(from L’Avanguardia, 21 January 1912)
One of the arguments most exploited by the supporters of the current war is that of the unanimity of consensus and enthusiasm that this war has aroused, or rather would have aroused according to them, in our country; which authorizes them to conclude that the war was a necessity of national conscience and that it will be a bringer of good, outside of any economic question, because of its moral effects.
This reasoning of the bourgeois gentlemen is false and in bad faith. False because there was no unanimity, because the national conscience, even if it exists, was not consulted but violated; in bad faith because the real supporters and advocates of the war did not lose sight for a moment of the financial side of the matter at hand, indeed of the whole business: those who lost sight of it were unfortunately the working class, who do not understand that they are lending themselves to the game of the capitalists.
To prove these assertions of ours, let us go back to the origins of the conflict with Turkey and try to reconstruct the country’s thinking in the face of the planned conquest, then in the face of the comfortable fait accompli behind which so many wavering consciences took refuge.
Those three or four big newspapers that launched the idea of occupying Tripoli, even before exposing the political-economic side of the question threw themselves forward by saying that the war was a thing above the parties, that when it came to vindicating national love (who had even offended it?) there could only be one valid opinion, one valid attitude, that whoever merely questioned the expediency of the new conquest was a priori condemned as a traitor to the homeland.
This propaganda, conducted by very powerful means, had its intended effects. It didn’t really create a favorable opinion in the majority, but rather destroyed all opinions. The bourgeois went with the current, whatever party they belonged to: even those many agglomerations of bourgeois interests who saw themselves seriously harmed did not dare to protest. Those who had the opposite views remained silent; the Italian ships were already said to be on their way, it was not the time to argue, but to keep quiet. The working class did not understand: it did not dare to ask to understand, being told that the war was being taken out of national control, our comrades could not or did not know how to make the workers aware of their true interests in proper time; and the proletarians quietly went to the slaughter. We should have said loud and clear that unanimity was a chimera, that of parties opposed to the war there was only one: ours; that of parties opposed to the conquest of Tripoli there could have been others, if there had been any in Italy which were worthy of the name. But the divergences in bourgeois thought do not stem from deep theoretical incompatibilities, but from different types of bourgeois interests, and they vanish when it comes to their common goal: the ever greater exploitation of the workers. How could we say this to the masses, if our leaders had until then been the allies, let us even say the naive servants, of a bourgeois government?
We mentioned national conscience, denying its pro-war affirmation, already a few years ago, when that small group of literati tried to arouse a nationalist movement in Italy, and the feeling of patriotism left much to be desired. When the first storms of anti-Austrian whistles suddenly broke out in our universities, it was a chorus of wonderment. Who even remembered Franz Joseph anymore, who thought of Trieste anymore? The ex-revolutionary bourgeoisie suddenly remembered, because it was trying to find a way to paralyze the action of the proletariat, and halt its progress on the path of social revolution.
But the people remained indifferent to it. Can those four nationalists really claim to have in a few years created a patriotic and bellicose current in the Italian people and claim that the people voted for the present war? Come on, let’s not take them so seriously, these shareholders of enthusiasm, who defer to their poets the songs paid by the triplet, as the people reject the supplies of spoiled salami! The very little following their ideas have in our country authorizes us to say that their propaganda has been totally ineffective, and allows us to argue that they have no right to claim to be the spokesmen of national conscience.
They will tell us: What about the demonstrations? What about the Jean Carrère parties? And the sales of the tricolor flower? Are these not spontaneous demonstrations of national sentiment?
This objection doesn’t frighten us. We saw the ringleaders of these demonstrations: they were always the same. Their following is easily explained: our people flock wherever they hear voices: they flock in good faith, gentlemen of the bourgeoisie, when you speak to them about their wounded brothers, when you show them the victim of tyranny; but the best proof of their wretched political unconsciousness is precisely this: that they do not understand and do not see that the tyrants and murderers are those who move them in the name of their distant brothers, in order to wrest from them the consent to another blood sacrifice.