Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

East London Marxist-Leninist Association

History Study Notes: Communist Principles in Two World Wars

First Published: Red Flag, No. 3, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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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 unevenness 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 capitalist countries which believes itself to be less supplied with the 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 World 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 re-establish democratic liberties. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war against the axis states could only strengthen – and actually did strengthen the antifascist and liberating character of the Second World War. Stalin: from a speech to Moscow Electors 1946.

We have studied around this quote in order to get a better understanding of the basic Marxist-Leninist principles on world war and revolution, and, just as important, to see how these principles were applied in two different situations. Both world wars had a lot in common. The Second World War at the outlet, just like the First World War, was imperialist and predatory. But they were not identical. The particular characteristics of the Second World War, the concrete conditions out of which the war developed, were not the same. There is a saying that goes “Generals that think in terms of the last war are liable to lose the next.” So the international communist movement throughout the 1930’s adhered to the Leninist principles worked out in 1914-18 but not to the strategy of 1914. The particular characteristics, the actual conditions of the Second World War posed new problems that had to be solved by a new strategy. As Lenin said, the living soul of Marxism is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.

It follows that in the 1970’s and 1980’s we must continue to adhere to the principle of Leninism, worked out in 1914 and further substantiated in 1939, but not to the strategy of either.


Lenin defined imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism, the stage at which industrial capitalism and free trade have developed into monopoly and finance capitalism. Imperialism is moribund and parasitic capitalism; the old boom and slump cyclical crisis became a chronic, general crisis; capitalist relations of production based on private ownership and appropriation became a fetter on the real development of the productive forces; the uneven development of the major capitalist powers leads to wars for the redivison of the world. In a word, imperialism sharpens all the fundamental contradictions of capitalism to breaking’ point, intensifies the class struggle, and brings the working class and all oppressed peoples to revolution. As Lenin said “Imperialism is the eve of the proletarian socialist revolution”.

By the turn of the century the great powers had conquered more or less all the available territories on the face of the earth. Each of these powers represented the interests of highly concentrated finance capitalist groupings. The lions’ share had been seized by Britain by virtue of the industrial and naval supremacy it enjoyed between 1850 and 1880. The outstanding Chartist and English Marxist, Ernest Jones, called this “the British Empire on which the sun never sets and the blood never dries”. France and Tsarist Russia had also secured considerable empires. But capitalism develops unevenly. At the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, Germany and America were catching up fast and challenging Britain’s supremacy. By the time capitalism had definitely developed into its imperialist stage, Britain was no longer the only “workshop of the world”; German capitalism which was expanding far more rapidly than any other in Europe, was already outstripping Britain in the decisive sector of heavy industry. Anglo-German antagonism became the principle inter-imperialist contradiction.

The enormously enlarged productive forces and capital accumulations wielded by the great powers, demanded outlets, continuous expansion and monopolist domination. But the world is already divided up. Increasingly the powers struggle to weaken each other and to penetrate one another spheres of influence. Germany’s economic challenge soon passed into naval and colonial challenge. The conflict for the division and redivision of the world is characteristic of imperialism. Imperialism means war.

From the outset of the imperialist epoch the relations between the powers showed themselves to be slightly unstable in comparison to their relative stability in the previous epoch of industrial capitalism. A chain of wars, the British war in South Africa, the struggle for Peking, the Russo-Japanese war, the Italian war in Tripoli, the two Balkan Wars and so on, along with the unprecedented scale of the armaments race, marked the course which culminated in the First World War.

British and German imperialism began to muster their forces for the showdown. The British Empire found its natural allies in the other ’possessing’ powers, France and Russia. Furthermore, French imperialism wanted Alsace-Lorrain and the left bank of the Rhine, and Russian imperialism wanted Galicia and Constantinople. Britain itself was out to crush its German rival once and for all and seize its colonies in the Middle East. German imperialism wanted no less than to replace Britain as the dominant European and colonial power. German imperialism found its allies in the other ’dissatisfied’ European power, Italy; and also in the decrepit Austro-Hungarian and Turkish Empires who had most to fear from Britain, France and Russia.

All attempts to avert war proved futile. The Hague Conferences to devise an international diplomatic machinery; armaments, holidays; negotiations for a peaceful solution of the ’colonial problem’, for the transfer of Portuguese colonies, for an Anglo-German agreement in the Middle East, all failed. The armed conflict which came close to breaking point in 1905 and again in 1911 finally broke out in 1914.

As we explained in the last section of the study notes in Red Flag 2, the exact timing of the outbreak of war was determined to a large extent by the intensifying class struggle in the imperialist countries and the rising tide of revolt in China, India and the oppressed countries. British imperialism for one went to war when it did not only to knock out its German rival but to dissipate the rising class struggle at home.


