Peter Petroff December 1935
Source: Labour, December 1935, p. 92;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
During the whole post-war period we notice the spreading of Socialist ideas amongst large masses of the people. Yet there is a lowering of the level of theoretical knowledge and clear thinking. The capital of theoretical knowledge accumulated in the Socialist Movement has been spread amongst the masses, but its volume has hardly increased.
There has been an influx of intellectuals from other classes whose heads have been crammed at schools and universities with all sorts of fallacious economic and philosophical theories, but who lack the experience and encouragement to independent thinking which years of spade work in the Labour Movement would have given them.
The post-war period brought a number of new problems and new phenomena requiring an explanation by the application of Socialist theory.
While the organised workers, guided by their class instinct, find their way in the changing social and economic conditions, distinguishing friend from foe, some of intellectuals are ready to flirt with any idea marked “new” regardless of its implications.
The war and the severe crisis brought in their train a certain demoralisation and wide-spread susceptibility to corruption.
This confusion of ideas and the lowering of the moral standard has opened a backdoor through which Fascist ideas are successfully smuggled into the Labour Movement. The Fascist agent hands his goods to his unsuspecting dupes who are praising them to their customers as the latest Socialist fashion.
While Trades Union Congress clearly defined Fascism, its causes and consequences, showing their determination to combat and destroy this gangsterised form of capitalist oppression, we find great confusion of ideas in the heads of some “Left Wing” middle-class intellectuals.
Some of them consider Fascism a necessary stage of capitalism, and believe it to serve a useful purpose in the development of civilisation. Others are taking Fascist propaganda lies at their face value priding themselves on their “impartiality.” They talk of Fascist “achievements” and declare that Hitler has the German people behind him.
Some of them are – or pretend to be – horrified at the atrocities committed by the Fascists at home, but fervently support directly or indirectly the foreign policy of the Fascist governments.
The June issue of Plebs published an article by at German propagandist, Herr Conze, attacking the principle of Collective Security. Discussing the aims of Nazi Germany, Herr Conze talks of Germany’s desire to get “back” the 20,000,000 Germans now living outside the Reich including “the oppressed German brethren” in Czechoslovakia and to “get back (!!!) the Ukraine.” Back?
Germany’s title to the Ukraine he derives from the following, – “In 1917 the Kaiser ruled the Ukraine through a ‘Hetman’. Later on, after the Ukraine had become part of the U.S.S.R., Ukrainean refugees settled in Berlin and they have been kept alive by all German governments since 1918.” In view of these German plans, he advises the British workers to mind Britain’s business. This, incidentally, would keep the road to the Soviet Ukraine open for Hitler.
Having done so much the same German N.C.L.C. lecturer in the October issue of Plebs and attacks the Soviet Union for allying herself in the League of Nations with “the satisfied Empires like Great Britain and France against “the unsatisfied Empires like Italy, Germany and Japan.”
In a very subtly written essay, which Professor G.E.G. Catlin has accepted as a “new trend in Socialism” Herr Conze sums up Fascism as “capitalist civilisation in a state of putrefaction, crying to be regenerated, rejuvenated and purified in a new war"! He declares: “It is absurd to call upon us to defend our civilisation against Fascism.”
While awaiting their chance to regenerate and purify the world by a new war, the Nazis, according to Herr Conze, are not idle. “The Fascists do everything to make the workers feel that they are the true pillars of the nation and its most valuable members. That is a weightier counter-balance to the lowering of wages by 30 to 40 per cent than most people imagine.” (New Trends in Socialism, p.67)
In a book, Why Fascism, published over the names of Herr Conze and Miss Ellen Wilkinson (recommended by the N.C.L.C. as a textbook) German Nazi and Italian Fascist propaganda is reproduced while Socialists are bitterly attacked.
The Labour Party is assailed for having “based its whole future on the dignified appeal to the reason of the intelligent person” p.315 and for lack of love to Mosley. “It seems incredible that the Labour Party could have found so little use for Mosley’s abilities when he was a loyal member of the party.” p.231.
The Fascist Programme is eulogised: “The Fascist movement produces a programme which, taken at its face value, is acceptable in its main points to Socialists.” (p.232.) The Fascist programme proclaiming the substitution of autocratic for liberty and responsibility, the abolition of all working-class organisations, the suppression of freedom of thought, of religion, of speech and of the press, proclaiming anti-semitism and the inequality of women is “acceptable to Socialists.” One of the authors even declares: “The Nazi programme has won an historical significance second only to that of the Communist Manifesto.” (Plebs, August 1935)
The other author is furious that “the amazing United Front between the Trades Union Congress, the Archbishop of York and the Communist Party” demand sanctions against Italian Fascism insinuating that the whole British Labour Movement has been sold “neatly, well packed and post-free” to the capitalists while the French Socialists have sacrificed “the anti-war tradition of the French working class for the treacherous smiles of the French General Staff” (Plebs, October.)
As regards the German Trade Unionists who are suffering persecution, torture and death Conze is out goebelling Dr Goebbels by the following slander. “It is a little difficult to see why the German Trade Union leaders .. should complain against the Fascist Labour organisation, except in so far as they have taken the jobs of the Social Democratic officials – because their organisation for the regulation of wages and conditions of work resembles the Fascist bureaucratic organisation as one hair resembles another.” (Why Fascism, p.199)
At a time when Fascism in all its forms is bankrupt economically, politically, ideologically and has unveiled its bestial face, Fascist propagandists and their dupes posing as revolutionists are trying to introduce their Fascist goods carefully camouflaged by a Left-Wing Trade mark into the Labour Movement. They are not required.