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Joseph Carter

Lord Halifax:
Christian Gentleman, Imperialist Spokesman

(December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 38, 30 December 1940, p. 4.
transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Lord Halifax has been appointed to succeed the late Lord Lothian as British Ambassador to the United States. He received prior endorsement by President Roosevelt, and is being acclaimed by the daily press as a worthy spokesman of the British people.

Now there is no doubt that he represents the British people – in fact, the “right” people, the aristocracy of wealth and privilege and power. As for the great mass of working people, Viscount Halifax – now that Neville Chamberlain is no more – has the honor of being the most hated man in the Isles. Quite a distinction!

For them Halifax is the symbol of the Tory ruling class, that powerful collectivity of rich parasites, polite hypocrites and accomplished liars; a worthy gentleman and good diplomat – if we recall that a gentleman is one who never does productive work and a diplomat is a skillful liar.

In the Cliveden Set

Halifax – as Chamberlain – is remembered by His Majesty’s subjects as a leading spokesman of the notorious Cliveden Set, that group of arch-reactionary bankers, big business men, army officers and politicians who helped finance and rearm Hitler, and sought to reach an agreement with him which would avoid his “muscling-in” on their own rich preserves – above all, the British Empire. They looked with great envy and hope at the growth of Fascism – envy because it had destroyed the nuisance of the labor movement and political democracy; hope because here appeared the answer to the threat of “Bolshevism”, and the power which, by war, could open the Russian market to capitalist exploitation and oppression.

They thought that Hitler, and big business behind him, would be their allies, if not their tools, in bringing order into the growing chaos. A “new social order,” to use the popular phrase. Their last heroic and magnanimous effort in this direction was the Munich “appeasement” of 1938. The big-hearted gentleman sought to “appease” Hitler by handing over to him what was not theirs: Czechoslovakia. Consult the people who were being placed under Fascist barbarism? Old-fashioned nonsense! Well then, consult the government of Czechoslovakia? Why go through with that formality!

Halifax, who was Viceroy of India from 1926 to 1931, is a past master of the art of shouting for democracy while crushing national freedom. In fact, this worthy gentleman had to be recalled by his government in the midst of the widespread civil disobedience campaign waged by the Indian people against British tyranny.

Yes indeed; Halifax is an authoritative voice of Tory Britain. Outwitted by the upstart Hitler, he and his class could not surrender their fabulous plunder – the British Empire – without a, struggle to the last drop of blood ... of the British people, and of the American people. In any case, unless a new agreement between the gangster powers could be arranged.

His Hands Are Full

But Lord Halifax has two tasks to accomplish in the United States. The first, is to get the maximum military aid for his cause – airplanes, tanks, battleships, merchant ships, and finally manpower. The second, and for him as important, is to drive as good a bargain for this assistance as possible. It is known that Halifax’s friends have a total investment in the Western Hemisphere of nine billion dollars. (The three billion dollars of British securities usually referred to covers only the United States.)

American big business wants this dough. Before Roosevelt announced his new three billion dollar “lease-loan” program for war materials to Britain, bankers in this country were considering another neat scheme to skin the cat. They talked of organizing a private finance corporation to finance British purchases in the United States. The British would, pay in cash as provided in the Johnson Act, and deposit their securities – bonds and stocks – as collateral for the loan. If at the end of fifteen or twenty years the British did not pay back the loan or did not meet the agreed upon annual payments, then the securities would become the property of the private finance corporation. And to cap the climax, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation – a government body already engaged in subsidizing British orders in the United States – would be called upon to help this scheme by buying and selling these securities as befits the interest of the private bankers.

Whether this ingenious plan will be a feature of Roosevelt’s new “lease” proposal or not, Halifax has the job of fighting on two fronts: not only against his German enemy, but also against his American competitors. His hands will be full.

However, if we are to believe what we read in the New York Times, the new British Ambassador has the personal qualities for this Herculean job:

“He believes in the decencies of international and individual conduct as he believes in the the ten commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.”

These are the credentials of the Christian gentleman and imperialist spokesman.

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