So the First World War was a purely inter-imperialist war for the redivision of the world between two more or less evenly matched imperialist alliances. “The real essence of the present war” said Lenin “is the struggle between England, France and Germany for the division of the colonies and for the plunder of the competing countries.” He added the essential point that, “The national element of the Austro-Serbian war occupies an entirely subordinate place and does not alter the general imperialist character of the war”.[1]

With the declaration of war the 2nd International collapsed. All the leaders of the Social-Democratic parties rallied to the side of their particular ruling class and mobilised the working class to die in their millions for the ’defence’ of their particular ’fatherland’. In opposition to this treachery Lenin stressed, “the duty of the class conscious proletariat to defend its class solidarity, its internationalism, its socialist convictions against the orgy of chauvinism raised by the ’patriotic’ bourgeois cliques of all countries ..... Transform the present imperialist war into civil war is the only correct proletarian slogan; it was indicated by the experience of the Paris Commune ...and logically follows from the conditions of an imperialist war among highly developed capitalist countries.” Further, ”Even if we assume that German social-democracy was so weak that it was compelled to refrain from all revolutionary action, even then it should not have joined the chauvinist camp . ..disgracing the banner of proletarian internationalism.”[2]

In Russia, Lenin and the Bolsheviks not only fought against the obvious agents of the bourgeoisie, the unashamed “defend the fatherland” wallahs; they had to expose those who pretended to take a revolutionary position but who actually opposed the working class fighting for the defeat of its own bourgeoisie and who opposed transforming the imperialist war into civil war. This is Lenin exposing Trotsky; “To desire Russia’s defeat Trotsky says, is an uncalled for and unjustifiable concession to the political methodology of social patriotism which substitutes for revolutionary struggle against the war and the conditions that cause it, what under present conditions, is an extremely arbitrary orientation towards the less evil. This is an example of the high flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism. A ’revolutionary struggle against the war’ is an empty and meaningless call in which the heroes of the Second International are past masters, unless it means revolutionary action against one’s own government even in time of war..... And revolutionary action against one’s own government undoubtedly and incontrovertibly means not only desiring it’s defeat, but really facilitating such defeat... It seems to him that to desire Russia’s defeat means desiring Germany’s victory”, whereas in fact, “in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government ... Trotsky preferred to evade this truth.”[3]

...out of the universal ruin caused by the war a world wide crisis is arising which however prolonged’ and arduous its stages may be, cannot but end in a proletarian revolution and its victory.[4]

The most important consequence of the war was the victory of the October Socialist Revolution which established the proletarian dictatorship, the rule of the working masses, over one sixth of the globe. It has been very ably stated that for nearly half a century, from 1917 to 1956, world politics has been 1n essence action and reaction around this event.

The revolution was carried out under the sole leadership of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party which had grown strong over many years of bitter struggle against tsarism, the bourgeoisie and all types of opportunism in the working class movement. It proved the Leninist thesis that the world socialist revolution would begin not necessarily where the productive forces were most advanced and where the working class constituted a majority of the population, but where all the contradictions of imperialism were concentrated in their most acute form; that in Russia and countries like it, the dictatorship of the proletariat would take the form of a revolutionary alliance between the industrial working class and the poor peasantry, led by the working class and its party; that in the imperialist epoch, the colonies are no longer a reserve of capitalism but the national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples are a component part of the world socialist revolution. For one thing, the Bolshevik revolution .emancipated the oppressed nations of the tsarist empire, for another, the salvoes of October, as Mao Tsetung said brought Marxism-Leninism to the peoples of the whole world.

As early as 1915 Lenin had written, “Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even one capitalist country taken singly. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organised its own socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, attracting to its cause, the oppressed classes of other countries.”[5]

The soviets, or mass organisations of the workers, soldiers and peasants, after having developed as the mass organs in the struggle for power, became the mass organs for exercising power. The first task of the Soviet regime was to establish its power by defeating the whiteguards and imperialist armies of intervention. The second task was to lay the foundations of socialist economy and continuously consolidate itself.

The Socialist Revolution effectively ended the war in the East. This accelerated the disintegration of the German and Austrian armies. In November 1918 revolution broke out in Germany and the Republic was proclaimed. The revolution spread to Austria, Hungary, Finland, Poland and Italy. These ended the war in the west.

In Britain, where the class struggle had been intensifying throughout the war, matters were coming to a head after the armistice. As Gallagher said of the great Clyde strike, “we were carrying on a strike when we ought to have been making revolution.” Rebellion was mounting not only in industry but in the armed forces. The ruling class delayed demobilisation for fear of swelling the ranks of the unemployed with battle hardened troops. Also it was preparing for the invasion of Soviet Russia. British troops mutinied at Etaples, France and 72,000 troops mutinied in camps throughout Britain. At Kimmel Park troops raised the Red Flag and in bitter clashes five were killed and over twenty seriously injured. Epsom police station was stormed and a police sergeant shot dead. When thousands of armed troops commandeered lorries and streamed into London, the government retreated and a rapid, if disorderly, demobilisation begun. This effectively prevented the use of thousands of conscript troops against Soviet Russia.

Though the mutinies and industrial struggles had reached revolutionary dimensions, they remained spontaneous, uncoordinated and unled. What was missing in Britain, as in all the other European countries, was the essential leadership of a Communist Party. The Communist Parties were only formed after the ebb of the first revolutionary tide, and these united to form the Third Communist International.

So the revolution was defeated everywhere except Russia. In 1921 while the Soviet Red Army was mopping up the whiteguards, the revolutions of Germany, Italy, Austria, Finland, Hungary and Poland were being hounded and crushed.

The Soviet Government was acutely aware of the danger to the only socialist state surrounded by a capitalist world. It relied first and foremost on its own forces and on the rising revolutionary tide in Europe and in the colonies. But right from the start it had to use skilful diplomacy to exploit the contradictions among the enemy as well.

