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Workers’ International News, June 1939


International Crossroads


From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.6, June 1939, pp.7-8.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In the present complex international situation, one fact emerges with increasing clarity, and that is: Hitler has achieved the last of his bloodless victories. The further expansion of German imperialism can only take place by means of war. The immense scope of British rearmament, the adoption in Britain of pre-war conscription, the guarantees to small countries, all underline the fact that Germany has reached the edges of the British spheres of interest and any further step will be regarded as a positive violation of those interests

Relentless pressure from within Germany continues to operate to force German imperialism into adventures. The returns for the first three months of this year reveal a further sharp contraction in Germany’s foreign trade. The sudden immense leap in German note circulation during April has been followed by only a partial withdrawal of the new notes issued, and Germany continues on the dangerous path of unending inflation. Besides the havoc wrought by the world slump on her economic and financial structure, Germany has suffered a series of natural calamities – an anthrax epidemic, a poor whaling season, invasion by potato parasites – all of which further deplete her capacity to maintain the already low living standards of the population. Feverish war preparations, the accelerated arms race, the doubling of accumulated stores of grain over last year’s figures, these add to the factors making for economic breakdown and social upheaval. Haunted by the spectre of revolution, German imperialism turns perforce to the lesser evil, the hazardous attempt to expand by means of war.

Chamberlain’s policy of “appeasement” has been the attempt to direct Germany’s attack towards the Soviet Ukraine, and the agreement concluded at Munich seemed to leave the door open to this outcome. But a section of the British bourgeoisie held grave doubts as to whether Hitler would consent to the role laid down for him by Chamberlain. These doubts were voiced by Eden, Duff-Cooper, Churchill and Lloyd George, and were triumphantly vindicated by Hitler’s further move in seizing the remainder of Czechoslovakia and presenting demands to Poland.

If British policy to-day vacillates between “appeasement” and the encirclement of Germany, it is because German policy vacillates between the attempted conquest of the Ukraine and the attack on the interests of the Western powers, involving ultimately a war with them.

The mounting pressure within Germany is rapidly diminishing Hitler’s breathing space, and he is forced to take a decision one way or another in the coming weeks. Upon the nature of that decision depends the fate of the Rome-Berlin-Tokio axis. The partners in that axis have widely different aims, and the point has now been reached when Hitler must choose between Italy and Japan.

The Japanese interest in the axis is purely concerned with its possibilities as a medium of joint action against Russia. When Hitler absorbed Czechoslovakia, the Japanese press declared joyfully that Hitler’s path to the Ukraine was now open. Since Germany had already begun an agitation for an independent Ukraine, and had set up a school for the training of Ukrainian leaders in Germany, Japanese hopes ran high.

But the Italian press took a different tone, for Italy is by no means interested in the conquest of the Ukraine. Her interests lie in finding an ally against the western enemy and in seizing a slice of the Balkans to make up for her natural poverty in just those resources which the Balkans hold – coal, oil, grain, minerals. If Italy connived at the seizure of Austria and the Sudetenland it was, it is now clear, in the hopes that Hitler would then turn south-east. Viewing the possibility of a Ukrainian adventure with hostility, Italy held conversations with Poland from which Germany was excluded. Italy also backed up the Hungarian claim for a common frontier with Poland, and although this frontier slams the gate in the face of Germany in her march eastward, Hitler was forced to agree. And finally, Italy occupied Albania, the first step in the conquest of the Balkans. The Italian press emphasised the fact that Italy was waiting, was a past-master in the art of waiting, but could not wait too long.

The possibility that Germany would fall in with Italian wishes had the effect in Japan of producing at first uncertainly, followed by rumours that Japan was approaching the “democracies,” and ultimately a Cabinet split which showed the bourgeoisie of Japan as definitely against the axis.

It is not excluded that Germany will swing back to the plan to conquer the Ukraine. The British Government, by still hesitating to conclude a three Power Alliance to include Russia is doing all in its power to bring about such an outcome. In this case, as Japan draws back into the axis, Italy will draw further away, disappointed in her quest for gains in the Balkans. Whichever path German imperialism decides to adopt, the end of the axis is already in sight.

The dismissal of Litvinov marked the passing of Russian diplomacy in a phase of vacillation corresponding to vacillation in Germany and Britain, in Italy and Japan. Since it is Soviet territory that is marked off as one probable scene of Hitler’s next move, Soviet diplomacy seeks an alliance with Britain and France on the one hand but does not neglect on the other hand to make overtures to Germany.

The bargaining goes on behind the scenes, and the toiling masses of the world are mere pawns in the treacherous diplomatic game, blindfolded by secret diplomacy. The uncertainties in the situation are reflected in the internal struggle that goes on within the rival camps, and the double policy that arises from the equivocal situation. Chamberlain, while approaching the Soviet Union reluctantly and with hesitation simultaneously continues to hold out hopes of “appeasement” and to make gestures towards Germany. In the columns of the Times the spokesmen of the bourgeoisie continue to debate the pros and cons of the two possible lines of action.

The conclusion of a British-French-Soviet Pact means as little as the conclusion of the German-Italian military pact. If they seem to indicate for the moment that the Ukraine is safe from Hitler’s attentions, it must be borne in mind that nothing is as yet decided and present trends can be reversed overnight.

While the materials for the explosion with Germany are still as yet accumulating and have not yet reached the point of detonation, diplomacy remains in a state of flux, and the shuddering peoples of the world observe the ebb and flow through the distorting medium of newspaper headlines, and try to guess at the strength and direction of the hidden currents below the surface. Mankind, about to be plunged into a new bloodbath by the exploiters and their servants, evinces a deep, silent distrust of their diplomatic manoeuvres. Even Hitler and Mussolini have now, in recognition of this fact, abandoned the bellicose glorification of warfare that formerly marked their speeches. On all sides the imperialists bellow truculently their determination to preserve peace no matter how many millions are shot and bombed to pieces in the process.

One the eve of the Great War there was an atmosphere of war preparations, of frenzied diplomacy, of uncertain pacts and treaties such as obtains to-day. There was also the same deep apprehension and longing for peace on the part of the toiling masses. It is true that the first waves of patriotism on the outbreak of war swept away the instinctive distrust of the masses but it reasserted itself in the form of revolution before long. Similarly, the bourgeois politicians who babble so glibly of peace to-day are unwittingly preparing the masses for the day when they will find the road to peace – through revolution.

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