J.R. Johnson

Why U.S. Workers Should Support
National Liberation Struggles

(August 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 34, 21 August 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

The cracks in the German structure will naturally bring increased activity and hopes in the European underground and guerrilla movements. Some people, good class-conscious workers and even some revolutionaries, are raising the question: “Isn’t it time to break with Tito and the other resistance leaders who are after all part of Anglo-American-Russian imperialism?”

There is here a fine collection of mistakes. First of all, when the Workers Party declared that it supported the SLOGAN of national liberation and recommended revolutionary socialists to join the resistance movements it did not thereby support, for example, Tito. No such thing. What we do is to join a lot of workers and peasants who of their own accord joined up with Tito to rid their country of a tyrannical and murderous oppressor. That we join a group of workers or workers and peasants and raise the slogan which is most likely to rally them does not in any way mean that we support those who happen to be leading them.

The underground and guerrilla movements, in France, in Yugoslavia, and in Greece are spontaneous mass movements. The workers join them willingly. If they are not satisfied with the movement they try to change it and if they do not succeed they leave it and join another, or go home. Many of the Yugoslavs left Mikhailovitch to join Tito. Today they say that they support Tito “because he is a good fighter.” That is a capital summation of the whole question.

Same with the German soldiers. They didn’t support Rommel because he won victories in Egypt; and then didn’t support him because he was beaten by Montgomery. In each case a highly organized, stable capitalist state organized its capitalist army, facing all workers will the alternative: “Obey or else.”

But when the masses of workers and peasants rush to join or to form a guerrilla band or underground organization, that is something else. True, the most perfect thing would be for them to form a strictly class organization. Sure we would prefer that. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened that way.

But, it can be argued, the large majority of the workers in the U.S.A. are in the Democratic or Republican Parties, and you of the Workers Party repudiate all support of those parties.

To that, the answer is simple enough. Do the Republican or Democratic Parties consist of masses of workers fighting for workers demands? The question is not only rhetorical, it is ridiculous. If, during the post-war period in America, a fascist leader organized a part of the army and fascists bands and attacked the Roosevelt government; and if the Roosevelt government mobilized the government and the workers to fight against this American Franco, the Workers Party would certainly fight alongside the Roosevelt government. Astonishing? Not at all. We did exactly that in Spain in 1936–38. We fought with the Loyalist capitalist government against Franco.

But did we support, Azana, Prieto, Caballero, Negrin and other Loyalist leaders? No such thing. The Trotskyists fought with the Loyalist armies but continually pointed out to the workers that no victory could be won over Franco unless the workers themselves took over the power.

“Ah!” says our sectarian, “I note that you say in the post-war period. That is our case. This is an imperialist war.” And he concludes triumphantly: “Tito’s army is tied to the United Nations. If even you SAY you do not support him, by joining his forces you are supporting one side of the imperialist war.”

Frankly, this is a form of insanity. Imagine that the Japanese have landed on the West Coast, have defeated the U.S. government and army and begin the persecution and plunder of the people. The American workers, deserted by the capitalists, begin to organize themselves in their own bands in order to fight against this intolerable oppression. Nobody compels them to do so. They do it because they cannot live under this destruction of their living standards and their rights and their pride. Some U.S. colonel or even NCO organizes and leads this fight. He is capitalistic in his ideas. Soon there gather around him some representatives of the U.S.A. capitalist regime who begin to direct the movement as far as they can toward the restoration of the defeated and discredited American capitalistic regime. What do some people propose?

That because the workers who form the main body of the movement do not declare for socialism, the socialists in it must denounce the movement – and leave it.

This, we repeat, is a form of insanity. In addition, it shows great ignorance of revolutionary politics. Suppose the movement was entirely a workers’ movement, consisting of nothing else but workers, calling itself the American Workers Movement for National Liberation, would our sectarians leave it then? According to their logic, if this workers’ movement did not come out for socialism they would have to. If that is correct, then why don’t they leave the CIO and the AFL now? These are workers’ movements. They are committed to the eyes in support of the imperialist war. Yet nobody proposes to leave these movements. No, we stay and fight the reactionary bureaucrats with our program.

Isn’t this wisdom? Can’t these people see that the ruling class and the labor bureaucrats in America have to sweat and strain and exhaust themselves to keep the workers thinking that their first, consideration must be the imperialist victory? And can’t they see that in France, Yugoslavia, Greece (and it would be the same in an invaded and conquered United States), the workers themselves would demand that the first thing to be done was to drive out the people who were squeezing the life out of them? Are the workers wrong to think so? Such reasoning passes comprehension. No! What these purists want is to mobilize the workers at one and the same time to fight against the Germans who are oppressing them today and, with the same energy and vigor against the United Nations who will oppress them tomorrow. You can’t do it. The workers would not listen. And they would be perfectly correct – what the reactionaries do is

to use the legitimate wishes of the workers for their own capitalist purposes. The socialists try to use the legitimate desires of the workers for the purposes of socialism. The workers look upon Tito as being a good fighter for national liberation. We want them to follow us, and they will do so only if to begin with we are as good or better fighters than Tito. But we don’t support Tito. We denounce him, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

We have our own platform. We are against Subordinating the workers’ struggles to imperialism, whether in America, Yugoslavia, Italy or France. But why that should mean that I must not devote my own energies to breaking the German foot that is on my chest and blunting the German bayonet that is on my throat, is beyond my comprehension. Tomorrow the workers’ movement may be reconstructed. Does anyone think we get rid of the deGaulles and the Titos? No, they turn up now in the workers’ movement as union leaders, even calling themselves socialists sometimes. That struggle goes on, wherever the masses of the workers are. It does not stop. It will go on right up to the socialist revolution. It will go on after, in the soviet state itself. We must get our minds clear on these things in these critical times.

Last updated on 15 December 2015