From Fourth International, vol.3 No.7, July 1942, pp.219-220.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for the ETOL.
The Militant recently reported the escape from prison of four leaders of the outlawed Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Ceylon Socialist Party), affiliate of the Fourth International. They are N.M. Perera, D.P.R. Gunawardene (these two elected in 1938 members of the Ceylon State Council), Colin B. de Silva and Edmund Samarakkody. A few additional details are provided by a dispatch from Colombo (Ceylon) to the Times of London on April 9. “It is presumed that they left with their jail guard who is missing ... They have been in detention since June 1940 ... Another member of the Party, Leslie Gunawardene, has been evading arrest since 1940.” And then this touch of unconscious humor: “Last Thursday the State Council again granted the Samasamajist members three months’ leave of absence as it was physically impossible for them to attend the meetings.”
The British New Leader, Independent Labor Party organ, mistakenly “corrects” the Times’ account which identified the Lanka Sama Samaja Party as an adherent of the Fourth International. The New Leader says the party has no international affiliation. That is not true. Previously unaffiliated, the party declared affiliation to the Fourth International in 1941.
Rudolph Rocker, principal figure of Anarchism, has led his following into the camp of the “democracies.” The “aged theories” of anarchism, he announced in The Order of the Hour, published here in the Yiddish language organ of anarchism, the Frei Arbeiter Stimme, do not provide standards for measuring the present war, which he insists is a progressive war on the side of the “democracies.” Rocker’s chauvinist position is shared by the Yiddish and Russian anarchist language organs in the United States – the latter edited by G. Maximov, author years ago of a sensational book attacking the Soviet government of Lenin and Trotsky.
The present position of Rocker-Maximov is a logical extension of their reactionary policy during the Spanish civil war. They supported the entry of the CNT and FAI Leaders into the Stalino-bourgeois government. In accordance with anarchist doctrine, they had made no distinction between a bourgeois government and a workers’ state; they ended by giving support to a bourgeois regime in Spain; now they repeat that in the war.
The present war gives timeliness to a letter from Leon Trotsky to the Australian comrades written several years ago:
December 23, 1937
You will surely excuse the delay in my answering your so interesting and important letter. We have all been very busy here at this time with the Dewey Commission and other very urgent matters. Now I can answer your letter only briefly.
It is necessary in my opinion to distinguish strictly between two matters: (a) the Chinese-Japanese war, (b) your relationship to your government.
A Japanese victory will serve reaction. A Chinese victory would have a progressive character. That is why the working class of the world supports by all means China against Japan. But this doesn’t at all signify that you can trust your government with the mission of supporting China in your name. It is incomparably more probable that the Australian government will use its armed forces against its own toiling masses than against Japan. Even in the case of military conflict between Australia and Japan that Australian government would be glad to arrange the matter on the bank of China. It would be a crime for a workers’ party to give any political support to a bourgeois government in order to “help China.” But from the other side it would be no less a crime to proclaim a working-class organization neutral in face of the Chinese-Japanese war.
We can with all the necessary modifications apply the same reasoning to the question of Australian Independence. Naturally no Australian worker or farmer wishes to be conquered and subjected to Japan. For a revolutionary party it would be suicidal to say simply we are “indifferent” to this question. But we cannot give to a bourgeois and essentially imperialist government the task of defending the independence of Australia. The immigration policy of the Australian government furnishes the Japanese imperialists a kind of justification in the opinion of the Japanese people. By its general policy the bourgeois government weakens the Australian people economically, politically and militarily. Finally, in the case of a great social crisis the bourgeois government would be inevitably ready to compromise with the foreign imperialists, sacrificing the vital interests of the country, in order to have the possibility of preventing the social revolution. All these reasons are more than sufficient to justify our irreconcilable politics towards the bourgeois ruling class in every capitalist country. But there is not the slightest reason to proclaim our indifference on the question of the national independence.
I will add an important practical consideration already expressed in my other letters in the last period.
We cannot, as stated above, entrust the bourgeoisie with the necessary means for helping China. But our policy would differ in these cases depending on whether Australia intervened in the war on the side of Japan or on the side of China. We would naturally in both cases remain in the sharpest opposition to the government. But at the same time as we boycotted with every means the material help to Japan, we would on the contrary accuse the government of not sufficiently supporting China, that is, of betraying her ally and so on.
