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Arne Swabeck

What Laval Achieved by His Visit

(November 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 31 (Whole No. 90), 14 November 1931, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the recent avalanche of diplomatic visits are concealed many ominous signs of our epoch being at the threshold of new gigantic developments. Grim indeed are the forebodings when these pillaging marauders from the world’s highways come together to discuss new schemes of division and redivision of spoils. It is easily noticeable that the American imperialist highjacker holds the very center of the stage. Most of the traveling diplomats are steering their course toward the United States.

These visits are themselves, of course, results of important developments already in the making. They are results of the increasing pressure of the world crisis upon the various capitalist powers And their attempt to find a way out by establishing a new relationship of forces. Each power is on the alert to endeavor to maintain and strengthen its place in the sun. Naturally this was also the primary intent of Premier Laval’s visit to the United States. Unquestionably his visit is a part of a definitely emerging new constellation of forces which may have the most far reaching consequences, not only for the two powers involved, but for the whole of the imperialist world.

What Are the Specific Relations?

The question immediately arises what is it all about? One can, of course easily conclude that there are now many pressing problems before the main imperialist powers which they find require discussion. But discussion among robbers can become nothing else but a maneuvering for position. And so it is in this case.

Nevertheless even among bands of robbers a certain community of interests can be found. In this respect we may mention first of all the problem of inflation. These worthy diplomats still remember the dreaded spectre of the German inflation of 1923. They remember with a shudder the narrowly averted proletarian revolution. German capitalism is still financially very hard pressed. Lead by Great Britain, many lesser powers have gone off the gold standard. Even the American dollar showed a few sickly symptoms. The United States and France, the two largest creditor nations, who hold between them about two thirds of the world’s gold supply, have undoubtedly much at stake in such a situation.

Secondly, there is the problem of war reparations and inter-allied war debts.

To the aristocracy of finance and to their diplomatic marionettes, it is not at all a problem of the point of view of the staggering burden lodged upon the working class or upon the broad strata of the population of the debtor countries. Not at all. But they cannot ignore the plight of German capitalism. They cannot even ignore the difficulties of the British bankers. And so, while these two of the most powerful creditor countries are compelled to lend some assistance to their fellow exploiters in Germany and England to avert a complete breakdown which would inevitably drag them all in its wake, they are also, by virtue of exactly the same self-interest, continually applying the pressure which leads in that direction.

Let the workers have no illusions. Any apparent solidarity or mutual assistance of the capitalist powers is not for one minute intended in the interest of peace. Nor is there any possibility of peaceful solutions. An eventual modification of reparations or war debt payments, any assistance to prevent a too disastrous inflation will bring a further intensification of conflicts, not merely between creditor and debtor nations but also among the creditor nations themselves. It will become only an instrument in the hands of the strongest imperialist powers to further strengthen their position for the inevitable war for redivision of the world.

The Preparation for These Conflicts

This brings us to the essence of the apparently friendly diplomatic visits of the capitalist nations. American imperialism is more definitely assuming world hegemony. The devastating crisis is pressing it on toward a more aggressive position. New developments are taking place with lightning speed. Events of former decades are now being compressed into a short span of time. Only a few months ago American imperialism held the revolver at the head of the French bourgeoisie. Now there are clearly the preparations for a powerful block of the kings of capital of the United States and France. The latter brings along its little entente and thereby hopes to succeed in obtaining for itself from the hated uncle Shylock a greater ration in world economy and greater degree of hegemony in Europe. Representatives of other powers are still to come here. The Fascist foreign minister, after a hearty welcome in Berlin, is now on his way also to put in claims for a ration in world economy. How many may still find a place within this powerful block cannot yet be foretold. After all, agreements among robbers stretch only so far, and last only until the victim is fleeced; then new victims have to be found. But one thing is entirely certain. The aggressively growing hegemony of American imperialism in world affairs is devoting itself diligently for this block, to first of all settle the deadly combat with its main competitor, England.

Yet above all, the American bourgeoisie is asserting its world hegemony and taking charge to strengthen the whole imperialist front against the working class, and with that against the Soviet Union. It is fully apprehensive of the tottering and decaying symptoms recently so strongly manifested within certain European capitalist countries. It is fully conscious of the effects of the crisis upon the workers and apprehensive of their rapidly growing dissatisfaction. It sees the signs of coming proletarian revolutions. It is taking all measures to crush it if possible.

