From Fourth International, Vol.6 No.11, November 1945, pp.323-330.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
NEW CHAPTER OF HISTORY Today revolutionary militants the world over are celebrating the 28th Anniversary of the greatest revolution in history, the Russian revolution of 1917, when the workers and peasants under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky seized power in czarist Russia, smashed the rule of the capitalist and landlord and opened up a new chapter in the history of mankind. For the first time, the body of socialist theory, developed from utopia to science by Marx and Engels, proved its correctness in action. The Russian revolution demonstrated, once and for all, that the working class can take power, reorganize the economy of the country for the benefit of the people and run society. The Russian revolution vindicated the lifelong struggle of Lenin for the building of a Bolshevik combat party, the only party in modern history that proved its capacity for seizing and holding power and mobilizing the masses for the herculean tasks of uprooting the old and building the new.
What a magnetic influence the Russian revolution exercised in its heyday! It stirred all of humanity to its very depths. It aroused new hope, new courage, new strength and heroism, especially amongst the youth. New vistas suddenly opened up before suffering mankind and offered a way out of the anguish, the blood, the hatreds and cruelties of the world war. The revolution inspired and lifted up to their feet the millions of downtrodden and despised. The working masses, especially of Europe, did not view the 1917 revolution as simply a Russian affair, but as the beginning of a world-wide offensive of the toiling masses to free themselves from the rule of the tyrants and exploiters and set up their workers’ states just as the Russian masses had done. The conclusion of the first world war saw Europe swirling in revolutionary crisis. The revolutionary storm swept through one country after another. In Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy the crisis reached great heights and the workers strove mightily, in instinctive fashion, to emulate the achievement of their Russian brothers. It seemed for a time as if nothing and nobody could halt the onrushing tide and that putrefying capitalism, which had brought on the outrage of a world slaughter, would at last, in all justice be vanquished and interred. It seemed as if humanity was about to take its next great step forward in the long, tortuous march of human progress.
But it was not fated to be. Unfortunately capitalism proved too strong and the proletariat too weak, or more correctly, too unprepared. The path of human progress – one can complain about it if one so desires – is not easy, nor straightforward, nor smooth. Despite old Marx’s hopes and expectations, the proletariat is taking many more years than he thought it would need to organize itself for the successful onslaught against the capitalist scourge.
RECESSIONOF REVOLUTIONARY WAVE For reasons that we have analyzed and explained many times the revolutions after the first world war were all crushed or aborted. The revolutionary wave receded. Capitalism was permitted to regain its equilibrium. And after the further defeats of 1936 in Spain and France, the way was cleared for capitalism to plunge humanity into the second and far more terrible world slaughter. And by a peculiar and accidental combination of circumstances, the Soviet Union, the product of the glorious Russian revolution, was itself converted from the foremost exponent of world socialism into its diabolical opposite. Power in the USSR was usurped by a new bureaucracy which became the foremost agency combatting socialist revolution everywhere. Thus, the Russian revolution which at first inspired all of toiling humanity with its promise of a better future, did not usher in the new society. Instead gangrenous capitalism was able to reassert itself. And finally, on top of all the other heartbreaking working class defeats, a new privileged bureaucracy arose on the backs of the Russian people, who were exhausted from three years of imperialist war and three additional years of devastating civil war and found themselves encircled by a hostile capitalist world. This reactionary bureaucracy proceeded to impose on the Russian masses a totalitarian regime, it killed off the whole generation of leaders who had originally led the revolution and forged a new alliance with the world capitalist rulers. The reaction in the USSR has proven more terrible and deep-going than the reactions that followed the French or English revolution. But thus far, as in the case of the great social revolutions of the past, the reaction has not swept away the fundamental conquests of the revolution; in this case, the new, more advanced property forms – nationalized property. These still stand, as a working class bastion and as living proof that the Russian revolution has thus far not been completely strangled; as living proof of the new higher form of society that the working class is destined to usher in.
