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Sylvia Merrill

World War II Prepares a New Barbarism

(March 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 10, 5 March 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The horror with which one reads about the destruction of Europe brings to mind H.G. Wells’ Shape of Things to Come.” The destruction portrayed in that fantastic story has become a reality. Just to read the reports; of correspondents, eye-witnesses and participants creates a feeling that man’s progress has made him a “civilized” barbarian.

The destruction of Warsaw, Rotterdam, Coventry, London and now of Aachen, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Hamburg, not to speak of the cities and harbors of France and of Russia that lie in ruin from bombing, artillery fire and house-to-house fighting; the forty millions of dead; and those alive but dying, speaks very loudly of how the ruling classes have used science. If only the problem were the destruction of buildings it would deserve attention – but these ruins are visible and horrible spokesmen for even greater ravaging of the human mind, body and spirit that pose problems not just of reconstruction but of whether humankind shall build for future wars or a system that will insure peace.

The devastation wrought by this war makes the last one look like some kids were playing with toy pistols. If the last war made France a nation of people stunted in growth from malnutrition, on the basis of the recent statistics a race of pygmies is now coming into being.

The major cities of Europe, the centers of life and gaiety, where the cultures of the world flourished, lie in ruins and. the people who inhabited, them are either dead or are foraging to keep alive.

Predicting the Next War

A recent Kiplinger Letter, the confidential news analyst source for big business, tells us that the basis for World War III is being laid in the jockeying for position that is going on among the big powers now. They tell us further that the next generation will probably have to fight the war all over again. These cynics, knowing that the issue of “democracy” or “against fascism” or whatever other slogans may be coined, are traps for the sheep, speak very bluntly and clearly. The next generation is the one that is now being born in the ruins of Europe. They are the children of men who are dying so that their offspring may live. The war to end all wars – again.

What are the supporters of this system of the slow extinction of humanity holding out for the next generation? (Of course people may accuse us of being cynical, lacking faith, but only a fool can permit himself to be taken in twice – not to speak of three times.)

If you wanted to make peace with your neighbors you certainly wouldn’t put up an electrically charged fence and set a police dog out to guard it. Yet the lie of a future peaceful world under capitalism is clear in the day-to-day proposals they make to insure peace.

Roosevelt wants peacetime conscription. You certainly don’t raise an army not to go to war. Of course exercise for our next generation is important. But by good educational and recreational facilities in schools, assured vacations in some of America’s lovely camping spots should certainly give the average youth all the exercise he needs. What do they want a peacetime conscript army for?

The Atlantic Charter Hoax

The Atlantic Charter – we give this to you, the people of the world, to tell you our good intentions. The road to war obviously is paved with them. But why say more about it than the signators to it have? Roosevelt dismisses it; Churchill flouts it; Stalin will abide by it after he gets all the territory he wants and gets all the slaves he needs. Did the Atlantic Charter exist for the Greeks? The Indians? The Poles? The Italians? Roosevelt was right – and we believe in giving a man his due – “It has no official status,” or unofficial for that matter.

As for Dumbarton Oaks – the new League of Nations – it will prevent Denmark or Switzerland from going to war, but never the big powers.

As for the Malta-Yalta meetings, if all the nations are to be granted freedom such as that given Poland, we had better start rewriting the dictionary because we understood liberation in an entirely different sense.

It is as obvious as a wart on the nose that the capitalists aren’t planning and can’t plan for a peaceful world! War is in the bloodstream of capitalism. What meaning do the petty objections to socialism assume in the face of this? When faced with barbarism or socialism, there is no longer a choice. The rejection of socialism can be likened to the man who would rather drown than get into a lifeboat. The choice is ours. Sink or swim – socialism or barbarism.

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Last updated: 20 July 2020