Must the World Destroy Itself?

Freda Utley, America First member and ex-Communist, argues the isolationist case against US involvement in WWII

Freda Utley is one of those writers who was incredibly popular during their day, but whose relevance and name recognition has largely faded as the decades have passed. This is somewhat unfortunate in Utley’s case, because her life was varied and fascinating, and she wrote a number of significant works on Asia, communism, and fascism which deserve to be remembered. Utley’s early background was progressive, middle-class, and solidly English. The financial difficulties the family experienced after her father passed away in 1918 helped lead Utley, already an idealistic young woman, into socialism – first as a member of the Independent Labour Party, then from 1927 as a passionate activist for the British Communist Party, and eventually as a paid employee of the Comintern. In 1930 she and her husband  (Arcadi Berdichevsky, a Russian Jew and Soviet functionary), moved to Moscow permanently, and it was here that Utley’s slowly-blooming disillusionment with Communism became overwhelming. Utley’s firsthand experiences of Soviet poverty, corruption, inefficiency, and ultimately terror (her husband was arrested and sent to Siberia in 1936) led her to leave the USSR, eventually settling in America, where her reputation as a writer saw her become something of a minor celebrity for a time, rubbing shoulders with figures like Eleanor Roosevelt and Cornelius Starr. Yet Utley’s reawakened liberal principles, fostered via direct experience under totalitarianism, led her down some controversial avenues as WWII commenced. Utley’s view at that time was that the Soviet Union was the most totalizing dictatorship in existence, and therefore stood as the greatest enemy to human liberty. Hitlerism, while still villainous, was also clearly the lesser of two evils, and a negotiated peace with Germany was thus essential in order to save Britain from destruction and to prevent Europe’s domination under a “monolithic Communist empire.” This stance naturally brought Utley into the isolationist camp, and thereby under the wing of the America First Committee; articles like the one transcribed below, from October 1941, provide a good summation of her position during this period (although perhaps some of the arguments are not quite so convincing with the benefit of hindsight). This particular article was distributed in hundreds of thousands of copies by America First, and helped make Utley’s name as an anti-war campaigner. It also caused her considerable trouble in trying to attain American citizenship, being directly cited by US authorities (along with Utley’s Communist past) as evidence that the author was a hostile enemy alien. 

An Englishwoman Pleads:
Must the World Destroy Itself?
Freda Utley
October, 1941

First published in Common Sense, August, 1941, under the title “God Save England From Her Friends.” This revised version was transcribed from the The Reader’s Digest of October, 1941, vol.39, no.234. 

FREDA UTLEY, well known as an author and lecturer on three continents, has firsthand knowledge of the world’s present battlefronts. As correspondent for the London News Chronicle she covered Japan’s war against China. For six years she lived in Russia, a convinced believer in the Soviet experiment, and labored as a government official in the Comintern, the Commissariat of Foreign Trade and the Institute of World Economy and Politics. Her resulting complete disillusionment with the Communist Utopia is graphically described in her recent book, The Dream We Lost. Coming to America, Miss Utley has devoted herself to publicizing the truth about Communism as it was revealed to her in Moscow. Among her other books are Japan’s Feet of Clay, Lancashire and the Far East and China at War. Miss Utley was born in The Temple, London. Her father came from the little village of Utley, in Yorkshire, named for the family. He was able to trace his ancestry back to the conquest of Britain by the Vikings. The author asked to revise and expand this article for The Reader’s Digest.

A year hence it may seem to most English people that England’s friends in the United States were more dangerous to her than those Americans called isolationists. For too many American friends of Britain, swayed entirely by their emotions, refuse to consider England’s present situation realistically. They speak as if the defeat of Germany were a foregone conclusion, simply because the Americans have decided upon it. Would-be saviors, not only of Britain and her Empire, but of the whole world, they exhort the British not to give up the fight “until Hitlerism is destroyed,” although by now it should be obvious to any keen observer that England cannot reconquer the Continent of Europe. Yet anyone who dares to face such facts is denounced as an appeaser, or worse.

