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New International, September 1938


B.J. Widick

World War By Stages

From New International, Vol.4 No.9, September 1938, pp.285-286.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


If War Comes
by Major R. Ernest Dupuy and George Fielding Eliot, late Major, US Army Intelligence Reserve
New York. Macmillan Co. 369 pp. $2.50.

The Caissons Roll
by Hanson W. Baldwin
New York. Alfred A. Knopf. 323 pp. $2.50.

Europe in Arms
by Liddell Hart
New York. Random House. 287 pp. $2.50.

War in the Pacific
by Sutherland Denlinger and Lieut.-Com. Charles B. Gary, USNR
New York. Robert M. McBride and Co. 328 pp. $3.00.

THE WORLD is trembling from war jitters. Tensely, it watches Germany where Hitler conducts the greatest peacetime military manoeuvres since 1914. Will the Nazis march into Czechoslovakia? Or will Spain, China or the Siberian-Manchukuoan border furnish the “incident” setting aflame another imperialist holocaust? It is only certain that once the spark touches the powder, the whole barrel will explode. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will ride again. How they will spread death, destruction, disease and famine is outlined in the above four military studies.

Tongue in cheek, Majors Dupuy and Eliot entitle their book, If War Comes. Yet they present indisputable evidence that war between the Great Powers is only a matter of time and they write of America,

“Let us recall that in 1808 we had an Embargo Act which was to keep us out of war; in 1812 we were involved in a major European struggle. In 1916 we elected a President because ‘He Kept Us Out of War’; in 1917 we were involved in a major European struggle. On both those occasions, the United States was militarily weak. Today the nation is strong.”

The Totalitarian War Regime

If War Comes is an attempt to examine and coordinate the military lessons of the Spanish and Ethiopian campaigns. Since Major Dupuy was official US Army observer in Spain, naturally his views reflect those of the American General Staff and merit attention. One could hardly expect a Marxist analysis, but the book has value in the sense that a Pinkerton report of strike-breaking technique has value to a trade unionist.

To the liberal and Stalinist school of pro-war mongering charlatans hiding under the cloak of “Democracy vs. Fascism”, we recommend a careful reading of the US Army views on the nature of the next war, politically speaking. “More stringent control of the civil population than ever conceived of previously – at least by democratic people – is involved,” explain the Majors. “This control must reach out not only in commerce, industry and alimentation, but even into the most trivial of personal interests,” they add. The press, the school, the church, the radio, the union movement; all of them must be properly used, according to the US Army plans.

If “democratic” America faces this kind of totalitarian regime in war-tune, what kind of regime will European workers be forced to accept? An even more detailed picture of America in war time is presented in War in the Pacific, an outline of the coming Japanese-American War. Ludendorf’s concept of a totalitarian war is now universally accepted. Hanson W. Baldwin, NY Times military correspondent and author of Caissons Roll, and Liddell Hart, in his latest military opus, Europe in Arms, assent to this principle. A “Nation in Arms” or a “Nation at War” the militarists argue, but always it’s the whole nation.

Future Military Technics

From this arises a second pertinent question. Will war be waged by small, professional and highly mechanized armies, as Liddell Hart hopes, or by the huge conscript armies of the last world war? No sooner did the tragic experiences of the 1914-18 slaughter explode most pre-war theories than General Staff’s began spinning fanciful rationalizations of strategy in wars to come. Crippled by the Versailles treaty, the German Reichswehr became a small, highly-skilled and professional army, developing new and mechanized equipment to displace that taken away in war loot by the Allies. Soon Van Seeckt, chief of staff, made a virtue of necessity, and the cult of a mechanized army with its one swift blow theory developed. Mussolini, dictator of a second-rate economic power, followed suit. The Air Force became the Alpha and Omega of the Italian military science. General Douhet, Italian air chief, obtained international notoriety by his theory of “one quick blow from the air”. Goering never tires of repeating this view, although it has been discredited by the Spanish experiences. Dupuy and Eliot debunk the new schools of military thought prevalent in Europe until Spain and China brought the militarists back down to earth. The majors appear to agree with Leon Trotsky’s estimate, “the largest possible number of soldiers equipped in the highest attainable degree”, will be the armies of tomorrow. (Trotsky’s views on the coming world war are expounded in the summer issue of the Yale Review. Many of his views on military developments coincide with those expressed in If War Comes.)

