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The New International, February 1938


A Review of the Month

From New International, Vol.4 No.2, February 1938, pp.35-40.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Five Years of the New Deal: From Crisis to Profits to Depression – Roosevelt Meets with the Economic Royalists – The New Budget: The Largest War Appropriations in America’s Peace History The Revealing Debate Over the Ludlow Resolution for a Popular Referendum on War – The Totalitarian Arguments of the Defenders of Democracy – The Revolutionary Position on the Ludlow Bill – The “Robinson-Rubens” Case

FIVE YEARS OF THE New Deal have proved President Roosevelt to be a zealous and effective executive of American capitalism. If the interests of the latter have compelled him to encroach from time to time upon the preserves of an individual capitalist or even a group of capitalists, his course has nevertheless been dictated by a concern to restore the prosperity of the ruling class and to save its social regime. Thus far he has succeeded in fulfilling his task, a fact which is not in the least nullified by the criticisms levelled at him in the past by the big industrialists of the country. Their grumblings are an essential part of the political mechanics by means of which the Administration functions and is controlled. Their complaints about what they consider the unnecessarily large overhead costs expended in the process of maintaining their profits and their rule – costs represented by Roosevelt’s social reforms, governmental spending and the like – are a necessary background for the President’s social demagogy and an anticipatory check upon “excesses”.

In this connection, the figures recently made public by Assistant Attorney-General Robert H. Jackson are quite interesting. In his address of December 29 before the American Political Science Association, this Presidential spokesman asked opponents from the right to temper their criticism in light of the significant “profit record of ‘big business’ under the ‘cooperative’ Administration of President Hoover and the ‘hostile’ Administration of President Roosevelt”. The estimates presented by Mr. Jackson are contained in the following table:


Profit ( + ) and Deficit ( – )
(in $)




Building materials:


United States Gypsum Company






Certain-Teed Products





Pittsburgh Plate Glass



Owens-Illinois Company



Mail-order houses:


Montgomery Ward


(Jan. 31, 1936)

Montgomery Ward


(Jan. 31, 1937)

Sears Roebuck


(Jan. 29, 1936)

Sears Roebuck


(Jan. 1, 1937)



E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company



American Cyanamid Company



Monsanto Chemical Company



Communications :


Western Union

     – 42,596


Heavy machinery:


Fairbanks Morse



Briggs Manufacturing Company



Worthington Pump Company



Mesta Machine Company



Farm implements:


International Harvester



J.I. Case Company



Deere & Co





American Woolen Company



Ludlow Manufacturing Associates










United States Steel Corporation



Crucible Steel Corporation



National Steel Corporation



Jones & Laughlin Corporation



Other metals:


Anaconda Copper Mining Company



American Smelting & Refining Co.





Chrysler Corporation



General Motors Corporation





Phillips Petroleum Company



Sun Oil Company



Electrical supplies:


Westinghouse Elec





Roosevelt Meets the Economic Royalists

WHILE THE PRESENT Administration has helped to lift American capitalism out of the depths reached during the regime of the Great Engineer, it has not succeeded in abolishing the iron laws governing the capitalist mode of production or its inevitable economic consequences. It did not and could not set itself such a task. The income of the masses has not kept pace with the rise in the national income, as a result of which the social standard of living of the workers has not been raised but lowered. Nor has the purchasing power of the masses kept pace with the increased productivity of labor. Like every other boom, therefore, the Roosevelt boom has only served as a prelude for a sharper crisis. The present “recession”, which may be succeeded by a brief rise before breaking out into a full-blooded crisis, only shows how unstable is the economic equilibrium attained under Roosevelt. The apologists for Roosevelt who, like the eminent economists of the Communist party, explain away the familiar phenomenon of capitalist production which re-appeared a few months ago with the precipitate fall in securities on the Stock Exchange and was immediately accompanied by mass lay-offs in industry and the launching of a wage-cut drive, by reference to a “sit-down strike” by “wicked” capitalists, are apologists for capitalism itself.

Roosevelt’s real concern was immediately shown by his conferences with gentlemen who bore a suspicious resemblance to those Economic Royalists and Tories against whom he has so valiantly taken the oratorical field in the past. When Mr. Lammot du Pont, one of the outstanding Princes in the House of America’s Economic Royalty, declared darkly to the Senate Committee on Unemployment on January 10 that “it is evident that we are in a pronounced recession”; when he added in a none too indirect manner that “industry” chafes under the capital gains tax, the undistributed profits tax, big taxes in general and, above all, the lack of “industrial peace”, he was only suggesting the broad outlines of the coming Administration program. That his was no isolated voice was shown by the echo of his proposals in the statement presented to Roosevelt by his Business Advisory Council.

