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Henry Judd

Uncle Sam and John Bull

(September 1941)

From The New International, Vol. VII No. 8 (Whole No. 57), September 1941, pp. 207–10.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The question of leadership (between England and America) need hardly arise. If any permanent closer association of the two nations is achieved, an island people of 50,000,000 cannot expect to be the senior partner ... The center of gravity and the ultimate decision must increasingly lie in America. We cannot resent this historical development. – London Economist

ALL OF US are familiar with the fable of La Fontaine in which the wounded lion, trapped in jungle underbrush by heavy ropes, is rescued by a friendly mouse that gnaws through the ropes and sets him free. Then, friends forever, they stalk off into the forest, paw in paw.

This idyllic tale of friendship might well be used to depict some of the descriptions of Anglo-American relations now employed by professional journalists of both countries, chauvinists of the so-called “radical-liberal” type (Hook, Eastman & Co. in America; Laski, Spender and colleagues in England) and Anglo-Saxon fanatics of the Dorothy Thompson school of propagandists. However, things are not so simple in this complex world – particularly the relations between two great economic and imperialist powers.

An English worker drinking ale in a pub was asked by a reporter what he thought of the Roosevelt-Churchill eight-point world program. “I’d like to know what they really talked about,” he replied. What healthy contempt is here displayed for the game of diplomatic deceit and cynical double-talk that went on aboard the English and American men-of-war off the coast of Maine! Everything – literally everything – that took place at the conference has been concealed from the world. The military strategy planned, the program with respect to Russia, the concrete world re-organization planned after the defeat of the Axis Powers – all these problems that were on the real agenda – have remained hidden in the sealed diplomatic pouches, to be revealed only by actual events over which the people have no control. Beyond the simple reiteration of what has been obvious for a long time – that American imperialism intends to supply Britain to the full – not a line was revealed about Anglo-American relations during the war or in the post-war period. Basing ourselves on the limited material and information that is available it is our intention to describe these relations and their possible effects upon the international revolutionary movement and the colonial nationalist tendencies.

Between Two World Wars

The bourgeois isolationist element in America that has thrust Charles Lindbergh into the spotlight as its spokesman has based itself largely on the popular belief that, after winning World War I for England and her allies, America was taken for a sucker’s sleighride at the peace conference. Idealist Wilson was outsmarted at Versailles by Europe’s slick politicians. The America First Committeemen harp constantly on the fact that “England obtained the greatest territorial and economic advantages; that England did not pay her debts to us while she was taking Germany’s last nickel; that England dominated the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia, etc.”

All this may be true, but it is historically irrelevant since it ignores the fact that American imperialism at that time was totally unprepared to assume world leadership and challenge the mighty British Empire. America, prior to World War I, had barely completed its internal consolidation and was only first feeling the necessity for world imperialist expansion. Its participation in the World War, in comparison to its present participation in the present World War, was amazingly slight in terms of manpower, resources, wealth and militarization of its economy. As a colonial power and organizer, America was a novice alongside the imperialists of London with their 300 or more years of experience. True, one could already discern the forces of disintegration at work within the British Empire (China’s nationalist upsurge; India’s Gandhi-led civil disobedience movement of 1919–1921; the Communist insurrection in Java; bourgeois-led independence movements in Canada and the Dominions), but the Empire itself still moved forward even if at a relatively slower speed and with two new rivals (America and Japan) to worry about. London wrote Versailles No. 1; Britannia still ruled the waves.

The Clash That Did Not Come

By the 1920s American imperialism had militantly come to life and begun to challenge British imperialism in field after field, area after area. The first disagreements were at Versailles and the Senate refusal to ratify the treaty produced by that conference was the first open demonstration of American dissatisfaction. Year after year the rivalry grew as America became more challenging to the Empire. There were dashes over German reparations, redivision and mandating of African colonies, oil and mines in Mexico and Venezuela, oil fields in what are now Iran and Iraq, spheres in South and Central China, war in the Chaco, trade and commerce with the Latin-American countries, etc. English and American diplomats even clashed over mutual claims in the Arctic and Antarctic regions! In those days every American was taught that every Englishman was a snob and a “gentleman”; a lean, cold-blooded aristocrat who thought that his very “nightsoil” had a perfumed fragrance. English opinion of the “vulgar Yankee cousin” was even less laudatory. In bourgeois journalist and intellectual circles talk of “Anglo-American blood brotherhood” was unheard of.

America’s expansionist needs were brought to the point of desperate need by the internal capitalist crisis of 1929. The world and its commerce belonged predominantly to the British and French Empires. To seize a share of that world and its markets meant, ultimately, a war between Britain and America. In the 1930s, America’s ruling class was pointed toward such a conflict; economists and journalists freely predicted it.

United Front Against the Greater Danger!

