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Labor Action, 18 December 1944


A Note on Morals

Stalin’s Spirit in the Fourth International

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 51, 18 December 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Members of the Workers Party and friends and readers of Labor Action may judge for themselves, on the basis of the material published by the Socialist Workers Party on their recently concluded convention (we shall make this material available), just how far the comrades of the SWP itself are disturbed by the above question. The case before us right now is one that forces us to say: Yes, Stalin’s spirit has gained access to the Fourth International and is already at work with falsifications and political calumny. In The Militant of November 25 we read in an editorial announcement under the heading, Latest Issue of FI Features Articles on Soviet Union:

“The first of two installments of Problems of the European Revolution, by a group of European comrades, appears in this issue ... Replying to revisionists of Marxism who see in the European upheavals only a struggle for restoration of the national states on bourgeois-democratic foundations, these comrades pose the necessity for socialist revolution: ‘He who wants first to liquidate the “main enemy” or the “main obstacle,” i.e., fascism or national oppression, and only then to think of modifying capitalist conditions, is, unlikely to witness any changes in the bourgeois system, and still less to see the advent of socialism. That would be the road toward, the victory of reaction.’”

In so far as it is the “European” comrades who speak here, all we can do is pardon their reckless stupidity. But in so far as it is The Militant speaking, and calling the comrades involved in the polemic “revisionists of Marxism,” etc., we must say that EVERY WORD is a conscious and deliberately disseminated calumny in the style of Stalin the well-poisoner.

But this is not yet the whole story. If The Militant had even a breath of the spirit of Trotsky, Lenin and Marxism in general, it would not only aim at showing the greatest scrupulousness in the criticism of the views of foe as well as friend and at repeating them as they really are – but would decidedly guard against planting a garland of calumny upon the grave of a comrade who, impelled by the desire to escape his isolation in Sweden and return to political activity, fell into Stalin’s hands and lost his life for the movement.

Besmirching Revolutionaries

The polemic of the “European” comrades is directed at the authors of the Three Theses (which appeared in the December 1942 Fourth International and in the theoretical organ of the English section), against the German, Comrade Brink, and against Comrade Walter Held. It is precisely to Comrade Held (one of the most talented in the entire International) that the Fourth International owes many outstanding contributions. It made an abundant to-do over him. This comrade did not go off for a year to prison, after a comparatively pleasant and long life, and accompanied by the revolting music of a miserable Joseph Hansen, but Stalin KILLED him according to the “approved standard.” To supply the memory of Comrade Walter Held in such an unscrupulous manner for factional requirements is not only political baseness, but personal swinishness and indecency that well becomes the direct supporters of the celebrated “Socialist No. 1.”

As to the authors of the Three Theses (they have already informed us of an answer they have prepared to the polemic of the English comrades, and will undoubtedly have their say to the Fourth International themselves), the SWP had the opportunity for more than three years to learn what their real views are. Out of many other facts, we name here only the study on Capitalist Barbarism or Socialism? which we published in The New International, which was handed to the SWP more than a year ago. In view of the fact that this study was published in full in the October issue of The New International, the repetition of the old intriguist calumny against the authors of the Three Theses in The Militant of November 25 is doubly characterized.

Where the abstentionist policy of the SWP and its complete helplessness especially in the warmly-contested “national question” leads, is shown with particular crassness in the report on The Real Situation in France (Fourth International, October 1944). We refer our readers to the detailed analysis of this report made in the November issue of The New International, now off the press. Regardless of what the authors of the Three Theses have to say, this analysis alone will provide a clear enough picture of the nature of the SWP slanders against Comrades Brink, Walter Held, Max Shachtman, etc.

A Hopeless Malady

In order to avoid misunderstandings: what we oppose is deliberate political calumniation, falsification of obvious facts; we would have no objection against any polemic made in the interests of the truth even if it were “super-sharp” and “super-ironical.” On the contrary! We regard the SWP’s lack of qualified polemists (the petty brawlers it sends into the ring are a pain for all concerned!), their absolute humorlessness, etc., as an infallible sign of their hopeless malady. It is no accident that one of Trotsky’s closest comrades just wrote one of the SWP members, on the Russian question:

“The evolution of the tendencies of political events must take into account, analyze, discuss from different standpoints right up to sharp polemics, right up to differences of opinion – in this consists the living creative work of the organization, its preparation for the impending events; otherwise it is doomed to inaction.”

We can only admire these fine words. If they are not realized in life, then, for example, a “group of European comrades” must be brought in, for that gives the thing the air of the SO bitterly required “unanimous” opposition of Europe against the wicked “revisionists.” Stalin makes everything “unanimous,” too. Then it becomes so easy to conceal the fact that the English organization, in publishing the Internal Bulletin, which contains the polemic against the Three Theses, etc., wrote an introduction which reads:

“These documents on European problems are published by the RCP as an Internal Discussion Bulletin. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the party.”

In other words, up to now the spirit of Stalin has not yet completely conquered Europe. This may be a painful thing to the SWP, but it has richly deserved it.

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