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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

The Worm in the Apple

(24 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 8, 24 February 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

The results of an Army poll taken last fall among 1,700 United States occupation troops have caused considerable stammering in the capitalist press.

The New York Times, for instance, stated with its usual combination of malice and falsehood that authorities “declared it revealed an amazing lack of knowledge of the causes of the war, and that it appeared to indicate that the United States soldier in spine cases had fallen for the propaganda of Germans echoing Joseph Goebbels.”

To lay the blame upon Goebbels is false if for no other reason than the fact that conversation with Germans – that is to say, German women – all too generally reached no higher level of abstraction than was necessary to consummate a few simple, fleshly pleasures. Discussion on any other level was. neither intensive nor extensive.

If reactionary conceptions were found present in the minds of American soldiers, the blame must be placed largely on the shoulders of American capitalism, which in civil life and especially in the Army, molded their thinking. For United States capitalismn is both unwilling; and unable to dispel such reactionary conceptions.

That is a job which only revolutionary socialists can perform.

Some Ideological Nettles

Fifty-one per cent of the soldiers polled “said they believed Adolf Hitler did the Reich a lot of good before 1939.”

Only persons who sincerely believed that the war was fought for human ideals and not capitalist profits have a right to be surprised at that figure. The capitalist class, for whom the New York Times adequately, if dishonestly, speaks, never really worried what crimes Hitlerism committed INSIDE Germany. In fact, that fascism destroyed the German labor movement, the Socialist and Communist Parties, and civil liberties was viewed by the real rulers of the United States with secret satisfaction and envy.

It was only when Germany began to rearm and menace United States foreign markets that American capital began to get noisily indignant over Hitlerism. It was, consequently, Hitler’s foreign policy, Hitler’s war of aggression, etc., which was, in the main, subjected to a propaganda barrage.

The Racial Question

Thirty-two per cent of the soldiers thought that the Germans had good reasons for the persecution of the Jews or were undecided on the issue of German anti-Semitism.

There is the symbol of the end result of the great democratic war against fascist intolerance!

Unemployment and depressed living conditions are characteristic features of capitalism. German fascism used the Jew as a scapegoat, loading upon him the blame for these conditions – blame which normally would, have heen, directed at the system itself. Only socialism, which alone can permanently eliminate unemployment, is capable of destroying anti-Semitism. To drive home this lesson was, of course, impossible for American capitalism.

In addition, no soldier could be expected to take seriously the propaganda against German anti- Semitism when he knew that anti-Semitism at home was not a subject for vigorous government action. He could not be expected to condemn abroad what was accepted as more or less normal at home.

War Guilt

Despite the millions upon millions of dollars spent on Allied propaganda, whose aim was to din one or two simple ideas into the heads of the American soldiers, and despite all the dangers and inconveniences to which they had been subjected by the German army, thirty-one per cent of the soldiers stated that Germany “had either some or a good deal of justification for starting the world conflict,” or said they were not quite sure!'

If that proportion were to hold good for the entire Army, nearly ONE-THIRD of the American soldiers were unconvinced of the fundamental justice of the war! There is a real victory for American capitalism!

The motivating reasons underlying this almost incredible point of view are suggested by the following:

“Twenty-four per cent of the soldiers questioned said the Germans had a ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’ argument when they said that since Germany was Europe’s most efficient country, she had the right to be a continuing influence on the continent. The soldiers compared Germany’s position with that of England in the British Empire and the United States in North and South America.”

It would be political wishful thinking to say that this attitude represents a full-blown insight into the fact that the recent war was one of imperialist plunder on both sides.

But what it does say is that for nearly one-fourth of the American soldiers, politically backward as they are, Germany’s war aims were no better or no worse than those of England or the United States!

Therein begins working class wisdom.

And therein, for the capitalists, lies the worm in the apple!

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