From New International, Vol. VII No. 3, April 1941, pp. 35–38.
Transcribed & marked up by Damon Maxwell for ETOL.
THE LEASE-LEND LEGISLATION was put forward as an effective means of keeping the United States out of the war as an active belligerent by providing England and her allies with the means of defeating their enemies, the potential military adversaries of the United States. Newspaper statistics reveal an oversupply of dupes who accept this motivation all the more readily because they anxiously desire to defeat Hitlerism and yet stay out of the war. The deception is deliberately stimulated by all the shapers of public opinion, from the White House down to the tin-foil militarists of the liberal weeklies. The fact is otherwise. The legislation is not even a one-hour bivouac on the downhill march to war; it is an order to increase the pace, preliminary to tomorrow’s order to break into a feverish charge.
The direction taken by the systematically developing trend of American government policy on the war question should be unmistakable to anyone capable of joining together two or more related events. Even if one were to make the utterly preposterous assumption that our statesmen have been doing nothing except lie awake all night and work indefatigably all day to prevent American involvement in the war, there has been an irresistible tidal tug which would have negated all these noble efforts – had they existed. But there have been no such efforts to speak of. The statesmen have rowed with the underlying current and made absolutely sure of their destination by lashing the rudder at the point marked War.
Roosevelt has inveighed eloquently against war. “I hate war,” he cried a long time ago. But who loves war for itself, except those mentally deranged and gouty but safely retired colonels? Besides, he could just as easily have meant the Punic Wars rather than this one, and to judge not only by his acts but also by those of his words that are specific and purposeful, that is what he did mean. It is true that as recently as his election-campaign speech in Boston he assured perturbed parents that “Your boys are not going to be sent into foreign wars.” A little more lucidity shouldered its way into the Rooseveltian prose when he said just before the Boston meeting, “We will not participate in foreign wars and we will not send our army, naval or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside the Americas, except in case of attack.” Except in case of attack! Modern history is sick to its stomach from the need of recording the hundred and one examples of how useful this phrase – this easily concocted pretext – has been to a nations rulers.
The Lend-Lease Bill is not the end, but one of the most important of a series of measures taken by the Roosevelt administration to steer the country into the war. It was folly, in the first place, to imagine that the United States, particularly in view of the collapse of the New Deal, of its inability to resolve the problems of the chronic crisis, would long remain a non-belligerent in a world of total belligerency. The prolongation of the war beyond everybody’s predictions – and the end is not yet in sight – only serves to make American participation more certain. If the United States did not enter the war almost immediately after its outbreak in the Fall of 1939, the reason for the delay must be sought not in Roosevelt’s unimportant hatred of the war, but in the objective situation that faced Germany, too, before Hitler came to power. The country was not prepared for war, either in the sense of the military-technical preparations required for the prosecution of a modern slaughter match or in the sense of the ideological preparation of the masses. Hitler’s job was to surmount both these difficulties in Germany and it took him six or seven years to do it. Roosevelt’s job has been to catch up with and outstrip Hitler in two or three years, and that is what he has been doing. In both cases, the Leader aims at the achievement not of a New Social Order or the Christian Way of Life, but of a great imperialist destiny. Hitler believes he can do it where Wilhelm Hohenzollern couldn’t; Roosevelt believes he can succeed where Wilson failed.
The parallel between the course of the two American war presidents is not without significant interest. A yellowed clipping from the New York Evening Post of April 4, 1917, shortly after the American declaration of war against Germany, traced Wilson’s evolution as follows:
The stages of the President’s changes of opinion are perfectly clear. In December 1914, he was absolutely opposed to turning America “into an armed camp.” In December, 1915, he yielded to the demands for preparedness. In January 1916, he desired “incomparably the greatest navy in the world.” In April 1917, he yields to the principle of conscription to which he has hitherto been opposed or at least withheld his consent. From the beginning of the war he argued eloquently against our going into it, and because of his having kept us out of it he is reelected to the Presidency. In April 1917, he decides for war, and thereby, curiously enough, wins the acclaim of the very business interests that most bitterly fought his reelection.
Change the dates, and but a few of the words, and the course of the present Wilson is fairly summarized, except in one important respect. Unlike Wilson, Roosevelt, by all indications, will not wait for the war to last thirty-two months before entering it.
To be sure, in all likelihood we will not be made a formal belligerent (the United States is already a belligerent in actuality) “except in case of attack.” But what a frivolous detail for determined men! Three-fourths of the studies of every diplomat are devoted to the art of attacking the enemy under the appearance of being attacked, to the devices by means of which attacks are provoked or otherwise conveniently arranged at short notice. The democracies are, in this respect, only a little more subtle and hypocritical than the totalitarian cynics; a little, but not much more.