But what of the death rays and other mysterious weapons vividly painted by British General Fuller? Will they not change the character of the next war? Dupuy and Eliot answer succintly: (1) New explosives developed? There are none; (2) Death Rays? Nothing of the sort has been discovered; (3) New Gases? None; (4) Bacillus warfare? Difficult, many cures, and hurts both sides. The Second World War, militarily speaking, will thus begin where the last one left off. “It will be a nightmare of horror, with the roar of machines – man-controlled and man-devouring – the awful overtones of battle,” declares Hanson W. Baldwin. Through the fog of acrimonious debate over the relative role of sea-power, man power, air-power and mechanized forces, it is clear that each country will use whatever military resources are available. The race for naval supremacy continues. Men are trained in legions. Even England plans universal conscription, as Chamberlain recently announced. The French have thousands of slightly used ’75’s, not the best artillery available, but certainly it should not be wasted, reason the French officers. For a survey of the military resources of the various nations, tables can be found in Hanson W. Baldwin’s book, Liddell Hart’s study, and the Dupuy-Eliot work.

Comparative Military Forces

It is easy to understand why all the authors have an almost identical evaluation of the armies of the world. Dupuy-Eliot write frequently, “it can be assumed that the opposing General Staffs have thorough knowledge of the army,” whether they speak of USSR, Germany, France, Britain, or Italy. A summary of the combined views includes: Britain, inadequately prepared, $15,000,000,000 rearmament program being rushed, air-force and navy chief strength, strongest asset is huge resources of Empire; Germany, Reichswehr commands respect of all militarists, its mechanization not entirely up to date and reliable, as the march into Austria revealed, needs pork, rye, potatoes, gasoline, rubber and 18 other key raw materials including iron ore; Italy, quality of Italian army uncertain, air-force one of the best, needs oil, copper, rubber, nickel, coal, manganese, and tin, and imports 70 per cent of these now. In both Germany and Italy the cost of the military program is crushing and sapping the entire economy. France is immersed in an internal crisis and a colonial crisis as the Morocco riots of 1937 showed. The French army is recognized as the best on the continent Its Maginot line is impressive; it needs colonial troops because of lack of man-power. Japan’s weaknesses and the gross exaggeration of her military might previous to the Sino-Japanese war are evident to all.

Of the USSR, Baldwin writes, “She is a colossus, but her transportation and industrial weaknesses, her somewhat shaky finances, and her top-heavy bureaucracy give her feet of clay.” Yet he speaks highly of the air and tank corps, the finest in the world with the possible exception of America. And he significantly adds, “Perhaps the greatest of all her weapons is propaganda.” Baldwin nowhere indicates belief in Stalin’s charges against Marshal Tukhachevsky. Dupuy-Eliot are more specific. They advance the theory, widely-held, that differences of war strategy caused the split, that Tukhachevsky fought to the bitter end against Stalin’s emasculation of the Red Army. Of course the Red Army lost “face” because of the purges. Recent border incidents with Japan, however, are again changing world opinion of the Red Army’s powers.

Towering head and shoulders above all military machines stands America. War in the Pacific, in particular, portrays the unparalleled resources of the United States. Under Roosevelt’s paternalism the American Navy has seen its dream come true. Virtually unlimited are the finances for its program. American aircraft rates tops in the world. Nothing showed this more clearly than the British order for 400 war planes recently. Spain and China also gave evidence of the superiority of American aircraft used. The United States Army rapidly is obtaining the choicest equipment in the world. Semi-automatic rifles for mechanized divisions, tanks of proven worth, these and a thousand other articles not only give a hint of American power but are manifestations of its greatest source of strength – its gigantic industrial and agricultural empire secured by thousands of miles of ocean on either side. In a war where machines play a larger part, an army and its recruits accustomed to technical work, an army with ample supplies, a nation safe from the threat of destruction of industrial centers by enemy planes, a nation with gold and men and raw materials, this nation because of its dominance in world economy will be decisive in the second world war. And both the American Admiralty and the General Staff are chafing at the bit to perform their task for Roosevelt and Wall Street.

