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The New International, October 1945


A. Arlins

The International Significance of the British Elections


From New International, Vol. XI No. 7, October 1945, pp. 199–204. [1*]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The official Fourth International been living in recent years upon effusions which are developed in the main around four points:

  1. Unconditional defense of the Soviet Union.
  2. The objective logic of the Red Army achievements in the war against the Nazis, regardless of the officially declared aims, is profoundly revolutionary (formulation of Comrade Martin of the SWP)
  3. The United Socialist States of Europe
  4. The “certainty” of the victory of the proletarian revolution in Europe as the inevitable result of the war.

It is understood that these partly false, partly abstract points were, in addition, dealt with in a manner that was on a level with the liberation of India by the Pope. J.P. Cannon claimed, for example, that the Warsaw insurrectionary movement ought to subordinate itself to the command of the “Red” Army (which would surely have substantially facilitated and accelerated the slaughtering of all the revolutionary elements). The English organization, while it did not go along with such madness, nevertheless (even after the Warsaw experience) hailed the “Red” Army that marched into Germany as the pioneer of the socialist revolution.

Accordingly, the rest of the “defense of the Soviet Union” was a grotesque spectacle which the Fourth (absolutely impotent in practice) performed every day for its own recreation. Whoever approached the national question in Europe in any way could not avoid ruining it through the defense of the Soviet Union. A French resolution by the Regional Committee of the Unoccupied Zone in November 1941 (see Fourth International, March 1942), said: “The national question dominates today every other political and social problem. Even the defense of the USSR, a slogan par excellence of class action, is presented by the Communist Party merely as a national task.” (Our italics.) In clear words this means: The “Communists” are forced, in view of the sentiments of the masses, to smuggle in the slogan par excellence of class action incidentally instead of running it as their first horse. As is known, the “Communists” owe their whole “success” to their skillful (and perfidious, treacherous) exploitation of the national question in Europe. These people are politically clever enough to know what it means when the national question dominates every other political and social problem. Only the medicine men of Fourth run around with Soviet-Union-blinkers on their eyes, and are incapable of thinking through their contentions. Thus the resolution referred to promptly forgets every other political and social problem and declares with great assurance: “The attractive power of the Communist International flows from the very existence of the Soviet Union and the necessity defending it ...” (our italics). The ritualistic wishing-phrase is thus regarded as an “analysis” and political reality is hereby sent to perdition. No wonder that a resolution which is on the very best road in many points (precisely in the national question”), concludes by pouring out all its wisdom into this recipe:

We must orient the organizations of the Fourth International toward the proletariat, toward the Communist parties. We must find our way to the factories. Everything, literally everything, depends upon the success of this policy.

To the misfortune of all of us, this atrocious recipe is the quintessence of all the “activity” of the Fourth. And because it is devoid of all activity, of all content, of all politics, its success in France consisted in the occupation of “deserted factories.” Upon the success of this policy naturally depended literally everything, including the total political fiasco of the Fourth. This incapacitated formation consumed its “revolutionary” opium, while “the” proletariat or the much-summoned masses scorned its recipes and fought with arms in hand against their enemies (Vichy included) and for their freedom. That is what happens when the national question dominates every other political and social problem, and the Fourth proceeds to search for the “right” policy, that is, “orients” toward the proletariat and cannot find it.

“Perspectives” in a Vacuum

So, with bandaged eyes, but armed to the teeth with the stratospheric slogan of the United Socialist States of Europe, the official Fourth ran smack into the European Revolution. Fever dreams like the following out of the theses of the European Executive Committee of the Fourth International, in February 1944, linked New York with Paris:

The German proletariat, stronger than ever in numbers [which is false!], more concentrated than ever [which is false!], will from the first [!] play a decisive role ... [Which is patent madness!] Soldiers’ committees in the Army and workers’ and peasants’ councils in the rear will rise to oppose to the bourgeois power the power of the proletariat.

In short: from New York to Paris, Germany was the “key to the situation,” a key which opened the door right into the stratosphere. Compare this with what an analysis, free from “revolutionary” puberty fantasies, could do.

