International Communist Party Against Capitalist War

Romagnese Socialists in the face of intervention

The verdict of the Romagnese comrades after the unsatisfactory meeting in Bologna on the 16 May (in view of which, as you can read in Volume I, p. 99, the 8th Congress of the socialist sections of Forli called for the proclamation of a general strike against participating in the massacre) and their radical and revolutionary stand on proletarian action against the war, emerge from some texts which were written in the short period after said convention and before the declaration of war.

The first text is a complete article by a leading comrade from the Forli Federation, and harsh is his criticism not only of the parliamentary deputies and union leaders, but of the leaders of the party itself who “sounded the retreat”. The article, in the name of all Romagnese socialists, makes decidedly its own the theses of the proclamation of the national general strike, previously supported in the party newspaper and at the Bologna congress itself.

We then republish the socialist section of Forli’s minutes from the 18 May agenda, inspired by the same criteria. Finally, from among the mass of material contained in the combative Forli newspaper, we have chosen a powerful letter sent in by a comrade from Riccione, although similar declarations from local organizations everywhere are received.


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

("Al grido borghese ’Evviva la Patria’ noi rispondiamo col grido proletario ’Abbasso la guerra’. from La Lotta di Classe, issue no. 275 from 22nd May 1915)

Let us openly confess; this resolution surprised and saddened us. From the light of the noon-day sun we were suddenly plunged into darkness. We felt our strongest hopes thus ebbing away, hopes from which we had drawn the energy to affirm, from the outbreak of the European war until now, the Socialist Party’s precise conception and sound objective. We do not believe this state of mind has been produced in us alone: it must be common to all those comrades who, from one end of Italy to the other, fought vigorously to prevent the pro-war current from prevailing.

Well, the party leaders have sounded the retreat, just as we were preparing to make an intense effort to take a firm stand on the desired positions.

They made us believe in the impetus of our opponents just as they were reaching the point of desperation.

So let it not displease the comrades of our Federation that at such a critical time as this we seek the responsibilities and highlight them under the gaze of the adversaries spying on us. First and foremost, we cherish our dignity as militants and the right of criticism that is conferred on us by sincere faith and the performance of our duty. Moreover, we are merely reaffirming the line 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 absolutely necessary for the Socialist Party to stand firm on its intentions, we wish from now on, by explaining the errors that have already been made, to prevent worse ones from occurring in the future.

The comrades who remember the first agenda of the Party Leadership and the Parliamentary Group, gathered in Rome, in which was reconciled in an admirable fusion the Marxist critique of the European conflagration and the directives that the Italian Socialist Party proposed to follow and indicate to the proletariat, if they compare that agenda with the one that emerged from Sunday’s conference, they will see immediately that if theoretically we have remained at the same level, we have taken a huge step backward as regards action. It certainly didn’t need nine months of preparation to conclude on the eve of war that our party should separate its own responsibilities from those of the ruling classes. Are there really any socialists who have doubts in that regard? To defend the fatherland – which we will soon be hearing about – maybe we should sudekumize (1) ourselves?

For sure, the majority of those attending the convention in Bologna didn’t understand how serious things were at the time and didn’t hear what the country was saying. If that had not been the case it wouldn’t have succumbed to cowardice, which always tries to pass itself off as prudence, and withdrawn from the terrain of the struggle and given the enemy all the room it needed, just as all eyes were anxiously focused on Bologna and expecting it to hit the alarm bell; to indicate to the men of faith, to the masses, that the time had come to strain every nerve to prevent the bloodthirsty specter of war from darkening the sky of Italy. The proclamation of a national general strike was the only epilogue worthy of the Party’s position. We hadn’t struggled for nine months in hand-to-hand combat with our opponents, hadn’t made a huge propaganda effort, reflected in memorable protests, for the sole purpose of separating our responsibilities, but above all in order to oppose the warmongering currents with other more powerful ones, composed of the galvanized consciousness of the proletariat, and so that from the clash of the opposing forces the outcome would be a directive from the government that was decisively neutralist. And so the masses did not follow our actions or sympathise with them just because they saw us as opponents of the war, but rather because they were confident that the Socialist Party would constitute a strong bulwark against the impending calamity.

In these latter days as the cries of the masses spread discontent and indignation far and wide, among all categories of citizens, and a salient act emerged, in sharp contrast with what occurred in the Libyan war: vigorous protests by the conscripts against the war, all of it accompanied by varied and persistent demonstrations which clearly demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of the country was in favor of neutrality, there converged on our party not inconsiderable forces of solidarity, which could hardly have failed to imbue a national protest with the solemnity of an extraordinary event.

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

Only recently there were the magnificently successful May Day rallies, with roaring behind us, almost urging us on, the indignation of an angry people. From every corner there arose the comfort of applause, of hope, a cry of solidarity; and yet, despite all this, a bunch of demoniacs, drunk with patriotism administered in copious doses by the corrupt press, kept us from performing the ultimate bold, logical and dignified act.

So 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 piazzas and streets of the towns and cities, to warn the ruling classes that their mad dream would find invincible resistance?

We are not saying we wanted an insurrectional strike: this, if ever it were to happen, would need to happen spontaneously. We are saying instead is that for a day or so, not on the eve of the opening of the Chamber, but from when they start sending out the call up papers, which is a clear sign of mobilization, all of those who are most determined in their opposition to war, mobilized by the Socialist Party, must utter the pronouncement, in a form that is as solemn as it is worrying for those on high: WE ARE NOT BUDGING!

