Why We Appear (1931)

Delegates at the opening congress of the League Against Imperialism in Brussels, 1927. Third from right is Leopold Senghor. Source: Michael Goebel, Anti-Imperial Metropolis: Interwar Paris and the Seeds of Third World Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2016), 204.

This is the opening text of the 1931 edition of The Anti-Imperialist Review, the theoretical organ of the League of Imperialism, whose complex, winding path to publication is mapped by Fredrik Petersson in this issue. Although authorship is attributed to the League as a whole, Bekar Ferdi wrote the bulk of the article.

The journal which we herewith introduce to our readers represents the official organ of the “League Against Imperialism and for National Independence.”

The pressing need for such an organ has long made itself felt. In the last few years the struggle of the oppressed masses in the colonial and semi-colonial countries has gained enormously in extent and intensity. National oppression in Europe exerted by imperialism through the instrument of the Versailles Treaty is giving rise to acute political problems. The “League Against Imperialism,” which has been in existence for more than four years as the international organisation uniting all anti-imperialist forces, is faced with the need for extending and intensifying its activities to a corresponding degree.

The publication of this journal is one of the means by which this aim can be realised. Let us consider the nature of the assistance that it is in a position to render.

The central function which this journal is called upon to fulfil is that of enunciating and defending the principles of anti-imperialist struggle for which the League stands.

The organ of the League will gain access for the message of the League to very large numbers among the oppressed and exploited colonial peoples. By its means, the League will immeasurably extend the influence upon the movements for independence in the colonies which it has already exercised in the past.

This journal will provide a weapon for rallying forces to the League, for extending and developing the front of anti-imperialist struggle, for spreading and popularising the slogans of the League and for consolidating and unifying the ranks of those fighting for the overthrow of imperialism. It will be a powerful force for the achievement of that close unity and cooperation between the struggling masses in the colonies and the revolutionary workers in the imperialist centers on which the outcome of the struggle so largely depends.

In order to achieve these aims, the journal is faced with the essential need to safeguard the integrity of the international anti-imperialist movement and to expose and to combat the criminal attempts of those elements who, by cowardly desertion, deception and betrayal, have sought and are seeking to disorganise and defeat the might advanced of the millions of colonial slaves.

It is especially characteristic of the struggle for emancipation which has taken place in all the colonies during the last few years, that it is everywhere the masses of the toiling population that have come into the movement. The workers and peasants have linked up their struggle for social emancipation with the struggle to throw off the yoke of foreign rulers and exploiters with the struggle for the complete emancipation of their country. It is, however, precisely this circumstance, which denotes an enormous decisive step in advance for the colonial revolution, and which raises the revolution to a far higher stage than heretofore, bring it so much nearer to victory that has necessarily had the result of creating differentiation among the various elements who in the early period of the life of the League Against Imperialism took part in the struggle against the imperialists.

The bourgeois, and to a considerable extent also the petty-bourgeois, “leaders” become more and more vacillating in their attitude, as the revolutionary army grows larger and stronger and as the masses become more awakened and more impetuous in their forward march. A whole number of persons, who on the foundation of the “League Against Imperialism” declared their adherence to its principles, now stand on the other side of the barricades. Their passing over to the enemy was the natural consequence of their attitude. Once they have had abandoned in principle the standpoint of revolutionary struggle, once they had definitely decided in favour of the interests of their own class against the masses of the people, they were compelled to continue without interruption, passing through the stages of national reformism and compromise with the enemy until they fell headlong into the abyss of shameful surrender and open betrayal.

Such elements receive a ready welcome to-day from the imperialists. Just because the colonial struggle for emancipation as a result of the activities of the masses has become more powerful and more dangerous for the imperialists, the latter now find insufficient the support they obtain from the native princes and feudal landlords. They find it necessary to strengthen their armies of prison warders and are compelled to construct a bridge with the help of insignificant pseudo-concessions to the camp of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalists who have becomes terrified by the upsurge of the masses. In this process of differentiation and re-grouping of the colonial forces a special role in the service of imperialism is played by the Social Democrats. It is the Social Democrats who are openly supporting the imperialist policy of their Governments in the imperialist centres. It is the Social Democrats who have been recently conducting an intense activity in the colonies in order to lead at least a portion of the masses in the same direction in which the latter are also being driven by the prevailing ferocious Terror, namely in the direction of the abandonment of revolutionary mass struggle, so as not to disturb the “negotiations” of the nationalist reformists with the Imperialists.