We have pointed repeatedly to the enormous significance of the fact that Hitler and Stalin smashed the politically organized labor movement in Europe. England constituted an exception, while the United States of America has not even known a politically organized labor movement to the present day. In addition, we estimated the Fourth unmistakably for what it still is: non-existent or a mass of confusion composed of scattered individuals and groups (see our Three Theses). We said that the Fourth is absolutely incapable of exerting any influence upon the course of events (apart, of course, from the “occupation” of deserted factories and similar “influencing” of the stratosphere). Only with the aid of the SWP (as the organization of the Fourth which possessed the richest means and the greatest prestige), only on the premise of the most serious work on its part, could a remedy be created and the mass of confusion be stood up on political legs. Again only the English section constituted a relative exception with certain hopes.

Out of the totality of all the given objective and subjective factors, we drew the conclusion that the politically organized labor movement as such would not be able to make its appearance in the first place in the European events. Even the “general” or bourgeois labor movement would first have to be re-established. For the next stage (until liberation from fascist foreign rule), it is impossible to find so much as a single essential difference between the popular resistance movement and the labor movement (even where fragments of it remained). [1]

Theoretically, we epitomized all this as the result of the “retrogressive movement” of capitalism in the last decades. Germany received an especially unfavorable place in this movement, which deprived it of any immediate revolutionary perspective and kept the masses in political paralysis. We said, therefore, that the retrogressive movement (especially also that of the labor movement) would reach its end in England and make possible a positive turn there. [2] At the same time we emphasized unremittingly:

“The strategical transitional point for the victory over Hitler, the Allies and Stalin is the national question ...

“The national question is one of those historic episodes which necessarily become the strategic transition point for the reconstruction of the labor movement and the socialist revolution. Whoever does not understand this historically necessary episode and does not know how to use it, knows and understands nothing of Marxism-Leninism.”

The English Elections As the End-Point of the Retrogressive Movement

The value of an analysis based upon “the real course of the historical movement,” in contrast to the absurd speculations of the Fourth, may be seen clearly from the results of the English elections. The retrogressive movement has come to an end in England, just as we (soberly) foretold:

But having arrived in England, the retrogressive movement must come to a halt. On the same grounds which were valid for the upswing, the decline must get stuck politically where the upswing began, not in order to begin the same game all over again but in order to give way to the socialist upward movement. It must, otherwise mankind can bury its hopes for a long, long time.

England had the earliest democracy and the earliest revolutionary labor movement, and she is becoming... the country with the last democracy and the last revolutionary labor movement. Up to here the “natural order” is strictly in line with the retrogressive movement and the movement itself is therewith at its end. [We call to mind that America, as the catastrophic epilogue of capitalism, is not a part of the special retrogressive movement.]

The result of the English election now shows with exceptional clarity the fundamental significance of the fact that (conditioned by the laws of the retrogressive movement itself) it was not Stalin, Hitler or Mussolini who destroyed the labor movement in any form. Whereas all political movement even in France is still a formless, undifferentiated pulp (in spite of the alleged labor movement), the English labor movement appears upon the scene as an organized force on a scale that far exceeds our most “optimistic” expectations. It is a fact, dismal with bitterness over the sorry state of the Fourth but nonetheless “self-conscious,” that prognoses based upon a correct analysis have, as a rule, two advantages. First, they are confirmed by the events; second, they are exceeded by the reality. We would give anything if the Fourth had made so much as a single revolutionary prediction that was something else but blooming nonsense.

Foundation of the English Elections

The significance of the English elections as a world-political event can hardly be overrated. A case like this (in a highly developed country and without preceding revolutionary occurrences) is unique in all history. Here it was not only the organized working class (not even “the” proletariat will ever constitute an absolute majority for itself), but it was simply the people who presented the “savior” Churchill with the reckoning. And coming promptly behind the English people, Greece, Egypt and India reported with their claims. There are good grounds for saying that this is only the immediate and modest prologue of coming events.

