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Workers’ International News, November 1939


Spotlight on Centrism


From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.11, November 1939, pp.8-10.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Having maintained a verbal opposition to war over a long period, it is a natural consequence that the ILP should record a temporary success in the form of increased support and membership during the present period. The natural abhorrence of war inherent in the make-up of the advanced workers provides a fruitful field at the present time for those who seek to exploit this sentiment by cloaking a pacifist policy with revolutionary sounding opportunism. But gains achieved on the basis of opportunism have no lasting value. The long experience of the ILP in this school should have taught them so much by now. That the present position will prove no exception is apparent when the proclamations of this organisation are examined under the relentless spotlight of Marxism.

The crisis immediately preceding the outbreak of war found the ILP via its MPs in their accustomed place, promising support to their saviour Chamberlain in any action which he might take to avert war. As he could not oblige them Maxton and McGovern apologeticeily explained that they were unable to continue their support, then, at the bidding of his monopoly capitalist masters, he plunged Europe into “the war to smash Hitlerism.”

C.A. Smith the party Chairman, however, soon came to the rescue and defined the social patriotic policy which was necessitated by fear of mass chauvinism consequent upon Chamberlain’s turn. In an article in the September internal bulletin Between Ourselves he wrote:

“Our policy of non-cooperation with the British Government in war must be sharply distinguished from that of revolutionary defeatism.”

Thus does the theoretician of the British Centrists categorically denounce the policy towards imperialist war, formulated by Lenin. And he endeavours to justify this attitude by misrepresenting Lenin’s policy of revolutionary defeatism later in the article when he writes:

“We socialists in Britain then, so far from wanting Hitler to win, earnestly desire that he shall be overthrown brought to trial, convicted of an condemned for his monstrous crimes against Socialism and against humanity.”

Support is promised to the German workers should they decide to undertake this task.

But the hollowness of this demagogy is revealed by the subsequent action of C.A. Smith in swinging into line once again with the pacifists in their now shameless clamour for imperialist peace.

The historic episode of Stalin’s marching the Red Army into Eastern Poland and Ukraine provided the next opportunity for the ILP to reveal its political bankruptcy. Ignoring the fact that imperialism presupposes the existence of monopoly capitalism as the economic basis of the social structure, a position which only ultra-left sectarians attribute to the Soviet Union, the ILP denounces Stalin’s action as imperialist “power politics” (New Leader, September 29th) This development, they belatedly declare “marks the final stage in the departure by the Stalin regime from the Principles of International Socialism.” And they deduce the conclusion, not that it is necessary to build the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat (nothing so modest as that for the ILP), “but that the whole international socialist and communist movement must be rebuilt.”

Such is their attempt at a Marxian analysis and directive on one of the most important factors of the present situation. But what of their attitude towards the war situation itself? In this is revealed the whole pacifist opportunist makeup of this a decaying structure masquerading behind the catch-cry of a “Socialist Peace”, they pour forth propaganda for the ending of the war and proclaim in the New Leader on October 13th, that such a peace

“... would require that the peoples of Poland should have an opportunity to determine under which government they wished to live. It would demand that the peoples of Czechoslovakia should have a similar opportunity. But it would also apply the same principle to the British and French Empires.”

Thus do they completely confuse the whole national question. The restoration of the former imperialist States of Poland and Czechoslavakia – an entirely reactionary demand in the present circumstances, is linked with the progressive demand of the oppressed toilers in India, Africa and other British and French colonies to free themselves from imperialist domination. But we need not dwell at any length on this issue for it is only a part of the deceptive mask which cloaks the real aims of the ILP – the unprincipled position shared by the Stalinists, the Peace Pledge Union and the gallant Sir Oswald Mosley and his gutter scum – peace at any price ... It is no use their attempting by deceit and humbug to give any other impression.

Once again they turn from the proletariat to Chamberlain. This emerges clearly from the morass of their verbiage, in the statement in a recent issue of the New Leader. As a series not only of meaningless platitudes but of outright contradictions, this statement wants some beating. After recognising that “the hopes of all peoples for the ending of war by an enduring peace” can be realised “only by the bold initiative of the working class movement”, they further go on to recognise that “the first official step to stop the war must be a conference of governments,” and it is in this final statement that the whole pacifist position of the ILP is revealed. In the same way as this Party supported Chamberlain at Munich; in the same way that Maxton and McGovern, in the fateful days before the war, promised full support for Chamberlain in any action which he might take to prevent the war; they stand today in support of an imperialist peace. All the rest is just bluff.

Revolutionary socialist’s support neither imperialist war nor imperialist peace. They realise that independent action on the part of the masses means, not to send resolutions to the treacherous labour and trade union bureaucrats or to call upon imperialist governments to stop their war, but to organise themselves against these scoundrels. Those who advocate any other course obstruct the workers’ fight for emancipation. Only when the masses themselves bring into use weapons of reason to end war can there be any hope for humanity in the future. To build the revolutionary international which will lead such action to victory is our task.

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