Perhaps our leaders feared the demonstration wouldn’t succeed? Then they must have been blind. Were they afraid of reprisals from the government? We don’t believe they were that cowardly.

The reason must be rather found in a certain organic and intellectual inability to adopt extreme solutions and the lack in our Party of a man of exceptional will capable of impressing on the movement the directive towards which events are irresistibly leading it.

While opposition to the war was getting stronger and stronger in the country, the watchwords issued became less and less clearcut and decisive, maintaining a clear distance, as if there was a desire to put off what was a clear-cut solution.

And there was worse still. In the Party Directorate meeting on April 28, at a time when the government’s orientation towards war was starting to become ever clearer, after the formulation of one of the usual agendas, it was decided to reconvene on 16-5, 20 days away, no less! We admire the Olympian serenity of those comrades of ours. It is said that Muslims quietly smoke their pipe when their house burns down, but as far as we know such apathy has not led to remarkable progress.

Did there lurk in the Directorate’s soul a hidden desire for the fait accompli to 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 follow it up with a decisive action. Then came the ministerial crisis, the parliamentary about-face, the uncertainty in the bourgeois camp, the dismay of the interventionists, but still our leaders did not feel the need to throw the formidable weight of the nation-wide proletarian agitation onto the scales of Italian politics, in order to have it tip decisively onto 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 snotty-nosed kids who only shouted like lunatics because they found the streets and piazzas completely empty: our leaders awaited the dawn of May 16 with the same assertiveness as a suicidal person fearlessly awaiting the train that will smash into him.

Meanwhile Avanti!’s wavering between the desire to act and the impossibility of doing so muted its cry of rebellion. The result of this timid and indecisive behavior could hardly have been other than it was.

And if we add the dead weight, for the most part a real burden on bold proletarian movements, of most of our deputies, men sapped by parliamentarianism and with a holy horror of general strikes or of anything that has the appearance of stepping outside legality; and we add the ‘wise’ considerations of the patriarchs of the General Confederation of Labor, those jaded old fogeys of beautifully designed proletarian edifices; it will not be difficult to understand that the Bologna agenda could not have been other than the sledgehammer blow causing the vibrant body of diehard opponents of the war to crumble into inertia. Parliamentarism and reformism have killed the revolutionary spirit of the socialists and proletarians of Italy.

But do we need to get ready to chant their funeral rites? No, no, the masses are still the same as they were yesterday, and we have a duty to keep their energetic power alive. Our criticism is directed at those at the top, but our enthusiasm is tempered in the red-hot crucible of the soul of the working people.

War is inevitable, and at the time of writing the decision may already have made, but precisely because of that we must keep in mind that more serious contingencies will accrue in the near future, which have to be resolutely faced up to. Let us remember that if up to yesterday our task was to oppose the war, then today, with war having broken out, we must set out to derive the greatest advantage we can from it for our cause. If at present tempers are red-hot with indignation at the gaping abyss the ruling classes have opened up under the feet of the Italian people, then tomorrow the horrors and miseries produced by the war will accumulate colossal amounts of rebellious energy, which it is up to us to direct and to use properly.

Yesterday’s waverings and the inevitable apostasies that will follow do not surprise us, and much less do they dismay us. Socialism follows its inevitable course: let the comrades who have faith endeavor to follow its high road with us



Forlì Socialist Section Agenda

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

The Forlì socialist section on the evening of May 18 held an extraordinary meeting and unanimously approved the following point on the agenda:

«Regarding the resolution made at the Bologna Congress the Forlì section disapproves of it and declares that it defaults on the duty incumbent on the Socialist Party at the present time. It protests against the docile attitude of the executive and representative bodies of the party and invites the Committee of the Provincial Federation to express to the Party leadership its own dissatisfaction and in the newspaper to amplify the criticism of what occurred from a clearly class-based and revolutionary point of view, with a view to preserving the federal organization from reformist degeneration and to strengthen it in the battles which circumstances wills soon render inevitable».

Methods and principles

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

I read attentively the amicable polemic (so useful, especially at this time, for our party) between comrades Faedi and Pavirani regarding the hypothesis of our adherence to supporting the defense of the fatherland, and I feel I need to declare my agreement with the latter, whose point of view on the subject hitherto expressed and made public, I enthusiastically share and approve, and just as equally enthusiastically I vote for the motion by the Dutchman Domela Nieuwenhaus, published in the last issue.

Not a penny or a soldier, ever!

We don’t have to defend the fatherland…. of other people; or allow ourselves to be overtaken by vain sentimentalism which merely redounds to the advantage of our real enemy, the bourgeoisie and the capitalists, who act the hero… from the comfort of their homes, who have reason to split their sides laughing if we, their irreducible enemies, rush off to heroically shed out blood just in order to defend their interests and to consolidate their political and economic hegemony.

Happen what may!

Class collaboration, even momentarily, for whatever reason, represents capitulation and suicide for our party; which will, instead, be seriously feared if never departs, not for one second, from the vast and fecund field on which it faces up to and tenaciously conducts the class struggle.

Riccione, 20-05-1915


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.