Against the War While the War Goes On
(from L’Avanguardia, 25 August 1912)
There are comrades whose opinion on the war can be summarized in these terms: The war did not have to be waged but now that we are involved in it how can one oppose it?
Whoever says this evidently believes it desirable - and in the interests of the proletariat - that the war ends well and be crowned by the success and glory for the Italian armies. I think this is an out and out concession to nationalism and derives from the false concept of the interests of the proletariat which many have and has led many comrades to the most aberrant degenerations of socialism.
When socialism affirms the solidarity of the exploited workers, transforming the interests of each of them into the collective interests of the class, it even goes as far as subordinating the wellbeing of some individuals to the collective good, evoking sentiments of self-renunciation and self-sacrifice among the proletarians most aware of the class’s future. In exactly the same way the present-day interests of the workers are transformed into the future good of the entire proletariat, and the socialist masses become capable of collective renunciation of today’s small conquests in view of the grand conquest of tomorrow.
It logically turns out therefore that socialism must oppose all of those movements which can stave off the emancipation of the proletariat by extinguishing its class consciousness, even when they represent in some manner an improvement in its present conditions.
Today the war prevents and slows the grand revolutionary conquest of the working classes and snuffs out socialist consciousness within them in two essential ways.
Firstly the war sanctions the principle of violence and collective chauvinism as primary sources of progress and civilization, idealizing brutal force, and attempting likewise to destroy our vision of a society based on harmony and fraternity of humanity, and contrasting the logic of the evolution of social relations in the sense of abolition of the right of the strongest (and here one remembers that we, in contrast to the frail bourgeois pacifists and... Tripoli fans, don’t deny that in certain historical circumstances violence can be an inevitable factor of evolution).
Secondly then the war has another effect: deceiving the masses that their well-being comes from the well-being of the nation, from its strength or worthiness, and that for this aim they must renounce social dissent, conjuring up in them artificial patriotic idealism, it ensures the bourgeoisie its class domination so long as it induces in the workers the rejection of struggle against the insatiable exploitation that bleeds them dry in their homeland and sends them to be slaughtered by foreigners. We therefore reduce the problem to its schematic terms: war and exaltation of the nation, glorification of collective criminality, the lulling to sleep of the class struggle, departure from the demand for proletarian rights and social transformation. We continue logically: If the war is victorious and triumphant for the nation, the proletariat will suffer from it, not directly, but by the indefinite postponement of his revenge. That’s why we are against the war in theory, and oppose it in practice, unscrupulous to compromise with the national government by violating the unity of the nation.
All the other anti-Tripoline arguments are accessory. When we say that the war is long and difficult, that the diplomatic situation is obscure, that the colonization of Tripoli is a myth and that the consequence of all of this will be the damage and the ruin of the Italian economy and politics, we must not even make the listener suppose that if Turkey had succumbed in ten days, and Tripolitania was an Eden, that we would be less averse to this war. If this were to happen, woe betide for the future of the proletariat in Italy!
The factual objections we make to the advisability of the war have their importance only for demonstrating this: in some instances the bourgeoisie has interests in causing significant harm to the nation, rushing it into a useless war, so long as it bears the fruit of a revival of patriotism and the consequent mitigation of the class struggle. This proves the bad faith of the early proponents of the war, and gives us the other side of the critique of nationalism, which we can summarise thusly: The interests of the nation are not the interests of the working class.
They are, then, not even those of the bourgeois class, which does not hesitate to bring harm to the fatherland, so long as it can wave its flag in front of the eyes of the proletariat. Thus no common interests exist between the master and the slave; the concept of the nation and all patriotic idealism are pure sophistry, and the reality of history consists in the social struggle between classes.
Across the entire planet, the proletariat loyally and openly struggles against the exploitation of capital. But the bourgeoisie, who attempts to tame it in the name of the fatherland, approaches the opponent smiling, throwing down his sword, in order to treacherously plant the dagger in his heart.
Religion is a weapon of social domination, and the same applies to patriotism. We are heretics of the patriotic religion. Dare we mention Gustavo Hervé? Today the Rights call Filippo Turati a Hervéist.