1930s >> 1939 >> no-424-december-1939

Notes by the Way: An Imaginary Incident After the War

An Imaginary Incident After the War

Mr. Burgin is the Minister of Supply. Speaking at a luncheon given by the Institution of Production Engineers on November 17th (The Times, November 18th), he told an admiring audience of the vast sums of money being spent on the war; how “in the 75th day of the war £160 millions had been expended by his Department alone. In the week ended November 7th the amount in sterling of new orders was over £20 millions.”

So pleasing was this news that one of Beaverbrook’s papers hailed Mr. Burgin as one of the real discoveries of the war. Sir John Simon says that the war is already costing the Government over £6 millions a day.

On Friday, November 10th, the Director-General of Munitions Production in Mr. Burgin’s Ministry of Supply, Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Brown, spoke enthusiastically about the way the workers are working: —

  We are all grateful for the way in which employers and labour have joined in. I do not recall a single case as regards labour where the men have not given of their utmost.
The behaviour of the men in the shops and the way they have worked has been simply splendid. They have not only given of their utmost, but in a most astonishing way they have tackled jobs they had never done before.
lt is amazing to see how those who may have £3,000 or £4,000 worth of work under their responsibility at a lathe, but who are not paid large amounts, accept responsibility quite cheerfully and successfully. —Daily Telegraph November 11th.

Now imagine the following scene in Parliament after the war: —

Mr. Burgin, on behalf of the Government, proposes that, as the workers are “not paid large amounts” and are doing work of great responsibility in an admirable way, there shall be an immediate all-round increase of wages, of a handsome amount. Mr. Burgin then quotes Sir Harold as witness, and is followed by one speaker after another generously paying tribute to these splendid fellows, the workers. Then—after Mr. Burgin and Sir John Simon have explained that money is no object and, anyway, the propertied class are only too willing to make sacrifices—Parliament agrees unanimously.

Curtain!

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Professor Haldane on Democracy

Writing in the Daily Worker (November 16th), Professor Haldane discusses ancient and modern conceptions of democracy and puts in a plea for careful definition of terms. Yet he falls into curious mental blindness when discussing the Russian dictatorship (which he calls a democracy). This is what he says: —

  It is often stated that the Soviet Union is not a democracy in the British sense because very few elections to the Supreme Soviet are contested, so the electors have no-choice between candidates.

His answer to this is to recall that centuries ago contested elections were rare under the English parliamentary system, and it was only with the struggle between capitalists and landlords that party contests became the rule. Then he adds: —

  “But with the end of the class struggle it is natural that electoral contests should also become unusual.”

All of which is ingenious, or muddled, because Professor Haldane is knocking down an Aunt Sally put up by himself. Nobody states that the Soviet Union is not a democracy in the British sense merely “because very few elections . . . are contested,” but for the reason that the contesting of elections by any political party except the Communist Party is rigidly forbidden! A very different thing.

Professor Haldane should continue his examination of Bolshevik totalitarianism.

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The Stalin-Hitler Pact Reaches Spain and Portugal

The following is from The Times (November 17th, 1939):—

  German agents in Portugal have been instructed to say that Nazism is only another name for a better form of Marxism; both meet in the triumphant cause of anti-capitalism. The aim here is to disrupt the Republic and to confuse popular opinion.
From Spain comes evidence (confirmed from German sources) that the Germans have established contact with the anti-Francoists and Communists still in Spain, and are actually supporting them financially.
They want to put pressure on General Franco, and they hope that by creating anxieties within Spain they will at any rate prevent Spanish exports from being sent to Great Britain and to France.
This is cynical, but no more so than the German dispatch of arms secretly to the Spanish Republicans over a year ago . . .

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German Convicts more Humane than Nazis

An interesting comment on Nazi concentration camps appeared in a letter from a German refugee, published by the Manchester Guardian (November 9th, 1939). Below is an extract from his letter: —

 “My experience as a prisoner in one of the concentration camps agrees with the White Paper; but I feel obliged to raise my voice in favour of a category of camp prisoners repeatedly mentioned in the reports. These are the so-called “professional .criminals.” Maybe they were employed as “overseers” by the camp commander and were intended to act as tools of cruelty and for the disparagement of the non-Aryan prisoners. But in my personal experiences they did not behave like that.
They did not try “to curry favour with the S.S. by maltreating us” (page 35-6), but they declared themselves from the first day not to be our superiors but our comrades. They had to fulfil the commands given by their superiors, the brutal and cruel S.S. men, but when they could avoid it and be helpful to us they did.
If ever I had a prejudice against the sentenced criminal I lost it in the camp. Most of the “professional criminals” were never inclined to the sadistic brutality of the S.S. I dare to say that without the buffer formed by our criminals life in the camp would have been far worse than it was.”

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The Communist International Forgets Fascism

Poor Mr. Harry Pollitt stumbles from one blunder to another. In a meeting he addressed at Glasgow (reported in Forward, November 11th), he pointed out that the Allied governments do not wish to offend Italy, so they do not proclaim “Fascism” as the enemy, only “Hitlerism”—“Not one member of the British Government has yet said that we are fighting against Fascism.” He cannot have digested his Daily Worker of November 7th, in which the Communist International issued a lengthy “Call against War.” Hitherto the Communist International has always denounced Fascism and demanded action against the Fascists. This time—since the pact with Hitler —their manifesto nowhere mentions Fascism except to deny the British and French claim that the war is “for the salvation of democracy from Fascism.” Instead of “Fascism” the Communist International now finds (as it used to, back in the early ’nineteen-twenties) that the enemy is “Reaction.” So under cover of a hardly noticeable substitution of words the Communists make way for a return to their old policy of denouncing “reaction,” i.e., the French and British ruling class (who were, until two months ago, “democracies” when Russia wanted their aid), and simultaneously denouncing the Labour parties as the friends of reaction.

