From For A Lasting Peace, For A People’s Democracy
#21 (24), November 1, 1948

Right-Wing Social Democracy in the Service of Imperialism: Conclusion.

See preceding number for October 15th


R. Palme Dutt
Member, Political Bureau,
Executive Committee
Communist Party of Great Britain

The unity of Mosley fascism, Toryism and the Labour Government in advocating and promoting the schemes for the Western European imperialist bloc and for the attempted recovery of imperialism on the basis of large scale exploitation of Africa illustrates the role of right-wing Social Democracy in the present phase as the main propagandist and executor of the colonial policies of imperialism.

Just as the roots of opportunism were long ago shown by Marx and Engels in the nineteenth century with special reference to the English labour movement, and by Lenin and Stalin in the twentieth century under the conditions of imperialism with reference to the degeneration of the leadership of Social Democracy in the majority of the parties of the old Second International, to be in the alliance of the privileged upper section and leading official representatives of the labour movement with the colonial policy of imperialism, so the true face of Social Democracy today is most clearly seen in the sphere of colonial policy. Attlee and Bevin shooting down the Gold Coast ex-servicemen, or dispatching Hussars and Dyak head-hunters to spread massacre in Malaya; the Right Socialist leaders crippling the French budget in order to turn fire and sword against the freedom struggle of the Viet Nam Republic – here is revealed the true picture of "democratic socialism" and "socialist humanism."

The first Labour Government of 1924 conducted the air bombing of the Iraq villages and the Cawnpore conspiracy trial of the Indian working class leaders. The second Labour Government of 1929-31 imprisoned sixty thousand Indian national fighters, and carried through the bloody suppression of the Burmese armed revolt. The third Labour Government is engaged in the barbarous colonial war in Malaya, under the appropriate auspices of the son of MacDonald (former Prime Minister of the first and second Labour Governments), alongside the indirect wars conducted through King Abdullah, with British arms, officers and subsidies, in the Middle East, or through the puppet Nu Government in Burma, while the policy in India has let loose communal massacres and the heaviest offensive against the working: class.

To cover up the real policy which they are pursuing, and to disarm the criticism of the workers at home, the Labour Ministers in their speeches in Britain proclaim in glowing terms the "end of imperialism" and the dawn of a new era of the "voluntary renunciation of power” and the granting of "freedom" to the colonial peoples.

Thus Mr. Attlee declared at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in November, 1947.

"It is surely strange that in face of these facts Russian statesmen and journals still accuse Britain of imperialism. If there is imperialism in the world today, by which I mean the subjection of other peoples to the political and economic domination of a powerful nation, it is certainly not to be found in the British Commonwealth.”

It is worth noting that Mr. Attlee delivered this pearl of wisdom in the historic Mansion House to an audience of City magnates, whose wealth is built on colonial plunder, where even the traditional gold plate of the classic banquet is drawn from the agony of African slavery.

Other Labour Ministers are no less concerned to proclaim aloud their devotion to the Empire, and their determination to maintain it. Thus Herbert Morrison announced in January, 1946:

"We are great friends of the jolly old Empire and are going to stick to it."

The statements of the Labour leaders show the two sides of present imperialist policy. On the one hand, as we have seen, in many of the more developed colonial countries, where the movement of national revolt has reached a high level, and where the available forces are inadequate to continue direct rule, imperialism has been compelled to devise new political methods, giving the colonies formal independence and entering a partnership with the colonial bourgeoisie. These examples are held up as demonstrating the "end of imperialism'' and the "new era of freedom". On the other hand, as we have also seen, in other territories, as in South East Asia and Africa, imperialism uses every method of violent suppression or colonial warfare to maintain its rule and seeks to extend and intensify its colonial exploitation. It is for these that the flag is waved, the sacred duty of maintaining the empire proclaimed, and the workers called on to rally to the task of upholding "law and order" and "civilisation" against "bandits and terrorists" in distant backward countries. This is the twofold character of the politics of imperialism in decline.

Troops may be withdrawn from Palestine – to be concentrated in Iraq or Transjordan.  They may be removed from Alexandria – to be concentrated in the Canal Zone. New bases are prepared in East Africa. Ceylon is granted a species of limited and spurious "self-government” – but the naval base at Trincomalee Is further reinforced. Burma is granted "independence" under a puppet government; but the big imperialist monopolies continue to control the resources of the country and draw their profits, a British Military Mission guides the warfare against the national liberation struggle.

