Imperialist War and Revolutionary War (XLVII)


Basic idea: there are two types of wars. Progressive bourgeois wars, anti-feudal development, national liberation; imperialist wars. Date between the two periods: 1871, Commune of Paris. The movement of the world proletariat is carried out on the level of the Revolution, it breaks with the Nation. Do we want to hear Lenin repeat this idea? Let's listen. Resolution of the Bolsheviks abroad, March 4, 1915:

"Pacifism, the preaching of peace in the abstract, is one of the means of duping the working class. Under capitalism, particularly in its imperialist stage, wars are inevitable. On the other hand, however, Social-Democrats cannot over look the positive significance of revolutionary wars, i.e., not imperialist wars, but such as were fought, for instance, between 1789 and 1871, with the aim of doing away with national oppression, and creating national capitalist states out of the feudal decentralised states, or such wars that may be waged to defend the conquests of the proletariat victorious in its struggle against the bourgeoisie."

Long before the Russian revolution, therefore, Lenin adds a third type of war to the two previous ones: a war between a state where proletarian revolution has won and states where capitalism still dominates.

But before dealing with this third type, we cannot fail to complete the quotation, to the shame of this movement which reproaches the imperialists for believing in war and blathering on the possibility of peace not only between the imperialist powers, but even between them and the so-called proletarian government, without changing the political regimes in place in all countries:

"At the present time, the propaganda of peace unaccompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action can only sow illusions and demoralise the proletariat, for it makes the proletariat believe that the bourgeoisie is humane, and turns it into a plaything in the hands of the secret diplomacy of the belligerent countries. In particular, the idea of a so-called democratic peace being possible without a series of revolutions is profoundly erroneous."

And now, let's take it easy. First, a reminder for those who claim that the first world imperialist war was a war of the first type, a war of liberation. Then, a reminder for those who claim that the second imperialist war was a war of the first type, that is, a war of progress and liberation, or a war of the third type, a war of defence of proletarian revolution. Finally, the serious historical problem: will the third possible war still be of the first type, as the disgusting Quakers of American gangster-capitalism will certainly claim, or will it be of the third type, as it will be claimed by the other side?

The rectification of the proletarian historical position is inseparable for all three periods. The inversions, contradictions and historical reversals in these questions are a clear symptom of this plague that the Leninist vaccine has unfortunately failed to eliminate: the opportunism of those who seek to make people believe that imperialist war has a progressive bourgeois meaning to national liberation (cf. Lenin, 1915). The power of the dialectic makes it possible to define in 1915 the ignominy of 1945...

The controversy of 1914 broke out. The social-chauvinists read the Communist Manifesto as follows: certainly, it is written that "the working men have no country"; but then they acquire one. When? That's the whole problem. The text says, immediately afterwards:

"the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word"

But what do the social chauvinists say? May this transition take place with the advent of democratic institutions, that is, with the bourgeois liberal revolution! In Italy in 1914 do we have a parliamentary state? Unquestionably! So the proletariat has "political domination", it is already constituted as a "national class", and therefore it must go to the front in the service of the bourgeoisie!

A long battle against democratic interventionism and to demonstrate that the proletariat has political domination only when it has destroyed that of capitalism was definitively won, with Lenin's help, when it was managed to get into the heads of those who believed themselves to be Marxists (some in good faith) that the proletariat is only a ruling class when the parliamentary bourgeois state has been broken by armed revolution, and when the proletarian dictatorship has taken away the right to politically open not only the mouths of the bourgeois, but also of their Menshevik and social chauvinist lackeys. Not before.

In 1914, only the bourgeoisies were national classes, and the war was a war of supremacy between them, united as a class, enemies as nations. On the other hand, Lenin's first type of wars (1789-1871) served the bourgeoisies to constitute themselves as "national classes" in the various countries. This fact was, for Marxism, "positive". Do not forget: in the progressive and liberating process for bourgeois ends, Marx, Engels, Lenin underline a hundred times the centralisation of bourgeois states on the ruins of feudal fragmentation: there too, and for a century, in the opposite direction of petty-bourgeois, utopian, anarchist and irredentist feudalism. Marxism explains these wars dialectically, the petty-bourgeois apologise for them with their miserable little literary and philistine ideologies.

