1940s >> 1945 >> no-489-may-1945
May-Day — The Workers Must Choose
After nearly six years of war, both the capitalists and the workers may check their balance sheet. It is a fearful reckoning, A large part of Europe, including Britain, is a mass of ruins and the fighting there is not yet done. The casualties for all the countries together already exceed in number those of the last World War; Russia alone is said to count fifteen million victims. And in the Far East the war area has yet to resound to the fury of further major battles.
In towns comfortably distanced from the battlefields, the leaders of the Not-So-United Nations, feeling victory close at hand, meet again and again to continue their haggling over world-dominion. Europe, and perhaps the whole world is to be carved up like a chicken to satisfy the appetites of the Big Three. This is called: “Zoning the World into Spheres of Influence and is claimed to be a step towards everlasting peace. The War, which like its predecessor of 1914-1918, began as a “holy crusade” for the independence of small nations, will end by swallowing many of them.
The military conflicts which have periodically decimated capitalist society are bloody replicas of the struggle continuously being waged in the world of “business.” “The bigger capitalist lays his smaller fellow low and he, in turn, is swallowed by a yet more powerful rival.” But combines and cartels do not end commercial rivalry—they intensify the struggle. Nor will the emergence of the three victorious world-empires solve the problem of war. The differences between the U.S.A., Britain and Russia, already evident whilst still “comrades in arms” are guarantee of that.
The policy of the U.S.S.R. in relation to its smaller neighbouring countries has given the Soviet’s “left-wing” admirers many a sleepless night. After preaching for years about “the one and only Socialist country in the world,” these worthies find it difficult to explain why their idol is behaving in the very mundane, i.e., capitalist fashion of victorious ruling classes, by seizing large tracks of alien lands on the old capitalist plea, of course, of national security.”
During the last war the slogan of the Bolsheviks was: “No Annexations, No Reparations”! The contrast with the war aims of Russia to-day helps to show how remote the rulers at the Kremlin are from working class aspirations.
Only those utterly unsophisticated about world-affairs can still cherish the old illusions born out of the Russian Revolution. The official alliance with a growing religious hierarchy tells its own story. Even more obvious is the careful fostering of a fanatical nationalism.
The ruling class of Britain cannot view the trend and outcome of the European war with satisfaction. Forced to deal with German domination over Europe a second time within a generation, they have eliminated this rival only to watch the rise of a more formidable one. in this way does capitalism pile up one problem on another until the weight of them will crush the morale out of rulers everywhere. Their impotence to put the world aright will be plain to all and the myth of their greatness vanish.
However, in their present state of mind, the workers are at the beck of ruling class needs and propaganda. Nationalism in one country begets its echo in others. When the debacle of Social Democracy and of the Communists in Germany first opened the door to Hitler, many hoped this would be the prelude to a working-class renaissance the world over. This was mistaken. The mass organisations on which the workers pinned their hopes have either collapsed or else, as in France, Britain and the U.S.A., become adjuncts of the capitalist state used to keep the workers in order. The end of the last war found the workers in a mood of rebellion. The defeat of the Russian armies opened the road to power for the Bolsheviks and their success quickly infected the war-weary soldiers and workers of other countries. The present conflict, which began with the high hopes of some who saw in this “war against Fascism” unequalled opportunities for the workers to take control, is ending with the workers less assertive as an organised force than before. Mr. Churchill feels able to congratulate himself and his ruling class cronies that the war has become “less ideological in character.”
But the ruling class cocks may be crowing too soon. The worker’s revulsion against the last war was directly attributable to the physical suffering of four years fighting in the trenches. As the memories of this inhuman travail faded so did the newly born militancy. The Labour and Communist parties, the main beneficiaries of this upsurge, sapped the workers of their revolutionary energies and enthusiasm and finally the sorry residue was unable to withstand the shocks of the world crisis. Since then, a new generation has been growing up, working class men and women who have had no hand in building up the old Labour parties and who have never been the slaves of the Moscow tradition. Their political allegiance is unknown. The politicians in this country busily preparing for an election which, for the major parties, can be nothing more than a sham fight except for the privileges and cash rewards of office, are frankly uneasy.
It is generally admitted that the new generation is far less susceptible to promises than their fathers were. They are said to be cynical about all the established political parties and the experienced political soothsayers cut no ice with them. So far, so good.
But cynicism is negative. It would be too much to expect the fruits of this scepticism to ripen immediately, for Socialist propaganda has during the War been severely restricted and opportunity for reflection rare. But during the coming years, the workers young and old, will sort out their ideas gathered during the fighting and the bombing; they will have time, possibly in the dole-queues, to recollect their experience of sweating in the factories. There can be no illusions for them about their future under capitalism. The slumps will come as regularly as they have done hitherto until the next war sends the capitalists hurrying to their coffers again to pay out wages for guns and bombs. The development of long range automatic weapons during this War is a foretaste of what will happen during the next.
The fundamental driving forces behind the movement for Socialism are the rigours, the hardships of a working-class existence under a social system that turns out wealth unlimited and permits only a minority to enjoy it. This contradiction makes fools or knaves out of all supporters of capitalism who pose as champions of working class desires. Only Socialism can explain the riddle. Very soon the economic problems of a capitalist world at “peace” will make their reappearance. They will affect the workers of all lands, “victorious” and “defeated” alike. Instead of fighting each other, the working class will be forced to fight their own employers for their daily bread. This time there can be no excuse for apathy or ignorance. The bereaved and the suffering will add their cries to the voice of Socialism and it will be heard, and understood, all over the world.