2. Just and Unjust Wars,
the Military Programme of
Proletarian Revolution

p An abstract approach to wars is at odds with the very essence of Marxism. Lenin insistently demanded that, in defining its position in relation to a given war, the revolutionary party should first appraise "the class character of the war: what caused that war, what classes are waging it, and what historical and historico-economic conditions gave rise to it ... what classes staged and directed it".  [416•1  Consequently, every war has to be viewed in its concrete and historical perspective, from a class standpoint.

p Basing himself on the vital interests of the world revolutionary movement, Lenin developed the Marxist doctrine of just and unjust wars: the nature of wars depends upon the essence of the policy pursued by the ruling classes of a country before the war. Exploiting classes which, before the war, pursued a policy of oppression by comparatively " peaceful" means, i.e., without the mass use of force, continue the same policy in wartime but now using their armed forces. That is the class essence of unjust and predatory wars.

p The preparation for aggressive wars is usually closely associated with the onset of reaction within capitalist countries. The monopoly elite steps up its foreign political expansion and, at the same time, steps up the exploitation of the people within the country, fans racial discrimination and cultivates crude coercion. In post-war years, militarism has grown to unprecedented proportions in the capitalist world. Militarisation of the economy puts an immense burden upon the labouring population; the grand achievements of science and technology are put to destructive use. That is why the policy of imperialism provokes such a sharp intensification of the class struggle: "That is why the struggle for peace merges with the struggle for the freedom of the peoples, for progress and democracy, for deliverance from alien domination, from colonialism and neocolonialism, reaction and fascist dictatorship."  [416•2 


p Just wars have a completely different character. They are conducted to overthrow exploiting regimes and preserve the gains of socialist revolution, to attain national independence and to defend one’s own country from hostile incursions. There lies the social and political reasoning behind just revolutionary wars.

p Lenin indicated three types of just wars: civil wars against exploiters; wars in defence of the socialist homeland, and national liberation wars. They all undermine the foundations of imperialism, bring closer the ultimate end to social inequality and class coercion, and encourage the world revolutionary process. Marxist-Leninist parties vigorously support these wars and act as the militant vanguard of the people rising in armed struggle.

p Civil war arises at a time of social revolution in certain circumstances of its development. The many years of experience of the world revolutionary movement have borne out the truth of the Marxist-Leninist proposition concerning the peaceful and non-peaceful paths of the proletariat establishing state power. Neither the clamorous renunciation of civil wars, typical of the Right-wing opportunists, nor the advocacy of such wars as the only method of struggle for socialism, typical of “Left”-wing revisionists, can serve as a guide in the struggle for the victory of socialist revolution.

p Civil war is intended to resolve the key question of any revolution—that of power—when the insurgent oppressed classes have no other means. It is intended to consolidate that power by the forcible suppression of the resistance of the overthrown exploiting classes, if the latter will not lay down their arms and refrain from counter-revolutionary attempts to restore the old order. Under such circumstances, Marxism views civil war as "the only war that is legitimate, just and sacred ... war of the oppressed to overthrow the oppressors and liberate the working people from all oppression”.  [417•1 

p If civil war does occur after the peaceful or non-peaceful overthrow of the exploiting classes, it is always the latter who start it. In striving to restore their political and economic 418 supremacy, the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie are the first to take up arms. It was, for example, the exploiting classes overthrown by the Russian Revolution who unleashed a bloody civil war, which differed from civil wars elsewhere by the scale and degree of ferocity of class struggle, by the length and breadth of battle operations; yet it had common features characteristic in all civil wars. Civil war is accompanied by a sharp class stratification of the population. As Lenin remarked, it turns previous class struggles "into an armed struggle of one class against another".  [418•1 

p The leading role of the proletariat and its Marxist-Leninist party is the most important factor in the victory of the revolutionary classes in civil wars. Other factors include: the ability of this party to mobilise wide sections of the working people for armed repulsion of the enemy; the presence of a trained and disciplined army with high morale; rational organisation of the whole economy with account for the needs of the front; merciless suppression of counter– revolutionary rebellions and conspiracies in the rear of the revolutionary army; development of a guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. Like a revolutionary uprising, civil war of the working class against the bourgeoisie must be an offensive not a defensive exercise and conducted according to all the laws of warfare.

p A fierce class struggle on a world-wide scale flares up around civil wars. International reaction often resorts to naked intervention and gives every assistance to the internal counter-revolutionaries. Under those circumstances, the more effective support is to the revolutionary forces from the socialist states and the international working class, the more likely are the workers to triumph in civil wars.

