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Sherman Stanley

Famine’s Four Horsemen
Trample Warring Europe

(April 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 14, 7 April 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Every correspondent and, observer agrees that 18 months of World War II has left in its wake greater hunger, pestilence and outright starvation than 48 months of World War I. This may appear as a surprising fact because, in terms of material and physical destruction, there has been much less damage done on the European continent proper than occurred in the last war. Yet the cruel fact remains: Europe as a whole is hungrier now – in one-third the time! The basic explanation for this fact is that European capitalism of 1941 is infinitely more corroded, decayed and malignant than it was in, let us say, 1917. The productive capacities of Europe are more given over to war production, while naked plunder is the dominant motive of German imperialism as it erects its European “New Order.”

John Cudahy, former American minister to Ireland and ambassador to Belgium, who is now an American news correspondent in Berlin, has written a moving picture of the ghastly shadow of famine now haunting the countries of Europe. Spain is clearly the worst off. According to Cudahy, bread and oranges are practically all that is left to eat – with the former staple strictly rationed. Eggs, meat, sugar, butter, cheese and milk have disappeared from the standard diet. Even potatoes are hard to find. Dr. Alexis Carrel, studying malnutrition effects in European war sections, reports that most Spaniards are getting one-fourth of what doctors consider a life-sustaining minimum diet. “Many of them show advanced symptoms of anemia, pellagra and tuberculosis.” He described the people as “moribund, hopeless, listless, nerveless, wan, without will” – half dead, yet living on.

Story Repeats Itself

But the same tragic story – indubitably the most striking indictment and condemnation of our barbaric capitalist civilization – comes from every section of the war-torn European continent. Belgians claim food conditions in their country equal to those of Spain, and ALREADY are worse than those of post-war Belgium. Poland – jointly plundered by the macabre Hitler-Stalin alliance – is as bad; in unoccupied France it is reckoned that 10,000,000 face starvation and even now go to bed hungry. Denmark, Norway and Holland are all badly hit by Nazi thievery. If conditions in Germany have improved it is only at the expense of the occupied nations; while England adds more restrictions and rations more staples with each passing week.

Thus we see the major objective result of the inter-imperialist war so far as the proletarian and middle classes are concerned – FAMINE. The nationalist and class struggle in Europe today finds its sharpest expression in the STRUGGLE FOR FOOD. Who shall eat? It is a life and death matter for the European masses.

Who is responsible for this unparalleled situation? Is it Hitler and his imperialists who smash through country after country and then systematically drain their wealth and resources? The hungry workers of Europe cry out with one voice: Guilty! Is it Churchill and his imperialists who, seeking to destroy a mighty rival, have terrorized Europe with a death-like naval blockade? The same hungry voices cry out: Guilty too!

Yes, it is IMPERIALISM – fascist and democratic alike – that has brought Europe to the abyss where child, combatant or non-combatant, is at stake. Hitler and Churchill; Mussolini and Stalin – all four ride astride the horses of famine.

Roosevelt’s Game

And what of our own United States? What has been the relation of Roosevelt to famine stricken Europe? We can rest assured that his ambassadors and representatives have kept him well informed on the horror conditions that prevail. His attitude may be summed up under two headings:

  1. Not one ounce of food, not one vitamin tablet, not one pint of milk goes to any spot in Europe where it may help – directly or indirectly – to American imperialism’s great rival for world rule, German imperialism.
  2. We will, however, send limited supplies to those areas (Vichy, France, for example) where passive or overt resistance to Germany might conceivably be stimulated by such action.

In a word, before a crumb is yielded up Roosevelt first asks – Will this bring a return to my government and its war plans? Food has become a military weapon in the imperialist struggle. Its role is just beginning, as is proved by the fact that but a few shiploads have left American shores to pass the British blockade. The arch-hypocrite Roosevelt desires to let Europe starve a while longer, hoping to win greater returns tor his generosity. First we shall permit Europe to feel hunger’s deepest pangs, then we shall put her on rations – such is the cynical plan of American imperialism.

The Hoover Food Relief Committee and sundry organizations do not speak the truth – either about Europe’s desperate needs, or why Roosevelt objects to their activities. Such organizations (from which we exclude the term pacifist and humanitarian societies) simply represent that section of the American imperialist class which believes that Roosevelt is going too far, and therefore demands a relaxation of his totalitarian restrictions on food shipments.

The Workers Party has already indicated its answer to this diabolical the rival powers. Independent trade union and working class action to get food through to the starving peoples of every European country! Against the German plunderers, against the British blockade, against the American hunger rationing. We must feed our brothers in Europe. They still face the job of ending the imperialist war and creating the United Socialist States of Europe.

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