From Fourth International, vol.3 No.11, November 1942, p.345-347.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford, David Walters & Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
On July 18 a despatch from Turkey announced that General Mikhailovich had launched a campaign against some partisan bands in former Yugoslavia because they were composed of “bandits and looters.” Commenting on this news in the Fourth International and the Militant, we indicated at that time that the rather cryptic cable concealed a deep social conflict and we declared that these “bandit” bands were probably made up of poor, peasants and mine workers. We had no particular information then, and our description was based on the Marxist analysis of the movement of resistance against the German oppression: the Yugoslav state had been destroyed, resistance was carried on by large masses of armed peasants around whom gathered the mine workers who wished to escape from Nazi control; the movement must inevitably assume a class character.
Information received since then confirms our analysis. A September 17th dispatch from Ankara described Mikhailovich’s actions against the “Communist partisans” and indicated the armed forces of the latter to be around 30,000 men.
An October 8th report, received by the American government through official channels and released to the press, brought new details. The partisans include “Communists of both the Stalinist and Trotskyist persuasions” and, the report added: “However, they apparently are not acting under orders of Moscow, but conducting their frays independently. No issue is said to be involved between the Yugoslav government and the Soviet Union.” The report from Washington stated further: “Their leader is Kota Najy, part Serb and part Hungarian, who was an officer in a Croatian regiment on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War.”
The vilest calumnies are now being spread about the valiant partisans who dared to raise the banner of social revolution. The Washington report declares that the partisans met with hostility from the population. But, then, how explain the ability of an armed force of several thousand men – 30,000 according to official information – to form, to organize itself independently, to acquire enough supplies and ammunition to resist the Germans and Italians as well as the repressions of Mikhailovich?
The leaders of the partisan movement are described as “a collection of international criminals.” This is the phrase that the reaction of all countries always uses to designate international revolutionists. In fact, the asperity with which the imperialist agents insult this movement testifies to its genuine revolutionary character.
On a limited scale the movement of the revolutionary partisans of Yugoslavia shows the future of Europe. The present resistance to German oppression on the whole continent is waged by those who have no interest in re-establishing the pre-war regime. The peoples who are today struggling and suffering in order to liberate themselves from German Nazism also are learning how to fight the capitalist regime which gives rise to fascism and war. This is what is made known to us by the courageous revolutionary partisans of Yugoslavia, who are hounded by the Germans and Italians, are the butt of repressions by Mikhailovich and of base calumnies from Washington. Let us salute them as the pioneers of the coming European revolution.
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The latest report on the partisans, in the October 19 Time magazine, credits them not with 30,000 armed men, but with 150,000 – equal to the number it cites for Mikhailovich! Time writes:
“The Partisans, roughly 150,000 strong, were (last week) in control in Slovenia and western Bosnia. They were fighting with great vigor against Germans, Italians and any Yugoslav groups whom they suspected of collaborating with the invaders. In rate of numerical growth and in military aggressiveness the Partisans had left Mikhailovich’s guerrillas behind. Mikhailovich leaned heavily on the inactive Government in Exile, and for this reason many of his less enthusiastic followers had joined the Partisans.
“... Old time Serb nationalists, who hold most of the posts in the Government in Exile, tend to attack the non-Serb elements in Yugoslavia, particularly the Partisans, whom they accuse of plundering the people of Yugoslavia. But poverty-stricken, oppressed Balkan (peasants, traditionally pro-Russian, are attracted by slogans long associated with Moscow, such as ‘Land to the Landless,’ ‘Higher Wages,’ and ‘People’s Governments.’
A letter just received from the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India adds the final postscript to a controversy over a question of fact which has been dealt with in previous issues of Fourth International.
Our readers may recall that in our March 1942 issue, in publishing the first section of the program of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, we noted that the document irrefutably demonstrated the complete agreement of our Indian comrades with the Fourth International, and we charged that the Shachtman “Workers Party” has been spreading false stories about the position of our Indian and Ceylonese comrades.”
In answer, Shachtman characterized our charge as a “slander,” and demanded proof that he had spread such stories. We provided the proof in our May issue, by quoting a bulletin issued by Shachtman containing an “eyewitness” report of S. Stanley that our Indian and Ceylonese comrades agreed with Shachtman in opposing defense of the Soviet Union.
