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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(31 May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 22, 31 May 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Proponents of a Negotiated Peace

From the very beginning of the war there have been groups in both imperialist camps anxious to achieve peace. Hitler himself, after having overrun Poland and since then, has offered to enter into peace negotiations. In this country the “isolationist” section of the capitalist class has been urging and even clamoring to have Roosevelt take the initiative in starting peace negotiations. The flight of Hess, which more and more appears to have been undertaken for the purpose of sounding out the possibilities for peace negotiations (either with or without the consent of Hitler), has furnished the “isolationists” with another opportunity for demanding a negotiated peace.

From the attitude of any group on the war it is simple to deduce what its attitude will be on the question of a negotiated peace. War, as has been explained by us many times, is only a continuation of politics by other means and the policy of any political group towards war and peace has the same general pattern.

When the reactionary section of the “isolationist” wing clamors for peace it is understandable, because its “isolationism” is based primarily on two factors: (1) fear that the war will lead to revolutionary upheavals, and (2) sympathy for fascism. It is of course understood that a negotiated peace at this time would mean a victory for Hitler. The minimum Hitler would achieve would be domination of all of Europe. Another factor which plays an important role in the anxiety of reactionary forces to achieve a negotiated peace is the idea that such a peace will enable Hitler to throw his forces against the Soviet Union.

Norman Thomas’ Case for Negotiated Peace

Humanitarian democrats of the type of Norman Thomas must also favor a negotiated peace. In the first place war is bad, as far as these humanitarians are concerned, because it brings suffering and death. For them peace, any kind of peace, is better than war – even though Hitler should gain control of all of Europe. Then again war is bad because it threatens the existence of whatever democracy there is in this country: in their anxiety to save democracy in one country they are perfectly willing to let Hitler kill it in all other countries.

People like Thomas cannot be taken seriously because they base their politics not on the basis of a realistic analysis of the forces actually at work, but on their vain hopes and desires. There is no more disgusting spectacle than a “Socialist” Norman Thomas, gushing all over for peace, making an alliance with people like Lindbergh, who is controlled by the most reactionary forces on the political scene.

Why Roosevelt Now Opposes Peace

Against a negotiated peace at this time is the section of the ruling class led by Roosevelt. This section, anxious to destroy the most dangerous rival of American imperialism and confident that it is able to do so, sees no reason for entering into negotiations for peace. As far as the British imperialists are concerned, a negotiated peace at the present would mean a serious defeat. They have to continue the struggle so long as there is a chance for victory – although even a victory means in reality a victory for American imperialism.

Should the war drag on, however, both Roosevelt and Churchill may be compelled to accept the idea of a negotiated peace.

And just as all groups in the camp of imperialism adopt an attitude on negotiated peace which is in fundamental agreement with their attitude on the war, so does our policy toward negotiated peace flow naturally and inevitably from our attitude toward the war. Better still, our attitude on negotiated peace follows from our basic attitude towards capitalist society in its imperialist stage.

Our Position on Negotiated Peace

It must be understood that a negotiated peace or any kind of peace arrived at by imperialist rivals can be only an imperialist peace just as a war fought by imperialist rivals can be only an imperialist war. Both have as their motive force the question of colonies, raw materials, markets and spheres of influence. From this basic factor it follows that our position on a negotiated peace is the same as our position with reference to the war. We are opposed to both because they are imperialist in character.

Naturally it is not sufficient to state this basic proposition and leave it as it is. Further explanation is essential. Every demagogue, every enemy of ours, will attempt to utilize our basic position for the purpose of convincing people that since we are opposed to a negotiated peace we are for a continuation of the war.

While our basic position toward an imperialist peace is the same as our attitude to imperialist war, our tactics with reference to a negotiated peace would differ considerably from our tactics with reference to imperialist war. Against an imperialist war we carry on a constant campaign in the sense that we attempt to mobilize the masses against dragging the country into such a war. And at a certain stage during the war we may use the slogan of peace.

We would not carry on a similar agitation against a negotiated peace. We could not possibly utilize a slogan of “stop the peace.” It is true that a representative of our party in Congress would vote both, against a declaration of imperialist war and against the acceptance of an imperialist peace. But in his explanation he would make clear the reasons why he votes against that “peace.”

We can sum up as follows: They are really not against war who are not for the overthrow of the system that produces war; they are not really for peace who are not for the overthrow of the system which makes peace impossible. They only are against war and for peace who continue the class struggle both during imperialist war arid during imperialist peace.

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