What are the probable line-ups of the war? Baldwin says, “The two great struggles in Europe which shape the destinies of the conflict are the essentially economic and psychological conflict between the ‘unsatisfied’ nations and the ‘satisfied’ nations, and the essentially political fight between Communism and Fascism.” It’s a toss-up whether Hitler begins his dreaded Drang Nach Osten through Czechoslovakia for Soviet Ukraine, or whether imperialist antagonisms will first find the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo axis arrayed against London-Paris with Moscow and Washington quickly joining against the “Have Nots”. Of course, none of the authors venture, nor does any sensible writer, to predict the exact lineups. Who trusts Mussolini, or Stalin?

Imperialism and Revolution

Why war? On this score the military writers see eye to eye. “Have Nots” vs. “Haves” Baldwin puts it. America must establish its hegemony over China if US imperialism is to expand, Denlinger-Gary point out. That is why a Japanese-American war is inevitable, as long as capitalism is to remain the form of economy, they explain. For if war is a continuation of politics by other (i.e., forcible) means, the time is past when diplomacy, trade agreements, League of Nations chicanery, and world conferences can minimize world imperialist antagonisms. Liddell Hart tearfully pleads with Chamberlain to use the Spanish civil war to assure British control of that peninsula. It is indispensable in a war with Italy over the Mediterranean, he argues. One might well call him the intelligent office boy of British imperialism. His book is a guide to defense of the British Empire.

How long can the Second World War last? The terrific cost of armaments and the greater destructive power of the military machines set in a stage of the decline of world imperialism, and the frightful prospect for both civilian and soldier indicate that it cannot be four years again. Mussolini gambles on a quick, annihilating war. Such a theory, he recently said, “corresponds to the conditions of Italy, which is rich in men of intelligence and daring more than in iron, gold and oil.” Hitler sits on a powder keg of internal explosives. Even America, giant of world imperialism, totters from the blows of a social crisis. Yes, there undoubtedly will be a few swift blows. Then a return to trench warfare and again the economic forces will decide the fate of nations. All of Liddell Hart’s pleas for modern “progressive” military theories ignore one simple fact, so strikingly brought out in the American Civil War. Robert Lee, Stonewall Jackson, etc. had the military genius, the better trained soldiers. But inevitably the superior economy of the North, growing capitalism, vanquished the dying slave economy of the South. So tomorrow, only the advanced economy of socialism, with its collective ownership and planning, has the possibility of surviving.

The Second World War will usher in another series of revolutions and colonial wars for independence. This is the nightmare haunting the General Staffs of the world. Baldwin often expresses his fear, and our hope, of that prospect. “It is certain only that the doctrine of Marx will influence Europe for generations; that the tincture of Communism will color the thought and sway the decisions of the continent for decades,” Baldwin declares. He tells of the mutinies of the British fleet at Invergordon, the riots in Morocco, the growth of communism in the French fleet. Denlinger-Gary devote a special section to the problem of communism arising in the American fleet during war with Japan. The memory of the Kronstadt sailors looms in the minds of the Admiralties. Of course, Denlinger-Gary point out that the new Stalinist line removes danger on that point, but the burdens of war might cause “civil disturbances”, and these spread to the fleet. Dupuy-Eliot speak of the “horror of civil war” as a possibility, after calmly relating how the butchery in the imperialist war will be carried out!

Czarist Russia was the weakest link in the chain of world imperialism during the first world war. Japan, as Trotsky has pointed out, occupies that position today. Many Balkan states still have remnants of feudalism in their agricultural economy. These can only erupt during a war. Poland faces the unenviable position of being only a battlefield, no matter which side she chooses. The civilian populations have the prospect only of terrible suffering from air-raids, from famines, and disease, while the flower of the proletariat dies on the battlefield. It is these prospects, inevitable today, that will plant the seeds of communism and world revolution among the toilers and the oppressed masses of the world.

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