The Notes By The Way column from the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
Mussolini Fights Bolshevism
In the years when Russia and Italy were in close relationship their trade was fairly considerable, and part of it took the form of Italy receiving Russian oil for the navy. In payment for goods received from Russia, Italy, in return, built some warships for the Russian navy. A year or so ago a dispute arose and trade came nearly to a standstill. Russia refused to supply oil and the Italians refused to deliver a small 3,000-ton cruiser built for Russia at the Leghorn navy yards.
Now the dispute has been patched up and trade is being resumed. It is also announced by the Rome correspondent of the Evening Standard (February 7th) and the Daily Telegraph (February 20th) that the vessel is being handed over to the Soviet authorities, and Italy is to receive, among other things, manganese, which is, no doubt, required for armament purposes.
It is all a curious commentary on the alleged impassable gulf between Fascism and Bolshevism, and on Mussolini's violent speeches about the imperative need of destroying Bolshevism.
A Liberal Demands Action Against Unemployment
Lord Meston, President of the Liberal Party organisation, in a letter to the News Chronicle on February 14th, 1939, demands immediate action to remedy unemployment. "For ten years and more," he says, "the Liberal Party has been pressing for drastic and considered action towards the solution of this problem."
He asks: "Is it too much to hope . . . that public opinion in this country will demand that immediate action should be taken?"
The curious will wonder why the Liberal Party, in its many years of office in the past 100 years, never did something about unemployment. In the present century the Liberals held office from 1905 to the outbreak of the War, but unemployment was not abolished. Is it that Socialists are right, and that the capitalists want to keep capitalism much more than they want to abolish unemployment, and they can't do both?
Lenin’s Views on War
The Daily Worker (January 23rd, 1939) reproduced some selected passages from Lenin's writings dealing with war and the attitude workers should, in his view, adopt. Among them were the following passages:—
Marxism which does not degenerate into philistinism demands an historical analysis of every single war in order to ascertain whether one can regard this war as progressive, serving the interests of democracy or of the proletariat, and in this sense as a just and righteous war.
The slogan of defence of the native country is nothing but a petty, bourgeois, backward justification of war if one is unable to grasp historically the sense and importance of each individual war.
Marxism gives such an analysis and says: If the “real character” of war is, for example, the overthrow of an alien yoke (as was especially typical for the Europe of 1789-1871), then this war is progressive from the standpoint of the oppressed State or people.
If the “real character” of the war is the redistribution of colonies, the division of spoils, the conquest of foreign territory (the 1914-1918 war was such a war), then the phrase “defence of native country” is simply deception of the people.
. . . War is the continuation of politics. One must study the policy before the war, the policy which led to the war and brought it about.
If the policy was an imperialist policy, i.e., a policy of defence of the interests of finance capital, of the robbery and oppression of colonies and foreign countries, then the war resulting from this policy is an imperialist war.
If the policy was a policy of national emancipation, i.e., expressed the mass movement against national oppression, then the war resulting from this policy is a war of national emancipation.—(From “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism.”)
Discussion on War at the French Socialist Party Conference
Another view is that now being put forward in France by the trade unions and political groups in the French Socialist Party which oppose Blum's policy. One of their spokesmen is the General Secretary of the Party, Paul Faure. At a speech at the Party Conference in Paris on December 27th last, he summarised his views as follows:- -
In 1914, he said, there was the Berlin-Rome-Vienna axis and the militarism of the Hohenzollems: yet the Socialist Party declared that peace had to be saved. There was also the French-Russian Treaty. There was no point in being a pacifist in quiet times; pacifism counted only when war threatened. If they were going to save the peace by tremendous armaments and by alliances, then they had to be prepared for dictatorship. If they were to take part in an arms race with Germany they would be ruined without gaining any additional security, for Germany’s birth-rate was three times as great as France’s, and Germany’s chemical industry was ten times as great.—(Times, December 28th, 1938.)
A resolution put forward by Blum demanded a more active French foreign policy, and resistance to the further claims of the dictator countries based on intensified rearmament and pacts with other countries, including Great Britain, Russia and U.S.A.
Blum's resolution was carried by 4,322 as against 2,837 votes in support of Faure's position. There were 1,014 absentees.
Nazis Copy Brutality from the Catholic-Fascists
Much indignation has been roused by descriptions of Jews being forced to scrub the pavements in Vienna. A reader of Picture Post writes to that journal (January 14th, 1939) to point out that this practice was started by the Dolfuss and Schuschnigg regimes in Austria. Those governments were Catholic-Fascist governments guilty of the brutal suppression of the trade unions and workers’ political parties. He says: —
It originated in the idea, which was undoubtedly a good one, that those who had daubed swastikas and Nazi slogans on walls and pavements should eliminate the traces of their activities themselves, but this was largely abused later on, when quite innocent people, who were known to cherish Nazi sympathies, were indiscriminately pilloried in the same way.
London Trade Unions and the Labour Party
The London County Council, controlled by the Labour Party under Mr. Herbert Morrison, seeks trade union support, but is hotly criticised by the union to which many of its employees belong. The National Union of Public Employees, with other unions, is seeking to get the L.C.C. to increase the minimum wage of its scavengers, park-keepers, etc., above its present figure, 56s. Mr. Bryn Roberts, the General Secretary of the Union, says: —
We have been opposed in our application for this arbitration all along by the authorities’ side, led by Mr. Herbert Morrison.—(Evening Standard, December 15th, 1938.)
There are many London boroughs (including boroughs with Labour majorities) which pay 10 per cent. more, but the L.C.C. has so far refused. Doubtless, Mr. Morrison fears the charge of “wasting the ratepayers’ money." He can hardly argue that 56s. is regarded by his party as enough to live on.