Revolution or War n°21

(June 2022)

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On the various appeals and statements from revolutionary groups since the invasion of Ukraine: The Question of the Danger of Generalized Imperialist War

Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, there have been numerous statements from groups of the Communist Left that have remained faithful to proletarian internationalism. What appears from these revolutionaries’ reactions, is that the main line of confrontation, or battle, within the proletarian camp turns around the recognition or the denial that this imperialist war in Ukraine is both an expression and a factor of capitalism’s inescapable dynamic and pressure towards a generalized imperialist war; towards the Third World War. According to this confrontation, the claiming of proletarian internationalism takes concrete and efficient character for the proletariat’s struggle, that is based on material historical facts, or remains just an abstract and transhistorical claim based on pure feelings and morality. Certainly, the second approach can’t but pave the way to some kind of moral pacifism since it does not root internationalism in the very material ground of the dialectical relation between the process of imperialist war and the one of the class struggle, which is synthesized in the alternative of international proletarian revolution or generalized imperialists war, Revolution or War.

We’ll leave aside the shameful case of betrayal of internationalist principles by the group Mouvement Communiste, which put forward the absurd position that the armed resistance in Ukraine is purely an expression of popular self-organization rather than the initiative of a state which has succeeded in coordinating arms resupply from the West and in militarizing society in the name of a sacred defensive war against Russia.

Thus, except this group and according to our knowledge, all of the components of the revolutionary camp, from its right to its left, adopted clear internationalist statements against the imperialist war in Ukraine, calling the proletarians to reject any participation on one side or the other. Within it, all the groups claiming the Communist Left called the proletarians to set themselves, more or less concretely, on the ground of the class struggle as the only response to develop faced with the imperialist war in Europe. Similarly, the so-called Bordigist groups – the different International Communist Parties – called “the proletarians [to] not let themselves be taken in the trap of a so-called ’humanitarian solidarity’ which only serves the imperialist aims; they do not have to take sides with one or the other camp in conflict which are both its adversaries.” (ICP-Communist Program). Their insistence was on the slogans “turn imperialist war into revolution” (ICP-The Communist Party) and “revolutionary defeatism against all bourgeoisies and against all bourgeois states!” (ICP-The Internationalist) [1]. While we consider the orientation of turning this imperialist war into revolution relatively general for the present time, we do share the direct link that the latter group makes between the class struggle and the confrontation against war and the orientations put forwards: “The only way to avoid other slaughters is through: 1. Refusal to accept economic and social sacrifices in the name of the ’national economy’; 2. Organization of the struggle to defend the living and working conditions of the proletarians, in order to hit hard the war commitment of the bourgeoisie; 3. Open rupture of social peace and a decisive return to the methods and objectives of the class struggle, the only real internationalist solidarity of the proletarians in both the imperialist metropolises and the imperialist peripheries; 4. Rejection of any partisanism (nationalist, religious, patriotic, mercenary, humanitarian, pacifist) in favor of any of the imperialist fronts; 5. Strike actions up to the general strike against any kind of mobilization and war propaganda.” [2]

Now, beyond these correct orientations and slogans for the proletariat and due to their basic position on the party and denial of the existence of any proletarian camp formed by various communist groups, they are unable to present any orientation towards making the consequent internationalist voice wider and more efficient and, above all, making this moment a moment of the fight for the party by proposing any initiative to the proletariat in which the other revolutionary and communist groups may gather their forces, or cohere, select themselves, precisely on the bases of these orientations and slogans to the class. Nevertheless, some initiatives and calls have been made. Among them by the Internationalist Communist Tendency and the International Communist Current. Both remained true to proletarian principles in the face of the historical storm provoked by Russia’s invasion. The basic difference between the two opposed political approaches, and actually of principle, lies on their positioning in relation to the central issue of our time: the perspective of generalized imperialist war.

