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William Gorman

Lerner, PM’s Advocate of Annihilation

(October 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 42, 16 October 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The dizziest political character of the year is Max Lerner, the “reformer” from The Nation and the New Republic and now editorial writer for the New York newspaper, PM. Usually when somebody suffers from a split personality he visits a psychoanalist. But Lerner spreads his confusion over a million words and to some hundred thousand readers.

In this case Lerner is saying yes, no and maybe on the question of Germany. Lerner notes that the German cartels are dangerous to peace and are a cause of fascism. We agree. Therefore we say the German workers should take over the cartels and confiscate the property of the monopolists, Nazis and war-makers. We say the German workers should take over the cartels because from 1918 to 1933 they fought one long, bloody battle against the monopolists, their Kaiser, monarchist generals, deceiving politicians and fascist bands, the red flag flew in Kiel, Soviets were formed throughout Germany, a Commune was founded in Bavaria, armed workers went into battle in Hamburg, one general strike after another paralyzed the Junkers and militarists.

Lerner Prepares His “Position”

To all of this, Lerner, the “socialist,” is blind. He has hitched his wagon to the imperialist war and unavoidably – to their post-war plans for Germany. As is known, the Hull plan is to subjugate German industry, and the Morgenthau plan is to destroy it. Lerner thinks that the control over German industry will be ineffective, so he chooses the second plan, whining all the time that “you cannot change an industrial into an agricultural country without lowering the living standards of the people” (PM, September 27). Lerner sheds tears for his own political crimes. What hypocrisy!

In his final editorial on the subject (PM, October 4) he is for a German “democratic” resolution but he thinks it very unlikely. “There will be only a very small minority of the German people who will be capable of helping rebuild a decent Germany.” After more than twenty-two years, the Italian masses burst the oppressive chains of fascism. The fascist rats were sent running for their lives. This was an extraordinary lesson for the “socialist” skeptics. Not Lerner. He just about writes the German working class out of existence.

Lerner blunders on. “If the generals, and State Department officials display the same fears of social change that they have displayed in Italy, then the game is up – as far as getting a German democracy is concerned.” First it is worth noticing that Lerner blames the State Department and the generals. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin simply don’t exist. The small fry are villains. The big ones are angels. Secondly, why the “if”? Lerner knows very well “the fears of social change” that “the State Department displays.” Thus he’s dooming the German revolution for a second time. The conclusion? “If ... all hope of a democratic German revolution has been lost, I shall unhesitatingly favor ... the Treasury plan to destroy the big industrial potential of Germany.” You see, the German revolution is unlikely, in fact it is well-nigh impossible because American imperialism is going to bury it. After that is accomplished, it will be correct to destroy German industry and bring ruin and starvation upon the masses of people. Have you got that dizzy feeling? Indeed, what a fantastic mind a man must have to hatch such nonsense!

Justifying German Dismemberment

We remember very well Lerner’s cautious and pious praise for the great German revolutionist, Rosa Luxembourg. She represented the “other Germany.” She wrote such beautiful letters from prison. It’s a shame she was murdered. How remarkable, how befitting: that Lerner can praise Rosa Luxembourg only in her martyrdom! For when alive and free she brilliantly castigated the Lerners of her day as cowards, deceivers, betrayers and confusionists!

Even as we pull down the curtain on Lerner’s sickening performance we must not underrate his importance. Though he says little, he writes a good deal. He now has a large public. To the already existing confusion, he adds his own. He has “style.” He can be lyrical and well-intentioned. He can slur over class differences and conflicts. He is always ready to sing a different tune.

But double-talk and doubt are luxuries only Lerner can afford. The American working: class must be very clear on this subject. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin are preparing a gigantic hangman’s noose for the German working class. They will cut the country into pieces. They will rob it of machines and human labor. Though plundered and pillaged, the German working class will not be silent. We here must demand: Hands off the German working class! The German ruling class has committed some of the most atrocious crimes in all history. That is “exactly the reason why we will stand solidly with the German workers in their heroic efforts to open a new, proud and shining page in the struggle against fascsm, imperialist robbery and oppression.

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