Written: 1953 and published in The Militant on August 24, August 31, September 7, September 14, September 21, October 12, and October 26, 1953.
Source: Struggle in the Fourth International, International Committee Documents 1951-1954, Volume 1 of 4 from the collection “Toward A History of the Fourth International”, Part 3, pages 43-47. Education for Socialists bulletin; issued by the National Education Department of the Socialist Workers Party (US)
Transcribed/HTML Markup: David Walters, September, 2005
Edited and proofread: Andrew Pollack
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive, 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
The Pablo grouping based its theories of entryism sui generis and the changing role of Stalinism, on the prediction that a Third World War between imperialism and the workers’ states was inevitable in the immediate future. The armistice in Korea inspired doubts in the SWP about Pablo’s prediction. The following articles by Joseph Hansen appeared in The Militant on August 24, August 31, September 7, September 14, September 21, October 12, and October 26, 1953.
Malenkov’s announcement Aug. 8 that “the United States does not have a monopoly of the hydrogen bomb” raises once again the question of Wall Street’s projected time table for World War III. This question is of intense interest to the generals, capitalist politicians and their billionaire backers. In the opposing class camp, the politically conscious vanguard is even more concerned about the question. It happens to be one of the most momentous that has ever faced mankind.
Brian McMahon, chairman of the Joint Congressional Commission on Atomic Energy, observed before his death that a few H-Bombs carried to Soviet cities would incinerate about 16 million people; but the same number dropped on American cities would mean about 50 million casualties.
In addition to 50 million struck down, the inventory of the catastrophe to America would have to list the smashing of the world’s mightiest industrial complex. To think that America can somehow escape such fearful consequences in the projected war between continents is fatuous. The well-known columnist Joseph Alsop revealed July 26 that “evidence is now available” indicating the Soviet Union “has started series production of a six- engine turbo-prop bomber with a round-trip range of approximately 5,000 miles.” The bomber is more modern than the B-36. This means that every “American target will be within round-trip range of the Soviet advanced bases in Kamchatka and on the Arctic fringe.” He adds that American defenses against such long-range bombers loaded with atom or hydrogen bombs are not as effective as Soviet defenses.
If nothing worse happened, it is clear that the opening day of World War III might well go down in history as the opening day of a new barbarism for America.
But even worse might happen. Leading atomic scientists warned us some years ago that if the H-Bomb were developed, it would then be technically feasible to include certain materials, which, on dissipating in the atmosphere after the explosion and diffusing from pole to pole, would destroy all life—at least life in its higher forms.
I am not among those who hopefully believe that such horrors are beyond the capacity of human nature and that not even a capitalist ruler could bring himself to push the button that would entail such results. A class facing loss of its ruling position is capable of anything. That is the lesson of history.
Nothing in Hitler’s course, for example, gives us much cause to consider that the lesson has been outmoded. The McCarthy type and the billionaire rulers that foster the McCarthy type are not essentially different in outlook from Hitler and his sponsors. Faced with the continued rise of revolutionary forces intent on replacing capitalism by a better economic system, these paranoiacs may decide that no matter what the risks, the war they have blueprinted offers them the only out.
How can they be stopped? How can their will be paralyzed? How can the power of deciding America’s fate be taken from them? The answers to these questions hinge upon the capacity of the American working class to take the road of political action without much delay and build a mass revolutionary socialist party. It hinges upon what each one of us, particularly the political vanguard, does toward furthering this development. Truly, the American workers might say that never before have such terrible problems and fateful decisions rested with an oppressed class in the hour when they were called on to carry society forward to a higher stage.
Is it still possible for the American working class to stay the suicidal plunge into another world conflict? I think so. First of all, no automatic process is at work that will push the American capitalists into war, no matter what the forces arrayed against them, at a pre-determined date.
It has been clear since shortly after the close of World War II that the tempo of preparations for another holocaust is far swifter than was the case after World War I. In 1945-46 Washington set its first bracket for possible war as early as 1949-50. But the world war did not break out in that period although at times it was perilously close, especially with the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. Before the deadline was reached, the time table was changed, first to around 1952, then as 1952 neared, to 1954. Now it has been postponed again, this time indefinitely, if we are to believe Eisenhower.
The several postponements demonstrate in themselves that Wall Street’s date for the fatal plunge is not rigidly fixed. A certain flexibility has been maintained. The reasons for this are clear enough. The Wall Street masters of destiny would prefer to win their desperate gamble. Consequently, they estimate world political forces, calculate the probable consequences of policies, take into account new developments—many of them surprising and unforeseen to them—and have shown that they are capable of making considerable tactical adjustments.
They continue to view war as inevitable, of course; and this determines their strategic course. But they also consider that the initiative and therefore the timing rests in their hands. This, they feel, gives them a measure of control. Through that control they hope to lower the risks and strengthen the possibilities of coming out on top.
However, from another point of view, this flexibility amounts to hesitation, indecisiveness and even procrastination. Tactical adaptation at a certain point affects the strategic aim, can even undermine it and prove to be the Achilles heel of the war plotters. With each postponement the question arises—has not the strategic moment been missed? Have not the odds risen so high that war means a more swift and certain doom than temporization?
