Trotsky on the Disarmament Conference


Written: 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 23 (Whole No. 119), 4 June 1932, p. 4.
Originally published in Chicago Daily News.
Also published in Class Struggle, Vol. 2 No. 5, 16 May 1932.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive ( 2012. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

In view of the serious political changes in Europe during the last few weeks, such as the elections in France and the fall of the Bruening government, the Lausanne conference, which is scheduled to be held in the middle of June, takes on special importance. In this light, the following remarks by comrade Trotsky, made in an interview he granted the Chicago Daily News at the time of the current Geneva conference, are of particular interest for Communists and for all revolutionary workers.

In Reply to Questions Posed by the Chicago Daily News

(1) The fundamental cause of the crisis may be defined by a single word: capitalism. The specific character of this crisis is explained by another concept: imperialism, that is to say, monopoly capitalism which is beginning to putrify within its own insoluble contradictions. The rise and fall of Ivar Kreuger symbolizes all of capitalism today. The official moralists are hurling their thunder against the match king after the event. But he could have replied to them: why have you permitted me to dispose, according to my own wishes, of the productive forces, which under the direction of a humane society, ought to serve society itself?

Will the capitalist world order survive the present crisis? The reply depends upon what is understood under the term crisis. Variations in the conjuncture accompany the entire history of capitalism. In the past periods, the curve of capitalism rose throughout all the variations of the conjuncture. Today, it is declining. This does not exclude variations of the conjuncture in the future. On the contrary, these are inevitable. But the present acute crisis can only be so attenuated that it will culminate into a higher paroxism in the next immediate stage. This whole tragic process can only end in the transformation of the whole social system.

(2) Have I any hope of success at the disarmament conference? Not the least. But in this, I am not an exception. The French project is sufficiently characterized by the fact that it has been 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. An incomparable lesson for all peoples! The project of France provides for the creation, under the mantle of the League of Nations, of a new entente with the one aim of stabilizing the hegemony of French finance capital with the aid of an “international” army.

But the American project also does not open any perspective. Present day wars are not conducted with the arms which the warfaring peoples possess on the eve of war, but with those which they manufacture in the course of the war itself. The United States has, from this point of view, given a lesson to the entire world and to Germany in particular. The outcome of the future war will be determined by the technical capacity of the belligerent countries. The more advanced the industrial development of a country the more interested is the country in a provisional “limitation” of armaments; for in such a case it will really be easier for it to provide its army with the necessities.

In the best case, the conference will be terminated with hollow phrases. The failure of the Geneva conference will constitute a new impulsion for the course toward armaments and will amplify the war danger.

The Franco-Japanese policy, its bellicose as well as its “pacifist” side, is being orientated ever more openly, not only against China, but also against the Soviet Union. That Litvinoff, at the Geneva conference, expresses the honest desire of the U.S.S.R. not to enter the war, cannot be doubted by any attentive observer. But I wish the Soviet delegation had devoted a moment to pass over from the technical peace proposals, which even from an educational point of view do not bear any great importance, to a more active policy, that is, to say openly before the conference that which is, and in this manner to warn the peoples of the danger facing them. For if there is any force on our planet capable of “limiting” armaments on land and sea, it is the desire of the masses of the people.

(3) The rumors in the press about my return in the near future, to the U.S.S.R., do not rest upon any serious information whatsoever. It is much rather a matter of inventions caused by the highly charged general situation. It is needless to say that the faction to which I belong will put itself entirely and completely at the disposal of the Soviet government. As a precedent, we can point out that in the period of the civil war of 1918–1920, Stalin, Voroshilov and others were in sharp opposition to the methods of conducting the war that I pursued in full agreement with Lenin. This did not at all prevent the oppositionists of that time from taking an active part in the struggles.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2013