“Renewed prosperity” demands a continual shifting of the growing tax burden upon the shoulders of the middle classes and the workers. It demands “labor responsibility” which, translated into English, means tearing all the bones of militancy and independence out of the labor movement and reducing it to a gelatinous mass easily molded to conform with the pattern of capitalism’s interests. The fact that John L. Lewis is such an indispensable part of Roosevelt’s conferences with Big Business shows how essential to capitalism is class collaboration in the labor movement and what a disastrous danger to the working class is represented by the present trade union bureaucracy and its policies. The moment when the trade union movement must be more vigilant than ever in defending itself and the living standards of the workers from capitalist attack, is precisely the one chosen by the leadership of both the AF of L and the CIO for closer collaboration with the arch-representatives of labor’s enemies.

The New Roosevelt Budget

THE BUDGET SUBMITTED by the President shows the direction in which the government is moving. For the fiscal year of 1939, estimated receipts from income taxes are reduced by almost $280,000,000 from the estimate for the preceding year – generous relief for the ruling class. Expenditures for public works for 1939 total only $619,500,000, the lowest figure since 1934, more than a quarter of a billion dollars less than last year and almost half a billion dollars less than the year before. Direct unemployment relief – in a period of growing unemployment – is drastically reduced to $35,900,000, little more than one-fourth of last year’s allotment and barely one-tenth of what was spent in the fiscal year of 1933, when Roosevelt took office. Work relief expenditures for 1939 are lower than the 1938 figure by almost a third of a billion dollars, and expenditures for the CCC are reduced by more than one-fourth.

At the same time, the war (euphemistically called “defense”) budget is to be the largest in the post- or pre-war history of the United States. When Herbert Hoover declared that “We are leading the arms race”, he was merely stating a fact. In his budget proposals on January 5, Roosevelt asked for appropriations for the Army, Navy and the Marine Corps for the fiscal year of 1939 totalling the stupendous sum of $1,010,835,187, an increase of more than $77,000,000 over 1938 and of more than the $157,000,000 odd actually spent in 1937. In addition to the regular budget, Roosevelt is expected to demand shortly a supplementary $125,-000,000 for the navy, since there has not been, after January 1, 1938, when the London Naval Treaty expired, any theoretical limitation upon American naval expansion. Two weeks after his budget message, the House Appropriations Committee recommended an appropriation of $553,266,494 in reporting the annual Naval Supply Bill for the year ending June 30, 1939, the largest bill since 1921 and an increase of $26,723,186 over current appropriations.

John T. Flynn, the liberal economist, is substantially right when he says in a recent issue of the New Republic (Jan. 5, 1938):

Statement No.1: The President is preparing to lead the country into a vast program of armament as a means of spending money to avert another depression – houses for the dogs of war rather than the mutts of peace. Statement No.2: He is preparing deliberately to sell to this country a war scare as a prelude to the armament program. Statement No.3: He is attempting to shift the psychological reactions of the nation to the patriotic motif in order to distract attention from the disintegrating economic situation. Statement No.4: One reason for this is to build up the attitude embodied in the slogan “Stand by the President” – a trap into which the inept Mr. Landon leaps head first. This is to be the President’s chief resistance to the clamor for investigations of his regime which will presently become insistent.

But more than all this is involved. The larger “defense” budget is not merely calculated to avert a depression and to achieve that one-sided prosperity which England has attained [1] with her more than seven billion dollar five-year armaments campaign. Nor is the whole story told by saying that the “war scare” was but a prelude to the armament program.

The American bourgeoisie, like its Chief Executive, knows it must expand beyond its frontiers, enslave the world, or collapse after a series of strangulating crises. Not only is its foreign trade inadequate but from the standpoint of colonial power and spheres of influence abroad the United States belongs rather among the “have-nots” than among the “haves”. Given the present partition of the world market, the eyes of American imperialism gaze longingly at the Far East. Japan’s conquest of China means not only the end of the latter’s doubtful national independence – about which US imperialism is precious little concerned – but the closing of a door leading to a great field for American economic expansion. Sooner or later, the United States will speak a decisive language to Japan (and eventually to England!) – the language of arms – in settling the question of mastery of the Pacific and the Far East. That is why there is not merely a “war scare” but a real and increasingly acute war danger. Neither the Soviet Union, for its part, nor Great Britain, is prepared to engage Japan in conflict, for both know that the conclusive force in the Far East is, or will be, the United States. And the latter, quite conscious of its imperialist interests and objectives, is deliberately preparing to display that force.

