Geneva ‘Peace’ Swindles

Chain Formed by Hoover, Socialists, Litvinov, Barbusse & Co.

(July 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 28 (Whole No. 124), 9 July 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The next issue of the Militant will publish an extensive analysis by comrade Leon Trotsky on the so-called “International conference against war” which has been called for August 1, 1932 at Geneva by Henri Barbusse, Romain Holland, H.G. Wells, Upton Sinclair, Sen Katayama and others. Some remarks on the subject will be found in the article below.

A monstrous swindle is being practised at Geneva. With all the solemnity of consummate hypocrisy the capitalist statesmen of all the big powers have been gathered there for months to discuss “disarmament”. Not one of them is opposed – Heaven forbid! – to disarmament and peace, providing only that it is the other countries that do the disarming. The Geneva conference is not the first one at which this gross fraud has been perpetrated – laying down a thick screen of oratory in favor of peace while the world’s armaments are multiplied.

Since the signing of the Versailles treaty, it has been estimated that more than fifty international conference have been held by the leading imperialist powers to “solve” one or another aspect of the problem of peace and security. While the war to end all wars and the post-war conferences went their dreary course, the bandit powers have been systematically increasing their expenditures for armaments and war materials. If a comparison is made between “defense expenditures” in the year directly preceding the war, 1913, and those of 1930, it will be found that England has increased hers 42 percent, France 30 percent, Italy 44 percent, Japan 142 percent and the United States almost 200 percent. While the statesmen have been dripping with assurances at every conference that their anxiety for peace is firmer than the Gibraltor, the world’s expenditures for “defense purposes” have increase from $3,497,000,000 in 1925 to $4,128,000,000 in 1930, without a let down in the progression for any single year.

America’s Shrewd Pacifism

While the war expenditures of the powers mount to unsealed heights, their external debts do not decline. On the contrary, the external debts of Britain, Germany, France, Belgium and Italy now total some 28 billions of dollars, to most of which the United States, as the world’s great creditor, lays claim. When the American bourgeoisie, therefore, presents its proposals for “reductions in armaments”, it gains doubly: first, it makes possible a larger repayment of the debts due to it from Europe, and secondly, it is able to buttress the myth of American pacifism which it has so sedulously cultivated in the minds of the masses. Moreover, the United States can easily afford to reduce its armaments to the lowest scale, proportionally with any other country, for, as the world’s largest factory and bank combined in one, it can outstrip any other country in speedy arms production on the eve of any actual war hostilities.

It is precisely this combination of Yankee shrewdness and imperialist hypocrisy that characterizes the latest Hoover proposal made to the Geneva conference. Were it accepted, it would not merely reduce the standing armies of England and France to the German scale, but it would increase the American army from 140,000 to 200,000. With touching generosity, it proposes the abolition of French and British tanks – which are a formidable factor with them – as well as the abolition of the American army’s ... 25 tanks! It would put a crimp in the naval strength of its rivals, but would permit America to construct new cruisers and aircraft carriers “up to the treaty tonnage of navies.”

The Nation ruefully reveals that

“the proposals placed before the Geneva Disarmament Conference on June 22 by President Hoover amount to little more than a political trick. To the headline reader, Mr. Hoover has generously advocated a reduction in armies by one-third and a similar scaling down of navies. Studied in detail, however, the Hoover proposals amount to the brazen suggestion that the United States actually increase its armies and navy, leaving reduction to other nations ... The Hoover ‘disarmament’ plan would increase the military strength of the United States at the expense of other nations; it is a scheme for securing naval ‘parity’ at a cheaper figure than that made necessary by the London treaty, and for nearly doubling the size of our army.”

Socialists Rally to Hoover

When even the liberal Nation, which usually makes a habit of being taken in by the most superficial shams, is able to see through the Hoover hoax, it may be concluded that it is pretty transparent. But however cruel a capitalist deception may be, the social democracy is sure to hasten to its support and render it more palatable to the masses. In England, the executive committee of the Labour Party welcomed Hoover’s proposals. In Holland, the Federation of Trade Unions appealed to the disarmament conference to accept the American plan. The French socialist leader, Leon Blum, called it “simple and direct in its outline and plainly worded and fearless in its conclusions”. In the United States, the Jewish Daily Forward eulogized the Great Engineer, with the observation that “Hoover’s plan for a significant reduction not only of the land army but also of the navy, shows that the president is wholly sincere in the question of disarmament, although he does not go far enough.” As we shall see in a moment, this despicable, “statesman’s” servility before what even an intelligent liberal is not fooled by, is not confined entirely to the social democracy.

