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Workers’ International News, November 1939


Patriots Yesterday – Pacifists Today


From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.11, November 1939, pp.10-12.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


We publish here a statement by a member of the Communist Party, symptomatic of the effect that the recent dizzying turn of the leadership has had on the genuine militants in the. party. – Ed.

The war caught the Communist Party unprepared and confused: This is admitted by the leadership itself. “In the beginning we made a mistake, a bad mistake on the war.” – William Rust in the Daily Worker, October 16th.

With the example of 1914 before them the leadership walked straight into the same trap. When Poland was invaded their one fear was that the government might do another Munich in face of this “act of brutal aggression.” (DW, Sept 2nd.) The following day war was declared and the DW of September 4th greeted it with – “This is a war that can and must be won.” On September 5th they were declaring fervently – “The people will fight to win this war against Hitler by every means in their power....You will find us helping to win this war.”

They were still suspicious that the government was hankering after Munich and on September 11th replied to the Goering “peace offer”. “To betray Poland is to betray Britain.” They argued that it was vital to avoid the “Nazi peace trap.” In the same issue they declared “a strong attack in the West can save Poland.” On September 12th the DW quoted Pravda’s analyis of the reasons for the German successes in Poland, which boiled down to German aerial mechanical superiority and lack of assistance from the West.

Then Pravda suddenly changed its tune. On September 16th it is quoted as saying that Poland collapsed because of “internal weaknesses and contradictions of the Polish state” and the bad treatment of the minorities, in the Ukraine and West White Russia. In case the tone of this article should have roused apprehension of Russian intentions, the Editorial Board went out of its way to declare “The article contains neither the hidden meaning attributed to it, nor does it envisage any Soviet action in relation to the war in Poland.” This statement was unfortunate because the next issue (Monday, September 18th) carried the news of the Russian invasion of Poland.

The next day Pollitt analysed the “real position in Poland” and still tended to blame the lack of British and French aid for the collapse.

“The playing for position on the Western Front, the blockade and the dropping of leaflets were not quite the kind of direct help that the Polish people had been led to expect.”

Despite the Russian action the Party still did not recognise any “new situation.” On the contrary it was still bothered by the fear that another Munich was possible. The DW of September 20th carried the streamer headline right across the front page “Hitler offers ‘peace’ to split Britain and France.” The leading article was headed “All Quiet on the Western Front – Why?” and asked whether there was still anyone in the British and French governments contemplating a “‘peace’ arrangement with Hitler.”

On September 25th a leading article asked whether the present Government was “likely to win the war.” For the next four days there was little reference to the war, home front hardships were emphasised and the blow to democracy in the French suppression of the Communist Party.

On September 29th Stalin and Ribbentrop had come to terms in Moscow and the Communist Party’s new policy appeared overnight. “Peace Offer to Europe” was the DW headline for September 30th. A statement declared that a “people’s Government could secure lasting peace”, that “an entirely new situation confronts the people of this country and of Europe” and that it was “becoming clear” that the war was being fought for imperialist aims.

On October 4th the idea that another Munich was in preparation had been completely abandoned. Chamberlain and Daladier were now accused of wishing to continue the war and the DW demanded that “negotiations be immediately opened for the establishment of peace in Europe.” A Central Committee statement declared that “the continuation of the war under these conditions is now a deadly menace to the interests of the peoples in all countries.” A further Party statement on October 7th declared:

“The truth about this war must be told. ‘This war is not a war for democracy against Fascism ...

“The responsibility for the present imperialist war lies equally on all the warring powers.”

Compare September 2nd:

“The mad dogs of Europe – Hitler and his Nazi Government – have set out on their last bloody adventure”.

“Nazi aggression has been checked and today the Nazi leader is suing for peace. It is the ruling classes of England and France that demand the continuation of the war.”

So far the suggestion has been that the party had followed a correct line in supporting the war at first but that the action of Russia had created a changed situation. Then came the news that Pollitt had been removed from the General Secretaryship, and a new line appeared. William Rust, who had replaced Campbell in the direction of the DW, declared “We made a mistake.” The war had been an imperialist war from the beginning – but the Central Committee had not noticed it.

Was there ever such an appalling exhibition of confusion, muddle and downright stupidity on the part of the leadership of a party? How can the Committee hope to win the confidence of the people by such incredible vacillations? What confidence can anyone have in the future direction of the party? What guarantee have we that equally disastrous mistakes will not be made in future? Can anyone imagine such men leading a revolution? The revolutionary situation would be past and, reaction entrenched before they had noticed that it had occurred.

What excuse can be found for men who have the example of 1914 before them and not discover until the war has been in progress for a month that it is an imperialist war?

Now that the party has up to a point, adopted a correct line what is its programme? That is the use of parrot cry “Call a Conference?” What are the peace terms that are to be discussed there? Let the leadership, tell us now and not wait for Moscow to do their work for them.

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