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Notes of the Month

Rep. May Speaks Out

(July 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 6, July 1942, pp. 163–164.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan.

As the days roll into weeks and the weeks into months, the front in World War II widen and increase; its conflicts grow more intense. Millions of soldiers are locked in battle. The war on seas and in the air involves ever greater forces. The employment and destruction of material goes on as if this decisive element of modern war is inexhaustible. All the nations of the world, massed millions of humanity, are crushed by the weight of the struggle for profit. And yet there is no end in sight. As a matter of fact, for Americans, the war has not yet truly begun!

In Europe, in Africa, in Asia, war has been going on for years. The economies of these areas, the peoples, the armed forces, have been living through a gruesome hell. But in the Western Hemisphere, in the United States especially, every thing is in preparation. Economy remains in a process of transformation. Production is still being altered for total war purposes. The armed forces have not been thoroughly mobilized or trained. In this part of the world, the people have merely been inconvenienced – the hardships are still to come.

But even before the war has really begun for Americans, the ranks of the bourgeois rulers of American society are split into many segments on two vital issues of the conflict: war aims and the length of the war. The truth is, it is no longer possible to excite the passions of the people merely by the hurling of shibboleths against the skies. To one degree or another, the masses want to know, not only what this war is about, but what are the aims of the powers. Will humanity experience another bloodbath merely to re-travel the roads of 1914–39? And how long will this thing go on? How long will it be necessary to tighten one’s belt, to alter one’s existence, to shed the blood of the people?

Absence of Unity

Even though the bourgeois rulers are more vitally concerned with the concrete problem of the total reorganization of the national economy, which they have not yet been able to achieve, they must take time out to answer the questions which really concern the people. The absence of unity among the various groupings in the bourgeoisie needs no additional proof other than their failure to agree on the multiple problems and measures before legislative and administrative bodies in Washington. It is not enough to explain this situation by saying: the politicians are playing politics as usual.

There is a more fundamental reason behind the inability of the Administration and the ruling class to accomplish quickly the steps necessary to put the United States on the high road of a total war footing and that is the lack of a unified concept of the war, its object and the measures required to win it.

At first the speech of Vice-President Wallace, which characterized the war as a struggle for the “common man’s century,” was received with a grim silence by the press and the leaders of the American bourgeoisie. This silence is now followed by abuse and ridicule. For there are an infinite number of purposes for which the bourgeoisie is fighting. Principally, they are fighting to destroy the power of a renascent German imperialism, the main threat to the world economic and political position of American capitalism. It is generally overlooked that the war is not so much a war between Germany and Great Britain-Soviet Union as it is a war between Germany and the United States. Roosevelt understands this and the most acute leaders of the financial and industrial ruling class understand it. They are not fighting to save the “democracies.” They are not fighting to save China, to insure a quart of milk for every man, woman and child in the world, to overthrow the power of monopoly capitalism, or greed, or barbarism, or half a hundred other purposes. Those who do not understand this, understand nothing about this war.

The most potent weapon in the struggle against fascism cannot be employed by the democratic imperialisms – the social and political weapons, the propagandistic weapons of the fight for a new social order of economic, political arid social freedom, of the struggle for socialism. Against socialism, the bourgeois rulers of all the countries in the world would unite to defend their common booty. The New Dealers, the professional “democrats,” the liberals notwithstanding, the war against the Axis is a military struggle, pure and simple. The conflict is a test of economic and military power – and nothing else!

May on the Length of War

But such a conflict may be endless and there is a growing suspicion among the people that this war may come to no definitive conclusion. Certainly, the Administration and the military leaders of the United States, as well as the United Nations as a whole, know that this war will be a long and bloody affair. Imagine, then, their consternation when Representative Andrew J. May, chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee, spoke out and said that the war might end “probably in 1942 and unquestionably in 1943.”

The occasion for this remark was to assure the people that there would be no need to draft the youths of 18 to 20 years and married men, that the job could be done with the present army and with the induction of the remaining single men on the draft rolls. May’s remarks brought angry comments from the Administration and the military staffs and experts. On what basis did he make his prediction?

As chairman of an important House committee, presumably in the know, May’s remarks could carry enormous weight. Did he have some information not generally known? At least he intimated as much. But this was extremely embarrassing to the war effort. The War and Navy Departments, busily at work trying to create a powerful military force for eventual mass employment to turn the tide of a war which is now unquestionably favorable to the Axis powers, were greatly chagrined by what was undoubtedly a blow against their efforts. The military experts were at a total loss of how to explain their predictions of a long and bloody conflict in which victory was by no means assured, when an “authority” forecast a quick end of the war.

A complete objective analysis of the state of the war can lead to no other opinion but that the representative was talking completely through his hat, spreading marmalade to create good feeling and false hopes among the people. Hanson Baldwin, the nation’s outstanding journalistic military observer, who predicts a war of at least seven years’ duration, wrote in the New York Times of July 9:

“Mr. May’s remarks about the possibility of a quick end to the war finds no basis in any generally known military, political, economic or psychological facts ... The present military situation justifies no assumption except that of a long, hard war – a war in which we shall not only have to become far ‘tougher’ than we now are in order to win, but also have to go ‘all-out’ to prevent defeat.”

Ernest K. Lindley, the able chief of the Washington bureau of Newsweek, wrote in the issue of July so: “Actually Mr. May’s prognostication has no discoverable sanction among the well-informed.”

These two commentators forecast a long war. Both assert that the military authorities will have to take all available manpower, married and single, young and old. The global war will be a great devourer of human material. It will be an even greater devourer of material. It is becoming clearer every day, even for those who do not wish to see, that all of American industry and agriculture will be chained to the war, producing almost exclusively goods for the multiple fronts. And American manpower will be shipped to all the corners of the earth before this war is won.

The American masses are not yet prepared for this kind of war. They are not ideologically prepared for a long, destructive conflict. That is why the Administration is so disturbed. It still lacks unified support, a common aim, the necessary will. The fundamental reason for this is that twenty-five years after World War I they are re-fighting the same battles, the same basic forces, for the same basic imperialist goals!

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