In the early days of the revolution German imperialism launched massive offensives against the newborn Soviet Union. The Soviet government made an alliance with French imperialism to repel Germany. So Lenin who was the uncompromising opponent of ’defending’ tsarist Russia was now prepared to compromise with the French imperialism to defend Soviet Russia. ”This is an example of an ’agreement’ of which every class conscious worker will approve’, wrote Lenin in his letter to American workers. “We shook hands with the French monarchists although we knew that each of us would readily hang his ’partner’. But for a time our interests coincided. To throw back the rapacious advancing Germans we made use of the equally rapacious counter interests of the other imperialists thereby serving the interests of the working class of Russia and other countries, we strengthened the proletariat and weakened the bourgeoisie of the whole world, we used the justified practice of manoeuvring necessary in every war, of shifting and waiting for the moment when the rapidly growing proletarian revolution in a number of advanced countries had ripened”.[6]

It is of course no coincidence that Trotsky who had been so flexible and compromising in relation to Tsarism, opposed the compromise with French imperialism which would help save the Soviet Union. The same thing occurred over the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty with Germany. Lenin called for signing the treaty immediately. Trotsky playing the adventurist game of war to stimulate world revolution, succeeded in convincing the majority of the Bolshevik Central Committee not to sign. He advocated the stupid slogan “neither peace nor war”. In the event Germany attacked and imposed a far more humiliating peace and Lenin’s position was vindicated.


The blood letting of 1914-18 had 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’, 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 spoliation which followed the war, in a word, only succeeded in laying the seeds of future war.


The defeat of the first great revolutionary wave everywhere except Russia was accomplished by capitalism in three main ways; firstly, by outright counter revolution and aggression; secondly, through the treachery of social democracy inside the workers movements and’ by granting temporary concessions; thirdly, by the huge American loans and credits which bolstered up European capitalism. Sir William Goode wrote in European Reconstruction in 1925. “Half of Europe hovered on the brink of Bolshevism. The expenditure of £137 million was probably one the best international investments from a financial and political point of view ever recorded in history”. This was the basis of the temporary stabilisation of capitalism between 1923 and 1929. A short-lived boom between 1927-29 gave rise to euphoria among the bourgeoisie and its labour leader lackeys about the arrival of a ’millennium of planned capitalism’, and the victory of ’Ford over Marx’.

All this was echoed in various versions by the opportunists inside the Soviet and other Communist Parties. Claiming that imperialism had ’readjusted’ itself and was embarking on a ’new period of stabilisation’ they denied the possibility of proletarian revolution in the foreseeable future. Trotsky yet again denied the possibility of socialism in one country and prophesised the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union.

But communists, basing themselves on Marxism-Leninism, opposed the apologists of the bourgeoisie. At the 14th Congress of the CPSU (B) in 1925, and more explicitly at the 15th Congress in 1927, Stalin demonstrated how the capitalist world was torn by insoluble contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; between the imperialists and the colonial peoples; between the imperialists themselves; and between the capitalist world and the land of the Soviets. Capitalism had not entered a new golden age but the period of its general crisis. “From stabilisation itself, from the fact that production is growing, from the fact that technical progress and productive possibilities are increasing, whereas the world market, the limits of that market and the spheres of influence of the individual imperialist groups are remaining more or less stable -from this a profound and acute crisis of world capitalism is springing, pregnant with new wars and threatening the existence of any kind of stabilisation.”[7]

The opposition was routed and the party posed the task of accelerating socialist industrialisation and outlined the task of building collective agriculture. Stalin reaffirmed the Leninist basis of Soviet foreign policy, to preserve peace and to establish friendly diplomatic and trading relations with all countries. In fact the Soviet Union had already concluded peace treaties with every single one of its neighbours. All except Japan which consistently refused.

In 1927 the Soviet Union startled the International Disarmament Conference by actually proposing total disarmament. One by one the gentlemen spokesmen of the bourgeoisie ’denounced’ the proposal, justified the frantic armament race and demonstrated that imperialism was preparing for war.


The expansion of production proved too much for capitalism. Stabilisation dissolved into world economic crisis. Just as U.S. capitalism provided the basis for temporary stabilisation, so the U.S. crash brought with it the world crash. In the period 1930/33 industrial output in the USA sunk by 65%, as compared to 1929; Britain by 86%; Germany 66% and France by 77%. In the same period the Soviet Union was implementing its first Five Year Plan and production rose by 201%.

The biggest capitalist states, U.S. and G.B. were the first to devalue their currencies; they then compelled the weaker states to submit to unequal conditions to avoid bankruptcy. Financial chaos deprived international economic relations of any semblance of stability. This brought unprecedented unemployment and impoverishment for the masses. Economically the world was at war – the prelude to actual war.

As early as the 16th Congress in 1930 Stalin explained how the capitalist world had already plunged into a devastating new crisis of over production and would attempt to solve its problem by war against the Soviet Union. He exposed the opportunists who now denied the end of the temporary stabilisation of capitalism and who claimed that the class struggle had died away in the Soviet Union. The Five Year Plan, hurried through in four years laid the basis not only for the construction of socialism but for military preparedness.


After the defeat of their war of intervention, imperialism never abandoned the aim of launching another war to destroy the Soviet Union. This was a central issue of world politics. But time and again, as we shall see, Britain’s attempts to draw the imperialist powers into a united front against the Soviet Union collapsed against the contradictions of rival interests. An early example was the failure of the Birkenhead mission to Berlin in 1928; his overtures broke down against German demands for the return of her former colonies and for the right to rearm without restrictions. Britain opposed the first demand and France opposed the second. The other factor that prevented Germany being used as the spearhead of a new anti-communist crusade was the German working class itself. Though the 1918 revolution had been defeated, the working class had not been broken and no German government dare go to war against Russia. The class struggle in Germany was crucial to the world situation. It took imperialism, the German bourgeoisie and social democracy, fifteen years to break the resistance of the German workers and establish the nazi dictatorship. No sooner had Hitler been placed in power, in 1933, than a Pact of Accord and Co-operation was signed by Britain, Germany, France and fascist Italy.

