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The New International, April 1936


The Record of the League

From New International, Vol. 3 No. 2, April 1936, Inside front cover.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE events which have followed the remilitarization of the Rhineland serve once more to underline the political role of the League of Nations. The sudden “reversals” in the policies of the chief League members are startling only to those whose business it is to nourish illusions, and to deceive the masses as to the real character of the world in which we live. In the eyes of Marxists – who know that the League is only the instrument of the dominant imperialist member-states, and that, consequently, in the present crisis the League has run true to form in reflecting consistently the imperialist contradictions – there are no grounds for surprise.

Last autumn Great Britain, that noble defender of the rights of subject peoples, and brave bulwark of the “forces of peace”, demanded League sanctions against Italy for Italy’s shocking and barbarous adventure in Africa. France – because, no doubt, of the influence of fascist-minded secret agents – objected; but reluctantly went along in the end; meanwhile taking care that sanctions never became serious enough to burden Italy unduly. Italy, also a League member, did, of course, just what she intended in the first place.

Today, France, grown overnight to new stature in the defense of peace, the rights of man, and European culture against the threat of Nazi terror, demands League sanctions against Hitler. And Great Britain, now doubtless reverting to the control of some bloody-minded Germanophile banker, objects – for the reason, naturally, that sanctions against Hitler would “endanger peace” instead of furthering it. Italy sits back and laughs, realizing that she is now in a perfect position to drive a splendid African bargain.

And Ethiopia – who is, it is often forgotten – also a sovereign member-state of the League? For eight months of 1936 (i.e., until the end of the Ethiopian rainy season) Ethiopia was prevented from preparing for war because of the necessity for preserving a correct legal position in the eyes of the League. As soon as the rains stopped, the League stepped aside, and Italy’s military campaign began. Now the rainy season is again approaching. The mechanized Italian troops will be unable to move; but the Ethiopian warriors would be able to carry on an effective guerilla warfare, vastly inconvenient to Badoglio and Graziani. So the League is getting ready to approve an armistice: that is, to outlaw military operations on the part of Ethiopia as soon as the start of the rainy season throws the military balance a good distance in Ethiopia’s favor.

An enviable year’s record for Geneva’s dove of peace!

What treacherous and fatal nonsense it is, this “struggle for peace”. British imperialism needs to protect its lines of communication, but is trying to placate Germany on the Continent; French imperialism fears Germany on the Continent, and seeks to maintain the Continental status quo, but is not interested in Eastern Africa and wants Italy’s aid on the Continent. That is the meaning of their “peace” policies. Italian imperialism requires new areas of exploitation, and finds no way of getting them except by armed conquest. All these nations use the League simply as a field for maneuvers, and for aiding in deceiving the masses about the true nature of imperialism. Even for this task the League is rapidly losing all value; and there are indications that the great powers are more openly returning to the form of the pre-1914 type of alliances.

This reversion might well prove an advantage. It will at least aid in making clearer that the struggle against imperialist war is not the hypocritical “struggle for peace” – that is, for the maintenance of the imperialist status quo – but the revolutionary struggle for socialism; and that this struggle is designed not to uphold the sacredness of national boundaries and robber-treaties, but to overthrow imperialism and to achieve international workers’ power.

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