Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

L.S., Revolutionary Communist League of Britain

Against the ACW’S Hopeless Dogmatism

(A Reply to the Association of Communist Workers’ pamphlet: On the Social-Chauvinism of the RCLB).

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 4, No. 2, January 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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Imperialism generates war and revolution. Today Soviet social imperialism is striving to replace the US as the chief imperialist world power. It is hell bent on becoming the one and only superpower. This is dragging the world towards a new world war. Like all other countries. Britain is included and caught up in superpower designs and war preparations. It should be self-evident that the development of the class struggle in Britain is inseparably linked to the class struggle internationally. We need to take account of the effects of superpower contention on the world in general and on Britain in particular and to constantly assess its implications for the development of the socialist revolutionary movement. Along with other communist organisations in Britain, the RCL is striving to formulate the revolutionary programme around-which to reconstitute the genuine Communist Party. Everything depends on integrating the universal principles of Marxism-Leninism Mao Zedong Thought with the concrete practice of the revolution in Britain and the actual realities of the world today. This is a continuous and difficult process involving a whole series of theoretical and practical mass work tasks. But whatever the problems one thing is certain – a beginning has been made. A new sense of clarity and unity towards building the party is emerging in the Marxist-Leninist movement. There is a new sense of conscientiousness and urgency as well. After all, without its own political party, strategy and tactics, the working class cannot possibly advance its struggle for power or fulfill any of its pressing internationalist duties.

Inevitably the RCL’s basically correct approach to the question of war and revolution has come under fire from both the “left” and right. This is a good thing. The correct line can only develop and mature in the course of struggle against opportunist lines of all hues, From the Right, the Marxist-Leninist Coordinating Committee accuses the RCL of a “gross distortion of Mao’s Three Worlds Theory.” Very ironic indeed. The RCL states unequivocally that the principle contradiction in British society today is the contradiction between the proletariat and the imperialist ruling class – that the strategic task confronting the working class is the socialist revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. To argue as the MLCC does that the Russian, not the British ruling class, is the main enemy is clearly ridiculous. We cannot accept the MLCC’s opportunist thesis that anti-hegemonism, not socialism, constitutes the strategic stage of the revolution. In our view the struggle to defend and extend national independence against the superpowers is an essential but subordinate aspect of revolutionary strategy.

And now the Association of Communist Workers has re-emerged from hibernation to attack us from the “left”. Their line is particularly interesting of much greater importance than the organisation itself.

The ACW is attempting to take a centrist position between Marxism and “left” revisionism. Invariably the ACW finds itself echoing the Bainsites and the Birchites, covering up its support for Soviet social imperialism with leftist demogogy. The ACW accuses the RCL of “social chauvinism, monstrous distortion and crude falsification of Marxism-Leninism, and a complete departure from it.” (ACW Pamphlet, page 1).

As we shall see shall see the RCL’s only real crime is to have completely departed from Hoxha’s crude falsification of Marxism-Leninism and to have refuted the ACW’s own time-worn trotskyite clap-trap.

But what exactly has provoked the ACW’s tirade? It is this.

We cannot agree with the ACW’s categorical prediction about the next world war: “It would be a war, we repeat, between the two imperialist coalitions.” (Page 3). Along with other communists in Britain, the RCL holds that the third world war will either be an inter-imperialist superpower war, or a revolutionary anti-superpower war. We maintain that the working class must be prepared for either eventuality so that it can fulfill its revolutionary tasks.

Further, “The RCLB are actually not fighting against the hegemonism of the superpowers. They are actually ...fighting for the interests of one imperialist coalition, namely, the one which is part of the NATO alliance under the USA, against the other coalition which is a part of Warsaw Pact, under the leadership of the USSR.” (Page 37). Why? Because as far as international class struggle is concerned, we differentiate between British imperialism, a second world power, and the Superpowers. And then, horror of horrors, we proceed to differentiate between the superpowers by identifying Soviet social imperialism as most aggressive and dangerous of the two.

Unlike the ACW we hold that the working class is not disinterested in the question of national independence. The RCL does not accept that national independence is a taboo subject for revolutionaries in Britain. On the contrary, it is already an important factor in British politics and will become increasingly more important in the future. The struggle against British imperialism’s appeasement of Soviet social imperialism especially, is a vital revolutionary task. It is a component of socialist revolutionary strategy. Dogmatists are incapable of understanding that the fight to defend and extend national independence is above all the task of the working class and working people. Similarly, in the related struggles to force Britain to strengthen its ties with other West European states; to make concessions to the Third World and thus support the main force of the growing united front against superpower domination and war; and, to force Britain to ally itself with socialist China and overcome its subservience to the superpowers – in all this, the working class is the decisive factor. The struggle can only expose, divide and weaken our class enemies and strengthen the revolutionary forces. And just as important, it complements the struggles of the international working class and of the oppressed peoples and nations.

Consequently, unlike the ACW, we maintain that under certain conditions it will be both correct in principle and essential in practice to concede an alliance with that section of the ruling class which is prepared to oppose the superpowers and fight appeasement. The Communist Party will strive might and main precisely to bring about those national and international political conditions. This is the crux of the matter.

In short, unlike the ACW dogmatists the RCL upholds comrade Mao Zedong’s strategic three worlds theory. We are attempting to grasp the relationship between the class struggle in Britain and the class struggle on an international scale, between the strategy for revolution in Britain and the strategy for building the broadest possible world united front against superpower aggression and war.

The ACW opposes the differentiation of the world into three categories and refuses even to attempt an elementary analysis of world politics. It is content to repeat ad-nauseam, and thus render meaningless, the maxim that war is a continuation of politics by other means. And it has created its very own ACW catchphrase, “an inter-imperialist war is probable between the two imperialist coalitions – each coalition being under the leadership of a superpower.” This recurs countless times like a ritual incantation throughout the pamphlet and is not substantiated once. But war is the continuation of politics! Evidently, as far as the ACW is concerned, the politics of the People’s Republic of China and the international working class is of no consequence. The, politics of the national liberation movements, from Kampuchea to Eritrea, from Azania or Zimbabwe to Nicaragua, are irrelevant. The politics of the Third World Countries be they the struggle of the Iranian peoples to defend their dearly-won independence, or the struggle waged by the ASEAN countries on the economic and political front, none of these matter. And what about the contradictions and struggles within the ACW’s precious coalitions? Non-existent. In fact everything is hunky-dory for the “two imperialist coalitions”. All they have to contend with is each other. Contemporary world politics, according to the ACW, is the monopoly of the two monolithic superpower coalitions. The people’s of the world are mere onlookers.

Incredible, but true. This is what the ACW’s approach amounts to; this is the essence of the ACW’s analysis. Only the most hopeless type of petit-bourgeois intellectual, with nothing but an academic interest in politics, can have produced such a puerile “analysis” and be satisfied with such sterile “conclusions”.

The RCL’s stand and basic approach to world politics is well documented and quite well known. We have fought against both right and left deviations and will continue to do so. In our view, the distinguishing features of the present period are: firstly, the restoration of capitalism in the USSR, the disintegration of the socialist camp and Russia’s degeneration into social imperialism and its emergence as the most aggressive and dangerous superpower; secondly, the decline of US imperialism and the steady disintegration of the Western camp it leads. Last but not least, the rise of the Third World, These are the conditions, the real politics that are giving rise to the next world war and on which the international working class bases its global strategy.

We think it very useful to quote some of comrade Mao’s comments on the subject, As far back as 1974, Mao said in conversation with an African head of state,

In my view, the United States and the Soviet Union form the first world. Japan. Europe and Canada, the middle section, belong to the second world. We are the third world... Imperialism does exist in this world. In our opinion, Russia may be called a social imperialist country, and this system engenders war. Not that you or we or the third world wants a world war. This sort of thing happens irrespectively of man’s will.[1]

At the beginning of 1976, Mao pointed out,

The United States wants to protect its interests in the world and the Soviet Union wants to expand; this can in no way be changed. In the era in which classes exist, war is an interval between one peace and another. War is a continuation of politics, that is to say, a continuation of peace. Peace itself is politics.[2]

And as early as October 1970, talking about the contradictions between the superpowers and the second world, Mao added.

We should win over these countries such as Britain, France and West Germany.[3]

Strategy is the determination of the proletariat’s main blow at a given stage of the revolution, the elaboration of a corresponding plan for the disposition of revolutionary forces (the main and second reserves), the fight to carry out this plan. Strategy, wrote Stalin, is not something constant, fixed ’once and for all’, it alters in accordance with the turns in history. Every new historical period requires a new disposition of forces, a new strategic plan for uniting the maximum forces against the principle obstacle and enemy of the revolution. Leninist strategy and tactics constitute the science of leadership of the proletariat’s struggle. These principles are applicable to the revolution in each particular country, but equally to the international class struggle for the elaboration of the general line of the international communist movement at each historical juncture.

Lenin stated that “World political developments are of necessity concentrated on a single focus.” In his day, the single focus was “the struggle of the world bourgeoisie against the Soviet Republic, around which inevitably grouped the Soviet movement of the advanced workers in all countries and....all the national liberation movements in the colonies... ”[4] During the 1930s and 40s the united front focused on the struggle against war and fascism and culminated in the great Anti-fascist War. In the 1950s and 60s comrade Mao Zedong and the CPC advocated the general line of building a broad united front opposed to imperialism.

It should be noted that these correct strategic lines had a number of features. Above all, the united revolutionary front of proletarian socialist movement with the national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples.

We shall see how Stalin and the Soviet Union pursued a consistent and principled foreign policy based on proletarian internationalism, the differentiation of the imperialist powers, and the struggle against war and fascism.

The differentiation of the imperialist powers had enormous consequences. They were not permitted to collude against the Soviet Union and the people of the world. Instead, the Soviet Union exploited contradictions among the imperialist powers in order to win as many direct and indirect allies as possible and isolate the main fascist enemy. To this end the Soviet Union joined the League of Nations and adopted a series of moves with the object of concluding bilateral and multilateral treaties with imperialist and capitalist states to undermine imperialism’s war intrigues and contain the aggressive Axis powers. In May 1934, the Soviet Union signed mutual assistance pacts with France and Czechoslovakia. When Japan launched an all-out invasion of China, when Germany and Italy invaded Republican Spain, and Germany annexed Austria and threatened Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Government called on the non-fascist states to take a firm and united stand to halt aggression, to defend the independence of nations and world peace. The defeat of the fascist powers in the Second World War, the victory of the Chinese revolution and the establishment of the People’s Democracies in Europe, these were the fruits of the creative application of Leninism by the Comintern, by Stalin and Mao Zedong.

