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Jack Weber

Problems of the Pacific

(March 1935)

From New International, Vol. 2 No. 2, March 1935, pp. 77–78.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Our Growing Pacific Problem

by Robert S. Pickens
Funk and Wagnalls Co. New York, x+242 pp. $1.50.

This is one of a growing series of books devoted to a problem whose solution becomes more urgent daily to the American bourgeoisie. For it is from the point of view of American imperialism that the writer analyzes the tangled skein of events in the Far East. Reluctant as the capitalist governments may be to engage in armed hostilities (the October revolution has cast the deepest shadow of uncertainty on the fate of the imperialist nations in the next war), American necessities are speeding this country headlong into the Pacific maelstrom to put an end once for all to the uncertainty as to who shall be master in the Pacific. The ruling class in the United States has to stake its future on the outcome of war, for it is determined that American and not Japanese imperialism shall subjugate China and then all Asia for the purposes of exploitation.

The “literary” preparation for the inevitable war in the Orient will soon take on the proportions of a flood of propaganda to justify all the actions deemed necessary by monopoly capitalism. Pickens sets the tone for the rallying of the masses to the “just” cause of the Morgans and Laments and to aid them to see the righteousness of sending the navy to defend the future of the American bankers in the East. Naturally it is the Japanese who are alone responsible for making it impossible to preserve the peace of the world. Of course in the past American imperialism did play a role that one cannot justify, but this was more through blundering and ineptness of statesmen than by design. And at any rate modern America is different and has mended its ways. And not only the United States but all the major powers – except Japan!

“All the major powers excepting Japan have come to the realization that old methods [of imperialist plundering] have not worked either towards peace or prosperity.”

At the moment Italy is proving this by dropping bombs on the aggressive Abyssinians, the United States shows its idealist aspirations in Cuba and Bolivia, France and Spain are heartbroken each time they are “forced” to bayonet the natives of North Africa, etc. It is tragically unfortunate that the Japanese people (and they alone!) groan under the yoke of a brutally rampant militarism, still feudal in character and under no restraint of government since they control their government in the vise of armed dictatorship. Surely it is clear to the entire world that “the sincere but childlike idealism of the US, and the enlightened selfishness of Europe have gone on the rocks of a highly developed and cynical Japanese militarism”. The situation in the Pacific “will show whether the peace can be kept by a country which has not been subdued by war. It is the trial of strength between intelligence and force.”

The special pleading for an imperialism that threatens, in seeking world hegemony, to engulf the earth in wars more destructive, more devastating than any the world has yet seen – for American capitalist technique will introduce a new scale of measurement in the powers of destruction – is mingled with a , superficial, journalistic survey of the forces at work in Asia. Profound social (class) analysis is far beyond the depths of the author. After a cataloguing of the events of the Chinese revolutions, Pickens draws a great sigh of relief that Chiang Kai-Shek showed real ability by beheading the proletarian revolution and ending the communist menace. Thus was defeated the purpose of Borodin, that genius of revolution who understood the Chinese mind as nobody had ever done before (Pickens’ version), who sought “to bring on complete chaos”. The social volcano on which, Japanese militarism rests is dismissed with a few sentences of acknowledgment. The Soviet Union is dealt with gingerly, as the possible ally of the US in the coming struggle. But the book appeared before the recent change in policy towards Soviet Russia.

By far the best chapter in a book that offers little beyond the well-known facts, is that which treats of Roosevelt’s New Deal in the Pacific. Here the writer drops the tone of cant and presents the facts realistically. Roosevelt’s financial policies have been used wherever possible to combat the financial penetration of Japan into China. This is shown by the remonetizing of silver and by the loan made through the RFC, ostensibly for the purchase of American cotton, actually to be converted into cash for the purchasing of American munitions and to aid Chinese war preparations. Roosevelt is treading softly, but preparing “the big stick”. He is completely militarizing the Pacific. Thus the Hawaiian government is undergoing drastic reorganization, with a “mainland” governor working under the control of the US navy. A tremendous naval base is being constructed in Hawaii. The navy has been sent permanently into the Pacific to lay out its strategy and to be ready for The Day. As to the Philippines, Pickens almost froths at the mouth at the criminal idea of relinquishing them at the moment when they become of such paramount importance.

“The Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill, purporting to give them their independence, is the dirtiest blot on the soiled pages of the history of American dealings in the Philippines.”

Recognition of Soviet Russia is shown to have given pause to the Japanese and at the same time to have stiffened the resistance of the workers’ state. Pickens wrote the book before Roosevelt gave the clear indication recently that his aim is to involve the Japanese in a war against the Soviets, with the American bourgeoisie preparing during this war to reap the benefits at the expense of both the weakened combatants. This is the essence of the New Deal in the Pacific.

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