Following the publication of the Joint Declaration by groups of the Communist Left (International Communist Current, Internationalist Voice, and Istituto Onorato Damen), two public online meetings were held by these groups, one in Italian and one in English, to discuss and clarify the need for the Joint Declaration and the tasks of revolutionaries in the face of imperialist war and new world conditions. The meetings were held in a serious and cordial atmosphere; differences of opinion did not prevent a camaraderie or lively discussion. The significance of the Joint Declaration is that it follows the spirit of the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915, where revolutionaries were able to issue a joint internationalist declaration in the face of World War I. In the 1930s, on the other hand, Italian and Dutch left-wing communists opposed the Spanish War but were unable to issue a joint declaration. Similarly, during the Sino-Japanese War, World War II and the Korean War, internationalist communists failed to issue a joint statement. It is undeniable that today communist left groups do not have the influence that revolutionaries had in 1915. However, a common voice is necessary, not for its immediate consequences, but for the perspective of future battles. It is not possible to reflect the discussions of both sessions in a short article, but we want to give a summary of the topics discussed.
In the Italian-language meeting, all participants, without exception, assessed the nature of war as imperialist and stressed the need to defend internationalism, that is, not to support any of the imperialist camps. Rejecting any pacifist illusions, they saw the working class and the class struggle as the only force capable of opposing the war. The participants, without exception, stressed the importance of the Joint Declaration. The participants believed that although the situation today is not comparable to that of 1915 and the revolutionaries do not have the influence they had on the working class in 1915, the spirit of the Zimmerwald conference, like a compass, is still valid today. The Zimmerwald conference is a reference for revolutionaries, to which they refer in their struggle against the imperialist war. Only one participant declared the reference to the Zimmerwald conference invalid, arguing that the currents that signed the joint declaration do not have the influence of Lenin or Luxemburg on the working class. Others responded that the importance of a joint declaration lies in a common voice of positions internationalists that the currents of the communist left had previously been unable to express in the face of the war.
The fact that other groups of the Communist Left refused to sign the joint declaration reflects the weakness of the proletarian political milieu. The majority of participants deplored the refusal of other left communist groups to refer to Lenin on the need for a common response, despite theoretical differences. In Zimmerwald, participants had differences of opinion and analysis, but this did not prevent them from making a statement in unison. The majority of participants disagreed with the reasons given by Internationalist Communist Tendency for not signing the joint statement. While some of the participants talked about continuing the discussion with ICT to encourage them to sign the joint statement or, at least, to develop joint action with them, others stressed that we should avoid getting into controversial discussions and move on without paying attention to others. In any case, all participants in the meeting shared the view that the No War But the Class War proposal drafted by the ICT represents a huge step backward from their own political tradition, effectively delegating to the working class in general the functions that the revolutionary vanguards should be performing instead.
The participants stressed that it is not possible to fight the war without fighting capitalism. After the war, inflation increased not only in the periphery of capitalism, but also in the metropolitan centers, and thus the cost of living for the proletariat increased, which means that the standard of living of the working class decreased. The living and working conditions of the working class, with the outbreak of the ongoing imperialist war, are bound to worsen, and may induce, in the more or less near future, the proletariat to retaliate against the continuous attacks launched by capital.
Another point of discussion stressed that the struggle of the proletariat can develop in a revolutionary direction only if it is based on the historical continuity of the positions of the Communist Left. Of course, this does not mean that only left communist groups can support these positions, but that they must serve as a point of reference to show the way forward. It was agreed during the discussion that it is the task of revolutionaries to work to build the future international and internationalist party of the proletariat, without which all eventual struggles of the working class will inevitably be doomed to defeat. And this is perspective of the declaration against imperialist war signed by the various adhering groups.
Meeting in English
In the English-language session (in which the comrades of the IOD could not participate), as in the Italian-language session, participants unequivocally assessed the nature of the war as imperialist and, rejecting any peaceful illusions, they saw the working class and the class struggle as the only force that could counter the war. At the meeting, except for the ICT/CWO delegate, participants stressed the importance of the Joint Statement. One participant stated that although he did not fully agree with the Joint Statement, he still supported it. As in the Italian meeting, the participants, with the exception of the ICT/CWO delegate, also put forward that, although the situation today was not comparable to that of 1915 and that revolutionaries did not have the influence they had in the working class in 1915, the spirit of the Zimmerwald Conference has to act as a compass, which is still valid today, a reference point revolutionaries in the struggle against imperialist war.
At the meeting, the ICT (CWO) delegate had the opportunity to state their reasons for refusing to sign the joint statement. He put forward their reasons but their arguments not only did not convince the audience but also fuelled further discussions. The ICT/CWO representative stated that not signing the statement was not a matter of principle, but the ICT/CWO considered the criteria for those who should sign was too narrow. According to the comrade, they want to bring together those who agree with the No War but the Class War initiative. By signing the Joint Statement the ICT would be implicitly endorsing the ICC’s views on parasitism. They work with Controverses and International Group of the Communist Left, and the ICC does not; the ICC has labelled comrades who have been fighting for years as parasites. May be the ICT can pull them back into the Communist Left through the NWBCW.
Several participants who were former members of the ICC rejected the ICT/CWO representative's statement that every militant who leaves the ICC is labelled as a parasite, stating that they have never been deprived of any activity and that comrades of the ICC are always very open to discussion and solidarity. They emphasised that the problem of parasitism is related to behaviour that was not proletarian.
Some participants intervened with criticisms of the NWBCW initiative; however the presidium asked participants to postpone the discussion about NWBCW to the next public meeting. In the discussions, it was argued that the internationalists could not issue a joint statement in the face of the Spanish War, World War II, the Korean War, etc. Today the adoption of the Joint Statement was a blow to sectarianism in the proletarian political milieu and a step forward. At the beginning of the meeting, some comrades who had given credit to the ICT for refusing to sign the Joint Statement became convinced by the discussion of the necessity of the latter. A comrade said in the conclusions that he believed that the discussion was constructive, even if the differences between the ICC and the ICT were significant. These differences need to be articulated more and developed in common discussions. Another participant stated that although he disagreed with some of the CWO's positions, he was convinced that the Communist Left would not be able to carry out its historic tasks without the participation of groups such as the Bordigists or the ICT. According to him it is a pity that they did not understand the importance of this action on the Ukraine war.
The prevailing view at the meeting was that although only a minority of all the groups of the Communist Left signed the Joint Statement, the latter would still become a point of reference in the left communist tradition, to which other groups and militants could refer.
Istituto Onorato Damen
International Communist Current
June 15, 2022