Appeal for the Creation of a NWBCW Committee in San Francisco, USA

The appeal we publish here was sent to us by some internationalist communists in San Francisco.

The Main Issue Today? Revolution or War

‘We are now in a wartime economy’, says France’s top military procurement official

Le Monde, March 15

Defense budget speeds towards $1 trillion, with China in Mind

El País, March 13

Vladimir Putin has already lost in Ukraine. China’s coming war in Taiwan must be our focus

The Telegraph, April 26

To the workers of San Francisco and the world, we present the following points:

Moscow may pledge “denazification” and Kyiv may pledge to defend democracy to the last man, and these arguments may be laundered through the press in their respective countries. However, anti-fascism and defense of democracy are not grounds on which either side is fighting the war. Their only significance is as a sleight of hand, prepared by the bourgeoisie to mobilize workers behind the defense of… profits. The war is not an inexplicable act of aggression, but was undertaken by the Russian state to defend the market position of its main export commodity and stop Ukraine’s integration into fortress Europe. That is to say, Russian workers are being conscripted and sacrificed to lofty ideals on the battlefield, but only insofar as those ideals are a cover for the defense of profit margins on Russian capital. And not only Russian workers are being sacrificed in this way…

Capitalism is a system of global exploitation of labor, and the working class is a global class whose interests are the same in every country. By the same token, the interests of the working class are not the same as those of other classes in the same country. Their interests oppose those of other classes. This is true even though the bourgeois press chides workers to identify capitalists as fellow members of the same nationality, with whom workers must unite to defend the nation. The nation is not an indivisible unit that exists over and above class distinctions. As a social organism it is one entry in a tally of others, a tally of different entities whose importance is always exceeded by one fact: that all modern societies are founded on the buying and selling of labor-power as a commodity—the exploitation of labor. It determines the overriding significance of the nation-state to be as a political configuration for the administration of capitalism. As such, workers have zero interest in the defense of “their” country; they have zero interest in dying for the flag under which they are to be exploited. Ukrainian workers are no exception. What are the “national rights” of Ukraine that they are being conscripted to defend? The exclusive rights of the Ukrainian state to administer the exploitation of Ukrainian workers. The working class has no nationality, and its political cause is not nationalist but internationalist. The political cause of the working class opposes Moscow AND Kyiv, and it opposes war through the overthrow of the system that causes it: capitalism. But, the war that will most decisively pose the question of revolution or war has yet to come…

If the principles sketched above apply to all wars, what can be said about the particular, historical significance of the current war? That it is a crucial dateline in the long economic depression that the post-WWII era of advanced living standards gave way to in the 1970s. It is unlike the proxy wars of the Cold War or the wars of the first two decades of the 21st century, in which millions were killed, in catastrophes that world capital did not rate above the level of an interesting news item. These wars were just the routine cullings inflicted on humanity by an inhuman social system. Many of them took place in a period where opportunities for capital investment readily accrued to all sides. Today, those opportunities are in precipitous decline. Why? Because the failure to invest capital returns at earlier levels of profitability has withstood 1) the flight of heavy industry from Western metropoles to countries where the price of labor-power is cheaper, and 2) the astronomical growth in financial speculation. These measures were supposed to solve the crisis of a system based on the creation of new value. They did not, but the unabated advance of economic crisis only served to renew capital’s attempts to “rationalize” production and attack workers. The working class fought a rearguard action against this but by the ebb of the 20th century was totally defeated. The symbols of this defeat are ubiquitous in media and society—the liquidation of manufacturing hubs; the appearance of so-called service economies; the decline in real wages and all other metrics of quality of life since 1971; the conscription of millions onto factory assembly lines in East and South Asian countries; and in 2008, the bursting of the illusion that the world economy had conclusively stabilized itself. These are all phenomena that were the funeral procession for the “boom” of 1947-1971, to which demagogic politicians of the right and left appeal. Now, we are irretrievably mired in the “bust” that succeeded the “boom”, and the result is the pie the USA and USSR fought over in the Cold War has been greatly reduced in size. This does not only mean more attacks on workers’ quality of life. It means mounting competition between states, in a bleaker, imperialist world, where the stakes are greater than they were in the Cold War; and therefore, that considerations for war preparedness will more and more determine attacks on workers’ quality of life. Capitalism is cyclical, and if we have long since said goodbye to the last “boom”, the kind of “bust” we are living through has only ever been overcome by generalized war. When the world is reduced to ruins, and capital must be accumulated anew, the cycle is reset. Since February 24, 2022 especially, the bourgeoisie is more and more attuned to the perspective of war as a way out of otherwise insoluble economic stagnation. The labyrinthine web of defense treaties brokered in just the past couple of years attest to this. So do the unprecedented rearmament schemes drawn up by countries whose military capabilities have been suppressed since the end of WWII (Germany, Japan). Their rearmament, part of the largest increase in military expenditures in history, will support the camp of the status quo—led by the USA—against the camp that aims to revise the geopolitical pecking order. China aims at being world power #1 by midcentury, the USA fights to avoid being overtaken by China, and the War in Ukraine has wrung in the new struggle between them. By reinvigorating NATO and orienting Russia to China, it has begun to consolidate imperialist blocs for a future conflict whose flashpoint is not in Europe but in the Pacific. And as in the First and Second World War, in the Third World War, the working class will be the cannon fodder. The intervention of working class internationalists against the coming war is imperative.

