- War in the Modern World
- Some Untenable Theories about the Cause of War
- Capitalism the Cause of Modern War
- The Labour Party and War
- Nationalism and War
- Free Trade, Self-sufficiency and War .
- Futile Efforts to Prevent War …
- Background of the War 1939-1945
- The Labour Party and the Two World Wars
- The Communist Party of Great Britain and War
- The S.P.G.B. and the Wars of 1914 and 1939
- War with Russia?
- War as an Aid to the Progress of the Socialist Movement?
Writing only a few years after the end of the second world war and witnessing on every hand the active preparations for another on an even more gigantic scale it is not necessary to emphasise that war is literally an issue of life and death for men, women and children in every part of the globe. Nor is it necessary to prove at length that another war may be immeasurably more destructive of life and the means of sustaining life than were the wars from which the human race has suffered already during the present century. Everyone who takes even a casual interest in news of the atom and hydrogen bombs and other weapons of mass destruction of cities and peoples has received some impression of the agonising fate that may be in store for all the centres of civilisation if the Powers again come into armed conflict.
Nobody will deny that there is grave danger of world war breaking out within a few years, and that the consequences of such a war will be terrible and lasting to all nations, and may perhaps be even fatal to the civilisation of thickly populated industrial regions such as Western Europe. How then is it possible for anyone who thinks about these things to be prepared to contemplate a war which everyone would wish to avoid? Some people calm their fears with the thought that no Government will ever take the irrevocable decision to start a war the end of which—for victors and vanquished alike—may be destruction from which no country can be sure of recovering. This despairing hope that Governments will in all circumstances refrain from war is not firmly based. Viewing the question dispassionately the Trumans, Stalins and Attlees of the world, along with their advisors, may certainly be relied upon at the present time to resist the arguments of those who say that since war must come let it be launched without delay; but that is not the way in which world war is likely to come. On the road to war it is the first step that counts, the preparation for war, the costly research and armament building, the gradually mounting propaganda moulding “public opinion” to accept war as unavoidable, and the readiness to. engage upon some local, limited use of the instrument of war in the hope that it will achieve the object of intimidating the enemy group of Powers and yet remain limited. But there comes a time when both sides are too deeply committed to withdraw, then an ultimatum to Serbia explodes into World War I, and the attack on Poland launches the Powers into World War II. Who knows what seemingly unimportant trial of strength between U.S.A., Russia and Britain and their respective allies may get out of hand and be the prelude to the next holocaust?
For this reason it is of no use to study merely the incidents that occur just before the outbreak of war, incidents that some people mistakenly think are the cause of war. We must go further back and delve more deeply. We must ask ourselves why friction arises between the Powers in the first place, and why they arm for war instead of settling their differences peaceably: why indeed do they have differences? It is only by discovering the fundamental cause that we shall understand why the train of events begins that leads to war at the end.
In the course of this examination it will be made clear why the attitude of the Socialist Party of Great Britain to war differs from that of other political parties in this country.
WAR IN THE MODERN WORLD
It used to be possible for many people to think of war as something accidental, as a sudden and needless interruption of a natural and peaceful condition of things. The outbreak of war was said to be caused by the stupidity or miscalculations of diplomats, or of the arrogance and irritability of statesmen. Viewed in this way it often appeared that war could be avoided, and voluminous studies have been written after past wars to show that if this or that Foreign Minister had behaved differently or if there had been another holder of the office, the war would not have occurred. This view is less often heard today. It has been destroyed by the events which led up to the second World War and by the “cold war” that has been going on since that war ended. It was obvious that the outbreak of war in 1939 was not an unexpected event for, as everyone realised at the time, the European Powers had been busily preparing for that eventuality after the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany and the re-emergence of Germany as a first-class Military Power. At least a year before the war actually started the European peoples were oppressed with the fear that it would not be long delayed.
The events of the five years after the war have made it well-nigh impossible for thinking people any longer to regard war as a mere accidental disturbance of peaceful activities. Nowadays statesmen do not even keep up the pretence that armaments are required just to provide defence against a possible aggressor; now the line-up between the two world groups of Powers is clearly recognised and each group openly announces that its ever-mounting armaments are designed to meet the threatening attack of the other group. Instead of the old view of the way wars happen we are now offered as an explanation by each group that those in power in the rival group are deliberately preparing to attack. Instead of war being represented as a “bolt from the blue” we are now accustomed to the situation for which the name “cold war” has been coined, and we see the Governments abusing and threatening each other and carrying on every war-like activity short of open military attack. As far as Great Britain and Russia are concerned the situation is the more noteworthy because both Governments have in the past associated themselves with the doctrine that wars are the outcome of the activities of “capitalist” politicians and both have proclaimed their intention of avoiding “capitalist” intrigues and war-threats. In Great Britain the Labour Ministers who came to power in 1945 genuinely believed that, because of their working class and Labour Party traditions, they were specially fitted to meet the Russian Government in frank, friendly discussion. It was their stated aim to avoid the kind of errors of international politics for which they had savagely criticised Conservative and Liberal Cabinets in the past. Yet the result has been the same and war is again the daily preoccupation of Governments and the daily apprehension of peoples.
It is one of the aims of this pamphlet to show that wars in the modern world are due neither to the avoidable mistakes of individual Ministers nor to their deliberate war-making policies. The contest by force of arms is an extension and consequence of an underlying contest going on at all times in other fields. Wars reflect the determination of Governments to defend or to gain control of valuable possessions by armed might when other means have failed. The purpose of war is to gain or to maintain the mastery of territories where there are rich mineral deposits, vital land, sea or air routes or areas where goods can be sold or capital invested.
These are the objects of modern war. The method is to annihilate or disperse the armed forces of the “enemy” Government; destroy its armaments and means of supply; starve, terrify and undermine its civilian population by blockade and bombing, and by propaganda to spread panic and defeatism.
The methods of war have changed in the past and are changing rapidly now as a result of the progress in industry, communications and scientific knowledge. The instruments of war have become more complex and costly and can only be produced and operated where and for so long as they have behind them highly-developed, large-scale industry, chemical and scientific resources, and means of transport and communications. Through the development of the aeroplane with its cargo of “atom” bombs, and other means of wholesale destruction the civilian populations are now in the direct line of battle, and it has become more and more important for warring Powers to immobilise the combat forces by attacking the civilian workers and the armaments industries. As wars have become immeasurably more destructive the destruction falls increasingly on the civil population. And as the preparations for war have become so costly the work of perfecting means of attack on enemy cities takes precedence over the provision of defence for civilians. At a time when the Labour Government in Britain was increasing the expenditure on the army, navy and air force the Director-General of Civil Defence Training at the Home Office, Wing-Commander Sir John Hodsoll, was reported to have told an audience of representatives of local authorities, the police and fire services that the building of atom-bomb shelters in this country could not be started at present “because Britain’s economic state is not very good.” (News Chronicle, March 23rd, 1950.)
These changes in the technique of war have had the result of reducing to an absurdity the idea that the armed forces safeguard the civil population. In the second world war nearly every country suffered great loss of life at home, and great damage to buildings in its towns. America was an exception, safeguarded by distance, but that immunity will not continue into another war. The great extension of the range of bombing planes and guided missiles has brought the whole of the earth’s surface into the danger zone. Speaking even before the last war, Colonel Lindbergh, the American airman, had seen the significance of these developments. In Berlin on July 23rd, 1936, he made the point that “the families the fighter leaves behind him are as much exposed as he is himself.” (Times, July 24th, 1936.) He continued:—
“It is no longer possible to shield the heart of a country with its army … aviation has, I believe, created the most fundamental change ever made in war fare. It has abolished what we call defensive warfare. It has converted defence into attack.”
(News Chronicle, July 24th, 1936.)
Nobody can doubt that in a future war centres of population will be exposed to great and perhaps irreparable destruction. In face of what is now common knowledge no Government can promise immunity for civilians should war occur. The line taken by the Labour Government’s Home Secretary, Mr. Chuter Ede, in his appeal for volunteers for the new Civil Defence service is the much more modest one of claiming merely that with a civil defence service casualties will be much fewer than without it:—
“Although it might not be possible to avoid grave loss of life under atomic attack, proper measures of civil defence could prevent a very high proportion of the casualties that would otherwise occur.”
(Times, March 20th, 1950).
The same speaker, a few months earlier, knowing the horror that the dropping of atomic bombs on Japanese cities had aroused, sought to allay too great fears of atomic warfare by making a comparison between the destruction wrought by the atom bombs on Japan, and that caused at Hamburg by ordinary high explosives. Addressing the City of London Civil Defence Committee he said:—
“It would, of course, be exceedingly foolish to minimise the possibilities of destruction and loss of life, but it would be equally foolish to assume that the invention of the atom bomb means that no form of civil defence is worth anything in the future.
The two largest single raids of the war were at Hamburg and Tokio. More casualties were caused by the raid on Hamburg than by the atom bomb at Nagaaki, and the damage done to that city was equal to that from two atom bombs.
The incendiary raid on Tokio in 1945 was much greater in loss of life and destruction than the atom bomb of Hiroshima, even though it did not obliterate Tokio as a city.
The total damage to target areas in Germany caused by high explosives and incendiaries during the last war would be equalled, it is estimated, by about 75 atom bombs, but this comparison refers to destruction and not to casualties, and, of course, it was spread over a long period.”
(Daily Mail, December 6th, 1949.)
This comparison may serve the purpose for which it was intended but it will put the matter in better perspective if we remember that according to the Japanese account the number killed at Hiroshima was over 60,000, with a further 100,000 injured and 200,000 homeless. And when we are asked to trust to civil defence to minimise casualties in a future war, it is pertinent to recall that Hamburg and the Japanese cities which suffered such great destruction did so in spite of the efforts of their own civil defence services.
The extent of the further horrors science and the war departments have in preparation or in prospect we do not know, but we may mention the view taken by some who claim to be able to weigh up the possible developments. The scientific correspondent of the Times (January 27th, 1950) concluded an article on the Hydrogen bomb with the following:—
“How far the hydrogen project has advanced is not, of course, known outside the circle of experts bound to secrecy. There seems, however, little doubt that, within a few decades, if not a few years, it will be possible for any Power with modern industrial resources to destroy the world as we know it.”
Professor O. R. Frisch, Jacksonian Professor of Natural History at Cambridge, repudiated in a broadcast the danger that physicists might one day destroy the world, but his more modest estimate will bring little comfort:—
“But the hydrogen bomb, if it can be made, is bad enough. A hundred square miles devastated by one of these bombs is probably no exaggerated estimate. And if one can be made, many hundreds can be made.”
(Daily Herald, February 4th, 1950.)
We can then be clear about one thing; that world war in the future may be ten times or a hundred times more destructive than it has been in the past. It behoves all who contemplate waging war and all who contemplate giving their support to war preparations to bear in mind the fate that they are preparing for other human beings—and for themselves.
It only remains to add at this point a reminder of the Socialist case that will be developed later in these pages. No matter what the form war propaganda may take it is the Socialist contention that the basic cause of the conflicts in the modern world that lead on to war, is the way in which society is organised. The cause of war today is the rivalry inherent in Capitalism Those who support Capitalism are promoting war.
SOME UNTENABLE THEORIES ABOUT THE CAUSE OF WAR
At one ‘time it was common to “explain” war as a punishment visited by a god on a sinful world, just as it was common to explain plague, pestilence and famine in the same way. As the development of medical science and sanitation and the growth of mankind’s powers of production have made those old ideas untenable, some people have cherished the belief that all the evils affecting mankind, war included, would progressively give way before a steady growth of knowledge and enlightenment. Events have not supported that view. Sir Duff Cooper, former Conservative Member of Parliament who has held office both as War Minister and First Lord of the Admiralty, has fought in War and served as Ambassador, well summarises the early hopes and subsequent disillusionment:—
“When day broke on 1st January, 1900, the hopes of humanity were rising. Great Britain was still engaged in a small colonial war in South Africa, but the rest of the world was at peace. There had been no war between what were then called the Great Powers for 30 years, and many clever people believed that such wars would never happen again. Science and progress were the watchwords of the age, and were about to create a better world in which all men would be equal, free, and friendly. Tragic has been the disillusionment. This half-century, t hat bid so fair to be happy and prosperous, has been more fraught with calamity than any previous period of man’s evil history.
Never before within so short a while have so many human beings been killed in war, maimed for life, tyrannised over, imprisoned, tortured, and enslaved. Never has mankind’s production in art, literature, music, or philosophy been more meagre or on a lower standard. Never has the dismal failure of humanity been more apparent.”
(Daily Mail, December 3Ist, 1949.)
Starting with the statement that causes of war in the past have been mainly economic, religious and dynastic Sir Duff Cooper goes on to examine these factors to discover their bearing on the present situation. By economic causes he has in mind pressure of population. On this he writes:-—
“Man is a hungry animal and one who, given good conditions, breeds rapidly. As his numbers increase, his demand for land, the source of food and wealth increases, and he begins to prey upon his neighbour, especially if his neighbour’s land is more fertile than his own.”
The first thing we notice about this view of the cause of war is that it fails completely to explain why after the second world war the two major Powers, Russia and U.S.A., were arming against each other. Far from having to meet pressure of population these two Powers are noticeably the ones which possess abundant resources, far beyond pressure of population. Sir Duff Cooper says of Russia:—
“The Russians have sufficient territory, sufficient manpower, sufficient food and raw materials.”
And another writer, one who happens to be particularly favourable to the Russian point of view, puts it on record that neither U.S.A. nor Russia is faced with the problem of overpopulation.
“The population of the Soviet Union is growing very quickly, but thanks to its vast irrigation schemes and the possibility of clearing forests, its food supply is likely to increase quicker.”
The U.S.A. has a surplus of food, and its population is not likely to double in the next century. Neither of these great countries has anything to fear for a long time to come.”
(Prof.]. B. S. Haldane. Daily Worker, March 22nd, 1950.)
Whatever we may find to be the causes of the Russian-American “cold war,” pressure of population is certainly not among them.
Sir Duff Cooper’s picture of pressure of population is a fair description of tribal wars in primitive communities and of past migrations of peoples driven to move by the exhaustion or drying up of the land on which they lived. But does it explain the wars of the present age? Undoubtedly it has been a convenient guise in which to present the war aims of certain modern Governments. The Hitler Government in Germany and its two allies, Italy and Japan, used the theme of the necessity of obtaining “living space” to popularise war. Nevertheless it is only a half-truth. If the world, or any part of it, is overpopulated, commonsense would suggest that the Governments, alone or in agreement with each other, would take steps to increase the supply of food and other necessities and if that solution turned out to be insufficient they would logically then set about persuading the population to limit the birth rate. Yet what do we see happening? The Governments that plead overpopulation use every inducement to secure an increase of the birth rate by such means as children’s allowances and bonuses for large families. At the same time, instead of concentrating on the problem of increasing the supply of food and other requirements, they divert an enormous and growing part of their resources of men and materials to the maintenance of armed forces and the production of armaments. They all say that they do this reluctantly and only under urgent necessity, and we must examine that plea, but it is necessary that we should first recognise that all Governments, by their actions, show that they regard armaments as of more importance than feeding their populations. For all of them, and not only for the late Nazi leader General Goering, “guns come before butter.”
When Governments plead that they have no choice about taking men off civilian production in order to put them into the armed forces and munition factories their defence is that they must do this to protect themselves against other armed Powers, that is against each other. It is true that if one country disarmed alone it would quickly fall a victim to invasion; but why cannot all disarm? What is it that makes them potential enemies of each other when on the face of it all have the same interest in mutual co-operation? We would seem to be in a vicious circle. We are told that populations become too big for the available supplies of food, etc., yet the available supplies are first reduced so that armies and armaments can be maintained, and then, periodically, vast areas of the world are devastated in war to an extent far outstripping any reduction of population by death. After a war the ability to support the world population is then further curtailed; and a new armaments race begins on a greater scale than before, making ever more demands on the resources that could otherwise be used to meet human needs. Plainly, and here again we may quote Sir Duff Cooper, “wars are only the hideous symptoms of a deep-rooted disease … We have got to discover the causes In order to prevent the disease …”
Here we may mention another aspect, one on which all but Socialists are silent. If commonsense would point to the need to avoid the waste of armaments in order to supply the elementary necessities of the mass of the population, lit would also call for the avoidance of other forms of waste. If the rulers of the nations really wanted as their over-riding aim to supply the needs of the mass of the population why do they all, without a single exception, permit and encourage the inequality that gives abundance to a favoured minority in disregard of the needs even of the most poverty stricken sections of the working population If there is really ”not enough to go round” how do they justify giving an undue share to the wealthy minority, the idle hands that play no part in wealth production?
We are forced to conclude that the rulers who put “guns before butter,” likewise give priority to the maintenance of the social inequality of the capitalist system.
A particular form taken by the argument that overpopulation causes war is that when unemployment is high countries must expand and acquire more territory, especially colonies, in order to find a place for the unemployed. During the crisis years of the nineteen-thirties this argument was used by the German and Italian Governments to support their demand for colonies in Africa, but it will not stand up to examination. If unemployment resulted from overpopulation it would show itself in a steadily growing unemployed army, chiefly affecting those countries in which population was increasing most rapidly. But unemployment does not follow that course. During crisis years unemployment sharply increases everywhere and is plainly due to the industrial and trading conditions of Capitalism and not to a natural growth of population. And when the economic crisis of Capitalism lessens, unemployment shrinks though the population is still growing. We see that a country can at some times find employment for nearly all the workers and at other times has millions of unemployed, so the cause of unemployment must lie in the social system, not in the size of the population.
In the years immediately following the end of the war in 1945 unemployment everywhere was at a minimum, yet this did not produce a lessening of the war-tension—on the contrary they were years of constantly growing tension and atomic armament.
Another view about wars is that they are caused by the armament firms,”the merchants of death.” Official inquiries in America and elsewhere have confirmed the popular belief that armament firms, having a financial interest in selling their products, encourage competitive armaments. They resist disarmament schemes, divide up the world’s armament’s market among themselves, supply arms to all Governments without distinction, seek to influence newspapers and politicians to promote sales and in general apply to their trade the methods capitalists apply in every other trade. When all due allowance is made for this factor we are, however, still without an explanation for war. Let us grant that armament firms take advantage of the antagonisms that already exist between Governments; we still have to explain why the antagonisms exist in the first place. Armament firms fish in troubled waters and help to keep them troubled, but Governments are antagonistic to each other over markets, trade routes, strategic frontiers, etc., irrespective of anything- the armament firms may do.