The French Bourgeoisie a Worthy Ally

France remained the strong European capitalist power in face of the crisis. Her internal market with its large peasant economy proved itself a strong absorbent. By virtue of low wages her production for the foreign market was cheap. Her bourgeoisie succeeded in strengthening the ties with, and continually bolstering the little entente. The present government is of the Bourgeois Right section, though headed by Laval, the former “socialist”. Its economic non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union is solely in the interest of more effective exploitation of the Russian market. The French bourgeoisie in entering into a marauders’ block with American imperialism for the redivision of the world is, of course, nursing its own hopes of thereby attaining a larger ration in world economy.

American imperialism can well use this ally for the furtherance of its own heinous designs. It was with this in view that the American capitalist press called Senator Borah tactless when, at the time of the Laval visit, he advocated changes of the European boundaries as laid out by the Versailles Treaty. He was otherwise willing to leave the question of disarmament to France itself as it sees fit – and why should he not leave that to the ally? While the latter proposition pleased the French bourgeoisie, the former, being advanced at this moment, was somewhat painful. But then, it may serve in good stead for Senator Borah’s real masters as a warning to the ally as to just how far it can go.

These definitely marked constellations of imperialist forces prove again that the kernel of contemporary international relations is still to be found in the furiously growing contest of the powers for redivision of the world market. More precisely the contest between the United States and England.

American imperialism has definitely assumed its role of the main fortress of world reaction. Under its direct tutelage there is a sweeping on march of reaction throughout capitalist Europe. In France the Right bourgeois block is more firmly in the saddle; in England the conservatives are in power stronger than before; in Germany a constant stiffening of emergency decrees. More serious yet, however, are the growing fascist hordes in Germany. While American imperialism may not yet be ready to assume the risk of giving support to an open rule of these hordes, they are being nourished as powerful reserves against the proletarian revolution.

From these prospects the important question inevitably arises: What is the Communist International doing to prepare the working masses to meet the onslaught of reaction. Unquestionably the immense pressure of the crisis, the ceaseless capitalist offensive and the reactionary governmental decrees, will bring the struggles of the workers more into the political field. It will favor a Leftward development of the masses. There are already such evidences in Germany, in its, embryo in England and elsewhere. But at the same time it is impossible to close one’s eyes to the weakening of the parties due to costly blunders of leadership in practically every capitalist country. In England this weakening became particularly outstanding in the recent political crisis and the elections. In France the strikes of last Autumn brought victory to reformism largely due to the party failure of applying the united front policy. In Germany there can be no other results than weakening from the dastardly adventure of a reckless Communist leadership of a united front with the fascists in the Prussian referendum.

The “Third Period” estimates spread its dangerous illusions of revolutionary upsurges not yet at hand. It deliberately aided illusions of the movement, its possibilities appearing stronger than reality. Its results became the policy of adventures. But worst of all, it prepared a new “turn” to the Right which has already found its classical expression in the united front policy with the German fascists.

The Stalin leadership carries the heavy burden of responsibility for decimating and politically weakening the Comintern forces, for reducing them to a mere appendage of interest of state of the Soviet Union. By the policies of this leadership, the progress of the world proletarian revolution has already been put in a position of being contradiction to the economic progress of the Soviet Union. This has become mainly expressed in the fear of upsetting the present status quo of the powers, that is, the capitalist equilibrium prior to the completion of the Five Year Plan. But the capitalist equilibrium does not remain constant. From the serious weakening caused by the economic crisis, we now have the new constellation of forces; the powerful block under American imperialist hegemony to further strengthen the capitalist equilibrium against the working class. It is developing with breath-taking speed and does not at all wait for the completion of the Five Year Plan. It will aim to take ruthless advantage of the weakened position of the Communist parties.

Thus the chief contradiction is that of the task of the epoch and the maturity of the Communist Party.

These imperialist preparations can bring immediate revolutionary situations. To prepare – not to miss these situations – is the pressing need. This has become mandatory upon the Comintern leadership.

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