For economic centralisation to be fully achieved, the political victory of the various national bourgeoisies is therefore required. Under the feudal regime, the bourgeoisie was not a national class: under the power of the aristocracy there are no real national forms and values in the true sense, on the one hand because of local feudal autonomies, on the other because of the extreme narrowness of military and bureaucratic circles - while the Church is supranational.

The national and "popular" state is born with the bourgeoisie, with its claims to represent the freedom and demands of all classes in order to be able to "set in motion", in the interest of its own economic and social development, the great masses that it must lead and exploit.

But it is itself which the bourgeoisie constitutes as a national class, not its wage slaves who serve as its soldiers in the wars of liberation. By remaining faithful to the theory of class struggle, not that of "Struve-Brentano" (that Lenin mocks by calling it liberal Marxism), but that of the struggle for dictatorship, it is good that we Marxists of the left do not forget that the terms nation, people, democracy, all correspond to collaboration between the social classes, that is, to the imprisonment of the proletariat within the limits of the capitalist state. Before 1848 in Germany, before 1917 in Russia, it had a precise, dialectical and anti-bourgeois meaning to threaten the bourgeoisie, which could not constitute itself as a national class, to replace it even in this task in the face of the ultimate feudal barriers, by taking over the revolution and the nation. In countries of socially and politically established capitalism, where the so-called layers of the general term "poor classes" no longer have any weight over the real opponents, the bourgeoisie and the wage labour proletariat, we no longer have to move towards the Nation, neither with nor against the bourgeoisie, but only towards the international.

In 1914, then, and in the following years, we convinced our weak contradictory opportunist that the war was not progressive on either side of the front, but imperialist. What defines the imperialist era? Is it possible that after Lenin it closed to open the way for other progressive type wars? The Liberals could support it, if they still have saliva left, and brag about having won a scientific victory against us, but we cannot do so without bragging about having won against Marx and Lenin at the same time.

The definition of imperialism is indeed the following (Lenin in his Anti-Kautsky, citing Imperialism):

"Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed."

Did these characteristics fade between the First and Second World Wars, or did they become more pronounced in a terrifying way? What could make the Second World War, this enterprise of looting across the oceans, on the scale of entire continents, a war of the first type, progressive and liberating?!

Now, in the Leninist analysis, what changed that little fella of the swindled parliament, of the raped legality? Certainly not the economic and social characteristics of the time, as we have just seen. Historically, the bourgeoisie was and has remained the "national class"; it can even be said that the National Socialist and state unionist forms have accentuated this concentration. The forms of police oppression were already fully anticipated by Marxists. Lenin explains Engels' so-called legalitarianism at the end of his life: gentlemen of the bourgeoisie, shoot first! In other words, get out of the legality, and we will get out of it in turn for armed revolt and red dictatorship! This dialectical slogan has been reversed by the traitors: gentlemen, the bourgeoisie, get out of your legality and we, the poor fools, will enter into a struggle to restore it!

It is precisely because between the two world wars there existed the German and Italian systems, but in reality universal, of strict modern capitalist power, that the latter was more imperialist than the former. Lenin also knew that:

"the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is violence [Lenin emphasises this] against the bourgeoisie; and the necessity of such violence is particularly called for, as Marx and Engels have repeatedly explained in detail … by the existence of militarism and a bureaucracy. But it is precisely these institutions that were non-existent in Britain and America in the seventies, when Marx made his observations (they do exist in Britain and in America now)!"

Now they exist, wrote Lenin in 1918, O those who are chronologically bankrupt! Those who in 1942 pretended to see imperialism only in Germany and Italy, and "progressivism" in the West, cannot have the gall to invoke this text and other pillars of Marxism. Especially if in 1940 they shook hands with the first one!

But that's not all:

"that pre-monopoly capitalism—which actually reached its zenith in the seventies—was by virtue of its fundamental economic traits, which found most typical expression in Britain and in America, distinguished by a, relatively speaking, maximum fondness for peace and freedom".

It is Lenin who underlines, so that any idiot would not imagine that Engels and Marx believed that certain psychological or ideological traits would have been missing from the German "barbarian" (who is also of the same race). But now it is us who underline it:

"Imperialism, on the other hand, i.e., monopoly capitalism, which finally matured only in the twentieth century, is, by virtue of its fundamental economic traits, distinguished by a minimum fondness for peace and freedom, and by a maximum and universal development of militarism."

