Leon Trotsky

New War Flows from Versailles Banditry

Trotsky Urges Firm Revolutionary Defeatist Policy as Only Way to Fight Hitlerism

(September 1938)

Written: 18 June 1938.
First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 40, 1 October 1938, pp. 1 & 3
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

(Sept. 19, 1938)

These lines are written in the very midst of an ominous diplomatic muddle around the question of the Sudeten Germans, Chamberlain has flown over the skies in vain hope of finding there the solution of the imperialist contradictions. Whether the war will break out now, or, what is more likely, whether the rulers of the world will succeed in putting it off for some time – not a very long time to be sure – this question is still not definitely settled. None of these gentlemen want a war. All are afraid of its consequences. But fight they must. War they cannot avoid. Their economy, their politics, their militarism – all faces war.

Today’s cables inform us that in all churches of the so-called “civilized” world public prayers are being offered up for peace. They come in time to crown a whole series of pacifist meetings, banquets, and congresses. Which of these two methods is the more efficacious, pious prayer or pacifist bleating is not easy to decide. At any rate, only these two resources are left to the old world.

When an ignorant peasant prays, he really wants peace. When a simple worker or citizen of an oppressed country comes out against war, we can believe him – he really wants peace though only rarely does he know how to get it. But the bourgeois pray in their churches not for peace but for the maintenance and increase of their markets and colonies: if possible peacefully (it is cheaper); if impossible – by means of arms. Similarly imperialist “pacifists” (Jouhaux, Lewis and Co.) trouble themselves not at all about peace but about gaining sympathy and support for their national imperialism.

There are three and one half million Sudeten Germans. If war breaks out, the number of dead will probably be four or five times, possibly even ten times as much with a corresponding number of wounded, cripples and insane; and a long wake of epidemics and other tragedies. This consideration, however, is incapable of influencing in the least any of the enemy camps. For the robbers in the final analysis it is not at all a question of three and a half million Germans but of their role over Europe and over the world.

Hitler speaks of the “nation,” of “race,” of the unity of “blood.” In reality his job is to broaden the military base of Germany before opening a struggle for rule over colonies. Here the national banner is only the fig leaf of imperialism.

The principle of “democracy” plays a similar role in the other camp. It serves the imperialists to cover up their seizures, violations, robberies and to prepare for new ones. This is very brilliantly revealed in the question of the Sudeten Germans. Democracy means the right of each nation to self-determination. But the Versailles Treaty concocted by the highest representatives of the most democratic governments one could find: France, Great Britain, parliamentarian Italy of yore, and finally, the United States, basely trampled under foot this democratic right of the Sudeten Germans, the Austrians, as well as many other national groups, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians, etc.

Versailles Brought Fascism

For the strategic heads of the triumphant imperialism of the Entente Messrs. Democrats, with the support of the Second International delivered the Sudeten Germans into the possession of the young imperialists of Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile the German social-democracy waited with dog-like submission for favors from the democracies of the Entente; waited and waited in vain. The results are known: democratic Germany, unable to stand the yoke of the Versailles Treaty threw herself in despair onto the road of fascism. It would seem that the Czechoslovakian democracy which stood under the august protection of Franco-British democracy and of the “socialist” bureaucracy of the U.S.S.R. had every possibility of showing the Sudeten Germans the great advantages in reality of a democratic regime over a fascist one. If this task had been resolved, Hitler would not dare, of course, to make an attempt on Sudeten. His main strength lies now precisely in the fact that the Sudeten Germans themselves want unity with Germany. This desire was inspired in them by the rapacious and police regime of Czechoslovakian “democracy” which “fought” fascism by imitating its worst methods.

Super-democratic Austria found itself until a short time ago under the tireless solicitude of the democratic Entente which seemed to have made it its business not to let Austria live or die. It ended by Austria’s throwing herself into the embrace of Hitler. On a smaller scale the same experience was previously made in the Saar region which after having remained in the hands of France for fifteen years and having tried out all the benefits of imperialist democracy, by an overwhelming majority expressed a desire for unity with Germany. These lessons of history are more significant than resolutions of all the pacifist congresses.

Mockery of “Racial” Unity

Only pitiful babblers or fascist crooks can speak in connection with the fate of the Saar, the Austrian and Sudeten Germans of the irresistible “call of blood.” The Swiss Germans, for example, do not want at all to go into slavery under Hitler, because they feel themselves masters in their country, and Hitler would think ten times before attacking

them. Intolerable social and political conditions must exist for citizens of a “democratic” country to be seized by a desire for fascist power. The Germans of the Saar in France, the Austrian Germans in the Europe of Versailles, the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia felt themselves citizens of third rank. “It will not be worse,” they said to themselves. In Germany, at least, they will be oppressed on the same basis as the rest of the population. The masses prefer under these conditions equality in serfdom to humiliation in inequality. The temporary strength of Hitler lies in the bankruptcy of imperialist democracy.