That is the reason for the joint manoeuvres of the Philippine Islands’ Commonwealth Army and the Philippine Department of the United States Army (a total of some 50,000 armed men) which began on January 10 and were to last two weeks. That is the reason why three American cruisers are going, first, to Sydney on the Sesquicentennial of the founding of the Australian Commonwealth, and then, to attend the ceremonies at the opening of the new British naval base at Singapore on February 14. That is the reason why, for two months after that, the United States will have the largest naval manoeuvres in its history, over an area of several million square miles of the Eastern Pacific, westward from California to Hawaii and Midway and southward from Alaska and the Aleutians to Samoa, with about 175 men-of-war, 500 fighting planes, and about 50,000 to 60,000 men.

It is absurd to think that the war budget, or the navy, or its manoeuvres are planned for the “defense” of the soil of the United States from an “aggressor”. Leaving aside for a moment the utterly false division of imperialist bandits into “aggressors” and “defenders” (scholars all over the world, poring over documents for more than twenty years, are still at odds or uncertain about who “started” the World War), there is no responsible personage who seriously believes that the United States is liable to a real danger of invasion from a foreign power. Hugh S. Johnson has stated that “There is no great power that could invade continental United States”. Major-General Douglas McArthur has called an attack on American ports impossible. The late Admiral William S. Sims said that no foreign power or group of powers could operate across the oceans and stand a chance in combat with forces operating from the home base. Smedley D. Butler is authority for the statement that an invading nation would have to bring over a million men and use 7,500,000 tons of ocean-going craft to transport supplies, whereas the whole merchant marine of the world, including that of the US, totals only 3,500,000 tons. Even Mauritz Hallgren, an adversary of the Ludlow amendment and scarcely suspect of “Trotskyism”, basing himself on the records of the American Expeditionary Forces, writes in the New York Times (Dec. 26, 1937) that “an expedition of a hundred thousand men would require a transport fleet not including auxiliary vessels and naval escort of a hundred and twenty to two hundred ships. It would take a minimum of six weeks to land such an expedition”.

By its very nature, the American navy is an instrument for the protection of imperialist interests; the increased naval budget is a means of assuring aggressive imperialist expansion, particularly in the Far East. And whoever endorses it, openly or tacitly – as is the case with the Stalinists, who have not uttered one single word of criticism of the Roosevelt armament budget, not one! – is pledging his support in advance to the coming war of imperialist conquest by the United States.

Moreover, whoever supports the policy enunciated by Roosevelt in his “Quarantine the aggressor” address in Chicago, is supporting in reality the policy of keeping a foreign imperialist pirate in check so that the treasures of his victim may become the booty of “our own” imperialist pirate. Whoever hails Roosevelt’s departure from “isolationism” as a welcome step towards “internationalism”, as the launching of a “democratic” crusade of the “peace-loving” powers against the “fascist aggressors”, is enlisting in reality in the army of conquest of the American ruling class. Its pretensions to sublimity of motive and objective are mendacious and deceitful. If Captain Kidd had quit his “isolation” policy of exploiting the Spanish Main and sent his marauding galleons to “quarantine” the Algerian pirate “aggressors” off the North African coast, and done it in the noble name of the “Freedom of the Seas”, he would have to be written down today by our ardent advocates of “collective security” as one of the most peace-loving and democratic corsairs that ever scuttled a bottom or slit a throat.

The Debate on the Ludlow Bill

THE DEBATE AROUSED BY Representative Louis I. Ludlow’s resolution to provide constitutionally for a national referendum before Congress can declare war upon another country, unless the territory of the United States is actually invaded, has been infinitely more revealing than a thousand rolling periods by the President about how “I hate war!” or Jackson Day speeches about “the battle to restore and maintain the moral integrity of democracy”.

1. The first observation about the debate is the fact that the Ludlow resolution is overwhelmingly popular among the masses. When Mr. Harry Cannes, in whom moral depravity vies with political duplicity, both of which qualify him as chief Trotsky-baiter of the Daily Worker, suggests in his paper (on Jan. 18, 1938) that only the Nazis, the Italian Fascists, the Trotskyists and Lovestoneites lament the defeat of the Ludlow resolution, he is simply indulging a congenital and well-paid proneness to fabrication. Apart from the detail that the “Trotskyists” are not, as he writes, “advocates of the Ludlow amendment”, the fact is that the great majority of the people, especially the war-hating, democracy-loving, anti-fascist masses, are supporters of the Ludlow resolution and have nothing but a perfectly well-founded suspicion of its vociferous antagonists, the Stalinists included. A recent poll of the Institute of Public Opinion, which has an impressive record in its field, showed that 72 percent of the American people favored the Ludlow amendment. Numerous large and small pacifist organizations – the National Council for Prevention of War, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Emergency Peace Campaign, etc. – many of which only yesterday worked elbow to elbow with the Stalinists in their Leagues For or Against One Thing or Another, and are even today scarcely suspect of Nazi influence, are supporting the Ludlow amendment. The International Executive Board of the United Automobile Workers Union, voted unanimously (Stalinists too!) to support the amendment. Similar action has been taken by the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, the National Farmers’ Union and countless other organizations.

