Harold Draper

“Out of Their Own Mouths”

A Documentary Study of the New Line of the Comintern on War


Pamphlet published by Young People’s Socialist League, Greater New York Federation, 1936.
Edited by Harold Draper.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


“OUT OF THEIR OWN MOUTHS SHALL THEY BE JUDGED” ... This is the limited aim of this pamphlet: not a complete critical analysis of the new Comintern line on war, but rather the raw material for such an analysis. For the former the reader is referred to another pamphlet published by the YPSL, Youth Fights War, by Gus Tyler.

It has often been noted that the threat of war brings with it a shake-up, a realignment, in working-class ranks on the question of war. That realignment is going on now. The fact, brought out in these pages, that the Comintern has developed towards the same social-patriotic position which led to the collapse of the old Second International may surprise those who do not follow the radical movement, and have learned to look upon the C.I. as the revolutionary extremists; Youth Fights War explains this development briefly; but the fact itself is evident enough. The alignment today is: on the one hand, the Old Guard Social-Democrats plus the “Communists”; on the other, the revolutionary Socialists.. Both the Communists and the Old Guard recognize their affinity. Browder notes that strangely enough, the Old Guard reformists have “a more correct position on war” than have the left Socialists (Madison Square Garden Speech, Daily Worker, May 25, 1936) ; the Old Guard throws bouquets in its New Leader at the “realism” of the Stalinists. Matt Woll, for once, mentions the Communists with favor – observing that the labor movements of Europe, “even the Communists,” have decided to support their governments in a war against fascist Germany. (Labor Chest News Service, Jan. 16, 1936.)

It is in this situation that the Socialist Party of the United States, at its official Convention in Cleveland, May 1936, adopted a statement on war which represents the most advanced point of view now held by any section of the international labor movement. We reprint it in toto as a fitting introduction and contrast to what follows, as a standard for comparison:

“The two pillars of capitalist peace in the post war era, namely, the Five Power Naval Treaty and the League of Nations, are today in a state of complete collapse. The imperialist nature of the capitalist peace imposed by the victors upon the vanquished now gives rise to a new imperialist war for a redivision of the earth. Once more, the capitalist nationalist volcano blows off its paper cap of imperialist treaties.

“The treaties, the non-aggression pacts, the League of Nations, the sanctions, and the capitalist system of ‘collective security* have not only failed to give a firm basis for peace but have in themselves become a source of friction and war.

“The present international situation proves conclusively that war is inherent in capitalism.

“The inherent forces of capitalism leading to war are the struggle of rival imperialism for new markets, sources of raw material, and fields of exploitation.

“In the struggle to maintain or extend the power of rival capitalist states, the world has already been divided into separate camps. The next war, regardless of how it begins, regardless of whether countries are fascist or democratic, small or large, will be one of imperialist interest on both sides.

“The Socialist Party warns against mistaking the peace loving pose of any capitalist state for an honest interest in ending the imperialist struggle. Such poses are intended to strengthen the immediate imperialist interest of the capitalist states and to prepare for future imperialist wars as ‘wars to end war’.

“In the light of the experiences of the last war, where many working class movements were tricked into support of imperialist war under the guise of a holy crusade, the Socialist Party of the U.S.A. proclaims that no capitalist war can be a good war, that no capitalist device can be a basis for a policy of peace. Only when the workers take political power into their own hands in the great nations of the earth will the world have a sound basis for lasting peace.

War and Fascism

“Because fascism represents a concentrated form of capitalist nationalism, the spread of fascism tends to accelerate the immediate threat of war.

“But just as fascism intensifies the danger of war, so the coming of war hastens the coming of fascism. Dictatorial rule, based upon chauvinist demagogy, are normal attendants of all capitalist wars, necessarily exaggerated in the present era of capitalist decay and fascist reaction.

“The twin danger of war and fascism must be fought simultaneously as the products of capitalist nationalism. Uncompromising struggle against all capitalist States, both before and after war is declared, is the only method of fighting imperialism and the threat of fascism in our own country and throughout the world.

The Socialist Party, therefore, repudiates support of an imperialist power against a present fascist power as a means of overthrowing fascism.

“Sanctions, applied by one or more capitalist nations against another, are merely a new form of imperialist rivalries and cannot be supported by the workers. The support of capitalist sanctions in the Italo-Ethiopian struggle served to paralyze the independent fight of the workers against fascism and imperialism and played into the hands of imperialist rivalries.

“Without exception, all the capitalist countries are exploiting millions of toilers in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, thus exposing the hypocritical claims of some of these ‘democratic’ countries that they are the friends of the small nations, that they wish to preserve the independence of the backward nations. The colonial people, in their struggle for freedom, have only the working class to depend upon as allies. The working class in the imperialist countries must in turn render every support to the colonial struggle so as to undermine the foundations of imperialism and facilitate the struggle against it. Refusing to compromise with imperialist schemes about the ‘re-distribution’ of the colonies, the workers must fight vigorously for their complete independence.

“The Soviet Union, where capitalism has been abolished, is really desirous of peace. They deserve the support of the workers of all lands in their efforts to preserve peace. The Soviet Union, surrounded by capitalist enemies, is in constant danger of imperialist attack, and all class conscious workers must be prepared to defend the Soviet Union against imperialist attacks. Such defense, however, can only be a proletarian defense, independent of capitalist governments and their policies and independent of the diplomacy of the Soviet Union, and carried out with the means that the proletariat has at its disposal. Should the American government, or any other capitalist government, for reasons of its own enter into an alliance with the Soviet Union, defense of the Soviet Union does not include support for capitalist allies of the Soviet Union in a war. The Soviet Union can best be defended by vigorously carrying on the class war in all countries.

“The American government, while talking about peace, has greatly increased its armed forces, has adopted the largest military budget in peacetime history and the largest in the world, is busily engaged in cementing its war alliances (for example – naval treaty with England) and setting up its own sphere of diplomatic and military influence (proposal to organize a Pan-American League of Nations). The American Socialist Party recognizes that its main duty is to the victims of American imperialism at home and abroad, that our main fight is against American imperialism and all its policies, against militarism and against jingoism. As in 1917, American Socialists will refuse to support any war the capitalist government of America might undertake. Should war break out despite our efforts, we will continue to carry on the class struggle and the fight against war, and thru mass resistance to it, thru agitation for a general strike, will endeavor to convert the imperialist war into an organized mass struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a workers and farmers government. Should a war break out in any part of the world, regardless of the countries involved, Socialists will fight against American participation in that war in any form. Genuine neutrality, however, is impossible for this or any other country so long as it is ruled by the profit motive. Without creating the illusion that neutrality can be achieved under capitalism, the Socialist Party will fight for the following: Liberation of all American colonies and possessions; withdrawal of American troops from all foreign territories; no interference in the affairs of other countries, particularly Mexico, Cuba and Central and South America, either by the government or the private individuals; prohibition of the manufacture, transportation or sale of any war materials or munitions; prohibition of loans to other countries for war purposes; withdrawal of government support of guarantees on private loans to other countries for any purpose; cancellation of all war debts and indemnities; abolition of all military training for the youth.

“Only a Socialist government, however, supported by the broad masses of the workers, will be in a position to carry out such a program and therefore to insure peace. The struggle against war is therefore bound up with the struggle against capitalism and for Socialism. This struggle cannot be conducted unless there is a working class party, clear in policy, consistent and vigorous in action, which never compromises the class struggle, and through all trials leads the working class to the final goal.”

* * *

Part I – What Is the New Line?

1. The Development of the “New Line”

On May 2, 1935, the representatives of France and the USSR signed the Franco-Soviet Pact of Mutual Assistance. Article 2 states:

(1) “In the event that ... the USSR or France should prove to be, despite the sincerely peaceful intentions of both countries, an object of unprovoked attack from some European state, France and the USSR mutually will immediately render one another assistance and support.” (Daily Worker, May 22, 1935.)

The specific meaning of the Pact:

  1. If Germany attacks the Soviet Union, France is bound to make war against Germany; if Germany attacks France, the Soviet Union must make war on Germany. If Japan attacks the USSR, the Pact does not operate (Japan is not a “European State”).
  2. In event of aggression, France and the USSR become military allies. This Pact is, however, a defensive military alliance, whereas the pre-war Franco-Russian alliance, though originally defensive, became after 1912 both defensive and offensive. The second difference between the two is that the present Pact is open for signature to all other countries, including Germany).
  3. It must be pointed out also that the Franco-Soviet Pact is supplied with a joker which allows France to pull out of its obligations if it wishes, since the wording of the Pact makes it possible to claim that it is not operative until the League of Nations officially declares Germany the aggressor.

Immediately after the Pact was signed, Laval (then French Foreign Minister) left for Moscow, for negotiations with Stalin, Molotov and Litvinov. On May 15, 1935, these four issued a Joint Communique, containing the following declaration:

(2) “Above all, the duty falls upon them, in the interest and maintenance of peace, not to allow the means of their national defense to weaken in any sense. In this regard, M. Stalin understands and fully approves the national defense policy of France in keeping her armed forces at a level required for security.” (L’Humanité [1], May 16, 1935. Also N.Y. Times, AP, May 16.)

