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{UAH} History of the Marxist internationals- First And Second

MIke Ocaya s/o Ocure,

Here is a narrative on the First as well as the Second International that I mentioned a few minutes ago. It is such a shame that most Ugandans are not acquainted with this very important part of world history.


History of the Marxist internationals (part 1, the IWA)

Filed under: history of the Marxist internationals,revolutionary organizing — louisproyect @ 7:10 pm 

Earlier this month Marxmail subscriber Joonas Laine asked about books that cover the history of the first International, known rather unfortunately as the International Workingman's Association. I should add that this was more than just a sexist oversight. One of the standard histories of the first international written by G.M. Stekloff that can be read online at the Marxist Internet Archives describes the exclusion of women from the Paris branch of the IWA by its Proudhonist majority:

Regarding this matter, the French … had decided by a large majority: 'Woman's place is the home, not the forum; nature has made her nurse and housewife, do not let us withdraw her from these social functions and from her true sphere in life; for the man, work, and study of the problems of society for the woman, the caring for children and the beautifying of the worker's home.' Consequently, to the great scandal of the advocates of the so-called emancipation of woman, they had decided against the admission of women to the International.

These were the words of E.E. Fribourg, a Proudhonist who had written his own history in 1871, just around the time that the IWA was collapsing.

I read Stekloff's book as well as the first chapter of Raymond Williams Postgate's history as background for a series of posts on the four attempts to build socialist internationals. Ever since Hugo Chavez issued a call for a Fifth International, I had promised myself to carve out some time to take up this question. Most people who are veterans of the Trotskyist movement were indoctrinated to believe something like this. The internationals that preceded our own—the fourth—failed for one reason or the other. I was more familiar with the second and the third, which succumbed to the kinds of social democratic and Stalinist sins that our movement devoted so much energy to exposing. I knew much less about the first international, which usually received a brief review in a new member's class or an educational. Of course, our own Fourth International was destined to lead the workers to power all over the world, just as long as they didn't get misled by the bevy of Fourth Internationals that were pretenders to the throne of Leon Trotsky.

I looked forward to reading about the IWA for several reasons. I am always looking for ways to educate myself about our movement, especially since it helps to keep my brain cells exercised. I also had a hunch that during the lifetime of the IWA, there would be the same sorts of problems we face today. In both periods Marxism was a minority current on the left. If we are trying to piece together a movement out of the rubble of the collapse of the USSR, what better period to study than when socialism was in its infancy?

To start with, it is important to realize that the IWA was not initiated by Karl Marx. As it turns out the British trade union movement played a key role in getting it off the ground and, as might be expected, had very little interest in revolutionary socialism. Indeed, one of their primary motivations was to find a way of preventing foreign workers being used as scabs in British strikes. Stekloff writes:

Simultaneously with the growth of interest in the political struggle, there was a revival of internationalist leanings among the British workers. Here and there, the direct economic interests of the workers exercised an influence. At this date, the standard of life of the British workers was higher than that of the workers in other lands, and consequently the strike movement in Britain was hindered by the competition of the Continental workers. When there was a strike in Britain, the employers would threaten to import foreign workers who would accept worse conditions – and did actually import strike-breakers from Belgium and elsewhere. Naturally, therefore, the movement could not be confined within national limits.

Accepting at face value that British trade unionists were only opposed to scabs and not foreign workers "stealing jobs", it is necessary to note that the American trade union movement did exhibit naked racism in this period, all within the framework of the IWA.

