Leon Trotsky

Anti-Imperialist Struggle
Is Key to Liberation

An Interview with Mateo Fossa

(September 1938)

Written: 23 September 1938.
First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 48, 5 November 1938, p. 3.
Translated: By Socialist Appeal.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

COYOACAN, D.F., Sept. 26. – Comrade Mateo Fossa was delegated by the Committee for Trade Union Freedom to attend the conference of Latin-American trade unions convoked in Mexico. The Committee for Trade Union Freedom embraces 28 organizations, among them 24 independent trade unions.

Each of these organizations individually gave written credentials to comrade Fossa. In spite of this the managers of Latin-American trade union “unity” did not admit comrade Fossa to the conference. Did not admit? How? Very simply – closed the doors in his face. For what reason? The reason is not complicated.

For a short period, Comrade Fossa belonged to the Argentine Communist Party, but raised a voice of protest against the Moscow trials. This was sufficient for the respected trade union worker to be dubbed an enemy of the people, a “Trotskyite,” and so on. From Buenos Aires, the Stalinists immediately informed Lombardo Toledano of the arrival at the congress of a dangerous delegate who did not believe in the immaculate purity of Stalin, Vyshinsky, Yezhov, and the other falsifiers.

Toledano, G.P.U. Flunkey

When the G.P.U. gives orders, Toledano obeys. This now constitutes his main role in the working class movement. No matter how preposterous it may sound, yet the bourgeois lawyer, Lombardo Toledano, closed the doors of the trade union conference in the face of the worker Fossa, an honest Argentine revolutionist. Nothing remains for the proletarians of Mexico but to hail: “Long live the totalitarian regime! Long live our fuehrer, Adolf Toledano!”

On September 23rd, Comrade Fossa visited Comrade Trotsky and in a long conversation posed a number of important questions. Below we publish these questions together with the answers of Comrade Trotsky:

Fossa: In your opinion what will be the further development of the present situation in Europe?

Trotsky: It is possible that this time too diplomacy will succeed in reaching a rotten compromise. But it will not last long. War is inevitable and moreover in the very near future. One international crisis follows another. These convulsions are similar to the birth pangs of the approaching war. Each new paroxysm will bear a more severe and dangerous character. At present I do not see any force in the world that can stop the development of this process, that is, the birth of war. A horrible new slaughter is relentlessly drawing upon humanity.

Of course, timely revolutionary action by the international proletariat could paralyze the rapacious work of the imperialists. But we must look the truth straight in the face. The working masses of Europe in their overwhelming majority are under the leadership of the Second and Third Internationals. The leaders of the Amsterdam International of Trade Unions fully support the policy of the Second and the Third Internationals and enter together with them into so-called “People’s Fronts.”

The policy of the “People’s Front,” as is shown by the example of Spain, France, and other countries, consists in subordinating the proletariat to the left-wing of the bourgeoisie. But the entire bourgeoisie of the capitalist countries, the right as well as the “left” is permeated through and through with chauvinism and imperialism. The “People’s Front” serves to turn the workers into cannon fodder for their imperialist bourgeoisie. Only that and nothing more.

The Second, the Third, and the Amsterdam Internationals are at present counterrevolutionary organizations whose task it is to put brakes upon and paralyze the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against “democratic” imperialism. So long as the criminal leadership of these Internationals is not overthrown, the workers will be powerless to oppose war. This is the bitter but inescapable truth. We must know how to face it and not console ourselves with illusions and pacifist babbling. War is inevitable!

Fossa: What will be its effect on the struggle in Spain and on the international working class movement?

Trotsky: In order to understand correctly the nature of the coming events we must first of all reject the false and thoroughly erroneous theory that the coming war will be a war between fascism and “democracy.” Nothing is more false and foolish than this idea. Imperialist “democracies” are divided by the contradictions of their interests in all parts of the world. Fascist Italy can easily find herself in one camp with Great Britain and France if she should lose faith in the victory of Hitler. Semifascist Poland may join one or the other of the camps depending upon the advantages offered. In the course of war the French bourgeoisie may substitute fascism for its “democracy” in order to keep its workers in submission and force them to fight “to the end.” Fascist France, like “democratic” France would equally defend its colonies with weapons in hand. The new war will have a much more openly rapacious imperialist character than the war of 1914-18. Imperialists do not fight for political principles but for markets, colonies, raw materials, for hegemony over the world and its wealth.

The victory of any one of the imperialist camps would mean the definite enslavement of all humanity, the clamping of double chains on present-day colonies, and all weak and backward peoples, among them the peoples of Latin America. The victory of any one of the imperialist camps would spell slavery, wretchedness, misery, the decline of human culture.

What is the way out, you ask? Personally, I do not doubt for a moment that a new war will provoke an international revolution against the rule of the rapacious capitalist cliques over humanity. In wartime all differences between imperialist “democracy” and fascism will disappear. In all countries a merciless military dictatorship will reign. The German workers and peasants will perish just like the French and English. The modern means of destruction are so monstrous that humanity will probably not be able to endure war even a few months. Despair, indignation, hatred will push the masses of all warring countries into an uprising with weapons in hand. Victory of the world proletariat will put an end to war and will also solve the Spanish problem as well as all the current problems of Europe and other parts of the world.

