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R. Craine

Books in Review

Win the War, Win the Peace

(August 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 7, August 1942, pp. 223–224.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Strategy for Democracy
by J. Donald Kingsley and David W. Petegorsky
Longman, Green & Co., publishers. New York, N.Y. 342 pages, $3.00

Strategy for Democracy is advertised as a guide to democratic action and an outline of the policy which will guarantee the winning of the peace as well as the war. It purports to be a clarification of what our war aims should be, and how we should achieve these. According to the authors, neither Roosevelt’s eight-point program nor the Roosevelt-Churchill Atlantic Charter can be considered adequate.

This book, the authors state, is in a sense a by-product of the Antioch Conference held last year and contains contributions by a number of participants at this conference, the point of view of whom the authors do not necessarily endorse.

Kingsley and Petegorsky attempt to set the tone of the book by a discussion of the economic order of capitalism. I say attempt because, as will be shown later, the other contributors ignore what these two prove, namely, that the capitalist system is finished and should give way to another economic order.

The analysis of the capitalist orders made by these two authors, though very sketchy and inadequate, leads them at least to the following conclusions:

  1. Capitalism has entered the stage of monopoly, and “free competition” has been replaced by “monopolistic competition”;
  2. capital has become concentrated in the hands of relatively few monopolists and the relationship between the classes has become intensified;
  3. capitalism has reached the stage where monopoly in the ownership of the means of production is a fetter upon production;
  4. capitalist competition is the cause of war, and
  5. monopoly capitalism and democracy are incompatible, as demonstrated by the rise of fascism.

All these factors make necessary a program of transition to a new economic society, collective democracy, so that capitalist chaos and waste can be eliminated and democracy be given a new lease on life. Kingsley and Petegorsky contend that the alternative is between fascism and collective democracy (why not socialism?). For elucidation of this point, they print a section by Mordecai Ezekiel financial expert in the Roosevelt Administration) who starts out on the assumption that the object of production, regardless of the form of the society, is consumption. He overlooks the fact that under capitalism it is the owners of capital who decide the object of production, and that is not consumption but the creation of profits. That is the nub of the whole problem. To produce for use today presupposes the abolition of private ownership of the means of production. Without collective ownership, planned economy is an impossibility.

New Order by Experts

Ezekiel proposes a system of planned economy based on capitalism in which the productive forces will be expanded, profits and payrolls will rise, and there will be no unemployment. Kingsley and Petegorsky do not indicate how they square that with their view that “the source of the world crisis is the widespread reactionary attempt to confine the progressive forces of industrialism within a bastille of archaic economic and social relations. So difficult is such confinement that it can be accomplished only by the most violent means and then for no more than a brief period of time. In the long run the bastille itself must be destroyed and its place taken either by a more repressive structure, as in the case of fascism, or by institutions which will liberate the potentials in the machine process. These are the real alternatives; not the preservation of the bastille.”

Another section of the book deals with the winning of the war. The authors contend that the war will not be won militarily alone, but that political weapons in terms of what victorious democracy will offer to the vanquished countries is necessary. “If democracy is to succeed in waging total war against totalitarianism, it must similarly present to the victims of fascism a body of ideas and a record of achievement that will create in those countries where fascism has triumphed an enormous fifth column for democracy. We must present them, in terms of peace aims, the vision of a world that will inspire them to revolt against the crushing yoke of tyranny.” Bravo!

We leave aside here the fact that the above is precisely what capitalist democracy has been unable to do in this war and we consider what this vision is that is to inspire the millions of oppressed in Europe, Asia and Africa to act as a fifth column for the United Nations. This section is covered by Pierre Cot, who as Minister of Air and Commerce for the Popular Front Government in France, knows from first-hand experience how to preserve and extend democracy!

It is Mr. Cot’s task to draw up a plan for international organization after the war. He rejects the old League of Nations. It failed in its purpose for a number of reasons, the most interesting of which is that the great democracies failed to support it adequately. In place of the League, Mr. Cot proposes another world organization, to be run more democratically than its predecessor and to be administered by the same great democracies which allowed the former organization to go to pot! The victims of fascism will certainly be inspired to know that the new set-up will create a police force because keeping order in Europe will be “primarily a military and police problem.”

As for the colonial peoples, Mr. Cot offers them the prospect of being administered by the international organization. “All colonial areas not immediately able to assume self-government would have to be governed either directly or through a system of mandates by the world organization.” Mr. Cot, of course, neglects to mention who will decide whether colonial and backward areas are capable of governing themselves.

The masses of India are today demonstrating how they feel about such promises, and to what extent they are willing to entrust their self-government to the judgment of the victorious democracies.

Max Werner, the so-called military expert, discusses the military machine and concludes that the only way of solving Europe’s military problems is by the “creation of an international military police power that has for its tasks the prevention of revenge on the part of the defeated fascist forces and the defense of democracy.” It is obvious that Mr, Werner does not have much faith in the ability of the “fifth column of democracy” to fulfill this task.

More Generalities for Sale

In conclusion, Petegorsky and Kingsley tell their readers how to achieve the new collective democracy – through the organization of a progressive movement which will embrace the Negroes, the poor farm population, the middle class, and will be based on the organized forces of labor, the trade unions. They say that in the United States there is no large, influential radical party capable of achieving this. A political differentiation based on class divisions has started to mature, and it is necessary to heighten it. This will be the job of the progressive movement. Everything is said about this movement – everything except what its program will be. Will it aim to plan economy on the basis of capitalism, will it aim to overthrow the “bastille” of capitalism? Of this there is no indication.

After all is said and done, we are no further ahead than we were at the beginning.

Kingsley and Petegorsky say that capitalism is the cause of war – and publish a program for peace based on the continued existence of capitalism. They want a program to inspire revolt in the fascist countries and offer precisely what the masses of these countries fear in the event of their defeat – namely, military and police domination by the victors. They want to enlist the support of the colonial peoples and offer them international administration and open door policy. They say capitalism produces only chaos and that the choice is between fascism and collective democracy, and present a program (via one of the contributors) of planned economy based on capitalism. They say capitalism is the cause of fascism and yet they propose a movement with no program other than “progressive,” which says nothing about combating capitalism. This movement supposedly is to usher in the new collective democracy, but we are left in the dark as to how this is to be achieved.

All this is called Strategy for Democracy. A better name would be Straddling for Democracy.

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