EXTRACTS FROM AN ARTICLE
ON THE TASKS OF THE WORKING CLASS
IN THE WAR
November 1939 World News and Views, xix, 53, p. 1079, 11 November 1939
Throughout all the years following the first world imperialist war the communists, basing themselves on the teachings of Lenin and Stalin, incessantly explained to the working people that capitalism, by its very nature, gives rise to wars, that the contradictions between the imperialist countries were not eliminated by Versailles and by other imperialist peace treaties, but, on the contrary, that these contradictions would break out after some time with new and still greater force.
Lenin taught that wars are the inevitable accompaniment of imperialism. The plunder of foreign lands, the conquest and spoliation of colonies and the seizure of markets serve as the cause of wars between the capitalist States. Stalin repeatedly uttered warnings of the danger of a new imperialist war, and disclosed the causes giving rise to it. . . .
The events of the recent period completely confirm the correctness of these farsighted warnings uttered by Stalin. They also show how correct the communists were when they pointed out that the peoples would in the very nearest future be hurled into the flames of war if the international working class should fail, by its united and resolute militant actions, to curb in time the instigators of war. They also show how timely were the tenacious efforts of the Communist International towards the establishment of a powerful fighting front against war.
The second imperialist war, which began with the onslaughts on the people of Abyssinia, Spain, and China, has now developed into a war between the biggest capitalist States. The war has been transferred to the heart of Europe, and threatens to become a world slaughter.
In its character and essence the present war is, on the part of both warring sides, an imperialist, unjust war, despite the fraudulent slogans being employed by the ruling classes of the warring capitalist States in their endeavour to hide their real aims from the masses of the people. The character of a war, as Lenin taught,
'depends not on who attacked and on whose side the enemy is, but on which class is waging the war, what policy is being continued by the given war'.
Now, as in 1914, the war is being waged by the imperialist bourgeoisie. This war is a direct continuation of the struggle between the imperialist Powers for a new repartition of the earth, for world domination. Only the blind can fail to see, and only out-and-out charlatans and deceivers can deny, that the present war between Britain and France, on the one hand, and Germany on the other, is being waged for colonies, sources of raw material, for domination over sea routes, for the subjugation and exploitation of foreign peoples. . . .
The clash of arms between the warring States is for hegemony in Europe, for colonial possessions in Africa and in other parts of the globe, for oil, coal, iron,
rubber, and not at all in defence of 'democracy', 'liberty', 'international law', and the guarantee of the independence of small countries and peoples, as is said by the bourgeois press and the social-democratic deceivers of the working class.
The interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie also determine the position of the majority of the capitalist States not directly participating in the war. Their neutrality policy is hypocritical through and through, and above all is this true of the neutrality of the biggest capitalist State—the USA. The American bourgeoisie did not lift a finger when Japan attacked China. What is more, they are in actual fact the chief contractors of war supplies to Japanese imperialism. Under the flag of neutrality the American imperialists are inflaming war in the Far East so as to enfeeble Japan and China, and then, basing themselves on their might, to dictate their conditions to the belligerent countries and to establish themselves firmly in China.
Under the flag of neutrality the American bourgeoisie are encouraging the further inflammation of the European war, becoming in fact an arms factory for Great Britain and France, and raking in enormous war profits at the expense of the blood of the peoples of the warring countries. They are aiming to drive their rivals out of the world's markets, to strengthen their imperialist positions and to consolidate their domination on the seas and oceans.
Just as hypocritical in character is the neutrality of the other nonbelligerent capitalist countries. Their bourgeoisie are doing everything to pile up as big profits
as possible out of the war. Therefore, even if they stand for peace for their own country, they encourage war between the other States. They use their neutrality as a
commodity with which to haggle, endeavouring to sell it to the highest bidder. Many of the neutral countries, and above all, Italy, are waiting for the time when,
as the war goes on, the chances of victory for one side or the other become clear, so as to take the side of the strong, and to dig their teeth into the vanquished and to tear away their share of the booty. Thus, the position both of the belligerents and of the 'neutral' states shows with the utmost clarity that the responsibility for the war lies with the bourgeoisie of the capitalist countries and primarily with the ruling circles of the belligerent States.
