[Marxism] RE: Communist Tasks

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Wed Feb 18 08:52:29 MST 2004

Walter Lippmann:

>> Of course in the old SWP they thought it
made no difference who won World War II, either.

After all, it was just an inter-imperialist conflict, so
the outcome was a matter of indifference to its eloquent
editorialists. ... <<

How easily we forget....

>From James P. Cannon (Writings and Speeches, 1940-43), The Socialist
Workers Party in World War II, pp. 207-210:


December 22, 1941

This statement was first published in the January 1942 Fourth

The considerations which determined our attitude toward the war up to
the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and the Axis
powers retain their validity in the new situation.

We considered the war upon the part of all the capitalist powers
involved-Germany and France, Italy and Great Britain-as an imperialist

This characterization of the war was determined for us by the character
of the state powers involved in it. They were all capitalist states in
the epoch of imperialism; themselves imperialist-oppressing other
nations or peoples-or satellites of imperialist powers. The extension of
the war to the Pacific and the formal entry of the United States and
Japan change nothing in this basic analysis.

Following Lenin, it made no difference to us which imperialist bandit
fired the first shot; every imperialist power has for a quarter of a
century beep "attacking" every other imperialist power by economic and
political means; the resort to arms is but the culmination of this
process, which will continue as long as capitalism endures.

This characterization of the war does not apply to the war of the Soviet
Union against German imperialism. We make a fundamental distinction
between the Soviet Union and its "democratic" allies. We defend the
Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is a workers' state, although degenerated
under the totalitarian-political rule of the Kremlin bureaucracy. Only
traitors can deny support to the Soviet workers' state in its war
against fascist Germany. To defend the Soviet Union, in spite of Stalin
and against Stalin, is to defend the nationalized property established
by the October Revolution. That is a progressive war.

The war of China against Japan we likewise characterize as a progressive
war. We support China. China is a colonial country, battling for
national independence against an imperialist power. A victory for China
would be a tremendous blow against all imperialism, inspiring all
colonial peoples to throw off the imperialist yoke. The reactionary
regime of Chiang Kai-shek, subservient to the "democracies," has
hampered China's ability to conduct a bold war for independence; but
that does not alter for us the essential fact that China is an oppressed
nation fighting against an imperialist oppressor. We are proud of the
fact that the Fourth Internationalists of China are fighting in the
front ranks against Japanese imperialism.

None of the reasons which oblige us to support the Soviet Union and
China against their enemies can be said to apply to France or Britain.
These imperialist "democracies" entered the war to maintain their
lordship over the hundreds of millions of subject peoples in the British
and French empires; to defend these "democracies" means to defend their
oppression of the masses of Africa and Asia. Above all it means to
defend the decaying capitalist social order. We do not defend that,
either in Italy and Germany, or in France and Britain-or in the United

The Marxist analysis which determined our attitude toward the war up to
December 8, 1941, continues to determine our attitude now. We were
internationalists before December 8; we still are. We believe that the
most fundamental bond of loyalty of all the workers of the world is the
bond of international solidarity of the workers against their
exploiters. We cannot assume the slightest responsibility for this war.
No imperialist regime can conduct a just war. We cannot support it for
one moment.

We are the most irreconcilable enemies of the fascist dictatorships of
Germany and Italy and the military dictatorship of Japan. Our cothinkers
of the Fourth International in the Axis nations and the conquered
countries are fighting and dying in the struggle to organize the coming
revolutions against Hitler and Mussolini.

We are doing all in our power to speed those revolutions. But those
ex-socialists, intellectuals, and labor leaders, who in the name of
"democracy" support the war of United States imperialism against its
imperialist foes and rivals, far from aiding the German and Italian
antifascists, only hamper their work and betray their struggle. The
Allied imperialists, as every German worker knows, aim to impose a
second and worse Versailles; the fear of that is Hitler's greatest asset
in keeping the masses of Germany in subjection. The fear of the foreign
yoke holds back the development of the German revolution against Hitler.