But not a single word about any of this in the ACW’s wordy “exposition” on Marxism and war. In the name of upholding the “principles of Leninism” the ACW attempts to body swerve all the facts of our immediate past and side-step all the urgent issues of today.

In our view the only correct strategic, general line for the international communist movement today is embodied in Mao Zedong’s differentiation of the three worlds. Mao, with characteristic genius, made an up-to-date analysis of all the fundamental contradictions at work in the contemporary world, the changes and development of these contradictions, the division and realignment of political and economic forces. Mao has provided the international working class with a clear strategic theory. It identifies the third world peoples and countries as the main revolutionary force in international class struggle. It differentiates between the imperialist powers and identifies the two superpowers; above all Soviet social imperialism, as the main enemy of the world’s peoples. It identifies the middle forces, the second world, which can be won over to the united front against Russian aggression and superpower war.

The ACW sees fit to neither explicitly oppose nor support this indispensable theory. In fact with a nonchalant indifference, or brazen opportunism, the ACW doesn’t even bother to mention the theory of the three worlds, let alone attempt to study, consider and apply it. Their deafening silence on this vital question speaks volumes. Furthermore, every explicit point the ACW does make, plus everything implied, proves conclusively that the ACW rejects the strategic theory.

Of course, for us to merely proclaim support for Mao’s theory would be little or no consequence. Communists in Britain are duty bound to study it in connection with the unfolding class struggle nationally and internationally, to formulate correct policies and implement them among the working masses and so on. Inevitably, there is the constant struggle against errors, against deviations of the left and right, to make the line more correct, more all-sided, more effective in rallying the vanguard and mobilising the masses. But the RCL, the CWM and others have definitely taken a basically correct stand and begun this work in practice. We are entitled to draw a clear of demarcation between ourselves on the one hand, and sham Marxist-Leninists of the ACW ilk on the other. Support or opposition to the strategic theory of the three worlds is indeed a clear line of demarcation between genuine communists and charlatans. The ACW has chosen to do battle against Mao Zedong Thought. That is their problem.


ACW quotes Lenin eclectically, in opposition to the Leninist method concrete analysis. The ACW quotes Lenin to counter the living essence of Leninism – to turn it into a lifeless dogma – to pitch Lenin against Stalin and Mao Zedong.

Take the “defence of the fatherland” slogan as an example. Yes, Lenin did mercilessly expose the social-chauvinist traitors who raised that slogan in the imperialist war. But what the ACW have done is to convert Lenin’s tactical line into a “universal principle”, to be applied irrespective of concrete conditions. According to the ACW the working class in Britain, or any other imperialist country, must never fight to defend national independence – because Lenin said so in 1914. Did he? In fact, refuting just such dogmatism Lenin ticked-off Zinoviev in the following terms:

We are not at all against “defence of the fatherland” in general. You will never find such nonsense in a single, resolution or any of my articles. We are against defence of the fatherland and a defensive position in the imperialist war of 1914 ... But in the imperialist epoch there may be also “just”, “defensive” revolutionary wars namely l. national, 2. civil, 3. socialist and such like.[5]

Writing to Inessa Armand, Lenin emphasises the same point categorically:

In the imperialist war of 1914-1917, between the to imperialist coalitions, we must be against “defence of the fatherland”, since 1.imperialism is the eve of socialism 2. imperialist war is a war of thieves over the booty, 3. in both coalitions there is an advanced proletariat 4. in both the socialist revolution is ripe. Only for these reasons are we against “defence of the fatherland”, only for these reasons.[6]

In the ’West European’ countries the national movement is a thing of the irrevocable past.” (p.34) So runs the title of a section devoted to quoting and amplifying Lenin’s correct theses that in Britain, Germany etc, “the process of forming national states has been consumed.” Here we have a prize example of an aunt-Sally. The ACW concocts ludicrous argument and falsely attributes it to the RCL so that it can cut it to shreds. But the RCL does not fantasise about Roundheads and tilt lances at feudalism. We have raised the question of defending and extending national independence in the context of the fight for socialism. Not of consummating, forming the nation state.

In fact, many problems of national independence exist at the present time. For a start the problem of British imperialism’s reliance on the US and the danger of US entrenchment. But this is not the main danger. Although still the dominant superpower in Britain, the US is on the decline. Then there is the Soviet social imperialist offensive, overwhelmingly political and economic at present, and not as pronounced as in other parts of Europe. Nevertheless the new tsars have made considerable inroads already. This can be measure by the growing appeasement policy towards Russian expansionism practised by sections of British monopoly capitalism, especially those represented by the Labour Party. They ignore these facts and growing trends at our peril.

After overlooking these points the ACW finally comes to the real point at issue. Is the RCLB attempting to drag a national programme into a non-national war? The RCL is “even more opportunist than Rosa Luxemburg; ...The central theme of their views ... is the suggestion that an imperialist war should be opposed with a national programme”. (p.42). In our view, in order to advance in the direction of the socialist revolution the British working class must wage an all-sided and an internationalist struggle. Among other things it must oppose Soviet social imperialist aggression and US entrenchment; it must fight British imperialism’s appeasement towards the new tsars and its subservience to uncle Sam. And just in case it has escaped the ACW’s notice we must point out that this too is fighting British imperialism, exposing its “unsuitability” to rule in the name of the “nation”. These then are the politics we advocate as far as national independence is concerned. And because we understand how war is a continuation of politics (although still only an elementary understanding) we are prepared to consider the very real possibility of a united front, including sections of the imperialist ruling class, against a Soviet war of aggression.

The ACW quote sections of Lenin’s The Junius Pamphlet to support its argument. These are the quotes that deal exclusively with combating Luxemburg’s erroneous attempts to drag a national programme into the imperialist war”. Lenin’s points are as relevant today as ever and should be studied by all comrades struggling against right deviations. But once again, the ACW has systematically “edited-out” of Lenin what it doesn’t like. This is not merely another typical example of their eclectic style. The ACW has censored the main point of Lenin’s pamphlet – the very point that contradicts their negation of “national factors”. We quote a relatively long passage from Junius Pamphlet confident that it fits well into all the arguments we’ve presented here, and attempts to fool no one. There is one other proviso. We urge all comrades who are as concerned to fight the ACW type left revisionists as they are to fight right revisionists, who have no vested interest in covering one deviation with another, to study the whole of Lenin’s remarkably all-sided and relevant pamphlet for themselves and take it to heart.

The chief defect in Junius’s pamphlet ... is its silence regarding the connection between social-chauvinism and opportunism.

The first of Junius’s erroneous propositions is embodied in the fifth thesis of the International group. ’National wars are no longer possible in the epoch of this unbridled imperialism. National interests serve only as an instrument of deception in order to place the working masses at the service of their mortal enemy, imperialism.’ The beginning of the fifth thesis, which concludes with the above statement, discusses the nature of the present war as an imperialist war, It may be that this negation of national wars generally is either an oversight, or an accidental overstatement in emphasising the perfectly correct idea that the present war is an imperialist war, not just a national war....

Junius is perfectly right in emphasising the decisive influence of the ’imperialist atmosphere’ of the present war, in maintaining that behind Serbia stands Russia, ’behind Serbian nationalism stands imperialist Russia’, and that the participation of, say, Holland in the war would likewise be imperialist, for, first, Holland would be defending her colonies and, second, would be allied with one of the imperialist coalitions. That is irrefutable in respect to the present war...

The only mistake, however, would be to exaggerate this truth, to depart from the Marxist requirement concreteness, to apply the appraisal of this to all wars possible under imperialism, to ignore the national movements against imperialism. The sole argument in defence of this thesis, ’national wars are no longer possible’, is that the world has been divided up among a small group of ’great’ imperialist powers and for that reason any war, even if it starts as a national war, is transformed into an imperialist war involving the interest of one of the imperialist powers or coalitions.

The fallacy of this argument is obvious. That all dividing lines, both in nature and society, are conventional and dynamic, and every phenomenon might, under certain conditions, be transformed into its opposite, is, of course, a basic proposition of Marxist dialectics. A national war might be transformed into an imperialist war and vice versa...

Transformation of the present imperialist war of 1914-16 into a national war is highly improbable, for the class that represents progressive development is the proletariat which is objectively striving to transform it into a civil war against the bourgeoisie. Also this; there is no considerable difference between the forces of the two coalitions, and international finance capital has created a reactionary bourgeoisie everywhere. But such a transformation should not be proclaimed impossible: if the European proletariat remains impotent, say, for twenty years; if the present war ends in victories like Napoleon’s and in the subjugation of a number of viable national states; if the transition to socialism of non-European imperialism (primarily Japanese and American) is also held up for twenty years by a war between these two countries, for example, then a great national war in Europe would be possible ...

Further, national wars waged by colonies and semi-colonies in the imperialist era are not only probable but inevitable ...[7]

The last extract from Lenin’s pamphlet we would like to high-light, as a difficult idea of immense importance; here is a national liberation war in which imperialist rivalry is an auxiliary element, one that has no serious importance. This is the very opposite to what we see in the war of 1914-16 (the national element in the Austro-Serbian War is of no serious importance compared with the all determining element of imperialist rivalry). It would be absurd therefore, to apply the concept imperialism indiscriminately and conclude that national wars are ’impossible’.”


The ACW labours under the illusion that the third world war will be in all fundamentals an action replay of the First World War. They quote Lenin at considerable length on the politics that gave rise to and characterised the first imperialist war. Nearly half the pamphlet is devoted to just that. Lenin’s position amounted to this: the war is an inter-imperialist war for the redivision of the world between two evenly matched imperialist coalitions – the working class has no stake in the war. On the contrary the workers of every belligerent state are duty bound to fight for defeat of their own ruling class and transform the war into revolutionary civil war. Fine. But the ACW insists that the working class today must re-enact exactly the particular strategy and tactics developed by Lenin in 1914-1917. The ACW have carefully edited out of the quotes Lenin’s repeated reminders that he was dealing with a particular war, not every war involving imperialist powers in general.

There is a remarkable and uncharacteristically candid sentence tucked away in the pamphlet which sums up the ACW’s lousy position exactly:

“... All that we can say is that the Soviet Union has come to occupy the position today which was occupied by German imperialism at the time of the First World War.” (p.18) This is the essence of the contemporary left-revisionist line on the international Class struggle. Under the guise of handing out even-handed “criticism” of all imperialist powers, it covers up for Soviet social-imperialism, and objectively serves it.