Timothy Messer-Kruse's "The Yankee International" explores the factional divisions between Victoria Woodhull and Fredrick Sorge in the American section of the IWA. Woodhull was considered flaky by some dogmatic Marxists since she dabbled in spiritualism and was an early feminist of the kind derided by the Proudhomists. Sorge, on the other hand, had the full support of Karl Marx on most questions but his attitude toward Chinese immigration was hardly calculated to sit well with our movement today, regardless of Marx's feelings. Messer-Kruse explains:

At their first annual congress after purging the Yankees [Woodhull] from their midst, Sorge's Tenth Ward Hotel faction devoted much of its attention to the issue the Chinese. In honor to their West Coast comrades, the convention chose Robert Blissert. the proxy delegate of a San Francisco section, president of the convention. Beneath their red banner inscribed with the words "Workingmen of all Countries Unite," the delegate representing San Francisco's Internationalists read his report:

"The white workingmen see and feel daily the effects of the Chinese labor in that State. We cannot only perceive how it affects us, but know assuredly that it will seriously affect the destiny of the working classes of this country. The Chinese have driven out of employment thousands of white men, women, girls and boys…. They are in all branches of the manufacturing business, and it is only a matter of time when they will monopolize all branches of industry; as it is impossible for white men to exist on the same amount and sort of food Chinamen seem to thrive upon."

California's Internationalists appealed to their Eastern comrades to do all they could to publicize the plight of the Western white worker and the grave threat posed to all white workers by the continued immigration of the Chinese. Their communication ended on a murderous note. "If Chinese emigration is not stopped," the message declared (according to one observer present at the meeting), "blood will yet flow in the streets of San Francisco on their account." The convention voted unanimously to "use [all] their endeavors to give all the publicity possible to the document."

There were problems with the French section of the IWA but of an entirely different sort. There the followers of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon enjoyed hegemony. While it would be a mistake to fall into the trap of economic determinism, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that Proudhon's philosophy of "mutualism" had a fertile soil in France since industry was not as developed as it was in Britain. If Britain's trade union was governed by bread-and-butter issues, French radicals of the 1860s tended to have illusions that change could come about short of a proletarian revolution. Proudhon's main emphasis was not on the class struggle, but allowing workers to have a fair share in the capitalist economy through co-operatives, the easy advancement of credit and other such reforms. Anybody who has seen Michael Moore's "Capitalism: a love story" can easily see how seductive these ideas are in a period when the working class was not a fully developed social and economic force.


Chapter five of Stekloff's history hones in on Proudhon's philosophy which can be described as a form of anarchism, although distinctly at odds with Bakunin's anarchism, another current that was also well represented in a highly heterogeneous international.

Proudhonism was organised as a system in the period of extreme reaction which supervened in France upon the suppression of the proletarian rising in June 1848. On the one hand, it was tinged with political indifferentism, which was a reflection of the political indifferentism of the masses during the Second Empire; this aroused sharp criticism on the part of the Blanquists, who declared that the International (during the early days the French members of the organisation were mainly Proudhonists) was in the service of the Bonapartist police. Or, the other hand, Proudhonism was characterised by a narrow doctrinairism. In a society based upon the dominion of large-scale capital and upon the centralisation of economic life, the Proudhonists hoped to solve the social problem by economic measures which should not transcend the limits of petty production and exchange. The difficulties arising out of the exploitation of wage labour by large-scale machine industry, in a society where banking capital had become highly concentrated, were to be overcome – so thought the Proudhonists – by the organisation of people's banks, with free credit, and by the "equitable" (non-monetary) exchange of products among isolated producers, who were to exchange these goods for their actual ("constituted") value.

Put in its most simple terms, Proudhonism was a system that prioritized the implementation of economic "alternatives" to capitalism to political assaults on the system. It was akin to the utopian socialist experiments of the time that took root in Britain and the United States. Utopian thought obviously continues to this day as demonstrated by the fascination with the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain, which have now grown into a powerful multinational company. As was the case with the Proudhonists, the Mondragon co-op has almost no interest in strikes or political action. If you are expecting the Mondragon management to be on the front lines against the "war on terror", immigrant rights or gay liberation, you will likely be disappointed. This is not to say that co-op's are not of benefit to some workers or that Proudhonism was not a genuine movement of the left. It is only a problem when such politically confused initiatives represent themselves as precursors to socialism.

