Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The Militant, 14 February 1942

M. Stein

Mike Gold and His Friend ‘Slim’
Discuss the Colonial Situation

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 7, 14 February 1942, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Institutions have a way of continuing their existence long after they have become devoid of the ideas which gave birth to them. Hitter, for example, did not abolish “the Weimer Constitution the product of German Social Democracy – he merely filled it with totalitarian content. Stalin, to give another example, did not abolish the Soviets created by the Russian Revolution as the organs of workers’ democracy, he merely shot everyone who took this workers’ democracy seriously, and all that remains of the Soviets is the name.

The Daily Worker was founded 19 years ago by a band of self-sacrificing revolutionists carrying aloft the banner which was betrayed so shamefully by the social-democracy during the first world war. The Daily Worker today is one of the most outspokenly jingoist publications. All that is left of its past is the format and the name. Yes, and one more anachronism: a column under the title Change the World. This column is conducted by the inimitable Mike Gold. Of all the Stalinist scribes, he has the longest record of service. Which speaks well for his capacity for spineless adaptation to every change of line.

Re-Education After June 22

In the Change the World column we have under consideration (Daily Worker, Feb. 5), Mike Gold has “the unenviable job of re-educating those who had read his impassioned denunciations of British, Dutch and American imperialism in the days of the Stalin-Hitler pact, some seven months ago.

Having had his start as a writer of fiction, Gold knows that the author can speak most effectively through a properly chosen character. And who can speak more authoritatively on the subject of imperialism than a native of the Dutch East Indies? Gold had some good fortune. A native of Borneo was literally discovered right on his doorstep. All he had to do was walk out of his office on 18th Street and into the elevator. Who was there operating the elevator but a native of Fontianak, largest city in West Borneo, which had that day fallen to the Japanese.

And as if to compensate for the blow of the fall of Pontianak. Mike Gold has the additional good fortune of finding in this operator of the elevator in the Daily Worker building a man who by some peculiar combination of circumstances expounds a 100 per cent Stalinist line, so that Gold does not have to add a single word of his own to the narrative, except some descriptive color of the rides up and down the elevator during the interview. Later on we will see why Gold couldn’t interview this man he calls “Slim” on his lunch hour or after working hours.

“Slim” commences the narrative where Gold left off some seven months ago:

“There are 65,000,000 people in all Indonesia; the island of Java contains some 45,000,000 ... The Dutch conquered us in 1558. After three centuries of their rule, something like 98 percent of our people are illiterate.

“They Are Slaves ...”

“We have known only poverty. We earn a few pennies a day; but are taxed for everything. There is a tax on each chair in the house, a tax on each coeoanut tree in the backyard, and on the street light before one’s house. There are special taxes for the street cleaner, the fire department. It is really crushing.

“On the rubber plantation there prevails a system of colonial slavery. The workers are herded there because they are starving, and are willing to sign three-year contracts. Under these contracts they are slaves.’”

Here Gold gets a bit impatient with Slim’s narrative. He has a job to do and so far he’s got only the background material. He prompts Slim to come to the real point. We quote further:

“’You have painted a terrible picture, Slim,’ I said. ‘What is there left to fight for?’”

Slim, of course, wouldn’t think of answering that it is very much worthwhile fighting for national liberation from all brands of oppressors, that it is very much worthwhile fighting for socialism. He knows what Gold has in mind and he rushes ahead to accommodate him. We quote:

“Plenty, at least we had our trade unions and political parties. The Dutch oppressed us but we could appeal to the democratic elements in the motherland.”

Treachery of 1914 and 1942

The words of that song: I got plenty of nothing – nothing is plenty for me seem to be Slim’s creed of 1942. Slim takes the trouble to denounce the native social-democrats by referring to them as Hillquits and Scheidemanns, but he does not dare speak of the policies of Hillquit and Scheidemann.

For white Slim’s hand is that of Gold, his voice is that of Scheidemann and the arguments are Scheidemann’s arguments of 1914. However, they smell a lot worse today and not because of age alone. When Scheidemann sold out to the Kaiser, he at least got something for it in return. Slim is satisfied as long as 65,000,000 colonial slaves can “appeal to the democratic elements in the motherland” of 6,000,000. And just who were the democratic elements in the “motherland?” The Royal family? The slave holders? Or perhaps the Dutch working class? But the workers were themselves exploited and oppressed, and had no voice in the running of the empire.

Gold is still riding up and down the elevator with Slim. He is not interested in the details of social-democratic policy of 1914 and its points of similarity with Stalinist policy of 1942.

New Slanders Like the Old

His next task is to slay the Trotskyists.

Says Gold:

“But there must be some Malayans who have fallen for Japanese propaganda?”

Answers Slim:

“Yes, there are Quislings everywhere. We had some Trotskyites in Malaya; they are pro-Japanese.”

This story too is not original with Slim. He is merely repeating the arguments of the treacherous Russian social-democracy which denounced both Lenin and Trotsky as agents of the German Kaiser. Kerensky even produced documents to prove it. The fact that the documents were forged was a mere detail. In the eyes of the social democracy Lenin and Trotsky committed an unpardonable crime – they opposed imperialist war. For the same reasons the Trotskyists are criminals in the eyes of the Stalinists.

Gold passes on quickly to the point that is supposed to clinch the argument:

“What do they (the colonial slaves – M.S.) expect to gain out of the inevitable victory of the United Nations?”

“Everything,” said Slim, who speaks in sweeping terms (plenty ... everything ...). “The end of world fascism, for one. Which reminds me, all the bells are ringing and this is the eighth floor. Wanna get out?”

“Everything” to the Natives

Now we know Why the elevator represents the setting for the expositions of the Stalinist policy. All the bells commence to ring just at the time when the argument becomes most embarrassing. Is “the end of world fascism” everything to the native of Borneo or Java? They have been slaves for three centuries – 98 percent illiterate. Most of them do not know there is such a thing as fascism. But they do know their Dutch slave holders.

All reports indicate that the colonial slaves of the Dutch and British empires have not been able as yet to discover the thin line of difference between slavery finder their present masters and the Japanese military clique that aspires to become the masters of tomorrow. This is why the natives in the colonies stand aside in the present war.

Their interest can, however, be aroused in a struggle for liberation and for independence. Only this kind of struggle could be progressive. Gold may try to tell the colonial people from his elevator why they should support one set of imperialists against another, but once they arise, there will be no force on earth to keep them down and it will spell the end of all imperialism.

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 30 August 2021