TROTSKY’s STRUGGLES FOR INTERNATIONAL It was in 1923, the year when the German working-class suffered a new big defeat and reaction began to spread over the whole world, that Trotsky took up the cudgels for the regeneration of the revolutionary party in Russia and later for the rebuilding of the revolutionary vanguard on a world scale. The task of building “the new revolutionary cadre was never undertaken under more difficult circumstances. It was a period when defeat after defeat rained down upon the working class. For over twenty years the Trotskyist movement had to wage an uphill fight, in the midst of triumphant reaction, catastrophic working class setbacks and unheard of betrayals. Small wonder that the Trotskyist ranks remained small, were decimated again and again and were unable to boast of any outstanding successes. And of course, as in every period of reaction, many exhausted by the fight, wanted to reject the whole concept of the proletarian revolution as well as the whole tradition of the Russian revolution and to turn their backs on the Soviet Union itself. The same wave of disillusionment and despair that the Russian Bolsheviks had to struggle against after the defeat of the 1905 revolution now hit the Trotskyist movement with even greater force. After the 1905 defeat in Russia, many revolutionists, under the prevailing mood of pessimism, even put forward a new philosophy of “God-seeking.” The Trotskyist movement has forged its way forward in a period of worse reaction and of far greater defeats. It is therefore not surprising that after each new defeat with the regularity of a clock, a number of people would say: “why continue the fight? It is hopeless. You are just a voice crying in the wilderness. The world is passing you by. The proletarian revolution is a utopia.” And others, under the influence of this petty-bourgeois pressure and despair would grow disoriented, would lose their heads and begin to shout: “our program, our ideas, our slogans are all false. Our whole course has been proven wrong. We need brand new ideas. We have got to start all over again.” In the darkest days after the bloody strangulation of the Chinese Revolution, when discouragement and apathy was overcoming the workers everywhere and when revolutionists in Russia, in a delirium of despair, were capitulating to Stalin, Trotsky wrote an article: “Tenacity! Tenacity! Tenacity!” That was his answer to the wave of discouragement that followed the capitulation of Radek and others. A revolutionist, no matter how difficult the circumstances, has to keep his world perspective. No matter how serious the setbacks, he has to remain true to his ideas and he has got to hold on and fight. Hold on and fight – that was Trotsky’s answer. In the struggles of those darkest days, the struggle against isolation, terror and calumny, was forged the original core of the international cadre of the new revolutionary movement.
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Wars have often been the midwives of revolution. Because wars shake rotted regimes to their very foundations, weaken the hold of the ruling classes and strengthen the revolutionary tendencies of the oppressed. In the last slaughter, the Russian masses first broke out of the bloody ring in the March 1917 revolution and finished off the job in November of the same year. Thus the proletarian revolution broke through the imperialist holocaust after a period of three years. Trotsky expected this time, because of the worsened economic positions of the imperialist powers, including the United States, and the infinitely greater destructive power of war, a more rapid and more decisive revolutionary rise. But the revolutionary tempo has proven slower than he anticipated. Therefore? Therefore it is necessary for the revolutionary vanguard to adjust its sights and regulate its tactics in accordance with the facts.
SHACHTMAN AND THE PROMISSORY NOTE But now comes Max Shachtman, Editor of the New International – and in his wake a number of other disoriented ex-Trotskyists – with a time note firmly grasped in hand and demands prompt payment on this as well as all other promissory notes that in his opinion have fallen due. “The war is over,” Shachtman sternly lectures us. And still “The proletarian revolution did not come and did not triumph in Europe.” (New International, September 1945). First, one must add an amendment to the statement that the war is over. One must add that Europe remains an armed camp, that the Far East is ablaze with national and civil wars, that the erstwhile Allies are preparing for an armaments race and that the United States is organizing a diplomatic offensive against the USSR. Secondly, it is not correct to state, strictly speaking, that the revolution did not come. There was a revolutionary wave in Europe, in Italy, in Greece, in France, etc. But the revolution “did not triumph.” One can go further and say that this recent revolutionary wave that arose out of the second world war represented but a pale, an anemic counterpart of the really powerful revolutionary wave that swept over Europe in the course of and as an aftermath of the first world war. Furthermore the recent revolutionary upsurge was sidetracked and crushed by the imperialists in combination with their Stalinist allies with infinitely greater ease than a quarter of a century ago. Germany, the heart of Europe, which in 1918, blazed with revolution and threw up mass Soviets along the whole length and breadth of the country, today lies prostrate. The imperialists moved in from the west and Stalin’s forces from the east; they hemmed in the German proletariat, they never gave it a chance. This proletariat, which has been bled white for years, first by the Hitler terror, then by the depredations of the war, is now literally crushed underneath the weight of sheer military power. The German proletariat – whatever contrary hopes we may have cherished – will need time to recover and to heal its many wounds.
So, does that mean that the battle is over, that we must throw overboard the proletarian struggle for power, which has proven its validity and practicability in the greatest laboratory on earth – the Russian revolution of 1917 – and declare with the author of the notorious Three Theses and his fellow philistines, that all is lost and hopeless, that the proletarian revolution has been definitively defeated, that the European labor movement no longer exists and that the task of the hour is that the Fourth International “prohibits itself for two years (just as a test!) from even speaking of the ‘proletarian’ revolution.” (New International, October 1945). Is that what we must do? And is that what we must teach the new militants who are joining our ranks full of hope and optimism for the future? Is that what is meant by “fresh thinking?”