Not surprisingly the ACW has precious little to say about the Second World War. And even that is wholly inaccurate and misleading. The section entitled “The War of 1941-1945” is noticeably short. Less than a page in a long, very long pamphlet of seventy pages. All that concerns the ACW is that we should regard the war in 1939 as identical to 1914;

... an inter-imperialist war, for both Germany and Britain were fighting for robbing colonies and oppressing other countries and not for national independence, etc ... It was not until after the then Socialist Soviet Union was attacked by the Hitlerite fascists that the class character of the war changed.” (p.39) There is an element of truth even in this crude oversimplification. Of course there were certain similarities between the first war and the second. More important still however are the differences.

Contrast the ACW’s bland assertion with Stalin’s dialectical summing up of the differences between the two world wars and the effect of the Soviet Union’s entry into the war in 1941. Stalin said:

In reality the war broke out as an inevitable result of the development of world economic and political forces on the basis of modern monopoly capitalism... The reason is that the un-eveness of the development of capitalist countries usually results, as time passes, in an abrupt disruption of the equilibrium within the world system of capitalism, and that a group of countries which believes itself to be less supplied with raw materials and markets usually attempts to alter the situation and redivide the ’spheres of influence’ in its own favour by means of force.

Thus the first crisis of the capitalist system of world economy resulted in the First Word War, and the second crisis in the Second World War.

This does not mean of course that the Second World War was an exact replica of the first. On the contrary, the Second World War substantially differs in its nature from the First.

One should bear in mind that the principle fascist states Germany, Japan and Italy – before attacking the Allied countries, had destroyed the last remnants of bourgeois democratic liberties at home, established a brutal terroristic regime within their countries, trampled underfoot the principle of the sovereignty and free development of small states, proclaimed that their policy was one of seizure of foreign lands, and declared for all to hear, that their aim was world domination and the extension of the fascist regime to the whole world: while by the seizure of Czechoslovakia and the central provinces of China, the axis states demonstrated that they were ready to carry out their threat concerning the enslavement of freedom-loving nations.

In view of this, as distinct from the First World War, the Second World War against the axis states from the very outset assumed the nature of an anti-fascist war, a war of liberation, one of the tasks of which was to reestablish democratic liberties. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war against the axis states could only strengthen and actually did strengthen the anti-fascist and liberating character of the Second World War.[8]

But, again there is deafening silence from the ACW when it comes to identifying the particular politics and characteristics of the Second World War. And this allows the ACW to imply that the strategy and tactics employed: by the Comintern in the 1930’s were identical to the Bolshevik strategy and tactics of 1914. This is where the ACW’s illusion turns into the ACW lie.

The truth is very different and very instructive. Stalin and the Comintern adhered to the Leninist principles worked out in 1914-1917, not to the strategy and tactics of 1914. The Second War developed under entirely different conditions. It posed new problem’s that had to be solved by the creative application of Leninism, by new ’strategy’ and tactics. Stalin started from the world as it actually was in 1935, with the fascist powers hell-bent on world domination, not as it was in 1914. There is a saying that goes, generals who think in terms of the last war are liable to lose the next. How true. It follows that communists today, armed with Mao’s teachings, start from the world as it is today. Victory cannot be won by departing from the revolutionary principles of Leninism but the new situation demands the elaboration of a new strategy to deal with the superpowers, in particular to contain and defeat the Russian offensive.


The basic proletarian approach to analysing and responding to wars involving imperialist powers was clearly advanced by Lenin and subsequently developed by Stalin and Mao Zedong. Of course Marxism had established long before how politics is in fact the concentrated expression of economics and that war is determined by the relationship between classes. Lenin defended and developed Marxism and completely de-mystified the question of war in the imperialist epoch.

Lenin defined imperialism as moribund capitalism, the highest and last stage of capitalism. With imperialism all the fundamental contradictions of capitalism are intensified to their extreme limit, to breaking point. Imperialism is the eve of the proletarian socialist revolution. It sharpens the contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie; it brings the oppressed nations into open revolt against colonial oppression; it intensifies the uneven development of the capitalist powers and leads to wars for the redivision of the world. In opposition to the social chauvinists of the Second International Lenin quoted the bourgeois military expert Von C1ausewitz, “war is nothing but the continuation of political relations, with the intervention of other means”

World War One was an inter-imperialist war for the redivision of the world between two more or less evenly matched imperialist coalitions.

“The real essence of the present war,” wrote Lenin, “is the struggle between England. France and Germany for the redivision of the colonies and for the plunder of the competing countries.”[9] British imperialism’s objective was to extend its supremacy by smashing its most dangerous rival – Germany, seize Germany’s African colonies, seize Mesopotamia and Palestine from Turkey and strengthen its foothold in Egypt. Britain found its natural allies in the other “possessing” powers, France and Russia. French imperialism wanted to “win back” the Saar Basin and Alsace-Lorraine, the two iron and coal rich regions lost to Germany in 1871. Tsarist Russia strove for the dismemberment of Turkey so that it could take Constantinople and the Black Sea straits and realise its dream of access to the Mediterranean. Russia also wanted Galicia, a part of Austro-Hungary. Italy was brought into the Triple Entente with the promise of the Tyrol and Trieste.

German imperialism’s objective was to knock out Britain and replace her as the dominant European and colonial power. Germany also wanted France’s colonies and the Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic provinces from Russia. Paradoxically, Germany found its Triple Alliance partners in the decrepit Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. And in the background stoop the greatest of all capitalist powers, the USA, playing off both sides, selling arms to both sides, and then cynically joining the Entente all to advance its objective of world hegemony, no more, no less. These were the politics which proceeded and characterised the war. The working class could have no stake in such a war. “This war is in a treble sense a war between slave owners to fortify slavery.” wrote Lenin. “This is a war firstly, to fortify the enslavement of the colonies by means of a ’fairer’ distribution and subsequent more ’concerted’ exploitation of them; secondly, to fortify the oppression of other nations within the great powers; for both Austria & Russia (Russia more and much worse than Austria) maintain their rule only such oppression, intensifying it by means of war; and thirdly to fortify and prolong, wage slavery, for the proletariat is split up & suppressed, while the capitalists gain, making fortunes out of the war, aggravating national prejudices and intensify reaction.” With the outbreak of war virtually every European Social democratic party rallied to the “defence” of its respective “fatherland”.

The Second International collapsed. The imperialist war had strengthened opportunism, furthermore, it turned opportunism into fully fledged social-chauvinism and the opportunists’ alliance with their bourgeoisie into the open. In direct opposition to this treachery Lenin stressed: duty of the class conscious proletariat to defend its class solidarity, its internationalism, its socialist convictions against the chauvinism raised by the ’patriotic’ bourgeois cliques of all countries. Lenin added, “Transforming the present inter-imperialist war into civil war is the only correct proletarian slogan; it was indicated by Commune. ... and logically follows from the conditions of an imperialist war among highly developed capitalist countries.”[10] Lenin adds, “The national element in the Austro-Serbian war occupies entirely subordinate place & does not alter the general imperialist of the war.”[11]

The blood letting of 1914-1918 solved nothing in imperialist relations. Victory had fallen to the superior resources of the “possessing” powers, and not the rising imperialist forces. Britain and France endeavoured in the post war treaties to subjugate the losers economically and politically. At the same time Britain tried to retain the “balance of power in Europe”, by not allowing Germany to become too weak or France too strong. The victorious states redistributed colonies and mandates, adding them to their already extensive possessions. European frontiers were fixed and attempts were made to regulate their contention for the conquest and plunder of China. Consequently the disproportion between the victor states and the rising imperialist states, especially Germany, was enormously increased. The treaties of spoilation which followed the war, in a word, only succeeded in sowing the seeds of future war.


The Second World War arose under the particular conditions of the general crisis of capitalism. Capitalism had developed further down the road of decay. It had developed new forms which found their typical expression in fascism the open, terrorist dictatorship over the working class of the reactionary and chauvinist sections of the imperialist ruling class.

The victory of working class power over one-sixth of the globe was an all important new factor in world politics. Ever since the establishment of the socialist state, a revolutionary headquarters with growing strength and influence, world politics has been in essence action and reaction around this event. Imperialism could never be reconciled to the existence of the socialist Soviet Union. Nevertheless, every British attempt to draw the imperialist powers into a united crusade against the Soviet Union collapsed against the contradiction of rival interests, ably aided and abetted by Soviet diplomacy.

Soviet Union’s foreign policy was based first and foremost on proletarian internationalism. Secondly, while the tendency towards fascism existed in every imperialist state, Stalin differentiated between the fascist and non-fascist states. The emergence of the fully fascist axis powers threatened not only the Soviet Union, the working class and oppressed nations. Communists clearly understood, it threatened the established supremacy of the non-fascist powers as well. The Soviet Union was able to utilise this contradiction and at the same time build a powerful united front movement which finally culminated in the great Anti-fascist war.

The struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations for liberation was gathering strength and exercising a decisive influence on world politics. It should not be forgotten that Lenin had resurrected and developed the revolutionary principles of Marxism on the national and colonial question. The 1905 Russian Revolution bore all the characteristics of anti-imperialist struggle. It had an enormous impact on the rapidly awakening national movements of the near and far east, particularly on the national democratic movements’ revolutions of Persia in 1906, Turkey in 1908 and China in 1911.

The October Revolution completed this development. By destroying the tsarist empire – the prison house of nations – it “created a new front of revolutions against world imperialism, extending from the proletarians of the west through the Russian revolution, to the oppressed peoples of the east.”[12] The national element which Lenin said had occupied an entirely subordinate place in the First World War was to exert a decisive influence on the Second.

Imperialist relations between the wars make for a complex picture. The fact that the ACW has not one word to say about them is a devastating self-exposure.

As we have already stated, British imperialism endeavoured to retain supremacy in Europe by preventing Germany from becoming too weak or France too strong. US imperialism had emerged as the real victor of World War 1 – it had changed from being a debtor state into the richest and most powerful state. It would now do its utmost to gain a foothold in Europe and the far-East while consolidating its domination over Latin America and the Pacific. Britain for all its might was now heavily in debt to the US and lagged far behind it economically and industrially. The rivalry between the US and Britain became the principal inter-imperialist contradiction. France had emerged from the war severely weakened. It strove to ruin Germany and play off Britain and the US to establish its own hegemony in Europe. Japan had enlarged its spheres of influence in the far-east and the Pacific during the war, and was now coming increasingly into contradiction with the US.

