Source: Youth for Socialism, vol. 2 no. 7 (April 1940)
Markup/Proofread:: Maarten, Emil 2007
“The season for campaigning draws near.” These ominous words in the leader columns of The Times, mouthpiece of British capitalism, herald the approach of real hostilities between the Allies and Germany. Until now only minor clashes in the air (even the bombing of Sylt and Scapa Flow were not large scale operations) and isolated clashes of patrols on land have taken place. The war between the western powers has been mainly on the diplomatic and economic fronts. Here the Allies have suffered severe reverses in the first round of battle. The German destruction of Poland, along with the Russian invasion of Finland, was accomplished without serious opposition from the West.
For the present, Hitler’s aim has been to pin the Allies down to fighting on one front while he builds up his military and economic power. He wishes to avoid the mistake of the last war, when Germany was compelled to fight on two fronts, thus lessening her military power; hence his pact with Russia and the efforts to come to an agreement with Italy and Russia to guarantee ‘peace in the Balkans’. The meeting between Mussolini and Hitler was a setback for Britain and France, who have been trying to bribe Italy to desert the Axis and support, at least by benevolent neutrality, the British and French in the war.
Since the outbreak of war Britain has been trying to push Italy away from her national aspirations in the Mediterranean (“Tunis, Nice, Corsica!”), which bring her into violent conflict with France, and to guide her instead into the Balkans where she would collide with Germany and Russia. British newspapers ecstatically quoted the condemnation of the Italian press in the early days, and the material support given to the Finns by Mussolini, as proof of the consistent stand of Italian fascism against the forces of Bolshevism. The aggression of Russia, so piously condemned (and certainly Mussolini has set an example in recent years), was supposed to have united the whole of Christendom against the Red menace. But alas, the new knight of anti-Bolshevism, meant to replace Hitler, has tarnished his shield. Mussolini has refused to be drawn into the Allied orbit, and the Italian press greeted with unconcealed delight the defeat which the British and French suffered in Scandinavia.
And the policy of the Allies in Scandinavia reveals their real aims in this war. For the present, Germany wishes to maintain nominal neutrality among the other nations in Europe, especially among those with whom she shares a common frontier. Britain, in order to strike at Germany, tries to spread the war as widely as possible. Neither is in the least concerned with the ‘rights of small nations’. Both are only interested in the extension of their own power and influence, and in the retention of past gains.
That was the main reason for the attitude of Norway and Sweden to the allied request for facilities to aid Finland. They openly pointed out that Britain desired to ‘help’ Finland in order, among other things, to weaken Russia strategically and economically, and to strike a blow at Germany, but mainly to open up a Scandinavian front at the expense of Norway and Sweden, thus creating another battlefield on which to come to grips with Germany. They were to be used as pawns in the game of power politics. “The military weakness of the Allies does not allow us to take these risks,” they bluntly replied to the pressure.
Meanwhile, by offering Italy and Russia a share—a move which cuts the ground from under the allied manoeuvres with Italy—Germany is striving to build up her economic domination of the Balkans by diplomacy; military force remains in the background as a final argument. Germany does this not from moral scruples (witness Poland and Czechoslovakia), but because peaceful domination is cheaper and, by ensuring supplies, would help in the war against the West. When the war is over, the Germans calculate that the Balkans will come under their sway as surely as if they were colonies conquered by military force.
The precipitation of hostilities against Germany was partly the result of its attempt to build an economic empire in the Balkans, preparatory to an attempt at world domination. Britain and France are straining every sinew to prevent German success in this sphere of operations. They are attempting to operate in the Balkans in such a way as to open up a South-Eastern battleground. For similar reasons Mr. Chamberlain assured the Scandinavian countries that the Finnish episode was not over, an assurance which has since been underlined by the systematic violation of Norwegian neutrality by the British Navy. These acts speak a thousand times louder than all the cant, of the real aims of British capitalism.
The French ambassador to the USA has stated that there will be large-scale fighting in the spring—not on the Western Front, but somewhere else! Where was not indicated, and it is uncertain. In the interests of their capitalist classes the belligerent powers coldly calculate the military possibilities. None are fighting for anything but the economic power of their own master class. For these ends they prepare to drag the people of all Europe, of the entire world if necessary, into the bloody massacre.
The people of Europe can look forward to a few months more or less of the present deadlock, then the sanguinary slaughter—there is no other prospect.
The mission of Sumner Welles was stillborn before it was attempted. There can be no peace between the warring powers until one has defeated the other; the antagonism between German and Allied imperialism is too great. There is room for only one group to dominate the greater part of the world—this, and only this, is the issue for which this war is being fought!
The offensives will begin soon. Hunger, misery, disease and death will be the lot of the masses. But already there are unmistakable signs of the answer the workers will give: the Admiralty trumpets forth the story of the Mutiny of the Graf Spee, when the German sailors refused to go to their deaths for a cause which was not their own. Already, in the first naval engagement of the war, the instinctive reaction of the masses was demonstrated. Sailors have always been in the vanguard of such movements; the foot-soldiers will not be far behind.
The workers of all lands will give their answer! War can be ended only by ending capitalism. Against the victory of both German and British imperialism! For a Socialist United States of Europe! The youth of the Graf Spee have shown the way. The working youth of Britain salute them.