1930s >> 1939 >> no-423-november-1939

Here and There

Is Hitler a Socialist?
A good deal of our time as a propagandist organisation has unfortunately had to be devoted to denouncing false ideas about Socialism as well as to explaining what Socialism really means. This has led us to strong criticisms of the Labour Party and other parties claiming to be working-class parties, which have very frequently been grossly misunderstood. Our position is a simple one regarding these parties. It is, briefly, that they do not stand for Socialism, that is to say, the common ownership by the whole of society of the means and instruments of production and distribution, and their democratic control by and in the interests of all. Some supporters of the Labour Party and others bristle like Christians rebuked for lack of faith when the position is stated thus. Yet that is the position. And the evidence of Labour Party programmes, newspapers and conferences provide overwhelming evidence of the fact. Worse—many thousands who describe themselves as Socialists have so vague an idea as to what Socialism means that they would not, so to speak, recognise it if they saw it. In a recent issue we commented on the report from Labour sources that the Nazi movement gained considerable support among workers in S.E. Europe because of Hitler’s skilful exploitation of anti-capitalist phraseology and the fact that his movement describes itself as National Socialist. The danger to the working-class movement through lack of sound knowledge, as in this example, should need little emphasis. Moreover, when that lack of knowledge is evident in quarters where “leadership” is looked for from the less informed, the danger can have tragic results. Witness Hamilton Fyfe in Reynolds’s (October 15th, 1939):-

“Suppose Hitler were to make his National Socialism a reality ? Rudolf Hess, who is his closest friend, declared in public the other day that the Fuehrer would rather go Bolshevik than yield to the democracies. Was it a knowledge of this thought in Hitler’s mind which impelled Thyssen, the once-powerful German capitalist, to bolt when war began? He is now in Switzerland, I believe.
Hitler has certainly shaken off the capitalist yoke. He climbed to power on the willing backs of financiers and industrialists. They thought they could keep him in order by threatening, if he defied them, to withdraw their shoulders and let him down. But, when he felt himself strong enough, he stamped on them; it was they who found themselves in the mud. Will he take the further step of finishing them off by making the Reich Socialist ?
By doing this he would set up a strong claim to the assistance of Russia in a war against the capitalist Powers (Britain, France, Italy).”

Observe the reasoning: “Hitler has certainly thrown off the capitalist yoke.” (Note the emphasis, certainly.) Observe the process culminating in the view that Hitler would have “a strong claim to the assistance of Russia in a war against the capitalist Powers (Britain, France, Italy).”

How much further need such reasoning go before it justifies a holy “Socialist” war against capitalism. It is tragic to reflect this comes from one of the “profound” minds which influence the Labour Party following. Yet it bears out our lifelong case against the Labour Party—that State ownership or State control is not Socialism. And that is what Mr. Hamilton Fyfe sees in both Germany and Russia, hence, in his mind, the ease with which they might come together.

Such ideas, such men, are dangerous.

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A New Role for the Communists

An interesting item of news from the war zone:—

“Communists are coming to the fore again all over Germany, according to reports received from Swiss sources.
Goering, Hess, Funk are backing them feeling that victory against the Allies cannot be achieved without their aid.
Nazi speakers are now allowed to proclaim publicly that radical reforms to bring Germany into line with Russia are being prepared. All capitalism will be suppressed.
The revived Comrnunist Party is being renamed ‘the Popular Party’.”—(Evening Standard, October 21st, 1939.)

It may not be true. Nevertheless it could be true: in which case it would illustrate how small the real differences are between Germany and Russia. “All capitalism will be suppressed” would mean no more than centralisation in the hands of the State of the means of production on Russian lines. The move might deceive German workers for a time, but they would more than likely suspect it to be an astute move by the German Government to arrest criticism and discontent with the war. Anti-capitalist propaganda is likely to have unpleasant results for German capitalism later on.

