John MacLean Internet Archive                                                                          From the Revolutionary Communist Group

The Coming War With America

by John Maclean

First published: Issued as a pamphlet, Winter 1919
Transcription\HTML Markup: Revolutionary Communist Group and David Walters in 2003
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive (, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Some people foolishly believed Lloyd George and his friends when they assured the Country that the recent War Was one “to end all war", and others as stupidly fancy Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations will avert War.

The marxist contention is that War cannot be avoided if capital lasts, and many marxians are of the opinion that the Principal antagonists in the next War will be Britain and America; hence the urgent need helping the Bolsheviks today and Bolshevising the world tomorrow.

We marxists knew the War With Germany Was coming, as both Germany and Britain were conducting a life and death struggle to dominate the World and its markets. From the Boer War onwards Germany began to build a fleet, whilst Britain enlarged hers and constructed naval bases on the North Sea; Germany perfected her army whilst Haldane gave us the Territorials; Germany built up the Triple Alliance whilst Britain brought off the Entente with France and the Alliance with Russia; and riddled the other’s territory with spies; J. Chamberlain urged a tariff against Germany, whilst Lloyd George imported German insurance and other expedients to gain Labour support in case of War…

In a speech in Glasgow early in May 1919, Sic Douglas Haig warned Britain not to rely On the League of Nations, but to make “adequate military preparations". In a later speech at St Andrew’s University Wednesday 15 May, he warned the students of the danger of the Chinese and the Indians flooding the World’s markets to the exclusion of Euro made goods, as a result of the lower standard of living of the yellow men. To avert the danger he urged the raising of the eastern civilisation to level of that prevailing in Europe.

Then he used an expression that justifies our view of the European War and of all wars under capitalism: “Only thus can the terrible pressure of economic competition be prevented from driving whole continents into war.” Here he clearly and undeniably traces war to competition for world markets and thus supports our contention as to the cause and motive of the late war….

As the Germans had as high a civilisation as the British and both fought, we must disagree with Sir Douglas when he thinks that raising eastern civilisation to the level of western will in any way prevent war. We also disagree with him when he anticipates a yellow menace. We calculate that America holds the field. So popular is this view in political “high-class” circles that John Bull utters on a poster the pitiful cry: “Is America to Boss the World?"

Some may protest that a war between English-speaking peoples is impossible. Perhaps: but let them recollect that the bloodiest war of last century was the American Civil War, 1861-5, over an economic question - the extended use of black chattel slavery. May not another economic question drive Britain and America to war? We would remind sceptics that from 1910 onwards the oil interests of both countries have been responsible for the Mexican Civil War; Lord Cowdray financing one side, Rockefeller the other.

In the February 1919 issue of an American magazine The Arbitrator, Henry L. West urges universal military training and service, because he is convinced that ’’as long as human passions remain unchanged, as long as lust of power or love of land or greed for commercial expansion exists, so long will there be war". This American holds war an inevitable consequence of the rush for markets and imperialism without the qualification stated by Sir Douglas, and advises America to have “her adequate military preparations". In 1915, the American Professor R.G. Usher, issued his ’Pan-Americanism and in 1917 his Challenge of the Future, and in these he urged the immediate policy adopted by Woodrow Wilson when the latter got America into the late war, and the ultimate policy of absorbing all North and South America. These writers but express the prevailing view in capitalist circles in America; hence the importance of their utterances….

Many people may imagine that, since we know the cause of war and since we have just gone through the pains and devastation of war, we should avoid the clash for markets and so escape another war. That is impossible. Britain has incurred a war debt of £8.000,000,000 and must pay every year to bond-holders £400,000,000. This outlay, with that on pensions. army, navy etc., will mount to at least £1,000.000.000 a year.

Financiers and politicians have seen that this can only be got out of increased profits, and that these can only be realised by increased sales on the markets of the world -i.e. increased pressure on the markets, increased competition, increased speed headlong into the next war. Lloyd. George showed this to be the capitalist policy in his Commons speech, Monday 18 August 1919; and Austen Chamberlain shortly before him urged the same policy in order to save the government from bankruptcy…. Lloyd George in the same speech urged increased exports along with decreased imports to restore the exchange with America. …At present for a pound note a moneychanger will give you four dollars instead of four dollars eighty-six cents; in other words, you lose eighty-six cents or 3s 7d 1 out of every pound note. What Lloyd George suggests is perfectly correct, but it involves increased exports, the very evil that plunges us into war.

