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Socialist Appeal, Novemeber–December 1935, Volume 2 No. 2,
Transcribed, Edited and Formatted by Marty Goodman and David Walters in 2012 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line and the Left-Opposition Digitization Project, a joint venture of the ETOL, Holt Labor Library and the Riazinov Library.

From FRAGMENTS of pages reprinted in the 1968 Greenwood Reprints edition. Greenwood in 1968 apologized for this incomplete copy, noting they searched ‘every major collection in the United States’ for an intact copy, without success.

Eight pages were reprinted. Each was missing about 10 to 25% of the page at the bottom or corners or edges. The first page seems to be missing. MOST of these articles, thus, are missing portions of the text.

x’s are used to indicate missing portions of text. There is NOT an exact 1 to 1 correspondence between number of x’s and number of missing letters. But there is a rough and vague (tho not really proportionate) one. Brackets [] are used where there was compelling reason to guess at what a partly wiped out word was. The letters IN the brackets are those guessed at. NOTE that only relatively compelling (from context) guesses resulted in letters being filled in, and in all cases when this was done, it is indicated. Eventually PDF files of all this material will be made available, so others can make their own guesses based on the fragmentary and damaged pages presented by Greenwood Reprints of this issue. —M. Riazanov

Socialists and Attack of Italy Upon Ethiopia

by Albert Goldman

In the last issue of the Appeal there was an editorial dealing with a proclamation of the National Executive Committee calling for the defense of Ethiopia. That proclamation was issued prior to the October meeting of the NEC. At that meeting the NEC adopted a resolution on war which is certainly a vast improvement over the proclamation. Nevertheless it is not a resolution which revolutionary socialists can support whole-heartedly. The proclamation on the war question adopted by the NEC of the Young Peoples Socialist League is one which we can support as against the resolution of the party NEC. This does not mean that the YPSL proclamation is without errors but in essence it states the revolutionary socialist position on the Italian-Ethiopian conflict and is much clearer and superior to the resolution of the party NEC.

* * * *

The attack of Italy xx Ethiopia brought the problem of the xxxxx down from an abstract theoretical xxxxxxx. It is now a question of an actual conflict and the position that we must take towads xx conflict and not simply a question of our attitude to a xxxxx war in the future. An agreement can be arrived xxxx much difficulty on a resolution dealing with a xxxx with the necessity of applying general pxxx xxx situation.

Pacifism, Dominant Note of Pa[rty]

The party resolution is a lengthy orxxx xxxsarily bad. It is bad in this case beca[use] xxxx primarily of a desire to please everxx xxxxx general and against the Italian-Ethioxxxx xxxx contains paragraphs and sentences wxxxx xxxx are absolutely correct and, on the xxxxx xxxx reject. The resolution is against txxxxx xxxx is a vague reference to the possixxxxx xxxxxx xxxgue of Nations. But then

xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx it cannot be said to express any one xxxxxxxx xxanner.

xxxx while it is true that the expressions can be found to justify xxx claim that the party resolution caters to every tendency, it is xxxoubtedly correct to state that the prevailing note of the rexxxution is a pacifist one. It appeals to all people and to all xxxers of peace. Probably the most characteristic sentence in xxe whole resolution is the last one in the first paragraph. xNothing less than the maximum effort of the American pepole, xxxnsed on the most realistic policies, can prevent their country from being drawn in.” One can hardly imagine a more utopian and well-meaning attitude than that reflected by that sentence.

To appeal to the deep desire for peace which exists in all sections of the population in order to attract a great number to the banner of the Socialist party is a temptation which only those comrades who are grounded in revolutionary Marxism can withstand. To give expression to beautiful sentiments for international peace and good will is indeed simple but exceedingly dangerous. It throws the struggle against war off from the xxils of the class struggle and in effect lends assistance to the xxxxxalists. No further proof should be necessary than the xxxt that thx eleven million pacifist votes recently obtained in xxgland on behalf of the League of Nations, actually servces to xxbilize the masses behind the British imperialists in their xxesent struggle against Italian imperialism. How easy it is for xxx capitalist government to convince peace-loving people that they must go to war in order to fight for peace.

In contradistinction to the party resolution the Yipsel proclamation breaths the spirit of the class struggle and emphasizes the necessity of organizing the workers to wage such a struggle. The unequivocal statement in the Yipsel proclamation that the chief enemy of the people is at home and that the working class must not, for any reason, declare a truce with the capitalist class, during war or peace, makes of the proclamation, in spite of its defects, a revolutionary one.

