From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.4, April 1939, pp.1-2.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
After an uneasy half-year following the “agreement” at Munich last September, the armies of Europe are once more on the move. Swift moves by German imperialism have been followed by swift counter-moves by its rivals and by its allies, and every day reports are being published concerning movements of Italian and German troops to the borders of surrounding small states while a new crop of Balkan frontier incidents has appeared to furnish a shower of sparks any one of which might easily set the fuses alight for the final explosion of the monstrous imperialist ammunition dump.
The crisis has intensified the trade-war, cutting across the former trend of attempting to reach agreements by negotiation. Arrangements already reached between British and German industrial interests have been denounced, projected French and British trade missions to Germany cancelled, German orders refused in Britain and payments on Czech balances in British banks suspended by authority of the British Government, while crushing penalty tariffs on German goods have been imposed by the United States. The intensified economic warfare merges with the international crisis and is once more bringing humanity to the verge of a universal blood-letting.
The capitalist regime in Germany is hard pressed. The coffee-famine created by the breaking down of trade relations with Brazil in the past weeks is being paralleled by the threat far more serious, of a cotton shortage occasioned by the decision of the Brazilian Government to suspend cotton shipments to Germany. This is only one item on a long list of shortages during the past months due to the fundamental weakness of German economy, the inadequacy of foreign exchange controlled by the Reich. Industrial activity has been intensified by Government policy during the past months to the point that a deficiency of half a million workers is announced in the German press. Serious internal financial difficulties are indicated by, for example, the decree of March 25th which compels firms to accept, in payment for government orders, tax-bonds for 40 per cent. of their receipts. Unable to finance its policy of setting the nation to work, unable to secure raw materials in sufficient quantities for its needs, unable to find markets in a world of increasing slump, the Hitler regime is heading for financial disaster and social upheaval in Germany.
The boldness of Hitler’s moves is the boldness of desperation. Terrifying though the armaments of rival imperialism which confront Germany with the prospect of certain defeat in the event of war, the rumblings of internal crisis, presaging the destruction of German capitalism, are still more terrifying. The only chance for survival of German imperialism lies in the fact that its rivals, realising that even a victorious war will precipitate revolutions hi their own territories, are compelled to make concessions otherwise unthinkable.
But there is a limit to the concessions that those rivals can make, and that limit has almost been reached. Beyond lies war.
The seriousness of the situation is indicated by what is described as a “re-orientation” of British foreign policy: the offer of “guarantees” to Poland and Roumania by Britain.
The British offer was made in equivocal terms, but when the Times in an inspired leader on April 1st attempted to castrate the British undertaking and pave the way for further territorial concessions, a storm broke loose among the spokesmen for those sections of the British capitalist class who still cling to the illusion that it is possible to coop up and immobilise German imperialism by encirclement with the help of a pact that includes the Soviet Union.
In face of the outcry the Foreign Office was compelled to contradict the Times interpretation. But it must be recollected that during the September crisis, the revelation made in a similar inspired leader in the Times met with a similar outcry and a similar repudiation by the Foreign Office, but nevertheless accurately foreshadowed the policy of British imperialism. It may be taken for granted that since it is still only Poland’s “independence” that is the subject of the British guarantee and not her territorial integrity, the maps are being re-drawn behind the scenes.
German imperialism must either expand or explode The policy of Chamberlain, who speaks for monopoly capitalism in its most naked form, seeks to orient itself to this basic fact, and exhibits far more realism than the wishful-thinking dreams of the rest of the capitalist class. As the slump progresses and the pressure on Hitler mounts up, Chamberlain, the self-styled “man of peace” seeks to clear the path for him into the Soviet Ukraine. By prolonging the hostilities with surreptitious intervention until both protagonists are sufficiently weakened, the “neutral” British vulture will be able to descend upon the battlefield and gorge itself.
The alternative, to encircle the Reich, would be to sit on the safety valve, and would produce the usual consequences of such a procedure. War with Hitler Germany may indeed be ultimately, forced on Britain, but will by no means be deliberately sought by Chamberlain through encirclement.
British policy has therefore by no means been re-oriented, no new chapter in diplomatic history has been opened by the “guarantees” offered to Poland and Roumania. British monopoly capitalism still remains the judge of whether Germany’s next move constitutes a mere frontier incident or an attempt to “dominate the world by force.” If it facilitates Hitler’s drive into the Ukraine, it will undoubtedly be dismissed as a minor incident, a small price to pay for “peace.” But if it threatens the position of Britain in the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East by facilitating a joint German-Italian conquest of Balkan resources the moral indignation of Chamberlain’s masters will again know no bounds, and, what is far more to the point, this time they will be prepared to take military action.
The placing of the Territorials on a virtual war footing by the huge increases in their number and corresponding equipment, the acceleration of war preparations generally in Britain are accompanied by the drawing together of the politicians of capitalism in “national unity.” The present foreign policy of’ British imperialism meets with complete support from the parliamentary representatives of Labour who criticise, not its purposes, but its spokesmen. Labour stands ready to lead the working class into war or to hold them back when Hitler attacks the Soviet Union, as the case may be.
The Communist Party has been torn with uncertainty since the crisis of last September. Dimitrov’s article in Pravda of November 7th, 1939, struck the keynote of Communist policy in attempting to speak in two tongues at once. The phraseology of “peace-loving democracies” threatened by “aggressive fascism” was placed side by side with a revival of-former phraseology denouncing imperialist war. From the two sets of phrases flow two different lines of action, for if a war between Germany and Britain is to be accepted by the working class of Britain as an attack by German fascism on “peace-loving British democracy” the conclusion is that the workers must take up arms on Britain’s side in that war. But if it is to be represented as it really is, an imperialist war for the redivision of the world, the Leninist conclusion must be drawn of preparing the defeat of their own ruling class, British imperialism. Thus in one breath Dimitrov speaks for and against support for the “democracies” in the coming war.
This combination of conflicting lines and their corresponding phraseology is by no means the product of confused thinking on the part of the Kremlin spokesmen. It is a deliberate attempt to move to an intermediate position in readiness for the outcome of the uncertainties that arose after Munich. Stalin’s speech of last month further emphasises the uncertainty of Soviet foreign policy and his readiness to strike a bargain with Hitler. The working class movement is cynically subordinated to the needs of Kremlin foreign policy, for which the national Communist Parties are mere instruments.
The life interests of the workers are threatened not only by capitalist policy but by the treachery of the leadership of the working class parties.
The only path to the ending of wars, the defence of the Soviet Union and the smashing not only of fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain, but the threat of fascism in Britain, France and America lies in the overthrow of world capitalism.
Last updated on 12.10.2005