The ICC Joint Statement of Groups of the Communist Left [3]

The initiative from the revolutionary groups we would characterize as opportunist, namely the ICC, Internationalist Voice, which the Instituto Onorato Damen joined, puts forward the permanence of imperialist war under capitalism and denies the unfolding reality of a consolidation of imperialist blocs. This point on permanence of war is a thinly veiled nod to Decomposition, the ICC’s Trojan horse by which it introduces bourgeois idealism into the proletariat’s revolutionary doctrine. After all, if war is merely to be understood as a permanent feature of capitalist society – which we do not deny but which is an ahistorical and abstract understanding – then we have reached a situation in which history is at a standstill. This view is coherent with the ICC’s theory of there being a stalemate in the relation of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which would in turn have led to a new phase of capitalist decadence that they call Decomposition, a phase moreover in which the determining factor of historical development is no longer the struggle between the contending classes in society but rather the effect of Decomposition on society as a whole. With such a theory, which simultaneously manages to explain everything and nothing, one cannot equip the proletarian masses with the doctrine necessary for their emancipation because this theory makes it impossible to take into account the reality facing the proletariat, the real and increasingly present prospect of generalized war between nuclear weapons states. Therefore, this part of the proletarian camp’s formally correct denunciation of imperialism and support for proletarian internationalism is undermined and rendered abstract and useless by the fact that they are unable to connect these correct principles to the concrete stakes facing the proletariat, making it impossible to base a coherent vanguard policy on such theories.

Why is this kind of statement, abstract internationalism, useless and even dangerous for the proletariat? Why does it pave the way to petty bourgeois pacifism? Because denying the dynamic and the active action of the perspective of generalized Third World War makes it impossible to respond to the concrete situation and policies that the factor of generalized imperialist war in process is determining, such as the bourgeois class struggle against the proletariat, its terrain, its battles and its timing. The ICC rejected in 2007 at its 17th congress any perspective of imperialist generalized war because of the idealist and opportunist theory on Decomposition - “the spectre of world war no longer haunts the planet” because “the new period opens the way [to] the destruction of humanity not through an apocalyptic war, but through a gradual advance of the decomposition” [4]. This open betrayal of a basic position of Marxism and Communist Left makes it unable to understand the very stakes of the present imperialist war in Ukraine; in particular that it marks a step in the drive towards a Third World War. In particular, in the name “everyone for themselves” (the growing chaos provoked by decomposition) it excludes and even denies the reality of the (contradictory process) of imperialist polarization. Thus, the proponents of this denial are unable to understand and denounce to the proletariat the very stakes of such polarization in the national situations. and in particular in the specific attacks the workers will suffer, are already suffering. For instance, depending on the imperialist contrasts and alignments, the choice of the ideological themes that each ruling class will employ against its own proletariat won’t be the same, nor be delimited in the same way. Already before the war in Ukraine, but reinforced with it, the ideological democratic theme for enlisting the proletariat of the western powers is quite clear: against illiberalism and authoritarian powers. Thus the democratic mystification for enlisting the proletariat to war is not defined the same as it could be in Western Europe still a few months ago. For instance, the anti-Americanism and anti-Trumpism traditional in France, but quite shared lately by Germany and other countries when these powers could “dream” to take distance and oppose the advances of the United States imperialism, has now faded away [5].

The same goes for explaining and understanding the huge rearmament that the German bourgeoisie has decided to engage in urgency. The fact this 180 degree turn in imperialist German policy since 1945 has difficulties to find the political staff or bourgeois fraction to fully implement it to date – no doubt, it’ll find the correct political staff – has, will have, consequences for the proletariat in Germany: it’ll pay not only for the crisis but for this rearmament and the military production. As such, the terrain and the timing of the bourgeois attacks on the proletariat are de facto changing. It’s up to the communist groups to respond to the real stakes and present orientations and slogans to fight back against the implications of such military spending and growing military industry on the proletarian conditions of life and struggle. As for the proletariat in Sweden and Finland, the terrain and the timing of the class struggle led by their own ruling class will “change” and be determined by the new and unexpected adhesion of these two traditionally neutral countries to NATO. The traditional policy of both state since 1945 against the proletariat, based on a neutral ideology and a pacifist mystification is now turning 180 degrees.

If only with this peculiar question of imperialist polarization, we can see how the imperialist war in Ukraine, not in itself, not because war is permanent under capitalism, but precisely today, in 2022, is an expression of the present drive towards generalized imperialist war, a product and a worsening factor and accelerator of it. It is the course or process towards generalized imperialist war, as the highest expression of capitalist economic crisis and dead-end, that defines, delimits, gives the concrete framework of the stakes, terrain and timing of the class struggle, the one the ruling classes are developing and leading against the proletariat, in every country and in accordance with their national history-tradition and present imperialist needs.

