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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(9 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 40, 9 June 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Southport Conference of B.L.P. Reverses Stand on Conscription

Despite the tremendous wave of opposition against conscription in its ranks, despite its repeated avowal of loyalty to the party’s anti-conscription stand, despite its rebuffs to Leon Blum who came from France to urge them fraternally to drop that stand in the name of social patriotic common sense, and despite the fact that only two weeks ago such prominent leaders as Ernest Bevin of the Transport Workers Union and John Marchbanks of the National Union of Railwaymen insisted that “even assuming that we are in a minority, and no one can judge yet,” they were “still satisfied it would be right to resist this effort (of conscription) to destroy our liberties””despite all this the Labour Party’s leadership last week foisted upon the annual conference at Southport a reversal of policy on this crucial issue.

To be sure, the resolution adopted on this question does not bluntly come out in favor of conscription. It merely states that the party will not resist conscriptive measures. The flunkies who run Transport House (the party headquarters) for British imperialism could not flaunt the rank and file sentiment too brashly. But in taking the stand they did, they finally squared their position on conscription with their general “collective security” position, thus reassuring Chamberlain, making Blum and the French capitalists very happy and removing from their own path a very embarrassing inconsistency.

To make up for this change, so to speak, the Southport conference confirmed the expulsion of Sir Stafford Cripps and rejected the Popular Front line he espoused. From the point of view of their fundamental social patriotic position, the action against Cripps makes about as much sense as their previous opposition to conscription. Small wonder then, that a N.Y. Times correspondent from London reports that “the country tends to look upon the Churchill-Eden Tory combination, rather than upon the Labour Party, as the real opposition to Chamberlain.”

More consistent is the reported decision of Transport House to make membership in the Militant Labor League incompatible with membership in the party. The M.L.L. has consistently opposed “collective security” and conscription and has recently been making considerable headway in local L.P. branches. It is attacked as “Trotskyist”. The Militant, official organ of the League, announces in its last issue a campaign, centered around an organizing tour, to resist expulsion and to rally support in the local sections for revolutionary socialism.

In France: New Blows against the Opponents of Imperialist War

While the Flandin-Bonnet gang of “Munich-ois” pacifists (sic) and the Beynaud-Mandel gang of “collective security” war mongers jockey for position, while Blum and Paul Faure temporarily compose their differences at the Socialist Party convention by agreeing finally to bury the Popular Front (breaking off all relations with the C.P.), their government strikes new blows against the real opponents of imperialist war. “Democracy” is reserved only for the social patriots and their capitalist masters ...

During the month of April a wave of resistance to the government’s order recalling for additional service reservists of the class of 1936 who had already served more than their two years, spread throughout a number of regiments along the Maginot Line. Reservists in Strassburg began a hunger strike and refused to drill. The strike soon extended to Metz, Morange, Arras, Bitche and other points along the line of frontier fortifications. The entire daily press”Fascist to Stalinist”greeted the revolt with a conspiracy of silence. The revolutionary soldiers who led the revolt were all summarily imprisoned and the movement thus beheaded ...

Issues of papers of the minorities who gave the movement prominence”our own comrades’ Lutte Ouvrière, Juin 36, the organ of the Socialist Workers and Peasants Party, the anarchist paper Libertaire, the syndicalist papers Révolution Prolétarienne and Combat Syndicaliste and several others were confiscated and their responsible editors subjected to prosecution ...

The headquarters of the Socialist Workers and Peasants Party (P.S.O.P.) were raided in Cherbourg and several other cities and the party threatened with dissolution ...

In the colonies, the anti-imperialist allies of the French revolutionists face similar persecution. In Tunis, three leaders of the dissolved Liberal Constitutional Party have been arrested for reconstituting cells of that party (the reconstituted organization of the LaRocque Fascists is, of course, allowed to proceed with impunity). In Algiers, Chabane All, the editor of El Ouma, the paper of the People’s Party of Algeria, whose recent election victory we reported in these columns, has been held in prison incommunicado under a despicable charge that is becoming usual in these persecutions: “Connivance with foreign powers” ...

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