Source: Fourth International, Vol.10 No.7, August 1949, pp.204-208.
Transcription: Daniel Gaido.
Marked up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
As a result of the Second World War, the United States achieved on a world scale the economic supremacy already enjoyed by the giant monopolies at home. Of the four capitalist powers which once vied with America for trade and markets, for financial hegemony and control of natural resources and the labor power of the multitude of toilers, not one retains its erstwhile “competitive position. England catapulted downward from world preeminence to dependence on the largesse of America. France has been reduced to a fifth-rate power, whose relation to the US now resembles that of a Balkan nation to France in the bygone era. Germany and Japan have been converted info occupied territories. In the long and bloody inter-imperialist struggle for redivision of the earth, the victory of American imperialism is unparalleled in its exclusive and unilateral character.
The world was America’s oyster, but the victory feast had to be postponed. Universal collapse of foreign competitors, allies in the war and enemies alike, was by no means an unmixed blessing. The moorings of capitalism were unloosed on a world scale; everywhere there was collapse, disintegration and upheaval. Britain’s crisis was Asia’s, not America’s opportunity. The peoples did not passively await the arrival of the “democratic” pukka sahib from the new world but seized the occasion to strike out for themselves. China, India, Burma, Malaya and with them the possessions of the French and the Dutch became hotbeds of insurrection, not fertile fields for investment and exploitation.
The effects of the cataclysmic decline of the once-great were felt with equal force on the continent of Europe, The chain snapped at its weakest link in the entire eastern belt of Europe. When Hitler’s New Order came to shipwreck, the corrupt and venal capitalist and landowning class together with their monarchist, militarist, fascist and clerical retainer: who had kept the Balkans in poverty, backwardness and vassalage first to Britain and France and then to Germany – this whole ruling camarilla fled in panic before an upsurge of workers and peasants and the invading Soviet Army. Molotov had promised Roosevelt and Churchill that the Soviet Union would not change the social system in the Balkans, but the transformations which had already occurred made a mockery of his promise. Stalinism could behead a socialist revolution but it could not restore the pre-war capitalist relationships.
In a certain sense, although not on so vast a scale, this collapse of capitalism at its perimeter paralleled the developments that followed in the wake of the First World War and did not take America’s ruler: completely by surprise. The shock came when the virus of decay penetrated to the heart of European capitalism. England – mighty England-came hat in hand to Washington begging for alms. Bevin and Attlee, raised to power by a parliamentary revolution, promised to rescue British capitalism where the Tories had failed, provided American gold saved them from immediate catastrophe. The danger was far more acute on the continent itself. In France and Italy, economic stagnation, inflation and the black market were the acute symptoms of capitalism in its death agony. The masses of the people had given their allegiance to the Socialist and Communist parties. For a long time, power lay in the streets awaiting only the revolutionary leadership to mobilize the masses in action and grasp it.
As the sole remaining bastion of world capitalism powerful enough to hold off the rising tide of socialism, the task before American Big Business was unmistakable. There would be no enjoying the fruits of victory until order was brought out of chaos, until the epidemic of revolution was checked. There was work to be done first – work that would entail the expenditure of billions with few immediate benefits received – the work of counter-revolution. The principal features of this task can be listed in three main headings:
Counter-revolution, world organization under the rule of the dollar, subjugation of the. Soviet Union – these are the three horsemen of the American Apocalypse.
The Truman Doctrine, proclaimed in March 1947, is the great watershed of the foreign policy of the “American Century.” It is usually described as the declaration of the “cold war,” an inadequate and misleading description. The direct cause of the doctrine was not a new expansionist move on the part of Stalin but Britain’s retirement from Greece which brought the State Department face to face with a new situation. Compelled to assume the obligations abdicated by the old policemen of the status quo in Europe and Asia, American diplomacy had to junk its traditional posture of indifference to “Europe’s quarrels” which had been given such high-flown names as “neutrality” and “non-intervention.” Notice was given that the United States was henceforth the guarantor of capitalism on a world scale, that it would confront popular opposition with American gold and American guns, that it would subsidize aid buttress any reactionary regime, no matter how corrupt or anti-democratic its form.