Defense of Ethiopia

Three major problems are involved in any discussion on the question of the attitude of the Socialist Party to the Italian attack on Ethiopia. They are: 1) the question of defending the independence of Ethiopia; 2) the question of sanctions by the imperialist governments; 3) the question of fighting for neutrality legislation. We shall leave out the question of supporting democratic capitalist states in a war against a fascist state because it is a more general and also a more indirect question as far as the problem of the Italian attack is concerned and because it requires more extensive treatment.

It is indeed surprising to what an extent comrades with revolutionary tendencies will object to the idea of defending Ethiopia against Italian imperialism. What has thrown them off the track is the fact that Great Britain, in order to protect its imperialist interests, has assumed the role of protector of Ethiopia. But why should we forget Ethiopia entirely just because England has interests contrary to the interests of Italian imperialism? It is not at all excluded that England and Italy might come to some agreement giving part of Ethiopian territory to the later and that Ethiopia would have to depend upon xxxx strength exclusively in the struggle against Italy. In xxx xxxxx there would be no question of Great Britain versus xxxxxxx xxxxxx duty to come to the defense of Ethiopia would xxxxx xxxxxxx daylight except to some doctrinaire who would xxxxxx xxxxxx xxything until the day of the proletaian re-xxxxxxx xxxxx of England demand that it struggle xxxx xxxx xxxx of the revolutionary proletariat de-xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxe defense of Ethiopia; from different and xxxxx xxxxx xxstile elements are fighting for what xxxxx xxxxx xurpose. It would be the most absurd xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxs to assume an indifferent attitude xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxply because the imperialist interests xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxt Ethiopia be kept free from Italian xxxxx xxxxx

xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx [t]oiling masses in the imperialist xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx [col]onial and semi-colonial people of xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx [si]mply of being exploited by the xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx of sympathy between xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxdous profits xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxx exploitation xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx to keep its hold upon the working masses of the xxxxxx xxxxx. It needs colonies to get rid of its surplus products and to find investments for the accumulated capital. Without colonies to exploit capitalism would be faced with many more and greater difficulties to continue its existence.

The revolutionary interests of the proletariat of the imperialist countries necessitate that the working class come to the aid of all colonial people struggling against imperialism. Every defeat of the imperialists by a colonial people is a victor for the working class. The proletariat therefore must champion the interests of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples not simply out of a vague sympathy but out of consideration of its own class interests. A revolutionary socialist part, representing the interests of the working class, cannot afford to be indifferent to the fate of any colonial people. Every struggle in Asia and Africa against the imperialist robbers must get the whole-hearted support of the Socialist part, especially of the party of that country against which the colonial people is struggling.

In the struggle of Ethiopia against Italy we must raise the slogan of defending the independence of Ethiopia. Otherwise we shall be taking the side of the imperialists against the colonial and semi-colonial peoples.

Both the party and Yipsel are defective in that they fail to raise the slogan clearly and without equivocation. In the party resolution a vague sympathy for the Ethiopians is expressed without even hinting at the necessity of definitely raising the slogan of defending Ethiopia. The Yipsel proclamation takes a very peculiar attitude to the question of defending Ethiopian independence. In a sublime aloofness it declares that “socialists cannot limit their judgment to a weighing of the wrongs of Italy as against the rights of Ethiopia.” In their legitimate desire to emphasize the imperialist rivalries between Great Britain and Italy and the possibilities of an imperialist war arising out of the attack of Italy upon Ethiopia, the Yipsels are willing to forget that at the present moment the actual struggle is against Italian imperialism. What a comfort it must be to the Ethiopian people to know that we are analyzing all the possibilities of an imperialist war and meanwhile preparing only for those possibilities. Nor can it gladden the hearts of the Ethiopians laying down their lives fighting the Italian invasion to know that the Yipsels are in favor of all colonial peoples.

It is a sign of a surrender to opportunism to clothe oneself in high sounding generalities and disregard the necessity of taking definite stand no a concrete problem.

Victory of Ethiopia is Defeat Also of Great Britain

But if Ethiopia wins Great Britain wins, argue some comrades. That is taking a short-sighted view of the struggle. Should Ethiopia win, repercussion would undoubtedly occur all over Africa and Asia. The colonial slaves of all imperialist countries would be encouraged to raise the standard of revolt. That is one of the reasons why Great Britain is so anxious to settle the matter without a struggle. Great Britain does not want to see Italy victorious but neither does it want to see the Ethiopians the victors. It fears the effects of such a victory amongst the colonial slaves everywhere. To help the Ethiopians come out victorious in the struggle against Italy is, in the last analysis, to help defeat not only Italy but also Great Britain.