The advent of the nazis to power in Germany radically affected the international situation.

Nazi strategy was based on allying with Britain and neutralising France to establish domination over central Europe and then move against the Soviet Union and its border states. Having defeated Russia, the weaker enemy, Hitler would strike down France and press all its colonial demands against Britain. At all costs Hitler intended to avoid war on two fronts.

Japan had not been prepared to take on the Soviet Union alone. Britain and France had quite openly encouraged Japan to go to war against Bolshevism in the Far East in 1932. With the advent of the nazis to power in Germany, Japan found the ideal partner for a two pronged attack on Soviet Russia.

The dominant section of the British ruling class pursued the strategy of egging on Germany and Japan against the Soviet Union, thus diverting their offensive away from Britain’s sphere of influence; with the prospect of seeing both sides weakened and hopefully the Soviet Union destroyed, with Britain sitting back drawing on the profits of war and emerging as the effective ultimate victor. This was the intention behind Chamberlain’s policy of ’non-intervention’ and ’appeasement’. But the other camp, headed by the more far sighted leaders of British reaction understood that Hitler would be the immediate danger and that Russia could be dealt with later.

The fascist elements of French imperialism, led by Laval, openly favoured co-operation with Hitler, allowing him a free hand in the East in return for a guarantee of the French frontier.

Early in 1933 Japan seized Manchuria and left the League of Nations. Germany soon followed suit and rejected a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. Russia was now clearly threatened in the East and West. Alarmed, the French government invited Russia to join the League. Russia accepted and entered the League as one way of opposing the war intrigues. Russia, France and Czechoslovakia negotiated a Mutual Assistance Pact which Britain and Poland refused ’to join. The Pact assisted the United Front Government in France, further isolated Laval’s fascist supporters, and became one of the strongest bulwarks of peace in Europe. The positive peace policy of the French working class assisted the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union’s entry into the League and its Pact with the French government supported the independent actions of the French working class. The two were complementary.

At the 17th Congress of the CPSU (B) Stalin stated, “We stand for peace and champion the cause of peace. But we are not afraid of threats and are prepared to answer blow for blow against the instigators of war. Those who want peace and are striving for peace with us will receive our support, and those who try to attack our country will receive a stunning rebuff to teach them not to poke their pig’s snout into our Soviet garden.”[8]


Events moved fast. Germany broke the Versailles Treaty by building up a huge conscript army and with the blessing of a new Anglo-German Naval Treaty, began the construction of submarines. In March, Mussolini’s fascist armies invaded Abyssinia, the last major independent country on the African continent. The League made lots of loud, noises of condemnation and invoked sanctions against Italy – but only the Soviet Union applied effective sanctions.

Having occupied China’s north eastern territories in 1931, Japan now proceeded to attack the whole of northern China. The reactionary Kuomintang Regime, representing the interests of the big landlord and capitalist comprador class, capitulated. Having suffered enormous setbacks at the hands of the fascist regime and incorrect leadership, the Chinese communist party with Mao Tsetung as its new chairman, set up a broad national united front against Japanese aggression. Chairman Mao’s policy enabled the proletariat in effect to take the lead in the struggle. The policies were based on a penetrating analysis of the political situation at home and abroad; especially the changes in class relationships caused in semi-colonial, semi-feudal China, by the Japanese invasion. Mao’s correct line ensured the victory of the Chinese peoples struggle for national independence and democracy, and lay the basis for socialism. It had to be won through against both right and ’left’ opposition inside the party. The rightists advocated surrendering the leadership of the united front to the bourgeoisie, in effect to Chiang Kai Shek fascists. The ’leftists’ opposed any united front on ’principle’; this would have isolated the communists and led to the defeat of the working class and China.

At home the Communist Party was faced with the task of opposing the government’s war policy and leading the struggle against the increasing political and economic attacks on the working class. This was the period of the huge hunger marches and the great clashes with police and black shirts; Eleven million signed the Peace Ballot. The Labour Party executive rejected the C.P.’s proposal for the establishment of a United Front to defeat the National Government, resist fascism at home and abroad and maintain peace in Europe. The C.P. never really solved the problem of what tactical line would mobilise the masses against the National Government. Pollitt had to report, “The great weakness of the fight against fascism in Britain is that it is seen largely as a fight against Mosley. The tendencies towards fascism developed in the policy of the National Government are not seen as a vital danger”.

The National Government went to the polls on the basis of demagogy and hypocrisy. It claimed to be the custodian of peace in Europe, the opponent of the ’unhappy dispute between Italy and Abyssinia’ and proclaimed its allegiance to collective security. It won a landslide victory.

By December, Italy was experiencing serious problems in Abyssinia and resolute sanctions, especially of oil, would have ended the war. Not one step was taken by Britain or any other capitalist state. Public opinion was outraged. The National Government was forced to admit that it had ended sanctions against Italy. At the same time Germany and Japan signed the “anti-Comintern” Pact.

