Gordon Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(10 February 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 6, 10 February 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Revolt Against the “National Register” in Great Britain

At the time of the “Munich” war crisis last September there was no lack of speculation as to the causes for the so-called Chamberlain capitulation. All commentators agreed, however, that the desire for peace on part of the general population was strongly in evidence – even if it was expressed only passively: by the missing enthusiasm that usually precedes the opening of hostilities.

A far more positive confirmation of this fact is being driven home dramatically by the revolt against the “National Register” that is now taking place in British working-class ranks.

The “National Register” is a measure adopted by the Chamberlain government recently, calling for the “voluntary” registration of workers in all industries preparatory to the unfolding of a general conscription plan. The vast majority of the Labour Party members voted for it, or “abstained,” in the House of Commons. The Labour Executive and the Trade Union Council have agreed to “cooperate with the government in its execution.” But ...

The rank and file of Labour has risen up in arms against this war-mongering scheme. No less than seven Trade Councils in the major industrial cities – Sheffield, Leeds, Norwich, Huddersfield, Barking, Perth and Lowestoft – have rejected all responsibility for it. The powerful National Union of Railwaymen and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, as well as the Scottish Miners Union and the South Wales Miners Federation, have turned down cooperation.

As was to be expected, the revolt against the war plans of the British capitalists takes on the form of a revolt against their agents at the head of he Labour Party and the General Council of the Trades Unions. Obviously, these bureaucrats were not responsible for the widespread anti-war sentiment last September. But even more significant is the fact that the Stalinists, who enjoy a certain prestige as radicals in the United Kingdom because the trade union and Labour bureaucrats still are opposed to having any truck with them, have had no better luck in pitting themselves against the sentiment of the masses.

One of the leading British Stalinists, Arthur Horner, President of the South Wales Miners Federation, has been touring the coal fields with the pro-war Labour parliamentarians in his area in support of the “National Register.” The usual result is indicated in a resolution adopted by the miners lodge at Troedyshir, in the presence of the speakers, denouncing support of the “Register” because it “places the Labour Party in a position where they can be charged with lining up with the National Government for the preservation of British Imperialism and Capitalism” and calling “upon the rank and file members of the Labour Movement to demand an immediate revision of the anti-working class policy adopted by the Parliamentary Labour Party.” The resolution was carried 200 to 3 in spite of persistent appeals by Horner that it be withdrawn.

* * *

Belgian 4th Internationalists Take Office in Municipality as Revolutionists

As readers of the Appeal are aware, our comrades of the Belgian Revolutionary Socialist Party (P.S.R.) won an absolute majority on the Municipal Council at Flenu, in the Borinage mining section, in the course of the elections last fall. This month they have been inducted into office. Forced to take the royal oath, they did so with a public statement that is an example of the revolutionary behavior of Fourth Internationalists on the parliamentary arena. Here are some excerpts from this highly interesting document:

“If we yield to the restrictions imposed by the capitalist state, it is only in order to be seated in this deliberative assembly, in which we intend to defend vigorously the interests of the laboring masses who have elected us. For us, the oath is a mere formality. It cannot commit us politically in any way ... In fact, we are for the abolition of the monarchy as a symbol of the exploitation of the working class by the possessing class: the capitalists. We are fighting and we shall fight for the installation of a workers and peasants republic, a socialist Soviet republic like the one formed by the workers of Russia in October 1917 in the course of the greatest revolution in history ...”

According to the Belgian constitution, our comrades in Flenu, having an absolute majority on the Municipal Council, are entitled to select the Mayor. The latter, however, must have the formal approval also of the Departmental Commissioner who represents the central government. Comrade Walter Dauge, the leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, was proposed for the post. Before giving his approval, the Departmental Commissioner posed two questions before Comrade Dauge, requesting a written answer. The questions were: “1. What will you do in case of a strike? 2. What will you do in case of factory occupation [sit-ins]?”

Dauge replied by reaffirming, as to the first question, the election platform of the party, which says:

“In case of a strike (like those of July 1932 or June 1936) the representatives of the P.S.R. will be entirely on the side of the workers. Even under the threat of being removed by the central authorities, they will systematically refuse to carry out the orders of the governor or of the Minister of the Interior regarding prohibition of meetings, demonstrations and picketing. On the contrary, they will remain with the latter to the very end, defending them in their demands.”

As to the second question, our comrade expresses doubt about its realism, since most of the factories in the region have been shut down. But, in case of their reopening, and in the event of a sit-in, he says:

“I will be heart and soul with the sit-iners. I will support them with all my strength. I will organize the food supply for them. I will appeal to the entire laboring population to back them up effectively so as to help them win out against the bosses and the government.”

The actual outcome is still in doubt. The Belgian “democracy” is in a pickle: Shall it flout the “democratic” constitution and refuse to seat Dauge or shall it allow an avowed revolutionist, who sticks to his principles under fire, to take charge of the municipality? In any case, the workers know where the Fourth Internationalists stand.

Gordon Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 3 March 2016