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Joseph Carter

From Zig the British CP Has Shifted to Zag

(December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 37, 23 December 1940, p. 4.
transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On January 12, 1941, a “People’s Convention” to organize a movement for a “People’s Government” for peace will be held in London, England.

The Convention Call, addressed to workers, socialists, trade unionists, the lower middle class, “democrats and anti-fascists,” is signed by a long list of names which reads like a roll call of the Communist Party. So far as is known, no non-Stalinist organization has endorsed the Convention. The Independent Labor Party will have nothing to do with it. And of course neither will the pro-war Labor Party.

The Call presents the current line of the British Communist Party. The Tory rulers are denounced for helping to place Hitler in power, and for getting the country into the war; for the profiteering, and high prices and taxes which aim to place the war burdens on the masses; for the inadequate air raid protection of the masses. The Churchill Government is attacked for its failure to grant national freedom, and for its “scarcely-concealed hostility” to the Soviet Union. The Labor Party leaders are criticized for their participation in the coalition government.

The Convention Call also proposes six points for the consideration of the delegates: defense of living standards, defense of democratic and trade union rights, adequate air raid precautions, friendship with the Soviet Union, a People’s Government, and a people’s peace.

The advanced British anti-war workers know the real purpose behind the present policy of the Stalinists and their Convention. They know that the policies of the Communist Party before and since the present war were and are dictated by the reactionary interests of the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy.

Stalinists Supported Present War

For example, before the present war when Stalin was united with the democratic imperialists of Britain and France, the English Stalinists were ready to support the war of their master’s imperialist allies against Hitler. When the present war broke out, the British Stalinists, as their French friends in the Chamber of Deputies who voted for war credits, supported the war of Britain against Germany. the Central Committee of the party issued a statement in September 1939 calling for “support of all necessary measures to secure the victory of democracy over Fascism.” Despite the Stalin-Hitler pact, which took them by surprise, they still expected that Russia would be allied with Anglo-French imperialism. The C.C. statement therefore summarized the Stalinist position in the first days after the outbreak of the war as follows:

“Indeed, the essence of the present situation is that the people have now to wage a struggle on two fronts. First, to secure the military victory over Fascism: second, to achieve this, the political victory over Chamberlain and the enemies of democracy in this country. These two aims are inseparable, and the harder the efforts to win one, the more sustained the activity to win the other.”

A signal from Moscow changed this line. The Communist Party was informed that the Russian-German Pact meant that the British Stalinists must oppose their own government and the war. However, the Stalinist fellow-travellers, the serious People’s Fronters, such as Harold Laski, John Strachey, Aneurin Bevin, Victor Gollanz, remained faithful to the old pro-war line.

Opposed Colonial Independence

Today, to cite another example, the Communist Party is for the national independence of the colonial peoples. However, when Stalin was allied with the democratic imperialists, the Stalinists were told that the national independence of the oppressed peoples had to be subordinated to “collective security” against Hitler “in the interests of defeating fascism, the mortal enemy of the working class,” to quote the words of a leader of the Communist International, Manuilsky (March 1938). The British Communist Party issued a statement on The Colonies and Fascism elaborating on the idea that the “main enemy” of the British colonials was not British imperialism but rather German Fascism; and that the “Trotskyist and semi-Trotskyist type of propaganda which, in the name of repudiating existing imperialist domination, in practice acts as the apologist of fascist aggressive aims in relation to the colonial peoples.” (Labour Monthly, August 1938). (The exact same line was pursued by the American Stalinists in regard to Yankee imperialism in Latin America).

But lo and behold, as soon as Stalin’s henchmen adjusted themselves to their Fuehrer’s alliance with German Fascism, they wrote a new statement (The Colonies and War) condemning Britain’s attempt to drag the colonies into the war (that is, the policy they themselves had advocated yesterday!), forgetting about their old bogey of Fascism as the “main danger” in the colonies, and hypocritically announcing that “Communists have always fought for the right of all peoples to complete self-determination ...” (Labour Monthly, December 1939). Of course, this time they found it inexpedient to mention the “Trotskyists”!

Their old line called for a “People’s Government,” a coalition of the Labor Party, Liberal Party and “anti-fascist conservatives” – such as Eden and Churchill! – which in alliance with Russia would wage war “in defense of democracy against fascism”.

Today, as in the Call for the January Conference, they also call for “A People’s Government, truly representative of the whole people and able to inspire the confidence of the working people of the world” and for “a people’s peace that gets rid of the causes of war.” This government would establish “friendship with the Soviet Union.”

What does this “People’s Government” mean? Why, of course, any British government which forms a military alliance with Russia! All the rest is mere verbiage. So long as the Churchill government, either because of its own interests or because of Stalin’s, does not have such a military alliance the Communist Party will be against British imperialism in the war. However, if the Churchill Government or its imperialist successor does take this step then the Stalinists will forget all about freedom for the colonies, democratic rights for the workers, and particularly the anti-war fighters, in a word, will once again be ardent defenders of Union Jack imperialism. The interests of the British workers play no role whatever in determining Communist Party policy.

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