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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(4 May 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 18, 4 May 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

British Trotskyist Reports on the Struggle in His Country

We had the pleasure this week of meeting face to face with a British comrade. His report uncovered a mass of information that has never yet seen public print. We submit herewith a few notes jotted down hastily by our comrade from Britain; further notes will be published next week:

“Amongst the Trade Unions, the desire for more militant leadership is making itself manifest. This can be best shown by the fact that in certain trades and industries the workers themselves have already set up their own job organizations. The Railway Vigilance Committee movement, the Shop Stewards movement in the engineering trades, and the tendency towards growing criticism of the reactionary Labour and T.U. leaders are all indications of the growing consciousness of the British workers.

“The Second Imperialist War finds the workers for the most part apathetic. There is a complete absence of jingoism and a genuine desire for peace, but as yet, this has not developed a political character. Thus, the petty-bourgeois P.P.U. (Peace Pledge Union) and the pacifist section of the I.L.P. are for the moment gaining strength. At a later stage the Fourth International groups will increase their strength, to replace the influence of the pacifists with a militant, revolutionary anti-war movement.

“Re: the official Labor Party: the Stalinist fraction working within the Labor Party have been withdrawn through the collapse of Popular Frontism, with the result that genuine revolutionists can now work better in the Labor Party for the overthrow of the National Government.

“The conscientious objector tribunals have already dealt with over 10,000 objectors. This shows that there is widespread opposition to the war amongst the youth. The grounds of objection stated are showing a growing political consciousness among the masses.

“The Labour League of Youth, who are, or, were, an auxiliary to the Labour Party, are mostly adherents of the Fourth International and are putting up a strong fight against Young Communist League fakers, especially in the large factories. The L.L.Y. has quite a few members on the Youth Advisory Councils of certain unions.

“The spokesmen of the National Government have already warned the workers that anything in the nature of a rise in wages corresponding with prices need not be expected. This has given rise to great resentment and even the Labour Party has been forced to register a protest for the sake of saving their faces.

“The No-Conscription League is a pacifist body with an I.L.P. tingle and has been active in the electoral campaigns. There have been two recent by-elections for Parliament held, in spite of the political ‘truce’ which the Labour Party decided upon so that the war could be carried on without ‘obstruction.’ In one election, the secretary of the British C.P., Harry Pollitt, was utterly defeated. This election was fought in Battersea, London, which was the first constituency in England to return a Communist in 1924.

“The other election was held at Manchester, the Conservatives winning the seat. The significant fact about this election was that a Stalinist who opposed the war was defeated along with an I.L.P.er. However, the I.L.P.er polled 5,000 votes and the C.P.er just over 1,000.

“I worked in military camps and spoke to young recruits and found that they are definitely not concerned with the war and ‘smashing Fascism.’ There are various complaints about food, equipment and restrictions placed upon the civilian population because of general rise in prices and no corresponding rise in wages.

“Scores of resolutions have been sent in by unions calling for an immediate international conference and also to call the war off – by the North Wales District Railroad Council, South Wales Miners Fed., the Dundee Jute Workers, Glasgow Dockers, etc., etc.”

Gorkin Greets – the Party which Endorsed Crushing of Barcelona

Our centrist friends seem to have a knack for supplying bitter irony in the spectacle they make of themselves.

We read in the Socialist Call of April 20:

“From the Spanish Socialists in exile came greetings (to the SP convention) in the person of Julian Gorkin, secretary of the POUM, whose members were decimated in the Loyalist struggle by both Franco Fascists and Stalinists.”

Is it not indeed odd to see the representative of the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification), which participated on the side of the workers’ barricades in the 1937 May Day struggles at Barcelona, hailing the convention of the SP? At that time, the SP brazenly endorsed the Stalinist action of crushing these same barricades in blood. Their fellow member of the Second International, Largo Caballero, was then sharing his governmental portfolios with the henchmen of the Kremlin.

Nay, it is more than odd, it is more than ironical. It is simply a desecration of the memory of the heroic POUM militants who laid down their lives in that struggle. Their spirit was present at the convention of the Socialist Workers Party, of the Trotskyists, who unflinchingly sided with the Barcelona barricade fighters, not only against the Stalinists but – we were then in the SP – against Norman Thomas and Co. Their spirit was represented at our convention by Grandizo-Munis, the Fourth Internationalist militant who remains true to his fallen comrades in Spain and carries on their fight, not with their betrayers but with their comrades everywhere.

Death Penalty for French “Communists” Is Decreed by Government

A UP dispatch from Paris on April 28 carries the following report:

“To aid the police in their hard fight against an underground organization possessing innumerable clandestine printing shops, thousands of agents in the public services and factories, the government recently instituted the death penalty for Communists and other ‘wreckers’.”

But, in reality, the death penalty hits not so much at the Kremlin’s tools who head the French C.P., but at the devoted and self-sacrificing rank and file militants whom they have deceived and ten times betrayed. For the leaders can always escape to Moscow, but the masses of loyal Jimmy Higginses have no refuge anywhere. More than that, the new decree – the dispatch also talks of other “wreckers” (read: revolutionists) – is directed not merely at the Communist rank and file, but also against the valiant partisans of the Fourth International as well as against all other active anti-war fighters.

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