EVER since the Communists organized the League Against War and Fascism there has been a tendency amongst the more naive left wingers of the Socialist party either to join the communist organization or create a new one where the Socialists will be in control. With the sharp turn to the right which the Communists have made recently and the careful and ingratiating attitude which they have assumed towards the members of the Socialist party, the tendency on the part of some well meaning members of the S. P. to join the present League has been considerably strengthened. There has as yet been no thorough discussion of this problem and it is important enough to deserve discussion in the whole Socialist press.
It must be insisted on first of all that the attitude of the old guard towards anything connected with communism is an attitude which no one with the slightest tendency towards the left can accept. The idea that any organization which permits the Communists as an integral part or which has been initiated by the Communists is by that very fact taboo is too absurd even to attempt to refute. It may be true that in certain cases the question will come up whether allying ourselves with the Communists will alienate a large mass of organized workers and necessarily, in most instances, if that is the case, we must choose to go with the latter. That is altogether different from the principle which the right wing of the party wants to follow, namely, that we must avoid any and every organization in the least tinged with communism.
The left wing Socialists must accept the united front with the Communists in principle with the understanding that its application will depend upon particular circumstances. This means that each local must be given wide discretionary powers to decide whether or not to enter a united front with the Communists.
The question of joining the American League Against War and Fascism can be solved only if we analyze all the factors involved both theoretical and practical. It undoubtedly will be discovered that some of us are in favor of joining the League but for altogether different reasons.
A united front against war is a tremendously appealing idea. What reason can one possibly have in opposing an organization composed of Communists, Socialists, liberals, church people pacifists etc. etc. who are all determined to fight imperialist war? He must be insane who thinks that the Socialist party alone can prevent war and the consequent necessity of our joining with all others who are opposed to war seems so natural as to be beyond question. Only those who understand and follow the fundamental principles of revolutionary socialism will realize that to depend upon any organization other than the working class led by a revolutionary party to fight war is to follow a policy which is bound to lead to disaster.
War is as intimately bound up with capitalist society as the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist owners of industry. To think of being able to prevent war, in the long run. without at the same time destroying the system which breeds war, is as Utopian as the idea of introducing socialism by building socialist colonies. Pacifists and reformists who in practice accept the present order of society and merely wish to ameliorate the unbearable conditions of the working class look to disarmament schemes and the League of Nations to prevent war. Revolutionary socialists look to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalist society to prevent imperialist wars. It follows that revolutionary socialists have only one program to prevent war: the program of social revolution. That means that our fight against war is not something special, something separate and apart from our general revolutionary activities but is intimately connected with those activities.
What does it mean to have a special organization to fight war? It means in the first place to have a special program tor fighting war. And since pacifists, liberals and all other non-descripts will be members of that special organization, the program will not be a program of social revolution to prevent war but will necessarily be an incorrect program. It will be a sort of a class ‘B’ program for the prevention of war. Revolutionary socialists will reject the idea that there is such a thing as a correct program for fighting war outside of the program of the revolutionary party.
Some comrades will point to the fact that we help organize a Labor party even though such a party will not have a correct program for the social revolution. Therein exactly lies the distinction. We do not help organize a Labor party for the social revolution while there can be no other reason for creating an organization to fight war except to fight war, a thing which it will b? unable to do. It would be just as incorrect for us to help build a Labor party for the social revolution as to create a League to fight war.
Does that mean that there can be no united front against war under any circumstances? Not at all. Assume that this country is about to declare war. There is no reason whatever why revolutionary Socialists cannot join with Communists, reformists and pacifists for a demonstration against the impending conflict; there is no reason why we could not get together on joint ACTIONS either before or during the war. But we do not create a permanent organization to fight war, with a definite program for that. organization. What is the difference? The difference is that we should accept the idea of joint actions against war but not of a joint organization with a program different from our program.
In the last analysis practically the only work of an organization such as the League Against War is the work of PROPAGANDA and there can be no united front on the question of propaganda against war. Every organization against war has its own ideas of how to stop war and we cannot consent to a minimum program for agitation against war. We can only consent to a minimum program of activities against war.
Take the present program of the League Against War and Fascism. The inference is absolutely clear that war can be stopped without a proletarian revolution; that fascism can be conquered without the overthrow of the capitalist system which breeds fascism. No revolutionary socialist can accept such an idea and we cannot lend our name to something which we know is wrong and which must inevitably confuse the masses. In so far as the program of the present League calls for any activities, a joint committee composed of representatives of different organizations is the proper and sufficient method for taking care of such activities.
Let us take a more concrete example, the question of the united front against the invasion of Ethiopia by Italian imperialism. Could revolutionary socialists ever consent to accepting the idea of sanctions by one set of imperialist robbers against the Italian ruling class? Out of the question. Our propaganda and agitation in this particular instance is peculiar to ourselves and we cannot under any circumstances surrender the right to agitate against the attack of Italy from a revolutionary point of view. But that should not in the least prevent us from getting together with the Communists and the other reformists in joint actions to prevent the shipment of arms and oil to Italy. In the one case it is a question of ideas where we can have no united front; in the other it is a question of action where we favor a united front.
As a matter of fact the question of sanction? is so all-important that it is inconceivable for us to have a formal united front against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia with those groups favoring sanctions by the League of Nations. Since, practically speaking, the revolutionary movement is too weak to do anything effective to stop the shipment of munitions and oil to Italy the possibility of a united front is very limited.
Should we not however join the League because it will furnish an opportunity for our members to be active? But it is always a question of what kind of activity? If the activity is in the wrong channel? it is best not to be active at all. Of course if the League has many working class elements within its fold it would be correct for us to send in our members or even join for the purpose of winning them over to our program. In the same way as we would join any organization with a working-class tendency for the purpose of winning converts to our ideas. But that must not be confused with the united front. In the first place we must be clear theoretically on the question of the united front against war and then we can decide what to do with reference to joining the League Against War and Fascism from a tactical viewpoint.
It follows from the above that whereas we might in certain instances favor joining the League Against War and Fascism we would under no circumstances favor the idea of building our own League.
With reference to the struggle against fascism the situation is somewhat different because that struggle can assume peculiar forms. If fascism reaches a point of development where working class meetings of all types are attacked by the fascists it would be necessary and correct to create an anti-fascist organization the main and practically the only purpose of which would be to defend all working class meetings against attack. In such an organization workers and others should join regardless of political differences because essentially it would be an organization to do something definite, to defend all working class gatherings against attack. Even though fascism has not as yet developed to a point in this country where fascist gangs are attacking working class meetings there is enough of a danger to justify thinking seriously of creating such an anti-fascist organization. But without any program which would confuse the masses into believing that fascism can be conquered without a real and successful struggle for power.
Last updated on 14 June 2009