Furthermore, in the voting in the House on January 10, the progressives of both parties, with few exceptions, voted for the amendment, while the conservatives, the machine-men and the reactionaries, as a rule, voted against it (almost half the Democratic votes against the amendment came from the not very revolutionary Solid South). For the amendment, which Mr. Cannes considers a fascist blow to peace and democracy, were Representatives like Coffee (Wash.), whom the Daily Worker has on other occasions called part of “the rising generation who stand for progress”. All five Farmer-Labor Congressmen from Minnesota – Bernard, Buckler, Johnson, Kvale, Teigan – whom Hathaway the day before called “the best of the Progressives”, voted with the defeated minority. The whole LaFollette Progressive group – Amlie, Boileau, Gehrmann, Hull, Sauthoff, Schneider, Withrow (Wise.) and Havenner (Calif.) – voted the same way; so did Dunn (Penn.), Mrs. O’Day (N. Y.), Biermann (Ia.), Voorhis (Calif.) ; and with the exception of Maverick (Texas) and Scott (Calif.), so did virtually all the others who work together, more or less, in the House Progressive bloc. Support of the amendment by such accidental figures as Hamilton Fish was given on purely demagogic grounds and need not be taken seriously.

2. On the other hand, the opposition to the proposed amendment was doubly revealing. It not only showed how solidly aligned against it were all the groups of imperialism and reaction, but it also showed that in the question of foreign policy and above all of war, which is so vital and crucial to capitalist imperialism, the profit-hunting bourgeoisie is unanimously prepared to entrust its interests and fate to the present Administration. Mr. Walter Lippmann, who is not quite the most zealous supporter of Roosevelt, puts this point exactly and significantly when he writes in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Jan. 8, 1938):

However much opinion may be divided on domestic policies, in regard to American foreign policy there is today a greater unity of opinion than at any time since the end of the World War ... The President, who has an instinctive sense of the realities in foreign affairs, will have no difficulty in persuading the people that to increase the strength of the American navy is to take the one most effective means toward preserving the peace.

Against the amendment, and fighting it tenaciously if not with ferocity, stood virtually the entire big bourgeois press of the country. The New York Times and its main Washington correspondent Mr. Arthur Krock, returned to the lists tune and again. The New York Herald-Tribune, organ of the Liberty League, of the Economic Royalists, of the Tories, of Wall Street, of Landon and Hoover, called by the Daily Worker “the most embittered organ of fascist-minded Toryism in America”, joined hands on this issue with its contemporary near Union Square. Herbert Hoover spoke to the Women’s National Republic Club on a nation-wide hook-up against it; Alfred Landon hastened to wire Roosevelt his sentiments of solidarity and expressed his categorical opposition to the amendment; Roosevelt’s Cordell Hull and Hoover’s Henry L. Stimson united their voices in denunciation; Daniel J. Doherty, National Commander of the American Legion, assailed the amendment and exerted his organization’s pressure upon the “veterans’ bloc” in the house to defeat it, just as Clarence Hathaway, editor of the Daily Worker, announced in his paper that he had exerted pressure on the “progressive bloc” to act likewise.

3. Not only was Roosevelt personally summoned to intervene with a special message, read in the House by Speaker Bankhead, in order to whip laggards and doubters into line, but a detestable lynch spirit was kindled to gain a majority against the amendment. Representative Celler baldly suggested a Nazi origin for the whole idea. Even the dignified Speaker of the House declared just before the vote:

I think it is reasonable to assume that there are forces in this country – alien influences – that are aiding and abetting the “war referendum” movement to let certain countries in the world believe that this democracy is not standing behind its constitutional rights in national defense. (NY Times, Jan. 8. 1938.)

For a while, the almost forgotten days were significantly back again, the days of 1917 when the gentlest inquiring voice was drowned with the lynch cry: “An agent of the Kaiser!” How eloquently the hysteria forecasts the days ahead, when the next War for Democracy breaks out!

4. The fourth observation about the debate is that all those who have thus far spoken up against the Ludlow amendment, all the supporters of imperialist war – and they range all the way from the Liberty Leaguers through the New Dealers to the Communist Party – disclose their awareness that the coming war, which they all rightly regard as inevitable, will not be fought for the defense of American territory from invasion, but will be fought abroad for the defense of American imperialist interests or for their extension into fields now dominated by other powers.

Put tersely by the President in his message to Speaker Bankhead, the argument reads:

Such an amendment to the Constitution as that proposed would cripple any President in his conduct of our foreign relations, and it would encourage other nations to believe that they could violate American rights with impunity. (NY Post, Jan. 10, 1938.)

