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V.R. Dunne

Fate of Political Refugees
Rests with Labor

(September 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 36, 3 September 1938, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The American Fund for Political Prisoners and Refugees sponsored by an active committee of militants, places before the American labor movement a task demanding immediate action.

In Europe brave working-class fighters are today facing torture and death at the hands of Fascist agents of reaction. Where yesterday magnificent trade unions and workers’ political movements flourished, and promoted the interests of the working class, today, bloody, totalitarian regimes herd all working-class militants into concentration camps and ruthlessly crush every workers’ organization.

Crumbs from Evian Table

Refugees from Fascist terror clamor for help from the “democratic” nations of Europe but receive only the meager crumbs of assistance which the Intergovernmental Refugee Committee feels forced to give them. This Committee, now continuing in London the work begun last month by the Evian Conference, attempts to hide its imperialistic aims behind a mask of humanitarianism and high idealism. However, when the Committee discusses the practical aspects of providing new homes and livings in democratic countries for the thousands of helpless victims of Fascist reaction, it reveals the decadent nationalism of democratic capitalism.

Delegates to the Conference speak of unemployment in their own countries; the necessity for restrictions on immigration, etc., etc. The Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia objects to the Conference’s proposal to send 500 Jewish families there since “it would appear to cut across the policy of keeping South and Central Africa under British influence.” Democratic capitalism neither can nor desires to offer real assistance to all of the persecuted victims of Fascism. Each democratic country participating in the Conference is itself being driven into a position of extreme nationalism by a dying capitalist order.

If it is decided by the Conference to evacuate 660,900 refugees from Germany and Austria in the next five years (no persons over fifty are to be included, since they cannot be depended upon to earn their own livings in the new country) how many of these will be working-class refugees from Fascism? Myron Taylor, the spokesman for the United States Government at the Conference, formerly spokesman for United States Steel, can be depended upon to guarantee that no revolutionary victims of Fascism become the beneficiaries of “democratic humanitarianism.”

“Democracy” Mocks Refugees

The humanitarianism of the democracies is a mockery. In most of the so-called democratic countries the right of asylum is today a meaningless phrase. Workers who have escaped the nets of Fascist police spies in their homelands are now being terrorized by other capitalist police spies in the democratic countries to which they have fled. Even France, the liberal nation, the democratic ally of the U.S.S.R., for whose favor, Stalin sacrifices the welfare of the French workers has passed laws imposing severe penalties upon any French citizen aiding an exile. Its Popular Front Government under Daladier makes it impossible for political refugees to obtain citizenship status and thus earn a living. Nor is France more reactionary than other European democracies.

A thousand examples of persecution of political refugees by all of these democratic countries could be given. Foremost in our minds, however, is the story of that most heroic political exile of our times, Leon Trotsky. Who can forget the cruel persecution of Trotsky by the governmental agents of almost every European democracy during the past ten years? Above all, what excuse can be made for the brutal deportation of Trotsky from the Norwegian democracy in 1936, except that it was dictated more by its tangible capitalist interests, namely its trade with the Soviet Union, than by its abstract democracy.

No Safety in Stalinland

Equally opposed to the entrance of revolutionary refugees from Fascism is Stalin’s “Fatherland.” Serge, Ciliga, Tarov, Beal and many others have borne witness to the fact that no revolutionaries are safe in the U.S.S.R. Even the corrupt Comintern bureaucrats from foreign countries, who long ago left the line of revolutionary Marxism are not always safe there.

In fact, the Soviet Union has its own political refugees. They have fewer living refugees probably than do Germany and Italy, since the G.P.U. agents are more expert at ferreting out revolutionists; more successful in staging frame-up trials against them; and more ruthless about delivering them to the firing-squad.

G.P.U. Allied With Police

Directly related to this is the program upon which Stalin’s G.P.U. agents in capitalist democracies have now embarked, that is, a program of co-operation with capitalist police spies to persecute and deport to Fascist prisons the revolutionary refugees who have found a temporary shelter in these countries. Democratic capitalism, so-called, now preparing a new war for the re-division of the world among the big capitalist powers, Fascist and Democrat, welcomes the assistance of the G.P.U. in crushing the revolutionary elements in the ranks of the workers. The clearest thinkers in the ranks of American labor, who, themselves, resist being pushed into the inferno of war, owe it to their own movement as well as to the European labor movement to come to the rescue of the hounded political refugees who most consciously oppose the war-makers of Europe.

The fate of the new trade union movement in this country will be tragic indeed if it fails to understand the meaning of this cruel persecution. These brave militants who have seen the great trade union movements of Germany and Austria smashed by Fascism know that there is no safety for workers in a dependence upon “Democracy” for the preservation of their organizations. American trade unionists must learn that independent working-class action alone can preserve and extend the rights to which workers feel entitled.

Voices will be heard within our ranks, “America is not Europe,” “Here we have real democracy,” “Let the European labor movement take care of its own,” etc., etc. These and similar ideas must be combated with all vigor. We must lead the fight on an international scale against the blacklist, the frame-up, the torture and murder methods of “democratic” as well as Fascist reaction. We must support the American Fund for Political Prisoners and Refugees, which brings to the persecuted European working-class fighters immediate badly needed aid and helps to establish for these refugees a real political asylum.

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