Written: 21 September 1938.
First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 43, 8 October 1938, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
Sept. 21, 1938
The most important and the most difficult thing in politics, in my opinion, is to define on one hand the general laws which determine the life-and-death struggle of all countries of the modern world; on the other hand to discover the special combination of these laws for each single country. Modern humanity without exception, from British workers to Abyssinian nomads, lives under the yoke of imperialism. This must not be forgotten for a single minute. But this does not at all mean that imperialism manifests itself equally in all countries. No. Some countries are the carriers of imperialism, others – its victims. This is the main dividing line between modern nations and states. From this, and only from this viewpoint should the very pressing problem of fascism and democracy be considered.
Democracy for Mexico, for instance, signifies the desire of a semi-colonial country to escape from bonded dependence, to give land to the peasants, to lift the Indians to a higher level of culture, and so on. In other words, the democratic problems of Mexico have no progressive and revolutionary character. And what does democracy signify in Great Britain? The maintenance of what exists, that is, above all the maintenance of the rule of the metropolis over the colonies. The same is true in relation to France. The banner of democracy covers here the imperialist hegemony of the privileged minority over the oppressed majority. Fascism and Imperialism In the same manner we cannot speak of fascism “in general.” In Germany, Italy, and Japan, fascism and militarism are the weapons of a greedy, hungry, and therefore aggressive imperialism. In the Latin-American countries fascism is the expression of the most slavish dependence on foreign imperialism. We must be able to discover under the political form the economic and social content.
In certain circles of the intelligentsia at present the idea of the “unification of all democratic states” against fascism enjoys popularity. I consider this idea fantastic, chimerical, capable only of deceiving the masses, especially of the weak and oppressed peoples. Really, can one believe for even a single moment that Chamberlain, Daladier, or Roosevelt are capable of carrying on a war for the sake of the abstract principle of “democracy”? Had the British government loved democracy so, it would have given freedom to India. The same is true of France. Great Britain prefers the dictatorship of Franco in Spain to the political rule of the workers and peasants, because Franco would be a much more pliant and reliable agent of British imperialism. England and France have given Austria to Hitler without resistance although war would be inevitable if he so much as dared touch their colonies.
The conclusion is that it is impossible to fight against fascism without fighting imperialism. The colonial and semi-colonial countries must fight first of all against that imperialist country which directly oppresses them, irrespective of whether it bears the mask of fascism or democracy.
In the countries of Latin America the best and surest method of struggle against fascism is the agrarian revolution. Because Mexico had made important steps on this road the uprising of General Cedillo was left suspended in air. On the contrary, the cruel defeats of the republicans in Spain are due to the fact that the Azana government in alliance with Stalin suppressed the agrarian revolution and the independent movement of the workers. A conservative and even more a reactionary social policy in weak and semi-colonial countries means in the full sense of the word betrayal of national independence.
You will ask me how it can be explained that the Soviet government which issued from the October Revolution suppresses the revolutionary movement in Spain? The answer is simple: a new privileged bureaucratic caste, very conservative, greedy, and tyrannical has succeeded in raising itself over the Soviets. This bureaucracy does not trust the masses but fears them. It seeks rapprochement with the ruling classes, especially with “democratic” imperialists. To prove his reliability, Stalin is ready to play the role of Gendarme throughout the entire world. The Stalinist bureaucracy and its agency the Comintern, now represent the greatest danger to the independence and progress of weak and colonial peoples.
I know Cuba too little to permit myself an independent judgment on your fatherland. You can judge better than I which of the above expressed opinions is applicable to the situation in Cuba. So far as I personally am concerned I hope that I shall be able to visit the Pearl of the Antillian islands and become more closely acquainted with your people to whom through your newspaper I send my warmest and sincerest greetings.
Last updated on: 12 September 2015