Ted Grant

Workers Must Be Armed Against Capitalism

Written: July 1940
Source: Youth For Socialism, Vol. 2 No. 10, July 1940

The last few years have marked the end of an epoch in human history. The staggering and annihilating defeat of the armies of France by the Nazi war machine has left the continent of Europe under the bloody tyranny of German imperialism.

The empty boasts of Reynaud have been followed by the shameful surrender of Petain and Weygand. The puffed up reputation which was built up around the military valour of these ‘heroes' stood the test while it was only concerned with the shooting down of the rebellious colonial masses of Algeria and Morocco, but was pitifully inadequate when faced with the monstrous military regime of Germany.

The ruling class of France, which had helped in the building up of reaction in Germany, showed itself completely incapable of offering any effective resistance to the Nazi legions. The capitalists paralysed the struggle against Hitler by their suppression of the French masses. Hitler could have been held up in North France, and again at the gates of Paris, if the whole population had been mobilised for resistance.

Why Paris Was Not Defended

But for the ruling classes to have armed the workers would have meant that they were running the risk of these arms being used not only against Hitler, but also against the ruling classes themselves. Especially did they fear the revolutionary workers of Paris.

Once before, when the Prussians were at the gates of Paris in 1870, and the workers had been armed, they seized control in the first successful workers' uprising in history. The Daily Telegraph Correspondent in France writes on June 17th: "Danger of a Communist uprising and civil war compelled the French Government to sue for peace." They handed Paris intact to the Germans.

France was betrayed. The real Fifth Column was the capitulation government of financiers, manufacturers, millionaires and generals. It was they who sold the French people into the hands of Hitler. Rather than lose all their profits by a victory of the French masses, these ‘patriots' preferred to assure themselves of a few scraps from the tables of the Nazis.

How Will Britain Be Defended?

And now the insatiable German imperialists are preparing for the destruction of Britain. The British Government has announced that it is doing everything to counter this coming attack. But the ruling class of Britain is as rotten as that of France. The only real preparations they are making are those for use against their ‘main enemy' at home.

In France 20,000 police were left in Paris to ‘maintain order' and to hand over control to Himmler. A special civil guard was formed to keep order in the rear of the armies. Is there any guarantee that the British ruling class will not capitulate in the same manner as the French?

The Workers Must Be Armed

There is only one guarantee of a successful resistance to any attempt at invasion by Nazis: the arming of the working-class in every street and every factory, and the control of this workers' militia by workers' committees.

This would render Britain completely impregnable. Parachute invaders and sea-borne troops alike would receive short shrift at the hands of the masses.

But the ruling-class cannot take this road for the same reason that the French rulers could not take it: it would present an even greater menace to their profit-making and domination than even a victory of the Nazis.

Chamberlain, the Tory party, big business and the bankers of the City of London backed Hitler for years as a bulwark against Socialism, and only fought him reluctantly when German imperialism threatened their Empire and their profits. The contradictions between the two imperialisms gave them no alternative. But they are responsible for the disastrous position in which the British and European workers find themselves today. They have acted as Hitler's real fifth column for years. Their record, their very nature, and their position in society, renders them completely impotent to defend the workers against fascism. They must be swept aside, and the workers themselves must guide their own destinies.

Only Socialism Can Defeat Hitler

For years the Labour leaders have allegedly been conducting a campaign against the pro-fascist policy of Chamberlain and the National Government. But they now sit in that same government and assist it in a policy that is disastrous for the working-class.

Rank and file militants in the trade unions, Labour party, and Leagues of Youth must demand that the Labour leaders must wage a struggle for full power immediately. Labour must take control on a programme which can mobilise all the toilers of Britain. And first on that programme must come the arming of the workers against their capitalist enemy at home and against the imperialist invader.

The resources of Britain cannot be utilised unless a great plan is undertaken which eliminates the waste and bureaucratic inefficiency of capitalism. The capitalist Fifth Column must be rendered completely impotent by the taking over of the banks, mines, land, railways and all big industries, without compensation and under control of the workers.

On a programme of Socialism at home the masses of Britain could be mobilised for the death struggle against Nazism. But we must face the enemy with an unstained banner. British imperialism oppresses the masses in the colonies as viciously as Hitler does the people who are under his heel on the continent. Labour must immediately issue a declaration giving full self-determination to the peoples of the Empire.

Then we could face the bombing planes and tanks of Hitler without fear of defeat. An appeal could be made to all the peoples of Europe, and especially those of Germany, to rally to our side. Hitler's support would crumble beneath his feet, and a mighty movement for liberation would spring up among the German soldiers and workers.

Only the slogans of genuine social and national liberation can find an echo among the oppressed masses of Europe. On this road alone can there be salvation for the working-class.

The prospect of a British army advancing to the re-conquest of Europe under the rule of the imperialists after months and years of preparation opens up an endless vista of slaughter and destruction.

The choice before the working-class is clear. The road of Blum and Jouhaux led to the degradation and humiliation of the French masses, and their subjection to the Nazi exploiter. Attlee and Citrine are leading the British Labour movement to the same disaster. Only a programme of Socialism can save the workers of Britain and Europe.

But the sands of time are running out; action must be taken quickly. If the Labour leaders refuse to carry out this programme of socialism then they will be exposed to the masses as the traitors they are and it will be made clear that only the revolutionary socialists can lead the way forward to peace and socialism.