From Fourth International, Vol.12 No.2, March-April 1951, pp.63-64.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
On March 17 and 18, the founding convention of the new Independent Workers Party is to take place in Germany. A lively pre-convention discussion has been taking place in its ranks. Most of the participants have only recently broken away from the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) and the SED (Socialist Unity Party), the Stalinist organizations in the Western and Eastern zones, respectively. A good deal of the discussion has had as its medium, the Freie Tribüne, the excellent weekly of the Preparatory Commission for the Formation of the Independent Workers Party. In order to present a graphic example of the leadership’s attitude in that discussion, of the atmosphere of tension in which it takes place within this key country in the “cold war,” and of the indomitable revolutionary spirit animating the new movement, we carry below a polemical article on the crucial question of rearmament by one of the leaders, published in a recent issue of their weekly. – Ed.
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Lately we have been receiving letters repeatedly, in which readers of Freie Tribüne take issue with our opposition to the remilitarization of Western Germany. In one such letter a comrade explains his position in the following characteristic sentences:
“I read Freie Tribüne with great interest. Many of its articles I find very good but there is one thing I do not like: we who have come out of the KPD and SED and have become opponents of Stalin, cannot be neutral in the face of Soviet aggression, which in Europe today threatens West Germany most after Yugoslavia. We must be prepared ... to struggle against Soviet aggression ... While maintaining our just criticism of the Western Governments we should not forget that as against the Stalin system they represent the lesser evil. If war should come then it would be our task to see to it that it (1) is not directed against the Slav peoples but only against the Stalin system, and that (2) the socialist conquests are not disturbed but on the contrary, further expanded.”
Here we have in concentrated form a position which is common to disillusioned socialists in Western Germany today. It contains a number of arguments with which we must seriously deal.
The comrade who sent us the letter quoted proceeds from the assumption that the Third World War is very near and that the Stalinist bureaucracy is its motive force. We cannot accept this premise. We do not think that a third world war is as immediate as the propaganda on both sides of the Iron Curtain wants to make us believe. This propaganda aims to lull the working masses so that they will bend willingly to the desires of the rulers, so that they will patiently support the immense burden of armaments and allow their most important democratic rights to be robbed from them without any resistance. In reality however, neither of the two opposing power concentrations dares as yet launch the new world war. The peoples, particularly those of Europe, are not ready to enter into a new slaughter. They are neither materially nor morally prepared. But without the submission of broad masses a world war is a neck-risking enterprise for the ruling powers.
How do matters stand with the Soviet Union? We admit that it is not simple to resist the pounding of the propaganda drums to which Western public opinion is submitted day after day. Publicists no longer debate as to whether the Kremlin wants to “swallow” Western Europe, but only as to when. But the discussion of the question must really begin with that first question. The latest events in the Far East have appeared to contribute considerably to support the thesis of “Soviet aggression.” But here too we have no reason to accept official Western propaganda without examining it more closely. It is necessary to look into the social and national contradictions which form the fertile soil for the outbreak of these conflicts.
But let us return to Europe. Here the writer of the letter quoted sees, aside from Yugoslavia, above all Western Germany as being threatened by Soviet aggression. Insofar as Yugoslavia is concerned, he is undoubtedly right. The Kremlin bureaucracy dreads an independent socialist force inside its sphere of influence, and that is why political motives compel the Kremlin to threaten Yugoslavia. Even if we assume that Stalin would like to swallow Western Europe for some reason, we nevertheless must grant that he is sufficiently circumspect not to bite off more than he can chew. Is his capacity sufficient to achieve this goal militarily? Is he in condition to digest such a “bite”?
From recent experience we know that in the long run it becomes very difficult to hold down an advanced country by means of military oppression. This experience was not unique with Hitler. Stalin is also undergoing it at present.
We therefore do not believe that we are immediately threatened with Soviet aggression. We do not take stock in the propaganda which pictures the immense armament drive of the West as an innocent measure of “defense.”
We believe, moreover, that armament is a means for capitalism to overcome economic difficulties that threaten it. We are of the opinion that the best way to fight against the danger of war is to oppose the. politics of capitalism in our own country. This is the only possible socialist way.
