Th. Rothstein 1919

The Rift in the Paris Lute

Source: The Call, 10 April 1919, p. 4 (Originally written under his pseudonym John Bryan)
Transcribed: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

I am delighted with the Paris conference. It has exceeded all the expectations with which I and other “cynics” were looking forward to it at the time when the world was still ringing with cries of “justice,” “democracy,” and other blessed shibboleths of that kind. At that time I still thought it possible that the augurs who had been so cleverly shepherding the popular masses to the shambles would have enough sense and decorum to continue their game of bluff to the end and would try to disguise their predatory work under some respectable cloak. It appears now that my opinion of their intelligence and sense of shame was pitched much too high. They have turned out common and barefaced tricksters incapable even of simulating honest men and of deceiving anybody except those who want to be deceived.

It is true that the number of persons of the last-named category is not small. Watch the way in which, at the present juncture, the French are denounced for their Imperialist lusts and disloyalty to the idea of a League of Nations and contrasted with President Wilson and our own incomparable Mr. Lloyd George. What could be more—shall I say jejune or disingenuous?—than this classification of the bandits in Paris into saints and villains? By destroying Germany’s military and economic power, by annihilating her navy, by taking away from her and dividing among the Allies her colonies, by erecting against her a Polish and Czechish barrier in the east and southeast, by establishing herself solidly, without fear of any rival, either German or Russian, in the vast countries between Egypt and India, including Persia, by spreading, with perfect impunity, her tentacles all over Central Asia, hitherto forming part of the Russian Empire (including the cotton fields, of Turkestan and the oilfields .of the Caspian), Great Britain has emerged from the War so vastly enriched in territory and resources (that is, in fields for capitalist exploitation) that all she needs at present and for a long time to come is peace and quiet. With peace and quiet she can hope of eventually digesting the magnificent morsels which have fallen on her plate and put into the pockets of her financiers and capitalists fresh milliards for many a long year to come. That is why her face is now beaming with such benevolence at the very mention of a League of Nations which is to secure the peace of capitalist exploitation and enterprise for ever and ever. She needs no annexations in Europe. Whole continents overseas are at her disposal. Indeed, she fears European annexations. Her own experience teaches her that while the loss of colonial possessions by a Power may for a time rankle in that Power’s breast, but is ultimately forgotten and even forgiven, the loss of European territory remains for generations a source of irritation, inflammation, and ultimate eruption. To take an example, Germany will easily forget and forgive the loss of the Kameroons, but she will never cease thinking and preparing for revenge if she were to lose the Saar Valley. Great Britain is perfectly aware of this, and while herself grabbing the Kameroons and South-West and East German Africa, is averse from seeing the Saar coalfields annexed by France.

It is substantially the same with America. She may get a “mandate” to look after Western Anatolia, where she had been seeking railway concessions from the Porte just before the War. But even colonial acquisitions are of no particular moment to her. She only wants to have an equal right to financial exploitation in all backward countries, including other people’s colonies and protectorates, and also wants peace and quiet for digestion. Hence her decided sympathies for a League of Nations and for the mandatory system of colonial administration, and her aversion from all fresh European complications which may arise from European annexations or punitive indemnities. In addition, both America and, to a lesser degree, Great Britain are aware that peace is bound to bring a rich harvest to their respective capitalist classes in the way of supplying the ruined world with food, raw material, coal, liquid fuel, various machinery, including railway stock, etc., of all of which they alone and their colonies and Dominions are at present the sole possessors. The sooner, therefore, the world settles down and turns peaceably to the task of reconstruction, the better it will be for them. For this reason, among others, they, and especially America, are not averse from making peace even with Bolshevik Russia “on terms.”

Not so France. She is no better and no worse than her Anglo-Saxon partners, but she is not a World-Power, in spite of her colonies, in the sense in which Britain is or America is going to be. She may get some of the German colonies, she may also obtain a “mandate” for Syria, but that will not make her richer or more powerful because she herself is ruined, her population is decimated, and her own economic needs will have to be met out of British and American resources. Nor can she hope, for the same reason, to take a hand in the remunerative work of reconstruction in Europe. She must make extensive annexations in Europe if her capitalist classes are to get any “compensation” out of the War at all commensurate with the enormous gains of their brethren across the Channel. That is why she wants to lay her hands on the rich Saar Valley and on the entire left bank of the Rhine. In the geographical and economic position in which France is situated these acquisitions would correspond to these which have fallen to the share of Britain and the U.S. One must not forget, also, that, with the disappearance of Russia and Germany, France, the owner of extensive and rich colonies, will now be left tête-a tête with Britain in Europe—a very unpleasant position, as historical experience has shown, particularly as she has no navy worth speaking of, and as every attempt on her part to construct one will only increase Britain’s suspicions and cupidity. For this reason, too, she must be strong in men and resources, or she will become a helpless client of Great Britain after the manner of Portugal or Spain.

It will be seen that it is sheer cant or, at best, lack of intelligence for people to cry out against France, and to contrast her demands with those already satisfied by Britain or America. Her cupidity or moral perversity is not greater than theirs, and those who acquiesce in the gains of the latter two Powers have no business to denounce hers. It is true that France’s demands are more dangerous to the peace of Europe, but the way to combat them lies, not through a capitalist League of Nations from which the two Anglo-Saxon World-Powers will derive the chief benefit, but through the overthrow of the capitalist system which makes such demands and rivalries possible. Down with Imperialism all round—such must be the watchword of Socialists!