From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.7, July 1939, pp.1-3.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The secret negotiations between the Chamberlain Government and Moscow have been dragged out ever a period of weeks, and have still failed to eventuate in a positive alliance. From the protracted nature of the talks and the repeated “appeasement” gestures towards Germany, the conclusion has been widely drawn that the British bourgeoisie is pursuing a vacillating and uncertain course, unable to make up its mind between two equally unpleasant solutions.
But to read into British policy any indecision as to what it really wants, any evidence of senility and impotence, would be profoundly wrong. The reluctance of Chamberlain to conclude a definite pact with Russia, the refusal to make public any details of the discussions, the repeated postponements and delays, all are part of a deliberately undertaken policy.
The Anglo-Soviet Pact is being kept in reserve as the eleventh-hour instrument to be used only if the need arises to block an intended advance of German Imperialism into new territory. It will serve, when and if it is published, as a last warning to the Reich, a warning which, if it is ignored, will be followed by the outbreak of the Greater War that Germany will have to fight as in 1914 on two great fronts.
British reluctance masks a threat to Germany. And the reluctance to come to terms displayed by the Kremlin similarly masks a threat to the Western powers, a threat to support Germany in the coming war unless the Chamberlain plan to egg Germany on to attack Russia is positively and finally abandoned.
So it comes about that in the discussions between Britain and Russia there is a third, silent participant – Germany, which bargains secretly with both parties, offering them, at a price, the thing they most desire, namely, neutrality in the coming conflict.
The Kremlin hopes for neutrality for obvious reasons. The tremendous tasks within the undeveloped territories of the Soviet Union make any thought of imperialist designs fantastic and absurd.
On the other hand, Britain hopes to maintain neutrality for the simple reason that since Germany has already been plundered of all that Britain coveted in the last war, there is nothing left to be grabbed in a new war with Germany in the event of a British victory. With everything to lose and nothing to gain, with revolts germinating in all her colonial possessions, Britain strives might and main to divert the attention of Germany towards expansion at the expense of Soviet territory.
The new Russia would be a hard nut for Hitler to crack, even after the devastation wrought by the Stalin purges and the decapitation of the Red Army. And Germany, already weakened before the war, would certainly exhaust herself in the struggle and therefore be unable to claim the fruits of victory even if the outcome were a victory for Germany. The conquest of Russia would be a conquest, not for Germany, but for the Western powers who would step in to terminate hostilities and grab the booty when both sides were spent.
Well aware of these British designs, the German Government, though its mouth waters at the thought of seizing the rich Ukrainian lands, nevertheless, hesitates to allow itself to be used as the catspaw of Britain.
But to-day, faced with another hard winter in the throes of a world slump, Germany is forced to move once again. If Russia is not to be the victim, then the move must be made at the expense of the Western Powers along the lines of conquest which have hitherto proved so successful in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Danzig and the Corridor are the next in order on the list of Nazi designs for conquest.
The Anglo-Japanese tension over Tientsin has served to distract public attention to the Far Eastern war zone. Against the general background of twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, the episodes that have occurred, the blockade, the “indignities,” etc., would have been more than sufficient cause for a resort to arms. But deeply involved as Britain is in Europe, the distraction has been ignored for the most part. The amazing complacency of the British Government with regard to Japanese “insults” is in itself an ominous warning to the world that Britain is determined to concentrate all attention on the situation in Eastern Europe which assumes the dimensions of a major war-crisis. Hopeful thoughts that the Danzig crisis will culminate in another Munich agreement, and nothing worse, are given the lie by the very placidity of the British attitude to Japanese encroachments on Eastern trading rights. It is not the millions invested by British finance-capital in Japan but the exigencies of the European situation that hold Britain’s band in the Far East. Inaction in China presages sharp and violent action in Europe.
The permanent diplomatic crisis that has existed for more than a year in Europe has somewhat inured the masses to the war danger. Living so long on the slopes of a smouldering volcano, panicked so often by war alarms, the present situation is viewed as “another” crisis which will probably turnout to be yet another false alarm. British tolerance towards Japan, “appeasement” gestures to Germany, equivocal statements by British politicians and the dilatoriness of the negotiations for the Anglo-Russian Pact are all interpreted as signs that the danger is as yet far off.
But the opposite is the case. Politicians’ utterances to-day are as misleading as they were on the eve or the Great War, and just as Britain fosters peace with Japan to keep her hands free for Germany, so also is the protracted delay in the negotiations with the Soviet Union part of a deliberate plan to deal with Germany. The conclusion of the Anglo-Russian Pact has been openly made contingent upon Germany’s preparations for the seizure of the key position in north-eastern Europe.
The Nazis, speaking through their official organ, the Voelkischer Beobachter, have angrily refused the tacit offer of the Chamberlain Government to postpone indefinitely the conclusion of a pact with Russia. “... Do they wish to beat down Moscow’s demands by hinting at a possible understanding with Germany?” And the entire German press chorusses execrations of Britain.
Side by side with the angry rejection of Chamberlain’s schemes goes active preparations for another coup. And the negotiations between Britain and Russia keep step with the military preparations of the Nazis. The slowness and tortuousness of the diplomatic exchanges over the Pact reflect the vacillations and uncertainties of German Imperialism, which fears that this next adventure may easily be its last.
The publication of the news that the Pact has been concluded is intended by its British sponsors to have the effect of an exploding bombshell in the path of Germany expansion. The news that the Pact has been signed will signify that the British Intelligence Service in Germany has become convinced that the final preparations for the coup have been completed, and another dramatic move is about to be made.
But until the Pact is concluded, while the Reich still falters on the threshold of this latest, most desperate venture of all, the bargaining goes on. If Chamberlain still seeks to make a deal with Hitler, Stalin for his part does likewise. While provocative anti-Soviet references have disappeared from Hitler’s speeches and the German activities in the Carpathian Ukraine have ceased, impressive German trade delegations are planned, and offers of credits to Russia of over £40 millions are being talked of. The dismissal of Litvinov and Potemkin signify a correspondingly conciliatory attitude on the part of the Kremlin.
While the world stands poised on the verge of military and economic catastrophe, the diplomatic game goes on. In a world which has been converted by the unprecedented arms race into one vast ammunition dump, the diplomats play hide and seek in the darkness of secret diplomacy until the inevitable spark detonates their playground.
Is it possible that long-suffering humanity will wade once more through the ocean of blood that another world war will create, will endure the privations, the famine and disease of the last universal war all over again? It is quite certain that a great deal of persuasion will be needed to convince mankind and to keep them convinced that the new war is being fought for noble and worthy principles. The clamour of the “socialists” and “communists” about the defence of democracy, will this stand the test of another war? It is quite certain that the flames of warfare will consume all illusions and fakes, the “blood and honour” of Hitler and the “defence of democracy” of his imperialist rivals. Faced with the ultimate struggle for life itself, the masses will smash out of their path not only capitalism with its war-breeding struggle for profits and its secret diplomacy, but also the treacherous misleaders of the masses who mask the war-aims of their capitalist masters with fine phrases about democracy. In this crisis in the history of civilisation, revolutionary socialists would do well to adopt, with a different interpretation, the slogan now splashed on British hoardings: “We’ve Got To Be Prepared!”
Last updated on 11.9.2005