The next act in the farcical tragedy was the abject apology published by Mr. Pollitt and Mr. J. R. Campbell in the Daily Worker (November 23rd). Mr. Campbell says: “I narrowed the perspective in such a way as to concentrate oh German Fascism as the main enemy of the British working class. .  . .”

Mr. Pollitt likewise: “My hatred of Fascism had developed by five years’ intensive anti-Fascist propaganda, which led to a position where I did not see in time the true role of British imperialism, and saw only German Fascism as the main enemy of the British working-class movement.”

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Labour Party Peace Aims

At the Caxton Hall on November 8th, 1939, Mr. Attlee made a speech setting forth the War and Peace Aims of the Labour Party. The speech was reproduced at length in the Daily Herald (November 9th). In all ways the statement was typical of the Labour Party belief, that the world can be put right if only the democrats stand firmly by a policy of “Justice for all.” Standing firm means at present waging war, and justice after the war is to mean the following six principles: —

  1. Restitution to victims of aggression, but no revenge; peace by agreement of all nations, not by dictation of a few.
  2. Recognition of the right of all nations to live and to develop their own civilisation.
  3. Complete abandonment of aggression; outlawry of war; and acceptance of the rule of law.
  4. Protection of minority rights by international authority.
  5. Europe must federate or perish.
  6. No imperialism; equal access for all nations to markets and raw materials.
The Times, from whose columns the above summary of the principles is taken, speaks very favourably of Mr. Attlee’s statement. In its leader (November 9th) The Times says: —

  Mr. Attlee’s pronouncement yesterday on Labour’s peace aims was clear and decided. It matches well, though it was the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, with the declaration of the Foreign Secretary the day before. In no essential particular is there any divergence of opinion, and once again it is proclaimed to all the world that this country is of one mind and purpose in choosing the terrible resort to war rather than submit to the repetition of faith-breaking aggression which makes life intolerable for nations of free and civilised instincts.

Supporters of the Labour Party must think it odd that the organ of Toryism should find itself seeing so nearly eye to eye with Mr. Attlee, for has not the Labour Party often declared—though without real understanding—that war in the modern world is a product of capitalism? Has not the Labour Party also declared—again without understanding—that its aim is to abolish capitalism ?

The explanation of this ability to agree on war and peace aims can be found in the statement itself, for it nowhere mentions Socialism !

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Mr. Attlee and the Daily Herald would reply, no doubt, that when he asks for “social justice within states” Socialism is what he means. But though he may make that defence in good faith what he envisages as Socialism is only the old capitalism with its worst evils seemingly pruned away by means of reform legislation. That this is so can be seen by the Daily Herald’s belief that the Forestry Commission is “Socialist enterprise” (Daily Herald, November 20th) and by Mr. Attlee’s description of the functions of a more powerful International Labour Office after the war: —

 It should be given the task of preparing international minimum standards of wages, hours and industrial conditions, in order that by increased production, by a more just distribution and by the wealth released from expenditure upon arms, the standard of living of the workers shall everywhere be raised.

Surely the Tory Times can be benevolent about these aims—so could Hitler. But even if such developments were seriously attempted—and capitalism will always provide ample excuses in the shape of crises and “paying for the war” and “recapturing foreign markets” why the attempt should be postponed indefinitely—it will still be capitalism, not Socialism.

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Communist versus Communist: The Argument Continues

Below are some further extracts from Communist Party declarations about the war :

FromWhy This War?” (Mr. Palme Dutt—published by the Communist Party in November, 1939): —

  We are told that this is a war in defence of peace against aggression and that therefore all defenders of peace and collective security should support it. There never was a bigger lie.—P. 8.
This war is a fight between imperialist powers over profits, colonies, and world domination.—P. 4.
This war is not a war for democracy against Fascism. It is not a war for the liberties of small nations.—P.. 4.

FromHow to Win the War” (Harry Pollitt— published by the Communist Party in September, 1939. Now withdrawn from circulation): —

  The Communist Party supports the war, believing it to be a just war which should be supported by the whole working-class and all friends of democracy in Britain.—P. 3.
These fundamental principles of liberty, peace, and Socialism now at stake have determined the decision of the Communist Party. To stand aside from this conflict, to contribute only revolutionary- sounding phrases while the Fascist beasts ride roughshod over Europe, would be a betrayal of everything our forbears have fought to achieve in the course of long years of struggle against capitalism.—P. 4.

From Daily Worker, September 19th (after the collapse of Poland)

  Not only is every European people viewing the fate of the Polish people with sympathy. It is also viewing it with apprehension. Where will the next blow fall? Who will be the next victim?
That is why it is impossible for the British and French people to even contemplate a surrender to Nazi aggression. The war to halt Fascist aggression must go on with redoubled energy, and the British people will insist on a people’s Government capable of prosecuting that war.

From a Manifesto issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Daily Worker, August 4th, 1939—a month before war broke out) : —

  It would be wrong to see the situation to-day, therefore, as a mere repetition of 1914-1918. In the last war, two alliances of great Powers, equally anxious to seize each other’s territory, equally aggressive, confronted each other.
To-day there is only one alliance of aggressors— Germany, Italy, and Japan—which is, however, being tolerated and encouraged by the pro-Fascist big business elements in other countries.

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Correction: “The Strange Case of Professor Mamlock”

In the November The Socialist Standard a statement was quoted from the Daily Herald to the effect that the Russian authorities withdrew their anti-Nazi film, ‘‘Professor Mamlock,” after the pact of friendship with Hitler was signed.

Mr. Ivor Montagu, in a letter to the New Statesman (November 18th), says that the film “is not now banned and has not at any time been banned in the Soviet Union.”

Edgar Hardcastle