MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: World War II: Emergency Conference: 1940
Manifesto of the Fourth International on Imperialist War and the Imperialist War
Imperialist War And The Proletarian World Revolution
Adopted by the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International
May 19-26, 1940
The Emergency Conference of the Fourth International, the World Party of the Socialist Revolution, convenes at the turning point of the second imperialist war. The stage of probing for openings, of making preparations, and of relative military inactivity has been left far behind. Germany has unloosed all the furies of hell in a major offensive to which the Allies are replying in kind with all their forces of destruction. From now on the life of Europe and all of mankind will be determined for a long time by the course of the imperialist war and by its economic and political consequences.
The Fourth International considers that now is the time to say openly and clearly how it views this war and its participants, how it evaluates the war policies of various labor organizations, and most important, what is the way out to peace, freedom, and plenty.
The Fourth International turns not to the governments who have dragooned the peoples into the slaughter, nor to the bourgeois politicians who bear the responsibility for these governments, nor to the labor bureaucracy which supports the warring bourgeoisie. The Fourth International turns to the working men and women, the soldiers and sailors, the ruined peasants and the enslaved colonial peoples. The Fourth International has no ties whatsoever with the oppressors, the exploiters, the imperialists. It is the world party of the toilers, the oppressed, and the exploited.
This manifesto is addressed to them. The general causes of the present war
Technology is infinitely more powerful now than at the end of the war of 1914 1918, whereas mankind is much more poverty stricken. The standard of living has declined in one country after another. On the threshold of the present war, agriculture was in worse condition than at the outbreak of the last war. The agricultural countries are ruined. In the industrial countries the middle classes are being ravaged economically, and a permanent sub class of unemployed—modern pariahs—has been formed. The domestic market has narrowed. The export of capital has been reduced. Imperialism has actually shattered the world market, breaking it up into spheres dominated by powerful individual countries. With the considerable increase in the population of the earth, the world trade of 109 states on our planet dropped almost one fourth in the single decade prior to the present war. The turnover in foreign trade of some countries has been cut to one half, one third, and one fourth.
The colonial countries are suffering from their own internal crises, and from the crises of the metropolitan centers. Backward nations which yesterday were still semi free are today plunged into slavery (Abyssinia, Albania, China . . ). Every imperialist country must have its own sources of raw materials, above all for war, that is, for a new struggle for raw materials. In order to enrich themselves further, the capitalists are destroying and laying waste to everything created by the labor of centuries.
The world of decaying capitalism is overcrowded. The question of admitting a hundred extra refugees becomes a major problem for such a world power as the United States. In an era of aviation, telegraph, telephone, radio, and television, travel from country to country is paralyzed by passports and visas. The period of the wasting away of foreign trade and the decline of domestic trade is at the same time the period of the monstrous intensification of chauvinism and especially of anti Semitism. In the epoch of its rise, capitalism took the Jewish people out of the ghetto and utilized them as an instrument in its commercial expansion. Today decaying capitalist society is striving to squeeze the Jewish people from all its pores; seventeen million individuals out of the two billion populating the globe, that is, less than 1 percent, can no longer find a place on our planet! Amid the vast expanses of land and the marvels of technology, which has also conquered the skies for man as well as the earth, the bourgeoisie has managed to convert our planet into a foul prison.
Lenin and imperialism
On November 1, 1914, at the beginning of the last imperialist war, Lenin wrote: “Imperialism has placed the fate of European culture at stake. Alter this war, if a series of successful revolutions do not occur, more wars will follow the fairy tale of a ’war to end all wars’ is a hollow and pernicious fairy tale . . . .” Workers, call this prediction to mind! The present war the second imperialist war is not an accident; it does not result from the will of this or that dictator. It was predicted long ago. It derived its origin inexorably from the contradictions of international capitalist interests. Contrary to the official fables designed to drug the people, the chief cause of war as of all other social evils unemployment, the high cost of living, fascism, colonial oppression is the private ownership of the means of production together with the bourgeois state which rests on this foundation.
With the present level of technology and skill of the workers, it is quite possible to create adequate conditions for the material and spiritual development of all mankind. It would be necessary only to organize the economic life within each country and over our entire planet correctly, scientifically, and rationally, according to a general plan. So long, however, as the main productive forces of society are held by trusts, i.e., isolated capitalist cliques, and so long as the national state remains a pliant tool in the hands of these cliques, the struggle for markets, for sources of raw materials, for domination of the world, must inevitably assume a more and more destructive character. State power and domination of the economy can be torn from the hands of these rapacious imperialist cliques only by the revolutionary working class. That is the meaning of Lenin’s warning that without “a series of successful revolutions” a new imperialist war would inevitably follow. The different predictions and promises which were made have been submitted to the test of events. The fairy tale of the “war to end all wars” has been proved a lie. Lenin’s prediction has become tragic truth.
The immediate causes of the war
The immediate cause of the present war is the rivalry between the old wealthy colonial empires, Great Britain and France, and the belated imperialist plunderers, Germany and Italy.
The nineteenth century was the era of the incontestable hegemony of the oldest capitalist power, Great Britain. From 1815 to 1914 true enough, not without isolated military explosions—“British peace” reigned. The British fleet, mightiest in the world, played the role of policeman of the seas. This era, however, has receded into the past. As early as the end of the last century, Germany, armed with modern technology, began to move toward first place in Europe. On the other side of the ocean an even more powerful country arose, a former British colony. The most important economic contradiction which led to the war of 1914 1918 was the rivalry between Great Britain and Germany. As for the United States, its participation in the war was of a preventive character—Germany could not be permitted to subjugate the European continent.
The defeat hurled Germany back into complete impotence. Dismembered, encircled by enemies, bankrupted by indemnities, weakened by the convulsions of civil war, she appeared to be out of the running for a long time to come, if not forever. On the European continent, first violin turned up temporarily in the hands of France. For victorious England, the balance sheet of the war left in the last analysis liabilities: increasing independence of the dominions; colonial movements for independence; loss of naval hegemony; lessening of the importance of her navy through the development of aviation.
Through inertia England still attempted to play the leading role on the world arena in the first few years after victory. Her conflicts with the United States began to assume an obviously threatening character. It seemed as though the next war would flare up between the two Anglo Saxon aspirants to world domination. England, however, soon had to convince herself that her specific economic weight was inadequate for combat with the colossus across the ocean. Her agreement with the United States on naval equality signified formal renunciation of naval hegemony, already lost in actuality. Her replacement of free trade by tariff walls signified open admission of the defeat of British industry on the world market. Her renunciation of the policy of “splendid isolation” drew in its wake the introduction of compulsory military service. Thus all the sacred traditions were dusted away.
A similar lack of correspondence between her economic weight and her world position is characteristic of France too, but on a smaller scale. Her hegemony in Europe rested on a temporary conjuncture of circumstances created by the annihilation of Germany and the artificial combinations of the Versailles Treaty. The size of her population and the economic foundation supporting this hegemony were far too inadequate. When the hypnosis of victory wore off, the real relationship of forces surged to the surface. France proved to be much weaker than she had appeared, not only to her friends but to her enemies. Seeking cover, she became in essence Great Britain’s latest dominion.
Germany’s regeneration on the basis of her first rate technology and organizational abilities was inevitable. It came sooner than was thought possible, in large measure thanks to England’s support of Germany against the USSR, against the excessive pretensions of France, and more remotely against the United States. Such international combinations proved successful for capitalist England more than once in the past so long as she remained the strongest power. In her senility she proved incapable of dealing with those spirits she had herself evoked.
Armed with a technology more modern, of greater flexibility, and of higher productive capacity, Germany once again began to squeeze England out of very important markets, particularly southeastern Europe and Latin America. In contrast to the nineteenth century, when the competition between capitalist countries developed on an expanding world market, the economic arena of struggle today is narrowing down so that nothing remains open to the imperialists except tearing pieces of the world market away from each other.
The initiative for the new redivision of the world this time as in 1914 belonged naturally to German imperialism. Caught off guard, the British government first attempted to buy its way out of war by concessions at the expense of others (Austria, Czechoslovakia). But this policy was short lived. “Friendship” with Great Britain was only a brief tactical phase for Hitler. London had already conceded Hitler more than he had calculated on getting. The Munich agreement through which Chamberlain hoped to seal a long time friendship with Germany led, on the contrary, to a hastening of the break. Hitler could expect nothing more from London—further expansion of Germany would strike at the life lines of Great Britain herself. Thus the “new era of peace” proclaimed by Chamberlain in October 1938 led within a few months to the most terrible of all wars.
The United States
While Great Britain has exerted every effort since the first months of the war to seize blockaded Germany’s vacated positions in the world market, the United States has almost automatically been driving Great Britain out. Two thirds of the world’s gold is concentrated in the American vaults. The remaining third is flowing to the same place. England’s role as banker for the world is a thing of the past. Nor are matters in other spheres much better. While Great Britain’s navy and merchant marine are suffering great losses, the American shipyards are building ships on a colossal scale, which will secure the predominance of the American fleet over the British and the Japanese. The United States is obviously preparing to adopt the two power standard (a navy stronger than the combined fleets of the next two strongest powers). The new program for the air fleet envisages securing the superiority of the United States over all the rest of the world.
