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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(3 February 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 5, 3 February 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Jewish “Bund” Leaders Arrested by Stalin in Poland

From a New York anarchist paper in the Yiddish language – the Freie Arbeiter Stimme – we learn of the arrest in Grodno, Soviet Poland, of two leaders of the Jewish “Bund”. The “Bund” is the Jewish Socialist Federation which operated for some four decades in what once was the Republic of Poland.

Involved in this case are not old line leaders of the “Bund” who made their peace with the government of the colonels, but two younger militants. Hurvitch and Shifris, the. two arrested “Bundists”, are in their early thirties. Both were active propagandists engaged in the day to day struggles of the workers. Hurvitch had been the leader of the joint fraction of Jewish, Polish and Byelo-Russian socialists in the City Council of Grodno. In the course of his activities, he was arrested time and again by the government of the colonels and spent a good part of the last few years under the republic in Colonel Beck’s jails. Now he has been sentenced to fifteen and Shifris to six years’ imprisonment by Stalin’s “liberators”.

Stalin cannot cover up this crime and the hundreds of others like it by pointing to the nationalization of the land in the occupied territories. Were Hurvitch and Shifris enemies of the expropriation of the landowners and of workers’ control in the factories? Their years in jail are testimony to the contrary. To Stalin their crime lay in their opposition to his bureaucracy. We solidarize ourselves with these victims of the G.P.U. and with the many others who languish in Stalin’s jails for their working class convictions. Their liberation as well as the best defense of the Soviet Union demands a relentless struggle for the overthrow of the despots in the Kremlin.

A New Paper Issued by Our Belgian Comrades

Once again the “neutral” Belgian government has come down on the heads of our valiant comrades of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. Jittery over the rumors of an impending German invasion the government has struck ... on the home front. La Lutte Ouvrière, official organ of the R.S.P. is no longer permitted to appear.

Not at all nonplussed by the action, our comrades of the Brussels Federation of the party have issued a new paper, L’Action Socialiste. To rub it in, the first issue of L’Action Socialiste carries an article written by Paul Spaak, “socialist” Foreign Minister of Belgium, in 1933 – when he was still a hot “leftist”. The article is entitled Against National Defense and winds up with the following ringing words:

“In any case, always, everywhere, without weakening, we must refuse to abdicate before the so-called general interest and continue with our propaganda along the lines of this clear and correct slogan: ‘No national defense under a capitalist regime.’

Incidentally, L’Action Socialiste was also the name of Spaak’s paper in his radical days.

Soldiers Attack Meetings of Militants in Australia

From the Sydney, Australia Herald of January 1 we learn of some exciting activity on the part of our Australian comrades.

On New Year’s Day, the Communist League of Australia (Trotskyists) as well as the Stalinist party held mass meetings on the famous Sydney Domain, the center of radical activity in that city. Suddenly an organized group of soldiers and sailors appeared, with a following of about two hundred. The leaders declared their intention openly: they were out to break up the two meetings.

Soon some 15,000 workers gathered on the Domain and a battle ensued. Only the immediate appearance of special details of police prevented the soldiers and sailors from a gruesome fate at the hands of the enraged workers. As it is, several were sent to the hospital.

“Contrary to their usual practice,” says the Herald, “the Communists flew no flags, but from another platform close by banners were displayed by the Communist League of Australia. One sign read: ‘Defend Free Speech’ and another ‘Build Workers’ Defense Guards’.”

Many rank and file Stalinists made common cause with our comrades around their banners. Discussions around the slogan “Build Workers’ Defense Guards” took place for hours after the demonstration had ended. The slogan had apparently gained considerable popularity.

The demonstration itself is testimony to the fact that the workers of the Australian metropolis are continuing to retain their anti-war militancy, which is in itself a highly encouraging sign. That our comrades, mostly young workers in their twenties, knew how to mobilize this militancy is evidenced by the newspaper account and augurs well for the further development of that section of the Fourth International.

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