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The Militant, 7 February 1949

John Saunders

The Economic Causes of U.S. War Drive

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 6, 7 February 1949, p. 2.


The capitalist press is filled with speculation as to a possible “change of line” by the Kremlin in favor of a deal with Washington. On this point we can give an unequivocal answer. Such a deal has been Stalin’s aim ever since the end of the war when American imperialism brusquely terminated its war alliance with Moscow and embarked on its “get tough” policy? It is Washington which has studiously held aloof from entering into another deal. It is Washington which has the final say.

American imperialism is aware that European capitalism survives primarily because of Stalinist treachery to the working: class. With the masses of Asia in ferment, a deal with Stalin might prove the only means of staving off revolutions in the Orient in the immediate period. A modus vivendi could be utilized by Washington to crush the incipient revolts and lay the groundwork for a more thorough exploitation of the colonial lands. This breathing spell could also be used to bolster the new alliance being formed against the Soviet Union and keep the latter from overrunning all Europe and Asia: when the Third World War breaks out.

Danger of Bust

There is, however, one big cloud on the horizon which becomes ever mere threatening and which motivates Washington’s thinking and planning. It is the danger of economic collapse. Truman was absolutely correct when he stated in his Economic Message to Congress “that our unparalleled prosperity has hot been maintained by chance.” If American capitalism had relied only on filling the shortages created by the war, we would have long ago been in the throes of depression.

Among many factors there was the Marshall Plan which prevented last year’s decline in exports from becoming much more drastic. But the most important factor, for the continued period of prosperity following the break in prices of agricultural commodities almost a year ago has been the increased tempo in war: preparations. Truman now finds it necessary to step up armament spending and to add another two: billion dollars to the budget, with additional funds envisaged for the purpose of sending lend-lease war equipment to the countries of Western Europe.

In order to further bolster U.S. exports it is now contemplated to guarantee American capitalist investments in colonial countries. Nor does the administration overlook the fact that a deal with the Soviet Union would increase exports to Eastern Europe as well as to China.

One Condition

A deal with the Kremlin could be advantageous to Washington from a political and economic point of view on only one condition. Under no circumstances must there be a let-down in war preparations. It cannot even be said that the actual use of these weapons in the coming war is the most important consideration.

With America’s tremendous productive potential any laxity in this respect can be easily remedied. The main reason is that our Whole economic structure would collapse overnight in case of disarmament.

With the existing and potential glut of goods on the market because of the inability of the masses to buy them at prevailing prices, capitalism can survive only by siphoning off production for non-consumption purposes. War preparations and war itself become the perfect destroyers of consumption goods, replacing the less efficient dumping and “plowing under” policy of the depression days.

Even increased exports cannot fully replace armaments in staving off a depression. Such increased exports, confined in the main to heavy industry, help to industrialize the less advanced countries who on the morrow become the competitors of American imperialism in the world markets. Moreover, in the immediate period an increase of American exports would sharply cut into the foreign sales of the industrialized European countries, thereby further undermining their shaky economic foundation. And American imperialism cannot afford to permit its allies to sink deeper into the mire.

Role of Stalinism

How can Washington achieve its aim of continuing and even stepping up its war preparations and at the same time make a deal with the Kremlin? Only by stressing and imputing to Moscow a perfidious role and an aggressive intent and. thereby masking its own imperialist appetite. It means casting aspersions at the Kremlin’s good faith toward the capitalist, powers and playing up Stalinism as a world revolutionary force.

American imperialism understands Only too well the falsity of its charges. Stalinism has indeed bddn treacherous, but to the world working class. But Washington must continue to sing this tune. For it must justify the backbreaking burdens placed on the American taxpayers and the failure to produce the much-needed housing and other vital necessities.

Equally important, American imperialism knows that any deal with the Kremlin will be transitory in nature. For one thing, there is a limit to which armaments can be stepped up under such circumstances. It won’t make sense to the American people. The inadequate purchasing power of the masses will bring about a greater and greater glut of consumption goods, necessitating still more astronomical figures for armaments to avoid economic collapse.

In the end, American imperialism must abrogate any deal it might make with Moscow and go all out for war preparation. Facing either bankruptcy if this mad whirl is continued, or economic collapse if it is not, the imperialists will gamble on war as their only alternative for saving the capitalist system. Thus any deal with Moscow can be nothing more than a slight breather in a continuing cold war in preparation for the shooting war to come. Nor does it matter who happens to be President or Secretary of State. It is economic compulsion of a decrepit capitalist system which is driving the U.S. inexorably to war.

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