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Jack Weber

Japan May Now Seize Opportunity
to Attack Siberia

(August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34, 23 August 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

War in Pacific Imminent

Hitler’s invasion of Soviet Russia automatically cancelled the Russo-Jap neutrality pact and broke the stalemate in the Pacific. This was indicated politically by the quick change in the Japanese cabinet. Matsuoka, the man responsible for the signing of the pact with Stalin, had to be retired for the time being in order to free the hands of the Japanese government.

Naturally the Pacific War will be fought on a tremendous, far-flung front. It involves all the islands of the Pacific, all the Asiatic colonies or outposts of England and America, China and the mainland of Asia. But above all, it involves Siberia. Thus despite the seizure of Indo-China which may become a base of operations against the Dutch East Indies and Singapore, the Japanese have been concentrating their main strength in Manchukuo, along the Siberian border.

The complete embargo on Japanese trade by the United States, England and the Dutch East Indies, cannot help but be the prelude to war. Its effect is to strangle the Japanese economically and under present circumstances the Nipponese imperialists can meet this situation only by a further extension of their looting. This may mean suicide for the Japanese imperialists, but they are now driven by forces far beyond their’ control.

Hitler is applying the utmost pressure on Japan to enter the war now. But it is clear that he can offer the Mikado no help at all. What he offers is a gamble on the future, an action based on the chance that he will ultimately defeat England and perhaps the United States. Meantime the Japanese would have to fight in the present – and who can tell what changes may take place in the rotten, undermined semi-feudal structure of Japan between now and Hitler’s possible victory?

Japan is now in a most unfavorable position from the military point of view. She is ringed around by enemies, encircled as the Japanese put it, by the ABCD powers; that is, by America, Britain, China and the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese navy is quite powerful, and the Mikado’s statesmen may hope that the Battle of the Atlantic is of such vital importance to the United States that most of its fleet will remain in the west to assure the transport of supplies to England – but there can be no certainty of this.

Japan and Aid to the USSR

Now the situation has become far more menacing with the promise by Roosevelt of unlimited aid to the Soviet Union. The meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill, besides making important decisions concerning the almost certain war with Japan, has resulted in the calling of a conference in Moscow to coordinate all war activities of the three countries.

Already Japanese spokesmen have “warned” that relations with Moscow would become extremely precarious if collaboration with Britain and the United States is extended to the Far East as well as to Europe. Among other things this would mean a three-power plan for aid to China. It would also mean the establishment of American bases in Siberia to protect shipments of munitions and other forms of aid to Soviet Russia from attack by the Axis powers, whether Germany or Japan. It is well known that Japan gave considerable aid to German raiders in the Pacific. Japanese ships might now be outfitted for Germany on a larger scale than ever to prevent aid from reaching Vladivostok. But this would merely bring about an undeclared war with the U.S. navy convoying ships across the Pacific as it is doing across the Atlantic. How long would it be before a naval clash occurred that would precipitate large-scale war?

Vladivostok becomes the key point in the Pacific in this entire situation. It is through this point that all shipments must pass to reach European Russia as quickly as possible. For that port is the Pacific terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway over which all goods must be sent. The capture of Vladivostok and the destruction of the railroad by the Japanese would cripple all attempts to aid Russia. Furthermore Vladivostok is the nearest point menacing Japanese cities with the possibility of bombing by planes, and menacing the Japanese navy as a submarine base. It seems clear that the diplomatic fencing of the Pacific powers must give way under the strain of all the imperialist problems. The question of division and redivision of the earth is insoluble except by means of the sword. The Japanese are preparing their forces for an attack on Siberia in order to seize the Maritime Provinces and the eastern part of Siberia. Clashes between the Red Army and the imperialist forces of the Mikado have begun on a small scale. The real clash may come at any moment.

The United States would prefer to keep its hands free for the Battle of the Atlantic, and not to. divide its forces between the two oceans. A Pacific War would divert supplies that could otherwise be used by England and Russia directly against the German armies. But everything points to United States involvement in the Pacific phase of the world imperialist war even before entry as an actual combatant in the Atlantic war. It does not seem likely that the Japanese can win such a war. But they can blunt the full force of the allied blows against Hitler. They may help also to prolong the war considerably.

Above all, it must be remembered that imperialism can no longer help itself. The second imperialist war drags every country into its swirling vortex because it sharpens unbearably every rivalry, every tension. Japan is powerless under the present imperialist regime to change its course. But for that matter, so is the United States, the future of whose capitalism is at stake as much as that of every other country.

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