That this inter-imperialist clash did not come obviously does not mean that Anglo-American rivalry has been resolved in some harmonious and mysterious fashion. On the contrary, it is today sharper than ever – particularly from the standpoint of the British rulers. But it has been momentarily superseded and overwhelmed by a fiercer, more bitter conflict that has challenged the basis of both imperialisms. This, naturally, has been the breath-taking and awe-shaking emergence of German military imperialism. Voila l’ennemi! There is the main enemy, Churchill cried out, pointing a trembling finger at the would-be Führer of the British Empire. Roosevelt, inspired leader of Wall Street imperialsm, nodded agreement because the Führer had his eye on those self-same delicious fruits that he was preparing to pluck.

Thus, Anglo-American partnership is a partnership of necessity, face to face with Hitler. But the needs, the interde-pendency and independence, the aspirations of the two partners, differ considerably. One is an imperialism whose destiny is setting and which seeks to retain only something for a secure but quiet old age; the other imperialism is still vital and powerful and seeks world mastery. For Roosevelt, this is a struggle of Germany against America, Wall Street versus Wilhelmstrasse. As for Britain, in terms of analogy, she is a subordinate partner of the Anglo-American war camp. Hitler and Il Duce, symbolizing land power, meet in an armored train at Brenner Pass; Roosevelt and Churchill, symbolizing sea power, meet in an armored ship off the coast of Maine. But, in reality, it is Roosevelt and Hitler who face one another – every other element in this world struggle (allies, diplomatic maneuvers, military feints, thrusts, etc.) is subordinated to Wall Street versus Wilhelmstrasse.

In this article, however, we are concerned only with existing relations within one camp, the “democratic” imperialist camp. What are the social and economic forces that determine the dominant position of the United States; how have these relations developed since the war began; what will the future bring to the Anglo-American imperialisms?

For Britain, its orientation toward an alliance with the United States was a sign of organic weakness. The extent of its dependency upon America varies directly with the rapidity of the inner decline of the British Empire. The more powerful become the internal forces of disintegration that are today shaking apart the “British Commonwealth of Nations,” the more essential it is for the imperialists and bankers of “The City” to turn toward America.

In its turn, the inner decline of the British Empire is determined by two factors: (1) The growth of independent capitalism and competitive industrialization of the Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). These so-called “white” Dominions have reached fairly advanced stages of capitalist development and can only tend to strain against the remnants of imperialist domination from the metropolitan center. Their products compete; their merchant fleets vie for trade with the “motherland”; their native bourgeoisies organize a “sub-imperialism” of their own against the British (e.g., the Australians in the surrounding islands of the South Seas; the South Africans in the southern portions of the African continent); they struggle against preferential tariffs that favor the isles of Great Britain, etc.

Furthermore, these capitalist dominions are visited by all the economic ravages and cyclical crises that are a part of modern capitalism. Their weakness and backwardness force them to seek out a stronger imperialism for protection and support. Where else to turn to but the United States? Like growing but immature children they cannot stand on their own, but must seek a protector. The inability of Great Britain to play this rôle means that Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa must henceforth turn to America. Naturally, this fact contributes still further to the decline of the former metropolitan center. But there is nothing it can do to halt this process, for it faces the Devil’s dilemma: either acceptance of a position subordinate to American imperialism, or almost total liquidation (in the manner of the French bourgeoisie) at the hands of Nazi Germany.

The second factor determining the inner decline of the empire and its consequent dependence upon America is the stormy revolutionary upsurge of the colonial masses within the empire. These nationalist uprisings have contributed more than any other factor to the organic break-up now proceeding. They have affected Malaya, Burma, Ceylon, China, British West Indies, etc. Most important has been the intense and unconquerable nationalism of India’s 400,000,000 people – a nationalism that burns most brightly precisely during England’s greatest crisis – the present war crisis. From its colonial arena, “The City” can expect only nationalist uprisings, bourgeois-led or organized by the colonial proletariat, but all alike contributing to the inner decline of the empire. Enlistment of the colonial masses in the “democratic” imperialist camp is excluded as is shown by the relatively small number of colonial troops employed in the war. More than any other section of world society, the colonial people have understood the hypocritical fraud of the supposed war of “democracy versus fascism.” At best, from the British standpoint, they maintain a sullen silence and passive resistance; at worst, from the British standpoint, they will revolt at every opportunity. But they will not support Britain! Two years of war have shown this.

