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A.J. Muste

Peace, Anti-Fascism, Stalinism

(17 August 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 34, 17 August 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

From events reasonable human beings must draw conclusions. They must evaluate them and then act upon those evaluations. I wish to comment briefly on the conclusions that are being drawn and that ought to be drawn by certain groups from the present Comintern Congress and what it symbolizes and confirms as to the present role of the so-called Communist parties and the C.I.

It is not necessary to dwell upon the reaction of the real intellectuals who are capable of independent thinking and of probing below the surface, whose “Marxism,” if they be Marxists, is not an extraneous ornament, who are not merely sentimental or professional “friends of the Soviet Union.” These elements are drawing conclusions and their conclusions will bring them to us.

Nor do we concern ourselves at the moment with the honest advanced workers or farmers who were not introduced to the revolutionary movement the day before yesterday and whose minds have not been stultified by too long a sojourn in the thought-stifling atmosphere of Stalinism. These elements will also draw their conclusions and those conclusions will bring them to us. That is already being demonstrated by the fact that the younger, more militant Socialists are coming to us and are drawing closer to oar theoretical position even when they do not yet draw organizational conclusions; and by the fact that practically the whole of the former Stalinist farm leadership in three northwestern states has recently come to the W.P.

The Lovers of Peace

There are certain groups whose first reaction to the present Comintern is, however, a favorable one. One of these consists of the pacifists of various kinds, those whose absorbing concern is to prevent or put off war. In the past these elements regarded the Soviet Union itself and the Communist International as disturbing forces, against the Versailles treaty, wanting to change the status quo, etc. Now they are impressed by the “peace policy” of the S.U. and think of the S.U. and C.I. as a powerful force against war.

In effect the Comintern says to them: “The Soviet Union wants to stave off war in order that there may be time to strengthen its economic regime, ‘build Socialism,’ strengthen the Red Army for defense against any possible Fascist attack. But while the Soviet Union opposes war for its own reasons, there is no reason why all ‘lovers of peace’ on whatever ground should not join hands with it for the moment.” And thus the Leagues Against War and Fascism, etc. flourish.

Few even of the more intelligent pacifists today believe that war can actually be postponed indefinitely or permanently. It is then a question of putting off the evil day a few years, a year, a few months. But what exactly does that mean in the actual situation of today? It means that the capitalist nations get a breathing space to complete their war preparations. Pacifist measures have always meant that and it is no different today. Would any major power hesitate for a single moment to embark on war if it were ready or saw a clear advantage in that course?


A few years ago the Soviet (Stalinist) “peace policy” was a Disarmament policy. In those days, when capitalist economy was relatively stable and the political crisis not acute, the Powers could safely talk about armament reduction, etc. In that period, the war preparations appropriate to it could be carried on behind this particular smoke-screen. Where is the disarmament talk now?

Now the “peace policy” is a policy of pacts and alliances. The Powers are lining up in two groups, while feverish increase in armaments is the order of the day. This lining up of rival groups is always the signal of approaching war – not a means of staving off war.

Consider, for example, the effect in Germany of the Franco-Soviet rapprochement when it was in the making. The French course – Versailles treaty, revenge policy, maintenance of status quo, indemnities, etc. – paved the way for the nationalist reaction in Germany and eventually for Hitler. What happened when the French imperialist government, in making its war preparations entered into a pact with the Soviet Union also? What effect does this have upon the German workers? Can it have any other effect than furnishing Hitler further support in his counter-preparations for war? Is this a “peace policy” or the time-honored way to move toward the abyss?

Consider, friends of peace, that Stalinism has worked out and is advancing a theory of two kinds of capitalist nations – aggressive and non-aggressive, had Fascist powers and good democratic powers. Such ,a theory helped pave the way for war, helped to swing the workers and liberals in various countries into support of the war when it came in 1914. Inevitably it must perform the same function today. It spreads illusions, throws up a smoke-screen behind which the armies, the guns, the gas, are prepared.

Already, as we have previously pointed out in the New Militant, the effect of such a “peace policy” has been clearly shown in the failure of the Soviet Union to utter one word of protest against the rape of Ethiopia by Italy and against the course of France land Britain in virtually abetting Mussolini’s coarse, although Maxim Litvinov sits as chairman of the Council of the League of Nations! Is this promoting peace? Is it staving off war?

