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Reva Craine

How the Third Camp of Labor
Fought Oppression in the War

(30 April 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 18, 30 April 1945, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This article is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of toilers in every part of the world whose deeds under the most difficult circumstances of war and fascist tyranny kept alive the spirit of struggle for a better world. It is dedicated to them moreover because they have shown the only way in which humanity can be saved from the consequences of these scourges: the destruction of civilization.

Five Years Ago

When the Workers Party and Labor Action were founded five years ago, just after the outbreak of the Second, World, War, they placed themselves unreservedly on the side of this struggle and declared that it, and it alone, carried to a victorious end, could bring about the kind of world that the peoples everywhere yearned for.

In spite of all the official proclamations about democracy and the Four Freedoms, the war was being fought by all the big powers for the sake of expansion and domination or for retention of empires formerly obtained through armed force.

The Workers Party declared then, and the subsequent events have borne out, that the victory of either of the imperialist camps in the war – Axis or Allied – could not possibly usher in the freedom, peace, security and human decency so desired by the down-trodden, enslaved and oppressed. This could be achieved only by the people themselves, through independent organization and struggle – independent of the imperialist interests of both camps in the war and loyal only to the interests of the people.

We called this struggle the Third Camp of Labor, and to its encouragement, furtherance and conscious organization we have devoted all our energies.

Many were those who jeered because they had lost faith in the capacity of the ordinary people to fight for themselves. The scoffers challenged us “to produce the Third Camp.” In the meantime. they themselves joined up with one or the other of the imperialist camps and did all in their power to discourage and belittle the efforts of the slowly emerging Third Camp.

But in one country after another, the people, getting over the initial daze of the outbreak of the war, the overpowering victories of Hitler’s hordes, and the betrayal by their own capitalist classes, began to stir, to organize and to act. This was especially true of those who had been led to believe that the way to fight fascism was to support the program of the Allied governments and whose honest and genuine anti-fascist feelings had been exploited by the “democracies” to plunge them into the slaughter.

When Hitler’s armies marched across the European continent, the ruling classes in the occupied countries who were responsible for the war, divided into two groups. One section surrendered to and compromised with the invader. They became the collaborators of the Nazis and the overseers of the workers! They preferred to supply the “enemy” with war materials – at a profit, of course – to a fight against fascism. The other section ran off to safety in London or elsewhere, where they established, themselves as the “governments in exile.”

The people, however, could not and did not run away. Neither did they collaborate with the fascists. They stayed and were subjected to the double torture of war and foreign oppression. Under such circumstances, when even a wrong glance might mean arrest and deportation and worse, the people began slowly to organize their resistance.

Despite the reign of terror, the dangers and almost certain death that many risked; despite the fact that they were leaderless, deserted, betrayed; despite the loss of all the old organizations; and in face of the obstruction of their own ruling classes, the peoples in the occupied countries formed new types of organizations and renewed the fight against the despotism.

The Underground

Underground movements for national liberation came into existence in almost every European country – Italy, France, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece. These movements embraced the most courageous men and women, sons and daughters of the toiling classes, who kept alive the will to struggle and made possible the future reorganization of the working class movement.

That these movements were at first directed against the German invader did not mean that the people in them were ready to stop once the Nazis were driven from their soil. This was for them but a first step in the struggle for democratic rights, for the possibility of settling accounts with those who had gotten them into this appalling situation and who had benefited so handsomely from the war. Whether this was consciously understood or only vaguely felt, the movement represented a new beginning of the struggle for a new world order. The people of Europe do not want to go back to the old days of exploitation, unemployment, crisis, fascism and preparations for yet another world war. Neither do they wish to exchange one tyranny for another. They want a new way of life.

To recall only a few of the outstanding battles of Labor’s Third Camp, we salute:

THE NORWEGIAN WORKERS for the 1941 strike in defiance of the Nazi authorities. They struck over the heads of their own union leaders and called to the world’s attention that labor resistance to fascism was alive.

THE FRENCH WORKERS AND UNDERGROUND FIGHTERS, who carried on the struggle against foreign oppression after the shameful betrayal by their own ruling class. They organized the resistance to deportations, drove the Nazi troops out of Paris and began to purge all fascists and collaborators. They continue to oppose, their own leaders, who want to disarm them, to curb them and keep them from completing their fight.

THE WORKERS OF ITALY, who astonished the world with their general strike and struggles which causjed the collapse of the Mussolini regime and showed that twenty-two years of fascism had not corrupted their spirit. They demanded the abolition of the monarchy, release of all political prisoners, an end to the war and freedom of the press and organization. The struggle which they started so heroically under the Nazi occupation they must now continue under the domination/of their “liberators” – England and the United States.