Yes, the revolution hasn’t triumphed in Europe as an aftermath of this phase of the war. Is it proposed therefore that we turn our backs on it? Are we now to reject all the teachings and lessons which Trotsky sought to burn into our consciousness – lessons gleaned and absorbed from all the tragic mistakes and defeats of the past; lessons learned after so many years of sacrifice and struggle? Must we now overthrow the “old,” “hoary,” “ritualistic,” “stratospheric” notion, proudly inscribed for so long on the banner of Trotskyism, that what is on the agenda of this epoch is the struggle for proletarian power, for the socialist revolution, and now turn to “new ideas” and “fresh independent thoughts” along the lines of concluding alliances with the “progressive sectors” of the bourgeoisie in the fight for a new “democratic revolution,” as the Three Theses propose? Doesn’t this wonderful new idea resemble very much the old formula of betrayal known as the Peoples Front, which was responsible for the tragic defeats of the last twenty years? Isn’t this an attempt to sell us old poison in new bottles with new fancy labels? That is the way it appears to us.
PROLETARIAN DEFEATS NOT DEFINITIVE We don’t believe that the defeats of the working class are definitive. We don’t believe the proletarian revolution is off the agenda. We acknowledge the setbacks; that is why we must regroup our forces, adapt ourselves to the new circumstances and prepare for the next stage of the battle. That is all. No one, in our opinion, has adduced sufficiently weighty evidence, however, to demonstrate that the working class has been historically defeated and that therefore the program of Lenin and Trotsky no longer holds. Trotsky warned the petty bourgeois innovators about this very thing in 1939:
Marxists do not have the slightest right (if disillusionment and fatigue are not considered “rights”) to draw the conclusion that the proletariat has forfeited its revolutionary possibilities and must renounce all aspirations to hegemony in an era immediately ahead. Twenty-five years in the scales of history, when it is a question of profoundest changes in economic and cultural systems, weigh less than an hour in the life of man. What good is the individual who, because of empirical failures in the course of an hour or a day, renounces a goal that he set for himself on the basis of the experience and analysis of his entire previous lifetime? In the years of darkest Russian reaction (1907 to 1917) we took as our starting point those revolutionary possibilities which were revealed by the Russian proletariat in 1905.In the years of world reaction we must proceed from those possibilities which the Russian proletariat revealed in 1917. The Fourth International did not by accident call itself the world party of the socialist revolution. Our road is not to be changed. We steer our course toward the world revolution and by virtue of this very fact toward the regeneration of the USSR as a workers’ state.
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Our unsparing critics have still another promissory note in hand which in their opinion has fallen due and on which they demand immediate payment. They will give us no further extension of time. Shachtman calls to our attention Trotsky’s belief, as stated in his work, The Revolution Betrayed, published in 1936, that the Soviet Union would not survive the war, if imperialism remained victorious in the rest of the world. Thereupon he turns triumphantly to us and demands: “Has this been confirmed?”
First the question must be put correctly. In our opinion, the Trotskyist position on the Soviet Union has been brilliantly confirmed in its general, in all of its fundamental aspects. We go further and state that only on the basis of the Trotskyist analysis is it possible to make head or tail of the onrushing events and to properly appraise them. Only on the basis of this analysis can one provide the revolutionary vanguard with a correct guide to action. Elsewhere in this issue we announce a program of publication of a number of articles in which we will clearly demarcate the differences between the Trotskyist position and that of the Workers Party on this as on a number of other important questions. We will defer an extended discussion of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist bureaucratic caste until that time. Here we will confine ourselves to the narrow framework of the question that has been put to us. Our general position and analysis, we repeat, has been vindicated. Where is there any other theory outside of Trotsky’s that explains the Soviet Union and the Stalinist development? The only other real theory we are acquainted with – Burnham’s or Bruno R’s theory of the bureaucratic state – has already been consigned to the garbage heap by the events of the war. In any case it spells the utter rejection of the socialist perspective, of the Marxist doctrine. Has Shachtman really improved matters by tagging on a Stalinist twist to Burnham’s theory of the bureaucratic class as a world phenomenon and limiting this allegedly new historically necessary class “to one country?”
THE CHARACTER OF MARXIST PROGNOSIS One should not demand of Marxist analysis more than it is able to give. Trotsky once wrote that a Marxist prognosis is not check which can be cashed in a bank on a certain date. Marxist analysis gives us the general tendency, the general trends, the fundamental driving forces and lines. Marxism foresees events in their general outlines, not in their full empirical unfoldment.
Trotsky wrote in War and the Fourth International:
“Every big war, irrespective of its initial motives, must pose squarely the question of military intervention against the USSR in order to transfuse fresh blood into the sclerotic veins of capitalism.”
Is anyone so rash as to dispute this general thesis, or to declare that it no longer holds true? No sooner did Hitler establish himself as master of Europe than he turned on his erstwhile ally. Today Stalin’s new ally, US imperialism, is already organizing a diplomatic offensive against the Soviet Union.