To understand this assertion, we must know what the result of the English election is based upon. Just as all great shifts in mass consciousness are possible only on the basis of altered material conditions, so the expression of the will of the English people also has a very real material basis. The material fact in operation in our present case is the collapse of the British Empire. The present war carried to the end what the First World War (in spite of the outwardly “triumphal” balance-sheet for the Empire) began: the undermining of English world dominion by America. In addition to enormous economic losses, which decide the fate of the Dominions and thrust England into a subordinate position, England has finally lost its mastery of the Mediterranean. Once its “life line” has been cut, English predominance in the Far East also passes into the limbo of history. [3] Vanishing wealth and sinking power have slowly but surely released the English masses, whose consciousness did not succeed for a whole century in surmounting the confines of wealth and power. But the formation of the mass consciousness is a multi-millionfold molecular process which always groups itself with certainty around the next possible step. Just as the mass consciousness [4] under the yoke of German fascism necessarily grouped itself around the national question, and concentrated itself only upon this next possibility, so the formation of the Labor government was the next possible step for England.

Main Features of the Present Situation

The English elections have created a situation such as existed in 1918 in Germany and in 1936 in France. With this difference, that this time a single workers’ party has the absolute majority, the reformist experiment of a “peaceful” transformation of capitalism into socialism with the aid of a parliamentary majority can now be made once more. Theoretically, the possibility of such a transformation cannot be excluded and ... the masses want the experiment to be made. For this, “only” two things are needed. First, the leaders of the Labor Party must take seriously the promises they made to the people and unconditionally respect the will of the masses. Second, these leaders must be determined to come out against any attempt at violating the democratically-expressed will of the majority and to summon the masses themselves in its defense. If it then comes to acts of violence and bloodshed against coups d’etat, putschistic attempts, etc., there will never have been a more clearly recognizable culprit. Then it is not the Labor leaders who have turned faithless to their peaceful ideal, but the bourgeoisie which has shown abundantly that “democracy” exists for it only in so far as its material interests as the ruling class are not restricted.

Nobody with five (or only two) good senses will have the slightest illusions about the future acts of the Labor leaders. Apart from some lamentable “reforms,” they are there to guard the interests of the ruling class and in the end to surrender even their reforms. They will make reference, like the long line of Friedrich Stampfer and Consorts, to the “force of circumstances” (which unfortunately always allows only a turn to the worse and against their mandatories). Just like Stampfer and the “Communist” gang, they would rather be beaten black and blue, quartered and sent into “peaceful” emigration than to take up the struggle against the unbearable insanity of this society. At the end they (following the example of Stampfer and his “Communist” accomplices) will “demonstrate” with a new flood of lies and deception that although they had the absolute majority, the “people” failed and are “guilty” of the lack of success of their (oh so noble) aims. Under no circumstances can it be concealed that the Labor leaders have begun their new career promptly with a revolting deception. The signing of the Potsdam Declaration is the same kind of capitulation-without-a-struggle to the blackest imperialist reaction as that practiced by Messrs. Stampfer and Consorts from Berlin to New York. Democratic principles, Atlantic Charter, social-democratic “convictions”? Mr. Attlee-Stampfer (scientifically accompanied by Mr. Laski-Bauer) will weep, weep, weep. He will live and die with his sacred convictions. Unfortunately, he has a majority only in England, but none in Russia (impossible, in principle, to get a socialist majority in a socialist country!) and America. The “immature” people forced him to stick his sacred principles into his left breast-pocket (right about the heart) and to find Realpolitikal reasons for their inapplicability under the given circumstances. Such principles prohibit the “violation” of the majority in Russia and America. It is necessary, on the contrary, to keep the principles pure and to allow yourself to be violated.

Two features of fundamental significance therefore remain. First we have the absolute majority of a single workers’ party which could carry through any measure desired in practical politics. That is: Objectively the situation is more favorable than ever in the history of the labor movement and it opens up boundless possibilities. Second, however, the leadership of the Labor Party will travel with absolute certainty the Stampfer road of stamping under all the hopes of humanity in so far as it is allowed a free hand. That is: Subjectively the situation is full of the greatest dangers and can lead to the final catastrophe.

The end of the special retrogressive movement means, therefore, that this end opens up the objective possibility to shift it over to a new upward-movement and to solve the crisis of humanity. And this in turn means: if the subjective situation cannot now be rapidly improved, the general back-movement will force its way through at the end of the special retrogressive movement and bury the English labor movement beneath it (to say nothing of the Fourth and its phrases).

