For the first years of World War Two, between the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August, 1939 and the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941 the Communist Party was a leading anti-war, anti-interventionist voice in the United States and, contrary to the previous years’ ‘Democratic Front,’ an opponent of Roosevelt and critic of imperialism (a word which had not featured in a ‘Communist’ headline since 1936). Here, William Z. Foster gives voices to the policies of that time in a speech at the C.P.’s Madison Square Garden nominating convention on June 2, 1940.
‘The Three Basic Tasks of the Communist Peace Policy,’ Speech by William Z. Foster from The Communist. Vol. 19 No. 7. July, 1940.
(Address delivered at the closing session of the Nominating Convention of the Communist Party of the United States, at Madison Square Garden, New York City, June 2, 1940.)
Comrades and friends:
For the second time within a single generation the decaying world capitalist system has plunged humanity into a frightful mass butchery. The present war is a cold-blooded massacre of the people with the object of preserving and increasing capitalist profits; a ruthless struggle between British and German imperialism for domination of the whole earth. It is fast becoming a world war and is threatening to engulf our country. The criminals responsible for this holocaust of suffering and death are the great capitalists of all countries, including those of the United States. Guilty also are the Social-Democratic flunkeys of these imperialists, their agents in the ranks of the working class.
In the present great war catastrophe the democratic masses of America face three basic tasks, all related to each other. The first of these tasks is to keep America out of the war. Wall Street and its Roosevelt government, by creating panic and hysteria, are trying desperately to force this country into the war on the side of the Allies. Roosevelt’s policy has already destroyed American neutrality and has brought us to the brink of the precipice. Backed by Republicans, Socialists and reactionary trade unionists, he is supporting the Allies by propaganda, diplomacy, finance and munitions. And now, with his gigantic so-called national defense program, he is preparing to force the country into the war completely.
This grave danger makes it necessary that the masses of the people develop a militant struggle to keep America out of the war. Many polls show that the Ameri- can people are 95 per cent against entering into the war, but the only way they can prevent the warmongers from involving us not-withstanding is by organizing themselves and struggling against every step of the war-makers leading towards war. This means not only to fight against Roosevelt’s foreign policy, but also against his domestic policy. Especially is it necessary to defend the workers’ living and working standards and to defend their civic rights, as a basic phase of the general struggle against the war.
The warmongers are now operating under cover of Roosevelt’s hypocritical program of national defense, which is in reality a war program. The Communists stand ready to support a genuine national defense policy, one that is con- trolled by a democratic people’s government and applied to preserve American and world peace. But we reject President Roosevelt’s huge scheme of militarization, which is nothing else than Wall Street’s program of imperialist aggression and war.
The American warmongers’ claim that they are giving the Allies support because of democratic motives are monstrous lies. The major aims of American imperialism and its Roosevelt government in this war situation are to defend the bankers’ big foreign investments, to set up an American dictatorship over the Latin American countries under the pretext of defending them from Nazi aggression, to seize the Dutch East Indies and Greenland, to wreck the living conditions, mass organizations and civil liberties of the American people, to bolster up the tottering British and French empires and to gather up their fragments if they fall, to leave world imperialist hegemony for the United States, and to save the collapsing world capitalist system. It is for these sordid purposes, not for democracy, that the reactionaries want our boys to die on the battlefields of Europe. Should the United States, dominated as it is by Wall Street, enter the present war, it could only be as the defender of world reaction and as the enemy of everything progressive and democratic. Therefore, it is in the deepest interest, not only of the American masses, but of the peoples of the world, that this country be kept out of the war.
The second great task presented to us by the present war is to achieve a just and lasting world peace. The assertions of American warmongers that the Allies are working for such a peace, that they are fighting against fascism and for democracy and civilization, and that we should therefore support them, are brazen falsehoods and hypocrisies. The warmongers’ talk about a free United States of Europe to be established after the war is only so much lying propaganda to dupe the masses into supporting the war. British imperialism, like German imperialism, should it secure a real victory in the war, would proceed as fast and as far as possible towards setting up fascism throughout Europe. Only by such terroristic means could the exploiters even temporarily hold the badly shattered capitalist system together after this war. An Allied victory, therefore, would result in a regime of new wars and mass enslavement, not in peace and democracy.
We must not forget that although the Allies won the World War under slogans of making the world safe for democracy and of the war to end all wars, and although they dominated Europe for the following twenty years under the Versailles Treaty, the general result of it all was, not the establishment of world peace and democracy, but that these capitalist powers forced and encouraged half of Europe to become fascist; they also plagued the world with the most terrible economic crises in its history; they were responsible for many weak countries being overrun by warlike aggressors and losing their independence; they rejected the Soviet’s proposals for disarmament and for an international peace front; they plotted endlessly to overthrow the Soviet Government, and finally their policies brought on the present ruinous war.
