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The Militant, 17 August 1946

Peace or War – How Trotsky Posed
the Basic Question of Our Times

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 33, 17 August 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


How would Trotsky regard the United Nations Organization, the Foreign Ministers’ parleys and the Paris “Peace” Conference? As sincere attempts or great statesmen to achieve lasting peace? Or as calculated steps of bandit conquerors toward a new and more terrible war?

Trotsky’s writings contain abundant material on the relation between capitalist imperialism and peace. He exposed the League of Nations after the First World War, showing how it was an instrument of war. He foresaw the possibility after World War II of a new League such as we see today in the UN and he predicted what would happen to it.

At the First Congress of the Third International in March 1919, Trotsky was assigned to write the Manifesto of the Communist International to the Workers of the World. In this historic document, Trotsky outlined the most crucial issue facing humanity:

“Is all toiling mankind to become the bond slaves of victorious world cliques who, under the firm-name of the League of Nations and aided by an ‘international’ army and ‘international’ navy, will here plunder and strangle some peoples and there cast crumbs to others, while everywhere and always shackling the proletariat—with the sole object of maintaining their own rule? Or shall the working class of Europe and of the advanced countries in other parts of the world take in hand the disrupted and ruined economy in order to assure its regeneration upon socialist, principles?”

Change the name of the League of Nations to the United Nations and the above sentences still apply.

An Insane Asylum

At the Second World Congress of the Third International, July-August 1920, Trotsky again declared in the Manifesto he was assigned to write:

“Official, governmental, national, civilized, bourgeois Europe—as it has issued from the war and the Versailles Peace—resemble an insane asylum. Artificially split-up little states, whose economy is choking to death within their borders, snarl at one another, and wage wars over harbors, provinces and insignificant towns.

“They seek the protection of larger states, whose antagonisms are likewise increasing day by day. Italy stands hostilely opposed to France and is inclined to support Germany against France, the moment Germany is able to raise her head again. France is eaten by envy of England and in order to collect her dividends is ready to set Europe on fire again from all its four corners. England, with the help of France, keeps Europe in a condition of chaotic impotence, thus untying her own hands for world operations aimed against the United States ...

“In harmony with this picture of world relations Marshal Foch, military oracle of the French bourgeoisie, has issued a warning that the next war will begin where the last one left off, namely, with airplanes and tanks, with automatic arms and machine guns instead of hand weapons, with grenades instead of bayonets.”

Today the generals who replaced the Fochs and Pershings predict that World War III will begin where the last one left off—with atomic bombs and annihilating rockets. Otherwise Trotsky could have written those paragraphs today.

In a speech at the June 23, 1921, session of the Third World Congress of the Third International, Trotsky said:

“After the war it might have seemed that the triumph of pacifism was about to arrive and that the League of Nations was its manifestation. Today we see that the calculation of pacifism was a miscalculation. Never before has capitalist mankind engaged in such frenzied preparation for a new war as at the present time.”

Substitute the United Nations for the League and Trotsky’s words are an accurate report of the state of affairs today.

Prediction of War

In the Theses on the International Situation, written by Trotsky for the same Congress, the aftermath of a Second World War is already envisaged:

“It is absolutely self-evident that the more protracted the world proletarian revolutionary movement is in its character, the more inevitably will the bourgeoisie be impelled by the contradictions of the world economic and political situation to engage in another bloody denouement on a world scale. This would signify that the task of ‘restoring capitalist equilibrium’ after the new war would have for its basis conditions of economic havoc and cultural savagery in comparison with which the present state of Europe might be regarded as the height of well-being.”

Trotsky wrote about the League of Nations in 1934 as follows:

“Europe, the recent arena of the greatest of wars continually heads toward decline, pushed by victors and vanquished alike. The League of Nations which according to its official program was to be the ‘organizer of the peace’ and which was really intended to perpetuate the Versailles system, to neutralize the hegemony of the United States and to create a bulwark against the Red East, could not withstand the impact of imperialist contradictions ... The League of Nations became a secondary figure on the chessboard of imperialist combinations.

“The main work of diplomacy, now carried on behind the back of Geneva, consists in the search for military allies, that is, in a feverish preparation for. a new slaughter. Parallel with it goes the constant growth of armaments ...”

Again substitute the UN for the League, remember that the new edition of the Versailles Treaty has not yet been written, and you get a startlingly accurate picture of what has already happened to the pretentious UN “organizer of the peace” in its first year.

Capitalist “Peace”

Finally, in 1940, at the outbreak of the Second World War, Trotsky discussed the possibility of “peace” under an Allied victory:

“Victorious France could re-establish her position as a great power only by dismembering Germany, restoring the Hapsburgs, Balkanizing Europe. Great Britain could again play a leading role in European affairs only by refurnishing the game of playing on the contradictions between Germany and France on the one side, Europe and America on the other. This would signify a new and ten times worse edition of the peace of Versailles with infinitely more malignant effects upon the weakened organism of Europe.”

Sounds like a report from Paris. Yet this was written six years ago!

The program of the Allied bandits is to carve up the world. This only sows the seeds of fresh and more terrible wars. Against this reactionary aim, Trotsky advanced the slogan of uniting all countries in a Socialist United States of the World. Enduring peace is possible, he explained, only through uniting countries and areas and building the planned economy of socialism. Trotsky devoted his life to the fight for this simple idea. Two quotations will illustrate his conception:

United States of Europe

In 1934 he pointed out:

“The task of complete national determination and peaceful cooperation of all peoples of Europe can be solved only on the basis of the economic unification of Europe, purged of bourgeois rule. The slogan of the United States of Europe is a slogan not only for the salvation of the Balkan and Danubian peoples but for the salvation of the peoples of Germany and France as well.”

And in 1940, he repeated:

“Against the reactionary slogan of ‘national defense’ it is necessary to advance the slogan of the revolutionary destruction of the national state. To the madhouse of capitalist Europe it is necessary to counterpose the program of the Socialist United States of Europe as a stage on the road to the Socialist United States of the World.”

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