From Fourth International, Vol.4 No.10, October 1943, pp.297-300.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The Second World War has unquestionably gone far beyond its predecessor of twenty-five years ago in its ferocity, its destructiveness and its all-inclusiveness. The war has swept into its whirlpool the peoples of virtually the whole globe, the colonies as well as the metropolitan centers. Even the neutral countries have not escaped its all-embracing effects. In this war the dividing line is beginning to disappear between civilians and soldiers.
The war poses all the questions of the class struggle point blank. It subjects all peoples, ideas, organizations, institutions and systems to an inexorable test. It abhors all ambiguity. The war rejects all half measures. It exposes all that is rotten and decaying.
This war is bringing to a close that historic period of capitalism where politics was characterized by unlimited compromises, by huckstering between the different political factions and cliques, by political stockjobbery of all kinds. The politics of pre-war Europe is vanishing before our very eyes.
The day is past when the politics of reformism—the elaboration of empty, high-sounding “compromise” schemes which threw a sop to the masses, while leaving the domination of the monopolies and banks untouched, and all the essential problems of the masses unsolved—were adjudged as the highest political wisdom. The foundation has been withdrawn from this kind of politics. Capitalism in its death agony cannot offer the people even the smallest reforms, even the most insignificant improvements. It cannot even offer them the miserable standard of living of pre-war Europe. Capitalism in the period of its terrible decay and decline, can offer the masses of Europe only a new serfdom, political reaction, starvation, disease and self-destructive wars.
The contradictions of this epoch are too profoundly acute, the catastrophic downward plunge of capitalism is too headlong, the needs of humanity too unpostponable, to provide much leeway for the middle-of-the-road politicians whose stock in trade consists of parliamentary trickery and jugglery.
New “democratic” capitalist governments, on the model of the Weimar Republic of 1918 or the British Labor government of Ramsay McDonald, may still be formed. The emergence of such governments remains a distinct possibility, however, only because the European working class is badly disorganized. The organization of such “democratic” capitalist governments will not signify that Europe is about to repeat the experience of the last war and go through a prolonged period of “democratic” capitalism. It only means that the capitalist rulers will be forced to push forward “democratic” capitalist governments in a desperate attempt to halt the radicalization of the masses and their struggle for a new socialist society. Such governments will be of an extremely unstable nature and of very short duration. They will represent not a new equilibrium, but merely a short-lived stage ending either in the victory of the workers’ revolution which will establish a socialist republic or the definitive victory of the counter-revolution, which will establish a stark-reactionary military dictatorship.
The only revolutionary forces in Europe today are the working class
in alliance with the city and country poor. The only revolution which
the working class can and will lead is the socialist revolution. The
only alternative to the present rule of the industrialists and the
banks is the rule of the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ Soviets.
Roosevelt and Churchill both represent “democratic “ capitalist governments. But the trend even in the United States and Great Britain is toward totalitarianism, toward dictatorship. Strikes are outlawed in the both countries. The democratic rights of the people are systematically being trampled upon and destroyed. Both the US and Britain possess numerically powerful labor movements; the Anglo-American capitalists are thus forced to proceed with a certain caution in their home countries. In Europe, however, they feel no such restraint, in the pursuit of their openly counter-revolutionary aims.
Roosevelt and Churchill understand that it is not in the cards to establish stable “democratic” capitalist governments in Europe today. Given free scope, given their democratic rights, the European working class will not require overly much time to organize its revolutionary party, and to overthrow all of its capitalist oppressors. The choice, from the Roosevelt-Churchill point of view, is a Franco-type government or the spectre of the socialist revolution. (Roosevelt and Churchill prefer to call it “anarchy. “)
The war is bringing the fact home that there exist only two fundamental world programs today—the stark-reactionary, imperialist program of the ruling classes, representing the monopolists, the cartel owners, the banks, and the world program of the socialist revolution, that is, the program of the Fourth International. All the programs, or lack of programs, of all the intermediate groups, the Stalinists, the laborites, the social-democrats, the liberals, the centrists, the pacifists, etc., etc., all reduce themselves in the last analysis to eclectic hodge-podge concoctions in the service of big Capital. They represent the pathetic waverings of the middle class between the big capitalists and the working class. The petty bourgeois groupings, tossed about like a feather in a gale storm, capitulating to the imperialists at every critical juncture, demonstrate again the profound Marxist truth that the middle class can have no basic program of its own today but must espouse the program of one or the other of the two fundamental classes of present-day society.
