James P. Cannon

Trotskyist Leader Issues
a ‘Statement on the War’

Reaffirms Previous Characterization of the War,
Explains Support of USSR-China, Offers Program for Fighting Fascism

(24 January 1942)

Published: The Militant, Vol 6 No. 4, 24 January 1942, p. 1.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive/Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors, translators, proofreaders etc. above.

James P. Cannon, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, issued a Statement on the War in the January issue Fourth International, monthly magazine, which went on the news-stands last week.

The statement recalls that up to Dec. 8, “We considered the war upon the part of all the capitalist powers involved – Germany and France, Italy and Great Britain – as an imperialist war.” Then it says:

“This characterization of the war was determined for us by the character of the state powers involved in it. They were capitalist powers in the epoch of imperialism; themselves imperialist – oppressing other nations or peoples – or satellites of imperialist powers. The extension of the war to the Pacific and the formal entry of the United States and Japan change nothing in this basic analysis.”

Defends USSR, China

The statement then goes on to emphasize that its attitude toward the Soviet Union and China is entirely different than its attitude toward the great capitalist powers. It says:

“We make a fundamental distinction between the Soviet Union and its ‘democratic’ allies. We defend the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is a workers’ state, although degenerated under the totalitarian-political rule of the Kremlin bureaucracy. Only traitors can deny support to the Soviet workers’ state in its war against fascist Germany. To defend the Soviet Union, in spite of Stalin and against Stalin, is to defend the nationalized property established by the October revolution. That is a progressive war.

“The war of China against Japan we likewise characterize as a progressive war. We support China. China is a colonial country, battling for national independence against an imperialist power. A victory for China would be a tremendous blow against all imperialism, inspiring all colonial peoples to throw off the imperialist yoke. The reactionary regime of Chiang-Kai-shek, subservient to the ‘democracies’, has hampered China’s ability to conduct a bold war for independence; but that does not alter for us the essential fact that China is an oppressed nation fighting against an imperialist oppressor. We are proud of the fact that the Fourth Internationalists of China are fighting in the from ranks against Japanese imperialism.”

The real war against fascism, the statement says, can only be waged by a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government. “When the people of Germany can feel assured that military defeat will not be followed by the destruction of Germany’s economic power and the imposition of unbearable burdens by the victors, Hitler will be overthrown from within Germany. But such guarantees against a second Versailles cannot he given by Germany’s imperialist foes;” such guarantees can be given only by a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government.

Demands Democratic Rights

The statement concludes with a section on the conduct of the revolutionary minority in wartime. It says:

“Our program against Hitlerism and for a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government is today the program of only a small minority. The great majority actively or passively supports the war program of the Roosevelt administration. As a minority we must submit to that majority in action. We do not sabotage the war or obstruct the military forces in any way. The Trotskyists go with their generation into the armed forces. We abide by the decisions of the majority. But we retain our opinions and insist on our right to express them.

“Our aim is to convince the majority that our program is the only one which can put an end to war, fascism and economic convulsions. In this process of education the terrible facts speak loudly for our contention. Twice in twenty-five years world wars have wrought destruction. The instigators and leaders of those wars do not offer, and cannot offer, a plausible promise that a third, fourth and fifth world war will not follow if they and their social system remain dominant. Capitalism can offer no prospect but the slaughter of millions and the destruction of civilization. Only socialism can save humanity from this abyss. This is the truth. As the terrible war unfolds, this truth will be recognized by tens of millions who will not hear us now. The war-tortured masses will adopt, our program and liberate the people of all countries from war and fascism. In this dark hour we clearly see the socialist future and prepare the way for it. Against the mad chorus of national hatreds we advance once more the old slogan of socialist internationalism: Workers of the World, Unite!”

Last updated on 20 August 2021