The fight against imperialist war can only be waged with the positions of the communist left

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The indignation and concern felt by the working class faced with the proliferation of increasingly destructive imperialist wars is being expressed in small minorities seeking an internationalist response.

But what is internationalism? In the name of internationalism, the leftist groups - mainly the Trotskyists - ask us to choose a camp among the imperialist gangsters. For them, to choose Palestine in the name of the "national liberation of the peoples" would be the most internationalist answer! So, they sell us an “internationalism” which is its opposite, because internationalism means fighting against all imperialist camps, for the international class struggle, for the perspective of world revolution which alone can end war.

There are other views of internationalism: anarchists tend to reduce it to a rejection: rejection of armies, rejection of military service, rejection of wars in general. These visions do not go to the root of the problem, which is the decadence of capitalism and its dynamic of destruction of the planet and of all humanity.

It is therefore necessary, first, to clarify what internationalism is, drawing on the historical experience of the proletariat.

Only the working class can end war by putting an end to capitalism

The struggle against war cannot be left to men of goodwill or peace-loving, wise politicians... the struggle against war is a class question. Only the working class bears with it the communist perspective, the force and the interests that allow it to put an end to war.

That is why we say in our Third International Manifesto "Of all the classes in society, the most affected and hardest hit by war is the proletariat. ‘Modern’ war is waged by a gigantic industrial machine which demands a great intensification of the exploitation of the proletariat. The proletariat is an international class that HAS NO HOMELAND, but war is the killing of workers for the homeland that exploits and oppresses them. The proletariat is the class of consciousness; war is irrational confrontation, the renunciation of all conscious thought and reflection. The proletariat has an interest in seeking the clearest truth; in wars the first casualty is truth, chained, gagged, suffocated by the lies of imperialist propaganda. The proletariat is the class of unity across barriers of language, religion, race or nationality; the deadly confrontation of war compels the tearing apart, the division, the confrontation between nations and populations".

Internationalism is the most consistent expression of the consciousness and historical interest of the proletariat.

We can find the foundation stone of internationalism in the Principles of Communism of 1847, where in point XIX, Friedrich Engels asks, “Is a revolution possible in one only country?” and his answer is clear: “No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilised peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others. Further, it has coordinated the social development of the civilised countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilised countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany. It will develop in each of these countries more or less rapidly, according as one country or the other has a more developed industry, greater wealth, a more significant mass of productive forces. Hence, it will go slowest and will meet most obstacles in Germany, most rapidly and with the fewest difficulties in England. It will have a powerful impact on the other countries of the world and will radically alter the course of development which they have followed up to now, while greatly stepping up its pace. It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range.”

The Communist Manifesto reaffirms and deepens this principle, proclaiming “the proletariat has no fatherland, proletarians of the world unite!”

In the sixties of the 19th century, Marx and Engels combatted the pan-Slavism that opposed the international unity of the working class and argued that the support for certain national wars could accelerate the conditions for world revolution, but not in the name of a so-called “national right”. This was the case with the Civil War in US and the German / French war of 1870. As Lenin said in his pamphlet Socialism and War, written just before the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915: “The war of 1870 was a ‘progressive war’ like those of the French revolution, which while they undoubtedly brought with them all the elements of pillage and conquest, had the historic function of destroying or shaking feudalism and absolutism throughout the old Europe still founded on serfdom"[1].

The Second International faced a clear change in wars that increasingly took on an imperialist character. So, in 1900, in the Paris Congress, it adopted the position that: "the socialist deputies to Parliament in all countries are required to vote against all military and naval expenditure, and against colonial expeditions".

But the increasing gravity of imperialist tensions, expressing the starting point of the decadence of capitalism and the necessity for proletarian world revolution, raised the need to make internationalism not only a defensive position of rejection of war – a position in which the majority of the Second International tended to remain - but to make the fight against war the fight for the destruction of capitalism. That’s why in the Stuttgart Congress (1907), faced with a proposed resolution on war by August Bebel, formally correct but too timid and limited, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Martov proposed an amendment, which in the end was adopted, that insisted on the need “to profit in every way from the economic and political crisis to raise the people and so to precipitate the fall of capitalist rule"

By the same token the Extraordinary Congress of Basel (1912) denounced a possible European war as "criminal" and "reactionary" and declared that it could only "hasten the fall of capitalism by unfailingly provoking the proletarian revolution".

