A correspondent writes about the article, “Czechoslovakia—The Choice Before Us,” in the October Socialist Standard.
In the October Socialist Standard an article dealing with the Czechoslovakian crisis appeared. There are several statements which are not only contradictory to one another, but are obviously inconsistent with the principles of Socialism.
In this article it is stated, and rightly so, that “The job of Socialists at all times is to propagate Socialism.” Again, the writer urges us, “To hasten the day when the British workers, along with the workers of all countries, can drive from power Chamberlain and his foreign capitalist friends and enemies, both Democratic and Fascist, and establish Socialism.”
The author correctly states that the real problem is that of rallying the workers to Socialism, and that “Only Socialism ” is worth struggling for.
I am in complete sympathy and agreement with the above statements, but now we come to those which are not only obviously contradictions, but are gross digressions from the true path of Socialism.
On page 146 it is stated that, if we went to war with Germany “It might be possible to drive out some of the existing dictatorships.” Then the author asks the question, “Would that bring Socialism nearer?” and replies “No.” I disagree on this point. Czechoslovakia, before Hitler’s invasion of it, was a country in which there existed comparative freedom of speech with regard to political matters. That is, Socialists in that country were permitted, without fear of harm or persecution, to propagate the ideals of Socialism. This, says the writer, is the bounden duty of Socialists at all times.
How, then, does the writer reconcile this attitude with the one in which he is perfectly content to sit back and do nothing to prevent the ruthless extermination of the Socialist cause in Czechoslovakia by the Nazi hordes. “Socialism is worth lighting for” (so the author says), but he does nothing to stop the Fascist invasion of Czechoslovakia, with its resultant suppression of existing Socialist ideals (which you will grant, must exist, even to a small extent, in that country), therefore the author betrays the cause of Socialism either due to his ignorance or otherwise.
The first point to be replied to in our correspondent’s letter is the reference to driving out dictatorships by means of war. Our correspondent has misunderstood what was meant by the statement he refers to. The statement assumed that, as a result of war, some dictatorships (those on the defeated side) might be driven out for the time being, but that would not destroy dictatorship. There would still be the dictatorships on the victorious side, their prestige perhaps even enhanced by victory. It would also not have removed the real cause of dictatorship, which is workers who, in their political ignorance, are “political cannon-fodder for the first Fascist mob-orator.” Defeat in 1918 removed Kaiserism. It was followed by Hitlerism later on.
This brings us to our correspondent’s main point, the possibility, by means of war, of preserving Czechoslovakia, in which “there existed comparative freedom of speech with regard to political matters.”
Our correspondent asks us to be prepared to fight to preserve Czechoslovakia, but does not face up to the fact that at least a large minority, of the workers and peasants in that country were themselves so dissatisfied, because of the evils of capitalism, and so given over to nationalist sentiment, that they were opposed to that point of view and cared little about the advantages of ”comparative freedom of speech.” Instead of being united to maintain Czechoslovakia as it was, they were anxious to join Germany or Hungary, or set up a reactionary autonomous Slovakia or introduce a semi-totalitarian State in the Czech part of the country. Semi-Fascist movements and tendencies were making big headway in Czechoslovakia quite apart from the pro-German sentiments of the majority of Sudeten Germans, as can be seen from the reactionary legislation now being adopted, particularly in Slovakia, including the suppression of the Social-Democratic Party. President Benesh himself is reported to have said that he left the country, not only from fear of the Germans, but also from fear of the Czech semi-Fascists (Evening Standard, October 24th, 1938). Going to war to force German capitalism to keep out of Czechoslovakia, and to force many unwilling populations to remain in, is not work for Socialists. It is to play the part of tools of rival imperialisms. It should be noted that among the political parties claiming to be Socialist, which were represented at an International Conference in Switzerland in September last, which strongly denounced the policy of supporting war for Czechoslovakia, was a party from Czechoslovakia (see The Socialist Standard, October, 1938).
One thing to be remembered, too, is the tremendous consequences of a war to preserve Czechoslovakia, including the probable annihilation of many of the Social-Democrats there, the strengthening of the Government’s hand if victorious, and the removal of many of the democratic amenities we now enjoy—particularly liberty to work for the overthrow of capitalism.