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Harold Roberts

Powers Plan War-Time Dictatorships

(May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 35, 23 May 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

While the press, the radio the movies, here, in France and in England are grinding out their propaganda about the coming conflict “between democracy and fascism,” the so-called democratic countries are quietly preparing to clamp down dictatorships no less rigid and vicious than those which already exist in Germany and Italy.

In England, according to a special dispatch to the New York Post last week, only a favorable moment is being awaited to announce the creation of a Ministry of Press and Propaganda identical in aim and methods to the Goebbels ministry in Hitlerite Germany. It will usher in censorship of the press and of all other channels of information and put an end to the formal fiction of the “freedom” of the newspapers in “democratic” Britain. The twelve regional dictators who will rule England in wartime, without benefit of parliamentary advice or consultation, have already been publicly named.

Democracy Disappears

When war comes the meager “democracy” which in England disguises the slave-holding rule of the Empire over 400,000,000 black, brown, and yellow subjects, will disappear completely.

In France the parliamentary trappings have already been largely dispensed with. Daladier rules by decree and has already instituted a dictatorial regime over the entire working class, and has done so with the active aid of the trade union leaders, and the Socialist and Communist parties.

The “opposition” of the Socialists and Communists to Daladier has become purely formal, like the “opposition” of the British Labour Party to conscription in England. Last week when Daladier banged on the war drums in the chamber of deputies, as reported in the New York Times, he “drew from the chamber the very unusual spectacle of really unanimous applause. Everybody from Louis Marin on the extreme right to André Marty on the Communist benches applauded again and again.”

With this benevolent support from the Socialist and Stalinist parties, Daladier has cracked down hard on the French workers and has wiped out the last vestiges of the social gains of the People’s Front honeymoon, over which Daladier himself had presided. That the 40-hour week has been abandoned has been a fact now for several months. The actual regime now imposes a 60-hour week on workers in all essential industries. Opposition to it, or even agitation against it, has become a crime of treason, punishable by the extremest penalties.

The official abandonment of even the pretense of a struggle in behalf of the workers was abandoned, meanwhile, by the official bulletin of the International Trade Union Federation, to which the French General Confederation of Labor is affiliated. After describing the fate of the shorter work week in France, the bulletin states that it would be “well to postpone the discussion on the generalization of the reduction of hours in industry and Commerce” and proposed resumption of discussion (Only of “discussion,” mind you!) to some uncertain future “when the chances of success are greater.”

“On the one hand, the representatives of the workers will certainly use all their influence on the governments to prevent the question disappearing completely from the agenda, while, on the other, it is no less obvious that the workers, realizing what is the present situation, will understand that in view of the tremendous threat of the totalitarian countries, it is necessary for the defense of peace and freedom (!!) to agree to an effort which will allow of this peril being countered.”

In other words, as in 1914, the official trade union movement, and along with it the Socialist and Communist Parties, is asking the workers of all countries to surrender the little “peace and freedom” they have on the altar of the greeds and rivalries of their bosses. “Countering peril” is a little phrase that means fighting the new world war in which tens of millions of workers of all lands are going to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, for the greater glory not of “peace and freedom” but of the profits and markets of their bosses!

Anti-Labor Laws

What a monstrous irony it will be to allow these liars and fakers to put over this fraud once again! With the last shreds of “democracy” dissolving under the heel of iron dictatorship in France, Britain, and soon in the United States, the workers will be sent out to fight and die again for ... democracy against dictatorship.

Worst of all would be for us in this country to have illusions about the fate of our “rights” as war draws closer and we are sucked into it. The stream of so-called “anti-alien bills” now before Congress already cast the black shadow of the regime of the concentration camp over the workers of the United States.

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