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The New International, July 1942

The Editor

On the National Question in Europe

Introductory Statement


From New International, Vol. VIII No. 6, July 1942, pp. 174–175.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In line with its long-standing policy of opening its pages to discussions of vital problems of revolutionary Marxism and world politics, The New International has for some time been publishing contributions by various authors on new aspects of the national problem, particularly in connection with the situation that has developed in a number of European countries that have fallen under the domination of German fascism. We have also published relevant material on the same question from contending theses presented to the membership of the French section of the Fourth International.

In the current issue we continue the discussion with a rebuttal article by F.W. Smith. In addition we are reprinting from Labor Action of October 20, 1941, the section of the political resolution adopted by the second national convention of the Workers Party, which summarizes the position of that organization on the national problem as it presents itself in Europe today. The course of development in Europe since this resolution was written a year ago has emphasized the validity and durability of the analysis and views contained in it.

As this resolution, as well as other contributions to the discussion, indicates, the perspective of the European and therefore of the world revolution is bound up inseparably with the development of the national and semi-national movements throughout Europe. Bound up with it in the very first place is the perspective for the restoration and reconstruction of the completely crushed and disoriented labor and revolutionary movements. To ignore the existence of these movements and of the objective conditions which have brought them into existence; to deny the enormous significance and the revolutionary potential of these popular movements by reference to a quotation from Lenin a quarter of a century ago on the national question in Europe being essentially a question of the past – this is not Marxian “orthodoxy,” it is simple, unadorned idiocy.

A “Discussion” in the SWP

The problem is indeed too big and urgent to be ignored by the most hardened. It has therefore forced its way into the ranks of the Socialist Workers Party in spite of all official efforts to keep it out. For months the German section of the International sought to have its views on the national question in Europe published here by the Cannonites, an elementary right. To this day, it has sought in vain. What monstrous heresy is supposed to be represented by its views – except for some formulations that do not affect the fundamental question they are entirely Marxian, sound, realistic – is not known. Perhaps their points of agreement with the views of the Workers Party. Perhaps the fact that publication would promote discussion, which would be most disturbing to the smug equanimity of the theoretically sterile Cannonite leadership. Whatever may be the reason, the fact is that repeated representations of the German section have failed to this day to get their views before that section of the revolutionary public represented by the readers of the Cannonite press.

Nevertheless, what passes for a discussion in the SWP is taking place on the question. We say “what passes for a discussion” because it resembles much more what the Stalinists call an “enlightenment campaign.” That is, the membership does not, and really cannot, discuss, for it is not given the necessary material upon which to base a discussion; it is merely “enlightened” as to what the party policy is. To make matters worse, the membership is led to believe that published articles, for example a recent one directed at the Workers Party by Wright, represents the “official party line,” when, in reality, there are SWP leaders who disagree with Wright’s fundamental argument but refuse to make their views known to the membership, much less to the public, exclusively out of considerations of bureaucratic prestige.

The Need for a Living Marxism

Meanwhile, of course, in accordance with the practice o£ the Cannonites, the radical working-class public remains totally unaware of these discussions, even pseudo-discussions, and the myth of the monolithic party is perpetuated.

Rejecting in its totality this method of “discussion” and this procedure in educating members as well as sympathizers of the revolutionary movement. The New International intends to continue with the publication of discussion material on this most vital question of the day as well as on others like it. Bureaucratic suffocation of views and differences o£ opinion and discussion, bureaucratic pretenses at and pride in monolithism – these are not in the tradition of living Marxism. This rich tradition was embodied and continued in the twenty years of struggle against these bureaucratic abominations by the Bolshevik-Leninists, or Trotskyists. We will uphold the tradition in the future as in the past, not only against the Stalinists but even against their imitators-in-miniature. – Editor

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