I must limit myself to these short remarks. In connection with the last articles and letters I wrote on this matter they can, I hope, sufficiently explain my point of view.
With my best comradely greetings,
A disgusted member of the Communist Party recently brought our Australian comrades a secret party document entitled Decisions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia regarding a maximum war effort for the defeat of Hitlerite Germany.
The document is particularly cynical, as one can judge from the following quotations:
“Many Party members see our part in the war against Hitlerism as a matter of ‘Aid to Soviet Russia.’ Some of our union comrades say: ‘If we had a “tanks for Russia week,” or if we were sure that what we produce would go to Soviet Russia, we would have good grounds to increase production.’ Such an approach is quite wrong ... Australia’s main job, and the best contribution we can make to the Anglo-Soviet cause, is to aggressively develop the war against the Axis forces. This means that arms and equipment for the Australian forces, and the maintenance of reinforcements for the Army is essential. Hence we need greater production and more attention to the Australian war effort.
“It must be pointed out that in our propaganda many comrades devote their attention to the great struggle of the Red Army, but neglect to deal with the grim, courageous struggle of our Australian forces at Tobruk, who are also in the thick of the struggle against the Axis. This must be rectified. We must give every attention to the battles of the Australian forces and to seeing that they are properly equipped and supplied and reinforced ...
“We adhere firmly to the principle of ability to pay, and although sharp increases in taxation of high incomes and company profits are expected, we cannot ignore the fact that sooner or later taxation of the workers will of necessity increase.
“We have drawn attention to the fact that monopoly control, red tape and ‘cost plus’ are some of the main factors disorganizing the war effort, and some comrades take the stand that these are the only factors, and that the workers have no responsibilities other than exposing the monopoly control. This is wrong. Our committees must take steps to arouse in the workers a consciousness of the need for greater production ...
“State and district leaders must quickly intervene where strikes are threatened, or have broken out, with the object of getting a satisfactory settlement without stoppage of work or in quick time so that no lengthy hold-up of production will take place. We must overcome economist tendencies in the Party, and where comrades say that the workers will strike whatever we may do, it is necessary to explain that it is the duty of Communists to lead the masses, not tail behind them.
“Committee leaders will understand that very skillful handling is required to give effect to these tactics, otherwise many of our comrades may be isolated from the workers and this will be very bad indeed ...
“REFORMIST OFFICIALS – Our present policy involves for us a change in the approach to the reformist trade union officials. Many of our trade union comrades do not seem to understand this fact and continue to fight the officials in the old way. Committees must re-assess the work of trade union fractions and set tasks in accordance with our policy for establishing working-class unity.”
The Australian Trotskyists write:
We received regularly The Militant covering the trial in Minneapolis. You acquitted yourselves admirably in this action and provide an inspiration for us here.
Sydney and Melbourne account for about half the population here and there is a group in each. I have just visited Melbourne and their group is the stronger at this time. They are settling down to regular fortnightly publications. They have connections with the Trades Hall Council (central labor body) and others wielding good influence in industry. In Sydney likewise we now have contact with the Trades and Labor Council and three others with good influence in important industries here. Stalinism is very strong here in unions and union official positions.
Defeatism was developing before the Americans arrived. Now people are buoyed up again. But only the imminence of Japanese threat holds the workers who are not at all happy. Opposition is growing to the forced labor camps under military discipline to be sent to work all over the continent The coal miners surrounding Sydney are the hardest to get into line despite repressive laws. The boss is going on the offensive all along the line but we are quite optimistic about the proletariat.
Labor is in force in the Federal Parliament, but all signs are present that a split will occur any time now, which may result in a coalition government developing to bonapartism, with a new labor leadership in opposition in Parliament, swinging the workers behind it and using much more radical talk – a development from liberal labor to social-democracy. Stalinism with its opposition to strikes has been the greatest help to the boss, but now the signs are developing that it is encountering heavy weather and approaching big events will further its disintegration. Just now we have hard times and quite likely they’ll be harder, but we feel quite happy to follow with you Trotsky’s advice to go forward.
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Last updated on 21.8.2008