Those who believed that the private manufacture of armaments is a cause of war thought they had found a remedy in Government control of armament production. A disclosure made in the British House of Commons on March 16th, 1950, should shake the complacent view that the international trade in weapons of destruction is essentially altered by placing it under Government control. Mr. Winston Churchill reproached the Labour Government with having sold jet aircraft to foreign Powers including some to the Argentine for £2,000,000—his objection being that the Royal Air Force should have had the machines. To this the Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, replied that most of the aircraft had been sold to allies in the Dominions or in foreign countries but that “some have been sold elsewhere,” and that the justification for selling some to the Argentine was “the need to maintain a potential and the need for exports. And it is valuable to have some of our things used by other countries with an eye on the future and not on the immediate present.” (Hansard, March 16th, 1950. Col. 1393 and 1394.) (Our italics.)
It was admitted a few days later, by the Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Supply, Mr. J. Freeman, that fighter, fighter-bomber or bomber aircraft had been sold to many other countries as well as the Argentine; including Egypt, Venezuela, Iraq, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, Persia, and Czechoslovakia. (Times, March 22nd, 1950.) Another Minister, Mr. Adrian Crawley, Under secretary for Air, said:—”We are still planning to export military aircraft in order that our industry shall be kept at a higher level for war potential than we could keep it if we only bought aircraft we needed ourselves.” (Daily Mail, March 22nd, 1950.)
It will be seen that the needs of Capitalism impose themselves on a Labour Government so that it has to behave in a way not markedly different from that in which private armament firms conduct their businesses.
In his examination of the causes of war Sir Duff Cooper, after dealing with economic causes, went on to name religion and dynastic factors. Man, he wrote “is also a religious creature. The majority of mankind believes, and has always believed, passionately in something that cannot be proved. He has a third characteristic, very important in the sphere of politics—he likes to be led.”
It is, says Duff Cooper, because of men’s weakness for religion and for being led that they respond so readily to the war-cry “For God and the King.”
This argument too is a mistaken one; it mistakes, for a cause of war, the propaganda used by statesmen to whip up support for it. If as he says mankind has a deep desire to believe in religion and to be led, both desires could be satisfied just as well by keeping peace as by going to war. Why is it that Governments exploit religion and the desire of the workers to be led, for war making and not for opposing war?
What happens in practice is that when a Government requires to stir up war fever it will use any means that are to hand to suit the background of the particular war. If it happens to be a war against a country with a different religion then the religious appeal will serve; as also will appeals to “race,” politics, and many other factors in suitable circumstances.
Sir Duff Cooper goes on to differentiate between the world’s religions, some being more war-like than others. “Buddhism,” he says, “is the most pacifist religion. Mahommedanism the most war-like.” The dogmas of the Russian Government and Communist Party (which he regards as a “religion”), he would place among the non-war-like religions—”it is not a fighting faith, and … not a menace to the peace of the world.” This muddled thinking calls for comment. Has Japan with its largely Buddhist population avoided war? Is Mohammedan Turkey more given to war than its Christian brothers? During the second world war it maintained a precarious neutrality despite the blandishments and pressures of the warring groups. And did the Russian Government when it was at war find the adherents of the “Communist religion” less ready to respond to war-cries?
World history can show as many examples of wars between countries with the same religious beliefs as between countries of different religion, and on examination it will be found that even where religious differences played a part in the war propaganda the real cause of the dispute lay elsewhere. Historians have often been deceived by the surface appearance of wars and have mistaken it for the substance of the quarrel. England’s trade wars of the 16th and 17th centuries are an example of the relative importance of trade and religion. Catholic Spain and Portugal in the 16th century monopolised trade with the East and with the new world across the Atlantic. Under Elizabeth England entered into alliance with Protestant Holland against Catholic Spain, and on this H. de Gibbins in his “Industrial History of England” could write that “the motive of the alliance was partly religious, but the shrewdness of the Queen and her statesmen no doubt foresaw more than spiritual advantages to be gained thereby.” (P. 122.)
Cromwell continued this policy of attacking the Spanish monopoly and in doing so “was supported both by the religious views of the Puritans and the desires of the merchants when he declared war against England’s great foe.” In 1655 Jamaica was. taken from Spain, thus opening up the West Indies to English trade and colonization.
Looking only at the war against Spain it would be possible to believe that religious sympathy played the major role, and trade rivalry at most a supporting one; but other events during the same period show such a view to be untenable. A common interest in Protestantism notwithstanding, England and Holland were at war in 1’652 and de Gibbins writes,”Cromwell with the full consent of mercantile England declared war against the Dutch, who were now more our rivals than our friends.” (P. 123-4.)
In 1655 what gave Cromwell the opportunity to take Dunkirk from Spain was that Catholic Spain was at war with Catholic France; and the purpose for which Dunkirk was taken was “with a view to securing England a monopoly of the Channel to the exclusion of our old friends the Dutch”; this though our “old friends” and former allies were Protestants.
Samuel Pepys has, in his Diary, an interesting entry for February 2nd, 1664. He records having listened in a Coffee House to a Captain Cocke, who “discoursed well of the good effects in some kind of a Dutch war and conquest (which I did not consider before …).” The purport of the discourse from the Captain was:—”the trade of the world is too little for us two, therefore one must down.”
It is certainly not religion that is the cause of the antagonisms between the nations in our own day though that will not prevent the Churchmen and Governments from representing it to be a cause if war comes. Catholic and Protestant churchmen—who can agree on little else—unite in denouncing the alleged war on Christianity waged by the Russian Government. But while the Russian Government uses the Communist parties it equally readily fosters its domestic and foreign aims through the Christian Greek Orthodox Church by which it is loyally supported. At the same time (March, 1950) that Mohammedan Turkey and Catholic Italy signed a treaty of mutual friendship to strengthen co-operation between Mediterranean countries that feel themselves threatened from without and within by Russia and her supporters, Mohammedan Egypt was approaching the Pope suggesting the necessity of uniting “God-fearing” nations against the same threat. Prince Mohamed Aly, heir apparent to the Egyptian throne declared :—
“Moslems must join hands with their Christian and Jewish brethren in a common front not only against atheistic Communism but against all other evil forces which tend to weaken the spirit of devotion to the Creator.”
(Manchester Guardian, March 27th, 1950.)
It will be observed that this search of unity with “Jewish brethren” came from a country, Egypt, which about a year earlier had been at war with Israel in an endeavour to strangle the new State at birth.
It is equally mistaken to suppose that the political and cultural and ideological differences that form so large a part of the propaganda of countries at war are the cause of war. In the first World War autocratic Russia was the ally of the western democracies. In August, 1939, the Stalin and Hitler Governments, which had for years condemned each other’s systems in unmeasured terms, found it possible to enter into a pact of friendship. The moment this happened the many organs of the British Press declared that they had always known that Nazism and the Russian system were almost identical tyrannies. Then, when Russia came into the war, the same newspapers became silent on the subject of the Russian dictatorship and habitually referred to that country as one of the democracies. In the “cold war that followed 1945. they again sought to horrify their readers with descriptions of a Russian system that they now again represented to be little better than Hitler’s.
Perhaps the most striking example that occurred during this period was the breach between Yugoslavia and Russia. The two countries had their Governmental and social systems organised on the same totalitarian model. In both countries all political activity except that of the Communist Party is rigorously suppressed. Both countries worked to develop a form of State Capitalism which both Governments agreed to misrepresent as being Socialism. Nevertheless they came into open conflict and made mutual charges of war-mongering, betrayal, tyranny, etc., etc. The real cause of the conflict was not disagreement about ideologies \but the clashing interests of the two Powers over military and strategic questions and whether Yugoslav industry was to be adapted to the needs of the Russian economic Empire.
In the second world war the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp took a leading place in the propaganda of the Western Powers, U.S.A. and Russia. In the cold war that followed, the attention of the populations of the countries grouped against Russia was diverted to the concentration camps in the latter country, and by the beginning of 1950 the twin ideas of incorporating a re-armed Western Germany in the forces of the Western Powers, and of incorporating a re-armed Eastern Germany in the forces of the Russian group were being favourably considered by the respective groups of Governments.
Lastly, modern wars are not to be explained by some supposed streak of viciousness and combativeness in human nature. It is not the mass of the populations of any country who desire war and plan years ahead to prepare for it. Always it is the Governments which, having been pushed towards war by the insoluble rivalries of Capitalism, lay their plans (as far as possible in secret), and organise the forces of destruction after having gone to unlimited trouble to win over the reluctant masses to acceptance of the need for war preparations and war. It is one of the bitter jokes of modern history that the politicians who spend their efforts to whip up the war spirit among their at first peaceful minded populations should have the effrontery to charge their sheep-like followers with such wolfish proclivities. So little is it true that the “human nature” of the man in the street lusts for war that there is hardly a country in the world which does not have to employ force, in the form of conscription, to compel the “man in the street,” first to train and then to fight.
Sir Duff Cooper, in the article on war to which several references have been made, affects to believe that Germans are different; “this modern nation born of blood and iron, and the only one that loves war for its own sake.”
A few months after the above was written, Mr. Winston Churchill proposed that Western Germany should play an active part in Europe’s military defence. How was this proposal received? The German Social Democratic Party which, though not a Socialist Party, had to its credit having issued in September, 1939, a Manifesto to the German people calling on them to oppose the war and overthrow Hitler, promptly rejected it. The head of the Party, Kurt Schumacher, replied:—
“We Germans have got quite enough troubles. Why not leave us in peace?”
(Daily Herald, March 18th, 1950.)
And when, in the same months the French made a proposal that “German armed forces should form an integral part of the defence,” i.e., defence of Western Europe against Russia, a spokesman of the Christian-Democratic Party which forms the German Government, said:—
“We do not intend to have anything to do with such a plan.”
(Daily Mail, London, March 31st, 1950.)
It is true that the German population, like the populations of all other countries, is nationalist in outlook and may be won over to war but it will not be because it loves war for its own sake but because, being still wedded to capitalist ideas, it will know no other way out of the international conflict into which Capitalism drives all countries.
Before leaving this supposition of Germany being warlike above all other nations reference may be made to the way in which spokesmen of the two world groups make accusations against each other of seeking to restore German power. If it really were the truth that the danger of war comes only from Germany those who seek to make Germany powerful could be accused of playing with dynamite; but neither of the two groups can consistently accuse the other, for both have at different times sought to increase German power as a counter-weight in Europe. After the first World War American and British policy was to re-establish Germany. The British Government was induced to do so in line with traditional balance of power policy. France had become too powerful and the re-emergence of Germany would restore the balance. It was then, in 1925, that the late Mr. Arthur Henderson, speaking on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Labour Party at their annual Conference opposed a disarmament resolution because of the menace of France. He said:—” If France continued in the frame of mind she was now in, had they to overlook the possibilities of defence? They could not afford to ignore this question of defence.” (Report of Labour Party Conference 1925. Page 232.)
But it was not only the British Government that pursued this policy, the Russian Government did so too. They had arrangements with the German military leaders under which German armaments were produced in Russia, and later on, in 1939, when Hitler Germany and Stalin Russia signed their pact of friendship, the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Molotov, made the admission:—'”We have always held that, a strong Germany is an indispensable condition for durable peace in Europe.” (Speech to Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., October 31st, 1939. Published by Anglo-Russian News Bulletin, November, 1939. Page 9.)
After the second world war there was talk of permanently destroying Germany’s power to wage war, both by forbidding armed forces and by restricting the armament, steel and chemical industries. But by 1946 we see the Polish Government complaining that Britain’s policy is “based on the development of an economically strong Germany which is contrary to the aim of liquidating the sources of German aggression.” (Daily Express, London, October 25th, 1946.)
Already a few months earlier Mr. Molotov had criticised proposals to divide up Germany or to “annihilate its main industrial centres” and make it largely an agricultural country; though he still urged that Germany should be deprived of the economic and military potential to rise again as an aggressive force.” (Daily Worker, London, July 11th, 1946.) By 1950, with Germany divided into a Western State under American, British and French influence and an Eastern State under Russian influence, both world groups were seeking to gain Germany’s support and cautiously preparing the way for German re-armament. And once more Mr. Molotov was returning to the Russian Government’s pre-war view of a strong Germany as a desirable factor in the European balance of power. In a speech in Moscow on March 10th, 1950, he said:—
“The formation of the German Democratic Republic with its capital in Berlin marks a new page not only in the history of Germany but in the history of Europe as well. Comrade Stalin spoke of this in a very convincing way when he pointed out:— ‘The existence of a peace- loving democratic Germany side by side with the existence of the peace-loving Soviet Union excludes the possibility of new wars in Europe, puts an end to bloodshed in Europe and makes impossilbe the enclosing of the European countries by the world imperialists.”
Molotov continued :—-
“The sooner the German people realise the truly historic significance of the formation of the German Democratic Republic, the sooner will they achieve their national unification and the more firmly will lasting peace be guaranteed in Europe.”
(Speech published in “Soviet News,” issued by the Soviet Embassy in London. March 13th, 1950.)
Molotov’s later trust in the maintenance of peace through a re-united and re-established “democratic” Germany is as ill-founded as his earlier trust in a strong Nazi Germany; but that is not to say that Germany, any more than any other Power, is the sole cause of war. If history may seem to give support to that view it is only because Germany, coming late to unification and the struggle for colonies and world trade, was in a different position from the older imperialisms that had already occupied the best colonial territories. The latter were concerned to hold on to what they had; German Capitalism’s problem was fo expand at their expense,
But the peoples of the world do not love war, any of them. And if Sir Duff Cooper now makes an exception of the German people we may recall what he wrote many years ago. He declared then that even the most combative human being has no liking for ” he prospect of being blown up by a gun fired miles away, and thinking that his home and family might be destroyed by bombs dropped from the sky.”
In our age of atom bombs, rocket warfare and so on, his earlier words are an even more accurate description ot the facts than they were when he wrote them.
CAPITALISM THE CAUSE OF MODERN WAR
When Socialists say that Capitalism is the cause of the rivalries that lead to war in the modern world the answer is sometimes given that this cannot be true because wars took place before Capitalism existed. This is the view stated by the Labour Party in a document circulated to branches in December, 1946. It was signed by the Secretary of the Labour Party, Mr. Morgan Phillips, and contains the following :-—
“Now, while it is true that Socialists believe that capitalist society contains tendencies which may lead to war, they do not believe that only Capitalism produces war. Capitalism is a fairly recent system in history, but war has been common for thousands of years.”
It is necessary to recognise a distinction between what may in a general way be called “economic” causes of past wars and the particular causes of wars that arise under Capitalism. Reverting to an illustration given earlier in this pamphlet, insufficiency of food in past ages could induce a tribe to make war on a neighbouring tribe to gain control of more fertile land. Such a war would rightly be described as being due to an economic cause, the absolute shortage of food; and it might be quite impossible with the poor tools and methods known at that time to solve the problem in any other way than by fighting it out for the chance that the victors might survive.
In our own age the problem is a different one. Now the means exist of producing enough to supply continuously the needs of all; at least they could exist. With modern industrial and scientific knowledge ample food, clothing, houses and the rest of the needs of human beings could be produced if all resources were used and none were wasted. The trouble is that they are not used to the full. In a multitude of ways production is deliberately restricted ; land and materials are utilised for non-productive purposes; millions of men, through unemployment or military service and armament production, are withdrawn from the task of satisfying human needs; and periodically vast amounts of food and other materials are destroyed in order to “keep up prices”—quite apart from the destruction that takes place in war itself. If in our own day millions of people in China are starving while simultaneously in U.S.A. enormous quantities of foodstuffs are withheld from the market (with deterioration or even destruction as their likely ultimate fate), it cannot be said that the starvation is economically unavoidable. It is Capitalism that presents the U.S. Government with the choice between releasing the food for sale “at what it will fetch”—which would ruin farmers by depressing prices—and withholding the food to get high prices with the result that poverty-striken people cannot buy it.
It is in the same way that Capitalism and capitalist interests induce every Government to behave in a manner which creates antagonism with other capitalist groups and governments, with war as the threatened outcome. The needs of the world’s population could be satisfied by co-operation but Capitalism in its nature prohibits co-operation.
In the capitalist world we are not dealing with a simple economic problem of insufficiency but with the problem of insufficiency created by the capitalist form of ownership of the means of production and distribution. While millions of people are starving in China because they lack the money to buy food there are wealthy property owners in China who are not at all affected. And while in America there are food surpluses that could be used to satisfy the needs of starving and undernourished people, there are large numbers of Americans who because they are poor cannot buy the food available where they live. According to a report published early in 1950 by a Governmental committee in America “nearly 10 million families, one quarter of the whole, received incomes of less than 2,000 dollars in 1948” and “studies of the diets and housing of these families— 2,000,000 of the urban families lacked even running water in 1940—suggested to the sub-committee that any steps to raise their Incomes would provide a welcome outlet for farm surpluses and, if the housing boom flags, work for builders.” (“Economist,” London, February 25th, 1950.)
And here is what another writer reports of American poverty alongside food surpluses: —
“Millions of poor Americans are deprived of cheap food . . . During the last American coal strike hundreds of miners’ children had no food to eat. School teachers combed the mining districts for bread and meal with which to make some sort of soup. At the same time, stored away, the American Government had 230 million pounds of dried milk, 95 million pounds of butter,22 million pounds of cheese, corn valued at 880 million dollars, and 35 million pounds of canned meat . . .Only a few days ago 100 children were found starving in a shack camp in Arizona. The cold weather had thrown their fruit-picking parents into the ranks of America’s 4,’6’84,000 unemployed.”
(“People,” London, March 26th, 1950.)
When, therefore, Socialists say that Capitalism causes modern war it is this capitalist social system of private ownership, and production for profit that we have in mind. It is no answer to say as does the Labour Party that there were also wars in times gone by.
Further insight into the Labour Party point of view can be gleaned from a later passage in the document referred to above. As an example of wars alleged not to have been caused by Capitalism it gives the following: —
“Even in modern times fear and the desire for security have caused aggression. After all, it is only a few years since the Soviet Union herself invaded several other territories in order to improve her position against a war with Germany, with whom she was at that time connected by a non-aggression pact.”
It is obvious from this that the Secretary of the Labour Party does not at all understand what Socialists mean when they say that capitalism causes war. Russia, a country run on State capitalist lines, is part of the capitalist world and cannot, any more than any other country, contract out of the forces that operate in world capitalism. If—as no doubt Mr. Morgan Phillips would agree—it was capitalism that drove Hitler Germany to embark on war to solve its problems—then capitalism is equally the cause of Russia and other countries being involved in war. It was because of capitalism that the interests of Germany and Russia were in conflict and war resulted.
