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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(31 March 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 20, 31 March 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Electoral Campaign in Belgium

As a result of the appointment of the Flemish nationalist Martens to the Academy, the cabinet of Premier Spaak fell and unleashed a national crisis, in which King Leopold III intervened with a letter to Spaak’s successor, Pierlot, that had all the earmarks of a threat to install a Bonapartist regime in Belgium. Martens had been pacifist and anti-government during the late war.

The crisis had, of course, been brewing for. some time around economic and foreign policy issues and was only set off by the Martens affair. It culminated in the dissolution of parliament and the calling of general elections for April 2. The Martens issue is being made the most of by the Fascists (the “Rex” movement led by Degrelle). The Labor Party (P.O.B.) is concentrating on the slogan “Against Deflation.” In reality, the Martens affair merely conceals the struggle for national independence of the Flemish section of Belgium, which is discriminated against by the Walloons; while the deflation policy of the Belgian capitalists is inseparable from their wholesale attack against the social legislation wrested by the workers for many years as well as from their armaments program.

The Revolutionary Socialist Party (P.S.R.), Belgian section of the Fourth International, is entering the general elections fresh from a big success in the communal elections last fall, when they gained an absolute majority in the Municipal Council of Flenu. The P.S.R., in its election manifesto, poses the issues before the workers as they really are.

They point out that “the institution of a union of Socialist Soviet Republics of Flanders and Wallony” is the only permanent answer to the acute national problem revealed by the Martens crisis, at the same time stressing their adherence to the right of self-determination of peoples in any case.

They warn against the royalist Bonapartist danger and call for the preparation of the General Stirke and the armed insurrection against any attempt to install a dictatorship.

They call for the application of the transition program of the Fourth International against the deflation and anti-labor plans of the Belgian bosses.

If the results of the municipal elections were any indication, our Belgian comrades should make considerable progress this coming April 2.

* * *

Cooperatives Join British Unions in Revolt Against “Register”

This column has previously reported the revolt of local trade union councils and Labour party branches against the “National Register” conscription scheme of the Chamberlain government, despite its endorsement by the Labour party executive and the T.U.C. Naturally, the Cooperative Union leadership, like the other labor bureaucrats, also favored the plan. Now word comes that local cooperative societies all over England have joined in the revolt of the rank and file and are preparing to fight out the issue at the annual Conference of the Cooperative Party at Easter.

Among those who have joined in this anti-war movement are the local societies in such important cities as Watford, Bristol, Macclesfield, St. George, Glasgow, Birkenhead, Manchester and Salford.

Particularly outspoken was the action of the Cooperative Society at Southampton, which is proposing the following amendment for adoption by the annual conference:

“This Annual Conference of the Cooperative Party registers the strongest protest against any form of National Register of man-power, believing it to be the first step towards conscription and an instrument which may be used by the Government against the working class. It calls on every section of the Cooperative Movement to refuse any invitation which may be received to cooperate in the operation of the National Register.”

Obviously, the crusade for the holy war of the “democracies” against the fascisms – looming more ominously since the latest Hitlerite conquests – is going to hit upon considerable snags before it is fully launched, not only in the United States, where the Gallup Poll has recently again confirmed the overwhelmingly anti-war sentiment of the masses, but in Great Britain as well. The fact that the sentiment is purely rank and file in character and pitted against the powerful propaganda of the unanimous accepted leadership appears to be indicative of revolutionary developments breaking sooner in the coming war crisis than was the, case in the last World War.

* * *

A Correction on the New Danish Party

In reporting the formation of the new Danish party of the Fourth International recently, this column mistakenly said that a Danish representative was present at the International Conference last September in Geneva. The Danes first applied for admission to the Fourth International upon constituting the Internationalt Kommunistik Parti after the Conference and could not, therefore, have been represented at that time.

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