We could add to our argumentation the other dramatic contradictions and conflicts the step towards generalized imperialist war taken in Ukraine is actually presenting. For instance, the search for securing raw material access, gas, oil, but also of lithium or other rare earths, and even agriculture such as cereal is becoming more acute between the powers. In particular, beyond countries in Africa and America threatened by mass hunger, it becomes a crucial stake and worry for the European powers. Precisely because they are “trapped” by the war in Ukraine. Forced to cut the energy trade with Russia, they are incredibly and dangerously dependent on the United States as the war in Ukraine made them fully dependent on NATO at the military level, revealing so the huge division of the European Union on its imperialist and military defense future. Thus, inescapably all this already has – it suffices to see the increasing inflation – and will have direct consequences for the proletariat. The same kind of war would have been – it could be some day but it’ll be unleashed in the aftermath of the present war in Ukraine – possible through the invasion of Taiwan by China. But the direct implications and consequences of all kinds, particularly on the class struggle, would have been different – indeed not less dramatic and serious. Thus, the question is not to be opposed to imperialist war in general, because it is supposedly permanent, but to the present concrete process the generalized imperialist war is paving to this end.

If it was necessary, the imperialist war in Ukraine, the war in Europe, comes to confirm that it’s not only the economic crisis in itself but the concrete bourgeois response, the dynamic towards generalized imperialist war, that determines, in the last instance, not mechanically, the different aspects of the situation. That makes those, such as the ICC, who reject the Marxist and Communist Left principle on generalized imperialist war as well as the actuality of the historical alternative, international proletarian revolution or generalized imperialist war, useless for the proletariat because it is incapable of providing concrete and efficient orientations and slogans in the relevant situations; and even more, it makes them dangerous because they’ll increasingly be, first, subjected to and becoming, second, the vector of a modern pacifism within the proletarian ranks. An abstract and ahistorical call for “the recognition that only the working class and its revolutionary struggle could put an end to the system that is based on the exploitation of labour power and permanently generates imperialist war” (ICC’s statement, underlined by us), because it is valid in any time, opens the door to some kind of modern pacifism, because it is not rooted in the very dynamic of the genuine class struggle process whose historical course is determined by the alternative revolution or war and the present drive and steps towards a Third World War.

Thus the reference and implicit call for a new Zimmerwald kind of conferences remains a pure phrase because the conditions for a Zimmerwald-Khiental set of conferences do not exist today as the ICT comrades pointed out. In particular, and without entering in the very situation of the proletarian camp today, its conformation, its opposing dynamics – in particular on the central question of the struggle for the Party - its strengths and weaknesses, means that we’re not in a situation, as in 1914, where mass parties of the proletariat had betrayed from one day to another proletarian internationalism and left the proletarian masses who had confidence in their party totally lost and disorientated. By the way, it’s curious, even ironic, to see the ICC who rejects any danger of generalized imperialist war, calling for a new Zimmerwald. Apart the fact it would serve it to attempt to exclude the so-called parasites from such an initiative, first and above all our group, to accept its ground would allow it to impose its rejection of the perspective and danger of imperialist war in the name of an artificial unity of the conference. Isn’t this precisely what the Instituto O. Damen had to accept? Thus, in such a conference today, the ICC would play the role the centrist Kautskyists played within the Zimmerwald-Khiental conferences and would block the consequent internationalists of today, those who set their action in front of the dynamics and steps towards generalized imperialist war.

The ICT’s Call for NWBCW Comittees [6]

On the other side of the issue of the prospect of World War and the appreciation of the stakes, we have the appeal by the Internationalist Communist Tendency to set up struggle committees that aim to regroup workers on the necessity to advance their own class interests as a means to oppose the march to war. The reason we support this initiative is the connection made between opposition to imperialist war and working class struggle. Marx pointed out that it is what the proletariat is, and not what this or that proletarian believes or even what the majority of proletarians at a given moment believe, that determines its revolutionary character. This insight is perfectly valid in the present situation of aggravation of imperialist antagonisms. Opposite to the ICC, the ICT was prepared to face the situation because it remains on the clear-cut basic position and principle on the question of the generalized imperialist war. Its 2020 Platform enabled it to face correctly, that it as a genuine political vanguard of the proletariat, the historical step the imperialist war in Europe represents and its relation, implications, for the class struggle:

“Once again the question of imperialist war or the proletarian revolution is being placed on the historical agenda and imposes on revolutionaries throughout the world the need to close ranks. In the epoch of global monopoly capitalism no country can escape the forces which drive capitalism to war. Capitalism’s ineluctable drive towards war is expressed today in the universal attack on the working and living conditions of the proletariat. The material conditions for an international proletarian struggle against their exploiters therefore exist.”

