Notes by the Way
More Russian Trials: The Seven-Year-Old Conspirator
The Moscow correspondent of the Manchester Guardian (March 2nd, 1939) reports the latest fantastic story of conspiracy in Russia. Three former officials of the political police and the State Prosecutor at a small town in Western Siberia were sentenced on March 1st to imprisonment ranging from five to ten years. Their offence was that they had concocted charges of plotting and terrorism against more than sixty children, some of whom they held in prison for eight months and forced to make confessions. The children, naturally, confessed to everything, from counter-revolutionary Fascist terrorism to having concealed weapons (penknives). The Daily Telegraph’s Moscow correspondent (March 1st and 2nd, 1939) adds other staggering details. The children’s ages were ten to twelve years. One of them, a small boy aged ten, had confessed that already, in 1935, he was “active in recruiting members for our counter-revolutionary group.” As he was then only seven years of age, and was already an active ringleader, it appears that he must have begun his criminal career at about four or five.
The official responsible for the arrest of the children made a naive confession: —
“I knew only one statute of the criminal code—58 (which defines counter-revolutionary political crimes)—and formulated all the charges to fit that statute.” (Manchester Guardian, March 2nd, 1939.)
Stalin on British Foreign Policy
In his speech to the Eighteenth Congress of the Russian Communist Party on March 10th, 1939, Stalin explained what he thinks is the guiding line in the foreign policy of Britain and France, i.e., the desire to see Germany and Russia involved in war, so that British and French capitalists could score against both later on.
“Through the policy of non-intervention there runs the eagerness and desire not to prevent the aggressors from perpetrating their black deeds, not to prevent, say Japan, from becoming involved in a war with China—or still better, with the Soviet Union; not to prevent say, Germany, from becoming enmeshed in European affairs, from becoming involved in a war with the Soviet Union: to allow all belligerents to sink deep into the mire of war, stealthily to encourage them to follow this line, to allow them to weaken and exhaust one another, and then when they become sufficiently weakened, to appear on the scene with fresh forces to come out, of course, “in the interests of peace,” and to dictate their terms to weakened belligerent nations. It is cheap, and it serves its purpose!”(Daily Worker, March 13th, 1939.)
But Stalin thinks the Germans have no intention of getting involved in war with Russia, but have, instead, “turned to the west, if you please, and demand colonies.”
Afterwards Stalin defined the attitude of the Communist Party in the sphere of foreign policy: —
“Firstly, to pursue also in future a policy of peace and of strengthening the businesslike relations with all countries;
Secondly, to be careful and not to allow our country to be involved in conflicts by instigators of war, who are used to get other people to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them;
Thirdly, to strengthen the fighting power of our Red Army and Red Navy to the utmost;
Fourthly, to strengthen our international bonds of friendship with the working people of all countries who are interested in peace and friendship between nations.”
This was supplemented a few days later by a statement made by the Russian Ambassador in London, M. Maisky, speaking at the annual dinner of the Machine Tool Trades Association. He said: —
“You will find that in the last resort the fate of peace or war in our time depends on the kind of relations which exist between London and Moscow. Therefore every improvement to this end is an important contribution to the cause of general peace.” (Times, March 16, 1939.)
The Rich Minority Who Own Britain. Labour Writer Admits Failure of Labourism
Mr. Ramsay Muir stated on March 2nd, at a lunch of the Industrial Co-partnership Association, that, so long as “gross maldistribution of prorperty” continued, “we could not have a genuinely democratic society; and, indeed, it had been said that the property distribution was worse in Britain than in any other country.”
To support his case, Mr. Muir gave some figures about property left at death. In a recent year, he said, 560,000 people died. Those who left less than £100 numbered 425,000. More than half of the property left by the whole 560,000 was left by three per cent. of them. (Manchester Guardian, March 3rd, 1939.)
Mr. Ramsay Muir is a Liberal, and it is for him to explain why Liberal governments never did anything about this. He is, however, fully entitled to make the charge against the Labour Party that it, too, does, not possess a solution. Mr. Muir, speaking of Labourism, but wrongly calling it Socialism, said: —
“He did not think that . . . the purchase by the State of private property was any solution at all; the only effect of that would be to turn the ex-property-owners into an irresponsible rentier class and to widen the differences between them and the rest of the population.”