The news that the Soviet Union has the H-Bomb is still reverberating in the press. Wall Street cannot guarantee immunity to American cities in its projected third world war and this fact has proved sobering. Many editors and columnists can expect to be among the 50,000,000 American casualties predicted for the first day of conflict Some of them are now highly critical of Eisenhower’s defense plans, stressing that home shelters are inadequate, that city shelters might prove to be death traps under the rubble of skyscrapers and factories and that there’s no way of getting out of range in time.
As a final macabre touch, Prof. George Gamow of George Washington University, a leading nuclear scientist, reminded the world Aug. 12 that besides the various kinds of bomb there is an even deadlier threat. “Biological warfare would be worse. In sheer destructiveness, a little bottle of germs could do more damage than an H-Bomb.”
It is obvious to every thinking person that civilization has never faced such peril as exists today. American Big Business and the Stalinist bureaucracy have destructive powers at their disposal transcending the wildest dreams of previous rulers. To take the power of decision away from them has become a matter of life and death.
The question at once arises: How much time is granted the working class to perform this task? The answer is: Not long if we look at the rising curve that marks the tempo of war preparations and compare it with the tempo between World War I and World War II, but longer than might have been expected if we look at Wall Street’s blueprint. The fact is that America’s Big Business has shoved the projected date ahead several times.
This postponement appears strange if we recall that the main intended victim, the Soviet Union, was devastated at the end of World War II while the United States emerged from the war far stronger than at the beginning. Add to this that the U.S. had a monopoly on the Atom-Bomb from 1945 to 1949. Why didn’t American Big Business move in for the kill then?
It might be argued that “we” had illusions about the Kremlin, that “we” hoped for an era of peaceful co-existence and that it was not until Stalin knocked these into a cocked hat that “we” were provoked into rearming. This is lying propaganda as can easily be proved.
The ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not yet lost their radioactivity in the fall of 1945 when Gen. George C. Marshall issued his Biennial Report to the Secretary of War. In this report, which I analyzed in the Oct. 20, 1945 issue of The Militant, Marshall derided the possibilities of peace. He revealed that the Pentagon was already constructing super-weapons for another war.
He said that ‘With the continued development of weapons and techniques now known to us, the cities of New York, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, or San Francisco may be subject to annihilation from other continents in a matter of hours.”
The General declared that there is no effective defense except the “power of attack.” Men are needed to come to “close grips with the enemy and tear his operating bases and his productive establishment away from him ...”
That was a clear enough statement of intentions for The Militant to warn that “The Third World War is already in the blueprint stage.”
Since they were fully aware that their economy at a certain stage requires war if it is to avert depression, what stopped the Wall Street bankers and Pentagon brass from following through when they had the clear advantage?
One of the clues lies in the General’s statement: Men are needed to come to “close grips with the enemy and tear his operating bases and his productive establishments away from him ...”
The General appeared to have the men—some 10,000,000 of them in the armed forces and tens of millions more working overtime in the war industries to supply them with all the necessary means, including long-range planes and the Atom-Bomb. Why weren’t they used?
Something happened—something perhaps unforeseen and unexpected by Wall Street. Politics intervened.
I don’t mean that “spies” or “communist agents” wormed their way into key government positions and sabotaged policies, as the McCarthyites try to make out. I mean political intervention in the sense of human will imposing itself and shaping events. And this will was not that of the small clique of capitalists controlling the government, but the will of the American people.
Within a few short months after Marshall had bared the Pentagon’s plans, American troops around the entire globe began demanding immediate return home. Their demands were not uncertain in tone. Meetings including as many as 20,000 troops were held. The soldiers sent a flood of protests home at being held overseas. They protested intervening in the affairs of other countries. They collected money for advertisements stating their position in U.S. papers. They even elected joint committees in many areas to fight for a “Get-Us-Home” program. They staged militant demonstrations. And here in the United States their folks backed them up wholeheartedly.
In face of such a rising tide, could Wall Street dream of launching a successful war on the Soviet Union? The American people were busy dismantling the forces needed to carry on a new war. The soldiers needed to “come to close grips with the enemy” were shaking themselves free from Wall Street’s own grip.
To have ordered an Atom-Bomb attack at that time would have meant nothing but swift and certain suicide for America’s 60 ruling families.
Moreover, the “Get-Us-Home” movement was not all that crossed the war plans of the giant corporations. Even before the troops began their stormy demonstrations around the world, the factory workers had launched a symmetrical movement for higher wages. The auto workers hit the bricks, then the steel workers, and along with them countless others. January 1946 saw the opening of the most powerful strike wave in the country’s history.
That movement could easily have turned into a radical political development with the most far-reaching revolutionary implications had American Big Business decided to fly in the face of it and launch another war right then and there. The wiser heads knew they had enough to chew on for the time being.
Those two events, the 1946 strike wave and the “Get-Us-Home” troop movement, have haunted the capitalist war-mongers ever since. When the truce was signed in Korea, one of the first fears expressed by the capitalists and their agents was that another movement might flare up to “Bring the Boys Back Home.” And the labor movement, 17,000,000 strong and ready for battle at any major threat to living standards, hangs over their calculations like a nightmare.
In 1953 they must still ask themselves the question that was posed in 1946: What happens if we start another war without first arriving at a more favorable position in relation to the forces of the American working class?
It is quite true that they have been working at this knotty problem since 1946 and have made considerable headway, as we shall see next week, but it is far from solved. They could make no worse error than to think the American workers will go quiescently into another slaughter. And they know it. We may deduce from this that they might have decided to postpone the H-Bomb holocaust just a little longer in order to complete certain essential political chores first.
