From The Militant, Vol. V No. 20, 17 May 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Recently the Churchill government gave certain German and Austrian anti-Nazis in England permission to publish a newspaper in German called Die Zeitung. The British socialist weekly Tribune hails this as a great step forward:
“Obviously the establishment of such a paper is the first step to securing unity among the anti-Nazi Germans; obviously it may in time lead to the formation of that body for which half the world, and half Germany, is waiting – the free German legion (the Reichsbanner, if you prefer the name). It may mean that this government has at last realized the need for which the Tribune has ceaselessly clamored – the need for the organization of revolution against Hitler.”
These British socialists are in favor of a violent revolution – in Germany.
The most certain way to prevent any German revolution against Hitler is his way of the British socialists. The organization of that revolution is, according to them, to be the task – of the tory Churchill! For whose benefit would Churchill aid in organizing such a revolution? For the benefit of the German working class? No, only for British imperialism.
These socialist lackeys not only serve their own British imperialism by direct support of Churchill. They serve German imperialism – that is, imperialism in general – by driving the German workers into the arms of Hitler who continually points to the unity of the English workers with the British capitalists against Germany. As if to deliberately give to Hitler a crowning argument, they assign to Churchill the task of bringing about the German revolution.
What example do these socialists offer the German workers, by their own attitude to British capitalism and the English revolution? Their job in the war is to keep the British workers in passive dependence on the bosses, and to hold out illusory promises for the future. Not only must the German workers rely on the Churchill government, but naturally the British workers must do the same. That is the iron logic of the Tribune’s support of the war. The masses, living wretchedly like ancient cave-dwellers, are at best permitted fitful dreams of the peace to come.
So the Tribune goes through the motions of preparing to accomplish something – later on! It presents the Laski plan as a solution for the English workers. This plan is a watered-down version of the De Man plan put fprward by the leader of the Belgian socialists before he sold out to the Nazis. Its seven points call in the most ancient reformist style for nationalization of the banks, the railroads, thee mines. It says nothing about the big industries. Above all it says nothing about workers’ control. Whatever is to be nationalized is to be run by the bourgeois government.
The plan is intended hot to set the workers in motion against the capitalists, not to bring about a real revolutionary class struggle for socialism, but on the contrary to head off and divert such a struggle into reformist channels. This is not our interpretation; it is plainly stated. Here is what Laski says:
“If we cannot settle now the lines upon which we meet these problems of peace), we shall be fighting against them after the war – a new and, bitter battle of Privilege against the People. That will mean that all the sacrifices of war will again have been made in vain. Victory will have been made empty and. sterile. In all probability, it will mean a rapid drift here to revolution. We say that this is unnecessary. We say that the government owes it to the people of this country to prevent it. We ask that the Labor Party take the lead now in safeguarding the community against a danger that will never be forgiven its. leaders if they allow it to occur. They know that all Europe waits upon a British lead.”
What is Harold Laski here, but the agent of bourgeois, respectable England in the ranks of the Labor Party. The form of pressure he applies to a supine leadership has as its aim balking the real will of the proletariat. His example to the European proletariat is to be the preservation of parliamentary democracy in post-war England.
It is perfectly true that the rest of Europe waits on the actions of the English proletariat. But if the English workers wish to see the German proletariat overthrow Hitler in a revolution, then they can help by setting the example at home. Far from leaving it to Churchill to aid the German revolution, the English proletariat must perform this duty. To do so they must take over the power themselves, they must snatch it out of the hands of the reactionary Churchills. The German revolution waits, in this sense, on the English revolution.
By their policy of unity with the tory government and with the “democratic” imperialists, the English socialists place the greatest obstacle in the path of the German and the European workers. When Laski says that the Labor Party leaders will never be forgiven if they do not help to stave off revolutions, he means that they will never be forgiven by the capitalist class. The workers in any case will never forgive these misleaders, who bound them to the war machine.
Nor will the capitalists be able to do much forgiving in this war or after. For they will be driven to break the “truce” with labor and to rule with an iron fist as soon as the workers come to realize the sheer fakery if the Laskis and the Bevins and the Morrisons. Out of the war can come not a new and better life for the masses, but the most catastrophic worsening of the standards of living. If real barbarism is to be avoided, then the workers must push aside the British socialists and take the power by revolution, not after the war, but at once.
Last updated: 4 November 2015