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.