Ordinary mortals would thereupon have subsided into discreet silence. But not Shachtman. He returned to the field, characterizing the editor of Fourth International as a “common slanderer.” Shachtman declared that, although the Indian and Ceylonese comrades now support us, previously they stood with Shachtman. He wrote:
“We reiterate the truth here: When Stanley’s report was printed here, the Ceylonese and Indian comrades supported the Shachtman position on the role of Russia in the war as against the position of Trotsky and the Cannonites. Moreover, so far as we know and unless we hear otherwise, the comrades still hold that their position of that period was correct. Does Morrow deny this? ... We doubt if even Morrow will dare say this in public print. He and his friends know – and have known for some two years – that Stanley merely reported the fact.” (New International, June 1942)
We knew nothing of the kind, but in the face of Shachtman’s brass, continued refutations in our own name were fruitless. The final word had now to be said by the Indian and Ceylonese comrades. Their answer to Shachtmian has now arrived, and it should definitively close this subject even for a Shachtman. The letter says:
“As to the attitude of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party on the ‘Russian Question,’ we have read a copy of S. Stanley’s report on Ceylon. Stanley has been mistaken in supposing that the LSSP or the leadership of the LSSP took any definite position regarding this question on the occasion of his visit. The minority position that S. Stanley espoused was received with an open mind and was given sympathetic consideration, but the question of taking any stand in the matter was deferred, firstly till party leaders who were in jail, and secondly, the Calcutta group could be consulted. In any event the position of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (of which the LSSP is a part) is fundamentally in agreement with the position taken by the majority of the Socialist Workers Party.”
Comrade Jules Cordier, a leader of the Parti Ouvrier International, French section of the Fourth International, lived in Paris under German occupation; he has just sent us a long political document entitled The National Struggle and the Socialist Revolution. We quote here from one section which summarizes the record of the Stalinist organization in France. The following was written in July-August 1942.
The effect of the German-Soviet pact on the French masses was horrible demoralization, complete political confusion, bitter hatred. To be or declare oneself a member of the Communist Party during the two months following the declaration of war was for the worker to run the risk of having his neck broken by his fellow workers in the factory. From that time on the influence of Stalinism was constantly on the decline. Its compromises and its complicity with the occupying forces, its refusal to engage in the national struggle against the foreign oppressor, brought it still more discredit.
How, then, can one explain the undeniable activity of the Stalinist apparatus among the masses during the war and, after the collapse of the French “democratic” government, during the months (preceding the attack on the Soviet Union? Through the combination of the following three factors: the will of the exploited and oppressed masses to fight and their lack of an apparatus of a revolutionary organization; the existence of a vast Stalinist apparatus rooted in the masses for many long years, determined never to cut itself off from the masses; and the ability of the Stalinist apparatus to attune its demagogy to the revolutionary feelings of the masses in order to bind them to it once more. The masses are not tied to the Stalinist apparatus because of its political line, but in spite of it.
During the first two or three months after the sudden announcement of the Nazi invasion of the USSR, the masses were overwhelmed; they had cherished the picture of an all-powerful Soviet Union which knew how to assure peace to its own people, reserving for the right moment the use of its forces to help other peoples liberate themselves. It was not until after the two months of disastrous retreat and the first definite signs of sustained resistance by the Soviet army and people, that Stalinist influence began to rise again. This could only happen because of the revolutionary feelings of the masses. Events facilitated the Stalinist strategy, which of course was based on a non-revolutionary outlook. But what really gave courage to the workers and induced them to cooperate once more with the Stalinist apparatus, were revolutionary factors: the armed struggle of the Soviet people against the Nazi aggressor, oppressor of all Europe; the will to join in the defense of the conquests of the October revolution.
All these circumstances, particularly amazement at Soviet resistance to a hitherto invincible army, permitted a renewal of “Soviet mysticism,” even “Stalinist mysticism.” On this basis the Stalinist apparatus succeeded in regaining a more solid control of the masses. However, the duration of this control is limited to the present combination of circumstances.
Even at the time of its greatest expansion in France, Stalinism operated through a limited and extremely centralized nucleus, which worked outward through more and more numerous but less organized social layers. This was necessitated by its bureaucratic structure and the contrast between its phraseology and its real political objectives.