Again, it is well known that America’s foreign trade has trebled during the war period and this year has rapidly risen. The Americans now own over 6,000,000 ship tons instead of 1,000,000 in 1914, whilst her 200 shipyards with their 1,000 slips are now constructing over 4,000,000 tons in place of 140,000 in 1914. Britain’s foreign trade is again expanding and she still has over 15,000,000 ship tons; but her yards have only on stock a declared weight of 2,500,000 tons. No wonder the press recently had an “inspired” advertisement headed: “Shipping Supremacy- American Shipyard Competition".

The New York bankers have united forces to finance exhausted Europe. The loans, of course, will take the form of foodstuffs, raw material, and machinery to re-establish economic life. This will give America a grip on European markets and on European people in the event of war with Britain. America is naturally seizing the opportunity, too, to get a grip on other world markets, especially on those of South America and China.

To counterbalance that menace, Britain, by the mandatory power camouflage of the Peace Treaty, is adding a million and a half square miles to her empire, is in process of absorbing and digesting Afghanistan and Persia, and will ’protect” huge slices of Siberia if Russia perchance be crushed; whilst to counteract American influence in Europe France has just been granted £10,000,000, and Lloyd George tells us £26,000,000 must be spent on capturing the trade of Roumania, Serbia and other south- eastern countries. (Now also the trade of Finland, Latvia. Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and South Russia.) All this despite the so-called bankruptcy of Britain.

The latest phase of British policy is resumption of trade with the “hated Hun". A press campaign prepared people’s minds for this resumed relationship with Germany. Toy- makers and other British manufacturers may whine at the flood of German imports now penetrating into British markets, but if German imports are not tolerated then Germany will take no British manufactures or raw materials. America will get into Germany, and economic contact will lead to military alliance against Britain. This double danger explains the sudden change of British policy towards Germany.

British banks are amalgamating with banks all over the world in the hope of freezing the Yankees out of the markets and they have just started a British Overseas Bank with a nominal capital of £5,000,000 to speed up this process. To meet America Britain knows that the fundamental is “increased output” by every worker, and increased exports.

A London moneylending firm, Eldridge & Morris, in a booklet to capitalists, puts the matter concisely and logically. “It is necessary that we recover our wealth by ever increasing our individual efficiency, our productive power and collective national output - the production of merchandise for export, far beyond what we have hitherto accomplished, as the great, not to say the only way of discharging in adequate amounts our tremendous national responsibilities” (paying back the war debt).

“Our national productiveness must dominate the world’s markets” (the Hun policy!), ’Our Empire trade must be protectively conserved for ourselves “ (imperial Sinn Feinism!)

To keep our own markets and dominate the world’s markets is a challenge to America, Usher’s “Challenge of the Future” from a British standpoint. Thus we see the conditions of today are evolving a trade rivalry of monstrous dimensions urging mankind onward pitilessly and helplessly to the next warÉ

Both combatants know that the country that can sell cheapest and yet make immense profits is the one that is able to create its wealth in the least time. The less the time to do a job, the less the cost. To produce in less time the worker is now being urged to work harder and harder, to increase his production. The gospel is work hard! Harder! Hardest!

That explains the government’s press campaign against the workers ho are being accused of lazing or “ca’ing canny". It is not surprising, either to find that the trade union leaders who rushed their members into the army are now intent on hounding them on to produce more goods to save the empire. …

[Here follows a section illustrating methods of “increasing production", under paragraph headings: The Profit-Sharing Traps, Welfare Work, Scientific Management, Improved Machinery, Scientific Research and Education, Trustification. This repeats essentially parts of, “The War after the War” Ð Nan Milton]

The British government was from the start of the war apprehensive of the advantages the United States would derive from its freedom from direct participation in the war, and hence the sneer at America’s plea of being “too proud to fight". It kept pegging away at America, however, until by its clever collapse camouflage in the spring of 1918 it brought not only the Bolshevik revolution into ill repute, but also the USA into the maelstrom of murder; not, however, before America became the supreme economic power in the world.

The economic developments and the mind-evolution in the States are well known to the British government through its intelligence department, and so we find it accordingly moulding its own policy, as well as urging the capitalists along the lines just indicated.

The government is setting aside millions for scientific research, is doing its utmost to force the capitalists to bring their plant up-to-date and has powerfully appealed to them through Lloyd George to adopt profit-sharing and other methods of baiting the workers to increase production. It is also backing up the trustification policy by its coal proposal of unifying all coal companies in each coalfield, by keeping united the railway system and docks, by forcing to a head the unification of shipping and ship-building, and by projecting an electrical power-station scheme involving the electrification of all industries in the country; cheap power and cheap transit to enable cheaply-made goods to be thrown in ever-increasing masses on the markets of the world.