The Internationalist Communists’ Appeal…

To intervene against the coming war, what do we propose? We must first establish some methodological parameters, and be clear that our intervention is rooted in the historical lessons of workers’ struggle against wage-labor and capital, the lessons that form an indispensable inheritance for revolutionaries today. Though the reassertion of “anti-capitalist” perspectives since 2008 has furnished the working class with a wide repertoire of political formulae to choose from, we do not stagger from one fanciful theoretical innovation to the next. The political principles we base our intervention on are the political-theoretical acquisitions of the workers’ movement, not gathered by rote memorization of books, nor by scholastic surveys of Marx or Bakunin, but by a balance sheet of class struggle and revolutionaries’ intervention into ferments as remote as those of 1848. Undoubtedly, much has changed since the years of the world wars in ways not necessarily foreseen. But we do not decline to consider the lessons of those years as part of a definite history of working class struggle. Nor do we decline to consider the choice of revolution or war, the choice that a generation of workers were confronted with upon capitalism’s entrance into the first, worldwide imperialist slaughters of WWI and WWII, as an integral part of that history. It is a history at whose protruding end we stand now. The essential characteristics of the epoch remain the same. In fact, capitalism’s entrance into the 21st century has only accentuated them, the characteristics of an epoch in which the working class is implacably at odds with bourgeois society, and working class revolution is impressed ineffably on what we will dub humanity’s historical agenda. We assert this social system is rotting. To say so is not to add a literary flair to our arguments, but is based on empirical trends in the capitalist economy. It is a system that will acquire a new lease on life at the cost of a new world war, and so, world revolution is not a utopic dream. It is a material necessity. As working class internationalists, we remember how the workers of Russia and Germany put an end to WWI through revolution, and how workers in all belligerent countries counterposed the specter of world revolution to mass death in the waning days of WWII.

Accordingly, we refer specifically to the activity of internationalists in the world wars as both a guide and cautionary tale for our forthcoming proposal. A great tragedy of the First and Second World Wars is not necessarily that the shrill voice of our political forerunners, the internationalist communists, failed to be heard over the din of the war drums. It is that the internationalists were taken by surprise and were not already steeped in the urgency of their intervention against rearmament and war. In lieu of adequate preparation “early”, they had to work quickly when “later” had already come to pass. This was a debilitating handicap to the episodic resurgence of revolutionary working class activity during the world wars. We do not want to repeat this. We do not want to be reactive. We want to be proactive.

In contrast, something that was a great boon and life-preserver to the internationalists of the world wars was recalled in the report of the inaugural meeting of the No War but the Class War committee of Paris, France this past December. Besides “those actions that played a more typically central part of the workers’ struggles, like the general strike in which the PCInt [Partito Internazionalista Comunista] participated extensively in Northern Italy in 1943, or the GRP [Groupe Révolutionnaire Prolétarien] and others at Renault in France in 1944”,(1) we remember the networks of contacts and supporters that predated those actions and enabled the internationalists to survive and carry on their political work during the darkest, most repressive days of the war. Indeed, even the internationalist communist “RKD [Revolutionären Kommunisten Deutschlands] worked with groups like the Quakers, who never betrayed them.”(1)