The official Communst organ, the Daily Worker does not appear to have any illusions about the significance of Hoover’s proposals. On June 25, it polemizes violently against the Forward:

“The slightest acquaintance with the facts shows that Hoover’s ‘disarmament’ proposal is a move in the imperialist struggle for world domination and is intended to weaken Wall Street’s rivals, while maneuvering against the Soviet Union. But these Forward socialists pretend to know nothing of such things. Are these socialists merely mistaken fools in hailing all of this quackery of the president? Or are they simply ignorant prophets that do not understand the ways of the capitalist world? No! The socialist party policy is consciously directed toward supporting the covering up of the war moves of the imperialists. It is their role to bind the toiling masses to the war chariots of the imperialist warmongers, and to represent all the pacifist swindles of the ‘disarmament’ conferences as genuine ... The people who are misleading the workers to expect peace from the reactionary governments and their conferences are not simply fools. They are treacherous knaves seeking to betray the tolling masses into a new world slaughter.” (Our emphasis)

Not bad, what? Stoutly spoken! Only, virtually every word of condemnation uttered against the Forward applies to the statement made by Litvinov, the Soviet spokesman at Geneva, and printed in the Daily Worker exactly 24 hours [before] it published the quoted phillipic against the Forward! Carefully compare what the Forward said about the Hoover proposals with the following quotation from a special officially cabled report in the Daily Worker of June 24:

Litvinov Welcomes the U.S. Plan

“Referring to the American proposals he (Litvinov) declared he welcomed] the essentials of the proposals made by the American delegation because in part they tend in the same direction as the Soviet proposals which were previously presented here without securing support. He welcomed the proposals, he said, because they contained several important principles put forward by the Soviet delegation in the preparatory disarmament commission and at the conference. These include the method of proportional reduction of armaments, while maintaining relative strength. The American proposals, however, contain points deviating from the Soviet proposals (even the Forward says Hoover does not go far enough! – S.) and must be made the object of public discussion. He said he would deal with these points later in detail when the discussion is opened. He added: ‘For my part I would welcome a speedy beginning of discussion with a view of adopting attitude towards American proposals and thus getting the conference to begin work at last’.” (Our emphasis)

In this manner, we have the edifying spectacle of the Daily Worker, through the mouth of so authoritative a “Communist” spokesman as Litvinov, welcoming the essentials of the proposals on Friday which it denounces violently on Saturday, as a “move in the imperialist struggle for world domination.” One day, it prints an enthusiastically, approbatory eight-column headline over Litvinov’s announcement that Hoover’s proposals “contained several important principles put forward by the Soviet delegation”; the next day it brands the same proposals as “intended to weaken Wall Street’s rivals, while maneuvering against the Soviet Union.” On Friday, the responsible voice of the Soviet Union, with all the prestige among the listening workers that goes with that prerogative, hopes that the adoption of the American proposals will get the “conference to begin work at last”; on Saturday, the Daily Worker warns its readers that those who mislead them to expect anything from such conferences are “not simply fools” but “treacherous knaves seeking to betray the toiling masses”. And there is no doubt that the Daily Worker’s characterization is correct; only, as both the Forward and Litvinov say about Hoover’s proposals, it doesn’t go far enough ...

But those who think that the Worker’s vehemence of Saturday wipes out the disgraceful conduct of Litvinov on Friday, show a greater faith than the situation warrants. For the Stalinists have barely dragged the second leg out of one swamp before the first leg is thrust into another.

If there is anything on the scene today more pernicious – in face of the growing danger of war – than Litvinov’s diplomatic antics at Geneva, it is the new plan which supplements these poisonous illusions, rounds them out: the plan for holding an “International Conference Against War”, initiated by two petty bourgeois pacifists, Henri Barbusse and Remain Rolland. Here is the appeal sent out by the Barbusse-Rolland “International Committee Against War” for the conference, printed in the Daily Worker of June 7, without a word of comment; the emphasis throughout is ours:

“We appeal to all men and women, irrespective of their political parties, trade unions, cultural, political or social organizations, to unite with us in a great international congress against war ... We appeal to all men and women of good will to participate in our congress which will take place on August 1, 1932, in Geneva, in order to make the congress a powerful international demonstration against the war criminals: Let us not run the risk of failing to understand, or of understanding too late! Let us awaken the conscience of the world in order to steel its will against war! Let us organize an iron resistance to war! Let us form a mighty wave of all those men and women who are unwilling to be the victims of the second world war!”

