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Fourth International, May 1943


The Editors

The Month in Review


From Fourth International, vol.4 No.5, May 1943, pp.131-134.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


All Honor to the Fighting Miners – Roosevelt’s “Carrot and Club” Policy Toward the Soviet Union – The Mission to Moscow Film: A Triple Frameup – US Capitalist Dreams of World Hegemony

FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND MINERS REJECTED Roosevelt’s ultimatum. This all-important fact and its full significance will make its way into the minds of the rank and file of the American workers, despite the universal attempts to cover it up. Roosevelt, armed with all his civil and military powers, backed by the entire capitalist class and its agencies of “public opinion,” and bulwarked by the support of the top leaders of the AFL and CIO, handed down an ultimatum on Thursday, April 29, that all coal miners must be back at work by 10 a.m. Saturday, May 1. He was referring to the “wildcat” strikes which began early in the week in anticipation of the expiration of the contract Friday midnight. He got his answer Friday midnight, when all the coal miners downed tools. Perhaps Roosevelt was under the illusion that he was merely continuing his personal feud with John L. Lewis. But he discovered that he was up against 500,000 miners’ families who are determined to get more food, clothing and shelter, come what may. Roosevelt staked his authority in the labor movement when he commanded the miners to be at work Saturday 10 a.m. under penalty of having him use all his vast powers against them. Certainly, whatever workers Roosevelt may still claim to lead, he is not the leader of the United Mine Workers. And that is only the beginning.

The press and radio and the labor flunkeys of Roosevelt are moving heaven and earth to conceal the fact that his ultimatum was the show down and that Roosevelt failed. But the facts are indelibly recorded. The mine owners rejected all the union proposals, confidently counting on the backing of the War Labor Board and its “Little Steel” formula. The mine bosses were especially confident after Roosevelt’s “hold the line” order of April 8, obviously aimed against the miners and instructing the War Labor Board to stick close to the “Little Steel” formula, which barred any increase to the miners. The union defied the War Labor Board and would have nothing to do with it. The board then turned to Roosevelt to back it up. He did so, with his ultimatum-telegram which, while ostensibly addressed to Lewis, appealed over his head to the rank and file of the miners.

Roosevelt’s ultimatum appeared all the more difficult to defy because the United Mine Workers stood alone. Hardly a single figure in the upper circles of the AFL and CIO indicated any form of support of the miners, as the deadline neared. In the AFL, one of its War Labor Board members, Matthew Well, on the last day (Friday) expressed support of the miners’ wage demands; and in the CIO, also on the last day, Walter Reuther, a vice-president of the Auto Workers, sponsored a resolution which was adopted by the General Motors conference, endorsing the “economic demands” of the miners. That was all the official trade union support the miners got before the Saturday deadline. Lack of support meant actual hostility of the top union leaders to the miners’ strike. That was made plain by the treacherous statement issued by CIO President Murray on Sunday, that “I am not going to break my no-strike pact with the President.” Likewise the same day, R. J. Thomas, President of the United Auto Workers, condemned the strike as “political” and took his stand on the side of Roosevelt. That day, too, the Stalinists turned their “Labor for Victory Rally” at the Yankee Stadium in to an anti-Lewis rally. In short, the miners could count on no support from labor officialdom as they walked out.

But down in the ranks there was widespread support for the miners. That was evidenced dramatically by what happened to R.J. Thomas’ attack on the miners’ strike, which he made at a conference of delegates of 500,000 Michigan members of the United Auto Workers. After his speech, the delegates voted down a resolution condemning the strike and adopted one stating that the miners were “forced to strike” because their demands were “unjustly turned down” and calling on the CIO to aid the miners “in obtaining their just and fair demands.” The auto workers happened to be the only unionists who had such an opportunity to express themselves; but, our reports indicate, the workers throughout the country felt similarly. In spite of all that Roosevelt had done to prejudice them against the miners’ struggle, in spite of the incessant propaganda molding “public opinion,“ in spite of their official leaders, the workers everywhere understood that the miners constituted the vanguard fighting for the interests of the entire labor movement. Thus, when his deadline expired, Roosevelt had to move with the knowledge that the miners’ ranks were firmly united and that they had widespread support down below among the great masses. And the next move was up to Roosevelt. The mine union leaders sat tight. Either Roosevelt had to break the strike or he had to retreat. There was no third possibility open to him.