The example of Stafford Cripps is highly instructive in this regard. In pre-war Europe, Sir Stafford might have spoken his empty banalities for many years and have established a reputation for being a great social thinker, a great “left-winger “, a do-gooder, a friend of the common man and of suffering humanity. Today major political questions cannot be so easily evaded. Almost overnight, history, in the guise of Winston Churchill, grabbed up by the collar this estimable, middle-class muddlehead and converted him into an open agent of British imperialism which at that very moment was engaged in the attempt to strangle the Indian revolution. The historic period when the heroes of the golden mean can bask in the sunshine of middle-class public opinion is rapidly drawing to a close.
Both the programs of Marxism and of world capitalism base themselves upon the reality of the present-day world. They have this much in common:—they both seek to analyze and evaluate the actual facts of the class struggle. That being the case, it is important to establish exactly what is the perspective of the big bourgeoisie? How do they evaluate the present situation in Europe, the outcome of the war?
Of course, it is not so simple a matter to discover these facts, as one might imagine. In spite of the thousands of books published each year, in spite of the hundreds of speeches delivered over the air waves, it takes considerable effort to ascertain the true opinions and plans of the leaders and spokesmen of Big Business. The capitalist statesmen of England and the U.S., no less than those of the fascist countries, rule to a great extent by deceit. Hypocrisy, lying, trickery and double talk have been developed by these capitalist statesmen into a veritable art. Mastery of this art is an indispensable prerequisite for any individual who aspires to become a bourgeois statesman. Capitalist writing and oratory require the ability to weave high sounding, sonorous phrases that mean nothing and commit one to nothing, but are intended to lull and soothe the people, to quiet their fears, arouse their hopes and retain their confidence.
When you are trying to glean the policy of a Roosevelt or a Churchill from one of their speeches, you have to go about studying the material at hand in the manner of a detective studying clues in a crime case. You have to read the speech “between the lines.” A recent article entitled British Policy—A Conservative Forecast by Quintin Hogg in the October issue of Foreign Affairs, is very illuminating for an understanding of Churchill’s declarations and provides a key for a more profound understanding of the policies and aims of Anglo-American capitalism. Quintin Hogg is an important member of the influential group of young Disraelian Tories, and is a member of the British House of Commons from Oxford.
The British Tribune, organ of Stafford Cripps-Aneurin Bevan, characterizes this group in the following manner:
“The British traditionalists are still desperately in
need of the active support of the organized Socialist movement of Great
Britain, for the task which they now have to achieve is infinitely more
delicate than the one which faced them when Germany was loaded with
military menace. What they now need is the cooperation of British
labor in the murder of the infant European revolution. That is why
reaction in Britain must still wear the mask of progressivism without
at any moment yielding a single bulwark of privilege. That is why the
young Disraelian Tories, like Lord Hutchingbroke, Quintin Hogg and Hugh
Molson, continue to mouth the phrases of reformism anent the social
services of Britain while, at the same time, they become almost
incoherent with rage if our policy toward Europe is questioned. “
Quintin Hogg, as we see, is an authoritative spokesman and member of the British ruling class. His article, printed in a magazine read by government officials, diplomats, professors etc., but not widely read by the general public, gives a less guarded and far more complete picture of where the imperialists are heading than the speeches of Churchill or Roosevelt. As a matter of fact, the discerning reader quickly grasps the fact that the policy outlined in this article dove-tails with the policy enunciated by Roosevelt, Churchill, Eden and Hull. As a rule their policy has to be reconstructed from hints and phrases, it has to be read between the lines in the declarations of these capitalist statesmen. The same policy is stated more thoroughly, completely and frankly in this article.
“The first principle of the conservative statesman,” writes Hogg, “is to try and think himself ahead into the concrete situation with which he is likely to be faced ... But what is the situation likely to be?” Hogg gives the picture as the British Tories see it:
“This war is not going to end like the last. To appropriate a line from T.S. Eliot, it will end ‘not with a bang but a whimper.’ There will not be an Armistice. There will be no last shots fired at 11:05 a.m. There will not be a certain moment at which we are at war and a subsequent moment at which we are at peace and free to reconstruct the world. There will be a confused period in which the problems of peace and the problems of war are inextricably intertwined — the only peace of reconstruction we are likely to get. After that it will be too late to reconstruct. “
“The two immediate factors of the situation in Europe after the defeat of Hitler will be the necessity of military occupation and European relief. We—and I mean the United States, the USSR and the British Commonwealth—will not be driven to these acts by vindictiveness or sentimentality but by the sheer logic of events. Some will not like the policy they entail. All will have to accept it.
