From New International, Vol.4 No.7, July 1938, pp.195-198.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
History is Maliciously Unkind to The Advocates of Collective Security – A Churchill for a Chamberlain, and Where The Nation Pins Its Frayed Hope – Dictatorship and Democracy in Ethiopia, China, Austria, Mexico and Brazil – The Stalinists and Czechoslovakia, the Belgium and Servia of 1938, Plus an Interesting Quotation from Yesterday – Lovestone Explains His Morality and His Politics
IF HISTORY HAD SET OUT deliberately to confound the apostles of collective security, it could not have done so more thoroughly than by its own natural unfolding in the past few months. In the series of events that have had such an annihilating bearing upon this policy, may be included the annexation of Austria, the crisis in Czechoslovakia, the May session of the League of Nations which repulsed the appeals of Spain, China and Ethiopia and, in the New World, the oil expropriations in Mexico, the Integralista uprising in Brazil and the Roosevelt foreign policy.
According to the advocates of the collective security doctrine, the world today, like Caesar’s Gaul, is divided into three parts, the two principal ones being respectively the aggressor nations and the defender nations, the former identical with the Fascists, or war-loving nations, the latter with the Democratic, or peace-loving nations; while the third is composed of the irresolute Hamlet nations in an intermediate purgatory from which they may emerge to the lower depths or the upper reaches. The fascist aggressors are the sworn enemies of the Democracies which they intend to convert to their political system by fire and sword; they are, further, violators of the independence and territorial integrity of the small countries, whose natural protectors are the Democracies. The existence of the Democracies is incompatible with the existence of the Fascisms. Hence, the Democracies must band together – England, France, the United States and the Soviet Union, as Ambassador Troyanovsky recently put it in his Chapel Hill address – and by their collective action bring security to the world, security from war and fascism. Moreover, and this is no small consideration, the defense of the Soviet Union from hostile assault will be guaranteed.
From the standpoint of the Stalinists who, as recent converts to the doctrine first formulated for French imperialism by the late Aristide Briand, have become its most ardent and persistent espousers, the position is especially significant. Their claim that socialism has already been established in the Soviet Union goes hand in hand with the assertion that it is possible for a socialist society to cohabit peacefully with capitalism and with the nations in which it prevails. At the same time, they argue, the democratic capitalist nations cannot live peacefully side by side with the fascist capitalist nations; the two are irreconcilable and incompatible. From this it would follow that the capitalist democracies have more in common with the Soviet Union, from which they are separated by the gulf between two social systems, than they have with the fascist nations, from which they are separated only by the fissure between two political systems whose social orders, however, are identical.
But this conclusion, which flows inescapably from the premises, not only throws no light whatsoever on international events and problems, but is directly contradicted by everything that has happened before our time, in our time and before our very eyes.
In the very first place, if similarity or dissimilarity of political systems (theocracy, autocracy, constitutional monarchy, democratic republic, fascism, Sovietism, etc.) is decisive in determining the relations between countries, and social differences (feudalism, capitalism, socialism) are of secondary or no importance, then the Soviet Union today would necessarily be aligned with Germany and Italy, for all three have the same totalitarian political regime. The fact that Russia was once on excellent terms with these two fascist countries, like the fact that a sharp hostility exists now between them, is determined, as are all diplomatic relations between countries, by forces of a far more profound, realistic and practical nature than are represented by the superficial and, in any case, entirely secondary considerations of conflicting political ideologies.
THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN British foreign policy, as worked out by Mr. Chamberlain, have produced an epidemic of stammering among the proponents of collective-security-against-war-and-fascism. The Rome agreement of April 16, 1938 between England and Italy is, as everyone realizes, tantamount to an official stamp of approval by British “democracy” upon the Italian conquest of Ethiopia and the crushing of Loyalist Spain by Franco and his auxiliaries. What becomes of the myth of the inherent solidarity of the Democracies and the no less inherent antagonism between the Democracies and the fascist countries? It is blown up again. In moving the endorsement of the Rome conversations, the Prime Minister made a most interesting statement in the House of Commons:
For my part I repudiate the idea that it is impossible for democracies to come to terms and to an understanding with States where authoritarian ideas prevail. This agreement proves the contrary. I myself feel encouraged by what has happened to hope that we have only taken the first step towards a healthier and saner state of things in Europe. (Manchester Guardian, May 6, 1938.)