Two stages can be clearly discerned in the course of the second imperialist war. In the first stage, Italy, Germany, and Japan came forward directly as aggressor States. They took the offensive, while the other capitalist States —England, France, and the USA—retreated, in the endeavour to avoid a decisive clash with their rivals and to turn their expansion in another direction against the land of socialism.
Now, on the other hand, the imperialists of Britain and France have passed over to the offensive, have hurled their peoples into war against Germany, endeavouring in every way to win a number of other States to their side.
Whereas previously the above-mentioned European States were divided into aggressor and non-aggressor Powers, i.e. into those who were directly the warmakers, and those who for the time being did not come out openly as aggressors, although behind the scenes they encouraged aggression against other
countries, now this division does not correspond to the real position. This difference has disappeared. What is more, it is the British and French imperialists who now come forward as the most zealous supporters of the continuation and further incitement of war.
What has caused this change in the position of the chief imperialist rivals, a change of very substantial significance to those who wish to understand the events now taking place?
As is well known, present-day Germany grew up on the basis of slogans of revenge against Versailles and of being the shock troop of international reaction
against 'world bolshevism'—against the USSR. The national-socialist regime received every kind of support from British and French imperialism, so that it could
fulfil its 'historic' anti-bolshevik mission. It made wide use of the constant concessions given by Britain and France, and, taking the law into its own hands,
liquidated the Versailles Treaty, created an armed force, laid its hands on Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Memel, and won certain positions in Spain.
As long as the British and French imperialists hoped to turn Germany's expansion eastwards, they in every way encouraged its aggressive strivings, doing this at the expense of other peoples under the excuse of 'non-intervention' policy. They renounced collective security and transformed the League of Nations—their own creation—into a laughing-stock. They also accepted with great satisfaction the conclusion of the much-noised 'anti-Comintern' Pact between Germany, Italy, and Japan, and the establishment of the so-called Berlin-Rome-Tokio 'triangle'. The culminating point of this policy was the well-known deal at Munich, whence the
heads of the British and French Governments returned home as the 'saviours of peace', exultant that they had at length succeeded in turning the aggression of
Germany against the USSR.
But by that time the Soviet Union constituted a gigantic force. Rallied around the tested and victorious party of Lenin and Stalin, the Soviet people by successfully fulfilling two huge Five Year Plans, established a powerful socialist industry, carried through the transfer [transformation] of small peasant economy to socialism, and achieved the consolidation of the collective-farm system.
By this there was guaranteed the indestructible defensive capacity of the USSR, resting on the moral and political unity of its people, on the splendidly equipped Red Army and the most profound Soviet patriotism. By the construction of socialist society and by its wise Stalinist peace policy, the Soviet Union immeasurably increased its importance in the international arena and won tremendous confidence and love among the masses of the people of all countries, including Germany itself.
Therefore when, in the opinion of the imperialists, a suitable moment had arrived for Germany to fulfil its role as shock troop against the USSR, Germany could not make up its mind to do so. It had first to reckon with the economic and military might of the Soviet Union, and with the
moral unity and solidarity of the Soviet people, ready to defend their socialist country to the last drop of blood and capable of crushing any enemy; secondly, the
rulers of Germany were compelled to take account of the fact that they would fail to rally the majority of their German people to a war against the great Land of
In such a state of affairs Germany was faced with the dilemma— either to fall into the position of underling of British and French imperialism, to go to war against the Soviet Union and risk its neck in this war; or to make a decisive turn in its foreign policy and to take the path of peaceful relations with the Soviet Union. As the facts show the leaders of Germany selected the second path. . ..