Turning now to the other anarchist party represented in the IWA, we find ourselves communing with the ancestors of the Black Block rather than Mondragon. As master of the "propaganda of the deed", Mikhail Bakunin—like Proudhon—was undoubtedly opposed to the capitalist system. But he had little interest in co-ops. His main interest was in insurrectionist activity by enlightened intellectuals over and above the heads of the proletariat.


While Bakunin saw the IWA as an organization to spread his influence, his main identification was with something called the Alliance of Social Revolutionaries founded in 1868 that he proposed as a kind of international within the First International, which the IWA understandably rejected. That, of course, did not prevent Bakunin from operating as a secret faction within the IWA. As a past master of intrigue, he probably considered his Marxist comrades with as much contempt as the bourgeoisie since both groups obviously adhered to statism.

Marx and Bakunin both emerge out of the radical wing of the Hegelian School of philosophy but by the early 1840s, they both struggled to transcend this framework. At the outset this was manifested by a tendency to see the struggle for a classless society in moral or philosophical terms. They hoped to lead European society to a better future through a kind of prophetic denunciation of contemporary ills. Proudhon's notion that "property is theft" epitomizes this approach.

Unlike his anarchist comrades, Marx eventually came to the conclusion that a critique of capitalism had to be rooted in political economy rather than ethics. Written in 1846-47, "The Poverty of Philosophy" is not only an answer to Proudhon's "Property is Theft," it also contains some of the basic economic insights that would be more fully developed in Capital.

Besides the philosophical differences, you also have a basic disagreement over what Marxists call "agency," a term designating the social class capable of transforming society through revolutionary action. Despite the fact that the industrial proletariat had not achieved the sort of numerical strength and social power that it would later in the century, Marx staked everything on this emerging class. The reasons for this are developed extensively throughout his writings, but suffice it to say at this point that it is related to his analysis of the capitalist economy. Since the capitalist system can only survive through competition and revolutionizing the means of production, it would of necessity introduce machinery and–hence–a proletariat. In struggles over wages and working conditions–as well as a host of ancillary issues–the two classes will confront each other in revolutionary battles for power.

Although Bakunin was no friend of the bourgeoisie, he never seemed to be able to make up his mind on the 'agency' question. Addressing Marx's belief that the proletariat be "raised to the level of a ruling class," Bakunin pointed out that some other class, like the peasant rabble or lumpen-proletariat might be the most willing to rise up against the capitalist system. Whether they, or the philosopher-kings leading them, had a grasp of the political tasks leading up to the final insurrection could hardly matter less.

Despite the clashes in the IWA over such basic questions, it continued to grow as workers became radicalized in struggle. While the Paris Commune was not directly led by IWA members, there is little doubt that the bourgeoisie saw it as the most consistent defender of the first proletarian revolution and a future organizer of such challenges to capitalist rule.

Torn apart by internal rifts and bourgeois repression, the IWA went into a crisis after 1871. The meeting at The Hague in the summer of 1872 would be its last. The IWA decided to expel Bakunin who was charged with mishandling funds. 300 pounds had been advanced to Bakaunin to translate Capital into Russian but he failed to follow through. He was also charged with organizing a secret faction. Additionally, Marx and Engels decided to withdraw from the leadership of the IWA in order to focus on completing Capital and other major theoretical works.

The headquarters of the IWA was transferred to the United States where it sputtered along for a few years until its final convention in July 1876. The American branch was led by Daniel DeLeon, a Jew born in Curacao in 1852 who would move to the United States as a youth and graduate from Columbia University. The American branch of the IWA would eventually become known as the Socialist Labor Party. Unlike the IWA, the SLP continued to exist right until today.

The IWA was a workers international that probably was destined to have a short life, given the social and political contradictions of the movement in its earliest phases. When it finally collapsed, Marx and Engels had already begun to consider how the next phase of the movement would take shape. Marx did not live long enough to see that development—the second international—but clearly his ideas were at its core, as opposed to the inchoate first international.