Supplanting Britain in Greece, America had not exchanged the “old ruthless imperialism” for the “democratic way.” Like Britain it supports the bloody House of Glucksberg and a monarcho-fascist regime composed of not a few of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s Quislings who now continued their reign of white terror under American patronage. Trade unions have been suppressed, strikes outlawed, political opponents murdered or deported, wholesale to concentration camps while a tiny group of leeches and parasites have battened off American aid. Here is the prime example of the kind of “democracy” purchased with a quarter of a million American dollars.
Liberals who moan about the form of US intervention in Greece while justifying its purpose are crying for a leopard without its spots. Capitalism is far too decadent to maintain a “democratic” form of government, a task which requires expanding production on a big enough scale to permit raising the living standards of the impoverished ‘masses. No capitalist country with the exception of the United States is now capable of such a program and it is conceivable that its billions could help promote such a program of world reform on one condition: that capitalism ceased to exist in the United States.
The flagrant counter-revolutionary policy pursued in Greece in the name of “protection against communism” and in China at the cost of over two billion dollars has been practiced for years in more subtle and adroit ways by American imperialism in Latin America. By exploiting the resources of these countries while hampering and restraining their industrialization, the Yankee conquistador has perpetuated and aggravated appalling conditions of backwardness, poverty and illiteracy. It has joined hands with feudal landowners, military cliques, capitalist compradors and the church – the only elements who can be relied on to enforce such, a program amidst the hostility of the masses.
The case of Venezuela, a land dominated by giant US oil companies with investments amounting to some two billions, is typical. After a short term in office, the Gallegos regime, composed of an alliance of middle-class parties and the trade unions and elected by a great popular majority in the first democratic vote in several decades, was overthrown by a military coup d’état in December 1948. The oil companies, upon whom the Gallegos regime had levied a 50% profits tax, denied all complicity. But a few days earlier the State Department had extended recognition to a military conspiracy which had overthrown by “force and violence” – mind you! – the legally constituted democratic and avowedly anti-communist government of Peru. Since then recognition has been granted to the army dictatorship in Venezuela although it has effectively smashed all parliamentary institutions and smashed all democratic rights. It is now State Department policy to recognize all such coup d’états.
The continent below the Rio Grande abounds with American arms and military equipment supplied to the reactionary cliques in power at cut-rate prices.
Writing of capitalism in its ascendancy, Marx noted that the advanced capitalist countries hold up a mirror of their future to the backward nations. The decline of capitalism is now turning this law into its opposite. It is not Europe which reflects the future for Latin America but the other way around. Unable to unite, Europe emerged from Hitlerite bondage only to be shackled with the gold chains of the Dollar Empire.
Two world wars and the chronic crisis in between demonstrated that the archaic national divisions in Europe had become an absolute barrier on all further progress. But the unification of Europe is possible, as Trotsky emphasized over and again, only on a socialist basis. Greater even than the prospect of immediate material loss for each national capitalist class is the fear that the lifting of the walls between the states will hasten the socialist revolution. The unification of Europe would result in the unification of the workers in all countries, thus removing national antagonisms and chauvinist prejudices which for generations have been the strongest deterrents to the struggle for socialism.
Desperate German imperialism under Hitler, unable to survive in the asphyxiating atmosphere of a, Balkanized Europe, undertook to smash the national states by force, not however to reorganize the continent on a rational basis but to convert it into a colony of the Third Reich. Nevertheless a Hitlerite “unification” of Europe would have brought into being a powerful economic unit, as threatening to American imperialism as the Napoleonic unification was to the British a century before, and was one of the chief causes of America’s entry into the war.
America hurled its great military and industrial power against Germany under the banner of protecting the “sovereignty” and “independence” of the national states but its real policy was to change the loyalties of the capitalist Quislings or to change the Quislings if they were too discredited by the Swastika to serve under the Stars and Stripes. Fundamentally, the aim was similar to that of Hitler, although where he sought to consolidate Europe by a prison-house unification, America’s imperial sway is maintained by keeping the old continent divided and impotent.