The Western Governments, according to the writer cited, represent the “lesser evil” as against the Stalin system.
If with these words nothing more is meant than that we independent socialists, for the moment, can still openly defend our ideas and build our organizations in the Western countries, then that is doubtless true. But it seems to us that the author of the letter goes beyond that and means something different.
He considers that the politics of the West with all of its consequences signifies a lesser evil for us as against the Stalin system. On this point too we are decidedly of another opinion. We believe that the politics of the West must lead to war of its own inner logic. In view of such a perspective the question of the lesser evil becomes meaningless. For in the last analysis it can hardly matter whether we are pulverized by American atom bombs or mowed down by Russian tanks.
Nor is Western democracy today in a good condition. Let us not forget that the rising armament budgets inevitably imply a considerable sinking in the living standards of the workers. This means of necessity that the coercive apparatus of every state must be strengthened in order to master the dangers arising from mass sentiments of dissatisfaction. Experience teaches that such measures are not directed against Stalinists alone, but also against the working class which resists in order to defend its political rights. Propaganda against Bolshevism is utilized in order to justify dictatorial measures. Even today in our country, there are not a few outcries that the Trade Unions are preparing the ground for “Bolshevism” ...
If a socialist movement ties itself to the politics of one of the power blocs, it commits political suicide. But this picture is particularly true today for the West. Our present task consists not in draping a little democratic cloak around the war, but in preventing it. We hold the view that this is still possible.
We have taken the path of forming an independent worker’s party precisely because a strong socialist movement will be capable of thwarting the plans of the warmongers. This can hardly be done by considering the Western capitalist powers as “forces of protection.”
The comrade is of the opinion that a war against the Soviet Union could, to a certain extent, be “democratized,” so that it would be turned, not against the people, but only against the Stalin system. But we know from experience that it is always the mass of the people who serve as targets for the bombs and grenades rather than the rulers. Eventually the war of the Western powers can only become an anti-Bolshevik crusade and a war of annihilation like the last one. It will be an imperialist war, not for the liberation of the peoples of Eastern Europe from the yoke of Stalinism, but for the destruction of the military and economic might of the East in the conquest of markets and sources of raw material. To demand of the strategists of such a war that they leave untouched all the socialist achievements, and moreover that they expand these achievements, is an unforgivable illusion. Naturally as in every previous war,, there will be the promise: we are waging war not against your peoples but only against your wicked governments! In practice it has always turned out otherwise.
We know only too well that Stalinism is a serious danger for us as an independent socialist movement. We know how much the workers in the East suffer under its system. But if we want to protect ourselves from this danger, and if we want to aid in liberating the peoples from its oppression, we must not forget that our aim can never be achieved in league with a military power cut on the Prussian pattern. We can protect and extend our democratic liberties only in the struggle for socialism. That is not simple today, because the instrument needed for this struggle, an independent socialist movement, still has to be created.
In this connection we need not dwell upon the various evil signs of our Western civilization (on the misery of those driven from their homes, on the unemployed, on the spiraling prices and on the luxuries of the possessing classes). All this is only too well known, and has its effect on the thinking of millions. Even very conservative bourgeois politicians have come to the conclusion that the average citizen of the West German federal republic is not prepared to give his life for Herr Erhard’s “social market economy.” These politicians draw the lesson: it is first necessary to make life in West Germany worth living; then, allegedly, it can also be defended.
A Herr Kogan, for instance, thinks that it is sufficient for us to be incorporated in a European Union in order to make of our youth enthusiastic soldiers of Europe. He has been greeted with a storm of protests. The president of the trade unions, Dr. Böckler, is of the opinion that all that is necessary for us to want to defend ourselves is the Co-determination Law. Social Democratic politicians declare that they must be taken into the Bonn Government so that they can abolish social misery. All of them think that this or that national or social patchwork can overcome the manifest antipathy and defeatism of the German population.
We, on the other hand, say that only in a struggle for socialism can the working people attain a life worth living. Only in and through this struggle will they gain the strength necessary for a powerful defense of their achievements and for the conquest of broader rights.
Last updated on: 23 March 2009