In September 27, 1873, Marx wrote to Sorge giving his assessment of where the IWA stood:

According to my reading of the European situation, it will be a very good thing that the formal organisation of the International shall, for the time being, be allowed to retire into the background – though it may be just as well that we should keep our hands upon the nucleus in New York, lest idiots like Perret or adventurers like Cluseret might get hold of it and compromise the affair. The course of events and the inevitable development and interlacement of things will spontaneously ensure the uprising of the International in an improved form. For the nonce, however, it will suffice that we avoid allowing ourselves to get quite out of touch with the really efficient workers in the movement in various lands.

One year later, it was Engels's turn to write to Sorge about the end of the IWA. He was reflective about the organization's internal contradictions:

'Tis just as well. The organisation belonged to the epoch of the Second Empire, when the labour movement was again beginning to become active, but when the oppressions that prevailed throughout Europe made unity and abstention from internal disputes absolutely essential. It was time when the joint cosmopolitan interests of the proletariat could come to the front. Germany, Spain, Italy, and Denmark had recently entered the movement, or were just entering it. In 1864, throughout Europe (among the masses at any rate), there was still very little understanding of the theory underlying the movement. German communism had not yet found expression in a workers' party, and Proudhonism was too weak to impose its whimsies; Bakunin's new-fangled idea had not yet found its way into his own head. Even the British trade-union leaders felt able to participate is the movement upon the basis of the program formulated in the Preamble to the Provisional Rules of the Association. It was inevitable that the first great success should break up this simple harmony of all the factions. The success was the Commune, which, as far as its intellectual inspiration was concerned, was unmistakably the child of the International, although the International had not stirred a finger to bring it into being – for the International is with good reason made responsible for its creation. But when, thanks to the Commune, the International became a moral force in Europe, the quarrel promptly broke out. The members of each faction wanted to exploit the success on their own account. The break-up of the organisation was inevitable, and speedily ensued. Jealousy of the rising power of those who were ready to continue working along the lines laid down in the old comprehensive program, jealousy of the German communists, drove the Belgian Proudhonists into the arms of the Bakuninist adventurers. The Hague Congress was, in fact, the end of the International, and for both parties in the International. There was only one country in which something might still be done in the name of the International, and it was a happy instinct which led the congress to decide upon the removal of the General Council to the United States. But now, even there, its prestige has waned, and any further attempts to galvanise the corpse to life would be a foolish waste of energy.

The one thing that comes through loud and clear from both Marx and Engels's letters is an utter lack of sentimentality when it comes to the question of organization. Rather than seeing the IWA as a movement in permanence, they viewed it as an episode in the history of the revolutionary movement that was valid for a particular time and place. As we shall see, this insight would be lost on future leaders of workers' internationals who tended to invest in them universality and permanence they ill deserved.

History of the Marxist internationals (part 2, the Second International)

Filed under: history of the Marxist internationals,revolutionary organizing — louisproyect @ 9:10 pm 

This is the second in a series of posts on socialist internationals. The first dealt with the International Workingman's Association (IWA) that collapsed not long after the defeat of the Paris Commune. The ensuing repression combined with an exhausting faction fight with Bakunin and the anarchists led to its demise.

Although conditions were ripening to inspire the formation of a new international (largely a function of the growth of an industrial working class), Marx was wary of launching it prematurely. In 1881, two years before his death, he wrote F. Domela Nieuwenhuis, a Dutch supporter, that "It is my conviction that the critical juncture for a new International Workingmen's Association has not yet arrived and for this reason I regard all workers' congresses, particularly socialist congresses, in so far as they are not related to the immediate given conditions in this or that particular nation, as not merely useless but harmful. They will always fade away in innumerable stale generalised banalities."

Despite these doubts, the growth of the socialist movements in France and Germany led to a new impetus for organizing internationally. Just as Russia was the natural center for the Communist International (a mixed blessing as we shall see), France and Germany formed the twin stars of the Second International. And despite their considerable national differences, the two sections would exhibit all the shortcomings that made the Second International fail.

