The 1944 Manifesto of the Internationalist Communist Left

CWO Introduction

The Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt) was founded in 1943 as the only party which unequivocally came out against all sides as imperialist in the Second World War. The PCint did not come from nowhere. It was created by former members of the Communist Party of Italy who had helped to found the party in 1921 and had led it in its early years. However they were revolutionaries and as the counter-revolution gripped the USSR and the Communist International they were removed from its leadership even though they had a majority support.(1) With many of them imprisoned by Fascism the Comintern-imposed leadership of Gramsci and Togliatti were able to impose their own discipline and the “Communist Left” was gradually expelled from the party.

Some like Onorato Damen spent most of the Fascist era either in gaol or in internal exile whilst others escaped to France and Belgium in the 1920s and, as the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left, continued to publish their debates and comments on events in journals like Bilan and Octobre. Despite being under tight surveillance Damen was able to keep in touch with the likes of Giacomo or Luciano Stefanini (known by his pen-name of Mauro) and Giovanni Bottaioli or “Butta”. Stefanini came to visit Damen in his place of exile in Cantu (Como) and by 1942 plans to re-establish an internationalist organisation were already underway.

However it was not until 1943 that the new party could begin to operate seriously. Many of its militants came out of the great wave of workers strikes which swept through Northern Italy in September 1943. This had allowed many of them to participate in a real class movement once again. Mussolini had been overthrown in the 43 days of the Badoglio Government so Damen was released and the Party, though confined only to Northern Italy, now began to operate in clandestinity under a restored Mussolini’s “social” Republic of Saló. Damen was joined in this by Mario Acquaviva (1900-1945), Fausto Atti (1900-1945), Bruno Maffi (1909-2003), Giacomo Stefanini (1903-1970), Guido Torricelli (1899-1947), Vittorio Faggioni (1918-2005), and Rosolino Ferragni (1896-1973).

This was the most brutal period of the Second World War in Italy with the Allies having taken the southern part of the country and Mussolini’s Nazi puppet regime hanging on in the North. It led to a partisan war which saw 300,000 Italians killed often in reprisals by the Nazis for the deaths of German soldiers at the hands of “partisans” who supported the Allies. The PCInt’s internationalist policy was clear. No support for any of the contending powers and no support for the restoration of capitalism in Italy. They also opposed the partisan war and called upon workers who had joined it to put class war before national war.

The document reproduced here is a new translation drawn from the Italian version on our website. It comes from the Discussion Bulletin which was set up by the PCInt and its supporters in France and Belgium to bring all the revolutionary elements both in Italy and abroad together. The document was distributed in both French and Italian (the latter we believe as a wall poster). It is significant not only for its call to put class war before imperialist war or even its recognition that all sides in the war were equally imperialist but also for its clarity that exploitation also existed in the USSR and that a real revolution was needed there too. This clarity was to be muddied after 1945 when the followers of Bordiga joined the Party and ultimately the failure of Bordiga to recognise the capitalist nature of the USSR was one of the reasons for the split of 1951-2.(2) Bordiga also wanted to take the Party back to the positions of the 1920s and ignore the work of clarification which the “Italian Left” had contributed to in his long absence from the political scene. That work of clarification did not end with the foundation of the Internationalist Communist Party, which not only survived the Bordigist exodus, but kept on developing a political framework which is the bedrock of the Internationalist Communist Tendency today.

Manifesto of the Communist Left to the European Proletariat

For almost five years now the imperialist war has raged across Europe bringing misery, devastation and massacres in its wake. On the Russian, French, Italian fronts tens of millions of workers and peasants are being slaughtered exclusively for the interests of a sordid and bloody capitalism which only obeys its own laws: profit and accumulation. In the course of five years of war for the ultimate goal – liberation for all peoples – many fraudulent programmes and numerous illusions have disappeared, letting fall the mask which hides the ugly head of international capitalism.

In each country you have been mobilised behind different ideologies, but with the same aim, with the same result: you have been thrown into the carnage, one against the other, miserable brothers against miserable brothers, workers against workers.

Fascism, national-socialism, demands living space for its exploited masses, which is nothing more than a disguise for their urgent need to extricate themselves from the deep crisis which is undermining the base.

