Ted Grant

Labour’s foreign policy—A contribution to discussion in the Labour Party

Source: The International Socialist, vol. 1 no. 3 (June-July 1952)
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008

“Problems of Foreign Policy,” the pamphlet published by Transport House with a foreword by Morgan Phillips, unofficially states the position of the Labour Party leadership on the issues of “Britain’s” world relations.

The outstanding flaw from a Socialist standpoint is that while it purports to deal with everything, yet it does not touch on the fundamental mainsprings of world society. And it is these fundamentals which mould the policy and programmes of classes, parties and states in the present epoch.

The pamphlet declaims, “What do Socialists want in world affairs? Ever since the Socialist Movement was born its aims have been lasting peace and universal prosperity, based on justice between the nations and within each nation.”

This somewhat vague formulation does contain a kernel of truth, but is not sufficiently sharp and clear. Foreign policy cannot be separated from home policy. The one is determined by the same laws and principles as the other. Foreign policy is the continuation outside the national boundaries of policies and interests at home. Both are determined basically by class interests and needs. It is these and not the abstract principles laid down in the pamphlet which condition the policies of all states.

While correctly stressing the interdependence of all countries and all peoples in modern times, the pamphlet makes no attempt to show the underlying cause of world tensions and the social solution to the problems.

Cause of world wars

While referring to the two world wars—to the cruelty, poverty, disease, ignorance of two-thirds of the people of the world and to the periodic economic crises and mass unemployment of the remaining third, they comment:

“The brotherhood of man, however near we may have approached it in our national life in Britain, seems a hopeless dream for the world as a whole.

“Yet our very survival depends on giving that dream some reality—and quickly.”

At the same time they say:

“First, and most important of all, we must prevent a Third World War. Second. We must win political and economic justice for the underprivileged peoples of the world. Neither of these aims can be secured unless we can move beyond crude power politics to an international order in which the use of economic and military power is governed by the rule of law.”

Leaving aside the question of how far the brotherhood of man has been achieved in Britain, a wringing of hands and sorrowful lamentations at the cruelty of our period, at the horrors of the two world wars, will only serve to befuddle the reader instead of providing a way for the understanding of these phenomena. And only such an understanding would arm the rank and file with the concrete ideas with which to combat these evils. This is the “rearmament” which Labour needs.

The two world wars, crises, disease, unemployment, ignorance, poverty, fascism, Stalinism and the other ills which afflict the planet do not find their cause in moral derelictions or insufficient sentimentality but in basic economic laws. These laws in the past, reflecting the greed for gain on the part of the capitalists and landowners, however mean and ignoble their motives, helped to develop the powers of man over nature, of the modern national state, and of the technical possibility of furnishing abundance and a full life for all.

Private ownership and national states responsible

However the development of capitalism has meant that the powers of production created by the labour of the working class have developed beyond the bounds of private ownership of the means of production and the national state. These have now reached a stage where from being a means for the development of the economy they have now become monstrous fetters hindering the development of society and mankind. It is the blind working of these economic factors which have produced the crisis of our time and the convulsions of the last fifty years. To prevent a third world war it is necessary to understand clearly the cause of the last two world wars.

The First World War was not caused by the wickedness of the Kaiser but basically by the struggle for markets between Britain and Germany, and the economic impasse in which capitalism found itself. The world having been divided between the Great Powers, the young German capitalism could only expand at the expense of her old rivals. Finding no way out of their contradictions, German, French and Russian Imperialism took to the road of war in an endeavour to escape the dilemma posed by the growth of economic forces which they could not master. The Second World War was not caused by the insanity of Hitler or the lust for aggression or militarism on the part of the German people; but by an aggravation of the economic antagonisms and contradictions which had led to the First World War.

That this is so in reality is shown by the change in line of the Allied Imperialists towards the German people since the end of the war. From being natural murderers they have become democratic allies, from Butcher Birds of Europe they have become a bulwark against Bolshevism. Thus the cause of the war, in reality, lay in the insoluble contradictions of European and world capitalism.