Jules Guesde

One of the founders of French social democracy, and consequently the Second International, was Jules Guesde, a veteran of the Paris Commune. In 1889 the French government held an International Exhibition in Paris to celebrate the Centennial of the French Revolution that attracted leftists from across Europe eager to start a new world movement. There were already differences over strategy that would become more pronounced over the next decade or so leading up to the First World War. Guesde was allied with the German socialists who defended a "classic" reading of Karl Marx, like Wilhelm Liebknecht. Meanwhile, the British trade union movement oriented to the "Possibilists" in the French social democracy who, like it, believed in piecemeal reform. In an 1883 letter to August Bebel, a German socialist who was aligned with Liebknecht, Engels complained about the British trade union movement:

Participation in the domination of the world market was and is the basis of the political nullity of the English workers. The tail of the bourgeoisie in the economic exploitation of this monopoly but nevertheless sharing in its advantages, politically they are naturally the tail of the "great Liberal Party," which for its part pays them small attentions, recognises trade unions and strikes as legitimate factors, has relinquished the fight for an unlimited working day and has given the mass of better placed workers the vote.

Obviously not much has changed in the trade union movement for the past 120 years or so.

The "Impossibilist" group led by Guesde and the "Possibilists" met in separate halls. It was the former gathering that effectively marks the beginning of the Second International. It should be mentioned, however, that the German allies of Guesde might have all been defending Marxism but not with the same degree of conviction. Eduard Bernstein, for example, who was urged by Engels to write a pamphlet attacking the "Possibilists" would become a key "revisionist" leader before long.

Jean Jaures

Although Guesde was one of the most prominent leaders of French socialism in this period, the most prominent public figure was Jean Jaures, who was born in 1859—making him fifteen years younger than Guesde. Unlike Guesde, who had a trade union background, Jaures was an intellectual. He was a classmate of Henri Bergson and would eventually become a philosophy professor. In James Joll's serviceable history of the Second International, he is described as never having been a Marxist. His entry into the socialist movement was prompted mostly by an outrage over how working people were being treated. That being said, he was familiar enough with Marx's writings to defend the theory of surplus value against Eduard Bernstein whose attack on this theory was essential to his "revisionist" critique.

In the French socialist movement, Jaures—an independent socialist by conviction and never a party member—functioned as a conciliator between its left wing and a right wing that was the ideological heir of the "Possibilists". The differences between the two camps would be put to the test in the Dreyfus affair of 1897.

Accused of being a German spy in 1897, Dreyfus—a Jew—became a cause célèbre for French socialism and opponents of anti-Semitism. Jaures threw himself into the defense, perhaps too much so in Guesde's eyes since Dreyfus—after all—was a member of the bourgeoisie. There was no excuse, of course, for this sectarian attitude but there were aspects of Jaures's involvement that suggested willingness to bloc with bourgeois parties who supported Dreyfus against his tormentors.

In 1899 the French elections produced a new ministry led by René Waldeck-Rousseau, a Dreyfus supporter who looked to the socialists for support. Alexandre Millerand, a socialist independent like Jaures whose sympathies were with the rightwing of the party, decided to accept the post of Minister of Commerce in Waldeck-Rousseau's government, arguably the first instance in our movement's history of a kind of Popular Front. He was immediately denounced as a traitor by the French left.

What was galling in particular to Guesde was the participation of General Gallifet in Waldeck-Rousseau's cabinet as Minister of War. This officer had suppressed the Paris Commune in 1871 and was one of the most hated figures on the French left. In 1899, a young woman named Rosa Luxemberg who was a rising star of the German socialist party, wrote an article titled "The Dreyfus Affair and the Millerand Case" that conveyed the commitment to socialist principles that would distinguish her until her murder by soldiers taking orders from German socialist politicians:

As concerns the Dreyfus Affair in particular, the intervention of the proletariat in the case need not be justified either from on general point of view, on the subject of bourgeois conflicts, nor from the point of view of humanity. For in the Dreyfus case four social factors make themselves felt which give it the stamp of a question directly related to the class struggle. They are: militarism, chauvinism-nationalism, anti-Semitism, and clericalism. In our written and spoken agitation we always combat these direct enemies of the socialist proletariat by virtue of our general tendencies. It would thus be totally incomprehensible to not enter into a struggle with these enemies exactly when it is a question of unmasking them, not as abstract clichés, but through the use of living current events.

