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James Burnham

Their Government

(1 September 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 64, 1 September 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It took just about forty-eight hours for the belly-crawlings of the Stalinist hangers-on to begin. For the first day following the announcement of the Pact, they were too stunned to be heard from; the first day following the announcement of the Wednesday the procession had started, led by the cringing whine of Heywood Broun and Freda Kirchwey, followed promptly on Thursday by the editorial whimpers of the Nation and the New Republic. Soon they will be trampling each other, choking the road back to the comforting shelter of the good old Red, White and Blue; and the air will be deafened with their yowls.

Picture the anguish in Hollywood! What a lamentable disaster for the brave champions (at $5,000 a week) of the Anti-Nazi League and the thousand-and-one committees, for the James Cagneys and Dorothy Parkers and Miriam Hopkins and Donald Ogden Stewarts and Joan Crawfords and Franchot Tones!

And think, with a tear or two, of the pained distress of bold writers and artists and professors and bishops whose names adorned the stationery of the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy and the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the American League for Peace and Democracy and the Writers’ Congress and all the other play-committees of the G.P.U.!

But, most embarrassing of all, most needing our sympathy, is the predicament of those who signed the Statement of 400. This statement, for which signatures have been gathered during the past four months, was designed to defend the Soviet Union (that is, Stalin) with its democracy and its “peace policy” from the slanders of the League for Cultural Freedom. By a charming stroke of irony, large excerpts from the statement, together with an approving editorial comment, appeared in the issue of the New Republic which is pre-dated August 23rd – the day the pact was sighed.

Of those four hundred, are there today half a dozen who would not give their right eye to be able to prove their signatures a forgery?

These people, mind you, are the Moralists, these the ones who use their most ringing abstractions to denounce – the “immorality” and “a-morality” of the revolutionists.

Who Is Betrayed?

They have been, you see, “betrayed”. Stalin has betrayed them. Therefore ... therefore, they plead, take pity on us, for we are the innocent victims.

There are, it is true, millions and hundreds of millions who have been betrayed, most terribly betrayed, by Stalin’s pact with Hitler: the world proletariat, the peasants and poor farmers, the colonial peoples, the Jews of the whole world, yes and the simple, honest intellectuals and professionals and sincere liberals. But, search as hard as I can, I do not find the names of our fine-feathered friends among the long list of the betrayed.

I find their names, rather, on the roster of the active agents of the betrayer.

Yes, for tens and hundreds of thousands of sincere persons, including many many workers, who read their magazines, listened at their meetings, bought their books, believed and trusted them, they are exactly the ones who made Stalin’s betrayal possible. It was they who, openly or by lies or by silence, defended the Moscow Trials and fought the effort to let the world know the truth about the trials. It was they who hid the truth about what was happening within the Soviet Union, and spread the hideous falsehoods about its democracy and plenty. It was they who helped put across the infamies of the Popular Front, and aided the G.P.U., in their own way, in its destruction of the Spanish workers. It was they who covered the blood and guns of Stalinism, covered the steps to the pact, with a mantle of respectability and ideals and morality.

What else have they been doing for the past five years?

No, they have not been betrayed. Their readers and audiences have been betrayed; but they are the agents and tools and stooges of the arch-betrayer.

All dishonor to them! All contempt, all the revulsion which we are capable of feeling!

The New Popular Stooge Front

Do you think these people feel shame for their past, that they have learned even a little from what has happened? Do not be deceived: they are immune to shame, sterilized from learning. If the editors of the Nation and the New Republic were sensitive to even the shadow of shame, do you think they could publish even a single issue more of their magazines after what has now been made clear?

No, they lie and grovel to order, these people. They are not happy unless they have their full quota of lies and grovelling, and they are hungry without sufficiently dirty boots to lick.

They never loved, but always hated the workers’ revolution. They loved only Stalin – the established power, the status quo – the hangman of the revolution; and they licked his boots only while they were alongside those of the masters at home: the rulers of imperialist America.

Now the boots are on opposite sides of the street. And they know, never fear, which pair can kick them hardest. They will now – with what lightning speed! – wrap themselves seven-fold in the red, white and blue, and prostrate themselves at the feet of the master at home.

They will be the spokesmen, the most eager and the loudest spokesmen, for a wave of chauvinism such as this country has never known. Soon they will tell us that they knew all along that “communism and fascism are at bottom one and the same”, and that “naturally” Stalin and Hitler got together. You must, they will shout from the housetops, shed your lifeblood for DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM and the AMERICAN WAY. Yes, and for MORALITY – the morality, of course, of the Sixty Families, which, since they are American patriots, is so diametric an opposite of the morality of TOTALITARIANISM.

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