Thursday, March 24, 2022

May Day: Bedlam Let Loose. (1940)

From the May 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Exactly one year ago the Socialist Standard's annual May-Day Message emphasised the imminent danger of war: to-day this war has been in progress for eight months. Poland, Russia, Finland, and now the Scandinavian lands, have been drawn into its destructive vortex.

The League of Nations, “Collective Security,” the “Peace Front”—all have vanished, and in their place has come the line-up of allies in war, as it has always, down throughout the history of capitalism.

“Armed strength means peace!” “Alliances prevent war!” Does anyone now believe those discarded catch-cries ?

Yet right up to the outbreak of hostilities millions pinned their faith to such spurious arguments. Even now we can hear in some quarters regrets: “If only the Western Powers could have made a pact with Russia … !”

The cause of war to-day is capitalism; the line-up in war is forced on the countries concerned by their interests as capitalist competitors for wealth and trade. The factors that cause wars determine also how the warring governments shall group themselves, these factors are indivisible.

The Berlin-Moscow pact, hailed by the Communists in this country as a “Victory for Peace and Socialism,” gave the signal for the outbreak of war. It left the governors of Britain’s wealth under no further illusions, if illusions they held. Hitler had secured Germany in the East; his next move would be either South-East into the Balkans and ultimately Turkey, or else he would strike directly at the West. In either case it would be a challenge to the Empires of Britain and France. And move Hitler must, the German dictatorship cannot stand still. Its only purpose is to establish Germany as a world Power.

For the present his sleeping partner in Moscow has adopted the role of “belligerent neutral.” The Finnish adventure has tested the Russian military machine, and found it, at least for the time, in some respects wanting; further moves from Moscow have had to be postponed, if not entirely shelved. So the F├╝hrer turns to his former ally, Mussolini, hoping to tempt him into a more active role.

In the meantime the battle has already begun in earnest—on the soil of a country, Norway, which has not known the horrors of war for over a century. Towns are bombed, villages entirely destroyed, the civil populations, the aged and the sick, have to drag themselves from their homesteads and flee from the combatants in frantic endeavour to save their lives.

This terror cannot be imagined, it can only be experienced.

What will come next ?

Will total war spread to Sweden—to the low countries—or will a million human bodies be hurled against the walls of steel and concrete on the Western Front ? The decision rests with the class into whose keeping the workers have foolishly given their destiny. Whichever side makes the next move we are certain of one fact: that it will not be decided in the interests of the workers. In the opinion of our rulers, we were born to work and to suffer. It is an opinion which only a growing movement for Socialism can change.

Already the signs of working-class discontent are in evidence. There is not unanimous enthusiasm for war. Even the promise of Hitler’s removal has failed to awaken any jingoism comparable with that in the last war, in this country or in France. We may be sure that millions of Germans are in the same mood, although they have little chance of showing it as yet.

Their time will also come, with or without defeat in war Hitler is doomed.

Hitler claims to be the apostle of a new era— he is wrong. He is the backwash of an old one, the German bourgeois revolution of 1848. His gangster rule can only be a passing phase of German history. The tragic pity is the slaughter that may accompany his downfall.

Hitler and his ideas will not be destroyed by war, rather are they given a temporary new lease of life. Not only in Germany, but in France and Britain, too, forces of suppression are coming to the fore as always in war.

Real progress can only be assured through the growing understanding of working-class people in all lands, an understanding of the world and the social forces that make it what it is to-day.

Socialist propaganda plays a most important part in that mental awakening.

History calls upon the working class to take vhe initiative. We of the Socialist Party of Great Britain accept our share of that responsibility.

Our work will go on. Our ideas are invincible. Neither Hitler’s Germany nor Stalin’s Russia, nor the British Empire, will be able to withstand the march of Socialism.
Sid Rubin

Is it a New I.L.P. ? (1940)

From the May 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

The I.L.P. was formed in the closing years of the nineteenth century, in the years when the need began to be felt for independent parliamentary representation among the more independent-minded worker in the trade union movement. The I.L.P. was not sponsored by the trade unions, but its formation was in conformity with the mood among many for independence. Before the formation of the I.L.P. and the Labour Party, workers who entered Parliament did so as members of and with the support of the Liberal Party.

From the beginning the “independence” of the I.L.P. was very circumscribed. In the early days when some of its members stood as candidates for Parliament its “independence” did not preclude the electioneering methods of the older capitalist parties. When, in the early ‘nineties, Keir Hardie stood for S.W. Ham, he angled for Liberal votes and received the official support of the local Liberals to the extent that the official Liberal candidate stood down in his favour. The political objects of the I.L.P. were vague. Though it used the term “Socialism,” it had no clear conception of its meaning, nor did it attempt at any time to define it. From its early literature and the speeches of its members it meant all sorts of things or anything according to the taste of the individual. Consequently, it attracted to its ranks a varied collection of intellectual odds and ends, reformers, social uplifters, teetotal and other cranks, and the political opportunist—the latter, usually men, who, because of lack of wealth or other backing could not find political careers in the older political parties. In a letter to Keir Hardie from Mr. J. R. MacDonald, for example, it was clear that the latter gentleman was applying to the I.L.P. for membership because the Liberals had refused to give the backing necessary for him to enter Parliament.

