Towards the Future
(from Avanti!, issue of November 5th, 1914)
Excessive and nervous doubting of one’s own truth, if it’s a coefficient of success for those who work in the field of ideas for more reliable abstract conclusion, is unquestionably a cause of weakness for those collective movements that act in the field of reality toward concrete results. Socialism in its theoretical conception is the result of the most realistic analysis of history that has ever been accomplished, but the militants of socialism in the decisive moments of the struggle benefit more from believing than from knowing, as it’s urgent not to let our phalanxes crumble by the corrosive and premeditated criticism of adversaries who, on the other hand, often combine the crassest ignorance with complete bad faith.
We, who oppose war in the name of socialism, are shouted down that we have forgotten our Marx and have no eyes for unfolding history. We sacristans of official socialism, besides not wanting to realize that the International has failed and that proletarian anti-militarism can never be spoken of again, do not know – o priceless doctoral intonation of our mentors! – that “socialism is not pacifist”, that it combines very well with a wide variety of wars: “defensive” wars, “national” wars, “democratic” wars. These people, who regularly mock our dogmatism every 24 hours, demand that we subject ourselves to but a decalogue, provided, however, that we let them formulate it. In our helplessness, we should implore the enlightenment of all renegades and turncoats to direct our work. Can you imagine this very authoritative commission, composed of the Malagodis, the Monicellis, the Labriolas, chaired perhaps by Bissolati, that would come to replace the deficiency of our Party’s leadership? It should give us the magnificent salad of a trained socialism, which would leave room for all the most contradictory ideologies, which would not hurt anyone’s sentimental susceptibilities, which would allow itself to cut its nails and modify its connotations to the point where it could conveniently circulate in the world of decent people, among those who have overcome, having solved it, the vulgar problem of the belly and demand that their ponderous digestion not be disturbed.
But let’s make up our minds to go our own way: keeping our eyes wide open is our business, and we don’t need the self-interested charity of those who would like to guide us through the turns. Let us get rid of pretentious suggestions without being too philosophical.
We? Pacifists? Tolstoyans? Oh, what a bad mania for summary definitions! Socialism is the condemnation of bourgeois peace, and it is the theorization of violence by which the exploited will have to break the present order. We know that “peace” makes its victims just like war does, and has its slaughters like battles… And it is not by the preaching of supine Christian resignation that we propose to overcome it, far from it! We are portrayed, because we are anti-war and advocates of Italian neutrality, as quietists who cover themselves with a pile of mattresses so as not to hear the roar of cannonades. We are accused of wanting to remain inactive during this great and decisive drama of history. But we want instead to struggle, to operate, to galvanize our activity on party and class ground, against the State, against the bourgeoisie, to bind their hands that are about to brandish the sword. To carry our action to different terrain would be to acknowledge the death of socialism, while there is still much to fight for it....
But what about the solution to the problems of democracy, freedom, nationality, which would all be decided in the current conflict? We’re blamed for shutting ourselves up in monastic denial when we say that, not disputing the manifold possibilities of different effects of war, unpredictable today in their direct or indirect repercussions tomorrow, we see above all in the present conflagration the saturnal of State egotisms, and the competition of monstrous military bodies which are by no means insensible to sentimentality, and which are certainly not fighting for the luxury of making academic principles triumph; but to secure their own hegemony and preserve their own power.
Should socialism curb its condemnation before the bestial spectacle, turn itself into the insolvency expert of all the fractious ideologies of which the bourgeoisies, no longer romantic but so crassly calculating, are totally disinterested?
Has socialism registered a resounding failure? Maybe ... But socialism had never taken on the task of averting the evils and disasters that result from the present regime, and which the ruling class itself cannot avert. Socialism sees the end of the present social contrasts in the revolutionary crisis that will overwhelm the bourgeois order. That is why also from the powerlessness of the Workers’ International to stop the war is highlighted quite another failure: that of State and democratic “bourgeois civilization” of which the fatal Marxist condemnation is completed in the reflections of the blood orgy.
It isn’t the “national reality” that asserts itself by superimposing itself on the class struggle; but it’s the principle of the overwhelming power of States more or less varnished with political democracy, which wildly triumphs by overwhelming all tendencies toward greater freedom....
Indeed, where are the “irredentists” who have been able or allowed to do what the socialist proletarians didn’t do: reject the weapon that was supposed to defend the oppressor’s cause? By fighting against the Italian State to prevent it from intervening in the war we therefore feel we are on the road to the socialism of tomorrow, which will fully realize the features of its conception and action out of this bloody experience. For it will not, as the renegades and waverers predict, be a socialism converted to the seductions of bourgeois reality, but like the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis it will unfold its flight into the future, free from the impassive bark of prejudices that tend to paralyze its subversive efficacy.