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The Militant, 3 January 1942

Albert Goldman

Article in the March 29 Militant

(29 March 1941)

From The Militant, Vol 6 No. 1, 3 January 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


(In the recent Minneapolis “sedition” trial, Albert Goldman’s article in the Mar. 29, 1941 Militant was introduced as evidence of the Socialist Workers Party position on war and fascism. During Goldman’s final argument to the jury, now being printed in this paper, he made numerous references to this article. In response to numerous requests, we are reprinting it below.)

QUESTION: When you say that this is an imperialist war both on the side of Britain and Germany do you mean to say that you don’t care who wins and that you contemplate a victory of Hitler without being disturbed by it?

ANSWER: It means nothing of the kind. When we characterize the war as imperialist, and say that all of the imperialist countries involved are fighting for their imperialist interests and not for or against democracy, we thereby simply indicate that it is impermissible for us as revolutionists to support either side.

QUESTION: But then it means, does it not, that you are willing to sit back and permit Hitler to conquer Britain and the United States?

ANSWER: No, it does not. It simply means that our task in this war is different from the task of the imperialists. They want to defeat their rival to protect their imperialist interests. We cannot and must not support them in such a task. Our task is to organize the working class for the purpose of taking over power and transforming this war into a real war for democracy.

QUESTION: But you claim to be revolutionary defeatists and that means that you want your country defeated by Hitler, isn’t that so?

ANSWER: Not at all. Any one who says so either does not understand what revolutionary defeatism is or he is simply a vicious slanderer. We are more interested in defeating Hitler than is Churchill or Roosevelt. Both of these representatives of the capitalist rulers of their country can easily come to terms with Hitler.

QUESTION: But are you not helping Hitler win by not supporting the war?

ANSWER: Not in the least. All that we are doing now is educating the workers to our point of view. We are telling them the truth as to the character of the war and what to do to win the war against all the capitalists. Both our members and the workers whom we influence must go to war and do what they are told by the rulers of this country. So long as we do not have a majority behind us we are in no position to do anything except obey orders. It is true that we do not assume responsibility for this war in any way whatever, but to draw from that fact the conclusion that we thereby help Hitler win, lacks logic and common sense. The conduct of the war against Hitler is in the hands of Roosevelt and Churchill representing the American and British capitalists. That is unfortunate, and we are trying to convince the majority of the working class that they should take the power of government and the conduct of the war into their own hands, but we defy anybody to show that we are doing a single thing that helps Hitler, the greatest enemy of the working class.

QUESTION: But I am given to understand that, if the U.S. went to war against Hitler or against Japan, your party would try to prevent war materials from being shipped for the purpose of fighting the Japanese or the German armed forces.

ANSWER: I don’t know who gave you to understand such a nonsensical idea, but I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing to it. We do not believe in individual action nor in the action of small groups. As I said before, until we gain a majority to our ideas there is nothing for us to do but to educate workers until we get a majority.

QUESTION: Then there is nothing to the idea that your policy of revolutionary defeatism has anything to do with sabotage?

ANSWER: Absolutely nothing. Reactionary red-baiters and those who know nothing about our program try to connect us with sabotage. Revolutionary defeatism to us is a political concept. It simply indicates that we do not support the war and that we carry on the class struggle at home regardless of the fact that it might have some effect on the front.

QUESTION: Doesn’t that mean, then, that you would do certain things which interfere with the conduct of the war?

ANSWER: It means that wc advise the workers to continue their struggle against the bosses at home, and if that affects the conduct of the war the blame is entirely on the bosses and their government. Why should the workers not take advantage of the increase in production due to war orders in order to organize themselves and better their conditions? The bosses are making huge profits; the cost of living is going up. It would be extremely foolish for the workers to be influenced by the propaganda of the bosses and refrain from demanding better conditions because such demands interfere with the conduct of the war. Let the capitalists grant the demands and then there will be no interference.

QUESTION: But then, if you will succeed in getting a majority of the workers behind you and try to take over the government, the capitalists will resist and will that not give Hitler a chance to win the war?

ANSWER: I don’t think so, but if we have a majority of the workers behind us, we must take that chance. Because if the workers take over power, Hitler is sure to be defeated, while if we let the capitalists stay in power, Hitler’s chances of victory are much greater. Look what happened to France. The capitalists were in control. And they led the war in a miserable manner and capitulated in a miserable manner. Why? Because important sections of the French capitalist class sympathized with Hitler and other sections were afraid that a French victory would lead to a workers’ revolution. In general, the capitalist class cannot inspire the masses with the confidence and the determination to fight to the death against fascism. A workers’ government has a thousand times better chance to win the war against Hitler. If the capitalists resist the attempt of the working class to take over power they will, to that extent, interfere with our struggle against Hitler; but it is far better for us to take that risk than to let the capitalist class continue to rule. For if the workers let the capitalists rule we will be conquered by fascism – either by a victory of Hitler or of the fascists in our own country.

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