After many trade union reverses on the industrial field the Labour Party was formed with the backing of the trade union movement a decade or so after the formation of the I.L.P. From this time the Labour Party grew rapidly and the I.L.P. became an affiliated body. It should need very little argument to show that, whatever minor differences were presumed to exist between the two parties, there could be no real differences on fundamental questions between affiliated organisations. The Labour Party fulfilled the purpose of giving independent parliamentary representation for the interests of the trade union movement. It assumed this function with powerful financial and numerical backing. Whatever hopes the I.L.P. ever had of becoming this instrument they disappeared with the birth of the Labour Party.

The Labour Party was reformist—so was the I.L.P. When candidates of the I.L.P. fought elections they did so as members of the Labour Party, with the latter’s backing and on its programme. Even those few I.L.P. representatives who to-day sit in Parliament owe their seats to the fact that they originally represented their constituencies as Labour M.P.s. Some of them have not had the opposition of the official Labour Party since the two organisations separated. Neither the Labour Party nor the LL.P. has ever advocated Socialism, that is to say, the abolition of capitalism, which would involve the end of the wages system and all that goes with it. In fact, the most “daring” proposals of the I.L.P. which have appeared in the Party’s programme from time to time have always assumed the continuance of the wages system. Family Allowances and the Living Wage policy are pertinent examples. Like the Labour Party, the I.L.P. has never shown signs that it regards Socialism as meaning anything more than Nationalisation or State Ownership. Thus it has recently referred to Russia’s policy in Finland as being a betrayal of Socialism . . . which, of course, is nonsense. A few years ago the LL.P. had in circulation two pamphlets, typical of many, which . illustrated the Party’s conception of “Socialism.” The pamphlets were “Socialism at Work in Queensland” and “Chunks of Socialism.” In the former the reader was asked to be impressed by the efficiency of the State butchers’ shops in that country and the fact that these shops were able to sell meat at a fraction of a penny less a pound than the capitalist “private” retailer. In the latter pamphlet the simple worker was provided with a very simple explanation of the meaning and working of Socialism. He was invited to observe “Socialism” at work during his everyday life. The roads that he walked on, the trams that he rode in, the post office where he bought his stamps and received his old-age pension, were all, he was told, “chunks of Socialism.” Further, he was informed, Socialism merely meant an extension of these things to other activities and the addition of more “chunks.”

The I.L.P. To-day
But what of the I.L.P. as it exists to-day . . ? Can the mistakes and the misconceptions of the past be laid at the door of the present I.L.P. ? Has the breakaway from the Labour Party really resulted in an “independent” party? Does the I.L.P. now stand for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism as we understand it?

I.L.P. propaganda to-day is largely concerned with the war. It takes a line which, in appearance, seems to be fairly sound and in conformity with the Socialist position. It is an imperialist war, it is argued, fought over the question of trade routes, colonies, and for political dominance. This attitude, upon which the I.L.P. appears to be united, is in contrast to the policy of squaring the circle which it exhibited during the last war. Should we, therefore, relax our opposition to the I.L.P. because of their stand on this particular social problem ? The truth is that, with a major war on the doorstep, affecting closely the lives and the interests of the British working class, it would have been surprising had even the I.L.P. taken any other line. The test of a sound approach, however, is when it is a question, not of a major war on the doorstep, but a minor war, which appears to be more remote from British working-class interests and not so obviously an imperialist war. When Italy attacked Abyssinia a few years ago the I.L.P. were not so certain about the nature of the struggle. Dr. C. A. Smith openly supported the slave-owning potentate, the Emperor of Abyssinia, against Italy. Dr. Smith, now chairman of the I.L.P., then stated :
“I now repeat that, had I been in Abyssinia, only conflicting duties or sheer cowardice would have prevented my fighting against the Fascist invaders.”
McGovern, in a letter to the New Leader (May 29th, 1936), said that Smith was supported in this attitude by Fenner Brockway and C. L. R. James. McGovern, with others on the Inner Executive of the I.L.P., took an opposite point of view. The Executive passed a resolution which said :
“In our estimation the difference between the two rival dictators and the interests behind them are not worth the loss of a single British life.”
The similarity of phraseology to the 1914 War Manifesto of the S.P.G.B. will not escape those who are familiar with it. But what happened as a result of this reasonably sound attitude from these leaders of the I.L.P.? At a later conference delegates of the party moved a vote of censure on the supporters of the resolution on the grounds that this line was in opposition to the official I.L.P. policy! The resolution of censure was carried by 70 votes to 57. A rap over the knuckles for the leaders by the led ! Another example was the Spanish Civil War. In this, as in the case of Abyssinia, the I.L.P. overlooked the over-riding capitalist interests which were involved and which could, quite conceivably, have driven the war into an international conflict.