However, the industrial, financial, and military strength of the United States, the foremost capitalist power in the world, does not at all insure the blossoming of American economic life, but on the contrary, invests the crisis of her social system with an especially malignant and convulsive character. Gold in the billions cannot be made use of, nor can the millions of unemployed! In the theses of the Fourth International, War and the Fourth International published six years ago, it was predicted:
U. S. capitalism is up against the same problems that pushed Germany in 1914 on the path of war. The world is divided? It must be redivided. For Germany it was a question of “organizing Europe.” The United States must “organize” the world. History is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism.
The “New Deal” and the “Good Neighbor” policies17’ were the final attempts to postpone the climax by ameliorating the social crisis through concessions and agreements. After the bankruptcy of this policy, which swallowed up tens of billions, nothing else remained for American imperialism but to resort to the method of the mailed fist. Under one or another pretext and slogan the United States will intervene in the tremendous clash in order to maintain its world dominion. The order and the time of the struggle between American capitalism and its enemies is not yet known perhaps even by Washington. War with Japan would be a struggle for “living room” in the Pacific Ocean. War in the Atlantic, even if directed immediately against Germany, would be a struggle for the heritage of Great Britain.
The potential victory of Germany over the Allies hangs like a nightmare over Washington. With the European continent, and the resources of its colonies as her base, with all the European munition factories and shipyards at her disposal, Germany—especially in combination with Japan in the Orient would constitute a mortal danger for American imperialism. The present titanic battles on the fields of Europe are in this sense preparatory episodes in the struggle between Germany and America. France and England are only fortified positions of American capitalism, extended beyond the Atlantic. If the frontiers of England are located on the Rhine, as one of the British premiers put it, then the American imperialists might well say that the frontiers of the United States are on the Thames. In its feverish preparation of public opinion for the coming war, Washington does not spare noble indignation over the fate of Finland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium . . . . With the occupation of Denmark, the question of Greenland arose unexpectedly as being “geologically” a part of the Western Hemisphere and containing by happy chance deposits of cryolite, indispensable in the production of aluminum. Nor does Washington overlook enslaved China, the helpless Philippines, the orphaned Dutch Indies, and open sea routes. Thus philanthropic sympathies for oppressed nations and even considerations of geology are driving the United States into war.
The American armed forces, however, could intervene successfully only so long as France and the British Isles remain solid bases of support. Should France be occupied and German troops appear on the Thames, the relationship of forces would shift drastically to the disadvantage of the United States. Washington is forced by these considerations to speed up all the tempos but likewise to ponder the question: has the opportune moment not been missed?
Against the official position of the White House are launched the noisy protests of American isolationism, which is itself only another variety of the very same imperialism. The section of the capitalists whose interests are bound up primarily with the American continent, Australia, and the Far East calculate that in the event of the defeat of the Allies, the United States would automatically gain a monopoly for its own benefit not only of Latin America but also of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. As for China, the Dutch Indies, and the Orient in general, it is the conviction of the entire ruling class of the United States that war with Japan is in any case inevitable in the near future. Under the guise of isolationism and pacifism, an influential section of the bourgeoisie is working out a program for American continental expansion and preparing for the struggle with Japan. War against Germany for the domination of the world, according to this plan, is only deferred. As for petty bourgeois pacifists such as Norman Thomas and his fraternity, they are only choir boys in one of the imperialist clans.
Our struggle against United States intervention into the war has nothing in common with isolationism and pacifism. We tell the workers openly that the imperialist government cannot fail to drag this country into war. The dispute within the ruling class involves only the question of when to enter the war and against whom to level the fire first. To count upon holding the United States to neutrality by means of newspaper articles and pacifist resolutions is like trying to hold back the tide with a broom. The real struggle against war means the class struggle against imperialism and a merciless exposure of petty-bourgeois pacifism. Only revolution could prevent the American bourgeoisie from intervening in the second imperialist war or beginning the third imperialist war. All other methods are either charlatanism or stupidity or a combination of both.
The defense of the “fatherland”
Almost a hundred years ago when the national state still represented a relatively progressive factor, the Communist Manifesto proclaimed that the proletarians have no fatherland. Their only goal is the creation of the toilers’ fatherland embracing the whole world. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the bourgeois state with its armies and tariff walls became the worst brake on the development of productive forces, which demand a much more extensive arena. A socialist who comes out today for the defense of the “fatherland” is playing the same reactionary role as the peasants of the Vendee, who rushed to the defense of the feudal regime, that is, of their own chains.
In recent years and even months, the world has observed with astonishment how easily states vanish from the map of Europe: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium . . . . The political map has been reshaped with equal speed in no other epoch save that of the Napoleonic wars. At that time it was a question of outlived feudal states which had to give way before the bourgeois national state. Today it is a question of outlived bourgeois states which must give way before the socialist federation of the peoples. The chain breaks as always at its weakest link. The struggle of the imperialist bandits leaves as little room for in dependent small states as does the vicious competition of trusts and cartels for small independent manufacturers and merchants.
Because of its strategic position Germany considers it more profitable to attack its main enemies through the small and neutral countries. Great Britain and France on the contrary deem it more profitable to cover themselves with the neutrality of the small states and let Germany drive them through her blows into the camp of the “democratic” Allies. The gist of the matter is not altered by this difference in strategic methods. Between the cog wheels of the great imperialist countries the small satellites are being ground to dust. The “defense” of the huge fatherlands requires the overthrow of a dozen small and middle sized ones.
But even with regard to the large states, what is involved for the bourgeoisie is not at all a question of defending the fatherland, but rather of markets, foreign concessions, sources of raw materials, and spheres of influence. The bourgeoisie never defends the fatherland for the sake of the fatherland. They defend private property, privileges, profits. Whenever these sacred values are threatened, the bourgeoisie immediately takes to the road of defeatism. That was the way of the Russian bourgeoisie, whose sons after the October Revolution fought and are once again ready to fight in every army in the world against their own former fatherland. In order to save their capital, the Spanish bourgeoisie turned to Mussolini and Hitler for military aid against their own people. The Norwegian bourgeoisie aided Hitler’s invasion of Norway. Thus it always was and always will be.
Official patriotism is a mask for the exploiting interests. Class conscious workers throw this mask contemptuously aside. They do not defend the bourgeois fatherland, but the interests of the toilers and the oppressed of their own country and of the entire world. The theses of the Fourth International state:
Against the reactionary slogan of “national defense” it is necessary to advance the slogan of the revolutionary destruction of the national state. To the madhouse of capitalist Europe it is necessary to counterpose the program of the Socialist United States of Europe as a stage on the road to the Socialist United States of the World.
The “struggle for democracy”
No less a lie is the slogan of a war for democracy against fascism. As if the workers have forgotten that the British gov ernment helped Hitler and his hangman’s crew gain power!
The imperialist democracies are in reality the greatest aristocracies in history. England, France, Holland, Belgium rest on the enslavement of colonial peoples. The democracy of the United States rests upon the seizure of the vast wealth of an entire continent. All the efforts of these “democracies” are directed toward the preservation of their privileged position. A considerable portion of the war burden is unloaded by imperialist democracies onto their colonies. The slaves are obliged to furnish blood and gold in order to insure the possibility of their masters remaining slaveholders. The small capitalist democracies without colonies are satellites of the great empires and glean a portion of their colonial profits. The ruling classes of these states are ready to renounce democracy at any moment in order to preserve their privileges.
In the case of tiny Norway the inner mechanics of decaying democracy have once again been revealed before the whole world. The Norwegian bourgeoisie made simultaneous use of the social democratic government and the fascist policemen, judges, and officers. At the first serious impact, the democratic heads were swept away and the fascist bureaucracy, which immediately found a common language with Hitler, became master of the house. With different national variations this same experiment was previously performed in Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and a number of other states. In a moment of danger the bourgeoisie has always been able to free from democratic trappings the real apparatus of its rule as the direct instrument of finance capital. Only the hopelessly blind are capable of believing that the British and French generals and admirals are waging a war against fascism!
The war has not halted the process of the transformation of democracies into reactionary dictatorships, but on the contrary is carrying this process to its conclusion before our very eyes.
Within every country as well as on the world arena, the war strengthened immediately the most reactionary groups and institutions. The general staffs, those nests of Bonapartist conspiracy, the malignant dens of the police, the gangs of hired patriots, the churches of all creeds, are immediately pushed to the forefront. The Papal Court, the focal point of obscurantism and hatred among men, is being wooed from all sides, especially by the Protestant President Roosevelt. Material and spiritual decline always brings in its wake police oppression and an increased demand for the opium of religion.
Seeking to gain the advantages of a totalitarian regime, the imperialist democracies launch their own defense with a redoubled drive against the working class and the persecution of revolutionary organizations. The war danger and now the war itself is utilized by them first and foremost to crush internal enemies. The bourgeoisie invariably and unswervingly follows the rule: “The main enemy is in one’s own country.”
