R. Palme Dutt
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain, 16 King Street, London, WC2 (print-run: 50 000), dated 1 November 1939
Transcription/Proofreader: Paul Flewers
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2010). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
It would be a dangerous illusion to think that, if war once starts, it will come to an early end.—Chamberlain,1 letter to Hitler, 22 August 1939
Your assurance to the effect that in such an event you anticipate a long war is shared by myself.—Hitler, reply to Chamberlain, 23 August 1939
With the prospects of a long war, markets yesterday resumed their excited advance. Wheat, maize, cotton, lard, sugar and cocoa were the chief gainers among commodities.—The Times, 3 October 1939
In whose interests is this war being fought? For what ends is this war being fought?
Is the continuance of this war in the interests of the working people?
These questions must be faced by the people. It is of urgent importance that they shall be faced now while there is still time, before the war has yet reached its full scale of murderous development. It is of urgent importance that they shall be faced before it is too late, before false policies and false hopes have given rise to bitter disillusionment, defeats for the working class and new burdens and losses for the people.
Let it never be forgotten—the power of decision rests with the working class. Without the support of the working class this war could not continue for a day. It is not the millionaires, the instigators of the war, who pay for it with their lives and their fortunes. It is with the bodies of the workers, with the hardships and privations of their homes and their families in all the warring countries, that this war is being fought. The workers have no interest to be the tools and pawns of their millionaire rulers. The working class must decide the issue of peace or war.
In a Manifesto published on 7 October 1939, the Communist Party declared: ‘The continuance of this war is not in the interests of the people of Britain, France or Germany.’
The reasons for this viewpoint of the Communist Party are explained in the Manifesto:
This war is not a war for democracy against fascism. It is not a war for the liberties of small nations. It is not a war for the defence of peace against aggression.
These phrases on the lips of the enemies of democracy, the Chamberlains and the Churchills,2 the Daladiers3 and Bonnets,4 the oppressors of the colonial peoples, are hypocrisy and deception of the people.
The British and French ruling class are seeking to use the anti-fascist sentiments of the people for their own imperialist aims. By their deeds they have shown that they do not stand for democracy against fascism. If they did, they would have stood by democracy in Spain and Czechoslovakia. If they did, the British ruling class would have granted the demand of India for democracy.
By their deeds the British and French ruling class have shown that they do not stand for the defence of peace against aggression. If they did they would have agreed to the peace front, which would have prevented this war.
The responsibility for the present imperialist war lies equally on all the warring powers.
This war is a fight between imperialist powers over profits, colonies and world domination.
This war will bring only great suffering and boundless misery to millions of working-class homes.
We are told that this is a war against fascism and fascist aggression, and that, therefore, it should be supported by all socialists, trade unionists and democrats.
The Communist Party has always fought in the forefront in the real struggle for democracy against fascism, at a time when many of those who today are mouthing these slogans were praising fascism to the skies and assisting its advance.
Communists have shown in deeds that they know how to fight and die for democracy against fascism. The record of the Communists in Spain, and of the International Brigade, in which hundreds of British Communists gave their lives in the cause of Spanish Democracy against the invading hordes of Hitler and Mussolini, has proved this.
Where were the Chamberlains and Churchills, the Citrines5 and Daltons6 when this real struggle for democracy against fascism broke out? They were doing everything to assist the victory of Franco by the policy of ‘non-intervention’. They were strangling Spanish Democracy.
Does anyone believe that the Chamberlains and Daladiers, the Bonnets and Hoares,7 the men of Munich,8 who have always been on the side of fascism against democracy, have now suddenly turned round and become enemies of fascism? Of course not. They will never lead a fight against fascism.
On the contrary, these Governments of enemies of the people are the pacemakers for fascism in their own countries. They are seeking to use the war to hasten the advance towards fascism in Britain and France.
If this were a genuine anti-fascist war, would the first act of the French Government be to suppress the French Communist Party, the principal party of the working class and the leader of the anti-fascist fight? This act alone reveals the true character of the war as a war against the interests of the working class and democracy.
If this were a real war for democracy, would the British Government be turning its fire against the Indian national movement, meeting their demands for democracy with a crushing refusal, and imposing emergency powers?
To imagine that we can defeat fascism by assisting a military victory of Chamberlain is like trying to cure cholera by plague.
The Government spokesmen are careful never to speak of war ‘against fascism’. The Ministry of Information censors any such reference ‘for fear of offending Mussolini’.
They still hope to win the fascist Mussolini and the fascist Franco to their war alliance ‘for the defence of democracy’. Therefore, when they speak of ‘restoring countries that have been the victims of aggression’, they never refer to Abyssinia or Albania—although the seizure of Albania happened after the seizure of Czechoslovakia.