Government possession of the mines alone would not break the strike. That was shown when Roosevelt instructed Ickes to assume possession Saturday morning, and the subsequent mine shifts did not go to work. The threat to send troops into the mine patches was answered by reports from the mine areas that the troops might herd the miners into the pits but there would be no work. On top of everything else Roosevelt was confronted with the specter of sit-downs in the mines! There were those in Roosevelt’s circle who advised him to take the chance. Louis Stark reports from Washington that there were

“certain influential elements in the government styled as ‘left-wing New Deal,’ who preferred to see the government act in a manner that would ‘slap down’ Mr. Lewis and drive him to unconditional surrender even if that should involve a bloody conflict in the mine fields.” (New York Times, May 3.)

These “left wing” elements appear to be those close to the Stalinists, who were assuring the world that Lewis had no support among the miners. But Saturday’s events had shown that the Stalinists and their government friends were inaccurate reporters, to say the least. Much more accurate advice came to Roosevelt in the same speech in which the auto workers’ president condemned the mine strike; Thomas went on to warn that any attempt to use troops to force the miners back to the pits might result in a national labor tie-up. This was a confession from one of Roosevelt’s most servile labor lieutenants that Roosevelt and the labor movement had come to a parting of the ways. Yet the stability of Roosevelt’s regime has rested entirely on his coalition with the trade union leadership, as E.R. Frank demonstrated in his article, “John L. Lewis and the Roosevelt Labor Policy,” in our last month’s issue.

To decide to use troops meant for Roosevelt also to decide at that moment to seek a new base for his government at the extreme right. That meant, among other things, to tell Europe and Asia that the American government which would attempt to determine their fate would be a government controlled by the most open reactionaries, like the outgoing president of the National Association of Manufacturers who declared that “we are not in this war to build TVA’s on the Danube or give a quart of milk to every Hottentot.” At home it meant open class war and no assurance that the miners and their supporters could be crushed. These were indicated consequences of a decision by Roosevelt to carry out the implications of his ultimatum.

No wonder, then, that Roosevelt retreated. His supporters are moving heaven and earth to conceal the fact, but he retreated, ignominiously. The mine union leaders sat tight, and Roosevelt was forced to take the first step toward compromise. As John L. Lewis has stated without contradiction from Washington, “government officials” asked him to go to see Ickes, the mine administrator, who in turn asked him on Sunday to agree to a 15-day truce. Roosevelt talked big in his radio speech Sunday night, but meanwhile he had backed up.

Now Washington has the difficult problem of “saving face” and every reactionary force in the country is howling for another showdown. But it is unlikely that Roosevelt can afford a second showdown, which is certain to be as disastrous for him as the first. There may be many another maneuver, and a crisis or two, but all indications point to a victory for the miners.

One union, standing firm, was able to do this. All the more glaring now is the cowardice and treachery of the AFL and CIO leaders who have failed to stand up for the needs of their members.

The miners’ fight is the first assertion of independence by an important trade union since the war began. All honor to the fighting miners! They have taken the lead in declaring labor’s independence from capitalist domination in the economic field. Theirs also should be the lead in declaring labor’s independence in the political field, The mine strike has shown the impossibility of “simon pure” trade unionism. The struggle was a major political issue from first to last. Yet there was not a single voice in Congress representing the labor movement. The miners, first of all, should draw the lesson of their fight, and come out for an Independent Labor Party based on the trade unions. If they do, they will find the rank and file of the workers back of them, as they were back of them in the strike.