The “Get-Us-Home” movement of the American troops at the end of 1945 and beginning of 1946, together with the powerful strike wave that swept the country at that time, forced Wall Street to postpone the date for the Third World War which it had projected at the close of World War II. As I pointed out last week, the American people dismantled the forces needed to carry out a successful attack on the Soviet Union when it stood weakened and devastated from the Nazi assault.
Wall Street had to make a fresh start. First of all, it had to secure its home base. This meant above all convincing the American people of the necessity of going to war against the Soviet Union. To win a war of such scope, the minimum requirement is a people thoroughly convinced of its justice and inevitability. If possible, their enthusiasm must be aroused. To drive the American people into such a conflict would most certainly prove suicidal. They must be led. This was the major problem facing America’s 60 ruling families.
The capitalist class in our time, however, is capable of leading only a certain kind of people—a people that is thoroughly housebroken. They are not able to lead masses accustomed to think for themselves, concerned about preserving their liberties and willing to fight for their rights. In fact, to the capitalists, masses of that cast of mind are not only thoroughly undependable in wars of conquest but a deadly danger, particularly if they have powerful organizations such as trade unions.
Thus to overcome the unfavorable position they found themselves in in 1946, the strategists of the capitalist class set out to achieve two main goals in the United States: (1) Try to convince the American people that the Soviet Union is an aggressor power like Nazi Germany, plotting to attack America; (2) Try to stamp out freedom of thought and hamstring the unions.
The first aim dovetailed with a vast armaments program, which in turn could help stave off depression. The second aim, of course, fitted in neatly with the open shop sentiments of the big corporations. And both aims coincided with the need to satisfy the ravenous hunger for profit-taking with which the capitalists were troubled after feeding at the public trough during the war years.
Anti-union legislation culminated in the Taft-Hartley Law and an epidemic of similar slave-labor measures on the statute books of the states. The drive against freedom of thought began with Truman’s “loyalty” decrees and rapidly mushroomed into the worst witch-hunt America has ever seen. The end result was the ominous rise of McCarthyism.
Truman’s “loyalty” order was promulgated in 1947. For six years the drive on civil liberties has continued. It has made deep inroads into freedom of thought in America but has not yet succeeded in its final aim of breaking up the independent outlook of the masses. The Taft-Hartley Law likewise has made organizing difficult, particularly in the South, but the unions still remain intact. In fact they now have a membership of some 17,000,000.
The corporations have made impressive gains in imposing the speed-up, containing the struggle for better living conditions, hounding the militants, and so on. But accounts have not yet been settled with the unions. Big Business now appears to think that it may take more than the witch-hunt and union-busting legislation to discipline the union membership and make the country safe for another war. It may take a bit of depression and an accompanying strong-arm assault. But to engage in that battle with labor—a most dangerous battle for the capitalists—would require postponement of World War III.
The alternative is to try to buy off the union leadership and a considerable segment of the working class as Roosevelt did in World War II. That course, however, seems to have been ruled out by the Morgans, Rockefellers, etc. That was one reason why they wanted Eisenhower in the White House instead of Stevenson.
Let us now turn to the effort to enthuse the American people with the prospect of an atomic war on the Soviet Union. The principal vehicle for this has been the powerful propaganda machine at the disposal of the capitalist class. The warmly praised ally of World War II was converted into “the enemy.” The crimes of Stalinism, accommodatingly covered up during the war years, were hustled into the limelight. The press, the radio, the pulpit and later TV began an even more sustained campaign than that waged against Nazi Germany. The moralists joined in the attack—many of them with what turned out to be the best credentials, former sycophancy in the camp of Stalinism.
The grist for this mill was provided by the State Department. Rejecting all overtures of the Kremlin for a deal, it abruptly cut off lend-lease to the USSR despite the desperate needs of the Soviet people. Winston Churchill, then the most admired and respected statesman of the western capitalist world, was brought to Fulton, Missouri, where in March 1946 he laid down the line against the Soviet Union in a saber-rattling speech.
Provocative actions were organized, such as maneuvers by the armed forces in Antarctic and Arctic under conditions obviously simulating those in the Soviet Union in winter. A whole series of diplomatic incidents were touched off, all designed to display the Soviet Union as an “aggressor” power, although it is not, since its economic foundations do not require it to follow the policy of imperialist expansion at all.
With the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, the “cold war” opened up full scale, with occasional scares of possible hot war as in 1948 at the time it appeared the Communist Party might win the elections in Italy.
All this led up to June 1950 when civil war broke out in Korea. The Truman administration seized on this pretext to plunge America into the conflict.
The Korean war appeared to give American Big Business the final clinchers in its war preparations: an excuse to convert a huge sector of the economy into war production, an excuse to vastly expand the armed forces and stockpiles of armaments, an excuse to get into a conflict which had every prospect of expanding into a general conflict in which the Soviet Union would be sucked in.
Above all, it seemed to be a perfect means for finally convincing the American people about the justice and inevitability of war with the Soviet Union.
But this war, which appeared to offer such a favorable opening for carrying out the sinister plans of American Big Business, turned into its opposite.
