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The New International, July 1944

Notes of the Month

The Role of the U.S. in Europe


From The New International, Vol. X No. 7, July 1944, pp. 198–199.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The United States rose as an imperialist power late in life. Except for Latin America, the rest of the world was already substantially partitioned among such older imperialist powers as England, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Russia. In Latin America, the United States was able, with considerable success, to hold off the European imperialisms with the warning “Keep Out!” written at the bottom of the Monroe Doctrine. From the days of the Mexican Wars down to the present, the United States has insisted on a “Closed Door” in Latin America for everyone but itself. In Asia, however, where European imperialism had already closed the doors to the United States, the latter has always insisted on the “Open Door” policy. American imperialism is for closing other people’s doors to intruders only after it has established itself as master of the house; otherwise, it is for opening both doors, so that it may enter through the front and push its competitors out through the rear.

America’s developed European policy is somewhat different. To become master of the old world is a task that cannot be accomplished by American military occupation or by annexation. It cannot be accomplished if there is a powerful state dominant on the continent. For generations, England was the arbiter of Europe by means of her notorious “balance of power” policy. Her European policy was so constructed as to make it impossible for any continental nation to take decisive steps without England’s approval. The foundation of this policy was England’s pre-eminent economic position – she was the “workshop” and banker of the world. The opening up of America’s real possibilities in Europe dates from the end of the first World War, when England yielded this pre-eminent position to the United States.

But it is not yet the full truth to say that the United States has replaced England as the principal world-imperialist power. What has happened is that the United States has acquired a power in world economics and politics that exceeds anything England ever possessed. In the period of England’s sway, there was still enough “living space” for other countries to remain or to become great powers without basically altering her own outstanding position. The present period of American sway not only does not permit a weak country to become a great power but prevents the great powers from holding their own. The United States, that is, has grown to its international strength in a period of the contraction of the world market. As Trotsky put it so brilliantly about two decades ago, the United States has put Europe on rations by allocating to the countries of the Old World – which is as good as saying the entire world – a constantly diminishing share of the market. The latecomer has become the world colossus.

The key lies in the word “latecomer.” With no territorial or colonial holdings in the sense of the British or French or even Dutch empires, the United States must first proceed by separating from their imperialist motherlands the countries dependent upon them – colonies, vassals and protectorates. What Mr. Reves so blindly interprets as the “fundamental fallacy” in American foreign policy, is nothing less than the fundamental axe with which American imperialism seeks to hack off the colonial or vassal members of the older imperialist powers in order to graft them onto Washington and Wall Street. The American “principle” of “self-determination” which Mr. Reves regards as a “centrifugal force” which “must be replaced by a system of principles exercising a powerful centripetal attraction within the United Nations and around them” – is in reality calculated to exert a centrifugal force only so far as the existing, non-American, empires are concerned, and to exercise “a powerful centripetal attraction within the United States and around them.”

Conflict Between England and the United States

The difference between England and the United States on the right of self-determination of small nations is anything but a difference in principle. The difference merely expresses the fact that England seeks to maintain an old world-imperial position to which her economic strength no longer corresponds, whereas the United States seeks to acquire and consolidate a new world-imperial position more in correspondence with its (comparatively) tremendous economic strength.

Churchill proposes (in his May 1944 report to Commons) a “world-controlling council ... comprising the greatest states,” and “a world assembly whose relations to the world executive or controlling power for the purpose of peace I am in no position to define.” In his March 28 address, to the Free Church Federal Council, Anthony Eden made it clear that “when it comes to deciding on action which only certain states by their military power are in a position effectively to take, we cannot simply count heads. The great powers have and must have special responsibilities in the field of security.” As for the small countries, Eden firmly insists on their undisputed right to be “free to declare their opinions and their grievances.” Whatever else is to be amputated from them, their tongues are to be left intact.

In pursuance of the “fundamental fallacy,” Mr. Hull, on the contrary, keeps pointing out, as he did in his Pan-American Day address, that “it was agreed at Moscow that membership in the world security organization must be on the basis of the sovereign equality of all nations, weak as well as strong, and the right of every nation to a government of its own choice.” At his somewhat sensational June 1, 1944, press conference, the Secretary of State went even further: “We have for 150 years preached liberty to all nations of the earth, to all the peoples of the earth, and we have practised it. We have encouraged all nations to aspire to liberty, and to enjoy it.” A subversive statement? Not at all, noted the New York Times: “The Secretary of State expresses the traditional American attitude when he refers to our interest in the full participation and equality of all nations, great and small in the creation of a new world order.” Yet, subversive it is! To attest this, we call upon the Washington correspondent of the United Press, R.H. Shackford. His testimony is quite adequate:

The diplomats considered Mr. Hull’s statement direct invitation to India’s 390,000,000 people, as well as the colonial subjects in the East Indies, Africa and other parts of the world, to continue their long struggle tor liberty.

