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Labor Action, 16 May 1949


Eugene Keller

Readers of Labor Action Take the Floor ...

[One of] Two Criticisms –

(24 April 1949)


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 20, 16 May 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


To the Editor:

Allow me to make the following comment on Hal Draper’s lead article in Labor Action, April 18.

Draper’s article may be summarized to the effect that the United States intends to provoke another Pearl Harbor by means of garrisoning its troops in various “sensitive” areas in Europe, so that a minor incident can speedily be converted into a major conflagration. He cites a number of statements by government spokesmen and quotes N.Y. Times editorials to bear out what he assumes to be present American policy. He concludes by stating: “Opposition to the Third World War now means: Demand the withdrawal of the armed forces of the U.S. from Europe.”

It may or may not be true that Draper has correctly appraised the present intentions of the American government. We don’t know, and cannot know. But it is impossible to formulate an adequate political program unless a far more cautious approach to an evaluation of the situation is made than can be said of Draper’s. Such an approach would certainly have to take account of the vast complexities confronting American policy makers, complexities of which they are, by and large, aware and which make it unlikely that their plans aim at provoking another Pearl Harbor.

Undoubtedly there exist strong pressures, especially within the military sector of the government, which seek a preventive, that is, an early war, which, of course, would include a “Pearl Harbor.” Their chief argument is that Russia is ill-prepared at present; and that war could be ended within one to three months; destruction would be confined, more or less, to Russia. Such and similar military considerations may well weigh heavily; but they cannot outweigh the manifold political considerations which must delay an early war. Moreover, the very concept of a “preventive” war has been rejected repeatedly by such persons as Generals Omar Bradley and Eisenhower. And this, too, for good political reasons.

The American bourgeoisie does not look with equanimity upon the approach of World War III. They are far from confident that “our way of life” can survive in the way it survived the Second World War. There is hardly an edition of a serious newspaper which does not contain expressions by various major or minor spokesmen for varied sectors of American society, foreboding the destruction of civilization unless “peace” can be secured.

Indicative of the prevalent state of mind is the pessimism and soul-searching pervading such meetings as the recent mid-century convocation of the MIT. Indicative are statements such as that recently made by Harold Stassen, Republican presidential candidate and now head of the University of Pennsylvania, deploring the universal apprehension that all will be lost if another war comes.

It is likely that America will “win” the next war; but it will be an island in a world of utter ruin, with vast areas inaccessible due to radioactivity, chemical and biological toxic agents, etc. The European bourgeoisie will have been physically destroyed and its bases of power decimated. Capitalist economy after all needs a modicum of an economic base; such a base, however, will no longer exist anywhere but, possibly, in America.

I do not contend that the American ruling class necessarily shares this view of the world’s future in case of another war; but they are clearly apprehensive over it. Nor do I contend that their apprehension can stop the war from breaking over us; for obviously they are unable either to adopt the radical international policies necessary for this nor can they overcome domestic crises without resort to war. Yet, being increasingly aware of the fact that their existence is at stake, they will not rashly open the sluice gates to pressures which become uncontrollable once released, only to engulf them in swift disaster.

The Atlantic Pact must be viewed with this factor in mind. The pact is the legal instrument for war, but it is not ONLY that: it is designed to forestall Stalinist “revolutions,” such as the one in Czechoslovakia; it is supposed to prevent the forced evacuation of U.S. troops from Berlin, etc., etc. It is a political instrument to prevent the neutralization of Western Europe, to keep the latter within the economic and power orbit of the United States, to thus prevent a rapprochement of Western Europe with Russia (which is entirely feasible, especially on an economic basis), with consequences detrimental to the U.S.

It is highly improbable that the U.S. can defend the continent in case of another war; and this is obviously a major dilemma facing American planners. Yet it is a bitter fact; the next war will be intercontinental in nature. Europe will either be overrun by Russia, or it will remain “neutral,” supplying Russia with whatever it can produce. The $1.1 billion which are being considered for appropriation for military supplies under the Atlantic Pact is a paltry sum compared to America’s own annual outlay of over $15 billion, which probably does not grossly exceed the requirements of modern war preparations. If the N.Y. Times demands, as Draper quotes, “a team of army, navy and air forces strong enough to keep any aggressor in check,” or when it claims that “the fundamental strategic concept is ... that we must at all costs prevent Western Europe from being overrun by a new conqueror ...,” then this can hardly be taken too seriously – except as a token of subjective willingness to make good one’s words with deeds – in the light of: (1) modern warfare; (2) the utter unwillingness of the European peoples to fight; (3) the lack of a place to station the required forces, not excluding Germany. For General Clay’s “boasts,” that the cold invasion had already gotten under way, notwithstanding, it will shortly become politically untenable to continue the military occupation of Germany. (What, after all, are they creating a Western German state for?)

These are some of the salient factors to be considered before the slogan: “Demand the withdrawal of the armed forces of the U.S. from Europe” with which Draper concludes his article, can be taken seriously as an EFFECTIVE political guide.

Eugene Keller

April 24, 1949

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