The fighting capacity of the North Koreans shocked America’s rulers. And when the Chinese Armies took up the challenge that Gen. MacArthur flung at the Yalu river, it quickly became apparent that Wall Street had taken on far more than it bargained for. Truman’s “police action” turned into a war of completely unexpected scope. In another article we will discuss the forces American imperialism ran into; right now we are interested in what happened to the effort to use Korea to psychologize the American people about fighting abroad.
Korea turned out to be the most unpopular war in American history. This is admitted by every serious observer. It became a key issue in American politics. It helped bring a landslide defeat to the Democratic Party.
One of the big factors in Eisenhower’s victory was the hope many people had that he would bring the fighting to an end, a hope that was fostered by Eisenhower’s promise to go to Korea personally. No doubt at that time, Eisenhower and his backers had already considered the advisability of ending the Korean adventure.
Even Stevenson had to recognize on the eve of the election that it was necessary to say something about ending the war in Korea. Of course, what he said was too little and too late to save the Democrats.
The popular opposition to the war in Korea is a tremendous new fact in American politics. The Pentagon and its spokesmen indicate their awareness of it by their openly expressed fears about a new “Get-Us-Home” movement among the American troops.
The Korean war, which was undoubtedly a long step toward World War III, thus had contradictory effects. While enabling Wall Street to step up its military preparations for global conquest, it ended by inducing war weariness at home. The grass-roots bitterness over this “police action” is a new complication that America’s capitalist rulers dare not overlook in deciding whether to start World War III soon or to postpone it.
Woodrow Wyatt, a British Labor Party member of Parliament, assailing John Foster Dulles Sept. 6, said that never before had a man “spent so long in preparing himself to be Foreign Secretary and made such a fool of himself and his country when he finally got the job.”
This impression of the head of the State Department is fairly widespread, not only in Europe but also among liberals in America. Dulles seems to act more like a bull in a china shop than a smooth diplomat trying to win friends and influence people abroad. For instance, in a single press conference Sept. 3, he said things that ruffled feelings in Italy, Germany and Japan.
Dulles’ course can be dismissed as a consequence of stupidity, or a manifestation of colossal boorishness, which is another form of stupidity. However, it is dangerous to underestimate a foe, particularly a class enemy. Before we write off Dulles’ speeches as nothing but a typical symptom of the lack of regard American Big Business has for the feelings of its allies abroad, which only hurts Wall Street, let us once again check the diplomatic problems faced by Truman and now Eisenhower.
Wall Street’s major line of world strategy since the close of World War II has been the preparation for World War III, as I have indicated in previous articles. Part of the preparation has been the building of the most gigantic military coalition ever seen. It includes the Western Hemisphere, Western Europe and the Mediterranean, and the Pacific from Japan to Australia.
If you assume, as it seems only common sense to do, that the major diplomatic problem facing the capitalist class in the U.S. is to arm, inspire, and lead this vast coalition into war on the Soviet Union, China, and the colonial countries that are now seeking freedom from imperialist domination, the State Department’s course since 1948 and even earlier seems irrational.
It has provoked one diplomatic crisis after another with the Soviet Union, truculently rejected all overtures for a deal with the Kremlin, everywhere taken the initiative in one form or another to stir up trouble, and has thus succeeded in proving itself in the eyes of the world to be the aggressor. Even Hitler tried to avoid getting into such an unfavorable diplomatic position by making disarmament proposals, in accordance with the standing rule of capitalist diplomacy to try to appear to be seeking peace when you are preparing for war.
On top of this, the State department seems to pay no attention to the complaints of its allies about this uncomfortable state of diplomatic affairs. Instead, Dulles, as before him Acheson, gives them stern lectures about speeding up their rearmament.
I repeat, this course seems irrational—if you consider that the State Department’s major problem is to lead its tremendous coalition of powers into war under a plausible diplomatic cover. But it happens to face a bigger problem—the problem of convincing the American people they should fight another war and submit to the lowered standard of living, loss of freedoms, bitter sacrifices, frightful bloodshed and destruction, and even danger of total annihilation that this war entails.
Just how crucial this problem is, is not generally appreciated even by those who pose as experts on such things. To grasp it, you have to understand the weight of the American people as a force in world politics.
In the last century, Karl Marx made the rather startling statement that the sparsely settled United States was actually more populous than teeming India. He explained this assertion, which seems to fly in the face of the facts, in the following way: Populations, viewed from the standpoint of economics, must be weighted by relative development of their industries. That this is a correct way of viewing populations is dramatically shown when countries go to war. If political factors do not intervene, the war boils down to a conflict between their relative industrial powers. Thus, in Marx’s view, the high level of American transportation, agricultural and industrial production even in the last century gave the U.S. a greater population than India.
It was on the basis of such considerations that Trotsky could say in 1929, “... in the last historic analysis all the problems of our planet will be decided upon American soil.”
The preponderance of the United States by the end of World War II could be expressed in two graphic sentences: “Three-quarters of the world’s invested capital and two-thirds of the world’s industry were concentrated inside the United States. The other third of industry was shared over the other 95% of the earth’s inhabited surface.” (Howard K. Smith in “The State of Europe.”)
If we translate this into terms of population, as Marx viewed it years ago, then so far as industrial power is concerned, two-thirds of the world’s population is concentrated inside the United States. The other third is spread among the other countries of the world.
The face of the power-sensitive State Department is turned toward this two-thirds. It is with this two-thirds that it sees its major diplomatic problem.