They do not even speak of war ‘against Nazism’. For they have in mind their intrigues to replace Hitler by Goering or some other Nazi leader who they hope may carry out their wishes.
Therefore Chamberlain and the Government press have coined a new slogan to explain the purpose of this war; war ‘against Hitlerism’. They call for ‘the overthrow of Hitlerism’. They declare that the enemy is ‘one man’—Hitler.
What do they mean by ‘the overthrow of Hitlerism’?
This phrase is invented to deceive the people. It is intended to exploit the honest anti-fascist sentiments of the masses of the people who hate the whole bestial regime for which Hitler stands. They are led to believe they are fighting for the liberation of the German people, when they are really being used for very different ends.
The last thing Chamberlain wants is the liberation of the German people. There is nothing he would fear more than a genuine popular revolution in Germany, which would rapidly become a socialist revolution. All his policy, as we know at home, is actuated by fear and hatred of the working class and socialism.
When Chamberlain speaks of the ‘overthrow of Hitlerism’, he means something very different.
Since when did Chamberlain become an enemy of ‘Hitlerism’?
All these six years he had no objection to Hitler’s criminal regime or to Hitler’s aggression so long as he hoped that it was going to be turned against the Workers’ State, the Soviet Union. On the contrary, he covered Hitler’s rule with praise and admiration. He gave it every help, finance, arms. He excused and assisted its aggression.
The change came only when Hitler found himself compelled to abandon his anti-Soviet aims and sign the Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union.9
From that moment Chamberlain decided that Hitler had become the public enemy of mankind, and must be replaced.
In all his charges against Hitler and his ‘perfidy’, Chamberlain always makes the climax of his catalogue that Hitler had promised to lead the anti-Bolshevik crusade and has since abandoned it, and that therefore his word cannot be trusted.
Is not the real aim clear? By the ‘overthrow of Hitlerism’ Chamberlain means that he wishes to impose on Germany some new form of Government which will continue to hold the German people in subjection, but will be obedient to the British and French financiers and carry out their anti-Soviet aims. And his last speeches indicate that Hitler himself will be acceptable as a convert from ‘Hitlerism’, if only he will give suitable ‘guarantees’, that is, join up with the Western Powers against the Soviet Union.
Chamberlain’s anti-democratic, anti-socialist aims have not changed with the present war. They are being carried further forward through the present war.
Behind the war ‘against Hitlerism’ appear ever more clearly the real anti-Soviet aims of the British imperialists, which they have pursued through all these twenty-two years since 1917. Every day the war goes on makes this clearer.
This is the strongest reason why all socialists and anti-fascists should oppose this war.
We are told that this is a war in defence of peace against aggression, and that therefore all defenders of peace and collective security should support it.
There never was a bigger lie.
If Chamberlain stood for the defence of peace against aggression, why did he oppose a Peace Front which could have prevented aggression?
Through all these six years since Hitler came to power the Communists gave warning that the British ‘National’ Government’s policy of assisting fascism and fascist aggression was preparing world war.
The Communist demand for a collective stand against fascist aggression was denounced as ‘warmongering’. Yet at that time a collective stand could have easily checked aggression without war, when there was still the most powerful combination of States—Britain, France, Spain, Czechoslovakia and the other League States—as well as the Soviet Union, and when fascism was still weak. The Munich policy of assistance to fascist aggression was proclaimed a victory for peace. Today all can see that the Communist warnings were correct. Chamberlain’s policy has led to war.
The Communists strove for a Peace Front, based on a firm Mutual Defence Pact of Britain, France and the Soviet Union, which would have made this war impossible.
The British, French and Polish reactionary Governments rejected such a Peace Front, and thereby made the war inevitable.
Chamberlain rejected Soviet military aid for Poland, which would have saved peace, because he was manoeuvring for war, to promote war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Chamberlain rejected the Peace Front because he knew that it meant the internal collapse of fascism through the closing of its path of expansion by war.
Chamberlain rejected the Peace Front because he knew that it meant the strengthening of the democratic and socialist forces, the advance of the people, and the strengthening of the Soviet Union.
By the rejection of the Peace Front the British, French and Polish reactionary Governments share responsibility with Hitler’s aggression for the outbreak of this war.
We are told that this is a war for the ‘restoration of Poland’.
If Chamberlain or the former Polish fascist Government had had the slightest concern for the Polish people, why did they refuse the Soviet military aid which could alone have saved Poland?
When Chamberlain rejected the only plan that could have saved the independence of Poland, he demonstrated that he cared nothing for Poland except as an occasion for war, and a possible opportunity to turn Nazi military aggression against the Soviet borders.