Calling upon these experiences, and to the end of intervention against the coming war, we are appealing for the creation of No War but the Class War (NWBCW) committees — such as the aforementioned one in Paris — in San Francisco and at large. Such committees have already formed or are being formed in the USA (Chicago, Miami, New York City), Canada (Montréal, Toronto), South Korea, Britain, France, Italy, and Turkey. Their political makeup is not homogenous but heterogeneous, and we, the authors of this appeal, do not hide the fact that we stand in the tradition of the Internationalist Communist Left that our interlocutors will recognize as Marxist. But the NWBCW committees are not a ruse to envelope others into our politics, nor are they a tactical expedient for the construction of that thing we otherwise lay so much emphasis on, the International Party of the Proletariat. The committees have been animated by a variety of other working class internationalists, such as internationalist anarchists, to whom we send our fraternal greetings and with whom our political forerunners collaborated in both world wars. The purpose of the committees is to put internationalist nuclei in contact with one another, in order to define the rudiments of a common political intervention against the coming war, and to establish relationships with others that firmly situate themselves on internationalist terrain; relationships that will be of inordinate utility down the line, as they were in previous times. Adhesion to the committees is based on the following criteria:

  • Against capitalism, imperialism, and all nationalisms. No support for any national capitals, “lesser evils”, or states in formation.
  • For a society where states, wage-labor, private property, money, and production for profit are replaced by a world of freely associated producers.
  • Against the economic and political attacks that the current war, and the one to come, will unleash on the working class.
  • For the self-organized struggle of the working class, for the formation of independent strike committees, mass assemblies, and workers’ councils.
  • Against oppression and exploitation, for the unity of the working class and the coming together of genuine internationalists.

Lest we are accused of ambiguity, we will sketch in plain terms some positions entailed by these criteria:

  • For an exclusive orientation to the working class, the only force whose objective interests coincide with universal human needs. For the acquisition of power by the working class in an international revolution against the state and capital. For the disappearance of wage-labor, exploitation, money, classes, states, borders, capital, scarcity, and their substitution by a society based on fulfillment of human needs: communism.
  • Refusal of collaboration with any and all states. Refusal of pacifism, that opposes war with demands for negotiations between states. For opposing war with a programatically revolutionary intervention into the class struggle, aka “revolutionary defeatism”. For opposing war with international working class revolution, as the workers of Russia and Germany did in WWI when they brought an end to the war by overthrowing their governments.
  • Refusal to contest elections to the bourgeois state. Acceptance that elections are an arena in which bourgeois forces vye for the administration of capitalism, and have no utility for the intervention of revolutionaries.
  • Refusal of all institutional parties and governments-in-waiting, including those that claim to defend the political cause of the working class (Stalinism, Trotskyism, Social Democracy).
  • Refusal of unionism. Acceptance that unions have been turned into an appendage of state-capitalism. They are an appendage whose prerogative is the dismemberment of the working class along corporate and sectoral lines, and the mobilization of the working class behind military preparedness and war production. Acceptance that the working class has to go beyond union strictures that its struggle since the 2008 recession has been largely imprisoned in.
  • Refusal of anti-fascism. Acceptance that fascism and anti-fascism have been opposite ideological poles for the mobilization of workers behind imperialism and generalized war.

We do not expect to meet with broad support immediately, and emphasize that we are compelled to work as a minority. In fact, what we expect is to be rebuffed. This includes by those that are ostensibly in agreement with our intervention, but who do not have the fortitude to spend long periods of time in the political wilderness that internationalists are often condemned to in the absence of a vigorous upswing in class struggle. The point of these committees is not that we think we will be thronged by supporters once we reveal ourselves to be “real” revolutionaries. They are to propagate the criteria for adhesion to the committees; physically intervene where opportunities arise, to peel off workers from statist and bourgeois political frameworks and place them on internationalist terrain; and prepare for intervention into the decisive confrontations of the future. We are playing a long-term game.

You have followed us this far, we hope, because you see it as clearly as we do: that there is not really a war between the workers of Russia and Ukraine, and there will not really be a war between the workers of the USA and China. There is only a war between Russian and Ukrainian capitalism, between American and Chinese capitalism. And if you sense the urgency of internationalists’ tasks, then write to us:

Internationalist Communists in San Francisco, USA
May 18, 2023




Wednesday, May 24, 2023


Risenthal has a book. Rebel minds. You can read it here. I thought it was excellent.