Without the removal of these causes a continuation in aggravated form of the underlying factors can only have the same disastrous consequences, if not worse, the complete destruction of civilisation due to the very factors of technical progress which intensify these contradictions. Thus for the workers of Britain and the people of the world the problem can be posed simply, a removal of the fetters on production as listed above, or the uncontrolled forces of capitalism will plunge the world into incalculable horrors of destruction.

The “rule of law” or class interest?

There cannot be a so-called “rule of law” or an “international order” so long as there are conflicting class interests within the nations and clashing national capitalisms. To preach the abandonment of crude power politics and to advocate only the “ good “ use of economic and military power is to fly in the face of history. As well suggest that the lion cease eating the lamb and eat grass instead.

Crude power politics are caused by the economic interests of the contending powers of the world. That they dominate, even if unconsciously, the thinking of the authors, is shown by the references to “Britain’s” policy in the Middle East, in relation to German competition, to “Germany’s” “national” policies in relation to trade with Russia and her endeavours to dominate Europe.

It is this which gives an erroneous basis to the conceptions outlined in this pamphlet. The interests of the workers of Britain are no different to those of the workers of the Middle East. The interests of the workers of England are identical with those of Germany, America, Russia, Asia and of the world. But the interests of the rulers of these countries whether “enemies” or “allies” are in conflict with each other and in the case of Russia fundamentally so.

It is these basic class conceptions which the Marxist analysis of capitalist society and its laws have provided as the means for solving the problem of how to obtain peace, plenty and fraternal collaboration. The brotherhood of man remains impracticable and utopian, a “hopeless dream” if it is to be achieved by the respect for the rule of law and renouncing of power politics by the cannibals of big business, the tigers of high finance and the unbridled bureaucrats in Moscow.

Today, as always, what determines the policy of American capitalism is the class interests and profits of the American ruling class. It is this which dictates their “altruistic” aid to other countries. At the same time, the last decade or two, has revealed, as far as the Moscow bureaucracy is concerned, that they are no more interested in Socialism than American Imperialism is in Democracy; but on the contrary are concerned solely with the interests of the caste of usurpers which seized control of the Russian Revolution under the peculiar conditions of isolation and backwardness.

Socialist United States of Europe

The nature of the problem has even been forced on the capitalist politicians, scientists and thinkers. They recognise that the present division of the world into conflicting national states, when distance has been abolished and the furthest continent is but a day or two’s span from the metropolitan centres, belongs in reality to the era of the stage coach and the economic organisation that went with it. But recognition of the problem solves nothing for them. Churchill, while in Opposition, could bleat about the need for a United Europe, but as Prime Minister is compelled to reject such Utopian dreams and stand fast for the needs of national British capitalism. Under capitalism, the Federation of Europe—the Federation of the world remains a utopian chimera. Only the overthrow of capitalism can lead to a Federated United States of Europe and the world. That is the sole road to permanent peace and plenty.

It is this fundamental criterion which must stand as the basis of the foreign policy of the Labour Party if it wishes to pursue a Socialist course. The pamphlet proudly boasts that:

“Throughout its history the Labour Party has always had a paramount aim in world affairs—to replace the international anarchy by a world order and to build a system in which disputes between states would be settled by arbitration under the rule of law and not by clash of physical force. But unlike some of its predecessors, the Labour Party has never believed that legal instruments alone will be sufficient to produce a world society. Nations cannot be compelled to work with one another by any set of rules. But they can be taught to work with one another by learning in practice the advantage of common action for a common cause. The Labour Party has always sought to encourage nations to work together for concrete ends.”

Always there is the blurring of the antagonisms within the nations and between them. It is possible to settle the disputes between states only by removing the economic cause underlying them. The ruling classes co-operate or fight only when it suits or safeguards their interests. Only when it suits their class needs will they “learn” the advantages of common action for a common cause. The pamphlet claims that Labour Government “moved a long way towards creating the framework of a world society. Inside the United Nations it worked steadfastly to uphold the rule of law and to promote international co-operation for constructive ends.”