But if Britain leans heavily upon America out of an organic weakness induced by a loss of blood and a growing pernicious anemia, the position of America in the entente is determined by growing organic needs. These needs are not to be confused with strength, or signs of strength. The imperialist needs of the American bourgeoisie have been described in various New International articles. With every other imperialism it has in common the desire for access to raw material sources, export and import trade, overseas utilization of capital and credit, etc. The sole difference lies in the greater urgency of these needs. The most powerful imperialism in the world today is America. Therefore, its demands are the most powerful and urgent. Nothing less than control of the earth and its riches, conquest of the world market, a World Versailles, will satisfy the financiers of Wall Street and their international monopolies. A necessary stage in this process is subjugation (by economic measures) of Britain and its Empire. Britain is the first, the nearest-to-hand victim of American imperialism. Its assimilation and digestion, of course, is no simple or easy task. One does not just “take over” a gigantic empire, highly complex in character itself. Thus, the relations between America and Britain are extremely intricate and must pass through many turns and twists, ups and downs before there is even the remote possibility of a definite, stabilized set of relations. The imperialist requirements of both powers; the political “coming to age” of the working classes of the many countries involved; the victory or defeat of the Axis imperialist camp; the actions of the colonial peoples; the centrifugal tendencies of the independent “dominions” – all these factors bend and mold Anglo-American relationship, determine its direction and speed.

Elder Statesman to Junior Partner in Two Years

The swift events toward the end of the first year of war threw the British ruling circles into total panic. Until that time British policy was summed up in the export trade program advocated by Neville Chamberlain. Every effort was to be made to keep exports going at the pre-war rate and to keep overseas trade functioning as in peace times. But the first successes of the Blitzkrieg removed the illusion of a “normally conducted, democratically run” war and began the complex shift toward complete subservience of British imperialism to American imperialism.

This set of relationships has developed on the economic, military, political and social fronts. Military and economic relationships have developed most deeply at present.

(a) Anglo-American Military Alliance: The military systems of America and the British Empire are now allied. This process has gone further in the naval branch of warfare, where the United States is actually at war with England’s opponents and where a joint command exists. In the Atlantic and Pacific oceans a joint patrol and convoy system (minutely worked out) prevails. Naturally, a division of labor exists since the British must be strongest around the isles of England and in the Mediterranean. The Pacific and South Seas areas have been specifically assigned to the United States.

But, again, this relationship is not one inter pares – among equals. Britannia no longer rules the waves – its navy has done all the fighting (and sinking) till now; its merchant marine has done all the target work for Nazi submarines. The speed of American naval production grows; that of England declines. The goal of a “two-ocean navy” set by Roosevelt will far outdistance the British Navy and mean that America shall rule the waves. In six months of 1941 American shipyards have launched three 35,000 to 50,000 ton battleships while the British launched none during the same period!

In the army and air forces the same situation exists. Captain Liddell Hart, writing in the British New Leader, flatly declares that the British Army cannot take the offensive or invade Europe. According to this authority, this army has “a mere tincture of mechanization.” But, obviously, the imperialist conquest and defeat of Germany can come only through the military defeat of Hitler and the Wehrmacht. Britain alone is incapable of such a task. Its failure to reorganize its chaotic economy along military, totalitarian lines has meant, concretely, failure to mechanize its army! For this the British Tory class must again turn to America and request the tools of mechanization (tanks, trucks, landing boats, etc.), in addition to a flow of planes and bombers. America is engaged in producing these – but not as a gift; rather, as a condition for survival in the status of a junior partner. From the standpoint of supplies and war material, the British Army already depends largely upon the United States. This is particularly true for the Dominion forces (Canada, Australia, etc.) and the empire forces in Egypt, Iran, Syria, Iraq and India. That this dependence has not proceeded further is due solely to the fact that the American Army is in such a backward state – as compared to the armies of Germany. But Roosevelt, mapping out the future fields of broad military and naval strategy, proceeds steadily toward his goal: the integration of American and British military forces, with the supreme command resting upon the Americans.

(b) Anglo-American Economic Alliance: American imperialism has made its most successful marauding expeditions into British economy. The blows dealt at the imperial worldwide financial and trading structure have been far heavier than the military blows of Hitler. Here the game has been all one-sided with the British incapable of even the most feeble self-defense.

What have been some of these inroads?

(1) The re-tooling and militarization of American industry have been partly financed by profits accruing from British cash purchases in this country. Approximately $1,000,000,000 worth of supplies was sold in 1940 at substantial profits to American business men and exporters.

(2) American war industry – financed by government contracts and loans – is producing lease-lend material for Britain. This scheme works out trebly to the general advantage of American imperialism: war industry is nourished and expanded at a dizzy pace; sales to England and her allies reap excellent profits (no matter who pays); England must prepare to pay heavily for the colossal bill of credit it is running up. This, of course, belongs to the future. Since it can never be repaid in cash or in kind it must be repaid in the sole possession that British imperialism still retains – colonies.