In England, forums of intelligent citizens debate the terms of the eventual compromise peace. Yet so fearful are Americans of being called defeatists or appeasers that hardly anyone in this country will admit that the best chance of saving both England and some democracy in the world is for the United States to back England at the proper moment in a negotiated peace, before the balance of forces turns itself yet more heavily in Germany’s favor.

Being an Englishwoman, I hope fervently, of course, that the United States will continue all-out aid to England. For the defeat of England would be a catastrophic disaster for America. But I hope Americans will realize that in due season the United States must be prepared to back England in negotiating peace. It is time that Americans of good will and intelligence discuss realistically the pros and cons of a not too distant peace without letting wishful thinking obscure their judgement. Continue reading

Beating the National-Fascists (at their Own Game)

Advice from the Comintern to the Communist Party of Germany on winning back the masses radicalized by the ‘national-fascism’ of the NSDAP

The article below is essentially a companion piece to the Communist Party of Germany’s (KPD) August 1930 Programmatic Statement for the National and Social Liberation of the German People. The ‘Programmatic Statement’ represented an attempt by the KPD to seriously grapple with the rising popularity of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), born from recognition of the fact that nationalist sentiment (particularly aggrievement over the Young Plan and Versailles Peace Treaty) appeared to be a genuine motivational factor even among much of the proletariat, and that the social-revolutionary posturing of the NSDAP was being taken seriously by the masses even if to Marxists it appeared patently unconvincing. The new programme, and the general political line which it ushered in, was thus intended to “take the wind out of the nationalist propaganda of the Nazis” by beating the “fascists” at their own game, adopting certain tropes and terminology from the nationalist camp and repurposing them to demonstrate how it was in fact only German Communism which could truly bring both national and social liberation to the German people. The translated piece below – a draft letter to the KPD produced by the Political Secretariat of the Communist International in July 1930 – shows some of the genesis behind the 1930 programme, written as it was a month before the new programme was first launched within the pages of KPD daily Die Rote Fahne. The draft letter consists of analysis and advice from the Comintern to the KPD, outlining the reasons behind the growing success of “national-fascism” and recommending that a new programme be produced to better equip the Communists to compete against the NSDAP in the upcoming Reichstag elections. The exact authorship of both documents is somewhat unclear. Typically the 1930 programme is ascribed either to the KPD’s principal theorist, Heinz Neumann, or to Party-leader Ernst Thälmann. Historian Martin Mevius, however, asserts that it was actually the work of Comintern functionaries Dmitry Manuilsky, Wilhelm Knorin, and Otto Kuusinen (all working under Stalin’s direction), and that it “had to be sold to the German party leadership,” who initially were not very enthusiastic. The existence of the ‘precursor’ document I have translated here probably gives credence to Mevius’s claim that the programme originated in the Comintern. Whatever its provenance, the ‘National and Social’ programme grew to be a central component of the KPD’s political work over the the following years, and its “foresight” and “historic significance” were still being acclaimed decades later by Communists in East Germany.

Draft Letter to the KPD Leadership
On the National Liberation of the Working People against “National Fascism”:
A Perspective on the Reichstag Elections
Drafted by the Political Secretariat of the Communist International
28 July, 1930

Moscow.
6 Ex/Bö.
28.07.1930

Confidential.

On the Question of the Struggle against National-Fascism in Germany.1

To the Central Committee of the KPD.

Valued Comrades!

Within Germany, the grave political and organizational successes which fascism (the National Socialists) has made over the course of the last year present us with the problem of how to fight against this new weapon of the bourgeoisie in all its magnitude. The example of Saxony2 and of other areas demonstrates that fascism has been successful at winning over the broad masses, proletarians among them, who could and should have been captured by our work so far, and that our Party has not yet discovered all the methods required for the fight against national-fascism.

