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Fourth International, January 1943


International Notes


From Fourth International, vol.4 No.1, January 1943, p.31.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for the ETOL.


When the Émigrés Return ...

Most of the political refugees from Germany and Austria are Socia1 Democrats of various hues or Stalinists and are supporting the war against Germany. When the Nazi power collapses and the emigres return home, how will they be received by the masses? This very interesting question is asked and very honestly answered by one émigré in the November 1942 Left, the British monthly. The emigre, Olav Leroi, who comes from one of the Scandinavian countries, applies his answer particularly to the Germans and Austrians, but also extends it to the émigrés from the countries occupied by the Nazis. His biting remarks are worth quoting at length:

“Some day the war will be over, and we’ll go back to the Continent. And then? Then we’ll be emigrants in our own country. The butcher and the greengrocer and the neighbors will know that we were not there while they were fighting their titanic struggle with the Nazi oppressors. They will gently remind us that our houses were found empty when a hundred hostages were collected. They will not call us ‘cowards:’ but they will think it, and that is even worse.

“People in our countries will ask us to show them our hands, and they will try to find the results of manicure and bathsalts. In their turn they will show us their hands with wounds from the concentration camps. Their eyes will try to perceive how many clothing coupons we spent while their clothes were torn from their bodies by the Nazis. They will not ask the questions as such, but there will be disdain in their silence ...

“In this crucial time the leaders of tomorrow are being born, but not amongst us. They are being born in Europe, in occupied Europe, and in Nazi territory.

“The human wrecks of Dachau and other concentration camps are usually pictured as broken men who cannot do more after the war than spend the rest of their lives in the best health-resorts Europe can provide. Indeed, we shall find human wrecks, but the wreckage will be only physical. We shall find living corpses, we shall find people with irreparably twisted arms and legs, with wounds which cannot be healed.

“But we shall find something more. Out of concentration camps and prisons will be carried on stretchers an army of people with a tremendous will-power born by the determination to survive during the darkest days of existence. We shall find an army of invalids who, having suffered as cruelly as they could suffer, will not yield to any difficulties ... Torture can ruin health, but in some people it can create an inflexible courage.

“We in emigration must not expect that these leaders of underground Europe, who stood up against the cruellest tortures, will allow us to take the lead of the people for whom they have suffered.

“We shall go back and watch, and watch only!

“We, the ‘scum of the earth,’ emigrants today, emigrants tomorrow.”

This is a powerful characterization of the real relation of the émigrés to the masses at home. It fails, however, to state the political essence of the relation: The émigrés are and will be looked upon as agents of the victorious powers which will be attempting to crush the revolutionary wave in Europe. The small number of genuine revolutionists among the émigrés, who will be able to prove that they remained true to revolutionary internationalism, will receive an entirely different reception from the workers of Europe. They will be honored as the men women who told the truth about the war to the workers before the war began.

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Last updated on 22.8.2008