THREE EVENTS OF THE MONTH – WASHINGTON’S peace “hints” to Finland, the Polish-Soviet rift, and the opening of the Mission to Moscow film – serve to illuminate Roosevelt’s policy toward the Soviet Union. That policy may be best described as the “carrot and club” policy advocated by the former American ambassador to the USSR, William C. Bullitt, who as a private citizen has been urging publicly what Roosevelt is actually attempting to do.

Bullitt, in various speeches and articles, has said that Wilson’s “mistake” was to wait until he got to the 1919 Peace Conference. Wilson should have forced through binding commitments dictating the re-division of the world while the war was still on and the European allies were still dependent on American aid. Bullitt frankly concludes that Roosevelt should learn from Wilson’s “mistake.” “At the present time,” writes Bullitt, “we have a real carrot and a real club.” (New Leader, March 27.) The carrot is American aid; the club is to withdraw it from any power which refuses to make the commitments demanded by Roosevelt.

Washington, with the club held behind its back but still in sight, has refused to recognize the Soviet frontiers of June 22, 1941. As we explained in detail in our March issue (The Class Meaning of the Soviet Victories by Felix Morrow), the real significance of this dispute goes far beyond the question of frontiers; it expresses the fundamental antagonism between capitalism and the nationalized economy of the Soviet Union. Washington wants to prevent any extension of that nationalized economy, and to restore to their full strength the capitalist states bordering the Soviet Union. This anti-Soviet aim Stalin is resisting by his own narrowly-national and bureaucratic methods, which are thoroughly alien to the internationalist methods of Lenin and Trotsky but are, nevertheless, primarily aimed to defend the Soviet Union against capitalist aggression.

Under the exigencies of the present war situation, Washington’s policy is pursued with a certain caution, but it is pursued. Despite Soviet pressure Washington has stubbornly refused to declare war on Hitler’s ally, Finnish capitalism. Ostensibly this policy is aimed to get Finland out of the war as soon as possible, with Washington mediating between Helsinki and Moscow. Its actual result, however, has been to reassure the Finnish bourgeoisie that, whatever happens, Washington will still defend Finnish “territorial integrity.” A Stockholm dispatch in the April 25 New York Times reports that three weeks earlier Washington had offered its services to the Finnish government as a go-between: “The Washington ‘hint’ was couched in friendly terms, although asserting it was positively Finland’s last chance to obtain American intercession with Russia.” But the Helsinki cabinet “did not believe it really represented a ‘last chance’” and “decided to ask Hitler first.” The Nazis opposed a Finnish peace now and therefore Helsinki did not take up the American offer. In short, Helsinki was ready to make peace only if both its friends – Hitler and Roosevelt – wanted it! The Finnish regime knew very well that the talk about a “last chance” was purely perfunctory. That it was right was demonstrated in the subsequent American press comment which did not condemn the bald cynicism of Helsinki but instead clucked sympathetically about Germany’s power over Finland and the difficulty for American intercession because of Moscow’s extreme demands on Finland.

“THE ATMOSPHERE IN LONDON AND WASHINGTON has already encouraged the Polish government-in-exile to drop its previous pretense of harmony with the Soviet Union,” we wrote in our March issue, explaining Sikorski’s February 21 press statement demanding from Moscow “restoration of the pre-war Polish frontiers.” Since then the Sikorski government has kept up a running fire, climaxed by its April 17 request to the International Red Cross to investigate the validity of a Nazi charge that the Red Army had murdered 10,000 Polish officers in a concentration camp in 1940. As a Pravda editorial of April 28 correctly pointed out, it is “obvious that on territory occupied by Hitlerites and in conditions of German fascist terror the International Red Cross cannot conduct any truly objective investigation, that its participation in this investigation farce must inevitably result only in grow deceit and falsification.” The Nazis could easily gather bodies of Polish officers killed by the Nazis in the 1939 fighting and pass them off as victims of a Soviet massacre. Under these conditions the Sikorski move can only be characterized as an anti-Soviet act. Unfortunately its effectiveness was enormously facilitated by Stalin’s frameup and execution of the Polish Jewish socialist leaders, Alter and Erlich. As we predicted and feared, Stalin’s crime provided the anti-Soviet forces with a weapon which they quickly used.