Negative Factors

The fundamental element of the crisis of humanity is and remains the crisis of the revolutionary leadership. The Fourth, which was supposed to overcome this crisis, has itself reached a crisis in the course of its work. Still worse: the Fourth, after hopeful beginnings, dissolved into nothing. Its “internationalism” is a legend, its international “organizations” are, in the great majority of the countries of the earth, simply non-existent. It must even be insisted upon that in the great majority of countries there are not even individuals who “in any way” represent the Fourth. The setting down of these facts is important, because it counters the insupportable and harmful boasting that goes on in “our” press, but it is not decisive The Fourth is a possibility (latent power) given upon a theoretical foundation, it is in no single respect a practically effective reality. Its internationalism is a legend, because international spirit and international politics are absolutely alien to it. Politics in general is alien to it! Its attitude toward Marxism (Bolshevism, Trotskyism) is no better, in principle, that that of any social democrat who swears by socialism and then goes to the Potsdam Conference. Political sterility, confusion theoretical and propagandist unscrupulousness, ludicrous phrasemongering and factional maneuver rule the field. It addition (in the SWP), unproved assertions, conscious calumny and bureaucratic methods of falsification are already so well up on the agenda that you would think yourself in the well appointed house of Stalin. Not by accident does the SWP make “united fronts” with the Stalinists and is “irreconcilable” toward the Workers Party.

On the other side, the internationalism of the general labor movement is an equally great and “effective” fiction, like the existence of the labor movement and of the Fourth itself. As up to now, the politically-organized labor movement (including the Fourth, which has a politically-oriented organization only in England, as the on-the-whole excellently conducted election campaign of our comrades there shows again) is confined to England. The Labor leaders “manipulate” this movement in the spirit of the most revolting betrayal of all international principles and ideas. They run a jubilant race with Stalin’s creatures who eradicate international ideas through the “syphilis of the labor movement.” [5] In so far as we wish to speak today of a labor movement in France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, etc., it has not yet taken on any flesh and still less (thanks to Stalin) does it have international blood in its veins. Moreover, the world, from Manchuria to Berlin (God be with ye, my dear Renner!) lies under the dictatorship of our beloved Generalissimo, whose boots trample under all movements. A full-blooded idiot may believe that the parties and trade unions “allowed” by Stalin are anything different than in Russia itself. That kind of “labor movement” the Germans also had in the Labor Front of Dr. Ley, in the “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength Through Joy) and so forth. The situation of the workers themselves under Stalin is far worse than under Hitler. They now find themselves in the iron vise of the Stalinist “Front ohne Freude” (Front Without Joy) and “Forced Labor Without Strength.” The rest is taken care of by deportations, shootings, concentration camps and speeches about “freedom.” In a word, outside of England, there is no labor movement in the world. In this direction, internationalism has been completely dissolved. Our first task consists in finding the elements out of which internationalists and the labor movement can be reconstructed.

Positive Factors

The first factor is of course the clearly expressed will of the English masses, who have been deprived of the imperialist perspective by the end of British world domination. Like the collapse of the English Empire itself, the shift in the consciousness of the English people occasioned by it also has repercussions upon the colonial people who want to shake off the imperialist yoke. But the influence of the English elections is not exhausted by this. Italy and France in particular are obviously approaching a new crisis in which the result of the English elections will play a rôle. Much speaks for the prospect that in connection with the coming elections in France and Italy, the labor movement will also be developed and the political-programmatic differentiation will be carried through that separates the oppressed masses from the dead reaction. Here are given the beginnings of the restoration of the inter-nationalism of the labor movement.

