Joseph Hansen

S.P. Delegate Supports Pro-War
“Silence” at Session of 2nd Int’l

Dan and Abramovich in Involved Dispute over the Degree
to Which They Want to See the Soviet Union Defeated

(6 April 1940)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 14, 6 April 1940, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: 2019 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2019; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

On the front page of the March 30 issue of the Call, official organ of the Socialist party (the Norman Thomas group), there is a “report” of the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the Labor and Socialist International since the outbreak of the war.

Inasmuch as Devere Allen, a member of the Norman Thomas group, attended this meeting as an official representative, the Call is well acquainted with what happened there. The article reports, however, nothing beyond the following sketch: that the meeting was “exceptionally well attended,” that it was held from “Feb. 23 to Feb. 25” at “Brussels,” that there were “representatives” from various countries in addition to Devere Allen, among them being Leon Blum, that there was a discussion on Poland and on Finland, and that the meeting made some changes in the personnel of the Executive Committee.

The Call does not offer even the slightest comment on:

  1. The failure of the Executive Committee to meet for five months after the war broke out.
  2. The failure of the Executive Committee to condemn as traitors and renegades those of its members who accept posts in bourgeois governments.
  3. The Executive Committee’s support of the Allied camp of imperialists in the second World War now raging in Europe.
  4. The failure of the Executive Committee to pass a single resolution. Not one!

Some Things the Call Didn’t Mention

In order to understand better why the Call chose the eloquence of silence rather than speech, let us outline briefly the main events at the conference. We use as our first source of information the International Information bulletin of the Second International, noting that under date of “end of December 1939” the LSI in its previous bulletin made the following announcement to its readers:

“We were forced at the beginning of the war to interrupt the publication of our International Information and its supplements. As we do not yet know when we will be able to resume our publications, we cannot accept any subscriptions for the year 1940.”

The next bulletin is dated February 26, 1940, and reports the conference. Apparently the officials of the Second International consider that the sole action they have taken since the beginning of the second World War was such an outstanding service to the Allied imperialists that it deserved their breaking silence with a special report, even though they no longer have any subscribers.

“Camille Huysmans was unanimously elected President in place of J.W. Albarda who had entered the Dutch government on August 9.”

The unanimous vote indicates Devere Allen’s approval of Huysmans and hence – in view of the eloquent silence of the Call – the approval of the Norman Thomas group. Huysmans was the secretary of the Second International up to 1914 and “during the war.” He was one of those who helped lead the workers into the last World War as cannon fodder and hence is eminently qualified to act as a leading official of the Second International in the present imperialist slaughter.

J.W. Albarda, the former president, was not present at the conference. As an official member of the Dutch government, he was busy aiding the imperial cabinet in repressing the workers and colonial slaves of Holland. Henri de Man, who also resigned from the Executive Committee to take a similar job with the Belgian government, was also absent. The silence of the Call on the actions of these two renegades is one of the hoary customs of the Second International: never attack any member who betrays the working class and takes a post in a bourgeois government – who knows, you may be the next to get an offer.

The agenda drawn up by the secretary, Friedrich Adler, was “abandoned” without any discussion whatsoever “in view of the complete modification of the circumstances brought about by the war” and the conference listened to a report by W. Keto on the situation in Finland and a report of the delegate of the Bund on the situation in the occupied territories of Poland.

“This report,” continues the bulletin, “was followed by a very profound discussion on the international situation which took up most of the meeting.”

In the Call this “profound discussion” is not even mentioned!

They All Rooted for Bourgeois Finland

Both the Call and the bulletin do mention, however, that Keto’s report was a success, “every speech” expressing complete unanimity on aid and support for Finland. We are unable to check on this point, as there was no roll call vote on the Finnish question since there was no resolution on it, but no one would think of accusing the Call or any other organ of the Second International of inaccuracy on such a matter. Support of one bourgeois government or another has long been a condition of membership in the Second International.

While no resolutions whatsoever were passed by the conference, the comments of the Russian Mensheviks who had a delegate at the conference, like the silence of the Call, can be said to make up for this lack.

In a leading editorial of its March 5 issue, under the title Socialist International Stands United, Sotsialisticheski Vestnik, edited by Abramovich, eulogizes the conference and then proceeds to analyze it. The conference met, exclaims the editorial, and exchanged “views on those grandiose events which have taken place in Europe for almost a half year and which may in the near future encompass the whole world and determine its destiny.”

They Ask a Very, Very Good Question!

But “shouldn’t the Second International be indicted,” queries the Abramovich editorial, inasmuch as this session could be held only five months after the outbreak of the war and then adjourned without adopting or passing a single resolution? (The Mensheviks are at least capable, in distinction from the Call, of seeing that this question is bound to be asked by the class-conscious worker.) Isn’t such a lapse, he asks, absolute proof of “the impotence and internal decomposition and the complete loss of any international solidarity,” a demonstration of “its inability to play an active role in the actual events or the future development of mankind?”

We answer this question with a simple affirmative.

But the Mensheviks – and we presume the silence of the Call signifies solidarity with these bootlickers of the imperialist warmongers – maintain the contrary. Leon Blum in Populaire even hails the Brussels sessions as a major achievement on the road of consolidation of international socialism!

The fact that the outbreak of the second World War stunned the Second International into complete paralysis for five months is argued away by Leon Blum with an analogy. In 1914-18 the life of the International was completely disrupted for a whole number of years. Today it is disrupted only five months! “One can even say,” declares Blum, “that the outbreak of the war and then the Bolshevik revolution in Russia so disintegrated all the living elements of world socialism that the re-establishment of the International became possible only in 1923.” The smashing of the capitalist class in Russia by the oppressed peasants and workers meant nothing to Blum except an adverse influence on the power, prestige, and finances of the bureaucracy of the Second International.

Abramovich agrees with Blum. In comparison to “five years of complete paralysis and four years of barren efforts, internal dissension and split” a lapse of five months was not a real interruption at all.

Both Abramovich and Blum then join in chorus that after all, looked at in a certain light, there wasn’t any interruption whatsoever. Contact between all the sections of the L.S.I. was “never for a moment broken” and the sessions of the Executive Committee at Brussels really constituted a genuine session of the International “if not in a formal sense then in substance.” And if there was a little delay, such delay is accounted for by “war time difficulties.”

As for the “unity” displayed at the Brussels meeting, the unanimous vote for the new president, unanimity of support for the Allied camp of imperialists, etc., Abramovich sighs with a slightly sour note. Don’t let’s fool ourselves, he says in effect, this unity “does not flow from the fact that the sections of the L.S.I. are permeated to a greater degree with international proletarian solidarity and class loyalty than the parties of the Second International in 1914-18.” Why does the organization enjoy such unity, then? Abramovich confesses that this is due to the fact that there are no “socialist parties today standing ‘on the other side’ of the military barricades which divide Europe into two hostile camps.”

No wonder the Call was completely silent about “the profound discussion” on the international situation. Reporting the views of this meeting, at which representative Devere Allen sat unanimously side by side with political prostitutes Leon Blum, Paul Faure, Abramovich, the Social Revolutionary Chernov, Zyromski, Grimm, etc., etc., would have drained the Norman Thomas group of its last vestige of parlor pink. With an eloquent silence they maintain their pretense to radicalism, a pretense that is only a measure of their distance from Europe. They can afford to be radical in their silent negative way this far from the battlefields and with American capitalism still only on the edge of the conflict.

As for socialist parties of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, such as China, India, the African and South American countries, etc., they were not mentioned by the speakers since no one represents such countries in the Second International. Only labor aristocracies breed Second International parties.


Last updated on: 13 November 2020