International Communist Party Against Capitalist War

To the Bourgeois Shout “Long Live the Fatherland!” We Reply with the Proletarian Shout “Down with the War!”

(from La Lotta di Classe, issue no. 275 from 22nd May 1915)

Let us openly confess; this deliberation surprised and pained us. From a full meridian light we suddenly plunged into twilight. We thus felt even our strongest hopes vanishing, from which we had drawn the energy to affirm, from the outbreak of the European war until now, the precise conception and sure objective of the Socialist Party. We do not believe that this state of mind has been inflicted in us alone: it must be shared by all those comrades who from one end of Italy to the other have fought virulently to prevent the prevalence of the pro-war current.

Well, the party leaders sounded the retreat, just as we were preparing with an extreme effort to plant ourselves firmly on the coveted positions.

They made us believe in the impetus of our opponents just when they were in despair. Thus, let it not displease the comrades of our Federation that in such a critical time as this we seek out responsibilities and emphasize them under the eyes of the adversaries who spy on us. First and foremost, we cherish our dignity as militants and the right of criticism that is conferred on us by the sincere faith and the performing of our duty. Moreover, we are only reaffirming the direction followed by our Federation, which was vigorously upheld at the Bologna convention. Finally, since new and more serious situations will be determined in the course of coming events, in the face of which it will be necessary for the Socialist Party to take a position with firmness of purpose, we wish as of now, by illustrating the errors made, to prevent worse ones in the future.

The comrades who remember the first agenda of the Party Management and the Parliamentary Group, meeting in Rome, in which the Marxist critique of the European conflagration and the directives that the Italian Socialist Party set out to follow and pointed out to the proletariat were reconciled in an admirable fusion, if they compare that agenda with the one that came out of Sunday’s conference, they will see at once that while theoretically we remained at the same level, in respect to action we have taken a huge step backward. It certainly didn’t take nine months of preparation to conclude on the eve of war that our party separates its responsibilities from those of the ruling classes. Does any socialist have any doubts about this? For the defense of the fatherland – a which we will soon hear about – maybe we should sudekumize (1) ourselves?

For sure, the majority of the conventions in Bologna didn’t understand the seriousness of the current moment and didn’t hear the voice of the country. Had that not been the case, it wouldn’t have been so cowardly, cowardice which is being dressed up as being prudent, as to retreat from the terrain of the struggle and giving the enemy the opportunity to take the initiative, when all eyes were anxiously converging on Bologna to sound the alarm that to the faithful masses would show that the time had come to oppose the bloody specter from clouding the sky of Italy with all their energy. The proclamation of a national general strike was the only epilogue worthy of the Party’s attitude. We didn’t struggle for nine months in hand-to-hand combat with our opponents and didn’t make a great effort of propaganda that had its reflection in memorable protests, for the sole purpose of separating responsibility but above all to oppose against the warmongering currents with the galvanized conscience of the proletariat, and so that from the clash of the opposing forces there would result a decisively neutralist government directive. And so the masses did not sympathetically follow our action just because they saw us as opponents of the war, but out of confidence that the Socialist Party would constitute a strong bulwark against threatening doom.

In recent times since the calls of the masses have sowed with immense breadth, among all categories of citizens, discontent and indignation, and one salient act emerged, opposite to what occurred for the Libyan war: the vigorous protest of the conscripts against the war, all this surrounded by various and persistent protests which undeniably proved that the overwhelming majority of the country was in favor of neutrality, that not inconsiderable forces of solidarity flowed toward our party that wouldn’t have made a national protest lack the solemnity of an unusual event.

We missed a magnificent opportunity to raise the prestige of our party by a hundredfold: conversely, by retreating, we spread the appearance of a weakness that doesn’t actually exist.

The magnificently successful May Day rallies are still fresh, the indignation of a restless people rumbled behind us, almost urging us on, the comfort of applause, of hope, of a cry of solidarity rose from every corner; well, in spite of all this, a few handfuls of energetic people, drunk with patriotism administered in copious doses by the sell-out press, kept us from performing the ultimate dignified, strong and logical act.

But what reason could there be, then, for not calling on the party and the proletariat to suspend all other forms of activity in order to concentrate on the squares and streets of the boroughs and cities to warn the ruling classes that their mad dream would find invincible resistance?