Fascism is a form of despair in the petty bourgeois masses, who carry away with them over the precipice a part of the proletariat as well. Despair, as known, takes hold when all roads of salvation are cut off. The triple bankruptcy of democracy, social-democracy and the Comintern were the prerequisites for the successes of fascism. All three have tied their fate to the fate of imperialism. All three bring nothing to the masses but despair and by this assure the triumph of fascism.

Moscow Not Mentioned

The chief aim of the Bonapartist clique of Stalin during the last years has consisted in proving to the imperialist “democracies” its wise conservatism and love for order. For the sake of the longed for alliance with imperialist democracies the Bona-partist clique has brought the Comintern to the last stages of political prostitution. Two great “democracies,” France and England, try to persuade Prague to make concessions to Hitler who is supported by Mussolini. Apparently nothing is left to Prague but to yield to “friendly” advice. Of Moscow there is no mention. No one is interested in the opinion of Stalin or his Litvinoff. As a result of the disgusting crawling and bloody vileness in the service of imperialism, especially in Spain, the Kremlin is more isolated than ever before.

What are the causes? There are two. The first lies in the fact that having definitely become a lackey of “democratic” imperialism, Stalin does not dare, however, to bring his work in the U.S.S.R. to a conclusion, that is, to the restoration of private ownership of the means of production and the abolishing of the monopoly of foreign trade. And without these measures he remains in the eyes of the imperialists just a revolutionary parvenu, an untrustworthy adventurer, a bloody falsifier. The imperialist bourgeoisie does not venture to wager an important stake on Stalin.

Of course, it could utilize him for its partial and temporary aims. But here the second cause for Kremlin’s isolation looms up: in its struggle for self-preservation the unbridled Bonapartist clique has crippled the army and the fleet to the last degree, shaken economy, demoralized and humiliated the country. No one believes the patriotic howling of the defeatist clique. The imperialists clearly dare not risk a stake on Stalin even for episodic military aims.

The “Fight” Against War

In this international situation the agents of the G.P.U. cross the ocean and gather in hospitable Mexico to “fight” against war. The method is simple – to unite all the democracies against fascism. Only against fascism! “I am invited here,” speaks the worthy agent of the French Bourse – Jouhaux, “for the struggle against fascism, and not imperialism at all!” Whoever fights against “democratic” imperialism, that is, for the freedom of the French colonies is an ally of fascism, an agent of Hitler, a Trotskyite. Three hundred and fifty Hindus must reconcile themselves to their slavery in order to support British democracy, the rulers of which at this very time, together with the slave-holders of “democratic” France, are delivering the Spanish people into Franco’s bondage. People of Latin-America must tolerate with gratitude the foot of Anglo-Saxon imperialism on their neck only because this foot is dressed in a suede democratic boot. Disgrace, shame, cynicism – without end!

The democracies of the Versailles Entente helped the victory of Hitler by their vile oppression of defeated Germany. Now the lackeys of democratic imperialism of the Second and Third Internationals are helping with all their might the further strengthening of Hitler’s regime. Really, what would a military block of imperialist democracies against Hitler mean? A new edition of the Versailles chains, even more heavy, bloody and intolerable. Naturally, not a single German worker wants this. To throw off Hitler by revolution is one thing, to strangle Germany by an imperialist war – is quite another. The howling of the “pacifist” jackals of democratic imperialism is therefore the best accompaniment to Hitler’s speeches. “You see,” he says to the German people, “even socialists and communists of all enemy countries support their army and their diplomacy; if you will not rally around me, your leader, you are threatened with doom!” Stalin, the lackey of democratic imperialism and all the lackeys of Stalin – Jouhaux, Toledano and Co. – are the best aides of Hitler in deceiving, lulling, and intimidating the German workers.

Tools of Imperialism

The Czechoslovakian crisis revealed with remarkable clarity that fascism does not exist as an independent factor. It is only one of the tools of imperialism. “Democracy” is another of its tools. Imperialism rises above them both. It sets them in motion according to need, at times counterposing them to one another, at times amicably combining them. To fight against fascism in an alliance with imperialism is the same as to fight in an alliance with the devil against his claws or horns.

The struggle against fascism demands above all the expulsion of the agents of “democratic” imperialism from the ranks of the working class. Only the revolutionary proletariat of France, Great Britain, America and U.S.S.R. declaring a life and death struggle against their own imperialism and its agency, the Moscow bureaucracy, is capable of arousing revolutionary hopes in the hearts of the German and Italian workers, and at the same time of rallying around itself hundreds of millions of slaves and semi-slaves of imperialism in the entire world. In order to guarantee peace among the peoples we must overthrow imperialism under all its masks. Only the proletarian revolution can accomplish this. To prepare it, it is necessary to place the workers and the oppressed peoples irreconcilably against the imperialist bourgeoisie and to rally them into a single international revolutionary army. This great liberating work is now being fulfilled only by the Fourth International. That is why it is hated by fascists, by imperialist “democrats,” by social-patriots and by the lackeys of the Kremlin. This is the true sign that under its banner will rally all the oppressed.

Coyoacan, D.F.

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Last updated on: 12 September 2015