At this time the French Socialists and Communists were in the midst of a campaign against the 2-year conscription law. This law, the military budgets, the “passive defense” law (for militarization of all national life in war-time), etc., constituted the “national defense policy of France” which M. Stalin approved. The Communists, however, realized that a military alliance inexorably brought these consequences with it. They are indeed at pains to prove that the Communique flows with iron necessity from the Pact:

(3) “... we are surprised that anyone could find it strange that the conclusion of the mutual aid pact with France was accompanied by a declaration of Comrade Stalin, in which he expressed ‘complete understanding and approval of the policy of national defense pursued by France for maintaining its armed forces at a level corresponding to the needs of its security.’ Rather, I am of the opinion that it would have been strange if a declaration of this kind had not followed, for the absence of such a precise definition of standpoint would have deprived the mutual aid pact of all its efficacy as an instrument of a positive peace policy.” (Ercoli: Report at 7th Congress, Inprecorr [2], XV, 49: 1243.)

It was also made clear that Stalin would similarly bless the “national defense policy” of any other country that signed a Pact:

(4) “But since Hitlerism menaces all the peoples of Europe and most particularly the USSR, the USSR seeks the consolidation of its security by mutual assistance pacts open to all, and approves the level of security adopted by those who sign with it pacts against the Hitler danger.” (L’Humanité, May 16, 1935.)

Further consequences were quickly drawn:

(5) “But if the political situation is such that the war of capitalist counter-revolution is not led by all the imperialist countries together, if certain among them, because of a contradiction of interests which set them in opposition to others, act in concert with the land of socialism, their action objectively serves the cause of peace, which is the same as the cause of working-class power; it objectively serves the cause of the proletariat, which is not separated from the task of safeguarding the country where the workers have conquered their fatherland.

“When in the present situation, at a time when Hitler menaces the peace of the world, France signs a pact of mutual assistance with the Soviet Union, she serves the cause of peace.” [That is why, Duclos continues, the Communists will fight against all “sabotage” of the Pact.]

“Thus the Communists defend peace and if, in spite of all, a war broke out, if Hitler fascism threw itself on the Soviet Union, would not the duty of the French Communists be to demand the application of the pact, to prevent the French Hitlerites from succeeding in engaging France in an anti-Soviet war together with Hitler?” (Duclos, in L’Humanité, May 24, 1935.) [3]

“Demand the application of the pact” – i.e., agitate for war against Germany. “Fight against all sabotage of the pact” – i.e., denounce the anti-war Socialists as counter-revolutionary.

On May 17, at a specially-called Paris mass meeting, Maurice Thorez (Gen.-Sec. of the Party) laid down the line in a speech approved by the Political Bureau. After quoting Stalin’s declaration:

(6) “Comrades, it has been said: Nothing is changed. [4] Nothing is changed in this sense – that our will to struggle for peace and for the defense of the USSR continues more strongly than ever. But it would be too simple to say simply: Nothing is changed.

“We must, on the contrary, inquire as to what changes have taken place. We must not retain the argument that it is a question of a simple diplomatic declaration. [5] Firstly, all the diplomatic declarations that have been countersigned by the representatives of the Soviets have been in conformity with the interests of the toiling masses, with the cause of peace, and they have never, in any case presented the slightest contradiction with the interests of the workers.

“In the present case, it is a question of something else than a simple diplomatic declaration ...

“The dangers which menace the Soviet Union are grave. It is menaced on the west by Hitler fascism which is trying to draw Polish fascism in its wake, and on the east by imperialist Japan. If under these conditions a war against the Soviet Union broke out, and if, for any interests whatsoever [6], an imperialist state should find itself on the side of the Soviet Union, the war is not a war between two imperialist camps, for it would be monstrous to consider as an imperialist camp, the camp in which the land of socialism, the land of the working class, finds itself.

“And here, I answer a question which has been put to me: ‘Then in such a war unloosed by Hitler against the USSR, would you apply your slogan: Transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war?’

“Well! No, because in such a war it is not a question of an imperialist war between two imperialist bands, it is a question of a war against the Soviet Union.” (L’Humanité, May 24, 1935. Also: Daily Worker, June 11–12, 1935.)

On May 16, 1935, Czechoslovakia signed a mutual assistance pact with the USSR. The case of Czechoslovakia will be considered more fully under the question of “wars for national independence”; here let us note that the Soviet-Czech Pact contains an important reservation: mutual assistance between the USSR and Czechoslovakia will be given in the event of aggression against either party only if the victim is assisted by France.

The New Line Comes to America

Right off, the Daily Worker called for a Soviet-American Mutual Assistance Pact:

(7) “We now emphasize our demand that the American government declare its support for the mutual assistance pacts, signed by France, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union, open to all powers really desiring and working for peace.” (Editorial, Daily Worker, May 20, 1935.)

The first big speech explaining the new line was made by Clarence Hathaway, editor of the D.W.:

(8) “In one case the question is put:

“Has the French Communist Party altered its objective, has it changed its attitude towards its own ruling class? And the French Communist Party answers categorically: No, and says that it will pursue the same policy of relentless struggle that it has pursued until now and with the same revolutionary objective. The other question is: In the event that French Imperialism, under the terms of the Mutual Assistance Pact joins with the Soviet Union for the defense of the. Soviet Union against fascism, will the French Communist Party, at the outbreak of such a war issue the slogan of transforming of that war into a civil war against the French bourgeoisie? And Thorez, leader of the French C. P. answers: ‘Well, no.’ And he goes on to say that this is quite a different thing; that here, because of pressure at home, because of its antagonisms abroad, French imperialism, willy-nilly, is carrying on an historically progressive war which is objectively for the defense of the Soviet Union and against a fascist force that is today the main instigator of a new world war.

“... if French imperialism is impelled by the contradictions of imperialism to come to the defense of the Soviet Union, we enter into a pact with it. But while we do so ... the Communist Party of France will continue ... to build up the sentiment of the workers for the seizure of power.

“At the outset of the war, and in so far as France really fights alongside the Soviet Union, we are not going to call for the defeat of the country that is helping us ... at the moment they are ready to help us defeat an enemy that is for the present more dangerous. We get rid of that enemy first and then we are in a better position to deal with French imperialism.” (Daily Worker, July 6, 1935.)

Earl Browder, in his debate with Norman Thomas in New York, Nov. 27, 1935:

(9) “A situation can develop tomorrow when German and Japanese fascism will proceed to attack the Soviet Union... . Will the militant Socialists adopt a position of neutrality? Will they advocate the slogan ‘Keep America Out of War?’ Impossible! Because it is precisely behind these slogans that the reactionaries in America will support the war of Germany and Japan against the Soviet Union ... They [the Socialists – Ed.] cannot merely shout ‘neutrality.’ They must have a proletarian answer, a Socialist one, the defense of the Soviet Union.” (Daily Worker, Dec. 14, 1935, p. 10. Also: pamphlet pub. by Socialist Call, p. 29.)

A rather clear statement of the CP position on war is contained in the Questions and Answers column of the Daily Worker, Feb. 7, 1936:

(10) “Question: Would the Communist Party favor a war by one capitalist nation against another capitalist nation if the latter were of a fascist character, or one that is more hostile to the working class than the former? – S.L.

Answer: The Communist Party is always against imperialist war. Its chief slogan today is the fight for peace ...

“If Nazi Germany attacks one of the small neighboring countries, like the Baltic countries, or Czechoslovakia, peace will not be aided by letting Germany win a victory. Such a victory would merely be a license for the war-makers to continue their campaign of aggression.

“In such a war, the duty of the working class of both countries would be to fight for the defeat of Germany, and this would certainly include fighting in the defending army of the small attacked country.

“The situation is even more clear in the case of an attack on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, France and Czechoslovakia are bound by a pact of mutual assistance against an aggressor to come to the defense of the attacked nation. Here a war by France or Czechoslovakia against Germany, coming as a result of an attack by Germany, would be a war in defense of the Soviet Union, even though France, Czechoslovakia and Germany are all capitalist countries.

“The Communist Party would vigorously support such a war because here, too, once Germany has begun the war, the defense of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Nazi Germany are the only possible road to peace.”

And in the Answers column of the Freiheit, official Jewish organ of the CP, for May 19, 1936, in answer to questions 2 and 3:

(11) “2. We have not at hand all the articles that Michael Gold wrote and since you did not give any quotation from his article we cannot tell you what he did write and what he did not. We can tell you, however, that if such a situation did occur, namely that Japan threatened the United States and the Soviet Union with war, and both countries had obligated themselves to help one another in case of an attack on the part of Japan, the duty of the American Communists would naturally be to support the United States in war against Japan, because that would mean support of the Soviet Union against an aggressive Japanese imperialism.

“3. If Hitler should attack France it would be, on his part, an imperialist attack, and if France would in that situation defend itself, it would be a case of natural self-defense which has nothing to do with imperialism, – because imperialism means tfie grabbing of foreign lands in the interests of the home capitalism. If, however, Germany should engage in a war with France, as in the last World War, because both countries want to grab something from a third, or from one another, then it would be an imperialist war.”

2. The Four Phases of the New Line

As a result of this development, the theoretical exertions of the Comintern are at present devoted to finding justifications for supporting war by imperialist governments – under certain circumstances. One can distinguish four main lines which this justification is taking.

  1. The first and basic factor has already been set forth: the utilization of the slogan “Defend the Soviet Union” to support war conducted by an imperialist government allied with, or fighting on the same side as, the USSR.
  2. “Wars for National Independence.”

The second has also been indicated in the statement quoted above from the Daily Worker: the theory that when a small imperialist state is attacked by Germany (as Belgium was in 1914), that small state fights a just war, a war for national independence.