I.L.P. Peace Terms
The I.L.P. appears to have learned sufficient to enable them to appreciate that the war is basically a struggle between the capitalists of Europe. But its understanding seems to go little deeper than that. Let us quote the “Socialist Peace Terms” which feature as the I.L.P.’s chief propaganda at present. The following is from the New Leader (October 3rd, 1939): —
“The I.L.P. has written to Socialist and Labour Parties of all countries urging- a world agitation for peace based on the following principles :—

1. The liberation of peoples in Europe from German Imperialist domination and equally the liberation of the subject peoples of the British and French Empires from alien domination.

2. The recognition that, whilst peoples should enjoy autonomy in social and cultural life, the world has become so closely knit that national sovereignty must be subordinated to international unity.

3. The removal of the economic causes of war by whole-hearted recognition that the abundant resources of the earth make the struggle for markets and raw materials unnecessary, and the establishment of an international economic organisation for the distribution of the world’s resources according to the needs of all peoples.”
There are just one or two essentials in that statement that are amazing for their omission. It talks of the “peoples” as though the fact that the world is divided into an owning class and a dispossessed class, the capitalist class and the working class, just does not exist. It is the jargon of the deliberately vague and opportunist politician. And look at point three: “… the abundant resources of the earth make the struggle for markets and raw materials unnecessary.” Quite. But the strangest omission is a recognition of the fact that whilst the earth’s abundant resources are owned and controlled by the capitalist class different sections of that class will struggle for possession of it. We repeat, a strange omission from a “Socialist” statement on war. And how the I.L.P. proposes that the liberation of the peoples in Europe from German imperialist domination should be effected it leaves to be guessed. The truth is that the problem of peace and war is one for the capitalist class. Socialists cannot even remotely affect the issue. It is sheer moonshine to talk of a “Socialist peace” in a world where there is a non-Socialist working class. More, it is fantastic delusion. In whatever way peace will come it will certainly not be a Socialist peace. Socialists can only continue to express their opposition to war.

The Old Reforms Again
War is only one of the social problems thrown up by capitalism and though the I.L.P. appears to have learned a little of that problem it is still the old I.L.P. where other social problems are concerned, and no nearer an understanding of them than they were forty years ago. Some points from the election address of the I.L.P. candidate in the Stretford bye-election indicate this. They are : —
“(1) Introduce a national living wage, with family allowances, to be paid as a minimum to workers in industry and the armed forces alike.
(2) Conscript wealth by transferring industry, transport, land and banking to public ownership.
(3) Suppress all profiteering by fixing a price for raw material and goods in all stages of production.
I am pledged to fight for these demands. The National Government could—
(4) Immediately increase old-age pensions to 20s. per week and increase unemployment benefit and sickness allowances, widows’ and blind pensions in accordance with every increase in the cost of living.
(5) Stabilise working-class rents within the reach of working-class incomes.
(6) Requisition the mansions of the rich, whether in town or country, for evacuation centres, homes for the aged and infirm.”
Note that family allowances occupies first place. The danger of this proposal to the workers’ standard of living by reducing the income of unmarried workers completely escapes the attention of the I.L.P. Or perhaps it is regarded as just good electioneering. Observe also the old-time favourite vote-catching expedient—minimum wages and increased old-age pensions. Votes given for the candidate were claimed to be anti-war votes by the I.L.P. A little exaggerated in view of the bait. And about that minimum pay to “workers in industry and the armed forces alike.” (Italics ours.)

Does this mean that the I.L.P. is now voting for war credits in Parliament? If they are voting against the annual financial appropriation granted by a vote in the House of Commons, without which the Army could not continue, then it cannot logically ask for increased pay for soldiers. The Army can only get its increased pay if the Army gets its appropriation. Logically, to give increased pay for soldiers, the I.L.P. should support war credits in opposition to its “anti-war policy.”

Take another example of muddled thinking from the New Leader (November 10th, 1939) : —
“On Wednesday the Labour Party demanded in Parliament juster and earlier rationing of food.

The principle of the equal distribution of necessities is sound.

The best way to secure it. however, is not rationing of what money can buy, but rationing the money itself.

The I.L.P. demands the equalisation of all incomes so that there is neither luxury nor want.

It proposes that a national minimum on a living scale should be established and that no worker or soldier should be paid less than this scale.

At the same time there should be a maximum beyond which no income or salary should go.”
Ordinary, simple folk who do not know much about economics would incline to believe that a minimum and a maximum income cancels equalisation. They would, of course, be quite right. But wishy-washy politicians have standards of their own. “Demands” should sound “bold” and be calculated to provoke approval among the unthinking. It is the sort of nonsense that came very easily from the Labour Party in the days when the possibilities of becoming a government were remote. In short it is political peddling.

