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James Burnham

Their Government

(29 September 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 74, 29 September 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In a major naval engagement, the strategic plans of the general staff of the United States Navy provide that the airplanes on the aircraft carriers shall be “expended.” This little word, under the circumstances, is not without interest.

What is meant is the following: The planes will leave the carriers in order to fulfill their various functions in the battle. While the planes are busy, the carriers, which are not equipped for serious combat, will retire far from the scene just as rapidly as possible. Those planes which are not shot down will, when their gas is exhausted, have no place to go to but the cold grave of the open sea.

The reason for the tactic is simple enough: planes and pilots are far cheaper and quicker to build than the $50,000,000 aircraft carriers.

Little Lessons in Neutrality

Britain and France declared war against Germany on Sunday, September 3rd. The President was thereupon required, by the law of the land, to proclaim immediately an embargo against shipments of munitions to these two countries. He did not do so, however. The proclamation of the embargo was delayed until the next day.

Perhaps this was because the President, as a religious man, considered Sunday a day of rest. Perhaps, also, he had more material concerns in mind.

On Monday morning, three ships loaded to capacity with airplanes, cleared from Pacific ports for England and France. An interruption of the President’s Sunday would have held those ships at the dock.

Not one of the airplane factories in the United States working on British and French orders has stopped or even slowed down production since the embargo went into effect. On the contrary, all of them have speeded up their lines.

No orders previously given by Britain and France have been cancelled. On the contrary, a number of new orders have been placed and accepted during the past two weeks.

Evidently the airplane companies are not alarmed by Senator Borah.

Since last Spring, the War and Navy Departments have been flooding veterans of the last War and reserve officers with requests to return to active service. The response has not been up to hopes. It takes dictatorial conscription to get men into the democratic war.

Early last summer, the War Department reorganized its operations on the basis of the following perspective: war in Europe in September; U.S. troops fighting abroad by Spring of 1940.

The Big Arms of the Big Brother

It was not prominently noticed that shortly after his declaration that the United States would defend Canada against its declared enemy, Roosevelt added that the United States would also defend all of the possessions of Great Britain, France and Holland in the Americas. These include the three Guianas in South America and more than a hundred islands scattered chiefly in the Caribbean and extending to the gulf of the St. Lawrence.

Somehow the isolationists don’t seem to have noticed that these declarations are, in effect, acts of war, authorized in the best totalitarian manner by executive decree. No doubt the isolationists are so busy forgetting the Ludlow Bill that they didn’t even hear about these declarations.

By them, the United States Navy and Army are committed, in advance and without any declaration of war by constitutional process – much less any expression of opinion from the people – to open up hostilities against Germany if Germany, in pursuit of her war aims, undertakes any actions against Canada or any of the British and French possessions in the Americas.

The armed forces of the United States are thus already intervening, and are altering the military balance.

New Boundaries for Old

In the old days, the territorial boundaries of a nation were accepted as extending three miles beyond its sea coast. The nation exercised sovereignty within this three mile limit.

During the last war, this three mile limit was extended to twelve miles, and “international law” tended to recognize the validity of the twelve mile limit.

Without any fanfare, and naturally without any, legislation, Roosevelt two weeks ago added immense territories to the United States. When asked where the limits of jurisdiction extended, he answered quite simply: wherever United States’ (read – Sixty Families’) interests lay. Acting on this doctrine, he instructed the Navy and the Coast Guard to get to work protecting this vast new territory.

It is authoritatively reported that Philip Fleming will soon replace Elmer Andrews as Wage-Hour Administrator. Fleming, like WPA Administrator Harrington, is an army Colonel attached to the War Department.

All governmental agencies having to do with workers are, you see, being put into the firm hands of the army.

In the chief agency of all, the War Resources Board, the army representation is headed by Marshal, the Chief of Staff. But there the true and full relationship is made clear: for General Marshall is subordinate to Chairman Stettinius, of U.S. Steel and Morgan & Co.

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Last updated: 29 February 2016