(12) “It would be wrong to declare that the small peoples and the great imperialist robbers are all tarred with the same brush merely because they are all alike capitalist states. Therefore, the seventh world congress proclaimed the right of the. small peoples ‘to defend their national independence’ against the attacks of big imperialist powers. The congress stressed with all possible energy that a war of defense conducted by the national bourgeoisie of such a country against a big imperialist robber took on the character of a war for national freedom, and that in such a case it would be the duty of all Communists to join actively in the armed struggle for national independence, to place themselves in the front ranks of this struggle and to do everything possible to bring about the defeat of the imperialist enemy ... The Communists must expose the national bourgeoisie not because it conducts the war, but because it does not conduct it with sufficient energy and determination ...” (Manuilsky: Speech on the Results of the 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XV, 69: 1698.)

(13) “It is already clear to-day that an attack of Hitlerite imperialism against Czechoslovakia can under the present situation only assume the form of an imperialist aggressive war, a war for the redivision of the world, a war for the destruction of the independence of the Czech nation, a war to subject all nationalities of Czechoslovakia to Hitler’s fascist dictatorship. The defense of Czechoslovakia against Hitlerite fascism would under the present situation be a just war, because it would be a war of defense on the side of the Soviet Union against the chief representative of the fascist counter-revolution.” (Sverma of Czech CP at 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XVI, 3: 72.)

Harry Pollitt, leader of the British CP, speaks out even more plainly:

(14) “Those of you who read Inprecorr this week will find the resolution on war, and will see that we definitely declared at the Seventh Congress that in a war for national liberation the Communist parties will support in that war their own ruling class in defending the attacked nation. We have Poland and Czechoslovakia in mind.” (Pollitt, Labour Monthly, Oct. 1935, p. 617.)

They have many other “small and weak countries” in mind. The following were specifically mentioned at the 7th Congress as coming under this category: Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Austria, Balkans (Greece, Albania, Rumania, Jugoslavia, Bulgaria), Belgium, Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia), Denmark and other Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway). The following were not specifically singled out, but obviously would be included: Hungary, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Finland, Danzig. Add France, of course, and England, if she lines up against Germany. This leaves only Italy and the Iberian Peninsula directly unaccounted for. In all of these countries the CP will “vigorously support” war against an “aggressor nation.”

  1. The Defense of Bourgeois-Democratic States Against Fascist States

The third element of the ideological preparation by the Comintern for the support of imperialist war is the old myth that the coming war will be a war for the defense of bourgeois democracy against reaction and fascism.

Dimitrov laid the basic premise in his pronouncement that the choice before us is between bourgeois democracy and fascism (Inprecorr, XV, 67: 1633). Manuilsky elaborates:

(15) “In most capitalist countries to-day the proletariat is faced with the choice between bourgeois democracy and fascism, and not with the choice between bourgeois democracy and the proletarian revolution. Today the slogan of bourgeois democracy represents a step forward as compared with fascism. To-day it is possible to rally broader masses of the people against fascism under the slogan of bourgeois democracy than it would be under the slogan of an immediate fight for the proletarian dictatorship.” (Manuilsky: Speech on the Results of the 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XV, 69: 1697.)

The rest follows. Sverma (Czech CP) applies the new line, speaking of the Sudetic Germans (the German national minority in Czechoslovakia):

(16) “It is necessary to give the Sudetic German toiling people freedom and bread ... Only in this way can the Sudetic Germans be won over to support Czechoslovakia as a democratic and bourgeois union of nations against the Hitlerite counter-revolution ... The toiling people of all nationalities of Czechoslovakia must be guaranteed their democratic rights so that as free citizens of the country they would feel it their duty to defend it against foreign counter-revolution.” (Sverma at 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XVI, 3: 72.)

(17) “We ask: How can an army which is controlled by fascist generals and in which the soldiers are deprived of all democratic rights, how can such an army defend a democratic republic against fascist reaction?” (Ibid.)

“Defense of a democratic republic against fascist reaction” – it is in such Wilsonian terms that the Communists are now speaking.

All Communist propaganda is today filled with the ideological preparation for an imperialist war waged under the sign of anti-fascism, just as the World War was waged under the sign of democracy.

(18) “We [the Communists – Ed.] are bold and outspoken supporters of the active defense of any people, any country threatened by fascist military aggression ... And when Hitler fascism goes beyond the borders of Germany, it must be met by military means.” (Browder: Speech at Mad. Sq. Garden, Daily Worker, May 25, 1936.)

The CP, however, may be in the position of defending one fascist nation against another – e.g. Poland or Austria against Germany. This contingency is provided for by the theory that German fascism is the worst kind – the fascism of fascisms:

(19) “The most reactionary variety of fascism is the German type of fascism.” (Dimitrov: Report, Inprecorr, XV, 37: 958. Also in Resolution on his report, XV, 43: 1121.)

(20) “We know that the Hitler system represents the most bloodthirsty, most barbaric and criminal system of all the fascist dictatorships.” (Max at 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XVI, 3: 73.) [7]

  1. Military Sanctions

An examination of the CP support of economic sanctions, or even of the demand for the closing of the Suez Canal, is not within the scope of this study. But open military sanctions is, of course, nothing more or less than war – war under the aegis of the League of Nations. And when we find the CP supporting military sanctions against Italy, we see a fourth element in the Comintern’s justification of imperialist war.

T.A. Jackson who according to the Plebs (left Labor magazine) is a well-known member of the British CP and a frequent writer for the Communist press:

(21) “The issue which is being decided now in relation to the Italo-Abyssinian war is whether the League of Nations is of any use as an instrument for the prevention (immediate or ultimate) of war. To put the issue to the test involves punitive measures, up to and including (if necessary) war upon the war maker. There is no other way of testing the issue decisively.

“Would a war between the League states and Fascist Italy (with any allies Italy could collect) be worth while from the point of view of the international working class? Of course it would. A defeat of Fascism in Italy would be a defeat of Fascism everywhere. A defeat of Imperialism in the person of Italy would be a defeat for imperialism everywhere, including Britain and France.” (The Plebs, Nov. 1935, p. 263.)

Harry Pollitt, the leader of the British CP, in his official report to the London Communists on the 7th Congress (already quoted above), comes out openly for military sanctions. First he states that the Communists support economic sanctions, and he continues:

(22) “But we also demand, the closing of the Suez Canal, and the carrying out of the Covenant of the League of Nations, because we believe that all these measures can prevent Mussolini going-to war, and we must utilize the present contradictions in the capitalist world, and force economic and military sanctions if necessary.” (Labour Monthly, Oct. 1935, p. 619. Pollitt: The Seventh Congress of the C.I.)

The above quotations are from Communists abroad. The Daily Worker, however, took the following stand last October:

(23) “The Soviet Union’s support for economic sanctions (Note: economic not military!) harmonizes fully with the revolutionary struggle of the masses for the defeat of Italian fascism ... [The words in parentheses are the Daily Worker’s – Ed.]

“We oppose such sanctions (military) and such methods of applying sanctions (typified in the role of imperialist Britain!) which would lead to the spreading of the Italo-Ethiopian war to the world arena.” (Daily Worker, Oct. 13, 1935. Editorial.)

But since that time, the American Communist press (as far as we know) has said nothing about military sanctions, either for or against, with the exception of an article by Robert Minor in the Communist, Feb. 1936, which indirectly justified military sanctions against an “aggressor.”

This support of an imperialist war which has received certification of purity by the League of Nations, was best characterized by R.P. Dutt, British Communist leader, in the following criticism of the Labor Party – before the new line:

(24) “Today, as war draws near and the time comes to meet their promises, the Labour leaders already hasten ... to trample under foot the decisions of the last Labour Party Conference ‘to take no part in war and to resist it with the whole force of the Labour Movement ... including the General Strike,’ and instead to substitute:

‘There may be circumstances in which the Government of Great Britain might have to use its military and naval forces in support of the League of Nations in restraining an aggressor nation,’ and to proclaim:

‘The duty of supporting our Government unflinchingly’ in such an imperialist war against an ‘aggressor’ duly certified by imperialist diplomatic machinery ... Well might the Times declare in satisfaction:

‘There may still be difference in measures to divide the Labour Party from others, but no longer is there the appearance of a difference in principle ... The only circumstance in which it is conceivable that this Country would go to war are precisely those which the Labour statement would justify as resistance to outrageous aggression.’” (R.P. Dutt, Labour Monthly, Aug. 1934, p. 463.)

3. Voting the Military Budget and War Credits

Referring to the Stalin-Laval negotiations, Pravda (organ of the CPSU) noted on May 16, 1935 that “The Moscow conversations also established that complete harmony exists between France and the USSR regarding the obligations they have assumed to preserve peace.” (Times, May 17, 1935.) What were the obligations?

(25) “Pravda went further and, after assailing the German press for its current anti-Soviet campaign, declared military preparedness of peace-loving countries was essential.

“‘One must be strong to defend peace,’ said Pravda. ‘The weak will not be able to defend their borders. Military weakness would only be an added reason for the National Socialists to hasten aggression.’” (Ibid.)

In France itself, immediately after the Stalin Communique, the Communists tried to walk a tight-rope, between approving the “national defense policy of France” in general, and opposing it in particular. It is unnecessary to cite the contradictory and equivocal statements that resulted, since we can examine their record on the concrete question of the vote on the credits. From May 1935 to May 1936, their attitude on this question has gone through three stages: opposition, abstention, support.


When, in June 1935, Laval presented to the Chamber of Deputies the bill for military preparation, the CP voted against it. Their essential ground was that the Laval Government could not insure an effective national defense against Hitler, on account of fascist influence. (See L’Humanité, June 29, 1935.)