This was still further demonstrated when he stirred no finger to give help to Poland or fulfil the terms of the treaty he had signed with Poland, guaranteeing ‘all the support and assistance in his power . . . immediately on the outbreak of hostilities’.
Poland was deliberately sacrificed by the British and French statesmen in order to provide the occasion for their predatory war.
Poland was used as a decoy duck by Chamberlain to draw on the Nazi troops, with the expectation that their onward sweep might lead them into conflict with the Soviet Union.
This plan was defeated by the swift action of the Soviet Union in occupying the Eastern areas of Poland.
The only help to the suffering Polish people, betrayed by their corrupt and tyrannous rulers, was given by the Soviet Union. The liberation of the people of Western Ukraine and Western White Russia will be welcomed by every democrat and socialist. In place of the former pogroms, national oppression and servitude to the landlords, the peasants win power, become possessed of the land and enter into the heritage of socialist prosperity and culture. This transformation will inevitably have far-reaching effects on their neighbours, including the people of Western Poland who have passed from their former fascist oppressors to fall under the heel of the Nazi invader, but whose liberation will come with the collapse of the Nazi regime.
Chamberlain’s aim, however, for the ‘restoration of Poland’ is the aim to re-impose the feudal landlords’ regime of the Polish militarists and fascists, whose puppet Government, under General Sikorski,10 is installed in Paris.
If his plans extend, this aim would also include the aim of anti-Soviet war. ‘The Franco-British war aims include the reconstitution of Poland, which affects the Soviet Government.’ (The Times, 23 September 1939)
These aims are completely contrary to the interests of the working people, either in Poland, Britain or France.
The rejection of the Peace Front by the reactionary British, French and Polish Governments, and the failure of the Western labour and democratic movements to conduct an active fight for the Peace Front against their reactionary Governments, made this war inevitable.
The Communists strove for the Peace Front, not in order to prepare a war, but in order to safeguard peace.
They always made clear that the Peace Front should be based on such overwhelming forces as to make aggression too risky to be attempted. They always made clear that the Peace Front, to be effective, and to be genuinely based on the principles for which alone the workers could support it, must include the Socialist Soviet Union; and that any alliance which excluded the Soviet Union would not represent the Peace Front, but only an imperialist combination for a balance-of-power war.
Had the Peace Front been formed, and had it nevertheless been compelled to take up arms against aggression, the Communists would have supported every sacrifice for victory in such a just war.
But this war which has arisen through the rejection of the Peace Front is of an entirely opposite character.
This is an imperialist war, like the war of 1914. It is a sordid exploiters’ war of rival millionaire groups, using the workers as their pawns in their struggle for world domination, for markets, colonies and profits, for the oppression of peoples.
Hitler and the German millionaires want to dominate Europe and to win colonies at the expense of Britain and France.
The British and French millionaires, whose spokesmen are Chamberlain and Daladier, want to maintain their colonial empires, to keep their slave-owners’ grip on five hundred million subject people. They want to make Germany subject, as after Versailles. They want to make the world safe for plutocracy, and to build the anti-socialist, anti-Soviet front.
This is a war to which no worker in any country can give support.
On every side the question is asked: What are the war aims of the Government?
Chamberlain refuses to answer, and offers only vague rhetorical phrases.
This is always the case in imperialist war. So it was in the war of 1914-18. The Government refused to state its war aims, and offered only vague idealist phrases about ‘war for democracy’, ‘the rule of right in Europe’, and ‘as the Lord liveth, we covet no territory’. The result was the robber Versailles Treaty, by which Britain annexed two million square miles of territory.
In a democratic people’s war there is no difficulty in stating the war aims. The Spanish Democratic Government of Negrín11 had no difficulty in stating its war aims in precise terms. But in an imperialist war, which is based on deception of the people, the war aims cannot be stated.
The general war aims of Chamberlain, however, stand out from the whole character of the war and of his policy.
First, the British bankers and lords of industry aim, as a result of this war, to strengthen their world position at the expense of their advancing rivals in Germany. If the British and French capitalists win, they will seek to weaken Germany’s position in Europe; for this purpose they are already discussing plans to carve up its territory, as they did at Versailles, or even on a more extensive scale. They want a vassal Germany—possibly under monarchist or military rule. They want to impose on the peoples of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland puppet Governments which will be the agents of the British and French financiers and act as a brake against the socialist revolution.
Second, in close association with the first aim, the British and French financiers are especially concerned to maintain reactionary class domination in Europe and hold in check the advance of the socialist revolution. In the present period, when the anger of the workers is rising under the conditions of war, and great revolutionary struggles of the working class against capitalism are in prospect, these aims to defeat the working-class revolution become more and more dominant.
