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Ernest Lund

How They Lied About Pearl Harbor

(10 September 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 37, 10 September1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The truth about how the United States got into the war is now beginning to be officially revealed. The Army and Navy reports on Pearl Harbor issued last week have definitely contradicted the war propaganda upon which the public was fed for the last four years. In the place of this propaganda there is presented a picture of the negotiations and maneuvers between the Japanese and American governments which confirms the position of the Workers Party that the war was the result of imperialist rivalry for domination of the Far East.

For the duration of the war every agency of public information in the United States was mobilized to sell the people the idea that the United States government had no interest in the Pacific except to defend itself and its possessions. We were told that like a bolt out of the blue, while negotiations were peacefully proceeding in Washington, the Japanese treacherously struck from behind in the “sneak attack” of that “day of infamy,” December 7, 1941. So went the official propaganda.

The 130,000 word report of the Army and Navy boards is full of quotations that establish that the American government was steering a course toward war as deliberate and calculating as that of the Japanese government. The crisis in these maneuvers was reached between October 16th and December 7th. During this time the only question at stake was which side would strike first.

Preparing for War

It was the strategy of the Army and Navy authorities to delay the outbreak of the war until they were more adequately prepared. The Army’s report states:

“The advice of the Army and Navy to delay matters and get more time for defense preparations and not precipitate the issue evidently did not reach the President or the Secretary of State in time to be considered before the memorandum of the 26th was delivered to the Japanese.”

What was the nature of this memorandum? The report states that when Secretary of War Stimson saw this memorandum of Secretary of State Hull to the Japanese, he considered it so drastic that he immediately rushed to confer with the Army Chiefs of Staff to warn them to prepare. The report states:

“Thus the Secretary of War felt the situation that was to be precipitated by the action of the Secretary of State, Hull, necessitated his informing the Chief of Staff immediately of the threatened difficulty.”

More Ultimatums

At still another place the report speaks of this memorandum as an “ultimatum” to the Japanese. The Army and Navy reports both accuse the State Department of sending the ultimatum despite their having warned the State Department against it on grounds that the American forces were not yet adequately prepared for war.

On November 5, 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff, United States Army, submitted a joint memorandum to the President, recommending that no ultimatum be delivered to Japanat that time and giving, as one of the basic reasons, “the existing numerical superiority of the Japanese Fleet over the United States Pacific Fleet.”

Hull determined to have a showdown with the Japanese despite the warnings of the Army and Navy. For the report states:

“Apparently on the 26th in the morning, Mr. Hull had made up his mind not to go through with the proposals shown the day before to the Secretary of War containing the plan for the ‘Three Months Truce’.

“Evidently the action ‘to kick the whole thing over’ was accomplished by presenting to the Japanese the counter proposal of the ‘Ten Points’ which they took as an ultimatum.

“It was the document that touched the button that started the war, as Ambassador Grew so aptly expressed it.”

Who Is Guilty?

There arises from this report a picture quite different from the “sudden, sneak attack” version peddled by official propaganda. The truth was, as the report established, that both sides were carefully sparring for position in what had become for them an inevitable showdown. As the report states so ably:

“It was not a question of fact; it was only a question of time. The next few days would see the end of peace and the beginning of war.”

The endorsement added to the Navy Report by Admiral E.J. King even complains of the fact that due to the constitutional requirement that Congress officially declare war before our armed forces are permitted to strike, the American military and naval commanders were at a disadvantage. Says King:

“This requirement made it impossible for Admiral Kimmel and General Short to employ the offensive as a means of defense, and, therefore, was a definite handicap.”

Thus we see from these official documents the true face of history. Two great nations are speedily being carried to war. Both are feverishly making last minute preparations. And both are proceeding under a heavy smoke screen of peace propaganda. Each wants to place the other in a position where the enemy takes the blame before public opinion for starting the war. The Japanese finally decided that the military advantage of striking the first blow would outweigh the political advantage of waiting until the United States struck first. The Army report even states professional admiration for the way in which the Japanese calculated their chances and executed their decision to attack. They call it a “bold and considered venture.”

What was the driving force that made war inevitable between the United States and Japan? For a full understanding of this question we must go back into history, back even before the last World War when, after defeating Russia in 1905, Japan emerged as a first class power in the Pacific. From then on the economic interests of American imperialism and those of Japanese imperialism crossed each other.

By chance both the United States and Japan were on the same side in World War I. However, at the end of the war the tension between the two nations led to a sharp war fever in both countries. The 1922 Washington Naval agreement brought a temporary relief. But the factor of economic conflict was again sharpened with the worldwide economic crisis. Japanese capitalism launched the attack upon Manchuria in 1931. From then on it was only a matter of time, as the report states in another connection, before the inevitable conflict between the imperialist rivals.

Basing itself upon this long-range understanding of imperialism and its history, the Workers Party was not in the least taken in by the patriotic hysteria about a “sneak attack” at Pearl Harbor. On the contrary, the Workers Party answered the outbreak of the war with a manifesto to the working people of the United States and of the world, stating clearly that this war, like the last, hadits roots in the economic rivalry of capitalism.

Workers Party Right!

On these grounds, regardless of who happened to strike first, the working class had no interest in supporting either imperialist aggressor. The Workers Party, therefore, continued to make its chief concern the struggle of the working class, against capital; the struggle in behalf of Labor’s economic and political rights and against all no-strike pledges, all wage and job freezes, all war-time dictatorial acts by government, all war agencies to ensnare labor to give up its rights in the name of “equality of sacrifice” like the War Labor Board. The Workers Party understood the true nature of the war because it had based its program and principles upon the tested teachings and experiences of the Socialist and labor movement in the past.

The Workers Party holds fast to these principles. It believes that as long as we permit capitalism to exist, imperialist wars will be inevitable. It states that the workers have nothing to gain from imperialist war and everything to lose.

The Workers Party therefore teaches that the workers of all nations must regard each other as brothers and stand together in behalf of the interests of world labor. These interests demand that in order to gain a world of plenty for all, freedom, and a permanent peace, the capitalist system must be abolished and replaced with a Socialist system of planned production for use through a nationalized economy operated by a Workers Government.

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