The Czech Communists fell off the tight-rope at this point; after the signing of the Soviet-Czech Pact, they voted for the military budget. When Gottwald returned to Czechoslovakia from Moscow, however, a purge took place; the vote was repudiated. In an article reported in the Daily Worker, Mar. 6, 1936, Gottwald cites statements from the Czech organ, Rude Pravo (whose editor was expelled), that are hair-raising in their gross ultra-jingoism. The significance of the Czech purge was simply this: the Czech Communists clumsily ran ahead of schedule; Gottwald reined them back to the same point as that to which the French Communists had thus far restrained themselves.


The second stage was marked in France by the Rhineland crisis, which caused a sharp anti-German and patriotic swing in all camps. The Croix de Feu, [the] most important Fascist organization, for example, announced its conversion to support of the Franco-Soviet Pact as “an inevitable reply to Hitler” (Manchester Guardian Weekly, Mar. 20, 1936, p. 226.) Before the crisis, the Pact had been bitterly attacked by many reactionaries and fascists in the Chamber of Deputies; when it came up for ratification in the Senate after Hitler’s Rhineland coup, there was little or no dissent even from these groups.

And to complete the picture of “national unity” in the face of the foreign foe: when, as a direct result of the international tension, the government asked the Chamber on March 20, 1936 for military funds outside the regular budget, the CP did not vote against it, but abstained. Since L’Humanité did not state what stand the CP took on the vote, it is necessary to turn elsewhere for this information.

The Times headline ran (Mar. 21): Big Defense Fund Voted by France. The Herald-Tribune: Paris Deputies Vote to Boost Military Budget.

(26) “Emergency legislation to enable the raising of 6,200,000,000 francs ($409,200,000), needed for extra-budgetary military expenditures, by means of short-term Treasury bonds was rushed through the Chamber of Deputies today ...

“Despite protests from former Finance Minister Paul Reynaud and by big business men’s committees that continuance of state borrowing would lead inevitably to inflation, the measure was passed by a vote of 402 to 4.” (Herald-Tribune, March 21, 1936.)

Since the 4 in opposition were conservatives who objected to the inflationary character of the bill, and since there were ten Communist votes in the Chamber, it is certain that the CP did not vote against it.

Regarding Czechoslovakia, Earl Browder made known in his speech at Madison Square Garden on May 20, 1936:

(27) “In Czechoslovakia, where the policy of the government, although weak and vacillating is still on the whole directed toward resistance to the fascist menace from Germany, there the Communists, unable to accept responsibility for the military measures that will be taken against German fascism, will yet, in the face of this immediate military menace not place obstacles in the way of preparing the military resistance to Hitler. At the present moment in Czecho-Slovakia the Communists will probably – I say probably, because the situation shifts from moment to moment and tactics may shift at particular moments – refrain from voting on the military; budget as a demonstration of lack of confidence in the government.” (Daily Worker, May 25, 1936.)

See Daily Worker, May 30, 1936, Questions and Answers, for quotation from Dimitroff stating the permissibility of “refraining from voting in definite cases, giving the reason for doing so, on those various measures of a defensive character which are necessary to hinder the attack of a fascist aggressor (e.g., the fortification of frontiers) ...”


As this is being written, after the French elections of May 3, 1936, the French CP is entering the stage of a positive vote for military appropriations. Andre Marty, member of the top committee of both the French CP and the Comintern, in an interview in the Sunday Worker:

(28) “We cannot now commit ourselves to support of the budget as a whole ... But we will favor appropriations for a democratic defense of the country against Hitler; to equip the masses so that in case of attack by gas or bullets they will have adequate protection; to strengthen the border defenses against German Fascism; to democratize the army and eliminate the pro-fascist elements from it; we will support such appropriations as will further the strengthening of the Franco-Soviet Pact.” (Sunday Worker, May 31, 1936.)

Marty is non-committal on the vote for the budget as a whole. Duclos, secretary of the CPF, in a press conference a few day after the elections also avoided a direct statement at first:

(29) “Up to now, voting for these credits [military credits – Ed.] would have unquestionably meant support of imperialist aims.

“We do not know whether tomorrow the situation will be such that the vote for military credits may have a different significance ...

“It is, therefore, not enough to pose the question of the military credits isolated from the questions of internal policies; we must know about the army’s loyalty to the republic and an effective struggle against the Leagues [fascist leagues – Ed.]” (L’Humanité, May 11, 1936.)

Pressed further by a newspaperman, Thorez, the General Secretary, stated more positively:

(30) “The vote on the budget, under the conditions of collaboration with the other parties, even though we are not in the cabinet, is a political question which can be resolved only within the framework of the general internal and foreign policies of France; if the modifications laid down by us were realized [see Duclos’ last words above – Ed.], the Communists could be brought to vote for the budget.” (Ibid.)

It is interesting to note, also, that when Thorez recently held an audience with Premier Blum, and presented him with a list of measures which the CP urged, the two military measures included were “democratization and modernization of the army” and “the creation of a ministry of national defense.” (L’Humanité, May 24.)

As indicated, the policy of the CP on this question is determined by the degree to which it is insured that France will really fight against Germany. This is also the motive of their drive to “kick the Fascists out of the army.”

(31) “The armed force of France must be SURE of serving only in support of the Red Army. And for that purpose we shall never have confidence in the bourgeoisie, in its fascist officers. That is why our struggle continues.” (L’Humanité, May 17, 1936.)

This campaign to expel the reactionaries from the army bears its logical fruits in the following amazing demand, which forms a key part of the present CP program:

(32) “It is our aim to make the army one with the people ... We demand the removal of fascist officers from the army, and a democratic control by the workers’ organizations over the reactionary general staffs, in countries where fascism is not in power.” (Ercoli: Report at 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XV, 39: 1024, telegraphic report.)

Workers’ control of the capitalist state machine! – this is how the CI understands the Marxian theory of the state! [8]

4. Pacifism and Social-Patriotism in the “New Line”

It is no accident that precisely today, when its line is in essence ideological preparation for the support of imperialist war, the Comintern is putting forth as its central slogan “For Peace”; the columns of its press are filled with pacifist phrases; a Comintern leader announces baldly and without qualification “We are a Party of peace”; its propaganda fills the air with “Peace! Peace!” The present situation represents to an exaggerated degree the state of affairs which the Comintern criticized in 1932:

(33) “France is notoriously a country where pacifist hoodwinking plays a greater part than anywhere else in the world. As a result of the terrible experience of the imperialist war, the working masses have become imbued with a strong pacifist feeling of which the ruling bourgeoisie are making political use. Well then, what significance has it when in France, where every ‘socialist’ has the slogan ‘Pour la paix’ on his lips, where almost every deputy and every minister, especially those of the present cabinet, is juggling with this slogan, the Young Communist League can think of nothing better than simply to put forward the same slogan – ‘For Peace’? This simply means renouncing what is the special and main task of the French Communists in this question, namely, to unmask the pacifist hoodwinking of the bourgeoisie and their lackeys.” (Kuusinen: Report at 12th Plenum of ECCI, pub. as pamph. Prepare for Power, pp. 65–6.)

The close connection between pacifism and social-patriotism is a phenomenon well known even to bourgeois historians, who have pointed out, for example, that Wilson’s 1916 peace proposal was a conscious step toward involving us in the War.

R.P. Dutt has pointed to the same moral in terms directly applicable to the present situation:

(34) “The fact is that Organized Pacifism has today become one of the most menacing instruments of war-preparation ... It speaks only the language of war. Armed sanctions; there must be no neutrals in the next war [cf. No. 9Ed.]; the League of Nations Covenant; Article 16 [providing for military sanctions – Ed.]; international economic blockade; military measures to be decided by the Council of the League; Treaty of Financial Guarantee to insure plentiful resources for war – this is the language of pacifism today.” (R.P. Dutt, Labour Monthly, Aug. 1931, pp. 481–2.)

As Dutt indicates, the main instrument for combining apparent pacifism with war preparations is the League of Nations, where the peaceful ideal of “collective security” masks military sanctions.

The League of Nations

It is well known that up to a short time ago, the CI looked upon the League of Nations as the “Black International,” the “thieves’ kitchen,” the League of Imperialism against the Soviet Union and the colonial peoples. The Twenty-One Points, which split the international socialist movement, reads in its 6th point “Every party that desires to belong to the Third International ... must systematically demonstrate to the workers that without the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, ... no ‘democratic’ reorganization of the League of Nations will save mankind from new imperialist wars.” But now the C.I. looks with greatest hope precisely toward such a “democratically reorganized” League:

(35) “The resignation of two of the most aggressive fascist States, Germany and Japan, from the League of Nations, and the entry of the Soviet Union into the League has altered the character of the League. The possibility has been created of using the capitalist States who are members of the League of Nations against the fascist war-mongers, of using the League of Nations in the interests of the maintenance of world peace. Just as the masses can exert pressure on their parliaments by their actions in order to compel the parliaments to adopt this or that measure, so also can they exert pressure on the League of Nations in order to maintain peace on the field of international relations.” (Manuilsky: Speech on the Results of the 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XV, 69: 1698.)

T.A. Jackson, in the article quoted above, says of the League:

(36) “It is, potentially, at least, as much an anti-imperialist (and therefore, potentially, anti-capitalist) institution as the reverse.” (Plebs, Nov. 1935, p. 263.)

Manuilsky advances two “changed conditions”: the exit of two fascist states, and the entrance of the Soviet Union. The first change – the split between the League States and Fascist Germany, Japan and Italy – was treated as long ago as Jan. 1934, by R.P. Dutt:

(37) “The British governmental press gives support, with reservations, to the German-Italian demands, and also emphasizes the decrepitude of the League and the necessity of new policies:

‘When only two World Powers out of seven remain effective members of the League, how can it claim a vestige of general authority or possess one shred of practical power? In its present diminished and debilitated form it is absolutely impotent for any active purpose whatever bearing on the main business of peace.’ (Garvin in the Observer, Dec. 10, 1933).

