Two years on from the Joint Statement of the Communist Left on the war in Ukraine

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A first balance sheet of our appeals to the Communist Left to make a joint statement on the current imperialist conflicts.

In late February 2022 the ICC proposed a Joint internationalist statement against the imperialist war in Ukraine to the other groups of the Communist Left. These groups are the political descendants of the only proletarian political current that fought against both fascist and democratic imperialist camps in the 2nd World War and thus the only one that can still claim today a continuity in both words and deeds with proletarian internationalism.

In the two years following this statement the ICC also proposed a similar ‘Appeal' to the same groups concerning the war in Gaza that erupted at the end of 2023. (For the sake of brevity we will refer to both of them as joint statements). In this case, the only group to adhere to our Appeal was Internationalist Voice.

What lessons can we draw from this initiative that can guide us in a period in which imperialist carnage will inevitably increase and spread?

Of the six groups addressed, two agreed with the proposed joint statement, with one group, Internationalist Communist Perspective (Korea), whose origins are not in the Communist Left, supporting it.

At first sight then these internationalist initiatives of the ICC don't seem to have been a success since they didn’t lead to a united response of the entire or even majority of the Communist Left currents, a response that would have provided a beacon of genuinely communist internationalism to all those workers looking for their class alternative to the imperialist slaughter.

The lack of short-term success of the ICC initiatives will no doubt confirm the illusions of those who, deriding the initiative as ‘speaking to the converted’, thought that it was possible today to create a wider ‘anti-war movement’ that could put an end to imperialism by ‘doing something now’ and bringing together as many people as possible of whatever political persuasion or probity in a period of working class disorientation on this question of war. The failure of such activist illusions and projects have either led or will inevitably lead to passivity, confusion and ‘burn out’, or worse, to ending up choosing one of other of the imperialist camps - critically of course.

In reality the experience of the ICC initiatives has important longer-term lessons in advancing a political line of work that must lead to the future party of the working class and the overthrow of world capitalism, which is the only way that imperialist war can be brought to an end. In other words success or failure is in the last analysis measured with a historical yardstick, not a short-term impression.

Let’s compare these two ICC initiatives of the last two years to similar internationalist appeals to the Communist Left for common work stretching back to 1979 at the time of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. On all previous occasions between then and now, the ICC’s proposals for a joint internationalist statement had never got off the ground and gone beyond the concept stage, because the principle itself of such a public declaration of unity was summarily rejected or ignored by the other groups.

For the first time, the proposal for a joint statement on Ukraine elicited positive responses from two other groups. After one of these groups, the Istituto Onorato Damen, proposed that the ICC draft such a joint statement; the latter subsequently agreed and the text was printed and distributed by the press of the three groups as a leaflet or articles, and served as the basis for joint public meetings and other interventions[1].

This step forward, miniscule as it may appear, prompted certain other advances which shouldn’t go unnoticed:

  • one of the refusers of the joint work - the Internationalist Communist Tendency - for the first time engaged in a lengthy correspondence with the ICC over the validity of their reasons for their refusal, which became a polemic of sorts that was worthy of publication to clarify to a wider readership the responsibilities of the Communist Left as a whole faced with the growth of imperialist war.
  • The co-signatories of the Joint Statements agreed to produce a discussion bulletin in which the differences of analysis between the participating groups could be elaborated and confronted. So far two editions of these bulletins have appeared, which have included the contributions of a relatively new Communist Left group - Internationalist Voice.
  • The meaning of Zimmerwald and the Zimmerwald left in World War 1 and its connection with internationalism today came under greater scrutiny.
  • The Joint Statements threw into relief the nature of a principled internationalist intervention towards individuals and groups who are not part of the Communist Left but who nevertheless are looking for a clear political orientation and seeking to detach themselves from leftism and confusion.
  • The atmosphere of solidarity created by adhering to the initiative also allowed the organisation of two online public meetings, one in Italian and one in English, to discuss and clarify the need for the Joint Statement and the tasks of revolutionaries in the face of imperialist war and new world conditions. These meetings also gave rise to an article drawing a balance sheet article of the discussions[2]

