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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(27 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 82, 27 October 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Truth Is Beginning to Clear a Path for Itself

With the beginning of the war and the clamping down of a rigid censorship by the belligerents, only the lies of national unity made their way into the press. What had become of the revolutionary working class movements in Germany and in Great Britain, in France and in the rest of Europe – to all these questions the blackout of the various propaganda machines barred an answer.

Only slowly the real truth is beginning to trickle through. In the past few issues of the Socialist Appeal we published the first dispatches from the countries at war indicating that the forces of the Fourth International are carrying on in Germany, in France, in England and everywhere where the imperialist conflict has unfolded, as the international army for peace, under the slogans of the Socialist United States of Europe and the World Federation of Socialist Republics. Small in number, but compact and disciplined, bound together solidly by a system of ideas wrought and perfected in sixteen years of common struggle for the world revolution and against the most hideous betrayals of Stalinism and social democracy, the sections of the Fourth International already constitute, as these dispatches reveal, the clear-sighted and courageous Marxist vanguard of a working class for which the opportunity to take power is rapidly advancing amidst capitalist crisis and catastrophe. If there is any distinct difference in the situation today from that of 1914, it surely lies in the fact that the alternative to the disastrous war – the socialist world revolution – already has at its disposal an instrument that is standing up under duress.

Tendencies Toward a Breakdown of National Unity in Great Britain

The struggle of the Fourth International against social patriotism and for the revolutionary solution to war is naturally aided by events themselves. National unity is far more of a farce now than in the last war – even as a fiction for the moment it is becoming more and more untenable.

Take the example of Great Britain. To be sure the official Labour leaders are the same war-mongering scoundrels that they have always been. A Hugh Dalton still disports himself of a jingoistic gem like the following:

“The war would end when above the war zones of Europe, with her allies Britannia ruled the waves.”

But even a conservative social patriot like the Lord Provost of Glasgow, P.J. Dollan, finds this too much to stomach. In the same issue of the Forward, published there, which carries Dalton’s great thought he publishes an article characteristically entitled No Jingoism for Socialists. Being in closer contact with the working class, he knows that the wilder variety of social patriotism just will not go over in the ranks. But far more significant is a growing breach between the parliamentary social patriots and the second rank functionaries of the trade unions.

For example, in a special edition of the bulletin of the No Conscription League – an organization sponsored by the Independent Labor Party and various pacifist groups – Rowland Hill, Chairman of the Bradford Trades Council, writes:

“The official Labour leadership is the medium through which the capitalist class is today attempting to allay that suspicion (that this is a war of imperialist conquest). It exploits Labour’s hatred and fear of Fascism for its own imperialist ends.”

And he proposes:

“The Trades Councils, as in the war years, in, 1920 and 1926, take on a greater importance. They must accept the leadership that has been abdicated by the Labour statesmen.

The importance of this view, which in itself is not new, can be realized only when one remembers that this is an official of a trade union speaking, in just that capacity.

The stir in the Labour ranks is not confined to this stratum alone, however. Even the political people, particularly the usually timid centrists in the party are beginning to raise their voices. Thus, the Scottish Socialist Party, an official affiliate and quite a power in the Labour Party, has taken the following action in a resolution passed early last month:

“The National Council of the Scottish Socialist Party condemns the action of the Parliamentary Labour Party in failing to oppose the passing of the Emergency Powers Bill and declares that this failure has allowed the ruling class of this country to impose a Fascist dictatorship on the people. The lack of opposition by the Labour Party to the rearmament program of the National Government, their participation in National Service schemes, their failure to adequately oppose conscription and the final tragedy of the Labour Party appealing to the workers to unite with British imperialism to fight Fascism on the continent convinces the National Council of the Scottish Socialist Party that the Labour Party Executive is utterly incompetent to lead the workers in this crisis which threatens to embroil the peoples of the world in a war of capitalist domination and we, therefore, demand the immediate resignation of the Labour Party Executive en bloc; the summoning of a special conference to deal with the emergency situation and the redrafting of the policy of the Labour Party insofar as international affairs are concerned.”

Inconsistent and muddled as the conclusions themselves are, the tenor of the attacks on the social patriots is in itself impressive, because it reflects the growing grumble among the rank and file.

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