The Soviet Union, operating a socialist foreign policy, by concluding a nonaggression pact with Germany, frustrated the insidious plans of the provokers of
war, ensured peace between the two biggest States in Europe, and strengthened its influence over the entire course of international development.
After the conclusion of the German-Soviet Treaty, the bourgeoisie of Britain and France, no longer having any hope of war by Germany against the USSR, turned to the path of armed struggle against their chief imperialist rival. They did this under the pretext of defending their vassal, Poland—the very Poland which the British and French imperialists had established as an outpost against the land of the Soviets and by whose hands they wanted, in 1920, to strangle the young Soviet Republic; the very same Poland whose potentates deprived Lithuania of Vilna and who not so long ago tore a piece out of the territory of Czechoslovakia. They staked on Poland, but here, also, they lost.
The Polish State, which constituted a prison of peoples with its regime of reaction and terror, oppression and plunder of millions of Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and Polish working people themselves, at the very first military blow disclosed all its internal rottenness and fell to pieces in two weeks.
In these conditions, the Soviet Union, pursuing its own independent policy, a policy dictated by the interests of socialism, which coincide with the interests of the working people of all lands, undertook resolute measures to ensure peace throughout the East of Europe.
By the entry of the Red Army into Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia, the Soviet people rendered aid to their brothers groaning under the yoke of the Polish gentry, extricated 13 million working people from sanguinary slaughter, emancipated them from capitalist slavery, opened up before them the road to a happy life and secured for them freedom of national and cultural development.
By concluding the Germano-Soviet 'Amity and Frontier' Treaty, the USSR not only eliminated the immediate danger of war for its peoples but also
created a barrier against the extension of the imperialist war.
By concluding mutual-assistance pacts with the small Baltic countries which were constantly in danger of falling victim to the big imperialist States, the USSR
established the guarantee of their national independence, secured their defence against imperialist aggression, and strengthened the defensive capacity of its own
The transfer of the city of Vilna and the Vilna Region to Lithuania once again clearly shows the attention displayed by the land of socialism towards the national interests of small peoples. There never has been, nor is there to-day in the world, any State other than the Soviet Union that has, of its own accord, ceded a whole region to a small people living on its borders, out of regard for the national interests of this people.
At a time when imperialist war is raging in Europe, when the bourgeoisie are inflaming chauvinism, inciting one nation against another, the Soviet Union
established good-neighbourly relations with the surrounding States, being guided in this by the Stalinist policy of peace and the friendship of nations. By its entire policy the USSR is rendering an inestimable service to the cause of world peace, in which the people of all lands are interested.
But the imperialists of Britain and France, having taken the path of war, do not want to leave it. On the contrary, they are dragging the peoples further and further on to the fields of battle, covering up in every way the real character of the war.
With this end in view, they are setting into motion all the means of the ideological deception of the masses.
The older generation of workers who experienced the first world imperialist war, well remember how at that time the press of Britain and France sought day in and day out to prove that the governments of these countries were waging war only in 'defence of democracy' against 'Prussian militarism', while the German press in its turn sought to convince people that the war was being waged against 'Russian Tsarism'. In actual fact, however, as is well known, what was taking place was a
struggle between two groups of imperialists for the repartition of the earth.
Now the ruling classes of Britain and France, who to-day, as at that time, are pursuing imperialist aims, have altered the means and slogans of ideological
deception in accordance with the situation of today. Speculating on the anti-fascist sentiments of the masses, they put forward the slogan of 'Anti-Fascist' war, and
proclaim that their war against Germany is a 'War of Democracy against Fascism', a war against 'Hitlerism', a war for the freedom of nations.
But what fine apostles of 'anti-fascist' war these are, who for so many years gave every indulgence to those against whom they are fighting today, and disrupted the united front of the peoples' struggle against fascism and war, when the entire international situation advanced [proclaimed] this
struggle as the most important task of the moment. What fine 'fighters for the freedom of nations' these are, who for centuries have kept millions of colonial slaves in bondage and who play with the fate of small nations as bargaining counters in their imperialist deals! What fine 'defenders of democracy' these are, who, in their
own countries, are destroying the last remnants of the democratic rights of the popular masses, closing down their newspapers, removing their elected representatives, and persecuting all who raise their voice against the present anti-popular war.
