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The New International, June 1944

Notes of the Month

What Is Being Planned for Europe?


From The New International, Vol. X No. 6, June 1944, pp. 165–166.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Europe before the war was bleeding to death from division. In an age symbolized by man’s ability to travel through the air at hundreds of miles an hour, Europe was divided into more than a score of national compartments, any one of which could be crossed by airplane in two hours, and most of them in one. Not a single one – not even France, not even Germany – could assure prosperity, peace and progress within its own national boundaries. If the bigger countries could not perform this feat, it is understandable that the smaller ones could hardly aspire to a more ambitious role than satellite or vassal of some powerful patron.

All the countries of continental Europe were doomed to recurrent convulsions. Singly or in small blocs they were unable to deal with the world colossus, the United States, whose power all over the world reduced the countries of Europe to rations in a declining world market. Singly or in small blocs, they were unable to ward off the provocative intervention of British imperialism, whose notorious “balance of power” policy pitted country against country. Reduced to diminishing rations, economically and politically, each European country, big or small, found itself driven to seek a solution for the problems of the capitalist crisis outside its own frontiers – but only after every one of them had raised its own tariff walls as high as possible! Europe was disorganized, unintegrated, anachronistically partitioned, each country a feverish prisoner of its own national barriers, a prisoner also of the military machine which all of them concentrated on building up in preparation for the inevitable war, a military machine which devoured vast quantities of the declining national wealth.

The Task of Unification

Salvation for Europe lay, and still lies, in its unification, in the razing of the reactionary, artificial, obsolete, suffocating national barriers so as to make possible a common and equal utilization of the productive wealth of the continent by means of a planned and organized division of labor.

Only one force existed that was capable of carrying out this reorganization, more or less as it was carried out on most of the territory of the old Czarist empire – the European proletariat. It alone could have guaranteed the formation of an economic and political Union of Europe, a United States of Europe, without violating all those aspects of the individual nations that pertain to the people: their tongue, their culture, their national traditions and folkways, their desire to exist as an entity without being dominated by others. The European proletariat failed to accomplish its mission. It would be more correct to say that the parties of the Second and Third Internationals, standing at the head of the European proletariat, failed. The catastrophic results are known. We have all paid heavily for the failure; we shall continue to pay for it for a long time.

The failure to solve the problem did not remove it from the scene. The unification of Europe, not carried out – not even undertaken – by the proletariat, was carried out nevertheless, but in the most brutal and reactionary way. What could have been produced as the objective development of the socialist reorganization and rationalization of the continent by the working class, and consequently as a peace-bringing, fundamental and durable solution of all the important social conflicts and problems of our time, was produced instead as the objective development of the concentration and centralization of capital, of German capital. Europe was unified under the hegemony of the Nazi “New Order.” But while the cramping customs barriers were thus destroyed, the unification of Europe under reactionary, that is, capitalist-imperialist, auspices and by reactionary methods, yielded none of the results attainable under a socialist union.

Results of Fascist “Union”

The German big bourgeoisie won a tremendous but shortlived prosperity, but at the expense of widespread poverty and misery for the masses of Europe. National hatreds were incited everywhere in Europe on a scale and with an intensity such as the Old World had not known for centuries. Exploitation and oppression of peoples were increased beyond the memory of living generations. All traces of political democracy – the free labor movement along with them – were extirpated. Europe was converted into a world of the master, on one side, and slaves and vassals on the other. It was plunged into the most devastating and futile war in history.

A more striking example of the truth of the maxim that it is not only the “what” that is decisive in politics, but also the “who” and the “how” would be hard to find. The unification of Europe by German imperialism yielded the very opposite of all the results that a free socialist union of nations was to produce. Most important, perhaps, is the fact that the unification, accomplished in a reactionary way, created conditions and forces that could only contribute to delaying and rendering more difficult a unification accomplished in a progressive way. The Nazi “New Order” did not advance Europe, it hurled it back.