In the case of Millerand, the question comes down to whether the given situation in France made the entry of a socialist into a ministry truly necessary.

The sole method with the aid of which we can attain the realization of socialism is the class struggle. We can and we must penetrate all the institutions of bourgeois society, and put to use all the events that occur there and that permit us to carry on the class struggle. It's from this point of view that the participation by Socialists was imposed as a measure of preservation. But it's precisely from this same point of view that participation in bourgeois power seems counter-indicated, for the very nature of bourgeois government excludes the possibility of socialist class struggle. It's not that we fear for socialists the dangers and the difficulties of ministerial activity; we must not back away from any danger or difficulty attached to the post in which we are placed by the interests of the proletariat. But a ministry is not, in general, a field of action for a party of the struggle of the proletarian classes. The character of a bourgeois government isn't determined by the personal character of its members, but by its organic function in bourgeois society. The government of the modern state is essentially an organization of class domination, the regular functioning of which is one of the conditions of existence of the class state. With the entry of a socialist into the government, and class domination continuing to exist, the bourgeois government doesn't transform itself into a socialist government, but a socialist transforms himself into a bourgeois minister.

It is too bad we don't have enough Rosa Luxembergs on the scene today to scream bloody murder about the kinds of class collaboration carried out in the name of socialism today. It is remarkable that after 110 years we still have to remind the movement that "The character of a bourgeois government isn't determined by the personal character of its members, but by its organic function in bourgeois society."

As it turns out, Rosa Luxemberg had her hands filled with the "revisionists" in her own party who while not joining capitalist governments, would not be above this maneuver if invited to do so. A long period of prosperity and a decline in intra-European warfare had convinced Eduard Bernstein that the capitalist system might not be in need of revolutionary transformation. This rising prosperity, it should be added, was facilitated by the growth of empire that all the industrialized powers participated in, including the late-comer Germany. It was to Eduard Bernstein's dubious distinction to defend this state of affairs with seeming Marxist orthodoxy.

Eduard Bernstein

In a January 5, 1898 article titled "The Struggle of Social Democracy and the Social Revolution," Bernstein makes the case for colonial rule over Morocco using the Communist Manifesto as ammunition.

There is a great deal of sound evidence to support the view that, in the present state of public opinion in Europe, the subjection of natives to the authority of European administration does not always entail a worsening of their condition, but often means the opposite. However much violence, fraud, and other unworthy actions accompanied the spread of European rule in earlier centuries, as they often still do today, the other side of the picture is that, under direct European rule, savages are without exception better off than they were before.

However much violence, fraud, and other unworthy actions accompanied the spread of European rule in earlier centuries, as they often still do today, the other side of the picture is that, under direct European rule, savages are without exception better off than they were before. Even before the arrival of Europeans in Africa, brutal wars, robbery, and slavery were not unknown. Indeed, they were the regular order of the day. What was unknown was the degree of peace and legal protection made possible by European institutions and the consequent sharp rise in food resources…

Am I, because I acknowledge all this, an 'adulator' of the present? If so, let me refer Bax [a British anti-revisionist] to The Communist Manifesto, which opens with an 'adulation' of the bourgeoisie which no hired hack of the latter could have written more impressively.However, in the fifty years since the Manifesto was written the world has advanced rather than regressed; and the revolutions which have been accomplished in public life since then, especially the rise of modern democracy, have not been without influence on the doctrine of social obligation.