Simultaneously, the internationalism of the labor movement has received, through the retrogressive movement, a broader and more mighty foundation than ever before. The end of the special retrogressive movement coincides with its completion in the rest of the world. This completion leaves behind it a fact of enormous world-historical significance. In addition to the Baltic states, Poland, the Balkan countries, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the colonial countries, two big imperialist countries (Germany and Japan) are now eliminated and drawn into the national oppression. In practice this means: the whole world (including England) has fallen into direct or indirect dependence upon the two big remaining imperialisms, America and Russia. This means further: in by far the largest part of the world, this dependency expresses itself as direct political-military oppression. And this means finally: in fact, the world, both today and in perspective, will have no other choice but this – to unite against American-Russian imperialism. Russia and America will get to feel the consequences of their national oppression policy in the same way as Germany and England did. The great negative movement ends, therefore (as always) with a positive result. The shattered internationalism of the labor movement is beginning to take shape again, on the one side. On the other side, it receives an unprecedented basis through the international union of the oppressed peoples, who must turn against the two big remaining imperialisms. The development enters into the stage, in an immediately practical sense, in which the realization of socialism is no longer chiefly the task of the working class but the equally immediately practical task of humanity itself. The liberation of atomic energy can and must only underscore the absolute necessity of socialism. It is a remarkable coincidence that this frightful force should be unleashed at the end of the retrogressive movement and seem to say: The time has come, you have no other choice! Like all the great material achievements, the application of atomic energy will also revolutionize thought and communicate itself to the mass consciousness as the necessity for decisive changes. [6]

Joining with all the oppressed of the earth are of course the masses in the imperialist ruling countries (America and Russia) themselves, suffering in the face of vast wealth and senseless destruction. The Russian masses, after decades of strict isolation, have come into direct contact with international life as a result of Stalin’s conquests. The totally altered international relationships and the newly-opened-up development which is bound up with them, are laden with great events. In contrast to the hollow speculations of the Fourth (based upon the “workers’ state”), they will be truly revolutionary events. Whatever the “class nature” of the Russian state is: the relationship between oppressors and oppressed remains. It will be accentuated in the same measure in which Russia develops through the plundering of the conquered countries and enriches the ruling stratum. With his entry into Berlin, Stalin (like many conquering upstarts before him) crossed the peak of his bloody career, even if he still “triumphantly” concludes his Manchurian and other adventures. He became a Generalissimo only to perish like Hitler or Mussolini.

In America we may reckon, given the present status of technical development, with a serious crisis in 2-3 years. The Latin-American, as well as the Negro question, will be posed more clearly. Even if the American crisis should require years for its preparation, the decisive interval is brief and of inestimable educational value. During this interval, the “Communist” and Social-Democratic, leaderships (especially the leadership of the Labor Party) will be under angry pressure and find it hard to maneuver. The English elections offer the masses a “chemically pure” opportunity of learning on the basis of their own experiences.

The last and most important positive factor is the latent-power of the Fourth. The sharp criticism which we make of the Fourth is absolutely necessary to bring it to consciousness: as in the case of all subjective factors, it depends upon its honesty, its will and its determination whether it will turn overnight into a real political force or become a new betrayer The historical responsibility and the possibilities that the Fourth has are equally great. Outside of it, there is no power capable of filling out the political vacuum which keeps Stalinism alive. What it requires above all else for the fulfillment of its historical task is: theoretical and political rearmament.

How Orient Ourselves?

With all the perspectives, prognoses, “theories,” theses, resolutions, “editorials,” etc., of the official Fourth (with always valid modifications for England) having proved themselves to be simply a dead alphabet for the feeble-minded, as a waste of paper and as malicious bureaucratic stupidity with disastrous consequences, the question of the future orientation boils down in the first place to the question:

Is the Fourth, on the basis of the experiences now before us, finally prepared to examine if we gave a correct or false orientation when we wrote in Capitalist Barbarism or Socialism:

The rebellion of the working class, which has been hurled back by the mechanism of imperialism into a state of unorganization, dismembered, atomized, split up, counterposed to each other in its various strata, politically demoralized, internationally isolated and controlled ... likewise assumes a new form under the new conditions. It becomes more comprehensive and general; it finds a mighty prop in the rebellion of the peoples and nations who are suppressed, thrust back, oppressed, enslaved and levelled through the monopoly of the few nations, but by the same token also united against this monopoly and schooled by its mechanism; and it restores the shredded internationalism of the movement upon a more universal plane. Still more: it prepares the ground for the “classic ideal” of the labor movement, for the accomplishment of the proletarian revolution as a simultaneous world-revolution. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labor reach a point where they invade the foundations of the capitalist mode of production itself, where the capacity of accumulation collides with its internal limits and convulses the whole social structure from top to bottom. They become incompatible with the co-existence of developed capitalist nations. They burst their international integument and prepare a further step in the material self-abolition of capitalism by “transplanting” the important industries of the subjugated nations to the subjugating “motherland” and converting capitalist nations into a “hinterland” in a colonial and semi-colonial sense. (New International Supplement, p.333. Only the words “internal limits” were put in italics there.)