Apparently the Anglo-Russian-American bloc wants to liberate you from fascism in order to return you your freedom and give you your rights. But these promises were simply bribes to get you to participate in the war to eliminate the biggest imperialist rival, fascism (after giving birth to it in the first place) and which is now ruined as capitalism’s method of rule and way of life.

The Atlantic Charter(3), the plan for the new Europe, is nothing more than a veil to hide the real significance of the conflict: a war of banditry, including vicious slaughter and destruction, the terrible consequences of which are suffered by the working class.

Proletarians, they are making out that this war is unlike any other. They are deceiving you. So long as there are exploiters and exploited capitalism means war, and war is capitalism.

The revolution in Russia in 1917 was a proletarian revolution. It was clear proof of the political capacity of the proletariat to rise up to become the dominant class and lead the way towards the organisation of communist society. It was the response of the working masses to the imperialist war of 1914-18.

But then the leaders of the Russian state abandoned the principles of this revolution. They have transformed your communist parties into nationalist parties, dissolved the Communist International, helped international capitalism to plunge you into the slaughter. If Russia had remained true to the programme of the Revolution and to internationalism, if they had constantly called on the proletarian masses to unify their struggles against capitalism, if they hadn’t joined the masquerade of the League of Nations, it would have been impossible for imperialism to unleash the war. By participating in the imperialist war alongside a group of capitalist powers, the Russian state has betrayed the Russian workers and the international proletariat.

Proletarians of Germany, your bourgeoisie is counting on you, on your acquiescence, on your productive drive, so that it can assume the imperialist role of dominating Europe’s industrial and agricultural basin. After turning Germany into a barracks, after making you work for four years at breakneck speed to prepare the war machine, you have been thrown into all the countries of Europe in order to bring about disintegration and ruin, as in every imperialist conflict.

The plan of your imperialism has been undermined by the development of international capitalism which, since 1900, has exhausted every possibility of expanding the imperialist form of domination and, even more, of any nationalist expression.

The deep crisis which is undermining the world, particularly Europe, is the insoluble, mortal crisis of capitalist society. Only the proletariat, through its communist revolution, can eliminate the causes of this distress, of the misery of the mass of working men and women.

Workers and soldiers, imperialist rivalry is now sealing the fate of your bourgeoisie. Yet international capitalism cannot stop the war because this is its only possible way of surviving. Your revolutionary traditions are deeply rooted in the class struggles of the past. In 1918, with your leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg; in 1923, despite signs of opportunism already shown by the Communist International, you made your mark on history with your revolutionary zeal and determination.

Hitler’s national-socialism and the opportunism of the 3rd International led you to believe that your destiny was connected to the struggle against the Treaty of Versailles. This false struggle could only bind you to the programme of your ‘own’ capitalism, with its resultant spirit of revenge and preparation for the present war. Your interests as proletarians are uniquely connected to the interests of all the exploited in Europe and throughout the world. You occupy a prime position to force an end to the hideous carnage. Following the example of the Italian proletariat, you must join in the struggle against war production, you must refuse to fight against your brother workers. Your revolt must be seen as part of the class struggle. You must come out on strike and join in mass agitation. As in 1918, the destiny of the proletarian revolution depends on your ability to break the chains which bind you to the monstrous machine of German imperialism.

Workers, labourers in Germany, you were deported in order to build weapons of destruction. For each worker who arrives, a German worker sets off for the front.

Whatever your nationality, you are amongst the exploited. Your only enemy is German and international capitalism, your comrades are the workers of Germany and of the entire world. You bring with you the traditions and experiences of the class struggle in your country and of the whole world. You are not “foreigners”. Your demands, your interests, are identical with those of your German comrades. By participating in the class struggle in the factories, in the workplaces, you will contribute effectively to undermine the course of the imperialist war.

French workers, during the strikes of 1936, all the parties conspired to transform your just and legitimate demands as a class into support for the war that was being prepared. “The era of prosperity” which the demagogues of the Popular Front held up for you as if it were just round the corner, in reality was only the severe crisis of French capitalism.

The ephemeral improvements to your working and living conditions weren’t the product of an economic revival, they were due to the necessity to get the industrial war machine moving.

