Editorial: The Moscow executions
The Communist Editor of the “Sunday Worker” (June 19th), defends the execution of 20 political prisoners by the Soviet Government as an “act of stern revolutionary justice.” My thought on reading this was to wonder why the Russians allow soft-headed Communists in this country to broadcast such sentimental poppy-cock in their name.
When professional politicians like Lloyd George or MacDonald speak as if they are the humble instruments of the Almighty, dealing out even-handed justice in a wicked world, we recognise an accepted trick of an old-established trade, but the Communists should be above such things. The working-class movement has no need to defend its actions on the illogical ground that they are in accord with some everlasting standard of abstract justice, or on the ground that those who suffer from those actions have “deserved” what they get. If the working-class should ever be compelled to take human life, its only justification—and that a sufficient one—is that working-class interests necessitate that action.
If one may believe some of the Communists, these 20 prisoners were executed out of revenge for the assassination of Voikoff in Warsaw. If so, that is a piece of indefensible emotionalism, for which the working-class movement has no use. If the rigid test of working-class interests is applied, it is hard to see how this action could assist the progress of Socialism. It may be answered that those in control of the Russian Government thought that it was called for in order to serve some interest of State, to enhance the prestige of Russia by a defiant gesture.
Our answer to this is that as Socialists, we are not interested in the game of Statecraft and we repudiate the notion that “reasons of State” can be adequate grounds on which to base working-class policy. When the Russian Communists allow themselves to be drawn into the bogs of diplomatic intrigue, trying to play off one capitalist state against another, they may prove as cunning as their opponents (although this is doubtful—certainly, the present incident has not added to their reputation for wisdom or strength) but the pleasure gained through the satisfaction of their desire for revenge will be at the direct expense of the real interests of the working-class.