Our program to aid the German masses to overthrow Hitler demands, first
of all, that they be guaranteed against a second Versailles. When the
people of Germany can feel assured that military defeat will not be
followed by the destruction of Germany's economic power and the
imposition of unbearable burdens by the victors, Hitler will be
overthrown from within Germany. But such guarantees against a second
Versailles cannot be given by Germany's imperialist foes; nor, if given,
would they be accepted by the German people. Wilson's fourteen points
are still remembered in Germany, and his promise that the United States
was conducting war against the Kaiser and not against the German people.
Yet the victors' peace, and the way in which the victors "organized" the
world from 1918 to 1933, constituted war against the German people. The
German people will not accept any new promises from those who made that
peace and conducted that war.

In the midst of the war against Hitler, it is necessary to extend the
hand of fraternity to the German people. This can be done honestly and
convincingly only by a workers' and farmers' government. We advocate the
workers' and farmers' government. Such a government, and only such a
government, can conduct a war against Hitler, Mussolini, and the Mikado
in cooperation with the oppressed peoples of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Our program against Hitlerism and for a workers' and farmers' government
is today the program of only a small minority. The great majority
actively or passively supports the war program of the Roosevelt
administration. As a minority we must submit to that majority in action.
We do not sabotage the war or obstruct the military forces in any way.
The Trotskyists go with their generation into the armed forces. We abide
by the decisions of the majority. But we retain our opinions and insist
on our right to express them.

Our aim is to convince the majority that our program is the only one
which can put an end to war, fascism, and economic convulsions. In this
process of education the terrible facts speak loudly for our contention.
Twice in twenty-five years world wars have wrought destruction. The
instigators and leaders of those wars do not offer, and cannot offer, a
plausible promise that a third, fourth, and fifth world war will not
follow if they and their social system remain dominant. Capitalism can
offer no prospect but the slaughter of millions and the destruction of
civilization. Only socialism can save humanity from this abyss. This is
the truth. As the terrible war unfolds, this truth will be recognized by
tens of millions who will not hear us now. The war-tortured masses will
adopt our program and liberate the people of all countries from war and
fascism. In this dark hour we clearly see the socialist future and
prepare the way for it. Against the mad chorus of national hatreds we
advance once more the old slogan of socialist internationalism: Workers
of the World Unite!

>From Ernest Mandel, The Meaning of the Second World War (Verso, 1986),
p. 45:

Given the participation of this multitude of mutually antagonistic
social forces, how are we to characterize the Second World War?

By the end of 1945 the war had become not only a transcontinental but
also a multifarious affair involving: revolutionary class struggle from
below; revolution from above; national liberation movements under
bourgeois and working-class leaderships; reform of the old order; and
violent counter-revolution. The exact outcome in each instance depended
on the strength and maturity of the class leaderships, the degree of
importance the victors attached to a given area or country, and their
ability to impose a political settlement.

Bearing this in mind, the overall character of the Second World War must
be grasped as a combination of five different conflicts:

1. An inter-imperialist war fought for world hegemony and won by the
United States (though its rule would be territorially truncated by the
extension of the non-capitalist sector in Europe and Asia).

2. A just war of self-defence by the Soviet Union against an imperialist
attempt to colonize the country and destroy the achievements of the 1917

3. A just war of the Chinese people against imperialism which would
develop into a socialist revolution.

4. A just war of Asian colonial peoples against the various military
powers and for national liberation and sovereignty, which in some cases
(e.g. Indochina) spilled over into socialist revolution.

5. A just war of national liberation fought by populations of the
occupied countries of Europe, which would grow into socialist revolution
(Yugoslavia and Albania) or open civil war (Greece, North Italy). In the
European East, the old order collapsed under the dual, uneven pressure
of popular aspirations and Soviet military-bureaucratic action, whereas
in the West and South bourgeois order was restored - often against the
wishes of the masses by Western Allied troops.

The above excerpts reflect the considered positions of the Fourth
International and the SWP on the nature of WWII.

Walter, it's bad enough that you misrepresent the SWP's position on the
Cuban revolution by quoting repeatedly from an isolated sectarian
sentence in a Militant editorial of 1960 - a sentence that stands in odd
contradiction to most of what the party was saying, and (more
importantly) in complete contradiction with what it was doing in defence
of the revolution at that time. But now you seem to be taking your
rewrite of history back to the early 1940s.

Stop flagellating yourself over your misspent youth. Take another look
at your own history, and be proud of what you once learned. You are
doing a fine job today at applying those lessons.


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