Or, in expanded form, the argument is presented thus by the Stalinists:

... it would tie the hands of the United States government in striving to achieve already democratically expressed desires of the American people for maintaining peace. It would be an instrument to AID FASCISM by lessening American influence, activity and cooperation in those spheres where fascism was lighting the fires of world war ... [Passage of the amendment would mean] To intensify the danger of a world war, by encouraging the fascists ... to give advance notice to Japan in China and to the fascist interveners in Spain that they could extend their aggression because the American people had diverted their peace efforts from the international sphere. (Daily Worker, Jan. 18, 1938.)

Finally, the statement of Democratic Congressman Sam McRey-nolds (Tenn.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that

the Japanese have got the impression that regardless of what we do or say diplomatically the American people will in no circumstances use force to see that their rights are maintained. (Daily Worker, Dec. 28, 1937.)

The whole argument, on the lips of Landon, Roosevelt and Cannes, is reduced to this: Neither we nor the Japanese have any reason to believe that the American masses will vote for a war; and unless we have the unrestricted power to threaten our enemies with war and to declare it at the proper time, “American rights” (Roosevelt) or our “peace efforts” (Cannes) will be rendered ineffective.

Now, the Ludlow resolution does not pretend to deal with “American rights” in the United States, for Mr. Ludlow provides that in defense of them Congress still has the power to declare war without popular referendum. The only other “rights” of Americans are those presumably existing abroad. But what “rights” or interests have the American masses abroad? Do they demand the “right” of American gunboats like the Panay to be used to escort the Meiping, Meihsia and Melon, three Standard Oil vessels? Or the right to protect the billions of dollars invested abroad by American capitalism, and used to squeeze profits out of the masses of Europe, Latin America and Asia? Are those the “rights” and interests which Rep. McReynolds proposes to “use force”, that is, war, in order to protect? They are, for the simple reason that there are no other.

And the struggle against fascism abroad? the Stalinists ask. Yes, that is necessary. But we do not entrust this task to the ruling class of any bourgeois country or to its government or to their wars. The idea cultivated by the Stalinists that the American capitalist class will go to war for the defense of democracy and the curbing of fascism, is a perfidious, fraudulent, corrupting idea, put forth only by paid scribes of imperialism – or of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Only an utterly ignorant person or a noisome scoundrel would say that the bourgeoisie of the US and its government, which, in Latin America alone, are both the props and the masters of a dozen bestial dictatorships, will conduct any progressive or democratic war, worthy of the workers’ support, will conduct any but a war for plunder and imperialistic power, that is, a reactionary war.

5. The very arguments made by the imperialists, far from being democratic, are distinctly and specifically totalitarian in substance. They reduce themselves to this: When we, the bourgeoisie, have decided in favor of war, we want an absolutely united people behind us; we want no criticism, no discussion, no opposition. The “defenders” of democracy against fascism thus begin their crusade with weapons taken right out of the arsenal of fascist totalitarianism!

For example, National Commander Doherty of the American Legion argues that the amendment would be

... productive of dissension and confusion and in the final analysis result in a divided nation. At best [!!], the decision would be a majority one. The proposed amendment implies lack of confidence on the part of our people in their Congressional representatives. This is not in accord with the facts. Other nations would readily interpret it as a sign of weakness. (NY Times, Jan. 10, 1938.)

A veritable masterpiece! “At best”, you see, only a majority would vote for war. And “at worst” – they would vote against war, which, apparently, is the rub. It would show a “divided nation”, that is, it would show the reality that exists and which the Dohertys want to suppress in advance. But if the “Congressional representatives” really represent the people – and if they do not, they have, it would seem, no right to legislate for them – would they not also show a “divided nation” when the question of war came up, for they would presumably reflect the differences (the “dissension”) existing among the population? Is that not, therefore, as sound a reason against taking a “referendum” of Congress before war is declared? Is that not, therefore, a sound argument for leaving the question of war or peace entirely in the hands of the Führer-President?

The arguments from all opponents are, we repeat, totalitarian. The “democratic” New York Times, in one of its several editorials (Dec. 16, 1937) against the resolution, wrote that “the very act of holding such a referendum” would be

... to destroy an essential sense of unity and to advertise to all the world such differences of opinion as existed within the nation on a crucial question.

The foreign editor of the “liberal” Scripps-Howard chain, Mr. William Phillips Simms, sings from the same notes:

The referendum over, and the ballots counted, the figures would be of inestimable value to the enemy, whichever way the votes went. They would provide an official count of exactly how many Americans were for war and how many for peace at any price. And the enemy would proceed accordingly. (NY World-Telegram, Jan. 10, 1938.)