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Sour Grapes

The Daily Herald (October 10th, 1939) quotes from the Italian newspaper, Corriere Padano, the following: —

“Voroshilov (Soviet Defence Commissar) and his companions, like all carrion in Bolshevik Russia, do not interest us in the slightest.
We refuse a grain of esteem or an ounce of sympathy to the Bolsheviks, who are models of gross bestiality—living monsters who are serving the most infamous undertaking of human deceit, cruelty and degradation ever recorded.”

“Bolshevism” is about as popular with the Italian capitalist class at the moment as it will be with the German capitalist class later. The explanation, of course, has nothing whatever to do with the “ideological” differences of Fascism, Bolshevism or Nazism, but the clash of national interests.

Russia’s expansion into Poland has perhaps to a large extent neutralised the influence of Italy in the Balkans.

* * *

Long Live Poland—Communist Version

From Humanité, August 30th, 1936.

“LONG LIVE POLAND !”
By MAURICE THOREZ, Gen. Secretary of the C.P. of France.

“Arriving in Paris this morning is General Rydz-Srnigly, Inspector-General of the Polish Army, and the most powerful man in his country. General Rydz-Smigly was the disciple and the comrade in arms of Marshal Pilsudski, founder of an independent Poland, who chose him to continue his work, and before dying commanded that “all the State functionaries, from the President of the Council downwards, were to render him respect and obedience. …” Although the interior regime in Poland is far from being a liberal democracy, and also General Rydz-Smigly once occupied Kiev, and defended Warsaw against the Red Army, we are none the less happy in saluting this morning France’s eminent guest. . . . Communists and Republicans consider that the continued independence of Poland is a guarantee of Peace in our troubled and anguished Europe. Deeply concerned regarding the future of our own country, attached passionately to the cause of peace, we observe with sympathy the efforts of the Polish people, who wish to preserve the independence of their country. . . .
We above all desire—and this is our reply to those who libel our Communist Party by maintaining that we are favourable to a “sacred war of the democracies against Fascism”—that Franco-Polish friendship should be guaranteed in order to preserve world peace, whatever may be the interior regime in Poland, that Poland which is, and must remain, independent.
And that is why this morning, in the name of the working people, in the name of the Communists in France, saluting the arrival of General Rydz-Smigly, we cry with all our heart “Long Live Poland.”

And now Poland has been “liberated” with the assistance of the Russian armies. Far from being “independent,” that country is now under the mutual “protection” of the German and Russian Governments. Socialists are not shocked. It is all in the dirty game of capitalist politics. If we register any feelings at all about the business it is only in bitter protest that the name of Socialism has been dragged into it by the Communists.

There is only one independence that is in line with working-class interests, and that is the independence which flows from the overthrow of their masters—the capitalist class.

Poland, as an independent State, was a product of the last war, the result of the collapse of three great Empires, by which it was previously surrounded. By the very nature of capitalist development its position as an “independent” State became difficult when those Empires regained their old strength. It may re-emerge again if and when the capitalist States which surround are too weak to resist it. And so the old game goes on, a game which has parallels in other parts of Europe and the capitalist world. A game which holds no interest for the workers and leaves unsolved the fundamental problems of working-class life, poverty and wage-slavery. Whichever capitalists dominate in Europe or elsewhere, those problems remain.

Socialists criticise the Communists and Russia because the latter has entered the capitalist cockpit.

Socialists aim at working-class independence, and instead of taking sides in the quarrels of the capitalists, work for the ending of capitalism.

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Mr. Brockway and Socialism

Mr. Brockway, in the New Leader, tells his readers that he wrote “to the Webbs for contributions to the ‘N.L.’ symposium on the war.” He received a reply from Mrs. Webb, in which she excused herself on the grounds of “old age.”

Mr. Brockway comments thus: “They may feel blacked-out by age, but not even war will black out their Socialist work.”

Can we take it, Mr. Brockway, that the hoary Fabianism for which the Webbs stood and for which you express your appreciation as “Socialist work,” can be used as a measure of the “Socialism” the I.L.P. stands for?

H. W.

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