International Communist Party Against Capitalist Wars


On the Thread of Time
War and Revolution

Battaglia Comunista, issue 10 of 1950)



All the renegades who have left class and social warfare to go to the war between armies of States and nations, start as a historical orientation from the French traditions of 1792‑93, against which Marx warned the Parisian proletariat, in a passage so important that Lenin in 1915 repeats it. «The “national ideology” (the traditions of 1792), with which a section of the Parisian workers were imbued, was a petty-bourgeois weakness, which Marx noted at the time, and was one of the causes of the downfall of the Commune».

And, with him, we repeat. Repetita iuvant.

When Mussolini finally left the class party and Marxism, he put on the header of the “Popolo d’Italia” two headlines: «The revolution is an idea that has found bayonets – Napoleon» – «He who has iron has bread – Blanqui». And so goes democratic, liberating, national, socialist and revolutionary literature, all mixed together; it was to the sound of this junk that his worthy pupils finally hung him upside down.

The scheme of the bourgeois is this: idea – armed force – class interest. The scheme of the naive proletarian revolutionary is: proletarian idea – proletarian armed force – proletarian class interest.

The Marxist dialectical scheme is instead: real proletarian class interest – proletarian class struggle – and two parallel derivations: organization in class party and revolutionary theory; conquest and armed exercise of proletarian power.

In the babbling of literati, the traditional processes of the bourgeois revolution remain as models to the workers’ revolution. In the scientific position of Marxism the dependence is expressed differently: the victory of the bourgeoisie in its revolutions was necessary to free the productive forces and give full start to capitalism, a condition for the generalization of the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and for the socialist revolution. The bourgeois revolution was the premise for the communist revolution, not the teacher.

The development of historical situations takes the place of the poetic calls and theatrical confusions between patriotic ardor and revolutionary force, of which we have seen the saturnalia during the Second World War in the partisan resistance, and we’ll see it even worse in a third war, by ever new ranks of followers of “Mussolinism”, as we rightly call it.

The wars between France and the successive European coalitions, which eventually resulted in the restoration of absolute monarchy, were a fundamental stage in the spread of capitalism in Europe, not at all prevented by the victory of the feudal armies, allied with ultra-capitalist England. Throughout this historical period, not only did the bourgeois revolutionaries pursue a policy of patriotism and strong nationalism, but they also dragged with them the nascent proletariat, both of them determined to this policy and to the ideologies deriving from the social necessity to disperse the last feudal bonds. This does not mean, however, that the civil war between the classes contending for power is replaced by the military clash of States and armies. The determining fact of social development remains the struggle between classes, which has been ignited everywhere in successive times, and without this we will not be able to explain the very development of wars, with the new general and mass character of modern militarism.

The Jacobins themselves never removed the center of their attention from the internal struggle, to take it to the “new Thermopylae of France” whose Leonid, Dumouriez, was not slow to betray and end up as a traitor.

The coalitions began when the monarchy, in constitutional form, still had the power, and the extremist revolutionaries accused the monarchists and then the moderate republicans of having provoked the wars: «before declaring war on foreigners, let us destroy the enemies inside... let us make freedom triumph inside and no enemy will dare to attack us: it is with philosophical progress and with the spectacle of the well‑being of France that we will extend the empire of our revolution, not with the force of arms and the calamity of war». The dialectical reality is quite different from the romantic clichés and the rampant romanticization of history. By August 10, 1792, the moderates dominate in the National Legislative Assembly, while the Jacobins hold the General Council of the Commune. The war seems to be over, but the treachery of the monarchical General Lafayette produces the fall of Longwy, that of Verdun (the “Verdun, vile town of comfit makers», to quote Carducci), and arrives in Paris the news that the Prussians of Brunswick are marching to the capital. The Commune rings the tocsin, the people gather and demand weapons, Danton enters the assembly and imposes the measures of military defense. But the sans‑culottes have something more urgent to do than reach the front: before marching with the “epic columns” towards Chalons, they run to the prisons and do justice to the counter-revolutionary defendants that the government is delaying in trying.

It was not “our” revolution, and we do not ask it for models, but we can learn from it. It came from the machine before it came from the guillotine, and Marxism has discovered this, but for its own protagonists and most resolute ideologues it came first from the guillotine than from the cannon; it won the decisive battle at the Temple, not at Valmy or Jemappes.

We know that Marxism has considered the wars of 1792‑1871 as wars of development, normally simply called progressive wars, but without falling into the trap of “defensive wars”. Lenin, in fact, warned that they could also be “wars of aggression”, and that, in hypothetical wars between feudal and bourgeois States, the actions of the progressive side could be justified by Marxists “regardless of who started the war”. The argument was strictly polemical, it was related to the absurdity that the French and German socialists were both for the war under the vile pretext of “defense”: it means: if in a given historical moment a given war was “revolutionary”, it would be supported even if it wasn’t defensive. After all, if it exists, the revolutionary war is exquisitely of attack, of aggression. The dialectical argument beat the low hypocrisy of all the campaigns that mobilize the masses to the warlike infatuation, with the simulation of not preparing and wanting the war, but being forced to reject it as prepared and wanted by the enemy.

