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Jack Weber

Post-War Crisis Will Grip
All Capitalist Lands

(1 November 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 44, 1 November 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Crisis After the War

Just in case the admirers of fascist economy failed to note it, we call their attention to an article in the New York Times of October 22 concerning that economy. It quotes the president of the Adam Opel Co. (the General Motors of Germany), Dr. Carl Luer, in an address made by him to the Frankfort-on-the-Main Chamber of Commerce, dealing with the tasks that would face German industry after the war.

The importance of the article lies not in its confirmation of what we have previously pointed out concerning the effect of the war in distorting German economy. It is not German economy alone that is being systematically undermined by the war, but all capitalist economy in all countries. The war is consuming so tremendous a portion of the wealth of society that the ordinary forces of production are depleted and must be allowed to run down. Dr. Leur estimates (it is by far too conservative an estimate) that the accumulated value of replacements and repairs to machinery and other industrial equipment that must be postponed till after the war amounts to five billion marks a year. The Nazi leader adds soberly that this yearly sum has a tendency to rise in a geometrical progression as more of the machinery of production wears out.

This will be the first task of the German industrialists after the war – the rebuilding of the industrial apparatus. But Luer does not tell us where the wealth will come from that is necessary to this process of rebuilding. Naturally the German capitalists rely on Hitler to loot all of Europe and all of the colonies he can seize from the other imperialists for the purpose. Meantime the German masses, who have learned to do without so many things in their daily lives, will have to continue doing without for a number of years even after the war. For priority will have to be given to the industrial apparatus before any attention is given to consumers’ goods. In short, the masses will have to pay for the war long after in a terribly lowered standard of living.

Marxist Analysis Confirmed

This item of news thereby confirms completely what Marxists have been repeating for many years. Far from solving any problems of society, the war merely drags civilization further towards the abyss. The same thing that is happening in Germany is taking place in England and in the United States.

The war is storing up a tremendous crisis, more terrible even than any previous one. Ironically enough, the war creates a situation where in some sectors of economy unmanageable surpluses come into existence already. This is particularly true of those countries that produce agricultural products for export. Thus by 1942 there will be a surplus of a billion and a half bushels of wheat in the four great wheat countries (United States, Canada, Argentine and Australia). This is a full year’s crop, and a bumper one at that. Similarly with cotton, sugar and coffee. Brazil, “normally” burning more than a third of its coffee production, Will be forced to burn even more each year. The disturbance in international trade due to war conditions, makes for an immediate crisis the moment the war stops.

The stored-up agricultural surpluses will be face to face with a prostrate international market. This market will not contain sufficient industrial goods to exchange for the foods needed by the manufacturing countries. On top of all this there will be piled the monetary crisis, with currencies inflated and undermined. The Nazis, who were credited by some with the magical power to control economy and avoid serious inflation, show the greatest fear of the inflation that already exists. They are completely unable to control the “free” market that exists behind the “legal” one. The shortage of goods and the existence of unsatisfied buying power cannot be controlled indefinitely, even during war-time. The end of the war will bring with it the bursting of the dam of inflation.

Economic Crisis for Imperialists

Need we add anything concerning the immediate unemployment due to the stoppage of the war industries boom? Capitalism is totally incapable of regulating its dislocations. It cannot plan any gradual correction of war industry to peace-time production. The demobilization of the vast armed forces will in and of itself bring on a crisis of the economy. To keep these armed forces in being, even for the victor (the vanquished will be forced to demobilize at once), will mean further tremendous outlays of money and wealth. But demobilization with some sort of dole for the period of rehabilitation will also mean a great drain on the national treasury.

The national debt will not cease mounting after the war. That debt will represent the wealth not merely of many individuals who hold public bonds and securities, but also the wealth of all the large banks and corporations forced to subscribe during the war to protect their system of exploitation. In Germany every corporation has large sums invested in the government loans and securities. It is obvious that these can never be fully repaid, if they can be repaid at all. National bankruptcy must inevitably add to the process of inflation.

It is an illusion to think that the victorious imperialist camp can escape this whole crisis by unloading it on the backs of the defeated enemy. Germany is already finding it difficult to squeeze more loot out of the occupied countries. Her demands have been so urgent that she has impoverished the whole of Europe. There is no more loot to be had in the same quantities as when Germany seized Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, France, etc. The economic crisis will affect both the winners and the losers of the war. That is the dark picture that faces the masses – if capitalism continues to rule after the war.

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