Similarly, the aggressive schemes for intensified colonial exploitation in Africa, devised by the great imperialist monopolies like Unilevers, and conducted through their agents, are triumphantly proclaimed as a new departure representing a "break with imperialism” and a "socialist colonial policy" – at the same time as they are acclaimed and applauded by the Tory "Opposition" in Parliament. The organisation of huge plantations with plantation labour at colonial rates of wages is declared to be "socialism".

Even here, however, the transparent aims of economic exploitation constantly protrude in Labour Ministers' speeches, and are most openly brought out in the declarations of such an outspoken Labour Imperialist as Ernest Bevin. The most brutal declarations of the traditional classic outlook of Labour Imperialism, directly identifying the economic interests of the working class in the metropolitan imperialist country with the maintenance of colonial exploitation, are to be found in the speeches of Bevin.

In his speech to Parliament on May 16, 1947, with reference to British interests in the Middle East, Bevin said:

"His Majesty's Government must maintain a continuing interest in that area if only because our economic and financial interest in the Middle East were of vast importance to us… If these interests were lost to us, the effect on the life of this country would be a considerable reduction in the standard of living..."

Such is the classic outlook of Labour Imperialism, as long ago analysed and exposed by Marx and by Lenin.

But reality is today powerfully exposing the bankruptcy of the illusions which this outlook tries to sustain in the working class. So far from "contributing substantially to the wage packets of the workpeople of this country", Mr. Bevin's imperialist policy is responsible for lowering the value of real wages, inflicting crushing burdens on the people and carrying the country along a path leading to economic catastrophe. The cost of the overseas armed forces and military expenditure, totalling £593 million in the two years 1946-47 was the main factor in the deficit of the balance of payments. Similarly, the war in Viet Nam has played a major part in the financial deficit of the French Budget, and the war in Indonesia in relation to the financial difficulties of Holland. The same imperialist policy, is crippling home reconstruction, and has entailed dependence on the superior economic and strategic strength of United States imperialism. The colonial wars compel the maintenance of excessive armed forces and the lengthening of the period of service, and take their toll of lives, not only of the colonial peoples but also of the soldiers sent overseas to fight against the cause of freedom.

As experience thus drives home for the peoples in the European imperialist countries the heavy consequences of the colonial policies of imperialism which are maintained by their Governments and by right wing Social Democracy, the conditions are strengthened for the destruction of old illusions and for the recognition of their identity of interests with the struggle of the colonial peoples for liberation.

The Path of Colonial Liberation

This survey of the present stage of the colonial peoples' struggle and of the colonial policy of imperialism indicates the following general conclusions.

The crisis of the colonial system of imperialism is increasing. Three years after the war the advance of the liberation struggle of the colonial and dependent peoples is continuing to increase in strength and range. The wars of independence of Viet Nam and Indonesia are now reinforced by the liberation wars of the Malayan and Burmese peoples. In India the regime of the colonial big bourgeoisie in the service of imperialism is not able to control the deepening economic crisis or stem the rising tide of mass discontent, industrial strikes, peasants' risings and States peoples' revolts. In the Middle East, there is mass unrest in Iraq, Egypt and other Arabian States. In Africa the advance of strike movements and popular demonstrations, working class trade union organisation linked with the World Federation of Trade Unions, and beginnings of political organisation and national consciousness, mark the opening of a new stage.

Above all, the victorious advance of Chinese Democracy is exercising a powerful Influence throughout the dependent countries of Asia and the colonial world.

The colonial peoples are revealing themselves an increasingly important and dynamic section of the world democratic front. South East Asia has now become a main battlefront of the world democratic camp, against the forces of reaction and imperialism.

The new tactics of imperialism and the new conditions of the national liberation struggle in a series of leading colonial countries require corresponding new forms and methods of the national liberation struggle and a new alignment of forces. This applies especially in those countries where dominant sections of the colonial bourgeoisie have moved from a previously vacillating partial opposition role to a full counter-revolutionary role and bloc with imperialism.

Twenty-three years ago Comrade Stalin, in his Address to the University of the Toilers of the East in 1925, gave the warning with regard to the role of the colonial big bourgeoisie in colonial countries with developed capitalist relations, such as India:

"…As the revolutionary movement progresses, the national bourgeoisie in such countries divides into two sections, a revolutionary section (the petty bourgeoisie) and a compromising section (the big bourgeoisie). The former continues the revolutionary struggle: the latter enters into a bloc with imperialism".

From his analysis of the colonial problem at that stage, Comrade Stalin drew these three deductions:

1) The liberation of colonies and dependencies from the yoke of imperialism is not possible save by a victorious revolution. Independence does not come as a gift!

