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Socialist Appeal, May 1935, Volume 1 No. 3, Pages 1-6
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.


Hitler And War

Ever since Hitler came into power press-correspondents and political writers have teen very jumpy about an immediate war which they predicted the Nazis were about to start. And every occurence which could possibly be interpreted as indicating that hostilities were about to commence was heralded as the beginning of the catastrophe. In the prognosis of immediate war the correspondents simply gave expression to their fears and did not bother to make an objective analysis of the situation.

Two fundamental ideas must be kept in mind when anything is said or done by the Nazis which would seem to be the prelude to a war. One is that the Hitler government is not yet prepared to undertake a war against France. It has been rearming at a furious pace but it has not as yet reached a point where it could possibly challenge the supremacy of Franco, especially since an attack on that country would almost certainly bring England, Italy and a host of smaller countries to her aid. It is hardly likely that Germany will succeed in rearming sufficiently in the near future to risk a war with France.

Of course there is always a slight chance that some incident will precipitate a war between France and Germany in spite of the fact that neither country is prepared to fight the other at present. But incidents bring on wars only when the countries involved want them and not otherwise.

With the above idea in mind it could be predicted at the time that Hitler notified the world that Germany in defiance of the Versailles treaty would inaugurate conscription, that there was no great danger of any war between Germany and Franco. The latter country might be willing to launch a “preventive war” but it is hardly likely as the majority of the French people could hardly be won over to such an idea and surely England could not be counted upon for such an adventure. And as far as the possibility of an attack on France by Germany is concerned the announcement that from now on there will be a conscript army under Hitler’s regime is hardly adequate preparation.

The second fundamental idea which can furnish a possible clew to a coming war is that Germany is not primarily interested in a war against France but in a war against the Soviet Union. Hitler wants to recoup Germany’s strength at the expense of the workers’ country, feeling that there lies his greatest chance of victory. The reason why Hitler is looking to the east is because he correctly surmises that the capitalist countries are not anxious to have a proletarian dictatorship exist in the world if they can possibly help it. True, he has to obtain the consent and support of Poland in such an adventure but he has the rich Ukraine to offer to Poland in return for such support. He must also succeed in getting the consent of France and England but he figures that in addition to the general hostility which the capitalist countries have against the Soviet Union, France might be willing to give her consent to avoid an attack against her and England to destroy a danger to her eastern colonial possessions.

It was Leon Trotsky who first pointed out that the real danger of a war in the immediate future comes from the intention of the Hitler government to attack the Soviet Union. Naturally because it was Trotsky who said so he was called, a counterrevolutionary by the Stalinists. As time goes on. it is becoming clear even to the Stalinists that the real danger to the Soviet Union is from the west and not from the east. While it would take a comparatively long time for Germany to rearm to a point where she could gamble on an attack against Prance, Hitler would be willing to take a chance on attacking the Soviet Union in the very near future, provided he would too assured that France and England would offer no resistance to such a move. And in spite of appearances to the contrary, Hitler’s chances of gaining the approval of France and England for an attack against the Soviet Union are much greater than the chances for a stable military alliance between France and the Soviet Union.

And in case of a war launched by Hitler against the Soviet Union, what are the possibilities of victory for the workers’ country? Soviet diplomacy is feverishly seeking non-aggression pacts and even mutual assistance pacts to help her against Germany. The logic of Stalin’s theory of socialism in one country shows promise of leading to a point where the Communists in France will howl for a French war against Germany in case of an attack by the latter on the Soviet Union. Stalin has placed his hopes not in the international proletarian revolution but in alliance with imperialist countries and in the League of Nations. The Communist International, guided by Soviet foreign diplomacy which in turn is determined by the absolutely false theory of socialism in one country, will be as capable of defending the Soviet Union as it was in defending the interests of the German proletariat against Hitler.