“United” Nations a fiction

How can there be a genuine common action or a real common cause between conflicting capitalist interests and the fundamental antagonism between the capitalist world and Russia? The United Nations like the League of Nations before it remains merely a forum for the settlement of secondary and unimportant conflicts. By the nature of society it could not hope to be anything more. That is why the victorious Allies in order to arrive at the possibility of reconstructing a refurbished version of the League of Nations had even to clip the nominal powers possessed by its assembly and introduce the Great Power Veto. Thus any decision which such a Power opposes as of fundamental importance to it, is nullified despite the fact that all the other Powers might support it. This means that all the “great questions” have to be decided by the bargaining between the Powers in secret and partly open diplomacy. In the last analysis, under given conditions, when the issue is big enough, they will resort to force as in the past. The United Nations is even less effective than the old League of Nations. Shining new upholstery on old and rotting furniture does not restore strength to the structure.

World relations today, as always, are dictated by the greatest Powers. The fundamental axis around which world relations revolve and which dictates all the considerations at the United Nations, is the clash between Russia and America who emerged as the two major world Powers after the Second World War. Sugary illusions and sonorous platitudes about the need for good-will and co-operation cannot explain the real problem. The actions of the Labour Government were, unfortunately, largely along the lines of the policies of previous Conservative Governments which Churchill approvingly supported. The boast that the Labour Government stood up steadfastly against Soviet expansion (with vociferous applause from the Conservatives) while America was “unwilling” to take her share of the burden is monstrous. British Imperialism relied on the Labour Government to do this job and it secured the aid of America—Loan, Marshall Aid—precisely because of this.

[As British imperialism in the past used its mighty] power (1) to get the other states to do her bidding, so America pursues the same role. “America,” or rather American Imperialism, intervened actively when she could not use any other means. That is all.

To fight “Russian expansionism” by rearmament merely adds grist to the mill of the Russian bureaucracy. Nearly every arms race has ended ultimately in war. Neither the American capitalists, nor the Russian bureaucrats, nor the British capitalists and diplomats are interested in war or peace as such. Threats can only induce counter threats and in the end Armageddon. Policies of this sort can only have one end. A “negotiate or else” policy cannot prevent conflict.

It is significant that always the appeal is to rulers of Russia or the rulers of America, never to the working class of these countries or our own.

Arms will have no effect on Russia except to persuade the bureaucracy to redouble their arms programme and vice versa. This is a vicious circle where each side seeks to “persuade” the other by bigger and better armaments but cannot find a road to peace. An appeal to the Russian workers, however, could only have an effect on the, basis of a struggle for the overthrow of capitalism at home and abroad. To show them that abroad, they are not facing Imperialist Capitalism in a democratic disguise, but a real workers’ democracy with a nationalised economy and economic control and planning in the interests of the masses; without bureaucratic misrule, terror and a secret police. A real internationalist policy dictated in the interests of all the workers of the world, not that of Wall Street and the City of London. Such a policy would echo and rekindle the revolutionary enthusiasm of the early days of the Russian Revolution and lead swiftly to the overthrow of Stalin.

Only a joining together of the workers of all lands can provide a Socialist solution to the problems facing the world. Such a socialist policy cannot be based on collaboration with “America,” i.e., the Wall Street bankers and industrialists as the pamphlet advocates. “Effective” work with the capitalist Government of the U.S. can only be effective work in the interests of British and American big business.

The power gap

The pamphlet recognises that “Britain,” i.e., British Imperialism has lost even the strength that it had managed to retain after the First World War.

The thread of continuity of British foreign policy is implicitly admitted as having been carried on by the Labour Government. There was no sharp break with the past. Now they wish to bring up “Britain’s” physical strength to be equal to her international commitments. “Dangerous consequences” particularly in the Middle East and Asia, have followed the recognition, they say, of Britain’s weaknesses.

Here we see the angle from which the problem is viewed. Instead of welcoming the struggle of the peoples of the Middle East and Asia for freedom from colonial exploitation, whether British or any other, to them this has meant only “dangerous consequences”! Dangerous consequences to whom? ! To the peoples seeking their freedom?—to the British workers?—or the money lenders of the City of London? To pose the question correctly from a socialist point of view is immediately to see the answer correctly.

Having sprinkled some holy water in the introduction, by vague generalities, the reality of the leadership’s position peeps through in the latter section. “Britain’s influence in the world will depend increasingly on her physical strength both in military and economic terms.”