One would imagine that what has been so obvious for a long time needed no new agreement as proof. But the collective security war-mongers, like the Stalinists and their echo, The Nation, remain stutteringly adamant. It appears that when they spoke in the past about British Democracy and its sacred mission of preserving the world from fascism and war, they did not mean Mr. Chamberlain at all, but someone else.
Our hope, frayed though it is [says The Nation now], is pinned not to the stuffed shirt-front of the British Prime Minister but to the anti-government forces, the collective-security forces, that may yet throw him out of office or drive his government, at the point of a ballot, to change its foreign policy. (May 28,1938.)
In the first place, it must be said in defense of Chamberlain’s quoted statement that it is only a repetition of yesterday’s position of the most vociferous champions of collective security, the Kremlin, a position which different circumstances may yet find them re-adopting. After Hitler came to power, it was the official Soviet organ, Izvestia, which wrote on March 15, 1933 that “the USSR is the only state which is not nourished on hostile sentiments towards Germany and that, independent of the form and the composition of the government of the Reich”. In the second place, The Nation does not improve its position when it pins its frayed hope to the “anti-government forces”. Among the most leading anti-government advocates of collective security in England today is the eminent paladin of peace and freedom, Winston Churchill. In his Manchester speech against Chamberlain’s policy last month, he offered the following program of action:
... some of the countries who should be asked whether they will join Great Britain and France in the special duty to the League [“to resist an aggression” ... “by Nazi tyranny”] are Yugoslavia, Rumania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. These countries can be mopped up one by one, but together they are of enormous strength. In the next place there are Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, all States who wish to preserve their individuality and national independence. If this powerful group of Danubian and Balkan countries were firmly united with the two great Western democracies an immense – probably a decisive – step towards the stability would be achieved. (Manchester Guardian, May 13, 1938.)
If democracy, justice, equity, peace, security and other fine things are to be preserved by this combination, then Mussolini is right in saying that Italy has the only true democracy in the world! If Chamberlain is wrong in denying the impossibility “for democracies to come to terms and to an understanding with States where authoritarian ideas prevail”, why is Churchill, representing The Nation’s “anti-government forces”, right in proposing an alliance with the bloodstained dictatorships, many of them indistinguishable from Nazi Germany or fascist Italy, which rule over Greece, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Turkey and Bulgaria? If King Carol and General Metaxas are friends of democracy, then Hitler is certainly not its enemy; if the Czar of Bulgaria and Kamal Ataturk are to lead the struggle for freedom, then Mussolini should at least be allowed to direct it from the editorial columns of The Nation.
The difference between Chamberlain and Churchill reveals the choice that must be made so long as one does not go beyond the confines of capitalist politics. The choice is not between the abstractions of “democracy” and “fascism”, any more than it is between the two deceptive shibboleths of “collective security” and “isolationism”. Whatever they may say, none of the capitalist statesmen really can or does follow a policy of “isolation”, which is as completely nonsensical as the Nazi blabber about “autarchy” or Stalin’s about “socialism in one country”.
Every capitalist statesman is concerned first and foremost with getting the maximum possible support from other countries (i.e., “collective security”) for the imperialist position and ambitions of his own land. None of them is an “isolationist”, save in one single sense. The United States wants to “isolate” England, Germany and Japan from contact with her own empire in Latin America; towards this end, Roosevelt seeks to “secure collectively” America’s position in the Western hemisphere with the aid of all the Latin-American countries that can be brought under Washington’s domination. Chamberlain wants to “isolate” Japan from England’s sphere of influence and power in Asia; if this power can be “secured collectively” with the aid of Italy and Germany, so much the better; otherwise, throwing Ethiopia to Mussolini in order to cut the Rome-Berlin axis, is considered a good bargain. Churchill wants to “isolate” Germany from dominant contact with Southern and Southeastern Europe; if it can be done by an alliance with other totalitarian states and under the high-sounding slogan of “collective security”, what can he lose? Especially if that policy gets him such powerful allies as the Soviet Union, the communist party and ... the editorial board of The Nation.
