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What “Negotiated” Peace Means

Their Peace Would Be as Imperialist as Their War

(May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 21, 24 May 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The flight of Hess to England has been most revealing in the reactions it called forth on the question of peace.

The “isolationists” gave expression to their views through Senator Wheeler. He at once called on Roosevelt to utilize the occasion of the Hess flight to attempt to bring about a negotiated peace between the two imperialist camps.

Does Wheeler have in mind any particular peace terms?

He dared not be specific, any more than the other capitalist spokesmen. His attitude is revealed, however, in the remark he made to reporters:

“If the President of the United States would follow the wishes of the American people, he would seek to bring about peace. He knows that you cannot force democracy on somebody – that democracy has to come from within.”

This means in so many words: Do not try to eradicate fascism in Germany. Leave Hitler alone. Let him stay in power. Implied in this attitude is the great fear of the reactionaries that any defeat of Hitler, any overthrow of fascism in Germany, can only mean working class revolution. Rather than this, Wheeler prefers a negotiated peace on Hitler’s terms.

“Peace” Advocates Want War Against the USSR

More than this. Wheeler – the Daily Worker is quite right on this point – would like to see the “real” war, the war between Germany and Russia. Wheeler jumped at the idea that the Nazis were divided as to their next step; that some, including a Hess faction, wanted Hitler to end the war with England in order to turn on Stalin and begin the imperialist division of Soviet Russia. Wheeler wants Roosevelt to encourage this turn in the war by all means.

Roosevelt has remained silent on the issues raised by the Hess incident. Naturally a negotiated peace at this time, giving Hitler the victory in the war, would be a blow at Roosevelt’s prestige and politics, the politics of “democratic” imperialism. If the war ends in a German victory the position of the United States is weakened internationally. Furthermore everyone recognizes that the greater war for world domination, the war between United States and German imperialism, would not be postponed for very long.

In England it is hardly astonishing with what unanimity the Labor Party members of the Cabinet have spoken out – amidst the pregnant silence of Churchill and the Tories. It is clear that the Laborites were forced to speak out without consulting Churchill. Just think what it would mean to Bevin and Morrison and the other labor lackeys if their participation in the Tory Government ended in a negotiated peace with Hitler! Their betrayal of English labor would be so devastatingly clear that they might very well fear to come face to face with the workers they “represent.”

The mistake of the workers is in thinking that an outright victory for British imperialism would make much difference. So far as the Laborites are concerned a victory too would end the class truce and they would be kicked aside by Churchill!

One thing is clear. The Hess matter has not smoked the imper – ialists of either camp out into declaring any terms of peace. In this the capitalist war-makers show their good class sense. For if they were to state their real aims, which can be nothing but the plundering and looting of the world, the masses of workers would not care to fight for them for a single moment.

But Churchill willing as he might be to come to terms witl Hitler, has to consider the British working class, not the no-account representatives of the Labor Party, but the great masses, who tolerate Churchill only because they think he is fighting against fascism.

The Stalinists naturally sensed immediately the great danger to Russia in a negotiated peace at this time. Far from preparing the working class at home or abroad for such a situation, however, Stalin’s policy has been disastrous for both Russia and the world proletariat. His entire propaganda in all the countries has called for peace. The few hypocritical phrases thrown in about a “democratic, people’s” peace have not half hidden Stalin’s desire to see peace at any price, a negotiated peace, any peace so long as Russia was left alone. The first talk of peace between Britain and Germany, however, has shown that it would in all likelihood mean war on Russia.

Neither Their War Nor Their Peace

The issue of peace, as the issue of war, involves the fate of the Soviet Union. It involves also the fate of the working class in the class struggle. That is why every Marxist stands opposed to an imperialist peace just as much as to the imperialist war. An imperialist war means a war carried on by capitalist governments for imperialist aims. If the war started by the capitalist class to accomplish its policies of robbery is ended by that same class, the peace can only be a robber’s peace.

The negotiations between the capitalist representatives of two countries would merely involve the transference from one to the other colonies and markets and loot. If the imperialists are permitted to make the peace, it can only mean a far worse Versailles.

If the British won, then many have already proposed that this time Germany should be treated even worse than last: it would be divided up into small states as in the Middle Ages. If Germany wins then all Europe and more besides will be crushed under the heel of Germany imperialism.

The working class wants a democratic peace, the kind of peace proposed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks when they took power in the first World War. Such a peace would mean no annexations and no indemnities, not in the sense of re-establishing the status quo that existed before the war. That is impossible in any case. But it would mean the real self-determination of all national peoples, in the colonies as well as in the advanced countries.

But the workers cannot make the peace without taking state power into their own hands. It is the ruling class of the nation that makes peace, as well as war. To become the ruling class the workers would have to overthrow the present capitalist ruling class. As Lenin said again and again during the last war:

“One cannot jump out of an imperialist war, one cannot attain a democratic, unoppressive peace without overthrowing the power of capital, without the state power passing to a different class, the proletariat.”

Not the Wheelers, not the Roosevelts, not the Churchills, nor the Bevins and Morrisons who serve the capitalists, can make a democratic peace: Nor can such a peace be brought about by Stalinist propaganda for peace. As Lenin said to the socialist elements who acted in the last war as the Stalinists do in this one: “There is nothing more harmful than phrases like the ‘manifestations of the people’s will to peace’.”

Everybody, including Hitler, says he wants peace. But each of the representatives of national capitalism advances as peace the oppressive conditions of “his” imperialism. The truly democratic socialist slogans for peace can only be made effective by the power of the proletariat; that is, by a series of revolutions in all the advanced countries.

Such a peace would be followed not by the re-division of Germany or of Europe into new states, not by the division of Soviet Russia among the imperialist victors, but in. a Soviet United States of Europe. Soviet Russia must be defended by the workers against the imperialist bandits in both robber-camps, so that later, cleansed of the disease of Stalinism, the Soviet Union can enter into this new Europe. Such an Europe would repudiate all the capitalist debts, freeing the masses to that extent from the bankrupting burdens of the war.

Stalin proposed peace without daring to set forth any program of revolutionary peace. But the revolutionary proletariat which succeeds in taking power first, it does not matter in which of the countries, will at once repeat the terms proposed by Lenin and Trotsky to terminate the first World War. Those terms, proposed by workers, cannot but help to spread the revolution to all the countries of Europe. Only in this way can the workers end the war with a democratic peace.

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