“This type of language becomes common and illustrates the general trend to an open war situation.” [So Dutt’s first conclusion from the exit of the Fascists is that the League is shown up as “decrepit,” “without a vestige of authority,” “impotent” – Ed.]

“What is the meaning of the demand for ‘reconstruction’ of the League of Nations from the Fascist states, Italy and Germany? Does this mean that the League and its supporters represent the system of organized peace, and that the Fascist demand for ‘reconstruction’ represents the demand of warlike aggression to smash the ‘collective peace system’? Not at all. Both the League and the anti-League forces are war-systems, but rival war-systems, and therefore in conflict. The League represents the Powers in possession, whose aim is to maintain themselves in possession; therefore its centre is France and Britain, and the satellite states, the beneficiaries of Versailles; the League is the war-system, framed for war, to maintain their spoils. The Powers outside the League or in opposition to it are the dissatisfied Powers, whose possessions do not yet correspond to their actual or potential strength: Germany, Italy, Japan, and also the United States.” (R.P. Dutt: After Ten Years, Labour Monthly, Jan. 1934, p. 13.)

A year later, Dutt takes up the second “changed condition” – the entry of the Soviet Union:

(38) “The advance of fascism, the rearming of Germany and obvious preparations for a sudden launching of war, the entry of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations and the attempt of pacifism to utilize this in order to create new illusions in the League of Nations, the revived currency of the slogan of ‘collective security’, – all these have given rise to new questions which have found their reflection in a dangerous spread of confusion in considerable sections of the working-class movement on the basic issues of war and of the fight against war ...” (pp. 9–10)

“The participation of the Soviet Union in the League of Nations no more transforms the character of the League of Nations than the participation of a Communist in Parliament transforms the character of Parliament.” (p. 16) (Dutt: Dangers and Hopes for 1935, Labour Monthly, Jan. 1935.)

Note that Manuilsky also made an analogy with Parliament; compare this with Dutt’s above.

The Question of the “Aggressor” Nation:
Joint Responsibility of the Imperialists

As a result of the Comintern’s new line, and its late devotion to League of Nations “collective security,” it is of course dropping completely the traditional Marxist view that all imperialist states are jointly responsible for the outbreak of war, no matter who is the “aggressor.”

(39) “The growing threat of imperialist world war leads to a division of all class forces, peoples and States into two camps: the camp of war and the camp of peace ...

“In this situation the Seventh Congress of the Comintern has not adopted the attitude that all capitalist states are equally responsible for the letting loose of imperialist war, but instead it concentrated its blows against the fascist war mongers, against Germany, Japan and Italy.” (Manuilsky: Speech on the Results of the 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XV, 69: 1697.) (See also his remarks about war guilt, No. 43.)

Yet a month before the Franco-Soviet Pact, the French Communists exposed the responsibility of France for the present situation:

(40) “But if Hitler Germany is ripping up the Versailles Treaty ... we must not forget that the French policy of armaments and of hegemony in Europe has only facilitated the advance towards this situation.” (Cahiers du Bolchevisme, Apr. 1, 1935, p. 395. – Editorial.)

And even more clearly in the same May 17 issue of L’Humanité which Thorez criticized:

(41) “The policy of super-armament of France, WHICH REJECTED ALL THE DISARMAMENT PROPOSALS OF THE USSR, has led to the re-arming of Hitler Germany. The past imperialist policy of France has given birth to Hitler.” (L’Humanité, May 17, 1935.)

True, in all likelihood, it is Hitler who will cross the border first. This is why the Comintern finds it possible to stamp Germany as the “aggressor,” and pin the “war guilt” on her in advance. But what is the significance of such an aggression?”

(42) “We have all anticipated, we have all been preparing for this imperialist war. This being the case, it is unimportant who has made the attack. Everybody was preparing for the war; the attack was made by the one who considered it most auspicious for himself at a given moment.” (Lenin: The Proletariat and the War; lecture given Oct. 1914. Coll. Wks., v. 18, p. 71.)

With the concept of joint responsibility scrapped, the Comintern naturally turns to its logical substitute – the theory of war guilt. And at the same time that Manuilsky explicitly revives “war guilt,” he repudiates the concept of revolutionary defeatism.

(43) “Today the interests of the defense of the Soviet Union determine the main policy of the world proletariat towards war, whilst in 1914, the best proletarian elements adopted the standpoint of defeatism, the defeat of their own imperialist governments. Today the standpoint of the struggle against Germany, Japan and Italy as the instigators of World War is a real revolutionary standpoint in the interests of the international proletariat, and in the interests of the maintenance of peace between the peoples, whereas in 1914, the theory of ‘war guilt’ was merely a cloak for the imperialist aims of the bourgeoisie who adopted it.” (Manuilsky: Speech on the Results of the 7th Congress, Inprecorr, XV, 69: 1698.)

And so, with the theory of war guilt, the Communist International is ending up at the point where the fight against the illusions of the World War was first taken up.

* * *

Part II. – FROM the OLD to the NEW LINE

1. The World War

Every element in the Comintern’s new line, every justification and argument which the Communists are making today, was made by the social-patriots of 1914–18 – and mercilessly attacked by Lenin.

(44) “Nearly everyone admits the present war to be an imperialist war. In most cases, however, this term is either distorted, or applied to one side only, or a loophole is left for the assertion that the war is a bourgeois-progressive means for national liberation.” (Lenin: Socialism and War, p. 11, Little Lenin Library.)

The Case of Belgium

In 1914, the social-patriots recognized as just, the war by the small and weak nation (Belgium) to defend its national integrity and independence against the attack of the. aggressor, German Kaiserism.

(45) “The social-chauvinists of the Triple (now Quadruple) Entente (in Russia, Plekhanov and Co.) love to refer to the example of Belgium. This example speaks against them. The German imperialists shamelessly violated Belgian neutrality; this has always and everywhere been the practice of warring nations which, in the case of necessity, trample upon all treaties and obligations. Suppose all nations interested in maintaining international treaties declared war against Germany, demanding the liberation and indemnification of Belgium. In this case the sympathy of the Socialists would naturally be on the side of Germany’s enemies. The truth, however, is that the war is being waged by the ‘Triple’ (and Quadruple) Entente not for the sake of Belgium. This is well known, and only the hypocrites conceal it ... In the present war, conducted by the present governments, it is impossible to help Belgium without helping to throttle Austria or Turkey, etc. What meaning, then, has the ‘defense of the fatherland’? This is the peculiar characteristic of the imperialist war, a war between reactionary bourgeois governments that have historically outlived themselves, conducted for the sake of oppressing other nations. Whoever justifies participation in this war, perpetuates imperialist oppression of nations. Whoever seeks to use the present difficulties of the governments in order to fight for a social revolution, is fighting for the real freedom of really all nations, a freedom that can be realized only under Socialism.” (Lenin: Socialism and War, p. 15. Little Lenin Library.)

To paraphrase Lenin: In the next war, conducted by the present governments, it will be impossible to help the Soviet Union (through the imperialist governments) without helping the imperialists to hang on to their booty, to oppress their colonial peoples, and to oppress their own proletariat, as every capitalist government must do in war time.

The Case of Serbia

The C.I. maintains that in the next imperialist World War, certain states (Czechoslovakia, etc.) will be fighting national wars, which must be supported. Even if we make the totally false assumption that imperialist Czechoslovakia can fight a national war, what should be our attitude toward such a national war?

In 1914, it was admitted by all, including Lenin, that Serbia was not an imperialist state, and that it was fighting a national war against Austria – i.e. a war which was the continuation of Serbia’s struggle against Austrian oppression:

(46) “The national element in the present war is represented only by the war of Serbia against Austria (which, by the way, was noted in the resolution of the Berne Conference of our party). Only in Serbia and among the Serbs do we find a national movement for freedom, a movement of long standing embracing millions of ‘national masses,’ and of which the present war of Serbia against Austria is a ‘continuation.’ Were this war isolated, i.e. not connected with the general European war, with the selfish and predatory aims of England, Russia, etc., then all Socialists would be obliged to wish success to the Serbian bourgeoisie – this is the only correct and absolutely necessary conclusion to be drawn from the national element in the present war ... The national element of the Serbo-Austrian war has no significance, and can have none, in the general European war.” (Lenin: The War and the Second International, p. 33. Little Lenin Library.)

The Serbs, then, had the only half-plausible pretext for supporting the war. Yet the Serbs were one of the few Socialist Parties that opposed it!

Said Lenin:

(47) “Social-Democrats fulfill their duty only when they struggle against the chauvinist poison gases of their own country. The best example of how such duty is to be fulfilled is furnished by the Serbian Social-Democrats.” (Lenin: Speech, Oct. 11, 1914. Coll. Wks., v. 18, p. 66.)

Remember also that Russia entered the war on the ground that she had to protect Serbia in this national struggle against Austria. And in fact, it would be as correct (and as false) to say that objectively she did help Serbia, as to say with Duclos (no. 5) that objectively France will be defending the Soviet Union. Lenin judged the war by the class politics of which it was the continuation, as far as Russia was concerned, not by the vicissitudes of the imperialist line-up.

Defending Soviet Russia” in 1917

The Communists claim that no comparisons can be made with 1914 because the Soviet Union was not in existence at that time. But after November 1917, the new factor, Soviet Russia, had already come upon the world scene. And weak and exhausted as it was, Germany was attacking it and threatening to wipe it out. In this critical period, many American workers, whose enthusiasm for the first Workers’ State ran high, raised the slogan of “Defend Soviet Russia” – through the American military machine.

