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Maurice Spector

Roosevelt Speeds Drive Toward War
with Navy Budget

Will Spend Billion in Arms Program

Huge Outlay Bares War Aims of American Imperialism

(February 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 6, 5 February 1938, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

President Roosevelt’s message to Congress last week called for naval and military appropriations totalling one billion dollars, the greatest “preparedness” budget in the peace-time history of the country.

In 1932 the Democratic platform had attacked Hoover for burdening a tax-ridden populace with military and naval expenditures “approaching a billion dollars annually.” That is a thing of the past. In complete disregard of the express anti-war sentiment of the masses, Roosevelt continues spelling out the imperialist logic of his Chicago speech.

Stages of Policy

There he contemptuously jettisoned the laboriously constructed Neutrality policy of Congress; next he ordered American diplomatic participation, in the Brussels Conference; now comes the huge arms Bill; and on February 14 there is to be American participation in the British naval demonstration at Singapore.

Glib assurances are forthcoming that the appropriations are a measure of national defense.” But nobody need innocently imagine that “national defense” here merely means coastal defenses because it does not. As Admiral William D. Leahy made plain, it means the defense of American imperialist interests wherever they be.

It means for example the self-arrogated “defense” of the Latin and Caribbean Americans under the Monroe Doctrine. It means the defense of Standard Oil tankers on the Yangtze. Finally it means implementing the policy Roosevelt enunciated of the quarantine, which is another word for blockade, anywhere on the seven seas.

Pushed By Depression

American imperialism has emerged from its phase of temporary quiescence. To this the collapse of the: New Deal has powerfully contributed. The more catastrophic his domestic policies turn out, the more insistently Franklin (Happy Days Are Here Again) Roosevelt will turn in the direction of the world market.

Representative Maverick, a friend of the Administration, charges that “the New Deal has more or less abandoned all its economic ideals and is riding horses in all directions without getting anywhere.” The cost of living travels upwards. The millions of unemployed continue to add to their ranks. The trust busters and brain trustees are at sixes and sevens. The New Deal has labored mightily and alphabetically to produce another slump, in accord with the laws of a decaying capitalism.

As the keenest representative of the American ruling class, Roosevelt realizes that the predatory set-up of Versailles is in ruins. The struggle for redistribution of the world’s spoils, colonies, materials and markets is in process. In the future the post-war antagonism between the British Empire and American interests, temporarily tided over by the naval parity agreement, will again come to the fore. But at this juncture Roosevelt is captiously moving in the direction of Anglo-American collaboration against the lean hungry fascist powers, menacing the accumulated fat of both. The New York Times reports that the news of the Roosevelt message was received in London almost “as if Britain had won a war victory.”

Realize Mass Opposition

Roosevelt is aware that the masses are opposed to his imperialism. The Gallup Poll showed at least 60% of the electorate favoring withdrawal of U.S. forces from China, and an equal percentage in favor of the Ludlow amendment. The masses are hostile to the League of Nations, and the whole idea of “collective security.” But the forces of jingoism, militarism and social-patriotism are intent on swinging them into line.

The Japanese are counted on to assist. There will be more Panay incidents, and a few more U.S. diplomats will stick out their chins to he slapped. The American war front is forming: the sixty families, the economic royalists, Landon and Knox, the Nation and the Daily Worker, William Green and Lewis, Heywood Broun and Barney Baruch, Nicholas Murray Butler and Earl Browder.

Browder’s Fair Fields

Browder salutes the “President’s declaration of a positive peace policy” more lyrically than anybody. Debating with Charles H. Beard in the New Republic he openly undertakes the defense of American imperialist interests and colonies. He conjures up the possibility of the Japanese seizing Guam, the Philippines and Alaska. There is a throb in his voice, as he envisions the danger confronting “the beautiful and rich lands of California.”

We must not, he suggests, encourage the enemy by giving them a picture of an America sharply torn by class struggle. There is little that can be added by way of comment to “expose” Browder. The Stalinist agents of imperialism proceed so brazenly now that their own statements are the plainest avowals of their treason. Browder in the U.S. loyally follows in the path of Social Democratic allies in France and Czecho-Slovakia who vote the war budgets without a quaver.

The greatest of all the lies which Browder uses to trick his own following is the distinction between “aggressor” and “non-aggressor.” In 1915 Lenin wrote:

“The truth is that for decades three highway robbers, the bourgeoisie and the governments of England, Russia and France, were arming to sack Germany. Is there anything surprising in the fact that two highway robbers launched an attack before the other three got the new knives they had ordered? Is it not sophism when the phrases about the ‘initiators’ are used to obliterate the equal guilt of the bourgeoisie of all countries?’’

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