Felix Morrow

A ‘Marxist’ Alibi
for the Jingoes on Finland

(20 January 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 3, 21 January 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

During the first world war the jingo social democratic parties spoke in terms little different than those of their capitalist rulers. However, in each country the brazen jingoes carried, as protection on their left flanks, spokesmen and groups whose task it was to justify the war, or at least to justify the “socialist” jingoes, in pseudo-Marxist language. This division of labor was an important factor in preventing for a long time a breakaway of the masses from the jingoes to a revolutionary position. Workers discontented with Scheidemann could be taken in tow by Kautsky. Ramsay MacDonald caught those moving away from the British Labor Party. And so on.

The thing is already being repeated here in one small instance. It is instructive to describe it.

At its Jan. 6 meeting the American Labor Party state committee adopted a jingo resolution for American government aid to Finland, in line with the previous pro-Ally stand taken by the A.L.P. The Norman Thomas socialists and the Lovestoneites voted for both resolutions.

But many needle-trades workers are anti-Stalinist, yet believe there is something dear to the working class in the Soviet Union which is worth defending. These workers do not take well to the stand of the A.L.P. leaders, who have been enemies of the Soviet Union from its first days. So ... the Lovestoneites undertake the task of taking these workers into camp. As usual, this type of job goes to Will Herberg.

Ostensibly he agrees with these workers.

“We want to defend what remains of the Russian Revolution, the economic foundations, the nationalized economy, from the danger of restoration of private capitalism.

“Defend how and against whom? Of course, against invaders and forces of restoration. But also against the Stalin dictatorship.” (Workers Age, Jan. 13)

So far, so good. One begins to wonder how Herberg is going to reconcile these correct statements with the A.L.P. Position.

A Pickpocket’s Kind of Skill

The fact is that Herberg makes no attempt to reconcile the two. Having presumably satisfied the questioning workers by agreeing with them that there is a basic working class stake in the Soviet Union worthy of defense, he then simply goes on to drop that stake from his further calculations. It is a bit of sleight of hand. It is illuminating to quote him:

“Easy victory for the Russian invader in Finland – which hardly seems possible any longer – would immensely strengthen the totalitarian dictatorship in Russia; any sort of victory would operate to some degree in the same direction. Victory for the Russian invader would greatly stimulate the predatory appetites of the new Stalin imperialism and would further demolish what remains of the Russian Revolution. Hence (!!!) a Stalin victory in Finland would most emphatically not serve the best interests of the Russian people or of world socialism.

“The inescapable conclusion of all this is that the ‘defense of the Soviet Union’ has no meaning whatever for international socialism at the present (!) moment, in connection with the invasion of Finland. It may (!) arise again as a significant slogan tomorrow (!), or it may not. Certainly it has no significance today.”

How He Does It

The sleight of hand comes with the “hence” in the first paragraph. That Stalin cannot defend the Soviet Union, that successful defense of the Soviet Union requires the overthrow of Stalin by the workers, that the strengthening of the totalitarian dictatorship is bad for world socialism – all this we said already at a time when, for saying it, we were denounced by the Lovestoneites as enemies of the Soviet Union. But what follows from these facts? That Stalin’s overthrow by the workers is imperative. This, and nothing more. There does NOT follow from this the consciously dishonest piece of sleight of hand that “Hence a Stalin victory in Finland would most emphatically not serve” etc.

The Russian workers, aided by the international proletariat, must and will overthrow Stalin. But until then? Until then, if we are loyal to the cause of socialism, we defend the Soviet Union against the capitalist world. The Soviet Union cannot be defended by Stalin? The working class efforts for his overthrow must be redoubled. But his overthrow can have meaning only if in the interim we defend the Soviet Union against its capitalist enemies. The defeat of Stalin by the capitalists means capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union. Not a political revolution will come in the wake of invading capitalist armies, but the overturn of the national economy.

That is what the lackeys of imperialism, the A.L.P. leaders, want. That is not what the workers want. The role of the Lovestoneites is to mollify the workers – and support the A.L.P. leaders.

Roosevelt, Daladier, Chamberlain, Hoover, the Scandinavian rulers, etc., etc., want to defeat the Soviet Union for the benefit of the capitalist world – that, I hope, nobody will deny. From somewhere in the capacious pockets of the imperialist juggernaut comes the squeak of Lovestone-Thomas and their European similars: “we want the Finnish armies to defeat the Soviet Union for the benefit of socialism.” Is this not the exact counterpart of the spectacle of the “left” British Labor Party and French Socialist Party leaders proclaiming that they support the war against Germany for very different objectives than those of Chamberlain and Daladier?

Is the analogy unfair? Then let somebody explain why.

Are Norman Thomas and Lovestone prepared to defend their patriotic position before working class audiences, in debate with Trotskyist spokesmen? We, for our part, would more than welcome coming to grips with these people.

Last updated on 17 July 2018