Written: February 1940
Source: Youth For Socialism, Vol. 2 No. 5, February 1940
The war drags on without any possibility of a quick and decisive victory for either side. February finds all Europe immobilised in the grip of the severest winter for a generation. It is as if the elements themselves, contemptuous of the stupidity of the human race, had added their quota to the sufferings of men. At the moment, with the western front snowbound, there is no likelihood of any large-scale military action.
It has taken the cold to give the soldiers some respite. But the outlook in the immediate future is as grim as the weather: a respite, not a reprieve, has been given to the people of Europe. Relentlessly and with set purpose the belligerents are preparing for the spring offensive.
Intense diplomatic activity in all the countries of Europe, striving for domination by one group or another, is taking place. The war is waged with economic and political weapons, but in the background remains the certain knowledge that it will be decided only by force of arms.
Meanwhile, what the war is being fought over is being revealed by the deeds and words of both belligerents. First, Germany has threatened the small neutrals: “If they do not comport themselves in a manner calculated to conform to an interpretation of neutrality made in Berlin, the Reich will have to consider taking measures for its own protection.” A thinly veiled threat of military action which fits in well with the declared aim of Germany “That the domination of Europe by England must be ended forever.”
The British press featured prominently the blustering and bullying of small nations by the Nazi ‘Prussian’ bully, and waxed eloquent on the dire fate awaiting them in the event of a German victory. Comparisons were made between the methods of the allies and the methods of the Nazis. Chamberlain explained that the allies were fighting for the rights of small nations to ‘live their own lives’ without fear of aggression. But Churchill, in a speech which showed his eagerness to have done with any hesitation or vacillation to grapple with the enemy as soon as possible, lifted the mask off the benign face of British imperialism perhaps too clearly for the ideological purposes of the ruling class: “The neutrals must do their duty, for their fate too is at stake,”he threatened, emulating the classic Nazi technique; their duty of course being to enter the war on the same side as Britain and France. The small nations, having observed how Britain had ‘defended’ Abyssinia, Albania, Austria, Czech-Slovakia (when it suited her interests to compromise with the aggressor), do not appreciate the difference between ‘living their own lives’ for the benefit of Britain or of Germany.
The hapless capitalists in the smaller countries attempt to maintain a precarious balance between the two warring camps. They know that neither side will hesitate to invade their territory when it suits the purpose of their military and strategical staff. They are mere pawns in this game of power politics, and it is to decide who shall dominate them and the colonies that war is being waged.
The role of Britain and France in this war to end ‘Nazism’ and ‘aggression’ is shown by their assiduous courting of Italy. Mussolini is to be the protector of the independence of small nations in the Balkans against the twin evils of Nazi aggression and Bolshevism. The allies are attempting to win Italy over to the side of ‘democracy and liberty.’ But Italy was bribed to betray her alliance with Germany in the last war; she was promised a fortune and given a dime. So Mussolini is shyly waiting to see where he can obtain the best advantage before committing himself.
In the conquered territories of Czechoslovakia and Poland, the Nazis organise an exploitation and repression unparalleled in modern Europe. The British press is full of stories of the horror of the regime of national and social barbarism which Hitler has imposed in these areas: a savagery not of the clumsy and ill-organised brutality of medieval times, but operated by modern means and machinery. And it is indeed unnecessary, as in the last war, for the allies to invent tales of German atrocities. The truth is far more appalling than any number of lies.
The Nazis, however, are merely acting in time-honoured imperialist fashion, a little more open, a little cruder. It was with methods such as these that the British Empire was built up and maintained, and the Germans have not been slow to retort to the mock indignation of the imperialists in London. All Empires have been built in this fashion; the difference exists only in geography and time. Hitler has transferred to the continent of Europe the methods of Britain in Asia and Africa. Lacking colonies and resources overseas, German imperialism is compelled to attempt to reduce the Czech and Polish workers and peasants to the level of the coolies and peasants in India. Imperialism does not distinguish between the colour of white and brown in the selection of its slaves. There is nothing to distinguish today between the German and allied diplomacy. The tender admiration now expressed for Franco, who decimated the Spanish people, the courting of Mussolini, the alliance with Turkey and Rumania (two of the most ruthless dictatorships in Europe), all show the concern with which allied imperialism regards Hitler’s methods when they can be used to the advantage of their own money-bags.
Already Chamberlain, Churchill and other spokesmen of the government have monotonously reiterated that ‘the whole German people’ is responsible for prolonging the war, thereby proving the assertion of Goebbels that the aim of the allies is to starve Germany, not to destroy Nazism. This gives an insight into what Europe will look like under the domination of Threadneedle street. The system of Asiatic despotism will pervade Europe whichever side wins the war. It is this fear that drives the German masses to support the Nazi regime – they have good reasons to dread the prospect of becoming the slaves of British and French capital.
Thus, in methodical and business-like fashion, both sides prepare for the spring and the neutrals wait in apprehension; for there is no knowing where the new front will be created. The war must be ‘opened up’ and both sides will attempt to use the terrain which suits them best.
March winds and April showers will bring forth not flowers, but a grim harvest of slaughter, and the ordeal will not be of short duration. “We will fight for eight, for ten years, to gain victory,” says Hitler, while Chamberlain comfortingly assures the British people: “We must prepare for a long and grim struggle.”
But we, the youth of Britain, have learned the lessons of the past. We will not allow ourselves to be sacrificed as our fathers were, to the Moloch of capitalism.
No – we know our enemies – it’s not the youth of Germany, but those who are exploiting us at home! The task of Germany’s youth is to settle with its boss class. Our job at home is to overthrow the capitalist system and establish workers’ power in Britain.