But let us forcibly press the problem into Shachtman’s narrow framework. It is true that Trotsky thought that the Soviet Union would not survive the second world war if there was no proletarian revolution; that the Soviet Union would succumb to capitalism either through intervention from without or counter-revolution from within. It is also true that hostilities between the major powers, have for the moment ceased; that imperialism still rules on a world scale and that the Soviet Union still persists under the Stalinist regime. From this Shachtman draws the sweeping conclusion that “refuted ... in our opinion, is the entire theory (of the degenerated workers’ state) on which it (Trotsky’s above stated opinion) is based.” How? Why? How does this follow? Argumentation must have some kind of internal logic. The fundamental alternative which Trotsky analyzed as facing the Soviet Union: forward toward socialism in alliance with the world proletariat or backward toward capitalism, remains the only possible historical alternative. If one attempts to refute it by interjecting between the proletariat and the capitalists a new bureaucratic class, one must declare that Marxism, the science of socialism based on the internal contradictions of capitalist society, has been proved in the light of experience, a utopia. That is where Shachtman’s “fresh thoughts” are leading him, if he wishes to be consistent.
All Shachtman has demonstrated, it appears to us, is that Trotsky thought the tempo of development would be a little faster than it has proven to be. No more. Shall we therefore overthrow his basic conception which has been vindicated by the whole course of events? Marx thought the proletarian revolution would follow fast on the heels of the bourgeois democratic revolutions of 1848. But events moved more slowly. That did not invalidate the basic conceptions of the Communist Manifesto, did it? Marx thought the proletarian revolution would begin in France and the Germans would follow. Instead, as we know, it was the Russians who began. Professorial pedants and petty-bourgeois philistines have adduced these “mistakes” time and again as proof positive of the bankruptcy of Marxism. But Marxists have shrugged their shoulders at such “arguments” and have remained unmoved even when the further accusation was hurled at them that they had adopted a new “religion.” Why? Is it because Marxists cling to illusions and must needs spread illusions among others? No. Marxists – and we Trotskyist are the Marxists of today – honor the great masters of scientific socialism because they unravelled the mysteries of social development, correctly revealed its mainsprings and laid down a broad analysis that has been borne out in the fire of world events. Marxists do not demand of their leaders that they be soothsayers.
WE SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE We see the picture whole. We see not only Trotsky’s minor errors of judgment here and there. We see also that his fundamental analysis has been brilliantly confirmed and that this was the only analysis which explained the unprecedented events, the unique happenings of this absolutely novel phenomenon of the degenerated workers’ state. It was on precisely this analysis that a whole generation of revolutionists was trained and solidified. Only because of this understanding, could they weather the years of defeats and reaction without losing either perspective or heart. Without Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union, we would never have the international cadre that we possess today. Those are the facts.
We view and study the Soviet Union and its evolution, or more correctly, its continuing degeneration, with our eyes wide open. We know all about the totalitarian filth and crimes. No one need lecture us on the counter-revolutionary character of Stalinism. We know all about that and were the first to expose it and to fight it, in the days when anti-Stalinism was not the popular parlor game in liberal circles that it is today. But we also see that despite almost a quarter of a century of Stalinist reaction, the more advanced property forms created by the 1917 revolution still persist. And we rejoice that the revolution has been able to survive, at least to this limited extent, and we defend this economic foundation when it is threatened by imperialism or internal counter-revolution. Any other course would not be worthy of a revolutionist. Those who surrender positions before they are lost, said Trotsky, will never be able to fight for new ones.
We see and understand the defeats of the working class better than all of our critics. And we don’t deny them, or attempt to gloss over them or explain them away. But here again we see not only defeats. We see also the continuing cataclysmic decline of capitalism and the monstrous sharpening of its unsolvable contradictions. We see that it is in a blind alley and is growing weaker and more debilitated, from a historical viewpoint. We see that the basic task of our epoch has not been changed for the simple reason that it has not been solved. And we say with Trotsky that historical necessity will in the long run cut a path for itself in the consciousness of the vanguard of the working class. That is our perspective.
SHACHTMAN REFLECTS DEFEATIST MOODS We are aware that a new wave of disillusionment is sweeping the petty-bourgeois circles as an aftermath of this war. One can study the fever chart from month to month by reading such magazines as MacDonald’s Politics. It is our impression that Shachtman indirectly reflects this defeatist mood when at this hour of the clock he begins to rush around, waving his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs: The Fourth International died during the war.
The facts speak to the contrary. In country after country, the Trotskyist movement has survived, despite Hitler, despitethe war, despite the Stalinist murder machine and is today stronger than before. In India, in Italy and a number of other countries new sections were founded and built right in the midst of the war. A singular achievement that has great symptomatic significance. The American Socialist Workers Party (while it does not have any organizational ties or connections with the Fourth International) remains completely true to the program and traditions of Trotskyism, and is recording the greatest progress of its whole 17 years’ history, recruiting workers more rapidly than ever before and sinking its roots more deeply in the mass movement. It is true that none of these parties are truly mass parties nor commands mass following as yet. But the way in which the Trotskyist parties have emerged out of the. war holds great promise for the future. Show us another movement that after all the years of war and repression was able to demonstrate such all-round solidarity on the basic political conceptions and perspectives. (What differences developed are, so far as we know, of a purely secondary and incidental character.) Neither the Second nor the Third Internationals was able to achieve as thorough a political solidarity in their time. Show us another movement in which not one of its parties fell prey to chauvinism in this most terrible of all wars? Compare the Trotskyist movement with all the pretentious centrist groups which in the days past patronizingly lectured us on how to win the masses. Where are all these pretentious “left,” “revolutionary” groups today ? Gone with the snows of yesteryear. Where is Pivert’s party in France? It cannot be found. It no longer exists. The Spanish POUM, the high point of centrism in Europe in the ’30s, is splitting and its right wing is moving to organize a purely Catalan national organization, designed not to compete with the Social Democrats. The Lovestone organization in the US dissolved shortly before America’s entry into the war, etc., etc. No, gentlemen. You are blinded by your prejudice and by your hatred. The Fourth International has passed the test of the war and has thus far given a good accounting of itself.
