Felix Morrow

Rumblings of Revolt Shake War Camps

Third Camp Raises Its Head in First Weeks of War

In Prague, Dublin, India, Paris, Moscow War-Makers Tremble
at Spectre of Masses in Rising Against Their Bankrupt Rule

(24 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 90, 24 November 1939, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The first known large-scale struggle of a section of the masses against its “own” government during this war has taken place. The Czech students and workers have the honor of initiating the revolutionary struggle against the war- makers.

That this open clash came during the first months of the war, whereas years elapsed during the first world war before such a clash – that is the difference in the tempo of the two epochs.

The main attention of the “democratic” press has been concentrated on the dramatic resistance of the Czech students. It is clear now, however, that the workers also participated in the struggle. As early as Oct. 27, the Nazi officials of Prague, officially branded “labor agitation” as “the work of Trotskyite Communists” – the universal designation of revolutionists by reaction. That strike calls were answered by the workers last Saturday is discovered from an official assertion that the strikes were terminated by Monday. But that would indicate that the strikes were not for economic demands, but were political protest strikes, in solidarity with the students, called for a specific time period and then terminated.

In addition to the execution of twelve student leaders and the herding of thousands of others into concentration camps, it is reported that the Nazis fired artillery into the workers’ quarters of Prague. The desperate measures taken by the Nazis is a measure of the profound crisis undermining their rule.

Europe Sits on Powder Barrel

But their rule is not the only one which is being undermined. As everybody understands, the measures necessary to a totalitarian regime mean that internal contradictions have reached an intolerable tension – only the most dreadful oppression keeps the internal contradictions from exploding. And this explosive situation exists outside of Germany too.

The Nazis, in answer to the “democratic” glee over the meaning of the Prague events, retort – in the words of the Diplomatisch-Politische Korrezpondenz, Foreign Office publication – that England and France, in Palestine and Damascus among other places, “have shown what methods they themselves are accustomed to use.”

France Under Martial Law

France is today also a totalitarian regime – in the “democratic” form of martial law. To its previous repressive measures the government on Nov. 19 added new ones – “effective as long as France is under martial law” – under which “individuals dangerous for national defense or the security of the state may be transferred from their place of residence to a center that the War and Interior Ministries select.” Which, translated into plain language, means that the decree gives these ministries power to proceed against anybody without recourse to the usual legal procedures, courts, etc., the ministries having the authority to define what individuals come under the decree. “With these decrees the government”, says the N.Y. Times report, “will be in a position to take drastic action against any insubordination such as has been advocated in clandestinely circulated propaganda.” These Hitlerite methods mean that France, like Germany, is a smoldering volcano.

Uprisings in North Africa

What does the Nazi taunt about Damascus mean? There are rumors current in Paris about uprisings in French North Africa. Not a single dispatch has been published from Algiers in the American press in weeks! The French censorship is even stricter than that of the Nazis, all dispatches being subject to censorship before being sent. The volcano is smoldering.

Indian Volcano Seething

Britain is in no better plight. At the very beginning of the war the “jewel of the Empire,” India, with its 375 millions of revolting slaves, demands in irreconcilable language its freedom from British rule. Even Gandhi, who himself wanted to give unconditional support to Britain in the war, has now been compelled to threaten civil disobedience if the British do not yield. Remove India from the foundations of the British Empire, and the entire structure comes crashing down.

Yet so impotent are the British rulers that they can do nothing about the inspiring symbol which shows the way to the five hundred million colonial peoples oppressed by Britain: at England’s very door is Ireland which, despite a government pliant in England’s hands, will have nothing to do with the imperialist war.

Fritz Thyssen, who financed Hitler’s rise to power, has left Germany because of a lack of faith in Hitler’s war program. Such a break within the ruling clique is one of the harbingers of the downfall of a regime. But the British have little to be happy about. For among their own ruling caste are such figures as Lloyd George, who conducted the last war and who now – at the very beginning! – has so little faith in the ruling class’ ability to withstand the shocks of war that he wants, someway, somehow to reach an understanding with Hitler.

