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Fourth International, May 1944


Resolution on War and Military Policy

Adopted by the Revolutionary Communist Party of England


From Fourth International, vol.5 No.5, May 1944, pp.148-149.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


On March 11-12, 1944, the hitherto separated Trotskyist forces and groupings in England met in a joint conference in London and took a great forward step in founding a unified party, The Revolutionary Communist Party. For the information of the readers of Fourth International we reprint below one of the important resolutions adopted by this founding conference.

* * * *

The Second World War into which capitalism has plunged mankind in the course of a generation, and which has been raging for more than four years is the inevitable outcome of the crisis of capitalist methods of production, long predicted by the revolutionary Marxists, and is a sign of the impasse out of which capitalism cannot lead the mass of humanity.

The war of the British ruling class is not an ideological war fought in the interests of democracy against fascism. This has been demonstrated clearly by their support of Hitler against the German working class; their acquiescence to the seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia; by their cynical policy of non-intervention in Spain which enabled Franco to massacre hundreds of thousands of Spanish anti-fascist proletarians; and by their support of Darlan in North Africa and Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel in Italy. The British ruling class is waging the war to maintain its colonial plunder, its sources of raw material and cheap labor, its spheres of influence and markets, and to extend wherever possible, its domination over wider territories. It is the duty of revolutionary Socialists to patiently explain the imperialistic policy of the ruling class and expose its false and lying slogans of the “War against Fascism” and the “War for Democracy.”

The victory of German fascism and Japanese militarism would be a disaster for the working class of the world and for the colonial peoples. But no less disastrous would be a victory for Anglo-American imperialism. Such a victory would perpetuate and intensify the imperialist contradictions which gave rise to fascism and the present world war and will inevitably lead to new fascist and reactionary regimes and a third World War.

The British working class, therefore, cannot support the war conducted by the ruling class without at the same time opposing its own class interests on a national and international scale. Our party is opposed to the war and calls upon the working class to oppose it. Only by overthrowing the capitalist state and taking power into its own hands under the leaderhip of the Fourth International, can the British working class wage a truly revolutionary war and aid the German and European working class to destroy fascism and capitalist reaction.

By their support of the war the trade unions, the Labor Party and the Communist Party, with their satellite organizations, have betrayed the historic interests of the working class and the interests of the colonial masses oppressed by British imperialism. It is the duty of revolutionary Socialists to mercilessly expose the leadership of these organizations as agents of the ruling class in the ranks of the workers and to win over the broad mass of the workers from the leadership of these organizations to the party of the Fourth International.

The outbreak of the war created a new objective situation in which the revolutionaries had to conduct their political activity. Millions of workers – men and women – the most youthful and virile section of the population, are conscripted into the armed forces. The war not only changed the way in which millions of workers are forced to live, but also their level of political consciousness. War and militarism has penetrated every phase of, and become the basis of their lives.

It would be a mistake on the part of the revolutionary Socialists to lump the defensist feeling of the broad mass of the workers together with the chauvinism of the Labor and Stalinist leadership. This defensism of the masses stems largely from entirely progressive motives of preserving their own class organizations and democratic rights from destruction at the hands of fascism and from a foreign invader. The mass chauvinistic enthusiasm of the last war is entirely absent in the present period. Only a deep-seated suspicion of the aims and slogans of the ruling class is evident. To separate the workers from the capitalists and their lackeys, is the principal task of the revolutionary party.

The policy of our party must be based upon the objective conditions in which we live, including the level of consciousness of the masses, and must help the masses in the process of their daily struggles along the road to the seizure of power.

In the present period all great social changes will be made by military means. Our party takes the capitalists militarization of the millions not merely as the basis for the restatement of our fundamental principles and aims, but for the purpose of propagating positive political ideas and policies in the ranks of the working class as an alternative to the class program of the bourgeoisie. This necessitates the supplementing of our transitional program with a policy adapted to the needs of the working class in a period of militarization and war. Our attitude towards war is not based merely on the rejection of the defense of the capitalist “fatherland” but on the conquest of power by the working class and the defense of the proletarian fatherland. From this conception flows the proletarian military policy of the Fourth International.

In the last war socialist pacifism and conscientious objection were progressive and even revolutionary in opposition to the policy of national unity and support for capitalist militarism which was advocated by the chauvinists. But thirty years of class struggle have clearly and decisively demonstrated that such policies act as a brake on the socialist revolution and serve only to separate the conscious revolutionaries from the mass of the working class caught up in the military machine. To this negative policy must be counterposed a positive policy which separates the workers from their exploiters in the military organizations.

The working class and the revolutionary socialists are compelled to participate in the military organizations controlled by the capitalist state. But to the capitalist militarism for capitalist ends, the revolutionary socialists must counterpose the necessity of proletarian militarism for proletarian ends. Our military policy defends the rights and interests of the working class against its class enemy; at every point we place our class program against the class program of the bourgeoisie.

The Labor Party, the Communist Party, the ILP and the sectarians have also policies for the workers in arms. But these policies are reformist, based upon the perspective of the continued control of the state in the hands of the bourgeoisie. These policies contain only a series of minor democratic and financial reforms which do not lead to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the conquest of power by the working class.

Our party is for the arming of the working class under the control of workers’ organizations, the trade unions, workers’ committees and political parties.

We are against the special schools controlled by the capitalists for the training of their sons and agents for the highest posts of command and technicians of the military arts.

We are for state-financed schools, controlled by the trade unions and workers’ organizations for the purpose of training worker-officers, who will know how to defend the interests of the working class.

We are against the selection of the officers in the armed forces, including the Home Guard, by the bourgeoisie and its state machine. This selection takes place on the basis of class loyalty to the capitalists and hatred of the working class. We are for the election of officers in the armed forces by the men in the ranks.

These are the positive steps which our party advocates in its proletarian military policy, and which supplements our general transitional programme in the struggle for power. Such a policy, not only caters for the needs of the workers in uniform in their day-to-day struggle against the reactionary officer caste, but by its thoroughly anti-pacifist character, prepares the working class for the inevitable military attacks which will be launched against it by the exploiters at home, and for the defense of the proletarian fatherland against reactionary war of intervention.

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