Editorial from the October 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard
The League of Nations, so happily described by Lenin as the “League of the Older and Fatter Bandits," invented the term “Collective Security." The idea was that all the nations, big and small, should bind themselves together to restrain—and, if necessary, attack—an aggressor nation. Then peace would be made safe at last. All so simple; and all so silly and deceptive. It is based on the falsehood that the desire for peace which normally characterises the masses of the population in all countries is also the motive which dominates the outlook of Governments and the sections of the ruling class behind the Governments. The two things are not the same. In a competitive world, where policies are dictated by capitalist groups accustomed to a never-ending, relentless struggle for profits, the temptation to use the threat of armed force as a means to greater profit is always present. Now and again the bluff over-reaches itself and war occurs. Those sections of the international capitalist class who have amassed the most profitable territories are bound to tempt the “younger and leaner bandits." Much the same thing operates in industrial disputes, where the promised eternal industrial peace between employers and employed is constantly broken by strikes and lock-outs (with this difference: that the employing class are always the top-dogs in the struggle, whereas sometimes the international bandits change places).
The League of Nations and “collective security” may look all right to the British and French capitalist victors, gorged with the plunder of the last war, but to the German, Italian and other not-so-glutted bandits “collective security" looks suspiciously like the century-old British ruling-class principle of never risking war on the Continent without first collecting a number of allies—some bought with cash, others with promises to share in the loot, others again just forced into it under the guns of the British Navy. Remember 1914-1918? The Secret Treaties? Russia to have Constantinople, Italy to have various territories, including—so they allege—Abyssinia.
What about Arabia?
The believers in “collective security" are always putting questions at our meetings asking us to consider what would happen if collective security were used against Italy, Germany or Japan. Well, there is nothing like concrete cases, so let us take Arabia. Last year (see May, 1938, “S.S.”) the British quietly annexed sparsely-populated but vast and strategically-important territories in Southern Arabia against the wishes of the Arabs and in defiance of pledges. This should have been the signal for a worldwide attack on aggressor Britain by all the rest of the League powers. Would all the Liberal-Labour-Tory-Communist believers in collective security have promptly rushed to arms to help the League ? Oh, no ! they were too busy denouncing the Japs, the Italians and the Germans.
The area annexed by Britain in Southern Arabia was about 100,000 square miles—just double the size of Czechoslovakia. If we could imagine the League of Nations taking action on the principle of “collective security" there would have been France more or less bound to back Britain because of the need for Britain's backing in Europe, and Italy and Germany interested solely with the view of grabbing some of the loot themselves. Against these four powers the little powers would have been helpless.
So much for collective security. What is more, how do they define “aggression" ?
If the British imperialist bandits want their German and Italian imitators to believe they are on the level they only need to make the trifling gesture of disgorging all the territories they won by past aggression and now hold by force of arms. India to begin with, then the African territories, and lots more to follow on. The Indians want independence. Shall the League rouse a world in arms to conquer it for them?
And before we leave the subject we, the working class, have a point of view. We are the victims of a brutal aggression, renewed day by day in the episodes of the class struggle. We want to be rid of our conquering aggressors, the capitalist class. Will the League of Capitalist Powers give us a hand in this good work ? No, we think they won’t.