Fascism’s rapid rise is the result of the economic crisis in Germany, a crisis deeply intensified when coupled with the Young Plan, which plunges small commodity-producers and entrepreneurs into ruin, makes millions of proletarians unemployed, depresses the living standards of those workers still in the factories (wage cuts), and imposes new taxes, new tariffs, and other evils upon the broadest masses of the working people (including white-collar employees, small businessmen, artisans, small farmers, etc.).

The broadest masses of the petite-bourgeoisie and the backwards strata among the proletariat, who no longer wish to go on living in the old manner, are leaving the ranks of the old bourgeois parties – particularly the German National People’s Party,3 and in some cases also, the Social-Democrats – and are streaming into the fascist camp, because fascism promises a radical, “revolutionary” way out of the present situation. That the national-fascists are able to lure the masses through radical slogans is evidence of the profound unrest occurring within these masses, is evidence for their radicalization. Continue reading

Capitalist Power and German Socialism

The völkisch-radical German Socialist Party on capitalism, right-wingers, and the power of money

The German Socialist Party (Deutschsozialistische Partei, DSP) is largely forgotten now, but for a brief period in history it was the pre-eminent National Socialist party within the German Republic. The party’s guiding light was Düsseldorf engineer Alfred Brunner, a Thule Society member with a determination to found a völkisch-socialist movement which could rescue Germany from its post-War mire. In December 1918 Brunner’s draft programme outline for such a movement was published. Völkisch activists consequently heeded Brunner’s call and began founding their own independent German Socialist working-groups and party cells, and by 1919 there were German Socialist organizations in Düsseldorf, Kiel, Frankfurt, Dresden, Nuremberg, and Munich. Although ideologically extremely similar to the NSDAP (something recognized by both groups), the DSP’s organizational beginnings made it a very different party from the outset. Because of the way it had been founded, the DSP early on had a much broader base than the NSDAP, which did not establish a chapter outside Munich until April 1920. By contrast, by the time the DSP held its first official convention to bring all the independent German Socialist groups under one national organization (also in April 1920), there numbered about 35 German Socialist local chapters across Germany with a combined total of around 2,000 members. Although this appeared impressive in comparison to the NSDAP, the DSP did not actually have the resources to manage a national party and many of the local groups were heavily under-resourced, resulting in gradual stagnation and inactivity. This hindered the DSP’s central tactical focus on electioneering and parliamentary work; unlike the still-revolutionary NSDAP, the DSP sought a “legal” dismantling of the existing system through “reformist-evolutionary” methods. A side-effect of this parliamentary orientation was that the DSP put far more emphasis on issuing programmatic resolutions and debating policy proposals than it did on active organization and propaganda. Although this approach ultimately proved ineffective and harmed the party’s dynamism, it did result in the publication of a number of distinctive theoretical documents, such as the short leaflet translated below. This leaflet, titled “Capitalist Power” (Kapitalistische Macht), is undated, but if I had to guess I would say that it was probably released in 1920 for the June Reichstag election (the DSP received a mere ~7,000 votes nationwide, or 0.03%). It is an interesting little document, with its anti-capitalist rhetoric and its strong attacks on the “right,” and helps to illustrate why DSP members considered themselves the “left-wing” of the völkisch movement.

Capitalist Power
An undated flyer from the German Socialist Party

In our publications we often discuss the power of capitalism – which we understand above all to mean the overriding predominance of loan-capitalism – as against working capital,1 which we German Socialists acknowledge, in a controlled and restricted form, within an economy built upon a purely German foundation.

But that even this form of capital, under today’s conditions, holds a power which detracts from Rightness and Truth, is shown by the modern parties of the right who, on the basis of an intrinsically and thoroughly capitalist programme, are able to bind hundreds of thousands of people to themselves, people who are suffering as a result of capitalism and the capital of today.

And that they can do this is purely because both these parties2 possess enough money to enable the press and their public speakers to socially disguise their programmes and to strike an anti-Semitic tone, a tone which becomes all the livelier the closer they draw to the elections.

