Thursday, August 3, 2017

Workers of All Lands Unite—But not with foreigners (1947)

Editorial from the May 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Biblical legend tells us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter paradise. It never occurred to the writer to stress the extreme difficulty of getting out again, it being assumed quite naturally that it is only prisons and suchlike purgatories that have to make escape impossible. Only in our own day do we witness the spectacle of Russia being held up as a Paradise, while the inhabitants are strictly forbidden to leave; they, it seems, must serve their life sentences to the very end.

This has been brought to prominence by the plight of the few Russian women who married British and other foreigners during the war and vainly tried to get out of Russia to rejoin their husbands; and by the new decree against such marriages. "Marriage between Soviet citizens and aliens was prohibited by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., published yesterday."—(Daily Worker, 22/3/47).

In the mid-nineteenth century it was taken for granted by those who thought themselves progressive that the ending of slavery and serfdom would be followed by the eventual removal of all restrictions on movement. Instead, the comparative ease of movement that then existed and which permitted Marx and Johan Most, the anarchist, for example to leave the continent and settle in England, has been followed by our own era in which registrations, passports and other obstacles to migration have reached a new perfection, more pernicious because the machinery of coercion is go much more efficient. Russia, the so-called land of internationalism, is now about the worst of the lot; its present attitude to marriage with aliens being different in motive but just as reactionary as the laws which prohibit marriages between whites and negroes in various parts of the world.

Russia was one of the countries that subscribed to the principles of the Atlantic Charter. One of these principles proclaimed the intention to establish such a peace as “should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance." How they are to reach the high seas and how to enter port again is not explained.

It is amusing to recall that the First Soviet Constitution (1918) contained a clause favouring “the widest possible fraternising between the workers and peasants in the ranks of the opposing armies." Now the unfortunate Soviet citizen must not even fraternise with members of an “allied" army!

When in 1860 Jacob Burckhardt wrote his “Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy," and wanted to show the depths of tyranny and intolerance of some of the 13th century despotisms he selected as an example Frederick II's "disciplined multitude of subjects; who were forbidden, for example, to marry out of the country without special permission." (Phaidon Press edition 1944, P. 3). Another instance was Bologna where it was the rule "that every passing traveller who entered at one gate must obtain a ticket in order to go out at another" (p. 33). If Burckhardt were writing to-day all he need do would he to say how little things had changed between the 13th and the 20th centuries, except that the coercion of the individual has been renamed "Communism," or Labour Planning, or National Service.

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