(48) “... Germany’s continued assaults upon the New Russia ... turned a number of radicals, particularly the Slavic ones, violently pro-Ally ... Eastman and Dell, burning with enthusiasm for the Soviets and disarmed by Wilson’s peace proposals, announced their endorsement of ‘the war aims outlined by President Wilson and by the Russian People.’ ... Then seven Socialist aldermen in New York voted to support the third Liberty Loan, justifying their vote on the ground of Germany’s attacks on Russia and the nature of Wilson’s peace terms ... There were rumors that Debs, whose emotions had been deeply stirred by the Russian upheaval, was wavering. But the now rapidly aging man soon put an end to all speculation. Taking the platform at a Socialist state convention in Canton, Ohio, he delivered a scathing two-hour denunciation of ‘the Junkers of the United States’ as well as in Germany, praised the courage and loyalty of his imprisoned comrades, spoke warmly of the I.W.W. and the Bolsheviks and referred to patriotism as ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel.’” (Symes & Clement: Rebel America, pp. 303–4.)

At the trial of the Masses staff, Max Eastman testified apropos of the St. Louis Resolution of the Socialist Party:

(49) “... I have no hesitation in telling you that I endorse that resolution. And although subsequently, during the last winter and spring when Germany was invading Russia, I passed through a period of extreme doubt and was almost ready to lay that resolution aside as an expression of abstract principles ... that period of doubt has passed ...” (Ibid., p. 307.)

The Character of the War

Thorez claims that war against Germany on the side of the Soviet Union would not be an imperialist war on the part of France (see no. 6); Hathaway calls it an “historically progressive” war (no. 8). Revolutionary Socialists, on the other hand, maintain that an imperialist government can fight only an imperialist war; that the character of a war is determined by the class politics of which it is the continuation, and therefore by the class character of the government waging it.

During the World War, Lenin spent more time hammering home this position than any other single point. He was specifically faced with the claim that the “People’s Front Government” formed in Russia after the March revolution made it possible to support the war and war credits:

(50) “Why do you not agree with those who maintain that the war is not fought for capitalist profits? What is the criterion? The criterion is, first of all: which class is in power, which class continues to rule, which class continues to make hundreds of millions in banking and financial operations? The same old capitalist class does it, and the war therefore continues to be an imperialist war.” (Lenin: Speech at First Congress of Soviets, June 17, 1917. Coll. Wks., v. 20, bk. II, p. 199.)

(51) “We are not at all pacifists. The fundamental question is: which class is waging the war? The capitalist class, tied to the banks, cannot wage any but an imperialist war. The working class can.” (Lenin: Speech at Bolshevik Caucus, Apr. 17, 1917. Coll. Wks., v. 20, bk. I, p. 96.)

(52) “When we seize power we shall curb the capitalists, then the war will be entirely different from the one now waged, – for the nature of a war is determined by the class that conducts it, and not by what is written on scraps of paper. Anything can be written on scraps of paper. But as long as the capitalist class has a majority in the government, the war will remain an imperialist, war. no matter what you write, no matter how eloquent you are, no matter how many near-Socialist Ministers you may have.” (Coll. Wks., v. 20, bk. II, p. 203.)

A warning is added on “good intentions”:

(53) “It is required of us that we should be able to explain to the masses that the socio-political character of the war is determined not by the ‘good-will’ of persons or groups, even peoples, but by the position of the class which conducts the war, by the class policy of which the war i§ a continuation, by the interrelations of capital as the dominant economic force in modern society, by the imperialist character of international capital, by Russia’s financial, banking, and diplomatics dependence upon England and France, etc.” (Lenin: The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution, Apr. 10, 1917. Col. Wks., v. 20, bk. I, p. 137.)

A succinct summary:

(54) “War is a continuation of the policies of a class; to change the character of the war, one must change the class in power.” (Lenin: Speech at Party Conference, Apr. 27, 1917. Col. Wks., v. 20, bk. I, p. 207.)

Replying to the social-patriotic arguments, Lenin states further that we must oppose the wars of the imperialist bourgeoisie “even of the smallest country.”

(55) “The socialist, the revolutionary proletarian, the internationalist, argues differently. He says: The character of the war (whether reactionary or revolutionary) is not determined by who the aggressor was, or whose territory the ‘enemy’ has occupied; it is determined by the class that is waging the war, and the politics of which this war is a continuation. If the war is a reactionary, imperialist war, that is, if it is being waged by two world coalitions of the imperialist, violent, predatory reactionary bourgeoisie, then every bourgeoisie (even of the smallest country) becomes a participant in the plunder, and my duty as a representative of the revolutionary proletariat is to prepare for the world proletarian revolution as the only escape from the horrors of a world war.” (Lenin: The Proletarian Revolution and Renegade Kautsky, Little Lenin Library No. 21, pp. 66–7.)

Can Modern Capitalism Be Progressive?

(56) “When a Marxist discusses imperialism he realizes the utter absurdity of dwelling on conditions in one single country, for he knows that all capitalist countries are closely bound together. During the present war this bond has grown immeasurably stronger. All humanity is kneaded into one bloody lump, and no one separate nation can disentangle itself from it. Though there are more and less advanced countries, the present war has bound all of them to each other by so many threads, that it appears senseless and impossible for any one separate country to strive to escape this tangle.” (Lenin: Report at April Conference, Col. Wks., v. 20, bk. I, p. 280.)

The emphasis here is on the character of the era, and the all-pervading character of world imperialism, from which no single capitalist state can disentangle itself. This is the basis on which Lenin comes to the following conclusions:

(57) “The bourgeoisie of all the imperialist Great Powers – England, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, Japan, the United States – has become so reactionary and so imbued with the striving for world domination, that any war conducted by the bourgeoisie of those countries can be nothing but reactionary. The proletariat must not only oppose all such wars, but it must also wish for the defeat of ‘its own’ government in such wars, and it must utilize it for a revolutionary uprising, if an uprising to prevent the war proves unsuccessful.” (Lenin: The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution; d. autumn 1916. In: The Communist, Jan. 1935, p. 30.)

(58) “In our days it would be ridiculous even to think of a progressive bourgeois movement in connection, for instance, with the outstanding central figures of the European ‘concert’ such as England and Germany. The old bourgeois ‘democracy’ of those central and most important state formations has become reactionary ...

“A. Potresov in our time, when modern (non-bourgeois) democracy is in the forefront, preaches bourgeois national-liberalism when one cannot even think of bourgeois progressive movements, whether modestly liberal or tempestuously democratic, as far as England, Germany, or France are concerned ...

“Modern democracy will remain faithful to itself only if it does not join one or the other imperialist bourgeoisie, if it says that ‘both are worst,’ if it wishes the defeat of the imperialist bourgeoisie in every country. Every other decision will in reality be national-liberal and entirely foreign to true internationalism.” (Lenin: Under a Stolen Flag, Col. Wks., v. 18, pp. 121–4.)

2. From the World War to 1935

The Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union

Although the Soviet Leaders, including Lenin, were never opposed to alliances with capitalist states on principle, their attitude in general has been negative – for good reasons. Louis Fischer, unofficial apologist for Soviet foreign policy, presents the question as follows.

In April 1920, Turkey, considered by the Soviets as a national-revolutionary state fighting against Greek imperialism, proposed a military and political alliance to Russia in a letter in which it declared its readiness to “participate in the struggle against foreign imperialism which threatens both countries.” But –

(59) “The Bolsheviks felt and feel that permanent alliances with non-Communist states are a dangerous liability. They may involve the Soviet Government in wars for other than defensive purposes or in conflicts arising out of problems alien to its interests and spirit. They could, conceivably, put the Bolsheviks in a position of supporting a State that was persecuting Communists and trade unionists, or adopting other tactics offensive to Soviet citizens ...

“Moscow therefore rejected Kemal’s offer of an alliance ... But while the Russians objected to a regular alliance with all its implications, they saw the advantage of temporary collaboration against the same countries for the same purposes.” (Fischer: The Soviets in World Affairs, pub. 1930, v. I, pp. 390–1.)

Russia did in fact give military aid to Turkey, but the reasons given for avoiding an alliance still hold good today.

(60) “... she [Russia] has every desire to avoid entangling alliances, coalitions, blocs, etc. Professor Fay in his brilliant work on the Origins of the World War proves conclusively how ententes and alliances make for greater armaments and these for universal war.” (Ibid., v. 2, p. 616.)

This reason for avoiding alliances was spectacularly confirmed by the effect of the Franco-Soviet Pact in precipitating (though not of course causing, in a primary sense) the militarization of the Rhineland by Germany.

(61) “A bond between Soviet Russia and France is not altogether chimerical ... Moscow could probably win the friendship of France if it desired. But the price would be an alliance – and the Bolsheviks object to ententes with bourgeois States. This, indeed, is one of the chief handicaps of the Soviet Union in its international relations and particularly with France. If it condescended to manoeuvre with one world combination against the other it would be valuable to both and might bargain for advantages.” (Ibid., v. 2, p. 575.)

Today the Communists claim that the Franco-Soviet alliance was made possible only by the increased strength of the Soviet Union, which forced France to accede to it. One must, rather, explain it by the increased willingness on the part of the USSR.

