Leon Trotsky

On the Disarmament Question


Written: 1932.
First Published: 1932.
Source: Class Struggle, Official Organ Of The Communist League Of Struggle (Adhering to the International Left Opposition), Vol. 2 No. 5, May 16, 1932.
Originally Published: Chicago Daily News.
Also Published: The Militant, Vol. V No. 23 (Whole No. 119), 4 June 1932, p. 4.
Online Version: Vera Buch & Albert Weisbord Internet Archive.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Albert Weisbord Internet Archive/David Walters.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (June 2013).

1. The fundamental cause of the crisis can be put in one word: capitalism. The special character of this crisis is explained by another notion: Imperialism, that is to say, monopoly capitalism which is beginning to put reify in its own blind contradictions. The rise and fall of Ivar Kreuger symbolize all present day capitalism. The official moralists when all is done hurl their thunderbolts against the match king. But he could answer: why did you allow me to dispose at my own will of the productive forces of which should be serving human society, under its own direction?

Will the world capitalist order overcome the present crisis? The answer depends upon what is understood by the term crisis. Variations of conjuncture accompany the whole history of capitalism. In past epochs, the curve of capitalism was rising through all the variations in conjuncture. Today, it is falling. This does not exclude further variations of conjuncture in the future. On the contrary, such are inevitable. But the sharp present crisis can be softened only by leading into a higher paroxysm in the following stage which is not far off. All this extremely painful process can be ended only by a transformation of the whole social system.

2. Have I any hopes for the success of the Disarmament Conference? Not in the least. But in that, I am hardly an exception. The French plan is characterized sufficiently by the fact that it is presented by the Tardieu government. At the same time that France supports the bloody work of Japan in the Far East, Japan gratefully supports the pacifist initiative of France at Geneva. A lesson beyond compare for all peoples! France’s plan aims to create, under the cloak of the League of Nations a new entente with the sole aim of stabilizing the hegemony of French finance capital with the aid of the “international” army.

But the American plan also opens up no perspective. The present war are not conducted with the arms which the belligerents possess on the eve of the war, but with those which they manufacture in the course of the war itself. From this point of view the US has given a lesson to the whole world and especially to Germany. The outcome of the future war will be determined by the technical capacity of the warring countries. The higher the industrial development of a country, the more this country is interested in provisional limitation of armaments; then it will really be easier for it than for its adversaries to equip its army with everything necessary.

At the best, the Conference will end with hollow formulas. The inevitable failure of the Geneva Conference will constitute a new impulse for the armament race and will increase the danger of war.

The Franco-Japanese policy, the warlike one as well as the “pacifist”, is directed always more and more openly not only against China but against the Soviet Union. That Litvinoff at the Geneva Conference expresses the honest will of the USSR not to resort to war, cannot be doubted by any attentive observer. But I should like to hope that the Soviet delegation will find a moment to pass from technico-pacifist proposals which, even from a pedagogic point of view, have not much importance, to a more active policy, that is, to tell the Conference openly how things are, and thus to warn the peoples of the threatening danger. For, if there is a force on our planet which can “limit” armaments on land and sea, it is the will of the masses of the people.

3. The rumors of the press as to my near return to the USSR ... do not rest upon any serious foundation. It is rather a case of inventions caused by the strained general situation. It is needless to say that that fraction to which I belong will place itself entirely and completely at the disposition of the Soviet Government. As a precedent, it may be shown that at the time of the civil war, in 1918–20, Stalin, Voroshiliov, and others were in sharp opposition to the methods of conducting the war which I was following in full accord with Lenin, which did not prevent the oppositionists of that time from taking an active part in the struggles.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2013