It is difficult to believe that the Sikorski government would have embarked on its open anti-Soviet attacks without feeling assured that it had backing in Washington and London – especially Washington. Sikorski was here during the winter, and it is known that he gave Roosevelt a memorandum on his territorial claims; upon his return to London he began his attacks on Moscow. His government is completely dependent on Roosevelt and Churchill; can one believe that they could not have muzzled him? It is quite 1ikely that he did not seek Washington’s specific approval of his proposal to the Red Cross – no more than Helsinki asked Washington to approve its referral of its intercession offer to Hitler – but in both cases the moves are explainable only by Washington’s general orientation toward bourgeois Poland and Finland. Roosevelt may be embarrassed and dismayed by the way his friends behave-- but these are class friends of his, encouraged by his class support of them. The club that he holds over the Soviet Union produces their behavior.

In Addition to the Club, There is the Carrot.

Mission to Moscow exemplifies the kind of carrot Roosevelt is willing to give Stalin as part of “lend-lease” aid, as it were.

The main value to Stalin of both the book and film versions of Mission to Moscow is ex-ambassador Joseph Davies’ endorsement of the Moscow Trials. In the book, however, Davies felt it necessary to admit that he had a different opinion at the time of the three big trials, the last two of which he attended. On the technical legal ground that by the “confessions” the state made out its case, he said he believed the defendants guilty because they confessed. But this statement of his was invalidated by the fact that he also said he did not believe they were guilty of the actual charges to which they confessed. He thought the defendants guilty NOT of these charges but of general political opposition; they were guilty of seeking to overthrow Stalin but not guilty of charges like sabotage or conspiracy with foreign governments to divide Soviet territory. In the case of Tukhachevsky and the other leading Red Army generals – whose “trial” was held secretly, if indeed it was ever held – Davies was of the opinion that they were guilty only of a plot to prevent Stalin’s “party” from controlling the army. In short, at the time, Davies did not believe the official charges against any of the executed leaders. More than three years later, i.e., in June 1941 after the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union and Stalin became an ally of the “democracies” Davies had a sudden revelation that those executed had really been fifth columnists.

This belated intuition (Davies does not claim he had made a further study of the trials) might conceivably have been thought to be an honest change of mind – except for the deliberate falsifications perpetrated in the film, which Davies personally supervised in the making. The film opens with a speech by Davies in which he says the film shows “the facts as I saw them while ambassador in the Soviet Union.” But the film shows him, in the Moscow courtroom, just after some of the “confessions;’ loudly declaring to those around him his belief in the charges! Not a hint of the opinions he actually had at that time!

The trials were subjected to exhaustive investigation by the Commission of Inquiry into the Moscow Trials, headed by John Dewey, the famous American philosopher. The Commission’s two books, The Case of Leon Trotsky and Not Guilty, and deleted from the trial scene the “confession” testimony concerning alleged visits of defendants and witnesses to Trotsky and his son, all of which the Dewey Commission proved to be falsehoods establishing the frameup character of the “trials.” Holtzman’s visit to Sedov and Trotsky in Copenhagen at the Hotel Bristol which had been torn down decades before; Pyatakov’s airplane trip to Trotsky in Oslo in a plane which never landed; Vladimir Romm’s meeting with Trotsky in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris at an hour when Trotsky was at the other end of France; the equally mythical visits of Berman-Yurin and David to Trotsky in Copenhagen – all these pillars of the real Moscow Trials which were pulled down by the evidence gathered by the Dewey Commission – have been deleted from the Davies version! Undoubtedly Stalin would have given much to have the chance to do the Moscow Trials over again. What Stalin couldn’t do for himself, Davies has done for him. And another thing which Stalin wasn’t able to do Davies has done for him: he has Tukhachevsky confessing in the courtroom!