We did not write our study then in order to perform theoretical-sporting, exercises. The aim was to find a political platform and corresponding political guidelines. We must now follow up concretely, in the light of controllable details which have since appeared, that which it was possible to give at that time only “in its broad features” and which had to delineate the development “abstractly.” These details will help overcome the difficulties (including those of translation) which are unavoidably presented to an “immediate” understanding by a more theoretical presentation, and to fill out the “broad outlines” with the flesh and blood of now available data. The practise can be approached from a theoretical standpoint and the theory from a practical standpoint. There is nothing to be gained by disputing over “theory for its own sake,” on the contrary, a clear answer must be given. For example: Is Germany being deprived of its “dispensable” industry and machinery by the Allies, or not? The same question for the incompatibility of the capitalist mode of production (on the present level of development) with the co-existence of developed capitalist nations. The same question for our contention that the peoples and nations are being enslaved and levelled by the few monopolistic nations.

The Decentralization of the Proletariat

Such questions could be asked endlessly, but anyone who answers just one of them will also be able to tell us: Has the national question been eliminated by the victory of the Allies or (as we contend) has it thereby only entered into its second (sharpened and more general) stage? We insist emphatically that the national question just as before and even more so, remains the strategical transitional point for the reestablishment of the international labor movement and the victory of the socialist revolution. Anyone who wants merely to play at revolution and who cannot orient himself along this line for it, had better collect postage stamps, but not come forward as the instructor of “the” proletariat and the masses. It is precisely the English elections that show the rebellion of the working class becomes more comprehensive and general. In contrast to the mechanical conception of an advancing “concentration” of the working class, the modern development provides the directly contrary result. The new quality, which forces its way through more and more in imperialism, is called the decentralization of the proletariat, atomization, splintering. [7] But the same process engenders at its other pole the concentration of peoples and nations who are compressed in an oppressed mass by the “few nations.” In brief: it is no easier than then to understand:

The masses of the people in these (few) countries, like the masses of the other peoples, are violently thrust back by it (the transformation process) into those conditions from which the development of capitalism once redeemed them (in great part by the use of violence): out of slavery, bondage, lack of national independence, industrial dependency and backwardness, into industrial backwardness and dependency, lack of national independence, bondage and slavery.

Every political concept that does not know how to base itself upon this process and its new revolutionary possibilities, is doomed to sure bankruptcy. There is good ground for the fact, and it should stimulate reflection, that neither in Capitalist Barbarism nor in the Three Theses or anywhere else did we occupy ourselves with “proletarian” revolutionary prospects. Except for scorn and contempt, not a single word will be found in our writings about all this revolution-rubbish of the Fourth. On the contrary, we insisted on treating the national question and the concrete political questions in general, which would have made the Fourth a propagandist factor with great political-moral prestige and even (at least in France) a genuine political force properly equipped for the tasks of today. Only when we had reached England with the retrogressive movement (and well-prepared by the national question) did we declare:

Yes, the disintegration of capitalism opens up a broad revolutionary perspective. There is much evidence that the English people themselves will get into motion when Germany wavers [Note when Germany wavers and not when the German proletariat, which is not capable of doing so, “arises.”] Consciousness, will, clarity boldness, must see to it that the perspective is brought forward and acquires an irresistible attractive power. We have long held that with “classical” German fascism, fascism itself has reached its limit and lost its power of attraction. This is not contradicted by the fact that the enslavement of mankind is unavoidable if the revolution fails again. Around this point – the leadership – revolves everything. The birth of the new society is a difficult operation. It is not a matter of cheap optimism – in every crisis it is a matter in the last instance of the operating physician. Boldness and elasticity in the overcoming of paralysis and of habit-forming phrases without concrete ideas, are what the revolutionary movement needs most. [8] A philosophy, a doctrine, an ideology which conveys no enthusiasm and no impulses is worthless and must fail.