Correspondence between the ICC and ICT

This can be read on our website[3]. So it is only necessary to summarise the main arguments. First, the ICT insisted that the differences on the analysis of imperialist war (that is on the marxist explanation for imperialist war and its prospects today) between the groups was too great to allow them to sign the Joint Statement, which they otherwise agreed with. Secondly, they questioned the invitation of the Bordigist groups which go under the name of the International Communist Party and can best be distinguished by the names of their main publications (Programma Comunista, Il Comunista/Le Proletaire, and Il Partito Comunista) to the Joint Statement, and on the other hand regretted the absence of some groups from the list of invitees. Thirdly they wanted a wider movement against the war than the Joint Statement that was restricted to the Communist Left.

The ICC answered that regarding differences of analysis, which are certainly significant, they are still secondary to the fundamental agreement on a common internationalist programme of action between the Communist Left groups. To make secondary differences an obstacle to such joint work is therefore to elevate the interests of one’s own group to the detriment of the needs of the movement as a whole – therefore it is classically sectarian. The final version of the Joint Statement in fact was able to accommodate a difference in the analysis of imperialism between the IOD and the ICC in order to underline the essential class position. A difference quite similar to the one the ICT felt was a key reason for not signing the declaration.

On the second point it was ironic that the sectarian ICT complained that each of the Bordigist groups invited all saw themselves as the one and only internationalist communist party in the world. This was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. In fact the ICT, despite describing itself as a ‘tendency,’ considers that its main component, Battaglia Comunista, is also the Internationalist Communist Party and is therefore hostile to all the other pretenders to this throne.

Regarding those parasitic grouplets claiming adherence to the Communist Left in words who were not invited to sign the joint statement it was quite logical to exclude them, since in practice these various cabals do everything to vilify the Communist Left. But the ICT, in wanting them invited, were therefore opportunistically open to joining with parasitic slanderers and even snitches who have nothing to do with internationalism in deeds. The ICT’s sectarianism toward the rest of the Communist Left - their Bordigist siblings[4], and the ICC - therefore found its natural complement in an opportunism toward those outside of the Communist Left and even hostile to the latter.

The desire of the ICT for a ‘wider movement beyond the Communist Left’ thus limited itself immediately by excluding the majority of the genuinely internationalist milieu in existence today. Subsequently their front No War But the Class War was launched with a more elastic criteria for participation than the Joint Statement and so made itself more amenable to a heterogenous milieu of various anarchists, parasites and even leftists. Its public meetings didn’t extend beyond the confines of this milieu. In fact on one occasion the size of the delegations of the ICC to intervene in these public meetings was its largest component. The NWBCW has proved to be an opportunist bluff whose real purpose was to act as a conveyor belt into the ICT rather than creating a wider audience for authentic internationalism[5].

Discussion Bulletins of the Communist Left

The Joint Statement provided a principled framework of internationalist unity in action, marxist parameters for discussing and clarifying theoretical and analytic differences between the groups. The Bulletins are not therefore a conglomeration of random positions and ideas but essentially a forum for the confrontation of arguments within the Communist Left, that is, a proletarian polemic.

The two bulletins have so far included: relevant correspondence between them concerning the Joint Statement; statements of analysis of the current situation of the imperialist wars in Ukraine and Gaza according to the respective organisations; and most importantly an ongoing polemic on how the contradictions of capitalism translate into imperialist conflict, whether the latter is directly the result of economic ambitions - such as preservation of the hegemony of the dollar, or the control of oil production and distribution - or refracted through a self-destructive dynamic produced by the impasse of capitalism in its historical epoch of decadence. This polemic is of great interest and importance for understanding the prospects and conditions of militarism today. It should be continued.

