Written: Late September 1943
Source: Original draft, unpublished (Ted Grant Archive)
Transcription and footnotes: Francesco 2013
Proofread: Fred, Francesco 2013
Markup: Francesco 2013
The speech of Churchill(1) marks a new stage in the war. In it is revealed the anxiety and the uncertainty with which the ruling class is regarding the future. Churchill reveals as the main preoccupation of the ruling class the fear that events in Italy would develop beyond their control. Apparently ever since the removal of Mussolini(2) the British ruling class has secretly been attempting to arrive at some sort of agreement with Badoglio and the Italian monarchy. At the very time that the revolutionary and fervent anti-fascist workers of Milan, Turin and other cities were being mercilessly bombed by the air-force of British imperialism, cynically the British capitalists were negotiating a deal with the very forces that helped Mussolini into power.
Churchill revealed that he had sent frantic telegrams to the British generals to speed up the invasion(3) lest Italy lapse into “anarchy” (i.e. that the workers and peasants move towards the overthrow of capitalism and the seizure of power) before the imperialists could occupy the Italian peninsula. Thus Churchill demonstrated the class bias and the class aims of the British government.
As if to emphasise the real aims of the war, there is the emphatic assertion that Italy has irretrievably lost her empire. Does this mean that the inhabitants of the Italian colonies and of Abyssinia will be given independence, freedom and self-determination? The ruling class has shown exactly what programme they intend to carry out by their continued occupation of “liberated” Abyssinia. The territories of the former Italian empire will be incorporated into the British empire under the guise of “protectorates” or some other high-sounding title as were the colonies of Germany in the last war. Thus the statement of Mr Eden that Britain was not fighting to acquire new territory is revealed as being as false as the solemn and perjured pledge of Lloyd George in the last war(4). “What we have we hold” remains the maxim of British imperialism, with the addition “plus anything else we can grab”.
The armistice that was arranged with Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel marks the passing over of the Italian ruling class into the camp of the Allies. Yesterday’s supporters of fascism, come out as today’s supporters of “democracy”. Thus they place themselves under the protection and support of Allied bayonets. As the Allies advance, AMGOT(5) advances with them. The masses are prohibited from political activity till more “normal” times, and the capitalists and the landlords, the Church and the monarchy will be entrenched in power. Badoglio and the king who have no support from the workers and peasants, and are as guilty of the crime of fascism as Mussolini himself, will be pushed into power. Thus the capitalists explode the legend of a fight against fascism.
Symbolically when the Italian fleet surrendered, the admirals, the overwhelming majority of whom were supporters of fascism before the fall of Mussolini, were given a guard of honour by the British. Thus the ruling class of Britain gives notification to the world that they intend to maintain in power the military caste, the Church hierarchy, the civil bureaucracy and the Italian monarchy — not to speak of the landlords and capitalists. That is a picture of the “liberation” of Europe which will be created wherever the Anglo-American imperialists establish control.
Tomorrow, if possible, in the Balkans with the accomplices of Hitler. And the day after in Germany as well. The capitalists will immediately find a common language with the Junkers, the military and civil officialdom, and the capitalists who pushed Hitler into power.(6)
That the British ruling class are preparing [to more] Badoglios or Darlans [was] stated explicitly by Churchill:
“Satellite states suborned or overawed, may perhaps, if they can help to shorten the war, be allowed to work their passage home.”(7)
The workers have a better expression for this sort of horse-deal, it is obviously a “carve-up” that Churchill contemplates. The lame excuse “shortening the war” is merely dragged in to cover the fact that they are quite willing to back up Antonescu or some other quisling against the Rumanians, [and to use] the Bulgarian, Hungarian and other satellite [regimes] of Hitler against the workers and peasants, so long as they are willing to switch sides. And why not? British imperialism has as allies the Polish and Greek dictatorships. The Balkan countries are pawns in the game of the great powers. They choose the side which they consider the strongest, and expect crumbs from the giants’ feast. When they believed Germany would win they supported the Axis; with an Allied victory in sight they are prepared at the first convenient opportunity to go over to Anglo-American imperialism, as a means of protecting themselves principally from the anger of their own masses, but also from the advancing Red Army which they regard with terror. Like all the capitalist participants in the war it is not democracy or fascism which they are concerned but their profits and privileges; with the struggle for markets, raw materials and colonies.
Churchill indicated the aim of the ruling class as the dismemberment of Germany and its complete occupation by Anglo-American forces for the same reasons they are preparing to occupy Italy; to cripple Germany as a competitor on the world market and to prevent the overthrow of the very capitalist forces which brought Hitler to power.
They have no programme to offer the German people. Despite the obvious disillusionment of the masses of German workers with Hitler, Anglo-American imperialism can only offer them an even worse prospect than that of a new Versailles. That is why he holds out the sombre prospect before the masses that “the bloodiest portion or this war for Britain and the United States lies ahead of us”.
However as Churchill revealed, with the unexpected strength of the Red Army, British imperialism together with that of America is attempting to arrive at some sort of compromise with Stalin. The re-shuffle of the government(8) which took place shortly after the Churchill speech while marking a turn to the right in internal politics, with the appointment of Anderson as Chancellor of the Exchequer, else with the return of Beaverbrook to the government, marked a definite step in the direction of arranging an agreement with Stalin, a policy for which Beaverbrook has been campaigning.
In all of these secret diplomatic scurryings the interests of the masses are not in the least considered. What is at stake is the desire of the ruling class temporarily to give Russia concessions on her boundaries and in reparations from Germany in return for Stalin’s help in crushing the European revolution. Significant in this regard is the suggestion that Russia should participate in AMGOT, which would simultaneously achieve the purpose of helping to delude the masses as to the real aims of the Allies in Europe, and later throw the odium of the suppression of the European workers’ aspirations not only on the “democracies” but Russia as well.
In Churchill’s speech, despite the gilding of democratic phrases, the naked calculations and robber plans of world imperialism are clearly manifested. But these plans like the insane plans of Hitler will not be realised. The dreams of Nazi domination have been shattered by the resistance of the Russian workers and peasants. The dreams of Anglo-American imperialism will be shattered by the resistance of the broad masses of Europe and Asia — and above all by the workers and soldiers of Britain and America. They are not fighting to replace one set of quislings in Europe propped up by Nazi bayonets by another set or even the same propped up by the military might of Britain and America. They have supported the Allies because they did not see any other alternative. In the coming period events will teach them that the only road to the abolition of fascism and war lies in the conquest of power by the working class, united in a socialist Europe and a socialist world.
(1) The draft can be dated shortly after Churchill’s speech at the House of Commons, “The surrender of Italy”, September 21, 1943.
(2) Mussolini was arrested on July 25, 1943.
(3) The Allied invasion of Sicily began on the night of July 9, 1943.
(4) David Lloyd George (1863-1945) was the head of the British government from 1916 to 1922. Anthony Eden (1897-1977) held numerous posts in the Chamberlain and Churchill governments during the Second World War.
(5) Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories: military rule administered by Allied forces during and after World War II within territories they occupied.
(6) We have inserted here this and the above paragraphs which appear as an addendum at the end of the draft but without specification of where they were meant to be inserted.
(7) Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume 5, p. 142.
(8) John Anderson (1882-1958) was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer after the unexpected death of his predecessor Sir Kingsley Wood occurred the night before Churchill’s speech.