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Arne Swabeck

Briand’s Plan for a United States of Europe

(October 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. II No. 16, 15 October 1929, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Following closely upon the heels of the agreement reached by the imperialist powers on the reparations question the wily old diplomat Briand formally launched his slogan for the United States of Europe. Although presented only in a very general form at the last League of Nations sessions, as an indication of certain imperialist trends it is significant.

In the first place it is one expression of strivings toward an anti-American front of the European debtor nations. It is an endeavor to resist the efforts of the United States to put the European powers on an ever more limited ration, which forms one of the greatest sources for coming imperialist conflicts and proletarian revolutions. In another aspect the slogan represents the efforts for greater consolidation of the European bourgeoisie against its working class and against the Soviet Union. Hence the idea is hailed by the “socialist” Vorwaerts of Berlin as a “final and lasting peace guarantee”.

Briand’s Proposal

Preceding Briand’s utterances, European capitalists at the congress of the International Chamber of Commerce, held at Amsterdam this Summer, alarmed at the menacing growth of American imperialism as an exploiter of all countries, advanced the idea of a United States of Europe; advanced as an immediate retaliation against the new American high protective tariff policy. But even before the emergence of American imperialism as a world dominant power, politicians of the German empire, during the early period of the war, came forward with such a program, or at least a union of the central European powers to be accomplished by the victory of the German arms. What they had in mind then, and what is proposed now is. a capitalist United States of Europe—to better resist the competition from American imperialist penetration. Now as then each main national capitalist grouping is ready for any unscrupulous maneuver to gain hegemony for itself.

The advancing of this slogan is but one additional proof of the further accentuation the growing conflict between American and European capitalism and particularly British capitalism. MacDonald’s so-called peace visit to Hoover fits in well. His part at present is to delude the masses to the real nature of this growing conflict. He, the fabian socialist democrat, representative of the British imperialists, personifies their most effective selection to accomplish this aim, as well as to maneuver under the mask of “peace and good will”, for the most favorable position for his masters in this conflict.

European imperialist diplomats, including those bearing the name social democrats, will perhaps increasingly indulge in discussions of the problem United States of Europe—whether an economic or a political union. Tendencies toward formation of European industrial syndicates already appeared some time ago, notably in the steel and chemical industries, always meeting the difficulties of national capitalist group interests from which none of these groups can dissociate themselves.

Trotsky and the Slogan

Comrade Trotsky has long ago, in discussing this problem, clearly emphasized the impossibility of a European union being accomplished on a capitalist basis; this even aside from what efforts the United States may make in seeking allies within the European nations. But he has also particularly stressed the immense significance of the role of the growing American imperialist penetration of Europe since the capitulation of the German Communist Party and the defeat of the German proletariat in 1923. He says,

“... the period of ‘stabilization’, ‘normalization’, and ‘pacification’ of Europe including ‘regeneration’ of social democracy, has developed in close material and ideological connection with the first steps of American intervention in European affairs.”

The rationalization of industry process initiated in America, with its colossal mergers and technical improvements of machinery, but based primarily on increased intensity of speed up of the workers, has been transplanted to Europe. One of the big tasks of the MacDonald “labor” government is to complete this process in England, including the labor policy of American imperialism with its so-called high standard of living. In reality, as the American workers have bitterly experienced, it is the policy of class collaboration, exterminating labor unions where that is possible, transforming those that persist in. remaining into company unions existing under schemes of compulsory arbitration; to outlaw strikes and class organizations and thus secure an increased share of profit out of the intensified speed-up piece work system.

The enormously growing American investments in European industries, with which goes increased political dominance, are rapidly acquiring control for American imperialism of these industries and becoming the means whereby the kings of American finance can take their payments for European debts, all in all, war debts and industrial debts, estimated at the staggering figure of $20,000,000,000. The American new high protective tariff policy is part of this scheme.

Incidentally this refutes the reactionary silly nonsense peddled by such types as Matthew Woll in boosting the high tariff policy to prevent dumping of “cheap European goods” on the American market as repayment of European debts. The main repayments will be exacted by American imperialism acquiring increased control of European industries with the profits of increased exploitation of European workers flowing into the coffers of Wall Street.

Very concrete manifestations of the [words missing]ing role played by American financial interests and American imperialism in general in European affairs are the Dawes plan of the past and the present Young plan worked out under the tutelage of Wall Street’s most powerful magnates. Again in the Kellogg Pact, the hypocritical talks of diplomats about outlawing war found the representatives of American imperialism rushing to the fore maneuvering for first place for themselves. What is more, thereby making clear that in the line-up for the coming war the United States is going to have a decisive word to say. This pact the Soviet Union, under the leadership of Stalin, signed, thereby helping to maintain the illusion of it being a peace pact.

The international bank for reparations settlement, proposed by the Young plan and being organized under the immediate direction of Wall Street, American imperialism has undoubtedly conceived of mainly as an additional instrument to further the process of acquiring control of European industries and with it control of the intensified exploitation of the European workers. Not only will it then show its colossal power in the further enslavement of the workers there but it will become the most gigantic reactionary force against the revolutionary struggles of the European workers.

The Soviet U.S. of Europe

These conditions must recall pointedly to the world proletarian movement and, to the Comintern in particular, the growing vitality, importance and correctness of the revolutionary slogan of a Soviet United States of Europe. Comrade Trotsky has clearly proved that he and Lenin were of one opinion as to the vitality and principle correctness of this slogan. In 1923 it was officially adopted by the Comintern. Later, under the Stalin leadership, the deductions from the basic conditions from which it derived its contents were artificially made into a series of false, slanderous accusations against the Bolshevik Opposition. It was naturally conceived of as one to find its practical application on the eve of the revolution and by no means to infer that the workers of one country must wait for, the others before beginning the revolution. Since the victory of the Russian workers there could, of course, be less reason for overlooking this elementary ABC. Now this slogan has been deleted and seemingly forgotten as so many other correct teachings and formulations of Lenin and Trotsky.

The Tenth Plenum of the Comintern, meeting under the conditions of rapidly growing American imperialist penetration of Europe and growing control of exploitation of the European workers could find time only for prognostications of second rate importance. But it failed entirely to give any consideration whatever to this important slogan which today retains its validity as much as ever.

In the words of Comrade Trotsky:

“... it is precisely the international strength of the United States and its unbridled expansion resulting from it, that compels it to include powder magazines throughout the world among the foundations of its structure ...”

The slogan of a Soviet United States of Europe is a correct slogan, not only as counter to that of Briand and the other European imperialist diplomats but as concrete direction for unified revolutionary action of the proletariat towards the only possible working class solution.

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