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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(6 April 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 14, 6 April 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Heavy Sentences for the Revolutionary Anti-War Fighters

We have just received the January number of L’Etincelle, the illegal organ of our Fourth Internationalist comrades in France. The regularity with which this little sheet is appearing, under the most harrowing conditions of government persecution, is truly amazing.

Thus, L’Etincelle reports, the entire press, from the paper of the pacifist Paul Faure to that of the fascist Colonel La Rocque, has been calling for a “clean-up” campaign. The radio blares its threats against our comrades daily. Recently, the renegade socialist L.O. Frossard – now a minister in the Reynaud cabinet – made a speech in parliament, calling for more drastic government action against the Fourth International.

Last week we reported the arrest of a new group of sixteen French Trotskyists. Now we learn from our French paper that two comrades previously arrested, the youth leaders Bourdois and Chuvin of Marseilles, have been sentenced to two years each. Comrade Lucien Weitz, the national secretary of the Workers and Peasants Socialist Youth League (JSOP) – who had been arrested before the outbreak of the war itself – has had an additional sentence of four years hung on him.

Recently the leaders of even the “moderate” Workers and Peasants Socialist Party (PSOP) – which had “purged” itself shortly before of the revolutionary Minority (including Lucien Weitz, Daniel Guerin and the Trotskyists – have been seized by the government.

Revolutionists Break with P.S.O.P.; Join Forces with 4th International

The arrest of the PSOP leaders is, in a sense, ironical. For the latter, a combination of freemasons and pacifists, refused to prepare for illegal work and insisted on carrying on as if the war had not broken out and as if no dictatorial regime had been installed. In fact, they had voted to expel the revolutionary Minority because the Minority, demanding that the party carry out in action its resolution for revolutionary struggle against war (revolutionary defeatism), adopted at the last convention of the PSOP, had pointed out that such action was possible only by illegal means and had proceeded in the localities where it was in control to act accordingly. Even the expulsion of the revolutionary defeatists and all the “legalism” of the free mason leaders of the PSOP could not save them from Daladier’s axe.

The revolutionary PSOP Minority, under the leadership of Daniel Guerin – best known in America for his brilliant work, Fascism and Big Business – and Lucien Weitz, as well as the Trotskyist comrades who entered that party a year ago, have now joined in a body with the Committees of the Fourth International for joint work and for the building of a united party on the program of the Fourth International.

Among the items carried by L’Etincelle is a brief article on the war in Finland, from which the following are pertinent excerpts:

“The situation is clear: once again the leaders of the USSR have shown their disregard for the people and for their liberation. For years they have practiced the politics suited to the imperialist democracies. Now they are following a policy which aids the Fascist countries. That shows that they are themselves becoming more and more a small minority cut off from the working masses.

“The country which they are thus leading towards defeat or towards increased enslavement neverthelesss remains the country where the proletariat has chased out its capitalist oppressors; as such it remains the butt of all the hate and greed of the imperialists. The Red Army, supported by an as yet too feeble industry, does not suffice for its defense. Only a powerful and free anti-capitalist movement in the other countries can save it. Once the people of the USSR are freed of the menace of imperialist attack, they will be able to chase out their treacherous leaders and install their own dictatorship and, upon a revitalized technical base, they will be able to introduce real socialism, the socialism of liberty.”

A Resolution of the Belgian Revolutionary Socialist Party

We have just received a resolution on the same subject from the Revolutionary Socialist Party (PSR), the Belgian section of the Fourth International. Excerpts follow:

“The aim of the campaign launched by international finance capital around Stalin’s aggression in Finland is clear: to realize an imperialist united front against the USSR and to attempt thus to save the capitalist regime undermined by its own contradictions ...

The real crime of Stalin. We are not among those who approve Stalin’s action in Finland. From the first day we have said that this aggression is a crime. But wherein does Stalin’s crime lie ? Is it in the employment of military force, in the violation of frontiers? No. These are the criteria upon which the social democrats, the anarchists and the petty bourgeois base their condemnation of Stalin ... What gives the aggression of Stalin its reactionary and criminal character is the fact that it has been launched without the least regard for the sentiments of the Finnish workers and of the world proletariat ... By his high-handed manner, his cynicism, his contempt for the conscience of the workers, Stalin is weakening the USSR and the proletarian cause, throwing the masses of workers into confusion. In doing so, he plays into the hands of the bourgeoisie ...

“Precisely by the example of Belgium we see however, with what facility formal neutrality gives way to a system of imperialist pacts and how a war ‘for national defense’ is turned inevitably into a peace with annexations (the annexation of Eupen and Malmedy as well as of the former German colonies) ... That does not mean that we approve of the annexation of Finland by Stalin. On the contrary, we are opposed to it. We are for the independence of Finland, but of a Soviet Finland. To be for the independence of bourgeois Finland at the same time as one is for the revolution in Finland – that is a contradictory position. The victory of the bourgeois Finnish army would inevitably signify the strengthening of the capitalist regime in Finland and the dictatorship of Mannerheim.

“The ideal thing for the Finnish workers to do would be to get rid of the Finnish bourgeoisie and at the same time to escape Stalinist annexation and the bureaucratic oppression which will result from it. But since this aim is hardly realizable by virtue of the unfavorable relationship of forces, they must choose the lesser of two evils: the victory of the Red Army. It goes without saying that they must utilize this victory profitably by pushing forward the expropriation of the Finnish landlords and capitalists, by getting close contact with the Soviet workers in order to ally themselves with them against the Stalinist bureaucracy ...

“The future of humanity lies in the world organization of production on the basis of socialized property and planning. In spite of Stalin, this acquisition of the October revolution still exists in the USSR and it is the absolute duty of the Soviet workers as well as of the workers in the entire world to defend it ... The overthrow of Stalin and his clique undoubtedly remains an imperious necessity for the Russian revolutionists, more imperious still because of this war which places the USSR in an extremely dangerous position. But the Soviet revolutionists can carry out that task only by proving themselves the best defenders of the USSR. A defeatist or just an indifferent attitude on their part can only reinforce the political positions of the bureaucracy ...”

Almost without international contact and working under the tremendous handicap of illegality and censorship, our Belgian and French comrades have reacted to the complicated events of the unfolding war with the same clear revolutionary attitude as our sections overseas. The Marxist program, it is evident, is an indispensable guide in stormy times and a guarantee for coordinated revolutionary action.

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