As is always the case, the weakest ones suffer the most. The weakest ones in the present slaughter of the peoples are the countless refugees from all countries, among them the revolutionary exiles. Bourgeois patriotism manifests itself first of all in the brutal treatment of defenseless foreigners. Before the concentration camps for war prisoners were built, all the democracies constructed concentration camps for the revolutionary exiles. The governments of the entire world, particularly the government of the USSR, have written the blackest chapter in our epoch through their treatment of the refugees, the exiles, the homeless. We send our warmest greetings to our imprisoned and persecuted brothers and tell them not to lose heart From the capitalist prisons and concentration camps will come most of the leaders of tomorrow’s Europe and the world!
The war slogans of the Nazis
Hitler’s official slogans in general do not warrant examination. The struggle for “national unification” has long since been shown to be a lie, for Hitler is converting the national state into a state of many nations, trampling under foot the liberty and unity of other peoples. The struggle for “living room” is nothing but camouflage for imperialist expansion, that is, the policy of annexation and plunder. The racial justification for this expansion is a lie; National Socialism changes its racial sympathies and antipathies in accordance with strategic considerations. A somewhat more stable element in fascist propaganda is, perhaps, anti Semitism, which Hitler has given a zoological form, discovering the true language of “race” and “blood” in the dog’s bark and the pig’s grunt. Not for nothing did Frederick Engels label anti Semitism the “socialism of idiots”! The sole feature of fascism which is not counterfeit is its will to power, subjugation, and plunder. Fascism is a chemically pure distillation of the culture of imperialism.
The democratic governments, who in their day hailed Hitler as a crusader against Bolshevism, now make him out to be some kind of Satan unexpectedly loosed from the depths of hell, who violates the sanctity of treaties, boundary lines, rules, and regulations. If it were not for Hitler the capitalist world would blossom like a garden. What a miserable lie! This Ger man epileptic with a calculating machine in his skull and unlimited power in his hands did not fall from the sky or come up out of hell: he is nothing but the personification of all the destructive forces of imperialism. Just as Genghis Khan and Tamerlane appeared to the weaker pastoral peoples as destroying scourges of God, whereas in reality they did nothing but express the need of all the pastoral tribes for more pasture land and the plunder of settled areas, so Hitler, rocking the old colonial powers to their foundations, does nothing but give a more finished expression to the imperialist will to power. Through Hitler, world capitalism, driven to desperation by its own impasse, has begun to press a razor sharp dagger into its own bowels.
The butchers of the second imperialist war will not succeed in transforming Hitler into a scapegoat for their own sins.
Before the judgment bar of the proletariat all the present rulers will answer. Hitler will do no more than occupy first place among the criminals in the dock.
The preponderance of Germany
Whatever may be the war’s outcome, the preponderance of Germany has already been clearly shown. Unquestionably Hitler fails to possess any secret “new weapon.” But the perfection of all the different existing weapons and the well coordinated combination of these weapons—on the basis of a more highly rationalized industry—lends German militarism enormous weight. Military dynamics is closely bound up with the peculiar features of a totalitarian regime: unity of will, concentrated initiative, secrecy of preparation, suddenness of execution. The peace of Versailles, moreover, has done the Allies a poor service. After fifteen years of German disarmament, Hitler was compelled to start building an army from nothing, and thanks to this the army is free of routine and does not have to drag along obsolete technique and equipment. The tactical training of troops is inspired by new ideas based on the latest word in technology. Apparently only the United States is destined to surpass the German murder machine.
The weakness of France and Great Britain was not unexpected. The theses of the Fourth International (1934) state: “The collapse of the League of Nations is indissolubly bound up with the beginning of the collapse of French hegemony on the European continent.” This programmatic document declares further that “ruling England is ever less successful in its scheming designs,” that the British bourgeoisie is “terrified by the disintegration of its empire, by the revolutionary movement in India, by the instability of its positions in China.” The power of the Fourth International lies in this, that its program is capable of withstanding the test of great events.
The industry of England and France, thanks to the assured flow of colonial super profits, has long lagged both in technology and organization. In addition, the so called “defense of democracy” by the socialist parties and trade unions created an extremely privileged political situation for the British and French bourgeoisie. Privileges always foster sluggishness and stagnation. If Germany today reveals so colossal a preponderance over France and England, then the lion’s share of the responsibility rests with the social patriotic defenders of democracy who prevented the proletariat from tearing England and France out of atrophy through a timely socialist revolution.
“ The program of peace”
In return for the enslavement of the peoples Hitler promises to establish ’a “German peace” in Europe for a period of centuries. An empty mirage! The “British peace” after the victory over Napoleon could endure a century not a thousand years! —solely because Britain was the pioneer of a new technology and a progressive system of production. Notwithstanding the strength of her industry, present day Germany, like her enemies, is the standard bearer of a doomed social system. Hitler’s victory would in reality mean not peace but the beginning of a new series of bloody clashes on a world scale. By overthrowing the British empire, reducing France to the status of Bohemia and Moravia, basing herself on the European continent and its colonies, Germany undoubtedly would become the first power in the world. Along with her, Italy at best might not for very long seize control of the Mediterranean basin. But being the first power does not mean being the only power. The struggle for “living room” would only enter a new stage.
The“new order” which Japan is preparing to establish, basing herself on German victory, has as its perspective the extension of Japanese rule over the greater part of the Asiatic continent. The Soviet Union would find itself hemmed in between a Germanized Europe and Japanized Asia. All three Americas, as well as Australia and New Zealand, would fall to the United States. If we take into account the provincial Italian empire in addition, the world would be temporarily divided into five “living rooms.” But imperialism by its very nature abhors any division of power. In order to free his hands against America, Hitler would have to settle bloody accounts with his friends of yesterday, Stalin and Mussolini. Japan and the United States would not remain disinterested observers of the new struggle. The third imperialist war would be waged not by national states and not by empires of the old type but by whole continents . . . . Hitler’s victory in the present war would thus signify not a thousand years of “German peace” but bloody chaos for many decades if not centuries.
But neither would an Allied triumph result in any more radiant consequences. Victorious France could reestablish her position as a great power only by dismembering Germany, restoring the Hapsburgs, Balkanizing Europe. Great Britain could again play a leading role in European affairs only by refurbishing the game of playing on the contradictions between Germany and France on the one side, Europe and America on the other. This would signify a new and ten times worse edition of the peace of Versailles with infinitely more malignant effects upon the weakened organism of Europe. To this it must be added that an Allied victory without American aid is improbable, while the United States this time would demand a much higher price for its assistance than in the last war. The debased and exhausted Europe—the object of Herbert Hoover philanthropy—would become the bankrupt debtor of its transatlantic savior.
Finally, if we suppose the least probable variant, namely the conclusion of peace by the exhausted adversaries in accordance with the pacifist formula “no victors, no vanquished,” this would signify restoration of the international chaos that existed prior to the war, but this time based on bloody ruins, on exhaustion, on embitterment In a short period of time all the old antagonisms would cut through to the surface with explosive violence and break out in new international convulsions.
The promise of the Allies to create a democratic European federation this time is the crudest of all pacifist lies. The state is not an abstraction but the instrument of monopoly capitalism. So long as trusts and banks are not expropriated for the benefit of the people, the’ struggle between states is just as inevitable as the struggle between the trusts themselves. Voluntary renunciation by the most powerful state of the advantage given by its strength is as ridiculous a utopia as voluntary division of capital funds among the trusts. So long as capitalist property is preserved, a democratic “federation” would be nothing but a worse repetition of the League of Nations, containing all its vices minus only its illusions.
In vain do the imperialist masters of destiny attempt to revive a program of salvation which was completely discredited by the experience of the past decades. In vain do their petty bourgeois flunkies warm up pacifist panaceas which long ago changed into their own caricature. The advanced workers will not be duped. Peace will not be concluded by those forces now waging war. The workers and soldiers will dictate their own program of peace!
Defense of the USSR
Stalin’s alliance with Hitler, which raised the curtain on the world war and led directly to the enslavement of the Polish people, resulted from the weakness of the USSR and the Kremlin’s panic in face of Germany. Responsibility for this weakness rests with no one but this same Kremlin; its internal policy, which opened an abyss between the ruling caste and the people; its foreign policy, which sacrificed the interests of the world revolution to the interests of the Stalinist clique.
The seizure of eastern Poland — a pledge of the alliance with Hitler and a guarantee against Hitler—was accompanied by the nationalization of semifeudal and capitalist property in western Ukraine and western White Russia. Without this the Kremlin could not have incorporated the occupied territory into the USSR. The strangled and desecrated October Revolution served notice that it was still alive.
In Finland the Kremlin did not succeed in accomplishing a similar social overturn. The imperialist mobilization of world public opinion “in defense of Finland”; the threat of direct intervention by England and France; the impatience of Hitler, who had to seize Denmark and Norway before French and British troops appeared on Scandinavian soil—all this compelled the Kremlin to renounce sovietization of Finland and to limit itself to the seizure of the indispensable strategic positions.
The invasion of Finland unquestionably aroused on the part of the Soviet populace profound condemnation. However, the advanced workers understood that the crimes of the Kremlin oligarchy do not strike off the agenda the question of the existence of the USSR. Its defeat in the world war would signify not merely the overthrow of the totalitarian bureaucracy but the liquidation of the new forms of property, the collapse of the first experiment in planned economy, and the transformation of the entire country into a colony; that is, the handing over to imperialism of colossal natural resources which would give it a respite until the third world war. Neither the peoples of the USSR nor the world working class as a whole care for such an outcome.
