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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(21 January 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 3, 21 January 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A Political Strike in War-Time London

Tucked away in obscure corners of inside pages in the daily press we find a little item that is nevertheless of considerable significance. We refer to the strike of 3,000 “black-coated” (the British equivalent of our “white collar”) civil service employees in London. They are striking against their “evacuation” to Blackpool. Their action is directed against the government. Their complaint: the wages they receive in the metropolis are inadequate to meet the living standard in the rural community.

Only the other day Chamberlain called for sacrifices from the nation to meet the emergency created by the war situation. As is usually the case, although sacrifices are demanded of all classes “alike”, the brunt has to be borne by those in the lower income brackets. That the latter realize this and are by no means reconciled to their fate – that is what the strike of the “black-coated” workers shows.

The dislocation in economy brought about by the inter-imperialist struggle is bound to create a wave of struggle on the part of the workers. The fact that it is among the most backward section of the working class – the usually timid, submissive and patriotic clerks who most readily accept the “national” and “democratic” ideology of the bourgeoisie – that the one of the very first symptoms of this wave are in evidence, shows the elementary force of the class struggle will break through the sham of this “war for democracy” with extraordinary speed and violence. It is an indication of the degree of decay and disintegration, incomparably greater than during the last war, that capitalism has actually reached.

An American Legion for Finnish “Independence”

Another modestly displayed item in the press (N.Y. Times, January 15) announces that “American volunteers who have been arriving in Finland by the hundreds since the war with Soviet Russia began, are being organized into a separate legion.” Apparently the Hoover Committee is getting down to brass tacks.

In line with their policy of giving “independent” support to the “Finnish people”, shall we soon see a Lovestone Brigade and a Norman Thomas brigade helping Mannerheim “independently” against the Soviet Union? And will the Lovestone Brigade stop at the borders of the Soviet Union or will it go right on with the American Legion and the doughty baron towards the liberation of the “Russian people” too? And if Mannerheim and Hoover afterwards declare for the restoration of “Western civilization” in Russia, Lovestone and Thomas can always reserve their right to an “independent” interpretation of this boon.

Another “Solution” for the Indian “Controversy”

Trouble in India seems to have no end for the harassed British imperialists. Even an artificial enthusiasm for the war is difficult to stage-manage. On the other hand, we have such outbursts as that of the strikes of the Lascars, reported here last week. Reliable sources also report that about a month ago a one-day strike against the war was successfully carried out in Bombay, involving in the main some 60,000 textile workers of the Garni Kamgar unions.

To allay these disturbances, the Colonial Office is working overtime. Rumor has it that Sir Stafford Cripps, noted millionaire Labour lawyer and outstanding advocate of the “People’s Front” in England, is currently engaged in putting over a “radical”-seeming settlement in close conjunction with the government. Meanwhile, the papers announce that the Marquess of Linlithgow, Viceroy of India “saw many political leaders and the feeling is growing that these meetings will assist toward a settlement of the current disagreement over Indian support for the British Government in the war.”

The political leaders here referred to are obviously none other than the usual colonial toadies of the imperialist masters who have always put their rubber stamp on whatever the Viceroy expresses as “India’s goal.” According to a recent speech by the latter, that goal is now “dominion status at the earliest practicable moment.” That is, the same vague, paternal promises that have always characterized British policy.

Not even the extreme Right wing of the Indian nationalists – the All-India Congress – can now be expected to be in the slightest satisfied with such promises. Thus, Gandhi, the foremost spokesman of this conservative wing, recently declared in a statement to the British press:

“The proposed Constituent Assembly is the only body that can evolve a proper and lasting solution. Any other can only be a makeshift carrying no popular sanction ... No wonder Hitler has challenged the British Government to prove her sincerity by recognizing India as a free nation. Whatever may be his intention in issuing the challenge, it cannot be denied that it is pertinent.”

The reference to popular sanction is the key to an understanding of the problem. The masses are on the move and anxious to take advantage of British difficulties in order to settle accounts with their oppressors. Not even a Gandhi has any hope of strangling their will to struggle, without first yielding to it. No matter what the instigation, no matter what the intentions of a Hitler in this matter may be or what the purpose of the Stalinists who are active in direct support of Indian rebellion may be, a storm is brewing in India whose explosiveness is bound to sweep aside not only British imperialism, but its German opponent as well – and with them the Gandhist leaders of the bourgeoisie and the Stalinist leaders of the unions.

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