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Albert Glotzer

London Naval Debacle

(March 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 11, 15 March 1930, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The collapse of the London Naval Conference, coming on the heels of the fall of the French cabinet, bears out all contentions of the impossibility of the imperialists even to pretend at limitation of armaments. The attempt to mask itself as an apostle of peace for the world was a farce; the conference was made up purely of the leading imperialist powers – to the exclusion of all others. The issue of parity strength proved to be not one of reduction, but, on the contrary, one of increased construction of naval armaments.

We have all along pointed out the impossibility of the capitalist powers to attempt to solve and patch up their differences through conferences and negotiations, We said further that the London conference was actually a session of the leading capitalist powers, jockeying for advantages in the world political arena, and preparing their allies in preparation of an impending conflict. Furthermore, it was obvious from the outset that one of the main objectives of the conference would be to lay the plans for an alliance of the powers against the Soviet Union. In the beginning, it was clear that nothing could be achieved in the way of diminishing construction and reduction of armaments, and that the conference would reach a blind alley in a short while.

These views have been substantiated. For over two weeks, the conference has lapsed. The pacifists and the Conference attempt to lay the blame for this on the collapse of the French cabinet. While this is a factor, it does not eliminate the fact that the whole conference was leading to a point where its further deliberations would be checked.

Issues at the Conference

At the beginning of the conference, the following conditions were the basis for the negotiations: The parity ratio between the United States and England. The demand for increased parity on the part of Japan from the original proposal of 5–5–3 to 10–10–7. The demand of France for a tonnage of 724,000 tons, and Italy’s position calling for parity with France. This presented the curious picture of a disarmament conference with a program of increased naval construction.

The various issues during the first month of the conference whether or not battleships should be expunged from naval service, whether submarines were “humane instruments” during war, etc., were only confusing and played their part in delaying the discussion of disarmament. They allowed for time so that the various powers could obtain information on their opponents’ strength.

The real obstacle remains unsolved – what shall be the naval ratios of the participants? On this there is unanimous disagreement. While United States and England apparently agree to parity the remaining countries continue to disagree unless their commands are granted. France, which today has taken the place of pre-war Germany as the outstanding militarized nation, insists that her “freedom and interests” demand a naval tonnage of 725,000 tans, to be built for the most part by 1936. This means that France, in a short period, would have one of the largest and most modern navies in the world. Neither the United States, England, nor Japan agree to this. Japan on the other hand refuses, on the basis that she is an “island nation”, to reduce her tonnage, and Italy continues to insist on parity with France, to allow protection of her interests in the Mediterranean Sea. Both France and Japan refuse to liquidate their submarine fleets, which are the backbone of their smaller naval strength against both the United States and England. The above was the condition prior to the opening of the conference, and on which the conference today has lapsed because of its failure to even make initial progress.

Each of the naval powers demand “security” and are willing (!) for reduction it the other begins it That no progress will be achieved is obvious from the whole viewpoint of capitalist diplomacy, which can only try to solve its differences in the arena of war.

The Lineup against the Soviet Union

The question of the relations of the powers to the Soviet Union received special consideration during one of the sessions in which there appeared no possible solution to the conference negotiations. Japan opened with a defense of its naval program on the basis that her position off the coast of Siberia demanded that she be fully prepared to take part in a general offensive against the Workers Republic. This set a precedent which was followed by the other powers. France and Italy in particular emphasized this as one of the main reasons for their naval program. It goes without saying that all of the powers have in mind an attack against the Soviet Union and that this conference has already posed the question of the relation of forces between these imperialist wolves in that event. The problem of the defense of the Soviet Union grows greater and greater and becomes one of the chief tasks of the international proletariat

Conference Can Offer No Solution

It is clear that the London conference will arrive at nothing definite regarding naval limitation. The disappointment of Social Democracy and Pacifism is a great one. Their hopes have been shattered through the miserable collapse of the conference in which they pinned such exalted hopes. Along with this destroyed hope, the open betrayal of McDonald has become so much the more clear in his resignation from the Independent Labor Party – and his complete solidification with British imperialism.

The much heralded London conference has collapsed. Attempts to revive it will fall exceedingly short of their mark.

The problem of war remains as ever the problem of the international proletariat irrespective of sham conferences, utilized only to mislead the working class and put them in a state of false security, its solution lies in the destruction of this system of exploitation and war.

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