Here is the naked voice of harsh reality—of the power politics which they have condemned from a moral point of view. Physical force whether military or economic, the one being dependent on the other, is the final court of reference. But again, which Britain?

Here we see where the appeal to so-called reality ends. Either one practically and realistically bases one’s policy on the material relationship of forces and organises to change that relationship nationally and internationally by relying and appealing to the Socialist consciousness of the world working class or one becomes a tool of the English and American ruling class or of the Bureaucracy in Moscow. There is no other course in the struggle between irreconcilable class and national forces.

And for a Socialist—for a Marxist there is one force more mighty than atom bombs, more mighty than tanks or bombing planes—the force of the Socialist Revolution, of the organised solidarity of the international working class. The mighty mole of the revolution which gives pause to all the tyrants and rulers of the world—of this there is not a word in an allegedly realist pamphlet.

Prattle about moral ideas and the United Nations, Britain’s this, America’s that, Russia’s fear and Germany’s aspirations all jumbled up together; but never a word on the need for international solidarity of the world’s workers against the world’s rulers. Nowhere—not a single sentence—not a breath on the power of the ideas of socialism, of fraternity stretching beyond the frontiers and national boundaries, as the only force that can cut through the intrigues, manoeuvres and horse-deals of the United Nations.

Problems for the future

Having with what the Germans call “real-politik” settled the problems of the past, the pamphlet “realistically” studies the “Problems for the Future.” This is divided into sections and for the purposes of convenience in the commentary, we can largely accept these subdivisions.

To start with, they lament: “At some of the wartime conferences between the Great Powers, America tended to make concessions to Russia, often at the expense of Britain.” Apparently the naïve Americans didn’t understand what was going on. How wicked to make concessions to totalitarian Russia at the expense of democratic Britain. In reality it was the old game of power politics at work. No one could be sure what shape the relationship of forces would take after the war.

And it is this, together with the relationship of forces at the end of the war which explains the policies of all the participants.

“Labour government guides Americans”

However the pamphlet can do better than this…“The Labour Government succeeded in guiding America towards a better under-understanding of her interests (!) and responsibilities (!) abroad. From America’s intervention in Greece in 1947 up to the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950, America’s policy in Europe and elsewhere was very similar to that of Britain. But from the outbreak of the Korean War onwards, America showed a growing tendency to act contrary to British advice, particularly in Asia. It should be added, however, that in diverging from British policy the American Government was often acting under heavy pressure from Congress contrary to its own opinion.”

The picture of Socialist Attlee didactically lecturing the representatives of the Wall Street tycoons and millionaires as to their interests is ludicrous. Their responsibilities are to the interests of American capitalism and nothing else. Where their policies are similar to those of Britain it merely indicates that their interests are parallel on those particular issues. Where they have diverged, it is a question of conflicting interests or a difference of view as to what policy would serve best the interest of British and world capitalism.

Thus America has backed the most “undemocratic” and reactionary forces such as those of Chiang Kai Shek, Franco and Syngman Rhee. America’s increasing intervention in world affairs is not dictated by the advice of the Labour Government, or for that matter the Churchill Government, but by an assessment of what policies and commitments would suit the interests of Wall Street best.

It is this, which makes so shameful the argument in this pamphlet that “…many of the Labour Party’s most important objectives in world affairs depend on America assuming, not fewer responsibilities than she has already, but more. The whole world would benefit if America accepted greater responsibility for the security and prosperity of the Middle East and Southern Asia.”

America’s policy in the Middle East and Southern Asia, like her policy everywhere else will be guided not by the hand of Downing Street or Transport House, but by what will be considered from first to last the needs and interests of monopoly capital in America.

Soviet Union

The pamphlet lumps together the Soviet Union under Lenin and the Soviet Union under Stalin. The fact that in the early days the foreign policy of the Soviet Union was based on the needs and interests of the world working class and of International Socialism finds no mention in its pages.