The Hoover Secretary of State, Mr. Stimson, goes even further. To his mind (NY Times, Dec. 22,1937), the “mere bringing forward” of the idea of the popular referendum is already a breach in the totalitarian front because “it may be regarded among our neighbor nations as indicating weakness of national policy and behavior at a time when stability and steadfastness are preeminently required”.

What could be clearer? All these illustrious democrats are serving notice that when war breaks out (if not before!), the most brutal regime of suppression, gagging, hounding and lynching of opponents of war and advocates of peace will be instituted and only one-party (the pro-war party) elections will be permitted. For would not the continued existence of anti-war, pro-peace organizations, press and assemblies also “advertise to the world” Doherty’s “divided nation”? And would not the running of election candidates by an anti-war, pro-peace party and the casting of votes for that party during a war provide, as Mr. Liberal Simms says, “an official count of exactly how many Americans were for war and how many for peace”?

How tiny a gust of wind is required to raise the shabby garment of democratic pretensions of American capitalism and its lackeys and to disclose beneath it the iron-shod hoof of brutal, intolerant imperialist dictatorship!

And what a flush of shame would burn the cheeks of the “democratic” and Stalinist prostitutes of imperialism, were they any longer capable of such virtuous reactions, at the thought that a Bourbon like Herbert Hoover had to point out that “those who would have us again go to war to save democracy might give a little thought to the likelihood that we would come out of any such struggle a despotism ourselves”. And Mr. Hoover, who helped recruit cannon fodder for the last War to Save Democracy, is in a position to know.

6. A final observation on the debate is necessary and most illuminating. Not only is the United States supposed to be a Great Democracy but, according to the Stalinists, it is called upon to preserve democracy, that is, the rule of the people, where it is now imperilled. Ignoring, or ignorant of, the true character of US “democracy”, the sponsors of the Ludlow resolution proposed that the people shall indeed have the democratic and final word on the life-and-death question of war. Whereupon the imperialists curtly retorted:

Stop deluding yourselves and others about so important a question as war! What we call “democracy” may be all right for normal, quiet times. But in critical periods, talk about “democracy” is a nuisance and a burden. Do not imagine for a moment that even if your amendment were part of the Constitution, we would allow your damned “people” to have anything to do with declaring war or not. War is not caused by “declaring” it. As Lenin used to emphasize: War is the continuation of politics by other (i. e., forcible) means. Or as our own Mr. Stimson recently paraphrased this perfectly correct thought: “International war is merely the final act of a long drawn-out national policy, the product of many prior decisions and the weighing of many divergent considerations.” If our national policy brings us to war tomorrow, there will be war, amendment or no amendment, democracy or no democracy.

This perfectly cynical and no less accurate revelation of the real and not juridical relationship between imperialist war and democracy, is coolly made by Mr. Walter Lippmann, who assumes for a moment that the Ludlow resolution has become constitutional:

Suppose, for example, that instead of wanting to prevent a war, Mr. Roosevelt wanted a war with Japan: what could he do under the Ludlow resolution? He could do what Japan has done in China, what Italy did in Ethiopia and in Spain. He could go to war without asking Congress to declare war. There is nothing in the Ludlow amendment to stop him. He could still break off diplomatic relations. He could still mobilize the American Nary across the Japanese trade routes. He could land more marines at Shanghai. He could send warships up the Yangtze River. He could fire on Japanese airplanes. How would Mr. Ludlow prevent that? Did not President Wilson bombard and seize Vera Cruz, did he not send an army under General Pershing deep into Mexico, all without a declaration of war by Congress, much less a popular referendum?

If an American President wants to go to war, he can go to war no matter what the Ludlow amendment says. (NY Herald-Tribune, Dec. 18, 1937.)

Mr. Ludlow, says Lippmann, you are merely proposing to put a special premium upon imperialist hypocrisy and dictatorial despotism, and you are deceiving yourself in the bargain.

The Marxists and the Ludlow Bill

OF THE RADICAL LABOR groups, both the Lovestoneites and Norman Thomas and his Socialist Call have endorsed the Ludlow resolution, the former supporting it a little shamefacedly and the latter flatly. Neither one of them represents the standpoint of revolutionary Marxism in the matter. Neither one, that is, represents the interests of a consistent proletarian struggle against imperialist war.

The first point to bear in mind is that reactionary imperialist opposition to the Ludlow resolution does not necessarily signify that revolutionists should support it, any more than, let us say, fascist opposition to capitalist democracy should determine our support of it. Just because Lovestone and Thomas, or even the trade unions in general, are in the camp of petty bourgeois pacifism today, is no reason why the revolutionary Marxists should join them.