THE BATTLE LIES AHEAD There is no other revolutionary cadre outside of the Fourth International. There is no other banner. There is no other tradition. Only the Fourth International has worked out a full, rounded program, or as Trotsky called it, a finished program, that answers the main problems posed by this epoch. Regardless of setbacks in this or that country or even on a whole continent, the revolutionary movement is bound to reassert itself again and again in other portions of the globe. And let us not forget that the issue of Socialism or Barbarism, the alternative of this epoch, will not be finally settled until the working class of the United States in alliance with the workers of the western hemisphere and the world, will have crossed swords with United States imperialism. The battle is not behind us but ahead of us.
That is why we turn to the workers of this country and the world, on this 28th Anniversary of the Russian revolution and say: organize yourselves, prepare yourselves for the socialist struggles that lie ahead. That is why our courage remains high and our optimism undiminished.
FASCISM A SOCIAL NOT NATIONAL PRODUCT The energetic attempts of Gerald L.K. Smith to build a popular base for his America First organization comes as a fresh and timely reminder that fascism is a social and not a national product. Fascism and its German counterpart, Nazism, were born, grew up and came to power in conditions of profound and ineradicable social crisis. It is true that the Fascists and Nazis endeavored to build similar, sympathetic movements abroad, including the United States. This was not because they were interested in spreading their political “philosophy” as such. They were concerned only to exploit political and social conflict in other countries as a means of weakening the opponents of the Axis imperialists in preparation for war. Only in this very limited sense could fascism be considered an “export product.”
But since fascism in all countries arises from similar conditions and pursues essentially similar aims, there is nothing surprising in the fact that Gerald L.K. Smith’s promotional and agitational campaigning resembles in its outstanding features, the propagandistic efforts of the pioneers of fascism in Europe. We witness the attempt to exacerbate racial animosities. The middle class and the war veterans are incited against the labor movement. Social discontent furnishes the basis for a wild demagogy in which the most fantastic “promises” are made to rid the people of their social ills if only they will follow the self-appointed “leader.”
Fascism flourishes in the soil of social crisis and in no other. In America, the nascent movements of fascism, which in the beginning had the same kind of crackpot flavor which seemed to characterize the infant movements of Mussolini and Hitler, came on the scene during the late thirties, in the depth of the great depression. The CIO organization drives, marking the commencement of a new wave of labor militancy, gave fascist demagogues such as the Catholic radio priest, Father Coughlin, a chance to pose before the middle classes as saviors of society and to win a certain amount of popular support. It was during this period, too, that the peddlers of “export” fascism, represented by the strutting Fritz Kuhn of the Nazi-American Bund, enjoyed their heyday.
RETAINED FAITH IN CAPITALISM Nevertheless, native fascism could not get a real grip. Devastating as the crisis was, with more than 10 million unemployed, there did not exist that utter social despair which is fascism’s richest soil. Unlike its European counterparts, capitalist democracy in this country still possessed a certain viability. It could live on the accumulated layers of its own fat. By vigorous pump-priming, the Roosevelt administration was able to keep the sick economy going and prevent a social breakdown. Under these circumstances, the nascent organizations of fascism could make practically no progress in the building of a mass movement. Moreover, Big Business saw as yet no necessity for either financing or pushing the fascist movement forward. The lush subsidies paid by the industrial barons to the fascist movements in Italy and Germany were not yet forthcoming in this country.
Then, in 1939, came the war. The anemic internal market was revived by government war spending. The wheels of industry began turning at a fast tempo once more. The economic crisis was liquidated by the imperialist slaughter – even though only temporarily. The army of unemployed disappeared. In the waste and welter of war American capitalism gained a new lease on life. The fascist demagogues, the Coughlins and their like, were compelled to crawl into their holes and await a more propitious time to build their movements.
Now that the war has ended, the fascist rodents are busy once more. The elements of a new and more devastating economic crisis were at hand the moment the last shot was fired. The full impact of the economic crisis will be felt later when industry has taken in the “slack” in the domestic market occasioned by the conversion to a war economy. The most optimistic spokesmen of capitalism predict that there will be an army of at least 8 million unemployed before another year is out. There will be millions of veterans, men trained to achieve their objectives with lethal weapons, who will be filled with despair and anger when they find themselves on the social scrap-heap. In this murky pool of social anguish the Gerald L.K. Smiths expect to fish with satisfactory results. This early reappearance of Gerald L.K. Smith on the scene can be accepted as proof positive that the class struggle will indeed be a stormy one in the days ahead.