However, the majority of parties of the 2nd International “denounced war above all for its horrors and atrocities, because the proletariat provided the cannon fodder for the ruling class. The Ilnd International's anti-militarism was purely negative (…) In particular, the ban on voting war credits did not resolve the problem of the ‘defense of the country’ against the attack of an ‘aggressor nation’. This is the breach through which the pack of social-chauvinists and opportunists poured[2]

Faced with the limitations of the majority position in the parties of the Second International, their confusions on the national question and even the colonialism of Hyndman of the Social Democratic Federation in Britain, only the Left of the Second International, especially the Bolsheviks and Rosa Luxembourg, defended internationalism against imperialist war and were for world proletarian revolution. They made it clear that internationalism is the frontier that separates communists from all parties and organisations that defend capitalist war.

The combat at Zimmerwald

The response to the First World War made a clear demarcation between the internationalism of a small minority in the Social Democratic Parties against the majority chauvinism that destroyed the Second International. The internationalists regrouped in the Zimmerwald conferences that started in Septembe1915.

But Zimmerwald was only a point of departure because it also expressed huge confusion. The Zimmerwald movement was the emanation of the parties of the moribund 2nd International that had collapsed in 1914 and therefore brought together a completely heterogeneous range of forces, united only by a general rejection of the war, but lacking a real internationalist programme.

There were the advocates of an impossible return to a pre-World War I capitalism, who called for "peace" and wanted to confine the struggle to parliament, by abstaining or refusing to vote on war credits (Ledebour of the SPD). There were those who were simply pacifists; there was a wavering centrist wing (Trotsky, Spartacists) and, finally, the clear and determinate minority around Lenin and the Bolsheviks, the Zimmerwald Left.

As our article in International Review 155 says: “in the context of Zimmerwald, the right was represented not by the ‘social chauvinists’, to use Lenin’s term, but by Kautsky and his consorts – all those who later formed the right wing of the USPD - whereas the left was made up of the Bolsheviks and the center by Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg’s Spartacus group. The process which led towards the revolution in Russia and Germany was marked precisely by the fact that a large part of the ‘centre’ was won over to the positions of the Bolsheviks[3].

From the beginning, only the Bolsheviks put forward a genuine and consistent internationalist response defending three key points:

  • Only the destruction of capitalism could end imperialist war.
  • Only the proletarian class fighting for the world revolution could fulfil this task.
  • It was not possible to return to the Second International. A new International, the Third International, was needed and should be founded as soon as possible.

They led a stubborn and steadfast fight around these three points. They were aware of the confusion that reigned in the "Zimmerwald movement" and that this swampy terrain of eclecticism, of the coexistence of "fire and water", led to the disarmament of the anti-war struggle and the weakening of the maturing revolutionary perspective, with the workers in Russia at its head.

It’s true that Bolsheviks signed the compromise Zimmerwald Manifesto in 1915, but this did not mean the acceptance of this confusion, particularly the pacifist tone of the Manifesto, but a recognition that it could, by denouncing the social patriots to the whole working class, be a first step in the adoption of an intransigently internationalist line, leading towards a new International. By retaining their critiques of Zimmerwald centrism the Bolsheviks could continue the necessary process of decantation. Given the results of the Zimmerwald conference, the Bolsheviks adopted the following decisions:

- presenting a much clearer draft of the Manifesto than the adopted draft.

- creating their own press organ which regrouped the Left of Zimmerwald.

- waging an intransigent polemic against the different exponents of the right and centrist wing: Plekhanov, Martov and specially Kautsky’s centrism that was even more dangerous than open social-chauvinism.

