Editorial Notes

How They Play with the Great Slogans

(December 1931)

Written: December 1931.
Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 37 (Whole No. 96), 26 December 1931, p. 4.
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The slogans of the Opposition travel a uniform course in the Communist International. First they are denounced as counter-revolutionary; then they are smuggled into the official policy in mutilated form and misapplied. This is happening now to the slogan advanced nearly two years ago by comrade Trotsky for economic collaboration between the capitalist countries and the Soviet Union and the extension of long-term credits. A great deal of ink was spilled in demonstrating the counter-revolutionary nature of this slogan. It was hailed on more than one occasion as the final proof of the “complete renegacy of the Trotskyites”. Now things are beginning to loak a little different. The logic of the situation has again collided with the official policy. They are again beginning, in a cautious, surreptitious back-door manner, to appropriate an idea from the Opposition. We hear more and more talk about the necessity of credits to the Soviet Union.

In the New York Herald Tribune for December 11th there appeared a letter from the “Friends of the Soviet Union”, signed by the national secretary, Marcel Scherer. Among other things it says the following:

“The Friends of the Soviet Union today are working for the immediate recognition of the Soviet government by the United States government, free trade relations and the extension of credits. This would bring vast Soviet orders to American factories – at the rate of $1,000,000 of orders daily – and would give employment to hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers.” (Our emphasis)

That argument – as far as it goes – is unassailable. The trouble with it is that it presents only one side of the question, it is put forward by an improper agency and it is directed to the wrong address. The slogan should be addressed to the workers, rather than to the bourgeois press. It should be put forward by the party, instead of a cover organization the chief function of which is to provide a hunting ground for careerists and false friends of the Soviet Union who will desert it at the first sign of real danger. And it should emphasize also the need of the Soviet Union for economic collaboration with the advanced capitalist countries – enforced by the demand of the workers – in order that it may build its industry quickly and thus strengthen the economic foundations of the workers’ rule.

To appeal to the workers for a slogan of long-term credits on the ground of their own immediate material interest in the alleviation of unemployment is quite correct. Its practicality in this respect can be easily demonstrated. And such an appeal to the material interest of the workers will move them faster, and in far greater numbers, than a thousand abstract arguments about the defense of the Soviet Union. But to develop the political implications of the movement and to strengthen its international spirit it is necessary to show to the workers that by helping themselves they are also helping the workers of the Soviet Union. This is the way to strengthen the bonds of internationalism; to make the workers feel that they are participating in the great economic advances of the Workers’ state, not merely watching them from the sidelines. By presenting the slogan of the Opposition in its double aspect, and organizing a proletarian mass movement around it, the workers will begin to identify their own welfare with the fate of the Soviet Union. This is the chief aim and the chief value of the slogan.

Of course, one cannot talk in this straightforward and Marxist manner while the workers are being deluded with the fiction that Russia can build socialism alone without any outside help. It is this harmful fiction that stands in the way of a genuine application of the slogan and the organization of a great international movement around it. That is why it is sneaked in, distorted and then promulgated in a polite letter to the bourgeois press by a worthless substitute organization which – out of “friendship” for the Soviet Union – ought to be abolished.

But that is the way they do things. That is the way they play with the great slogans. But in spite of that the slogan of economic collaboration and long-term credits corresponds to reality. Its timeliness grows more obvious with every accentuation of the unemployment situation in the capitalist countries and the increasing difficulties in Soviet economy, which arise in part from the world economic crisis of capitalism. For that reason it will make its way through all machinations. The “counter-revolutionary slogan of Trotskyism” must and will become one of the international slogans of the Communist workers.

Last updated on: 22.2.2013