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Gertrude Shaw

“Peace on Earth, Good Will
to All Men,” with Weapons

(3 January 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 1, 3 January 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At this season of the year when the air vibrates with prayers, songs and speeches about “peace on earth” and “good will to men,” it is fitting to ask in all seriousness whether the system of capitalist imperialism, which dominates the earth, can bring about that peace and good will so ardently desired by humanity.

If you strip down to rock bottom all the plans of the powers that be, you will find that what they are banking on is an armed “peace” and a “good will” imposed by tanks, battleships and bombers.

“Peace” Enforced by Guns

Thus in Mr. Roosevelt’s Christmas Eve speech broadcast throughout the world, he constantly referred to the use of force “to keep international peace.”

The President spoke of the “great military power” of Britain, Russia, China and the United States, and asserted that “the other three great nations who are fighting so magnificently to gain peace are in complete agreement that we must be prepared to keep the peace by force.”

The President’s statements are not, of course, the first indications of a post-war “peace” bristling with tanks, battleships and bombers. When Congress passed the Connally resolution favoring a “general international organization” of all “peace-loving states,” the New York Times lost no time in pressing for a “universal compulsory military service” law to be passed pronto.

The Chicago News added its bit:

“Now those who preach the winning of peace should be listened to with skepticism unless they are for universal military training, and no repetition of Harding Administration folly in tearing down cantonments and condemning military talent to bridge clubs and golfing greens.”

Later, Secretary of the Navy Knox spoke in Chicago about “the backbone of our post-war naval police force, already organized and functioning” with “the British Fleet’s control of the eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, while the United States guards the western Atlantic and the entire Pacific.”

In England similar plans are being made. When asked in the House of Commons whether it was proposed to adopt a system of military training after the war, Mr. Churchill replied, “I hope so.”

British military experts also see that “not only Britain but the United States and probably Russia would need sizable post-war armies to police Europe, the Middle East and Far East.”

Mr. Wadsworth’s Suggestions

In this country, Representative Wadsworth has presented the country with a Christmas present in five parts. He hands out five very concrete suggestions to keep up the military power of the United States in the post-war period. He wants:

  1. Compulsory one-year military training of all able-bodied men between 18 and 21.
  2. Maintenance of a small but highly trained army which could be increased swiftly by calling up trainees.
  3. Preservation of the Fleet, now the greatest sea force in history, and of a second-to-none air force.
  4. Retention of a nucleus of munitions factories with plans for quick extension if necessary.
  5. Peacetime continuance with the armed service of a big technical and experimental staff to keep abreast of the art of war.

Consider for a moment what a commentary this prospect is on the “progressive” nature of the capitalist system. We “progress” from a partial freedom of no military training in peacetime to universal military training in peacetime. The “progress” from the need for a powerful army, navy and air force only in wartime to the need for them at all times. We “progress” from periodic wars to a state of permanent warfare. That’s capitalist “progress”!

The truth of the above is conceded by a great many people. The prospect of policing the world, of universal military training, of high taxes to maintain a “peacetime” war machine is’ not a happy one. But, they argue, if this will keep the “aggressor” nations down and prevent the outbreak of another holocaust like this one, maybe it’s worth it. The argument goes on to the effect that, if the United States had joined the League of Nations after the last war and if the League of Nations had organized a world police force, maybe the present war would not have taken place.

A Lack of Understanding

All of this is very naive and based on lack of understanding of the true nature of capitalist imperialism and of international power politics.

What was it that made the League of Nations fall apart? It became the center of international intrigue. Why? Because winning the war against German imperialism had by no means changed the nature of the capitalist rulers of the Allied powers. For example, no sooner did the British and French powers pledge eternal brotherhood in the League of Nations than each began to connive to weaken the other as a European power. The British naturally turned to those terrible Huns and built them up again – just enough to take some of the wind out of the French sails. But that was all that German imperialism needed for a new try for world power under Hitler.

Has Capitalism Changed?

The all-important question today is this: Will a victory over German imperialism under Hitler in any way change the capitalist nature of the victorious nations?

Has the war changed the character of British imperialism? No, not at all. Right in the midst of it, the British rulers are benevolently letting their Indian subjects starve en masse.

Has the war changed the character of American capitalism, which supplied Japan with oil and steel for profitable consideration, while Japan was attacking China? Anybody who reads the daily press knows that it is exactly this kind of “free enterprise” that the American capitalist class wants to make sure of for the post-war period. And they are determined to have this kind of “free enterprise” even if they resort to fascism to have it.

Furthermore, right now the intrigues of power politics are going on; some hidden, some open. The bitter struggle for spheres of influence rages among the United Nations even while the enemy is still unvanquished. Russia wants eastern Europe under the bear’s paws. England wants western Europe under the lion’s claws. The United States wants strategic outposts all over the world under the wings of the eagle.

This is realistic reasoning. The nature of capitalist imperialism cannot be changed.

The yearning of the peoples of the world for lasting peace on earth and good will among men can be fulfilled only through a social system based on human needs. That is international socialism.

World socialism is the goal of humanity. It is the only way to have peace and security.

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