Today the Internationalist Communist Tendency and certain parasitic groups pretend to be the followers of Zimmerwald. They put a lot of “likes” to Zimmerwald. However, its meaning has been deliberately obscured or even reversed by the ICT and parasitic elements disguised as internationalists. For the ICT the goal of Zimmerwald was supposedly aimed at regrouping as many as possible of those who were against the war as a practical means of organising the masses. “This is not the time for picking and choosing among those who oppose the war on the basis of a revolutionary programme. In the first place, just as before Zimmerwald, all revolutionary and internationalist energies are worth the effort of regroupment. But more than this, the example of France was significant with the Committee for the Resumption of International Relations (Comité pour la Reprise des Relations Internationales - CRRI), which led the most activity and was the heart of the workers’ opposition to the war. From its inception it regrouped revolutionary syndicalists, as well as militants of the Socialist Party, the section of the International which had failed. Indeed, the raison d'être of the CRRI was its opposition to the war and to the Sacred Union, to bring together different opponents of them, having come from syndicalism, socialism and anarchism[4] .Clearly this distortion and contempt for the facts is aimed at justifying the opportunism of the No War But the Class War (NWBCW) enterprise[5]. Unlike the Bolsheviks, who despite being in a small minority insisted on the rejection of pacifism, the rejection of the attempt to resuscitate the Second International, and on the struggle for the world party. The guiding principle of the Bolsheviks was to develop a “line of work” for the working class in the epoch of imperialist wars, against the morass of centrist confusion, even if it meant, at the time, numerical isolation.

Zimmerwald was not a collection of “anti-war” elements, as the ICT and parasites claim, even if at the beginning it was still conceived as a grouping within the Social Democratic parties at a time when the latter were still the political reference point of the whole proletariat. The orientation taken by the Bolsheviks was the struggle to overcome this confusion and move towards the formation of the Third International. Zimmerwald was understood to be on a class terrain. But a process of decantation was nevertheless taking place which led the centrists into the counter-revolution, and therefore supporting their own national bourgeoisie, while the intransigent Left remained as the only internationalist proletarian current.

The combat of the Zimmerwald Left was validated in practice by the October proletarian Revolution in 1917 which made the internationalist slogan “turn the imperialist war into a civil war” into a reality. The immediate withdrawal by the new Soviet regime from the Entente imperialist alliance in the midst of the First World War, and the publication of the secret treaties on who would gain what in the event of their victory, sent shock waves through the world bourgeoisie, while the revolutionary upsurge of the European working class was given a tremendous impetus, reflected in the near success of the German revolution and the formation of the Communist International in 1919.

The combat of the Communist Left

If the path of internationalism in the First World War was through the struggle of the Left against the opportunism of the social-chauvinists and centrists, the continuity with that path in the 20s and 30s was through the struggle of the Communist Left against the degeneration of the Communist International in the 20s and subsequently against that of the Trotsky’s Left Opposition in the 30s. The Comintern, because of the isolation and degeneration of the revolution in Russia, more and more capitulated to the social chauvinists of the disinterred Social Democracy, expressed in the policy of United Fronts and Workers’ Governments. The policy of the 3rd International became increasingly the extension of the interests of the Russian state in place of the needs of the international revolution, which contributed to the defeats of the latter in Germany, Britain, China. A policy that was consolidated in the Comintern’s adoption of the nationalist slogan of Socialism in One Country in 1928, and the complete capitulation of the Russian state to the game of world imperialism with the entry of Russia into the League of Nations in 1934.

The Communist Left was the first to oppose this tendency, particularly the tradition of the Italian Communist Left, that was eventually excluded from the Communist Party of Italy and the Communist International. It formed a Fraction in exile and subsequently an international Fraction of the Communist Left.

The combat of Bilan

The defeat of the international revolutionary wave by 1928 opened a course toward another imperialist world war, and it was only the Communist Left which remained true to the internationalist struggle of the revolutionary proletariat, both in the lead-up the Second World War and during and after the war itself.