It was in this critical situation that the Communist International met for its 7th Congress. Dimitrov presented the principal Reports ’The fascist offensive and the tasks of the C.I. in the fight for the Unity of the Working Class against Fascism.’ The resolution of the 7th Congress analysed the world situation and outlined the tasks of the Communist Parties.

....A new repartition of the world has already begun.

The communists, while fighting 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 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, 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.[9]

Imperialism was rushing headlong into world war. The bourgeoisie of all countries denied this, so did the Social democrats and so did the revisionist and trotskyite factions inside the communist parties. The Communist International was crystal clear about the situation, and its advanced sections were stronger than ever.

The first world war was a war between two evenly matched imperialist blocs for the partition of the world. The second world war was developing under the particular conditions of the general crisis of capitalism. Capitalism was much further down the road of decay; it had developed to new forms which found their typical expression in fascism. The tendency towards fascism existed in every capitalist state. Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary chauvinist sections of imperialism. But the rise of the fully fascist. powers, Germany, Japan and Italy could not just be regarded as an immediate threat to the Soviet Union; the Axis powers could not but challenge the well-established supremacy of the other imperialist powers.

Socialism held power over one-sixth of the globe. The international working class now had a state headquarters so to speak. On the basis of its growing strength the Soviet Union was able to exercise an increasing influence in world politics. The attempt by the most reactionary and fascist sections of imperialism to promote war against the Soviet Union was continuously thwarted. The Soviet Union was able not only to unite with, and lead, a powerful world peace front, it was able to exploit the contradictions among the imperialist powers, divide them and weaken them.

Contradictions also existed within each imperialist ruling circle. The dominant section 1n Britain, represented by Baldwin and Chamberlain pursued a more or less consistent policy of appeasing the Axis powers to embroil them in a war with the Soviet Union. Churchill on the other hand represented the section who were equally hostile to the ’ working class and the USSR, but who realised that nazi Germany posed the most immediate threat to the power and position of British imperialism. Churchill was even prepared to concede a tactical alliance with the Soviet Union. Chamberlain’s counterpart in France was Laval and later Deladier. These were opposed by the section of the ruling class which could see that the sacrifice of eastern and central Europe would only prepare the way for a nazi onslaught on France. The French working class, with its powerful Communist party, was able to make considerable advances by utilising this contradiction and pressing for an alliance between France and the U.S.S.R.

The impact of the crisis was revolutionising the working class in most countries led by the sections of the Communist International. The other new factor in the world, as compared to the situation which gave rise to the first imperialist war, was the rise of the revolutionary national liberation movements, particularly in China, which were undermining the very existence of imperialism. The ’national element’ which Lenin described as a minor factor in the first war would become a major factor in the second war. Obviously the communist movement had to take account of this new and complex situation and base its strategy on it.


In February the Popular Front won the Spanish elections and set up the Republic. The carefully planned fascist counter-attack begun in July. Italy and Germany heaped lavish military aid on Franco and then invaded. The National Government and the French government rejected the Spanish government’s repeated efforts to buy arms. Under the guise of ’strict impartiality’ and ’non intervention’ Chamberlain was siding with fascism. The Soviet Union shipped tanks, planes and enormous supplies of food and weapons to the Republic; communists and militants from many countries fought in the International Brigades, which supported the Spanish peoples’ heroic fight against fascist aggression. The CPGB did much to facilitate the workers all sided support for the struggle, despite Labour Party and TUC sabotage.

By March 1937, German, Italian, British and French warships were jointly policing the Spanish coast. Britain made frantic efforts to set up an anti soviet bloc to implement ’non interventionism’ in Spain but actually to prepare the way ’ for aggression against the Soviet Union.

In March 1938 Nazi troops invaded Austria, the Soviet Union called on the powers for a ’firm and unambiguous stand in regard to the problem of the collective salvation of peace:’ The proposal was rejected as ’inopportune’ by Britain.


Britain and France flatly rejected the Soviet Union’s repeated proposal for a genuine front against aggression; standing on the sidelines, they took a ’non-interventionist’ position and connived at German, Italian and Japanese aggression…. In pursuit of this reactionary policy they sacrificed half of China to Japan, and the whole of Abyssinia, Spain, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Italy and Germany. Then they wanted to sacrifice the Soviet Union .... This policy was initiated when Chamberlain took office, reached its climax in the Munich agreement of September 1938 and finally collapsed in the recent Anglo-French-Soviet talks. From now on the situation will inevitably develop into one of direct conflict between the two big imperialist blocs, the Anglo-French bloc and the German-Italian bloc.... The second imperialist war has entered a new stage.

With Chamberlain and Daladier practising intimidation and bribery, the social-democratic partners affiliated to the Second International are splitting up. One section, the reactionary upper stratum, is following the same old disastrous road as in the First World War and is ready to support the new imperialist war. But another section will join with the Communists in forming a popular front against war and fascism. Chamberlain and Daladier are following in the footsteps of Germany and Italy and are becoming more and more reactionary, taking advantage of the war mobilisation to put the state structure in their countries on a fascist footing and to militarise the economy.

In the name of neutrality, U.S. imperialism is temporarily refraining from joining either of the belligerents, so as to be able to come on the scene later and contend for the leadership of the capitalist world.... Mao Tsetung[10]

Having occupied Austria, Germany turned its attention on Czechoslovakia, the nazi propaganda machine began its ’war of nerves’ bombardment with threats and accusations. At the Anglo-French-Soviet talks, in April-August 1938 Russia offered to fight alongside the Czechs if either Britain or France would do the same, or even if only the Czechs were willing to resist nazi aggression. Kalinin stated that the USSR would carry out its undertakings to France and Czechoslovakia ’to the letter’ and added “a firm stand against the aggressors is the fundamental solution of the present international tension”.