In doing so, these parties do not possess a single, fundamental, sweeping demand which would bring about an alleviation of the social situation and a liberation from the pressure of capitalism! Continue reading

The Programme of the German National Peoples’ Party (DNVP)

The original 1919 political programme of the bourgeois-nationalist German National Peoples’ Party, or DNVP

The emphasis of this blog tends to be on reproducing material from political movements which fall into one of two categories: nationalist movements which have embraced elements of socialism, and socialist movements which have embraced elements of nationalism. As a nationalist movement which was avowedly anti-socialist (as well as pro-monarchist and expressive of a conservative/bourgeois/traditionalist ethos), the German National People’s Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei, DNVP) might seem at first to be a little outside ARPLAN’s purview. The interesting thing about the DNVP, however – and the reason why I am providing a translation of its original 1919 programme – is that there is a little more to the organization than might first meet the eye. When originally founded in late November, 1918, the DNVP was an amalgam of several older Imperial-era movements: Conservatives, Free-Conservatives, right-wing National Liberals, segments of the völkisch and Pan-German movements, and the Christian-Socials. The Christian-Social wing of the DNVP in particular provided the impetus for some of the party’s little-known attempts at engaging with German labor, helping bring elements of the Christian trade unions into the DNVP’s orbit and pushing the organization towards a line that, if it could not be socialist, was at the very least an attempt towards being ‘social’ (Christian-Social labor leader Franz Behrens set the tone in his speech to the very first German-National congress in July, 1919, declaring: “Whoever believes in free enterprise must also believe in trade unions for workers, and must also recognize the right to unionize and the right to strike”). Elements of this ‘left’-wing DNVP influence can be discerned in parts of the original German-National programme (its advocacy of equal rights for women; material support for working mothers; collective bargaining on the part of workers, etc.) and in some of the party’s later actions, such as its founding of a mass labor organization in 1921, the German-National Workers’ League (Deutschnationaler Arbeiterbund). The DNVP ultimately represented an alternative approach towards nationalist engagement with labor, a more cautious and ‘pro-employer’ approach which, when contrasted with that of National Socialism, helps emphasize quite how radical (and how sincerely anticapitalist) the NSDAP actually was by comparison. Both parties were well aware of this difference; the new programme the DNVP finally adopted in 1932, Alfred Hugenberg’s ‘Freedom Programme’, was an explicit attempt at contrasting the DNVP’s “social-nationalism’ with the “Marxism” of the NSDAP.   

Programme of the
German National Peoples’ Party

DNVP_symbol

I. The Life of Nation and State

The liberation of Germany. The liberation of the German Volk from foreign domination is the precondition for their national rebirth. We therefore strive for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles, for the restoration of German unity, and for the reacquisition of the colonies essential to our economic development.

Borderland-Germans and Germans living abroad.1 We feel inseparably linked to our German folk-comrades living beyond the borders which have been imposed upon us. The defense of Germandom in the lost and occupied territories and the defense of Germans living abroad are  essential duties in national politics. A tightly-knit Volksgemeinschaft binds us with all Germans living abroad, in particular with the German-Austrians for whose right of self-determination we pledge our support.

Foreign policy. We demand a strong and steady foreign policy defined exclusively from a German point-of-view, a dignified, firm, and skillful representation of German interests and the utilization of our economic power in service of Germany’s foreign policy goals. The foreign service is to be staffed solely on the basis of ability, educational background, and dependable German convictions, and to be kept free from considerations of internal party politics.

Monarchy. The monarchical form of state corresponds to the uniqueness and to the historical development of Germany. Standing above the parties, the monarchy offers the safest guarantee for the unity of the Volk, the defense of minorities, the continuity of state affairs, and the incorruptibility of public administration. The individual German states should enjoy a free choice over their forms of government; for the Reich we strive for a renewal of the German Empire as established by the Hohenzollerns. Continue reading