“The question of the general strike has a  long and rich history, in theory as well as practice. Yet the leaders of the ILP behave as if they were the first to run across the idea of general strike, as a method to stop war. In this is their greatest error. Improvisation is impermissible precisely on the question of the general strike. The world experience of the struggle during the last forty years has been ‘fundamentally’ a confirmation of what Engels had to say (1) about the general strike towards the close of the last century, primarily on the basis of the experience of the Chartists, and in part of the Belgians (2). Cautioning the Austrian Social Democrats against much too flighty an attitude towards the general strike, Engels wrote to Kautsky, on November 3, 1893, as follows: ‘You yourself remark that the barricades have become antiquated (they may, however, prove useful again should the army turn one third or two fifths socialist and the question arises of providing it with the opportunity to turn its bayonets), but the political strike must either prove victorious immediately by the threat alone (as in Belgium, where the army was very shaky), or it must end in a colossal fiasco, or, finally ‘lead directly to the barricades”. These terse lines provide, incidentally, a remarkable exposition of Engels’ views on a number of questions. Innumerable controversies raged over Engels’ famous introduction to Marx’s ‘The Class Struggle in France’ (1895), an introduction which was in its time modified an cut in Germany with a view to censorship. Philistines of every stripe have asserted hundreds and thousands of times during the last forty years that ‘Engels himself’ had apparently rejected once and for all the ancient ‘romantic’ methods of street fighting. But there is no need of referring to the past: one need only read the contemporary and inordinately ignorant and mawkish discourses of Paul Faure, Lebas and others on this subject, who are of the opinion that the very question of armed insurrection is ‘Blanquism’ (3). Concurrently, if Engels rejected anything, it was first of all, ‘putsches, i.e. ‘untimely’ flurries of a ‘small minority’; and secondly, antiquated methods, that is to say, forms and methods of street fighting which did not correspond to the new technological conditions. In the above quoted letter, Engels corrects Kautsky, in passing, as if he were referring to something self-evident: barricades have become ‘antiquated’ only in the sense that the bourgeois revolution has receded into the past, and the time for the socialist barricades has not come as yet. It is necessary for the army, one third, or better still, two fifths of it (these ratios, of course, are given only for the sake of illustration), to become imbued with sympathy for socialism; then the insurrection would not be a ‘putsch’, then the barricades would once again come into their own – not the barricades of the year 1848, to be sure, but the new ‘barricades’, serving, however, the self-same goal: the check the offensive of the army against the workers, give the soldiers the opportunity and the time to sense the power of the uprising, and by this to create the most advantageous conditions for the army’s passing over to the side of the insurrectionists” [Leon Trotsky, The ILP and the Fourth International] [in Leon Trotsky, a cura di R. Chappell Alan Clinton, Collected Writings and Speeches on Britain. Volume Three, 1974] [“(1) The statements by Engels quoted in this paragraph were only beginning to see the light of day at the time this paragraph was written. The introduction to ‘The Civil War in France’, for example, was only published in full in English in 1933; (2) This was called by the Belgian Labour Party on the demand for manhood suffrage at 25. About 300,000 workers came out and major changes in electoral law were introduced; (3) After Louis August Blanqui, the French revolutionary of the 19th century, who stood at the extreme left of the turbulent Parisian movement of his time. In contrast to Marxism, Blanquism favoured an insurrectionary movement organized conspiratorially and conducted by a small, active minority which, without basing itself on a broad working class movement, would seize power by a single, sudden stroke, establish a proletarian party dictatorship and inaugurate the new social order by the decrees of the revolutionary government. Lenin, accused in 1917 of Blanquism, even by many of his own party friends, dealt in his writings at great length with the distinctions between Blanquism and the Marxist conception of ‘insurrection as an art’ based upon the preparation, guidance and active participation of a broad mass movement”]