The French bourgeoisie are now reviving the days of counter-revolutionary terror. Since the days of the suppression of the Paris Commune, France has not experienced such a drive against the working class. The banning of the Communist Party of France, the arrest of the revolutionary representatives of the French proletariat in Parliament—the most consistent fighters against reaction of every kind—serves as clear proof of how false and hypocritical are the declarations about the democratic anti-fascist character of the war.
The bourgeoisie hurl themselves against the communists because they fear the truth about the war more than fire, because the communist party is the only party that can organize the struggle of the proletariat and all working people against the imperialist war. The bourgeoisie are doing everything to compel millions of people to go to war and to die for a cause that is alien to them. But the proletariat, the working people, have nothing to defend in this war. It is not their war, but the war of their exploiters. It brings them suffering, privation, ruin, and death. Were they to support such a war, they would merely defend the interests of their enslavers and oppressors, would be supporting capitalist slavery.
For the working class there is only one true stand, namely, irreconcilable, courageous struggle against the imperialist war, struggle against the culprits and
vehicles of this war, primarily in their own country, struggle to end this predatory war. This is the justest of causes, one dictated by the fundamental interests of the
proletariat and all working people. . . .
Everywhere in the capitalist world, not only in the warring countries, a furious reactionary drive is taking place against the working class and the toiling masses. Thus, that which in the period preceding the present war was characteristic of the regime of the fascist countries, is becoming —during the war let loose—
increasingly prevalent in the countries of so-called bourgeois democracy.
In these changed conditions the tasks facing the working class also assume a new character. Whereas formerly the task was to concentrate all forces on the struggle to avert the imperialist war, to curb the warmongers, now the mobilization of the widest masses for the struggle against the war already being waged, and for bringing the war to an end, is the first task of the moment.
Whereas formerly it was a question of barring the road to the onslaught of capital and fascist reaction, now the working class is faced with the task of conducting a most resolute struggle against the regime being established of terror, oppression, and plunder of the popular masses; it is faced with the task of ensuring that the ruling classes are prevented from placing the burden of the war on the backs of the working people.
Whereas formerly the efforts of the working class were directed primarily to the defence of the daily interests of the working people and to guarding them against the plunder and licence of the capitalist exploiters, and it was impossible, by virtue of the absence of the necessary preconditions, to place the abolition of capitalist slavery on the order of the day, now, to the extent that the crisis called forth by the war grows deeper, this task will face the working class with ever-growing acuteness.
The changed situation and the new tasks of the working class also demand a corresponding change in the tactics of the communist parties. The united proletarian and people's front tactics, pursued in recent years, made it possible for the proletariat and the labouring masses temporarily to hold up the offensive of capital and imperialist reaction in a number of countries. It helped the Spanish people to conduct an armed struggle for two and a half years against internal reaction and the foreign interventionists. It made it possible for the proletariat of France to secure considerable social gains.
The People's Front Movement awakened wide masses of people in town and country to activity, and rallied them to the struggle to uphold their own interests
against the reactionary cliques. This movement rendered it possible to postpone for a time the outbreak of the European war. The tactics of the united people's front are fully applicable, even now, in China and also in colonial and dependent countries, the people of which are conducting a struggle for their national liberation.
But these tactics, in the form in which they were conducted before the present war, are no longer suitable for other countries. The necessity of changing the tactics is conditioned by the change in the situation and the tactics [tasks] facing the working class and also by the position occupied in connection with the imperialist war by the leading circles of the parties that previously took part in the popular front.
The tactics of the united people's front presupposed joint action by the communist parties and the social-democratic and petty-bourgeois 'democratic' and 'radical' parties against reaction and war. But the top sections of these parties are now openly supporting the imperialist war.