All-out aid to England; make America the arsenal and larder of world democracy; help England defeat Hitlerism. With one policy, the enemy is crushed and war for America is averted.
So ran the arguments in Congress during the debate on the bill. One liar after another rose to repeat them, except, be it said in his favor. Carter Glass, who made no bones about his bellicosity. But no sooner is the bill passed, and right after it, the handsome little purse of seven billion dollars to help implement it, than the talk of convoys rises in volume and intensity. The New York Times was the first authoritative spokesman to express itself for American naval convoying of shipments, with a cynicism that should shock anyone who puts great faith in the indignant protests the same periodical utters against the same morality when practised by fascist dupesters. The Administration’s big trial balloon, the American Committee to Defend Democracy by Aiding the Allies, promptly followed suit. The Washington columnist of the Scripps-Howard chain, Raymond Clapper, reported on March 25 that
For the first time a London newspaper has thrown aside tactful restraint and has urged that the United States send its naval vessels in to convoy ships. England needs, said this newspaper, every American captain, every engineer, every American seaman who can be spared. I know that some of our best informed officials believe we must soon begin to convoy. From what I hear I am convinced that this step is coming. It may be nearer than any of us think.
What more adequate set-up than American “non-belligerent” convoys can be imagined for producing that German attack “except” for which Roosevelt swore that “your boys are not going to be sent into foreign wars”? And what more adequate set-up can be imagined than the Lend-Lease Act for placing in the hands of one man such complete, uncontrolled and truly dictatorial power – power Wilson did not enjoy even during war-time – to precipitate the country into the war without consulting or gaming the consent of our Milquetoast Congress, much less of the people of the United States?
The Lend-Lease Bill was one of the series of measures to take the country to the second big and murderous and futile war in this century. Only one of the measures, and not the last.
It requires a truly childish mind (that is, one fitted for nothing more cerebrally strenuous than editing The Nation or New Republic), or a mind in an advanced stage of feebleness (that is, one fitted for something as base as editing the New Leader), to hold that the United States is following the policy of “all-out aid to England” in order that England may win the war. If it were true that the aid is being given so selflessly, so sacrificingly, it would indeed be an awesome and inspiring spectacle in our sordid times. But, alas for the embattled defenders of England’s Most Christian and Democratic Way of Life for her four hundred million imperial slaves, America’s all-out aid and early participation in the war will prove, is already proving, to be a not unmixed blessing. More bluntly, it is more of a threat than a promise.
The stakes of this war are the fabulous wealth and power of the British Empire. Of the six important claimants to this wealth and power – England, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United States (yes, the United States!), and the colonial slaves and the working class to whom the Empire properly belongs – England’s chances of holding her imperial inheritance are clearly inferior to those of the others. Only a person with lots of money to lose would bet on them. The British Empire, come what may, is doomed, and you have to be a vainglorious idiot like Churchill not to realize it.
Running through the policy of the United States is the determination to speed the day of its doom and to emerge from the war as receiver of the Empire. This fact, so strictly taboo in polite society, above all in British polite society, stands out like a light-house in the fog of wordy and hypocritical Anglo-Saxon embraces and expressions of mutual esteem.
Scarcely had the war begun than Mr. Roosevelt proceeded to Windsor in Canada to deliver an ever so friendly speech. The gravamen of the speech could not be obscured even by the tinkling verbiage of the President: Canada was henceforward to be considered less a protectorate of London than of Washington, a transformation corresponding to the process by which The City has been systematically displaced in Canada by Wall Street. To make this new state of affairs clear to the most obtuse English lord, the speech was promptly implemented by the establishment of a joint American-Canadian Defense Commission, dominated, as is fitting under such circumstances, by the real boss.
Canada is not the only sector of the Empire which is being led out of the British sphere and into the American. Without the United States, England cannot now get to first base in defending herself from the Nipponese seawolf in the Pacific. Every day, the loyal eastern subjects of His Majesty’s Commonwealth of Nations are increasingly impressed with the indispensability to their security of America’s power – and with the power of that power. From Singapore to Sydney, the stock of American imperialism rises not only at the expense of the Japanese but also of the British. London has been compelled to teach its Australian, New Zealand and Malayan subjects the decisive importance of the U.S.A. The latter has not been shy about emphasizing the lessons – with battleships and bombers.