THE FASCIST POWERS CHOOSE their allies and their victims with the same realistic disregard for political abstractions as is shown by Chamberlain, Churchill and all the other bourgeois democrats. This is an extremely important fact which is deliberately concealed by the collective security-mongers, for it exposes the fraudulence of their ideological preparations for the next war to make the world safe for democracy, their cloaking of the grossly material, imperialistic interests which motivate all the capitalist lands – democratic as well as fascist – with idealistic trappings calculated to facilitate mass conscription and mass enthusiasm for the slaughter.
When Secretary of War Woodring said at the Washington meeting of the Chamber of Commerce: “I warn Germany, Japan and Italy that if dictatorships push the democratic nations too far the result will be war” – this illuminating statement must have been very disconcerting in some quarters. For have we not been taught by the Stalinists – to say nothing of the editors of The Nation – that the unity of the democratic nations would perpetuate the peace and put off the war? That their collective action would so terrify the dictatorships as to obviate the necessity of war and end fascist aggressions?
In a way, however, this is beside the point. What is important is the monstrous lie implicit in his statement that the struggle is between Dictatorship and Democracy, both with a capital D.
The fact is that in the majority of cases of armed conflict or aggressions between nations in the past few years, the question of the democratic or dictatorial political regimes of the countries or forces involved has not even played a formal role. For example:
The war of Italy upon Ethiopia was not a conflict between a dictatorship and a democracy and could not possibly be explained on that basis. If anything, the political regime of Haile Selassie was more backward and reactionary than that of Mussolini; certainly, also, the chattel slavery maintained by the tribal chieftains of the King of Kings was scarcely an improvement over the social order of the Blackshirts. Nevertheless, every revolutionist could consistently and honestly support Ethiopia against Italy on the same grounds upon which he supports any and every colonial or semi-colonial country fighting against annexation or for independence. By the same token, however, he would support Tunis against the imperialist democracy of France; India against the England of Chamberlain, Churchill, MacDonald or Atlee; or Morocco against Franco or the People’s Front government. He does not fear saying that Mussolini was one hundred percent correct in stating that he did to Ethiopia nothing more and nothing less than “democratic” England once did to India. The only element of democracy involved in the case of Ethiopia was the democratic right of a people to self-determination, i.e., to oppose violent subjection to another nation. But it is precisely this element that England, with her India and Egypt, and France, with her Algiers and Indo-China, were and are not at all concerned with!
The war of Japan upon China is also not a war between a dictatorship and a democracy. If any difference existed between the regime of the Mikado and that of Chiang Kai-shek it was, perhaps, only in the greater scope and ruthlessness of the latter’s activities in mowing down the masses of workers and peasants striving for democratic rights. Furthermore, if the struggle on China’s soil today is between “democracy” and “fascism”, how explain the fact that up to yesterday, Germany gave direct and indirect material aid to China, whose armies were trained and commanded in part by von Falkenhayn’s mission, that Russian and German aviators flew from the same airports to drop bombs upon the same Japanese troops, that only at the last moment did Hitler reluctantly make the gesture of ordering the withdrawal of his Germans from the Chinese forces?
There is a basis – specious, but a basis – for explaining the Italo-German invasion of Spain on grounds of pure ideology. But how explain, on those grounds, the invasion and annexation of Austria? Here is a clear case of two fascist dictatorships coming to grips, with a third, across the Brenner Pass, itching to teach its axis-ally a military lesson. Is it perhaps because the regimes of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, the heroes of the February 1934 massacre and serfs of Mussolini, were democracies that Hitler decided to demolish them? And is it because of their affinity for democratic institutions that France and England mumbled something about protecting Austria’s “independence”?