One obstacle to the cheapest possible production of goods is the vast number of John Bradburys issued by the government. These paper notes must be largely withdrawn and burned, and as they disappear prices will inevitably fall until they rest on a gold basis again. But before such a step be taken the government must make sure that wages can be reduced as prices fall, so that the purchasing power of labour in Lloyd George’s “future” will be no higher or only very slightly higher than it was in 1914.

The government knew it must break or tame labour again. So it made its preparations this year, and chose what it thought the proper time and union to make the offensive against. When Parliament was grouse-shooting in the Highlands a fortnight after the miners’ triumph at the Glasgow Trades Union Congress, the government forced a fight on the National Union of Railwaymen, expecting that the locomotivemen would scab after receiving their bribe and that J.H. Thomas would collapse, or that the use of soldiers and sailors, the Middle-Class Union, and the calling into being of the National (Black) Guards would frighten the railwaymen into surrender. Had the railwaymen not been solid and had not all workers shown determination to fight with them (soldiers and sailors, too, if Dame Rumour speaks true) the government would have won and then would have had a free hand to reduce prices when convenient in the trade offensive against America.

We may take it as an opinion that the government will feverishly mature other plans to accomplish its end. Prices must come down by reducing paper currency, but labour must be tamed beforehand. It behoves the working class to prepare as well by forming a Central Committee of Labour for organising, educating, agitating and fighting purposes; since our object must be not the capture of foreign markets but the capture of Britain itself.

The NUR strike for the first time in British history brought a section of the workers right up against the capitalist class as a whole through its coalition cabinet; and this shows that the main government functions are now economic, and that the primary motive of the government’s action was the breaking of labour’s power….

The big banks of New York have been co-operating to lend to European nations supplies of food and other necessaries of life, and to this aid have been working along with the Meat Trust, or the “Big Five” -Armour & Co., Morris & Co., Wilson & Co. and the Cudaby Packing Co. It is obvious that Germany and other countries economically dependent on America will back up America in the event of war with Britain. America is using the differences between France and Britain over the peace terms and Syria to win France to her side… Americans are buying up works in Europe as well and these will be centres for the radiation of American influence.

Britain’s loans to European countries, especially those on the Baltic, are dictated by a similar policy. …If Britain can crush the Bolsheviks and establish an autocratic government in Russia under the thumb of Britain then she will have access to raw materials without needing to cross the Atlantic at all. Hence Britain’s present policy in Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan, and her support to Denikin and Kolchak. She is encouraging Japan in North China against America; and in East Siberia for the

same reason.

America is exploiting Ireland’s distress and this explains the mighty reception given to De Valera, backed up by loans in due course. In case of war Ireland would be a fine naval and air base against Britain. Britain could be kept out of the Atlantic, and if cut off from the continent by a ring of opposing powers her course as the Mistress of the Sea would be run. This explains Britain’s madness in suppressing the Dail Eireann (the Sinn Fein Parliament) and Irish papers, and the imprisonment of Irish patriots. America is exploiting this all right. She is showing herself as the “righteous democracy” whilst at the same time she is absorbing her own little Ireland -Mexico, to wit.

To back up the British Overseas Bank and the British Empire Producers’ Organisation, which is an adjunct to the Federation of British Industries devoted mainly to meet foreign competition in any area and in any industry, and similar organisations of a purely commercial character, the government has this year brought into being the British Overseas Trade Department under the joint control of the Board of Trade and the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office is supposed to deal with political matters and to determine when war must take place. Its connection with the Overseas Trade Department is therefore very significant especially when we couple with it the appointment of Grey as ambassador to America, the very Grey who was at the Foreign Office and who rushed Britain into war with Germany.

The consular system is being re-cast. Now Britain will have over four hundred full-time consuls over the world instead of about two hundred on half-time as before. That means more trade and political spies every- where -the prelude, surely, to another war.