The war which the working class must conduct against imperialist war is not furthered by pacifist or middle class illusions; it is hindered by them. One of the roads along which the masses are led into imperialist war is paved with good petty bourgeois pacifist intentions. Let the opportunists of the Lovestone school, who know better, or of the Thomas school, who never knew better, travel this road and seek to drag the working class along with them. The revolutionary Marxists have learned from the great experiences of the class struggle that the working class cannot be led forward a single step unless it is told the truth, which may not be popular at the moment. The workers cannot advance and become more conscious of their position and their role in society unless we speak out what is.

Where pacifist nostrums are not outright frauds and deceptions, they are pernicious illusions which drug the masses into pleasant dreams and hallucinations and paralyze their fighting power. To teach the masses that they can “prevent war” by a popular referendum is to foster a disastrous illusion among them. The honest pacifists foster it unwittingly; Lovestone, who, as has been said, knows better, fosters it deliberately out of habitual opportunistic considerations.

The Ludlow resolution nurtures the absurd idea that there can be a distinction among imperialist antagonists between “aggressor” and “defender”. This spurious distinction is cleverly put forth by each imperialist power in its own country for the purpose of winning the support of the masses for the war. The workers must learn that regardless of which imperialist power seems to strike the first blow, they are bound in duty to their class not to support their own imperialist government in any war it undertakes to fight. Matters are quite different in wars between imperialist and colonial or semi-colonial countries, where the former are historically the aggressor. In such wars, regardless of who really launches the offensive, we stand on the side of the colonies against the imperialists, for China against Japan, for Ethiopia against Italy, for Nicaragua against the United States.

Furthermore, the Ludlow resolution, as amended by its supporters, puts the entire Western Hemisphere in the same category as the territory of the United States, thus acknowledging the reactionary protectorate established by US imperialism over Latin America through the Monroe Doctrine.

Like the panacea of “disarmament”, or “international arbitration courts”, the referendum illusion diverts attention from the need of an intransigent class struggle policy against war every day in the year, because it cultivates the idea that when the “real” war danger faces us in the remote future the masses will be able to avert it by the mere casting of a ballot. Like all pacifist dreams and preachments, “it inoculates the workers”, as Lenin remarked in his polemic against the Kautskyan disarmament advocates, “with the thought that the present bourgeois governments of the imperialist powers are not entangled in thousands of threads of finance capital and dozens or hundreds of corresponding (i.e., predatory, murderous, preparatory to imperialist wars) secret treaties between themselves”. It propagates the totally false notion, so rudely shattered by Mr. Lippmann, that if only the masses could write down their opposition to declaring war on a slip of ballot paper, war could be averted without further ado.

In sum, to support the Ludlow resolution is to inculcate in the minds of the workers the idea that war can be “prevented” or fought by some means other than the class struggle, that imperialist war can be averted otherwise than by the revolutionary socialist overturn of capitalist rule. In one form or another, this idea has been advanced by pacifists from the days of William Jennings Bryan down to the present, including the program of the various Stalinist Leagues For or Against One Thing or Another and of the Ludlow movement. Its illusory character is too well established for us to adopt it, especially today when pacifism has reached the very nadir of its bankruptcy.

But while explaining patiently the Utopian and misleading nature of the Ludlowian variety of pacifism, let our heaviest blows continue to fall upon the combination of Liberty Leaguers, New Dealers and Stalinists who have revealed themselves to be, each in their own way, trailblazers for the tyrannical totalitarian dictatorship they will seek to impose in the course of their coming imperialist war.

The Robinson-Rubens Case

THE AURA OF MYSTERY and intrigue which has surrounded the so-called “Robinson-Rubens” case would seem to qualify it as the fantastic basis for an E. Phillips Oppenheim mystery thriller. Unfortunately it cannot be brushed aside as melodrama. The issues in this strange affair are far too sinister, far too serious in their possible consequences.

Very little is yet known with certainty. The man, who had apparently been seen by no one willing to talk, disappeared one night from the National Hotel in Moscow. The woman disappeared six days later. The Kremlin has made only one brief announcement, implying though not stating explicitly that the two were under arrest. The passports under the name of Robinson turned out to be faked. The woman is allegedly identified as an American citizen, Ruth Boerger Rubens. That is about what the accredited public statements boil down to at the time we go to press.

Indirect evidence, however, sifted rumors and gossip, as well as a knowledge of the habits and methods of the GPU, already lead legitimate conjecture in certain fairly well defined directions:

1. Every single lead so far uncovered in this case, when followed even a step or two, heads straight into Stalinism. The various addresses which have appeared are well known hang-outs of Stalinists. The “travel bureau” and other organizations which appear have Stalinist connections, when they are not outright Stalinist outfits. Any inquiry into the backgrounds of the Messrs. A, B, C, D, etc., of the passport fixers bumps up against Stalinist surroundings.