p Wars in defence of the socialist homeland and of the gains of world socialism are just wars in our epoch. The idea of defending the socialist homeland conies from Lenin’s conclusion about the possibility of the victory of proletarian revolution initially in a few or even in a single country. He wrote: "This is bound to create not only friction, but a direct attempt on the part of the bourgeoisie of other countries to crush the socialist state’s victorious proletariat. In such cases, 419 a war on our part would be a legitimate and just war. It would be a war for socialism, for the liberation of other nations from the bourgeoisie."  [419•1 

p In defending the socialist homeland, the working class and the mass of working people are helping to further the whole world liberation movement. In such a war, the national interests of the proletarian state are combined with its international duty. The Soviet Union has had to withstand frequent attacks from international imperialism virtually throughout its history; it has thereby defended and strengthened the basis for the entire world revolution. ".. . Our task now,” wrote Lenin, "is to maintain, protect and uphold this force of socialism, this torch of socialism, this source of socialism which is so actively influencing the whole world."  [419•2 

p The substance of just wars was enriched with the appearance of the world socialist system. The communist and workers’ parties at the International Meeting in 1969 developed the Leninist ideas of defence of a socialist homeland and came to the important conclusion that "the defence of socialism is an internationalist duty of all Communists".  [419•3  The Meeting emphasised that the appearance of the socialist world was a component part of world class battles. To the extent that the enemies of socialism do not stop their attempts to undermine the foundations of socialist state power and restore their own domination, it is necessary constantly to be concerned with the steady growth in the defensive capacity of the socialist states and their close co-operation in matters of defence. The military and economic might of the USSR and the entire socialist community is an earnest of peace for all those who are fighting against the threat of a new world war. L. I. Brezhnev said at the same Meeting: "By defending socialism and peace, we are defending the future of mankind."  [419•4 

p Lenin included national liberation wars in the category of just wars. He roundly condemned attempts by those who 420 vulgarised Marxism by separating the national liberation movement from the proletarian class struggle and counterposed one to the other. Marxism has nothing in common with a renunciation of the importance of national liberation wars, as a powerful component of the world socialist revolution, or with an unjustified exaggeration of their role in the world liberation process.

p The characteristic features of modern national liberation wars are, first, that they take place in more favourable external circumstances than at any time in the past. The moral and material aid given by the socialist states and the support of the international working class guarantee good prospects for victory to the peoples combating imperialism. Second, the armed uprisings of peoples in the colonies and dependencies are now supplemented by wars of the newly liberated states against the neocolonialists trying to reestablish the old regimes. Third, national liberation wars, even more than before, bear the stamp of anti-imperialist and democratic revolutions, for with the formation of the world socialist system a real possibility has appeared for noncapitalist development in the newly liberated states.

p The need for backing these wars from the socialist states and the international working class follows from the MarxistLeninist evaluation of national liberation wars and their role in the world revolutionary process. L. I. Brezhnev has said: "The Soviet Union, together with other socialist countries, holds active positions in the wide and seething front of the national liberation movement, and renders firm political support and moral and material help to the peoples fighting for liberation."  [420•1 

p The revolutionary military programme includes the following points: the formation of armed forces of revolution, military and technical training, mastery of the art of armed struggle, revolutionary work in the forces for the purpose of winning them over to the side of the people, military and political leadership by the party of revolutionary forces and armed defence of the gains of socialist revolution.

p The military programme of proletarian revolution was 421 formed with the development of the liberation struggle of the international working class. In their analysis of the lessons of the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels put forward the idea of organised proletarian armed struggle and made the point that it must be conducted by a class revolutionary force that would smash the bourgeois militarist machine. The Bolsheviks not only adopted this idea, they even elaborated a military programme of proletarian revolution. The resolutions, composed by Lenin, of the Third Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party set the beginning of this programme; the Congress had met to decide the immediate problems of the first Russian Revolution of 1905.

p Not a single educated Marxist, Lenin wrote in his article "Revolutionary Army and Revolutionary Government”, ever doubted the huge importance of military craft, military technique and military organisation as weapons which the working classes can use in the great historical confrontations. Revolutionary Social-Democrats, he stressed, "never stopped to playing at military conspiracies; [they]. .. never gave prominence to military questions until the actual conditions of civil war had arisen. But now all Social-Democrats have advanced the military questions .. . and they are putting great stress on studying these questions and bringing them to the knowledge of the masses."  [421•1    [421•2 

p Among other democratic demands, Marxists proclaimed the replacement of the standing army, which served the exploiting state, by a people’s militia or the armed people. The Bolsheviks considered this an important point in their programme in the period preceding the Great October Socialist Revolution.