Bilan drew a clear line of demarcation against the Left Opposition around Trotsky on the key question of the defense of USSR, a position that helped drag the Trotskyist current into supporting the imperialist war:

"We consider that in the event of war the proletariat of all countries, including Russia, would have the duty of concentrating its forces with a view to transforming the imperialist war into a civil war. The participation of the USSR in a war of robbery would not alter its essential character and the proletarian state could only sink under the blows of the social contradictions which such participation would entail. The Bolshevik-Leninists leave the terrain of Marxism when they urge the proletariat to sacrifice its struggle for world revolution in exchange for a defence of the USSR" (Bilan nº 10, August 1934)

Nevertheless, the internationalist litmus test for the revolutionary groups and fractions who had been expelled from the degenerating Comintern was the war in Spain from 1936, where the conflict between the republican and fascist wings of the Spanish bourgeoisie became the terrain for a proxy battle between the contending imperialist powers Britain and France, Russia, Germany and Italy. Yet the Trotskyists who had been excluded from the Communist Parties notably for their attempts to defend internationalism, now, in the name of anti-fascism, defended ‘critically’ the republican side and thus betrayed the proletariat, which they encouraged to choose sides in this inter-bourgeois and inter-imperialist dress rehearsal for the Second World War.

Bilan had to combat this tendency to capitulation that was dragging down the proletarian groups. Its uncompromising loyalty to internationalism led it to a dramatic isolation: only small groups in Belgium or Mexico joined its fight.

The combat of Internationalisme (GCF)

However, the Communist Left itself wasn’t immune from the dangers of opportunism. A minority of the Italian Fraction broke with the latter and its internationalist principles and joined the anti-fascist war in Spain.

And the Second World War found the Italian Fraction in disarray, with its most notable representative, Vercesi, claiming that the proletariat had disappeared and the political struggle for internationalism was no longer viable. It was only with extreme difficulty - caught between the Gestapo and the resistance - that a part of the Italian Fraction managed to regroup in the South of France and proclaim the internationalist positions of the Communist Left, that is against both imperialist camps, whether “fascist” or “anti-fascist” in ideology.

Separately, in 1943, the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (PCInt) was formed in Northern Italy, after the overthrow of Mussolini, and continued the internationalist policy of the Communist Left. However, neglecting the critique of the opportunism of the Comintern by the Italian Fraction in exile, and ignoring the aim of learning the lessons of a period of defeat for the proletariat, including internationalist intransigence in front of the war in Spain, the PCInt returned to the policy of “going to the masses” and imagined that it could turn the Partisans in Italy, that is those anti-fascist forces working on behalf of allied imperialism, into genuine internationalists[6].

While the PCInt prematurely abandoned the necessary international fraction work against this opportunist drift, the Communist Left of France (Gauche Communiste de France, which published Internationalisme) resolutely continued the work of the Fraction, elaborated the positions that Bilan had begun to develop. The GCF clearly denounced the false opposition Fascism v Democracy which had been the banner of mobilisation for imperialist slaughter, while after the Second World War and in the face of the new imperialist configuration (the struggle between the USA and the USSR) it denounced the additional means of enlistment for war: the "national liberation" of the "oppressed peoples" (Vietnam, Palestine etc).

We can conclude that only the Communist Left has remained loyal to the proletariat by defending internationalism against the innumerable military massacres that have bloodied the planet since 1914.That is why in our Third International Manifesto we say “In serious historical situations such as far-reaching wars like the one in Ukraine, the proletariat can see who its friends are and who are its enemies. These enemies are not only the major figures such as Putin, Zelensky or Biden, but also the parties of the extreme right, right, left and extreme left, who, with a wide range of arguments, including pacifism, support and justify the war and the defense of one imperialist camp against another.

The only political current that has survived the defeat of this revolutionary wave and maintained the militant defense of internationalist principle has been the Communist Left. In the thirties, it preserved this fundamental working class line during the Spanish war and the Sino-Japanese war while other political currents like the Stalinists, Trotskyists or Anarchists chose their imperialist camp that instigated these conflicts. The Communist Left maintained its internationalism during the Second World War while these other currents participated in the imperialist carnage that was dressed up as a fight between ‘fascism and anti-fascism’ and/or defence of the ‘Soviet’ Union” (Appeal to the Communist Left).

The critical historical continuity of the communist positions defended and developed during the last century by the Communist Left is the only one capable of providing a body of analysis (nature of capitalism, decadence, imperialism, war economy, capitalist decomposition etc.), a continuity in the debates and in the intervention in the class, a coherence that provides the weapons of struggle for the world communist revolution against all manifestations of capitalist barbarism and above all, imperialist war.