ESTIMATE OF SMITH’ SMOVEMENT What does Smith’s movement add up to at the present time? From all appearances very little so far. He possesses, as yet, no popular mass following. His meetings are attended chiefly by old people, to a large extent members of “old age pension” and “Ham and Egg” movements. There have been rumors heard at different times of this or that millionaire or prominent industrialist supplying money to Smith. But obviously no important capitalist groups or circles are as yet financing Smith or any other fascist movement.
It must be remembered that the leading capitalist circles of Europe did not jump on the Fascist bandwagon out of volition but because of iron necessity. Fascism, it is true, saves and preserves their system but it imposes big costs and it entails great dangers as well. Trotsky stated that the capitalists no more like to lift up into power the Fascist “man on horseback” than a man with aching molars likes to go to the dentist. The capitalists cast the fateful die for fascism only when the crisis becomes unbearable and they can see no other way to save their system. The dolorous fate of German and Italian capitalism will, if anything, increase their caution in this respect.
It appears as if Smith is launching his furious organization campaign, running hither and thither and up and down the countryside, to impress, for one, the capitalist powers that he is the logical candidate for leader of any American Fascist movement, as well as to gain hegemony of it over all the other local fuehrers. As the class struggle grows in intensity in America, as it will; and as the strike wave rises, as it will, Smith may very well try his hand in active strike breaking and vigilante activities. He may attempt to build his storm troop movement in “struggle.” Even before the war he made one or two abortive efforts to inject himself into strike situations and union organization campaigns.
The labor militants in the United States have reacted in an exemplary manner to Smith’s initial campaign to organize a Fascist movement. They have correctly taken the offensive while the foe is still weak. They have demonstrated that they learned something from the tragic experiences of the German and Italian workers. In Los Angeles and Detroit, where the Trotskyist have influential organizations, they successfully aroused sections of the labor movement to the danger. In both cities, the CIO was pressed into organizing effective counter-demonstrations against Smith and his movement.
Much of the credit for these militant actions goes to the Trotskyist (the Socialist Workers Party) who kept track of Smith’s movements and sounded the alarm. By persistent effort they aroused the organized labor movement to a realization of the danger. The Trotskyists took their rightful place in these actions, demonstrating by example that they are in the forefront of the fight against Fascism.
HOW TO FIGHT FASCISM In common with other labor militants, Trotskyists are courageous and fearless fighters for the cause of working class advancement. But Trotskyists are more than that. They are in addition trained and educated in the history and lessons of working class battles and experiences. The Trotskyist therefore approach the present problem of fighting Fascism in the United States in the manner of a General planning a well thought-out campaign. The Trotskyists, first of all, understand that fascism can be stopped and eventually destroyed, root and branch, only by the working class, acting as an organized force. The Trotskyist understand, too, that they cannot substitute themselves or their independent actions for the mass action of the organized working class. Acting on this simple but all-important principle, the Trotskyist see as their first task the need of arousing the organized labor movement to the meaning and danger of fascism, and pointing to militant mass action as the only effective method of fighting it.
The Trotskyist of Los Angeles and Detroit have demonstrated that they understand what the basic task is, and understand how to carry it through in practice.
Of course the splendid demonstrations of Los Angeles, Detroit and elsewhere represent only the beginning, the beginning of the big campaign of genuine organization of the genuine struggle against fascism, which is not divorced from the general struggles of labor, but, on the contrary, bases itself, first of all, on the all-round, day to day activity in the labor movement and the organization of a genuine left wing on a rounded militant program of class struggle. But it is a correct and effective beginning, and it is a beginning that gives hope that the outcome of the struggle will in the end lead to the pulverization of the Fascists and their big capitalist backers.
LABOR HEADS FIGHT STRIKE Under conditions of rapidly accelerating social crisis, Britain’s Labor government is revealing on the home front what it has already revealed in its foreign policy, namely, that it is the willing tool of the British capitalist class. The important strike of British dock workers, who are demanding higher wages, a 40-hour week and other concessions, gave Attlee, Bevin, Morrison and company the opportunity to show on which side of the class barricades they stand. The British workers elected them to office and expected them to use their power to protect and advance the interests of the working class. But in this first battle between the workers and their exploiters, the Labor government came down squarely on the side of the exploiters. Instead of supporting the dock strikers in their just demands, these labor skates set out to smash the strike. Uniformed troops were sent into action to unload ships in London, Liverpool and other ports.
The dock strike is symptomatic of a new stage in the class struggle in England.