To the previously existing anarchy in Europe, the war added the insanity of east-west division. The natural tendency of west European capitalism, although worried by the spread of Stalin’s influence, was to revive their sagging economies by a resumption of commercial, relations on a large scale with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and other eastern nations. This tendency was brought up short by the determination of the Lords of the Dollar to smash the “buffer zone” by economic penetration on its own terms or to strangle this area by cutting it off from trade and credits. This was the snapper in the Marshall Plan. Confronted with conditions of complete breakdown; frightened by popular upsurge at home, Western Europe acquiesced to Marshall’s proposal.
Now after less than two years of Marshall Plan aid, the member nations are bitterly complaining that while rigidly controlling their trade with Eastern Europe, that while reviving the Ruhr as a fearful competitor, America does not permit any appreciable rise in its own imports and competes aggressively for all overseas markets. Transited into terms of bread and butter, the rations doled out by America to Europe mean the continuation of “austerity’; in England, a wage-freeze at below pre-war levels in France, unemployment in Belgium and near-starvation conditions in Italy.
The total effect of this terrific squeeze, in increasing mass discontent, in sharpening class relations, is to make the ruling groups even more dependent on American imperialism. For Big Business, the program has been a huge success: Western Europe has been temporarily “stabilized” as a satellite, however, not a competitor; it has been “stabilized” politically for the time being by strengthening the forces and means of internal repression against all change and progress. From one end of the world to the other American money and military power are thrown into the scales against the reforms of age-old evils which, would lighten the burden of the poor and exploited.
The breakup of the big landed estates has been opposed in Italy, western Germany and Japan as it is in Latin America. The movement for nationalization of the big German cartels which formed the backbone of the Nazi regime as well as the nationalization of the Zaibatsu monopolies in Japan has not only been resisted but these trusts have been set up in business again, this time however in partnership with American capital. The oil interests, truly bestowing gold-inlaid yachts and other lavish gifts upon the feudal chieftains of the Near East, perpetuate the bondage of the Arab fellahin. Under the terms of the Bell Act which reduces the country to complete economic subservience to Wall Street, Philippine independence is a monstrous hoax.
According to Dorothy Thompson, the same fate is being prepared for the Indonesians once they gain their “freedom” from the Dutch. She writes that an agreement was made in Havana in January 1948 between the Republic of Indonesia and a New York promoter.
“If carried out, it practically would put the whole economy of Indonesia into the hands of an American corporation under conditions whereby the risks would be tarried by the Indonesian Republic and a straight 7½ percent profit guaranteed the corporation.”
The reactionary influence of American imperialism upon the world appears most clearly in the problem of the use of atomic energy. Like the Marshall Plan, the Baruch Plan was presented to the world as the quintessence of American “altruism” and “generosity.” Never, it was said, was such a selfless offer made by a power which had so much to lose. What was this plan?
The US prepared to share its secret with all other countries provided atomic energy facilities beginning with raw materials were placed under the control, of an International Authority, a commission to consist mainly of nuclear experts who at present are primarily Americans. American domination was further to be assured by the abolition of the veto power ‘in the United Nations. The duty of this commission, among others, would be to rigidly limit atomic construction plants so they could not be used for the manufacture of bombs. Those violating this rule would be subject to severe sanctions from the other member nations, up to and including military action.
This restriction in the scope of operations would as effectively paralyze the development of atomic energy for industrial use as, say, limiting the size of a steel industry so that it could not be converted to war production. It is not difficult to see therefore how, through the Baruch Plan, the Big Business oligarchy exploits science and technology to perpetuate that economic backwardness, the root ,cause of the abysmal standard of living which is the fate of the largest part of the population of the world.
One of the chief obstacles to the industrialization of these areas is the lack of adequate power facilities resulting either from lack of capital or from the uneven distribution and monopoly control of power-generating raw materials such as coal and Oil. For these nations, the use of atomic energy as a substitute source of power would mean a great reduction in the cost of production and thus lead to more rapid economic growth. US capitalism, on the other hand, has no urgent need for new means of power. With 7 percent of the world population, the US has now 25 percent of coal power, 60 percent of oil, 100 percent of natural gas and 40 percent of water power. The savings made by the use of atomic energy, estimated by atomic scientists as 2 percent of the national income, would not compensate for the losses incurred by displacing such huge capital aggregates as the coal industry. Meanwhile the greater development of power facilities in other countries through the use of atomic energy would tend to undermine America’s dominant economic position as well as its competitive advantages. Big Business needs the atom for bombs not fuel; for fear, not hope.
