International Communist Party Against Capitalist Wars

On the Thread of Time
Socialism and Nation

(from Battaglia Comunista, issue 9 of 1950)


The national question in Marxist doctrine is very clear in the enunciations of the Communist Manifesto. This admirable text has the double advantage of having been dictated in the imminence of the revolutionary situation of 1848, which presented itself as the last liquidation of the bourgeois claims against the feudal residues in order to immediately give way to the direct proletarian struggle against the capitalist class, and of containing in distinct parts the radical theoretical and programmatic approach and the strategic application to the situation of the time and the forces at stake.

The doctrine of the workers’ struggle contains a radical revision of the national question so dear to radical bourgeois ideology. It asserts the following with absolutely zero hesitation: «The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got». The objection that, if the fatherland is a vague idea, the national State within precise borders is a historical fact, has already been answered: «Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie”.

From then on, the link between truly proletarian socialism and internationalism is irremovably established.

But the great revolutionary wave of 1848 did not fail just as an attempt of the European proletariat to become the protagonist of history, but even, partially, as a liquidation of preliberal, absolutist forms. While in Europe feudal despotism retained its formidable Russian bulwark, the political regimes of the German countries failed to develop into a purely bourgeois nation-State, and in France Louis Bonaparte’s coup seemed to be a “right-wing” comeback, even though capitalism was exceptionally comfortable in that regime.

Between 1848 and 1870, a series of wars consolidated the formation of the modern capitalist powers and played an essential part in the formation of the European social structure, in which the class struggle of the workers and the socialist movement became more and more integrated. When we repeatedly set 1871 in Europe as the turning point between this period and the following one of obvious generalized imperialism, we are certainly not inventing anything new.

The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 is staged as a French aggression, an attempt at hegemony in Europe of the Second Napoleonic Empire and its ostentatious militarism. Bismarck’s Prussia, in spite of its feudal institutions and its no less assertive militarism, appears unjustly threatened: even more threatened appears to be the formation of a free modern Germany, which on the one hand struggles under the feudal weight of the absolutist traditional regimes of Berlin and Vienna, and on the other hand could find itself in the grip of two reactionary empires, the Russian and the French. This historical turn of events has not been fully understood by the socialists, despite the powerful analyses of Marx, up to the dazzling lightning bolts thrown by the Leninist critique on the situation of 1914‑18 and on the betrayal of whole ranks of proletarian leaders. It cannot be denied that, with the 1939‑45 war, darkness fell again on a large part of the world working class.

The very first Address of the General Council on the eve of the Franco-Prussian war, while repeating the principles of international workers’ solidarity, speaks of a defensive war in which the German workers necessarily participate. However, it cannot be forgotten that in the French legislative body the opposition, even if socialist only partially and in-name-only, refused the vote on war credits to Napoleon’s ministry. On both sides the socialists seem to consider the defeat of the aggressor Bonaparte as a favorable outcome.

The first Address of July 23, 1870, dictated by the threatening movement of the French armies, was followed by that of September 9, after the defeats inflicted on them to the amazement of the world by Moltke’s divisions. It is all a protest of the German and international socialists against the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine and the rise of Pan‑Germanism: as Engels notes, this warning foresees something that Engels himself did not live to see: the rise of military thievery in French territory, not of German freedom but of a great “non-localized” war, a new “defensive” war and “war of races, a war with the combined Slavonian and Roman races”.

The greatest lesson in history for the theory of revolution comes from this historical moment in France. The second empire collapses due to military defeats, and the French workers rejoice. But they are soon placed before tremendous problems. The bourgeois proclaim the republic, in which the most equivocal parties and leaders of the political world participate, authentic opportunists who took the glory after the fighting was done, supposed opponents of the dictator, Orleanist monarchists, bourgeois republicans, the same cops who repressed the proletarian insurrection of the June Days in 1848. From that historic second Address Marx warns, «the French working class finds itself in an extremely difficult position». It is remarkable; Marx himself does not call for the unleashing of civil war at that time, «with the enemy at the gates», but he tells the French workers that «they must not let themselves be dominated by the national memories of 1792». The Address then closes by addressing the workers of all countries: «If they forsake their duty, if they remain passive, the present tremendous war will be but the harbinger of still deadlier international feuds, and lead in every nation to a renewed triumph over the workman by the lords of the sword, of the soil, and of capital».

The Italian working class, too, at the fall of Fascism in the wartime debacle, found itself in an extremely difficult position. But the lessons which the time immediately after those events gave to Marxism, as we now immediately see, and which Lenin raised against the wave and the shame of the betrayal of 1914, were unfortunately not enough for it. Their leaders, by drowning them in a republic even more fetid than that of Mr. Thiers, have made them totally forget their duty to themselves and to the revolution.