Today, the policies of the Stalinist counter-revolution in Russia like those of Imperialism are based largely on power politics. They manipulate the Communist Parties of the world in the interests of the Kremlin oligarchy. They unhesitatingly sacrifice one section of the workers after another in their selfish and anti-working class interests. Where possible they will expand, not to serve the interests of Socialism, but of the Russian official caste. However, because of the nationalisation of the entire economy they have not the economic contradictions which drive Imperialism to expand and which have led to wars in the past(*). The unreality of the pamphlet, its dreamlike character, is shown by the failure to analyse the cleavages between the Russian bureaucratic caste on the one side and the masses on the other. Nor for the matter of that does the pamphlet recognise clearly enough colonial exploitation and oppression of the peoples in the East and Africa, nor the national oppression of minorities in the U.S.S.R., and of the countries of Eastern Europe.

The status quo

As always they appeal to the status quo, now the one established in 1948 in Europe. But by its very nature, in power politics the status quo can only be maintained so long as the relationship of forces which it expresses at the given time remains in being. Inevitably the strength of the powers industrially, and consequently militarily and socially, must change. The policy based on the given relationship of forces must collapse once the forces which gave rise to it change.

If the working class of Britain trails behind the policy of British Imperialism—past, present and future—then the workers of Russia will cling to the Russian bureaucracy on the one hand and the workers of America will be pushed behind their rulers on the other.

Vaguely the document…“hope(s) that the Soviet regime will itself undergo some change, particularly in the period which follows Stalin’s departure from power. Certainly if a struggle for power then ensues in the Kremlin the Western World may find a good opportunity for appealing to the moderate wing by offering economic help in return for political co-operation.”

This sounds like the hopes enunciated by the officials in Washington. But it is hardly a socialist policy.

A Socialist policy would be based on an appeal for the overthrow of Stalinism and a return to Socialist Democracy. A fraternal international co-operation on the basis of a nationalised economy with democracy in Russia and with a similar situation in Britain. Here again we see how foreign policy is absolutely dependent on home policy.

Western Europe

“British policy towards Western Europe was firmly fixed by the Labour Government and there’s no sign that the Conservatives intend to change it.”

Surely there must be something wrong with a policy which the Conservatives, the representatives of high finance, carry on without any important changes. How can such a policy by any stretch of the imagination be conceived of as socialist? How can such a policy which admits as the pamphlet does, that it requires the active intervention of America on the European continent, be a policy in the interests of the European or American workers?

The rotten basis of the so-called continental community established under the pressure of Britain and America, is shown by the jockeying (casually mentioned in the pamphlet itself) between Western Germany, France and the Benelux countries. In other words, all the incantations and high moral principles fall away in face of the naked reality of capitalist power politics. Even in face of the mortal danger from mighty Russia (a workers’ state even if degenerated) they do not and cannot trust each other, but see things from the viewpoint of their national capitalist classes.

To its shame, despite covering phrases in the introduction, this exposition of Labour policy also takes for granted the manoeuvres and balancing of capitalist power politics as a natural basis on which to start.

“In the first place, with overseas commitments greater than pre-war (!), Britain cannot spare enough power for Europe to counterbalance Germany unless America joins her there.” And again, “If Britain once took the step of committing herself permanently on the Continent of Europe, without America, by joining a European Army, for instance, those Americans who favour withdrawing their troops, would be greatly encouraged. Britain might then be left alone to face the double dangers of Soviet expansion and German domination.”

What a miserable picture of relations between countries. Here we have it all in its hideous clarity.

On a capitalist basis and the acceptance of capitalism at home and abroad, there cannot be anything else but a jockeying for position and a struggle between “dear allies.” This in its turn with the further aggravation of capitalist contradictions [will] inevitably leading to a new catastrophe. What spark of socialism is left in this policy?


The pamphlet devotes a special section to Germany. And the fate of Germany with her strategic position is undoubtedly of world importance. But again and again it identifies the national capitalist interests with those of the working class. And into the bargain, not for Britain alone, but calmly assumes the same for other countries of Western Europe as well.

The pamphlet remarks, “By the beginning of 1952 Germany had already become the strongest single continental Power and was beginning to compete effectively in exports with Britain both in Europe and overseas.”

In other words the same process is beginning as that which led to World War I, and World War II. The race for markets and sources of raw material is beginning all over again as it must on a capitalist basis. But from a socialist point of view the solution to this nightmare of competition leading to unemployment and war, can only lie in the collaboration of the workers of Germany and Britain against the capitalists of both countries.