The “aid” given to England thus far is another case in point. If what England has obtained materially from the United States up to now is fraternal aid given with a full and generous American heart, what would a good stroke of Yankee business look like? In the first place, England has had to pay on the spot for every item, big and small, that the U.S. has thus far produced for her and, very often, has had to pay for setting up the plants to produce them. In the second place, the prices she has had to pay are a caution! Sad to say, the American arsenal and larder for Gallant British Democracy has been operating, from the beginning of the war, not only at a profit but at a most gratifying profit, running anywhere from two to three and four times what the rest of the market would bear.
That would be enough, but it is not all. With a great display of virtue and restrained indignation at the non-payment of old debts incurred by Britain in the last war, the American bourgeoisie has quietly but firmly insisted on turning every British pocket inside out before extending any credit worth shaking a stick at. We’re friends, aren’t we? We’re allies, aren’t we? We’re both fighting for the good old Christian way of life, aren’t we? ask the Americans. In that case, your money will be quite safe in our hands, in fact, even safer (to say nothing of being more pleasant to the touch). Hence, the edifying Christian spectacle of the big American shakedown of England. Hence, the humiliating voyages here of British financial experts, balance sheets in one hand, money and securities in the other, for the close examination of their American cousin-bosses. Hence, the demand, which is in the process of fulfillment, of the transference of all British holdings (and even of all imperial holdings!) in this country to the Americans. Hence, the demand for a similar transference of all British holdings in Latin America, for while the clean-up is going on it might as well be a thorough job done with real American efficiency.
Or, take the famous destroyers-naval bases deal – as neat a business deal as ever a whiskey-and-bead trader has put over on a straitjacketed Indian. For fifty old-age destroyers sent to England fully equipped with toothbrushes and cigarettes in the officers’ quarters and toiletpaper for the washrooms, the United States virtually took over every important British territory off its Atlantic coast. We do not wish to exaggerate. It is true that the “lease” is not forever, but only for ninety-nine years. The British can therefore be consoled with the thought that they may refuse to renew the lease when it comes up again for consideration in the year of grace 2039. The fly in their consolation is that, like themselves, the American imperialists are better known to the world public as takers than as restorers of what they have already taken. Only, people in desperate straits cannot afford to take umbrage at a fly in the ointment.
Meanwhile, the British have other things to worry about on this side of the world than what they will do when the naval-bases lease comes up for renewal a century hence. Particularly since the last war, a lively conflict has been going on between the United States and England for domination of the Latin-American market. This conflict has been complicated, but not eliminated, in recent years by the entry of Germany and Japan into the lands south of the border. Behind all the touching protestations of undying Anglo-Saxon solidarity, a muted and subterranean competition continues between the two imperialist powers for domination of Latin America. There are even commercially-minded Americans who go so far as to suggest that since England is increasingly beholden to the United States, the least she can do in return is to get the hell out of Latin America and leave the field free to no less hungry and more deserving Yankees. The pressure being exerted for the achievement of this most amicable of all arrangements, rises every day in the United States, not least of all in the competent circles of the Administration. If the press does all it can to keep silent about this less than appetizing aspect of the Great Friendship, it can be due only to the fact that there must be a limit even to imperialist shamelessness. More accurately, a limit to flaunting it in public. But the limit of imperialist rapacity is the globe itself. And the United States aspires to nothing less than inheriting that part of the globe over which the British flag rises every morning. It already has a good start; the policy of “all-out aid” has already paid good dividends. In the eighteen months since September, 1939, the United States, without being in the war, has made deeper encroachments into the power of the British Empire than have the combined efforts of the Axis partners! The policy of “all-out aid to England” is paying mighty good dividends.
While they are being thus liquidated by their dear American friend-rival, the British must perforce maintain their frozen smile and speak their stereotyped phrases of appreciation. If the lords of England confine their fury to gnashing their teeth and tearing their toupees, it is not because of the renowned spirit of politeness and sportsmanship taught at the best schools, but because they are obviously in a position where they dare not protest. All they can hope to do is pay the piper; he calls his own tune and sets his own price. The crippled and scientifically-carved British beast cannot allow himself the luxury of releasing the outraged roar that is rising within his bosom. If he could, it would sound for all the world like the soul-searing anguish of a bootlegger protesting against the extortionate fees demanded for protecting his load of stolen liquor from being hijacked by a rival thug.