Two days after the bloody events of May 1871, already, as Engels notes, Marx was able to write some of the most powerful revolutionary pages ever written about the Commune claimed as ours.

When on September 4, 1870, by the force of the workers, as in February 1848, the historic cry “Vive la république” flares up in Paris, France is no longer the aggressor country, and the Prussian invader is hurled against the capital city. The proletariat has applauded the defeat of Napoleon the small, but it cannot yet be indifferent to the fate of the nation. It is not mature enough to discern in all its fullness its class task. For half a century the Commune was commemorated and to many the patriotic role was not clear, a role which had induced Garibaldi himself to offer his sword to Paris, if compared to the class and revolutionary one. Lenin came to the powerful aid of all of us, who had been able to read from our early yeras in Marx, and with him in history. Let us connect the first and the last of those unforgettable pages. The first outburst of the workers of Paris against the bourgeois republic was due to the discovery that the new representatives of the ruling class were collaborating with the Prussians. They rose up against them with the infamous term, which has become historical, of capitulards. At their attempt to take away the cannons from the National Guard, which was not yet a working class guard, the insurrection breaks out. Marx fully understands the motive of it: he recalls that the documents that Trochu, Faure, Thiers, left in the escape to Versailles proved the collaboration with the enemy. History had not yet unraveled the tangling between national and class demands, the socialist parties of the time followed inadequate doctrines, but the proletariat understood that the bourgeoisie of France, maneuvering to save its privilege from ruin, did not hesitate to take the orders and money of their class friend Bismarck, offering him among the armistice pacts the commitment to disperse the revolutionary rascals of Paris. At the end of the struggle the communards fall, in a titanic effort to face the French bourgeoisie and the German army, but it remains in the history of the workers’ revolution as the definitive liberation of the movement from all national prejudices, whose influence until then had been fully recognized by Marxist theory, alongside being the first historical example of the red dictatorship, «Class rule is no longer able to disguise itself in a national uniform; the national governments are one as against the proletariat». Thus Marx closes one of the most expressive essays of the parallel advance of historical experience and party theory, albeit in the defeat of the Insurrection.

When the great war of 1914 broke out and the German socialists cheated with their Marxist preparation by seriously calling it “defensive”, as Marx had said with sarcasm forty years earlier, Karl Liebknecht – it is Lenin who in the 1915 theses recalls this – retorted to them that with the word defensive war the Marxists of before 1870 actually indicated wars for the development of capitalism, while that of 1914 was an imperialist war between fully developed capitalisms, and it was treason to speak of defense in Germany, as it was in France or Russia. The same basic concept that we claim here is expressed by Lenin in that text. We understand, he says, unlike the bourgeois pacifists and anarchists, the necessity of the historical evaluation of each individual war in its specific character. There have been wars that have benefited the evolution of mankind: from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune (1789‑1871) the bourgeois national wars were “progressive wars”. This is followed by a discussion of modern imperialism and its wars: the period of “progressive capitalism” ends in 1871. The modern imperialist bourgeoisie «[deceives] the peoples by means of “national ideology” and the term “defence of the fatherland”», while its wars are nothing but wars «between slave-owners for fortifying and strengthening slavery».

Faithful pupils, let us ascend with Marx and Lenin on the thread of time, whose direction these masters never lost sight of. Letting themselves fall along it to the mire of abjuration, the national-communists see themselves today still in the period of “progressive capitalism” and have defined the last war as a new war of “national liberation”, while the facts of imperialism, made evident by Lenin in 1915, had in these 25 years that followed become blindingly obvious!


The Leninist theory of opportunism implanted with rigorous Marxist method shows how in the relatively peaceful period 1871‑1914 it, by denying that «the point is that the epoch of national wars between the big European powers has been superseded by an epoch of imperialist wars between them», linked mistakes in doctrine with the betrayal in political action which consists in class collaboration, the renunciation of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the renunciation of revolutionary action, the unconditional recognition of bourgeois legality, the union of the lackeys of the bourgeoisie with the bourgeoisie, against the class that it exploits.

The same analysis can be applied to the present betrayal of the Stalinists, who on the international scale have qualified the war of the American, English and French imperialists against the German imperialists as a war of liberation, and, after having in a first phase practiced the imperialist compromise with the Germans themselves, have in the second phase practiced the alliance with the Westerners. For this reason they had to argue that the Westerners had converted from imperialism to disinterested “liberationism”, they had to break the thread of time, tear up Marx’s Civil War in France and trample on Lenin’s theses. But that it was a crime to admit that the Anglo-Americans ceased to be imperialist exactly in the period 1941‑45 (while Engels described the former as such in 1844, the latter in 1891, illustrating Marx’s text of 1871), it is not necessary to move on to controversial proofs, now that all the Moscow‑led press is once again hurled against the aggressive imperialism of Washington and London.

The Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute of Moscow, which is very well endowed with texts (and with the possibility of hiding and falsifying original texts), dares to print, as proof, that in February 1920 Lenin, while being interviewed and mocking bourgeois journalists, admitted the coexistence between the proletarian State and the capitalist States, statements which those who stay on the thread of time remember well and which are “unpublished” only for under-pimps. Lenin calls for coexistence, yes, but «with workers and peasants awakening to a new life without capitalist owners and merchants». The Establishmentists coexists with capitalist owners and merchants, and find nothing else to choose from the archives! Lenin masterfully responds to the hint of an alliance with the then social-democratic Germany: we are for an alliance with all countries without exclusion of anyone! And the institutionalists and today’s pharisaical picasso-pacifists do not understand that this thesis condemned as treason any possibility of political and military alliance with a bourgeois Germany, as with a bourgeois England and America, in their imperial rivalries and conflicts.

The Italian edition of the retreat on the national lie; of going back on the thread of time, against nature; of the resurrection of the corpse of progressive capitalism buried by the howitzers of the communards and by the pen of Karl Marx, is the most rotten of them all.

The identification of fascism as equal with feudalism instead of the crystal clear one of fascism as equal with imperialism, of the party in 1923, marks the precipice.

Other analogies were no less bestial: Mussolini = Louis Bonaparte, or: Hitler = Nicholas Romanov.

The resistance that the proletariat of Paris was able to gloriously oppose to the maneuver to save the bourgeois class power in the fall of the dictator, unfortunately the Communist Party of Livorno, betrayed by that fundamental error, was not even able to sketch it out.

Where it was a matter of grafting, according to Lenin’s defeatism, the class battle to the military defeat of the State, whether despotic or democratic, a Trochu-style capitulardism was applied instead, and the leaders, exploiting the empty word of the resistance, encapsulated the masses in their function of servants of the invading army.

They came with the program to put together, in the capitulard band, not only the champions of a fake republic, like the bourgeois one in France in September 1870, but even the fascist and warmongering monarchy.

They applied a method so full of “old‑fashioned” and “anti-imperialist” lust that they justified their betrayal with “national” duty and “the country’s salvation”, while more than eighty years earlier the naive Parisian Blanquists had drawn from their excitement for the “défense de la patrie” the strength to fight against the two coalesced armies, domestic and foreign.

It is a double capitulardism: that of the proletarian leaders, who by betraying the revolutionary cause switch to class collaboration, and that of the bourgeoisie, which with the prejudice of “the nation” imposes on the workers to divest themselves of their class autonomy and shed their blood today against the English, tomorrow against the Germans, and on its own account cares so much for the “Fatherland” that after having been leased to the latter it leases itself for its class interest to the former, it avoids handing over those “responsible parties” that Lenin sarcastically identified in all the owners of land and capital of all countries, and it doesn’t give a damn, any more than we refractory people can give a damn, that from the national liberation an Italy will emerge in the act of removing the crown of towers from its head, and raising its robe.

Speak up, you who trample on the thread of time; you are more eloquent than history and us. «From the beginning of the world war we declared that we would support in the anti‑fascist front also a monarchist movement which, by eliminating Mussolini in time, would avoid Italy’s entry into the war, or, after June 1940, would bring Italy out of the war in which it had already entered». «In March 1944 we courageously applied this policy: it is true that there had been July 25 and Italy had been defeated, but the widest possible national political bloc was needed so that the country could take its first steps forward».

We cannot be, with any possible paraphrase, mora malevolent. The theoretical polemic may ask a hundred things, among which is this: the widest possible national bloc, if you believe in it, why does it not include above all the State engaged in war, and why does it not prevent the country, if you believe in it, we repeat, from taking the most horrendous step, namely, military defeat? In what hell of a pitch have you found a Mussolini soaked, to skip the superior national need that at every step you claim, that has not stained the hands and face of the Savoy monarchy, and their allies of 1944, as stained as the French Bonapartists, Orleanists, republicans and cops were in 1870?

But with doctrine, especially having a well‑fed propaganda apparatus that can launch Coca‑cola style demagogic advertising, they are still gambling. Chronology is something of a bore to these people claiming “consistency”.

The slogan of the anti‑fascist front, damn it, is not 1939, but 1923. In 1939 and in June 1940, Stalinism was not worried about preventing Hitler from having an ally in Mussolini, since it was itself an ally in the Polish partition, and the “dismissal of the lines” was shouted from the Rhenish radios to the French poilus veterans of the defense of freedom since 1792. Only from June 1941 did the brothel begin to annoy Mussolini again and play into the hands of the British, and then Americans, and identify with the victory of the latter and their dirty walk of “off limits” national freedom. Then in 1946 we rediscover that the Americans were capitalists, imperialists and aggressors all along.

On the thread of these dates we will hang for the social-traitors a sign saying: Do not touch! Risk of death!