It would be wrong to state that the Soviet Union could under no circumstances enter into an alliance with one imperialist country against another or that it could under no circumstances become a member of the League of Nations. However, we must recognize that it is due to the weakening of the international proletarian revolution a weakening for which the Communist International is largely responsible, that the Soviet Union is compelled. to seek aid, from alliances with imperialist countries.

We may and we must criticize the Stalinist bureaucracy and its actions in the Soviet Union, but we do so precisely because the Stalinist bureaucracy weakens the Soviet Union. Upon the revolutionary Socialist will devolve the duty of defending the Soviet Union from any imperialist attack because the defeat of the Soviet Union will mean setting back the clock of history for decades if not for generations, And the surest, in fact the only way to assure the existence of the Soviet Union, is for the working class to conquer power in the capitalist world.

The Buffalo N.E.C Meeting

The paralyzing effect of the New York party situation on the whole party is so dangerous to the growth and effectiveness of the party that every meeting of the National Executive Committee must necessarily devote most of its time to that problem in the attempt to find some solution which will permit the party to go forward with the least possible friction and hesitation. That the internal conflict in New York has a detrimental influence on the party all over the country should by this time be evident to everybody. All attempts to isolate the New York situation and have other parts of the country ignore the fight there and proceed with party work is extremely short-sighted and bound to end in failure in the long run.

A great many comrades outside of New York would like to ignore and forget New York and are inclined to give utterance to the thought: “A plague on both your houses!” Not only is such an attitude wrong theoretically but even from a purely “practical” standpoint it can lead nowhere. It is impossible for anyone in the party with any theoretical understanding of the fundamentals of socialism and of the function of the Socialist party to hold oneself aloof from a struggle between two fundamentally hostile conceptions of the nature of Socialism and of the role the party should play in effecting a change from capitalism to Socialism. And in essence that is the character of the conflict in the New York party. It is not simply a struggle of factions, that desire power for its own sake, but in order to carry out certain policies and give the party a certain general direction. And the party in New York is strong enough and influential enough to determine the general direction of the whole party. Consequently every conscious Socialist is compelled to take sides in the internal party conflict raging in New York.

And anyone in the least acquainted with the difficulties of the national office of the party in its effort to function effectively since the Detroit convention knows that from a purely practical viewpoint the New York situation is a problem that cannot be confined to New York. It is the source of a creeping paralysis and unless dealt with and settled properly will make effective work on a national scale well-nigh impossible.

Does settling the problem mean that the NEC must arrive at a compromise on the principles which divide the two factions or must it officially support the principles of either of the two factions? Not in the least. It is not at all necessary that the NEC offer the two factions a compromise of principles. That would be dangerous and it could not possibly be acceptable to the left-wingers waging a principled struggle. Between those who see the path to Socialism as the path of revolution and those who reject that path and consequently in effect reject Socialism, there can be no compromise in principle. From that statement should hot be drawn the inference that at the present stage of the class struggle revolutionary and reformist Socialists cannot be in the same party. They can and should on the basis of a sincere desire for each group to permit the other full freedom of criticism and expression for the purpose of winning a majority of the party and of permitting that majority to gain power in democratic elections with the minority group loyally supporting the party and building the party.

The National Executive Committee of the party need not conceal its support of the views of either faction nor are individual members of the NEC obligated to refrain from participating in the factional struggle. The NEC should not under any considerations depose a majority group of any particular state and put in a minority group simply because it is in agreement with the views of the minority. That would constitute an intolerable usurpation of power. Just as it is the duty of the NEC to permit freedom of criticism against itself and to refrain from using unconstitutional and undemocratic methods to prevent a minority group from gaining control of the party, so is if the duty of the NEC to see to it, in a struggle between groups in a State, that the group in power permit freedom of criticism and provide democratic elections for the group not in power. In other words, basing itself upon the national constitution and upon accepted principles of Socialism the N E C is in a position to define limits beyond which a factional struggle cannot go. It can and should demand from both groups compliance with the spirit and letter of the constitution of the party and with its fundamental principles insofar as they have been enunciated by a convention of the party.