2) The revolution cannot be advanced and the complete independence of capitalistically developed colonies and dependencies cannot be achieved unless he compromising section of the national bourgeoisie is isolated, unless the petty bourgeois revolutionary masses are freed from the influence of the bourgeoisie, unless the hegemony of the proletariat is established, unless the advanced elements of the working class are organised in an independent Communist Party.

3) No lasting victory is possible in colonial and dependent countries unless a real link is established between the movement for their liberation and the proletarian movement of the more advanced countries of the West.

All three deductions are more than ever important today.

The national liberation movement in countries such as India, having been thrown into temporary confusion by the betrayal of the big bourgeoisie entering into a full counter-revolutionary alliance with imperialism, can only go forward under the hegemony of the industrial working class, expressed in the leadership of the Communist Party, uniting the widest sections of the people in a broad democratic anti-imperialist front. This general line has found expression in the decisions of the recent Second Congress of the Communist Party of India. In Burma, Malaya, and Viet Nam the Communist Party already leads the national liberation front. In a number of other less developed colonial countries, where class differentiation is rapidly going forward and the beginnings of working class organisation have appeared, the conditions are ripening for the formation of Communist Parties, notably in some of the more advanced African colonies and in the West Indies.

The extremely acute character of the colonial liberation struggle today, reaching to armed warfare in a series of countries, throws the greatest responsibility on the working class and on all democratic forces in the imperialist countries to give active assistance to this vital sector of the world democratic anti-imperialist front. It is essential to expose the hypocritical propaganda of imperialism and its Social Democratic supporters, to destroy the illusions which the right wing Labour and Social Democratic leadership seek to spread in order to range the workers behind imperialist policy and induce them to place their hopes of economic recovery in colonial exploitation as its supposed indispensable basis: the Communist Parties must awaken understanding of the identity of interests of the workers in the imperialist countries in their struggle against the big monopolies, reaction and war, with the colonial peoples in their struggle for freedom against imperialism. Above all, it is essential to develop practical activity in this common struggle: to oppose by every means the repressive measures and military actions of imperialism: to prevent the dispatch of munitions and troops for colonial war; and to develop the closest living bonds of solidarity with the working class movement and national liberation movements of the colonial peoples.

The actions of the Dutch dockers and of the Amsterdam workers in relation to the war in Indonesia, and of the Australian seamen and waterfront works in relation to the wars in Indonesia and Malaya, have set an example of solidarity and practical assistance. The rising movement of protest among British working class organisations against the colonial war in Malaya has shown the beginning of awakening in the slower moving conditions in Britain.

But it must be said that the measure of achievement falls far below what the situation requires.

Hence it is urgent to intensify the campaign in the imperialist countries, especially in Britain, in order to strengthen solidarity with the national liberation struggle of the colonial peoples, which is reaching such a high point today and playing so important a part in the world democrat front.

As early as 1924, Comrade Stalin, criticizing the position of the Second International on the international question wrote: "pronouncements about the ‘equality of nations’ which are not backed by the direct support of the proletarian parties for the liberation struggle of the oppressed nations are meaningless and false". In his work Comrade Stalin showed that without a determined struggle against the imperialist chauvinism of the "Socialists” who do not want to support the struggle of the oppressed peoples of the colonies for emancipation from the imperialist yoke, the education of the working class of the ruling nations in the spirit of true internationalism, in the spirit of unity with the toiling masses of the dependent countries and colonies is inconceivable.

The Soviet Union is a striking example of the great role played by the international solidarity of the peoples of various countries. Today the progressive forces all over the world are celebrating the 31st Anniversary of the: Great October Socialist Revolution One of the chief reasons for this victory was that the Russian proletariat enjoyed the sympathy and support of the oppressed people of the former Russian empire, and of the working people of the world. This consolidation of the working people of all nationalities in Russia, who rallied around the proletariat in a united revolutionary camp, was the result of the Lenin-Stalin national policy of the Bolshevik Party, the policy of the equality and friendship of peoples. This wise policy in great measure contributed to the creation of the Soviet multi-national state and to the growth of the strength of the Soviet Union.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics united the free and equal peoples to whom the October Socialist Revolution had given the rights of an independent existence. The peoples of the Soviet Union, led by the Party of Lenin and Stalin and closely united in one family were able to smash the Hitler hordes and to save mankind from fascist enslavement. The land of victorious Socialism, which has in reality secured equal rights for its peoples, a high standard of living and an unprecedented flowering of national culture, is a living examine to all peoples who are fighting for their freedom and independence.

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