It is not necessary to linger over the “frenzied epilogue” of imperialism, America. It is necessary that the American revolutionists arrive at an all-sided system of political propaganda and activity, that they thwart the “epilogue” and hasten to the aid of the English working class, the colonial peoples and Europe. Then here can be no doubt that:

Churchill will fall and with him the colossal structure of the British Empire. Then will the seed come up which England everywhere sowed and it will grow over its grave.

What Is to Be Done Now?

The first problem now is to place the leaders of the Labor Party under a still sharper pressure. They must be forced before the eyes of the whole world (and first of all, of the colonial peoples), either to discredit themselves hopelessly or else to go forward with the masses in the sight of the whole world. Without continual cries about “betrayal,” the deeds of the Labor leaders must be critically illuminated, but in a more thorough and objective way. The fascist “aggressor” no longer exists – the world bourgeoisie has one excuse the less. The masses must be shown concretely, in every question that arises, that it is child’s play to get together the same enormous sums that the war swallowed up for mere destruction, and use them for the welfare of human beings. It must be insisted upon, and public opinion must be mobilized for it, that the “Allies” keep their promises, especially those of the Atlantic Charter. On the basis of the Allied measures (in the first place, those of the Russians, for there still exists a difference between Fascism and democracy!), it must be shown why their disadvantages, even for the “victors,” are greater than their alleged advantages.

The Fourth learns, finally conscious of its responsibility, to work politically and expertly. It educates itself in order to be able to educate others. It learns to work its way from the rear-end of history to the “leadership” and to deserve the leadership. It prohibits itself for two years (just as a test!) from even speaking of the “proletarian” revolution and its leadership by the Fourth. This prohibition will force it to turn to political questions and to answer every question concretely. It studies the national questions and inscribes political liberation (national independence and right of self-determination of all peoples) unconditionally on its banners.

The Fourth must become clearly aware that it itself (this applies also to the SWP minority, with D. Logan at its head) has lost only an “excuse” in the national question. We mean the excuse that after all we “were in the imperialist war” and after all we could not support a movement under the “leadership of the bourgeoisie.” [9] The Fourth itself must begin anew the struggle for the national question and seek to organize it anew everywhere in the world. It has the absolute possibility of carrying its propaganda throughout the world and firing the courage and fighting spirit of the oppressed peoples. The Negroes of America will hearken if, for example, the SWP does everything seriously possible for the organization of the colonial (in general, of the national) struggle of liberation. But again: the Fourth conducts its propaganda concretely. It concentrates its senselessly squandered forces on the material proof that no country of the earth can any longer draw an economic advantage out of the national and colonial oppression of other peoples. This too is a material factor, which comes to our aid and must be exploited decisively.

All in all, the command of the hour boils down to a radical break with the past of the Fourth. The level of our periodicals (that of Labor Action, too) is absolutely inadequate in content. On this level, we will never succeed in training a party capable of action and equipped with sufficient knowledge. The banning of all theoretical works, for example, from the papers is a vice that has ruined every organization. Lenin did not know this separation (theoretical organ and newspaper).

Yes, we agree unreservedly with the EEC. An immediate program of action is necessary. But this program of action too will be worthless if it is not based upon a total reform of the working methods and of the press. The English elections, all the coming crises and revolutionary events will take place without yielding results if the Fourth does not come to its senses. The retrogressive movement has come to a halt in England, yet the “key to the situation” lies there no more than in Germany. The key to the situation lies in America. This also in the sense of the Fourth, which continues to have there its richest bastion, equipped with the greatest possibilities.


A. Arlins
London, August 12, 1945

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1. Around this point there was a good deal of “polemic” against us (in quotation marks because it was on a sorry level), but at the end all that anyone could say was that what we had was a people’s movement, as a matter of fact “somewhat reminiscent of that of the nineteenth century revolution” (D. Logan). Unfortunately, not a single one showed the courage to acknowledge, in the interests of political clarification, that his analysis was false and ours right.