The fear of the victory of the working class in Central Europe, and especially in Germany, is already strongly present in the minds of the British imperialists. Thus The Times discussed the possibility that:
. . . the war between Germany and the Western Powers should continue until Germany goes Bolshevist. Herein would seem to lie the greatest danger to the Western Powers, and indeed to the whole of Europe. The bloc between a Soviet Russia and a Nazi Germany, which is likely to represent a very uncertain alliance, seems less to be feared than a bloc between a Soviet Russia and a Soviet Germany, which would follow a Bolshevist revolution in the latter country. Nazi Germany is in many respects ripe for Bolshevism, and the conditions of the war, coupled with the close association with the Soviet Union, which is now imminent, will make it more so. (The Times, 30 September 1939)
The most important war aim of Chamberlain is to prevent the spread of the socialist revolution in Europe and to prepare an alliance of capitalist States against the Soviet Union.
The war of 1939 differs from that of 1914, above all in that it takes place when the world socialist revolution is already in progress, and the Soviet Union has consolidated socialism over one sixth of the world.
In the war of 1914-18 it took three years before the struggle of the workers against the capitalist war-makers led to the first victorious advance of the working class, when the Russian workers overthrew Tsarism and capitalism and set up the first Socialist State.
Already within the first few weeks of the war of 1939 the boundaries of world socialism have been extended. Every socialist and class-conscious worker has heard with joy and elation how the millions of peasants and workers in the liberated regions have, with the aid of the Red Army, driven out the landlords and oppressors and set up their own rule.
After German fascism has been compelled by the strength of the Soviet Union to retreat from its anti-Soviet aims, the main world conflict is more and more clearly revealed between British imperialism, as the principal leader and most aggressive force of world reaction, and world socialism, led by the Soviet Union.
The British Tory rulers conduct their war with Hitler in a peculiar fashion, with a wary eye on the Soviet Union. They more and more obviously regard their war with Hitler as a first step to their main aim: organising the capitalist world for the future war against the Soviet Union.
In face of the advance of the Socialist Soviet Union, the imperialists more and more openly express the demand to transform the war, or to ‘switch’ it, as they put it, into a war against the Soviet Union. Thus The Times printed prominently a letter which suggested:
If the people of Germany realised the situation they would sweep the whole Nazi gang into oblivion, reconstitute Western Poland as a buffer State, and seek an agreement with Britain, France, Italy and Spain for the defence of European civilisation. (The Times, 24 September 1939)
Commander Stephen King-Hall12 wrote:
The German people would be very suitable collaborators with France and Great Britain in order to insist on a just settlement in Europe, if the Kremlin then became International Public Enemy No 1.
The leading Tory publicist, ‘Scrutator’,13 wrote:
The prospect of a decline in the fortunes of the German people and of the expansion of Russia’s influence has no attractions for the vast majority of English people. If any way offered by which we could make peace with what is admirable in the German character and achievement… we in this country would eagerly welcome it. (Sunday Times, 1 October 1939)
The Liberal City organ, The Economist, firmly proclaims the double war:
All the carefully elaborated distinctions that have been drawn between Hitler’s system and Stalin’s have now been blown to the winds. . . The world will not be safe for decent men to devote their efforts to cleanly ends so long as any form of totalitarian dictatorship . . . exists in any one of the great Powers.
The Labour Brailsford14 brought up the rear with the demand that, in the event of ‘Russia’s active belligerency’, only a Labour Government could conduct efficiently an anti-Soviet war:
We may have to revise all the decisions with which we entered this war. If we mean to conduct it as champions of a new civilisation against the cynical brutality of Berlin and Moscow, we cannot hope for success under Conservative leadership. (HN Brailsford, Reynolds News, 1 October 1939)
The imperialists are in a dilemma. They fear peace and they fear war.
They fear peace, which would open the way to the advance of the working class in all countries, and at the same time give rise to tremendous economic and political problems.
They fear war. With the prolongation of the war they see the increasing power of the Socialist Soviet Union, the relative weakening of their own system, and the rising anger of the people which can lead to their own downfall.
Nevertheless, the driving force of their conflicting imperialist interests impels them, despite the repeated searches for a way out, to the further continuance of the war, which may at short notice blaze out from its present limited form to wholesale destruction, or give rise to new sharp turns and transformations within the countries at war.
Meanwhile the stock markets tremble at every ‘peace threat’ and recover buoyancy and joy at the prospects of continued war.
The continuance of this war is not in the interests of the common people of this country or of any of the countries at war.
It is only in the interests of the handful of sharks and vultures who are drawing millions of profits out of the necessities of the people and out of the lavish orgy of State war finance. It is only in the interests of the ruling few who wish to destroy democracy and establish fascism in Britain.
For the mass of the people it brings only limitless hardships—not in any ideal cause, not in their own cause, but only in the cause of a quarrel of rival exploiters.