Let us take an opposite case on our own continent. Mexico and England, according to the “democracy vs. dictatorship” dogmatists, are both supposed to fall into the former category. Yet, when Mexico exercizes her democratic right to apply her own laws and take over the products of her own soil, it is democratic England who threatens her with such economic and political reprisals as are, after all, only an attenuated form of military attack; for – we take the risk of being called “fascists” for quoting Clausewitz – is not war only a continuation of politics, by other means? Furthermore, should not the Mexican government be damned everlastingly into Chamberlain’s category, by The Nation’s criteria, for seeking to dispose of her oil to Germany and Japan when neither democratic England or democratic United States will buy any?
The Greenshirt uprising in Brazil was clearly inspired, or at the very least, supported by Germany. She did not seek to overthrow Getulio Vargas because he heads a democratic state, but because of purely material imperialistic interests, the same interests that animated the United States in supporting the Vargas dictatorship. For when Mr. Woodring declares that “if the dictatorships push the democratic nations too far the result will be war” – he does not for a minute have in mind an idealistic crusade of American armed forces for the purpose, let us say, of overturning the Batista dictatorship and establishing democracy in Cuba; or of warring upon Vargas’ totalitarian regime and replacing it with a Brazilian democracy. Not for a minute! He means by a war for democracy what Woodrow Wilson meant, except that he hopes the next war will bring American imperialism even more than it obtained from the last.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA NOW PLAYS the same part on the imperialist chessboard as did Belgium and Servia in the last war. This synthetic product of an abominable peace treaty, which has been nothing but a pawn of French imperialism since its creation, is now being advertized in the same hypocritically pathetic tones that were employed in 1914 to describe Heroic Little Belgium and Brave Little Servia. The raucous clamor about Hitler’s threats to violate the independence and freedom of Czechoslovakia effectively drowns out the protests of the millions of Germans, Slovaks, Poles, Hungarians and Ruthenians who have never enjoyed independence and freedom in the almost twenty years of rule by the Bonapartist Czech bourgeoisie.
The latter has skilfully exploited the situation in order to consolidate its sovereignty and to eliminate all opposition. It has become undisputed master of the country, for with the connivance of the social-democratic and Stalinist parties, it has completely subjugated the working class, dissolving the independent proletarian movement and its separate aims and interests into a Sacred National Union. The social-patriotic labor leaders in both camps have collaborated zealously – the one for the sake of its own bourgeoisie, the other for the sake of the Kremlin bureaucracy – to mobilize the masses for the coming war, a war not for the independence of Czechoslovakia but for the domination of Europe by Anglo-French imperialism.
The Stalinist party is of course in the very forefront of the chauvinistic camp. Its subservience to the Czech bourgeoisie was guaranteed long ago, when the Czecho-Soviet pact was signed, and it has since given unstinting support to the government, including the voting for war credits which the still undisavowed program of its own International prohibits and denounces as a crime. On May 21, 1938, the party issued an appeal which merits reproduction:
We approve and support fully and entirely all the measures taken for the security, integrity and independence of the Republic. We appeal to the entire people to preserve calmness, order, coolness and discipline. We address ourselves to the working class and to all the toiling people of town and country, inviting them to make a bloc, without political or national distinction, in order to form an indestructible unity.
We invite all the parties and political personalities to subordinate the interests of party to the common interest: the safeguarding of peace, security, integrity and independence of the Republic.
We proclaim our unshakable wish to unite in action with all those who are determined to defend the Republic. We invite all the communists and all the organizations to act at their posts in this sense. Communists of Czechoslovakia, all of you, be in the first ranks in the defense of the Republic.