In saying that capitalism is the source of modern wars Socialists do not mean that capitalism’s wars are deliberately and wantonly plotted by individual capitalists or groups for the purpose of making money, even though some individuals may do this. Normally it would be more accurate to say that Governments, in trying to handle the problems and antagonisms created by capitalism, turn to war when other means fail.
The former idea is, however, sometimes attributed to Socialists by those who deny that wars arise from capitalism. Professor A. E. Zimmern, who wrote extensively on war, is one who made that mistake. Speaking in 1917 he said : — “Capitalism did not cause the war … it was the Kaiser, not Rothschild, who pulled the trigger.” (“Economic Aspects of International Relations ” published by Ruskin College, 1917, Page 64.)
The matter is not disposed of by that over-simple statement. What we need to know is why the German Kaiser “pulled the trigger.” What forces were at work which placed him and his Government and the German capitalists in such a position that war could appear as the only means of escape? Why, indeed, was there a trigger all ready to be pulled? In other words, why do capitalist States build up powerful and costly armaments, little as the capitalists as a whole like being taxed to pay for them? The answer is that the capitalist system of society is rooted in conflict; and war is one of the evil fruits of that conflict. To understand modern war we must understand capitalism.
It is easy to see from other writings of Professor Zimmern that he did not understand. He discussed the origins of war in “The Economic Causes of War,” published in 1934 by the League of Nations Union. He argued that war cannot be caused by “the greed of merchants and manufacturers and other business groups because war is not the act of these groups but of states:— ‘”Wars arise out of policies and policies are made by Governments and the public opinion or the organised political groups behind Governments. It is the dominance of power-political motives in these circles which brings war about.” What Professor Zimmern fails to see is that the policies of governments are themselves determined by the capitalist system. Real conflict of interests exists between capitalist groups in the different countries and the Governments have no choice but to take note of the conflict and frame their policies accordingly.
Professor Zimmern’s blindness goes even deeper. He does not regard trade rivalries as instrumental in causing conflicts between governments because he does not take account of the nature of trade and the purpose behind it. He admits that capitalists compete with each other but he claims that “they are competing with one another to supply the needs of the consumer,” and he gives the example of the British textile industry and the British shipping industry as “part of an international system for the satisfaction of consumer’s needs.”
This is a purely fanciful interpretation of the motive behind capitalist production and trade. The capitalist is in business not in order to satisfy human needs but to make profit. Unless he wants to become bankrupt he must secure that the products manufactured by the workers he employs are sold at a profit. Once capital is sunk in a particular line of production the capitalist must struggle to maintain his position against competitors. The manufacturer does not and cannot give up production because he learns that some foreign producer can supply the goods at lower prices. Instead he seeks the aid of his government to enable him to beat his rival. He will seek tariffs to protect him in the home market and restrictions to prevent foreigners from getting into a Colonial market. Above all he will press on the government an expansionist policy to gain control of territories in which there are raw materials that will enable the product to be produced cheaply to undercut the foreign manufacturer.
If Professor Zimmern showed that he did not understand capitalism—he nowhere even acknowledges the existence of a privileged capitalist class and an exploited working-class—it was only to be expected that he would not even consider the possibility of a Socialist system of society based on common ownership of the means of production and the carrying on of production solely for use. For him the production of goods for sale and profit must always exist.
He has his own remedy for war, “the adoption of cooperative policies between States.” He fails to see that the States themselves exist to meet the needs of capitalism and therefore, they cannot co-operate on a world basis; all they can do is to form power groups to strengthen their hand in international rivalry.
What then is this social system known as capitalism? It was defined by an economist, the late Professor Cannan, who it may be observed, was not a Socialist. He wrote: —
“The present organisation of industry is sometimes described as capitalistic, and the term is quite properly applied, if all that is meant by it is that in our part of the world the greater part of industry and property is immediately controlled by persons and institutions whose object is to make a profit on their capital. In Western Europe and America it is certain that the majority of workers work as they are directed to work by persons and bodies of persons who employ them in order to make a profit by getting more than they pay for all expenses, and who reckon the profit as a percentage of their capital. The greater part of the property is also in the hands of such persons and institutions.” (“Wealth,” by Edwin Cannan, published by P. S. King & Sons, Ltd., London, 1920.)
This definition is good enough as far as it goes, but it does not bring out all the important features of capitalism. It does not remind us that the class ownership of accumulated property, and of the wealth that is being produced day by day, places the capitalists in the position of a privileged class, the position of being freed from the necessity of work; while the propertyless class, the workers, having to sell their mental and physical energies, their ” labour-power,” to the capitalists, are a subject class. Nor does it remind us that the owning class must maintain armed forces in order to protect their privileged position; at home against the have-nots, and abroad against the armed forces of foreign states. What the workers receive is a wage or salary which represents the price at which they sell their labour-power. This selling price is the subject of bargaining between the workers, represented by their unions, and the employers, but it coincides more or less closely with the cost of maintaining the worker and his family at the standard of living usual in the particular industry and country at a given period. After the payment of wages and all the costs of production (raw materials, fuel, upkeep of machinery, etc.), there is a surplus left. It is out of this that the landlords, moneylending capitalists and shareholders receive their rents, interest and profits.
Nor does it make any essential difference that in all countries some industries and services are operated by the Government or by Boards appointed by the Government and that in the extreme case, Russia, the bulk of industry and much ol agriculture is run by such State concerns. To provide the capital for these nationalised concerns, the Governments, including the Russian Government, raise loans and pay interest on them to the bondholders, interest that comes out of the profits either of sectional concerns such as the British Railways, or out of State industry as a whole, as in Russia.
This surplus which individual capitalists obtain through direct ownership of the means of production and distribution, or through holdings of Government bonds, is the purpose of capitalist enterprise. It enables those who own a sufficient amount of capital or Government bonds to live as a privileged class.
In order to make the profits which are the purpose for which industry is carried on under Capitalism the products have to be marketed in competition with the products of rivals. The key to profitable marketing is cheapness, and cheapness is sought, among other ways, by constantly trying to extract more work from the workers, by obtaining raw materials from the cheapest sources of supply, and by obtaining all the advantages of mass production. In many fields of production the economies of mass production can only be achieved where there is a big home market available, which gives an initial advantage to such a country as the United States. Motor cars and many kinds of chemicals, for example, mass produced for the American market, can be put on the world market more cheaply than would be possible if the home market were small. Mass production industries, therefore, develop productive capacity far beyond the needs of the home market and more and more depend for continuous sales on the ability to hold foreign markets as well. This leads to encroachments on the home markets of foreign rivals, which causes the governments of the countries concerned to retaliate with tariffs, quotas, subsidies and other methods of excluding foreign goods. It is in recognition of the need for larger markets to sustain mass production industries that efforts have been made since the second world war to integrate Western Europe, with or without Britain and the British Commonwealth, so that the single European and Colonial market shall be able to stand up to the competition of U.S.A. on the one side and the developing industrial and trading power of Russia and her satellites.
In the last resort the capitalist trade struggle leads to wars, the object of which is to acquire or to defend markets and territories rich in mineral and other resources and in exploitable populations.
During the 19th century Britain and other European Powers struggled with each other to obtain colonies and to hold the strategic points necessary to protect communications with them. Late in the day Germany entered into the struggle for colonies, followed in the 20th century by Japan’s seizure of Manchuria and Northern China though Japan was thrown out after defeat in the second world war. The same motives sent Italy into North Africa and Abyssinia. In such a struggle the importance of vital but vulnerable channels such as the Suez and Panama canals is obvious, and for generations Russia, whether under Czars or a Communist government, has sought to gain control of the Dardanelles in order to have free access to the Mediterranean.
Now that air power has largely replaced sea power the position is not basically changed but the polar regions have acquired new importance, hence the efforts of South American countries, like the Argentine, to establish themselves in the South Polar Region; and the declaration by General Spaatz, United States Army Air Force Commander, that “the United States defences must be on the ‘Arctic frontier.’ ” (Daily Herald, London, May 30th, 1947.)
With the relative decline of the British Empire the navies and air fleets of the United States, with their necessary bases and fuelling points and supplies of petrol, have moved out over the surface of the globe to support what is, in effect, though not in name, an American Empire, face to face with the expanding Empire of Russia.
It is typical of world Capitalism that there is no one Power permanently expansionist and others not. Some are industrially and militarily stronger than others but all, even the smallest, are potentially expansionist because they are capitalist. Only limited power and opportunity holds them back. Abyssinia’s liberation from Italy was soon followed by its own attempts at territorial expansion.
Much is heard of the desirability of freeing colonial peoples from imperial domination but it should not be forgotten that the “liberated” countries all tread the same capitalist road; none of the nationalist movements seeks the only liberation that will solve the problem of war, liberation from Capitalism. Indian nationalists sought and enforced their freedom from British rule when an enfeebled British Capitalism could no longer hold India, but immediately India divided into rival States—India and Pakistan—arming against each other, quarrelling over the treatment of minorities and over trade questions and each seeking to dominate strategically and economically important territories such as Kashmir.
Notwithstanding the supposed great influence of the pacifist teachings of Gandhi on the Indian people we read of India’s Deputy Premier, Sardar Patel, declaring that relations with Pakistan had reached a situation “capable of provoking war,” and that “In such an eventuality I want the nation to be prepared for the worst.” (Daily Mail, London, January 5th, 1950.) A few weeks later the Prime Minister of Pakistan was saying:—”If India wants war, she will find us fully prepared. We value our freedom more than anything else.” (Daily Express, London, February 28th, 1950.)
The Indian Government, carrying on the British traditional method, ” as made a protectorate of Sikkim, wedged between the Gurkha kingdom of Nepal and Bhutan State— which is already similarly tied to India. When Britain left India in 1947 Pandit Nehru’s Government signed a standstill agreement with the leaders of Sikkim (then a British protectorate recognised by China) and then sent troops to quell political disturbances.” (News Chronicle, London, March 21st, 1950.)
In another respect also India follows the tradition of other capitalist states:—”The Government has been forced to reduce food imports this year, which means that millions will be forced back nearer starvation. At the same time the army will be kept up—guns for butter, or rather for daily bread. This is a severe blow to the moral sense of the Congress Party, nurtured for 30 years in Gandhian pacifism.” (“Observer,” London, January 29th, 1950.)
A British newspaper correspondent, Mr. Alan Humphreys, after a visit to India and Pakistan, reported similarly of the latter country that “of her current Budget expenditure of £84,000,000 Pakistan is spending £54,000,000 on its armed forces.” (Daily Mail, London, April 5th, 1950.)
Of the conflict between the two countries he wrote: — “Two idle armies face each other in Kashmir and Spring is near. It mightn’t take much, in the present atmosphere, to restart the shooting match there.”
Some Capitalist Statements on War.
It is profitable to glance back over some of the evidences of capitalist rivalries that produced past wars and conquests for we can now see around us how, though the chief actors have changed or have regrouped themselves, the kind of factors then at work are at work still. A Kaiser is followed by a Hitler and after Hitler the British and American interests discover that Russia is now as great a threat to them as were Germany and Japan. Already by 1948 Mr. Herbert Morrison, Minister in the Labour Government, could declare:— “On top of all our economic troubles we find ourselves back in the same sort of aggression we thought we had banished by disposing of Hitler.” (“Observer,” London, March 14th, 1948.)
And if the old world produced its glorifiers of war in a Mussolini or a Hitler, new men arise in the new world to say as did the Argentine President Peron in 1944 in a speech at La Plata University “War is inevitable and necessary. We must cultivate and develop the warlike virtues of the race. It is Utopian to be a pacifist.” (Observer, London, April 3rd, 1949.)
It is worthy of notice here that the modern development of bulk buying and direct control of trading operations by Governments has not by any means lessened the friction between Governments; if anything it has increased it. In March, 1950, the Argentine Government temporarily broke off trade and financial negotiations with representatives of the British Government because in the British House of Commons the Minister of Food in the Labour Government incautiously declared, with reference to the Argentine meat purchases “We are not going to be blackmailed any longer.” An apology was demanded and according to the correspondent in Buenos Aires of the Daily Telegraph “Diplomatic relations are also in jeopardy.” (Daily Telegraph, London, March 27th, 1950.) The British Government had been aiming to lay up stores of meat so that its bargaining power against the Argentine Government would be strengthened. To which the semi-official Argentine newspaper La Epoca retorted that Argentina “which allowed millions of tons of grain to rot rather than submit to extortion from Marshall Plan authorities, will not give way to save the loss of a few tons of meat.” (Daily Mail, London, March 30th, 1950.)
In the first world war Germany was temporarily defeated as contender for dominance in the world’s markets, with Japan on the side of the anti-German Powers. Already by 1936 Japan had become, along with Germany, the new menace to British and American Capitalism. Lord Bledisloe, former Governor-General of New Zealand, addressing the Liverpool Branch of the British Empire Society on March 20th, 1936, disclosed rivalry between British, Japanese and American interests in the Pacific which strongly recalled the Anglo-German rivalry in the Atlantic which preceded war in 1914.
“For five years I lived in two islands in the Pacific Ocean, where I was not only Governor- General but Commander-in-Chief. The most profound sources of anxiety there in the matter of security from outside interference are the craving for territorial expansion by nations whose shores are washed by the Pacific, and the gradual crushing out by subsidised foreign competition of the mercantile shipping of the British Empire. The gravity of the shipping position lies in increased helplessness in time of war. It is no good looking to resources of comparatively poorer countries like Australia and New Zealand to find means to fight this unfair competition. It must be done by the British people and the British Government or, I warn you, British shipping will be eliminated from the Pacific Ocean.”
(Daily Telegraph, London, March 21st, 1936.)
Now that Russia has become the major worry of the other Pacific Powers, Japan is linked with U.S.A. and the burden of providing naval and air defences in the Pacific no longer rests mainly on Britain but on the U.S.A.
In an article “America Wins an Empire ” (cabled from America to the Evening Standard, London, April 22nd, 1947) the writer, Frederick Cook, summarised the position as it was at that time resulting from American acquisition of numerous strategically important Pacific Islands under United Nations mandate, and from the American treaty with the Phillipines and her occupation of Japan:—
“In Congress suggestions are already heard that what the United States needs is a new Government Department on the lines of Britain’s Colonial Office to take over control of all t he ‘non-contiguous territories.’ These are far more numerous than most Americans have yet r ealised, with their attention directed principally to the ‘iniquities’ of the ‘Imperialist nations’ of Europe. In the Pacific half of the world, America now has Alaska; the extensive holdings In Hawaii with bases at Pearl Harbour, Kure, Rowland, Jarvis and Baker Islands; American Samoa; the Marshalls, Carolines and Marianas; bases on Tarawa and Makin in the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony; Wake; Midway; Guam; forces in China, Japan and the Phillipines. Already the Pacific is spoken of here as ‘an American lake.’ ”
When later on American troops withdrew from China the Secretary of the American Navy announced that United States naval forces would continue to operate in the Western Pacific. “The Navy,” he said, ” had more or less inherited from Britain the job of keeping the sea lanes open and stabilising areas from which exports came.” (Times, London, March 1st, 1947.)
An earlier indication of the way America was seeking world expansion was given in 1928 by the American Rear-Admiral Plunkett to whose views reference was made by Sir Hugh Denison, former Commissioner for Australia in the United States. He was addressing the English-Speaking Union in London and said: —
“To be quite candid, Admiral Plunkett bases his views on two things—he has explained this to me several times, so I know what is in his mind. He says: America today is so highly industrialised that she must secure markets in other parts of the world. Great Britain owns most of the markets of the world and the only place America can possibly extend to in regard to her exports seems to be in British countries or countries of the British Empire, and that is going to bring her at once into economic opposition to Great Britain. Further, as America lends more and more money to other countries she will become, in spite of herself an imperialist nation, and that will bring her into economic conflict with the other great nations.”
(Daily Telegraph, London, February 15th, 1928.)
Sir Hugh Denison did not think that America and Britain would ever go to war; the “common sense of the people” and the strength of tradition and a common language would, he said, prevent it. What has happened since then to change the situation is that in its post-war difficulties British Capitalism had to rely on American aid and one of the associated developments was agreement by Britain to open up the British colonies to American investment, a development which is already taking place in India following the setting up of the Indian Republic.
Capitalist interest in territorial expansion and war is not always brought into the open but quite a number of frank statements have been made. The late Lord Brentford who was Conservative Home Secretary 1924-1928, in a speech reproduced in the Daily News, London, (October 17th, 1925), frankly admitted why Britain conquered India: —
“We did not conquer India for the benefit of the Indians. I know it is said at Missionary meetings that we conquered India to raise the level of the Indians. That is cant. We conquered India as the outlet for the goods of Great Britain. We conquered India by the sword, and by the sword we should hold it.”
Since then, of course, Indian Capitalism has achieved self-government as an independent Republic very tenuously linked to the Commonwealth.
The late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, Minister in Conservative Governments said, in a speech to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce in 1890; “All the great offices of State are occupied with commercial affairs. The Foreign Office and the Colonial Office are chiefly engaged in finding new markets and in defending old ones. The War Office and the Admiralty are mostly occupied in preparations for the defence of these markets and for the protection of our commerce.”
Marshall Lyautey, who was in command of the French army fighting in Morocco in 1922 was equally explicit: —
“French soldiers are fighting in Morocco to acquire territory in which rise rivers capable of supplying power for electrification schemes which will prove of great advantage to French trade. When we have acquired the last zone of cultivable territory, when we have nothing but mountains in front of us, we shall stop. Our object is commercial and economic. The military expedition in Morocco is a means not an end. Our object is the extension of foreign trade.”
(Star, London, October 31st, 1922.)
Marshall Foch, French Army leader in the first world war, admitted the commercial nature of the forces leading to war: —
“What do we all seek? New outlets for an ever-increasing commerce and for industries which, producing far more than they can consume or sell, are constantly hampered by an increasing competition. And then? Why ! New areas for trade are cleared by cannon shot. Even the Bourse (the Stock Exchange), for reasons of interest, can cause armies to enter into campaign.”
(“United Services Magazine,” London, December, 1918.)
The late Mr. W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia during- the first world war, speaking at Brisbane on July 24th, 1936, added his testimony:—
“The increasing intensity of competition for economic markets must lead to armed conflict unless an economic settlement is found. This, however, is hardly to be hoped for. Talk about peace in a world armed to the teeth is utterly futile.”