We don’t mean that we would’ve wanted to call an insurrectional strike: this would need to happen spontaneously, if it did at all; we’re instead saying that for a day or two, not on the eve of the opening of the Chamber, but when the cards for the summons began to circulate, obvious signs of mobilization, all those who are determined opponents of the war, mobilized by the Socialist Party, had to utter as solemnly as ever the cry that disturbs the ruling class: WE REFUSE TO GO TO WAR!

Did our leaders fear that the demonstrations wouldn’t succeed? Then we’d have to say that they’re blind. Were they afraid of reprisals from the government? We don’t think they’re so cowardly. The reason must be found rather in a certain organic and intellectual inability to adopt extremist solutions and the lack in our Party of a man of exceptional will capable of giving the movement the directive to which events must logically lead to. While opposition to the war was getting stronger and stronger in the country, less and less clear and decisive watchwords were being issued, in a distanced fashion, as if there was a desire to grant delays to a clear-cut solution.

Even worse, at the meeting of the Executive Board on 28-4, when the government’s orientation for the war was beginning to loom, after the formulation of one of the usual agendas, it was decided to reconvene on 16-5, 20 days of wait, no less! We admire the Olympian serenity of those comrades of ours. It is said that Muslims quietly smoke their pipes while the house burns, but we don’t know if this apathy has led to much progress. Was there a hidden desire in the leadership’s soul that the fait accompli would relieve it from having to make a serious decision? One cannot otherwise explain its inconclusive procrastination. In the May Day rallies, the party and the proletariat had virulently expressed their neutralist will; but it was not thought expedient to concretize it at once into decisive action. Then came the ministerial crisis, the parliamentary volte-face, the uncertainty in the bourgeois camp, the dismay of the interventionists, but not even then did our leaders feel the need to throw the formidable weight of nation-wide proletarian agitation onto the scales of Italian politics in order to make it overflow resolutely on the side of neutrality. This was followed by the violent reaction of the advocates of war who staged demonstration after demonstration, but the proletariat was not called upon to disperse these few brats who only shouted like lunatics because they found the squares and streets completely empty: our leaders awaited the dawn of May 16 with the same confidence with which a suicidal man waits intrepidly for the train that’s going to crush him.

Meanwhile Avanti!’s wavering between the desire to act and the impossibility of actually doing so muted its cry of rebellion. The result of this timid and indecisive proceeding couldn’t have been anything besides what happened.

Add to this the dead weight that most of our deputies are, actual burdens to bold proletarian movements, men worn out by parliamentarianism who have a holy horror of general strikes and of anything that even dreams of stepping outside of legality; add to this the wise considerations of the patriarchs of the General Confederation of Labor, true pillars of the well architected proletarian edifices; and it will not be difficult to understand that the Bologna agenda could not have been anything but the bludgeon that made the vibrant body of diehard opponents of the war crumble into inertia. Parliamentarism and reformism killed the revolutionary spirit of the socialists and proletarians of Italy.

But will we have to prepare to sing eulogies for it? No, no, the masses are still the same as they were yesterday, and we have a duty to keep their energies alive. Our criticism concerns those at the top, but our enthusiasm is tempered in the red-hot crucible of the soul of the working people.

The war is inescapable, and at the time of writing it may have already been decided, but it’s precisely because of this that we must keep in mind that more serious contingencies will ripen in a coming tomorrow, which we must resolutely face. Let us remember that if our task has been until yesterday to oppose war, today, then when war has already broken out, we must propose to derive from it the greatest advantage to our cause. If tempers are at present red-hot with indignation at the abyss which the ruling classes have opened wide at the feet of the Italian people, tomorrow the horrors and miseries produced by the war will accumulate colossal amounts of rebellious energies, which are up to us to guide and properly use.

The waverings of yesterday, the inevitable apostasies that will follow, don’t surprise us and much less dismay us. Socialism follows its fatal course: let the comrades who have faith procure with us to tread its high road.


1. - Reference to Albert Südekum (1871-1944), German social-democrat who traveled to Italy in August 1914 to convince the Italian Socialists to stand for neutrality.