During the war, the union bureaucrats (as in this country) fastened a no-strike pledge on the workers, thus depriving them of the only effective means of defending their living standards and working conditions. While the capitalists piled up war profits, the workers suffered from frozen wages and the rising cost of living. Grievances accumulated. The union bureaucrats were not entirely successful in their efforts to keep the lid down on the seething cauldron of discontent. Strikes in 1943 and 1944 in the coal mining and engineering industries were harbingers of the coming revolt.
Even before the end of the war, the workers forced the Labor Party leaders to end their rotten coalition with the Tories. In July of this year the Labor Party was sent into office with a tremendous majority, pledged to carry out a program of radical reform which included the nationalization of the Bank of England, the coal mines, transportation systems and public utilities.
After two months in office, Attlee and company have nothing more to show than a bill providing for the nationalization of the Bank of England which will merely make its former owners shareholders in a government concern, with their profits guaranteed by the Treasury. All the urgent problems and accumulated grievances of the workers remain. The union bureaucrats, continuing the role they played throughout the war, can do nothing more than counsel the workers to be patient. But the workers’ patience is beginning to run out. Between fifty and sixty thousand dock workers struck in defiance of their official top union leaders, tying up shipping in London and other large ports. And significantly, a strike leadership has emerged from the ranks, which is coordinating the dock workers’ efforts on a national scale, and has thus far refused to send the men back to work despite the pleas and threats of the Labor government and trade union officialdom. The dock workers, who unquestionably reflect the feelings of millions of other British workers, believe first of all, that the Labor government should begin improving the lot of the working man and not continue running everything as before, in the interests of the capitalists.
BEVIN AIDS IMPERIALISTS Britain’s dock workers belong to the Transport and General Workers Union, of which Ernest Bevin, who occupies the exalted post of Foreign Minister in the Attlee government, was for long years the head. But now Bevin is busy helping the French and Dutch imperialists to recover their Far Eastern colonies, while the Labor government as a whole busies itself with administering capitalism at home. These labor skates actually denounced the strikers and set out to herd them back to work, their demands unsatisfied. In this they worked hand in glove with the union bureaucrats, one of whom, Arthur Deaken, went so far as to indulge in the usual type of red-baiting against the striking rank-and-file. Ignoring the genuine grievances of the workers, this official declared that the strikers were merely tools in the hands of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the British Trotskyist organization.
A revealing sidelight of the strike was the refusal of Aneurin Bevan, a kind of British Walter Reuther, to receive a deputation from the strikers. Bevan, who holds a minor ministerial post in the Attlee cabinet, is a Labor Party “left-winger” who, in the days of the Tory-Labor coalition government, attacked the conservatism of the official Labor Party leadership in an endeavor to build a reputation as a genuine workers’ leader. But Bevan out of office and Bevan in office are not one and the same thing. The Bevan in office is now so weighed down with the responsibility of administering capitalism that he has no time to receive the workers who voted him into office. Bevan’s “leftism,” it is now plain to see, was nothing more than leftist fakery. He and his kind merely furnished a radical cover for the more unabashed labor skates who form the official leadership of the Labor Party. From the dockers’ strike, first post-war-action of the British workers, the rank-and-file of the Labor Party and the trade unions will draw valuable lessons for future struggles. Both the Labor government and the union bureaucracy are already beginning to reveal themselves as loyal lieutenants of the capitalist class. In fighting for their rights and for a socialist future, the British workers will more and more find themselves thrown into opposition to this whole crew of labor misleaders and betrayers. If the British workers thought that socialism could be achieved by simply voting the Labor Party into the government, they are now to discover that this was merely the opening gun in a long and difficult fight.
STORMY DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS STRUGGLE The dockers’ strike is the beginning of a new and stormy development of the class struggle in England. As it unfolds, a sharp differentiation will take place in the ranks of the trade unions and the Labor Party. Increasingly the workers will discover the true character of the Attlee-Bevin-Morrison crew as servants of capitalism. A genuine left-wing movement will crystallize and grow. It will seek a new, vigorous and honest leadership which, instead of kow-towing before the Tory lords of Britain, will rally and lead the workers in revolutionary struggle. That is the only way the British laboring masses can work themselves free from growing economic impoverishment and degradation and begin to move toward the establishment of a Socialist Britain.
Precisely herein is seen the great forward step of the British workers’ movement in putting into power the British Labor Party. The British labor bureaucrats can no longer – as they have for years – excuse their own policies of cowardice and betrayal by pointing the accusing finger at the Tories and their majority in Parliament. The British labor bureaucrats can no longer tell the workers that things will be different when they, the labor leaders, are voted into power. They can no longer talk in the abstract about the virtues of the British way of achieving Socialism by peaceful evolution via the ballot, as against the bad methods of revolution practiced by Lenin and Trotsky. Now the British labor leaders are in power. They have a large majority in Parliament. And now the workers expect them to produce.
But these labor fakers are bankrupt. They are merely servants of the Churchill and the British rulers. They cannot and will not produce. Thus they will expose themselves increasingly, by their own actions, before the British masses. And thus the workers will learn in action and through their experiences the necessity for a revolutionary way out of the crisis into which they have been thrust by the British imperialists.
