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The New International, November 1941


Notes of the Month

A Corpse Attempts to Rise


From The New International, Vol. VII No. 10, November 1941, pp. 264–5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE FIRST CONFERENCE of the International Labor Organization of the League of Nations held since the outbreak of the war was recently concluded at Columbia University in the City of New York. Meeting in the United States, under the conditions created by the war, the ILO, in furtherance of the general rôle it has played since 1919, has been made an appendage to the current war aims of Anglo-American imperialism.

The American delegation was the vital ideological leader of the conference whose purpose, expressed in the resolution of the American delegation headed by Mme. Perkins, was to work out a plan for world rehabilitation “upon the basis of improved labor standards, economic adjustments and social security.”

“The close of the war,” the resolution continues, “must be followed by immediate action, previously planned and arranged, for the feeding of peoples in need, for the provision and transportation of raw materials and capital equipment necessary for the restoration of economic activity, for the reopening of trade outlets, for the resettlement of workers and their families under circumstances in which they can work in freedom and security and hope, for the changing over of industry to the needs of peace, for the maintenance of employment, and for the raising of standards of living throughout the world.”

The only method proposed by the resolution to accomplish these “spiritual” aims of the reformist ILO is to have “... the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field.” The collaboration “will set tasks of organization and administration calling for the highest ability and for the most sympathetic understanding of the needs of the people.”

Concretely, these aims are not fundamentally different from the initial objective set for it, when the ILO was organized at the close of the World War. In a period of more than 20 years, through crisis after crisis, in face of a world refugee problem of mammoth proportions, with mass world unemployment, world hunger, continuous and unremitting war in one part of the globe after another, a deteriorating international standard of living for the masses, increasing nationalism in economy and the raising of tariff barriers by all countries, the ILO has contributed less than nothing to their solution.

How the ILO Was Founded

The ILO, born out of the League of Nations, was, like its parent body, an agent of the then dominant powers in Europe, Anglo-French imperialism. The “idealistic” program which it advocated was merely the veneer it used to gather a mass labor support to the League of Nations and the policies advocated By the controlling powers in the League. It was not the withdrawal of Germany, Italy and Japan which had a denigrating effect upon the ILO. It was doomed from the very start. It floundered all the more helplessly when the League permitted the membership of the fascist nations which had enslaved their masses and destroyed the living labor movement. With the rise of fascism, the ILO became an instrument of agitation for the “democratic” imperialists. But no matter what its efforts were, the ILO could gain little from its activities because a serious attempt at realizing its program would have brought it into an irreconcilable clash with its sponsors, for every demand in its program was in contradiction to the existence of the bourgeois social order. It could not appreciably help refugees; it could provide no real economic aid to the masses; it was unavailing in its effort to bring about what it called a “more equitable division of the world’s raw materials” in the rising tide of economic nationalism; it could not abridge the actions of rabid protectionism – in a word, it could solve no problem because it proceeded from the fundamental position that capitalism must be maintained and that these objectives were to be solved through the avenue of bourgeois economy.

A Will-o’-the-Wisp Program

If it was impossible for the ILO to wage an effective struggle for its demands during the Twenties, how much more difficult will it be to realize them now, in a disintegrating capitalism. The effects of this war on the world will be far more debilitating than the last war. Under such conditions, the program of the ILO appears all the more ludicrous.

Finally, the ILO is a class collaborationist body seeking to establish class peace as a permanent policy in a solution of the burning world problems. It desires to preclude in advance all class struggle which will inevitably follow the present holocaust.

All who spoke at the conference, the largest in the history of the League of Nations, made this their theme: support the war efforts of the democratic nations; workers of all countries, cease your demands in favor of the war effort; sacrifice in order that you may be free – no strikes, no wage struggles, no fight against the new slavery in the factories engaged in defense production. Accept a “democratic” totalitarianism to fight Hitlerism. This was the special plea of President Roosevelt and it was re-echoed by all the delegates in the conference.

All other actions of the conference, the setting up of an Eastern European entente for post-war economic and political collaboration, the working out of a reconstruction program, the promise of equality in access to raw materials, fall to the ground in face of the main aim of the conference: class collaboration in order that the democratic imperialists may win the war. No admonitions about the abolition of war profits; no condemnation of capitalism as the fundamental cause for social disintegration; no condemnation of the war as a product of imperialist relationships. Instead, we have a unanimous affirmation of the “principles” of the Atlantic Charter which embodies the aims of the Anglo-American war camp.

Like the programs adopted at preceding conferences, this program too, is doomed to immediate failure. The ILO is a glaring expression of the total bankruptcy of bourgeois society. There is not a breath of daring concealed in its deliberation. There is not a fresh thought to relieve the monotony of its many-times unanimously passed resolutions. There is only the dead hand of ideological bankruptcy and moral decay seeking to uphold the worn banner of class collaboration for the purpose of continuing the existence of a decaying social order.

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