A Discussion of the War Crisis and C.C.F. Policy

It may be only a matter of months before the C.C.F. will be put to its most critical test by war. With what concrete policy are we to meet this test? This should be the key question discussed by the provincial convention. The fate of our whole civilization, the lives of millions, rest upon a clear, unequivocal answer to this question, by the socialists not only of Ontario, but of the world.

Today we are on the brink of the second world war, are indeed witnessing the preliminary massacres in Spain and in China. Central Europe is a powder keg. The armament budgets grow fantastically larger. Hitler’s program of German expansion as expounded in “Mein Kampf” takes on grim reality. 14 million Austrians are absorbed into the German Fascist state. Poland, learning from Germany, immediately threatens Lithuania with absorption or invasion. Pacts and understandings criss-cross in the secret intrigues of diplomacy. In Central end Southern Europe, the suppressed minorities straitjacketed in artificial boundaries created by the Versailles Treaty, clamour for self-determination.

The Soviet Union, encircled by a ring of hostile steel, finds itself isolated more than ever before. The foreign policies of its totalitarian regime have only succeeded in weakening the international position of Russia. The Moscow Trials, the unceasing purges, the execution of the builders of the Russian Revolution and the leading men in every walk of life, including the general staff of the army, have emboldened its imperialist enemies. But despite the absolutist character of the regime, the socialized basis of economy established through the great October revolution of 1917, still remains. It is therefore the duty of all socialists to defend these gains against imperialist attack, while recognizing that the Stalinist leadership itself weakens and endangers this defence.

Once again workers are being called to lay down their lives for a cause which is not theirs, which brings only slaughter, destruction and mass misery in its wake. Under those circumstances, the responsibility laid on the leaders of the labor movement is tremendous. The working class must have a party which will fight the war with deeds, not merely with words:—a party which will make war forever impossible by destroying the system which breeds it.

In the tragic years of 1914-1918, the Socialists of the world, with the exception of a scattered handful of Internationalists, failed miserably to meet their responsibility and promises. Instead, they fell prey to jingoism, called off the struggle against the capitalist system, and lined up solidly behind “their” respective imperialist governments. However, these people had the slight merit, if you will, of supporting the war only after it began. Prior to its outbreak, they had been ardent pacifists, had even boldly threatened to call general strikes if war were declared.

What shall we think then of the political programs of the Second and Third Internationals today, who lack even this grace?


By espousing Collective Security, Popular and National Fronts, they have indicated their policy of union with the capitalist class even before the outbreak of general war. British and French Labor parties are frankly imperialist and patriotic, prepared to participate in National Governments to conduct war for “collective security". Trade Union leaders are already conferring with government spokesmen, preparing to place industry at the disposal of the General Staffs of the armies. The French Stalinists have repeatedly voted war credits for the French army. American Stalinists ardently support Roosevelt’s billion dollar armament program, shoved through at the expense of relief and social services. Moreover, they fought bitterly the Ludlow amendment to the constitution which would have forced the president to call a national referendum, before declaring war. Here in Canada, the Stalinists call ceaselessly upon the government to enter into an alliance again in the name of collective security. Small wonder that the imperialists plunge headlong into the armament race, intrigue and jockey for favorable alignments in the war, with little fear of being embarrassed by civil strife at home!

We socialists in the C.C.F., who pay more than lip service to workers’ internationalism, who are undying enemies of world capitalism, must draw the true lessons from these events. Learning from them how NOT to fight war, we will then be able to take up the responsibility entrusted to us, of leading the struggle through to the establishment of socialism.

What are the real causes of imperialist war? They lie in the very nature of the capitalist system. Whether Fascist or “dernocratic,” because of its profit driven planless economy, every capitalist state becomes cramped within its obsolete national boundaries. It must seek abroad for colonies, markets, sources of cheap raw materials, and spheres of influence for capitalist investments, in order to live and continuo to compete in the world market, even at the expense of war. WAR IS THUS THE LOGICAL CONTINUATION, BY OTHER, MORE VIOLENT MEANS, OF THE PEACE-TIME POLICIES OF CAPITALISM.

Today capitalism is in a state of general crisis and decay. There are no new worlds for it to conquer, only redivision of the old, by machine-gun and bomb. That is why any war undertaken by the great powers today is a reactionary war, counter to the interests of the masses—whatever the political forms of the warring countries, whatever the immediate cause. For the motives of the belligerents are the same on both sides—the drive for profits and for economic power. That is why it is so dangerously misleading to attempt to differentiate between aggressor and non-aggressor nations. When all persist in holding flaming torches to the powder- barrel, who can say that only one is responsible for the explosion? And that is why it is criminal to seek to choose between democratic “peace-loving” and Fascist “war-hungry” capitalism. For the despoiled victim, there can be nothing to choose between the robbers who “have” and the robbers who “have not.” As for democracy, it is a luxury that is lightly dispensed with by the ruling classes in times of crisis. With the declaration of war will come once more the complete extinction of the democratic rights of free speech, press and assembly in England, France and America, and the institution of military dictatorships, the plans for which have already been drawn in detail.

Can all this be prevented by the methods of pacifism, conscientious objection, refusal to fight? No—these arc the blind romantic illusions of the ostrich who sticks his head in the sand. In this day of conscription, concentration camps, and high-pressure salesmanship through screen, radio, press, church and school—all of which are controlled by the capitalist class and left un-touched by the program of the pacifists—we observe a sad tendency for most of today’s pacifist objectors to become tomorrow’s best patriots. By ignoring the real causes of war, and diverting popular attention from really effective means of combating it, pacifism is as dangerous as it is futile. It performs a va1uable service to those who wish to keep the people ignorant.

Similar arguments hold against the isolationists who wish to ‘Keep Canada Out of War". They fail to recognize how inextricably a part we are of world economy, incapable of living to ourselves and of remaining unaffected by trends and events abroad. When war breaks out Canada cannot remain aloof any more than she did in the last war. The pressure of several billion dollars worth of British and American capital invested here will see to that, not to mention “native” enterprise. More appeals to the government to stay out of war is about as effective as an appeal to the self-restraint of a crazed drug addict. Capitalism, likewise, cannot help itself. Equally with the pacifists, the isolationists serve the war-makers by concealing the true state of affairs and by teaching the people to rely on the government rather than on their own organization and strength.

While we socialists are unalterably opposed to all wars of imperialism, “democratic” or fascist, at the same time we are duty bound to materially support all struggle and wars of a progressive character, e.g., the present war of Chinese independence against Japanese imperialism and the war against Franco, however critical our socialist approach must be to the shortcomings and mistakes of their leadership. Independent class struggle action is a tremendous step forward to the real struggle against war, which can only be the overthrow of the system which breeds it. The C.C.F. must organize and support such action with all sections of the labor movement. In the present period the following slogans can act as a rallying cry far all the genuine opponents of war:


. .
Not A Cent For War—Use The Canadian War Budget For Social Services
Strike To Stop Shipments To Japan
Workers Boycott Of Japanese Goods
Arms And Munitions For China
Down With Imperialism —Whether “Democratic Or “Fascist”
Collective Security Means Collective War
Fight Checks On Civil Liberties
Meet The Fascist Movement With Workers Defence Organizations
Workers! Farmers! Rely On Your Independent Class Organizations
No Collaboration With The Capitalists And Their Government
The Main Enemy Is In Your Own Country


Issued by Socialist Policy Group —— April 15, 1938
Chairman; Jas. Gill, 305 High Park Ave., Toronto; Junc. 1946.*
Secretary: David Easton, 468 Markham St., Toronto; Lom. 2448.*

(* phone numbers -ed.)

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