern form of state which has as its premise the abolition of feudalism". This passage, once again noted for the purposes of the theory of the state and of police ’reaction’, shows the impetus given to the indolent German bourgeois revolution by the war.

If it seemed to have broken up the first proletarian international, it actually created the preconditions for the great proletarian class struggle in Germany, which was socially impeded by social, economic and administrative fragmentation. The German workers had to overcome the ’chauvinistic commotion’, as dynasty and army exploited in the people the provocative and aggressive character of Bonaparte’s gestures: in fact the real aggression had been no less decisively prepared by Bismarck and Moltke: this Engels did not seem to ignore or regret. Then Max and the International launched the historic address to the Communards and made the Paris struggle against Versailles and Prussians their own. If in France the balance sheet recorded a great defeat, in Germany it closed with a more advanced situation. Engels defines it in the final words of the 1874 preface.

"If the German workers proceed in this way, they will march, not at the head of the movement - it is not at all in the interest of this movement that the workers of any nation should march at its head – [and go this to the squawkers who have found a home for socialism] but they will take an honourable place in the line of battle; and they will remain there armed and ready, if grave unexpected trials or pressing events demand from them greater courage, greater decision and energy".

Once again, the goal in our historical struggle, even if far away from us as physical beings, is not peace, it is not defence, it is not resistance to provocation, but it is the declared, general, international revolutionary aggression against a world of oppressors, who yes, they alone, will have something to defend: property, privilege, power.


What must follow this wide analysis of the Marxist view of the ’determinate’ wars of the 1848-1871 period is an examination of the next historical type of wars: imperialist wars.

Here Lenin must come to the fore: first to show that he assimilated and reaffirmed all of Marx’s and Engels’ recalled concepts on the evaluation of wars, and explained with Karl Liebknecht what was meant when some were ’justified’; then to show that nothing can be done against imperialist wars unless the lie of ’national defence’ is demolished like all the lies of pacifism.

Lenin stated that some wars of the past were, and some of the future might be, revolutionary. It is clear from his words that these will be non-defence wars. He dismantled the empirical thesis: we are against war, we make an exception for defensive war; he theorised and implemented the defeatism of the defence of the fatherland.

The same theses and the same historical facts demolished the other cornerstone of the opportunist position: that to avoid the recurrence of wars, and ever more ferocious wars, there is a way other than the overthrow of all capitalist powers.

Not differently falsify Marx and Lenin those who enlist for the defence of national soil from any aggressor, and those who fight for the two postulates of equality and friendship of nations, and peace between them, in the capitalist historical period.