The whole New York situation came before the last NEC meeting in a rather peculiar way. There should have been charges filed against the New York State Executive Committee specifying wherein it was guilty of some violation. The SEC should have been given the right to file an answer to the charges; a committee should have been appointed to listen to the evidence and on the basis of some findings the NEC should have taken some definite action or ordered the SEC to do certain specified things within a specified time. If the Majority on the NEC felt that it could on the basis of its own knowledge of the facts come to some decision without the aid of a preliminary report by a committee it should say so and act accordingly.

Instead of some such procedure as outlined above a motion “to show cause” why the New York chapter should not be revoked was made. The motive of such a procedure is difficult to understand and it gave the right wing a chance to ridicule the whole thing. It looks as if some lawyer conversant with contempt proceedings in a capitalist court thought up such a bright idea. While the form of the procedure is not important, the simpler the procedure the better and it is to be hoped that the highly technical motion, “to show cause” will not be used again by the NEC or any local committee.

The object of the NEC as expressed in its letter to New York is to achieve unity and harmony. What kind of unity and harmony is not specified. From what has been said above, if the NEC wishes to achieve unity and harmony of principles that cannot be done. From the provisions of the letter it can be said that that was not the chief aim of the NEC. Certain provisions, however, come very close to that idea. For instance, paragraph one providing for “adherence to the resolutions of the NEC providing for the ineligibility of advocates of communism and violence in the party” has no sense with respect to the situation in New York. It is the State Committee that has kept out all those whom it suspected of any deviation from its right-wing principles. The militants not having power cannot pass on the admission to the party membership. Obviously it was inserted as a concession to the right wing. The clause is dangerous because it does not define communism and does not specify what advocacy of violence is. Comrade Thomas’s explanation of communism as used in this paragraph, (made in the Socialist Call, Mar. 30) to mean the acceptance of discipline and direction from outside the Socialist party should be perfectly acceptable to everybody but we can be sure that Oneal’s interpretation will be a very different one. Oneal has already misinterpreted that section as meaning advocates of “communism OR violence”. The danger of paragraph One lies in its vague character, a fact which will give the old guard the opportunity to justify any expulsion.

Paragraph seven of the letter requiring that the YPSL “be promptly reinstated upon the basis that it shall conform to the decisions of the local but it shall not be required to support any Socialist paper that engages in factional warfare” is a practical blow at the Yipsels, because outside of the condition mentioned which is quite vague, it places them under the control of the old guard before the whole problem is solved.

Points Two, Four and Six requiring the State Committee to issue a statement supporting the Declaration of Principles, to rescind the resolution forbidding locals to accept Yipsels as members in the party, and to dispose of all questions of membership and organization in a democratic and constitutional manner are points directed against the State Committee evidently on the theory that the NEC was convinced that the State Committee Violated the constitution in those respects. If any future decision is made by the NEC it must be made upon the basis of compliance or non-compliance with these points which are not specific enough but sufficiently so to make possible a decision whether or not they have been complied with.

An analysis of the whole letter leads one to the conclusion that it gives the old guard in power in New York the chance to continue dilly-dallying through negotiations, thus bringing further demoralization into the ranks of the party. For that reason Comrades Franz Daniel and Powers Hapgood are to be highly commended for opposing the letter, although we must admit that not what the letter itself contains but what will be done after the six weeks expire is the crucial factor.

It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that the expulsion of the right wing because it disagrees with the views of the majority of the NEC cannot and should not be the basis of any action. The State Committee of New York must be compelled to live up to the constitution and principles of the party and if it does not do so the NEC must not hesitate to act in the same manner as it did in Indiana.

In the New Leader Oneal talks openly of a split if not now then at the 1956 convention. He premises a possible split on the basis of differences of opinion. Let the right wing split on such a basis and its support in the party will be negligible. But it is up to the NEC to see to it that the right wing is not permitted to paralyze the party up to the time it decides to split. Hesitation and delay on the part of the NEC will set the party back at a time when it has the greatest opportunity to move forward.

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