THE WORKERS OF DENMARK, who in July 1944, answered the attempt of the German authorities to deport the Jewish people with a general strike. They stayed out, despite pleas of the Danish Freedom Council to return to work, until a number of their demands were met.

THE PEOPLE OF WARSAW AND THE REST OF POLAND, who kept up an unrelenting struggle for five years against the invader which culminated in the glorious battle of Warsaw last summer. For sixty-three days, the lone Warsaw workers kept up the fight to oust the Germans, pleading for help from Stalin and Churchill, who stood idly by watching the massacre of over 300,000 poorly armed, starving people. Only when Warsaw was bled white did its people surrender. Our admiration for these fighters is equalled only by our condemnation of their betrayers, the imperialist rulers in London and Moscow.

THE WORKERS AND PEASANTS OF GREECE, who never stopped their fight to drive out the occupying armies of Hitler and continued this fight against the British, who backed the Greek reactionaries and collaborationists and sought to restore the hated Greek monarchy. Through the shameful betrayal of the Stalinist leadership this struggle was halted mid-way, but it is far from over.

THE WORKERS OF GERMANY, who, at the greatest peril, solidarized themselves with their foreign brothers, helped them escape, and even went on strike whenever they could. They are the workers who are now slated by the Big Three to be taken into slavery to pay for the crimes of their fascist rulers against whom they struck.

THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, in their struggle for national independence from British imperialism, in 1942 rejected the hypocritical Cripps proposals to postpone independence until after the war and staged a civil disobedience and strike movement, demanding immediate freedom. Only brutal suppression by superior forces of the British and the half-hearted leadership of the Congress Party temporarily halted this fight. But the Indian people are as determined as ever to have their freedom.

THE BOLIVIAN TIN MINERS, who struck in 1942 against the inhuman conditions of toil, against brutal suppression and against intervention of the U.S. Ambassador on the side of the mine owners.

IN THE UNITED STATES we remember the coal miners’ strike of 1941 and the three strikes in 1943 which showed the way to break the Little Steel formula. There was the great strike in 1941 at North American Aircraft into which the U.S. Army was sent by the President. There were also the rubber workers’ strike in May 1943; the Detroit strikes and struggles against the companies’ anti-labor drive; the sit-in demonstration of the Brewster workers in June 1944 against the closing of the plant and ensuing layoffs; and the gallant effort of the Rank and File in the UAW to free labor from the shackles of the no-strike pledge,

There were the struggles of the Negro people for democratic rights, for economic, political and social equality, which led to the formation on the March on Washington Movement. It was the timidity and incorrect policy of the leadership which stalled this battle half-way.

And we must recall the magnificent fight put up by the sharecroppers and farm laborers of Southeast Missouri in the summer of 1942 in which they won their thirty-cent hourly wage demand and other improvements.

All of these struggles, no matter how different may have been their immediate goals and forms, have this much in common: They testify to the irresistible urge that the working people everywhere have to secure those improvements in the conditions of life which are made possible by the tremendous achievements of industry and science; they testify also to the great capacity to recuperate from past defeats and to sacrifice anew for what they consider a just cause.

In the course of these battles, they have, had to face not only superior strength from the direct foe, but what is far worse, treachery within their own ranks. The most pernicious influence they have had to contend with was that of the Stalinists in their organizations, who have always tried to seize the leadership of these movements in order to convert them into appendages of the Russian ruling class. Wherever they have not succeeded in this they have sold out the movements in the most brazen manner. In other cases, the workers have been confronted with leaders who, in the interests of class peace, preferred to derail the movements and. to give up the struggle. And finally there were the leaders who did not know where they were leading and got stalled in the middle of the battle.

Yes, the Third Camp exists! It lives and it fights! It has the will to struggle and the capacity to sacrifice. It needs above all clarity of program, consciousness of aim and goal. It needs a program which is consistent with and embraces all the aspirations of the peoples; a program which means fighting on till these are achieved. This is the program of world socialism, the order of democracy, freedom, peace, security and plenty.

That program is now emerging in the form of revolutionary socialist parties in Europe, in the as yet small groups of French, Italian, Belgian and Greek Fourth Internationalists, as well as the growing Revolutionary Communist Party of England. In the United States, this program is represented by the Workers Party.

On this May Day, when we salute all the fighters in the Third Camp, we extend special greetings to our co-thinkers and comrades in Europe who have withstood the years of reaction and are now prepared to take, their places in the coming struggles.

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