Whether the proletarians participating in strikes and struggles on their own terrain are aware of it or not, their struggles objectively oppose the drive to war and contain within them the germs of the revolutionary struggle necessary to put an ultimate end both to the ongoing wars that have been a permanent feature of capitalism since WWII as well as to prevent a slide into a catastrophic Third World War. For this to occur, the latent opposition to war objectively present in every proletarian struggle must be consciously assumed on a mass scale by the participants in the struggles, which requires the active intervention and leadership of the proletarian vanguard. In our view, this is the intent behind the initiative to set up No War But Class War (NWBCW) committees and we therefore support it to the extent that we are able. Since we have only modest resources, we cannot take a leading role in setting up these committees but we have and will continue to follow the ICT’s lead in animating them by trying to push forward what we view are the correct revolutionary positions within them and opposing, for example, what are in our view incorrect or unclear formulations expressed in statements made by these committees.

In between these two positions in the proletarian camp on the question of war, there is a third , which is signed“Fredo Corvo-Anibal et Materia published on the blog Left Wing Communism [7]. Despite the fact it is unfortunately signed by individuals (and not political groups), even though well-known militants, we think important to mention it as a genuine expression within the revolutionary camp, both in its approach as well as its political content. In his welcome contribution, Corvo makes various criticisms of the two initiatives described above, the joint statement spearheaded by the ICC and the appeal by the ICT to set up NWBCW committees. Some of Fredo Corvo’s critiques have merit, others seem to miss the mark. An example of the latter is the claim that the ICT sees the widespread devaluation of constant capital resulting from world war to be a conscious policy pursued by the capitalists/imperialists leading to a new cycle of accumulation, rather than a consequence of imperialist conflict in which each side seeks to gain a competitive edge by destroying the economic infrastructure of their rivals with the ultimate result that ruin is generalized. Fredo also reproaches the ICT’s initiative for being exclusionary of other groups of the Communist Left and for being a “program-light” of the ICT. We think that any initiative to set up struggle committees by a revolutionary group will necessarily to some extent reflect the program of that group. Regarding the appeal being exclusionary, we point to the final line of the appeal: If these points are a broad summary of where you stand we would like to hear from you. This hardly suggests that unreserved agreement with every single line of the call to action is a necessary condition for participation. The appeal is more than an adequate starting point. FC’s criticisms miss the central point, which is that the axis of polarization that is emerging in the proletarian camp is the question of generalized imperialist war. The ICC (representing the opportunist right wing) rejects this as a possibility. The ICT (on the left) sees it and tries to act accordingly. That being said, we can certainly agree with FC when he criticizes the widespread sectarian reflexes and urges us to refer to the statements of the proletarian camp on the question of war in Ukraine. This is precisely what we are attempting to do here.

Finally, we think it is worthwhile to address those groups that have a correct appreciation of the link between imperialist war and working class struggle but which prematurely announce the death and irrelevance of the historical groups of the Communist Left or deny the existence of a proletarian camp. Several years ago, when the group Emancipation was still called Nuevo Curso, we supported and made our own their position on the Party in the Making. We took on board this formulation because it evokes regroupment as process involving a dynamic among the various components of the proletarian camp in relation to the ongoing struggles of the proletarian masses. If one is to be consistent with this viewpoint, one cannot prematurely declare the death of the Communist Left and decide instead to “build one’s own chapel”. We have criticized this approach, adopted previously by Controverses, elsewhere. This is where Fredo Corvo is exactly correct. The revolutionary groups must critically respond to the initiatives of the other groups and support those initiatives when they are correct. This is why we call on other groups of the revolutionary camp to support the initiative to set up NWBCW committees or to articulate why they do not support this initiative. That is the way to work towards the future International.

June 2022



[2. The Internationalist’ lealfet, In Ukraine as in the whole world, in the face of the imperialist war, the proletarian watchword once again must be: revolutionary defeatism against all bourgeoisies and against all bourgeois states! February 21st, 2022.

[4. Resolution on the international situation of respectively the 17th (2007) and 15th (2005) congresses of the ICC. See the Internal fraction of the ICC comments at the time in Communist Bulletin 21 and 41 : and

[5. We are not able here to reflect on how the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine may change the ideological theme that the Chinese bourgeoisie utilizes for attempting to enlist its own proletariat: for instance, it might be more difficult to present the USA as the unique warmonger.