Time to Define Socialism
The I.L.P. is still the same old party; muddled, reformist and with no real idea of what Socialism really means. Two recent issues of the New Leader show this. In a long article on January 19th the following appeared: “The time has come for us to stress the positive side of our policy. Not just against the war . . . but for Socialism. This will require careful discussion of the meaning of Socialism, of the political and economic structure of the society we want, and of the steps and methods by which to achieve it.” On March 14th, Dr. C. A. Smith, chairman of the I.L.P., said: “Clearly it is high time for Socialists to get down to the job of definition, and make quite clear to themselves what they mean by the term.” After nearly fifty years of existence they are going to start doing something which an organisation claiming to be Socialist should have known from the start! At the recent I.L.P. conference Dr. Smith illustrated his complete inability to do this. He said: “Socialists who value democracy have therefore to consider what they can learn from libertarian doctrines, such as those of the Anarcho-Syndicalists, to study the reason for the success and the destruction of the Soviets in Russia.” What could more illustrate intellectual bankruptcy than this pathetic grasping at the discredited doctrines of the Syndicalists. After the I.L.P. broke away from the Labour Party they began to play with the doctrines of Bolshevism in a similar way. The Party has no real understanding of the problem of capitalism. I.L.P. conference also carried a motion permitting its members to join the Co-operative political party.

Another back door into the Labour Party, a party with whom it would have recently re-affiliated if a sufficiently face-saving formula could have been found, a party with whom it has no fundamental differences, but merely tactical differences on questions of policy.

The I.L.P. has attempted to foster the illusion that its breakaway from the Labour Party eight years ago produced a party of revolutionary Socialism. It has only succeeded in showing that mere discontent with the Labour Party cannot make revolutionaries or Socialists Understanding of the nature of capitalism is required for that. And is what the I.L.P. lacks.

The S.P.G.B. is still the only political party in this country able to apply a revolutionary approach to the problems of capitalism, because it is the Socialist Party.
Harry Waite

Capitalist Federation or International Socialism? (1940)

From the May 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nothing for the Workers !
In our previous articles, published in the March and April issues of the Socialist Standard, we have shown that a Federal Union could not bring permanent peace or improve the lot of the working class.

The claims of Federalists are extravagant and Utopian, because they are based upon misunderstandings of the capitalist system. Like all other reformists who have preceded them, the Federalists are attempting to achieve the impossible : they want to retain capitalism, but wish to eliminate the evils it engenders. Reformists of one school or another have, for generations, been trying to realise that happy state of affairs. With what result? The development of capitalism proceeds unhindered and defeats their efforts every time: wars, degrading poverty, malnutrition, overwork, unemployment and countless other evils inseparable from capitalism are still with us.

In discussing Federal Union, we have been compelled to arrive at this conclusion: there is not the slightest reason to believe that Federalists would succeed where other reformists have failed. Capitalism cannot be adapted and made to function for the benefit of the mass of the population.

As a matter of fact, some advocates of Federal Union are aware that their scheme can do little for the workers as a whole. Perhaps this accounts for their attempts to win the approval of the tax-paying capitalist and the better-paid sections of the working class. Perhaps this accounts for the promises of easier travel, or reduced taxation and even the promise of new careers for the educated sons of the well-to-do, who are now finding a difficulty in obtaining “suitable” places in capitalist society.

We read in “Federation and World Order,” by Duncan and Elizabeth Wilson, that “the institution of a Federal government would open a wide choice of new careers in the new civil service that would have to be formed” (p. 178).

Whilst the “brains” would have new careers within the Union, the two writers just quoted have to admit that, for the ordinary person, life would proceed much as it does at present. Here is what they say : —
“First it must be emphasized that in many ways of ordinary life the average man would notice little change ” (p. 177).
Presumably the everyday sufferings peculiar to the working class would remain: the worry of making ends meet, the anxiety about employment, etc.

In fairness to the Wilsons we must add that they promise the average person “the absence of a sense of insecurity which has of late become part of his consciousness.” But we have already shown that Federal Union cannot give anybody “security” from war nor from the threats of war, because it does not touch the economic rivalries which are inherent in capitalism.

When the worker is asked to support Federal Union, he ought, thereore, to remember that even according to some of its supporters “the average man would notice little change.” That is our contention, too; Federal Union can do. nothing for the working class.

Federal Union—A Bulwark of Capitalism
Federal Union stands for the retention of capitalism. Let there be no mistake on that point. It has been openly admitted by several of its advocates.

Mr. Streit, one of the principal supporters of Federal Union, states clearly and definitely in his proposed constitution that Federal Union would safeguard private property. According to him, Federal Union must give “Freedom . . . from having property taken for public use without just compensation.”