Such a policy would involve struggling against the capitalists everywhere and against the myth of capitalist federation. Not to retreat as the document has done round the banner of national capitalism, but to struggle for a federation of a United Socialist Europe. That is a sober and realistic policy as against the reactionary dream of reconciling the irreconcilable national capitalist interests of Britain, Europe and America.

Squaring the imperialist circle

Squaring the circle is a simple job in comparison with the squaring of incompatible Imperialist interests.

Thus the document continues, “In the second place, Germany has no automatic identity of interest with Atlantic powers. She can best obtain national unity by an agreement with the Soviet Union, which would also give her opportunities of industrial expansion into Eastern Europe which are part of her national tradition.”

The document “realistically” examines the happy possibility of “keeping Germany permanently disarmed under a Four-Power Occupation as at present” and then rejects it not for socialist reasons but because it might later mean the withdrawal of American troops 3,000 miles and of Russian troops only 50 miles.

It goes on to say, It is indeed unrealistic to believe that any steps can now be taken to prevent Germany from becoming once again a great power in its own right. The Only question still relevant is how to ensure that a powerful Germany works with the West rather than with Russia or for any selfish national aggrandisement.”

Here is summed up the impotent utopianism of a policy which bases itself on balancing between nations instead of relying on the mighty power of the working class at home and abroad. A powerful capitalist Germany will obviously attempt to play off the Western bloc against the Eastern bloc for its own ends. But a democratic socialist Germany with a democratic socialist Britain would offer the hand of friendship to the workers of America against their capitalist masters, and to the Russian workers against the totalitarian bureaucracy of Stalin. Against an appeal to their real interests, not all the armed might in the world could prevail.

The simplest way is the realistic way. Not this horse-deal, not that bribe, to national capitalist interests can solve the problem of peace and security; but only Socialist Internationalism, the only practical policy to secure these benefits for the workers.

Middle East

In dealing with particular sections of the globe, the real thoughts underlying the cloudy formulations of the Labour leaders break through. Adopting a “statesmanlike” attitude they endeavour to assess the social, political and economic conflicts, always from the viewpoint of “Britain,” i.e., British Imperialist interests.

The pamphlet remarks sadly…“The Middle East is the one area where the Labour Government did not succeed in laying firm foundations for future policy.”

Why was this so? Because of the tiny groups of wealthy magnates who control the governments and…“too often show themselves at once selfish, corrupt and incompetent.”

And again: “The one political feeling easily aroused is nationalism. And this usually means violent hatred of Britain, which for many years has been the dominant power throughout the Middle East.”

Why this is so is not explained. The bleeding of the peoples of the Middle East for the benefit of the strategic and economic interests of the British ruling class is the real reason why the anger of the peoples is directed against British Imperialism. After having explained the role of the corrupt and degenerate feudal lords who batten on the misery of the workers and peasants of the area, they do not advocate a socialist solution to this problem. They comment sadly that any aid designed to raise living standards in this area would disappear into the casinos of Monte Carlo rather than be used for development projects. But this is conceived of as part of the price that would be necessary to guard “…their (Middle East countries) security against Soviet attack…(which)…can only be assured by outside powers.” (Our emphasis.)

Like all other problems of foreign policy the point of departure provides the key to the answer. A socialist policy would base itself on the sweeping away of the antiquated structure of these states and the organisation of a Middle Eastern Federation on the basis of the destruction of capitalism and landlordism in the area. Such a Federation, basing itself on a socialist policy, would be invulnerable to attack from any quarter.

The motives behind the suggestion to raise the standard of living are naively presented, when it is stated, “At present Britain is the only foreign power directly involved in protecting the Middle East from aggression. If she tries to maintain her position there without the consent of the local peoples the cost of doing so will soon become prohibitive.”

This speaks for itself. At the same time the suggestion is made once again to redress the balance of forces by an appeal to American Imperialism. Neither “Britain” nor “France” can afford the resources needed for the defence of this, in addition to other areas.

The Far East

The attitude towards the Chinese Revolution and the developing national and social revolution of all Asia, is not one of welcoming the destruction of Feudalism and Capitalism and the weakening of the Imperialist interests throughout the Eastern world; but is in fact a grudging acceptance of the realities of the Chinese Revolution, in order to try and balance China against Russia.

