The following article was published in Proletarian Revolution No. 67 (Spring 2003).

Shades of 1914 and 1939:

The Capitalist Fear of War and Revolution

by Sy Landy

Pat Buchanan’s right-wing magazine, The American Conservative, strongly opposed the U.S. war on Iraq. In its April 7 issue, Martin Sieff, the Chief International Analyst for United Press International, wrote an article entitled “That 1914 Feeling.” Sieff pointed out that Germany’s ally, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, suffered a terrorist attack when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914. The Austro-Hungarian rulers launched a war on Serbia, a “rogue state,” a response which in Sieff’s opinion failed to take into account its consequences. He recounts a conversation in a café between Count Berchtold, the foreign minister, and a friend who was appalled that the attack would lead to a far wider war, destruction of the empire and communist revolutions.

Sieff’s article pulls no punches in expressing the fears held by the American far right that a similar disaster awaits the U.S. as a result of the current Iraq war.

He quotes Berchtold as saying to his friend, “And who will lead this terrible revolution of yours? Mr. Bronstein, I suppose, sitting over there, endlessly arguing as usual with his friends!” Sieff then comments, “Mr. Bronstein became better known to the world as Leon Trotsky, right-hand man to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and the future creator of the Red Army.”

On August 25, 1939, a few days before World War II broke out, Hitler and Coulandre, the French ambassador to Germany, had a frank exchange. In discussing the coming war, Coulandre said, “I would also have the fear that as a result of the war, there will be only one real victor – Mr. Trotsky.” Hitler then shouted, “Why do you then give Poland a blank check?”

Trotsky commented that the use of his name – the name most often reviled by the Stalinists in the Kremlin at the time – merely symbolized all their fears of socialist revolution as a result of the coming war.

Trotsky’s Specter Today

The various counterrevolutionaries today, including the Buchananites, have good reason to be frightened of imperialist adventures which can help ignite revolution. Imperialism was only saved after World War I by the treachery of social democracy, which betrayed the socialist revolutions that broke out in the wake of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. Isolated, the revolution was finally strangled. Likewise, the Stalinist counterrevolution in the USSR succeeded in undermining and helping to crush the workers’ revolutions that exploded at the end of World War II.

As a result of those betrayals, class consciousness among workers around the world is far less advanced today. Berchtold, Hitler and Coulandre all knew that organized revolutionary parties were small when their wars broke out, but they also knew enough to fear their potential leadership of the masses. The forces of authentic revolutionary working-class Trotskyism, embodied today in COFI, are growing but are much smaller and more isolated than at the outbreak of the past wars.

The international working class is objectively far stronger than it was at the outbreak of the two world wars; and for Marxists, the objective potential is key. The massive struggles now being launched in response to the general capitalist attack and the war will inevitably become the seedbed for a rapid growth in revolutionary proletarian consciousness. The continuing collapse of the counterrevolutionary reformist misleaderships within our class, both Stalinist and social-democratic, is a huge advantage compared to the past.

Further, although the Iraq War is a clear omen of World War III, the next huge inter-imperialist war will break out not tomorrow but the day after. And fascism has not yet become a decisive force on the world scene. The fight for proletarian revolution and the Trotskyist party which champions it still has time to prevent the world disaster that U.S. imperialism is now sparking.

Return to LRP homepage | Write to the LRP