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The New International, June 1941


The Editor’s Comments

America Enters the War


From New International, Vol. VII No. 5 (Whole No. 54), June 1941, pp. 99–101.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THAT PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT was planning to make an “epic” speech concerning American political and military policy had been bruited about in many circles for several weeks. The speech was often postponed, most recently because of Britain’s defeat in the battle for the island of Crete. Finally, on the evening of May 27th, the President delivered his speech, setting down the policy of his administration in the present world crisis. To the millions of listeners Roosevelt spoke the creed of the American capitalist class.

Was there anything new in his oration? In truth, there was not. The policy expounded by him has been the undeviating course pursued by the Administration. Roosevelt and his intimate followers have long been aware that their views relating to the war and the necessity for greater and more direct intervention on behalf of the British Empire outdistanced the desires of the majority of the American people, including those sympathetic to the pro-British course chartered by the President. The plain fact is that the overwhelming majority of Americans are against military participation in the war.

Rallying the Masses

The anti-war sentiments of the American masses has long hindered the policies of the Administration, and for this reason Roosevelt has been and continues to chart a gradual course but one that must ultimately lead the United States to take an active military part in the war. Every war measure previously adopted by Roosevelt was accompanied by a specious defense, namely, that they were taken as measures to keep the United States out of the war. Yet for all of the “caution” of the Administration it has become increasingly clear to many millions that the United States will be in the war as a military force within a relatively short period of time. It was the purpose of the speech to lay the “ideological” basis prerequisite to American entrance into the war.

Unlike the First World War, the ruling classes of all the belligerent countries find it necessary to state that this war is truly being fought for a “new order of things.” If the democratic powers are victorious it will mean the end to conditions which gave rise to a Hitler, for the democratic powers will then organize a more equitable world society. Fine words, these, but they are mere words. For the truth is that the rulers of the democratic countries represent the best interests of the capitalist class and their conception of a more equitable society is the maintenance of the economic, political and social power of the property owning class. For that reason they cannot conceive, in the event of a victory over Hitler, of any kind of world except the one which existed prior to the outbreak of the present World War.

Thus, when Roosevelt is compelled to concretize his views beyond the mere employment of phrases anent “freedom,” “culture” and “civilization,” not to speak of “democracy,” we find a complete verification of everything we have written and said in the past: That this is an imperialist war arising out of the very conditions created by monopoly capitalism. Let us examine the President’s speech in greater detail.

What the Fight Is For

In the very beginning of his speech, Roosevelt declared: “The pressing problems that confront us are military and naval problems. We cannot afford to approach them from the point of view of wishful thinking or sentimentalists. What we face is cold, hard fact ...” The cold, hard fact is that the war is, at this stage, going against Great Britain. A defeat of Britain would mean that the United States would remain alone to face a strengthened German imperialism riding the crest of victory and hell-bent upon the economic domination of the world – thus seeking to accomplish what is essentially the aim of American capitalism.

For the above reason, the United States is now prepared to seize Dakar, the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, and any other territory, which in the opinion of the Administration, would safeguard (in both hemispheres) American shores from attack. Such words as “attack,” “defense” and “offense” assume new and vigorous meaning in the midst of the war. None of the warring powers, as well as the United States, regard them in the same light. So far as the Axis powers are concerned, the United States is a belligerent nation since it strains every effort to make possible their defeat at the hands of Great Britain. Moreover, the United States makes no secret of this desire and intention. Only the particular state of the war at present prevents the Axis powers from engaging in direct assaults upon this country.

But what is it precisely that Roosevelt wishes to defend? Roosevelt says “freedom to live” and “our own security and for the kind of safe and civilized world in which we wish to live.” What, precisely, is this freedom and civilized world we wish to live in? Is it the pre-war capitalism of the “ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-clothed?” Is it a society of class exploitation? Is it a world social order in which hundreds of millions of Asiatic people live under the heel of foreign imperialisms, India under the British Empire, China at the mercy of a half dozen powers, the East Indies under the Dutch? Is it a world which finds the African continent and its native population ground to dust by the vicious exploitation introduced by the profit-mad rulers of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Spain and Italy? Is it Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, under “benevolent” American imperialism?

A New Social Order?

That is the world which Roosevelt sees, for he cannot see any other. It is the kind of world that Anthony Eden is fighting for when he declared that the British war aim is to destroy the German people – making no distinction between the enslaved German masses and their barbaric rulers – and promising a return to the conditions which gave rise to the present world situation.

Roosevelt continues to speak of freedom of trade as being essential to “our economic life.” He says: “The whole fabric of working life as we know it – business, manufacturing, mining, agriculture – all would be mangled under such a system (a Hitler victory).” It would mean, he went on to declare, a state of permanent war in society.