Thus, in addition to the original frameups there are (1) Davies’ refurbishing of the trials in the light of the Dewey Commission findings and (2) Davies’ new version of what he believed at the time of the trials. Frameups are piled on frameups.

Even more dishonest, if that were possible, is the film version of world public opinion on the trials. The principal items in this sequence show capitalist government officials and legislators expressing indignation. In only one of these shots is the nationality clearly identified: a Japanese diplomat expresses to the press “horror at Russian brutality.” It happened only in Hollywood. This sequence takes place after the arrests but before the trials – as if the world ever knew who was arrested before the day the trials opened! The implication is cleverly conveyed that, after the trials and “confessions” most people were satisfied.

IN REAL LIFE, OF COURSE, IT HAPPENED ENTIRELY differently. World public opinion was outraged precisely by what happened at the trials. The International Federation of Trade Unions and the Labor and Socialist International cabled the Soviet government, the day the first trial was reported, demanding for the accused “defending counsel who are absolutely independent of the government.” (In 1922, in the trial of the Social Revolutionaries, Lenin and Trotsky had invited these same international bodies to send attorneys and observers; Lenin and Trotsky had nothing to hide.) But Stalin dared not grant their demand; the trials were not announced beforehand precisely to prevent impartial observers from being present. The entire labor movement of the world, outside the Stalinists, including the British Labor Party, the French Socialist Party, etc., branded the trials as frameups. Outstanding intellectuals and liberals of the United States joined with distinguished Europeans in sponsoring the Dewey Commission. Its exhaustive Report, Not Guilty, was deemed so authoritative that it was not challenged by a single non-Stalinist organ! All this, which is indelibly set down in the historical record in headlines and thousands of columns of newspaper type during 1936-1938, Davies deliberately “ignores” in fabricating his version of the world’s response to the Trials.

Nor are the trial scenes the only events which are doctored. To mention but one other instance, Stalin and Roosevelt’s activities during the Stalin-Hitler pact: there is not a word about the Stalin-Hitler partitioning of Poland, Stalin’s vow to Ribbentrop that Russo-German good relations are “cemented by blood,” the Stalintern’s agitation against the “democracies,” etc., likewise nothing about American aid to Mannerheim and Roosevelt’s denunciation of Stalin’s invasion of Finland. Instead the Beloved Leaders are portrayed as infallible all along.

THE OFFICIAL CHARACTER OF THE FILM IS underlined by a scene showing Davies asking permission to write Mission to Moscow, and Roosevelt answering: “You not only have my permission, Joe, but my blessing.” As a last resort some apologists for Roosevelt may point out that this scene refers to the book and not to the film; and they may also appeal to the statement by OWI head Elmer Davis’ that the government did not pass on the film. Let Roosevelt’s apologists draw what comfort they can from these loopholes. The irrefutable facts are that the Roosevelt endorsed book itself was an endorsement of Stalin’s frameup, that the Roosevelt-Davies scene was designed to endow the film with official standing and undoubtedly does so in the eyes of unsuspecting audiences, and that the same American press which branded the Moscow Trials as frameups now warmly endorses this film.

In a word, Washington has taken a partnership in Stalin’s frameups, and continues them in this film. Expressing their horror at the Moscow Trials, the “democrats” at the time preened themselves that it couldn’t happen here. But Mission to Moscow has happened in the USA. Let the “democrats” try to explain the moral difference between Stalin’s frameups and the endorsement and refurbishing of those frameups by Davies, Warner Brothers and Roosevelt.