The combat waged by the ICC

Against the infamous carnage in Ukraine the ICC proposed a Common Declaration of the Communist Left which was signed by 3 other groups. In the face of the new imperialist barbarism in Gaza we have made an Appeal to make a common declaration against all imperialist powers, against the calls for national defense behind the exploiters, against the hypocritical pleas for “peace”, and for the proletarian class struggle that leads to the communist revolution.

All the forces of the bourgeoisie (parties, trade unions, institutions such as churches, the UN etc.) call on the proletarians to choose a camp among the imperialist bandits, to accept the terrible sacrifices that the war dynamic of capitalism imposes, in short, to become themselves caught in the machinery of war and destruction that leads to the annihilation of the planet and the whole of humanity. Only the voice of the Communist Left clearly rises up against this concert of the dead.

The Joint Statement and Appeal of the ICC to the sectarian and opportunist proletarian political milieu today is in continuity of the attitude of the Bolsheviks at Zimmerwald towards the centrists. The Communist Left groups are the only minimum solid class terrain for an internationalist perspective today. Yet the Communist Left groups descending from the PCInt refused to sign the common proposals. But if these groups had signed the common statements this would have acted as a political beacon for emerging revolutionary forces and could have opened a more intense process of political decantation. The Joint Statement and Appeal[7] was intended to be an initial step towards the necessary political decantation that the formation of the future party will demand.

The war waged by the bourgeoisie against internationalism

The bourgeoisie needs to silence the internationalist voice of the Communist Left. To this end, it conducts a covert, sly war. In this war it does not openly uses the repressive bodies of the state or the big media. Given the small size, the reduced influence, the division, and dispersion of the groups of the Communist Left, the bourgeoisie uses the services of the parasites.

The parasites claim to be internationalist, rejecting the different sides by grandiloquent declarations, but all their efforts are focused on denigrating, slandering, and denouncing genuinely internationalist groups like the ICC. We are talking about snitches and gangsters like the “International Group of the Communist Left” who use "internationalist" verbiage as their passport to attack communist organisations. Their methods are slander, denunciation, provocation, accusations of "Stalinism" against the ICC. They proclaim that our organisation is "outside the Communist Left" and to "fill the vacuum" they shamelessly flatter the ICT by offering it the throne of the "vanguard of the Communist Left". It is thus a question of creating division within the Communist Left and shamelessly using the sectarianism and opportunism of the ICT to turn it even more strongly against the clearest and most consistent organisation of the Communist Left, the ICC.

The parasitic coterie, a chaotic jumble of groups, and personalities, uses an indigestible rehash of the positions of the Communist Left in order to attack the actual Communist Left, to falsify and denigrate it. This attack comes in different flavours.

On the one hand, there is the blog first called New Course and then disguised as Comunia which tries to pull the wool over our eyes: it uses the confused positions, due to an incomplete break with Trotskyism, of a genuine revolutionary, Munís[8], to present us with a fake Communist Left, completely adulterated and falsified. This enterprise of impersonation promoted by the adventurer Gaizka[9] was for some time unreservedly supported by the parasitic IGCL

Another front in the war against the Communist Left comes from a farce of a conference held in Brussels, where several parasitic personalities and groupuscules have as a “common ground, which no doubt they would prefer to keep under wraps: it is the conviction that marxism and the acquisitions of the Communist Left over the last hundred years are obsolete and must be ‘supplemented’ or even ‘surpassed’ by recourse to various anarcho-councilist, modernist or radical ecologist theories. That's why they call themselves ‘pro-revolutionaries’, seeing themselves as a kind of ‘a friendly association for the spreading the idea of revolution’. Their message is that the working class must ‘start again’ and under the din of wars, the waves of inflation and misery, the orgy of destruction, wait patiently for these ‘pro-revolutionary’ denizens of the salon to use their incredible brains to come up with some idea on ‘how to fight capitalism’"[10].

The opportunism of the ICT on the question on the struggle against the war

The war of the bourgeoisie against internationalism finds a point of support in the sectarian and opportunist position of the ICT.