Therefore, Marxism has not evaluated the wars between the classic 1792 and 1871 with the moralistic criterion of defense, which is antithetical to its own, but with the criterion regarding the wars’ effects on general development, and many times in its criticism it has considered useful and progressive wars of aggression, such as the Bonapartist war of 1859 and Prussian war of 1866. It is not a question, therefore, of saying that until 1871 the Marxist party was for the “defense of the fatherland” or for the “defense of freedom”, but of something quite different.

After the counter-revolutionary victory of 1848, Marx and Engels not only regretted, as we have said so many times, that the proletariat had not won, but also that there was a historical impediment to the full establishment of bourgeois power throughout Europe. Unfortunately it was clear that the workers and socialists would still have to lend a hand and shed blood for ends that were not directly their own. But this is miles away from accepting, even in propaganda, the principles and concepts of nation, fatherland and democracy proper to the bourgeoisie (as today’s ex‑Marxists shamelessly do). If such a conclusion had been drawn from that historical observation, every policy of class struggle and of the function proper to the proletariat would have collapsed. It’s one thing to say: for the complete establishment of the capitalist system of production there will still be struggles conducted under the flags of patriotic and national ideologies, and the proletariat is interested in the victory of these struggles; it is quite another for the socialists to take up patriotic and national demands themselves. In the period between 1848 and 1871 Marx and Engels held the right path without the slightest doubt; today, when that historical position is not repeated and belongs to a distant past, we see a double betrayal: the lie which falsifies the situation by claiming that the basic conditions of the class struggle are lacking and that it is still necessary to resolve harmful demands for national liberation; and the infamy of conducting these campaigns not as passing historical claims, but with open adherence to the general and anti‑class concepts of national interest, of patriotic duty during any time and any historical phase.

From 1848 onwards Engels is greatly annoyed, for example, that the German bourgeoisie is so cowardly and backwards that it is unable and unwilling to dispose of the feudal residue, and will follow with a patient and widespread analysis the lashes that history will give it in the episodes of ’59, ’66, ’70... But already in 1850, he is merciless when he criticizes the ideology and politics of the democratic refugees Mazzini, Ledru Rollin and the like, and he tears a text of the “European Democratic Central Committee” a new one. They were movements that matched the recent blocs of anti‑Francoist or anti‑fascist emigrants and the propaganda of the entire second imperialist world war, which has soiled us. We hear: «So: progress — association — moral law — freedom — equality — brotherhood — association — family, community, State — sanctity of property, credit, education — God and the people — Dio e popolo»... “Summarized, this gospel teaches a social order in which God forms the apex and the people — or, as is said later, humanity — the base. That is, they believe in society as it exists, in which, as is well known, God is at the apex and the mob at the base». The irony is palpable and the quote need not even be continued. A century exactly has passed. But is the Cominformist propaganda slop fed to the working people today not the exact same?

In the 1874 preface to his Peasants’ War, Engels claims all his rebukes and apostrophes to the deaf German bourgeois, and his dialectical complacency about Solferino, Sadowa, Sedan. A careless person would take him for a precursor of Anschluss. «the following [is] of particular importance for the German working class:[...] Fourth, that the Austro-Germans will now be compelled to ask themselves what they wish to be, Germans or Austrians; whom they wish to adhere to, to Germany or her extraordinary transleithanian appendages». What a racist Engels was! Such good material for the myth of the pan‑Germanist Marx and Engels, similar to the pan‑Slavist Lenin and Trotsky!

The semi‑bourgeois and spurious form of the Berlin State regime after the founding of the Empire does not in the least deflect Marxist critical analysis. For the very fact that not all feudal institutions have disappeared, this type of State can appear to be a less than perfect class dictatorship, such as the bourgeois parliamentary republics themselves are. On this the reactionary speculation of approaching these bastard governments, under the pretext that they are not direct business committees of the industrial class, equivocal movements of worker corporatism. With his admirable historical vision, Engels calls the regime of the Hohenzollern empire Bonapartist after the victory of 1870. In the afore-mentioned preface of 1874 he claims to have already given this definition in The Housing Question of 1872. Such a regime seems, like the first and second Napoleonic dynasties, to have a bureaucratic and military apparatus that is above the classes. But it, Engels explains, has as its foundation the impressive development of capitalism: in Germany in 1874 he highlights the social structure: dizzying industrial development, the rise of a large and conscious proletariat, the transfer from the Second Empire France of not only billions in war indemnities, but also of «the surest sign of industrial prosperity – swindling – has become vrty widespread, and chained countds and dukes to its triumphal chariot».

