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The Bretton Woods Conference – II

United States: The New Seat of Empire

(September 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 36, 4 September 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Conclusion of last week’s article)

The CIO and labor generally are being bribed to support the Bretton Woods agreement by the promise of five million jobs, which are supposed to issue from expanded world trade. The CIO has already written favorably of the plan in its national paper. Labor Action maintains that support of this international extension of New Dealism by American workers means support of American imperialism: depressing the standards and exploiting the workers of the world for a short-lived American prosperity, to be followed by another world depression. This is the era of the U.S. empire, of dollar imperialism, and American workers should not be hoodwinked into supporting it.

U.S. the Power Behind Conference

All American workers have gone through at least one depression and are now bearing the brunt of the Second World War. By identifying themselves with the country as a whole, they get the illusion that “Uncle Sam is being placed for a sucker,” “We are fighting Britain’s war,” etc. The role of the U.S. at the Bretton Woods conference should chase away that illusion. Under capitalism, money is power, and in. “the struggle for power on a gigantic scale,” as the conference was described by one of the delegates, the U.S. won hands down.

Now, how does the U.S. exercise control? Votes are apportioned according to the money contributed by the respective countries. In the fund, the U.S. member would cast the largest vote, 27,000 out of 99,000. This country, acting either with Britain or Russia, would be in a position to control policy. In the bank, the U.S. share is thirty-five per cent, while that of all other countries combined is sixty-five per cent. Not all of the Bretton Woods agreement was made public, and it is rumored that the U.S. has special veto powers over combined action of the other nations.

Last week we discussed how the scramble for markets on the part of the major powers leads to depressions and war over those markets.

The trouble with all the capitalist countries of the world is that they are naturally competitive, not cooperative. For instance: all the advanced countries, like England, the United States, Germany and France have more or less identical industries in steel, oil, rubber, automobiles, etc. Now, not every worker by a long shot has an automobile in these countries, because, he isn’t paid enough by the capitalist. But the capitalist has gotten enough out of him to have excess factories, machinery, automobiles and profits. He can’t sell or use them at home, since the home population hasn’t been paid enough to buy this excess goods in the capitalist’s hands. Therefore, the capitalist looks abroad for markets. Here is where the collisions come with capitalists of other countries in the same position.

It’s the Taxpayer Who Pays

This is a basic contradiction of capitalism that the Bretton Woods agreement cannot overcome. The proposed world bank can lend money to bankrupt nations like England, Italy, and the Balkans, prime their industries to recreate what the war destroyed. After this initial impetus, furnished mainly by the U.S. dollar, the old business cycle of short boom, long depression and war will set in again. All that the fund and bank can do is cushion the shock.

When a country cannot afford to pay back its loan, the loss will be borne by the governments of the various countries concerned. It will not be borne, as in the case of a private loan, by the bank’s investors. Since the government stands for the loss on a bad debt, losses will actually be passed on to the taxpayers, the majority of whom are workers. In other words, we are financing the post-war trade. Then we ought at least to see where it will take us. Henry Morgenthau, chairman of the conference and foremost United States representative, announced that the gathering concerned itself with “economic,” not “political,” matters. There was never a more misleading statement. The power of money, to grant or to withhold a loan from an impoverished country, compels an interest in and an intervention into the affairs of that country.

The Flag Follows the Dollar

An instance of the political “disinterestedness” of the conference was the squeeze put on France. A war-devastated country, she is still, however, second in the size of her monetary gold holdings and third in point of pre-war trade. The conference relegates her quotas and consequently her powers to use the fund and bank to rebuild herself after the war, to fifth place.

Put above her on the list was China, whose fund will come largely from the United States. Those additional votes of Chinese representatives, whose government is pretty well subordinated to Washington, will come in handy to the U.S. It is to be noted, too, that in comparison to France, China is a far greater potential market for American capitalists and therefore a greater source of exploitation and profit. The conservative U.S. News states that the “first United States-British objective will be to prevent violent revolution after a German defeat, to prevent loss of political power by business-financial groups.” It requires no imagination to envisage those “business-financial groups,” who financed Hitler into power, being propped up by the world bank, to prevent a workers’ Germany. And only an idiot could imagine the bank making a loan to help out a genuine, democratic, workers’ government. Purely “economic”? Not “political”. That’s for the sheep.

Eliminate Wasteful Competition

Because capitalism produces for profit and not for use: Because these profiteers own identical plants and agricultural interests; because they won’t nationalize or internationalize competing industries to eliminate competition – compete they must, world stabilization fund and bank notwithstanding. The U.S. and another powerful country or two might have a short prosperity by stifling the rest of the world. But over a period, if the rest of the world can’t export profitably, it throws its workers on the breadlines, and we, too, find no market. The capitalist stops producing, and “prosperity is just around the corner” again.

So, in the 1ong run, U.S. workers get it in the neck, too. An attempt is being made to buy off their class solidarity with the working people of other countries by the promise of five million extra jobs. In this same fashion were class feelings of the British workers blunted – at the expense of starving India. Let American workers not be fooled. The U.S. is out to control through filthy lucre what the British got by plunder. The results are the same.

Profiteering prevents capitalism from planning for use on a world scale and assuring prosperity, regardless of stabilization fund and bank. Capitalism has the interests of the financiers and coupon-clippers at heart, not the security of its workers through full employment and a high standard of living.

The workers and the working farmers all over the world have always borne the brunt of capitalism’s wars and depressions in every country. They alone, organized in unions and working class parties, have the power and possibility of organizing production to eliminate destructive competition and profits, and to erect as their guiding slogan’s: PRODUCTION FOR USE AND NOT FOR PROFIT! FOR A WORKERS GOVERNMENT IN THE U.S. AND A SOCIALIST UNITED STATES OF THE WORLD!

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Last updated: 13 December 2015