The invasion of France has been exploited by all those responsible for the conflict, both left and right, to instil into you a will for revenge and hatred against German and Italian proletarians who, like you, bear no responsibility for the outbreak of war and who, like you, are suffering the terrible consequences of a slaughterhouse sought after and prepared by all the capitalist states.

The Petain-Laval government speaks to you about the National Revolution. It is an outright lie. The most reactionary way of getting you to willingly submit to the weight of the military defeat for the exclusive advantage of capitalism.

The Committee of Algiers(4) offers you the sparkling return of abundance, of pre-war prosperity. Whatever the form or composition of tomorrow’s government, the working masses of France and the other European countries are going to have to pay a heavy war tribute to the Anglo-Russian-American imperialists, over and above the destruction and ruin caused by the contending armies.

French proletarians, too many of you are inclined to believe, to hope for a well-being brought by the armed forces, whether English, American or Russian.

The intrigues and disagreements which are already apparent within this "trinity" of thieves regarding future re-division of the spoils, presage that the conditions that will be imposed on the proletariat will be hard unless you grasp the nettle of class struggle.

Too many of you have become auxiliaries of capitalism, joining in the partisan war, a symptom of the most blatant nationalism. Your enemy is not the German soldier, nor the English or American soldier, but their capitalism which pushed them into the war, into the carnage, to death. Your enemy is your capitalism, whether represented by Laval or De Gaulle. Your freedom depends neither on the destiny nor the traditions of your ruling class, but on your independence as a proletarian class.

You are the sons and daughters of the Paris Commune and only if you are inspired by it and its principles will you be able to break the bonds of slavery that bind you to the outdated system of capitalist domination: the traditions of 1789 and the laws of the bourgeois Revolution.

Proletarians of Russia, in 1917, with your Bolshevik party and Lenin, you overthrew the capitalist regime in order to set up the first Soviet Republic. Your magnificent class gesture opened the historical period of decisive struggle between the two antagonistic societies: the old, bourgeois society, destined to disappear under the weight of its own contradictions; the new, the proletariat which rises to become the ruling class in order to lead the way towards a society without classes, communism.

At that time too imperialist war was in full sway. Millions of workers were being cut down on capitalism’s battlefields. Following the example of your resolute struggle, there was an upsurge of resolve amongst the working masses to do away with the useless massacre. Having thrown the war off course, your revolution became the programme, the banner of struggle for all the world’s exploited. Capitalism, ruined by the economic crisis, distressed by the war, trembled in the face of the proletarian movement which arose throughout Europe.

Encircled by the White armies and the military forces of international capitalism who wanted to see you starve, you succeeded in liberating yourselves from the hold of the counter-revolution with the heroic support of the European and international proletariat, who took up the class struggle and held back the combined bourgeoisie from acting against the proletarian revolution.

The lesson was decisive. Henceforward the class struggle would move forward on the international level, the proletariat would form its own Communist Parties and its international programme would reaffirm your Communist Revolution. The bourgeoisie would focus on the repression of the workers’ movement and on undermining your revolution and your strength.

The present imperialist war finds you not with the proletariat, but against it. Your allies are no longer the workers, but the bourgeoisie. You are no longer defending the soviet constitution of 1917 but the socialist fatherland. You no longer have comrades such as Lenin and the others who were close to him, but marshals booted and decorated as in all capitalist countries, a symbol of bloody militarism, the executioners of the proletariat.

They say that for you there is no capitalism, but your exploitation is like that of all proletarians, and your labour power disappears into the abyss of war and into the coffers of international capitalism. Your freedom is to get you to kill to help imperialism to survive. Your class party has disappeared, your soviets have been wiped out, your unions are barracks, your links with the international proletariat have been severed.

Comrades and workers in Russia, for you, as everywhere capitalism has spread misery and ruin. The proletarian masses of Europe, like you in 1917, await the favourable moment to rise up against the appalling living conditions imposed by the war. Like you, they are aimed against all those responsible for this terrible carnage, whether fascists, democrats or Russians. Like you, they will seek to overthrow the bloody regime of oppression which is capitalism. Their flag will be your flag of 1917. Their programme will be your programme, the one that your current leaders have ripped up: the flag of Communist Revolution. Your State is in coalition with the forces of capitalist counterrevolution. You will stay solid, fraternise with your comrades in struggle, your brothers; you will struggle with them to restore the conditions for the victory of the World Communist Revolution in Russia and every other country.