Owing to the uneven development of capitalism and the massive support of Britain and the US, Germany had recovered its economic might by the 1930’s and was outstripping Britain and France in all major areas of production. German imperialism needed to regain its lost territories and colonies cast off the gigantic burdens and restrictions imposed on it at Versailles in order to seize hegemony first in Europe and then the world. US and British imperialism had lavished and on Germany partly to stave off another revolutionary crisis there but also in preparation for war to crush the Soviet Union. When the British government had first attempted to enroll Germany as the spearhead of an anti-Soviet crusade in 1928, the overture broke down against German demands for the return of her colonies and freedom to rearm without restriction. Britain opposed the first demand, and France rejected the second. There was a third factor –the German working class. Though both 1918 and 1924 revolutions had been mercilessly crushed, the German working class had not been broken and no German government dare risk a Soviet Russia. Post war Germany became a focal point of interclass struggle. The outcome of the class struggle in Germany would have an enormous inf1uence on the development of world politics.

It took international imperialism and the German bourgeoisie a full fifteen years to break the resistance of the German workers and establish the nazi dictatorship in 1933. This was accomplished above all, within the workers movement by German social-democracy.

With indecent haste Britain, France and fascist Italy rushed to sign an Act of Accord and Co-operation with Nazi Germany. A year earlier Japan had refused Britain and France’s “offer” for her to attack the USSR but now Japan had an ideal partner in Germany. The imperialist dream of a two-pronged assault on Russia seemed on the point of realisation. Henceforth the dominant section of British imperialism would pursue a strategy of egging on Germany and Japan against the Soviet Union-diverting the fascist offensive away from Britain’s spheres of influence – with the delightful prospect of seeing both sides embroiled in war, Britain drawing on the profits of war, and then moving in to pick up the pieces. This was the essence of Chamberlain’s “non-intervention” and appeasement policies. Not naive pacifism, but the calculated and cynical policy of an aristocratic warmonger. Similarly the fascist elements of French imperialism headed by Laval wanted to give Hitler a free-hand in the east in return for a guarantee for its frontier and interests.

Initially, nazi strategy was based on allying with Britain and neutralising France to establish hegemony in Europe and isolate the Soviet Union. It would then crush the Soviet Union, which it considered the “weaker enemy”, strike down France and then press all its, colonial demands against Britain. In time Hitler came to realise that the Western powers, not Russia were the weaker enemy and would change his strategy accordingly. At all costs Hitler intended to avoid war on two fronts in order to pick off his enemies one at a time.

And so what appeared to trotskyites as an invincible monolithic anti-Soviet coalition was in reality a mass of irreconcilable contradictions. Added to this there were of course the contradictions within each imperialist ruling class. Churchill was a rabid anti-communist but opposed appeasing Hitler and favoured an “understanding” with Stalin. Churchill represented the more far sighted section of the ruling class which realised Hitler posed the immediate danger to British interests. Russia could be “used” and then “dealt with” later.

The formidable anti-Soviet alliance would breakdown time and again in the face of these irreconcilable imperialist contradictions and interests. The scene was not set for a united anti-Soviet crusade but for imperialist back-stabbing, for the proverbial cross and double-cross.

All aided and abetted by the principled peace policy of the Soviet Union in consent with the struggles of the international working class and the oppressed peoples and nations.


Early in 1933 Japan seized Manchuria and left the League of Nations. Germany soon followed suit and categorically rejected the Soviet Union’s proposals for a non-aggression pact. Russia was now clearly threatened in the east and west.

Alarmed, the newly formed United Front government in France invited Russia to join the League, which she did in 1934. In May 1935 both France and Czechoslovakia agreed to mutual assistance pacts with the Soviet Union. Ominously Britain and Poland refused to be co-signatories to the agreements.

The pacts stipulated that if either party was attacked by a European power, the other would immediately come to its aid. Stalin declared his “complete understanding and approval of the policy of national defence pursued by France for maintaining its armed forces at the level corresponding to the needs of its security”. Without such a standpoint the anti-fascist alliance would have been meaningless. All this was fully consistent with Soviet foreign policy which differentiated between the aggressive and non-aggressive imperialist powers with a view of isolating and attacking the more dangerous enemy. This did not prevent the French communists from struggling against its ruling class, voting against military budgets and two year military conscription while putting pressure on the government to strengthen its alliance with the Soviet Union and exposing any deviation away from such a policy.

Of course the Trotskyites slandered the policy of both the Soviet Union and the French party, especially the alleged contradiction between the two. The fact is however that while the overall strategic objective of the Soviet and French communists were identical, their concrete role was entirely different. Hence the difference in tactics. The Soviet-French mutual assistance pact assisted the United Front government, further isolated Laval’s fascists, enhanced the prestige of the Soviet Union and communism among the French working class and enabled France to become a bulwark of peace in Europe. The positive peace policy of the French working class assisted the Soviet Union. Far from being contradictory, the different tactics of the Soviet state and the French party complemented each other.

In 1935 events moved with even greater momentum. Germany tore-up the Versailles and Locarno treaties and begun to build a huge conscript army. With the blessing of a new Anglo-German Naval Treaty which ostensibly limited the size of her navy, Germany started the construction of her U-boat fleet. In March fascist Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia), the last major independent country on the African continent. The League of Nations invoked sanctions against Italy which only the Soviet Union applied in practice. Japan proceeded to invade the whole of northern China. Imperialism was rushing headlong into war.

The Seventh Congress of the Communist International, 1935.

It was at this crucial juncture that the Communist International convened its 7th Congress, from July 25th-August 20th, 1935. The development of the fascist war offensive had drastically altered the world situation. With true Leninist flexibility the Comintern changed its strategy and tactics accordingly. The new strategic orientation of the Comintern had vast implications. On an international scale it projected nothing short of a great anti-fascist peace alliance with the Soviet Union and the international working class at its core. The Congress devoted much attention to the development of the people’s front movement in the respective capitalist countries, as the foundation of the whole struggle against fascism and war. Especially, the Congress noted the progress made by the parties in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. In particular the Communist Party of China was forging a broad anti-imperialist united front and leading the war of resistance to Japan. In Indo-China, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, Malaya, Egypt and Syria the parties were winning the leadership of the national liberation movement.

The main Congress Report was made by George Dimitrov. In view of the widespread confusion as to what fascism actually was, Dimitrov paid considerable attention to analysing and defining its class character. He reiterated the famous analysis made by the Executive Committee of the Comintern (ECCI) in 1933: “fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital”. Furthermore, “the accession to power of is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination by the bourgeoisie –bourgeois democracy – by another form – open terrorist dictatorship. It would be a mistake to ignore this distinction”. Fascism “is unbridled aggression in relation to other nations”. In particular “German fascism is acting as the spearhead of international counter-revolution, as the chief instigator of imperialist war: as the initiator of a crusade against the Soviet Union, the great fatherland the working people of the whole world”.[13]

The Resolution on the War Danger was based upon the famous Lenin-Luxembourg thesis on the tasks of the working class parties adopted by Stuttgart Congress of the 2nd International in 1907. The Resolution stated: “The Communists, while fighting also against the illusion that war can be eliminated while the capitalist system still exists, exert and will exert every effort to prevent war. Should a new imperialist world war break out, despite all efforts of the working class to prevent it, the Communists will strive to lead the opponents of war, organised in the struggle for peace, to the struggle for the transformation of the imperialist war into civil war against the fascist instigators of war against the bourgeoisie, for the overthrow of capitalism”, While pointing out that, “The main contradiction in the camp of the imperialists is the Anglo-American antagonism”, the war danger emanated mainly from German fascism, “Being the chief instigators of war the German fascists, who strive for the hegemony of German imperialism in Europe, raise the question of changing the boundaries of Europe at the expense of their neighbours by means of war”. Nazi Germany was “organising a war of revenge against France, dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, annexation of Austria, destruction of the independence of the Baltic States, which they are striving to convert into a base for attack on the Soviet Union”.

Having stated that “a new partition of the world has actually already begun,” the resolution points out, “there is a tendency, among a number of other countries to maintain the status quo. At the present time this tendency is represented on a world scale by the US; in Europe, primarily France; the efforts of these two leading imperialist powers to maintain the status quo are supported by several smaller countries (the little and Balkan Entente and some of the Baltic states where independence is threatened by a new imperialist war.”

Here, the cynical war mongering role of British Imperialism is clearly identified; “Dominant circles of the British bourgeoisie support German armaments in order to weaken the hegemony of France on the European continent, to turn the spearhead of German armaments from the west to the east and to direct Germany’s aggressiveness against the Soviet Union. By this policy Great Britain is striving to set up a counterbalance to the US on a world wide scale, and simultaneously, to strengthen the anti-Soviet tendencies not only in Germany but also of Japan and Poland. This policy of British imperialism is one of the factors accelerating the outbreak of imperialist war.”[14]

The Road to Munich

In February 1936 the Popular front came to power in Spain and set up the Republic. The carefully planned fascist counter attack began in July. Germany and Italy lavished military aid on Franco and then proceeded to invade Spain. The British and French governments repeatedly rejected the Spanish government’s efforts to but arms. The “Berlin Rome Axis” was formalised in October 1936. Japan joined a month later; the notorious Anti-Comintern pact was born. While the Soviet Union shipped enormous supplies of weapons and food and the International Brigade fought heroically with the Republic, Chamberlain, under the guise of “non-interference” and “strict impartiality” was aiding and abetting the fascists. By March 1937, German, Italian, British and French warships were jointly policing the Spanish coast. Furthermore Britain was making thinly disguised efforts to set up an anti-soviet bloc to take “non-intervention” to its logical conclusions and prepare the way for an attack on the Soviet Union.

By March 1988 Hitler annexed Austria after having given his word that “Germany neither intends or wishes to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria, or to annex Austria.” The Soviet Union, calling on all the powers to take a “firm and unambiguous stand in regard to the problem of the collective salvation of peace”, to unite and collectively defend the independence of a country threatened by aggression. Britain rejected the proposals as “inopportune”.