“I think that this was what Mr. Churchill had in mind in his somewhat guarded reference ...
“The first purpose will involve the maintenance of a large military force in Germany. The Nazi regime has destroyed every organization that might conceivably have formed the basis for an opposition ... When the Nazis fall there will be a void. Pockets of isolated Nazi fanatics will hold out, will be suppressed and from time to time will break out again in fits of hysterical resistance. Droves of expropriated workers will roam far and wide without the means of livelihood. Towns will have been battered. Food supplies will have been disorganized. Epidemic disease will probably appear on an enormous scale.
“All Europe, as well as Germany, will be in confusion. Peoples will rise against the remnants of the Nazi occupying power but will not thereby achieve unity. The Giraud-de Gaulle controversy is only a foretaste of factional disputes to come. Some of the Quislings will rat. Others will continue their treachery in varying degrees. Always there will be an insistent cry for food. Homeless people will demand houses. War prisoners and foreign workers from German factories will ask care and lodging on their way borne in places which cannot accommodate them. Factories will be closed. Chaos will reign everywhere. The one unifying force will be the armies of the United Nations. The one sure source of food will be the United Nations Relief Organization. The one instrument of political security will be the authority of the victorious Powers.
“It is idle to pretend that this period of chaos will prove short. Houses are not built in a day. It will take time to repatriate Hitler’s slave labor and years to reorganise industrial production. The agriculture of Europe is not going to recover for fifteen years or more. The cattle have been slaughtered. The fields are partly unfertilized. The farmers and their laborers have been scattered. And in Germany itself the disease of Nazism will take at least a generation to eradicate.
“Europe as we knew it has disappeared. Possibly it has ceased forever to be the economic or political center of the world ... “
In the light of this harsh and cruel picture of post-war Europe, how hollow, how empty, how pathetic is the chatter of the liberals and laborites about post-war reconstruction, about the century of the common man, about the brave new world “we all seek to build. “ Like religion, these slogans are intended as opium for the people.
The British ruling class knows the real facts and their only program
is, in partnership with the United States, to preserve and ensure their
power and privileges by converting the peoples of Europe into serfs,
under the rule of Anglo-American bayonets and threats of starvation.
That is the cold-blooded, barbaric program which the Anglo-American
capitalists offer as their “solution” to the European problem. As Hogg
puts it: “Some will not like the policy ... All will have to accept it. “
From all sides comes confirmation that Hogg’s is no individual opinion. On the contrary, this represents the deliberate, calculated, predetermined and authoritative policy of Wall and Lombard Streets. Two important pronouncements verify this fact. The September 24 NY Times reports that US Secretary of State Cordell Hull declared to newspaper reporters that “food and order” will be the two-fold key for Wall Street’s plans to subjugate Europe. The Times states:
“In emphasizing the importance of the project (United Nations Relief), the Secretary of State recalled how four nations slipped into anarchy after the last war and warned that as many as fourteen nations would follow that course after the present war, unless someone fed them. “
This statement should be studied in connection with the speech delivered in England the same week by Sir Samuel Hoare, British Ambassador to Spain. Sir Samuel Hoare declared that Britain has become the “leading military power in Europe.” “Having achieved this power, “ he asserted, “Britain does not intend to abandon it and ‘tomorrow it may be the safeguard of European stability’ ... “
“Sir Samuel placed ‘food and order’ as the first needs of Europe, “ the New York Times correspondent reports. “We are prepared in full cooperation with our great Allies to prevent famine by insuring the effective distribution of food supplies and to forestall anarchy by Allied garrisons at key points on the continent. “
These are the plans, these are the intentions of British
imperialism. But there is a great gap between desire and
accomplishment. Hogg of course recognizes that Britain has lost her
world preeminence. “... Our industrial ascendancy has disappeared.
Financially and economically the US is incomparably the greatest Power in the
world.” He hopes, however, and this is the hope of the British Tories,
that Britain will be indispensable, even though in a junior capacity,
in Wall Street’s drive for world hegemony. “Can American trade function
in Africa and Asia without British political assistance?” he demands.
Hogg thinks it cannot.
But even if Britain is able to establish itself as the junior partner of the firm of Anglo-American capitalism and even if the war with Hitler is successfully concluded, there still remain the war with Japan and the necessity of reestablishing Anglo-American hegemony in the Far East.