(3) Traditional British sources of raw materials are falling under American control. As the “arsenal” of the democratic war camp, the raw materials of war must pour into the American hopper. Rubber, jute, tin, manganese, grains, oils and fats, wool, lead, zinc, – virtually everything that is produced by the colonial empire of Britain is being diverted to American ports. In July, 1941, the port of Singapore had the greatest export volume in its history. Approximately 75 per cent of this went to the United States. Oil, the motive force of modern war, is doled out to the British under the strictest supervision.

How the Lease-Lend Bill Operates

The workings and procedure of the Lease-Lend Act now mean the following concrete things to the British: (a) Replacement of numerous export industries and business by the United States. British firms that produced non-war essentials are unable to continue any export trade under the Lease-Lend Act. London reports the closing of one firm after another due either to government command to cease exporting, inability to obtain needed raw materials, or the fact that the same product is produced competitively in America. The Economist of London writes: “There now is very considerable disquiet among British exporters lest the export drive which they have been urged to organize is, owing to lease-lend changes, to be allowed to lapse.” Government policy is now to permit only those exports useful in obtaining American dollar exchange (which immediately finds its way back to the United States for payment of bills still due).

The Lease-Lend Act also means (b) Britain agrees to abandon, by open agreement, virtually all of its trade with South America. No goods that compete with anything American exporters are anxious to sell to any South American nation is permitted. In addition, any business that the United Kingdom conducts with South America (that is, necessary for continuation of the war) can only be done with American dollars. Thus, on the South American continent the dollar has replaced the pound sterling. (c) The Lease-Lend Act places British economy on a rationing system that ranges from food to ships. This gives American imperialism a growing indirect control over British industry. America can (and is) earmarking the quantity of steel, cotton, food; the number of ships, etc., that shall be turned over to England. All this, naturally, is regulated on the principle of how much is needed for pursuit of the war. Anything over and above is impermissible! (d) Traders and exporters of the English isles are forbidden to engage in business in any section of the world where their American rivals and competitors are able to fulfill the needs and demands of the population. This can only facilitate the driving out of the British from the world market – the open aim of Roosevelt.

(4) British exports in 1941 are to be curbed by $400,000,000 – a third off their total yearly trade for 1940. This is the first concrete statement of what the alliance with America means in terms of dollars and cents. The $400,000,000 hacked off will affect primarily exports of iron and steel manufactures, electrical equipment, machinery, cotton goods, ships and aircraft. This British loss automatically becomes America’s gain.

(5) America has reaped great benefits in the field of credit and finance. In the United States, the liquidation of British-owned American securities and stocks is proceeding rapidly. With the exception of the Dominions and India, we have drained all the gold out of the banks of England. In the first six months of 1941, 2,000,000 shares of American stocks owned by English banks and investors were sold on the New York Stock Exchange. The RFC has demanded further and more rapid liquidation of these securities as collateral for the $425,000,000 loan it has advanced to England so that it can make further cash payments. These “off the floor” sales – organized by American banking syndicates at pleasant profits – are a virtual skinning alive of British imperialism. Prices, values, terms are all fixed by the American purchasers.

Furthermore, American imperialism demands of Britain that the self-same process of liquidation being carried on in America must be organized in South America, China and other countries outside the British Empire proper. To its American rival British imperialism must disgorge everything it has built up in the past 300 years of its existence. So exacting is the demand that the New York Times reports that in England family heirlooms (antique furniture, candlesticks, dinnerware, tapestries, china, etc.) are being sold in an effort to build up dollar credit balances. American heirloom importers are breaking up the big estates of the British aristocracy and nobility! Ultimately, perhaps, America’s Sixty Families and their favorite daughters will be demanding lords and barons in exchange for boatloads of lease-lend goods!

(6) The American merchant marine (aided by its substantial plunderings from the fleets of Denmark, Norway, Holland, Germany and Italy) is replacing the British fleets of freighters. Route after route, sea lane after sea lane is taken over by the United States. The British have suffered enormous losses through ship sinkings; their yards for replacement have reached their full war capacity while the specific weight of American ship production grows daily in relation to that of England.

American ships, loaded with munitions, ply the seas to the Middle East, the East Indies, African ports, South America, Asia, etc. They return – their holds loaded with the raw materials of the countries. But the British fleets are ordered, from Washington, to engage in nothing but necessary war transportation (troop transports, supplying of overseas armies with food, oil, etc.). There is no gain or profit in this – only the threat of a torpedo through the hull. The famous P.&O. line that ran from England to the Orient and India has been almost completely sunk! But the reinforced American fleets travel the ocean lanes, guarded closely by the American and British navies!


A vast amount of additional material can be cited to illustrate the main theme of this article, but I have already gone beyond the space allotted. In forthcoming issues of this magazine I shall continue the theme of the foregoing in an endeavor to predict possible results of the specific current Anglo-American relations.

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