The social-democratic, 'democratic', and 'radical' flunkeys of the bourgeoisie, are brazenly distorting the anti-fascist slogans of the Popular Front, and are using them to deceive the masses of the people and to cover up the imperialist character of the war. Under the flag of 'national unity' they have, in fact, established a common front with the capitalists, a front stretching from the Conservatives to the Labour leaders in England, and from the Cagoulards to the Socialists in France. The foremost leaders of the social-democratic parties and the reformist trade unions shamelessly took up front rank posts in the camp of the imperialists, from the very first day of the war. . . .
. . . They direct the poisonous sting of their slander against the USSR, and the revolutionary workers and the communist parties. The leading circles of the Second International are fulfilling the most criminal role in the slaughter machine of the war. They are deceiving the masses by their homilies regarding the anti-fascist character of the war, and arc helping the bourgeoisie to drive the peoples to the slaughterhouse. The ruling classes well know that the masses of the people will not believe the British and French capitalists and their press when they try to convince them of the anti-fascist character of the war, and allege that it is being waged in defence of Poland and in the interests of their own peoples. . . .
It clearly follows from the above that the communists can have no united front whatsoever with those in a common front with the imperialists and support the
criminal anti-popular war. The working class and all working people have nothing in common with the social-democratic, 'democratic', and 'radical' politicians who are betraying the vital interests of the popular masses. Between the masses of the people and these lackeys of imperialism lies the abyss of war.
But in the war and the crisis which it has called into being the need for workingclass unity and for rallying the masses of the working people around the working class rises more acutely than formerly. Millions of working people in the capitalist world, and, above all, in the warring countries, are vitally interested in bringing about militant working-class unity, and establishing a real popular front against the war let loose by the capitalists, against raging reaction and the unbridled plunder of the masses. And the communists will not only not cease the struggle for unity of the proletarian ranks and for rallying together the masses of the working people, but will also increase their efforts tenfold in this direction.
However, the question now of bringing working-class unity about and of creating a united popular front is raised in a new way. In the period preceding the war, the communists strove to bring about united working-class action by agreements between the communist and social-democratic parties. Now such an agreement is no longer thinkable.
In the present situation, working-class unity can and must be achieved from below, on the basis of the development of the movement of theworking masses themselves and in a resolute struggle against the treacherous principal leaders of the social-democratic parties.
This process will be facilitated to a great degree by the comradely relations that have been established in recent years between the communists and a considerable section of the social-democratic workers in their joint struggle against reaction and the warmakers. It will also be facilitated by the fact that the social-democratic parties, under the weight of the criminal policy of their leaderships, will increasingly disintegrate, and the healthy proletarian sections of these parties will join with the communists in taking the path of struggle against the imperialist war and capitalism.
In the preceding period the communists strove to secure the establishment of a united popular front by agreement with the social-democratic and other pettybourgeois 'democratic' and 'radical' parties in the person of their leading bodies on the basis of a common platform of struggle against fascism and war. But to the extent that the principal leaders of these parties have crossed over wholly and completely into the camp of the imperialists, while certain of them, such as the
French radicals, are directly in charge of the conduct of the war, there can be no question of such agreements.
Now the mustering of the working class, of the peasantry, of the urban working folk and of the progressive intelligentsia can and must be brought about apart from and against the leadership of these parties, on the basis of the struggle against the imperialist war and reaction in a united front from below.
Such a united lighting front of the masses cannot be brought about without a most resolute struggle against the social-democratic, 'democratic', and 'radical'
flunkeys of imperialism, for the elimination of the influence of these agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement and for their isolation from the masses
of the working people.
History now faces the working class of the capitalist countries with tasks of enormous importance. They have to extricate millions of people from the abyss of
war, to save their countries and peoples from ruin, devastation, and destruction.