2. See in particular our presentation of the development in Capitalist Barbarism or Socialism, section before the last.

3. The press has just brought the report that the President of the. United States, in a detailed report on the Potsdam Conference, said “for the first time” that the United States would retain (!) or acquire (!) bases “necessary for the complete protection of our interests and world peace.” (The same President declared a few days earlier at Potsdam that the United States had no appetite whatever either for the smallest bit of territory or a single penny.) It is of course speaking very sincerely to put the protection of the “interests” ahead “of the protection of world peace, for that is precisely what it will mean in practice: the retained or acquired bases will “restrict” more visibly the domination of the world by England.

4. We speak of the development of the mass consciousness ... The consciousness of minorities which take shape as a revolutionary party, as a sectarian rear guard (SWP), as ultra-leftist braggadocio (SWP), etc., etc., is another question.

5. While a widespread indignation and protest is shown in England against the use of the atom bomb (so bestial an atrocity against the defenseless population in this stage of the war that a spontaneous sympathy for the “Japanese people” has been aroused and even incorrigible imperialist politicians find that America has outdone Hitler in futile atrocities), Stalin comes forward as the hyena of the imperialist battlefields. The “Red” Army proves itself to be the “trail-blazer of socialism” and liquidates an “aggressor” with whom Stalin still has an operative neutrality pact. The aggression upon the neutral aggressor takes place at the moment when this aggressor is already “liquidated” by a single atom bomb. For the “Red” Army, this is just the right moment to cover itself with “immortal” glory and to bring “freedom” to Asia. The Khabarovsk radio calls for the “merciless extermination of the enemy.” On August 9, a special broadcast to the Far Eastern forces exhorted them to bend every effort to smash the (!) Japanese “so that mankind can breathe freely after getting rid of aggression” (from the neutral!). It called the (!) Japanese the “worst [neutral] enemies of our people and all the peace-loving peoples of the world” (represented by the “peace-loving” Generalissimo Stalin). Therefore: “With the name of Stalin on our lips we went into battle and conquered in the great patriotic war against fascist Germany” (not against German fascism, as some “unpatriotic” neutral enemy may think!). “With the name of Stalin on our lips [don’t the lips suffer from such a weighty name?] we shall also conquer [you surely will!] in the battles against the accomplices of the Hitlerites, the Japanese imperialists. Forward to the complete rout of the enemy!” All that is now lacking is that the Fourth should unconditionally defend the “Soviet” Union against the imperialist aggression of Japan. Or perhaps Comrade Martin calls upon the population of Manchuria to subordinate itself to the command of the “Red” Army, instead of twisting the neck of both aggressors! We shall now surely experience again great “class actions” of the SWP. “Independent” actions to be sure!

6. As soon as possible we will present a separate article on the problems in connection with atomic energy.

7. This, by the by, is one reason why we point out as often as possible the danger of a one-sided or even only a predominant “policy,” based on the trade unions. The so-called trade-union policy has already yielded nothing in Europe, because, in view of the lack of any other policies, it was simply no ... policies, tender certain circumstances, many members can be won by trade-union politics, but that is all that will be won. It is not through the factory that you get to politics, but through politics that you get to the factories.

8. The European Executive Committee of the Fourth finally seems to have been struck by the ray of better insight, for it declares in a new resolution of January, 1945:

“The EEC emphasizes the urgent necessity for all sections to abandon propaganda which is pure theoretically but which remains abstract and incomprehensible to the masses, and to immediately elaborate a plan of action, keeping in mind the real situation in every country and securing themselves every single lever capable of setting the masses in motion and accelerating their revolutionary maturity.”

Although the abstract propaganda of the Fourth is in no wise “pure theoretically,” but rather (misfortune upon misfortune!) simply false, nonsensical, ridiculous and harmful for the most part: the EEC gives the right name to the evil and to the immediate need. Unfortunately, the new resolution does not take its own counsel very much to heart, and we are all “tense” to know if the FI noted that it laid a trap for itself in publishing this resolution. If anyone has to abandon abstract phrase and miserable propaganda, it is the SWP.

9. Why this was an unbelievably blundering excuse, in the best case, but in reality a downright betrayal of the internationalism we will set forth in the Balance-Sheet of the European Question.


Note by ETOL

1*. A. Arlins was a pseudonym used by Josef Weber (1901–1959).

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Last updated on 16 November 2016