World Congress Against Imperialist War (WCAIW)

organization

Overview

  • Anti-war organization formed in the 1930s by the Communist Left

The World Congress Against Imperialist War (WCAIW) was a peace organization formed by the Communist Left in the early 1930s. Its objectives were to: protest against American, British and French “militarism”; prevent the Western powers from arming to stop Adolf Hitler; protect Joseph Stalin‘s grip on power in the Soviet Union; and pressure the West to rely exclusively on negotiation, rather than military might, for securing peace.

WCAIW held its first meeting in late August of 1932 in Amsterdam. That gathering was convened by Willi Muenzenberg (a member of Lenin’s inner circle in pre-revolutionary Zurich), the French writer and devoted Stalinist Henri Barbusse, the renowned socialist Romain Rolland, and the American novelist Theodore Dreiser (who later joined the Communist Party).

When promoting WCAIW’s first meeting in 1932, Muenzenberg carefully concealed the very prominent role that Communists played in the organization; instead he emphasized the role of liberals and pacifists. Other than novelist Maxim Gorki, who headed the convening committee for the event, not even one Russian name appeared in the advance publicity — even though 830 of the 2,196 delegates were known Communists. Moreover, many of the 1,041 delegates with no specific party affiliation were members of various Communist Party auxiliaries or front groups. As University of Massachusetts Professor Guenter Lewy wrote in 1990: “Practically all of these delegates had been selected by various Communist-controlled organizations such as the John Reed Clubs, the International Workers’ Order, and the Friends of the Soviet Union.” (The latter group was originally known as the Friends of Soviet Russia; it was established in the U.S. in 1921 to raise funds for the relief of the famine that was then sweeping Soviet Russia.)

“Muenzenberg’s careful design even extended to the name of the gathering,” added Lewy. “In Communist publications it was referred to as the World Congress Against Imperialist War while for non-communists it was called simply the World Congress Against War. The latter name suggested that the congress was opposed to all wars though in point of fact the real focus was on protecting the Soviet Union.” As Rolland and Barbusse announced in 1932, the purpose of the congress was “to arouse the peoples of the world against the bloody catastrophe threatening them as a result of imperialist rivalry, and specifically the danger of an attack on the Soviet Union.” Toward that end, the congress unanimously adopted a manifesto defending the Soviet Union’s peace policy and asserting that deadly wars would continue to plague humanity until the capitalist economic system was finally destroyed and forever abandoned. “Each of us have pledged and sworn,” read the resolution, to fight with all our force and with all the means at our command against imperialist capitalism … against armaments, against war preparations, and in consequence against the governments ruling us.”

WCAIW’s American sister organization was the American Committee for the World Congress Against War.

Further Reading:The Party of Sabotage” (by David Horowitz, 7-22-2003); The Cause That Failed : Communism in American Political Life (by Guenter Lewy, Oxford University Press, 1990, pp. 167-168).

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