Only the working class, taking the lead of the basic masses of the peasantry and the working people of the towns, is in a position resolutely to resist the bourgeoisie and imperialism, to put an end to their criminal work and to do away once and for all with the causes giving rise to imperialist wars. These tasks, which face the working class, are quite capable of fulfilment. Now the forces of the international proletariat have grown immeasurably by comparison with the first imperialist war.
Its vanguard detachment—the working class of the USSR—has established an impregnable fortress of socialism. The existence of the Soviet Union multiplies the might of the working class of all the capitalist countries and strengthens their confidence in their own strength. As distinct from the first imperialist war, the trust of the working masses in the bourgeoisie, in capitalism, has already at the beginning of the present war been considerably undermined, and will continue increasingly to be undermined.
The social-democratic leaders will not succeed for long in deceiving the masses, as they were able to do during the first imperialist war. Their treacherous policy, their anti-communist, anti-Soviet drive is already causing acute discontent in the ranks of the social-democratic parties themselves.
As the war goes on, the indignation of the masses will grow and the antiwar movement will become increasingly extensive. The most furious persecution by the bourgeoisie will not hold up and stifle the struggle of the working people against the imperialist war. The historic role of the communist vanguard of the working class is at the present moment to organise and take the lead of this struggle.
If the communists are to be able successfully to fulfil this role of theirs, they must show an example of the correct understanding of the essence of the present war and utterly smash the legend regarding its allegedly anti-fascist, just character so assiduously spread about by the social-democratic leaders.
Explain, explain, and once again explain the real state of affairs to the masses.
This above all at the present moment is the most important condition for the mobilization of the masses for the struggle against the imperialist war and capitalist reaction.
The unfolding of a really wide movement against the imperialist war and reaction can only be successful if the communists act and conduct the struggle in the very midst of the masses, keep a sharp watch as to their state of mind, take careful heed of their voice, and take their needs and sufferings to heart. The communists must not run ahead. They must put forward slogans that correspond to the concrete situation, slogans that can be understood and grasped by the masses, must always take the lead of the movement of the masses, and lead them on to the solution of the maturing new tasks.
The present exceptionally serious situation demands of the communists that they do not give way at all to repression and persecution, but come forward resolutely and courageously against the war, against the bourgeoisie of their own country; that they act in the way Lenin taught, in the way taught now by the great, wise leader of the working people, Stalin.
The communist parties must rapidly reorganise their ranks in. accordance with the conditions of the war, purge their ranks of capitulatory elements, and establish bolshevik discipline. They must concentrate the fire against opportunism, expressed in slipping into the position of 'defending the Fatherland', in support of the fairy-tale about the anti-fascist character of the war, and in retreat before the acts of repression of the bourgeoisie.
The sooner the communist parties achieve all this the better will they be able to carry through their independent leading role in the working-class movement and the more successfully can they fulfil the tasks now facing them.
As the war goes on all the communist parties, all working-class organisations, all active workers, are put to the supreme test. Individual weak elements, faint-hearts, will drop away at the sharp turns. Elements alien to the working class, careerists, renegades, who have tacked themselves on to the communist party will be thrown overboard.
The communist parties as a whole will undoubtedly stand the test. They will become better, still better steeled in the coming battles. New hundreds of thousands of fighters for the working-class cause will fill the ranks of the army of communism.
The communist parties and the working class of the capitalist countries will be inspired by the heroic example of the Russian Bolsheviks, by the example of the party of Lenin and Stalin, which in 1914-18 showed the proletariat the true way out of the war and subsequently secured the victory of socialism over one-sixth of the globe. By holding aloft the banner of proletarian internationalism, and strengthening the bonds of fraternal solidarity between the working class of all countries, the communists will thereby help all working people to fulfil their historic mission.
The imperialists of the warring countries have begun the war for a new partition of the earth, for world domination, dooming millions of people to destruction. The working class is called upon to put an end to the war after its own fashion, in its own interests, in the interest of the whole of labouring mankind and thereby to destroy once and for all the fundamental causes giving rise to imperialist wars.