(News Chronicle, London, July 25th, 1936.)
The New Balance of World Power.
The end of the second world war brought about a different balance of world power, with the relative decline of the British Empire and the emergence of America and Russia as the two principal world powers. It also saw the increased importance of the Pacific as a centre of rivalry. Many observers, having mistakenly supposed that Russia is not motivated by the same capitalist interests as the rest of the Powers, have innocently accepted the claim of the Russian Government that it rejects imperialism and pursues policies based on new principles. A few examples will show how mistaken this view is. The Russian Government tried to obtain from Turkey the right to establish Russian armed bases on the Dardanelles, a demand that the Turkish Government, with American and British backing refused. In making this demand the Russian Government was showing continuity of foreign policy with the 19th century Czarist Governments of Russia. French and British Communists naturally have sought to rebut that charge.
“Some people are suggesting that for the Soviet Union to interest itself in the Dardanelles is to indulge in imperialist practices. I think they are answered in the following remarks of the French Communist organ L’Humanité :
‘Marxism cannot change the fact that to go by boat from Odessa to Alexandria you have to go through the Bosphorus. The U.S.S.R. is surrounded by capitalist States. These have inevitably remained imperialist. Taking these factors into account the U.S.S.R. being Socialist, is necessarily obliged to pose certain strategic, national and economic problems in terms which are necessarily imposed by Imperialist States.
truth is that the hand of the eternal Tsar was cut off a long time ago by the Soviets, but the hand of the eternal Bevin, successor of Queen Victoria, continues to meddle where it has no business to do so.
Britain is defending the route to India, and Russia demands that Russia’s route shall be open. Once again, on which side is there imperialism?’ ”
(Daily Worker, London, August 30th, 1946.)
Of course Mr. Bevin, Foreign Secretary of the Labour Government, would retort to this that Britain too, under Labour Government, is “Socialist” and that India has been liberated from British rule, but the true position is that neither Russia nor Britain is Socialist and both Governments follow, as far as they have the armed might, the same international policies as their predecessors. Russian imperialism wants the Dardanelles and British imperialism still has an imperialist interest in the Mediterranean as is shown by the expressed determination of the British Labour Government to hold on to Cyprus in defiance of the wishes of the inhabitants : —
“A reply from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to a letter from the Archbishop of Cyprus (which claimed that in the plebiscite organised by the Archbishop 96 per cent, of Cypriot Greeks voted for union with Greece) has now been communicated by the Governor of Cyprus to the Archbishop. The Secretary of State’s letter said that the British Government were in full accord with the attitude of the Government of Cyprus to the plebiscite movement as set out in the Governor’s letter to the Archbishop on December 17th. That letter said that, as had frequently been stated, the British Government regarded the question of enosis (union with Greece) as closed.”
(Times, London, February 24th, 1950.)
Another example of continuity of Russian policy with that of the Czar’s Governments was the attempt in 1947 to force on Persia (Iran) a typical imperialist “agreement” which would have given Russia control over the oil fields in the north of that country, the attempt being made while Russian troops were still in occupation after the war. The Russian demand was for the setting up of a joint Russo-Persian company to operate the oil fields for 50 years but with majority control in Russian hands for 25 years. For the second 25 years control was to be nominally equal but not until the end of the 50 years was Persia to have the right to buy out the Russian half of the shares. The text of the
clause in the proposed agreement relating to control read : —
“In the course of the first 25 years of the activity of the company 49 per cent, of the shares will belong to the Iranian side, and 51 per cent, to the Soviet side . . .”
(“Soviet Weekly,” London, September 18th, 1947.)
The Russian Government, of course, was to draw profit from its shareholdings. When Russian troops left Persia after complaint had been made to United Nations the Persian Government, backed by American and British oil interests which had got in first with their own oil concessions in other parts of the country, repudiated the agreement with Russia.
Another example of Russian imperialism which shows it to be indistinguishable from that of other Powers came to light through the quarrel between Russia and Yugoslavia. When the breach had occurred the Yugoslav Government complained that it had been treated “like a Colony” and the Yugoslav Lieutenant-General Kroacic declared that “Russia swindled her small ally by selling her poor material and secondhand goods masquerading as new; Russia would not be paid in dinars but only in gold, dollars and metals.” (Manchester Guardian, December 28th, 1949.)
It is an old imperialist practice to use loans as a means of gaining influence in the borrowing country. In 1947 Russia made a loan of gold to the value of £7,200,000 to Poland to enable the latter country to buy food and raw materials. The loan, according to a report from Warsaw by the Times correspondent, was understood to be free of interest, but the agreement under which the loan was made “while tightening still further the economic ties between the two countries, also increases their military interdependence.” (Times, London, March 7th, 1947.)
Some eighteen months later as a sequel to this, it was announced that the Polish Minister of Defence had been removed and in his place a famous Russian Army General of Polish birth, Marshal Rokossovsky, had been “loaned” to Poland as Minister of Defence and Commander in Chief of the Polish Army. (Manchester Guardian, November 9th, 1949.)
Early in 1950 the Russian Government announced the signing of agreements giving Russia “a firm foothold in Sinkiang, China’s large western province.” (Times, London, March 30th, 1950.) The agreements provided among other things for the establishment of two joint Chinese-Russian companies to develop oil and non-ferrous metal production, the products, the expenses and the profits to be divided equally. In this instance under Chinese insistence the agreements were “on a basis of strict equality.”
Under the 1945 Yalta Agreement between U.S.A., Britain and Russia, Russia obtained recognition of the independence of Outer Mongolia which was formerly a province of China. One of the forms in which Russian influence in Outer Mongolia is expressed is that the Russian State Bank holds 50 per cent. of the capital of the Commercial and Industrial Bank of Outer Mongolia. (Statesman’s Year Book, London, 1948, Page 791.) This is of interest as an example of the investment of Russian capital in foreign countries. Other examples are joint air-line and oil companies set up in countries bordering on Russia in Eastern Europe.
Investment of capital in foreign countries has been a typical form taken by imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is closely linked up with the search for raw materials and markets, and the exploitation of colonial populations. Governments direct their efforts to maintaining these foreign investments and shape their foreign policies and armament programmes accordingly.
Before the second world war British Capitalism had invested abroad an amount variously estimated at between £3,000 million and £4,000 million. British interests in Venezuela stood at £200 million, with £1,000 million in India, and £450 million in China. A remarkably candid statement made in the “Observer,” (London, March 1st, 1936) was that “Shanghai is essentially a capitalistic structure designed to protect vested interests.” The amount of British capital there was £60 million.
During the second world war by far the greater part of these British overseas investments were sold to pay for the import of food and other materials, though new investments are now taking place, particularly in the African colonies.
In the post-war world the leading position as foreign investor was taken by U.S.A.; with Russia, on a much smaller scale, investing capital in industries operating in countries allied to her.
In 1926 the United States had abroad investments to the value of 13,000 million dollars. (“America the World’s Banker” Dr. Max Winkler, New York, 1927.) According to an estimate made by the United States Department of Commerce late in 1949 American private investments abroad had risen at the beginning’ of that year to £5,464 million, equal to about 15,000 million dollars at the rate of exchange operating at the time the estimate was published. These investments, which do not include Government loans, were said to be increasing at the rate of £357,000,000 a year. (Manchester Guardian, London, November 24th, 1949.)
We have seen how Capitalism with its privileged and exploited classes, and its competitive sale of goods for the purpose of realising profit, creates the international rivalries that lead to war. It is a cut-throat struggle in which no country and no person can be secure or sure of peace; all are involved. Capitalism is the cause of modern war, and all who support Capitalism—even though they may believe themselves to be seeking peace—must share responsibility for war.
THE LABOUR PARTY AND WAR
The Labour Government which entered office in 1945 failed to introduce any improvement into the conduct of international affairs. Their intentions were above reproach, and they started with at least a superficial appreciation “that capitalist society contains tendencies which may lead to war.” They thought they could avoid those tendencies, partly by making what they believed to be a friendly approach to other Powers, and partly by putting their trust in the United Nations.
In May, 1945, Mr. Attlee made a broadcast speech which the Daily Herald published under the heading “We Can Abolish Poverty: We Can Prevent War.”
The report started with the words: —
“Let us look at the future, not with foreboding, but with hope. We can prevent war; we can abolish poverty. That was the keynote of a broadcast to the nation last night by Mr. C. R. Attlee, Leader of the Labour Party.”
(Daily Herald, May 19th, 1945.)
When, shortly afterwards, Mr. Attlee became Prime Minister of the Labour Government he said they were determined to keep clear of war-like alliances.
“The Government do not believe in the forming of groups—East, West or Centre. We stand for the United Nations.”
(Quoted by Mr. Morgan Phillips, Secretary of the Labour Party in a document circulated to Labour Party Branches, December, 1946.)
At the Labour Party Conference in 1945, Mr. Hugh Dalton, later a Minister in the Government, said of relationships with Russia: —
“Given that Anglo-Soviet relations are still clouded from time to time by suspicion and misunderstanding, I most emphatically hold that a British Labour Government is far more likely to remove those suspicions than a British Tory Government … A British Labour Government would be more likely to create more quickly a state of confidence and mutual trust between London and Moscow than any alternative Government in this country.”
(Report Page 104.)
Mr. Bevin, later to become Foreign Minister where he had to put to the test his ideas about foreign relationships, speaking at the same Conference of the Labour Party said that he had always believed that the tragedy in making peace after the first world war “was the failure, largely out of prejudice, to bring Russia to the Conference at Versailles. Had they been brought there, the problem of the warm water ports, which is the fundamental problem of Russia’s foreign policy . . . would have been solved.” He went on to quote the late Lord Beaconsfield as having said that “Britain, France and Russia joined together is a security for peace “; and added a revised version of his own which included U.S.A. (Report of Labour Party Conference 1925. Page 115.)
What has there been to show for the Labour Government’s experiences of conducting” international affairs?
They would not enter any group—but Britain is now firmly committed to the American West European group against the Russian. They would remove Russian suspicions, but not for a century have relationships been worse, except, perhaps, immediately after the first world war.
The Labour Government thought it could avoid lining up with any group in the world because it trusted that the United Nations would succeed where the League of Nations failed; but any such hope has long since faded away. Each Power treats the United Nations as a place to struggle and intrigue for the interests of its own national Capitalism. Complaint has been made from the British and American side that Russia refuses (as, for example, over the American plan for controlling atom bomb production through inspection of each country’s armaments) to sacrifice its “sovereignty” to an international body. The complaint is justified; but on questions regarded by them as vital every Government does the same. The British Government has not been prepared to surrender the colonial empire. The evacuation of India, because it could no longer be held with the forces available, has been accompanied by emphatic declarations of intention to hold other territories, as, for example, Mr. Attlee’s statement on Malaya. To the question “It is now, is it not, perfectly clear that under no circumstances have the Government any intention of withdrawing from Malaya, and that that can go out to the Malayan people as an absolutely confirmed statement?”, he replied: —
“It is clear, and always has been so.” (House of Commons, March 28th, 1950. Col. 181.)
The refusal to surrender the colonies to United Nations control was brought out when that body proposed the showing of the United Nations flag.
“Britain, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand told the United Nations Trusteeship Council today that they would defy a proposal that the United Nations flag should fly over trust territories. America backed the suggestion, which was turned down after a stormy debate.” (Daily Mail, London, March 31st, 1950.)
Although the United States Government backed this proposal it need not be thought that they take the same line where their own interests are involved. The following comment on America’s own “trusteeship” possessions indicates the attitude: —
“When she acquired her new colonies by vote of the United Nations on April 2nd much was made of the fact that she would not become their outright owner but only a trustee. That, it was maintained, was quite a different thing from the old-style out-and-out annexation. Already this is being forgotten. The influential Washington publication United States News, for instance, now openly refers to the U.N.O. vote as having amounted to ‘a deed’ since the territories were made into a ‘sole and permanent trusteeship.’
The phrase ‘American Empire’ is now in frequent use here.”
(Article by F. Cook, New York, published in Evening Standard, London, April 22nd, 1947.)
It is to preserve the Colonial Empire that the British Labour Government needs its increased armed forces and for which it has maintained conscription in peace time though, when it was in opposition, it always spoke and voted against any such innovation. The expenditure on the armed forces in 1950 is two and a half times as great as in 1938 and nearly six times what it was in the 1920s. On that latter comparison Sir Hubert Henderson writes: —
“… if we assume that the value of money has fallen by one half, the real cost is about three times as great.”
(Lloyds Bank Review, London, January, 1950. Page 2.)
The number of men in the army, navy and air force which was at about 380,000 in 1938 is now about 700,000.
If we seek the cause of the failure of the Labour Government to remove international antagonisms and to make war preparations unnecessary we find it in the fact that they, like all the other Governments, are carrying on the capitalist system. Their early optimism was due partly, no doubt, to the way they had accepted the illusion that the world really could now be united in the United Nations Organisation, but mainly because they had never properly understood what Capitalism is and why it necessarily creates internationalantagonisms. This error can, be detected in the speech made in 1945 by Mr. Bevin, to which reference has already been made. He informed his Labour Party audience that
“The United States of America is a country which believes in private enterprise. The Soviet Union has socialised her internal economy. Britain stands between the two, I think, with a tremendously progressive chance towards the socialised economy we need.”
(Report of Labour Party Conference 1945, Page 115.)
As Mr. Bevin saw it “socialisation” created a different situation ; but in fact what he called by that name is nationalisation or State Capitalism. In order to appreciate the problems of international relationships at their true value he would have needed to recognise that State Capitalism brings no change. State capitalist industries produce goods for sale in the home and world market at a profit, and neither a partly nationalised British Capitalism nor a more completely nationalised Russian Capitalism could escape the necessities of living in a capitalist world no matter how sincerely the rulers might hope that it would. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has maintained throughout its existence that this would happen and events have proved us right and the Labour Party wrong.
That Mr. Bevin did not understand how Capitalism leads to wars is shown by his unsure speculations about the cause’of war. “It is very difficult to say what are the causes of war. Some say they are economic; some say it is traditional ambition; some say that some nations get it into their head that the only way they can get prosperous is by domination. Well, to my mind, it is a combination of all three.”
(Report Labour Party Conference 1945, Page 115.)
When he took on the responsibility of conducting the foreign policy of British Capitalism it mattered little what were his private hopes and aims for world peace and friendship. He was Foreign Minister, but events and capitalist needs took control of his policies. Along with the other Ministers he was compelled, unless he and they resigned from their posts, to pursue policies that were bound to play their part in creating world antagonisms. It is probably true to say that the implications of their actions were often hidden from them. No better illustration of this can be found than in the career of Sir Stafford Cripps. Addressing the National Council of Women in London in 1943 he told them how he trusted to the United Nations to remove the causes of war, which he saw as selfishness of certain interests.
“So long as the selfish actions of irresponsible and powerful economic combinations can rule the destiny of millions of people throughout the world the spirit of hatred and suspicion will not be quenched.
I look forward to more and more of the principle disturbing elements in the world’s economic and political life being brought under conscious control by the United Nations.”
(Daily Telegraph, London, October 9th, 1943.)
After 1945, as a Minister in the Labour Government, he continued to give support to the United Nations and the idea of international harmony, but the work for which he was chiefly responsible as Chancellor of the Exchequer was to secure by all possible means a tremendous increase of British exports to the markets of the world.
He has possibly never entertained the idea that these two functions are in direct contradiction.
Looking at the world from the insular standpoint of the needs of British Capitalism he has pressed on vigorously and relentlessly for the growth of British exports: but did he ever ask himself how this drive to thrust British goods into foreign markets appears to the local producers and to the exporters in other countries seeking to invade the same markets? Sir Stafford Cripps may hold himself to be a loyal servant of British industry but to the foreign capitalists he appears not in the guise of a dove of peace but of a ruthless competitor, trying to rob them of markets.
One of his actions to improve the competitive power of British exports was the devaluation of the pound sterling. It was done without the agreement of the Governments of France and Italy and in those two countries manufacturers who were hit by it angrily denounced him for what, from their standpoint, was British commercial aggression. In France it was largely responsible for the resignation of the Government.
An example of how the Cripps export drive can appear when viewed from the standpoint of a foreign Capitalism may be seen in the following report from U.S.A.;—
“The textile factories of New England have been on part-time ever since British worsted and woollen began to make inroads on the domestic product. In Laurence, Massachusetts alone, there are 17,000 workers on the streets—27 per cent. of the textile labour force.”
(Alistair Cooke, New York. Manchester Guardian, March 29th, 1950.)
This example could be multiplied wherever British products have won a market from some other capitalist producer or exporter; and in the reverse direction British industries are apprehensive about the threatened competition of foreign producers and exporters of textiles, coal, shipping, machinery and many other goods. Two London newspapers, on the same day (May 7th, 1950), published articles on the threat to British trade from Germany and Japan and the threat to British trade from Russia and her satellites. “The export crisis, which hangs like a shadow over British industry because of the growing menace of cheap goods made in Germany and Japan, is coming to a head.” (People.) “Iron Curtain hides sweated labour drive for dollars. Countries behind the Iron Curtain are flooding world markets with all sorts of goods at cut-throat prices.” (Sunday Empire News.)
Sir Stafford Cripss can say that he had no choice about the export drive; for British industry it was “export or perish”—but that is the never-ending cry of all sections of the capitalist world. That is Capitalism and the only way of escape is the establishment of world Socialism.
We may recall that there was a time when this truth was stated by none other than Sir Stafford Cripps: —
“If, after the coming of peace, we were to start once again the vicious circle of international trade competition we should be lost, and in a few years would be confronting another war.”
(Sir Stafford Cripps in an interview cabled from London to the Brazilian newspaper A Noite. Sunday Express, November 8th, 1942.)
Sir Stafford Cripps has lived to help towards the fulfilment of his own ominous prophecy.
NATIONALISM AND WAR
Nationalism plays an important part in war propaganda and Socialists are often asked to explain their attitude towards it. Some people maintain that nationalism is the cause or a main cause of war and this seems to be borne out by the fact that most of the wars in the past 100 years have included so-called national liberation movements or have resulted in the setting up of new nations. At the peace settlement after the first world war the statesmen who recast the frontiers of Europe proclaimed as their guide the principle of making the boundaries of each State coincide with the nationality of the inhabitants so that there would be no more national minorities complaining of oppression by alien rulers. They could not have achieved this result if they had wanted to for in many parts of the world, Eastern Europe in particular, there is such intermingling of language, religion and other familiar marks of nationality that it would be impossible to separate them. Poland, Russia, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary were some of the countries whose frontiers were subsequently re-drawn because the first attempt had failed.