The interests of the people demand the speediest termination of this war.
The triumphant action of the Soviet Union has spiked the war plans equally of Chamberlain and of Hitler in Eastern Europe. Their action has restricted the scope of the war and limited its full development.
The Soviet Union has established and is maintaining peace in Eastern Europe. Since the end of September the Soviet Union has proposed peace for Western Europe. If peace is refused, it is plain to all in the present conditions that the responsibility for continuing the war will lie with the British and French ruling classes—in fact, since France is not a free agent, with the British ruling class.
By their action the workers of the Soviet Union have brought the question of peace in Western Europe to the forefront. They have given an exceptionally favourable chance to the workers of Britain, France and Germany to fight to end this senseless, criminal war into which their irresponsible rulers have plunged them.
We must take this chance and use it to the utmost.
Let us make our voice heard—the voice of millions who do not want this war.
The Government must be compelled to make peace. We demand an immediate Armistice and the calling of a Peace Conference.
On every side discontent, for a hundred reasons, is rising against the conditions of the present war.
The war has still only half begun. Although thousands have already gone to their death, this is only a drop in the ocean compared to the bloodbath that is in front if the war is allowed to develop. Millions of men under arms face one another on the battlefront in the West. By land, by sea and by air the engines of death and destruction are being brought into action or await the sign of command.
Behind the lines, privation and hardship fall on the peoples of all three countries—not in a late stage of the war, but from the very outset, and will increase as it goes forward, and as the blockade on both sides takes effect. The countries are turned into barracks of war industry. Money is spent like water on purposes of destruction. Prices rise. Taxes rise. All social needs are starved. Hours are lengthened without end. Wages fall behind the rise in prices. There is overwork alongside unemployment. Life is disorganised.
All this is only in the first few weeks of war—of ‘half war’. What is to be expected if it develops into real war?
The ferment is growing—in industry, in the factories, in the streets, in the shops. The comments on the war, on the Government, on the way things are being run, are not complimentary. The spread of the strike movement, of the tenants’ movement are showing the growth of initiative and activity.
There is still time to stop this war by the action of the people, before it has turned into an inferno of destruction.
Is it surprising that increasing numbers are demanding the ending of this war—which is not in their interests, but only in the interests of the rich?
Already in the first few weeks resolutions have begun to pour in from trade union and Labour conferences calling for a speedy termination of the war and a Peace Conference.
Such resolutions have been passed by the Lanarkshire miners, by the North Scotland District Council of the National Union of Railwaymen, by the Ayrshire Federation of Labour Parties, by a Labour Women’s Conference convened by the Labour Women’s Advisory Council at Sheffield.
Forty Labour candidates addressed a letter to the Daily Herald urging immediate peace. This letter was refused publication.
Every effort is being made by the official leadership and by the Government authorities to conceal from public knowledge the strength of the rising movement against the war.
These demands for the speedy termination of the war are not coming from friends of Hitler. On the contrary, they are coming from those who through all these years have been in the front rank of opposition to Hitler and to fascism in all countries. These resolutions of trade union and Labour conferences are not coming from pacifist supporters of ‘peace at any price’, who would oppose even a just war of liberation. They are coming from the staunchest working-class fighters and democratic anti-fascists, who have always stood for the defence of peace against aggression and for the defence of working-class and democratic rights against fascism.
But what about peace terms? The question is asked. Is it not necessary first to define the minimum peace terms on which the war can be ended? Is there not a danger that peace now would leave Hitler in a strengthened position? On all these questions discussion still waxes hot.
In all these questions there is a danger of a very serious confusion which can turn the question of peace terms into an argument for supporting an imperialist war, that is, a war which is against the interest of the people.
Many at present on the left seek to console themselves for the ugly realities of the present war by constructing imaginary paper schemes of ideal ‘peace aims’ to be pressed for adoption on the war-making Government. Under cover of these imaginary ‘peace aims’ they support, in fact, the present imperialist war which is being fought for very different aims. Their so-called ‘peace aims’ serve only as deceptive slogans to rally support behind the war aims of British imperialism.15
We must not fall into this trap of the liberal idealists who become servants of imperialism.
The first task is to lead the fight against the war-makers, against the Government, for the ending of the war.
If we succeed in this fight, what will follow will depend on the strength of the fight of the working-class and democratic movement in all countries, especially here in Britain. If we are able to develop such a movement as is capable of defeating the Chamberlain Government and bringing in a new Government representative of the interests of the people which will cooperate with the Soviet Union for peace, then it will be possible to build the basis of a peace with guarantees which will help to limit the power of the warmongers.
But this depends on the strength of our fight against our Government and against our ruling class.