Disregarding the Marxist answer to these questions, on their own premises and assumptions the more intelligent liberals and pacifists cannot believe that Stalinism has a genuine peace policy, that pacts, Leagues of Nations, etc. will avail to prevent catastrophe now any more than similar pacifist measures did in 1914.

Those Who Fear Fascism

The same elements of which we have been speaking, and others as well, are disposed to think favorably of the C.P. and C.I., to support Stalinist auxiliary organizations, demonstrations, etc., even directly or Indirectly, with substantial funds, on the ground that the C.P., etc. constitute a great bulwark against Fascism. A well known intellectual stated the other day that many Jewish people, even of means, now follow this course. The Comintern appears sensible and temperate. The C.P. is a less disturbing factor in the labor situation. All it asks of supporters is that they be “against Fascism.” Their class and social status is not affected. They fear Fascism above all else. They welcome this ally, once so unprepossessing, now a very decent and sensible fellow. One may even get the thrill of being something of a “red” himself without making serious commitments in associating with the C.P. of the Fourth Period!

Unquestionably all liberals, all minority racial and national groups, all who have cultural interests, do well to fear Fascism and to welcome all allies in the struggle to ward it off in the U.S. We need not pause here to paint the horrors of Fascism. By the same token all elements do well to make sure that their course will really defeat Fascism and that their allies are effective – not a broken reed to lean upon!

Anti-Fascists will do well to study carefully the question on which we think we can shed considerable light, as to why the most powerful of all Communist parties, the C.P. of Germany, did not succeed in staving off Fascism there. If, for example, the C.P.’s united front-from-below policies and Social Fascism theory were partly responsible, as the C.P. itself may be thought to have admitted by its precipitate abandonment of them recently, then anti-Fascists will do well to make sure that a movement which could once make such a colossal “mistake” will not make another, that it has indeed changed fundamentally, etc. Or again, war will inevitably mean the abandonment of democratic forms and the establishment of Fascism in one guise or another. If then, as we have shown, the Stalinist “peace policy” is not what it claims to be. Is Stalinism an effective and trustworthy ally against Fascism?

Fascism Concomitant of War

Capitalism, we say openly, will inevitably seek to resort to Fascism when in any given nation the economic and political crisis becomes severe enough, when it is only by means of an open and brutal dictatorship that it can push down the standard of living and keep the masses in subjection. Liberals and others cling to the illusion that somehow it will be possible to go back to the “good old (democratic) times” under capitalism. But to “go back” – as Fascism does in the economic, the political, the cultural field – means, as Hitler continues to prove daily, back to the Middle Ages, to barbarism, to savagery. The one way to freedom, to advances in civilization, is the way forward through the workers’ revolution.

If now the Comintern, the would-be bearers of the revolutionary standard, also preach a merely defensive war against Fascism, also encourage the illusions that democratic rights can be retained under capitalism, that bourgeois democracies must be fought for, shall those elements which have such abundant reason to fear Fascism be deceived into thinking that this fellow who takes off his rough proletarian blouse and cap and puts on the diplomat’s frock-coat and top hat, has thereby become a trustworthy ally, a safe and main bulwark against Fascism?

Once again, actual events are already giving a clear answer. The same Stalinist regime which failed to stay the advent of Hitler today stands with its French imperialist ally in preparing for war against Germany, but raises no voice against the present course of that arch-Fascist Mussolini and of Fascist Italy in Ethiopia! Is this fighting Fascism? Do any intelligent persons among the Jews in the U.S. or elsewhere believe for a moment that given similar conditions Mussolini’s attitude toward racial, national or religious minorities would differ essentially from Hitler’s? Ask the black peoples of Ethiopia if it does.

Before it is too late, let the lovers of peace and those who dread the advent of Fascism here and in other lands awake to a true understanding of the situation. Let them ponder deeply now while things still hang .in the balance, while western Europe, the Americas, have a breathing spell, how war and Fascism may be smashed, and who are dependable allies, or rather leaders in that task.

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