We need not question the desirability of allowing people freely to preserve whatever way of life suits them and, of course, under Socialism there will be no attempt to impose uniformity. But so-called nationalist movements under Capitalism are both a menace and an illusion. They are a menace because they invariably encourage antagonism towards other groups and thus provide fertile ground for capitalist interests to work up support for war. Nationalism itself is not the cause of war but it is exploited to give cover to the naked rivalries of Capitalism.
Nationalism is an illusion because while Capitalism lasts, the Powers, great and small, dare not allow themselves to be weakened by giving real freedom of action to any group of citizens. The Governments, in self defence, are all opposed to the development of internationalism among the working class of the world, and equally opposed to so-called national minorities who resist conforming to centralised rule, conscription for the army, etc. Theoretically the minorities are often supposed to enjoy the right to secede, but no ruling class in fact willingly permits this where it conflicts with important economic or strategic considerations. The British Labour Government still affronts nationalist sentiment of the countries concerned by holding on to Gibraltar, and Cyprus, by retaining the colonies in Africa and the East, and by maintaining troops on the Suez Canal. The American civil war of the eighteen sixties, provoked by clash of economic interests between the slave-owning free-trade Southern States and the industrialised protectionist Northern ones, was fought by the north to prevent the secession of the South. The refusal of the Czechoslovak Government to allow the Sudeten Germans to join Germany is another example. Here the major factor was that it meant the surrender of a relatively strong frontier line and the exposure of the rest of the country to easy invasion from Germany. In Russia there is supposed to be freedom to secede for the many national groups but, in fact, nationalist movements are suppressed and when the population of some regions near the Black Sea sided with the German invaders in the second world war they were deprived of their status under the Constitution and their populations were forcibly transferred to a distant part of Russia.
‘ “The liquidation of two formerly autonomous republics in South Russia and resettlement of their inhabitants in other regions of the Soviet Union because of the war-time treachery of some of their peoples was disclosed officially today. They were the Crimean and Chechen- Ingush autonomous states, now reduced to the status of provinces of the Russian federation.”
(Moscow cable from Associated Press, Times, London, June 27th, 1946.)
This action of the Russian Government was recalled in June, 1950, by the statement made by a sergeant in the Russian army who deserted and sought refuge in the British occupied Sector of Berlin. A newspaper correspondent in Berlin reported as follows: —
“Karatsyev, who is aged 24 and a Caucasian, was home on leave last month. One of the main reasons for his desertion was, according to a British statement, the treatment of national minorities by the Soviet regime and specifically the cruelty of the deportations of the Muslims of the autonomous republic of Chechen-Ingush. The deportations took place in 1944 and the republic, on whose border Karatsyev’s home is, was formally abolished in 1946.”
(Times, June 10th, 1950.)
All of the Colonial Powers similarly maintain their colonies without regard to the wishes of the inhabitants.
It was pointed out earlier in this chapter that nationalism is not the cause of war. There are in fact no purely nationalist movements. Invariably the nationalist sentiment is mixed with economic factors and made use of by the class that has an interest to serve by achieving independence; and independence means, not the emancipation of the exploited section of the population, but a mere change of masters.
How secondary is the importance of nationalism is shown by the history of the subject groups that have successfully achieved so-called independence and made good their position in the capitalist world. Given the opportunity they follow the normal expansionism of Capitalism irrespective of the wishes and sentiments of other national groups inside their frontier or outside. Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, Holland and India all were at some time subject to another Power and all after achieving alleged independence have either acquired subject colonial peoples or have come into conflict with minority groups incorporated in their territories. In none of them any more than in the rest of the capitalist world have their own exploited class, the workers, secured emancipation.
The twin ideas, nationality as the basis of States and the independence of nations, are impossible of achievement in the world of Capitalism. It is difficult to find any country in the world which is not a mixture of language and religious and cultural groups, and in most of them one or other of these minorities is persuaded to feel that they are oppressed. On the other hand the idea of independence is a myth. The capitalist world has reached a stage in which, for economic and military reasons, small countries cannot hold their own, all are being driven into one or other of the big economic and military groups. The small countries that survive without formally belonging to a larger group have only a nominal independence. They are tolerated because it suits the larger Powers and in all important questions they must frame their policies and adapt their industries and trade agreements to the needs of their more powerful neighbours. Swiss neutrality was a mere by-product of the European balance of power and the question has already been asked by a Swiss writer on military affairs, Major Rapp: “Has not the disappearance of the old balance of power in Europe deprived it of its very basis in strategy?” (Manchester Guardian, April 20th, 1950.) Czechoslovakia is another case in point. They achieved a precarious independence as a result of the first world war, had it “protected” in the second world war, and are being drawn into the threatening third world war as a subordinate semi-colony of expanding- Russia.
FREE-TRADE, SELF-SUFFICIENCY AND WAR
Some writers on the causes of war who recognise in general terms the way in which international trade competition leads to war think that there are ways of remedying this without abolishing Capitalism. They are, of course, people who do not believe that Capitalism could be abolished. Some of them are Liberal free-traders and the others are advocates of national self-sufficiency.
The free-traders ask: “Why cannot the whole world go over to complete free-trade by abolishing all tariffs and all restrictions on imports and exports?” If this were done, they say, then all goods would be produced in those places where it is easiest and most economical to produce them, each area would concentrate on those products in which it had a natural or acquired advantage, and the world, as a whole, would be enriched and would escape the antagonisms that are created by the present arrangements.
Some international conferences have glanced at the proposal and have even given it a certain amount of pious support; but it has never been treated as a practicable proposition and could not be. Although its sponsors do not wish to look into the capitalist nature of the world we live in they cannot disregard the consequences of Capitalism. The introduction of this international free trade would mean, as its supporters intend that it should, the closing down of some industries in all countries and the corresponding growth of other industries. It could involve for example the cessation of motor vehicle manufacture in many parts of the world and its greater concentration in a few countries such as the United States, Great Britain and Russia. The British cotton industry would be slashed in order to transfer cotton manufacture to, say, India and Japan. All the efforts now being made to build up steel, chemicals and aeroplane manufacture in every relatively backward country in the world would cease and those industries likewise would be concentrated in the countries where they have already reached great proportions and the technique of cheap production has been mastered.
But behind every industry everywhere there is a “vested interest” which would resist its destruction. Capitalists would oppose being deprived of their property and profits and would be backed up by their workers who would believe that they were being deprived of their means of livelihood. Above all it would never be accepted willingly by the weaker countries, for they would see that it would mean placing them irrevocably at the mercy of the industrially advanced national sections of the capitalist class. Dominance in the capitalist world rests on the power to wage war and that in turn rests precisely on the possession of war industries such as steel, engineering and automobile production, on the possession of oil and oil refineries and—particularly in our day—on a highly developed chemical industry and resources for scientific research. It is precisely to guard against being put in a vulnerable position that every Government encourages by tariffs, restrictions, subsidies, etc., the building up within its borders or under its protection of the industries without which modern war cannot be waged.
Capitalist industry and agriculture are everywhere planned and geared for war. It is a process that has been going forward at increasing momentum for generations and it is idle to suppose that Capitalism, which produced this inexorable movement, can undo what it has, under necessity, achieved. It is not possible to set back the clock. The only outcome of the propaganda for this kind of universal development is a certain progress towards doing it on a less than universal scale. But do not make the mistake of supposing that the regional development is a step towards the universal. On the contrary, the effort by Russia to integrate her satellites into the Russian economic system, the move to transform Western Europe and Britain into an economic unit, and the United States’ conception of herself as the centre of a Western Hemisphere bloc are moves towards the next world war not towards the lessening of tension.
The other advocates of keeping Capitalism but avoiding international economic conflicts are equally unrealistic. Their conception is that each country or group of countries (e.g. the British Commonwealth) should be self-contained and self-supporting. It is impracticable for the same reason as is universal free trade though it would work in the opposite direction. Under the universal free trade plan the weakest and least economical industries in each country would be sacrificed. Under the self-sufficiency plan it would be the big and powerful export industries that would be asked to cut their activities down to the restricted needs of their own home market. It would be fought and would be impossible to carry out for precisely the same reasons as the other scheme. Capitalists and workers alike would resist it, particularly in the countries like Britain which have developed furthest on the lines of dependence on a great volume of exports and imports.
Both ideas are based on the same illusion of supposing that the world can retain Capitalism yet stop and reverse its movement along the course to which, by its nature, it is ordained.
FUTILE EFFORTS TO PREVENT WAR
The Socialist holds that the menace of war cannot be got rid of while its cause, the capitalist system, remains. Many people hold, on the contrary, that though the international friction is there, its culmination in war can be stopped. But who is to take this action and what sort of action shall it be?
The action could be action by Governments or it could be action by organisations seeking to influence or dictate to Governments. Those who propose action by Governments have in mind international assemblies like United Nations; and those who propose non-governmental action have in mind strikes by the organised workers, or international action by pacifists and others pledged not to support war. It needs no long argument to demonstrate that action to be effective would have to be international in character. No one seriously believes in the practicability of getting one Government alone or the population of one country alone to abandon armaments and trust to the rest of the capitalist world ceasing to be predatory. Costa Rica disbanded its army in December, 1948. Within a week it complained of invasion from Nicaragua. (News Chronicle, December 14th, 1948.)
As far as international action by Governments is concerned we have seen it at work in the League of Nations and in United Nations; which means that we have seen that it does not work. The Governments that meet in United Nations have behind them national capitalist groups which have real and vital conflicts of interests. The conflict does not disappear when they get together in a large group any more than when the diplomats of rival Powers get together in a small group. As Mr. Attlee said in 1945: “I have heard speeches sometimes that suggested that all international problems could be solved if we could only get a few people sitting round the table and discussing them. Believe me, the thing is not as easy as that.” (Report of Labour Party Conference 1945. Page 106.)
Mr. Attlee could see a way out if the international body itself had military power— “We want a world organisation with the will and the power to prevent aggression. It must be armed with power. The history of the League shows that it must have the power, but the history of the League also shows it must have the will.”
But the early hints that the United Nations might have its own armed force on a small scale as a start have already been dropped and there is not the least prospect that the Powers which cannot agree about the use an international force would be put to would agree to set up such a force. If Russia demands that the other Powers give up the colonies they hold by force and if the other Powers demand that Russia withdraw from the satellite countries she is holding by force, is either group going to agree to set up a United Nations army to be set in motion to achieve both of those objects? If either group had a bona fide intention to trust its affairs to the United Nations they could agree here and now to evacuate those territories, agree to disarm, agree to destroy all atom bombs and so on.
The hollowness of the idea that conflicting economic interests can be disposed of merely by meeting together and discussing them can be seen from another angle. Capitalism maintains armed forces to protect the privileged position of the capitalist class not only against each other’s encroachments from outside but also against the working class inside the country. Why then do strikes occur and why, from time to time, are the armed forces used to intimidate strikers or to protect the property of the employers? Why cannot the gentlemen who hope to resolve international disagreements by friendly discussion round the table show the practicability and fruitfulness of the idea by getting round the table with working men of their own country out on strike?
When we turn to the other kind of action which it is suggested will stop war we find it equally useless or impracticable. We can admit the proposition that if the soldiers of all countries refused to fight and if the workers refused to work for war the war could not take place, but simultaneous international action of that kind presupposes both effective international organisation and mutual trust, neither of which exists. How can workers who do not vote for Socialism and who are in the main not at all internationally minded have sufficient confidence in workers abroad to risk taking the drastic step of defying their own government? If the workers of all countries had reached the stage of being able to think and act internationally they would have shown it already in their votes at elections. Here we are considering action to prevent the Governments from moving into war, which means that the workers would be asked to strike against the Government many of them had voted for. Workers may in advance consider taking concerted action against war but by the time the war situation has developed to the critical point where war may actually start, strike action against the Government would no longer appear as action to stop war but as action to weaken the Government and bring about defeat in the war. Moreover by the time the war was about to happen nine-tenths of the people who in the abstract thought themselves to be determined opponents of war would have been won over to reluctant support of the actual war as presented to them in the propaganda of their own Government. They would feel that war was unavoidable and that the case of their own government was at least as good as that of the “enemy” and that it is better to win a war than to lose it. We saw that happen in 1939.
This question of international confidence among the workers is a vital one and the experience of past wars shows how impossible it is to create confidence where socialist conviction is lacking. The workers of one country will rightly not have confidence that the workers of another country will defy their own government if they know that those workers have supported it and helped to place it in power. How could the workers of France be expected to believe that British workers who had voted a Labour Government into power would, on the threat of war, strike against that Government? The only people who could appeal to workers abroad and expect to be trusted would be workers who had consistently, year in and year out, opposed their own capitalist class and refused to compromise with political parties administering Capitalism. In short only Socialists are internationalists and could conduct themselves as such; but the overwhelming majority of the working class in all countries are not yet Socialists.
When, in 1931, Mr. Ernest Bevin was asked if he thought the workers would strike against war he replied to his interviewer: —
“I like to face realities and as a realist, I am inclined to think that if we were faced with a situation like that of August, 1914, the same results would follow. The war destroyed my earlier beliefs in a conscious internationalism among the rank and file of the working class —and indeed among their leaders, too. I seem to hear the same speeches being made and the same slogans being exploited if war is ever again declared as we heard from the leaders of all circles and found in every section of the press on that occasion.”
(“New World,” London, May, 1931.)
He went on to say that his confidence had been “wrecked . . . by the desertions of those who preached peace in peace-time and in war-time advocated war.”
The same things did happen again though with a difference. Even more than the war of 1914-1918 the second world war arose in a situation that enabled it to be plausibly presented from the Allied side as a war of defence of democracy against dictatorship and terrorism. Many of those in the British Labour Party and trade union movement who had on various grounds opposed the first world war supported the second one. They had believed the first war to be imperialist but not the second, such was the effect of the propaganda which clothed the second war in the guise of opposition to Nazism.
The epitaph of war resistance as a means of stopping war was unwittingly spoken by Mr. Herbert Morrison. He opposed the 1914-1918 war but he supported the war of 1939-1945, and entered the coalition Government formed in 1940.
In between the two wars he was a war resister. He supported the Peace Letter Campaign. He pledged himself not to support another war. He delivered a speech at a War Resistance Demonstration at the Albert Hall on December 5th, 1926, at which it was announced that the anti-war pledge had already received over 100,000 signatures. Mr. Morrison’s speech and other speeches were published under the title “Why We Will Not Fight.” Here is a passage from Mr. Morrison’s speech: —
“We know from past and all too real experience how the declarations of parties and individuals towards wars are likely to fail when the testing time comes, and it may be that even many of those who have signed this declaration will fail, for wars have a terrible effect upon the public mind and upon the public psychology. Many of us here will remember the outbreak of the last war, when men of all classes, all political parties and of all religious persuasions, one week were demanding that our country should maintain neutrality in the great war, and the next week had switched over to the opposite point of view, and were identifying themselves with military policies and the military outlook.
Let us admit that there are very few men, even in the Labour Party, who could withstand the onslaught of war at that time, and as Mr. Ponsonby has said, let us ask ourselves what is to be our position if another war comes. We all hope that the effect of that great army of signatories will not be that when the war comes they have to decide what they are going to do, but we hope that one of the effects of that great army of signatories will be that they are ready to help us to prevent war from breaking out between the great nations of the world at any future time.
I ask you, therefore, to dedicate yourselves anew to the great cause of international peace. It is for you to let the Government know, and others know, that so far as you are concerned you are finished with war, and that you will take no part in it, either collectively or individually.”
(Italics as printed in the Report of the speech.)
It is important that the true significance of the above should be appreciated. It would be foolish to dismiss it merely as an act of defection by Mr. Morrison and other signatories. Mr. Morrison was right when he said that wars have a terrible effect upon the public mind. It is an effect that few can withstand unless they have understood that Capitalism is the cause of wars and that Socialism alone can end the war threat. People in the mass do not seek war but they accept Capitalism, and Capitalism leads them into situations eventually from which, like Mr. Morrison in 1939, they can see no escape except by war.
BACKGROUND OF THE WAR 1939-1945
The basic cause of modern war is the international rivalries inseparable from Capitalism. The particular background of the second world war was the formation of the German-Italian-Japanese alliance and their concerted effort to expand at the expense of weaker neighbours and of the older colonial powers notably Britain, France and Holland.
Italy and Germany had long before 1914 entered into the colonial scramble but they developed late and found all the best territories and strategic ocean highways already dominated by the “older and fatter bandits.” The line up before 1914 was, on the one side the “Triple Alliance” of Germany, Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and arrayed against their expansionist ambitions the “Triple Entente” of Britain, France and Russia. The background of the 1914 war was the clash in the Balkans. Germany aimed to move through the Balkans across the Dardanelles and onwards, taking in the Middle East with its oil resources and strategic importance. It was given dramatic expression in the planned Berlin-Bagdad railway. Such a thrust meant cutting off Russia from her Balkan proteges and her outlet to the Mediterranean and meant severing the British life-line through the Suez Canal to India and beyond. France with her African interests was as vitally concerned as Britain to stop this dream of world power.
When the war came Italy deserted the Triple Alliance while Turkey joined it. Part of the Allied bribe to Italy was the secret promise of a rich share in the spoils of victory— a promise which the Italians claimed was never kept.
Later on, in the early nineteen twenties, with Germany prostrate and Russia weakened by the civil war and Allied intervention, Europe was dominated by France and the French system of alliances with Poland, Czechoslovakia and Rumania, a system aimed both against the revival of Germany and against Russia. The British Government following the traditional European balance of power policy saw the need in the interest of British Capitalism of helping Germany recover to offset French preponderance. A new factor came into being after the world crisis of 1931. The crisis and huge unemployment finally discredited the German Social Democratic Party and the other parties that had shared in the government of Germany, and gave Hitler the opportunity of building up his movement on a programme of extreme nationalism, anti-semitism, dictatorship and opposition to Russia. The largest single factor in the success of his movement was that he was able to persuade many German workers that the evils that really flowed from the capitalist crisis were due to the incompetence, corruption and weakness of the democratic parties. As these parties (including the German Social Democrats) had had governmental power Hitler was able to argue that democracy was at fault. His movement was, of course, financed by German big business who saw in it the chance of achieving their ambitions of capturing colonies and markets.
Italy in 1936 had successfully defied the League of Nations by conquering Abyssinia, without any real opposition from the British Government. The Italian Government alleged that Abyssinia was promised to Italy as one of the bribes offered for deserting the German alliance in the first world war. Italy was, moreover, only following the successful stroke by Japan in occupying Manchuria in 1931. (The Japanese plea to the League of Nations was that it was self-defence !)
