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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(9 March 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 10, 9 March 1940, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


One of the factors making for American intervention in the war which has received least public notice is the effect on American foreign trade of the Anglo-French economic union.

This union has been made increasingly complete in the first six months of war through successive meetings and decisions of the Allied Supreme Council and trade and industrial representatives of both countries. Through a series of agreements on currency, tariffs, trade quotas, the French and British Empires have been joined into what is almost a single economic unit, with Britain, of course, the dominant party.

By the latest accord, signalized by decrees in London and Paris on Feb. 28, all wartime restrictions on trade between France and Britain and the French and British colonies were removed. Goods will move between the two empires without formalities, licenses, delays, or any of the red tape that now attends so much of strangled international trade. According to the Paris correspondent of the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 29, this system “ultimately may embrace certain British Dominions.” The purpose, as described by this source, will be “that the two empires will be welded still further into one economic unit and that trade between the two will grow at the expense of business outside.”

This is the real nub of the matter, this “business outside” – for this means mainly American business.

In another dispatch from Washington on the same day, the Wall Street Journal bluntly declared that “INCREASING EVIDENCES OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CLOSED ECONOMY EMBRACING THE BRITISH AND FRENCH EMPIRES IS A SOURCE OF CONSIDERABLE WORRY IN CERTAIN QUARTERS IN OFFICIAL WASHINGTON.”

It is primarily to counteract this threat, the paper goes on to intimate, that Secretary of State Hull is carrying on his widespread parleys with neutral countries for the purpose of asserting American interests in world trade under wartime conditions as well as under those of the distantly envisaged peace.

The way in which wartime trade conditions are affecting American interests have already become evident in one publicized example – British abandonment of its tobacco purchases in this country and its juggling of its take of American cotton in order to better its position against American rivals in South America. Decrees signed on Feb. 28 in Paris establishing new controls over French imports mean that in the future American exports of automobiles, radio equipment, movie films, business equipment, typewriters, etc., to France are going to be virtually stopped.

While this is going on, of course, Anglo-French imports of other lines from the U.S. will mount – aircraft, copper, steel, etc. – but the shift is certain to cause a serious convulsion in American industry unless the executive committee of Big Business – the Washington government – soon puts a brake on Anglo-French presumptions.

And this is going to lead straight to U.S. intervention in the war ... together with Britain and France against Germany and Russia, but ALSO against Britain and France on the economic warfronts where the real fight for domination of the world goes on.


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