Of course, were Streit allowed to have his own way, were his idea to be rigidly adhered to, there could never be a Socialist society. Compensation for property socialised means that previous owners would have a right to claim some of the products of industry. In other words, he wishes to ensure that present property owners will continue to live without working, that they will continue to claim, as their own, wealth produced by our class.

Socialists are opposed to the capitalist class living, like parasites, on the backs of the workers.

Mr. Curry goes further. He wishes to see the ownership of property as widely diffused as possible. It is thus that we shall obtain, he thinks, a population that is “independent,” that “cannot be easily bribed, coerced, or bullied ” (“The Case for Federal Union,” p. 101).

It is a pity that the Federalists do not get down to facts instead of dreaming and indulging in wishful thinking !

Federalists defend capitalism, so they must be prepared to put up with its inconveniences. The fact is that it is inconceivable to have capitalism and an independent population, to have capitalism and a population of property-holders. As Marx observed in “The Communist Manifesto,” nearly a century ago, the development of capitalism destroyed private property for the majority of people. The small peasant was either robbed of his land or else driven out of existence by the competition of large-scale capitalist farmers. The petty artisan, with his small tools, likewise could not compete against the giant machinery possessed by the wealthy capitalist. In both cases, the result was the same. The small peasant and the petty artisan lost possession of their means of production (land, tools, etc.) and became DEPENDENT on the capitalist class for their livelihood.

Nor has this process ceased. As time goes on, capitalism concentrates the means of production into fewer hands, the small capitalist being precipitated into the ranks of the property-less.

Does Mr. Curry think he can fight against this tendency of capitalist society ? Does he think he can turn back the wheel of history ? This is the dream of a Utopian.

What blindness when Mr. Curry says: “Middle-class independence depends upon economic security.” Which economic security?

Capitalism offers no economic security to the “middle class.” Doesn’t Mr. Curry remember the last economic crisis and the thousands of small capitalists it ruined ? Has he forgotten the streets of towns with their shop windows bearing the “To let” posters?

In case he has, these quotations from the Sunday Express (March 2nd, 1930) will serve to refresh his memory and show how little security small tradespeople have : —
1) “Ten thousand shopkeepers, mainly trading in villages and small towns of Britain, have gone bankrupt during the past year.”
2) “Bankruptcies among small shopkeepers have increased 50 per cent, since the (1914-18) war.”
The independence of the small capitalist is a myth. The general trend of capitalism is to replace him by, or make him dependent on, the big combine.

The position of the “middle-class” managers of big firms is little more secure than that of the small tradesman. Technicians and administrators are now trained in such numbers that, if capitalist firms so choose, they can replace them without much inconvenience. This being so, the independence of the salaried worker is also a myth.

To sum up, this is our point. When the masses are divorced from the means of production they cannot be other than dependent upon the capitalist class. When the majority depend on the few for the necessities of life “bribery,” “coercion” and “bullying” are natural normal features of life. Not Federal Union, but Socialism can alone put an end to that dependence.

A Vital Factor
The Federalists reject Socialism on the grounds that some remedy must be found quickly to put the world in order. “Time,” says Mr. Curry, “is an absolutely vital factor.”

This argument has repeatedly been used to dissuade the workers from studying the real cause of their plight, capitalism, and to dissuade them from studying Socialism, the one solution of the world’s ills.

In rejecting Federal Union as being worthless from the point of view of the workers, we take this opportunity of urging them once more to study Socialism.

Earlier in these articles we have shown that capitalism is responsible for the many sufferings inflicted upon the workers. These sufferings will continue as long as capitalism lasts, until the workers take matters into their own hands. Mr. Curry is again wrong when he says: “Mankind is not faced with the immediate alternative, Socialism or disaster.” We say that until Socialism is established working-class history will be one long-series of disasters. These disasters will show themselves in the form of wholesale massacres, prolonged periods of unemployment, struggles to maintain their standard of living, strikes and lockouts. These disasters will confront the working class, Federal Union or no Federal Union. Time, then, is a vital factor. Socialism must be established as quickly as possible.

It is Up to You
The workers can put an end to capitalism as soon as they have the knowledge and the will to act.

The means of production have now reached a stage of development when they could be used to produce enough to satisfy the wants of all. Frequently new processes of industry are not utilised because the markets of the world cannot absorb all rhe good things that are produced. Frequently, too, things are burned or destroyed so as to keep up prices and profits. Obviously production for profit is becoming a more serious fetter as time goes on. Even cabinet ministers and economists have occasionally been obliged to admit that we are living in an age of plenty, that because wealth is being produced in such abundance unemployment and poverty are forced upon the working class.

The Socialist solution for the world’s ills is a simple one, but it needs the co-operation of the majority.

In Socialist society all will co-operate to produce and distribute the things man needs. In return, every member will have free access to the means of life.

Poverty will not exist, because we shall have production for use only, and modern technique assures us of a gigantic output of goods.

Unemployment will not exist, because all those who are physically and mentally able will assist in production.