The problem has two sides. If the American people can be cajoled, frightened, bamboozled, psychologized in brief, hypnotized and high-pressured into going willingly, even enthusiastically, to war, then the world’s most colossal force has been successfully lined up behind Wall Street’s banners. American capitalism then has fair chances of getting a new lease on life by conquering vast new areas for exploitation. If, on the other hand, the American people remain unconvinced, disquieted, potentially ready to turn on Wall Street, then war can mean the quick finish of capitalism—the definitive finish on a world scale.
That is why what Dulles does in public is calculated above all for its effect on the American people. The State Department, so far as its public declarations are concerned, has really been converted into a government propaganda department aiming primarily at the American audience.
The provocative diplomacy abroad is designed to furnish one incident after another to inflame public opinion in America. The high-handed attitude toward the allies is likewise designed for its effect on the public at home. The witch hunt with its spectacular raids, trials and spy scares is part of the pattern.
Demagogues like McCarthy and others in the most reactionary wing of the Republican and Democratic parties take advantage of this for their own ends—appearing as powers holding a club over the State Department. But the real club is the need the State Department feels to convince the American people that the “reds” are a genuine danger against whom we must go to war no matter what the cost.
Dealing with the mightiest power on earth—the American people—Wall Street understands very well that to simply launch World War III without adequate preparation could prove the shortest way to suicide. Precisely because of the power involved, it must move cautiously, test the ground again and again; not only advance when possible, but be prepared to make detours and even retreats if the advance proves to have been too precipitate. Dangerous as retreats may be, Wall Street feels it cannot afford to lose this game and a costly retreat is better than a suicidal advance.
Hence the hesitations and postponement after postponement of World War III despite a diplomacy that has breathed fire and smoke and rattled atom bombs since 1945 and even tried to use the civil war in Korea as a possible opener. Hence also the cease-fire in Korea.
The American people are proving hard to mold according to the blueprint laid down for World War III, but Wall Street dares not let its impatience run away with its better political judgment. America’s ruling 60 families see the main danger and therefore the main problem not abroad but here at home. And in this they are right.
The United States emerged from World War II with such crushing preponderance of industrial power that no combination of countries matched it. Since industrial strength can prove decisive in a war where the political factor does not intervene, it seems strange at first sight that Big Business has not yet launched the war it projects on the Soviet Union. It is particularly difficult to understand if you view America as homogeneous, as a monolithic force without fissure.
However, if you look at the internal divisions, the separation of the country into opposing classes, then you can see that the colossal power of the U.S. also measures the power of the American working class and therefore the degree of its political explosiveness. The American working class, viewed politically, is like an H-Bomb lodged in the economic base that gives Wall Street its imposing world strength.
In previous articles we saw how the assertion of the will of the American people compelled Wall Street to postpone its war plans immediately following World War II when it had a monopoly on atomic weapons and when the Soviet Union lay weak and devastated after the invasion by German imperialism.
And we have seen how strenuously the capitalist class has tried since 1945 to convince the American people to go to war against the Soviet Union, even plunging the country into an undeclared war in Korea as part of the preparations—again with consequences, above all in America, that has brought about another postponement of World War III.
Besides the domestic reasons, other considerations of a weighty character have forced Wall Street to revise its timetable of war. While it has constructed an interlocking system of military alliances such as the world has never before seen, it has not yet been able to complete the consolidation of its two main bases: Japan and Western Europe.
In both areas, following World War II, American Big Business had the immediate problem of forestalling revolutions, bolstering the native capitalists and restoring the economies ruined by war. Much of this has been accomplished, thanks primarily to the helping hand of the Stalinists and the Social Democrats, but in neither place has rearmament really got under way. In fact it took from 1945 until the victory of Adenauer in the recent election to prepare the base for the rearmament of Germany, the key sector of Europe. The most crucial stage still lies ahead.
In Japan, reports indicate a considerable growth of anti-American sentiment, a desire by the Japanese capitalists to engage in trade with China, and a fear of the consequences of participating in another war. These feelings will not prove easy to overcome even under the terrible pressure of Wall Street’s urgent prodding.
Meanwhile in France, the greatest general strike in the nation’s history shows that this essential base for the projected war on the USSR is, from the viewpoint of Wall Street, far from secure. Indeed, drained white by the attempt to reconquer Indo-China, shaken by revolutionary fevers, the capitalist France of today scarcely resembles the kind of power Wall Street would consider placing under the additional stress of atomic war, at least for the moment.
The problem of Germany, Japan and France indicates in a dramatic way what Wall Street faces in all the countries brought into its far-reaching military alliances. None of them wants war. Even the various bourgeoisies, who are closest to America’s 60 ruling families, shrink at the fearful perspective they are ordered to face. This inertia acts like sand in Wall Street’s war machine.
One of the major causes impelling Wall Street to make haste in launching World War III is the development of revolutionary movements abroad. The big corporations feel toward them much as they felt toward unions in the days of the open shop—nip them in the bud. However, the experience in China, Korea, Indo-China, and in fact throughout the colonial world, shows that these elemental forces have gathered such headway that they cannot easily be stopped. They are capable of sustained, tough, exhausting war.
If the conflict were to remain on the strictly military plane, perhaps the United States in combination with the other imperialist powers could beat them down—at the risk of bringing down civilization at the same time and perhaps precipitating the use of atomic missiles that could destroy mankind.
