Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Warmongering Pacifism

In the communist tradition there is deep-rooted opposition to nationalism and militarism, to any form of “warmongering” based on working-class support for the bourgeois State, either in the name of “defence against aggressors” or of “saving liberal and democratic civilization”. But a no less deep-rooted tradition is that of out-and-out opposition to pacifism – a concept and a programme in itself vague and undefined, but a lethal weapon against the proletariat when it falls into the hands of the various gangs of opportunists, whether of the older or newer variety, who make use of it to spread confusion and illusion in the proletarian ranks with fixed ideas of interclass relations and anti-imperialism based on peace marches, sit-ins and flash mobs of all these “sincere democrats”.

Communism has always argued that wars are inevitable in a capitalist régime, both in the historical phase when the bourgeoisie is establishing its rule and setting up centralized national states, and also (even more so) in the modern imperialist phase, when it is aiming at the conquest and control of entire geographical areas and the various historical states are competing to rule over them. Thus, whoever wishes to eliminate war must abolish capitalism, i.e. destroy the bourgeois State, the essence and tool of capital’s class rule. This is why the proletarian revolution represents the only effective historical solution (the one that opens up the gates to a better social organization than the sort we have at present) to the antagonisms and the conflagrations necessarily caused by them, within capitalist society.

Those who appeal for peace, hoping or arguing for “new eras”, yet still respecting the current mode of production, are adversaries or betrayers of the proletariat, because they set before it the illusory and misleading objective of “capitalism without war”. However, it is useful to agree on the fact that an analysis of wars between States should not be reduced to a naive denial of the considerable repercussions of wars, their trends and outcomes, on the potentialities of the communist movement. Marxist analysis does not even lead us to exclude the possibility, in certain phases, of an inter-imperialist “league” capable of maintaining peace everywhere or almost everywhere for a certain period of time. However, this “peace” would be the expression of open counter-revolution: an anti-proletarian Holy Alliance that would ever more concentrate, at the service of capitalist oppression, the means for strangling the rebellion of the oppressed, in a centrally commanded and worldwide iron-fisted police, using a monopoly of all means of destruction and attack. Not only this: this “peace”, worse than imperialist warfare, would certainly not be eternal, since it would resuscitate on a broader and more generalized basis the growing antagonisms between classes and imperialist states.

The fight against capitalism can therefore not be separated from the fight against pacifism. 

In fact, Marxism has always denied the possibility of capitalism developing in a harmonious and balanced fashion, therefore without antagonisms or catastrophes. “To set forth this need, that production should be expanded simultaneously and at once in the same proportion, really means to set external demands upon capital, which in no way arise from its nature,” explained Marx in the Grundrisse (1857-58). The outbreak of antagonisms between classes and States is thus linked to the very nature of capitalism. But what is its nature? Again Marx, again in the Grundrisse: “competition is nothing other than the inner nature of capital, its essential character, appearing in and realized as the reciprocal interaction of many capitals with one another […]. Capital exists and can only exist as many capitals […] Capital is just as much the constant creation as the constant suppression of a proportionate production. The existing proportion always has to be suppressed by the creation of surplus values and the increase of productive forces.” It follows that, in order to survive, capital must develop and cannot do so harmoniously, but, in its multiplicity, only disproportionately: there is no single capital, nor many capitals with an equal degree of development. 

Thus world trade is none other than the port of arrival for the irreversible and inevitable trend of capitals to break through national borders, after breaking through the limits imposed by social relations. Sunt nomina rerum, said the ancients: names belong to their objects. Well then, so-called international trade is simply the misleading term used by bourgeois economists to indicate the creation of a world market, i.e. the inevitable planetary spread of the disproportions between capitals, or between companies, sectors and countries.  But … “the truth will out”. Indeed, it is on the international market that the struggle between capitals manifests itself – in other words, where the financial and industrial giants draw their raw materials and labour and attempt to get rid of their overproduction of both goods and capitals. This competition, however, is not merely “economic”, but transforms itself into competition and struggle between States. First and foremost because the concentration of capital has for some time been leading to industrial and banking capital merging into financial capital and, at the same time, to the interpenetration between financial capital and the State. The latter is the weapon of defence of financial capital, mainly because in hyper-capitalist countries it is the most powerful financer and intervenes directly in the economy by means of customs duties, quotas, taxes and dumping, attempting to limit internal competition and direct it onto the world market.  The inevitable disproportions between capitals thus lead to a struggle between States to conserve or extend their areas of influence, i.e. their sources of raw materials and trade outlets for goods and capitals. The concept of the modern bourgeoisie is and has to be immense power based on a gigantic fleet and a gigantic army.