“The result,” writes Hogg, “will be a period of peace and war. Part of our industry will be switching to the reconstruction of Europe and Great Britain. Part will still be supplying the armed forces. Part of the armed forces will be transferred to the Far East; part to the European Army of Occupation. But some will return to industry ...” He forecasts that:
“This will raise intricate problems within the armed forces. Who is going back first to get civilian jobs? Veterans of Tunis and Burma will strain to come back to England, only to be told that they are wanted in the European Army of Occupation, or to fight the Japanese. Boys will be sent out from this country to take the places of demobilized men just as they come to think the war is over. Demobilization will become a thorny political problem.
“The end of the war with Germany will set up a new series of shortages. It is estimated that bombing, lack of repairs and shifts in population, added to existing slums and overcrowding, will give Britain a shortage of 4,000,000 dwelling houses in 1944—more than ten years’ output at maximum prewar rates. Our clothes are wearing out. Everything is getting shabby and out of repair. We shall be short of timber, short of ships, short of food, short of oil and, above all, short of men.
“Certain political conclusions follow from this. Mr. Churchill is one of the few men who have had the courage to draw them. If government is not to break down it will have to he strong government. The mere demand for demobilization from within the services will ensure the continuance of conscription to replace those who are demobilized. There will still be rationing, because there will still be shortages; a system of priorities will still govern new production. Some requisitioning of housing accommodation is probable. Rent restriction is certain to continue so long as there is a shortage of houses; and there may be a continuation of billeting and of compulsory labor service ... “
Such is the future that the British ruling class holds out for the British people. Regardless of military victory, nay, on the assumption of military victory, the war economy plus the organization and maintenance of huge armies and military establishments will continue for a very long time to come. How long? The only authorative statement given out on this score thus far has come from Knox, US Secretary of the Navy. He blurted out in an unguarded moment that the US and Britain will have to police the world for the next hundred years. By then Knox and his friends feel that it will be safe. Or maybe they will demand an additional extension.
Hogg undestands too well that such a program cannot survive even the ordinary rigors of British parliamentary contest. “Will these become party issues?” he apprehensively inquires. “No government,” Hogg is convinced, “can withstand grievances on the scale which will exist, if they are given organized expression by a powerful Parliamentary opposition.” He then quotes Churchill’s plea for a continuation of the present coalition after the war. “Anybody who opposes Mr. Churchill’s plea for national unity after victory, will, I believe, be simply swept off the map,” he melodramatically warns the weak-kneed Labor Party leadership.
This perspicacious, class-conscious Tory unwittingly gives testimony
on behalf of our contention that the treacherous labor bureaucracy of
the Bevin-Morrison type, as of the Murray-Green variety, constitutes
today an indispensable cog in the maintenance of the stability of the
capitalist regimes both in Britain and the United States. Apparently
the stability of the mightiest capitalisms rests on none too firm a
In the temporary stabilization that capitalism achieved
in Europe after 1923, the middle-of-the-road politicians of the yellow
Second International told the workers that their methods of peaceful
and gradual evolution were safer, demanded less sacrifice and bloodshed
than the aggressive, sanguinary methods of the Russian Revolution. They
assured the working class that the reformist policies of the British
Labor Party or the German Social-Democratic Party, the methods of
peaceful election contests, the routine organization of trade unions,
and the winning of modest reforms etc., guaranteed the gradual,
peaceful and painless transition to the new socialist society. This
argument had a certain appeal and exercised considerable influence on
sections of the working class of Europe. Of course, the yellow
“socialists” did not bring socialism to the European workers. Neither
were the workers in Italy, Germany and Spain spared the rigors and
violence of civil war. Nor were the European workers spared the horrors
of the Second World War.
Under Czarism, with its tyrannical, barbaric and murderous rule, the Russian working class quickly shed its reformist illusions and learned the lesson of revolutionary Internationalism. The Russian working class was the first to build a powerful Bolshevik party and the, first to make a successful socialist revolution.
In similar fashion, the Europe of today provides little soil for reformism to take root and flourish. The Europe of today leaves little room for philistine illusions. Gradualism will be thought of in the next period as a bizarre, totally unrealistic philosophy. The war is pounding home the grim lesson that the workers’ revolution is the only way to end the imperialist slaughter, that the Socialist United States of Europe is the only alternative to the present madhouse of capitalist Europe.
The European workers can be depended on to rebuild their revolutionary socialist International, the Fourth International, on lines that correspond to the requirements and needs of the present epoch. The present epoch will be recorded as one not only of imperialist wars but also of liberating revolutions.
Last updated: 3.12.2005