But this counter-revolutionary war constantly risks touching off a force far more potent than military conflict. This force is revolutionary politics on a mass scale. One successful socialist revolution in any major industrial country could cancel out completely Wall Street’s industrial supremacy, could in fact, through a political chain reaction, turn it against Wall Street by bringing into play the revolutionary political power of the American workers.
This possibility has long been known in theory. For example, in 1853—exactly a century ago—Karl Marx observed: “It would be a curious spectacle, that of China sending disorder into the Western World while the Western Powers, by English, French and American war-steamers, are conveying ‘order’ to Shanghai, Nanking and the mouths of the Great Canal.”
This concept recurs in the writings of Trotsky. In the period of the death agony of capitalism, Trotsky was of course able to give it much greater concreteness than Marx could. Here is an example, written in 1928:
It is precisely the international strength of the United States and her irresistible expansion arising from it, that compels her to include the powder magazines of the whole world into the foundations of her structure, i.e., all the antagonisms between the East and the West, the class struggle in Old Europe, the uprisings of the colonial masses, and all wars and revolutions.
On the one hand, this transforms North American capitalism into the basic counter-revolutionary force of the modern epoch, constantly more interested in the maintenance of ‘order’ in every corner of the terrestrial globe; and on the other hand, this prepares the ground for a gigantic revolutionary explosion in this already dominant and still expanding world imperialist power. The logic of world relations indicates that the time of this explosion cannot lag very far behind that of the proletarian revolution in Europe. (Third International After Lenin, p.8)
If we bring Trotsky’s metaphor up to date, we can say that Wall Street, in extending the frontier of the United States to the 38th parallel in Korea and up to the Iron Curtain in Europe, has included the atom bombs that can trigger the political H-Bomb represented by the American workers.
Faced with such possible consequences, it might seem that America’s 60 ruling families would prefer to retreat, withdrawing from overseas and converting North America into an island fortress. But this is not economically feasible. American capitalism is the heart of a world-wide system. Cut it out of that system and it will soon stop beating.
Besides, to retreat would precipitate a depression that would make the 1929 crash and the stagnation of the Thirties look like a war boom by comparison. That, too, would have most unhappy results politically so far as the giant corporations are concerned, for the American workers, looking at the idle factories—shut down for lack of war orders—would not be long in deciding to put an end to the insanity of capitalism.
In the Jan. 12 Militant, in an article written several weeks before Eisenhower took office, I called attention to the fact that the “logic of the international situation calls for a turn in the diplomacy of the State Department.”
Having inherited a bad diplomatic situation from the Truman administration, one of the problems facing the new Eisenhower regime, I said, was how to change this to wipe out the impression “that Washington wants war” and to “appear in the international arena as the advocate and champion of peace.”
Gen. Eisenhower, I observed, “in hastening the preparations for war will certainly raise the defense slogan of peace . . . and may well go quite far in ‘peace’ gestures.” Hitler himself, I noted, had found it advisable to follow such a policy in getting ready for World War II.
Dulles’ main course up to now as Secretary of State might seem to have shown this analysis to be wrong. The Stalinists in particular paint Dulles as the main villain in the Eisenhower administration whose principal concern is rattling the saber. And if we were to let the headlines impress us too much, we might feel compelled to say that the diplomacy of Dulles is nothing but a simple continuation of the diplomacy bequeathed to him by Dean Acheson; namely, the brass-knuckles-and-blackjack attitude associated with the Korean war.
It is quite true that Dulles has deliberately contributed to this impression. After the Republican election campaign picturing the State Department as under the influence of “Communist spies,” he could not afford for a time to engage in diplomacy that might appear “soft.” Moreover, he is under compulsion to convince the American people of the inevitability and justice of a war on the Soviet Union. That requires war-mongering and inflammatory incidents and fear propaganda.
But this is only one side of the street. The other side must be worked too. It is necessary to create the illusion that “the enemy” is the aggressor and “our side” the peace-lover. Otherwise it is not possible to imbue people with even a semblance of feeling that the war they are asked to fight is morally right. And of course among the allied powers, where the people are war-weary and already convinced in large numbers that only socialism offers a way out, the capitalist rulers feel that such a turn by the State Department is imperative.
The evidence now indicates that the top councils of the Eisenhower administration feel such a shift must be attempted.
At the beginning of September, the well-informed correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor, Joseph C. Harsch, observed a “curious dualism” in Eisenhower’s foreign policy. It has been reported, he said Sept. 3, that the Dulles-Lodge team “seriously contemplates the possibility that the Korean peace conference will lead to the admission of Communist China to membership in the United Nations.” “On the surface this would sound almost incredible,” yet Harsh offered as evidence “the actual record” in the Far East where instead of widening the war as many expected when Eisenhower took office, Dulles actually followed a policy of “disengagement,” leading to the Korean truce.
Five days later, this same correspondent reported that “German and British and other diplomats are giving their first attention to ways and means of reassuring Moscow that it can become more ‘secure’ through a negotiated settlement with the West. This would involve among other things a withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Germany. In return for this, the diplomats “are prepared to pay a substantial price.”
Harsch recognized that “to American ears” the “very idea of security for Soviet Russia sounds either fantastic or nonsensical.” However, far more influential figures than the Monitor’s correspondent seem to consider such a diplomatic move neither fantastic nor nonsensical.