Finland’s resistance to the USSR was, with all its heroism, no more an act of independent national defense than Norway’s subsequent resistance to Germany. The Helsinki government itself understood this when it chose to capitulate to the USSR rather than transform Finland into a military base for England and France. Our wholehearted recognition of the right of every nation to self determination does not alter the fact that in the course of the present war this right does not have much more weight than thistledown. We must determine the basic line of our policy in accordance with basic and not tenth rate factors. The theses of the Fourth International state:
The concept of national defense, especially when it coincides with the idea of the defense of democracy, can most easily delude the workers of small and neutral countries (Switzerland, partly Belgium, Scandinavian countries . .
Only a hopelessly dull bourgeois from a godforsaken Swiss village (like Robert Grimm) can seriously think that the world war into which he is drawn is waged for the defense of Swiss independence.
These words today acquire a special meaning. In no way superior to the Swiss social patriot Robert Grimm are those believe that it is possible to determine proletarian strategy in relation to the defense of the USSR through reliance upon such tactical episodes as the Red Army’s invasion of Finland.
Extremely eloquent in its unanimity and fury was the campaign that the world bourgeoisie launched over the Soviet-Finnish war. Neither the perfidy nor the violence of the Kremlin prior to this had aroused the indignation of the bourgeoisie, for the entire history of world politics is written in perfidy and violence. Their fear and indignation arose over the prospect of a social overturn in Finland upon the pattern of the one engendered by the Red Army in Eastern Poland. What was involved was a fresh threat to capitalist property. The anti Soviet campaign, which had a class character through and through, disclosed once again that the USSR by virtue of the social foundations laid down by the October Revolution, upon which the existence of the bureaucracy itself is dependent, still remains a workers’ state, terrifying to the bourgeoisie of the whole world. Episodic agreements between the bourgeoisie and the USSR do not alter the fact that “taken on a historic scale the antagonism between world imperialism and the Soviet Union is infinitely deeper than the antagonisms that set the individual capitalist countries in opposition to each other.” Many petty bourgeois radicals, who only yesterday were still ready to consider the Soviet Union as an axis for grouping the “democratic” forces against fascism, have suddenly discovered, now that their own fatherlands have been threatened by Hitler, that Moscow, which did not come to their aid, follows an imperialist policy, and that there is no difference between the USSR and the fascist countries.
Lie! will respond every class conscious worker—there is a difference. The bourgeoisie appraises this social difference better and more profoundly than do the radical windbags. To be sure, the nationalization of the means of production in one country, and a backward one at that, still does not insure the building of socialism. But it is capable of furthering the primary prerequisite of socialism, namely, the planned development of the productive forces. To turn one’s back on the nationalization of the means of production on the ground that in and of itself it does not create the well being of the masses is tantamount to sentencing a granite foundation to destruction on the ground that it is impossible to live without walls and a roof. The class conscious worker knows that a successful struggle for complete emancipation is unthinkable without the defense of conquests already gained, however modest these may be. All the more obligatory therefore is the defense of so colossal a conquest as planned economy against the restoration of capitalist relations. Those who cannot defend old positions will never conquer new ones.
The Fourth International can defend the USSR only by the methods of revolutionary class struggle. To teach the workers correctly to understand the class character of the state imperialist, colonial, workers’—and the reciprocal relations between them, as well as the inner contradictions in each of them, enables the workers to draw correct practical conclusions in situation. While waging a tireless struggle against the Moscow oligarchy, the Fourth International decisively rejects any policy that would aid imperialism against the USSR.
The defense of the USSR coincides in principle with the preparation of the world proletarian revolution. We flatly reject the theory of socialism in one country, that brain child of ignorant and reactionary Stalinism. Only the world revolution can save the USSR for socialism. But the world revolution carries with it the inescapable blotting out of the Kremlin oligarchy.
For the revolutionary overthrow of Stalin’s Bonapartist clique
After five years fawning on the “democracies,” the Kremlin revealed cynical contempt for the world proletariat by concluding an alliance with Hitler and helping him to strangle the Polish people; it boasted with shameful chauvinism on the eve of the Finnish invasion and displayed no less shameful military incapacity in the subsequent struggle; it made noisy promises to “emancipate” the Finnish people from the capitalists and then made a cowardly capitulation to Hitler—this was the performance of the Stalinist regime in the critical hours of history.
The Moscow trials had already revealed that the totalitarian oligarchy had become an absolute obstacle in the path of the country’s development. The rising level of the increasingly complex needs of economic life can no longer tolerate bureaucratic strangulation. The gang of parasites is not, however, prepared to make any concessions. In struggling for its position it destroys everything that is best in the country. It should not be thought that the people who accomplished three revolutions in twelve years have suddenly become stupid. They are suppressed and disoriented but they are watching and thinking. The bureaucracy reminds them every day of its existence by its arbitrary rule, oppression, rapacity, and bloody vengefulness. Semistarved workers and collective farmers among themselves whisper with hatred about the spendthrift caprices of rabid commissars. For Stalin’s sixtieth birthday the workers in the Urals were forced to toil a year and a half on a gigantic portrait of the hated “father of the peoples” made out of precious stones—an undertaking worthy of a Persian Xerxes or an Egyptian Cleopatra. A regime capable of indulging in such abominations cannot fail to arouse the hatred of the masses.
Foreign policy corresponds to domestic policy. Had the Kremlin government expressed the real interests of the workers’ state; had the Comintern served the cause of world revolution; the popular masses of tiny Finland would inevitably have gravitated toward the USSR, and the invasion of the Red Army either would not at all have been necessary or would have been accepted at once by the Finnish people as a revolutionary act of emancipation. In reality the entire previous policy of the Kremlin repelled the Finnish workers and peasants away from the USSR While Hitler has been able to count upon the assistance of the so called “fifth column” in the neutral countries he invades, Stalin did not find any support whatever in Finland despite the tradition of the 1918 insurrection and the long existence of the Finnish Communist Party. Under these conditions the invasion of the Red Army assumed the character of direct and open military violence. The responsibility for this violence falls wholly and indivisibly upon the Moscow oligarchy.
War is the acid test of a regime. As a consequence of the first period of the war, the international position of the USSR, despite the window trimming successes, has already obviously worsened. The foreign policy of the Kremlin has repelled from the USSR broad circles of the world working class and the oppressed peoples. The strategic bases of support seized by Moscow will represent a third rate factor in the conflict of world forces. Meanwhile Germany has obtained the most important and the most industrialized section of Poland and gained a common frontier with the USSR, that is, a gateway to the east Through Scandinavia, Germany dominates the Baltic Sea, transforming the Gulf of Finland into a tightly corked bottle. Embittered Finland comes under Hitler’s direct control. Instead of weak neutral states, the USSR now confronts a powerful Germany on the other side of its Leningrad border. The weakness of the Red Army decapitated by Stalin has been demonstrated to the whole world. The centrifugal nationalist tendencies within the USSR have intensified. The prestige of the Kremlin leadership has declined. Germany in the West, Japan in the East now feel infinitely more confident than before the Kremlin’s Finnish adventure.
In his meager arsenal Stalin could find but one and only one answer to the ominous warning of events: he replaced Voroshiov by an even emptier nonentity, Timoshenko. As always in these instances the goal of this maneuver is to divert the anger of the people and the army away from the main criminal responsible for the misfortunes, and to place at the head of the army an individual whose reliability is guaranteed by his insignificance. The Kremlin has once again revealed itself as the central nest of defeatism. Only by destroying this nest can, the security of the USSR be safeguarded.
The preparation of the revolutionary overthrow of the Moscow ruling caste is one of the main tasks of the Fourth International. This task is not simple or easy. It demands heroism and sacrifice. However, the epoch of great convulsions upon which man kind has entered will strike the Kremlin oligarchy with blow after blow, will break up its totalitarian apparatus, will raise the self confidence of the working masses and thereby facilitate the formation of the Soviet section of the Fourth International. Events will work in our favor if we are capable of assisting them!
Colonial peoples in the war
By its very creation of enormous difficulties and dangers for the imperialist metropolitan centers, the war opens up wide possibilities for the oppressed peoples. The rumbling of cannon in Europe heralds the approaching hour of their liberation.
If a program of peaceful social transformation is utopian for the advanced capitalist countries, then the program of peaceful liberation for the colonies is doubly utopian. On the other hand, the last of the semi free backward countries have been enslaved before our eyes (Ethiopia, Albania, China . . . ). The entire present war is a war over colonies. They are hunted by some; held by others who refuse to give them up. Neither side has the least intention of liberating them voluntarily. The declining metropolitan centers are impelled to drain away as much as possible from the colonies and to give them in return as little as possible. Only the direct and open revolutionary struggle of the enslaved peoples can clear the road for their emancipation.
In the colonial and semi-colonial countries the struggle for an independent national state, and consequently the “defense of the fatherland,” is different in principle from that of the imperialist countries. The revolutionary proletariat of the whole world gives unconditional support to the struggle of China or India for national independence, for this struggle, by “tearing the backward peoples from Asiatism, sectionalism, and foreign bondage, . . . strike[s] powerful blows at the imperialist states.”
