Felix Morrow

Lovestone Shows Norman Thomas
How to Do It

(13 January 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 2, 13 January 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

When, three months ago, the Norman Thomas Socialists and the Lovestone group voted with the American Labor Party leaders for a pro-Ally resolution on foreign policy, we predicted: they are taking the road to “democratic” patriotism. Verification of our prediction has come quickly enough; General Thomas and Colonel Lovestone are now enrolled in the American Expeditionary Force for Finland.

The social and ideological roots leading to this course did not of course, begin three months ago. The interested reader may find a critical history of the development (degeneration) of these groups by reading the polemics in the Trotskyist press against them at each stage of the last ten years. Even well-disposed readers of our press felt at times (I suspect) as they read these polemics, that there was in them a good deal of hair-splitting. The dismembered hair turns out, however, to be No Man’s Land, with the contending groups in opposing trenches. They wear the uniform of capitalist intervention, we the uniform of the Red Army. Not a small difference.

Their Crushing Answer to Us

Thomas-Lovestone have a crushing reply to us: you are in the Red Army of Stalin. We have already answered that charge, not once, but thousands of times in the last ten years. Our fundamental starting point on the Russian question has been a basic distinction between the Soviet Union and the Stalinist bureaucracy. The economic conquests of the October revolution are the Soviet Union. The parasitic growth upon it of a degenerate bureaucracy is a fact which we Trotskyists analyzed and fought during many years when Thomas-Lovestone called us, as a consequence, anti-Soviet. To save the Soviet Union, the bureaucracy must be overthrown by a political revolution, arms in hand. But overthrown by the workers, and not by capitalist intervention. Against the capitalist world, we defend the Soviet Union. This has been our position consistently during the last years, and Thomas-Lovestone never dreamed of calling us allies of Stalin. Before they could make that charge, they had to go over bodily to the opposite trenches.

Thomas Was a Bit Hasty

Our standpoint is based, we repeat, on a fundamental distinction between Soviet economy and the Stalinist bureaucracy. Can Thomas-Lovestone suggest a similar fundamental distinction between Finnish economy and the Finnish bourgeoisie, as a justification for supporting the Finnish puppets of Chamberlain-Daladier-Roosevelt? Thomas seems to have sought such a distinction, with the result that the Socialist Call printed some weird fairy tales, in editorial form, about the economic paradise in which the Finnish workers and peasants live. There was a rather abrupt cessation of those editorials, however; maybe somebody read off to Thomas the League of Nations statistics on Finnish land ownership.

This is an old problem for “socialist” patriots – how to make a distinction between themselves and the capitalists when both are united in war aims. Much ingenuity was exercised on this problem during the first World War by the Social Democrats in distinguishing themselves from the Kaiser, Poincaré, Lloyd George, etc.

Lovestone’s “Clever” Formula

It must be readily conceded that Lovestone is far more clever at this game than Thomas. The Socialist Call rushed headlong into a series of indiscretions which it is now trying to cover up; while the Workers Age preserved a sly silence until a skillful formula could be found. That formula has finally been worked out and is presented in an editorial in the latest Workers Age (January 6). We give its salient portions:

“... we stand with the Finnish masses in their heroic fight to beat back the invader ... We say frankly that we do not trust the Finnish government; we do not regard it as a reliable, steadfast champion of Finnish independence. The present ruling elements in Finland are bound very closely to the British Foreign Office, and to the British Foreign Office Finland is simply a pawn in the game of imperialist diplomacy. British diplomacy sacrificed Czecho-Slovakia to Hitler; a few weeks ago it offered to make a deal with Stalin at the expense of half of Poland. Who knows what intrigues are now being carried on by the agents of Downing Street at the expense of the Finns. No group in Finland that is so closely linked up with the British Foreign Office as are the bourgeois ruling circles of that country can be fully trusted to defend Finnish independence to the last.”

A clever formula. It enables Lovestone to speak harshly about the Finnish bourgeoisie (whereas Thomas made the mistake of presenting them as house-broken), to characterize them as puppets of the imperialists (which Thomas had denied), and to “demand” that labor aid Finland “independently” of Hoover, a clever formula – but only for those who are seeking such formulas.

Lovestone Sets His Demands

For note its internal logic. The Finnish bourgeoisie cannot be trusted. Therefore overthrow them? Don’t defend their Finland, but only a socialist Finland? Not a bit of it, says Lovestone: by all means defend bourgeois Finland. What he doesn’t trust the bourgeoisie to do is just that – defend bourgeois Finland. He’s afraid they will surrender to Stalin, as the Czechoslovaks surrendered to Hitler, at British insistence.

Suppose the British Foreign Office reassures Lovestone that it has no such intention. Suppose it gives him guarantees, by sending a fleet through the Dardanelles to strike through Odessa and another through Siberia. With such reassurance – and it appears to be coming – Lovestone will have no further reservations to make concerning the wholeheartedness of his alliance with the Finnish bourgeoisie.

Last updated on 17 July 2018