We Communists have no illusions as to the character of any peace under the conditions of imperialism. Any peace under the conditions of imperialism is unstable, full of injustices—national, social and economic—and full of sources of future conflict.
We know that a just peace and a stable peace can only be finally realised when the power of imperialism is broken and is replaced by the power of the working people, by socialism.
When we fight for the immediate ending of the present war, we fight for it as a step in the fight for our final aims.
Our aims are directed to the liberation and national freedom of all peoples, not only of the peoples of Europe, but of the Indian people, of the Chinese people, and of all the colonial peoples held subject under the capitalist empires. Our aims are directed to the defeat of fascism and reaction in all countries, to the victory of the people and the most rapid advance to working-class power and socialism. Our aims are directed to the cooperation of the free peoples with the Socialist Soviet Union in the building of a new world order which shall maintain peace against aggression from any quarter, make possible extending disarmament, and prepare the way for the most rapid advance to world socialism.
When we fight for the immediate ending of the war, it is in order to carry forward our struggle for these aims.
We fight to enforce the immediate ending of the war upon the Government by the strength of the working-class and democratic movement, by the strength of the mass struggle.
The victory of the mass struggle for the immediate ending of the war would enormously strengthen the working-class and democratic movement for further advance. It would mean, in fact, a check to the imperialisms on both sides. It would mean a check to the war machine and to the menacing process of development in Britain and France towards militarised and fascist forms. It would give the most favourable conditions to carry forward to speedy victory the struggle against our reactionary Government, which is responsible for landing the people in this war. It would give the opportunity to carry forward the struggle for a new Government, representative of the interests of the people, which would both be able to achieve advance against monopoly capital at home, and to develop real cooperation with the Soviet Union for the prevention of new aggression and war.
In the last war the founder of the German Communist Party, Karl Liebknecht, gave out the famous slogan to the working class: ‘The enemy is at home.’
That is more true than ever in the present war.
This war is, up to the present, being waged with far more energy against the people at home than on the combatant fronts.
The war is not only a war against the interests of the people. It is being used by the ruling class to increase their power and their wealth at the expense of the people.
It is being waged against the rights and standards of the workers.
It is being waged against the pockets of the poorest, to swell the profits of the big combines.
It is being waged against the social services.
It is being waged against the small business men, who are controlled out of existence in the interests of the monopolies.
It is being waged against the salaried and professional workers, who are ruined by high taxes or thrown on the scrapheap of unemployment.
It is being waged against democratic rights.
The millionaires and trust magnates, who are making fortunes out of the blood and misery of the war; the arms profiteers; the landlords, coal-owners, ship-owners and bankers; the bondholders and slave-holders of empire; the men of Munich; the friends of fascism; the fomenters of war—these are the real enemies of the people.
They are using the whole system of war economy, the whole system of increasing bureaucratic and military regulation, in order to prepare the way for fascism in Britain.
If we wish to fight fascism, these are the enemies against whom we must fight.
The struggle of the people of this country needs to be directed against these real enemies of the people—against their war, against their gambling with the people’s lives, against their plundering of the people, against their whole system of privilege, hypocrisy and exploitation.
How is this small handful of millionaires and exploiters, represented by the Government of Chamberlain and Churchill, able to carry on their war against the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people? How are they able to carry through unchecked their wholesale onslaught against the standards and conditions, against the living needs and against the rights and liberties of the people?
Because the working-class movement is tied to the support of Chamberlain and Chamberlain’s war.
Chamberlain and Churchill, and the big business interests behind them, have powerful allies in the Greenwoods,16 Daltons, Bevins17 and Citrines, the present leaders of the Labour Party and of the Trades Union Congress. These leaders have yoked the Labour movement to the war machine, to the Government and to the employing class.
Without the support of organised Labour neither Chamberlain nor any War Government could continue in office a day.
Every member of the Labour Party should take to heart the words of Arthur Greenwood in Parliament on 21 September: ‘Without the help and support of the Labour movement this Government could not stand in office for another day.’
Thus the leadership of the Labour Party boast that they are keeping Chamberlain, the greatest enemy of the workers, in power.
As in 1914, these Labour leaders have joined up with the capitalist enemy, and have betrayed the cause of the workers and socialism.
They are lined up in open unity with Chamberlain and a Tory War Government in support of the prosecution of the war. They have proclaimed a political truce. Their representatives are linked up with the Ministries. In Parliament they applaud every utterance of Chamberlain. They join in the Government propaganda committees through the Ministry of Information. In industry they have joined up with the representatives of big business through the Council of Industry. Through all these ways they have surrendered the independence of the working-class movement and done everything to hand over the workers to the mercy of the employing class.
This surrender of socialism, this coalition with Conservatism—this is the climax of the twenty-one years of the Labour Party leadership since the end of the last war.