At the same time, the Fourth International knows in advance and openly warns the backward nations that their belated national states can no longer count upon an independent democratic development. Surrounded by decaying capitalism and enmeshed in the imperialist contradictions, the independence of a backward state inevitably will be semi fictitious, and its political regime, under the influence of internal class contradictions and external pressure, will unavoidably fall into dictatorship against the people—such is the regime of the “People’s” party in Turkey, the Kuomintang in China; Gandhi’s regime will be similar tomorrow in India. The struggle for the national independence of the colonies is, from the standpoint of the revolutionary proletariat, only a transitional stage on the road toward drawing the backward countries into the international socialist revolution.
The Fourth International does not draw watertight distinctions between the backward and the advanced countries, the democratic and the socialist revolutions. It combines them and subordinates them to the world struggle of the oppressed against the oppressors. Just as the only genuinely revolutionary force of our era is the international proletariat, so the only real program to liquidate all oppression, social and national, is the program of the permanent revolution.
The great lesson of China
The tragic experience of China is a great lesson for the oppressed peoples. The Chinese revolution of 1925 27 had every chance for victory. A unified and transformed China would constitute at this time a powerful fortress of freedom in the Far East. The entire fate of Asia and to a degree the whole world might have been different. But the Kremlin, lacking confidence in the Chinese masses and seeking the friendship of the generals, utilized its whole weight to subordinate the Chinese proletariat to the bourgeoisie and so helped Chiang Kai shek to crush the Chinese revolution. Disillusioned, disunited, and weakened, China was laid open to Japanese invasion.
Like every doomed regime, the Stalinist oligarchy is already incapable of learning from the lessons of history. At the beginning of the Sino Japanese war, the Kremlin again placed the Communist Party in bondage to Chiang Kai shek, crushing in the bud the revolutionary initiative of the Chinese proletariat This war, now nearing its third anniversary, might long since have been finished by a real catastrophe for Japan, if China had conducted it as a genuine people’s war based on an agrarian revolution and setting the Japanese soldiery aflame with its blaze. But the Chinese bourgeoisie fears its own armed masses more than it does the Japanese ravishers. If Chiang Kai shek, the sinister hangman of the Chinese revolution, is compelled by circumstances to wage a war, his program is still based, as before, on the oppression of his own workers and compromise with the imperialists.
The war in eastern Asia will become more and more interlocked with the imperialist world war. The Chinese people will be able to reach independence only under the leadership of the youthful and self sacrificing proletariat, in whom the indispensable self confidence will be rekindled by the rebirth of the world revolution. They will indicate a firm line of march. The course of events places on the order of the day the development of our Chinese section into a powerful revolutionary party.
Tasks of the revolution in India
In the very first weeks of war the Indian masses exerted their growing pressure, compelling the opportunist “national” leaders to speak in an unaccustomed tongue. But woe to the Indian people if they place trust in high sounding words! Under the mask of the slogan of national independence, Gandhi has already hastened to proclaim his refusal to create difficulties for Great Britain during the present severe crisis. As if the oppressed anywhere or at any time have ever been able to free themselves except by exploiting the difficulties of their oppressors!
Gandhi’s “moral” revulsion from violence merely reflects the fear of the Indian bourgeoisie before their own masses. They have very good grounds for their foreboding that British imperialism will drag them down too in the collapse. London for its part warns that at the first display of disobedience it will apply “ail necessary measures”—including, of course, the air force in which it is deficient at the western front There is a clear cut division of labor between the colonial bourgeoisie and the British government: Gandhi needs the threats of Chamberlain and Churchill in order more successfully to paralyze the revolutionary movement
In the near future the antagonism between the Indian masses and the bourgeoisie promises to become sharper as the imperialist war more and more becomes a gigantic commercial enterprise for the Indian bourgeoisie. By opening up an exceptionally favorable market for raw materials it may rapidly promote Indian industry. If the complete destruction of the British empire slashes the umbilical cord linking Indian capital with the City of London, the national bourgeoisie would quickly seek a new patron in New York’s Wail Street The material interests of the bourgeoisie determine their politics with the force of the laws of gravitation.
So long as the liberating movement is controlled by the exploiting class it is incapable of getting out of a blind alley. The only thing that can weld India together is the agrarian revolution under the banner of national independence. A revolution led by the proletariat will be directed not only against British rule but also against the Indian princes, foreign concessions, the top layer of the national bourgeoisie, and the leaders of the National Congress, as well as against the leaders of the Moslem League. It is the pressing task of the Fourth International to create a stable and powerful section in India.
The treacherous policy of class collaboration, through which the Kremlin for the last five years has been helping the capitalist governments prepare for war, was abruptly liquidated by the bourgeoisie, just as soon as they ceased to need a pacifist disguise. But in the colonial and semi-colonial countries not only in China and India, but in Latin America—the fraud of the “People’s Fronts” still continues to paralyze the working masses, converting them into cannon fodder for the “progressive” bourgeoisie and in this way creating an indigenous political basis for imperialism.
The future of Latin America
The monstrous growth of armaments in the United States prepares for a violent solution of the complex contradictions in the Western Hemisphere and should soon pose point blank the question of the destiny of the Latin American countries. The interlude of the “Good Neighbor” policy is coming to an end. Roosevelt or his successor will quickly take the iron fist out of the velvet glove. The theses of the Fourth International state:
South and Central America will be able to tear themselves out of backwardness and enslavement only by uniting all their states into one powerful federation. But it is not the belated South American bourgeoisie, a thoroughly venal agency of foreign imperialism, who will be called upon to solve this task, but the young South American proletariat, the chosen leader of the oppressed masses. The slogan in the struggle against violence and intrigues of world imperialism and against the bloody work of native comprador cliques is therefore: the Soviet United States of South and Central America.
Written six years ago, these lines have now acquired a particularly burning actuality.
Only under its own revolutionary direction is the proletariat of the colonies and the semi-colonies capable of achieving in vincible collaboration with the proletariat of the metropolitan centers, and with the world working class as a whole. Only this collaboration can lead the oppressed peoples to complete and final emancipation, through the overthrow of imperialism the world over. A victory of the international proletariat will deliver the colonial countries from the long drawn out travail of capitalist development, by opening up the possibility of arriving at socialism hand in hand with the proletariat of the advanced countries.
The perspective of the permanent revolution in no case signifies that the backward countries must await the signal from the advanced ones, or that the colonial peoples should patiently wait for the proletariat of the metropolitan centers to free them. Help comes to him who helps himself. Workers must develop the revolutionary struggle in every country, colonial or imperialist, where favorable conditions have been established, and through this set an example for the workers of other countries. Only initiative and activity, resoluteness and boldness can really materialize the slogan “Workers of the world, unite!”
The responsibility of treacherous leaders for the war
The victory of the Spanish revolution could have opened up an era of revolutionary overturns throughout Europe and so forestalled the present war. But that heroic revolution, which contained within itself every possibility of victory, was smothered in the embrace of the Second and Third Internationals, with the active cooperation of the anarchists. The world proletariat became poorer in its loss of another great hope and richer in the lessons of another monstrous betrayal.
The mighty movement of the French proletariat in June 1936 revealed exceptionally favorable conditions for the revolutionary conquest of power. A French Soviet republic would immediately have gained revolutionary hegemony of Europe, created revolutionary repercussions in every country, rocked the totalitarian regimes, and in this way saved humanity from the present imperialist slaughter with its countless victims. But the thoroughly debased, cowardly, and treacherous policies of Leon Blum and Leon Jouhaux, with the active support of the French section of the Comintern, led to the collapse of one of the most promising movements of the last decade.
The strangling of the Spanish revolution and the sabotaging of the proletarian offensive in France—these two tragic facts stand at the threshold of the present war. The bourgeoisie convinced itself that with such “labor leaders” at its disposal it could go ahead with anything, even a new slaughter of peoples. The leaders of the Second International prevented the proletariat from overthrowing the bourgeoisie at the close of the first imperialist war. The leaders of the Second and Third Internationals helped the bourgeoisie unloose a second imperialist war. Let it become their political grave!
The Second International
The war of 1914 1918 split the Second International at once into two camps separated by trenches. Every social democratic party defended its fatherland. Not until several years after the war did the traitorous warring brethren become reconciled and proclaim mutual amnesty.
Today the situation in the Second International has changed sharply—on the surface. All its sections without exception are politically on one side of the military lines, in the camp of the Allies: some because they are parties in the democratic countries, others because they are émigré s from belligerent or neutral countries. The German Social Democracy which followed a despicable chauvinist policy during the first imperialist war under the Hohenzollern banner, today is a party of “defeatism” in the service of France and England. It would be inexcusable to believe that these case hardened lackeys have become revolutionists. There is a simpler explanation. The Germany of Wilhelm II offered the reformists sufficient openings for personal sinecures in the parliamentary bodies, municipalities, trade unions, and other places. The defense of imperial Germany was the defense of a well filled trough in which the conservative labor bureaucracy buried its snout. “Social Democracy remains patriotic just so long as the political regime assures it its profits and privileges,” warned our theses six years ago. Russian Mensheviks and Narodnilcs, who were patriots even under the czar—when they had their own Duma fractions, their own newspapers, their own trade union functionaries, and hoped for further advances along this road—now that they have lost all this, hold a defeatist position in regard to the USSR.
