Max Shachtman

RDR Muffed Its Chance
to Take Clear Stand

(23 May 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 21, 23 May 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed &anp; marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Paris Conference Against War and Dictatorship organized by the RDR of France [see accompanying report – Ed.] was a significant demonstration, much more by virtue of what went into it; than by what came out of it.

In its own way – and the conference reports show how inadequate its way was – If showed how extensive and deep-seated are those forces in Europe that seek a democratic road out of the blind alley into which the Old World has been driven by the social crisis, how strong is the fear of Europe’s destruction in the war between the two imperialist giants, and how great is the hope and resolve that real peace shall at last be enjoyed by the peoples.

These are the forces that went into the conference and made up its real substance. They showed that despite the cruel blows and wounds that Europe has suffered, and the greater ones that threaten it, the old continent is far from dead and not everyone on it is pessimistic, cynical and resigned to a gloomy destiny. Their assembling under one roof even for a single day’s demonstration, is an encouraging sign for the future of Europe.

Showed Existence of Third-Camp Forces

Europe in the last couple of decades or more has known more than one “anti-war” and “pro-peace” and “anti-fascist” conference. In practically every case, they had no more in common with their proclaimed purposes than the one held not so long ago in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel or the one that followed it under the same auspices in Paris. They represented nothing more than a mobilization of Stalinists and dupes of the Stalinists for the defense abroad of the totalitarian terror in Russia. Whatever weight they had went onto scales of the Russian Foreign Office, which organized them.

The conference organized by the RDR was of a radically different nature. Not because it, in distinction from the others, adopted a program on the basis of which war and dictatorship can be effectively combated. The makeup of the conference precluded the adoption of such a program. Its distinction lies in the fact that it assembled significant organizations and representatives of important currents of political thought that are hostile to Stalinism and all other totalitarian regimes.

Aware of the threat to the peace of the world and to the labor movement and democracy that Stalinism represents, the bulk of the conference was no less aware of the fact that American imperialism represents only the other side of the same threat. The conference was a demonstration that there are extensive democratic, labor and socialist forces in Europe that will not serve as agents of the Kremlin’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and that these same forces do not want to serve as agents of the American State Department.

That is the most heartening significance of the conference. For it is upon the consolidation of all the forces in Europe, particularly in Western Europe, which resolutely aim at establishing a genuinely independent Western European Union, which is truly free from economic and political domination by either American or Stalinist imperialism, that the future of peace and socialism depend in decisive measure.

Imported Defenders of U.S.

As is known, a concerted effort was made to subvert the conference into an instrument of American imperialist policy. The effort itself was interesting and instructive. To find anyone who dares to defend American imperialism at a meeting of European democrats and socialists is no easy matter! At the Paris conference of the RDR, only one European could be found – a turncoat Dutch socialist – with the dubious courage to take the floor as a defender of Washington, and the reception he received from the audience was not less than he merited.

Forthright, unashamed and shameless apologists for American imperialism being at a premium in Europe itself, particularly among independent democrats and socialists, they had to be imported for the occasion from the United States itself. They appeared in the persons of Dr. Karl Compton, of the Atomic Energy Commission, Sidney Hook and James T. Farrell, and in the form of a recorded speech by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

That these citizens should have been considered as the representatives of the American “democratic” or “socialist” left wing is fantastic. Mrs. Roosevelt is a direct representative of Washington in the United Nations and directly responsible for its policy. What Dr. Compton has in common with any left-wing trend is absolutely unknown here or abroad, though it is gratifying to read of the indignation with which the Paris audience greeted the outrageous coolness with which he defended American atomic imperialism.

Dr. Hook was announced in the press friendly to the RDR as the author of Toward an Understanding of Karl Marx, which he wrote a long, long time ago, and every idea in which he has since abandoned in favor of intellectual leadership in the drive to undermine academic freedom in this country. Farrell was presented in the same press of the great author of the Studs Lonigan days, but the ideas of those days that he so distinguishedly and courageously defended have now been abandoned by him in favor of the ideas of Horatio Alger, Truman-Time model, which he presented to the conference as the new high point of contemporary American culture and politics.

In a word, the American delegation was a hoax. But it was an impudent hoax, for this delegation and it alone sought to enlist the conference in the service of American imperialism.

The conference adopted a declaration composed of hollow generalities which, at best, has no meaning or value. It lost a splendid opportunity to proclaim as the goal of European democracy and socialism the establishment of an Independent Western Union as the first great step toward a Europe united in genuine democracy, freedom and peace, a union that would be an effective challenge to Stalinism and American imperialism and therefore an inspiration to the peoples all over the world who are sick of war and despotism.

The RDR delegation itself also lost a splendid opportunity. The great promise of the RDR when it was formed a year ago lay in its declaration of independence from Washington and Moscow. Only by pugnaciously and Insistently proclaiming and propagating the course implicit in this declaration could it become what it had to become, and still must become, if it is to fulfill its part: a new political power in France, a magnet attracting those workers driven to Stalinism by the bankruptcy of capitalism, and those driven to support of the Vatican and Socialist parties of France by the tyranny of Stalinism. Anti-Stalinist political movements which bow and scrape before American imperialism or sing softly about it – these already exist in France, and their impotence is notorious.

At the Paris conference, the delegation of the RDR had a perfectly natural opportunity to reaffirm its distinguishing political position before a French and an international forum, by a firm and unambiguous reply to the blatant chauvinism and imperialist apologetics of the American delegation. This opportunity, which its own program demanded it seize, it did not seize.

The failure is disappointing and disturbing, not only to us but also, as we are encouraged to believe by the excellent declaration by Jean-Paul Sartre and Richard Wright, to many militants of the RDR. The democratic principles to which the RDR is committed will surely make this clear before very long.

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