Guardedly they agree that the intervention of China in the Korean war may have been occasioned by “Western mistakes.” But here again, it is a question of the resources and policies of British Imperialism.

In this the Tory Government has largely continued the policy which it inherited from the Labour Government.

The pamphlet argues a whole series of possibilities in relation to the Far East. A sample of this being…“Should Britain and America therefore pledge themselves to resist Chinese aggression in Indo-China, or would this provoke the aggression it was intended to deter, and so tie down Western forces in a war they could not hope to win?”

The Far East like all other regions is viewed from the narrow interests of British Imperialism.

“But in the long run China is the one Communist country which may succeed in following Tito by breaking away from Russian influence. British policy should always be directed to this end, though Communist China might be no less a problem in the Far East as an independent power than as an ally of the Soviet Union.”

Instead of seeing the historic Chinese Revolution, however distorted and deformed by Stalinism, as a step towards a Socialist Federation of Asia and of the world, they look for a means of playing off one Stalinist gang against another. Instead of working for political revolution—in China and Russia to supplement the social revolution—instead of working for the overthrow of capitalism by the social revolution—instead of struggling for a radical break with all capitalistic policies at home and abroad; they compromise with the forces of Imperialism and thus threaten to land the British Labour Movement in an impasse.

If the argument is used of non-interference in the affairs of other peoples, then the question arises: Why the support for the intervention in Korea, why the support for the march into Germany, Italy and Japan during the War? This was interference in the language of the powerful arguments of bayonet and bomb.

But the argument of a Socialist policy at home and abroad is far more potent. Assistance by the power of ideas to Socialist forces in all countries struggling for a Socialist democratic world is a necessity for internationalism.

Need for socialist principles

The one thing which can be welcomed in the pamphlet, is the call for thorough discussion of problems of foreign policy. Today, more than ever in the history of mankind, events, in one country or area of the earth are of direct and immediate significance to the lives, and conditions of workers in all other parts of the world. The fate of humanity is linked into one indivisible whole. Put just because of that, the interests of the workers can be served not by opportunist adaptation but only by working-class internationalism.

The pamphlet endeavours to cover itself by arguing on the possibilities of new factors and divergences without committing itself to fundamental principle. In this it remains faithful not to socialist principles but to the well-worn “principles” of the power politics which it professes to abhor.

It goes on to say…“It is wise to refrain from fixing rigid programmes in foreign policy.”

Naturally, today’s enemy can be tomorrow’s friend, wicked Germans can be dear allies, dear Old Joe of the war years becomes a totalitarian tyrant—the depiction (whether correct or incorrect) all depending on the particular needs and interests of imperialist power politics at the given time.

However, after all this the pamphlet proceeds with unconscious humour…“If the fundamental principles with which a government approaches world affairs are sound and moral…” then chopping and changing policy according to circumstances is all right. This is the heart of the question.

What fundamental principles and what moral approach? There is the “morality” of capitalist state interests, of which unfortunately this pamphlet is shot through and through, as the examples given above endeavour to show. On the other hand there are the fundamental principles of socialism—of what is right and moral in the interests of the workers; not an imaginary extra-class morality.

Language of deeds

A preparation to struggle implacably and resolutely against our enemies at home—the capitalists, is the first step towards a socialist foreign policy. The language of deeds speaks louder than the language of nationalistic phrases. The path of Socialist principle is the only way out of the entangling web with which the leadership is enmeshing the Party.

“Workers of all lands unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win,” remains not a phrase to be used hypocritically on May Day anniversaries, but a real guide to a Socialist foreign policy.

But today or in the coming period it is a question of whether there will be a world to win—or whether it will be destroyed. Unless the mass of workers in Britain and the world make internationalism the maxim of their policy the World Labour Movement will collapse in futility and then ruin.

International Socialism or Barbarism?—that is the issue to be decided by Labour’s Foreign Policy.

Notes to original text:

(*) For further elaboration on this we would refer the reader to our document “Stalinism in the Post War World.”[available here] Price 6d.


(1) We completed the sentence cut by a missing line in the original article.