In 1918 was held out the promise of ‘Labour and the New Social Order’.
In 1939 came the fulfilment: ‘All behind Chamberlain and the Tory bosses.’
Let every member of the Labour Party, let every trade unionist think over this record, where this leadership has brought the working class.
It is not a question of individuals. It is a system; it is a policy; carried forward continuously from MacDonald,18 Snowden19 and Thomas20 to Greenwood, Dalton and Citrine.
Remember how in the last war the representatives of Labour betrayed their pledges undertaken in the Basle resolution of the old Socialist International, which remains the basis of all socialist policy in imperialist war:
If war nevertheless breaks out, it is their duty to work for its speedy termination and to strive with all their might to utilise the economic and political crisis produced by the war to rouse the political consciousness of the masses of the people and thereby hasten the downfall of capitalist class rule.
They sat in the War Cabinet. They sent one million workers to their deaths for capitalism. They helped the capitalists to increase their fortunes by four thousand million pounds.
Remember how after the war they devoted all their efforts to prevent the workers fighting to end capitalism and establish socialism. How they reviled Communism and the Soviet Union. How they drove the Communists out of the Labour Party. How they declared that their way was the peaceful, prosperous, safe way of advance, while the ‘Russian way’, the revolutionary way, the Communist way could only lead to bloodshed and chaos and defeat.
How has it worked out after twenty years? Under Communist leadership the hundred and seventy million Russian workers have won socialism, peace and prosperity. It is the ‘Labour Party alternative’ that has led to bloodshed, misery and the advance of reaction and fascism.
When all their policies went bankrupt with the world economic crisis, and led only to the advance of reaction and fascism, those in charge of the Labour Party and the trade unions abandoned all attempt at independent leadership. They handed over to the ‘National’ Government of capitalist reaction. For these eight years they have tailed behind the ‘National’ Government.
They supported the criminal ‘non-intervention’ policy in Spain which assisted to strangle Spanish democracy.
They applauded Chamberlain’s visit to Munich.
They blocked and prevented international working-class unity which could have checked fascism and war.
They blocked and prevented popular unity in Britain which could have defeated Chamberlain. In crisis after crisis they saved Chamberlain.
Only three months before the outbreak of war, at the Labour Party Conference at Southport in June, they rejected a People’s Front of working-class and democratic representatives which could have defeated Chamberlain and made this war impossible. They rejected it because, as they explained, they would not sully the ‘independence’ of their ‘socialism’. They said they could stand for nothing but ‘socialism’. They said they could never associate with ‘capitalist representatives’ even to defeat Chamberlain and save peace. They preferred to let the war come.
That decision bears a heavy share of the responsibility for the present war, and for all that has followed, the plundering of the people, the restrictions on liberty and the weakening of the working class.
Now that the war has come, they have no scruples to unite with Chamberlain, Churchill and the worst enemies of the working class, not to save peace, but to carry on the war.
For the Independence of the Working-Class Movement! Build Up the Communist Party!
The life and existence of the working-class movement is now in the balance.
Through all these years the Communist Party and the sincere socialists in the Labour Party have struggled against the fatal policy which has led to this outcome. The Communist Party has fought for the unity and common interests of the whole working-class movement in the struggle against capitalism.
The Communist Party now calls on every section of the working-class movement, every divisional Labour Party, every trade union organisation, every socialist, trade unionist and cooperator to rally to the common struggle.
End the political truce.
End the industrial truce.
End the collaboration of the Labour Party with the Government. Restore the independence of the Labour Party.
No unity with the Chamberlains, Churchills, Simons21 and Hoares. No unity with Big Business, with the enemies of the workers.
Build up the unity of active struggle in every section of the working-class movement, in every factory, in every town and village.
Build up a strong Communist Party which can alone lead the working-class fight to victory against the capitalist war-makers and profiteers.
Great struggles are in front. In this hour of testing, the place of every sincere active socialist and trade unionist, of every militant worker, is in the Communist Party.
We need to end the damned and doomed policies and leadership of defeat and division and betrayal which have led to the present outcome.
We need a powerful Communist Party, inspiring the entire Labour movement with the principles of class unity and class struggle, in order that the Labour movement shall conquer.
End the paralysis and passivity. The Government and the Labour leaders do everything to hide from the workers their power and to spread a spirit of impotence and defeatism.
Let the workers have confidence in their own strength.
The Communist Party calls for active united struggle of all labour organisations, of all sections of the working class, of all sections of the people for the immediate urgent needs which are felt by all, which must be won without delay:
We call for a united movement of the people to compel the immediate ending of the war.
