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Henry Judd

Socialist Fight Can Free European Labor
from Grip of Wall Street and the Kremlin

(26 April 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 17, 26 April 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

May Day of 1948 finds the United States more deeply involved and concerned in the affairs of Europe than ever in its history. The most influential factor in American politics today is the European situation as it affects America. The basic issues in the coming Presidential campaign relate to foreign policy and even internal, “domestic” problems – such as inflation, prices and employment – are more tied up than ever with the intervention of America in Europe. The multi-billioned Marshall Plan is now in operation and its effects, political, social and economic, will bind together, perhaps closer than hitherto, the common destinies of the European and American working class.

What is the situation of the European worker today, three years after the conclusion of World War II? Three years after the conclusion of the First World War, his situation, terrible as it was, was much better than it is today, both in material terms and above all, in terms of his future. Today, the European working class is struggling to surmount economic conditions infinitely more desperate than ever before – inflation, low productivity, disruption of pre-war trade and commerce. Will it succeed in making headway and advancing reasonably towards its pre-war standards? Great sections of the European working class are today hungry, ill-fed, living in ancient buildings or homes half ruined by the war, incapable of long and sustained working effort. What effect will the Marshall Plan, allegedly to stimulate the rebuilding and reconstruction of the war-ruined countries of Western Europe, actually have?

If the Marshall Plan was what it pretends to be – a vast plan for economic and material help to Europe – there is no doubt that an economic upsurge could be expected. There is enough work and rebuilding to be done in Europe to last many decades – new factories, homes, industrialization of agriculture, etc. But this will not happen under the REAL Marshall Plan – that is, the plan of American imperialism for the revival of Western Europe’s heavy and basic industries for the production of war goods and capital goods. Of course this expenditure of billions will have some effect upon Europe’s economy and will provide work and more goods for the workers of Western Europe. But this will all be secondary and subordinate to the primary objectives of the Plan and its operation. It is this knowledge that has made the European labor movement suspicious and doubtful about America’s plan.

Stalinist Influence

Politically, as we all know, the European labor movement has suffered a series of disastrous defeats that are far greater than those inflicted upon this same labor movement in the post-war period after 1918. These defeats have come from two sources – the capitalist governments of the Western European nations, and the conquering imperialism of Stalin’s Russia. But in either case, the organizer and inflictor of the defeats has been the Stalinist movement and its political machine. The entire history of post-war Europe has been – and for a long time to come, will be – dominated by the sensational rise of Stalinism which has managed to exploit for its own vicious purposes the desire of Europe’s masses to overturn capitalism.

In country after country – Poland,the Balkans, the Baltics, Czechoslovakia, etc. – we have witnessed the extinction of the traditional free labor and democratic movement, and its replacement by a brutal dictatorship fashioned in the Stalin mold. The pattern has become sickeningly familiar to all of us – misleadership and manipulation of the workers in their legitimate struggle against the capitalists by the would-be Stalinist dictators; the seizure of power by combined fraud, duplicity and trickery by these same organized criminals, and the wiping out of everything vital to the workers – freedom of speech, press, the right of critical opposition, etc.

At the same time, thanks to the desperation of the Stalinists in the struggle with their American rivals,we have seen these same people lead the workers to bitter defeats in those nations of western Europe (France, Belgium, Italy) where the time and conditions do not yet permit a seizure of power by these Stalinists. It is doubtful if a single important or major strike, for example, was won by any segment of the European labor movement last year. These political adventures instituted by the Stalinists, of course, actually helped the reactionary government of these countries to deal heavy blows to the workers. They likewise resulted in serious splits in the ranks of labor as, for example, in France where two labor federations now rival each other.

Social-Democrats Crawl

Politically, May Day this year finds the European worker in a seriously confused and divided state of affairs. With the Old World becoming more and more a battlefield between American and Russian imperialism, it would seem to be the duty of European labor leaders to attempt to assert and strengthen their independence of both rival blocs, neither of which offers any future to the worker of Europe. Actually, the labor leadership has withdrawn from any acts of independence and permitted itself to become a part of one or the other bloc.

This holds true for labor’s political as well as trade union leadership. The Social Democrats, for example, have either given up entirely, to become minor and petty functionaries in the Stalinist apparatus of those countries taken over by Russia and Stalinism; or they are entirely at the service of America and their own governments, as is the case with Saragat’s Italian Socialist Party, Blum’s French SP and Bevin’s British Labor Party. There is not one sign of independence out of these gentlemen.

The Stalinist labor leadership, in those countries where it has not yet attained power, merely exists to advance the interests of its party, by any means conceivable, in its struggle for power. It awaits only the day when conditions favor its seizure of the state, its strangulation of all opposition, and its imposition upon the people of dictatorships modeled after Stalin, Tito and Gottwald.

The truth of the matter is – and it must be faced – that this year marks unquestionably an all-time low point in independent working-class struggle and socialist progress in Europe. Politically without leadership of an independent nature, and confused by the permanent struggle between Russia and America, the European worker has fallen into a state partly of apathy, partly of confusion and partly of demoralization. Does this mean that European labor is through, doomed to be pushed about by whatever force is stronger, and that the prospect of a socialist revival in Europe must be dismissed? No, such an answer would be entirely wrong!

We Can Assist

Stalinism has not yet conquered Europe and is still far from completing this task it has set for itself. The most important countries of Western Europe – Italy, Germany, France and England – still can develop powerful anti-Stalinist labor movements that will not merely rush into the American camp.

If the working class of these countries can force the MATERIAL aspects of the Marshall Plan to be used in their interest and with the purpose of reviving their living standards, then the workers of these countries will take new hope, will have their courage for struggle revived. And, with the assistance of a new socialist leadership, they can strike out on a fresh road, independent of both America and Stalinism. The creation a short time ago of the Revolutionary and Democratic Front in France – a new movement independent of both the Stalinists and Social-Democrats – is the one bright spot in the entire European political and labor scene. Next May Day may see the spread and organization of such movements in all the countries of, at least, Western Europe!

What is needed more than anything else is a breaking up of the hidebound parties of the working class, the Stalinist and Socialist parties, with the organization of new movements with clean hands, unstained by either Stalinism or Social-Democracy. What is also needed is a successful year of struggle by the American working class, to act as a stimulus and example for the weary but still struggling workers of Europe.

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