Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

I Wor Kuen

Commentary: Some perspectives on appeasement and the danger of world war

First Published: Getting Together, Vol. IX, No. 5, May 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Today many people are discussing the relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and the growing danger of war between the two imperialist superpowers. In particular there is concern about the appeasement policy which has been adopted by sectors of the U.S. ruling class to deal with the designs of the Soviet Union.

Some of the questions which are being raised currently are: what is appeasement and its relationship to the danger of war; and what should the attitude of the working class be towards appeasement? These are pressing matters which have great significance for the proletarian revolution.

First of all, what is appeasement?

Appeasement basically means capitulating to an aggressor in the hope that aggression will cease or be diverted elsewhere.

The period right before the outbreak of World War II holds many lessons on appeasement, and it is worthwhile to review that history in light of the contemporary situation.

In the 1930’s the big capitalist countries were divided into two main types: the aggressive fascist countries of Germany, Italy and Japan on the one hand; and the western capitalist countries of England, France and the United States on the other. The western capitalist countries were stronger economically and militarily and they had more extensive empires as compared to the fascist countries. The fascist countries, desired to carve out their own empires in a world already divided up among the imperialists. They rapidly built themselves up militarily and challenged the other capitalist countries. The fascist countries were the most aggressive forces among the imperialist powers. They threatened the people and countries all around the world: in 1935, Italy attacked Ethiopia; in 1936, Germany and Italy intervened in Spain; in 1937, Japan launched an all-out attack to subjugate China; in 1938, Germany took Austria; and in 1939, Germany marched into Czechoslovakia. The fascists were the most ruthless counter-revolutionary force in the world, brutally slaughtering the revolutionaries and trampling on the people everywhere.

In response to the fascists’ aggressive designs, the western capitalist countries adopted a policy of appeasement, a policy of permitting the fascists to carry out their plans. Saying they were for “peace” or “neutrality,” bourgeois political leaders in France, England and the United States excused and permitted fascist aggression. The western capitalists did this because some were making quite a bit of money in arming, building up and trading with the fascist countries. Other hoped that by giving the fascist free rein in China, Ethiopia or Czechoslovakia and giving them other concessions, the fascists would fight the socialist Soviet Union and not the western capitalist countries. This was a policy of sacrificing others in the hope of saving one’s own neck. This was exampled with the infamous Munich Pact of 1938 which Britain and France handed Czechoslovakia over to the Nazis.

But this policy of appeasement did not forestall world war, instead it did just the opposite: it hastened the outbreak of war. With each concession, the fascists grew in strength and their ambitions became greater. The addition of Austria and Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany significantly increased Hitler’s industrial and military capabilities. The appeasement policy actually helped fascism develop, enabling them to unleash an all-out war. This is what happened by 1940 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Scandinavia, France, and other western European countries.

Chairman Mao, in 1939, evaluated the appeasement policy in a comment on Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister of Britain and chief advocate of appeasement: “The inevitable result of Chamberlain’s policy will be like ’lifting a rock only to drop it on one’s own toes.’ Chamberlain started with the aim of injuring others only to end up ruining himself. This is the law of development which governs all reactionary policies.”

The Contemporary Situation

The world is vastly different today compared to 40 years ago. The European capitalist countries have lost much of their power and their old empires. In fact, they have become themselves threatened and interfered with by the two superpowers. Today, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are the biggest international overlords. Only they are in a position to launch a new world war, and the contention between the two is leading inevitably towards war.

The U.S. has a more extensive world military and financial imperialist network, but it is in the process of decline. The Soviet Union on the other hand is on the move, having ambitions of taking over wherever U.S. influence is diminished. The danger of war definitely is mounting, and especially because of the actions of the Soviet Union.

As a response to the Soviet expansionism, certain circles in the U.S. and in Europe have adopted a modern appeasement policy. Like the appeasers of old, these modern counterparts favor giving away concessions to the aggressors.

Some of the modern appeasers favor more trade with the Soviet Union, such as giving it huge loans, advanced technology and industrial equipment.

The U.S. has given the Soviet Union some $10 billion in loans already. The appeasers rationalize or only mouth displeasure of Soviet interference in areas such as Africa or Europe. One presidential memo even went so far as to declare that the U.S. would abandon one-third of West Germany in case of a Soviet attack. Such concessions have only served to whet the appetite of the Soviet social-imperialists.

Some of those who advocate appeasement believe that giving concessions will lessen the danger of war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. They think that the Soviet Union will be more “reasonable” or less ambitious if it receives such concessions.

Some of the appeasers advocate sacrificing parts of the third world or Europe in the hope that the Soviet Union will turn to the east.

Appeasement is a dangerous trend in the bourgeoisie. It is dangerous because it creates illusions about the nature of the Soviet Union, disarming the people. And it is dangerous because it helps the Soviet Union grow stronger. Of the policies advocated by various sections of the bourgeoisie, the appeasement policy is an especially dangerous one which will only hasten the outbreak of a new world war.

Policy Towards Appeasement

World war definitely is not in the interests of the masses of people of the world. It will cause unprecedented suffering and devastation. It is in the interests of the people of the world to strive to postpone the outbreak of such a war so that the masses can become more prepared and develop their revolutionary work.

Consequently appeasement should be opposed. It should be exposed as a policy which covers up the danger of the Soviet Union and as a policy which actually brings world war closer. The present day superpower talk of “detente” and “disarmament” should be unmasked as covers for their actual war plans. Appeasement should be exposed as a reactionary bourgeois policy which goes against the interests of the people of the world.

The masses of people must get prepared for the eventuality of war, fight the designs of the superpowers and their aggression, and must be especially vigilant against the Soviet Union. The war preparations of the superpowers must be condemned. The people should support the anti-superpower actions of other people and countries. We should draw lessons from history which point out that the masses of people must oppose appeasement and aggression by strengthening their unity, heightening their struggles against the aggressors, and building a broad united front of all who can be united against the two superpowers.