Yet what is it that has brought Hitler into being? The very existence of capitalism! Hitlerism and renascent German imperialism are the product of a world social order in which the well-being of one nation cannot be achieved without the economic and political destruction of another. Under conditions of decaying capitalism, one or two nations can enjoy economic prosperity only if it or they succeed in reducing the rest of the world to impotency. There cannot be an equitable distribution of the world markets, of raw materials and foreign trade since capitalism means fierce competition between nations for existence. What Roosevelt fears is that a Germany victory would give that brigand nation a predominating position in world economy at the expense of the United States. That is why England and China are outposts of America, fighting the battle against its two outstanding competitors: Germany and Japan. For the continued well-being of American capitalism, it is necessary to defeat Germany and Japan. That is the creed of the Roosevelt Administration. Therein lies the reason for the present hasty militarization of the nation and the preparation for American entrance into the war. In further confirmation of this analysis, Roosevelt says: “We do not eat all the food we can produce; we do not burn all the oil we can pump; we do not use all the goods we can manufacture. It would not be an American wall to keep Nazi goods out it would be a Nazi wall to keep us in” (a Nazi victory and subsequent loss of foreign markets and foreign trade). Forty-five million people in this country, one-third of the nation, are admittedly undernourished. Yet, we cannot feed them. Millions of Americans are in great need of manufactured goods of every variety, but they cannot enjoy them! Capital-labor relations under capitalism, the profit motive in production, make impossible the well-being of the people. The foreign markets offer a source of profit to the American ruling class, and in the present epoch a major source of trade, investments, etc. Thus, the present system, whose continuance the President is determined to defend at the cost of millions of lives, is a social order of exploitation, of hunger, of unemployment, of a low standard of living for the great majority and well-being for a small class which owns and controls the wealth of the nation produced by the sweat of fifty million proletarians.

Whose War Aims?

It is not for this great mass of poor that Roosevelt seeks to wage war. It is not for the hundreds of millions of exploited colonial people. He utters not a word about India’s independence. He makes no mention of the right of self-determination of all national and colonial countries. He promises no freedom to millions of Africans. He asserts merely that he is fighting for the continuance of the “American way of life,” which means ten million unemployed, forty-five million undernourished, and a nation with a standard of living which is constantly lowered as the world situation is intensified.

In this he is no different from his British counterparts. Churchill and his friends have thus far refused to state their war aims for fear that the disclosure of their real intentions would make impossible the prosecution of the war. Labor in England would hesitate to fight the First World War over again. But that is precisely what it is doing. And when Churchill says that “our war aim is victory,” he seeks not only to avoid a genuine answer, but to lead the people to believe, by his silence, that he too is fighting for a new order.

If Churchill wished to give evidence of the new world for which he is fighting, he would declare the freedom of India. But if he did that, he would not be Churchill, that great representative of the British ruling classes, whose richness rests upon the economic domination of this immense Asiatic nation. Hitler “promises” the German youth and the German masses a new prosperity, security and peace if he wins the war. Bu? Churchill and Roosevelt cannot promise even that. A victory on their part would only mean a return to pre-war conditions – not a very happy prospect for many millions.

To insure the application of his policies Roosevelt must already take steps toward totalitarian control. American engagement in the war needs continued production of war materials of every description. It means harnessing labor to the machine. Under capitalism, it means an enormous exploitation of the working class. But it does not signify any diminution of profits. On the contrary, profits appear limitless. Efforts on the part of labor to improve their economic conditions in this “boom” period have led to an intensified anti-labor campaign led by reactionary senators and congressmen, speaking for the American ruling class. The venal press rages and fumes at the very idea that the working class seeks to improve its situation. Under the guise of national defense no efforts are spared to prevent the militant and free conduct of trade unions in their fight in behalf of labor. And to cap this anti-labor drive, the President has spoken, and he has called upon capital and labor to halt their differences! He threatens to invoke the powers of a declared “unlimited emergency” to compel continued production, and to end strikes.

The Hope Is Socialism

The die is cast! America moves into the war. Totalitarian methods begin to make their way. Reaction raises its head everywhere. Labor is warned, cajoled and threatened. Civil liberties are being curbed. The war hysteria is carefully cultivated. The “reformist” Roosevelt, the banner-bearer of the New Deal, is now the banner-bearer of the war deal.

And yet withal the bankruptcy of capitalism looms greater. It is not that democracy is not worth fighting for, it is that there is no true democracy, economic or political. Roosevelt and his administration offer nothing but war against another imperialist capitalist nation, to defend one part of a rotten decaying system against another.

There is only one hope for the future: Socialism! Socialism alone guarantees the absence of exploitation, unemployment, hunger, poverty and war. Socialism alone guarantees true economic and political democracy. Socialism alone guarantees the freedom of the peoples of the whole world. Socialism alone guarantees victory over fascism. Socialism is the only thing worth fighting for because it is the society of true and lasting peace and freedom for all mankind.

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