POLICYOF U.S. IMPERIALISM The policy of US imperialism vis-à-vis Japan, as we pointed out last month, is to preserve the institutions of Japanese ruling class domination as a safeguard against revolution, while introducing such modifications as may be necessary as a political safety valve. Japan’s armed forces have been disbanded and the Imperial General Headquarters abolished. Censorship of the press has been ended. The odious “thought control” and secret police forces have been liquidated. Political prisoners, including members of the Communist Party imprisoned since 1928, have been released. In order to scale down the power of the Zaibatsu (the great family trusts which have dominated Japan’s economic life) their diverse interests are being decentralized and shares of stock in the numerous enterprises of the Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo and Yasuda families are being offered for public subscription for the first time. Elections are projected and, by order of MacArthur, the Japanese cabinet has enacted a law giving the franchise to women. There are even persistent reports that Emperor Hirohito will abdicate in order to save the heavily-compromised and discredited monarchy.
All these superficial “reform” measures, which touch but lightly upon the fundamental structure of social relationships, are intended to fit into, and serve, the widely-ramified purposes of American imperialism in the sphere of international politics. In the period between the defeat of Germany and the surrender of Japan, the Wall Street brigands and their office boys in Washington made a startling discovery. The Carthaginian “peace” which they imposed upon Germany, involving the virtual destruction of what remained of the country’s independent economic and political life, created an enormous vacuum into which, with a not unsurprising alacrity, the Stalinist bureaucracy of the Soviet Union proceeded to move. Europe’s “balance of power,” frequently upset in previous wars, was now totally destroyed.
The American imperialists recoiled in alarm before their destructive handiwork in Europe. Was the frightening pattern of the Old Continent to be duplicated in the East? Was Stalin to be permitted to fill a new political vacuum and become the dominant power in East Asia as he had already become in Eastern Europe? For a generation imperialist Japan had filled the role of “gendarme of the East” against the tide of Bolshevism. Why not make use of Japan, a capitalist Japan shorn of its challenging military might, as a bulwark and ally against Stalinist expansionism?
TWO POWERS – US AND USSR The advisability – nay, the urgent necessity – for a different policy with regard to Japan became apparent when the termination of the war made it clear that there are only two major military powers left in the world – the United States and the USSR. Even before the Potsdam Conference these two powers were snarling at one another over the division of the European continent. In the vast Pacific arena, where the imperialist destiny of the United States chiefly lies, the interests of the two powers clash even more sharply. The Soviet Union interferes with Wall Street’s plans of hegemony in East Asia. Neither Washington nor Moscow doubts that, in due time, this irreconcilability of interests and aims must lead to war.
Washington’s policy of preparing Japan for her future role as an ally of American imperialism is well understood in Moscow. On the very morrow of Japan’s surrender, Japanese troops were used, and still are being used, to smash the uprisings of the Chinese masses and to defeat the independence movements in Indo-China and Indonesia. The imperialist ruling class of Japan, its great gamble for empire having failed, is content now to fill the role of a humble agent of the Wall Street brigands and to help them in establishing their rule in the Far East. American workers who were deceived into believing that the Pacific war was fought by the United States in order to liberate the eastern peoples from imperialist domination should take note of this class kinship between the bandits on both sides of the Pacific.
Moscow has not failed to take note of it. That is why Stalin’s press has been sounding off about Washington’s “soft” policy toward Japan. That is why, during the recent meeting in London of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the Kremlin demanded an end to the unilateral control of Japan by the United States and the setting up of an Allied Control Commission to determine policy. Moscow is also sending a token force to Japan to join the Allied occupation armies – in reality to keep a close watch on the American masters of the country.
US ALONE CONTROLS JAPAN
The American imperialists, however, have no intention of relinquishing any part of the control they have gained by military action. In reply to MOSCOW’s demand for an Allied Control Commission, Washington countered with a proposal for an Allied Advisory Commission to “advise” MacArthur. Washington’s proposal represents nothing but window dressing. Japan remains subject to sole US control and becomes, together with the Philippines and other bases close to the Asiatic mainland, part of the new American Empire.
The conversion of Japan into an ally of American imperialism is, of course, only in the beginning stages. Nor is it certain that the process will ever be completed. The Japanese masses have yet to speak their word. These workers and peasants have paid a terrible price for the unbridled imperialist ambitions of their rulers. Will they tamely submit to turning their country over to the Wall Street gang so that it may become a staging ground for another fearful war? There are signs pointing to the contrary. The Japanese labor movement is reviving and strikes are reported in different parts of the country. Growing hunger is stirring the peasants to renewed revolt. Demands are heard for the overthrow of the monarchy, the expropriation of the capitalists, the return of the land to those who work it. The victorious American imperialists are sitting on a social volcano which may erupt at any time.
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Last updated on 12.9.2008