Who Is Leading
the Barbusse Congress

(August 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34 (Whole No. 130), 20 August 1934, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The window-front of the “World Congress Against War” organized by the Communist International, is composed of a number of shining lights from the literary and scientific world. The initiative for organizing an international gathering to mobilize the working class for a struggle against imperialist war has been handed by the Stalinists to a group of pacifists. Behind them, the Stalinist apparatus maneuvers with its opportunistic line of policy. The open Leninist fight against the war danger is replaced by a melange of pacifism and confusion directed by individuals largely disconnected from the live stream of the class struggle who, moreover, in most cases have in no way stood the test.

The Communist International of Lenin and Trotsky alone embodies the traditions of the revolutionary anti-war struggle. The pacifists of all shades embody the miserable tradition of treachery during the last war and opium peddling to the people in between wars. A glance at the records and standpoints of some of the leading figures chosen by the Stalinist apparatus to lead and organize the struggle against war will indicate, first, what reliance can be placed by the proletariat in such a leadership, and second, what a sinister masquerade of opportunism the Stalinists themselves are engaged in.

The Case of H.G. Wells

Among the members of the “International Committee” of the Barbusse-Stalin-Rolland Committee, we find the name of H.G. Wells. Wells is a notorious petty bourgeois philistine who has covered himself with a thin socialistic veneer throughout his literary career. During the last World War, Wells was to be found on the side of British imperialism, adding his voice to the howl of the jingoist mob that drove the proletariat into the trenches for the greater glory of the ruling class. An inkling of his position during those crucial days, an insight into the political and social outlook of this latter-day assistant of Stalinism, may be gained from the following excerpt from his article, The Question at Issue, written at the height of the war:

“First let us deal with that postcard (on which, according to Wells, the gist of the war dispute could be written – Ed.) and say what is the essential aim of the war, the aim to which all other aims are subsidiary. It is, we have heard repeated again and again by every statesman of importance in every allied country, to defeat and destroy military imperialism, to make the world safe forever against any such deliberate aggression as Germany prepared for forty years and brought to a climax when she crossed the Belgian frontier in 1914. We want to make anything of that kind on the part of Germany, or of any other power, henceforth impossible in this world. That is our great aim. Whatever other objects may be sought in this war, no responsible statesman dare claim them as anything but subsidiary to that; one can say in fact this is our sole aim, our other aims being but parts of it. Better that millions should die now, we declare, than that hundreds of millions still unborn should go on living, generation after generation, under the black tyranny of this imperialist threat.

“There is our common agreement. So far at any rate we are united. The question I would put the reader is this: are we all logically, sincerely, and fully carrying out the plain implications of this war aim? Or are we to any extent muddling about with it in such a way as to confuse and disorganize our allies, weaken our internal will and strengthen the enemy?

“Now the plain meaning of this supreme declared war aim is that we are asking Germany to alter her ways. We are asking Germany to become a different Germany. Either Germany has to be utterly smashed up and destroyed or else Germany has to cease to be an aggressive military imperialism ...

“But do we as a nation stick closely to this clear and necessary, this only possible meaning of our declared war aim? That great, clear-minded leader among the Allies, that Englishman who more than any other single man speaks for the whole English-speaking and western-thinking community, President Wilson, has said definitely that this is his meaning. America, with him as her spokesman, is under no delusion; she is fighting consciously for a German revolution, as the essential war aim.” (New Republic, February 9, 1918)

Isn’t it quite clear that Wells is a logical choice for the leadership today in the struggle against war? Doesn’t his whole record speak in his favor?

Ay, to speak in favor of peace during times of peace – that costs nothing. Nobody is “in favor” of war during peace times. Even the most rabid militarist is usually to be found expressing his horror at war, his opposition to it. At the same time he systematically prepares the ground for imperialist war. The softest pacifist is always opposed to war in peace times. When it breaks out, his love for peace is so strong that he urges his fellow-countrymen to support the war of the fatherland in order that it may, you understand, be brought to a speedy conclusion at the end of which – isn’t it logical? – peace may prevail again. Wells is one of these pacifists in “Reinkultur” as the Germans say – in a chemically pure state. He is the man to whom Stalin is sending the class conscious workers for leadership in ... the struggle against war.

The Case of Romain Rolland

The case of Rolland is somewhat different from that of most of the pacifist witch doctors who seek to exercise war by mystic incantations Rolland’s sincerity and devotion to the cause of the undertakings is beyond question. His allegiance to the Soviet Union is not of that base metal whose counterfeit ring clanks from the speech of the bought-and-paid for intellectual henchmen of Stalinism. During the World War, he opposed the hideous slaughter and fled chauvinistic France to take refuge in Switzerland.

We have no reason to believe that Rolland, one of the really great intellectual spirits of our time, will ever be found fighting on the side of imperialism, or sink to the level of H.G. Wells and Upton Sinclair, his fellow-member on the “International Committee.”

But Rolland is a pacifist, the most honest and sincere amongst them, but a pacifist nevertheless. His profound admiration for Lenin and the Bolshevik revolution is vitiated by his equally ardent admiration for Sun Yat Sen ... Gandhi. Among these three contemporary figures Rolland gets himself hopelessly lost. He has a fatal inability to distinguish the yawning gap that divides the latter two from the great proletarian revolutionary tribune. In a word, he is unable to distinguish between the treacherous morass of Gandhism and the eminence of Marxism. One cannot be a Gandhist or Sun Yat Senist for Asia and a Leninist for Europe. That impossible combination was attempted by Stalin and Bucharin all during the revolutionary upsurge in China in 1925-1927. The result is commonly known: the Chinese revolution was not only inundated in its own blood but the war danger, particularly against the Soviet Union, was greatly accentuated. This dreadful experiment is a warning against itself.

“I say to the U.S.S.R. of Lenin”, writes Rolland, “and I say to the Asia of Sun Yat Sen and Gandhi: Brothers, count on me!” Lenin is a name which means the unrelenting revolutionary struggle of the exploited of the earth against the imperialist slavedrivers. Gandhi is a name which stands for the bartering of the interests of the oppressed masses to the imperialist overlord of the native colonial bourgeoisie. No man can stand for both Lenin and Gandhi.

Lenin means active, organized, militant resistance not only to war but to the whole bourgeoisie. Gandhi’s non-resistance is the highest development of the practise of disarming the armies of the people in face of the imperialist forces armed to the teeth. The preachment of Leninism and Gandhism do not simply cancel each other; the latter excludes the former.

The presentation of the leadership of a struggle against imperialist war to a man like Rolland, however eminent, is to build a movement on a slope at the end of which lies defeat.

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