In view of this reactionary record we would be fools to believe that a victory by the Allied countries, dominated as they are by predatory capitalist interests, would bring peace and democracy to the world. On the contrary, there is every reason to conclude that a decisive success by British and French imperialism in this war would be followed by even deeper reaction than was their winning of the World War. At the conclusion of the present devastating war they would have a rotting and broken down capitalist system on their hands and they would be confronted by a rebellious working class. In such a situation the British and French tories, no less than their blood brothers, Hitler’s Nazis, would inevitably grasp at fascist terrorist dictatorship to prolong their rule. Instead of peace and democracy, therefore, the world would face a period of still more terrible wars, profound economic crises, and enslavement of the people.
The most far-reaching experience teaches us that for peace and freedom the people of the world must look to themselves, and not to either camp of the warring imperialists. Not in support of the Allies or of Hitler in the war, but in mass struggle against both groups of imperialists and their brutal war is the path to a just and lasting world peace. The oppressed of the earth must unite against all the imperialist mass murderers. They need to set up people’s front and Socialist governments in the various capitalist countries and they must unite their forces internationally for a common struggle against the capitalist exploiters and war-makers. The road to world peace and freedom lies through the workers and farmers of England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, joining up their great forces with the many oppressed national minorities and defeated small nations throughout the capitalist world, with the vast colonial and semi-colonial peoples of India, China, Africa, and Latin America, and with the great free peoples of the Soviet Union. It is only by building this irresistible bloc of the democratic masses of the world, only by defeating the capitalist classes of their respective countries, only by supporting the peace policy of the Soviet Union, that a just, lasting and democratic peace can be established. We Americans must do our part in organizing these fundamental world peace forces.
The third task presented to us sharply by this war is even more fundamental than the first two we have been discussing. This task is for us to work towards putting an end forever to the monstrous social system, capitalism, which, in addition to its endless other mass miseries, has given birth to this dreadful war. Although at a terrible cost of suffering and exploitation for the workers, the capitalist system once played a constructive role historically. Under it were built the great industries, the revolutionary proletariat was created, bourgeois democracy was born, and science was developed. But capitalism has exhausted its progressive possibilities. The monopoly capital- ism of today is hopelessly decadent and reactionary. The whole system is torn with destructive and insoluble inner conflicts and contradictions. It is a menace to humanity and a brake on all progress.
The soothsayers of American capitalism are now very busily seeking to discover new frontiers for capitalist expansion and development. But there are no such frontiers. The capitalist system in the United States, as well as in the rest of the world, has shot its bolt. All it now holds for the people are more frequent and more devastating wars and economic crises, deeper mass pauperization, deadly fascism, and social degeneration. Humanity can find its new frontiers of development and happiness only in socialism. The axe must be laid at the root of the capitalist system. The land and the great industries must become the property of the people. Exploitation of man by man must be ended forever. The workers and peasants of the Soviet Union are blazing the way that all mankind must travel. Only when the capitalist system is abolished and socialism is established can the world have enduring peace between the nations and enter into a regime of freedom, prosperity, progress and real civilization.
Before this monstrous war is over the oppressed of the world will take long strides towards their inevitable socialist goal. The workers and other toilers made the capitalists pay dearly for the brutal World War of 1914-18 by transforming one-sixth of the world into socialism. Today the world capitalist system, eaten by internal contradictions and conflicts, is far weaker than it was in the period of the World War and therefore it is much less able to withstand the shock of revolution.
Moreover, the. anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist forces of the world—including the workers of all countries, the oppressed national minorities, the rebellious colonial peoples, the great Soviet Union— are far more powerful than they were a generation ago. We may be confident, therefore, that the exploited millions of the earth will find the way to make the imperialists pay heavily also for this outrageous war by extending socialism over still greater areas of the world. Nor will all the treachery of the Social-Democrats or the fascist terrorism of the imperialists be able to balk their revolutionary will.
These are the three great goals for which the Communist Party is striving—to keep America out of the murderous imperialist war, to achieve a just, democratic and lasting world peace, and to end war forever by abolishing the monstrous capitalist system and establishing socialism. If you sympathize with these objectives we ask you to join with us in our fight, to support our candidates in the elections, and to become a member of the Communist Party, the party of Marx Engels, Lenin and Stalin, the party that will eventually lead the American people to socialism.
There are a number of journals with this name in the history of the movement. This ‘Communist’ was the main theoretical journal of the Communist Party from 1927 until 1944. Its origins lie with the folding of The Liberator, Soviet Russia Pictorial, and Labor Herald together into Workers Monthly as the new unified Communist Party’s official cultural and discussion magazine in November, 1924. Workers Monthly became The Communist in March, 1927 and was also published monthly. The Communist contains the most thorough archive of the Communist Party’s positions and thinking during its run. The New Masses became the main cultural vehicle for the CP and the Communist, though it began with with more vibrancy and discussion, became increasingly an organ of Comintern and CP program. Over its run the tagline went from “A Theoretical Magazine for the Discussion of Revolutionary Problems” to “A Magazine of the Theory and Practice of Marxism-Leninism” to “A Marxist Magazine Devoted to Advancement of Democratic Thought and Action.” The aesthetic of the journal also changed dramatically over its years. Editors included Earl Browder, Alex Bittelman, Max Bedacht, and Bertram D. Wolfe.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/communist/v19n07-jul-1940-The-Communist-OCR.pdf