Dark though the situation and prospects of the British bourgeoisie may be, the gloom is not totally unrelieved by sparkling spots. The gleichgeschaltete German press does not arrive here regularly, but when it does come, via Siberia, it is sometimes interesting. A recent batch of copies of the Berlin Lokal-Anzeiger is a case in point, particularly the Economic Supplements. If its writers are severe in their references to indelicate spots on Britain, they are only less revealing about the mysteries of Hitler’s much-advertized (and all too generally credited) “new social order.”
In the issue of December 7, 1940, Carl Sennewald directs some critical remarks against war profiteering in England, and even speaks indignantly about the steel and armaments profits of such pillars of British Democracy (and the Christian way of life, of course) as Bonar Law, Baldwin and the late Chamberlain. He is positively upset by the fact that Vickers is now distributing 10 per cent dividends, and that other armament, airplane and automobile corporations, like Hawker Siddelly, Handly Page, Bristol, Gardner and Sons, Denis Brothers and others, are also profiting and profiteering during the war. Compared with Germany under the new regime, “the conception of rights and duties of the joint-stock companies [corporations] in England is basically different.” In Hitler’s new social order, there is another conception. And Pg. Carl Sennewald explains it too, so that all may understand.
Dividends are like a red cape to many, in part rightly, in part not. In general, dividends were a reward for the one who assumed a certain risk in investing money in an affair without being sure of realizing his expectations. Under certain circumstances, he might even lose all his capital. On the other hand, of course, there was the possibility of great profits in favorable cases. The period of such stock notations belongs for the most part to the past, for today the formation of corporations on purely private initiative is rare. It might perhaps even be said that the initiative in this field has been assumed by the state, which is able to begin with an entirely different stake. The level of the dividends of existing corporations also depends almost exclusively upon the state, most certainly during wartime. In this period, the state is the principal customer; but even before now it was also the one that made the corporations profitable again. One need only recall the crisis years of 1931 and 1932, when many stocks remained without dividends and most of the quotations were below par.
Meanwhile, the character of a corporation in general has become somewhat different. A corporation is not conducted for the sake of dividends alone, but is supposed to serve the community [Allgemeinheit]; it is especially supposed to be social-politically valuable. The German stock enterprises distinguish themselves more and more in this respect from those abroad. It is precisely the large German enterprises that expend sums for social purposes which most often exceed the apportioned dividends. The dividends themselves are relatively stable and appropriate. If, in isolated cases, a dividend is ever passed, it is caused by special tasks and investments ...
War dividends out of high armaments profits do not, in any case, exist in Germany. But for that, the German stockholder, in contrast to the British, has the certainty that his property not only remains preserved but also that he faces an assured future.
The “basically different” conception could not have been stated with more crystalline lucidity. If all is not too well with the working class under Hitler, it can at least reflect thoughtfully and gratefully upon the fact that while stockholders’ property is preserved and looks to a guaranteed future, outright war profiteering is distinctly frowned upon – distinctly.
Strolling through the financial columns of the Lokal-Anzeiger from November 27, 1939, to December 9, 1940 (the only issues to arrive), we read some concrete examples of Pg. Sennewald’s “basically different” conception. There is not much about the “rights and duties of corporations,” but the matter of dividends is treated with genuine German preciseness.
The Stollwerck Brothers Corp. of Cologne announces “another 7 per cent dividend.” The National Automobile Co. of Berlin-Oberschoneweide, after clearing a profit of RM. 180,000, decided “to distribute another 6 per cent dividend.” The Golbern-Grimma Machine Construction Company, with a net profit of RM. 140,000 decided upon “a 10 per cent dividend again.” Of the Lenz General Construction Company of Berlin, we note that “between 1933 and 1939, the turnover of the company has increased about 800 per cent,” whereupon it has decided to increase its basic capital from two to eight million Reichsmark. The Klockner Works of Duisburg announces a modest 6 per cent dividend. The Eduard Lingel Shoe Factory of Erfurt declares “another 8 per cent dividend.” The Berlin Power and Light decides on a 10 per cent dividend (as before), while the Hoesch Coal and Coke of Dortmund seems content with another 6 per cent dividend. The I.P. Bemberg Corporation of Wuppertal-Barmen announces that while affairs are going well, it is not entirely sure that last year’s dividend of 8 per cent can be repeated. And so on. And so forth.
Close perusal of the papers fails to disclose any reference to strikes, union negotiations and contracts, wage increases or any of the other familiar and distasteful features of the “old social order” in Germany.
If they were included in our circle of readers, we would conclude these observations by writing: Messrs. DuPont, Sloan, Ford, Morgan, Rockefeller, Mellon and Associates, take note! But then, perhaps they have already taken note.
Last updated on 25 October 2014