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Jack Weber

March of Events

(13 July 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 29, 13 July 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The War for Colonies

The general world crisis of capitalism of 1907 produced or rather intensified the fierce life and death struggle for colonies among the advanced imperialist countries. Each country hoped to prolong the existence of the system of exploitation at home by attaining and exploiting larger controlled markets abroad. Thus the crisis of capitalism was transformed into the first world war in 1914. This war was preceded by “skirmishes” in various parts of the globe, particularly in Africa. In the so-called Moroccan crisis of 1911, the needs of German imperialism forced the Kaiser into the notorious Agadir incident that almost precipitated the war at that time.

Now again the general crisis of capitalism has sharpened all antagonisms and posed more sharply than ever before the contradiction between highly developed productive forces and closely restricted markets. To secure access to new markets the great powers find it necessary to prepare for war, one against the other, so as to break the grip of their rivals on the more desirable colonies. Japan proceeds steadily, as yet unchecked, with plundering of China – and America looks on waiting the opportune moment for intervening. Germany looks first of all to the Bast of its borders, to the Ukraine and to Central Europe, or the expansion that will save its capitalism from complete decline.

Italy has turned to an African adventure in Ethiopia for its share of plunder. In a general way Mussolini’s attack on this African semi-colony may well be compared with the Agadir incident as the prelude to the second world war. It is not enough for fascism to prevent revolution at home with its complete destruction of the capitalist system of exploitation by the proletariat; that represents only the political condition for the continued existence of the bourgeoisie. Fascism knows no other way to solve its economic dilemma than the same methods pursued abroad that it pursues at home. Capitalism cannot exist without resort to plunder and warfare.

Ethiopia and the Powers

Italy did not begin its wolf’s leap at Ethiopia without first securing the consent of England and France. All the present sham of British opposition and its “sounding out” the other powers in the League of Nations concerning the application of economic penalties and “sanctions” to put a stop to Italy’s further measures, is characterized even in the capitalist press as so much face-saving for its own masses. Of course it is also intended to wring other concessions from Mussolini for the British lion. What these are will probably not be known for some time. But one can hazard the guess, knowing the direction of English diplomacy at this time, that England is trying to separate Italy from France in order, the better to exert pressure on isolated France to split it away from the Soviet Union. A crusade against the Soviet Union would be least dangerous to England – or so its ruling class supposes – and would enable England to “recover” by becoming the workshop for supplying the needs of a war-torn Europe.

The abrupt and chilling reply of Roosevelt to the appeal of Ethiopia for the application of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of Paris illustrates not merely that this country, under bourgeois rule, is no more interested in peace than any of the other powers, but that it is to the interest of America also not to become involved in complications in Europe and Africa when the ruling class here is forced to concentrate its entire attention on the knotty problem presented by Japanese penetration of China. Furthermore Italy’s move at this time is a blow at Japan, just beginning its thrust toward Africa through Ethiopia. American capitalism is therefore somewhat sympathetic towards Mussolini.

Civilizing Ethiopia

The fascist leader, Il Duce, who found it unnecessary to hide his aims and methods when it was a matter of knifing the Italian proletariat, now employs the usual imperialist hypocrisy of carrying civilization to the conquered colony. Mussolini, enslaver of the entire Italian working class and the most hunger-stricken peasantry of Europe, will be the “Abraham Lincoln” of Ethiopia. He will “free” the large number of slaves held in bondage by the exploiting rulers of Abyssinia. He will “free” them from their present masters to place master and slave alike under the yoke of Italian capitalism. That is all that the bourgeoisie can carry to the colonies – a system of exploitation more intense, more cruel and costly in human life than any previous system. It is only the world proletariat that can bring real civilization to the colonies. When the workers throw off the yoke of capitalism at home, they will at the same time strike off the chains of the colonial peoples. The proletarian revolution will not only destroy the bourgeois exploiters at home, but will aid in the destruction of the colonial ruling classes, feudal or bourgeois. It is as much the task of the workers to accomplish the freedom of the colonial peoples as their own.

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