Militarism is thus inextricably linked with capital and above all financial capital, because military force is a powerful weapon of competition and the ultimately decisive element in “pacific” and diplomatic negotiations and agreements. Militarism is the non optional mode of existence of financial capital on reaching a certain degree of development and concentration: it is the supreme means for guaranteeing and reinforcing areas of influence by means of direct or indirect political rule. Right after the Second World War we wrote in what was then our theoretical journal, Prometeo: “This time the world’s counter-revolutionary coalition will take great care not to abandon control of the territory in the countries that have been conquered but to set up international class control; only controlled and strictly managed organizations will be allowed; for many years, as has already been declared, it will keep a close lookout, to block not just right-wing dictatorial claims but any form of social agitation. Thus, not only the countries that lost the war but the allies themselves, freed from enemy occupation, will be kept under control. In addition, a dictatorship of big state agglomerates will be set up. The smaller states will come under a colonial régime, devoid of an economy with any life of its own or any administrative and internal political independence, not to mention being deprived of any appreciable military force that might be freely used by them […]. It will thus be more appropriate to speak of state oppression, or of the subjection of small, bourgeois, vassal states to a few, huge imperial monsters” 1.

This is what we wrote in 1947! And what has the last half century and more been like?! The misery and tragedies of the imperialist wars have indeed been followed by a hateful imperialist “peace”. To all practical purposes international governments have been established and the ruling powers organize and “pacify” their respective regions. On this general panorama, the understandings and alliances between imperialist States arise out of competition (in its widest sense) and are concluded because of competition; they rest on the economic, financial and military balances of power of the moment. To use Lenin’s words (in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism): “‘Inter-imperialist’ or ‘ultra-imperialist’ alliances, no matter what form they may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers, are inevitably nothing more than a ‘truce’ in periods between wars. Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics.” 

1 “Guerre e crisi opportunistiche (Wars and Ppportunist Crises)”, Prometeo, Serie I, n.6, March-April 1947.

Since Lenin mapped out this aspect of capitalism’s highest stage, not only has the latter not changed, but it has done none other than develop these trends. Imperialism, which reflects the worsening antagonism within the State and between States, has never been as powerful as it is today; never has the arms race been as headlong as it is today 2. For us, there is thus no possibility of lasting peace between a few or all imperialist States. Does this make us fatalists and pessimists?  On the contrary. But we argue that imperialist war can be avoided solely on condition that the working-class movement resumes a class-oriented perspective, with independent action by the proletariat identifying itself as a class in its worldwide party, whose keenest enemies will be found amongst the reformers, opportunists and pacifists of today, the most subtle defenders of the international rule of Capital behind a semblance of democratic peace, against the revolutionary preparation and arms of the proletarian class: in a word, against the communist party. 

And so the fight against pacifism cannot be separated from the fight against capitalism, because it is a fight against Stalinist and post-Stalinist, democratic and reformist opportunism, for the survival and development of the party, the indispensible organ for preventing an economic crisis like that of 1929-32 from flowing back, thus adding to the spiral of counter-revolution.

Without expecting anything from “global understandings” and “historical encounters”, more or less blessed by Pope Francesco or called for by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama, or by whoever succeeds him, we continue on our way, guiding today’s proletarians towards the luminous path to follow tomorrow: “Out and out war can be avoided historically but only on condition  that it is opposed by a class of pure wage-earners who await it, not to replace it with peace but to use it, in its early days, to overthrow aged and infamous capitalism.” (from our text Dialogato coi morti, 1956) 3.

And so down with the warmongering pacifism of petit-bourgeois opportunism! Long live the class war under the guidance of the international communist party!

2 See, in this regard, the article “Armamenti: la crisi e le prospettive di guerra”, (“Armaments: the crisis and the prospects of war”), in our Italian bi-monthly Il programma comunista, n.3- 4/2014.

3 All our texts quoted here are to be found on our website 

International Communist Party

Il Programma Comunista

Kommunistisches Programm

The internationalist


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