Max Shachtman

New Leader Promises Nice War
If We Are All Good Patriots

(January 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 4, 28 January 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

So revolting and complete has been the reversal by the Stalinists of the traditional revolutionary attitude towards capitalist armaments and war, that attention is often concentrated upon it to the exclusion of the no less vicious position taken in what was once the opposite camp – the social democracy.

Some former radicals have taken advantage of the widespread indignation at the crudely pro-war position of Browder and Co., and covered their retreat to the social-democratic camp under a barrage of indignant denunciation against the Stalinists..Of that particular brand of renegade, there has lately been more than one representative.

The current New Leader (Jan. 21), organ of the Social Democratic Federation, offers us more evidence – if more were needed – that quitting Stalinism for “democratic” socialism is like leaving one recruiting sergeant to enlist with another.

Under the fitting headine, U.S. Must Arm or Join Appeasement, Mr. William E. Bohn, spokesman for the S.D.F. and one of the New Leader’s feature stars, takes the floor with an endorsement of the Roosevelt war program as enthusiastic as any you can read in the Daily Worker. Let our readers hold their nostrils while we present a few samples of Mr. Bohn’s garbage:

“Civilization, decency, culture, liberty are at stake. No one should make his decision lightly or on the basis of old catch-words. If war is worse than fascism, then we are lost, for war we shall probably have whether we arm or not. But I don’t believe anything else is as bad as fascism.”

Maybe not. But nothing could be more sickening than the social democracy which showed its impotence by not lifting a finger to stop Hitler from coming to power and keeping it to this day, and now asks the capitalist class to do that job for it. As we recall, Woodrow Wilson once forced us into the trenches to do a similar job on the Kaiser and Prussian militarism – and a thorough job it was.

“The [idea] that war necessarily means fascism [word illegible] is pure bunk.”

There we have it, on the solemn word of honor of Mr. Bohn. And the proof is given by history, with which our Democratic Socialist is as much at home as he will be tomorrow in a behind-the lines uniform.

“... the minute war [the Civil War and the World War] was over, our men shed the hated military uniforms and went to extremes in demanding the return to normalcy.”

Normalcy: the American Legion mob that lynched Wesley Everett in Centralia, Wash. Normalcy: the breaking-up of socialist meetings and headquarters. Normalcy: the suppression of the Communist and Communist Labor parties. Normalcy: the “red raids” and the mass deportations of radicals. Normalcy: the breaking of strikes from one end of the country to the other. Sergeant Bohn’s memory is phenomenal.

“In Great Britain, the World War marked a great advance in democratic controls.” Yes, especially for the 743,702 fallen Britons (not counting the colonial dead) who were buried democratically in common war graves and who were, consequently, unable to enjoy the spectacle of such democratic controls as were exercized in the notorious “Defense of the Realm Act,” the murderous suppression of the Irish Republicans, and the forcible crushing of strikes.

“War is just like, peace in one respect. In both ways of life, the biggest capitalists take advantage of the citizenry. But it need not be so. The capitalists are our capitalists; the armament plants are our plants. We, through our government, can do with them what we like.”

Ugh! what sickening, stinking drivel! Mr. Bohn, says an advertisement of the Rand School, is to lecture there on Isms in the American Labor Movement. We suggest that he specialize on the subject: Toadyism to the Imperialist War-mongers and How to Practise It. And we suggest further that in view of the approaching union between the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Federation, Mr. Norman Thomas, as a gesture of good will and appeasement of old rancors, nominate Sergeant Bohn as Director of Anti-War Propaganda of the united organization.

Associated with him – we continue our free suggestions – should be Madame Tony Sender, as Director of Anti-War Work Among Women. The qualifications of this former social-democratic Reichstag deputy are revealed in full by one sentence in her article printed in the same issue of the New Leader, right next to Bohn’s:

“Certainly, no mother wants to sacrifice her son on the battle-field. But does she prefer to have him sent to a concentration camp? The sooner we stop the march of fascism, the better this nation is served.”

Madame Sender gave plenty of proof of her ability to stop the march of fascism when Hitler’s gangsters were allowed to walk quietly into power without meeting the slightest semblance of resistance from her and her fellow-party leaders. But lest we appear to doubt her prowess, we hasten to add that we are quite sure she will prove to be far more energetic in getting mothers to sacrifice their sons on the battlefield in Roosevelt’s sacred and ever so democratic war against fascism.

She didn’t do so well in that war when it started in Germany several years ago, but then she only had about fifteen million workers to back her up. Now, she’s guaranteed to do better, for with Wall Street by her side nothing can stop her.

Not even the sacrifice of every conscripted mother’s son.

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Max Shachtman
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