Sunday, July 31, 2016

1943—The War and the Workers (1943)

From the February 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

In September, 1939, the Government of this country proclaimed its intention of planning for a “three years war." Alas, for the planners—and the planned—for war like other evils of our times, is generated by a social order which, below its veneer of method and organisation, is rent by the most explosive contradiction in all history, social production versus class-ownership in the means of life. Therefore, the “orderly" and “efficient" minds of statesmen and leaders cannot prevent disorder; the magnitude of productive forces is mocked by hunger and want. The capitalist Social Order is exposed always as Social Anarchy.

During the last months of the old year the war has extended its deadly grip along the northern shores of Africa; thousands of its native population will now experience the effect of total war. From these shores the Allies hope to bring to naught all of Hitler's schemes to secure himself from attack in the West. The dictator of Italy, for years preening himself and fooling his people with insane talk about the “glory and exhilaration" of war, now has his chance of convincing the duped victims whilst the full blast of war is turned upon them

In connection with this Allied expedition an incident has occurred which has given rise to much criticism and speculation. By a most remarkable coincidence the Allied Armada set out on its journey at the same time that Admiral Darlan (shortly to fall victim to the assassin's bullet) had chosen to visit the French possessions of Morocco and Algiers. The Admiral had until recently been second in command to Marshal Detain, and in this position vehemently proclaimed hostility to the Allies, especially Britain, and urged fuller collaboration with the Nazi regime. After press reports that Darlan had been taken prisoner, the news that he was in fact acting as host to the Allies was no doubt a shock. The enemy had become a friend—overnight. The Fascist had changed to a Democrat!

On the Russian Front the German armies are meeting the fate which overtook their predecessors in France during the last war. Stalingrad appears to have become another Verdun; the rubble and ruins of the city on the Volga must now be drenched by the blood of hundreds of thousands. Thus the “intuition" of the Fuhrer finds its fulfilment. The hold which Hitler seems to have on the youth of Germany is a riddle to many workers of other countries. But the solution is not difficult. The great depression which began in Germany in 1920 and put more than seven million workers on the dole gave Hitler his opportunity. “Work and Living Space" sound attractive slogans to workers, especially the young, when wedged in queues at the Labour Exchange.

However, the German people are not alone in being misled so easily. Their credulous behaviour can be paralleled by workers everywhere.

In this country, where the “economic blizzard" arrived a year later, in 1930, it brought to power a “National" Government, sponsored by Labour leaders, on the claim that it would “get the wheels of industry turning again." Both Hitler and the National Government kept their promise to the unemployed. Hitler's agents tout for labour in every nook and cranny of Europe, filling German factories with labour-power from the defeated countries, while the “pure- blooded Aryan" is given the privilege of dying on the snowy wastes at the Eastern Front. The British worker, in piping times of peace, often reduced to demanding “work or maintenance," earns himself a line or imprisonment now for being absent from his work. Thus the social status of the proletariat is clearly defined. It is capitalist society's beast of burden, to be coaxed or bullied as required.

One of the strangest features of the present conflict is a fact elicited recently m the House of Commons. The Bank of International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, is, as its name denotes, a clearing-house for international financial transactions, its motto for war-time appears to be: “Business as usual." Around its table, apparently oblivious to the conflict surrounding them, sat the representatives of Britain and Germany, discussing matters of pounds, shillings and pence with the sworn enemy, the “forces of evil," whilst their respective governments go about the task of organising mutual slaughter, it may be merely a sidelight on the war, but it shows to what extent capitalism has developed ties between the ruling factions. So strong, that even war cannot break them completely. What a lesson for nationalist-minded workers!

At the same time, the press of this country publishes reports of wholesale extermination of Jews in Poland. We are not able to say to what extent these reports are true. The atrocity story played its propaganda part in the last war, and it is no doubt doing a similar duty in this. But bearing the record of Nazism in mind lends substance to some of these reports. The persecution of Jews as well as other minorities is inevitable in lesser or greater degree under class society. The prejudices of race, nationality, or religion is the outcome of ignorance, exploited by rulers and fanned into flames of persecution to suit their ends. In registering protests against the persecution of minorities, no ruling class can do so with clean hands. It will be a worldwide Socialist movement that will finally put an end to all persecution, including the persecution of class by class. Least of all can we accept the claim of the Pope, who in a special message (reported in the Evening Standard of December 24, 1942) said:—
Those who aim at building a new world must fight for the right of free choice of government and free choice of religion.
This is merely another example of ruling class hypocrisy. The Pope and the organisation of which he is the head, the Roman Catholic Church, have made a deal, at one time or another, with the dictators in Spain, Italy and Germany. Besides, they have their own unenviable record of persecution. Now that His Holiness sees a possibility of the fall of these dictators, he changes his Christmas prayers, so that we find him pronouncing : -
The Church has condemned Marxist Socialism and still condemns it. On the other hand, the Church cannot ignore it or approve that workers should be deprived of all their rights.
But the problem remains: Where is the better world to come from? A world free from wars and poverty? The dignitaries of religion can no more provide the solution than could the politicians of capitalism with whom they are allied. It is precisely the doctrine of Marxist Socialism that alone points the way.

The workers of the world must organise to make the means of life the common property of all mankind. To provide for the needs of all and the profit of none. 
Sid Rubin