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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(12 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 15, 12 April 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Battle of Yugoslavia

It is quite natural for workers to get ascertain feeling of satisfaction at seeing Hitler bump into an obstacle – even a minor one. Since his invasion of Poland the arch enemy of the working class has had easy sailing, riding rough-shod over Europe, and was stopped only by the English channel and the British imperialist navy and air force.

After Hitler knocked France out of the war, one after another of the small Balkan nations capitulated to him. Rumania was easy pickings and Bulgaria was still easier. It cost Hitler nothing to take over these countries. Yugoslavia was to be next and Hitler was satisfied With the course of events until the revolt of the officer caste of the Yugoslav army upset his calculations. He was compelled to use something more than the war of nerves and diplomacy to achieve his ends in Yugoslavia.

Possessed of a certain tradition as fighters for independence the Serbian officer caste was unwilling to surrender to Hitler without putting up some kind of a struggle. The ease with which the Serbian officers succeeded in getting rid of the Cvetkovitch government, when that government signed a treaty putting Yugoslavia under Hitler’s control, leads some observers to believe that the palace revolution was staged with the knowledge and connivance of the Cvetkovitch government, and with the British playing the leading role in the whole affair.

The theory sounds plausible but whether it is true or not is unimportant. The fact remains that whereas Hitler and the world in general thought that he had Yugoslavia in the bag, he found himself confronted with the necessity of conquering that country by force of arms.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

The very revolt of the Serbian officers shows how the workers and peasants of the small nations are given the dreadful choice by their governments of either submitting to German imperialism or fighting and dying for British and American imperialism.

How easy it is to recognize the difference between the nationalism of the upper class and the nationalism of the workers and poor peasants! For the upper class Serbian nationalism is a means to guarantee their exclusive right to exploit their own people and to rule over minority peoples such as the Croats and Slovenes. The nationalism of the workers and peasants is based on their legitimate opposition to any foreign exploiter and constitutes no danger whatever to the workers and peasants of another country.

Under present conditions the justifiable nationalistic feeling of the workers and peasants and their hatred and fear of Hitler are utilized by the landlords and capitalists of Yugoslavia primarily for protecting their property interests. The Yugoslav army, composed mainly of peasants, will be fighting and dying to assure the preservation of a system that furnishes them less than a bare subsistence.

In Yugoslavia as well as in Greece the champions of capitalist democracy can look the country over with a microscope and find no traces of the democracy for which they are fighting. The thousands of workers buried in the Greek concentration camps because they fought against their own tyrannical government are sure to answer with a shrug of their shoulders if the favorite question is put to them whether capitalist democracy is not better than fascism. But that after all is immaterial to these champions; they are not at all averse to using dictatorships for the purpose of saving their own hides and their own somewhat democratic and comfortable existence.

Assuming even that the Yugoslavs and Greeks come out victorious in the war against Hitler and Mussolini, the workers and poor peasants can look forward to nothing but a return of the back-breaking toil which characterizes their lot under the regime of their capitalists and landlords. They cannot even look forward to a victory of their own imperialism because in reality their nations are fighting the battles of British and American imperialisms!

If there is anything that is symbolic of the hopelessness of the position of the small European nations, in a world dominated by a few great imperialist powers it is the suicide of Teleki the Hungarian premier. In the hope of saving a slight degree of independence for the cruel and vicious ruling class of Hungary, Teleki decided to play ball with Hitler. But when the latter demanded the right to send troops against Yugoslavia by way of Hungary, thus involving that country in the war, the brave Premier decided to defy Hitler – and committed suicide. Thus did he proclaim to the world that the ruling classes of the small European nations, caught in the struggle between imperialist giants, are completely helpless.

For Revolutionary War Against Fascism

To the workers and peasants of the small European nations, Hitler looms as their great enemy. The “New Order” which he has proclaimed as his aim represents a new slavery for them – or better, an old slavery under a new master. But to fight that enemy effectively, so that he will be completely destroyed without the possibility of being revived, a palace revolution on the part of nationalistic officers favoring Great Britain is useless. The workers and peasants of Yugoslavia, of Rumania, of Greece and of all the Balkan nations can free themselves of the slavery which will be their lot under Hitler in one way and in one way only – by uniting their efforts for a struggle for a Socialist United States of Europe. This cannot be done by fighting under the leadership of Simovitch, who represents the interests of capitalists and landlords hoping to achieve a degree of independence for themselves by a victory of Great Britain and the United States. It can be done only by a government representing the Soviets of Workers and Peasants of the Balkan nations, appealing for help to the workers and peasants of Germany and France and other European countries. For the advanced workers and peasants of the small Balkan nations the task is clear: the organization of a party of the Fourth International, a party that will turn the struggle against Hitler into its proper channels. To fight for the independence of their nations, to fight for their social liberation the workers and peasants of Europe must fight for a Socialist United States of Europe.

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