Despite Bernstein's illusions in the peaceful nature of capitalism, most socialists were worried that war could break out any time, especially with the presence of large standing armies and an increasingly nationalist outlook among their own bourgeoisies. This led to Second International gatherings issuing proclamations for the need to oppose war and to replace standing armies by a popular militia. In his characteristically opportunist manner, Jaures defended such ideas in a book written four years before the start of WWI titled L'Armée Nouvelle that called for peace while simultaneously waxed rapturously over France's past military successes. He also felt that wars could be avoided if a system of international relations based on arbitration between states could be established, a foolish belief that anticipated both the League of Nations and the UN. If Marxism was based on the idea that capitalism bred war, Jaures would have nothing of it.

Most importantly, Jaures expressed the idea that French socialists would be justified in resisting a German attack: "Those Frenchmen, if there are any left, who say that it is all the same to them whether they live under the German troopers or the French troopers…commit a sophism which by its very absurdity makes refutation difficult…The truth is that wherever there are countries, that is historical groups having a consciousness of their continuity and their unity, any attack on the freedom and integrity of these countries is an attack against civilization, a reaction into barbarism."

Four years later WWI would break out, financed by war credits voted by Jaures, Guesde and the majority of German socialist parliamentarians who all believed that an attack on their country was "an attack on civilization" as Jaures put it. So overwhelming was the war fever that even an anarchist like Kropotkin supported it. This is not to single out the anarchists for opprobrium since Kropotkin's countryman George Plekhanov—as orthodox a Marxist as ever there was—supported the war as well.

It was up to internationalists like V.I. Lenin and Rosa Luxemberg to take a stand against the social patriotism that would lead to millions of workers being slaughtered in a senseless war for profits and empire.

In the first year of the war, Lenin wrote Dead Chauvinism and Living Socialism: How the International Can Be Restored as an attempt to draw clear class lines between the revolutionaries and the traitors. He wrote:

An International does not mean sitting at the same table and having hypocritical and pettifogging resolutions written by people who think that genuine internationalism consists in German socialists justifying the German bourgeoisie's call to shoot down French workers, and in French socialists justifying the French bourgeoisie' call to shoot down German workers in the name of the "defence of the fatherland"! The International consists in the coming together (first ideologically, then in due time organisationally as well) of people who, in these grave days, are capable of defending socialist internationalism in deed, i.e., of mustering their forces and "being the next to shoot" at the governments and the ruling classes of their own respective "fatherlands". This is no easy task; it calls for much preparation and great sacrifices and will be accompanied by reverses. However, for the very reason that it, is no easy task, it must be accomplished only together with those who wish to perform it and are not afraid of a complete break with the chauvinists and with the defenders of social-chauvinism.

In 1915 Rosa Luxemberg wrote The Junius Pamphlet.  It includes a paragraph that is one of my favorite in the entire Marxist literature, especially for its sardonic commentary on the "civilization" that Jaures was defending by voting for war credits:

This brutal victory parade of capital through the world, its way prepared by every means of violence, robbery, and infamy, has its light side. It creates the preconditions for its own final destruction. It put into place the capitalist system of world domination, the indispensable precondition for the socialist world revolution. This alone constitutes the cultural, progressive side of its reputed "great work of civilization" in the primitive lands. For bourgeois-liberal economists and politicians, railroads, Swedish matches, sewer systems, and department stores are "progress" and "civilization." In themselves these works grafted onto primitive conditions are neither civilization nor progress, for they are bought with the rapid economic and cultural ruin of peoples who must experience simultaneously the full misery and horror of two eras: the traditional natural economic system and the most modern and rapacious capitalist system of exploitation. Thus, the capitalist victory parade and all its works bear the stamp of progress in the historical sense only because they create the material preconditions for the abolition of capitalist domination and class society in general. And in this sense imperialism ultimately works for us.

The failure of the Second International to oppose war led to its eventual disintegration. Out of its ashes came the rise of a new international that will be the topic of my next post in this series.

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