The “democracies” are all the readier to give Stalin this kind of aid because it is also a terrible blow at the revolutionary outlook and at the Soviet Union. If Lenin’s closest comrades-in-arms could turn traitor, how can the workers believe in the integrity of the leaders of the Marxist movement? One character in the film likens the trials to the discovery in the United States that the Cabinet and the Supreme Court and a large part of Congress are traitors to their country. Exactly: those who think a little more deeply, and accept the Davies story, must conclude that there is something basically wrong with the Soviet Union, if so many of its leaders can turn against it. Thus, in aiding Stalin to maintain his false story, the “democracies” are poisoning the minds of millions of people against revolutionists and against the Soviet Union. That kind of “aid,” plus equipment with which the Red Army can continue bleeding white Hitler’s armies while bleeding itself white, is Roosevelt’s carrot. Behind it always is the club, as the latest Finnish and Polish events forcibly remind us once again.

ENTRY OF BRITISH EMPIRE UNITS INTO THE US as individual states like Rhode Island or Arizona was the latest suggestion contributed to capitalist “global thinking” last month. Made in an April 24 editorial in Colonel Robert R. McCormick’s Chicago Tribune, this sardonic proposal stated:

“If the British Commonwealth and the nations of Western Europe wish to enjoy closer association with us in foreign policy, defense, trade, currency, patents, and all the other fields of Federal jurisdiction, ... the way to accomplish the result is clear. All they need do is adopt written constitutions and apply for membership and all we need do is accept them as we once accepted Texas ...

“Certainly it is difficult to see why those who say their goal is integration of the free peoples have consistently neglected the most obvious method of achieving it, and the one that would be the most acceptable to the American people. ...”

With as straight a face as possible, the editorialist next blandly quotes the relevant provisions of the US constitution, and then specifies:

“Great Britain could come into the union, for example, as four States, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Canada could constitute another State, Australia, New Zealand and the contiguous islands might form still another.”

Under the kidding tone, undertones of realism are audible:

“(This last should be a particularly easy transition because Australia is now aware of the inability of the British Empire to furnish protection and our ability – and willingness – to do so. Practically speaking, Australia is out of the empire today as all but the most literally minded know).”

The editorialist then has his fun with Roosevelt’s Southern Democrats:

“South Africa presents a much more difficult problem. The laws of this Dominion violate the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments and there is little reason to believe that the Dominion is prepared to accept our views of human freedom ...”

Intended by the “isolationist” Tribune to burlesque the numerous current plans for world federation, these words may not be found too amusing in London. For US capitalist plans for post-war settlement, in their historic import, differ from Colonel McCormick’s parody only in form, not in content.

The First World War converted the US into the most powerful creditor nation in the world. It gave the US, as Terence Phelan demonstrates in this issue in What the Peacemakers Did to Europe, a powerful voice in the European peace settlement; and, as he will show in a final article in our June issue, the rejection of the League of Nations stemmed from no mythical “isolationism:’ but from the belief of an important sector of US capitalism that it was already so strong that it did not need such an alliance in order to establish its hegemony in the post-war world. To what extent the US did impose its will on continental Europe is brilliantly shown by Leon Trotsky’s Europe and America in our April number and in this issue. World hegemony is now dominant in US capitalist thought. Its most consistent exponents today are Messrs. Henry R. Luce, Wendell Willkie, and their Goebbels, Russell Davenport (former editor of Fortune and the anonymous writer of the current demagogic editorials in Life). Mr. Luce (privately known to the hired hands of his enterprises as Il Luce) in his bombastic The American Century – that title alone is revealing – calls on Americans “... to accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and most vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.” [Our italics.]

Willkie, a close friend of Luce, puts it less crudely, but, as Felix Morrow shows in this issue, he stands for the same world aim.

Unless socialist revolution opens another road, Britain will end this war in roughly the same position in which France ended the last one: great political power without the economic potential to back it up. Just before France was beaten, in June 1940, Winston Churchill offered the French a chance to join the British Empire; remembering that, Churchill will not find Colonel McCormick’s jocular suggestion so funny.

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