Felix Morrow

The Call and Some of Its Friends
on Finland

(6 January 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 1, 6 January 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Norman Thomas’ Call appears to be losing some of its original enthusiasm for the cause of Finland. The last two issues have been couched in a distinctly lower key than the clarion call for world aid to Finland with which the Call editor, Gerry Allard, greeted the events (“In that struggle every human being who cherishes freedom will support the heroic Finns.” – Call, Dec. 9). The eight-column banner across the front page, Finland’s Fight: A World Cause (Dec. 16) has not been repeated. It may be that Messrs. Thomas, Allard and Symes have been a little flabbergasted by the enthusiastic response – from the Allied Supreme War Council, Herbert Hoover, the Swedish nobility, and other democrats – to the Call’s exhortations for aid to Finland.

The Jan. 6 Call reports that many letters have been received criticising or commending its stand. It publishes a commendatory letter from the well-known millionaire socialist, Alfred Baker Lewis, which concludes: “The fact that Italy has, for her own national interests, supplied some limited support for Finland ought not to deter Socialists from urging full economic aid to Finland as the victim of totalitarian aggression.” A critical letter from the Debs circle of the Young Socialists of Los Angeles declares: “We are not only shocked but defiant as to the right of the editor to write such an article advocating that the Socialist party furnish the Finns with arms and munitions. We feel that such an idea is directly opposed to the Socialist stand on war ...” A letter from Paul Jones says: “But I do hate to see the Call taking a position right up close to the band in the march toward war. That is no place for a Socialist paper ... for Pete’s sake put on the brakes before you go any further.”

Amazingly enough, these letters are printed without a word of editorial comment. The Call will maintain a dignified silence for a while, it appears.

An Indignant Lady Columnist

But not quite. While no party spokesman speaks on the questions at issue, the columns of the Call are turned over to an attack on Trotsky, entitled On Socialist Ideals, reprinted from the New York Post, and written by the Post columnist, Dorothy Dunbar Bromley.

This lady declares that “Not only Stalin but Trotsky must be counted among the betrayers.” At first glance it may appear that the lady is really polemicising against the Trotskyists, for she refers to the Dec. 1 and Dec. 9 issues of the Appeal. A little light begins to appear, however, when she writes: “Jay Lovestone, unlike that other dissident, Trotsky, has described the attack on Finland as ‘yellow’.”

Since anybody who actually read the Dec. 1 and Dec. 9 issues of the Appeal knows that the Trotskyists characterized the attack on Finland in terms far more harsh, and much more precise, than “yellow”, it becomes obvious that Miss Bromley doesn’t know what she is talking about. Similar comments by other newspaper writers and radio commentators made it clear that their misinformation about the Trotskyist position

came from a central source. Upon inquiry, that source of misinformation was established: a mimeographed weekly, entitled Uncensored, launched by the well-known Thomasite impresario, Mary Fox, and edited by Sidney Hertzberg, a member of the Socialist party. Miss Bromley’s “references” to the Dec. 1 and 9 issues of the Appeal came from a very tricky paragraph in Uncensored, which characterizeed the Trotskyist position as “the first gesture” of Trotsky to Stalin!

Having launched this bit of fakery, the Socialist party now prints it, in the form of a column by Miss Bromley, as “independent” verification of the fakery!

It Depends Where You Stand

However, it should be added that from a certain vantage point the fundamental difference between the Trotskyist position and that of the Stalinists tends to be blurred. If someone stands far enough over on the right, two points which are actually distant from each other but are both to the left of that observer, may seem closer together, than they are in reality.

An instance of this perspective is Mr. Ferdinand Lundberg, the author, who is one of the sponsors of Uncensored. I sent him a copy of a letter I wrote to Uncensored, protesting its false statement of the Trotskyist position. He replied that “for the life of me I can’t see wherein your position has been distorted”; and after one reads his letter, it becomes clear why he cannot make any distinction between the Stalinist position and that of the Trotskyists. For it is perfectly true that the Trotskyists are defenders of the Soviet Union, who will not defend a bourgeois Finland, although they would defend an independent Soviet Finland against Stalin. Whereas Mr. Lundberg thinks the, Finns would be damn fools if they started a revolution. Mr. Lundberg writes:

“The important thing is not that Finland is bourgeois. One might say that is of no importance at all except to hopelessly doctrinaire sectarian revolutionists who are wandering deeper and deeper into a blind alley. The important thing is that a small, hardworking, self-respecting, upright people has been set upon by a cowed, fear driven rabble ...

“I certainly think the Finns are right in defending themselves against the bovine Stalinist hordes, who are the ones that should act upon Lenin’s dictum and turn their guns against their own officers. The Finns would be damn fools if they started a ‘socialist’ revolution and Stalin would be glad. Personally, I hope the Finns give the precious Red Army a clawing it will never forget. And I sincerely hope that Soviet Russia is weakened by the invasion.”

Mr. Lundberg’s remarks have this value: they give, a little more incautiously than others, the real vantage point of all those who denounce the Trotskyist position as a concession to Stalinism: the vantage point of democratic-imperialist patriotism.

Last updated on 17 July 2018