On the Thread of Time
Workers’ Parties Faced with Foreign Policy
Battaglia Comunista, no.2 of 1949
It was customary – before the other war – to define the position of the workers’ parties regarding international relations between States with the phrase: "Socialists don’t engage in foreign policy".
Needless to say, this expression was inadequate. It was meant to get back to the Marxist theoretical position that seeks the key to history no longer in the clashes between kings, generals and potentates but in the economic relations that arose in the field of production. The contrast between the simple-minded indifferentism of that expression with the previous acute analyses of Marx and Engels on the contrasts and conflicts between the various strata of the bourgeoisie, especially in the period following that of the acute civil war of 1848, and the wars of national settlement of 1859 and 1870, is obvious, as is the evident inadequacy of the attitude of the Second International on the problems of imperialism, in the face of colonial wars and world conflicts, with great unexpected upheavals to which the socialist parties reacted in an unhappy and defeatist way.
If at that time the moderate elements of the proletarian movement were satisfied with that comfortable negative norm, the extreme ones fell into a different but equally naive over-simplification, preaching anti-militarism as an end in-itself and linked to the mysticism of Sorelian syndicalism. Hervé (who at the time of the test (the war) became even more patriotic and chauvinist than the right-wing socialists) in his Guerre Sociale (Social War) proposed as a program the individual refusal of conscription – a revolutionary action, yes, but not separable from the whole revolutionary struggle for power – and wanted to plant the drapeau tricolore dans le fumier, “the tricolored flag in the manure”.
The whole problem was otherwise brought into clear focus in the fundamental Leninist critique of both the economic facts characteristic of the then most recent capitalism, and of the betrayal of the proletariat by the parliamentary and union leaders on both sides of the front in the 1914 war. The theoretical inadequacies led to irreparable tactical defeats; however, it’s better to say that one should not engage in foreign policy than to prostitute the class struggle in the Sacred Union, in the defense of the fatherland; it’s better the naive Hervéism of the bourgeois flag in the dung than the unbelievable swigs of Monturism, of marshals and generals attitudes than the most recent red traineurs de sabre, from the Balkans to China.Today
If the old parties, abstentionists in world diplomacy and foreign policy, were made bankrupt in 1914 with national conciliation, the new ones in the new war have not been able, after having boasted of a different ability of evaluating the real world-historical problems, to submissively lay down themselves to the demands of this or that military General Staff, and speak to the masses of nation, fatherland, war and popular army.
After the Second World War, ninety percent (at the very least) of their attention and their political work was focused on the new antagonism, on the new rift that had arisen in the bosom of that sacred bloc that stood for the salvation not only of "freedom" and "democracy" but also of the proletariat and socialism, so much so that millions upon millions of workers were sent to immolate themselves in either the official or irregular war against the myth of fascist barbarism.
Today the two quarreling groups are preparing, should they not manage to bind themselves in a prolonged compromise, for which the working class would pay the full cost, for the ideological campaign to accuse each other of the crime of "fascism", sadistically anticipating being able to deploy for the third time, on the fronts of an even more ferocious war, the proletarian masses, no less well organized for this purpose on one side and on the other by their self-titled “communist” and “socialist” parties.
In Italy the leaderships of the parties that claim to be proletarian only engage in agitation for the sake of foreign political influences, they do not fight on the journalistic, electoral, parliamentary or even street terrain other than to make propaganda in favor of this or that foreign political influence on the worthless State of the Italian bourgeoisie.
The right-wing socialists are very busy working for economic pacts with overseas capitalism and apply Marxism to demonstrate that it’s a matter of doing brilliant business by mortgaging Italian industry, commerce and agriculture, but without doing the same for the Italian political and military order, as if those two things weren’t the exact same and as if the trips to take orders from ministers and chiefs-of-staff didn’t mean anything.
The pro-Russian socialists are true masters in foreign policy, and they can boast of the Nenni who, in the not always clean shadows of emigration and in the subtleties of four-way games, matured the preparation to take up the inheritance of SanGiulianos and Sonninos.
The “Communists” continue to emphasize the increasingly ill-fated action of breaking our country’s enslavement to America, a completely absurd postulate down to its roots because they themselves only rose to the political influence and portions of power they had and have due to the sweet funding of American cannons and dollars. They consider the replacements of the Sforzas or the Marshalls as matters of first importance. They too have given themselves up to militant diplomacy, which is a very amusing fact, and it can be seen that, just as every soldier of Napoleon carried his marshal’s staff in his cartridge box, the Reales, the Griecos and Scoccimarros hid their cocked hats and dress swords to value their insignificant existence.
Right now, one can in fact say "workers’ parties don’t engage in domestic politics" instead. And indeed, on all questions of economy and domestic policies, not only have they done nothing, but they don’t know how to say anything, besides those actions that dream of being clever but are only emetic, as they changing course not in forty years but in forty days, like the ones they have shown us on the question of the Monarchy, the Church, the administrative system and so on, up to the absolute nothings of agricultural, industrial and social "reforms".
As for the central programmatic problem of power, which they dust off every now and then by accusing the
government (when, for Marx, it was the State!) of De Gasperi of being the business committee of the capitalists
(1), their dream is just to return and cover some of the posts and affairs in exactly that
committee without any
change in its function, just like the Scelbians, the prefects, the quaestors and the State and Commissary
officials of the new Italy, that of Cavour, of Giolitti, of Mussolini, of Badoglio, of Bonomi, the same State as
always, the same State to which we once naively said: whatever your diplomatic commitment and military alliance,
be it West or East, our job is to turn you upside down.
1. The correct quote would be: “from the most selfish groups of industrial and agrarian capitalism”. There are, in the beautiful republican Italy – apparently – the unselfish ones, and maybe the subscribe to L’Unità [daily paper of the Italian Communist Party]