The Spectre Haunts Europe

But if they could not reach a stable understanding in the years of “peace,” they can find none now. Each imperialist power needs what the other also needs, and only arms can settle the argument. There are no bridges back to the “peace” of Munich. A long and pitiless war is ahead and its vistas frighten the ruling class of every country. For at the end of it they see the spectre which is haunting Europe today more than ever before: the spectre of revolution.

The “democrats” are trying to convince themselves that the thunderbolts of revolution will strike only at their enemies. The former agents of German imperialism, the exiled leaders of the social democracy, now in the service of Anglo-French imperialism, assure their new masters that the thunderbolts can be harnessed to the social democratic transformers which will step them down to a safe voltage. They did it once before, in 1918, when they were able to bring the German Revolution within the confines of the Weimar Republic – and of Hitlerism. They will do it again, they promise.

The British are paying their money for goods which cannot be delivered! No more than Hitler was satisfied with the Sudeten mountains will the needs of Germany be satisfied with a monarcho-democratic revolution. British leaflets – and social democratic leaflets – will not break the iron hoops of Hitlerism; those hoops will be rent asunder only by the shattering of the entire German social order, which means by a socialist revolution.

Stalin Fears German Revolution

Chamberlain does not understand this and hopes for a “reasonable” explosion in Germany. But Stalin does understand this, and fears it. Stalin knows that revolutions are contagious. Were the horizons of the Soviet Union ringed with red instead of brown, the social hatred stored up by the Soviet masses against the oppressive bureaucracy would no longer be frozen by the fear of imperialist intervention. Capitalist encirclement today is Stalin’s best ally against the Soviet masses. The German Revolution would provide the Soviet working class with a new perspective, and that would mean the end of Stalin. For, like Hitler, Stalin’s strength consists not of bis own resources but of the passivity of the workers over whom he rules.

The economic system of state property established by the October Revolution plays as deadly a role in undermining Stalin as is played by the system of private property in undermining the rulers in the capitalist countries. But with this decisive difference. Private property creates anarchy and convulsions which can only be done away with by ending private property. The state property of the Soviet Union has demonstrated its infinite superiority over private property by multiplying the volume of production in that backward country by ratios unprecedented in history.

But this splendid steed cannot continue its further course under the bridle of the ossified bureaucracy. It requires an entirely different kind of guidance. The crises in Soviet economy, its dislocations, and the panic-stricken answers of the bureaucracy in the form of purges and more purges – all this signifies that the economy established by the October Revolution is utterly alien to the bureaucracy which has usurped the power. The defense of the nationalized property in the USSR requires the overthrow of the strangulating bureaucracy.

A Fair-Weather Friend

In allying himself with Hitler, Stalin hopes to help Hitler prevent the German Revolution which would overthrow them both. The Communist International is already, though still in cautious terms, warning that Hitler’s overthrow would “most likely” bring a monarchical regime hostile to the Soviet Union, therefore – this is the plain implication- – it is best that Hitler be not overthrown. This is the line so long as Hitler’s military position remains favorable, as it is likely to remain during the first year of the war.

But when Hitler’s situation grows difficult, Stalin will try to leave the sinking ship and swim off toward the Allies. In return for his services at this point, the Allies may permit him to Sovietize the Baltic countries, and call for the independence of Hitler’s Poland in order to Sovietize it too. And with this new turn the Communist International will sing still louder Stalin’s praises as , a “liberator” of people.

But all this can take place only on the basis of Hitler’s growing difficulties. The consequent military defeat of Germany will inevitably be followed by the socialist revolution in Germany. That will mean the end of Stalin too, as the Soviet workers clasp hands with their victorious brothers in Germany.

The German workers’ state and the regenerated Soviet Union will understand, as did the party of Lenin and Trotsky, that their foremost task is to extend the revolution. They will put their resources at the service of the colonial revolutions against the “democratic” empires. The twilight of the British Empire will become the dawn of a new life for the peoples of Africa and Asia. “The epoch of wars and revolutions,” Lenin called our times. In the first weeks of the Second World War we begin from the point at which the Russian Revolution and the post-war revolutions left off.

That is the other side of the present picture of growing reaction and repression. War and its attendant horrors are one side of the coin. The other is the world revolution, whose first rumblings are now being heard in Prague and Munich, Paris and Algiers, Bombay and Calcutta, Leningrad and Moscow.

Last updated on 19 April 2018