On May 11, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill suggested that the ideas contained in the Locarno Treaty might well be applied today to guarantee the present frontiers of Europe and thus ease the anxiety of the Kremlin about the aggressive intentions of the western powers.
The Locarno Treaty of 1925 was essentially a promise by England to help France if she were attacked by Germany or to help Germany if she were attacked by France. In the present situation a new edition of Locarno would mean a promise to come to the defense of the Soviet Union in the event Germany launched another invasion on Russian soil. Such a pact would, of course, have about as much value in preventing World War III as the Locarno Treaty had in preventing World War II.
Churchill’s proposal did not seem to meet with any response in Washington at the time. But this may be ascribable to an accidental gap in Anglo-American team work due to the temporary removal of Churchill and Anthony Eden from public activity, and the illness and death of Senator Taft. (Churchill suffered a stroke and Eden underwent a serious operation.)
Then Stevenson returned from his world tour. On Sept. 15 he urged Eisenhower to take the initiative in new peace talks that would consider disarmament and “durable assurances” for the Soviet Union of “non-aggression.” This statement was in effect a political announcement that the Democrats would support Eisenhower in any moves along these lines. What is especially significant is that such a diplomatic demarche (change of direction) would mark an about-face from the policy followed by Truman.
Two days later, Dulles followed up with an important speech in the United Nations. The core of it was “The Russian people, like the French people have not forgotten what their nation suffered from Hitlerite Germany during the Second World War. They expect, and they are entitled to, assurance against a repetition of such events.”
As if to demonstratively emphasize that bipartisan agreement had been reached on the line of diplomacy, Eisenhower arranged to have Stevenson “brief” him on his world tour. Stevenson told the press Oct. 1 that he had advised Eisenhower to meet Soviet fears of military encirclement by guarantees that they have nothing to fear from us. It would certainly clarify the atmosphere somewhat if the guarantees were offered and rejected.” In response Eisenhower told Stevenson he was giving careful consideration to the proposal.
Following Dulles’ UN appearance, capitalist statesmen took up the theme in a series of declarations. Lester B. Pearson, Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs, assured the Soviet Union Sept. 23 that the West had no plans to undermine the security of the Communist part of the world. Selwyn Lloyd, Britain’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, on the following day “arrayed Britain beside the United States and Canada in an effort to reassure the Kremlin . . . .” On Sept. 25, Maurice Schumann, France’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, likewise assured Moscow that the West was willing to consider plans for guaranteeing Europe’s present borders. And on Sept. 28, Churchill indicated that he favors a Big Four Meeting.
Dean Acheson came out of retirement to say Oct. 1 that negotiation with the Soviet Union “is possible, is desirable, and may—but only may—be productive.”
Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Under Secretary of State, reputed to be especially close to Eisenhower, said Oct. 2 that the State Department has under active consideration a non-aggression pact between the West and the Soviet Union.
How have these moves been interpreted in the capitalist press? Here are some typical reactions:
Representing liberal opinion, the New Republic said Sept. 28: “All signs point to a meeting of the leaders of Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the U.S.”
The conservative Business Week said Oct. 3: “For the first time since the start of the cold war, world events have reached a stage where there’s a possibility of a negotiated settlement between East and West.”
And finally, the New York Times, which is the voice of authority for many editorial offices, said Oct. 4: “American thinking has taken the direction of offering the Communists ‘re-assurances’—not only by conciliatory words, but concretely in the form of non-aggression pacts, both in Germany and Korea ... The reasoning is that if the Russians will agree to non-aggression pacts, then real negotiations can take place and a settlement may follow. If they do not accept them, then all their charges of ‘aggressive intent’ on the part of the U.S. will be exposed as a sham and a stalling tactic. Moreover, any Soviet refusal to the U.S. proposals, it is held, will at least have the positive advantages of demonstrating that it is not the U.S. that is inflexible; of uniting the West, and of raising American prestige in the neutral Asian countries.”
To readers of The Militant, Secretary of State Dulles’ announcement to the press Oct. 6 that a “non-aggression pact between the United States and the USSR” is ‘being studied” among the Western powers came as no surprise. The probability of such a turn in diplomacy was forecast by The Militant as long ago as last January—some weeks before Eisenhower was sworn into office.
Even the Wall Street Journal now admits that “In some form or other, a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union is clearly becoming an integral part of American foreign policy.” (Oct. 9.)
But it is one thing to offer such a pact—quite another to actually sign one. It takes two to make a bargain, as the old saying goes. What are the chances of our actually seeing “a kind of peace treaty for the cold war,” to use the formula of the Wall Street Journal?
First of all, I do not know of a single serious political observer who believes a long-term pact is in sight. Such a course, advocated by Wallace in 1946-48, was ruled out by Truman under the pressure of Big Business. The reason for this was that the capitalist tycoons who are the real rulers in America require world domination to maintain their economic system. They need colonial areas for investments, raw materials and cheap labor power. By taking these and also smashing the Soviet Union, they could gain a new lease on life for their profit system. Being realists of a kind, they knew that the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union would not voluntarily commit suicide, and therefore they projected the new world war for which they are now preparing.
Their main strategy is designed to further this objective.
