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Jack Weber

What Program Will Rally
the Masses of Europe?

(September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 38, 20 September 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Groundswell of Unrest in Europe

The war is at a critical stage in Europe. Soviet Russia has shown a power of resistance that has given the greatest encouragement to the workers arid the masses of all countries. In a material sense also, the war in Russia has encouraged the masses in the conquered countries to rebel against the Nazi conquerors. That is to say, the Germans have been forced, owing to their miscalculation of the strength of the USSR to deplete their forces of occupation in France, Norway, Yugoslavia, etc. But at the same time the using up of materials in the Russian campaign has caused the Nazis to apply even stricter measures in the conquered territories to assure necessary supplies for their armies. Everything seems to converge at this time to bring about a wave of rebellion over Europe against Hitler.

It is not easy to judge how far this unrest will go, how high the wave of resistance will rise. Hitler will stop at nothing to maintain his victorious grip on the throats of all the people of Europe. Under the conditions of war, it is not easy for the Frenchmen, the Norwegians, the Dutch, the Belgians to obtain arms for a real resistance. However these factors are not the ones to look at for the time being. Rather it is the political angle that deserves thought:

A good deal depends on the further course of the struggle in the Soviet Union, that is perfectly obvious. A series of sweeping defeats of the Red Army, should they occur, would tend to act as a deterrent and bring about a subdued mood of the masses of Western Europe. Naturally defeats suffered by Hitler would heighten the movement for liberation everywhere. Even the holding back of the German forces and their bogging down for the Russian winter will keep the morale of workers everywhere quite high.

But there is far more to the political angle than these elements of the question of liberation. It is hardly any kind of program for the future to base everything on the defeat and the ousting of the fascist conquerors. This aim is common to all shades of opinion except those who. bank on profiting by the continued domination of Hitler. The Norwegian and other Quislings would fear to see the Germans depart because it would mean their finish.

Certainly there are many people who think of liberation from the Nazi yoke in terms of national liberations. But just what do they mean by this? Do they mean the restoration of the, nation as it existed just prior to occupation by the German armies? In France the old regime. moved smoothly and directly into the Petain regime. How many Frenchmen today would fight in order to restore Petain and his adherents to full power over France? Certainly the workers would have no such aim. Would the workers prefer the restoration of power to de Gaulle, the man who says openly that he hopes to establish an authoritarian regime of his own – a pro-allied instead of pro-Hitler kind – after victory? It is unlikely that the workers will become de Gaullists on such a program.

The economic phase of “restoration” raises the question of program in even sharper terms. The Nazis have taken over most of the industrial life of the occupied lands. Much of the machinery in these countries has been shipped off to Germany. Goering has used the funds forced out of the treasuries of France to buy up many industries. Shall the workers fight for the restoration of all plants to the former owners? Who is to pay for all this, assuming it could take place?

The moment one begins to ask the meaning of the struggle for national liberation, one finds that in its place the class struggle intervenes. There is only one progressive aspect to the struggle waged in these terms: that is the struggle to defeat the fascists. But to accept the struggle for national liberation in its old terms means. virtually to restore national capitalism, to restore national boundaries, – and on the basis of a national instead of a foreign fascism.

The Stalinist Program

All reports from the occupied countries today point to the fact that the masses, aside from their undying opposition to Hitlerism, are apathetic to the political programs of the capitalists of whatever shade. They are just as indifferent to the Stalinist agitation.

For the fact of the matter is that the Stalinists themselves are bankrupt; they can offer no program because they have none. Stalin has already announced agreement to the capitalist program of the eight points, one of which forbids his interference in Western European affairs. For the sake of aid to Russia, we can be sure that Stalin will abide by this point. In fact he showed his readiness to do so in advance by his fear of and incapability of waging a revolutionary war. Newsweek in its latest issue shows what is in the mind of the capitalists so far as pressure on Stalin is concerned as payment for aid. It states that Hopkins got agreement from Stalin to publicly dissolve the CP of the USA as a token of his sincerity in not calling for or aiding revolution anywhere. We do not vouch for the truth of this statement, but we do not ignore it as a straw in the wind. All that the Stalinists have been able to think of, after the attack on Russia, has been the revival of the Popular Front. But the workers have had a thorough experience of this sell-out to the capitalist class.

It follows that what the masses of Europe require more than anything else is leadership, the workers follow no leadership today. A self-confident, firm, clear-headed revolutionary leadership based on a class struggle program to mobilize the working class for the struggle against both foreign and native fascism, has the opportunity today to win the masses in the occupied countries. What such a leadership must show, in all its agitation, is that the struggle against fascism is the struggle against capitalism.

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