In September Hitler demanded that Czechoslovakia relinquish Sudetenland to the Reich. Czechoslovakia responded by manning its western defences and it called on France to honour its treaty obligations with armed support. But instead, France and Britain, with U.S. encouragement were only interested in appeasing Germany and actually stepped up their efforts to form an anti-Soviet bloc. On his fourth hectic flight to Germany, Chamberlain met with Hitler, Mussolini and Deladier at the Munich thieves kitchen. The notorious Munich Agreement of September 1938 handed over Sudetenland with its three million inhabitants, the Pilsen armaments factory and all the Czech frontier defences, lock stock and barrel, to Germany. In return Hitler and Mussolini gave the assurance, guaranteed by Britain and France, not to invade the defenceless remnants of Czech territory. On no account did Britain and France want the Soviet Union to go to war before nazi Germany was strong enough -this would have increased Russia’s power and prestige and severely weakened Germany. So they persuaded the Czech government not to fight but to accept this agreement.

The Anglo-German declaration signed by Chamberlain and Hitler said “We have continued today our conversation and unanimously come to the conviction that Anglo-German relations are of paramount importance to both countries and to Europe. We regard the agreement signed last evening and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolising the desire of both our peoples never again to wage war against each other. We are resolved to consider other questions too, which concern both our countries, by means of consultation and to strive in the future to eliminate all causes generating discord, so as to facilitate the safeguarding of peace in Europe”. A similar Franco-German declaration was signed in December. Chamberlain returned to Britain waving this tatty piece of paper and declared “Munich means peace in our time”.

As Stalin said,“ ...... the policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war, and consequently transforming the war into a world war ..... The big and dangerous political game started by the supporters of the policy of non-intervention may end in a serious fiasco for them.”[11]

By the spring of 1939 the nazi propaganda machine began operations against Poland. In March the nazis seized the whole of Czechoslovakia and captured 3000 artillery pieces, 2,000 tanks, nearly 2,000 aircraft and the huge Skoda and Brno works. Soviet reaction to Hitler’s coup was swift. Stalin proposed a conference with Britain, France Poland, Romania and Turkey to consider ways to halt Hitler’s advance. Stalin also proposed a mutual assistance pact between the USSR, Britain, France and Poland. Chamberlain rejected the proposal as ’premature’ and instigated Poland to refuse as well. On the very day that the nazis took Prague the Confederation of British Industry was concluding an agreement with its German counterpart for a common front against U.S. competition, it was only the storm of protest that prevented the Government ratifying the agreement.

By mid-March Hitler had seized Memel, Bohemia and Moravia. The Hungarian fascists had seized Carpatho-Ukraine. Then without consulting or even informing the USSR, Chamberlain announced that Britain would go to war to defend Poland from attack. Hitler spat in his eye; Germany renounced the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact and the Anglo-German Naval treaty.

On April 7th fascist Italy invaded Albania. Britain gave worthless guarantees to Romania and Greece, again without consulting the Soviet Union. 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. The Soviet government suggested that Britain and France should join in a triple alliance to resist aggression everywhere.

The Soviet Union warned Britain and France that unless they came to terms with her she would come to terms with Germany; which had approached the USSR as early as July for a non-aggression pact. The correct stand of the Soviet Union had been vindicated all along, especially since Munich. In Britain the mass movement demanding a policy of collective security with the USSR was growing dramatically. Finally, a full ten weeks after the fall of Prague and the Soviet Union’s triple alliance proposal, the British and French rulers were forced to enter negotiations with the Soviet Union. But Britain and France stopped at nothing to sabotage the negotiations; their negotiators the ambassador& in Moscow, had no power to make decisions. Furthermore Britain and France refused to guarantee military aid to the Soviet Union if it went to the assistance of a country attacked by Hitler. The breakdown of the negotiations had been planned from the start. Stalin stated that the Soviet Union would not be “drawn into conflicts by warmongers who are accustomed to have others pull chestnuts out of the fire for them”.[12]

It has since become known that while Britain was sabotaging the long delayed negotiations with the USSR, it conducted secret negotiations with the nazis. In June, Wohlat had confidential talks with Hudson and Wilson in London. Hudson was Minister of Overseas Trade and G. Wilson was Chamberlain’s closest advisor. They agreed that if the two powers could work out a division of spheres of influence on a world scale and a non-aggression pact Britain would renounce the guarantee just given to Poland.

At the end of March, Madrid fell. The British rushed to recognise the Franco regime and on the same day Germany and Italy formed a political/military pact. On May 11th, the Japanese army occupying Manchuria invaded the Soviet Union. With the opening of the Soviet Japanese war in the East the stage seemed set for an onslaught on the Soviet Union.

At this critical juncture the Soviet Union pulled off its “greatest diplomatic victory – the Soviet Nazi Non Aggression Pact.


As Mao said,

...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 Deladier 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.[13]

Stalin and the Soviet leaders knew full well that sooner or later the main Axis attack would come on the USSR’s western front. The Soviet-Nazi Non-aggression Pact, August 1939, destroyed the Anglo-French strategy of embroiling the Soviet Union and Germany in a war so that they could then move in and pick up the pieces. The German imperialists had been dangling the carrot to the British rulers up to the last moment and then double crossed them. It meant that the Soviet Union’s western front was not immediately threatened and was able to concentrate its forces on defeating Japan in the East, which it accomplished in three months. So the Pact exacerbated all the major inter-imperialist contradictions and brought the Soviet Union two more years to strengthen its defences.

