J.R. Johnson

Labor and the Second World War

(21 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 89, 21 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


Committees calling themselves “Keep America Out of War” profess to be lovers of peace. One such was composed of Lovestoneite communists, social democrats, and isolationists like Hamilton Fish, the reactionary Senator from New York. Once you understand that the fight against imperialist war is the fight against the whole capitalist system, it becomes patent that the anti-war pretensions of these committees is demagogy on the part of Ham Fish and opportunism and publicity-wooing on the part of the Lovestonites and socialists. Fish is a die-hard supporter of the capitalist system. Any communist worthy of the name maintains as his first aim the overthrowing of the system. Is it any wonder that this united front of reactionaries and treacherous so-called communists went to pieces even before the European war broke out? Whoever is not opposed to capitalism root and branch is not opposed to war.

Pacifists refuse to fight and instead go to prison. How does that help to stop any war? How does it help to mobilize the masses for the death struggle that stopping imperialist war demands?

Stalin’s Agents in America

The Stalinists, with a great revolutionary past and backed by the financial resources of the Soviet Union, have for five years confused the workers with their talk of supporting the “democracies” against fascism. Now that Stalin is working so closely with Hitler, they wish to keep Roosevelt from joining Britain and France. They call the war an imperialist war. If the cooperation of Stalin and Hitler continues to increase, more of the leaders, corrupt as they are, will denounce the Soviet Union and seek cover under the wing of “democracy,” driving the masses into the imperialist war. But those who stay with the Stalinist bureaucracy will merely be carrying out orders and will change their policy as soon as Stalin makes a change in his. The revolutionary workers must see the Stalinists for what they really are and must realize that they represent a corrupt and treacherous bureaucracy and not the world revolution.

Karl Liebknecht’s Great Example

If the workers do not awake in time and stop Roosevelt, the revolutionary movement will see some dark days. But a sense of historical perspective will help to keep our forces together. In 1914 no single voice in Germany was raised against the war. Karl Liebknecht wanted to denounce the war-mongers and to rally the opposition for resistance, if even it could not at that moment stop the war. But the labor leaders imposed party discipline upon Liebknecht and he was weak enough to submit to it. Some few months after he broke the discipline and spoke out. He was arrested. But even from prison he and Rosa Luxemburg continued to oppose the war by underground means.

And in November 1918, the German workers brought the war to an end by the revolution. The masses came to Liebknecht’s point of view in time. They will come to ours, and they will not take four years.

The German revolution gives us another great warning. Our revolution must not stop at the mere, destruction of one capitalist government and its replacement by another. The workers must sweep away the whole system and establish the socialist state. For if not, then as Germany shows us, monopoly capitalism will take its predestined course. It will resort to fascism, crush the revolutionary workers, enslave the working class. It will then seek to destroy its rivals abroad by yet another imperialist war.

The war in Europe may come to a crisis so quickly that Roosevelt may not have had time to take America in. We cannot go into all the possibilities here. But as long as American imperialism remains, it will wage imperialist war.

A Glorious Future for the Workers

The American workers must aim at establishing the United Federation of American Socialist Republics. The workers of Europe must have as their aim the United Socialist States of Europe. While each people will retain its own language and national customs, together they will abolish national boundaries, quotas, customs duties, tariffs, and the burden of national armies, which now weigh like mountains of lead upon the common people in every country. The national rivalries and jealousies will disappear with the disappearance of the causes that give rise to them. Free plebiscites will give minorities an opportunity to decide with which larger group they want to live. The Jews have no future except with the victorious working class movement. Wherever the workers still have their organizations the Jews can live. As soon as the working class movement in any country is smashed the reactionaries make the Jews a scapegoat for the evils of capitalism. Socialism alone can stop the persecution of Jews.

The revolutionary workers will encourage and assist the millions of colonial workers to free themselves from their imperialist jailers. This is one of the greatest crimes of imperialism, its strangulation of the creative capabilities of millions of colonials for the sake of a few hundred thousand bondholders in the leading imperialist countries. While hundreds of millions work for ten cents a day, modern industry cannot realise its vast potentialities and must continue to decay. And what but the socialist revolution against imperialism can release the colonials from their bondage? It is in such a reorganization of American and world economy that the American Negroes will find equality. They will never get it under capitalism.

The world is crying for a true internationalism, not because this is a noble ideal, but because world economy has reached a stage where it can go forward only by breaking the control of the finance-capitalists and by abolishing national states. A worldwide crisis, thirty million unemployed, fascism and imperialist war—that is what the capitalists have to offer. They must be broken, and only the workers’ revolution can break them.

The Struggle for the Fourth International

“Only along this road can the proletariat liberate itself from its dependence upon the chauvinist bourgeoisie and, in one form or another, more or less rapidly, take decisive steps on the road to the real freedom of nations and on the road to socialism.

“Long live the international fraternity of the workers against the chauvinism and patriotism of the bourgeoisies of all countries!”

Today the Fourth International, with its cadres in every country, hold fast to these words of Lenin. The Fourth International seeks, by precept and example, to make Lenin’s doctrines a militant reality for the workers and farmers of the world, crushed and demoralised by capitalism. Those American workers who recognize the enormous importance of revolutionary socialism for the world today, who see that we must be socialists or perish, will seek their fellow revolutionaries and assist them in the building of the Socialist Workers Party, the American section of the Fourth International.

The End

Last updated on 18 April 2018