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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

German War Guilt

(8 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 14, 8 April 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

Following a recent public meeting in Philadelphia at which the writer of this column spoke, we fell into conversation with a worker who had been an attentive listener and who had actively participated in the discussion following the speech.

“I read Labor Action and your column regularly,” he said, “and on the whole I agree with what you people say. But there is one thing I think I am opposed to you on and that is the slogan, ‘Bring the Boys Home!’ Ordinarily I’d be for bringing the soldiers home immediately, but if we do, isn’t there the danger that Germany, for instance, would stab us in the back and start another war?”

This question, it is hardly necessary to emphasize, is posed not by a representative of the capitalist class, behind whose “realism” lurks the barely restrained lust to plunder the whole world, but by an informed worker genuinely interested in forestalling the frightful terrors of a world atomic war which would reduce Paris, London, New York and all other centers of civilization to historic ruins like Pompeii, Kish, Carthage and Troy.

The problem over which this worker stumbles is a difficult one and one which, thanks to the propaganda of the press, is all too common among otherwise very acute workers.

Behind the idea that Germany must be policed lies the belief that the war occurred through Germany’s policy of aggression.

But the question of Germany’s war guilt is not a simple one, as many GIs found out to their surprise and – many times – anger, while idly conversing with their fraulein following the pleasures of Bavarian love in the cool of a summer evening under a linden tree.

German Propaganda Effective

GIs who were in Germany will recall the excellent pictorial propaganda put out as premiums by cigarette companies and directed against England, in which the horrors of industrial capitalism and imperialism were accurately portrayed. It was not difficult for the Nazis to show the baseness of England’s international politics and that Germany was merely seeking her “due” share of the colonial world to exploit – a world selfishly monopolized by England and secured by force years before .

Many GIs heard Lord Haw-Haw on the radio, as we did during the Battle of the Bulge, ripping Britain’s foreign policy apart, pointing out the reality beneath the democratic-sounding phrases. On this occasion he was adequately demonstrating that Britain, which had allegedly started the war over the violation of Poland’s neutrality, had agreed to its partition by Russia.

No, it was not difficult to confuse the average GI. When Germans were criticized for their treatment of the Jews they merely pointed to our treatment of the Negroes. When the German enslavement of Poland was mentioned, they merely made reference to England’s role in India.

Real War Criminal – Capitalism

Anyone who thought the matter through had to come to the conclusion that the war aims of all participating countries were base.

Capitalism is the real enemy, for capitalism produces war. That one country does or does not strike before another is merely a matter of preparedness, military or political advantage, or the urgency of the necessity for war.

Germany struck first, not because she was more morally corrupt, but because she needed markets more acutely, wanted to take advantage of the unpreparedness of her adversaries and had to act before the superior industrial plant of her opponents could be brought into operation.

Whether Germany is occupied or whether it is not will not prevent war. Only socialism, which destroys the economic basis for war, can bring peace to the world.

The occupation of Germany, with the economic and political strangulation of the country which accompanies it, produces a national hatred which can only fan the flames of future conflicts, as did the German occupation of France, thereby burying the rudimentary socialist consciousness of the masses of Europe.

Since we believe that the aims of both German and United States capitalism were reactionary, we are for the withdrawal of United States troops from Europe just as we were for the withdrawal of German troops from France during the occupation.

Every nation has the right to govern itself, without foreign intervention. One of the first steps toward the construction of a Socialist United States of Europe must be the reconstitution of Germany as an economic and political unit.

American soldiers are serving the reactionary aim of American capital to dominate the entire globe.


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