Fischer is completely confirmed by another apologist for Soviet foreign policy, Gore Graham, speaking of the Franco-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of May 1933:

(62) “The French for obvious diplomatic reasons have attempted to create the impression that the whole business was a question of a military alliance with Russia. This is a complete misrepresentation of Soviet peace policy. Building alliances with capitalist States has nothing in common with the peace policy of a Socialist Government. Alliances would have positive obligations for the Soviet Union by which it would be an active partner in the imperialist activities of the ally. The Soviet Union could have formed an alliance with an imperialist State on many an occasion if the making of alliances had been part of its policy. The sole aim of Soviet foreign policy is the maintenance of peace – that and that alone.” (Gore Graham: War and Peace and the Soviet Union, pub. 1934, p. 178.)

The Comintern Before 1935

For 16 years from its formation, the Comintern’s propaganda held to a line which is in direct contradiction with its present position. Thus a popular pamphlet, From the First World War to the Second, published by the Workers Library Publishers, and written by “Nemo,” who was also a correspondent for Inprecorr, said, in 1934:

(63) “The war of imperialism was and is a war for safeguarding the rule of finance capital, for the salvation of the outlived bourgeois society of exploiters, for the oppression of the small and weak nations and for the overthrow of the only workers’ state in the world. Hence, all wars of the imperialists [emphasis in original – Ed.] are reactionary and unjust, and the imperialists are always the aggressors from the standpoint of historical progress and of the proletarian class struggle. This, and only this conception determines the irreconcilable attitude of world Communism to the imperialist war.” (p. 71.)

M.J. Olgin makes a parenthetical remark in a campaign pamphlet, 1932:

(64) “Mr. Thomas ... declares that if America were on the verge of war, i.e., on the verge of an imperialist war, (because an imperialist government can conduct only an imperialist war), he would be for taking over ‘everything’ by the government ...” (Olgin: The Socialist Party – Last Bulwark of Capitalism, p. 21.)

On the question of a Czech “war for national liberation”: – About 1929, the Comintern was combating the Right Wing in the Czech CP on the following issue:

(65) “A characteristic feature of the Czech Rights was a tendency to underrate Czecho-Slovakian imperialism and to consider Czecho-Slovakia as an oppressed colonial country. This led to a weakening of the struggle against the Czech bourgeoisie and Czech Social-Democracy.” (N. Popov, Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, v. 2, p. 392.)

At its 6th Congress (1928), the C.I. was faced with a problem similar to that presented by Germany today. In 1928 it was Italy which appeared as the Fascist dog of war, full of aggressive intent, and pulling at the leash to attack the neighboring countries, especially France. And again, a tendency arose to support war by “democratic” imperialism against “aggressive” fascism. But Tom Bell of England, the reporter on the question of war, gave the following view:

(66) “Then, another form of passivity is to be found in the attitude of certain workers, for instance, who do not see clearly the bourgeois propaganda that is intended to confuse them in regard to Fascism. Take, for example, the attitude of certain French workers who are apprehensive of Italian imperialism crossing its own frontiers, and therefore fall into the arms of French chauvinism and think that the greater danger is Italian Fascist imperialism, rather than French imperialism. The same in regard to certain workers in Yugoslavia and various Balkan countries who feel that they are being menaced by Italian Fascism. It is necessary that our comrades have a clear understanding as to the relations of the Communists to the national wars, the question of the ‘Defense of the Fatherland,’ and to distinguish between the Socialist fatherland and the defense of the bourgeois fatherland, and in all the other questions in which Communists are involved, in this very question of aggressiveness of Fascism.” (Inprecorr, VIII, 58: 1008.)

Barbé of France, official co-reporter (later expelled as a “renegade” in the turn to the “third period”), repeated this official view regarding such trends:

(67) “These tendencies pushed to the foreground first the struggle against Italian Fascism, in order to turn later against French imperialism. This tendency was of course very dangerous because French imperialism is ideologically preparing for the next imperialist war against Italian Fascism by counterposing to Fascism – the French democracy and French ‘civilization’ which is being furnished to colonies.” (Inprecorr, VIII, 58: 1027.)

And the thesis on war finally adopted by the Congress summed this up and added a prediction:

(68) “In the last imperialist war, the Allies made use of the slogan ‘Fight against Prussian militarism’, while the Central Powers used the slogan ‘Fight against Tsarism’; both sides using the respective slogans to mobilize the masses for war. In a future war between Italy and France, or Yugoslavia, the same purpose will be served by the slogan ‘Fight against reactionary Fascism,’ for the bourgeoisie in the latter countries will take advantage of the anti-fascist sentiments of the masses of the people to justify imperialist war.” (Inprecorr, VIII, 84: 1586.)

3. On the Eve of the Turn

Not only was the “old line” maintained up to 1935, but indeed on the very eve of the turn, what later became the new line was specifically discussed and rejected. This was true in the three countries which we were able to investigate fairly closely: France, America and England.

France, one month before the Franco-Soviet Pact:

(69) “It is said, for example, that in case of a war provoked by Germany in which the USSR and France would be involved, the French workers would form a sacred union with the French imperialists. No, no, and no! We defend with all our strength the peace policy of the USSR. We will rise against every anti-soviet aggression.

“But French imperialism in a war will fight always for its imperialist interests [emphasis in original – Ed.], which are opposed to the interests of the working class. And the role of the workers in the capitalist nations is to do everything to defeat their own bourgeoisie, to liberate themselves by utilizing all revolutionary possibilities in time of war as in time of peace.” (Cahiers du Bolchevisme [9] Apr. 1, 1935, p. 402.)

At about the same time, April 3, the Daily Worker in America took up in its Questions and Answers column, the following inquiry:

(70) “Question: In the event of a war which would find both the Soviet Union and France fighting against Germany, what would the French Communists do? – G.H., Boston.”

The answer that followed was, apparently, considered so fully satisfactory and correct that later, after the signing of the Pact had aroused fresh doubts and questions, it was reprinted, word for word, in the Questions and Answers column of May 11, 1935 – only four days before the notorious Communique and six days before the keynote speech by Thorez:

Answer: It is difficult to forecast the lineup in the next imperialist war. But it is very probable that such a war would start either as an attack upon the Soviet Union or as Stalin said would be rapidly transferred into a united attack of the imperialists against the USSR.

“But whatever the exact circumstances in which the hostilities would begin, the French Communist Party would continue to wage its relentless and unceasing struggle against French capitalism and their own imperialists. It would raise Lenin’s slogan of turning imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war. A Soviet France would be the best and only genuine ally of the Soviet Union.

“At the moment the immediate interests of French imperialism require friendly relations with the Soviet Union. But the defense of the Soviet Union ultimately depends upon the efforts of the international working class. The hindering and crippling of the war machinery of all capitalist governments is among the most important tasks confronting the world proletariat. The fight against the war preparations of the imperialists is an integral part of the fight against capitalism, and if pushed with sufficient force, can assure the establishment of Soviet power before the outbreak of an imperialist slaughter. The anti-war struggle by its very nature is a defense of the Soviet Union and an advancement of the struggles of the working class against capitalism. It should be emphasized that under all circumstances the main task of the working class is the overthrow of the capitalists of its own country. The struggle in this direction makes for peace, the defense of the Soviet Union, and the furtherance of the interests of the international proletariat.” (Daily Worker, April 3 and May 11, 1935.)

On the same day, May 11, there was taking place in London a “United Front Conference Against Fascism and War” under the auspices of the Labour Monthly, which is edited and controlled by prominent Communists. Its editor is R. Palme Dutt, one of the leaders of the British CP.

The opening speech was made by D.N. Pritt, K.C., a left Labour Party man who placed squarely on the agenda the question of whether to support “what we were told was a war in favour of the Soviet.” There were two delegates at the Conference who can be considered as expressing the point of view of the CP. The first was the representative of the Labour Monthly Editorial Board itself, R. Page Arnot, a prominent CP theoretician, who treated the question as follows:

(71) “Today the Government is trying to arouse the discussion in the working-class movement as to what to do in the case of war, which in 1914 took place after the war began, this time before and so to get it settled that it will be safe to begin. They are raising all the trick questions brought up in 1914–18: ‘If a German attacked your mother, if Hitler were to invade this country, if the British Government along with the Soviet Union were engaged in a war’ – Believe me that once these ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ are allowed to creep into the Labour Movement then we are lost. ... We have got to make it clear that our Government is the one to be attacked for its war policy.” (Labour Monthly, June 1935, p. 380.)

This “trick question,” which Arnot throws into the rubbish can along with “If a German attacked your mother —”, was discussed even more explicitly by the official delegate from the Communist Party, G. Allison:

(72) “The government of British capitalism, the heart of the Empire, cannot be anything other than a war-mongering government, at the same time unless we do not correct the very first false step there is no possible retreat after that mistake is made. When our trade union leaders said they stood for class collaboration they went on from there to breaking strikes and so on to becoming an integral part of capitalist machinery. In precisely the same way, if we say we support some kind of capitalist war there is no retreat.

“Therefore we must be absolutely clear that under no circumstances can we support any kind of war that is waged by British Imperialism. Even if circumstances force British Imperialism into going into war alongside the Soviet Union, this would not alter the fact that British Imperialism was waging a war to defend its Empire.” (Labour Monthly, June 1935, p. 381.)

And D.N. Pritt then summarized the sentiment of the Conference:

(73) “I am impressed by and agree with the assertion that have come from a good many comrades that the only safe way for working-class organizations in this country is to make up their minds and take their stand about not taking part in a war organized by capitalist governments, is to say that they won’t take part in any war organized by capitalist governments.” (Labour Monthly, June 1935, p. 382.)

That week, the line was changed. The very June number of the Labour Monthly which carries the above report in its back pages, also carries its first editorial on the Stalin Communique, – documentary evidence of how the line of the Comintern on the most fundamental questions can be changed so rapidly that the old and the new lines jostle each other in the same magazine issue.

