Gordon Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(26 May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 36, 26 May 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Around the War Preparations: A Curious Spectacle of High Jinks

Popular unrest over the war preparations has become particularly marked in the British and French empires. Concrete indications of it have been cited in this column and elsewhere in the Appeal in recent issues. In Great Britain, the trades unions have had to come out officially against conscription, a London conference reaffirming this position only last Friday. In the French empire, the victory of Ta-Thu-Thau in the Saigon elections and of the Algerian People’s Party in the Algiers elections – both reported in the last issue of the Appeal – show that, despite the tremendous social-patriotic pressure, the masses are far from being in tow.

The disparity between the mood of the masses and the needs of the ruling class – which is still groping for the final war line-up and therefore cannot yet afford to show its stark totalitarian face – leaves the reformists in a most uncomfortable spot. They want with all their souls to support the war-mongering foreign policy of their respective bourgeoisies, but they can’t support specific internal measures that such a policy requires because their rank and file won’t let them.

Under the slogan of “Collective Security” the Labourites have been able to put over the government’s A.R.P. (Air Raid Preparation program) and even (the so-called National Register, although with some difficulty. But conscription is too much for their following to swallow – especially since they still have fresh in their memories the manner in which Daladier used the conscript army against the French general strike last November. Hence, the Labour Party makes a peculiar spectacle of itself in parliament.

Chamberlain Quotes Leon Blum Against the Labour Party

In the House of Commons, Chamberlain makes his just complaint against his Labour opponents.

You urged me to give up “appeasement” for your policy of “collective security,” he says – well, I did. “Collective Security,” our French partners tell us, he continues, requires that Britain raise a conscript army. Why, all French politicians – including Leon Blum’s socialists and even the Communists – demand British conscription. Where is your socialist consistency?

The Labour benches remain quietly embarrassed. At party meetings, a Scotch labor paper informs us, “organizers, watching the perplexed faces of the audience that used to be told: Workers of the World, Unite, tell the speaker at the conclusion of his oration: ‘For God’s sake don’t deal any more with foreign affairs, stick to Old Age Pensions’.”

“Internationalism” in Action: Reformist and Stalinist Variety

It is interesting to note the difference in the reactions of the reformists and the Stalinists when Chamberlain challenged them to international solidarity, so to speak with their French counterparts.

Old and experienced, the reformists are used to the type of internationalism in which the labor bureaucracy plays its role according to national needs. When Chamberlain quotes Blum against them, they may be embarrassed but they merely shrug their shoulders, calm and well-behaved.

Not so the Stalinists. For instance, when Chamberlain cites the French L’Humanité (central organ of the C.P.F.) as approving conscription, William Gallacher, M.P., jumps up excitedly and shouts: “I repudiate that completely.” Gallacher is the only C.P. representative in parliament. As a new-blown opportunist, he naturally lacks the good manners of his reformist fellow-opportunists. He has to show demonstratively that his “internationalism” doesn’t mean a thing.

No Gratitude for Blum From the French Bosses

One would think that Leon Blum would at least get some recognition from his ruling class for his attempt to get the British Labourites behind conscription. But there is no gratitude in politics. Le Temps, the semi-official French government paper addresses itself to the former People’s Front premier about as follows:

You say that “(British) conscription is one of the capital acts upon which the peace of the world hangs.” True. You point out the “inexplicable contradiction” between Labour’s policy of firmness against the “aggressors” and its present attitude. Quite correct. But isn’t there an “inexplicable contradiction” between the foreign policy which your party advocates and its opposition to Daladier’s decree-laws? Aren’t they too “capital acts” upon which the struggle against the dictators depends? Don’t you suffer from the same contradiction as the Labourites?

And Blum finds it very difficult to answer these embarrassing questions. The trouble is that like the British fakers, he would gladly go the whole hog and probably will, at the critical moment; only there are the working class followers to reckon with – they are not ready for everything as yet. What he and his like can’t understand is why the bosses embarrass them so, why they don’t sympathize with them in their plight – why they are so ungrateful. That is because reformists and labor opportunists never learn from history. They don’t want to realize that the bosses act like class conscious bourgeois rulers and never – no matter what the “national danger” – forget to pursue their fight against the working class; never miss an opportunity to split its ranks and to demoralize it.

Yet, hope for the future of humanity depends upon just this realization and upon the logical conclusions drawn from it. Before the British and French workers can really plunge into the final struggle against the bosses and their wars, they will have to cast aside their reformist and Stalinist leaderships. Such leaderships only lead ... to fascism. Victory depends upon a consistent class struggle policy, a policy which is today upheld only by the Fourth International.

Gordon Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 3 March 2016