Consequently the present “unanimity” of the Second International is explainable by the fact that all of its sections hope that the Allies will save them their posts and revenues in the labor bureaucracy of the democratic countries and restore these posts and revenues in the totalitarian countries. The Social Democracy does not go beyond impotent daydreams about the patronage of the “democratic” bourgeoisie. These political invalids are completely incapable of struggle even where their own interests are involved. This was revealed most clearly in Scandinavia, which appeared to be the most secure sanctuary of the Second International and where all three countries were governed for a period of years by the sober, realistic, reformist, and pacifist Social Democracy. Socialism was what these gentlemen called the conservative royal democracy, plus the state church, plus the niggardly social reforms made possible for a time by limited military expenditures. Backed by the League of Nations and protected by the shield of “neutrality,” the Scandinavian governments calculated on generations of tranquil and peaceful development. But the imperialist masters paid no attention to their calculations. They were compelled to dodge the blows of fate. Upon the USSR invading Finland, all three Scandinavian governments proclaimed themselves neutral so far as Finland was concerned. Upon Germany’s invasion of Denmark and Norway, Sweden declared herself neutral so far as both victims of aggression were concerned. Denmark contrived to declare herself neutral even in relation to herself. Norway, under the gun muzzles of her guardian England, alone made a few symbolic gestures of self defense. These heroes are fully prepared to live at the expense of the democratic fatherland, but feel disinclined to die for it. The war which they did not foresee has in passing overthrown their hopes for a peaceful evolution under King and God. The Scandinavian paradise, final refuge of the Second International’s hopes, has been transformed into a tiny sector of the general imperialist hell.
The Social Democratic opportunists know but one policythat of passive adaptation. Under the conditions of decaying capitalism nothing remains open to them but the surrender of one position after another, the whittling away of their already miserable program, the lowering of their demands, the renunciation of demands altogether, continuous retreat further and further back until there is no place left to retreat except a rat hole. But even there the pitiless hand of imperialism drags them out by the tail. Such is a brief history of the Second International. It is being killed by the present war for the second time and, one must think, this time forever.
The Third International
The policy of the degenerated Third International—a mixtire of crude opportunism and unbridled adventurism—exercises an influence upon the working class which is, if possible, even more demoralizing than the policy of its elder brother, the Second International. The revolutionary party builds its entire policy upon the class consciousness of the workers; the Comintern is preoccupied with nothing but contaminating and poisoning this class consciousness.
The official propagandists of each of the belligerent camps expose, sometimes quite correctly, the crimes of the opposing camp. Goebbels tells a good deal of truth about British violence in India. The French and English press say a great many penetrating things about the foreign policy of Hitler and of Stalin. Nevertheless this one sided propaganda by itself represents the worst chauvinist poison. Half truths are the most dangerous kind of lies.
The entire present propaganda of the Comintern belongs to this category. After five years of the crudest fawning upon the democracies, when the whole of “communism” was reduced to the monotonous indictment of fascist aggressors, the Comintern suddenly discovered in the autumn of 1939 the criminal imperialism of the Western democracies. Left about face! From then on not a single word of condemnation about the destruction of Czechoslovakia and Poland, the seizure of Denmark and Norway, and the shocking bestialities inflicted by Hitler’s gangs on the Polish and Jewish people! Hitler was made out to be a peace loving vegetarian continually being provoked by the Western imperialists. The Anglo French alliance was referred to in the Comintern press as the “imperialist bloc against the German people” Goebbels himself could have cooked up nothing better! The émigré German Communist Party burned with the flame of love for the fatherland. And since the German fatherland had not ceased to be fascist it turned out that the German Communist Party held a social fascist position. The time had finally come when Stalin’s theory of social fascism took on flesh and blood.
At first sight the conduct of the French and English sections of the Communist International appeared to be diametrically opposite. In contradistinction to the Germans, they were compelled to attack their own government. But this sudden defeatism was not internationalism, but a distorted variety of patriotism —these gentlemen consider their fatherland to be the Kremlin, on which their welfare depends. Many of the French Stalinists behaved with unquestionable courage under persecution. But the political content of this courage was besmirched by their embellishment of the rapacious policy of the enemy camp. What must the French workers think of it?
Revolutionary internationalists have always been portrayed by reaction as agents of a foreign enemy. The Comintern created a situation for its French and English sections that made them provide the very grounds for such an accusation, and thereby forcibly drove the workers into the patriotic camp or condemned them to confusion and passivity.
The policy of the Kremlin is simple: it sold Hitler the Comintern along with oil and manganese. But the dog-like servility with which these people allowed themselves to be sold irrefutably testifies to the internal corruption of the Comintern. Neither principles, nor honor, nor conscience have been left to the Kremlin’s agents—only a supple spine. But people with supple spines have never yet led a revolution.
Stalin’s friendship with Hitler will not endure forever, nor even for any length of time. Before our manifesto reaches the masses the foreign policy of the Kremlin may undergo a new turn. In that case the character of the Comintern’s propaganda would also change. If the Kremlin draws close to the democracies, the Comintern will once again dig out of its warehouses the Brown Book of National Socialist crimes. But this does not mean that its propaganda will assume a revolutionary character. In changing labels it will remain as servile as before. Revolutionary policy demands that above all the masses be told the truth. But the Comintern lies systematically. We turn to the toilers of the world and say: Do not believe the liars!
The Social Democrats and the Stalinists in the colonies
Parties fled up with the exploiters and interested in privileges are organically incapable of carrying on an honest policy with respect to the most exploited layers of the toilers and the oppressed peoples. The physiognomy of the Second and Third Internationals, therefore, is revealed with special clarity in their attitude towards the colonies.
Acting as an attorney for the slaveholders and a shareholder in the profits of slavery, the Second International has no sections of its own in the colonies, if we ignore casual groups of colonial functionaries, predominantly French freemasons, and “left” careerists in general who sit on the backs of the native population. Having renounced opportunely the unpatriotic notion of rousing the colonial population against the “democratic fatherland,” the Second International has gained for itself the prerogative of supplying the bourgeoisie with ministers for the colonies, that is, slave drivers (Sidney Webb, Marius Moutet, and others).178
In a brief period of time the Third International, which began with a courageous revolutionary appeal to all the oppressed peoples, has likewise prostituted itself completely on the colonial question. Not so very many years ago, when Moscow saw an opportunity ahead for an alliance with the imperialist democracies, the Comintern advanced the slogans of national emancipation not only for Abyssinia and Albania, but also for Austria. But for the colonies of Britain and France it modestly restricted itself to wishes for “reasonable” reforms. At that time the Comintern defended the Indians not against Great Britain, but against possible attacks by Japan, and Tunis against the fangs of Mussolini. Now the situation has changed abruptly. Complete independence for India, Egypt, Algiers!—Dimitrov will accept no less. Arabs and Negroes have found theft best friend in Stalin once again, not counting, of course, Mussolini and Hitler. The German section of the Comintern, with that brazenness characteristic of this gang of parasites, defends Poland and Czechoslovakia against the plots of British imperialism. These people are capable of and ready for anything! With a new change in the Kremlin’s orientation towards the Western democracies they will again respectfully solicit London and Paris to grant liberal reforms to theft colonies.
In contrast to the Second International, the Comintern, thanks to its great tradition, exercises unquestionable influence in the colonies. But its social base has altered in accordance with its political evolution. At the present time, in countries of a colonial nature, the Comintern rests on the stratum which is the traditional base of the Second International in the metropolitan centers. The crumbs that drop from its super profits have enabled imperialism to create the semblance of a native labor aristocracy in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. Insignificant in comparison with its prototype in the metropolitan centers, it stands out, however, against the background of general poverty and maintains a tenacious grip on its privileges. The labor bureaucracy and aristocracy of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, together with the state functionaries, provide especially servile recruits for the “friends” of the Kremlin. In Latin America one of the most repulsive representatives of this type is the Mexican lawyer, Lombardo Toledano, whose intimate services the Kremlin has rewarded by elevating him to the decorative post of chairman of the Latin American Trade Union Federation.
By posing the questions of the class struggle point blank, the war creates for these jugglers and weathervanes an increasingly difficult position, which genuine Bolsheviks must utilize in order to sweep the Comintern out of the colonial countries forever.
Centrism and anarchism
By testing everything that exists and discarding everything rotten, war represents a mortal danger to the outlived Internationals. A considerable section of the Comintern bureaucracy, especially in case of reversals for the Soviet Union, will unfailingly turn to their own imperialist fatherland. The workers, on the contrary, will move more and more to the left Under such conditions splits and crack ups are inevitable. A number of symptoms also indicate the possibility that the “left” wing of the Second International Will break away. Centrist groupings of different origin will merge, break up, create new “fronts,” “camps,” etc. Our epoch will disclose, however, that it finds centrism intolerable. The pathetic and tragic role played in the Spanish revolution by the POUM, the most serious and honest of the centrist organizations, will always remain in the memory of the advanced proletariat as a terrible warning.
But history is fond of repetitions. The possibility is not excluded of new attempts to build an international organization on the pattern of the Two and a half International, or, this time, the Three and a quarter International. Such beginnings merit attention only as a reflection of far more profound processes taking place in the working masses. But it can be stated with certainty in advance that the centrist “fronts,” “camps,” and “Internationals,” lacking any theoretical foundation, revolutionary tradition, or finished program, will have only an ephemeral character. We shall assist them by mercilessly criticizing theft indecisiveness and half-heartedness.