English and American soldiers, your imperialism develops its plan of colonisation and enslavement of all peoples to try to save themselves from the deep crisis that envelops the whole society. Even before the war, despite colonial domination and the enrichment of your bourgeoisie, you suffered unemployment and poverty, with millions out of work.

Against strikes for legitimate demands, your bourgeoisie did not hesitate to employ the most barbarous means of repression: gas.(5) The workers of Germany, France, Italy and Spain have scores to settle with their own bourgeoisie who are responsible on the same basis as yours for the filthy massacre. They will want you to play the role of gendarmes, throwing you against the proletarian masses when they rise up. Refuse to shoot, fraternise with the soldiers and workers of Europe. These struggles are the struggles of your class.

Proletarians of Europe, you are surrounded by a world of enemies. All the parties, all the programmes are mired in the war; they all rejoice in your sufferings, united as they are in saving the collapse of capitalist society.

The whole gang of criminals in the service of high finance, from Hitler to Churchill, from Laval to Petain, from Stalin to Roosevelt, from Mussolini to Bonomi, works with the bourgeois State to preach order, work, discipline, fatherland which results in the perpetuation of your servitude.

Despite the betrayal by the leaders of the Russian state, the methods, the theses, the predictions of Marx and Lenin are resoundingly confirmed by the high treason of the current situation. Never has class division between exploited and exploiters been so clear and so deep. Never has the need to put an end to a regime of blood and suffering been so urgent. After the slaughter on the fronts, after the carnage of the air strikes, after five years of rationing, famine makes its appearance. The war rages across the continent, capitalism does not know how to, nor can, put an end to this war.

It is not by helping one or other group of the two forms of capitalist domination that you will shorten the conflict. This time it is the Italian proletariat who points you to the path of struggle, the revolt against war. As with Lenin in 1917, there is no other alternative, no other way forward than the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. As long as the capitalist system exists there will be no bread, no peace, no freedom for the proletariat.

Communist proletarians, there are many parties, too many parties. But all, including the small Trotskyist groups, have sunk into the counterrevolution. Only one party is missing: the political party of the working class.

Only the Communist Left has remained with the proletariat, loyal to the Marxist programme, to the Communist revolution. Only from this programme will it be possible to give back to the proletariat its organisations and the right weapons to lead the struggle to victory. These weapons are the new Communist party and the new International.

Against all opportunism, against all compromise in the class struggle, the Fraction appeals to you to combine your efforts to help the working class free itself from the grip of capitalism. The invincible power of the working class must rise against the combined forces of capitalism.

Workers and soldiers of all countries!

Only you can stop the terrible massacre which is unprecedented in history.

Workers, in each country block the production destined to kill your brothers, your women, your children.

Soldiers, cease-fire, drop your weapons! Fraternise beyond capitalism’s artificial borders.

Unite together in an international class front.

Long live the fraternisation of all the exploited! Down with the imperialist war! Long live the World Communist Revolution!

From International Discussion Bulletin No. 6, June 1944. The manifesto was distributed jointly by the Italian, French and Belgian fractions.


(1) A fuller explanation can be found in the introduction to our pamphlet “Platform of the Committee of Intesa”.

(2) It is the main subject of the 5 letters between Bordiga and Damen which can be found in the book “Bordiga – Beyond the Myth” which will appear in February 2016 in English.

(3) Originally signed by Churchill and Roosevelt in August 1941 it set out the demands of the Allies for a peace without annexations or border changes and became the war aims of the USSR, USA and Britain (although they all interpreted the document differently). It did not however mention that the Axis powers would have to surrender unconditionally a fact which prolonged the war and cost millions more lives.

(4) This was the French Committee of National Liberation (the so-called “Free French”) headed by De Gaulle and Giraud which moved to Algiers in June 1943 in the wake of the Allied victory there.

(5) This is a reference to the British Army’s experimental use of tear gas against striking Italian workers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

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