The North Atlantic Pact is the third prong of America’s foreign policy. What was implicit in the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan is given explicit formulation and meaning and is implemented by concrete measures in the terms of America’s first peacetime military alliance.
The avowed purpose of the Truman Doctrine was the “containment” of communism. The Pact now obligates the signatories to intervene directly to put down a popular uprising in any of the member nations.
The purpose of ECA grants, far from envisaging any permanent or long-range benefits in improving the economic situation of the nations involved, was to stabilize them sufficiently so they could be developed as bases in the expected war with the Soviet Union. The North Atlantic Pact clears away any doubt there may have been on that score.
In, fact, it is not at all excluded that under growing crisis conditions in the US the tendency already manifest in important government circles to replace economic by military aid will gain the upper hand. The terrific pressure brought to bear upon little Denmark and Norway to force them into the alliance was intended as an object lesson that the price of economic assistance is subordination to America’s military policy.
The choice before the signatory nations to the Pact was one of the most macabre in history: to be strangled ‘economically by American sanctions or to become the battle ground of atomic warfare between the US and the USSR. The one desperate hope of capitalism in Europe is that Washington will be able to force Stalin into acceptance of its terms without resort to arms. Yet the terms of this “settlement” are such, that despite the most unremitting diplomatic, military and economic pressure, it is unlikely that their hope will ever be realized.
We turn to Walter Lippman, who is an authoritative if unofficial spokesman of US foreign policy, for a blunt statement of the strategy of the “cold war” which is, he says, “to prevent Russia from expanding her sphere, to prevent her from consolidating it, and to compel her to contract it.” In brief what is demanded is so complete a capitulation as to place in jeopardy the very existence of the Soviet Union itself.
But even were all developments within the Soviet Union as well as in the world at large to favor such a development – and that is hardly the case today – America’s rulers are increasingly crowded for time. The depression now beginning is planted like a time-bomb under all their plans and under their world empire. To save itself, capitalism will not hesitate to plunge into the catastrophe of war. Barring vast revolutionary upheavals, no miracle will save Europe from the third Armageddon.
On the contrary, our 60 Families, like the Perfidious Albion, are prepared to fight to the last Frenchman, Italian, German and in addition – every Briton. Representative Cannon’s atom-brandishing speech in Congress, where he proposed to use “other nation’s boys” in the war against the USSR, was brushed aside by the smooth-talkers of the State Department as an aboriginal eccentricity from the hills of Missouri. In truth, it was good official doctrine borrowed from Roosevelt who embraced the fascist Admiral Darlan and Marshall Badoglio to “save” American lives; borrowed from Truman who ordered the atomic carnage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, presumably also to save American lives but in reality to prevent the vanquished Japanese government from surrendering to the Russians instead of to MacArthur.
But for the unceasing barrage of democratic demagogy, but for the detestable image of Stalinist totalitarianism, who could be deceived that the oligarchs of industry and finance, a tiny band of ruthless, arrogant men whose rise to power is studded with frame-ups like Haymarket, Tom Mooney, Sacco and Vanzetti, with the victims of the Ludlow Massacre, with the lynched and mutilated corpses of Frank Little and Wesley Everest, with private armies, Pinkertons, murdering deputy sheriffs, lynch mobs, injunction judges, not to speak of the generations of premeditated humiliation and violence practiced against 12 million Negro citizens from the cradle to the grave – who could be deceived, that the practitioners of Taft-Hartleyism, witch-hunting, thought-control, are engaged in the business of “exporting” democracy abroad or will conduct a war to extirpate totalitarianism?
