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Jack Weber

March of Events

America Plans for War

(11 April 1936)

From New Militant, Vol. II No. 14, 11 April 1936, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The outcome of modern war depends on the home front as much if not more than on the battle front. The availability of resources at the beginning of, and during a war, and the level of the technical productive forces are vital matters that enter into all the plans and preparations of the General Staffs. Thus one large section of the United States War Department has as its task the keeping of up-to-the-minute files of statistics and technical information on every raw material and commodity that enters into military use, either directly or indirectly. These Commodity Files show the annual needs of the country, both civilian and military, the sources of supply, the stocks on hand in warehouses and in factories, the possibilities for quick expansion of production, the available substitutes in case of shortage. Where certain materials necessitate importing from abroad, particularly from South America, the navy is assigned the duty in advance of keeping the sea lanes open to protect the ships delegated to carry these materials. The war office keeps a watchful eye on the stocks on hand so as not to be caught with a shortage of some strategic commodity on the outbreak of war. Naturally in carrying out this phase of its imperialism duties, the War Department is in close touch with the capitalists who control the supplies, with the trusts and combines.

The news of the embargo on export of tin scrap is an indication of the mutual helpfulness of this intimate relationship. At the outbreak of war certain factories will be immediately mobilized according to prearranged plan to start production of military supplies. These strategic plants are naturally subsidized and given every assistance in time of peace.

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Detinning and War

Tin is not an essential or “strategic” commodity. It is more a convenience in modern life than a necessity. Substitutes could easily be found for tin in the food industries and in the manufacture of automobiles. It seems strange, at first sight, therefore, that Secretary of State Hull in his capacity as Secretary of the National Munitions Control Board, should have seen fit to endorse the protest of two detinning firms and place an embargo on export of scrap tin for three months, to be followed by licensing of such exports. The Vulcan Detinning Co., of Sewaren. N.J., and the Mutual and Thermit Co. of N.Y., the two major producers of tin from scrap, claim that the running of their business profitably is being threatened by Japan’s extraordinary purchases of scrap metal here. Therefore, in conformity with the War Department plan for mobilization of industry in time of war, Hull took quick action. Evidently the war department wishes to maintain these plants. But it would be quite incorrect to assume that the only reason is to assure a supply of tin for the war. That is a relatively minor purpose. The real motive must be sought in the process of detinning, in the chemicals formed during the process of recovering tin from scrap. This process uses chlorine in considerable quantities. Chlorine is one of the elements that enter into the production of certain of the poison gases. The tetrachloride of tin, one of the chemicals produced, is used in explosives to produce a concealing smoke, and is also used in producing glares. It is for these purposes that the war department is anxious to keep going these detinning plants, and not for the tin primarily. Of course tin enters into the making of all Babbitt bearings which are so essential to all machinery, particularly on ships and in mechanized warfare. But Bolivia is a source of tin that is under the direct control of the United States navy, a source that could not possibly be closed to American imperialism in wartime. No, it is poison gases and the materials for producing flares and concealing smokes that motivate Hull and Roosevelt.

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Preparations for War

Precisely because war involves the utmost need of technical preparation, the careful planning of the complete industrial life of the nation, it takes a number of years for a country to build up the stocks necessary and to see that the plant equipment is adequate. The United States today is engaged in these technical preparations, just as is every other power. The rivalries, the competition for markets and colonies, the need for expansion on the part of each national branch of capitalism, have reached the explosive point. The capitalist world is on a volcano ready to blow up and to destroy civilization. The workers of all countries will be the victims of imperialist war. Such wars have as their aim the bolstering-up of a decaying and tottering capitalism. The capitalists aim to maintain the system of exploitation of the working class at home by extending their field of operation to other lands and to other peoples. If workers once learn that such wars are aimed just as much at them as at the “enemy” abroad by the home capitalists, then all the technical preparations of the war mongers and their military, servants will come to nought. For in the final analysis, the primary and absolutely essential productive force is the man-power of the worker himself. The capitalists can conduct war only so long as they can successfully suppress the militant working class, only so long as the proletariat is forcibly prevented from taking the means of production out of the hands of the exploiters and into its own.

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