Those working class “leaders” who want to chain the proletariat to the war chariot of imperialism, covered by the mask of “democracy,” are now the worst enemies and the direct traitors of the toilers. We must teach the workers to hate and despise the agents of imperialism, since they poison the consciousness of the toilers; we must explain to the workers that fascism is only one of the forms of imperialism, that we must fight not against the external symptoms of the disease but against its organic causes, that is, against capitalism.

Fossa: What is the perspective for the Mexican revolution? How do you view the devaluation of money in connection with the expropriation of wealth in land and oil?

Trotsky: I cannot dwell on these questions in sufficient detail. The expropriation of land and of the natural wealth are for Mexico an absolutely indispensable measure of national self-defense. Without satisfying the daily needs of the peasantry none of the Latin American countries will retain their independence. The lowering of the purchasing power of money is only one of the results of the imperialist blockade against Mexico which has begun. Material privation is inevitable in struggle. Salvation is impossible without sacrifices. To capitulate before the imperialists would mean to deliver up the natural wealth of the country to despoliation, and the people—to decline and extinction. Of course, the working class organizations must see to it that the rise in the cost of living should not fall with its main weight upon the toilers.

Fossa: What can you say on the liberating struggle of the peoples of Latin America and of the problems of the future? What is your opinion of Aprismo?

Trotsky: I am not sufficiently acquainted with the life of the individual Latin American countries to permit myself a concrete answer on the questions you pose. It is clear to me at any rate that the internal tasks of these countries cannot be solved without a simultaneous revolutionary struggle against imperialism. The agents of the United States, England, France (Lewis, Jouhaux, Toledano, the Stalinists) try to substitute the struggle against fascism for the struggle against imperialism. We have observed their criminal efforts at the recent congress against war and fascism. In the countries of Latin America the agents of “democratic” imperialism are especially dangerous, since they are more capable of fooling the masses than the open agents of fascist bandits.

I will take the most simple and obvious example. In Brazil there now reigns a semifascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!

In all the Latin American countries the problems of the agrarian revolution are indissolubly connected with anti-imperialist struggle. The Stalinists are now treacherously paralyzing both one and the other. To the Kremlin the Latin American countries are just small change in its dealings with the imperialists. Stalin says to Washington, London, and Paris, “Recognize me as an equal partner and I will help you put down the revolutionary movement in the colonies and semicolonies; for this I have in my service hundreds of agents like Lombardo Toledano.” Stalinism has become the leprosy of the liberating movement.

I do not know Aprismo sufficiently to give a definite judgment. In Peru the activity of this party has an illegal character and is therefore hard to observe. The representatives of APRA at the September congress against war and fascism in Mexico have taken, so far as I can judge, a worthy and correct position together with the delegates from Puerto Rico. It remains only to hope that APRA does not fall prey to the Stalinists as this would paralyze the liberating struggle in Peru. I think that agreements with the Apristas for definite practical tasks are possible and desirable under the condition of full organizational independence.

Fossa: What consequences will the war have for the Latin American countries?

Trotsky: Doubtless both imperialist camps will strive to drag the Latin American countries into the whirlpool of war in order to enslave them completely afterwards. Empty “antifascist” noise only prepares the soil for agents of one of the imperialist camps. To meet the world war prepared, the revolutionary parties of Latin America must right now take an irreconcilable attitude toward all imperialist groupings. On the basis of the struggle for self-preservation the peoples of Latin America should rally closer to each other.

In the first period of war the position of the weak countries can prove very difficult. But the imperialist camps will become weaker and weaker with each passing month. Their mortal struggle with each other will permit the colonial and semicolonial countries to raise their heads. This refers, of course, also to the Latin American countries; they will be able to achieve their full liberation, if at the head of the masses stand truly revolutionary, anti-imperialist parties and trade unions. From tragic historic circumstances one cannot escape by trickery, hollow phrases, and petty lies. We must tell the masses the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Fossa: What in your opinion are the tasks and the methods facing the trade unions?

Trotsky: In order that the trade unions should be able to rally, educate, mobilize the proletariat for a liberating struggle they must be cleansed of the totalitarian methods of Stalinism. The trade unions should be open to workers of all political tendencies under the conditions of discipline in action. Whoever turns the trade unions into a weapon for outside aims (especially into a weapon of the Stalinist bureaucracy and “democratic” imperialism) inevitably splits the working class, weakens it, and opens the door to reaction. A full and honest democracy within the unions is the most important condition of democracy in the country.

In conclusion I ask you to transmit my fraternal greetings to the workers of Argentina. I don’t doubt that they do not believe for a moment those disgusting slanders that the Stalinist agencies have spread in the entire world against me and my friends. The struggle that the Fourth International carries on against the Stalinist bureaucracy is a continuation of the great historic struggle of the oppressed against the oppressors, of the exploited against the exploiters. The international revolution will free all the oppressed, including the workers of the USSR.

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Last updated on: 12 September 2015