Very true, Mr. Muir, and a few days later, Mr. Douglas Jay, City Editor of the Daily Herald, was risking his job by making a similar remark. Reviewing a book which describes the, London Passenger Transport Board (formed by the Labour Party) as “public property,” Mr. Jay says that neither the Board, nor the B.B.C., nor the Central Electricity Board, should be so described, “since private persons hold stock” in them. (Daily Herald, March 13th, 1939.)
Mr. Jay also made another damaging admission about the programme of his Party, in saying in the same article that, as regards the inequality of wealth, “there has been only a very slight redistribution since before the War, despite death duties and direct taxation.”
The book being reviewed by Mr. Jay is “Public and Private Property in Great Britain” (H. Campion. Pub. Oxford University Press). It shows that five per cent. of the population owned in 1936 between 75 per cent. and 80 per cent. of the total private property. Two-thirds of the population still own less than £100.
Cripps Answers Cripps
A correspondent in the Daily Herald (March 2nd, 1939) recalls that only a few years ago Sir Stafford Cripps, in a pamphlet called “The Choice for Britain,” gave Very good answers to the Popular Front propaganda he is now carrying on. This is what he wrote: —
“It will be fatal if we do as the Social Democrats did in Germany; that is, combine with any anti-Fascist forces for the sake of saving democracy. That way lies disaster.
The very compromise that is intended to bring together all the forces in favour of democracy, destroys democracy, because it renders it incapable of achieving the economic change which is essential to its survival.
Nothing, in my view, is more dangerous than the idea that some temporary alliance of pro-democratic forces should be brought about not based on the achievement of Socialism,
Such an alliance, like the Labour Government of 1929-91, would find itself incapable of doing anything except deepening the crisis of capitalism, with the inevitable conscience of the bankruptcy of democracy and its elimination in favour of some sort of dictatorship which would come from the right and not the left.
We must, then, firmly and definitely abandon any ideal of working in association with any other political group or party that defies the absolute necessity of Socialism.”
The argument is sound, but it will be noticed that it helps the Labour Party no more than it helps the Popular Front.
Shaw Has His Say
In an article on Foreign Policy published by the Daily Herald on March 3rd, Mr. G. B. Shaw laid about him in his usual agile way, distributing cuffs to all parties. He annoyed official Labour Party circles by complimenting Cripps and condemning his expulsion by the Executive Committee. He promises that Cripps, “whether right or wrong, will presently wipe the floor with it for being so silly.”
Crippsites are exultant, but they do not appear to have noticed that. Shaw condemns Cripps’ foreign policy just as whole-heartedly as he condemns the Labour Party’s. This is what he says: —
“We on the Labour side have nothing in the way of foreign policy that will wash.
We praise peace and collective security, and in the same breath revile the Conservatives because they did not make war on Japan over Manchuria, on Italy over Abyssinia, and on Germany over Austria and Czechoslovakia.
This is patent nonsense. Suppose the Labour Party had been in power with a ninety-nine per cent, majority, could they have led the Nation to war for the sake of the Chinese, the Danaikils, or the entirely imaginary race called the Czecho-Slovaks ?
Could they, when the Italians were bombing the Abyssinian tribes into submission and smithereens, have stopped our troops from doing exactly the same thing on the North-West Indian frontier ?
That the answers to these questions are in the negative is obvious to everybody who is out for facts and realities and not for virtuous indignation on party lines.”
The Old Pope and the New One
When the new Pope was elected by the Cardinals, the British Lib.-Lab. Press welcomed the choice on the ground that the new man is anti-Fascist and leans towards democracy. If that is so, it would appear that he is also a believer in continuity, for one of his first acts as Pope was to send the following message to General Franco in reply to the latter’s telegram of congratulation : —
“Praying for new success in conformity with your glorious Catholic traditions and blessing our cordially beloved Spain, we thank you for your devout message and invoke for your Excellency divine assistance.” (Times, March 11th.)
To the ordinary looker-on, Franco’s successes appear to be in the glorious propertied-class tradition of using every fiendish method of mass slaughter to prevent the workers and peasants from improving their position.