Will the followers of Stalinism ever be able to relieve themselves of the responsibility for their four or five years of blatant propaganda that endorsed Western militarism as the champion of peace and freedom? A policy of this kind, entirely identical to that of the liberals and bourgeois democrats, can it be defended without rejecting in its entirety the vision of the economic and political characteristics of twentieth century capitalism established by Lenin?


The total identity of the Stalinist war policy and that of, say, a Churchill, or a de Gaulle, an Amendola or a Roosevelt on a common front entirely "anti-feudal" and "democratic revolution", does not change the audacity of the diversion attempted by the former. Convinced that they have tried to "turn back the wheel of history" with the demand for a return to bourgeois democracy, a retreat from imperialist capitalism to pre-monopoly capitalism (a return that, if taken seriously, would be as reactionary as in the 19th century a return from liberal capitalism to feudalism), they say that they have turned it forward on the contrary. Although they inspired the "liberating" allies with their war propaganda, it was only a trick, their real purpose being to prevent the military victory of the German armies that would have invaded Russia and destroyed the first workers' state. This was worth a series of "masses" celebrated according to the democratic ritual which is, as the Stalinists know as well as we do, the most stupid thing we can think of.

This recent and horrific war, therefore, wants to be everything but capitalist imperialism. It wants to escape from its own time, escape its own history, make the keys of economic determinism that turned so well in the hands of Marx and Lenin pass as picks of lost ideologues. If we do not admit that it was a campaign of sentimental and generous defenders of progressive democracy, based on atomic candies, then it claims that it is being elevated to the rank of revolutionary war of the world proletariat.

This second way of presenting the appalling massacre raises a series of difficult historical problems. Once established, according to the essential economic characteristics defined by Lenin and beyond the racial and literary characteristics, the capitalist and imperialist nature of the defeated states of Berlin and Tokyo, as well as their victors in London and Washington, who are finally called fascists on the sheets that have the fortune of being reproduced a thousand times more than this (we don't know how to insult them worse than with the adjective bourgeois), it remains to classify the state and military power of Moscow.

It remains to reconstruct the position of the regimes of the victorious proletariat in the face of military attacks in the historical examples that are at our disposal. The relationship between the Paris Commune and the Prussian army, while the civil war continued, is a first example. Then, the history of the Russian revolution. Just after February 1917, in Russia and elsewhere, opportunism wanted to use the fall of Tsarism as an argument to transform the despotic war into a democratic war, and it launched the slogan of revolutionary national defence. Lenin arrives with his historic April Theses and the slogan of the liquidation of the war. Kautsky replied that the Mensheviks were for the efficiency of the army, and the Bolsheviks for its disorganisation. Lenin replies:

"An imperialist war does not cease to be imperialist when charlatans or phrase-mongers or petty-bourgeois philistines put forward sentimental 'slogans', but only when the class which is conducting the imperialist war, and is bound to it by millions of economic threads (and even ropes), is really overthrown and is replaced at the helm of state by the really revolutionary class, the proletariat. There is no other way of getting out of an imperialist war, as also out of an imperialist predatory peace."

What "revolution", in twenty years, arrived at the policy that admits that the forces of the State and the "proletarian" parties line up first with one of the two imperialist counter-revolutionary camps, then with the other!

Classic, tormented shadow of the renegade Kautsky, the Stalinists salute you!


[1] "The Conference of the RSDLP Sections Abroad", Lenin, Work, Volume 21, pp. 161-162.

[2] Allusion to the "Peace Movement", created by the Western Stalinist parties.

[3] "The Conference of Foreign Sections of the RSDLP", Lenin, Work, Volume 21, p. 162.

[4] "Manifesto of the Communist Party", chap. II.

[5] "Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky", Lenin, Works, Volume 28, p. 239.

[6] "Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky", Lenin, Works, Volume 28, p. 247.

[7] "Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky", Lenin, Works, Volume 28, p. 292.

Battaglia Comunista, No. 11, 1950
Translation by Libri Incogniti

(Italian Version)


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