The ICT denounce imperialist war, reject all sides in the conflicts, and defend the proletarian revolution as the only way out. But this internationalism runs the risk of remaining pure words, because, on the one hand, they refuse to fight against the war in union with the other groups of the Communist Left (for example, by refusing to participate in the Common Declaration proposed by the ICC from the beginning of the war in Ukraine or by also rejecting the Appeal we have made in the face of the war in Gaza). In the same way, giving internationalism an elasticity that ends up breaking or diluting it, it advocates fronts (for example, the NWBCW) which can fit leftist groups that are "internationalist" in the face of one military conflict but chauvinist in response to another, or confused groups that have a false conception of internationalism.

This sectarian and opportunist position is not new - it has almost 80 years of history as we have seen above in relation to the origins of the PCInt. With the historical recovery of the proletariat since 1968, both the Bordigist groups coming from the PCInt and the Damenist branch, predecessor of the present ICT, display on the one hand the sectarianism of refusing any declaration or common action against the imperialist war proposed by the ICC, and on the other hand collaboration with confused groups or groups clearly situated in the terrain of the bourgeoisie.

So, the ICT, with the sectarianism and opportunism that are in its genes, has rejected all the joint action of the Communist Left proposed by the ICC against imperialist war - since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 - up to an including the wars in Ukraine and Gaza!

At the same it has created fronts like the No War But the Class War with the argument that that the field of the Communist Left is too narrow and that it barely reaches the working class.

The alleged “narrowness” of the Communist Left leads the ICT to “widen the field of internationalism” by calling for anarchist, semi-Trotskyist, parasitic groups from a more or less leftist-infested swamp to join NWBCW. Thus, the programmatic identity, the historical tradition, the fierce struggle of more than a century, carried out by the Communist Left is denied by an “enlargement" which, in reality, means dilution and confusion.

But, at the same time, real internationalism is trampled underfoot because these "internationalists" are not always internationalists, they are internationalists against some wars, while against others they keep silent or support them more or less openly. Their arguments against war contain numerous illusions in pacifism, humanism, inter-classism. This can be seen in the ICT's attitude towards the Anarchist Communist Group in Britain (ACG). It welcomes this group's stance on the war in Ukraine, but at the same time "regrets" its contrary position on the war in Gaza.

The ICT in its opportunist eagerness to "unite" all those who say "something against the war" blurs the demarcation that must exist between the Communist Left that effectively fights against the war and all the other fauna:

  1. Those who are circumstantially opposed to this or that war (as Bilan said "The character of a war is not given by the specific nature of each of the States participating in it, but results from the character of the conflict as a whole. This fact must impel us to take a unified, general and analogous position for all countries, with regard to war". nº 8, June 1934);
  2. Those who oppose war in general. These gentlemen reject that «the working class can know and claim only one type of war: civil war directed against the oppressors in each State and ending in insurrectional victory» (Bilan nº 16, March 1935).

The ICT want to maintain confusion because it argues “What we do not think internationalists should be doing is attacking each other. We have always held the view that old polemics would be resolved or made irrelevant by the appearance of a new class movement[11].

No! Such an approach is radically antagonistic to that of the Bolsheviks in Zimmerwald. Lenin regarded this meeting of "internationalists in general" as a "puddle" and led an uncompromising struggle to separate the truly internationalist position from this puddle of confusion which blocked the consistent struggle against the war.
Lenin and the Bolsheviks showed that the "Zimmerwald majority" practiced a "façade internationalism"; their opposition to the war was more empty posturing than real combat. By the same token, we must warn against the present internationalism of the ICT. It is true that the ICT has not betrayed internationalism, but its internationalism is becoming more and more formal and abstract, tending to become an empty shell by which the ICT covers up its sabotage of the struggle for the party, its complicity with parasitism, its collaboration with snitches, its growing connivance with leftism.


Como & C.Mir 22-12-23


[1] However, it is necessary to point out that after the Paris Commune and the collaboration of the French and Prussian bourgeoisies in its suppression, Marx came to the conclusion that this marked the end of progressive national wars in the central countries of capitalism.

[2] Bilan nº 21 August 1936

[9] Who is who in “Nuevo Curso”? ICConline, January 2020


The fight against opportunism