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Sherman Stanley

Walter Lippman, Voice of Wall Street,
Reveals Boss War Aims

(September 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 74, 29 September 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The ruling capitalist clique of America has launched a determined drive to repeal the Embargo Act within the shortest possible time. The entire prostitute press and its paid hirelings are frantically at work attempting to din into the ears of the American people the astounding lie that repeal of the Embargo Act – will keep us out of war!

The sale and shipment of war supplies to one set of the belligerents – and the entire world knows that only England and France can make use of the “Cash and Carry” plan for the simple reason that Germany is effectively blocked off from America – is paraded before us as “an act of the purest neutrality.” What a miserable fraud this is! Franklin D. Roosevelt’s career has always been marked by the depths of its deceit and hypocrisy, but even he outdoes himself when he attempts to pose as a “neutral” while acting in complete consort with the Allied imperialist powers.

States the Case for Repeal

Walter Lippman, familiar columnist for the New York Herald-Tribune, and fair-haired darling of the Wall Street speculators, has stated the case for repeal of the Embargo Act in his Saturday, September 23rd column. It is well worth looking into the words of this imperialist spokesman.

Lippman states that the issue, in its simplest form, is whether repeal or retention of the embargo will lead the United States into war.

But Lippman is only prepared to tackle one angle of this problem. He carefully avoids any discussion as to what will be the results if the Act is repealed and F.D.R.’s plan is put into effect. Throughout his lengthy article and its involved argument, there is not the slightest admission (nor denial!) that the “Cash and Carry” policy is a major step towards plunging us into the war.

What’s Wrong with the Argument

Why must we insist upon this point? What can be wrong with selling war supplies for cash only and which will be carried in other than American bottoms? How can that put us into the war?

  1. It commits the U.S. again (we say ‘again’ because F.D.R. has already done so in numerous speeches and actions, such as holding up the Bremen) on the side of the Allied powers. “Cash and Carry” can only mean British and French cash, carried by British and French merchant ships.
  2. It returns the U.S. to the so-called system of International Law. But it was precisely this system that existed when Woodrow Wilson was successful in dragging America into the First World War. Far better would it be to call this the system of “incidents and provocations”! For example, under the International Law system, the authority of each nation extends to a point 3 miles beyond its coasts. All that is needed, then, is for German U-Boats to venture within this 3 mile limit and sink a British freighter carrying some of our war supplies. There we have an “international incident”! We can already hear the cries of American industrialists, merchants, ship-owners, insurance underwriters, bankers, etc., for “more adequate protection of our sales.” Imperialist International Law, far from being a safeguard against war, is simply an excuse-providing system for war.

American Business Boom Ahead

  1. ”Cash and Carry” means at least a partial business boom in America. Everything indicates that the Allies will make huge purchases of war stocks and raw materials. This means that American business men, sniffing the warm smell of substantial profits after many lean depression years, will plunge heavily into expansion, building and speculation on the Market. They will roll up huge surplus profits which they will seek to invest in the Allied countries or their dominions (Canada). The entire banking system of America, now stuffed with idle money and credits, will become geared to this boom and expansion – all of which is dependent in turn, upon the successes of the Allied powers.
  2. How long would it be before any “Cash and Carry” system is replaced by a purely “Credit” system? Already, the Senate Committee in charge of drafting F.D.R.’s bill is talking of changing the “cash” provision to a “90-day credit” provision. The American rulers will find a thousand and one loopholes in their own act as their needs require it. As profits mount, and orders pour in, the “Cash and Carry” policy will change to the same “Credit” policy as existed during the last war.

America will become the supply base, the life-breath, of the British and French. Whether the business is transacted in “cash” or “credit” makes slight difference. The effect is the same. American capitalism becomes an integral part of the “democratic” war machine. And this is called “neutrality”!

We can already hear the arguments of the 60 Ruling Capitalist Families. “We cannot let the Allies lose because then there would be a terrific industrial and financial crisis in America.” “You workers must support our entry into the war or else you’ll lose your jobs.” And among themselves they will be saying, “What will happen to our profits? We must act swiftly or else our structure of profit will crumble.”

This is the meaning of “Cash and Carry.” Cash in on the war orders, carry the American people into the war!

(In our next article we shall take up Walter Lippman’s arguments against retention of the present Embargo Act.)

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