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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(3 February 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 5, 3 February 1940, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Winston Churchill, England’s No. 1 warlord, made a speech at Manchester last Saturday in which he unexpectedly introduced the notion that the Allies might terminate their waiting game, take the initiative into their own hands and leave to Hitler the job of worrying where the next blow will fall.

“We do not wish indefinitely to continue merely awaiting the blows ...” Churchill said. “We hope the day will come when we shall hand that job over to Hitler, and when he will be wondering where he is going to be struck next.”

This was supplemented for special consumption in this country by Augur, journalistic mouthpiece of the British Foreign Office, in a special dispatch to the New York Times on Jan. 29. Augur’s version is that the masses in England and, indeed, throughout the Empire, are beginning to get impatient for more blood.

“This country’s demand for resolute action is growing all the time. Resistance to German attacks, however stout, ceases to satisfy ... The Allies cannot achieve victory if it is irrevocable that they remain on the defensive ...”

Since the beginning of the war every responsible leader on the Allied side, including Churchill, has repeatedly stated that the Allied victory will consist in sitting tight and compelling German submission largely through the blockade and other forms of economic warfare. This has been only in part the real basis of Allied strategy.

Actually the twin line of massive fortifications on the Western front makes any offensive there prohibitively costly to either side. Any offensive, if one is to be undertaken, must of necessity take place across countries now desperately striving to remain neutral – Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and on the other side of the map, the Balkans.

So far the Allies have been content to wait and leave up to Hitler the heavy risks involved in starting an offensive at any one of these points. Then they could march across these frontiers as “saviors” and not as “aggressors.”

For in their reaction to Churchill’s open bid of a few weeks ago to all neutrals to come in on the Allied side, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland showed plainly that they do not intend to rise to the bait but will fight anybody who tries to cross their borders.

And now Churchill, and his echo, Augur, speak in terms of direct menace to the neutrals. Augur, indeed, says openly. “The moment is now foreseeable when the British and French will openly become the aggressors.” This, clearly, is not intended only for ears in Berlin, but in Brussels, Berne, and the Hague, and in Scandinavia as well.

Churchill may simply be trying to egg Hitler into starting the offensive over which the Nazis hesitate like the man who hovered on the hotel ledge seventeen stories above the ground.

But Churchill is at the same time holding up a heavily mailed fist under the noses of the neutrals. Britain’s economic warfare is waged not only against Germany but of necessity deals heavy blows to the smaller neutral states.

He is saying to them in effect that if they do not yield to British pressure and openly join the Allies, they may be forced to whether they like it or not. For the Allies will “openly become the aggressors.”


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