No argument is necessary to support the proposition that should an imperialist war break out in Europe as a result of the Ethiopian conflict the question of the independence of Ethiopia is relegated to the background and the main emphasis must be placed upon the struggle of the working class against their own governments. That does not mean xxxxxx cease to supporx Ethiopian independence but that we xxxxx more clearly xxxxx ever with the proposition that xxxxxx xxx revxxxxxx

Lenin’ s Attitude on S[erbia] and Belgium

[For s]ome reason or other, those who oppose the slogan of defending the independence of Ethiopia point to Lenin’ s attitude on the question of Belgium and Serbia during the World War. To use the name of a great revolutionist who, more than anyone else, insisted upon supporting the struggle of colonial peoples against imperialist bandits, in order to avoid the elementary duty of every socialist to support the struggle of the Ethiopians is to evidence an indescribable confusion. It was not against the idea of self determination of Belgium and Serbia that Lenin fought but against the policy of the socialists in supporting their own governments on the pretext of fighting for independence of the small countries.

And it would be a mistake to compare Belgium and Serbia to Ethiopia. The former countries had a proletariat and socialist parties; Ethiopia has not yet graduated from the feudal system. Capitalism has practically left it untouched. Serbia and Belgium are so interconnected with the European imperialist powers that it is almost impossible to make any valid separation. That is not the case with Ethiopia, the last semi-independent country of the African continent which is totally under the domination of European imperialist countries including Belgium.

Lenin suggests that if Belgium or Serbia had been attacked by a big power and no other factor were involved the socialist would look with sympathy upon the efforts of the bourgeoisie of the smaller countries to guard their national independence. But he simply suggests it as an abstraction and hardly considered it as a possible reality. That Lenin, were he alive to-day, would support the struggle for Ethiopian independence and at the same time fight bitterly against the Communist and Labor and Socialist Internationals for advocating sanctions by the imperialist governments is a conclusion which we are certainly justified in making from his writings and actions.

But is not Haile Selassie the feudal lord and exploiter of the Ethiopian people? And are we not, in defending Ethiopia, actually defending the interests of one exploiter as against another? To consider the matter from this angle means to lose all sense of proportion and to stray far from the realm of Marxism. To a revolutionary socialist the question of supporting a war always revolves around the interests of the proletariat. In the early days of capitalism Marx supported the wars of capitalist nations against feudal powers because they served the interests of the development of the revolutionary proletariat and consequently were progressive. In the epoch of imperialism a Marxist must support a colonial people in its struggle against an imperialist power in spite of the fact that the colonial people may be living under a feudal regime, because the victory of the colonial people is a defeat for imperialism and advances the interests of the international proletarian revolution which will destroy all forms of slavery in the backward countries. The right of self determination of a colonial or semi-colonial people is not conditioned upon the form of government which that people may have.

Needless to say no revolutionary socialist would fail to explain that Haile Selassie rules the Ethiopian peasants and nomads with an iron hand for the benefit of the feudal nobility. Only the Stalinists are capable of making a hero out of Selassie. Probably from the habit of making a hero out of ever miserable functionary. The fact remains that Italian imperialism under Mussolini is trying to subjugate Ethiopia under Selassie and not vice versa. The fact remains that a victory of Ethiopia under Selassie is a defeat for imperialism in general and of Italian imperialism in particular. And what must be emphasized over and over again, a defeat of Italian imperialism is a victor for the Italian working class and that kind of victory is a thousand times more important than a victory for the Ethiopians.

Once y[ou] [accept] the position of defending the independence of a [c]olonia[l] xxxxxxx xxxxxia people against an attack of an im[perialist] xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxy follows that we cannot support any xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx the term neutrality’ could be used xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx a revolutionary party, in the case xxxxx xxxxx [imperialis]t powers, it is out of the question xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx neutral it is impossible, laying aside all the other consider[ations] to support the idea of the NEC resolution that we compel xxxx capitalist government to enact stricter neutrality legislation.

But if we do not support neutrality legislation are we not thereby, indirectly at least, encouraging the capitalist governments to throw us into an imperialist war? Not at all! The working class does not want our capitalist government to involve us in any war; the Socialist party must struggle to prevent that government from declaring war. But the Socialist party must teach the working class and the people in general that no reliance whatever can be placed in the hypocritical declarations of a capitalist government in favor of peace. It must be repeated over and over again that only the workers, supported by other classes, through their own organized efforts, can prevent war, and that in the last analysis only a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system can usher in permanent peace.

No capitalist government every openly declared that it was in favor of war; peace is always what every capitalist government, including Hitler’ s, is striving for. Just as pacifists, in the capitalist government machine make it easier, when war is declared, to mobilize the masses behind the capitalist government, so any declaration of neutrality by a capitalist government will serve the same purpose. No worker should be misled into thinking that a capitalist government will be bound by neutrality legislation whenever it deems it necessary, in the interests of the capitalist class, do declare war.

