International Communist Party Against Capitalist War

Socialist Doctrine and the War

from L’Avanguardia, 22 October, 1916

The task that awaits socialists in the laborious future of war is vast and complex. Our youth must foresee it right now, preparing to fulfill it validly.

From the field of philosophical abstractions to that of everyday action, a long series of serious problems will have to be faced, beginning by establishing relations with traditional socialism, on the one hand, and with the grandiose tragic historical experience of today on the other.

A sketchy but logical outline of the order of the questions that will impose themselves on our attention, here it is.

First to determine what’s the socialist evaluation of the phenomenon of war, prior to the present flaring up of conflict; and what was the consequent tactic adopted by the socialist proletariat in regard to the war itself.

Then study whether today's historical fact has confirmed, and to what extent, by socialist theory – and deduce from what has unfolded the tactics to be followed in the future by socialism in its international action. In this field, apparently dominated by the vision of war, all the controversial questions, theoretical and tactical, of socialism, in relation to all other manifestations of the present world, will find unfolding.

Since we do not even remotely propose here to carry out such a weighty program, but only to present some cornerstones of the doctrinal and practical activity of our movement, let us hint right away at what order of conclusions it seems to us the sum of investigations we have outlined must – in principle – lead to.

In the doctrinal field – less sown with pre-war divergences – the classical lines of Marxist socialism find a just application, indeed a clear confirmation, in the face of the present conflict.

In the tactical field – in which bitter disagreements had already been extruded – the serious errors and undeniable practical failure of the International will have to be recognized, and a method of socialist action summed up in the word “intransigence”, understood in its most complete and profound meaning, will have to be arrived at.

We have made nothing but assertions. To state conclusions before having demonstrated them may seem a bad system to the followers of skeptical eclecticism and eunuch impartiality; but it is, on the other hand, a rational system when it comes to communicating results in principle, to be corroborated and assayed by reasoning and experience.

This revision is not an individual work, but a collective one. The truths of tomorrow will not come out of the lucubrations of some superman, but will emanate from the real relations of the life of the masses. Thinkers working on ten thousand liras a year will be set aside. It is the proletariat – exploited and illiterate – that thinks and makes new history.

We will dwell a little on the first part of the problem, on the doctrinal aspect of it. We said that the war reconfirms Marxism. By Marxism we mean the method laid out by Marx and so many others, which in the interpretation of human history and social relations, rests on the study of economic phenomena and productive forces; it arrives at the general concept that the history of human society is the history of class struggle, between classes distinguished by the characteristics of their economic conditions; and culminates in the diagnosis of today's class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, mapping out a conclusion for the future and a program that envisions the triumph of the proletariat, after which society will no longer be divided into classes because man will have learned to wield the productive forces instead of being its instrument and victim [...]

This grand conception of socialism, understood as a doctrine, reconnected to its sources and purged of the bold falsifications put forth by the renegades of the movement, will have to be assayed in regard to the Great World War.

We shall be confronted with the ideological interpretations of haranguing proponents. Socialism “overthrew” the traditional concepts of social values, and showed the crude bourgeois framework of the bourgeois world concealed under the veneer of idealism. The new currents, in defense of current institutions, want in turn to turn the socialist concept upside down, and re-present the world and life to us as the cause and effect of abstract and transcendent ideas, the motive force of humanity.

It will not suffice to show how many and how absurd the evaluations of these ideologies are, in the interplay of which would explain the immense collision of peoples: Absolutism, democracy. Imperialism, the rights of nations. Force, right. Aggression, homeland defense. Catholicism, Reform. Papacy, secularism. Teutonism, Latinism. Freedom, Tsarism. Christianity, Islamism.

These medieval and mutually contradictory antitheses will have to be eviscerated by our criticism. Socialism will engage in yet more massacres of ideological values. Under the guise of capital, the grinding reality of capitalism will eclipse what were originally big words. The bourgeoisie has no Iddii. It has only one idol: gold.