We call for a united movement of the people to bring down the Chamberlain Government, to compel new elections and to prepare the establishment of a new Government which shall make immediate peace, carry out the above programme and initiate measures in the interests of the people against the profiteers and to weaken the power of monopoly capital.
The Communist Party fights to end this war, not in order to go back to the old world of so-called ‘peace’, of unemployment and crises, of armaments and fascism, but in order that, with the victory of the people against the war-makers, against the criminal ruling classes responsible for this war, we may go forward to a new world.
We fight for a Britain in which there shall be no more arms profiteers, no more Means Tests, no more spending of hundreds and thousands of millions on the weapons of destruction, while the sick and the aged and the blind are cut short of the pennies for their barest needs of existence.
We fight for a Britain in which the skill of the workers and the wonders of modern industry shall be used to provide in abundance all the needs of the people and fill every home with plenty; in which the people will own the wealth they produce, and all will have work and all will have leisure; in which want and poverty will become as forgotten a memory as war.
We fight for a world in which the nations will live at peace, because the power of the profit-makers, of the Stock Exchange speculators and concession hunters, of the arms magnates and fomenters of war, will have been broken and ended; in which colonial oppression and domination will have been abolished and the British Empire will disappear into the union of free peoples of the world; in which every nation and race will be free and equal and will partake in the common advance of humanity.
We fight for a free socialist Britain in a free socialist world.
Join the Communist Party and help to win this new Britain and this new world.
1. Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), a Conservative, became the Prime Minister of Britain in 1937, and headed the coalition National Government which subsequently declared war on Germany in September 1939.
2. Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and joined Chamberlain’s War Cabinet on the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939. He replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister on 10 May 1940, and remained in that post until 27 July 1945.
3. Edouard Daladier (1884-1970), a Radical, was Prime Minister of France in 1933, 1934 and 1938-40.
4. Georges-Étienne Bonnet (1889-1973), a Radical, was the French Foreign Minister from April 1938 to September 1939, and was an advocate of the ‘appeasement’ of Germany.
5. Walter Citrine (1887-1983), by trade an electrician, was General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress during 1925-46.
6. Hugh Dalton (1887-1962) was a leading member of the Labour Party. He joined Churchill’s War Cabinet as Minister for Economic Warfare, and then was President of the Board of Trade. He held Cabinet posts in Clement Attlee’s Labour government after 1945.
7. Samuel Hoare (1880-1959), a Conservative, was Foreign Secretary in the National Government in 1935, during which period he offered Italy concessions in respect of Abyssinia, and Home Secretary during 1937-39. He joined Chamberlain’s War Cabinet, but was kept out of Churchill’s, and was appointed Ambassador to Spain.
8. A popular term for politicians who supported the policy of ‘appeasement’ towards Nazi Germany.
9. The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was signed on 23 August 1939.
10. Władysław Sikorski (1881-1943), a Polish military leader and a prominent politician in Poland during the 1920s, was Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile in September 1939 until his death in an unexplained aeroplane crash.
11. Juan Negrín López (1889-1956) became Prime Minister of Spain in May 1937, and went into exile upon the fall of the republic.
12. Stephen King-Hall (1893-1966) was a journalist, an Independent MP during the Second World War, and a prolific commentator on international affairs.
13. The pen-name of Herbert Sidebotham (1872-1940), a journalist on the Sunday Times.
14. Henry Brailsford (1873-1958) was a left-wing journalist and prolific author. He supported left unity campaigns during the late 1930s, but remained critical of the tactics and actions of the Communist International.
15. A reference to left-wing journals such as the New Statesman and Tribune which promoted the ‘war on two fronts’ approach, that is, proposing radical domestic and foreign policy demands within the framework of support for Britain’s war against Germany.
16. Arthur Greenwood (1880-1954) was Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and subsequently a member of Churchill’s wartime coalition government.
17. Ernest Bevin (1881-1951) was a right-wing trade union leader, Minister of Labour and National Service in Churchill’s wartime cabinet, and subsequently Foreign Secretary in Attlee’s Labour Government during 1945-51
18. James Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) was Labour Prime Minister during 1924 and 1929-31, when he became Prime Minister of the first National Government, resulting in his being expelled from the Labour Party.
19. Philip Snowden (1864-1927) was Chancellor of the Exchequer in MacDonald’s Labour and National Governments, and was duly expelled from the Labour Party.
20. James Henry ‘Jimmy’ Thomas (1874-1949) was secretary of State for the Colonies in MacDonald’s first government, then Lord Privy Seal and later Secretary of State for the Dominions and Colonial Secretary in his second Labour and National Governments, and was duly expelled from the Labour Party.
21. John Simon (1873-1954) was a National Liberal member of the various National Governments during the 1930s, serving as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He held a minor post in Churchill’s wartime government.