This analysis could teach a lot to the many who seek the key to current bourgeois forms. But beware, Engels does not propose a campaign for the full democratic form against German Bonapartism on the grounds that this is backward bourgeois form! It was the way to draw Prussia out of the medieval ages, out of still being a “half-feudal” State. Engels’ formulas are always crystal clear: «Bonapartism is, at all events, a modern form of State which presupposes the abolition of feudalism».

Jokingly, Engels puts the end of this stunted bourgeoisification of German power at 1900, but at every step he wishes that proletarian force could soon bring down, in one fell swoop, the nobility, junkers, landlords and bourgeois industrialists.

Arrived at 1914, German economic development has become one of the preeminent facts on the world scene: its data lead Lenin to point it out as one of the typical imperialisms.

Comes the buffoonish international “Mussolinism” and, if not in Italy, in all major countries manages to convince people that the war against the Kaiser is the revolutionary war par excellence, because the German Empire wants, not to contend imperial markets for a very modern industrial apparatus, but to restore the feudal time!

War then for the democratic and bourgeois revolution, always threatened, always to be remade!


The powerful demolition of opportunism due to Lenin and the Third International is based, therefore, on political positions and Marxist directives which declare the phase of struggles for the antithesis of feudalism-capitalism closed. It applies integrally to the evaluation of the second imperialist war that broke out in 1939.

Just as it can be deduced from Engels’ text that the war which followed the situation at the end of the last century could no longer have been a war of liquidation of feudalism, so it can be deduced from Lenin’s text of 1915 that the second imperialist war, or all the others, no less than that which broke out in 1914, could not have been called wars of national defense and liberation anywhere.

Lenin says it explicitly: our task will be rightly accomplished only by the transformation of «the imperialist war into a civil war…. It is impossible to foretell whether a powerful revolutionary movement will flare up during the first or the second war of the great powers, whether during or after it; in any case, our bounden duty is systematically and undeviatingly to work precisely in this direction » (of civil war, of the victorious class struggle).

Just as, therefore, all those who, on whatever side of the front, supported for the 1914 war the policy of defensive war, of national war, of democratic war, by silencing the class struggle for these bourgeois purposes, betrayed the line of Marx and Engels, so all those who in the 1939 war in all bourgeois countries, Germany, France, England, America, Italy, supported the war of the governments, collaborating with them militarily and politically, betrayed in the same way Lenin’s line, that is, like those others, the only proletarian revolutionary line.

In fact, just as they wanted to see the rebirth of the feudalism in German kaiserism, which had become one of the biggest industrial States, the same was said in 1939 about Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. It was also argued that a dissolution of the war in favor of the Germans, and a defeat of the democratic France, England and America, would push history back a century and make the liberal revolution, or rather the bourgeois revolution, necessary again. Just as at that time the blockade and the sacred union with the Western capitalist governments and with the bourgeois parties opposed to the governments of Berlin and Rome were invoked and practiced; on the contrary, by giving oxygen to these oppositions which were practically dead and deserving only of burial, the class struggle and civil war were renounced.

The war was interpreted by the new social-traitors as a “revolutionary” war in the sense of bourgeois revolution. The question has another aspect, which for now this On The Thread of Time article does not deal with: that of the “proletarian revolutionary war” or the so‑called “revolutionary national defense” which would arise after the conquest of power by the workers. Lenin also worked hard against the deceptions and false positions of this thesis, and he had to reprimand the Kamenevs and Zinovievs, and later Bukharin and Stalin above all. Here, however, we shall only take into account the justifications offered for the war in the name of an alleged anti‑feudal and bourgeois “revolution”. It will not be denied that there was a real orgy in the propaganda against the Axis, screamed endlessly from British and American radio. If the anti‑axis propaganda had been based on class motives, first of all we would not have had to go through the phase of the Berlin-Moscow alliance for the Polish partition, and we would not have had the supine acquiescence, which still lasts today, to the apologia of the “national liberation” and, in Italy, for example, of the “second Risorgimento” and the “liberal revolution”; in the was identified the return to power of an assortment of a few idiots, impotent anti‑fascists, ancient anti‑proletarians good-for-nothing, typcal, disgusting Mussolinists coming from the first orgy of war apology, at the rhythm of bourgeois democracy, nostalgic for the far‑off victory of the First World War, which was as usual due to foreign armies, since their highest national achievement was Carporetto.

The bourgeois revolution was in history a serious thing, and gave its imprint to great wars. The last two wars in Europe and Italy were not revolutionary wars, but massacres of slaves of capital.