Having occupied Austria, Germany turned its attention to Czechoslovakia. The nazi propaganda machine began a “war of nerves” against the Czechs, bombarding them with threats and false accusations. At the Anglo-French-soviet talks in April 1938 the Soviet Union offered to fight alongside the Czechs if either Britain or France would be willing to resist nazi aggression. Kalinin stated that the USSR would carry out its treaty obligations to France and Czechoslovakia to the letter, he added “a firm stand against the aggressor is the fundamental solution to the present international tension.”

In September Hitler demanded Czechoslovakia relinquish Sudetenland to the Reich. The Czechs responded by manning its western defences called on France to honour its treaty obligation with armed support. But France, encouraged by Britain and the US was more interested in appeasing Hitler and forming an anti-Soviet bloc.

On his fourth hectic flight to Germany, Chamberlain met with Hitler, Mussolini and Daladier at the Munich thieves’ kitchen. The notorious Munich agreement of September 1938 handed the Sudetenland with its 3 million inhabitants, the Pilsen armaments factory and all the Czech frontier defences, lock, stock and barrel over to Germany. In return Hitler and Mussolini gave an assurance, guaranteed by Britain and France, not to occupy the defenceless remnants of Czechoslovakia.

Neither the Czech government nor the Russians were consulted. On no account did Britain and France want the Soviet Union to go to war before nazi Germany was strong enough – this would only have increased Russia’s power and prestige, severely weakened Germany, and set-back

Eighteenth Congress of the CPSU(B) 1939

In his report to the 18th Congress of the CPSU (B) (Communist Party of Soviet Union (Bolshevik) in March 1939 Stalin stated,

A new imperialist war is already in its second year, a war waged over a huge territory stretching from Shanghai to Gibraltar and involving over 500 million people. The map of Europe, Africa and Asia is being forcibly re-drawn. Here is a list of the most important events during the period under review which marked the beginning of the new imperialist war. In 1935 Italy attacked and seized Abyssinia. In the summer of 1936 Germany and Italy organised military intervention in Spain. Germany entrenching herself in the north of Spain and in Spanish Morocco, and Italy in the south of Spain and in the Balearic Islands. Having seized Manchuria, Japan in 1937 invaded North and Central China, occupied Peking, Tientsin and Shanghai and began to oust her foreign competitors from the occupied zone. In the beginning of 1938 Germany seized Austria, and in the autumn of 1938 the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia. At the end of 1938 Japan seized Canton, at the beginning of 1939 the island of Hainan...

Stalin added “... Three aggressive states, and the new imperialist war launched by them have upset the entire system of the post-war peace regime...All this in defiance of the interests of the non-aggressive states. It is a distinguishing feature of the new imperialist war that it has not yet become universal a world war. The war is being waged by aggressor states, wherein every way infringe upon the interests of the non-aggressive states, primarily England. France and USA, while the latter draw back and retreat making concession after concession to the aggressors... Thus we are witnessing an open redivision of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states, without the least attempt at resistance and even with a certain amount of connivance on the part of the latter”.

Stalin does not attribute this to weakness. On the contrary, “combined the non-aggressive, democratic states are unquestionably stronger than the fascist states, both economically and in the military sense.”

He attributes their policy firstly to “fear that a revolution may break out if war assumes worldwide proportions. Learning from victory of the socialist revolution in Russia during World War I, they are afraid that the second imperialist war may also lead to the victory of the revolution in one or several countries.” The ”chief reason for rejection of collective security and collective resistance to the aggressors “non-intervention, neutrality” is far more sinister.” The policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war and, consequently transforming the war into world war not to hinder Germany, say from enmeshing herself in European affairs, from embroiling herself in a war with the Soviet Union, to allow all the belligerents to sink deeply into the mire of war and encourage them surreptitiously in this: to allow them to weaken and exhaust one another, and then, when they have become weak enough, to appear on the scene with fresh strength, to appear, of course, ’in the interests of peace” and to dictate conditions to the enfeebled belligerents. It must be remarked, however, that the big and dangerous political game attempted by the supporters of the policy of non-intervention may end in a serious fiasco for them”.[15]

In the Spring of 1939 the nazi propaganda machine turned its attention to Poland. In March, in violation of all the “promises” made at Munich, Germany occupied the remainder or Czechoslovakia, capturing 3,000 artillery pieces, 2,000 tanks, 2,000 air craft as well as the Skoda and Brno works. The Hungarian fascists seized Carpasho, in the Ukraine. The Chamberlain Government hastened to give Poland a military guarantee, without so much as informing the USSR. Hitler responded by contemptuously renouncing the German-Polish non-aggression pact and Anglo-German Naval Treaty. On April 17th Italy invaded Albania. Britain gave worthless guarantees to Greece and Romania; again without consulting Russia. A week later Chamberlain proposed that the Soviet Union unilaterally guarantee Poland and Romania. This amounted to undertaking to defend a country about to be attacked.

Soviet reaction to Hitler’s coup was swift. On April 17th Stalin proposed convening a conference with Britain, France, Poland, Romania and Turkey to consider joint action against aggression and a mutual assistance pact Between the USSR, Britain, France and Poland. The terms of the proposal were as follows: immediate assistance including military aid, to any east European country adjoining the Soviet Union between the Baltic and Black seas should they fall victim to aggression. Chamberlain rejected the full proposal as ”premature” and pressurised Poland to do the same. The British and French Governments insisted that the Soviet Union guarantee their security but refused to guarantee the security of the USSR and its neighbours. Furthermore Britain was still holding secret negotiations with Germany with the aim of diverting nazi aggression eastwards.

On May 11th the Japanese army occupying Manchuria invaded the USSR. The stage seemed set for a two pronged onslaught on the Soviet Union. Stalin had warned Britain and France that unless they came to terms with the Soviet Union she would come to terms with Germany. Finally, a full ten weeks after the fall of Prague and the Soviet Union’s triple Alliance proposals negotiations opened in Moscow. Failure was planned the start. Britain and France refused even to consider giving a military guarantee to the USSR. It has since become known that while Britain was sabotaging the long-delayed negotiations with Russia, Hudson and Wilson held secret talks with Wohlat in London. They agreed to renounce the guarantee just given to Poland if Germany and Britain could work out a division of spheres of influence. At this critical juncture the Soviet Union pulled off its great diplomatic victory – the German Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939. It destroyed the Anglo-French-US stratagem of embroiling the Soviet Union and Germany in a war after which they could move in and pick up the pieces. Its immediate effect was to crack the fascist block down the middle. With its western borders secure the Soviet Union was able to concentrate its forces on defeating Japan in the east, which it accomplished in three months. Stalin had succeeded in getting Hitler to double-cross Japan and his secret collaborators Chamberlain and Daladier. Nevertheless the Soviet leaders knew full well that sooner rather than later the Axis powers would fall on the Soviet Union. The pact gave the USSR nearly two years to prepare for war.

Mao Zedong summed up the significance of the pact as follows:

... The Soviet-German non-aggression treaty is the result of the growing socialist strength of the Soviet Union and the policy of peace... the treaty has shattered the intrigues by which the reactionary international bourgeoisie represented by Chamberlain and Daladier sought to instigate a Soviet-German war, has broken the encirclement of the Soviet Union by the German, Italian, Japanese anti-communist bloc, strengthened peace between the Soviet Union and Germany, and safeguarded the progress of socialist construction in the Soviet Union. In the East it deals a blow to Japan and helps China; it strengthens the position of China’s forces of resistance to Japan and deals a blow to the capitulators. All this provides a basis for helping the peoples throughout the world to win freedom and liberation.[16]

Hitler was banking on British and French appeasement. He was convinced that having been double-crossed they would be even more frantic to appease. Nazi strategy was clearly, as Stalin predicted, first the destruction of the flabby western powers, and then the mobilisation of their industries and manpower for the assault on the USSR. On September 1st German troops poured into Poland and took Warsaw, two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. Mao wrote:

The outbreak of the imperialist world war is the result of the attempt of the imperialist countries to extricate themselves from a new economic and political crisis. Whether on the German side or on the Anglo-French, the war is unjust, predatory and imperialist in character. The Communist Parties throughout the world must firmly oppose the war and also the criminal actions of the social democratic parties in betraying the proletariat by supporting it. The socialist Soviet Union is persevering as before in its policy of peace, is maintaining strict neutrality towards both belligerents.[17]

The expectation had been that if and when it came to war the USSR would be allied to the western democracies. This would have given the war an entirely anti-fascist democratic content. This had been the objective of Communist policy for several years. But the treachery of the “men of Munich” had made this course utterly impossible. Therefore a policy of non-support had to be adopted – a major expression of this was the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact itself.

In mid-September the Red Army liberated eastern Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and parts of White Russia and the Ukraine, all of which had been severed from Russia by the imperialists in 1920. The Soviet Union regained its lost territory, rescued millions of people from imminent conquest and established a strong defence to block the nazi advance. Churchill, then head of the Admirality, had the courage to state amidst a howl of abuse, ”That the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the nazi menace. Nazi designs upon the Baltic states and upon the Ukraine must come to a dead stop”.

But the dominant section of the British ruling class presented Soviet Union’s action as a blow against Britain, although Britain was technically at war with Germany, not with Russia: The anti-Soviet campaign in the press reached hysterical proportions. In October 1939 the Communist International issued a manifesto on the Anglo-German war. It declared, ”the war is the continuation of the many years of imperialist strife in the camp of capitalism... Such is the real meaning of this war which is an unjust reactionary imperialist war. In this war the blame falls on all the capitalist governments, and primarily the ruling classes of the belligerent states. The working class cannot support such a war... no support for the policy of the ruling classes aimed at continuing and spreading the imperialist slaughter. Demand the immediate cessation of war!’’

This was the “phoney war” period, as an American correspondent aptly described it. The men of Munich were still in power and still hoped to “switch” the war against the Soviet Union and no decisive action was taken against Germany. Chamberlain stated his intentions Quite explicitly when he told the House of Commons in November, ”None of us knows how long the war will last; none of us knows in what direction it will develop; none of us knows when it is ended who will stand by our side and who will be against us”.