Although Mr. Hull’s statement started out as reassurance to small nations of sovereign equality with the big ones in the post-war world, it appeared on analysis to be directed more to the subject people of the British, Dutch and French empires.

Those people were reminded that Americans have not forgotten their ancestors, who were subject people and fought a long and bloody war for freedom. They were assured that the same spirit of freedom for others prevails in the United States today.

The statement was in sharp contrast to some of the ideas expressed by Prime Minister Churchill, who once said he did not become Prime Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. (New York World-Telegram, June 2.)

True about Mr. Churchill, who only “expresses the traditional British attitude.” The “Prime Minister” who does seek to “preside over the liquidation of the British Empire” and all other rival empires, operates out of Washington. The “traditional American attitude” proceeds very “dialectically” from empire (of rivals), to liquidation of empire, to reconstitution of empire – on a “higher,” that is, on an American plane. Britain’s pleas for a world-ruling triumvirate is an anguished plea for equality with towering America. The American insistence on “sovereignty” and “equality” for the small nations is a demand for the monopolistic superiority of the United States over all its big rivals. That is all there is to it. The “fundamental fallacy” is Mr. Reves’. He is nonplussed by the insistence of democratic Washington on the “independence of small nations.” He is probably staggered and stupefied by the demand of totalitarian Tokyo for the “independence” ... of India, not, God forbid, of Korea.

The Secret of the “Fundamental Fallacy”

Does this imply that American imperialism is really for the independence and sovereign equality of these small nations? Certainly – up to the point of breakaway from their present masters and liege-lords. From that point on, the United States counts on its stupendous economic power to take all these countries in tow, directly or indirectly. The United States is now in a position to wield the biggest economic-political blackmailing axe in history over the heads of almost all countries, the weaker ones in particular. There lies the secret-behind-the-secret of its “fundamental fallacy.”

Europe will be a wreck at the end of the war. Where is the capital, the money, the food, the machinery, to come from to restore the world to a semblance of order? The economic and political life of all these countries, if it is not dictated outright, will be decisively influenced by the possessors of this capital. The helpless little nations, sitting in the “world council” with “freedom” and “sovereign equality,” will vote the way the money jumps. Whose money, England’s or the United States’?

England will emerge from the war, not a creditor but a debtor nation, and probably a heavy debtor. The heavy imports needed for her own reconstruction program will be a serious enough factor; added to it will be England’s need to pay off the blocked sterling credits due countries which have

been supplying her merchandise outside of American lend-lease. Without substantial backing from the United States, she would have to depreciate her currency in short order. The result would only be greater dependence upon Washington and Wall Street. Contrast this to the position of the United States. In his report on The Trend in World Economics, Dr. Adolph Lowe, a professor in the New School for Social Research, says of this country:

Her unique status of combining the largest share in world exports with the smallest export ratio of all industrial countries even makes it possible for her to couple a policy of self-sufficiency with economic imperialism; by exchanging her export surplus for property titles hi the importing countries.

There being no other source of large capital exports, no economic power will exist in the post-war world which could break so despotic a rule by the United States over the world market. (Our emphasis. – Ed.)

What can the “sovereignty” of the small – and the not so small – nations mean in reality, in face of this impending economic dependency, except a high-sounding cover for vassaldom? In a declining world, in the imperialist world, there is less and less room for an independent and flourishing many. There is room only for a tinier group of the ultra-powerful few ruling over a growing number of the many who enjoy neither political independence nor economic security.

The indispensable precondition for the freedom and prosperity of the countries of Europe is: Union. Short of the unification of the continent, it is doomed to stagnation and servitude, under American, British, or Russian domination, or under a combination of all three. It would be hard to find anyone who seriously questioned the need of some sort of unification of Europe “in general.” The real problem, as indicated earlier, is how is it to be done and who is to do it? Hitlerite Germany also “united” Europe, but the “who” and “how” of the unification meant neither peace, freedom nor security for the continent. The Allied plans for the “unification” of Europe hold forth nothing more promising.

For a solution to the thorny problem, we must take leave of Hitler and Reves, Eden and Hull, de Gaulle and Tito, and proceed to Lenin and the Bolsheviks. On an all-Russian scale, they faced in practise the same problem we now face on an all-European scale, and eventually on a world scale, namely, the reconciliation of the centralist need of unification with the apparently decentralizing aspiration of different peoples to national freedom.

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Last updated on 16 December 2015