The native national reformists like the Social Democrats have already evolved competing “theories” with which they cover up their treacherous deeds. This journal will spare no pains in following up step by step the theory and practice of the nationalist reformists and Social Democrats and in exposing its real significance before the masses in the colonies and the imperialist centres. The struggle against imperialism must be indissolubly bound up with the struggle against their auxiliaries and assistants of the imperialist system.

During the four years that have passed since its foundation Congress in Brussels the League Against Imperialism has, through its activities, accumulated a mass of experiences. The most important part of this experience found its expression in the resolutions of the second World Congress and of the recent session of its Executive Committee. In the course of the colonial struggles for emancipation in the different countries there arise also numerous tactical questions which demand a clear solution. We are faced at the present moment with the need to draw up a concrete and detailed programme for the international anti-imperialist work in the spirit of the principles and organisational lines led down by the second World Congress and by the recent session of the Executive Committee, a programme that will serve as a mighty weapon in the struggle for integrity of principle and against national reformism. This journal will systematically prepare for the working out of such a programme by free and open discussion.

The second most important task which has to be fulfilled by our journal consists in the endeavour to present an accurate reflection of what is taking place in the colonies. The imperialists pursue the policy at the present time of the maximum possible isolation of the colonies and of assiduously maintaining silence on the events taking place there. As recently as during the insurrection in Syria the bloody measures of the French terror were at least still indicated in the short communiqués that were issued. Now, however, even this does not occur and frequently it is only after the lapse of a year or more that news leaks out from the colonies of the perpetration of barbaric cruelties which cost the lives of the thousands of colonial victims.

The publication of systematic reports from the various colonies is further necessary in order that one colony may learn what is taking place in another, in order that a consciousness of the solidarity of all the colonies may be created, and in order that there may develop conscious planning and close mutual cooperation and coordination in the work. So far this has been only weakly developed, although it is of the greatest importance for the colonial struggle.

The publication of this journal will also facilitate the development of closer connections with the colonies. In spite of all difficulties, we shall be in a position to publish in every number many first hand reports from the most varied regions, even those most remote (deportation camps, etc.) from which so far very little information has obtained publicity.

The third important task of this journal consists in giving as accurate a picture as possible of the life and activity of the international organisations of the League Against Imperialism or of its Central Secretariat and its national sections. This is important not only from a political, but also from an organisational point of view. So far, the connection of the Central Secretariat with the separate national section has not been as adequate and regular as it should be, and the direct connections of the national sections between themselves have been even weaker. The reports on what is taking place in one country should serve as an example and stimulus for other countries. This is true to an equal degree for political activity and organisational work.

This journal should be able to play its part in stimulating the political activity and in strengthening the organisational work, especially the development of the national sections into true mass organisations, of all the sections, local groups, collective and individual members, district committees, national conferences, etc. We earnestly request all national sections and all sympathetic organisations to send us regular reports on their life, activities, organisational experiences, successes and failures.

The activity of the “League Against Imperialism,” of which this journal is the organ, experienced a great extension by the taking up of the questions which are bound up with the struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed nations and national minorities and by the adoption of a resolution on this subject at the last session of the Executive Committee.

Now, at last, after the drawing up of this resolution, there has been created a completely united front of the anti-imperialist struggle. The fetters which after the world war have been imposed on the oppressed nations and national minorities in Europe, through the Treaties of Versailles, Trianon, Saint Germain and Neuilly, constitute an element in the imperialist domination of the world of the same kind as the plundering of the colonies with the aid of terror and the capitalist enslavement of the working class.