In 1936 Germany and Italy intervened in Spain to place Franco’s Government in power clearly with the intention of strengthening their position in the Mediterranean in the event of war.
These successes did not have the effect of satisfying the appetites of the Italian and Japanese capitalists—the very ease with which their conquests had been accomplished emboldened them to join in with Germany for further gains; and Germany’s ambitions had yet to be satisfied.
Always the motive was the same, the search for markets and raw materials. Dr. Heinrich Schnee, formerly Governor of German East Africa (annexed from Germany by Britain in 1919) stated the case for their colonial ambitions: —
“The German problem of colonial raw materials can only be solved by handing back to her the German colonies . . . The colonies offer an assured market for our own industrial produce; they afford a field of investment for the savings and capital of the mother country . . .”
(“Peace,” London, February, 1936.)
Mr. Hirota, then Foreign Minister of Japan, speaking in the Japanese Parliament on January 21st, 1936, put the claim for Japan.
“After referring to restrictive measures of various kinds on world trade, Mr. Hirota continued:—’ To a modern nation, particularly such as our own, with a vast population but meagre natural resources, the assurance of a source of raw materials and of a market for finished products is a condition of prime necessity to its economic existence.”
(Report in Times, London, January 22nd, 1936.)
The obvious outlet for Japanese ambitions was China and this meant conflict with American interests there. The Japanese General Sato in his book “The Imminence of a Japan-American War” had written: —
“China is not only a source of various raw materials she has a population of 450 millions. China is the future market for our manufactures. The future of Japanese economics lies in utilising China.”
The American, British and French Governments were in a quandary. They were not armed to the degree required for war and their populations were not at all in the requisite war-like frame of mind. And capitalist opinion in Britain and France was divided between those who would appease the Axis Powers and if possible direct their ambitions against Russia and those, like Churchill, who saw in this only the postponement of war not its avoidance.
British capitalist opinon of the latter school was supported by the London Economist in their insistence that it was vital to Britain to defend Czechoslovakia against Germany’s demands in 1938 and 1939. An article on “Germany’s Trade Offensive” (November 5th, 1938) showed the apprehensions of British capitalists. It reached the conclusion that so far Germany had “not increased her share of the world’s trade to any very sensational extent and where she has succeeded it is mainly in areas that are not of primary importance to Great Britain. These facts, however, relate to the past. The future is a different matter …”
“The probability must, therefore, be faced that Germany’s efforts to expand her trade will affect British trade more in the future than in the past . . . Britain’s need of imports is greater than that of any other first-class Power, and our earnings are already barely large enough to pay for our imports. Any substantial encroachment on our markets would directly limit our access to the raw materials and foodstuffs we need.”
The Economist was worried about the use Germany was making of bulk buying, subsidies for selected exports, currency control, etc., and summed up with the following: —
“For the moment, any serious threat to our trade from Germany or any other country is remote. But for the first time in modern history a first-class industrial power is applying methods of discrimination, exclusion, controlled dumping and autocratic control to foreign trade. We shall do well to be on our guard against the results.”
The Economist recorded the statement by the Prime Minister that though Britain was not trying to block Germany from commercial expansion in South-Eastern Europe, Britain too had interests there “and of course we intend to maintain those trade interests”; and another statement by the President of the Board of Trade, that the Government “are anxious to develop in every possible way trade in that quarter of the world.” In the same article the action of the British Government in buying up the whole of the Rumanian wheat crop was approved as an answer to German trade methods. But that action brought from a German economic periodical the accusation that Britain was “attempting to throttle Germany’s trade with Eastern Europe and of encircling her in economic fields.” (“Wirtschaftsring ” quoted in Daily Telegraph, London, September 13th, 1938.) The German periodical went on: —
“Not content with ruling a quarter of the globe . . . Britain wants to acquire the trade of other countries.”
This was a characteristic reference to the British colonial empire, and the Economist (March 19th, 1938) made the point that one of the reasons for Hitler’s success in gaining support in the countries of central Europe for his plans to expand at the expense of Western European Powers was “the common exclusion of all the Central European countries from any share in Europe’s vast colonial empire, which is now monopolised by four West European countries.”
The situation was now ceasing to be a mere trade struggle. The union with Austria in the Spring of 1938 and the military crippling of Czechoslovakia in the Autumn by the cession to Germany of the Sudetenland, were followed in March, 1939, by the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. By now the anxiety about British markets had increased. In a speech at Warsaw on March 21st, Mr. Robert Hudson, Secretary for Overseas Trade, said: —
“We are not going to give up any markets to anyone . . . Great Britain is strong enough to fight for markets abroad. Britain is definitely going to take a greater interest in Eastern Europe.”
(News Chronicle, London, March, 1939.)
Some members of the Labour Party were equally vehement. Mr. E. Shinwell, M.P., was one who in the House of Commons urged stronger action by the Government.
“Clearly the Government must make up their minds what is their objective in relation to foreign trade. Is it to recapture our lost markets, no matter where they are … or are we to allow Germany, by the employment of questionable devices to prevent this country from re- establishing herself in foreign markets?”
(Hansard, June 9th, 1939. Col. 812.)
Mr. Hudson and Mr. Shinwell did not mean that the Government should go to war over the foreign markets but they can hardly have been unaware that the markets were as vital to Germany as to Britain. As a correspondent in the Times pointed out: —
“Beyond doubt one of the fundamental causes of this war has been the unrelaxing efforts of Germany since 1918 to secure wide enough foreign markets to straighten her finances at the very time when all her competitors were forced by their own war debts to adopt exactly the same course. Continuous friction was inevitable.”
(Times, October 11th, 1940.)
Writing in August, 1938, about Czechoslovakia H. N. Brailsford, a Labour supporter who had written extensively about imperialism and war, emphasised the significance of the French-Czechoslovak Alliance : —
“The real issue is whether Hitler shall overthrow or the French retain this barrier that closes t he road to the corn and oil of the Lower Danube. As always, since the Entente Cordiale of 1903, two armed Imperialisms are struggling for strategic posts.”
(Reynolds Illustrated News, London, August 21st, 1938.)
When once the barrier of Czechoslovakia was down and German troops had occupied the country the situation as far as Germany was concerned was that the way was open for the 1914 Berlin-Bagdad conception to become a possibility again; but supported this time by the parallel ambitions of Japan in the Far East.
Russia too was playing a powerful hand, with the object either of getting Britain and France to enter into an alliance to stop German expansion or alternatively of heading Germany South and West against the European Powers instead of Eastwards against Russia. Doubtless there was division of opinion in Russian Government circles as in British. While Litvinov was Foreign Minister the former policy was being tried and his removal signalled the intention to pursue the alternative policy. It took the form of the signature of the Pact with Nazi Germany in August, 1939, which gave Germany the required freedom of action to move against Poland. But if Munich only postponed the war for Britain, the Russo-German Pact only postponed it for Russia. In the end all were involved, including America when the Japanese, swollen with triumph, attacked Pearl Harbour.
The war ended with a new carve-up of the world, with Russia this time in a powerful position and her former allies correspondingly alarmed.
The war was ostensibly fought to end German Nazi aggression and tyranny, but five years after it had ended, Mr. J. J. McCloy, United States High Commissioner for Germany, could speak of his former Russian Ally in the following terms: —
“The Soviet rulers have manoeuvered only to subjugate Germany into vassalage. In this drive the Soviets are again using in Germany the very methods the Nazis used such a short time ago—-marching youth, mammoth meetings, appeals to militarism and the national front, violent abuse of opponents, and constant purges. In spite of their solemn pledge to outlaw German militarism they are training a German Army under the guise of a police force.”
(Times, London, April 5th, 1950.)
Thus the stage is set for a new act in the continuing tragedy of Capitalism’s wars.
THE LABOUR PARTY AND THE TWO WORLD WARS
It is not necessary to give a detailed account of the way the Labour Party supported the first and second world wars, on both occasions entering the war-time coalition governments and accepting conscription. It is, however, desirable to look at the reason given for that support. A typical Labour Party statement on the first world war was made by the late Mr. Arthur Henderson who represented the Labour Party in the coalition government. It was contained in an article he contributed to the Times Recruiting Supplement (November 3rd, 1915.)
“The British people are more than ever determined to free themselves from the blighting, ruthless spirit of militarism. A clarion call has been sounded, the nation’s imperative and essential need has been proclaimed, and under the leadership of the Sovereign the young manhood of our country is generously responding and volunteering for national service . . .”
The workers were urged by the Labour Party at the outset of the war to fight for victory in order to crush the spirit of militarism. Towards the end, in June, 1918, by which time the active discontent of the workers had shown that they were not content to be told that peace would recreate the life they knew before the war, the Labour Party produced a new programme “Labour and the New Social Order.” In this the hope was entertained that Capitalism was nearing its final collapse and that a new social order, Socialism, would be the outcome.
As everyone knows Capitalism was not destroyed and Socialism not achieved. Nor was the spirit of militarism removed from the earth. Even in Germany it was only driven underground until such time as a resuscitated German Capitalism could again challenge the other Powers.
When 1939 came the Labour Party found itself supporting another war to do the work of crushing militarism over again. There was the same promise of a new world after the war. The Declaration of Policy issued” by the Labour Party in February, 1940, under the title “Labour, the War and the Peace” contained the following: —
“FOR SOCIALISM AND FREEDOM. Loyal to its Socialist and democratic faith, and fully maintaining its opposition to the Chamberlain Government, the Labour Party calls upon the British people to contribute their utmost effort to the overthrow of the Hitler system in Germany. This overthrow is essential to the achievement of Labour’s programme of social justice, the maintenance and extension of democratic liberties and the building of a peaceful commonwealth of free peoples.
Britain in the past has led the world in the development of Parliamentary democracy and civil freedom. If these precious gains are not now to perish, it is imperative to break the evil power of totalitarian tyranny in Europe. The Labour Party, therefore, unreservedly supports the Allied war of resistance to Nazi aggression because, though loathing war, it regards this war as a lesser evil than the slavery which finally would be the only alternative.”
Again there was the promise after the war of “a new world order . . . founded on Socialism and Democracy,” and again the end of the war has been followed by the continuance of Capitalism everywhere and by the re-emergence of the war menace and re-armament.
It will be observed that the Labour Party justified its support for the second world war on the two-fold ground of preservation of democracy ” gainst the evil power of totalitarian tyranny in Europe,” and of resistance to aggression. Yet when in September, 1938, Mr. Neville Chamberlain set off to meet Hitler during the Czech crisis the Labour Daily Herald wished him “Good Luck and congratulated him on taking a course “which will receive general support.” (Daily Herald, September 15th, 1938.) It was transparently clear at the time that Chamberlain was going to meet Hitler in order to find a basis of agreement with the German and Italian “totalitarian” regimes at the expense of the other “totalitarian” regime, Russia—Czechoslovakia was a mere bargaining counter in the larger aim. For several years the Chamberlain Government had followed that policy, as against the alternative one advocated by some British capitalist interests of seeking a Russian alliance against the German menace. So in 1938 the Labour Party, like Chamberlain, was prepared to do a deal with Nazi Germany if the terms were not too harsh.
When that effort failed because the German ruling class, heady with power and success, made demands so extravagant that the Chamberlain section of the British ruling class dared not accept them, the Labour Party came out strongly for the alternative policy of alliance with Russia—again they were prepared to do a deal with one totalitarian regime against another.
In August, 1939, the Russian Government signed its pact of friendship with Nazi Germany and the British ruling class found themselves at war with the German group of Powers but without the aid of Russia. It was a major defeat for British foreign policy. Of the two policies of getting Russian aid to block Germany’s expansion, or of inducing Germany to spare British interests in Europe and the Mediterranean and turn her expansion eastwards towards Russia, the British ruling class had achieved neither.
In 1941 when Germany invaded Russia the situation changed again—Russia was now hailed as a fellow democracy in the war against tyranny and aggression, but the Labour Party’s own declaration issued in February, 1940, showed how hypocritical was the pretence. At the time it was issued the shape of the propaganda that would later prepare the way for a possible third world war was already emerging, for this is what the Labour Party wrote about Russia in February, 1940: —
“Labour has always stood four square against aggression. We had hoped that Soviet Russia would join with the Democracies for the collective organisation of Peace and resistance to aggression. We worked hard to that end. We condemned the clumsiness ‘of the British Government in its earlier relations with the Soviet Union; but this cannot excuse the Russian Government’s Pact with the Nazis on the eve of the war, much less its unprovoked attack on Finland in shameless imitation of the Nazi technique in foreign policy. We should regard the extinction of the free Finnish democracy as an intolerable disaster for civilisation.”
Russia has now fully taken the place of Nazi Germany as the totalitarian aggressor threatening the peace and liberties of the world. Most of the spade-work has already been done by the propagandists preparing the people for a possible eventual war with Russia, when the defence of “Democracy and Socialism” against “tyranny and aggression” will again be the alleged object.
But can anyone doubt that if and when Russia is destroyed there will be—if Capitalism remains to bedevil mankind—other enemies whose capitalist interests stand in the way of British Capitalism and must be destroyed in war? And can anyone doubt that the Labour Party with its constitutional inability to tackle the job of destroying Capitalism will be supporting those wars too?
THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN AND WAR
Judged by the standard of working class interests and Socialist principles the attitude of the Communist Party of Great Britain to war is one of repeated changes and contradictions. Always vehement in their declared intention of seeking peace and the safeguarding of democracy they have had no difficulty in supporting war and defending dictatorship. Nominally international in outlook and affiliation they find no inconsistency in appealing to British workers in the name of patriotism and nationalism and in applauding the extreme nationalism encouraged by the Russian Government which habitually refers to the second world war as Russia’s “Great Patriotic War.” Nominally opposing the division of the world into rival groups of Powers preparing for war they denounce the British Labour Government’s entry into the American-West European group but only for the purpose of securing a change of policy which would bring it into the Russian orbit.
In the years before the second world war they made the defence of democracy against dictatorship the keystone of their policy—while at the same time supporting the Russian dictatorship. At the time of the German aggression against Czechoslovakia the Communist Party opposed the effort of the Chamberlain Government to reach agreement with Hitler’s Government and urged instead the policy of alliance with Russia. On October 3rd, 1938, the Communist Daily Worker published an editorial which contained the following:—
‘”There must be no further confidence in Chamberlain. Labour must stand firm in Parliament today and give a lead which will rally all the truly patriotic and progressive forces in Parliament against the shameful Munich betrayal.”
They knew, of course, that “standing firm” involved readiness in the last resort to go to war.
Two days later the Secretariat of the Communist Party repudiated the article, probably because it was a too outspoken statement of the logic of their position that Britain and France should take a strong line against Hitler.
The repudiated article nevertheless again became Communist policy and on March 30th, 1939, the Daily Worker came out with an appeal to Churchill and the Liberal and Labour leaders to form a new Government to pursue that policy, under the heading “Communist Appeal to Attlee, Sinclair and Churchill—urged to defeat Cabinet and form new Government.” It went on to say: —
“In a swift and sensational move to get practical action to save the country in the rapidly deepening crisis, Harry Pollitt, on behalf of the Communist Party of Great Britain, yesterday addressed to Major Attlee, leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Sir Archibald Sinclair, leader of the Liberal Party, and Mr. Winston Churchill, most prominent of the Conservative ‘ rebels,’ an appeal that they shall ‘ get together without another minute’s delay.’ ”
Six months later when war broke out this was still the Communist policy, put forward with even greater insistence than before, since the Communist Party officially and wholeheartedly supported the war and urged the removal of the existing Government in order to make the prosecution of the war more effective.
When the Russian Government made its pact with Hitler in August, 1939 (an event which the Communists had said was unthinkable), the Daily Worker hailed it as a “Victory for Peace and Socialism,” a “blow to Fascist war plans and the policy of Chamberlain.” (Daily Worker, August 23rd, 1939.)
War broke out in spite of this “safeguarding of peace” by the Stalin-Hitler Pact, and the Communist Party’s Central Committee then issued, on September 2nd, 1939, a Manifesto supporting the war.
“You are now being called upon to take part in the most cruel war in the history of the world.
One that need never have taken place. One that could have been avoided even in the very last days of the crisis, had we had a People’s Government in Britain.
Now that the war has come, we have no hesitation in stating the policy of the Communist Party.
We are in support of all necessary measures to secure the victory of democracy over Fascism.
But Fascism will not be defeated by the Chamberlain Government.
The first and most vital step to victory is a new Government in which the key positions are in the hands of trusted representatives of the people who have neither imperialist aims, nor latent sympathies with Fascism.
This is absolutely vital for any success in a war against Fascism abroad and the friends of Fascism in Britain.”
But this declaration of support for the war, though in line with the Communist Party’s own policy of preceding months was now out of step with Russia’s policy of friendship with Germany, so that too was repudiated. The Communist pamphlet “How to Win the War” was withdrawn from circulation, Mr. Harry Pollitt, Secretary of the Communist Party, along with other members, made abject apology for having failed to appreciate the true nature of the war, and the new line was adopted of opposition to the “Imperialist war.”
On October 4th, 1939, the Daily Worker declared: —
“We are against the continuance of the war. We demand that negotiations be immediately opened for the establishment of peace in Europe.”
The Communist Party continued its opposition to the “imperialist” war until Germany invaded Russia in 1941. then again they decided that the war was for the defence of democracy and must be supported. Then they outdid the most zealous in their backing-of war policies. They voted for Tory M.P.s in by-elections in opposition in some cases to anti-war candidates, denounced strikes, and urged the workers to go all out for maximum production at whatever cost.
On September I9th, 1943, the London Communist Party held a demonstration in Trafalgar Square at which Mr. Harry Pollitt urged the immediate opening of a Second Front on the Continent. His speech, published by the Communist Party under the title “Where does Britain Stand?” contained the following Communist appeal to the workers: —
“The Communist Party has called, and calls now, for the greatest production that is possible —to make sacrifices and to enforce sacrifices on others; to support every measure to win the war, however irksome it may be, and to do it despite all provocation; and to avert any break in the continuity of production.”
In March, 1944, the South Wales miners came out on strike. The Communist Daily Worker admitted that the strikers “have a powerful case” but instead of supporting them it told them to go back to work. The Daily Worker editorial of March 11th, 1944, contained the following: —
“The miners know that the Daily Worker is their friend and that there is no ulterior motive in the advice we give; that there are no vested interests lurking behind our columns. And our advice to the South Wales miners is: GO BACK TO WORK.