This sketch of the bankruptcy of the old working class organizations would be incomplete if we failed to mention anarchism. Its decline constitutes the most incontestable phenomenon of our epoch. Even before the first imperialist war the French anarcho syndicalists succeeded in becoming the worst opportunists and the direct servants of the bourgeoisie. In the last war most of the international anarchist leaders came out as patriots. In the heat of the civil war in Spain, the anarchists took posts as ministers of the bourgeoisie. The anarchist phrasemongers deny the state so long as it does not need them. In the hour of danger they, like the Social Democrats, become agents of the capitalist class.
The anarchists entered the present war without a program, without a single idea, and with a banner dirtied by their betrayal of the Spanish proletariat Today they are incapable of introducing anything into the ranks of the workers save patriotic demoralization flavored with humanitarian lamentations. In seeking a rapprochement with the anarchist workers who are really prepared to fight for the interests of their class, we will at the same time demand that they make a complete break with those leaders who in war as well as in revolution serve as the messenger boys of the bourgeoisie.
The trade unions and the war
While the magnates of monopoly capitalism stand above the official organs of state power, controlling them from their heights, the opportunist trade union leaders scurry around the footstool of state power, creating support for it among the working masses. It is impossible to perform this filthy chore so long as workers’ democracy within the trade unions is maintained. The regime in the unions, following the pattern of the regime of the bourgeois states, is becoming more and more authoritarian. In wartime the trade union bureaucracy definitively becomes the military police of the army’s General Staff in the working class.
But no zeal will save it War brings death and destruction to the present reformist trade unions. Those trade unionists who are in theft prime are mobilized for the slaughter. They are replaced by boys, women, and old men, that is, those least capable of resistance. All countries will come out of the war so ruined that the standard of living for the workers will be thrown back a hundred years. Reformist unions are possible only under the regime of bourgeois democracy. But the first to be vanquished in the war will be the thoroughly rotten democracy. In its definitive downfall it will drag with it all the workers’ organizations which served as its support There will be no room for reformist unions. Capitalist reaction will destroy them ruthlessly. It is necessary to warn the workers of this at once and loud enough for everyone to hear.
A new epoch demands new methods. New methods demand new leaders. It is possible to save the trade unions in only one way: by transforming them into fighting organizations which will set as their goal victory over capitalist anarchy and imperialist banditry. The trade unions will play a paramount role in building socialist economy, but the preliminary condition for this is the overthrow of the capitalist class and the nationalization of the means of production. The trade unions can escape burial beneath the ruins of war only if they take the road of socialist revolution.
The Fourth International
The proletarian vanguard is the irreconcilable enemy of imperialist war. But it has no fear of this war. It accepts battle on the arena chosen by the class enemy. It enters this arena with its banners flying.
The Fourth International is the only organization that correctly predicted the general course of world events, that anticipated the inevitability of a new imperialist catastrophe, that exposed the pacifist frauds of the bourgeois democrats and the petty bourgeois adventurers of the Stalinist school, that fought against the policy of class collaboration bearing the name of the “People’s Fronts,” that pilloried the treacherous role of the Comintern and the anarchists in Spain, that irreconcilably criticized the centrist illusions of the POUM, that continued to steel its cadres unceasingly in the spirit of the revolutionary class struggle. Our policy in war is only a concentrated continuation of our policy in peace.
The Fourth International builds its program upon the granite theoretical foundations of Marxism. It rejects the contemptible eclecticism which now dominates the ranks of the official labor bureaucracy of the different camps, and which most frequently serves as a cloak for capitulation to bourgeois democracy. Our program is formulated in a series of documents accessible to everyone. The gist of it can be summed up in two words: proletarian dictatorship.
Our program founded on Bolshevism
The Fourth International stands completely and wholeheartedly on the foundation of the revolutionary tradition of Bolshevism and its organizational methods. Let the petty bourgeois radicals whine against centralism. A worker who has participated even once in a strike knows that no struggle is possible without discipline and a firm leadership. Our entire epoch is permeated with the spirit of centralism. Monopoly capitalism has brought economic centralization to its ultimate limits. State centralism in the guise of fascism assumed a totalitarian character. The democracies more and more attempt to emulate this pattern. The trade union bureaucracy is ruthlessly defending its powerful machine. The Second and Third Internationals are brazenly utilizing the state apparatus in their struggle against the revolution. Under these conditions the elementary guarantee of success is the counterposing of revolutionary centralism to the centralism of reaction. It is indispensable to have an organization of the proletarian vanguard welded together by iron discipline, a genuine selection of tempered revolutionists ready for self sacrifice and inspired by an unconquerable will to victory. To prepare the offensive systematically and painstakingly, and when the decisive hour strikes to throw the entire strength of the class on to the field of battle without faltering—only a centralized party which does not falter itself is capable of teaching this to the workers.
Shallow skeptics delight in citing the degeneration of Bolshevik centralism into bureaucratism. As though the entire course of history depended on the structure of a party! As a matter of fact, it is the fate of the party that depends on the course of the class struggle. But in any case, the Bolshevik Party was the only party that proved in action its capacity for accomplishing the proletarian revolution. It is precisely such a party that is needed now by the international proletariat. If the bourgeois regime comes out of the war with impunity, every revolutionary party will suffer degeneration. If the proletarian revolution conquers, those conditions that produce degeneration will disappear.
In the conditions of triumphant reaction, mass disillusionment, and mass fatigue, in a political atmosphere poisoned by the malignant decomposition of the traditional organizations of the working class, in the midst of heaped up difficulties and obstacles, the development of the Fourth International of necessity proceeded slowly. Isolated and at first sight much broader and more promising attempts at unifying the left wing have been undertaken more than once by centrists who disdained our efforts. All these pretentious attempts, however, crumbled to dust even before the masses had a chance to memorize their names. Only the Fourth International, with stubbornness, persistence, and increasing success keeps on swimming against the stream.
We have withstood the test?
What characterizes a genuine revolutionary organization is above all the seriousness with which it works out and tests its political line at each new turn of events. Centralism is made fruitful by democracy. In the fire of the war our sections passionately discuss all questions of proletarian policy, testing methods, and brushing off in passing those unstable elements who joined us only because of their opposition to the Second and Third Internationals. Separation from unreliable fellowtravelers is the inevitable overhead expense in the formation of a genuine revolutionary party.
The overwhelming majority of our comrades in different countries have withstood the first test of the war. This fact is of inestimable significance for the future of the Fourth International. Every rank and file member of our organization is not only entitled but duty bound to consider himself henceforth an officer in the revolutionary army that will be created in the flame of events. The entry of the masses into the revolutionary arena will reveal at once the insignificance of the opportunist, pacifist, and centrist programs. A single real revolutionist in a factory, a mine, a trade union, a regiment, a warship, is worth infinitely more than hundreds of petty-bourgeois pseudo-revolutionists stewing in their own juice.
The politicians of the big bourgeoisie are far better at orienting themselves on the role of the Fourth International than our petty bourgeois pedants. On the eve of breaking off diplomatic relations, the French ambassador Coulondre and Hitler, seeking during theft final interview to frighten each other by the consequences of the war, were in joint agreement that the “only real victor” would be the Fourth International. Upon the launching of hostilities against Poland, the major press of France, Denmark, and other countries carried dispatches saying that in the workers’ quarters in Berlin placards appeared on wails, “Down with Stalin, Long Live Trotsky!” This means: “Down with the Third International, Long Live the Fourth International!” When a demonstration was organized by the more resolute workers and students of Prague, on the anniversary of national independence, the “Protector” Baron Neurath issued an official declaration placing the responsibility for this demonstration upon the Czech “Trotskyites.” The correspondence from Prague that appears in the newspaper edited by Benes, the former president of the Czechoslovak republic, confirms the fact that the Czech workers are becoming “Trotskyites.” 181 As yet, all these are only symptoms. But they indicate unmistakably the trend of development. The new generation of workers whom the war will impel onto the road of revolution will take theft place under our banner.
The proletarian revolution
The basic conditions for the victory of the proletarian revolution have been established by historical experience and clarified theoretically: (1) the bourgeois impasse and the resulting confusion of the ruling class; (2) the sharp dissatisfaction and the striving towards decisive changes in the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie, without whose support the big bourgeoisie cannot maintain itself; (3) the consciousness of the intolerable situation and readiness for revolutionary actions in the ranks of the proletariat; (4) a clear program and a firm leadership of the proletarian vanguard—these are the four conditions for the victory of the proletarian revolution. The main reason for the defeats of many revolutions is rooted in the fact that these four conditions rarely attain the necessary degree of maturity at one and the same time. In history, war has not infrequently been the mother of revolution precisely because it rocks superannuated regimes to their foundation, weakens the ruling class, and hastens the growth of revolutionary indignation among the oppressed classes.
Already the disorientation of the bourgeoisie, the alarm and dissatisfaction of the popular masses are intense, not only in the warring but also in the neutral countries; these phenomena will become intensified with every passing month of the war. In the last twenty years, it is true, the proletariat has suffered one defeat after another, each graver than the preceding one, became disillusioned with its old parties, and met the war undoubtedly in depressed spirits. One should not, however, overestimate the stability or durability of such moods. Events created them; events will dispel them.
