The Congress Against War and Fascism

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written August 1938


[Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York ²1976, p. 429-432]
Keywords : Fascism, Pacifism, WW2

In order to clearly realize the significance of the Congress Against War and Fascism, it is necessary to proceed from the following circumstances:

1. The congress was organized by the GPU, on Stalin's orders, for his diplomatic purposes. Those participating in the congress can be divided into six groups: (1) the Kremlin's secret agents, including the most responsible GPU agents; (2) members of various Comintern subsidiary organizations (of youth, etc.); (3) liberal and radical intellectuals, trade union officials, etc., who receive direct or indirect doles from Moscow; (4) agents of the "democratic" governments; (5) secret agents of the fascist governments; and (6) all kinds of dilettantes, pacifist ladies, publicity seekers, etc.

The first group, of course, plays the decisive role. The second group is subordinated to the first along lines of military discipline. The third group consciously closes its eyes to all problematic circumstances. The fourth and fifth groups are pursuing the objectives of espionage. The sixth group understands nothing and is enlisted to serve as a cover for all the others.

2. The majority of these "pacifists" are patriotic political figures from the imperialist countries. When these gentlemen talk about "democracy" or "culture," they have in mind exclusively their imperialist democracy and their imperialist culture. Thus, for example, Mr. Jouhaux (whom Lenin in the press called nothing but a traitor) believes it self-evident that France's sixty million colonial slaves ought to die for the "democracy" of their slaveholders in the next war. The British "pacifists," like the North American, defend peace only to the extent that and as long as their imperialist fatherlands are interested in it. Moreover, in their heart of hearts they all regard the colonial and semi-colonial peoples as historical manure, destined to be the fertilizer of their democracy and their culture.

3. Of course, the workers and peasants of all countries honestly and sincerely want peace. It is possible to attain it, however, only by a revolutionary struggle against the imperialist governments. It is precisely in order to paralyze this revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle that Jouhaux and those like him organize "People's Fronts," i.e., subordinate the proletariat to the "left" wing of the imperialist bourgeoisie. This gives the imperialists an opportunity to use pacifist congresses as a cover and prepare a new war in which all the backward and weak peoples and states will be the first to be crushed.

4. The privileged imperialist countries (the U.S., Great Britain, and France) believe they have a monopoly on democracy and are not at all inclined to bolster democracy and progress in the weaker and more backward countries. In Spain, England prefers to have General Franco, who will inevitably become financially dependent upon the London bankers and grant them more advantageous and stable conditions for exploitation than a Spanish democracy could. The Washington government gets along exceptionally well with certain Latin American dictatorships, turning each of them into its own obedient agent. It is improper, therefore, to speak of democracy "in general." Imperialist "democracy" is fully directed against democracy for backward and weak colonial and semi-colonial peoples.

5. In peacetime, the imperialist "pacifists" are not sparing of magnanimous phrases; but in the event of a conflict, they will take their stand on the side of their government and tell the broad masses: "We did all we could to preserve peace but the intransigence of Mexico (or some other opponent) doomed our efforts to failure." With the emergence of conflict or the outbreak of war they all become open advocates of their own national imperialism.

6. Stalin's international policy, based on the oppression of the peoples of the USSR, by and large coincides with or seeks to coincide with the policies of the democratic imperialists. Stalin is looking for rapprochement with the present-day governments of France, Great Britain, and the United States. Toward this end, he has transformed the corresponding sections of the Comintern into social-imperialist parties. Stalin seeks to prove to the ruling classes of the most powerful countries that he is not a threat to their imperialist interests. Stalin can carry out such a policy only by sacrificing the interests of the world working class and of all colonial and semi-colonial peoples. It is impermissible to be deceived by conventional phrases and relics of the old revolutionary slogans. Stalin is supporting a "revolutionary" and "national" policy in colonial and semi-colonial countries precisely within the limits that will frighten the imperialist country concerned and show it the high value of his friendship. The most striking example is in the New World: the United States and Mexico. Stalin's real aim is to win the confidence and friendship of the White House. In this game Mexico is only one of his pawns. Stalin seeks to show that he can, if he wants, be very dangerous for the United States in Mexico and in Latin America in general. But all this is to make it possible for him to later sell out the interests of Mexico and Latin America to North American imperialism on suitable terms.

7. Nor are things going better in the struggle against fascism. At the present time there is no need to discuss this question on a theoretical level. It is enough to point to the living example of Spain. Nothing helped Franco so much as Stalin's bloc with the imperialist "democracies." In order to demonstrate to the French and British bourgeoisie his reliability as a conservative, Stalin – with the assistance of the Spanish Toledanos, Labordes, and the others, and with the aid of the GPU apparatus – strangled the Spanish agrarian revolution and the socialist movement of the workers. By this and this only was Franco's victory made possible.

8. The Spanish experience is only a rehearsal. The very same danger threatens other countries. On the question of oil and land the antagonism between the interests of Mexico and the interests of the two most powerful imperialist "democracies" is vividly revealed. In the present case, Mexico serves as the representative of all oppressed, backward, and exploited peoples. The imperialist democrats will, when the opportunity offers, especially at staged congresses, talk profusely about the "Good Neighbor" policy, peace, friendship of peoples, etc. This does not prevent them, in the event of a sharp conflict of interests, from ending up on the side of their imperialist governments. As regards Stalin, in the interest of friendship with the imperialist "democracies," he does not hesitate for an instant to betray any colonial or semi-colonial country.

9. The congress in Mexico was conceived, ordered, and organized by Moscow. In view of the extremely strained relations with Japan, Stalin wants at precisely this time to show his potential strength on the United States border. It is as if he were playing with a revolver, letting it be understood that the muzzle could be aimed at Washington, but that he is ready at any moment to flip on the safety catch or to open fire in the opposite direction, in perfect accord with the North American or British military headquarters. This is the essence of the matter. All else is simply words, rhetorical phrases, or empty gestures.