* * *


We shall allow R. Palme Dutt to sum up with a few choice remarks which he made four months before the Pact:

(74) “Anti-war feeling in the abstract was never stronger, more widespread, even more fashionable in many bourgeois circles, than now when the approach to war is nearest ...

“But this anti-war feeling in general, however widespread and however sincere in the masses of the population, is useless and worse than useless so long as it is not united with revolutionary understanding of the real issue ... Without such understanding nine-tenths of the general anti-war feeling will inevitably disappear on the outbreak of war; because the conditions of the outbreak of war will appear new, startling, different from what has been expected, and confronting all with immediate issues of inescapable urgency which admit of no halfway position but leave only the alternatives of complete submission to imperialism or revolutionary struggle ...

“New questions develop ceaselessly with the constantly changing situation. The advance of fascism, the rearming of Germany and obvious preparations for a sudden launching of war, the entry of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations and the attempt of pacifism to utilize this in order to create new illusions in the League of Nations, the revived currency of the slogan of “collective security’, the re-dressing of the issue of national defense in guise of the issue of the defense of democracy against fascism – all these have given rise to new questions which have found their reflection in a dangerous spread of confusion in considerable sections of the working-class movement on the basic issues of war and of the fight against war. There is very great danger that through this confusion the psychological and ideal conditions for future war are already being laid ... It is of the utmost importance for the revolutionary anti-war movement to give clear answers on all these issues, and above all to show the unity of the fight against war and against fascism, of the fight in the field of international politics, and in the field of inner politics ...

“The greatest danger does not lie in the direct war plans of imperialism, which can be defeated by a united working class. The greatest danger lies in the pacifist and confusionist manoeuvres of imperialism and of its channels of influence in the working class to disrupt their united working class front and replace it by support of rival imperialist policies. It is here that lies the significance of the role of the Labour Party Executive ... in its whole Southport line of support of imperialist war in certain contingencies, in the case of war against an ‘aggressor,’ in the case of war for the ‘collective system’ of imperialism, in the case of war ‘to preserve the nation and its democratic institutions.’ It is here that lies the significance of the spreading of trust in a future Labour Government as an instrument of peace ... It is here that lies the significance of the preaching of a hypothetical war of ‘democratic defense’ against Fascism ... These are the questions that constitute the most critical, front for the present stage of the fight against war.

“What is our answer to these ‘left,’ ‘pacifist,’ ‘democratic,’ ‘anti-fascist’ arguments in support of future imperialist war? Our answer remains the Leninist line, the line of international socialism from Marx to Engels, from Stuttgart and Basel up to today. We need more than ever to warn the workers never to become entangled in the lines of imperialist policies, but to judge every question of war and peace solely from the standpoint of the working class revolution. The workers under capitalism have no fatherland; their only fatherland is ... the Soviet Union. The participation of the Soviet Union in the League of Nations no more transforms the character of the League of Nations than the participation of a Communist in Parliament transforms the character of Parliament ... The false comparison of the working class which has not yet conquered power ... with the position of a working class which has conquered power and has now to manoeuvre in a capitalist world ... is the favorite fallacy of reformism to confuse the issues ... But the real fight remains throughout, not in the reflection of power at the council tables, but in the direct field of the class struggle, in the strength of the international working class, in the strength of the workers’ army of the Soviet Union, and in the strength of the revolutionary struggle in the other countries. Here and nowhere else lies the final decision of the issues of war and peace.

“What then, of the hypothetical arguments of a possible war of ‘democratic defense’ against a Fascist aggression? ... in the uncertain state of the international situation, the possibility is not excluded of a Nazi surprise attack to the West, contrary to the calculations of the dominant imperialist powers. The possibility, though not the most likely, though not the main line of the war danger, exists, and could raise a sharp question directly for the French workers and possibly also for the workers in Britain. Must we not ‘defend our country’ against Fascism? Is not pacifism in such conditions equivalent to surrender to Fascism? The revolutionary answer is clear. We hold nothing in common with the pacifist position. We do not for a moment exclude military defense against Fascism – on one condition, and one condition only, namely that we have a country to defend. We shall defend Workers’ Britain, as an integral part of the World Workers’ Republic, of the future World Soviet Union, against Fascism with every means in our power. Let the exploiting class in France make way and surrender power to the workers’ united front, and the French workers will defend Workers’ France against every attack, as they defended the Commune, against the combined French-German ruling class; we shall not let ourselves be dragged into warring for one set of masters against another; we shall raise the slogan of fraternization with the German workers and soldiers. Is this ‘unpractical’? On the contrary, it is the only practical line. For such fraternization, such fight of the British workers against British Imperialism, will more rapidly undermine the shaking Nazi regime in Germany, will hasten the German revolution than any ‘union sacrée’ of the trade union leaders with British Imperialism which will only strengthen the Nazi hold, confirm the Nazi propaganda of the vanity of working-class internationalism, and prolong the war.” (Labour Monthly, January 1935, pp. 8–17.)


All emphasis has been omitted from the quotations. [10] The reader is therefore requested to underline the following words and word-groups, which are italicized in the original sources. Numbers refer to the number and line of the quotation:

(5: 1–2) the war ... counter revolution; (5: 5 and 5: 7) objectively; (13: 6–8) The defense ... just war; (17: 3) such; (21: 9) international; (21: 10) everywhere; (23: 2) not; (34: 3) It ... war; (36: 1) anti-; (36: 2) anti-; (39: 3) underline whole line; (45: 6) all; (45: 12) not; (46: 2) only; (46: 10) obliged; (46: 10) bourgeoisie; (46: 13) no; (47: 1–2) Social-Democrats ... country; (50: 2) not; (52: 2) different; (55: 5) determined ... class; (55: 12) only; (58: 7) modern; (63: 5) all; (64: 2) imperialist; (69: 7) always; (69: 10) defeat; (71: 3) after; (71: 10) our; (74: 15–18) The greatest danger lies ... policies.

* * *


1. L’Humanité is the daily central organ of the French C.P.

2. International Press Correspondence, published by the Comintern.

3. All emphasis in all quotations is as in the original.

4. On May 17 (the day Thorez is speaking), l’Humanité bore a banner headline: Nothing Is Changed. Thorez is here telling his comrades that this is the wrong line.

5. The first day or two after the Communique, Communists tried to pass it off as a diplomatic declaration without significance. L’Humanité, on May 17, for example, disdainfully refers to “opponents ... who try to raise a war-machine against us by means of the diplomatic declarations of our great comrade Stalin.” The Daily Worker, in an editorial May 20, answered the critics of the Communique as follows:

“You mistake the wart on your nose for a mountain on the horizon. The Soviet Union in its diplomatic negotiations with capitalist powers, including the United States, has made many formal declarations. But these formal declarations, necessary for the purpose of the negotiations of the governments involved, do not and cannot and will not stop the class struggle and the revolutionary advance within the capitalist countries concerned.”

Note also that Stalin has no diplomatic or other significant position in the Soviet Government, but rather speaks in the name of the CPSU and CI (see Daily Worker’s Questions and Answers, Mar. 9, 1936), and therefore the talk of a “diplomatic declaration” would be absurd even if Thorez approved of it.

6. The phrase “for any interests whatsoever” was omitted from the translation in the Daily Worker.

7. Compare CP utterances on a war against Hitlerism with the following:

“The German and Austrian Social-Democrats try to justify their support of the war by saying that thereby they struggle against tsarism. We Russian SocialDemocrats declare that we consider such a justification to be a downright sophism ... We must say that if there is anything that, under certain conditions, may delay the destruction of tsarism, if there is anything that may help tsarism in its struggle against the whole of Russian democracy, it is the present war, which has placed at the disposal of tsarism for the furthering of its reactionary aims, the purse of the English, French and Russian bourgeoisie. And if there is anything that can make the revolutionary struggle of the Russian working class against tsarism more difficult, it is the behavior of the leaders of German and Austrian Social-Democracy, a behavior continually held up by the chauvinist press of Russia as an example for us.” (Lenin: The War and the Second International, Little Lenin Library, p. 59.)

8. Even the slogan of “workers’ control of industry” was regarded by Lenin as correct only in a revolutionary situation, on the eve of the destruction of the capitalist state. Workers’ control of the capitalist state expresses, of course, a purely reformist concept. – Compare the following remarks by Lenin, in a somewhat similar case, when certain Bolsheviks raised the demand that the Soviets exercise control over the Provisional Government (adding, we presume, that the reactionaries should be expelled):

“Control without power is one of the emptiest phrases. How can I control England? To control her, one must seize her fleet. I can see how the uneducated mass of workers and soldiers play naively and unintelligently believe in control. It is sufficient, however, to ponder a while over the fundamental aspects of control to realize that such a belief constitutes a complete abandonment of the basic principles of class-struggle. What is control? If I write a scrap of paper, a resolution, they will write a counter-resolution. To control, one must have power. If the broad masses in the petty-bourgeois bloc do not understand this, we must have the patience to explain it to them, but under no circumstances must we tell them an untruth.” Report at Party Conference, May 7, 1917. Coll. Wks., v. 20, bk. 1, p. 274.)

On the question of democratizing the army, compare:

“In imperialist States the attitude of the proletariat toward armies is determined by the following: No matter what their form of organization may be, armies are a constituent part of, the bourgeois State apparatus, which the proletariat in the course of its revolution, must not democratize but break up.” (Thesis on War of 6th Congress of CI, 1928, Inprecorr, VIII, 84: 1592.)

9. Official theoretical organ of the French C.P.

10. In this online edition the emphases have been added in the appropriate places. [Note by MIA]

Last updated on 9 May 2020