War as well as revolution is made first and foremost by the younger generation. Millions of the youth, unable to find access to industry, began theft lives as unemployed and therefore remained outside of political life. Today they are finding their place or they will find it on the morrow: the state organizes them into regiments and for this very reason opens the possibility for theft revolutionary unification. Without a doubt the war will also shake off the apathy of the older generations.
The problem of leadership
There remains the question of leadership. Will not the revolution be betrayed this time too, inasmuch as there are two Internationals in the service of imperialism while the genuine revolutionary elements constitute a tiny minority? In other words: shall we succeed in preparing in time a party capable of leading the proletarian revolution? In order to answer this question correctly it is necessary to pose it correctly. Naturally, this or that uprising may end and surely will end in defeat owing to the immaturity of the revolutionary leadership. But it is not a question of a single uprising. It is a question of an entire revolutionary epoch.
The capitalist world has no way out, unless a prolonged death agony is so considered. It is necessary to prepare for long years, if not decades, of war, uprisings, brief interludes of truce, new wars, and new uprisings. A young revolutionary party must base itself on this perspective. History will provide it with enough opportunities and possibilities to test itself, to accumulate experience, and to mature. The swifter the ranks of the vanguard are fused the more the epoch of bloody convulsions will be shortened, the less destruction will our planet suffer. But the great historical problem will not be solved in any case until a revolutionary party stands at the head of the proletariat The question of tempos and time intervals is of enormous importance; but it alters neither the general historical perspective nor the direction of our policy. The conclusion is a simple one: it is necessary to carry on the work of educating and organizing the proletarian vanguard with tenfold energy. Precisely in this lies the task of the Fourth International.
The greatest error is committed by those who, in seeking to justify pessimistic conclusions, refer simply to the sad consequences of the last war. In the first place, the last war gave birth to the October Revolution upon whose lessons the labor movement of the whole world lives. In the second place, the conditions of the present war differ profoundly from the conditions of 1914. The economic position of the imperialist states, including the United States, is infinitely worse today, and the destructive power of war is infinitely greater than was the case a quarter of a century ago. There is therefore sufficient reason to expect this time a much more rapid and much more decisive reaction on the part of the workers and of the army.
The experience of the first war did not pass without deeply affecting the masses. The Second International drew its strength from the still almost untouched democratic and pacifist illusions of the masses. The workers seriously hoped that the war of 1914 would be the last war. The soldiers allowed themselves to be killed in order to spare their children a new slaughter. Only thanks to this hope could men have withstood war for more than four years. Today almost nothing remains of the democratic and pacifist illusions. The peoples are suffering the present war without any longer believing in it, without expecting anything more from it than new chains. This applies also to the totalitarian states. The older generation of the workers who bore on their backs the burden of the first imperialist war and who have not forgotten its lessons are still far from eliminated from the arena. In the ears of the next to the oldest generation, which went to school during wartime, the false slogans of patriotism and pacifism are still ringing. The inestimable political experience of these strata who are now crushed by the weight of the war machine will reveal itself in full force when the war compels the toiling masses to come out openly against their governments.
Either socialism or slavery
Our theses, War and the Fourth International (1934), state that:
the exposure of the thoroughly reactionary, putrified, and robber nature of modern capitalism, the destruction of democracy, reformism and pacifism, the urgent and burning need of the proletariat to find a safe path away from imminent disaster put the international revolution on the agenda with renewed force.
Today it is no longer a question, as was the case in the nineteenth century, of simply assuring a more rapid and more healthy development of economic life: today it is a question of saving mankind from suicide. It is precisely the acuteness of the historical problem that completely cuts the ground from under the feet of the opportunist parties. The party of the revolution, on the contrary, finds a wellspring of inexhaustible power in the consciousness of the fact that it carries out inexorable historical necessity.
Moreover, it is impermissible to put on the same plane the present revolutionary vanguard with those isolated internationalists who raised their voices at the outbreak of the last war. Only the Russian party of the Bolsheviks represented a revolutionary force at that time. But even the latter, in its overwhelming majority, failed, except for a small émigré group around Lenin, to shed its national narrowness and to rise to the perspective of the world revolution.
The Fourth International in numbers and especially in preparation possesses infinite advantages over its predecessors at the beginning of the last war. The Fourth International is the direct heir of Bolshevism in its flower. The Fourth International has absorbed the tradition of the October Revolution and has transmuted into theory the experience of the richest historical period between the two imperialist wars. It has faith in itself and its future.
War, let us once again recall, speeds up enormously the political development. Those great tasks which only yesterday seemed long years, if not decades away, can loom up directly before us in the next two or three years, and even sooner. Programs which are based on habitual peacetime conditions will inevitably remain dangling in midair. On the other hand, the Fourth International’s program of transitional demands, which seemed so “unreal” to nearsighted politicians, will reveal its full significance in the process of the mobilization of the masses for the conquest of state power.
At the beginning of the new revolution, the opportunists will once again strive, just as they did a quarter of a century ago, to imbue the workers with the idea that it is impossible to build socialism on ruins and devastation. As if the proletariat is free to choose! It is necessary to build on those foundations which history provides. The Russian Revolution showed that workers’ rule can raise even a very backward country out of deepest poverty. All the greater are the miracles open to the proletariat of the advanced countries. War destroys structures, railways, factories, mines; but it cannot destroy technology, science, skills. Alter creating its own state, correctly organizing its own ranks, drawing into the work qualified forces bequeathed by the bourgeois regime, and organizing production according to a unified plan, the proletariat will not only restore within a few years everything destroyed by war, but will also create conditions for the greatest blossoming of culture on the foundation of solidarity.
WHAT TO DO
This manifesto is adopted by the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International at a moment when, after overwhelming Holland and Belgium and crushing the initial resistance of the Ailed troops, the German armies are roiling like a tide of fire towards Paris and the Channel. In Berlin they are already hastening to celebrate victory. In the camp of the Allies there is alarm, verging on panic. Here we have neither the possibility nor the need to engage in strategical speculations concerning the next stages of the war. Hitler’s tremendous preponderance is in any case now placing its seal upon the political physiognomy of the whole world.
“But isn’t the working class obliged in the present conditions to aid the democracies in their struggle against German fascism!” That is how the question is put by broad petty bourgeois circles for whom the proletariat always remains only an auxiliary tool of this or that faction of the bourgeoisie. We reject this policy with indignation. Naturally there exists a difference between the political regimes in bourgeois society just as there is a difference in comfort between various cars in a railway train. But when the whole train is plunging into an abyss, the distinction between decaying democracy and murderous fascism disappears in the face of the collapse of the entire capitalist system.
By his victories and bestialities, Hitler provokes naturally the sharp hatred of workers the world over. But between this legitimate hatred of workers and the helping of his weaker but not less reactionary enemies is an unbridgeable gulf. The victory of the imperialists of Great Britain and France would be not less frightful for the ultimate fate of mankind than that of Hitler and Mussolini. Bourgeois democracy cannot be saved. By helping their bourgeoisie against foreign fascism, the workers would only accelerate the victory of fascism in their own country. The task posed by history is not to support one part of the imperialist system against another but to make an end of the system as a whole.
Workers must learn military arts
The militarization of the masses is further intensified every day. We reject the grotesque pretension of doing away with this militarization through empty pacifist protests. All the great questions will be decided in the next epoch arms in hand. The workers should not fear arms; on the contrary they should learn to use them. Revolutionists no more separate themselves from the people during war than in peace. A Bolshevik strives to become not only the best trade unionist but also the best soldier.
We do not wish to permit the bourgeoisie to drive untrained or hall trained soldiers at the last hour onto the battlefield. We demand that the state immediately provide the workers and the unemployed with the possibility of learning how to handle the rifle, the hand grenade, the machine gun, the cannon, the airplane, the submarine, and the other tools of war. Special military schools are necessary in close connec tion with the trade unions so that the workers can become skilled specialists of the military art, able to hold posts as commanders.
This is not our war!
At the same time we do not forget for a moment that this war is not our war. In contradistinction to the Second and Third Internationals, the Fourth International builds its policy not on the military fortunes of the capitalist states but on the transformation of the imperialist war into a war of the workers against the capitalists, on the overthrow of the ruling classes of all countries, on the world socialist revolution. The shifts in the battle lines at the front, the destruction of national capitals, the occupation of territories, the downfall of individual states, represent from this standpoint only tragic episodes on the road to the reconstruction of modern society.
Independently of the course of the war, we fulfill our basic task: we explain to the workers the irreconcilability between their interests and the interests of bloodthirsty capitalism; we mobilize the toilers against imperialism; we propagate the unity of the workers in all warring and neutral countries; we call for the fraternization of workers and soldiers within each country, and of soldiers with soldiers on the opposite side of the battle front; we mobilize the women and youth against the war; we carry on constant, persistent, tireless preparation for the revolution—in the factories, in the mills, in the villages, in the barracks, at the front, and in the fleet
This is our program. Proletarians of the world, there is no other way out except to unite under the banner of the Fourth International!
Last updated on 12.5.2005