Wars will cease, because there will be no rivalries for markets. Goods will be made solely for use, not for profit. National boundaries will become meaningless, since the workers of all lands will be co-operating to satisfy each other’s needs. Their interests will be identical. The effort that is now put into the manufacture of armaments will, under Socialism, be directed to the providing of the things all can enjoy.

The armed forces, being unnecessary in Socialist society, its members will give their energies to production.

Obviously, the standard of living of the workers would be greatly increased by the introduction of Socialism, and would go on increasing with each new invention and improved process of production.

It is up to you, then, fellow worker. Are you going to support Federal Union, which, as some of its advocates rightly say, will leave you in your present position, or are you going to organise for Socialism, and win the world?
Clifford Allen

Whose Idea was the “Graf Spee” ? (1940)

Editorial from the May 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the Graf Spee was scuttled off Montevideo, the Admiral Scheer torpedoed off the Norwegian coast, and the Deutschland rumoured to have been sunk or damaged in some North Sea encounter, the Press and the war propagandists announced these events as the destruction of Nazi ships. “Hitler’s pocket battleships,” they said, “built to outrun or outgun British capital ships or cruisers, had met their end in fight with the warships they were designed to destroy.”

But the curious fact, hardly noticed, is that Germany’s pocket battleships were neither built nor planned by Hitler’s regime but by his predecessors, the Democrats, Catholics and Social-Democrats, who for the most part, ruled Germany from 1919 to the end of 1932. The Deutschland was laid down in 1930, the Graf Spee in 1931 and the Admiral Scheer in October, 1932. At that time, prior to Hitler’s advent to power, two other pocket battleships were projected, but the plan was changed, and two 26,000-ton battleships, the Gneissenau and Scharnhorst, were built instead. The difference between the Nazi naval programme and the earlier one was not a difference of aim but only of method. The pre-Nazi German governments felt still too weak to defy the limitations imposed by the victors in the last war and therefore directed the skill of their naval designers to the problem of building the most powerful and destructive type of ship within the limit of 10,000 tons imposed upon them. Hitler’s Government, working at a later stage of Germany’s secret re-armament came out into the open and disregarded the restriction. The object was the same, that of building a fleet with which to challenge the sea power of rivals, particularly Great Britain. (It is hardly necessary to treat seriously the German Government’s explanation that the “pocket battleships” were “designed with a view to service against the Polish Navy in the Baltic.”)

Similarly it was the pre-Nazi governments which, with the help of Russia and other Powers, were carrying on the secret building up of Germany’s military forces. According to a naval correspondent of the Evening Standard. (April 9th, 1940) the plan for the invasion of Norway was worked out years before and had been “considered as long ago as 1926.”

From German Social Democrats to British Labourites
What are we to conclude from this ? It certainly shows the absurdity of placing the full responsibility for making war on one man. Does it then justify those who maintain that the Germans (including the German workers and Labour Party) are an inferior people, particularly prone to aggression and to being twisted by their naval, military and political castes ? Are they a deceitful race, guilty of having made these preparations for war while talking all the time of peaceful methods and supporting League of Nations schemes for disarmament and peace ? The answer can be found by looking up the record of their counterparts in Great Britain. The 1924 Labour Government, with protestations that another war was unthinkable, nevertheless went on with the building of the battleships Rodney and Nelson, put into effect a programme for five new cruisers, increased the expenditure on the Air Force and planned that Air Force expenditure would go on increasing for several years. Just as, in England, there was a slight protest from a minority Labour group, so also did a similar small group protest in Germany against their Government’s naval programme. The British Labour Government were not, however, by any means sure that the enemy against which these forces might be used was Germany. Indeed, at the 1925 Labour Party Conference the late Mr. Arthur Henderson resisted a resolution for disarmament on the ground that the armaments might be need for defence against France if that country “continued in the frame of mind she was now in” (Conference Report, Page 232).

How then does it happen that British and German Labour politicians claiming to represent the workers’ desire for peace should alike have been instrumental in making preparations for war ? It is because capitalism does and must breed international rivalries leading to war. No amount of good intentions on the part of those who, in the name of Labour, take on the administration of capitalism will disarm that savage monster.

There is ample room in a Socialist world for the peoples of the world co-operating for their common good, but there is no room in a capitalist world for rival powers, each seeking profit through the capture of markets, conquest of raw materials and the control of trade routes and strategic points for their armed protection. For all of them the watchword is “Expand or explode.” Hitler or no Hitler, it is the law of capitalism, the law of the jungle.

Thyssen and a Federal Germany. (1940)

From the May 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fritz Thyssen is in the news, and it may be advisable for the working class to try and discover why this gentleman, only recently a close friend of Hitler, now receives publicity of a not unfavourable character at the hands of Hitler’s enemies.

A Dutch paper recently published a review of the amazing intrigues of the German capitalist class and the Third Reich.