Present events and conditions bring out this bureaucratic method even more. The “responsible” elements are a small group, who are “sure” in the bureaucratic sense of the word. The activity of the broader groups is limited – at least the apparatus tries to limit it – to carrying out directives. The masses are considered merely a favorable medium and a passive instrument for maneuvers. Another important feature is the absence of a proletarian atmosphere in the organization, even though it is largely composed of workers. The objectives are not proletarian, nor is the organization structure intended to bring about predominance of proletarian elements and proletarian spirit. We can even say that exactly the opposite is the plan and desire of the apparatus.
This structure is dominated by the real political objectives of Stalinism, which means an absence of perspective and of any real political life. The Stalinists, being unable to openly impose their own orientation, do not desire any more than do the Allies to arm the workers with a political orientation. Of course they refrain from boldly contradicting the revolutionary aspirations of the masses; they calm them when necessary with empty phrases. But the main point of their political line and agitation is ‘the necessity of struggle against German aggression, of “national defense” against the “foreign aggressor.” The Stalinist bureaucracy can suggest no common bond among the various national struggles in Europe, other than the identity of the aggressor. No appeal based on the revolutionary character of the USSR, its nature as a workers’ state, the socialist revolution, the Socialist United States of Europe; only the call to fight for the victory of the “democratic Allies” against the barbarism of Hitler. The national struggle is deliberately stripped of all social content. The gentlemen at Vichy are denounced primarily as accomplices of Hitler; rarely as exploiters of the nation. The tactical result is, of course, allegiance to De Gaulle in the national struggle. “All Frenchmen must unite with De Gaulle and march under his orders.” Such was the directive issued by the Moscow radio to France shortly after the beginning of the Nazi-Soviet conflict.
These policies may confuse the masses, demoralize them and hold up their progress, but they do not convince them.
There is evidence of extraordinary ferment within the Communist Party. Illegal activity demands chosen and tested adherents whose strength of character is a guarantee against blind submission; on the other hand, there is a relaxing of organizational bonds, of the control and measure of the ruling bureaucracy upon the ranks. Thus there is continuous and lively political discussion; thus the formation of internal tendencies, in some cases stable and lasting. There is considerable variety and autonomy in the activity of local groups.
A few illustrations will suffice. There have been joint actions between local Stalinist groups on the one hand, and Trotskyists on the other, under conditions of entirely free and amicable discussion. In the “Communist region” of A – , three fractions were formed which designated themselves “Stalinist,” “Trotskyist,” and “for conciliation,” with the Trotskyist tendency acknowledged as the majority. Regional leaders of the CP have distributed pamphlets published by a group of our members. The Communist Party section in B – – made a decision to reform their organization “in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the Popular Front” and “without submitting directly, once more, to Moscow.” Reacting to agitation by members of the POI the Stalinist bureaucracy has put out a pamphlet How to Defend Ourselves, most of which is devoted to a slanderous and police-like attack on the POI.
It is not a question of overestimating these cases, which are no more than symptoms. But it would be foolish and mistaken to ignore them and to underestimate them.
One may say without exaggerating that the evolution of such symptoms in a revolutionary sense depends almost entirely upon the ability and the forces of a consistent revolutionary leadership of the POI.
The American censorship has been deleting, from cables sent by correspondents from America to England, quotations from American newspapers and magazines criticizing Churchill’s India policy. This became known when Walter Waithman, correspondent in America of the London News Chronicle, sent a dispatch published on September 21, which stated:
“I have endeavored during the last ten days or so, in dispatches which were submitted – as all dispatches are – to the American cable and radio censorship, to say that the Churchill-Amery statement on India has made a bad impression on some sections of opinion in the United States. The general sense of these dispatches, I think, has been allowed to go through, but the censorship has stopped in my copy – and in the copy of some other British correspondents here – certain specific quotations of critical comment that has appeared in American newspapers or magazines.”
Thus the American censorship, ostensibly established to deal with military information, is helping Churchill keep from the British people an understanding of the widespread American criticism of Churchill’s policy in India.
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There are 368 Chinese seamen in Walton Prison, Liverpool, serving sentences of two months’ imprisonment for striking for a war risk bonus, the October 3 New Leader (ILP) reports.
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