Anglo-French intrigues to “switch” the war went into full gear over Finland. Finland was governed by the fascist regime headed by Mannerheim, an ex-Tsarist general. Leningrad, the Soviet Union’s principal arms producing centre was in shelling distance from the Finnish border, and the Soviet Baltic ports could be completely bottled up by hostile submarines in Finnish waters. The Soviet Union could not but be extremely anxious, about an attack from Finland. In 1936 the British and Germans had helped build the “impregnable Mannerheim defences”, and all along had been supplying Finland with munitions and aircraft to establish a potential northern front against the USSR. The Soviet government asked the Finnish government to negotiate frontier changes around Leningrad. Britain and France persuaded the Finns to refuse, hop1ng to bring about a war with all its many possibilities of intervention by themselves, the nazis or both. Confronted with this intolerable situation the Soviet Union acted decisively. On November 30th the Red Army crossed the frontier, Britain and France offered to send 100,000 troops. In March the Red Army destroyed the whole plan arriving through the “impregnable” Mannerheim line in a few days. Britain and France repeated their offer, adding that they would brook resistance from Norway or Sweden to the passage of troops.

Mannerheim could see the game was up and sued for peace. Britain and could still not take “no” for an answer and again repeated the offer but Finland signed the peace treaty on 12th March.

The “phoney” war ended abruptly when German imperialism had exploited Anglo-French appeasement to the maximum. In April the nazis invaded Denmark and Norway to secure the supply of Scandinavian iron ore. Chamberlain was finally booted out of office and Churchill brought in to head a coalition government. On that same day, May 10th 1940, Germany struck at France through neutral Belgium and overran Holland to secure its right flank. Nazi troops cut through the French lines and reached the Channel coast by May 21st. The humiliating defeats suffered by the British armies culminated in the Dunkirk fiasco. By the end of June, Paris fell and Marshall Petain sued for peace; Germany would occupy northern France and the Atlantic coast, leaving the centre and south “free” with a capital at Vichy. Italy declared war on Britain.

A peace offer from Hitler, confirming his new acquisitions, was rejected by Churchill. The nazis now prepared for an invasion of Britain; the “Battle of Britain”, the “Night Blitz” the U-boat war, and the war in North Africa.

With its army destroyed Britain was about to fall when the Soviet Union made a sudden move which saved it. The Red Army occupied the former Russian territory of Bessarabia, then in the hands of Romania. This dramatic act forced Hitler to relax his mounting pressure against Britain. Mortally afraid of a two front war, the fuhrer was compelled to consolidate Germany’s position in the Balkans and to strengthen forces on the Russian border.

In October 1940 Germany occupied Romania to safeguard its main source of oil; then Italy launched its disastrous invasion of Greece. The Yugoslavian people overthrew the government which was prepared to collaborate with Hitler. In April 1941 the Germans moved into Yugoslavia and on into Greece. Meanwhile after initial setbacks, the Axis powers were recovering in North Africa and the Middle East. The Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria, cleared Hitler’s right flank for his next, and ultimately fatal venture. With France knocked out and with Britain without a foothold on the continent, the Axis powers decided it was time to crush the Soviet Union. The German General Staff reckoned it could all be done in 8 weeks. The decision had been taken in December 1940; and after months of quiet preparation the blow was launched in June 1941.

On June 22nd 1941, Nazi Germany and Finland invaded the Soviet Union.


With a smug contempt for facts the ACW asserts:

It is most probably known even to the RCLB comrades that the Second World War started not in 1941, but in 1939. (p.39)

We confess. We know no such thing. The RCLB labours under the common misconception that Second World War actually began in 1937, not 1939. In March 1939, six months before Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, Stalin summed up the international situation in the following way:

A new imperialist war is already in its second year, a war waged over a huge territory stretching from Shanghai to Gibraltar and involving over five hundred million people. The map of Europe, Africa and Asia, is being forcibly redrawn...

By September 1939 (after the Munich sell-out, the complete annexation of Czechoslovakia and after the collapse of the Anglo-French-Soviet talks) Mao stated categorically:

From now on the situation will inevitably develop into one of direct conflict between the two big imperialist blocs... The second imperialist war has entered a new stage![18]

By slight of hand the ACW has rewritten history. It has written out of history the anti-fascist, national liberation wars and struggles being waged by the Abyssinian: Spanish, Chinese, Austrian, Czech and then the Polish peoples, prior to the Anglo-German war. The ACW has written out of history two years of anti-imperialist struggle because they do not correspond to the assertion that the Second World War was initially a purely inter-imperialist war.

According to the ACW, World War Two developed through two distinct stages 1939-1949 and 1941-1945. This omits the first stage 1937-1939. To quote from their pamphlet again:

... The CPGB correctly regarded the war in 1939 as an inter imperialist war, for both Germany and Britain were fighting for robbing colonies and oppressing other countries and not for national Liberation... It was not until after the then socialist Soviet Union was attacked by the Hitlerite fascists that the class character of the war changed.

According to the ACW therefore a purely inter-imperialist war is transformed into a wholly antifascist war. This is metaphysics not Marxism-Leninism. Dialectical and historical materialism teaches that things in nature and society are indeed transformed into their opposites, that the secondary aspect of a contradiction can become the principle aspect, and so on. But a stone can never become a chicken. A purely inter-imperialist war cannot become a purely anti-fascist war. An egg certainly can become a chicken in the right conditions. A mainly anti-fascist war can become a mainly anti-imperialist war and then mainly an anti-fascist war again. This is the case with the Second World War.

The war developed through three inter-related stages, not two distinct stages. Britain’s war with Germany between 1939-1941 was inter-imperialist. The ACW gets no marks for acknowledging the fact. But even this must be seen in the context of the anti-fascist struggles being waged before 1939. To these we must add the struggles of the Danish, Norwegian, Belgian, Dutch, French, Romanian, Yugoslavian, Greek and Bulgarian people against fascism and German occupation between 1939-1941; that is, before the Soviet Union entered the war. Clearly it is a complete nonsense to describe the overall character of the war up until 1941 as essentially identical to the war in 1914.

German conquest of the European imperialist states changed the tasks and targets of the revolution in each particular country. For all intents and purposes the “national” bourgeois state was smashed, defeated. Those parts of the state machine that were preserved were assimilated into the nazi occupation regime. The tendency of the imperial-ruling class to split into three was completed – one group united with the Germans; another group allied itself with the Anglo-American imperialists; and the third group vacillated between the two. The principle contradiction changed from being the contradiction between proletariat and the bourgeoisie, now the Germans and their collaborators became the principle target. The working class was faced with the task not of launching a civil war for socialism, as in 1914, but of uniting the whole people in the struggle to recapture national independence. The people included the anti-fascist, patriotic sections of monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie. The communists of imperialist France and Belgium raised the banner of national resistance, as did the communists of oppressed Greece and Bulgaria, before the Soviet came into the World War. According to the ACW’s petit-bourgeois logic they and the Dutch, Norwegian and Danish communists should be criticised for social-chauvinism. We obviously disagree. If anything it may emerge after deeper study that certain parties hesitated, were somewhat indecisive, in launching the resistance movements against nazi occupation. It is possible that the Comintern’s fundamental correct position was not clear enough that it tended to accommodate rather than criticise the rigidity displayed by some western parties.

The only definite conclusion we are able to arrive at here is this, the imperialist Anglo-German war ran parallel to the anti-fascist wars struggles of the oppressed nations under the fascist boot.


A comprehensive study of the Communist Party of Great Britain’s (CPGB) policies preceding and during World War 2 is both essential and long overdue. The RCL cannot accomplish such a task at present and is certainly not going to attempt it here. The absence of a systematic summing-up of the positive and negative lessons of our immediate history is a big problem. But this does not excuse the ACW’s brazen falsification of history.

The definite implication in the ACW pamphlet is that the CPGB’s up until June 1941 was to strive for the defeat of the ruling class and the conversion of the imperialist war into civil war. This is not spelt out – in fact nothing about the CPGB’s strategy and tactics is spelt out. But given that the ACW “approves” of the CPGB’s line, and the whole thrust of their argument throughout the pamphlet is that Lenin’s strategy and tactics in 1914 hold good in all wars between imperialist powers – the only possible deduction is that, according to the ACW, the CPGB advocated and implemented the strategy of revolutionary defeatism. This is simply not true.

The CPGB, for all its weaknesses, and they were serious, was the political party of the working class. It alone stood in the vanguard, of the revolutionary, anti-imperialist, anti-fascist struggles of the British working class. From 1935 onwards, and more clearly and consciously from 1937, the CPGB’s strategy was for building a broad united front in Britain and on a world scale, against fascism and war, against appeasement and collusion with the nazis, for the defence of world peace, for the advance of the national liberation struggles in the colonies, for the defence of the Soviet Union and the victory of socialism.

Let us look at some outstanding examples of the CPGB’s line at important junctures of World War Two.

When in 1935, Mussolini’s armies invaded Abyssinia the Party consistently exposed the National Government’s pro-fascist policies. “The workers hate and distrust the National government that is why they are fearful about supporting any policy that seems in the slightest way to indicate support for the National Government”. But, “every person who desires to maintain peace, retard the advance of fascism and defend the Soviet Union must be prepared to use every means and take full advantage of all existing institutions and imperialist contradictions, that can place stumbling blocks in the path of the war mongers. To preserve peace, we must bring into play the full force of working class action and ’sanctions’ carried out in terms of the League of Nations covenant.” To this end the Party put forward an eleven point programme which skilfully combined the call to action with demands’ on the Government to honour its treaty obligations. On the one hand, the Party fought to free the working class of any illusions in the National Government. On the other it made a clear differentiation between British imperialism and the fascist powers and the tasks of the working class in Britain and in Italy. “At the same time as we carry out this policy in Britain, the Italian socialist and Communist parties are striving might and main to turn what to them is an imperialist war into a civil war. They are organising strikes and demonstrations; they call on the Italian soldiers to refuse to embark for Abyssinia, they urge the soldiers already in Abyssinia to desert their own ranks and join the Abyssinian army”.[19]

The 11 points were as follows:
1. Stoppage of all war materials to Italy and refusing to 1oad or un1oad any Italian ships at present in British ports.
2. No loans to Italy.
3. Remova1 of the ban on export of arms to the Abyssianian people in order that they can adequately defend themselves against imperialist aggression.
4. Closing the Suez canal to all Italian transport.
5. Raising funds to assist the anti-fascists in Italy itself.
6. Demand for the surrender of all British mandates and British imperialist interests in Abyssinia.
7. The British Council of Labour to convene an emergency international conference of all working class organisations to mobilise world wide support to defend the independence of Abyssinia.
8. Immediate organisation of a nation-wide campaign of meetings, demonstrations, mass deputations to the Ita1ian Embassy and Consu1ates throughout Britain demanding the withdrawa1 of all Ita1ian forces from Abyssinian territory.
9. Mass distributions of leaf1ets, especially among the workers in the war and transport industries and among the armed forces calling for solidarity with the Abyssinian people.
10. Election of a Workers’ Control Commission in the war industries to supervise all war material contracts.
11. Support the policy of sanctions as a means of preventing Italian fascism going to war against the Abyssinian people, and redoubled efforts to organise the defeat of the National Government on the basis of united struggle for the preservation of world peace, the defence of democracy, and the improvement of the conditions of the workers.