We say this to the miners because an immediate return to work is urgently necessary in the interests of the fight against the monstrous Fascism which we are all pledged to crush, in the interests of the miners themselves and of the unity and strength of the working-class movement.
By going back now the miners can knock a weapon out of the hands of the despicable gang of pro-Fascists and anti-Second Fronters, who have gleefully seized on this dispute to disrupt the fighting unity of Britain’s workers and soldiers, and to delay the day when Britain’s full strength takes the field by the side of the Red Army.”
(Daily Worker, March 11h, 1944.)
It was only where the war interests of the Russian Government conflicted with those of the British and American ruling class that the Communists deviated from the National Government’s policy, as is shown by their campaign in 1943 for an immediate ”Second Front” in Europe to relieve German pressure on Russia though they had opposed the opening of an Eastern front by Russia in the early years of the war when Russia and Germany were bound by their Pact.
Here, of course, we have the explanation of the endless changes of Communist Party policy. Underlying the inconsistencies is the one consistency, always to be in step with the Russian Government and always to support whatever policy the Russian Government favours, here or abroad. It has been seen again in the post-war years when the British Communist Party, in the name of peace, has supported the appeal to the dockers of the world not to handle American armaments shipped to Europe arid the East but without any corresponding appeal to them to refuse to handle the armaments of Russia and her allies.
The validity of Communist Party policy in the last resort has then to be judged by their claim that the achievement of Socialism depends on the defence and strengthening of Russia. If it were true that there is Socialism in Russia and that it is by extending Russia’s influence that Socialism will come into being all over the world their case might stand. But what is the truth? There is no Socialism in Russia. Whatever the hopes of the men who seized power in Russia in 1917, events have fully proved the contention of the S.P.G.B., then as before and since, that Socialism could not be the outcome of the rise of the Russian Communists to power. Because the workers of Russia and the rest of the world .did not in 1917 understand and want Socialism and because that is still true, what has developed in Russia is a system of State Capitalism under the dictatorship of a ruthless group who, to retain power, have suppressed every independent working class organisation. Only a small minority of the population belong to the one legal political party— the Communist Party—all other political parties were long ago suppressed. The Government nominally rests on an electoral system with universal franchise but the law and the police forbid any other organisation to exist and no candidates are allowed to stand for election except Communists and those approved by them. In the farcical “elections ” there is only one candidate in each constituency.
All the essential features of Capitalism continue to exist in Russia; the wages system, production for profit (every State industry has to make a profit), great inequality of incomes and the rapid accumulation of fortunes with the emergence of rouble millionaires, the rise of a new army of bondholders drawing investment income from money invested in Government bonds and used by the Government to provide the capital for the State industries.
Above all Russia, like the other capitalist States, is developing on imperialist lines seeking to expand its territories and spheres of influence and to find outside its borders markets for its goods, cheap raw materials for its manufactures, and to acquire control of strategic points for the purposes of a future war.
In peace as in war, in domestic struggles and in foreign policy the British Communist Party is a loyal supporter of the Russian State and an enemy of the working class and of Socialism.
THE S.P.G.B. AND THE WARS OF 1918 AND 1939
The attitude of the S.P.G.B. towards the first and second world wars is set out in the two manifestos that were published in the name of the Party. The first was published in the Party痴 official organ the Socialist Standard in September 1914, and the second in the issue for October 1939.
The attitude expressed in them flowed logically out of the basic socialist principles of the Party. There was no need in the S.P.G.B. as there was in other political parties for the members to meet together to consider the particular circumstances with a view to reaching a decision. The attitude of the membership was known and all that the Executive Committee had to do was to prepare a statement placing it on record. Being a democratic organisation the Branches and Annual Conference had, of course, complete freedom of action to object that these declarations were not in harmony with socialist principles if they had wished to do so: none did, there was no need.
These statements not only expressed the Socialist Party’s attitude to the wars now past. The principles behind them endure and the statements represent the Party’s attitude to wars that may arise in the future.
STATEMENT ISSUED IN AUGUST 1914
WHEREAS the capitalists of Europe have quarrelled over the question of the control of trade routes and the world’s markets, and are endeavouring to exploit the political ignorance and blind passions of the working class of their respective countries in order to induce the said workers to take up arms in what is solely their masters’ quarrel, and
WHEREAS further, the pseudo-socialists and labour ‘Leaders’ of this country, in common with their fellows on the Continent, have again betrayed the working class position, either through their ignorance of it, their cowardice, or worse, and are assisting the master class in utilising this thieves’ quarrel to confuse the minds of the workers and turn their attention from the Class Struggle.
THE SOCIALIST PARTY of Great Britain seizes the opportunity of reaffirming the socialist position which is as follows:
“That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living by the capitalist or master class and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
That in society therefore there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a CLASS WAR, between those who possess, but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
That the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers.”
These armed forces therefore will only be set in motion to further the interests of the class who control them – the master class – and as the workers’ interests are not bound up in the struggle for markets wherein their masters may dispose of the wealth they have stolen from them (the workers) but in the struggle to end the system under which they are robbed, they are not concerned with the present European struggle, which is already known as the “BUSINESS” war, for it is their masters’ interests which are involved, and not their own.
THE SOCIALIST PARTY of Great Britain pledges itself to keep the issue clear by expounding the CLASS STRUGGLE, and whilst placing on record its abhorrence of this latest manifestation of the callous, sordid, and mercenary nature of the international capitalist class, and declaring that no interests are at stake justifying the shedding of a single drop of working-class blood, enters its emphatic protest against the brutal and bloody butchery of our brothers of this and other lands who are being used as food for cannon abroad while suffering and starvation are the lot of their fellows at home.
Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.
“The World for the Workers !”
August 25th, 1914.
The Executive Committee
“Wage workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win ! Marx.”
STATEMENT ISSUED IN SEPTEMBER 1939
In this, our first issue of “The Socialist Standard” since the declaration of war, we have the opportunity of reaffirming the Socialist attitude that we have consistently maintained since the formation of the party, including the war of 1914-18. With the increasing international tension of recent years we have again and again pressed home the undeniable truth that as long as the world is organized on a capitalist economic basis the never-ceasing rivalries will continue to produce conflicts ranging from mere diplomatic crises to gigantic armed struggles spreading over the oceans and continents of the world. The Socialist Party of Great Britain re-affirms that the interest of the world working class – on whom the untold misery and suffering of war inevitably falls – lies in abolishing the capitalist economic system.
The present conflict is represented in certain quarters as one between “freedom” and “tyranny” and for the rights of small nations.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is fully aware of the sufferings of German workers under Nazi rule, and wholeheartedly supports the efforts of workers everywhere to secure democratic rights against the powers of suppression, but the history of the past decades shows the futility of war as a means of safeguarding democracy. After the last Great War – described as the war to end war, and as a war to make the world safe for democracy – the retention of capitalism resulted in the building up of new tyrannies and terrorisms through the inability of the capitalist states to solve the problems created by the system of private ownership of the means of production and distribution and the competitive scramble for raw materials, markets and control of trade routes. So little did the last war achieve its alleged purpose that the man who was prominently associated with the Allied victory and the claim that that war would be the last – Mr. Lloyd George – now has to confess that even this war may not be the last war. Writing in the Sunday Express, (September 10th), Mr. Lloyd George says:
“It is only just over 20 years ago that France and Britain signed the armistice with Germany which brought to an end the bloodiest war in history.They are now fighting essentially the same struggle again.
Germany is again the aggressor. Once more it is a fight for international right – the recognition of the equal right of nations, weak as well as strong, to lead their own independent lives so long as they do not interfere with the rights of their neighbours.
This conflict has gone on periodically since the dawn of history. It will go on for many centuries to come unless and until mankind accepts that principle as one of the irrefragable commandments of humanity.”
The Socialist Party of Great Britain calls on the workers of the world to refuse to accept this prospect, and calls upon them to recognise that only Socialism will end war.
Among those who support the present war is the British Labour Party, who long ago declared that the peace treaties of the last war contained the germs of a future war. At one time the Labour party, in its “Labour Speakers’ Handbook” 1922, declared that the “unjust territorial arrangements” of the Peace Treaties must be rectified, including the return of Danzig and other Polish territory to Germany and the return of other Polish territory to Russia in accordance with the principle of “self-determination”.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds that neither the doctrine of “self-determination”, which the Labour Party then claimed had been violated by the Peace Treaties, nor the German claim for a new carving-up of Europe, nor any other policy for settling minority problems and international rivalries within the framework of capitalism, is capable of bringing peace and democracy to the peoples of the world. Another war would be followed by new treaties forced on the vanquished by the victors, and by preparations for further wars, new dictatorships and terrorism.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain therefore pledges itself to continue its work for Socialism, and reiterates the call it issued on the outbreak of war in 1914: –
“Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.”
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE. S.P.G.B.
September 24th 1939.
WAR WITH RUSSIA
there has been a general assumption of impending war between the American group of powers and Russia and her allies. If the reason for the rivalry is sought many answers are given. The first is that each fears the power and dominance ot the other and therefore seeks to strengthen itself by all possible means including armaments, treaties of alliance, and the building up of a world-wide system of bases for war. In addition both fear the pressure of the other on the home front. The American West-European group fear the internal pressure of workers with communist sympathies seeking to overthrow the Governments; and equally Russia and her satellites fear the activities of internal groups who oppose subordination to Russian economic and military policy. Had it not been for Russian pressure, Czechoslovakia and other central European Governments might have accepted American aid and the investment of American capital, and have followed the example of Yugoslavia.
But to say that the two groups arm against each other because they each fear aggression already assumes that they are in conflict. We must, therefore, go further and ask why, immediately Germany and Japan were defeated, antagonism arose between Russia and the American-British camp. The answer to this question is that the antagonism did not begin at that point, it already existed, though from 1941 to 1945 it was more or less in abeyance in face of the “common enemy.”
Only those who think that the war was fought to save democracy or to protect weak nations tfom the pressure of powerful ones are puzzled by the re-emergence of the old quarrels. The war, on the allied side, was fought to stop German-Japanese-Italian expansion but not to stop expansion itself; it was fought to prevent the Axis Powers from encroaching on weak nations, but not to stop encroachment on weak nations. The defeat of the Axis Powers created a vacuum and immediately posed for the victors the question: “Now that Axis pressure has been removed whose pressure shall take its place?” The victors in war always quarrel over the division of the spoils.
If the war had really been fought to maintain democracy and end alien rule the following issue would have been raised in 1945—Who now shall destroy the Russian dictatorship and free the Baltic countries (annexed in 1940) from Russian rule? Who shall now turn the Western Powers out of their colonial empires?
The four Powers were, in fact, already secretly dividing the spoils (behind the backs of the victims, including their own allies) before the war ended. Under the secret Yalta Agreement 1945 Russia was granted special rights in Outer Mongolia, Manchuria and other Chinese territories without the consent, indeed without the knowledge, of the Chinese Government. A Yugoslav Government spokesman has said that it was agreed between Russia and Britain on the question of relative spheres of influence in the Balkans that Yugoslavia was to be regarded as under British and Russian interest on a fifty-fifty basis.
The German threat to the Balkans had been removed, but that did not mean that the new Russia would give up the old Czarist regime’s ambition to dominate the Balkans and control the Dardanelles.
America and Britain, with their joint interests in the oil of the Middle East, had no intention of letting Russia move in, though now the American navy had taken over largely from the British. Germany surrendered in May, 1945. In less than a year the American navy was warning off the Russians.
The following is from an editorial in the Observer on August 25th, 1946:—
” . . . the Navy Department … is marking out the forward path of America’s interests, as the Admiralty did for Britain in the days of Shovell and Anson.
Last April, when the Turks were facing encirclement on the east through the Russian penetration of Azerbaijan, they were cheered by the ostentatious visit to Instanbul of the U.S. battleship Missouri. American cruisers in the Adriatic have been the main factor throughout the summer to deter the Yugoslavs from seizing Trieste by a violent coup. The United States, assuming the historic role of British diplomacy, has taken the lead in opposing the Russian demand for control of the Straits. The U.S. fleet has just begun a cruise which is to be the greatest display of American naval power ever made in the Mediterranean. And a State Department spokesman is reported to have said that the U.S. attitude towards the Mediterranean ‘ will be tougher from now on.’ ”
(Observer, London, August 25th, 1946.)
America and Britain resisted the Russian attempt to set up in Greece a Government favourable to Russian aims, but that did not mean that Britain would respond to the demand of the people of Cyprus that they should be allowed to join Greece. Britain and America opposed the plan to establish a Russian base on Turkish territory to “protect” the Dardanelles, but Britain turned a deaf ear to Egyptian demands that British troops should depart from Egyptian territory on the Suez Canal.
The collapse of Japan threw open China and Korea for possible exploitation by one or other of the victors but U.S.A. and Britain with their trading and investment interests in China had no wish to see Russian influence predominate.
There was, however, a very important difference between the position of U.S.A. and that of Russia at the end of the war. Russian industrial and agricultural production had suffered terrible damage from the war and the German invasion while America’s productive power, already far ahead of Russia’s, had gone on during the war to new high levels. American Capitalism could win over allies among the devastated nations by the grant of large amounts of aid in food, machinery, and arms. Russia, immediately after the war, had no such choice. Needing to conserve her resources during her own costly reconstruction she had to employ other weapons to extend her influence. She sought it by the more or less thinly disguised setting up of friendly Governments in the Colonial Empires and in her border States by Communist seizure of power; and by the use of her own occupation troops in the ex-enemy countries. The aims of the two groups of Powers were the same but their methods had to be different. The mounting of tension between the two was inevitable.
The conflict partly took the form of disputes in United Nations assemblies but when it is said that Russian tactics there made agreement impossible it should not be forgotten that Russia and her allies were in a minority and other Powers too have defied the United Nations when their own important interests were affected. South Africa declared its intention of defying the United Nations over placing South West Africa under United Nations Trusteeship, and, as has already been mentioned, Britain, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand opposed a resolution which if passed would have meant the flying of the United Nations flag in trust territories. They warned the Trusteeship Council “that even if the resolution were passed they would not observe it.” (Manchester Guardian, March 31st, 1950.)
If Russia has pursued an imperialist policy so have all the Powers even if it has been more m the form of holding on to past conquests than of gaining new ones. France has been no exception, as is shown by the fulfilment of an old ambition to control the Saar at the expense of German Capitalism. Here is the comment of a London newspaper : —
“SAAR RAPE. With the signature of their agreements with the Saar republic the French have carried off one of the most remarkable diplomatic coups since the war. They have accomplished the rape of the Saar.
They have pursued this aim with ruthless purpose and determination. In 1945 they assumed control of the Saar as part of their zone of occupation. In 1946 they set up a Customs Union. In 1947 they issued a new currency in place of German marks and expanded the boundaries of the Saar. In 1948 they concluded a Franco-Saar cultural agreement. And all the time they carried on propaganda in favour ot economic union.
Now the separation of the Saar from Germany has been accomplished. Under the latest series of agreements their customs and monetary union is strengthened ; the French retain responsibility for the foreign policy and external security of the Saar; and they have in effect leased the mines, producing 12 million tons of coal a year, in return for substantial royalties.”
(Evening Standard, London, March 20th, 1950.)
As the Evening Standard editorial, from which the above quotation is taken, goes on to say: —
” At the peace conference, if it is ever held, the Russians can now support Germany’s claims, while Britain and America are committed to back France. And the Russians have been given the perfect answer to Western charges about their land-grabbing activities in the East.”
One factor that has induced Russia to take actions that have alarmed the other Powers has been her great need of cheap oil if she is to hold her own as an industrial power. In spite of her size and population her estimated oil production is only about one-tenth of that produced inside the U.S.A., apart from additional Middle East production under American control.
One of the aims of Russia in gaining control of Rumania, Hungary, and her zone of Austria was to have access to their oil output to supplement her own. This explains too the attempt—frustrated by rival American and British oil interests—to impose on Persia under pressure of the Russian troops still in occupation an agreement giving Russia control of North Persian oil wells.
The recent agreement with Sinkiang has the same object and the rising importance of oil production in the Middle East generally must make that a tempting bait for Russian expansion.
The fact that Russia is to some extent an exporter as well as importer of petrol products does not mean that she has a surplus. It is explained by the location of her own oil resources. The same is, of course, true of U.S.A. but does not prevent that country from seeking additional oil resources in the Middle East.
Russia’s need for heavy machinery and electrical equipment to re-establish and expand her industries has no doubt played a part in directing her ambitions towards Eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia.
Much of Russian exports to central and Eastern Europe are timber, foodstuffs, cotton and iron-ore, and in return she receives heavy machinery, locomotives, textile machinery, electrical equipment. On the other hand some Russian light engineering products and textiles are finding their, way into markets in Western Europe and the Middle East where they compete with West European products. Where Russia has trade agreements with border countries the entry of West European products into the market is prevented or made more difficult.
What the trading future of Russia will be remains to be seen but it is significant that the satellite countries according to report, are now conducting their trade with Russia in the Russian rouble. “The currencies of all the satellite countries are to be related to the rouble for future international trading . . . Poland announced all her trade figures with foreign countries not on the Zloty—her own currency—nor in dollars, as was the case in previous years, but in Russian roubles.” (Observer, London, April 2nd, 1950.)
The implication of this is that Russia aims to create a rouble trading area comparable with the dollar and sterling areas. Russia also has made loans of gold to Czechoslovakia and other countries.
What is of importance for Britain and Western Europe is that Russia now dominates the trade of central and Eastern Europe in much the same way as Germany aimed to do in the years that immediately preceded the second world war.
We must now answer the question whether these factors will necessarily result in war with Russia in which Britain will be involved. It is a question that must be approached with caution.
Capitalism engenders international economic rivalries and those rivalries can lead to war but it is not possible to forecast when and with whom the wars will be waged. If the statesmen who have professed to have discovered the road to perpetual peace have proved wrong time after time, so have the prophets who have claimed to know years in advance that a particular clash of interests would involve particular countries in war. Sometimes the disputants have been able to patch things up when seemingly on the verge of war, which means more often than not that the stronger power has gained the spoils of victory without fighting for them. At other times the conflict goes on and the war is only postponed.
Often, however, the Powers which seemed fated soon to be at war with each other find themselves driven together by a larger menace—the enemies end up as allies. And conversely the allies in a victorious war often resume their old antagonism when the paramount menace is removed. There are no permanent alliances or permanent enemies. It is the evil gift of Capitalism to humanity that in time it makes enemies of all nations.
