International Communist Party Against Capitalist War

Socialist Doctrine and the War

from L’Avanguardia, 22 October, 1916

This short article in the organ of the youth back in 1916, i.e. at the height of the First World War, shows the conviction that the socialist movement and its fundamental principles would have to undergo a total reorganisation after the war. Briefly expressed is the prediction of the recomposition on a new basis, faithful to classical Marxism, of the International that failed before the 1914 war.

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.

Below is a sketchy but logical outline of the various issues that will impose themselves on our attention.

First, to determine what’s the socialist evaluation of the war phenomenon, 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, the socialist theory – and deduce from what has taken place 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 be developed.

Since we do not even remotely propose here to carry out such a heavy 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 fraught 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 occurred – 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; it is, however, 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 its doctrinal aspect. 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, producing a prophecy 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 defectors of the movement, will have to be tested in regard to the Great World War.

We shall be confronted with the ideological interpretations of emboldening proponents. Socialism “reversed” the traditional concepts of social values, and exposed the filthy shopkeepers’ framework of the bourgeois world, concealed under the veneer of idealism. The new currents, in defense of current institutions, want to turn the socialist concept upside down, and depict the world and life as the cause and effect of abstract and transcendent ideas, allegedly the motive force of humanity.

To show how many and how absurd the evaluations of these ideologies are won’t be sufficient; the interplay of these ideologies 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 baroque and mutually contradictory antitheses will have to be demolished by our criticism. Socialism will engage in yet more massacres of ideological values. Under the guise of big words, the slaver reality of capitalism will again come in true colors. The bourgeoisie has no Gods. It has only one idol: gold.