J.R. Johnson

Labor and the Second World War

(17 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 88, 17 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


The failures of Russia, the degradation of Russia, are in the last analysis due to the failure of the workers of the world to establish socialism. Had countries like France, Britain, Germany, and the United States followed the road to collective ownership and planned economy, what they would have done in twenty years would not only have lifted the workers and the entire population of these countries to undreamt of heights of social well-being and equality. It would have prevented the emergence of such a hydra-headed monster as the Stalinist bureaucracy and its corrupt spawn, the Browders, the Fosters, the Fords, and their kindred throughout the world.

Those who have studied the true causes of the rise and decline of Soviet Russia know that its history is an argument not against, but for socialism, an indictment not of collective ownership and planned economy but of the chaos of capitalism. It is capitalism that, using the cowardice and selfishness of the Stalinist bureaucrats, has managed to stave off victorious revolution and slowly drags the Soviet Union down into the blood and muck of world imperialism.

Without the socialist revolution in one or more of the advanced countries, Soviet Russia is doomed. That is the key to the understanding of Soviet Russia, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No wonder that Lenin in the five years of his working life as ruler of the country publicly repeated this profound truth little less than fifty times.

Against War Means for Socialism

From all the above it follows that the struggle against war is the struggle against capitalism for the socialist society. The workers must fight against their own capitalists at every turn—in the factories, in the legislatures, against the WPA cuts, against the anti-alien bills, against the armament budgets whether large or small, against Roosevelt’s foreign policy, against his ceaseless propaganda that America must prepare for a war in defense of “peace” and “democracy.” Any concession to the capitalists on any front means just so much more freedom for them in their relentless drive to war. If war does come, the word will go forth that we must have “national unity” against aggressor. Then more than ever it will be necessary to continue resistance, legal and illegal.

The masses may be swept into the war. But those who recognize the true nature of imperialist war, though they may have to submit for a period, must never for a moment relax their opposition, but continue to seek ways and means of influencing the masses against the war. For history shows us that though the people, under the stimulus of fright, propaganda, and mass hysteria, may enter a war, the strain that it imposes upon them is such that revulsion soon begins. This can culminate, as it has culminated before, in a determination to sweep away those responsible for the slaughter, the suffering, the privation. In their recognition of the real enemy at home, they forget the supposed enemy abroad. That is what we must work for.

The revolutionary fighter against imperialist war must remember that it was not the statesmen who brought the last war to a conclusion. It was the revolutionary workers of Russia who, by the Russian revolution of 1917, made the first great break in the war. And the German workers, by their revolution against the Kaiser and his government, brought the 1914–1918 war to an end.

The Sham Fighters Against War

If the workers do not succeed in stopping Roosevelt from dragging us into the war, who will do it? Many so-called anti-war groups and persons tell the masses it is they who will. Test them all by their stand on the capitalist system. If they are not fighting to overthrow it, they belong to capitalist society and are in the camp of the enemy. Isolationists like Senator Borah fill the public press. But it is the finance-capitalists like Morgan who decide, and when they give the word and Roosevelt drags the people in, Borah will not call upon the workers to stop Roosevelt. He and his kind will say, “My country, right or wrong,” and support the war with the rest.

The labor leaders like Lewis and Green follow Roosevelt like the trained lap-dogs that they are. In Germany, in Britain, in France, when the last war came these pampered, well fed, capitalist-aping lackeys called the workers to the colors. And in 1939 as in 1914 they have shown once more that as long as they can sit in the offices, draw their fat salaries, visit the best hotels in the company of “good society,” they have no quarrel with capitalism and will support their imperialist masters in whatever way they are told to. Look for a moment at their record.

In 1918–1920 the capitalist system was rocking in Europe. The capitalists, utterly discredited, were hated by millions of workers and farmers in every country. All that was needed was resolute leadership. But these labor leaders, who had talked about socialism for twenty years or more, went to the rescue of capitalism and, having the confidence of the workers, preserved instead of overturning the system. The capitalists left them in control for a time and, when the revolutionary energy of the workers had been dissipated, rewarded the social-democrats with the fascist terror. Against fascism as against war the labor leaders were helpless, and for the same reason. Well paid and comfortable under the capitalist system, they work to preserve it, with the resulting ruin of both them and the workers who follow them. In America as elsewhere the social-democrat leaders support capitalism. They must be bracketed with the imperialist war-mongers and fought on the war issue without quarter.

(Continued in Next Issue)

Last updated on 18 April 2018