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Irving Howe

World Politics

Odds and Ends

(1 July 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 26, 1 July 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The British Labor Party Government has a new Minister of Food and John Strachey is his name. Strachey has a personal and intellectual history as checkered and erratic as few prominent men of his time. He achieved notoriety some years back when he was refused entry into America on the ground that he was a “dangerous Communist.”

Strachey began his career – career is just the word – as the son of a conservative editor who moved to the left. He joined the Independent Labor Party after the first world war, later to become a follower of the British fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosely, when the latter was still a member of the Labor Party; and when Mosely broke away from the Labor Party in 1929 to form his “New Party” Strachey tagged along. After his flirtation with Mosely’s brand of politics, Strachey suddenly became converted to what he called “Marxism” – really Stalinism. During the mid-thirties Strachey was a fervent writer, though not a very profound one, in behalf of Stalinism, one of its most “distinguished” intellectual apologists.

With his usual ability to sniff the direction of the political wind, Strachey attached himself several years ago to the Labor Party. During the imperialist war, he forgot what he had written in his books and expressed his aspirations towards heroism by serving as an air-raid warden. Now he has completed the circuit and is in the Labor Cabinet where, at the age of 44, he may aspire to greater bureaucratic glory. This man – whom the left-wing Labor journal of London, The Tribune, calls without a hint of irony “the most formidable Marxist theorist of this generation” – personifies in himself the political opportunism and hypocrisy of our times. From Mosely to Stalin to Bevin: the evolution of a careerist.

The “Revival” of the Second International

Our readers may have noticed items in the daily press about a meeting in England several weeks ago of the European Social Democratic Parties. We did not comment on this conference because we lacked information: the reports from England were very skimpy and the one report of great interest which the New York Times printed – that the Conference was going to refrain from reconstituting the Social Democratic Second International for fear of antagonizing Stalin – was unsubstantiated. We still have been unable to find any real information about this conference, but have picked up two bits of information which give a sufficiently damning picture of the present state of European Social Democracy: (1) The Conference refused to admit the Spanish Socialist Party because it is an “émigré” party! In other words, it refused to give status to a sister party because the latter had been run out by Franco’s dictatorship and was therefore an “in emigration.” (2) the German Social Democratic Party was also refused admission, even though the Canadian delegates proposed that it be invited. This, presumably, was because the German Social Democrats came from the same country as Adolf Hitler, even though Hitler had put them in jails, concentration camps and murder chambers.

It would be superfluous to say much about the brand of “internationalism” displayed by this gathering of the Social Democracy.

Stalin’s Recognition of Peron’s Argentina

An item which has passed almost unnoticed in the press is the fact that Stalinist Russia has resumed diplomatic relations with Argentina. The two worthy democrats, Stalin and Peron, have found that there is no reason for antagonism – as, in some ways, there isn’t! What is interesting is that Stalin made overtures to the Peron dictatorship in the most ostentatious manner directly after Washington had expressed its distaste for Peron’s regime. The incident is merely another maneuver in the worldwide imperialist conflict of American and Russian imperialism. Stalin’s new friendship for Peron is motivated largely by a desire to embarrass Washington, as well as a desire to make economic inroads into South America which has until now largely been dominated by America and Great Britain.

How the Stalinists will now characterize Peron’s regime is an interesting question. Will it become “democratic and peace-loving”? – the label given to all governments in diplomatic harmony with Stalin, regardless of their internal character. And what now remains of Molotov’s righteous indignation against the Argentine dictatorship when he opposed its admission to the UNO at its San Francisco conference?

Conference of the British ILP

The small British Independent Labor Party, somewhat similar in political character to the Norman Thomas Socialist Party in this country, recently held a conference to determine what to do with itself. The ILP is a “centrist” organization; that is, it vacillates between the outright reformism of the Labor Party, which is now in power, and the revolutionary socialism of the British Trotskyists. With the victory of the Labor Party in the last election, the ILP faced a difficult choice: what to do now? A section of the leadership, the right wing under Maxton and Brockway, favored liquidation of the ILP and entry into the Labor Party, there to function as an educational group. Another section of the ILP, the so- called “left,” opposed liquidation.

At the recent conference, the Brockway motion was defeated and the ILP decided not to apply again for admission to the Labor Party. In a sense this can be interpreted as a defeat for the right wing leadership since its anxious desire to lead the ILP back to Bevin and Attlee has been set back. On the other hand, the motivations involved in the discussion – as reported in the ILP weekly, The New Leader – reveal the amusing situation that the “left” offered reasons for its stand which are very sectarian while the motivations of the “right” were, on the face of it, correct. Maxton and Brockway proposed entry into the Labor Party on the grounds that the great masses of British workers adhered to the Labor Party and that it was the business of the socialists to work inside of it to move it to the left. The “left,” on the other hand, pooh-poohed the mass support of the Labor Party and spoke vaguely of “independent” socialist education; it didn’t think the Labor Party an important arena.

The only flaw in the Maxton-Brockway position (we do not discuss here the tactical advisability of entry into the Labor Party) is that its proponents are not revolutionary socialists and would probably enter the Labor Party merely to become an occasionally critical tail to the Bevin-Attlee kite. The “left,” on the other hand, by offering arguments against entry into the Labor Party on principle, reveals a thorough sterility.

The ILP, as all its sister parties throughout the world, totters to eventual disintegration because it is unable to choose once and for all which path it desires to tread: reformism or revolutionary socialism. But this vacillation in itself insures that it will almost always follow the former in practise. The ILP plays the role of a political Hamlet – minus the tragedy.

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