2. The above characteristic, taken together with the circumstances of the disappearance in Moscow, the prominence given to the name “Robinson” some months ago by the GPU, together with the general course of the GPU during the past year and a half, suggests irresistibly that the two “Robinsons” or “Rubens” or whatever their real name may be are themselves either GPU agents or in some way implicated with the GPU now or formerly.

3. All of these considerations, together with a reference in the first Kremlin announcement (in Izvestia) and unguarded remarks by Stalinists in this country, foretell at least the attempt at a new frame-up in which the “Robinsons” are slated to act as chief tools, perhaps featuring public confessions of the standard variety. But this frame-up would evidently be directed primarily not against the internal Soviet opposition but against American anti-Stalinists. The present stage both of Soviet and American policy suggests that the mam theme of the frame-up would in all probability be founded in the war crisis: that is, it would be a preparation for the drive against those who in this country are opposed to the threatening war, and would perhaps include charges of espionage and “diversion” in the interests of the main immediate enemy of American imperialism – namely, Japan. Trotsky would, of course, as always be included, perhaps this time as the leader of the Mexican fascist movement, as well as chief agent for the Mikado in both the Americas. But this time a direct blow at the growingly influential revolutionists and anti-Stalinist militants in the American labor movement would be the main object.

4. From the beginning of this case it has been apparent that the State Department has been acting with something much less than candor. It has seemed anxious, most eagerly anxious, to wash its hands of the whole business. The disappearances occurred more than a month ago. There is a clause in the agreement which accompanied Soviet recognition that the United States must be fully informed within 72 hours about any arrest or detention of a United States citizen. Nothing has been done except for a routine – and still unanswered – note to Moscow, in spite of the fact that it is now established with certainty (what must have been known by the State Department from the beginning) that at least the woman is a US citizen. What accounts for this unusual modesty and backwardness, coming at the very time of the intransigent attitude taken by Hull in the Panay incident? Can it be that the State Department would not be averse to a “spy scare”, that it would be quite prepared to make itself a passive partner to a frame-up against those who oppose the war? Is its concentration on preparations for the war toward which it has set its course the reason back of its dilatoriness, if not complete inaction and silence, in the Robinson-Rubens case?

We must demand and know the truth in this affair, and search it out for ourselves where it is not revealed. Pressure on the State Department to open its files on the case is entirely in order, as well as investigation by a Senate Committee into the conduct of the State Department with respect to it. This will by no means solve the problem, but may well aid in bringing out the truth. Above all, the revolutionary and militant workers must be on guard. As in the Corcoran case, we must smash the Moscow frame-up system every time it tries to raise its bloody head in this country, must in fact drive it further back into its hole every time it even tries to raise its head. In this way we will do our part in rooting it altogether out of the international arena.

Latest Developments

AS WE GO TO PRESS, the “Robinson-Rubens” case has taken a new turn. With consummate hypocrisy, the Moscow authorities have finally avowed what the entire world knew, namely, that it had both Mr. and Mrs. “Robinson” in custody and under arrest. The man was allegedly apprehended by the police somewhere in the Urals, a very significant ingredient in the coming frame-up trial since that is the region where a good deal of Soviet military industry is concentrated – an excellent spot for a “Japanese-Trotskyist-Hitlerite” spy to be “found”. Meanwhile, the State Department at Washington has requested that one of its representatives be permitted to interview Mrs. Rubens, whose position as an American citizen has been confirmed. Moscow has simply refused to grant the request until the “preliminary examination” has been concluded, that is, until the necessary “confessions” have been duly extorted and rehearsed. A curt repetition of the request for permission to see Mrs. Rubens has been sent from Washington, unanswered as this is written.

To what extent pressure can be exerted in Washington upon the State Department to make public its files on the case – which we have every reason to believe both ample and revealing – remains to be seen. In any case, it is now beyond dispute that another of those odiously sinister trials is in preparation, at which the customary monotonous “revelations” will be made.



1. A glance at England reveals the delights which Roosevelt has in store for American munitions and associated manufacturers. Although the then Minister of War, Duff Cooper, stated in the House of Commons (May 6, 1937) that “I am convinced that there are no undue profits being made out of arms in this country” and added (on May 26, 1937) that “Of all the disgusting features of war, perhaps there is nothing so loathsome to decent-minded people as the making of vast profits out of the sufferings associated with it”, a number of very “loathsome” profit figures are already available. Profits of Hawker Siddeley Aircraft jumped from £502,920 in 1935-1936 to £783,438 in 1936-1937. In the same period, Short Brothers, marine aircraft, increased their profits by 50 percent, to £133,976. John Thornycroft and Company, shipbuilders, announced profits of £125,502 in the last year – 125 percent higher than the previous year. United Steel Companies showed an increase from £1,545,278 to £2,075,322. (The English pound sterling is almost exactly $5.00 US at the present time.)

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Last updated on 4.8.2006