Max Shachtman


In This Corner

The Hue and Cry About
‘Poor Little Finland’

(16 December 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 93, 16 December 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Almost everybody is joining the pack in a hue and cry over Poor Little Finland. Mr. Hoover is collecting funds; President Roosevelt is granting a moratorium on the Finnish debt; Congressmen are yelping for a breaking off of relations with Russia; Alexander Kerensky is stoutly for the independence of Finland; the Finnish White Guards in this country are loading recruits for Finland on to ships; and the liberals and social democrats are pouring out a sea of tears on which to float the ships. The rearguard is brought up smartly by Norman Thomas and the editor of his official organ, who are ready to fight it out for Finland to the death.

Without exception, all the “friends of Finland” are serving one objective; the whipping up of a chauvinistic war spirit for the “democratic” imperialists and for American participation in the world slaughter on their side.

Kerensky Somewhat Belated

As we recall it, Mr. Kerensky, head of the Russian Provisional Government some twenty-two years ago, was then not quite so strenuous in his demand for the independence of Finland from Muscovite rule. In fact, he fought both the Bolsheviks and the Finnish nationalists who demanded the right of self-determination for Finland. We further recall that it was the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky who, as soon as they were in power, promptly granted Finland its independence. Mr. Kerensky’s love for Finland is a little – how shall we say? – belated.

Where Were Roosevelt & Co. Then?

We do not recall any very vigorous activity on the part of Messrs. Hoover, Roosevelt and Co. in behalf of Albania, Ethiopia, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Spain and other victims of reactionary assault.

When the imperialist gangsters were cutting up the world map to suit themselves, and without bothering to inquire of the wishes of those they were carving into greater empires, we heard barely a whisper from all the Congressmen, statesmen and other illustrious citizens of our Great Democracy. They did not then demand the breaking off of diplomatic relations with Italy or Germany. And for good reasons. Mussolini and Hitler were, after all, only doing what every imperialist nation, the United States included, has done throughout its existence, and continues to do.

But didn’t the “liberals” and “socialists” of the New Leader and the Nation and the Socialist Call protest then? Yes, they protested when the fascist bandits carried out their abominations. But not even from them was there a word of protest against the similar abominations of the “democratic” bandits.

Not a murmur, for example, when France so graciously ceded to Turkey the Syrian province of Alexandretta a short time ago, purely for the purpose of winning Turkey to an alliance with Anglo-French imperialism. The people of Alexandretta, non-Turkish in their majority, were of course not consulted by either the Turks or the French, any more than the Syrians as a whole were ever consulted about being put under the heel of the French army and the French banks.

First Things First

The protestations of our great American patriots and war-mongers, from Hoover through Roosevelt to Gerry Allard would sound a spot more convincing if they prefaced their activity by a declaration that their first and main fight is against the violation of national independence and sovereignty which is perpetuated by their own ruling class, that is to say, by American imperialism in Puerto Rico, Samoa, the Philippine Islands and elsewhere.

And once they made such a declaration, it would be obligatory for them to add a similar statement with reference to their allies, that is, to those on whose side they are asking us to fight, England and France. They would have to say, it seems to us, that before they presume to say a word in protest against the violation of Finland’s independence by Stalin, they denounce the continuing violation of the independence of India, Indo-China, Syria, Algiers, most of Africa and all the other colonies, protectorates and “spheres of influence” of British and French imperialism.

It goes without saying that they will do nothing of the kind. They are too busy working up the campaign for American participation in the war to bother with such trifles. How does the fate of a few hundred million Indians compare with so noble and idealistic a goal as making the world safe for democracy a second time?

It’s all very clear and simple. You can commit any crime in the calendar of Stalin or Hitler or Mussolini on one condition: just call yourself a democrat. It will not only sanctify whatever you do, but constitute an unlimited license to condemn your opponent in world politics for doing exactly the same thing.

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