From a translation of the article above referred to, made by Mrs. D. G. Steeves, member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, and published in the B.C. Federationist of recent date, we take the following: —
“Fritz Thyssen, representative of the world-famous industrial dynasty of that name, once the all-powerful dictator in the great German Steel Trust, after 1933 by the grace of Hitler, Supreme State Authority of the German economy, has now fled to a foreign country, leaving: all his capital behind him. Now he in lives in Ascona, pleasant little refugee colony on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore, cheek by jowl with the former social democrat minister, Otto Braun, and the writer of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Erich Remarque. We live in a strange world.

Thyssen’s flight from Germany has created astonishment. For it is well known that he was the first powerful personage who sought and made contact with Hitler after the national-socialist collapse in Bavaria. One of the witnesses in a lawsuit at “Dusseldorf” in 1930, who happened to be a director of one of the great coal-mining companies, controlled by Thyssen, was forced to testify that this company contributed one pfennig of every ton of coal mined to the coffers of the national-socialist party. In that same year Thyssen became a member of the party. Two years later, in 1932, the national-socialist party had another serious crisis and Thyssen was the only industrial leader of the Rhineland area who took Hitler’s part . . .

Thyssen worked hard for Hitler in those days, trying to win over the organised barons of industry. It was from Castle Landsberg that Hitler drove to Dusseldorf to make his famous speech in the Club of Manufacturers, by which he succeeded in winning the industrial leaders of the Rhineland and Westphalia District to his cause, Mr. Krupp included. Thyssen had prepared the ground well!

It was on a snowy wintry day. In front of the Park Hotel in Dusseldorf, where the Club of Manufacturers met, the police had great difficulty in restraining a mob of thousands of demonstrating workers. Hitler had to enter secretly at the back. While he was speaking inside, the heavy shutters of the hotel were closed and the police charged the demonsrators again and again. Hitler and Thyssen escaped secretly in a car with closed blinds.

A year later Hitler was Chancellor of the Reich. 

Without any other background than this dramatic episode the flight of Thyssen seems strange. It is more comprehensible if one takes a look behind the scenes of the tremendous struggle for power between the big business leaders of the Rhineland-Westphalian area. And they were not very particular as to what weapons they used. It was told, for instance, that during the era of Kaiser Wilhelm “old Thyssen” sent the nortorious “Kornwalzer letters” to Karl Liebknecht, by which the socialist leader was enabled to make his famous denunciation of Krupp in the Reichstag.

In 1930, when Thyssen finally joined the national-socialist party, the opponents of the Thyssen group had delivered a smashing blow to “young Thyssen.” With the advent of the slump in 1929, “Vereinigte Stahlwerke,” Thyssen’s Steel Trust, was virtually bankrupt. They had debts amounting to 700 million marks.

In 1926, Fritz Thyssen had hoped to make himself ruler of the most powerful trust in the world, and was very nearly successful. However, at the last minute he was unexpectedly defeated by his old opponent, Krupp. I. G. Farben (The German Chemical Trust) was also his implacable enemy. But Thyssen had 26 per cent. of the share capital of the Steel Trust and virtual control. Moreover, through interlocking directorates, he had a voice in 30 other big industries; he was a director of the Rhineland-Westphalia Coal Syndicate, and also a director of the Reichsbank, so the road to an industrial monarchy seemed fairly clear. After the slump, in 1930, it was a different story. He was no longer a controlling factor in the Steel Trust. All his enterprises were so weakened that, for a while, it seemed that all he could do would be to put his business under control of the State or lose it entirely to the bank, unless a miracle intervened. A new man, Frederick Flick, had come up and pushed “young Thyssen” to one side, a dark horse, who had been a small manufacturer. It was then that Thyssen joined the national-socialist party.

In 1932 a tremendous scandal broke suddenly in Germany, in the days of the Bruning-Schleichei government. It was revealed that the government had bought the bulk of the shares of the great mining concern Gelsenberg from its owner, Flick, at a fantastic price, millions more than they were worth. The national-socialist papers made great play of this, reproached Bruning and Flick in hectic terms, as defrauders of the Reich. But Bruning and Flick declared that France had made an offer for the business, and that if the government had not acted the mines would have been delivered into foreign hands. When Paris denied this, Flick revealed that the agent for the French deal had been Fritz Thyssen.

It was fear of the outsider Flick which finally drove the Rhineland big business group into the arms of Thyssen and Hitler. In one of the first proclamations of the “Supreme State authority of the German economy,” Thyssen delivered himself of a tirade against foreign control of German business. . . . Flick was vanquished. However, a new rival soon arose in the colossal Herman Goering State Trust, which competed with the older Rhineland-Westphalian trusts. Shortly after its establishment, Thyssen fled from Germany for the first time. His former enemies, Krupp and the directors of I. G. Farben. persuaded him to come back. They knew they would be able to use him.