It is a fundamental postulate of Marxism that the character of the war is determined by the class nature of the, state conducting it. But one need not be a Marxist to understand that the psychology of a ruling class, which has accumulated so vast a hoard of wealth creating a fathomless gulf between the tiny crust at the top and the mass of the people, is one of fear, hatred and distrust of all democratic methods. In this sense, the difference between the Stalinist autocrats and their American rivals is one of degree: the parasites must resort to more brutal methods to maintain their privileges in poverty-ridden Russia. But the difference begins to fade once the plutocracy is faced, with similar substandard conditions as in Greece or China.
The bitter regret recently expressed by Winston Churchill that “bolshevism was not strangled in its infancy,” that is, at a time when the Soviet Republic enjoyed greater popular approval by the millions of its citizens than any other government in the world, shows in a flash how hypocritical is the feigned indignation over the usurping police-state rule of Stalin. Who were Churchill’s and Wilson’s candidates for the role of strangler? Not toothless democrats like Kerensky but the prototypes of Franco and Hitler – the White Guard Generals Kolchak, Denikin and Wrangel and the Black Hundreds leader Petlura. “A Soviet Union enjoying freedom of thought and inquiry,” said Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, “would be a far more dangerous foe” than the present totalitarian rulers. Class differences, property relationships, not the political form of government in the Soviet Union, are driving the capitalist world to a second intervention.
The lackeys of the State Department on the staff of the New Leader and in the unions loudly dispute these indisputable facts pointing triumphantly to the Labour Government in England and to the Social Democratic coalition regimes in France, Italy, Belgium and Holland. They deceive themselves and others. The participation of social democrats in European governments is the sign of weakness of leadership of the revolutionary proletariat and not of the strength of bourgeois democracy or of the intentions of our rulers. It occurs in the ebb flow of the revolutionary tide and not as the beginning of a new period of stability marked by reforms and steady improvement in the standard of living.
American imperialism needs the social democracy for the same reason that German capitalism needed them after the First World War in the period between the fall of the Hohenzollerns and the rise of Hitler: to curb the upsurge of the masses, to emasculate their combativity and class strength while the military and fascist forces gather strength and await the appropriate moment to take the helm of government.
It is not necessary to go behind the scenes for evidence of this press. Social democracy is only one of the tools of US imperialism – the other is the Vatican, Instruments of big landowning and capitalist interests, Catholic parties share power in all the governments of western Europe and through them there is a steady infiltration of fascist-type elements into key positions in the government, the police, the army and navy. The social democracy is merely one link in America’s chain which is connected through the Vatican with the would-be Francos and the men on horseback.
What is obscured in France and Italy is plainly revealed in the defeated nations, Germany and Japan: occupied by American troops and dominated, by military governments. The allies of the State Department in these countries are the cartelists and bankers who financed Hitler and the Zaibatsu monopolists who buttressed the Japanese militarists.
In Germany, with the connivance and assistance of Clay, Draper and company the denazification purge became a giant swindle. Government positions are now honeycombed with former Nazis and it his, become a popular saying that an anti-Hitlerite past is a liability in obtaining employment.
In Japan a great popular movement rose up in the wake of defeat to make an end to the hated regime. Its chief opponent was MacArthur whose maneuvers and decrees saved Hirohito from the scrapheap, gave the political tools of the Zaibatsu and the landowners a new base of operations, broke strikes, checked the union movement which had grown to six million members. Thus under MacArthur’s loving care, the Old Japan, cracked by war and on the brink of social revolution, is slowly coming back to life.
These melancholy results of “education in democracy” have caused no little anguish among the liberals. The problem of the State Department, however, was one of politics not of pedagogy. Since it was too costly to maintain Germany and Japan in the position of economic deserts, they forced a class choice in deciding what native forces would supersede the occupation – the anti-fascist and pro-socialist masses or the fascist-minded former capitalist rulers – a choice which they found little difficulty in making.
Once the coast is clear for a switch to recognition of Franco and his participation in the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Pact, the great “democratic” alignment” of the American Empire for its holy war against totalitarianism will be complete: Latin American militarists and dictators, monarco-fascists in Greece, clerical-fascists in Portugal, fascist industrialists and landowners in Italy, Nazi cartelists in Germany, princes and monopolists in Japan – an alignment blessed by the Vatican and supported by social democracy.
Last updated on 5.7.2005