Although in the future the colonial struggle for emancipation remains as before our first task, this journal will give its wholehearted support to the struggles of the oppressed nations and national minorities. We desire to build up an organisational concentration point for all the forces which are ready to struggle without compromise and with revolutionary determination against the Versailles System and for a new just organisation of Europe on the basis of the complete right to self-determination. We therefore appeal to all our friends to give the fullest possible support for this work. We request them to send us articles and original reports not only from the colonies but also from the regions of the oppressed nations and national minorities.

We request them to send us regular information of the activity of the various national sections of the League Against Imperialism and of all anti-imperialist and national revolutionary organisations. We appeal to them to collect around our journal permanent groups of international anti-imperialist contributors and correspondents and to take steps to secure a wide mass circulation for the Anti-Imperialist Review!

The struggles for the emancipation of the colonies and semi-colonial countries are now entering a decisive phase. The imperialist organisation of Europe, created by the dictates of Versailles which has determined the national oppression of 40 million people, is being shattered to its foundations.

The crisis which has fastened on the imperialist portion of the world becomes ever more deep and more intense. Germany stands on the brink of catastrophe. Its capitalist economy is bankrupt, it is faced with the prospect of a terrible winter of breakdown and starvation with eight millions [sic] unemployed. The threatened collapse of Germany strikes at the whole framework of the Versailles system, inevitably involving in its ruin also the other imperialist countries of Europe.

Already in Britain the repercussion is seen in the present acute phase of capitalist decline. The financial crisis is only a sign of the far-reaching industrial crisis which becomes more and more accentuated as the decay of the system of British imperialism becomes progressively more marked. The bankruptcy and inglorious downfall of the “Labour” Government and the establishment of the “National” Government marks a new stage of British capitalist dictatorship and progress towards fascism which emphasizes the magnitude of the cracks in the system of the once all-powerful British empire.

In France, with already a million unemployed, the French imperialists by the boastful display of their colonial exhibition, fail to conceal the fact that the general crisis now gripping the whole capitalist world threatens them also.

Ruin and chaos prevail all over the Balkanised regions of Europe. Even the United States of America finds itself faced with such an economic crisis and such immense and growing unemployment as only a comparatively short while ago they would have regarded as inconceivable.

Over all these countries a wave of social reaction is sweeping. Capitalism seeks to find a way out of the crisis by an unparalleled increase in the oppression and exploitation of the workers, resulting everywhere in a tremendous sharpening of the class struggle.

On an international scale, the growing crisis finds expression in the increasing acuteness of the antagonism between the imperialist powers, in the intenser struggle for possessions of colonies and controlling influence in the colonies. And on the horizon already emerges the prospect of a new world war vastly more terrible than the last.

In the colonies, the intensification of imperialist oppression is met by a mounting wave of mass struggle. Imperialism attempts to maintain its profits by squeezing the last ounce from the toiling masses already groaning under impossible burdens. But, in every colony, the masses are rising in revolt. From one of the world to the other, the colonial masses are advancing on the path of the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle.

In this stage of historical development the decisive hour has struck for the struggle for emancipation of the oppressed nations and national minorities. Courageous endurance and intensification of all forces of struggle – such is the demand of the present moment.

In the present stage of historical development the goal of the struggle for emancipation, which is now being conducted by the broad masses of colonial peoples and national minorities, cannot lie insignificant “concessions” on the part of the imperialists, but only in the complete overthrow of the imperialist system of division and domination of the world.

A new world order must be created, based on the complete independence of the present colonies and semi-colonies, on the complete self-determination of the many subject peoples, of the hundreds of millions who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of the earth.

Complete independence for China, India, Indochina, for the European countries, for Negro Africa, for the Latin-America and other semi-colonial countries, complete right of self-determination for all oppressed nations and national minorities, it is for the achievement of this mighty goal that the international organisation of the “League Against Imperialism and for National Independence” is conducting its struggles, and it is therefore for the achievement of this goal that the present journal also stands.

This article was originally published as “Why We Appear,” The Anti-Imperialist Review 1.2 (September–October 1931): 3–8.

Author of the article

was a transnational, anti-imperialist sympathizing organization which existed from 1927 to 1937.