In all the base literature of the social-democratic war-supporters of 1914-1918, it will be difficult to find a single document which is so unreservedly an abandonment of revolutionary principles, so thoroughly oblivious to the existence of a working class with its own interests and aims, as this one. A revolutionary party might at least have said:
“It is of interest to note how the Czech bourgeoisie, in making its threats of war, hypocritically attempts to assume the role of a great democrat. It represents the defense of the predatory imperialist peace treaty of Versailles to be a defense of democracy against fascist dictatorship (in Germany, Italy, Hungary). Of course, it breathes not a word about the bloody dictatorships in the lands of its accomplices (Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia) or its own dictatorship at home. This demagogy, which claims to ‘defend democracy against fascist dictatorship’, serves, primarily, as a welcome argument in the mouths of the social-fascists speaking German and Czechish, who defend the imperialist policy of their own bourgeoisie unconditionally and without hesitation. With such phrases as ‘Strengthen Democracy’ or ‘the advance of fascist reaction forces us virtually to subscribe to the memorandum of the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ (i.e., to the imperialist war policy), the social-fascist leaders attempt today to deceive the toiling masses, to encourage them and ensnare them into supporting the imperialist policy of the Czech bourgeoisie.”
Lest the Daily Worker editors rush into print with a denunciation of this paragraph as a fascist agent’s product, we hasten to record the fact that it is taken word for word from an article by one, Koehler, in the official organ of the Communist International (of the same name) for May 15, 1933, that is, after Hitler’s advent to power.
OUT OF THE WHOLE ARTICLE by Leon Trotsky in our last issue, Their Morals and Ours, The Workers Age (June 11, 1938) finds worthy of comment only the sentence dealing with Lovestone’s endorsement of the first Moscow Trial. His answer? Trotsky made just the same “mistake” in believing that the Menshevik trial, framed in 1931, “was more or less correct”.
Lovestone’s comparison is interesting as a commentary on ... Lovestone. So that even the most simple persons may understand it, let us make an analogy.
Several militants found a union and lead it with exemplary loyalty through its stormiest years. Outside the union is a group which opposed its formation from the very outset, championed a company union instead, and then allied itself with capitalist gangsters to destroy the real union and its leaders with every means at its disposal. Years later, a minor official, becoming increasingly corrupt and conservative, drives out the union’s founders. In the course of his rise to power, this official charges the old union wreckers with anti-union activities in alliance with the employers. The evidence he adduces is false, but because of the activities of this group in the past, the ousted union founders believe the charges true. Years later, these ousted militants are also framed, on the same and far more preposterous charges. A discontented and dismissed henchman of the new union dictator, who helped remove and defame the original leaders, supports the frame-up warmly. That position soon becomes untenable; so he makes a shamefaced half turn-about. When he is taxed with his endorsement of the frame-up, he retorts: But didn’t you also fall for a frame-up?
There are mistakes and mistakes. When Lovestone puts the charges against the Mensheviks on the same plane as the charges against Trotsky and the old Bolsheviks, he at once reveals his demagogy and his abandonment of the revolutionary principles which the name of his organization is supposed to attest. We do not seek to attenuate the mistake made by Trotsky and ourselves in placing any credence in the 1931 trial, where the Mensheviks were accused of working with foreign imperialists to overthrow the Soviet government. The revolutionist who has not forgotten that in the name of bourgeois democracy the Mensheviks opposed the formation of the Soviet government and that for years they actually fought it with arms in hand and in alliance with foreign imperialism, will understand the origin and nature of our mistake. No revolutionist, however, especially if he went through the early days of the revolution and knew the men involved and their records, could possibly make the “mistake” of Lovestone and Brandler during the Moscow Trial. For their judgment was part and parcel of their political support of the Stalin regime as historically justified, as the only possible political regime in Russia. They simply put the traditional enemies of the Russian revolution in the same bag with the founders and defenders of the revolution, in the interests of the Stalinist traducers of the revolution.
Lovestone cannot write ten lines without a falsehood, i.e., without proving Trotsky’s comment on his morals. He writes:
We acknowledged our mistake, avowed it publicly and explained it politically [?]. And Trotsky? He had it dragged out of him by the keen-witted Stolberg ...
As Lovestone knows, Trotsky revised his estimate of the Menshevik trial long before “he had it dragged out of him” at the hearings in Mexico and even before the “Trotsky-Zinoviev trial”, in the Russian Bulletin of the Opposition, No.51, dated July-August 1936, where interested readers will find the Editorial statement.
Last updated on 6.8.2006