German imperialism was convinced that Britain and France would be even more frantic to appease. On September 1 German troops poured into Poland and took Warsaw. Two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany.


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. Mao Tsetung[14]

A few weeks after the beginning of the Second Imperialist War, the Red Army liberated Latvia, Lithuania and parts of White Russia and the Ukraine which had been seized from Russia by imperialism in 1920. The Red Army was welcomed everywhere by the workers and poor peasants. In the Western press the anti-soviet campaign reached hysterical proportions. The fact that the Soviet Union had regained its lost territory, rescued millions of people from the nazis and established a strong line of defence to block the nazi advance, was presented as a blow against Britain even though technically Britain was at war with Germany, (not with the USSR).

Churchill, then Lord of the Admiralty was at least honest; “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 ruling class and its propaganda acted as if Britain was at war with Russia not Germany. This was the ’phoney war’ period; the ’men of Munich’ were still in office, an unnatural atmosphere of neither peace nor war prevailed at home and no decisive action was taken against Germany. Britain and France still hoped to ’switch’ the war against the Soviet Union. Chamberlain made this quite explicit when he told the 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 be standing 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, hoping 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 by arriving through the ’impregnable’ Mannerheim line in a few days. Britain and France repeated their offer, adding that they would brook no resistance from Norway or Sweden to the passage of troops. Mannerheim could see the game was up and sued for peace. Britain and France 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’ and the U-boat war, the war in North Africa and so on.

In October 1940 Germany occupied Romania to safeguard its main sources 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 eight weeks. The decision had been taken in 8ecember 1940; and after months of quiet preparation the blow was launched in June 1941 – a few weeks later than planned owing mainly to the heroic resistance of the Greek and Albanian people.

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


On June 22nd the fascist rulers of Germany attacked the Soviet Union. This is a perfidious crime of aggression not only against the Soviet Union but against the freedom and independence of all nations. The Soviet Union’s sacred war of resistance against fascist aggression is being waged not only in its own defence but in defence of all nations struggling to liberate themselves from fascist enslavement. For communists throughout the world the task now is to mobilise the peoples of all countries and organise an international united front to fight fascism and defend the Soviet Union, defend China, and defend the freedom and independence of all nations. In the present period every effort must be concentrated on combatting fascist enslavement. Mao Tsetung[15]

179 German divisions, 22 Romanian divisions, 14 Finnish, 13 Hungarian and 10 Italian divisions, 1 Slovak and 1 Spanish division, a total of well over 3 million troops attacked along a 2,000 mile front, aiming their spearheads directly at Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad. The Red Army beat an orderly retreat, fighting all the way, giving up space and winning time, leaving behind them nothing b but scorched earth and thousands of well-trained guerrilla bands, constantly stretching and harassing the nazi lines of communication and supply. The working class and, people disassembled whole factories and carried them beyond the Ural mountains to continue production. The nazis were held along an invincible line stretching from the suburbs of Leningrad in the north, a hundred miles of Moscow in the centre, Stalingrad, and the Crimea in the South.

The history of World War Two is fairly well known, but a few points should be mentioned nevertheless. Churchill and Roosevelt came out clearly for an alliance with the Soviet Union. Churchill wanted the complete defeat of the Axis powers, but also wanted the war to finish with the Soviet Union and the revolutionary and genuine progressive forces in the world weakened and imperialism strengthened. At the same time a powerful section of British imperialism still opposed the defeat of Germany and the tactical alliance with the Soviet Union, and this was represented by the ’men of Munich’ who were still strong in both the government and in the Tory party.

In July 1941 the nazis had to transfer some 30 infantry divisions and huge numbers of tanks and planes, from the west to the eastern front. The Soviet Government pressed Britain to open the Second Front in the West. Churchill replied that “the Chiefs of Staff do not see any way of doing anything on a scale likely to be of any use to you”.

In December, with nazis in the suburbs of the city, Stalin ordered from Moscow the first counterattack of the war. The next day, Japan which had wisely decided not to take on the USSR again, attacked Malaya and, in one swift blow crippled the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour and brought the U.S. into the war. Up to then the U.S. had posed as being neutral in order to come onto the scene later and contend for world supremacy from a position of strength. In the Anglo-U.S. negotiations that followed, Churchill pressed for a campaign in North Africa. This would provide the alibi for not opening the Second Front in Europe and secure British interests in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Japan overrun Malaya capturing many thousands of British and Commonwealth troops, and penetrated right through Burma to the gates of India. The U.S. were driven out of the Philippines. In the Atlantic, U-boats played havoc with the British and American navies.

By May 1942, 80% of all German land forces were fighting in the USSR; and were being thrown back. Soviet strategy was the strategy of Peoples’ War which rested on the political consciousness and heroism of the masses. Soviet forces would divide into smaller units and co-ordinate with the guerrilla forces to cut off and annihilate the nazi blitzkrieg spearheads. No capitalist army could either conceive of, or implement, such a strategy.

