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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(24 May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 21, 24 May 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Rudolf Hess Refutes Max Eastman

As if to help refute the arguments of Max Eastman in his letter to the New York Times of May 11, Rudolf Hess decided to fly to England. In this letter Eastman takes up the cudgels against those who contend that for the sake of retaining democracy in this country it is best to stay out of the war even if England should lose because of the failure of the United States to enter the conflict. Norman Thomas is an example of the people against whom Eastman levels his arguments and it is not very difficult for Eastman to make a good case against the believers in the possibility of democracy in one country.

We would not interfere in this controversy were it not for the fact that Eastman also attempts to prove that the war is a struggle of tyranny against freedom. And it is in this connection that the flight of Hess can be adduced to refute Eastman. For no matter what theory one accepts as an explanation of the sensational flight one fact stands out: Hess came to England to meet an old friend, a man of wealth, a member of the English ruling class. He came to meet him and undoubtedly many others, whose company he had enjoyed prior to the war, for the purpose of discussing peace. He felt that the war had not destroyed that friendship; it had merely made it difficult to continue their common sports.

It can be taken for granted that Rudolf Hess has not suddenly been transformed into a democrat. Assuming that he had a disagreement with Hitler, it certainly was not centered around the question of democracy. If he has any intentions to discuss peace terms with his British friends it can also be taken for granted that no question of transforming Germany into a democracy is involved. Hess knows very well something that Eastman has chosen to forget: the British ruling class, the class that conducts the war and will make the peace, if it will ever get to that point, has absolutely no objection to the Nazis because of their theories about democracy.

What Eastman Does Not Prove

How does Eastman try to prove that the war is a “struggle between democracy and tyranny ... between two ways of life”? Simply by listing twenty one traits characteristic of totalitarianism. He shows that fascism destroys freedom and all intellectual life, is guilty of lying and hypocrisy, destroys the labor movement, etc. etc. All true enough.

But admitting that everything that Eastman says about fascism is true and assuming even that none of these traits can be found in the democratic capitalist countries, the question still remains: what have these characteristics of fascism to do with this war? Eastman fails to prove, he does not even attempt to prove, that on the part of England the war is being fought either to exterminate these characteristics of fascism or even to prevent them from crossing the channel.

By characterizing fascism, one does not prove that the motive force of the War is a struggle between tyranny and freedom. Assuming that the Germans all had bad table manners while the English were all veritable Chesterfields, that would not prove that the war is a crusade for good table manners.

Not once did any influential member of the British ruling class suggest that England declare war against Germany because the Nazis did not practice the precepts of political democracy. Eastman considers Winston Churchill the champion of democracy and refers to his speeches and to Hitler’s Mein Kampf as examples of the deep contrast between the two ways of life.

Eastman Conceals the Crucial Facts

But Eastman either does not know or does not care to reveal the well-known fact that Churchill placed himself on record as a great admirer of both Mussolini and Hitler. But that was prior to the war and Churchill did not have in mind that he would some day become the champion of democracy.

Why is it that Eastman also fails to mention the role the English ruling class played in helping Hitler consolidate his position in Germany? How is it that he also forgets the fact that neither Churchill nor Roosevelt rushed to defend the Spanish Loyalist government against attack by the fascists? In that struggle, by the way, the revolutionary Marxists were in favor of giving material support to the Spanish Loyalists because we recognized it to be a struggle between fascism and capitalist democracy and between the two we prefer the latter. That was a civil war between the forces of fascism and those of capitalist democracy and revolutionary realists are not indifferent to the outcome of such a war.

But where is there any proof that this war is being fought for capitalist democracy against fascism? Every bit of evidence proves conclusively that this is not a war on behalf of democracy. Does not the conduct of the British ruling class prior to the war prove it? Was the war by the anti-Semitic Polish ruling class also a war for democracy? Did the unlamented Metaxas, the tyrant and murderer of thousands of Greek workers also fight for democracy? And did Yugoslavia raise its banner on behalf of democracy?

It is of course impossible to say beforehand what the outcome of this war will be. But one thing is certain. If it continues for a long while without a definite decision and without the intervention of the proletariat, a negotiated peace will be arrived at. That negotiated peace will not have anything to do with democracy and freedom. It will have everything to do with colonies and spheres of influence.

For this is an imperialist war, a war, that is, where the motive force is the question of colonies and markets and raw materials. The political system of the rivals may differ but that is not what is involved.

It is absolutely essential for the working class and all those interested in progress to destroy fascism. But it cannot and will not be done by supporting this war fought for colonies and the right to exploit millions of colonial peoples.

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