Macdonald Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

War Deal

Dwight Macdonald

The War Deal

(20 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 80, 20 October 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This week I am turning over this department to the National Industrial Conference Board, a statistical and research agency financed by big business. In 1929 the Board published a volume entitled A Picture of World Economic Conditions at the Beginning of 1929. This was a most cheerful and optimistic work: the booming twenties were at their highest period of prosperity, war had been “outlawed” by the Kellogg Pact, and all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The speed and extent of the collapse of world capitalism since then is, of course, a dramatic proof of the superiority of Marxist to bourgeois economic theory. And an excellent index as to just how catastrophically world capitalism has gone to pieces in the last decade is to be found in the opening pages of this 1929 survey. So without further comment on my part, which would be merely gilding the lily – I turn over this column to the National Industrial Conference Board.

“A Universal Will to Maintain Peace”

“The year 1928,” begins the first chapter, “has witnessed many noteworthy developments in the field of international relations and in economic and political conditions in individual countries. These developments have on the whole been favorable to a continuation of the progress which has been made in recent years towards a complete recovery from the numerous and deep-seated maladies caused by the unprecedented economic and political upheaval of ten years ago. The formation of the League of Nations: the creation of the World Court; the establishment of the Dawes Plan; the Disarmament Conference in Washington;the admission of Germany to the League; the conclusion of the Locarno treaties; and finally, the signing of the Multilateral Treaty for the Renunciation of War by the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and ten other nations in Paris on August 27, 1928 – all indicate that the nations of the world are replacing the old system of checks and balances. Ententes and defensive and offensive alliances by a new conception of international relations based on mutual understanding and a universal will to maintain peace.

Enter the “Practical Business Man”

“In their efforts to maintain harmonious relations among the nations, the governments have been materially assisted by private individuals. The work of diplomats and statesmen, of military experts and professional politicians is being supplemented by that of practical business men, leaders of industry and finance, economists and statisticians. At no other time in the history of the world has the cooperation of public officers and private enterprise been so intimate and so forceful as during the last few years. Often in the past, the conflict of commercial interests has been the cause of, or the excuse for, war largely because the representatives of industry and trade had no opportunity to sit around a table and discuss their difficulties in a friendly manner. The growing influence of private business on state policies is a most encouraging sign of our era. A business man knows that the prosperity of his business is bound up with the general prosperity of his country; and this principle he applies to international relations: the prosperity of his country can not be maintained at the expense of other nations . The leaders of industry are trying to eliminate one of the causes of war – unreasonable and illegitimate competition for world markets.

Peace on Earth ...

“The signing of the Multilateral Treaty for the Renunciation of War on August 27, 1928, by representatives of fifteen nations has been hailed throughout the world as a most significant contribution towards the advancement of peace ... As finally adopted and signed, the Treaty is a plain declaration on the part of the signatory powers that they ‘condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.’ ...

“The right of all states to wage a defensive war is not denied by the Treaty, nor does the Treaty define what constitutes a defensive war. Each nation is ... the sole judge of what constitutes the right of self defense and the necessity and extent of the same ... The Treaty does not restrict the right of France, for example, to fight for Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, or Jugoslavia, her allies ...

“The Treaty enunciates a great moral principle ... It would be useless to speculate what the practical value of the Treaty will be, but there seems to be no doubt that it is a step in the right direction. For this reason, the signing of the Anti-War treaty stands out as the most notable achievement of 1928.

“The Kellogg Treaty is also responsible for the negotiations for the conclusion of treaties of mutual friendship between Russia and her other neighbors, particularly with Poland ...

“On the basis of a detailed analysis of the whole field of Germany’s economic life, the Agent General for Reparation Payments concludes that ‘Fundamentally, confidence has been restored, and Germany has been re-established as a going concern on a relatively high level of economic activity.’

“Among the so-called Succession States, which came into existence as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, Czechoslovakia has shown the greatest economic power and political stability.”

The “Practical Business Man” Again

It is only fair to say that the National Industrial Conference Board arrived at the conclusions quoted above in the most impeccably scientific manner. For each of these fantastic (as of 1939) misjudgements, there was the soundest statistical foundation. As President Alexander of the Board puts it in his Preface to the volume:

“In the preparation of its publications, the National Industrial Conference Board avails itself of the experience and judgement of the business executives who compose its membership and of recognized authorities in special fields ... The publications of the Board thus finally represent the result of scientific investigation and broad business experience.”

In other words, the National Industrial Conference Board is a solid, responsible scholarly institution which goes haywire only along lines approved of by the best business and statistical brains of the country. Its fantasies are not its own individual daydreams but the hallucinations of the ruling class as a whole.

Macdonald Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 17 February 2018