Of course, America’s touts and agents are also swarming the world with the camera and cinema journalists to boot. America is withholding her signature to the Peace Treaty as long as possible to prevent British capitalists settling down to peace-time production, and at the same time the Meat Trust is attempting to corner foodstuffs everywhere in the world, to limit supplies to Britain at enhanced prices, to prevent British aggression economically and militarily. At the same time America is proceeding with an Army Bill that will enable her to keep an army of over half a million, and a reserve of a million and a quarter, while she shall be empowered to give three months’ training to every lad who reaches the age of nineteen. That is the first step towards conscription when necessity arises. Is this the reason why Britain clings affectionately to her conscript army? I think so. Britain means to leave nothing to chance in military or any other preparations unless British citizens and soldiers vigorously raise opposition. This opposition partly explains present demobilisation…

After the armistice America urged Britain to reduce her navy as a step towards freeing the seas and towards a real League of Nations. Winston Churchill in The Sunday Post clearly replied that Britain would do no such thing. Americans then began to boast that in three years time the United States would have as large a navy as Britain. This was followed by a vote for their navy of about £50,000,000 (in dollars of course). Britain’s budget reply was a similar sum for the British navy for the year 1919-20. This equality of the sums voted £or navy purposes is surely startling indication of the conscious preparations of both sides. The press has admitted that the Admiralty early this year made a thorough examination of the Hebrides to find out all port and store facilities for the navy. The buying up of Lewis and Harris and other Western Islands by Lord Leverhulme for fishing and fish oil purposes suggests that he is working with the Admiralty in organising industries that will not only breed sailors and provide food, but lay that basis of economic organisation without which the navy would be comparatively helpless. We are also just beginning to learn that the British and Australian governments jointly intend to spend at least £68,000,000 on the laying down of a Pacific fleet with Australia as its base of operations. This new development on the Atlantic and on the Pacific is leaving nothing to chance. As merchant vessels play vital part in naval warfare as well as in commercial rivalry we can more fully comprehend the keener and keener interest that is being taken in e the development of American shipbuilding.

The transatlantic flying last summer is but a complement to the other preparations and explains the tremendous effort made by the government to get the world to realise Britain’s superiority in this field. The fact that both countries were making trial flights at the same time, that the British government rewarded her successful aeronauts, whilst America placed her fleet at the disposal of her fliers, clearly indicates the true purpose of the great flying feats. It is not surprising to find Britain following this up by sending the Prince of Wales to Canada, whilst De Valera pays a visit to the United States and receives a more than royal receptionÉ

The recent war has shown the horrors and the futility of war, victors and victims suffering alike. It will be an unpardonable crime if organised labour permits human society to go through the same a few years hence for lack of warning on the part of socialists or for lack of heed to that warning.

It is perfectly clear to us socialists at any rate that capitalism breeds antagonism leading to war and that the only way to avoid war and waste is to end capitalism. The characteristic feature of capitalism is the ownership of land and the means of production by a small class. The motive of ownership is not the material comfort and well-being of the whole community, but getting rich quick at the expense of the non-owners. It is this economic cleavage which has brought into being the class war with class organisations for its prosecution. The working class has been forced to bring into being the co- operative movement, the trade-union movement, and the socialist and labour movement for defensive and offensive purposes.

The class antagonism fortunately affords the way of escape from capitalism and war by prosecution of the class war until labour gets in supreme position in every country, as in Russia. However labour may attain power, it must do as the Bolsheviks are doing; it must get full possession of land and all means of production in order to use these co- operatively by the whole community in the creation of wealth for the advantage of all. That this would have been done peacefully and fairly in Russia but for the venomous intervention of British capitalism, aided more or less by world capitalism, must now be admitted by every fair-minded man. It can be done everywhere without bloodshed unless propertied class in devilish glee prefer the course of social destruction to that of reconstruction along the lines of socialism.

It is the duty of workers to get into one big union along the lines industry right away and not wait for the snail-like movements of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress; and to fall into line with the miners, who have conducted a great and growing campaign not only to benefit miners, but the rest of the workers as well. The programme must be widened so as to make the objective not mere nationalisation of trustified industries, but the complete socialisation of production and distribution. Nationalisation implies the payment of rent and interest; socialisation means the payment of neither rent nor interest.

It is most encouraging to note that the great Canadian strike, induced by the Scottish forty-hour strike, has stimulated American labour to burst into what looks like a general rank-and-file strike in defiance of the government, which has tied up the workers’ funds and terrorised the union leaders. The programme of the United Mineworkers and the Railway Brotherhood is similar to that of their comrades in Britain, so that we may assume with confidence an American labour bid for political supremacy of labour if Britain gives the lead again. And there is no doubt that Japanese workers will fall into line in due course.

To avoid another world war, then, labour in America and Britain must move swiftly towards full political control as the first step on the road to the complete reconstruction of the forces and agencies of production on a communal basis….

The cutting out of market rivalry will lead to transatlantic co-operation, abundance and leisure for all. The rest of the world must fall in line at once, and so prepare for the time when mankind shall as a unit rule the world as a whole and extract from it copious supplies to furnish the every need of every citizen.

Choose, reader, world Bolshevism now or a few years hence another world war.