In the Summer heavily reinforced nazi forces concentrated their attack on Stalingrad and Caucasus to divide the Soviet Union in two. Stalin demanded that the Western powers open the second front. Britain and the U.S. went ahead with landing 2,500,000 troops in North Africa but assured the USSR they were preparing for large scale European operations in 1943. The battle of Stalingrad, August 1942 until February 1943, was the turning point of the anti-fascist war. The Nazis laid siege to the city but could not take it though every building was in ruin. Meanwhile two Soviet forces began to lay siege to the nazi forces. By November Hitler’s forces were, as Mao described, “unable to advance and unable to retreat”. In February, having lost 330,000 dead, the 100,000 remnants of nazi Germany crack troops surrendered. With Germany’s military back broken the Red Army moved onto a vast offensive which did not stop till it had liberated all of Eastern and Central Europe and seized Berlin.

The second front, which had been promised as early as 1942, materialised in June 1944, after the nazis had been decisively defeated and the Red Army was driving westwards. The Communist led resistance movements in many occupied countries were on the verge of winning power.

With the victory of the Anti-fascist War the whole imperialist world was severely weakened. Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party was leading a quarter of humanity to total victory against imperialism and its stooges. The peoples of Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Korea established popular democracies. Asia and Africa were stirring. For all the incredible sacrifice of the Soviet people in the war, the USSR and communism were stronger than ever.


For all its weaknesses the CPGB was the only party in Britain that exposed British imperialism’s war preparations and collusion with the Axis powers. It stood in the vanguard of the growing mass movement over Abyssinia, Spain and finally, Munich, and for co-operation with the Soviet Union to defend world peace.

But in the events immediately preceding the outbreak of the imperialist war, and at the outbreak of war itself, the revisionist tendencies in the CPGB leadership broke out into the open. On the day of the nazi’s invasion of Poland, the Central Committee announced that; “We are in support of all necessary measures to secure the victory over fascism.” (Daily Worker 2/9/39). Two days later when British imperialism declared war on German imperialism the paper stated; “The war is here. It is a war that can and must be won.” Harry Pollitt hastily produced the pamphlet ’How to win the war’ with the same opportunist central theme that the war was a ’just war against fascism’.

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 Central Committee 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.” (D.W. 8/5/40) The resolution finally adopted by the C.C. 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, and 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 have “equal responsibility” with German fascism for the present war: and that consequently the war was “unjust and imperialist”.

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 and after 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 and 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 Trades 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 Tsetung 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 peoples’ 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.

The Government and press accused the convention of peddling ’defeatism’ and ’peace at any price’. Atlee concluded 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 December 1940. 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 USSR the character of the war was transformed. The CP was faced with new tasks because every blow against Hitler was a blow for socialism and a peoples’ peace. The Peoples’ Convention also adapted its line. The National Emergency Assembly, attended by 2,500 people on July 5th, called for a further strengthening of friendship with the USSR and for an all-out war effort to defeat fascism. In fact this was the beginning of the mass movement demanding ’the opening of the second front. In the famous leaflet “We Must Act Now”, was 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”.

But the party opportunistically reinstated Pollitt who insisted that he had been correct all along. This was a major concession to revisionism. Pollitt had supported British imperialism’s war with German imperialism. Britain was out to defend its vast empire which stretched from India to the West Indies and included most of Africa; it was party to the invasion of Abyssinia, China, Spain, Austria, Czechoslovakia etc. etc., and during the ’phoney war’ period was still trying to switch nazi aggression against the Soviet Union. The people oppressed by the Axis powers were definitely fighting an anti-fascist war, but British imperialism was not. At that stage of the war the communists were duty bound to lead the working class against both ’aggressors’, especially their own imperialist aggressor. The fact that the imperialist war was transformed into an anti-fascist war in no way vindicated Pollitt’s chauvinist position; and the fact that such brazen revisionism was not rooted out of the party laid the basis for its complete betrayal in the early 1950’s.

Mao Tsetung summed up the Leninist principles of war and revolution as concerns the working class in imperialist countries as follows;

The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds good universally, for China and for all other countries. But while the principle remains the same, its application by the party of the proletariat finds expression in varying ways according to the varying conditions. Internally, capitalist countries practise bourgeois democracy (not feudalism) when they are not fascist or not at war; in their external relations, they are not oppressed by, but themselves oppress, other nations….. On the issue of war, the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries oppose the imperialist wars waged by their own countries, if such wars occur, the policy of these Parties is to bring about the defeat of the reactionary governments of their own countries.

The one war they want to fight is the civil war for which they are preparing. But .this insurrection and war should not be launched until the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, until the majority of the proletariat are determined to rise in arms and fight, and until the rural masses are giving willing help to the proletariat.[16]


[1] Lenin – Sel Work Vol 5 P.123/l30

[2] Lenin – Sel Work Vol 5 P.123/l30

[3] Lenin – Sel Work Vol 5 P.142/l47

[4] Lenin “Imperialism” 1921 Preface

[5] Lenin – Sel Work Vol 5 P.140

[6] [EROL Note: Not supplied in original text: Lenin’s letter to American Workers, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1965, pages 62-75]

[7] Stalin – Works 10 P.280

[8] Stalin “Problems of Leninism” P. 469

[9] C.I. 7th Congress Documents Sect. 14 P.20

[10] Mao – Sel Work Vol 2 P.263

[11] Stalin “Leninism” P.602

[12] Stalin “Leninism” P.602

[13] Mao – Sel Work Vol 2 P.263

[14] Mao – Sel Work Vol 2 P.297

[15] Mao – Sel Work Vol 3 P.29

[16] Mao – Sel Work Vol 2 P.2l9