Apart from these concrete demands in relation to Abyssinia the Party also called for struggle to force the National Government to:
1 Renounce the German Naval Agreement.
2 Abandon all forms of support for Hitler.
3 Give full support for the Franco-Soviet Pact.
4 Sign a peace pact with the Soviet Union.
5 Renounce its own imperialist conquests, concessions and mandates.[20]

It should be noted that the cornerstone of the CP’s line was support for the Soviet Union and its peace policy, Speaking at the important enlarged Central Committee in January 1936, Pollitt stated, “...the time is ripe for a great mass campaign for ending the National Government’s policy of friendship with German fascism, and instead to compel it to seek a peace alliance with Soviet socialism. We think that millions of people in Britain would warmly welcome such a peace alliance”.[21]

With the fascist onslaught on the Spanish Republic the Party popularised the slogan “MADRID TODAY – LONDON TOMORROW”. Throughout the late 30s the Party consistently exposed the “appeasement gang”, the “men of Munich”, while targeting the fascist powers as the main instigators of war on Britain and the whole world. Clearly the ACW would have had no place inside the CPGB. As a matter of “principle” they would have to attack the “class collaborationist” and “chauvinist” line. But that does not mean that the ACW would have found itself completely in the wilderness. They would have found a place in the trotskyite Independent Labour Party (ILP) and could have voted enthusiastically for the resolution “To Resist War” in 1937,

In the event of war between two capitalist countries or two groups of capitalist countries it will be the duty of the British working class to concentrate on the task of overthrowing the British capitalist government and to co-operate With the workers of other countries in overthrowing the capitalist governments. If and when workers power has been achieved, it will be the socialist duty to judge the objective situation from a class point of view to decide whether action in supporting one side is desirable in order to make working class forces a dominant factor.

The ILP in 1937 – the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and ACW in 1979. The same trotskyite pill for the world headache. No doubt the ACW and its members would have voted with equal enthusiasm for the “Resolution on Soviet Russia”:

The foreign policy of Soviet Russia, with its reliance on the League of Nations and Pacts with capitalist governments, rather than an alliance with the working class forces of the world, has had a depressing effect on the revolutionary movement of other countries.

For many years the Comintern’s strategy was aimed at winning the western democracies to an alliance with Russia, the international working class and the oppressed peoples and countries against the fascist powers: But the treacherous warmongering policies of the Munichites, their determination to turn Hitler eastward had made this course impossible! Therefore a policy of neutrality, non-support, had to be adopted – the highest expression of this policy was of course the Soviet-Nazi Non-Aggression Pact.

In the events immediately preceding the outbreak of the British-German imperialist war and during the “phoney war” period, the revisionist tendencies of the CPGB leadership broke out into the open. On the day the nazis invaded Poland the Central Committee announced that: “we are in support of all necessary measures to secure victory over fascism”. Two days later when Britain and France declared war on Germany the Daily Worker announced: “The war is here, it is a war that can and must be won!” Harry Pollitt hastily drafted the pamphlet entitled “How to Win the War” with the chauvinist theme that the war being waged by British imperialism was “a just war against fascism”. It was published a few days after the French Party was declared illegal.

A fierce struggle ensued in the Central Committee and to a lesser extent in the party as a whole. Dutt and Rust led the fight to characterise the war as an inter-imperialist war which the working class must oppose, and to implement the line and decisions of the Communist International. Six months later Dutt reported: “The debate on the C.C. on this vital issue lasted over a period of nine days (with interruptions). It was the sharpest and most intense debate in the history of the party; the viewpoint which was finally adopted in the October Manifesto was at first put forward by only a small minority and became a majority in the course of the debate... The same debate was conducted in every group and organisation of the party with a democratic completeness never before equalled in the history of any party in Britain.”[22] The resolution finally adopted by the Central Committee declared: “the struggle of the British people against the Chamberlains and Churchills is the best help to the struggle of the German people against Hitler”. Gallacher replaced Pollitt as General Secretary. Rust replaced Campbell as editor of the Daily Worker. On 12th October the Daily Worker criticised its earlier position as incorrect because the British, French and Polish governments “shared responsibility” with German fascism for the present war, and that consequently the war was “unjust and imperialist”. Britain’s declaration of war was intended to pressurise Hitler into dumping the Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union. The “phoney war” period which lasted 6 months was an extension of the same policy to “switch” the war against Russia. British imperialism was indeed out to defend its vast Empire which stretched from India to the Caribbean.

Nevertheless the CPGB did not call for transforming the British-German imperialist war into civil war. Why? Because outside of the immediate arena of the British-German war, the war was not inter-imperialist, because revolution was far from being an immediate possibility in Britain. And because there was still a possibility of winning Britain to an anti-fascist alliance with the Soviet Union.

This was a great testing time for the Party. The Party had reversed a fundamentally opportunist line at a critical juncture, but as was to become clear later, it had only halted the rise of revisionism, but had not rooted it out at the core. Many fellow travellers left the Party in this period. Its meetings were broken up, speakers and paper sellers often assaulted and arrested. Members continued to agitate among the armed forces and the working class against the war, before the fall of the Chamberlain Government and the entry of the Labour Party into Churchill’s coalition “War Government”.

All the really awkward jobs in the Coalition Government were given to Labour Ministers. Morrison became Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security. In opposition he had been one of the sharpest critics of the Chamberlain Government for its failure to provide air-raid protection; now as minister he went so far as to accuse the communists and all others who demanded deep bomb-proof shelters as “fifth columnists”. Bevin who had a history of opposition to industrial conscription was made the minister to enforce just that. No attempts were made to check profiteering. The cost of living was rising. Trade union rights were being undermined; food distribution was chaotic and air raid shelters grossly inadequate.

The climax of the CP’s anti-war campaign came with the People’s Convention. The first delegates meeting was called by the Hammersmith borough Trade Council and Labour Party in July 1940. The second meeting in London in January 1941 was attended by 2,234 delegates representing well over a million people, the overwhelming majority from trade union branches and trade councils. Messages of support were read out from Mao Zedong and Paul Robeson. The message from the underground movement in Germany, concluded; ’’Those who do not want periodical outbreaks of terrible wars must fight for the conclusion of a real people’s peace between the representatives of the working people of Britain and Germany, in closest contact with the people of the great socialist Soviet Union, must fight for a peace without annexations and indemnities, for a peace leading to the happiness of the people.”

The Convention decided on the Eight-Point Charter and on a plan of action to win the masses to it.
1. To raise the living standards of the people, including wages, pay of armed and civil defence forces, dependants’ allowances, all pensions, compensation, insurance and unemployment allowances, and the restoration and extension of educational facilities.
2. Adequate ARP bombproof shelters, and prompt and effective provision for all the needs of air raid victims, including rehousing and full and immediate compensation.
3. Restoration, safeguarding and extension of all trade union rights and democratic rights and civil liberties. Effective democratic rights for members of the armed forces.
4. Emergency powers to be used to take over the banks, land, transport, armaments and other large industries, in order to organise our economic life in the interests of the people.
5. National independence for India; the right of all colonial peoples to determine their own destiny, and the ending of the enforced partition of Ireland.
6. Friendship with the USSR.
7. A Peoples’ Government truly representative of the working peoples and able to command the confidence of working people throughout the world.
8. A Peoples’ Peace won by the working people of all countries and based on the right of all peoples to determine their own destiny.[23]

The Government and press accused the convention of peddling “defeatism” and “peace at any price”. Atlee conc1uded that the communists were Hitler’s allies and the Labour Party expelled all the branches and any of its members who had taken a prominent part in the Convention. On July 21st the Government invoked the Defence Regulations and banned the Daily Worker. The Party had anticipated this and more. Under Rust’s direction a secret chain of printing presses had been established throughout the country which now produced the daily Industrial and General Information.

One indication of the Party’s growing influence was Labour Monthly sales; they rose from 7,500 in August 1939 to 20,000 in December1940. Increasingly the Conventions Campaign for a Peoples’ Government and Peoples’ Peace and friendship with the USSR, the agitation around democratic rights, food, defence etc. won popular support. The rising discontent which found expression mainly through the Convention reached such proportions that the Government took the unprecedented step of seeking a vote of confidence in war time.

With the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union the CPGB was faced with a totally new situation and new tasks. For Britain too the war was now an anti-fascist war. Every blow against Hitler was a blow for socialism and a peoples’ peace.

On June 22, 1941, the nazis hurled thousands of planes and tanks, hundreds of crack troop divisions, across the Soviet frontiers. Later that day Churchill came to the microphone to declare that for all his bitter opposition to communism he recognised that Britain and the Soviet Union now had “one aim, one single purpose – to destroy Hitler end every vestige of the nazi regime”. He added Britain would give the Russians all the aid it could. Stalin immediately greeted this “historic utterance” and said that “aid would be on a reciprocal basis”. On June 24, Britain and the USSR agreed on the exchange of Missions and full cooperation. On July 12, they signed the Pact of Mutual Aid, pledging no separate peace.

The Central Committee of the CPGB responded swiftly to the vital change in the war. “For the first time we now have a real fight against fascism. Now it is a people’s war in which the people of Britain and the Soviet Union are working and fighting side by side.”

The Peoples’ Convention also adapted its line. The National Emergency Assembly, attended by 2,500 people on July 5, called for a further strengthening of friendship with the USSR and for an all-out war effort to defeat fascism. This was in fact the beginning of the mass movement demanding that Britain open the second front. The famous leaflet “We must Act Now” stated, “... Now after all the waverings and defeats of the past 21 months, the real anti-fascist struggle has begun and victory is within grasp, a victory that will bring a peoples’ peace to all countries, including Germany and Italy”. The full mobilisation of all our military and industrial resources for a great united front with the Soviet people against German fascism is the vital issue before us today.”

The Party and its front organisations were besieged by demands for speakers and literature. Retired generals and Labour dignitaries appeared on platforms for friendship with the USSR. This was of course all to the good. The problem was whether or not the Party was strong enough to withstand its newly found respectability.

