Paul Temple

We’d Like to Know Their War Aims

(March 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 9, 3 March 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Bill left the union hall right after the guest speaker wound up his All-Out-for-England talk and found Larry waiting for him near the door.

“What’d you think of the old boy?” asked Bill. “Sounded as if he was going to volunteer himself any minute now. Maybe it would be a good idea to invite him to donate a couple of months’ work in the plant carrying tools, just to let him work off his enthusiasm.”

LARRY: Well. I think he made a lot of good points.

BILL: Like when he said England isn’t run by a choir of angels ...

LARRY: Yes. but don’t be forgetting what he went on to say. That’s where he hit the spot: “You’ve got to look on this fight against Hitler like a strike. Maybe you’re suspicious of your strike leaders but you fight like hell against the boss, anyway.” And it’s that way I feel about fighting Hitler’.

Raised Hitler From a Puppy

BILL: Well, at least it’s a good thing you’re SUSPICIOUS of England. But this bloody war isn’t any strike. What would you think of a union leader who’s palled around with scabs and racketeers for years and then suddenly announced he’s “reformed?”

LARRY: He wouldn’t Be MY leader, if I could be helping it.

BILL: Well, that’s Gentleman John Bull all over. He raised Hitler from a puppy – fed him on loans, threw him one bone after another in Europe, and didn’t say a word when the dog tore at the throats of the German workers.

LARRY: What’s the use of bringing those things up now? That’s ancient history. But it’s the British are fighting Hitler NOW, and we’ve got to pitch in how we can.

BILL: All right, that’s ancient history. So’s the way the company broke our last strike. So let’s forget about that too when they ask us to speed up “for the sake of national defense,” and some profits ...

LARRY: Look here, if you’re for the aims of a strike you get out on the picket line and fight till you win. If your leaders are a bunch of punks, you’ve got to fight all the harder to make sure they can’t sell you out when they get the squeeze. That’s it in a nutshell: Are you for the AIMS? Do you want to beat Hitler?

BILL: Not so fast there. Those two questions aren’t the same thing. Sure, we’ve got to crush. Hitler, but you’ve got one or two things mixed up.

LARRY: And what might those be?

BILL: When we had our strike last year, we put out our demands, didn’t we?

LARRY: Right. Thirty dollars for thirty hours’ work and time and a half for overtime.

BILL: Those were OUR “war aims.” But just you suppose that instead of saying openly what our demands were, we answered only: “Our aim is to beat the company. After we beat them, we’ll see what we want.”

LARRY: That’s ridiculous. You can’t strike that way.

BILL: Sure, But when my Lord Halifax made his speech here, all he said was: “Our war aim is to win the war. After that, we’ll see.” Maybe he thought we were a bunch of dummies over here. “War aims” are what you intend to do AFTER you win the fight. Just like strike demands are what you want AFTER you win. And why hasn’t Churchill said a word about what he intends to do after he’s whipped Hitler?

LARRY: Well, he’s been promising to —

BILL: You mean he hasn’t found out yet what he’s fighting for, after more than a year of war?

LARRY: — And besides, he’s told us in general that he wants a world of peace and security after the war —

BILL: Sure, those words are cheap now. That’s what they said when they were fighting the Kaiser, too. Churchill and Lloyd George promised the soldiers they would come back to “a country fit for heroes to live in.” And the first thing that happened after the war was an attack on the trade unions.

LARRY: Well, they say an official statement on war-aims is a delicate matter.

BILL: NOT IF THERE’S NOTHING TO HIDE. What’s delicate about telling the German people: “Rise up behind the lines there and tie a can to Hitler and organize your own government democratically and rebuild your trade unions that Hitler destroyed”?

LARRY: Then why doesn’t he do it?

BILL: Because that’s not HIS war aim. That’s YOUR war aim. HIS war aim is to put Germany in a straight-jacket after the war, with a dictatorship government friendly to John Bull, so it won’t want to nibble at the British Empire and its slave lands. HIS aim is to keep the German workers down after the war, for fear they’ll replace Hitler with a SOCIALIST government. Churchill and Halifax and all the rest get tongue-tied when it comes to war aims BECAUSE THEY CAN’T TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THEIR AIMS.

LARRY: I’ll wait and see. And I’ll stick by my own war aims.

BILL: That’s all I ask. But you’ve also got to stick to your own army. OUR army’s the organized workers in this country, and OUR enemies are the Hitlers and their corporals and their big-shot bosses on this side of the lines.

Last updated on 5.12.2012