Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 18 December 1944

Ted Grant

Hard Peace Line of British Union Leaders
Only Aids the Nazis

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 50, 11 December 1944, p. 4.
Excerpts from TUC Helps Goebbels, Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 7, November 1944.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Trade Union Council has lined up with the Vansittartists in the most cowardly way imaginable. The kept capitalist press from the Daily Mail to the renegade Daily Worker has hailed with glee the attitude adopted by the TUC against the German people.

One headline, taken an random, reads:


On a card vote of 5,056,000 to 1,350,000 the position of the TUC bureaucrats was carried. Anyone who has the slightest contact with the miners, the railwaymen and other workers knows that this resolution is a travesty of the feelings of the organized working class and even of the more backward sections who are unorganized.

But the TUC claims to speak in their name, although the workers in the unions were not consulted on this matter.

In the Van of the Pack

In the van of the pack, in full cry against the German workers, was Sir Walter Citrine, general secretary of the TUC. He said:

“There is no dispute about the punishment of war criminals. The point of controversy arises over the responsibility of the German people as a whole ...

“It was utterly impossible on the one hand to affirm the principle of restoration unless side by side with affirmation they realized that restoration must be done in the main by the German people.

“Assuming they accepted that reasoning, how in the name of heaven could they affirm that the German people were innocent?

“If the principle is laid down that it is just and equitable that Germany should make good the devastation, it follows that the restoration must be done by the German people.

“... There is far too much mushy sentimentality about this question.

“Nobody has wanted to see signs of revolt in Germany more than I have. The TUC has appealed to the German labor movement.

“While I would be the last to deny the bravery of individual German trade unionists, I cannot escape the conclusion that there has been no large-scale organized resistance in Germany since the advent of Hitlerism.

“It is not pleasant for me to have to say that.”

The hypocrisy and humbug of this is positively repulsive. But it is likely that without the assistance of the Russian trade union bureaucrats, who were “fraternal” delegates from the Kremlin, the TUC bureaucrats would not have got away with it so easily.

Kuznetsov Sets the Tone

The speech of Kuznetsov set the tone of the whole proceedings. It was the most vicious and chauvinistic of all. Betraying all the teachings Lenin, he gave the most racialistic speech of the whole conference. Deliberately and consciously he identified the German workers and the German masses with their Nazi overlords; the crimes of Hitler’s SS he pretends were the crimes of the ordinary German workers and soldiers. It was in this manner that he attempted to confuse the issue. From these racialists there were no traces of the elementary ideas of internationalism of socialism, or even common human solidarity.

“The German fascist invaders must answer for all these fiendish atrocities,” Kuznetsov declared. “The Soviet Union stressed the fact that in the reconstruction of the districts destroyed, Russia would need very considerable help ...”

Instead of attacking the people really responsible, the criminals of finance capital in Britain as well as in Germany, in Wall Street as well as in Rome, they attempt to cover up the real cause of war. And there is a sinister reason behind the support of the TUC leaders and of the Stalinists for a “hard peace” for Germany. The ruling class, as always, are not prepared to destroy private ownership of the means of production, not only in Britain, but anywhere else. They wish to protect private property in Germany – and thus the criminals responsible together with them for this war – and unload all the burdens of the war onto the shoulders of the German workers. Apart from the top leaders of the Nazi movement not many of the real culprits in Germany will get their desserts at the hands of the Allies. But it is to prevent them getting their desserts at the hands of the workers, soldiers and peasants of Germany that the capitalists are devoting their efforts. In this they are receiving the full support of Stalin and the labor leaders.

When Citrine, the new apostle of the barricades demands of the German workers (from the safety of London) that they take action at the barricades – when the Stalinists, the new found lovers of constitutionalism and legality in all the countries of Europe sneer at the Germans for accepting the rule of Hitler, that is a sight to make the gods laugh. The German workers will yet be on the barricades, as their French brothers have already been. But not because of the appeal of these pharisees and hypocrites, but in spite of them.

But Citrine and Stalin do not want to punish the German workers because they do not revolt, but because they are going to revolt. They are afraid that the German revolution will gain the support of the British workers. In spite of the Gestapo and the SS, the ordinary Germans fraternized with the peoples of Europe. Special orders had to be issued to the German soldiers, threatening them if they fraternized with the population in Russia and other countries. In Russia the German soldiers gave their rations to starving women and children. They know that the British workers will behave in the same way in Germany. That is why new military orders have been issued threatening the Germans with punishment if they dare to get on friendly relations with Allied soldiers. But this campaign will be in vain. A journalist writes in the Express fatalistically:

“How are you going to stop the British soldier from being friendly to the German civilians once he gets into Germany? I suppose it can be done but it is difficult to see how. If nature takes its course, he will hand out his chocolate to the babies, and his rations and his cigarettes to the hungry parents.

“I am only going by what has happened in Italy and around a thousand prisoners’ cages all the way from here to Africa.”

The terrible thing is that the class conscious workers, whose normal reactions would be those of international class solidarity, are precisely the ones whose “misleaders” are leading them into reactionary paths. Instead of agitating among their more backward fellow workers on international lines of class solidarity, those workers influenced by Citrine and especially by the “Communist” Party, propagate Vansittart doctrines. There lies the danger to socialism in Europe. Under these conditions the first duty and the first task of all genuine class conscious workers is to ceaselessly counter these vile activities.

British workers! Don’t be fooled. They are playing with your lives and your future. If you allow yourselves to help the crushing of the German workers, you are preparing the same medicine for yourselves.

A socialist Europe, with voluntary and enthusiastic co-operation of the German people with the skill of German labor and German technique, would mean a new life for Europe – a new standard of living for the whole of Europe and a new and higher culture for all humanity. The German workers would gladly give their all in sacrificing and building for the benefit of the workers of all Europe.

But a capitalist German and capitalist reparations hunger for the German people – that is what a stern peace will mean – will bring hunger to the British, French and other workers too. A perpetuation of hatred will mean new wars. The defeat of Germany does not end war; on the contrary, it prepares new wars between the victors. If you don’t destroy the cause of war and fascism – its parent, capitalism, these calamities will descend with ten-fold severity on the peoples of the world.

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 19 February 2016