However, the notion that these reactionary characteristics are peculiar to Nazi imperialism – to say nothing of the theories (if arrant ignorance may be so dignified) that they are peculiar to Germans – is, to put it charitably, superficial. They are the characteristics of modern imperialism, and are not confined to any of its national manifestations. If they take on a more brutal (i.e., a more clear-cut) form under German imperialism, so far as Europe is concerned, this is due only to a number of secondary factors relating to the specific historical conditions in which German capitalism developed, to its specific geographical position, to its specific strengths and weaknesses, to the degree to which it has been affected by the world-wide crisis of a declining social order, and so forth. It is not at all due to any fundamental difference between one capitalist imperialism and another, as any Indian can easily explain to an American bourgeois democrat.

There is a difference between imperialisms, as has been indicated in a general way, but it is a difference in degree and not in character. The difference may be seen by comparing Germany’s well-known program for Europe with the one being worked out by the Allies. Is the Allied program identical with that of Germany? Will the Allies establish exactly the same regime over Europe, if and when they crush the Germans militarily, as Germany did? It is worth while examining the three main reasons why the answer is in the negative.

Three Differences

First, as an imperialism without an empire Germany was obliged to proceed in Europe, the only physically proximate field for its expansion, in substantially the same way that older imperialisms, like England, had proceeded in the more backward parts of the world. If the symbol of German imperialism is Poland or Lidice, the symbol of British imperialism is India and Amritsar and the slave compounds of South Africa.

Second, in order to impose an “Indian” regime over such advanced “white” countries as Poland, Czechoslovakia and Greece, German imperialism was obliged to begin by imposing a similar regime over its own working class, that is, to destroy the labor movement no less brutally than it destroyed Poland as a nation. The only one of the Allies which is in a position to act similarly in Germany – and for similar reasons – is Russia. British and American imperialism are handicapped, restrained, by the existence at home of a labor movement and (more or less) of bourgeois democracy.

Third, and very important, in the Axis alliance Germany had nothing to worry about from its ally. Italy never was a serious rival or competitor of Germany in the program for dominating Europe; she was a vassal of Germany, a satellite at best. As compared with the relations existing between these two “allies,” the relations among the United States, England and Russia are almost those of equals. None of the three can hope to” achieve, at least not in the next period, the exclusive hegemony over Europe that Germany accomplished in a short space of time – and for a short space of time. If Europe is not directly threatened, once the Allies are victorious, with the same kind of “unification” it knew under Germany, it is due largely to the irrepressible rivalries among the Allies themselves, the inability of any one of them to take complete possession of the continent to the exclusion of the other two. These rivalries make impossible – at any rate, most unlikely – the subjection of Europe as a unit, and imply a modification of the “German unification” in the sense of a subjection of a partitioned continent. Every one of the bourgeoisies of Europe today bases its last hope for quasi-independence not so much upon the victory of the Allies as upon the conflicts among the three big “liberators”! That is about all they have left. What this implies for Europe, and for the fundamental problems of the continent that can be resolved only in unification of its separate parts, is not hard to imagine.

But whatever may be the difference in program for the countries to be liberated from German occupation, it diminishes almost to the vanishing point as applied to Germany herself. And Germany is the key to the problem of Europe, to which it has an even more vital relationship than Europe as a whole has to the rest of the world. If a free, peaceful and prosperous world is inconceivable without a free, peaceful and prosperous Europe, it is more significantly true that the latter is inconceivable without a free, peaceful and prosperous Germany. Fifty years of world history have meant absolutely nothing to anyone who has failed to understand this. What is in store for Germany in the not yet definitive but clearly indicated plans of the Allies?

It might be thought that with the impressively tragic lesson offered by Nazi Germany of the consequences of the application of its policies toward conquered nations, the Allies would act toward a defeated Germany with anything but the same policies. The Allies are not, however, interested in moral enlightenment. They are moved by the same forces and interests that actuated German imperialism, and abstract political lessons have no strength like the strength of economic interests. Germany, as an imperialist rival, must be destroyed to the joint benefit of the Allied imperialists.

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