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International Socialism, Summer 1961


Notes of the Quarter

2. Positive Neutralism


From International Socialism (1st series), No.5, Summer 1961, p.2.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Right, Left and Centre recognize that unilateralism solves one problem only to pose another: what foreign policy fits in with the unqualified renunciation of nuclear weapons and of the military alliances built around them? ‘Independence’ pure and simple won’t do. Its chauvinist undertones are – or should be – repugnant to socialists. It is presented without any social or political qualification. Does it mean an independent capitalism? or an independent socialist state? Finally, and fundamentally, can there be in this world of growing economic, social and political integration and interdependence any vestige of real independence? We think not.

A variant of ‘independence’ is the policy of ‘non-alignment’. This again is presented all too summarily – a mere phrase to solve a problem. Do any of its upholders believe that isolation and non-alignment with either NATO or the Warsaw Pact could, without further measures, lessen the likelihood of war? Do they believe for a moment that the regimentation of the world into two phalanxes, standing toe to toe, nose to nose, would permit such non-alignment unless further measures were taken which threatened the very existence of this aggressive confrontation. If they do, it is as well to remind them of Hungary and Cuba.

The next station on this line is ‘positive neutralism’. Here, too, explanations whimper where phrases thunder. Are the hopes for ‘positive neutralism’ our old Cold War brokers Nehru and Nkrumah, Tito and Tengku? There they are, playing the Blocks, blackmailing one against the other to gain currency for their regimes but, in the final analysis, doing nothing but violence to their destitute populations. Their neutralism is an oscillation between the Blocks, it is an acceptance of the Great Divide, not the unqualified rejection we need. Their inspiration is not the Latin neuter (neither) but the English one (castration). No, where they mediate we need to subvert.

What then would a unilateralist government do abroad that is not being done by the powers on either side of the iron curtain. It would pump economic aid to the colonial revolution – not to the colonial ruling class; it would support this revolution militarily when asked to do so – not confine itself to diplomatic whispering and horsetrading; it would engage in international exposure as did the French Jacobins in their day or the Russian Communists in theirs, publishing the military and diplomatic secrets of both East and West – not in the sordid cloak-and-daggery of today; it would concentrate on winning Europe as a federation of socialist states – not on racing to the far corners to hobnob with ‘national heroes’; finally, it would demonstrate to the world by practical example a future based on workers’ control and popular involvement in self-government rather than offer a perspective of mass murder through class rule.

Such a program is far from positive neutralism as generally conceived. Until it become closer to implementation, socialists will make the most of the neutralist sentiment that exists, which despite wool and chauvinism has its positive aspects, to win workers to unilateralism and to an understanding of what a socialist-unilateralist foreign policy should be.

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