Who has concocted this melange of pacifist confusion? We have no hesitation in saying that its real initiators live in the Comintern building and the Kremlin in Moscow! The central organs of the French Communist Party and of the Red trade unions in France have already given the conference a blanket endorsement, an inconceivable action unless it is taken for granted that official Stalinist sanction has been given to Barbusse and Co. On June 20, the Daily Worker announced that “the International Committee of the Friends of Soviet Russia has informed the Preparatory Committee organizing this congress that it welcomes this step most warmly and intends participating in the Congress”. And on the same day that it prints Litvinov’s scandalous remarks on page one, the Daily Worker observes in its editorial condemnation of the Hoover proposals that “Against this international conference of disarmament swindlers, the working class must set up their own international united front and participate in the International Conference Against Imperialist War called at Geneva on August 1.”

Isn’t there something sinister about this whole business? The threat of Imperialist war does hover darkly over the world now. In Manchuria, a state of war actually exists. A Fascist victory in Germany brings with it, almost automatically, a black crusade against the Soviets. But the Communist International and the Red International of Labor Unions have not uttered a single word on the matter, not a single manifesto, not a single appeal in their own names. In this crucial hour, the working class listens in vain for a word of guidance from the center of the organized world revolutionary movement. But behind the scenes, the Comintern does organize a masquerade under the names of confused and consequently dangerous pacifists and proclaims through its national sections as the working class united front against imperialism!

A Masquerade of Stalinism

The Communist International does not take the initiative in mobilizing the workers against the war danger. No, it leaves that to Barbusse, the advocate of socialist-Communist fusion; to Rolland, as great a writer as he is a poor politician, or none at all; to Heinrich Mann, about whom the same may be said; to Albert Einstein, who is undoubtedly a great scientist; to H.G. Wells, the social chauvinist of 1914; and more of the same type. Is there any reason to doubt that such a conference will attract to itself all the politicians, adventurers, petty bourgeois socialists and semi-socialists who figured in the various congresses of the “Anti-Imperialist League” and the “Anglo-Russian Committee,” who thereby refreshed their reputations at the springs of Stalinism, gained a new hold on the masses slipping out of their hands, and this mounted to the top again?

Is it any wonder that the organ of bewildered petty bourgeois liberalism, the New Republic, should hail such a conference?

“It is heartening to learn that a peace movement is being started along new lines. An international committee headed by Henri Barbusse ... will try to initiate nothing less than a general war against war, a campaign to be waged on all fronts by every appeal to public opinion. This is a time, moreover, when such an appeal might be decisive.” (June 29, 1932.)

The Daily Worker attacks the New Republic as “pacifist muddleheads ... dangerous enemies of the struggle against imperialist war”, but it takes care not to mention by a word the liberal endorsement of the Barbusse conference! Why should the New Republic be attacked? It belongs with Barbusse, properly speaking. But what business, have the Communists in Geneva, unless they go there to blow up the Barbusse conference, as Lenin advised the Comintern to do with the Hague pacifist congress in 1922?

With the launching and endorsement of the Barusse swindle, the Comintern, is floundering in a treacherous swamp of its own creation. It is inserting itself as a link in a strangulating pacifist chain which includes the liberal phrase-mongers, the social patriots and Hoover. It is forcing the Communist movement to pass once more through the disastrous experience of the Kuo Min Tang policy, of the Anglo-Russian Committee debacle, of an enlarged, and all the more pernicious, edition of the Anti-Imperialist League of Muenzenberg, Chiang Kai-Shek, Calles, Ledebour, Maxton and Co. For yesterday’s August of putschist adventurism, it is turning to an August 1 at Geneva, a masquerade of opportunism and – to use the exact term of the Daily Worker – betrayal.

This “new turn” to the Right in Stalinist policy, half-concealed though it is, reveals that the world crisis is bringing with it a new crisis in Centrism, far-reaching in its consequences. The Communist workers must prepare to deal with it in the Leninist way.

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