Not that the Socialist part should carry on a campaign against neutrality but that it must carry on a campaign against the idea of trusting the peace declarations of a capitalist government. And should we have representatives in congress we must introduce amendments to the neutrality legislation which would show the insincerity of the capitalist advocates of neutrality.

Even admitting the questionable proposition that it is difficult to explain to the politically backward worker why we cannot support neutrality legislation introduced by a capitalist government, the difficulty of explaining why we supported neutrality legislation, in case a ware is declared in spite of such legislation, will be a thousand times greater.

If we want to reason in a “logical” manner there is probably less chance of involving ourselves in a war through the independent activities of the working class than in urging governmental action even on behalf of neutrality. An embargo by government act is infinitely more provocative than a boycott by the workers themselves. And if we urge and support a governmental embargo and if, because of that, we are involved in a war, how can we fail to support our government in such a war? All this abstractly “logical” reasoning, however, is irrelevant. The fundamental consideration is the necessity for the Socialist party to urge the workers to have no faith in a capitalist government’ s protestations for peace and to act independently of their capitalist government.

Against Sanctions by a Capitalist Government

If we are for the independence of Ethiopia why not be realistic and practical about the whole matter and ask that the powerful capitalist states apply sanctions against Mussolini and thus assure the independence of Ethiopia? So runs the argument of the reformist leaders of the Socialist and Communist parties. This kind of practicality is a negation of the class struggle and a betrayal of the proletariat. The NEC resolution and the YPSL proclamation are against sanctions and that is to their credit. The NEC rsolution says nothing about the attitude of the Labor party, of the Socialist and Communist Inter[national]s; the YPSL proclamation mentions the position of thxxxx xxxxx and Communist leaders but does not specif[ically] xxxx xxxx position of revolutionary socialist mxxxx xxxx xxxx and we must not hesitate to mention xxxxxxxxx

No imperialist government, least of xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxted in the independence of Ethiop[ia] xxxx xxxxx will do so because its imperalis[t] xxxx xxxx xxxx such a war the socialist by allyxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx ists are actually fighting for xxxx xxxx xxxx xxx and not for the independence xxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx of xxx working class. By suppxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxx

We are for the independence of Ethiopia against Italy but we are just as much against the capitalist government who voted for sanctions. Just as in the matter of neutrality legislation, so in the case of defending the working class to act independently of the capitalist government. There is this difference. Whereas we do not oppose neutrality legislation, we most actively and fiercely oppose sanctions. We must work for a boycott against Italy, a boycott so effective that it will defeat Italian imperialism. But we must also struggle against being involved in any war on behalf of “our” imperialist government. We must clearly state that no matter what the ostensible reason is, the real reason for any imperialist government in declaring war is to protect the interests of the capitalist class and under no circumstances can we support such a war.

Based on our conception of the necessity of supporting the struggle of Ethiopian independence against Italian imperialism we reject the idea of boycotting both Italy and Ethiopia.. Nor can revolutionary socialist accept the absurd idea of permitting food to be shipped for the Italian civil population. That is living in the realm of humanitarian clouds and not in the world of reality. Perhaps our NEC will insist upon sending a committee over to Mussolini for the purpose of supervising the distribution of the food. Perhaps our kind-hearted NEC members will insist that the food be sent to the victims of Mussolini’ s terror. Perhaps our charitable NEC will insist on labeling the packages “For babies only.”

The argument for that brilliant idea seems to be a double-party is not against xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx How that follows is a problem in logic which the NEC xxxx xxxx see fit to solve. If, on the other hand, Mussolini will xxxx xx stupid as to give the food to the army’ and the fascist, then the workers will rise in revolt against such perfidious conduct. That this argument will receive the prize both for soft-heartedness and soft-headedness is a fairly safe conclusion.

We want Mussolini defeated and we want the Italian workers to revolt against him and that is what the Italian revolutionists also want. The Italian revolutionists would undoubtedly grind their teeth with rage if they should see food being sent at the request of socialist which food is helping Mussolini stave off defeat. Every socialist will agree that war is a horrible thing but a revolutionary socialist will insist that we have to struggle against it with all the forces at our command and not with humanitarian gestures. The only real consistent humanitarians are revolutionary Marxists.

The task of a revolutionary part is clear: For the defense of Ethiopia against Italian imperialism by independent working class action; against sanctions by any capitalist government; no support of neutrality legislation but a real struggle against the capitalist government to prevent its declaring war; struggle for the proletarian revolution if war is declared in spite of all our efforts.

NOTE: At the last minute we were told that a combination of right wing and centrist elements succeeded in amending the Yipsel resolution on war. We do not know what the amendments consist of but we hope that the Yipsel membership will reject any resolution on war which is not based on the principles outlined in the above article. A.G.

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