p The course of the struggle in Russia during the initial period of civil war and intervention showed that without a regular army it would have been impossible to uphold the revolutionary gains. The workers’ Red Guard and the people’s militia played a historic role in establishing proletarian dictatorship and defending the revolutionary regime in the first months of Soviet power, and constituted the 422 nucleus of the regular worker-peasant Red Army—the first army of a new socialist type.

p The need for a standing army stems from the rapid development of military technology, science and techniques. Irregular revolutionary armed detachments that may operate successfully in conditions of partisan warfare may serve only as an auxiliary force in large-scale actions against a well-trained and technically well-equipped army. It would be unthinkable today to count on a military victory without a sufficient number of well-trained fighting men. Only people with an excellent knowledge of modern weapons can take charge of them and a comparatively lengthy period of military training is needed to conduct a successful battle. This is only possible if there is a standing well-trained army. Socialism has now well-organised socialist armed forces, equipped with the latest weapons, to stand up to imperialist armies.

p Strict military discipline and one-man command in the revolutionary army strengthen its fighting capacity. The main distinguishing features of a revolutionary army are the model political consciousness of its fighting men and their boundless devotion to their socialist homeland, their readiness to fight at any moment in the defence of state interests. The high morale of the soldiers of revolution is supported and strengthened by the communist party, whose emissaries conduct daily political work in the ranks.

p The military programme, worked out by Lenin on the experience of three Russian revolutions and the immediate years after October 1917, still serves as a model of bold use of Marxist revolutionary theory in the tactics of proletarian armed struggle leading to a decisive assault on capitalism and upholding revolutionary gains from the encroachments of internal and international reactionaries. As the revolutionary process extended to engulf new countries, the tactics of armed struggle were enriched, the arsenal of military weapons augmented and the methods of conducting military operations perfected. While not having space to describe here all the characteristics of present-day armed clashes that arise during open revolutionary popular risings, let us note some of the more essential features of the revolutionary battles today.


p First, they are taking place in a situation of confrontation of the two world social systems. Not a single important revolutionary uprising or liberation war, no matter where it is, can avoid attempts by international imperialism to launch armed intervention against that country. The socialist states, on their side, render all possible assistance and support for the liberation struggle in averting or aborting the export of counter-revolution. Often the outcome of armed struggle in revolutionary war depends on the balance of the two main world forces.

p Second, revolutionary battles are taking place with the use of more refined weapons than in the past. The working class and its allies, in preparing to take power by armed means, are faced more acutely than ever by the problem of mastering complex military technology (artillery, tanks, aircraft, air defence weapons, warships, etc.). It is practically impossible to resolve this task without winning over at least part of the regular army with its military equipment to the side of the insurgents. This problem may be most important at the initial moment of insurrection.

Third, experience in conducting guerrilla warfare, accumulated by the Soviet people since the Civil War, has attained great significance today. Guerrilla warfare acquired particular scope in the nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union and other parts of Europe. Today, it may be applied on a wider scale than ever before in parts of Latin America, Asia and Africa. Military operations by guerrilla detachments are common for countries with an overwhelmingly peasant population and a suitable geographical situation (hills, forests and other almost inaccessible areas). But the experience of recent decades has once again confirmed that guerrilla actions do not lead to victory over the main forces of the enemy without sufficiently strong ties with broad sections of the people, without strong support bases and without regular replenishment of manpower and weapons. As before, guerrilla warfare can help revolution be successful in combination with other forms of revolutionary onslaught by the working class and broad sections of the people under the leadership of a militant proletarian party.

* * *


 [416•1]   V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 24, p. 398.

 [416•2]   International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Moscow 1969, p. 48.

 [417•1]   Ibid., Vol. 26, p. 401.

 [418•1]   V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 26, p. 29.

 [419•1]   Ibid., Vol. 23, p. 79.

 [419•2]   Ibid., Vol. 28, p. 31.

 [419•3]   International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Moscow 1969, p. 23.

 [419•4]   Ibid., p. 146. 27*

 [420•1]   International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Moscow 1969, p. 170.

 [421•1]   V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 8, p. 563.

 [421•2]   Ibid., p. 565.