The relevance of Zimmerwald

The Communist Left, drawing its inspiration from the history of the revolutionary movement of the working class, naturally looks to the nature and meaning of the Zimmerwald movement in World War 1.

Was Zimmerwald intended to create a wide as possible anti-war movement as the ICT pretend, a kind of anticipation of the NWBCW initiative? Zimmerwald was indeed the first indication that the working class was losing its illusions in the imperialist war and confirmed its hopes that there was an alternative way out. But the real, long-lasting significance of Zimmerwald was in the development of an intransigent internationalist line amongst a small minority called the Zimmerwald Left. The latter recognised that WW1 was only the beginning of an entire historic period that would be dominated by imperialist war and require a maximum programme for the working class: civil war, the overthrow of the bourgeois regimes, proletarian dictatorship with a new Communist International to replace the bankrupt, chauvinist 2nd International.

The majority of Zimmerwald was ambivalent or opposed to this programme. Instead, seeing WW1 as a temporary aberration, and hoping for a reconciliation or reconstitution of the 2nd International that had collapsed in 1914, they wanted to exclude or neutralise the ‘trouble makers’ and ‘splitters’ of the left. Eventually the class lines that were implicit in these differences were drawn in 1917 by the October Revolution.

The intervention of internationalists into the anti-war movement today

Only the big bourgeoisie and the nation states that protects their privileges is fully committed to the drive to imperialist war made unavoidable by capitalist development. In terms of society as a whole though, imperialist war has a convulsive effect on other classes. The biggest sufferer of imperialism is the working class, since the military juggernaut threatens to divide and drag it into fratricidal slaughter and turn its poverty into destitution. At the same time an intermediate layer - the petty bourgeoisie, caught between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat - foresees the loss of its relatively more secure status as a result of the imperialist maelstrom. In reaction to the latter this layer hopes for a return to normality and peace but sees in the struggle of the working class another threat to its disappearing status, another source of disruption and conflict.

In this situation anti-war sentiments grow both in the proletariat and this intermediate layer, but within this apparently common reaction to imperialism different, antagonistic class interests are concealed. To defend its interests the working class must struggle to detach itself from all the pacifist solutions (however radical they may seem, such as anti-militarism) that are rife amongst the intermediate strata and stand instead on the terrain of its own class struggle that leads the workers towards civil war against the bourgeoisie and capitalism as a whole. The petty bourgeoisie on the other hand, which fundamentally has no historical future, can at best react impotently to imperialist war in various ways and remains trapped in ambiguity. This mixture of a class struggling for consciousness of its internationalist interests and a middle layer that reacts with horror to imperialist barbarism is the social basis for the growth of a political marsh between the Communist Left and the left wing of capital today, that seems to be neither one thing nor the other and is marked by constant contradiction and turmoil.

The intervention of internationalist communists towards this milieu is therefore vital in the acceleration of the development of working class consciousness. The internationalist organisations do not by definition arise spontaneously from this marsh, that as a whole essentially represents political confusion, an obstacle to the development of class consciousness. Authentic internationalist organisations are the product of a historical experience of the revolutionary movement, stretching back to the First World War and before. The existence and intervention of the Communist Left, its political presence, is therefore vital in not only combating the influence of the bourgeoisie within the political marsh, also in exposing the difference of class interests between the proletariat and those of intermediate strata, who, despite their radical opposition to the big bourgeoisie, are essentially backward-looking.

This is the wider importance of the Joint Statement, which in defining the common position of the Communist Left, begun to demarcate, in the midst of a milieu of political confusion, an internationalist reference point.


The last two years and the reaction to the Joint Statements have shown that the historical Communist Left is still fragmented and many of its groups have been unable so far to take united internationalist action against the increase in imperialist war. However, small steps in this direction have been made as we outline above. And only the unification of the communist vanguard, not through compromises or amorphous fronts, but through the real clarification of differences, can arm the proletariat in its fight against capitalism and imperialist war.



The fight against opportunism