But what about a short-term pact? Here the possibilities, in my opinion, are far from ruled out. They hinge on Wall Street’s timetable for war and on the advantages such a pact might offer in preparing for the conflict. We should not forget that Hitler, too, in readying his invasion of the Soviet Union found it advantageous, some two years before he sent his panzer divisions into the Ukraine, to sign and seal a non-aggression pact with the Kremlin.
As I have pointed out in previous articles, Wall Street has postponed the scheduled outbreak of hostilities several times. Eisenhower last spring cancelled all projected dates. Charles E. Wilson, head of the Defense (formerly “War”) Department, recently saw a “three-year” period at least “before the Soviet would be ready to attack,” which is the formula generally used for the projected date.
American Big Business needs this time (1) to complete the rearmament of Japan and German, (2) to wipe out the worldwide impression that it wants war, (3) to tame the American workers, possibly through a “small” depression.
Wall Street is especially concerned about knocking out the opposition to the war within the labor movement by stepping up the witch-hunt still more and dealing some paralyzing blows to the unions.
A temporary pact with the Kremlin could facilitate achievement of these ends. Just as the Stalinists painted up the Stalin-Hitler pact as a great achievement for peace, thereby helping to lull workers everywhere into a false sense of security, so a Malenkov-Eisenhower pact would be pictured by the Stalinists as a new guarantee of peace. The intended effect would be to divert workers from taking the only possible road to enduring peace, that is, the road to socialism.
While the Stalinists are thoroughly discredited in the American labor movement and consequently have little influence in this country, in other places such as France and Italy where they head the bulk of the labor movement, they could play a most perfidious role.
In the Aug. 22 Nation, Mark Gayn suggests some of the counter-revolutionary services the Kremlin might perform for American Big Business in return for a pact:
We might find Moscow and Peking ready to sacrifice the Communist regimes in East Germany and Indo-China, as Stalin once sacrificed the Communist rebels in Greece. . . And a Communist pledge to still the spirit of revolt and conspiracy in the more turbulent segments of the non-Communist world might prove a better incentive to American investments than an uncertain stability based on our threats. A time of peace is also a time when our best allies, Japan and Germany, France and England, can regain economic health through worldwide trade.
Of course, it is another question whether or not the Stalinists can deliver the goods. But in combination with direct force applied by the U.S., Great Britain, France, etc., a Stalinist betrayal might prove decisive. In Indo-China, for example, French troops supplied from American arsenals might prove sufficient to put down the freedom-seeking movement if the Stalinists cooperated with a stab in the back.
Dulles, representing the interests of American Big Business, naturally seeks other concessions from the Kremlin in addition. The Oct. 7 Wall Street Journal reports that in return for the projected non-aggression pact, “Russia would be asked to agree to a unified Germany, a unified Korea, and to a peace treaty for Austria.” In addition, the Kremlin would “have to agree to withdraw their troops from Germany, Austria, and Korea; the U.S. and its allies would promise to do likewise.”
Eisenhower-Churchill may only be probing, hoping that the Malenkov regime may be so interested in gaining time to take care of a precarious domestic position that it will grant unexpected concessions. The Western powers may settle for less. In any case, they count on coming out in these maneuvers with the aura of “peace-lovers.”
As the Wall Street Journal puts it, “So State Department officials figure they can’t lose. At the least, if the Russians reject the pact, the U.S. will have made a gesture calculated to help cement relations with its Western allies. At the most, the U.S. will have won important concessions in three hot spots: Germany, Austria, and Korea.”
Far from the impression that the press may have given recently, the negotiations are not out in the open. William R. Fay of the Christian Science Monitor reported Oct. 8 in relation to the Korean conference that an American message “needs to be read ... in the context of private negotiations which have been taking place both among the western nations and indirectly between East and West in recent days.”
Why certain of the negotiations are held in secret is quite clear. Main victims of the pact would be the insurgent colonial peoples and working people of the entire world. The common understanding between Western imperialism and the Kremlin would be reached at their expense. It would be a united front against mass upthrusts that could unseat either of these counter-revolutionary forces.
It is noteworthy that in the June uprising in East Germany, the Western powers refrained from giving any serious aid to the insurgents. By their course they demonstrated their capacity to give tangible support to the Kremlin against a common foe.
By way of reciprocity, in the August general strike in France, the Stalinists refrained from guiding the most promising movement since 1936 toward government power, thereby demonstrating their capacity to give tangible support to Wall Street against the class they both fear.
These reciprocal stands of Wall Street and the Kremlin in East Germany and France are in the pattern of a tacit understanding. This pattern could simply be extended, and it could turn out that a non-aggression pact might not actually be put down on paper but just go into effect as an uneasy and unstable “gentlemen’s agreement.” Such an accord would be in keeping with the traditions of capitalist diplomacy.
The lesson to the working class of these “peace’ maneuvers can be summed up briefly: No confidence whatsoever in the intentions of either Wall Street or the Kremlin. Even if a “peace” pact were signed, it could prove only shortlived. At most it would turn out to be not much more than the lull before the storm of World War III. To save civilization from the threat of atomic war, it is necessary to take the revolutionary road to socialism.
To interpret the postponement of war—with or without a pact—as the opening of a prolonged period of peace would prove fatal. The task is to take advantage of the difficulties Wall Street faces in plunging our planet into another war. That means utilizing the breathing space to fight for the establishment of a Workers and Farmers Government in the United States. There is no other way to win enduring peace.
Last updated on 24.2.2006