Isaacs Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

George Stern

On the War Fronts

(31 May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 22, 31 May 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Should the Nazis succeed in gaining control of Crete, they would obtain a position of great strategic value. Their air force will be able to operate more effectively against the British Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean and against the Suez Canal. From Crete they can go on to Cyprus and thence to Syria. And from Syria they will be in a position to go east to Iraq and south-westward to the Suez which would also be attacked from the west from Libya. The capture of Suez would drive the British out of the Mediterranean and make possible the shipment of oil from Iraq via that sea.

It is probably true that the war will not be won by Hitler even if he succeeds in driving the British out of the Mediterranean. But by doing so he will be able to obtain that which he needs most of all – oil. His chances for victory will be increased greatly. Surely his chances for obtaining a negotiated peace will become more favorable.

The British position is not helped any by the attitude of the Arabs in the Near and Middle East. Even if the British imperialists should succeed in defeating the Iraq troops, the hostility of the Arab population to the British plays into the hands of the Nazis. Not that the Arabs do not understand that the Nazis simply want to displace the British as their rulers. But an oppressed people is always anxious to drive out the most immediate oppressors – in this case the British – hoping to settle with rival oppressors in the future.

How superficial all these “practical” politicians in the labor movement are who contend that for the workers to take over power in England would mean an immediate Hitler victory. A working-class government in England, granting freedom to all colonies, would immediately bring the whole Arab world and the hundreds of millions in India into the struggle against Hitler and make his position completely untenable.

With the Nazis in control of Crete the possibility of war between the British and Vichy becomes much greater. For that will bring the Nazis closer to Syria and fighting between British and German troops in Syria will almost certainly drag Vichy into the conflict on the side of Hitler. The British have already attacked the French airdromes in Syria and General Dentz, representing Vichy in Syria, has threatened to use the French army against the British.

Darlan’s speech to the French people on Friday, May 23, telling them that in his conferences with Hitler the latter did not ask France to declare war against Great Britain and did not demand the use of the French navy or of French colonies, was no assurance at all to the British. Darlan was careful not to say what Hitler did ask and what was agreed to. Even if he asked and obtained only economic collaboration the relationship between Vichy and Britain would not improve any. The Vichy people have committed their fortunes and the fortunes of their class to Hitler.

That the French working masses are violently opposed to the Nazis is of no great concern to Petain and Darlan who, because of that very fact, are anxious for a fascist victory. Without such a victory they cannot remain in control for any length of time.

It can be taken for granted that the French masses will have less desire for war against Britain than they had for the war against Hitler. This attitude of the French masses is a factor staying Vichy’s hand but the pressure of Hitler is unrelenting.

Isaacs Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 30 March 2019