Membership had dropped to around 12,000 by June 1941. Now it recovered all lost ground. By the end of 1941 the total stood at the record figure of 22,700. In the first three months of 1942 over 25,000 recruits were reported. In September 1942 the party claimed a membership of 65,000. The new membership of the Party was overwhelmingly proletarian, mostly from the large munitions works in the Midlands and West London.

The Daily Worker was allowed to resume publication in January 1941. It was now publishing all the encouraging war news, boosting the production drive in the factories, and urging the immediate opening of a “Second front”. According to William Rust, the editor, over a million copies of the first issue were ordered. But owing to the rationing of newsprint the total edition was limited to 75,000.

However, Pollitt was opportunistically reinstated as General Secretary. The implication being that he had been right about the war all along. This was a major concession to revisionism and social chauvinism in the Party. In the context of the united front with the ruling class this was to prove fatal.

This period of Party history, no less than the preceding period, calls for a deep study and assessment. While the Party’s platform was basically correct it seems far too many concessions were made to the bourgeoisie politically and in industry. There was all unity and no class struggle in the united front. The CPGB even began to advocate the continuation of a National Government after the war.

The rapid expansion of membership had taken place without any systematic political education and consolidation. Party factory cells were being disbanded and replaced by residential branches and factory groups”. Determined to maintain their “mass party” the leadership abandoned the idea that “every member must be a working member”. The first essential now was numbers, quantity. Great importance began to attached to the role of the dues-collector, whose job it was to go around the inactive members to collect their subscriptions. The social democratic, revisionist tendencies of the party surfaced with a vengeance. Nevertheless, try as they may the leadership could not halt the decline in membership which began in the summer of 1943. The dissolution of the Comintern in June 1943 only accelerated the political degeneration of its British section. The CPGB was well down the road to the “British Road to Socialism”. This is how revisionism betrayed the working class and squandered the excellent national and international conditions won in the fight against fascism. Communists today must study and take to heart the positive and negative lessons of our recent history.


In the face of social-imperialist aggression we propagate the necessity of a war of national defence under the leadership of the working class. This is the clear stand of the RCL Manifesto adopted unanimously at the Founding Congress. It is the line we have worked consistently to develop and deepen ever since.

The Manifesto states: “In the event of an inter-imperialist war between the superpowers on West European territory the working class and people of Europe must fight for independence from both superpowers and must not support either of them. We would be for the defeat of our own bourgeoisie if it took us into such an inter-imperialist war.”

On the other hand, in the event of a just war of defence against Russian invasion and occupation, “a successful peoples’ war can be led only by the working class and its Communist Party. The working class will constantly have to struggle with the bourgeoisie to win leadership of any war of national resistance against a soviet social imperialist invasion”.

In short the working class needs to be fully prepared for either eventuality.

Given our present level of development we can at best only touch on borne of the vital issues posed here. It is a measure of the relative immaturity of the communist movement in Britain that we still have only an inadequate grasp of the facts, the trends, and the theoretical principles involved. But it is not just a matter that we are acutely aware of our limitations and inexperience. We are equally determined to overcome them, to transform them through conscientious investigation combined with struggle on the theoretical and practical fronts. Nor do we profess to have access to the ACW’s amazing crystal ball which enables the ACW to predict the exact turn of future events, no matter how unconvincingly.

The threat of war is developing under quite complex conditions and there really can be no substitute for constant, all-sided concrete analysis of the changing situation. There is no way of predicting the exact correlation of class forces at this or that juncture in the development of the war – at what point and in what way Britain will go to war – and consequently impossible to predict whether the situation will demand the working class to transform the war into civil war or lead a united struggle against Russian aggression. But we emphasise the fact that in either eventuality the working class will wage a revolutionary war of national liberation against the superpowers, with or without an alliance with a section of the British bourgeoisie, and that this will lead on to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

We can also say with certainty that at present the trends are positive, favourable – there is indeed a growing international united front against superpower domination and war. It begins first and foremost with the Peoples’ Republic of China. It encompasses the national liberation movements and the countries of the third world. Yes, of course, when you analyse the particularity of various third world forces, there is uneven development, an uneven contribution to the anti-imperialist struggle, and so on. But only the most hopeless doctrinaire can fail to recognise that taken as a whole the third world is the main force in international class struggle, the main force in the united front. The united front includes the second world, the inter-imperialist contradictions between the superpowers on the one hand, (especially social-imperialism, and the lesser imperialist powers, is of immense strategic importance. Not least because Europe is the focus of superpower contention, and knows it. The anti-appeasement trend is gaining strength, particularly in Britain, France, Belgium and Japan. And even if this has not yet become the dominant trend in general, should the working class adopt a passive, defeatist policy, in effect encouraging appeasement. Or should the working class launch a political offensive against appeasement, in defence of independence and world peace, with the object of securing a powerful ally, an important reserve in the international fight against the superpowers. If the Second world must be considered a direct reserve, the contradiction between US imperialism and social-imperialism should be seen as an indirect reserve of our struggle. In a certain sense the US superpower has already become an indirect ally in the united front, while remaining target of the united front. This too is a measure of US imperialism’s desperate weakness and accelerating decline.

Should the British working class seize on these positive factors or should it encourage and exploit these positive factors and harness them to our own revolutionary and internationalist strategy. We must answer in the affirmative.

What do we mean by saying preparations should begin now?

Communists must patiently expose appeasement as a dangerous imperialist policy and expose superpower “detente” as a cover for war preparations and aggression. We must educate the workers to understand the vital issues and facts of the turbulent international situation and propagate solidarity with the Peoples’ struggles for independence and freedom. Our emphasis is on the class struggle, the socialist revolution and proletarian internationalism, on the necessity for the working class to lead the struggle against social-imperialist aggression.

At the same time we need to explain that even under the imperialist ruling class there is an alternative to the present policy of capitulation in the face of the Russian offensive and concurrent alliance with US imperialism. There is the possibility of a European alliance against the superpowers. Britain’s relations with the third world imperialist relations, nevertheless the results of the Lome Convention for example, or Britain’s support for Democratic Kampuchea at the United Nations, show that Britain is being forced to recognise the growing strength of the third world and make significant concessions to it. While we propagate unconditional support for the third world’s struggles for political and economic sovereignty and oppose British imperialism, we demand it make further concessions and we support everything that strengthens the common front against the superpowers. Rather than continued servility towards the superpowers there is the alternative of friendship and co-operation with socialist China, the most consistent exponent of world peace and the independence of nations.

Though clearly on the defensive, the US is still the dominant superpower in Britain and Western Europe, economically, politically and militarily. NATO is under the domination of US imperialism. This is all detrimental to the advance of the class struggle and to the world united front, and must be fought against. At the same time there must be a vigorous and effective struggle against Soviet social imperialism, otherwise anything that weakens US imperialism’s grip on Britain will improve social imperialism’s chances. Just as in the struggle against the superpowers we aim our main blow at Soviet social imperialism; at home we must aim our main blow at the revisionists and “left” social democrats. They are in all respects the main enemy within the working class movement, not least because they are the most eager exponents of “collaboration” with social imperialism.

Increasingly, we must put up concrete and realistic demands for civil defence. While educating the workers on the nature of the state military forces and its counter-revolutionary role at home, in Ireland and elsewhere, communists must not advocate defeatism in the present situation. Above all, we must propagate the necessity of a just war of national liberation under the leadership of the working class and strive to develop all the conditions that will make that possible.

Speaking in Paris in October 1932, comrade Thaelman, the leader of the German communists explained:

Our struggle against the Versailles system has nothing in common with the imperialist demands and nationalist propaganda of the German bourgeoisie and the National Socialists. We want to destroy both the national oppression established by the Versailles treaty and the social oppression of the toilers caused by the system of capitalist profits. Our fight against the Versailles treaty is a fight for wages and bread – a fight for liberty, a fight for socialism.[24]

While there is no direct parallel in our opinion between the national oppression of Germany described by Thaelman in the 1930s and Britain’s relations with the superpowers, the Third World, and other second world countries today. This dialectical approach to tactics is extremely relevant and instructive.

Here we have tried to touch on some of the urgent questions of history and of today, all of which will be taken up systematically in subsequent issues. For now we think that we have demonstrated the ACW’s futile attempt to rewrite history and falsify Marxism-Leninism in the service of social-imperialism. They have chosen to part company with the Marxist-Leninist movement. We are well rid of them.

(Contributed, LS)


[1] Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism. FLP. pp 4, 56

[2] Hua Guo-feng. Report to 11th Congress of the CPC. August 1977. Documents. p56.

[3] Chairman Mao’s Theory ... p54.

[4] Lenin. “Draft Thesis on the National and Colonial Question”. Collected Works, Vol 31. p146.

[5] Lenin. Letter to Zinoviev. Collected Works, Vol 35, p229.

[6] Lenin. Letter to I. Armand. Collected Works, Vol 35, p274.

[7] Lenin. “The Junius Pamphlet.” Collected Works Vol 22, p305

[8]  Stalin. “Speech to the Moscow Electors” February 9th, 1946. Soviet News Publications, pp. 3.5

[9]  Lenin. “Conference of the RSDLP Sections Abroad” Selected Works. Vol 5 p132.

[10] Lenin. “The War and Russian Social Democracy” Selected Works, Vol 5p123.

[11] Lenin. “Conference of the RSDLP Sections Abroad” Selected Works Vol 5 p132.

[12]  Stalin. “Marxism and the National and Colonial Question” p67.

[13] Dimitrov. “Report to the Communist International Seventh Congress”. Red Star Press. p40-42.

[14] Seventh Congress of Communist International Documents, Section 14 p20-28.

[15] Stalin. Report to the Eighteenth Congress CPSU(B), “Problems of Leninism” p596-604.

[16] Mao Zedong. “Interview On the International Situation”. Selected Works. Vo 1 2 p263.

[17] Mao Zedong. “Current Situation and Party Tasks, Selected Works Vol 2. 0297.

[18] Mao Zedong. Selected Works, Vol 2, p264-265.

[19] Harry Pollitt. “The War Danger in Abyssinia”. Selected Articles. Vol 1 p163-167.

[20]  ibid p168.

[21] Harry Pollitt, “Report to Enlarged Central Committee Meeting”. Selected Articles Vol 1 p180.

[22] Daily Worker, 8th May 1940.

[23] Quoted in D.N. Pritt Autobiography. Part 1, p249.

[24] Quoted by M. Ercoli (Togliatti). Speech to the 7th Congress of the Communist International. P10.