Felix Morrow

Socialist Call Mobilizes World for Finland

(30 December 1939)

(3 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 95, 30 December 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Reading the articles and editorials on Finland in the recent issues of Norman Thomas’ paper, The Call, I was reminded again and again of an appropriate comment provided by a sentence in War and the Fourth International, the theses on war adopted by our movement in 1934.

That sentence reads: “Only a hopelessly dull bourgeois from a god-forsaken Swiss village – like Robert Grimm – can seriously think that the world war into which he is drawn is waged for the defense of Swiss independence.” That sentence must now be modified to include Norman Thomas, Lillian Symes, Gerry Allard and the rest of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party, U.S.A. The political and intellectual characterization – hopelessly dull bourgeois – fits them like a glove. They live in New York and Chicago, but that does not abate one bit their hopeless political provincialism.

If these remarks seem harsh, the alternative is even more damning. Either Messrs. Thomas, Allard & Co. do not have the political and mental horizon to understand that the Finnish events are an incident in the imperialist war for the re-division of the earth; or they are agents of the “democratic” imperialists.

Knights in Shining Armor

The editor of The Call greeted the Finnish events with an article entitled Support the Finns! He concluded with a ringing call: “In that struggle every human being who cherishes freedom will support the heroic Finns.” In answer, the Allied Supreme War Council has hearkened to his words.

The next issue of The Call (Dec. 16) carried an appropriate eight column banner across its front page: Finland’s Fight: A World Cause. The leading article, by Norman Thomas, left no doubt where he stood in this world cause. “Of course the United States ought to do all that our government and people have done to express their horror at Stalin’s crime, that includes foregoing Finland’s debt.” Thus wrote Norman Thomas.

A full-dress editorial told the world that: “Only among the Stalinists – and those even more talking about ‘poor little Finland,’ or poor little Trotskyists – is there any illusion left that Russia is a Socialist or even a Workers’ state.” No, said The Call, the real Utopia is Finland:

“The White Guardist generals, including Mannerheim, were deprived of virtually all economic and political power when their estates were confiscated and divided. Mannerheim has played no role whatever in politics for many years.” (The editorial neglected to point out that Mannerheim has been reduced to commander-in-chief of the Finnish armies.)

The editorial went on to vigorously denounce the “pretense” that “Finland was acting as the cat’s paw of Britain,” and to give us the very interesting information that “the British and French governments since the (Nazi) pact have disclosed their determination to appease Russia, even at the price of throwing half of Poland, and possibly all of Finland, into its maw. They were even visibly annoyed when Finland threw its problem into the lap of the League of Nations.” They have since, presumably, expressed that annoyance by expelling Russia from the League.

Everything else The Call has had to say is of the same stripe. Lillian Symes (Dec. 16) cannot contain her contempt for the Trotskyists who say that Finland is a pawn of the imperialists.

“This,” she counters triumphantly, “in spite of the fact that both England and France have shown their complete willingness to let Finland go the way of Czechoslovakia and Loyalist Spain and have been assiduously courting Stalin ever since the Stalin-Hitler pact.”

S.P. Members Protest

It is no secret that the foregoing reactions of the Socialist Party leadership did not sit well with considerable sections of the membership. Even a congenital reformist like Raymond Hofses, editor of the Reading (Pa.) Labor Advocate, wrote in:

“What worries me is his (editor Allard) apparent belief that it has at last become the business of American Socialists to take the side of war and that, however we may have rejected the proposition that the conflict between Britain and France on the one side and Germany on the other was a holy war, we shall not take the same viewpoint when the opponents are Germany’s totalitarian ally and Britain’s potential pawn.”

Various branches of the Socialist Party adopted resolutions attacking the pro-war line of The Call.

Under pressure of the protests, the official resolution on the Finnish crisis adopted by the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party (The Call, Dec. 23) retreats from the previous positions – but only verbally. Where Allard wrote “Finns,” the resolution says “Finnish workers”; it explicitly disavows the proposition that Finland is a socialist state, but then defines it as not a capitalist state either: “We believe that the democracy of Finland differs from that of England and France in degree of workers’ control. It is this, taken together with the fact that Finland has no imperialist ambitions and is free from any taint of colonial exploitation, that is a determining factor in our attitude.” It asks for “the formation of independent labor committees to aid Finland – in contrast to committees headed by capitalist politicians and perhaps used by them for their own interests.” (That “perhaps” is perfect!) “We support the move for the cancellation of Finland’s debt” – i.e., they support American governmental actions on behalf of Finland.

What is the difference between the latest resolution and the previous position taken by The Call? Verbal only, that is clear. But that raises the question with which we began: are Messrs. Thomas, Allard & Co. simply lacking in the political and mental horizon to understand that the Finnish events are an incident in the imperialist war? Or are they becoming agents of the “democratic” imperialists, like the rest of their brothers of the Second International? Precisely when they abandon their cruder formulations and go over to more subtle, more confusing, but definitely chauvinistic formulations, it becomes more difficult to think of them as merely honest fat-heads.

Last updated on 27 Junel 2018