Big industry feels it can no longer implicitly trust the present Government. The documents on certain old, but not forgotten, affairs, in particular the old affair, in which Thyssen in 1921, on the accusation of Communists and other leftists, was arrested because he allegedly tried to “sell out” the occupied Rhine and Ruhr area to the enemy, France, have been preserved and are in the dossiers in keeping of Police Chief Himmler. A new type of propaganda is being issued by the German Government to-day, booklets entitled “From Rurik to Stalin,” “The Meaning and Growth of Russia.” “Facts About the U.S.S.R.” It is not outside the realm of possibility, that one day Police Chief Himmler will open up those interesting dossiers. … In the “struggle for the soul of the German worker” these things might be very useful. And it cannot be expected that the industrialists will hang together. There is no honour or loyalty amongst thieves.
 Perhaps Fritz Thyssen feared that he would be the first victim. It is being rumoured that he was summoned to Berlin, but evidently he chose to retreat to picturesque, idyllic Ascona, rather than face the more exciting distractions of Berlin.

You can’t blame him.”
The latest news at the time of writing is that Herr Fritz Thyssen is now in Paris. Just previous to his departure from Switzerland the Daily Telegraph of March 23rd paved the way to an understanding of what was being attempted by this industrialist whose capitalist interests are in jeopardy.

The Daily Telegraph quotes a letter from Thyssen to a German paper published in South America: —
“In making the war Hitler disregarded all facts, objective or subjective. There is not a word of truth in all that Hitler wants to make us believe.

We no longer want a dictatorship—neither dictatorship by a party, nor by the party, nor by one man, nor by youth in uniform.

Force must not take the place of happiness. Never more must there be pogroms, nor concentration camps, nor tortures, and above all, never more an alliance with Bolshevism.

Instead we want a Federated Germany on the lines of Switzerland. We want the disarmament of Europe without desire for vengeance and victory.

The Powers on both sides have equal technical means at their disposal. But supplies of raw materials are not the same. Therefore Germany has lost the war.

Herr Thyssen invites all workmen to unite against Hitler, the enemy of Germany, to prevent the ruin of Germany.'”
Not much patriotism in these fellows; they follow the bait of profit wherever it may lead them, but how little they know of the nature of the forces at work.

It will be observed that Thyssen advocates a “Federated Germany.” It is interesting to contrast this with the views expressed by Trotsky.

In the News Chronicle of March 20th he maintains that: “The unification of the German nation was an inseparable result of its capitalistic development. In order to dismember the present Germany it would be necessary to break the backbone of the German technique, destroy German factories and exterminate the significant part of the population. It is easier to say than do.”

Trotsky sees that the Allies’ programme of freedom and independence for small nations is out of line with reality. His conclusions in this connection are that small states have as little chance of independence in competing with imperial interests as the independence of small industrial and commercial enterprises under the domination of trusts and corporations : the comparison is apt.

France wishes to dismember Germany whilst the latter wants to unify Europe and subject all the countries in it to German rule.

The task of economic unification may be in the line of progress, but the problem is: Who is to unify, how, and what for?

The European nations, according to Trotsky, will not consent to be locked in the barracks of ” National Socialism.” All attempts in this direction tend to provoke bloodshed.

The two peace programmes are, therefore, on the one hand, the Balkanization of Germany and thereby of Europe, and on the other, the transformation of Europe and then of the entire world into totalitarian barracks. The present war is being waged for the sake of these two programmes.

Mr. Thyssen evidently thinks that his interests will be best served if he goes into the Allies’ camp; this is interesting, in view of the past history of the Thyssen family.

When the Allies tried to realize their peace programme after the last war the victors failed. Truly the Romanovs, Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns were swept from power, but so also were their opponents. Clemenceau and Lloyd George were kicked out of office and Wilson ended his days a bitterly disillusioned man.

All the present governments, says Trotsky, will go down in the present struggle : the capitalist system is in a blind alley. The only programme the ruling class will maintain is one that is calculated to save their own skins.

We do not venture to cast the horoscope like Trotsky; we cannot inform our readers what the stars foretell.

We are told that without an entire reconstruction of the economic system on a European and world scale our civilization is doomed. The struggle of blind forces and unbridled interests must be replaced by the rule of reason, of plan and conscious organization.

We may or may not agree with this, but when he says all this is to be done by the popular masses led by the proletariat, we should like to know a little more about his definitions of masses, proletariat and, above all, leadership.

We do not need leadership by Trotsky or any other.

Trotsky continues his over-confident prophecies:
“Europe must become a Socialist United States if it is not to become the cemetery of the old culture. A Socialist Europe will proclaim full independence of colonies, establish friendly economic relations with them and, step by step, without the slightest violence, by means of example and collaboration, introduce them into a world Socialist federation.”
It’s all worked out, you see. When the working class understand their class position they will establish Socialism and in doing so remove all barriers to world unity, but they will do it in their own way, not according to any leader’s plan but in a manner that will surprise all leaders and would-be leaders, even Leon Trotsky.
Charles Lestor