In the centuries which saw the rise of the British Empire Britain was at war with almost every country in Europe and likewise fought wars in alliance with most of them. In 150 years Britain has fought both against and in alliance with, America, France, Russia, Turkey, Japan, Italy and South Africa, and the list is not exhaustive. Twice in modern times Britain has appeared likely to be at war with France. At the end of the 19th century when General Kitchener at the head of an army was sent to reconquer the Sudan in order to control the sources of the River Nile, a control which was vital for Egypt, French troops set out from the Congo with the same object. They met at Fashoda and the French were induced to withdraw. The eventual agreement (1899) fixed the boundary of the Anglo-Egvptian Sudan in accordance with British interests; the French were defeated without war. Again in 1922 when France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr the British Labour Party at passed a resolution which protested “against the occupation of the Ruhr district by the French and Belgian Military forces as an act of aggression and of war (Report 1923. Page 221.) In his speech supporting the resolution the late Mr. E. D. Morel said: —
“He was one of the very few in the years preceding the war who tried his utmost to make the people realise that war was sweeping down upon Europe ; and today they had an exact replica of the position which preceded the Great War. Substitute for a potential German peril a potential French peril; substitute air ships for battleships, and they had almost a complete reproduction of the position which existed before the Great war. Were they going to close their eyes to this? Were they going merely to pass resolutions?”
Unless Britain stood up to France, he went on to say, the “latent quarrel between Britain and France” would develop and there would be war “compared with which the last was a mere bagatelle.”
Mr. Morel also insisted on recognition of Russia and made the observation: — “With regard to Russia he wondered how many people realised that three weeks ago they might have been on the highroad to another war.”
The interest of the French capitalists was, of course, economic, the iron and steel industry of Lorraine (which Germany annexed in 1871 and France got back in 1918) was dependent on the coke produced in the Ruhr. If French industry got control of the regions Prance was likely to become the dominant industrial power of Europe.
Equally alarming to British Capitalism was a scheme discussed by France and Germany in 1924 for the formation of an economic union of the two countries.
France and Russia were not the only prospective enemies in war in those years. It was a persistent forecast of the Communists here and in Russia that war between Britain and America was inevitable.
Yet events turned out differently and the war when it came was with Germany, Japan and Italy.
When, therefore, we say that in 1950 it seems as if the course has been set which may lead to war between the American group comprising Britain and Western Europe,a nd the Russian group it is, in fact, no more certain than other “certainties” that have changed course in the past.
Numerous developments now taking place may within a few years bring to the surface new ambitions and disturbing elements that may break up the existing groupings. But with Capitalism still in being that will not mean the end of the threat of war, only that the threat will change its shape and direction.
Germany at present is weak and divided and the Western and the Eastern parts of Germany are lined up with the rival groups. As German recovery progresses it is almost inevitable that a new movement for unity will become a powerful force, and German Capitalism will certainly seek to satisfy its own aspiration rather than merely follow America or Russia. Japan, China, South America, India and Africa may, any or all of them, present the world with new sources of trouble.
The Powers that at present dominate the continents do not plan that this should happen but the best laid plans of those who would rule the world sometimes go wrong. The rise of a wave of active, though not Socialist, work ing class discontent such as that after World War I and again in the later world crisis, may upset the Governments in a manner not at present forseeable; and last but not least the international growth of the Socialist movement will some day present all of the Powers with a problem they cannot solve.
Reverting to the present situation, however, certain factors obviously have a great importance. Though Russia’s present industrial power and therefore her power to wage war is far below that of the American group, Russia and her satellites command vast areas in Europe and Asia, and have varying support within the frontiers of so many other countries that the present situation is as intolerable for Capitalism outside Russia as was the menace of Germany, Japan and Italy before the second world war. But if Russia has her Communist supporters sapping the strength and freedom of action of the countries in the American group, the Governments of the latter have comparable allies behind the “Iron Curtain” among those who think their Governments could get better terms from America than they get from Russia and among those who, for nationalist and other reasons, resent Russian dominance. Russia’s own internal structure is as liable to the strain of class conflict as that of any other Capitalist Power. As the new bondholding and monied class grows in Russia the discontent of the masses is likely to grow too.
We do not profess to be able to say how exactly these varied forces in the world will work themselves out in the international sphere. We do, however, know that if war does break out the Socialist principles of the S.P.G.B. will demand the maintenance of the same attitude as in the first and second world wars.
WAR AS AN AID TO THE PROGRESS OF THE SOCIALIST MOVEMENT?
Socialists are not alone in pointing to Capitalism as the cause of war in the modern world. There are some supporters of Capitalism who accept this. Their argument is that no other form of society is possible and therefore we must put up with war as an unavoidable feature of human life. To them each country has to fight for survival in accordance with the jungle law of Capitalism; it is better to fight, they argue, than weakly surrender into colonial slavery, better to be victorious than defeated. If we granted their assumption that Capitalism is the only possible social system we might have no choice but to accept the logic of the argument, but as Capitalism can be replaced by Socialism as soon as a majority want to bring about the change we do not accept the assumption on which alone the argument rests.
There is, however, another argument used in favour of supporting war in certain circumstances, coming not from those who accept Capitalism but from those who oppose it. This is one of the few questions upon which we are out of harmony with Marx. The argument appeared in the early days of the social-democratic movement in the middle of the nineteenth century—or, more correctly, it was carried into this movement by socialist pioneers, among them Marx and Engels. Being socialists they did not accept Capitalism as being the only possible system of society. On the contrary— and this is important because it helps to explain their attitude to war—they made the mistake which was inevitable at the time of thinking that Capitalism could be very rapidly over thrown and Socialism established. Despite the English revolution of 1688 and French revolution of 1789 which opened the way to modern Capitalism and democratic government in those two countries, Europe in the early nineteenth century was still largely dominated by the absolute monarchies of Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, two countries in which the bonds of feudalism had not yet been broken and in which capitalist industrialism and democratic movements were still stifled. Those two Powers could also rely upon the support of reactionary circles elsewhere in Europe, including France and Britain.
The opposition to the reactionary forces took several forms. The capitalists wanted political power in order to free capitalist industry from the restrictions imposed by feudal landowners and their absolutist governments. The town workers wanted to secure the right to organise in trade unions, and the landless labourers and serfs wanted the land of the big feudal landowners. But as the Russian and Austrian Empires, with their oppression of national groups, stood in the way, the form taken by the struggle was generally that of trying to set up independent nations. Such was the struggle in Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Bohemia, and in Greece and other Balkan countries. In Germany the struggle was to form a united country out of the large number of small reactionary principalities which likewise stood in the way of capitalist development.
In these struggles the capitalists, workers and peasants often stood together against the common enemy. Political democracy, national independence, resistance to oppressive taxation and starvation wages, and the demand for the break-up of the big landed estates all seemed to be different aspects of one common progressive movement.
The early socialists like Marx and Engels did not make the mistake of thinking that the capitalists and workers could permanently have interests in common. They did, however, see the immediate future in the shape of a combined struggle by workers and capitalists to overthrow feudal monarchy, to be followed quickly by a working class struggle to overthrow Capitalism. They knew that the capitalists would oppose the workers in that struggle and they knew that capitalists, once they had beaten the feudal reaction, would seek its assistance against the workers. What Marx and Engels could not see until further experience had ripened their judgement was that the workers’ movement to overthrow Capitalism would for long grow very slowly and would be dependent on the. workers coming eventually to understand and accept the socialist case.
It is only against this background that we can under stand the attitude of Marx and Engels and other socialists of their time towards certain wars. The overriding consideration in their eyes was to destroy feudal reaction in Russia, Austria and elsewhere, and the form the struggle would naturally take was that of establishing independent nations within whose frontiers Capitalism and democracy and workers’ movements could flourish.
As Engels wrote late in his life:—”Our foreign policy was simple; support for every revolutionary people, call for a general war of revolutionary Europe against the great mainstay of European reaction, Russia . . .” (“Social Democrat,” Zurich, March 13th, 1884.)
They accordingly supported France and England in the Crimean war against Russia even though at the same time they criticised France and England and in particular exposed the efforts of the rulers of those two countries “to represent the war as a crusade of civilisation and progress against Asiatic barbarism.” (“Marx and Engels” by Riazanov. Page 107-8.)
In an article they wrote For an American newspaper they said: —
“Russia is decidedly a conquering nation, and was so for a century until the great movement of 1789 called into potent activity an antagonist of formidable nature. We mean the European Revolution, the explosive force of democratic ideas and man’s native thirst for freedom. Since that epoch there have been in reality but two Powers on the continent of Europe—Russia and Absolutism, the Revolution and Democracy . . . But let Russia get possession of Turkey and her strength is increased nearly by half, and she becomes superior to all the rest of Europe put together. Such an event would be an unspeakable calamity to the revolutionary cause. The maintenance of Turkish independence . . .is a matter of the highest moment. In this instance the interests of the revolutionary democracy and of England go hand in hand.”
(New York Tribune, April 12th, 1853.)
(Quoted in “Marxism, Nationality and War.” Edited by Dona Torr. Part II. Page 43.)
With their view of the independent nation as a necessary form of the struggle of progress against reaction they upheld the idea that the workers should support a defensive war and oppose an aggressive one. In an Address drafted by Marx for the International Workingmen’s Association in 1870 a few days after the Franco-German war had broken out it was declared that ” n the German side, the war was one of defence.” The German workers were, however, warned not to allow it to become a war of aggression nor to forfeit their claim to sympathy “by allowing the Prussian Government to call for, or accept the help of, the Cossack.”
Marx and Engels were wrong in supposing that a largely non-socialist and nationalist-minded working class could make an effective demonstration of working-class and socialist internationalism. They did not see clearly that nationalism which served the capitalists so well when they wanted support against the feudal reaction did not and could not serve the working class and socialist movement. They made this error in spite of their own bold declaration in the Communist Manifesto, 1848, “Workers of All Lands Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win.”
Before the Franco-German war broke out Marx and Engels had hoped that working class solidarity might prevent war. When that hope failed they hoped that the German workers would prevent a “defensive war from becoming a war of aggression.”
They were soon to learn that this too was a vain hope.
In the second address of the International Association they had to make the regretful admission that “if the French workmen amidst peace failed to stop the aggressor, are the German workmen more likely to stop the victor amidst the clamour of arms?”
Of course the war did become a war of aggression on the part of German Capitalism as the German Chancellor, Bis-mark had foreseen and intended that it should.
Marx and Engels in spite of the experience of the Franco-German war still retained the view that the workers should support a war of defence. When, in 1891, there was a threat of another war, Engels thought that if France started a “war of revenge” against Germany it was desirable that Germany should win because in that event “our party” (the Social Democratic Party) would come to power. Engels at that time was still full of apprehensions about the Russian reaction and the possible consequences of a French-Russian alliance.
In our own day ideas similar to those held by Marx and Engels on war have continued to attract support. Lenin and the Bolsheviks, though they reached the point of opposing wars between the Great Powers and denounced the first world war as an imperialist struggle on both sides, nevertheless retained the belief that wars by colonial countries to achieve national independence should be supported.
Later on Lenin’s successors in Russia and Communist Parties outside Russia, while still supporting colonial struggles against the other imperialist Powers, have turned a blind eye on the fact that Russia is now an expanding capitalist imperialism herself. Marx and Engels supported nineteenth century struggles to set up independent nations as being progressive; in the twentieth century Communist Parties everywhere hold that it is the duty of workers every where to support Russia in war because Russia is “progressive”—the land of Socialism. As has been shown in earlier chapters Russia is a capitalist state with the same expansionist tendencies as the Powers Russia opposes. While a spurious “internationalism” is preached in Russia the rulers of that country are making just the same use of nationalism to blind the workers as do the rulers of other Powers.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not hold the views held by Marx and Engels on war and it also repudiates the Communist Party doctrine that Russia’s imperialism is in the interest of the working class and the socialist movement.
History has shown that the views on war held by Marx and Engels have not been justified. Even the question of what is an offensive or defensive war is one about which agreement is impossible. Technically France in 1870 was the aggressor but it is common knowledge that Bismark’sGovernment had been manoeuvring to secure that position. As for the progressive outcome of achieving national unity the countries whose national unity was hailed as a progressive step at the time (including, of course, Germany and Italy) have gone on to use that unity to pursue expansionist policies under the pressure of their own capitalist development.
In our own day the question posed by Marx and Engels would present us with the problem of which is the more “progressive,” British Capitalism under a Labour Government—claiming falsely to speak in the name of Socialism, or capitalist Russia under a Communist Party dictatorship making the same false claim.
As has been pointed out the error made by Marx and Engels—understandable in the conditions of the time—was in failing to see the absolute necessity of a socialist working class before Socialism could be achieved. They did not realise this and acted on the assumption that Socialism would come speedily through the action of the workers spontaneously opposing the capitalist class.
Further experience of that view has brought to the S.P.G.B. the realisation that progress to Socialism depends finally on the development of the workers towards a clear understanding of the socialist case. That understanding must be based on recognition of the class struggle and recognition of the necessarily world-wide basis of socialist action.
Anything which in the slightest way encourages the workers to retain the blighting and poisoning belief in nationalism and so-called national interests, perpetuates the dangerous illusion of class harmony and plays always into the hands of the capitalist class.
Only class-conscious socialists can speak across the frontiers of the capitalist nations to the working class of the world and they can do so only because they are entirely free from the taint of so-called national interests which can be none other than capitalist interests.
While we are at variance with Marx on the particular question we have been discussing, this does not affect our general acceptance of Marx’s social analysis and his theory of the class struggle. We are a Marxist party but we recognise that the conditions of the time, when Capitalism was relatively young and Feudalism had not yet been completely swept away, led Marx and Engels into a false position on war in the course of pursuing their pioneer work. It was a time when freedom was in chains, when the barricade seemed to be the answer to oppression and when war took on a somewhat different aspect from what it does today. The road of the pioneer is difficult; those who follow profit by his work and his errors and have a wealth of experience to help them. The Bolsheviks and their followers, however, were not Marxists. They threw overboard Marx’s fundamental tenets and borrowed a few of his views (the erroneous ones) that helped them in their struggle for dictatorship. They did not profit by the work of Marx; they only sought to profit by his name. Marx relied on the workers; they spurned the workers.
In concluding this chapter it requires only the briefest repudiation of the idea that war can be used by socialists as an instrument for achieving Socialism. It is the special contribution of the S.P.G.B. to socialist thought to have recognised that Socialism spreads through the workers acquiring socialist knowledge; the waging of war can have no part in that necessary process.
Those who continue to hold nineteenth century conceptions about the possibly “progressive nature of war are refusing to learn the bitter lessons of experience. They fail to see that the instrument of war that served the rise to power of the capitalist minority cannot be used to achieve the emancipation of the working class. Socialism is held back by the lack of understanding in the ranks of the working class. Armed force cannot make up for the backward political development of the working class. With the development of the technique of destruction war now means the wholesale destruction of human life by atom bombs. It is the supreme irony that some who claim to seek to save the human race by achieving Socialism should be able to contemplate pursuing that aim through the mass destruction of human life.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain will continue on its way loyal to international Socialism in the sure knowledge that it is the duty of all who seek Socialism to oppose war.
War can solve no working class problem. It cuts across the fundamental identity of interest of the workers of the world, setting sections of this class at enmity with each other in the interests of sections of the capitalist class. It elevates force into the position of arbiter in place of the common human desire for mutual peace and happiness. Its effect is wholly evil. It depraves all the participants by forcing them to concentrate upon the best methods of producing misery and of annihilating each other. It elevates lying, cheating, disabling and murdering opponents into virtues, confers distinctions upon those who practise these means most successfully, and inaugurates training courses on a vast scale to produce efficiency. Young men and women, in their most impressionable years, have the vile methods of warfare impressed upon them so thoroughly that they lose a balanced outlook on life and are impregnated with the idea that force, with all its baseness, and not reason is the final solution in all problems. Many of those who have been subjected to the atmosphere of war remain addicted to violence when war has come to a temporary end.
Socialism is completely opposed to war and to what war represents. At the same time it is the only solution to the conditions that breed war. It is a new form of society in which the people of the world will work harmoniously together for their mutual benefit, for there will be neither privilege nor property to cause enmity. No coercion will be needed because each will gain from co-operating harmoniously with his fellows. But it is a new social system that demands understanding of its implications from those who seek to establish it. One important implication is that coercion does not solve problems but only breeds fresh ones, and war is an attempt to coerce. Above all war is one of the means employed by the ruling class to maintain their privileged position at the expense of the subject class.
With the establishment of Socialism war will disappear and humanity will have taken the first step out of the jungle.
POSTSCRIPT—JULY 11th, 1950. THE WAR IN KOREA
Towards the end of June war broke out in Korea and was promptly followed by the armed intervention of America, Britain and other Powers against the Russian-trained and equipped North Korean armies. No event of the post-war years has so forcibly exposed the illusion of abolishing war through the United Nations; and those who look beneath the wordy smoke-screen put up by the opposing sides can see in this conflict the naked brutality of capitalism and the vindication of the Socialist case.
Korea, once independent, but long a coveted prize in the rival ambitions of Russia, China and Japan, was annexed by Japan in 1910 and remained a Japanese colony until 1945. On the surrender of Japan in that year it was occupied by Russia and America on the understanding that it would in five years be restored to full independence. The Russian sphere of influence in the north, larger in area but much smaller in population, contains the principal industries, while the American southern sphere is primarily agricultural. The two occupying armies left in 1948 and 1949 but already the Southern Government feared invasion from the North and in November, 1948, applied to United Nations for the American troops to remain. Frontier incidents soon occurred between North and South and a United Nations Commission Report in September, 1949, blamed both Governments for “Military posturing on both sides of the frontier.” The Report recognised that a basic cause of the country’s difficulties was “the world-wide antagonism between the Soviet Onion and the U.S.A.” : it placed on record the general belief of the Korean population that those two Powers “are responsible for the present plight of the country.”
According to a Special Correspondent of the Times an important factor in the attitude of the peasants towards the Northern and Southern Governments is that whereas in the North “the Russians put into effect a measure of land redistribution, without consulting the owners of property or tolerating their objections “the” rather corrupt “South Korean Government, ignoring American suggestions of similar measures in their territory, “failed through jealousies and sectional interests to meet the needs of the peasantry.” (Times, July 6th, 1950.)
The main interest of the Powers in Korea arises from its geographical position. The special correspondent of the Times wrote: —
“Korea’s unhappy history can, to large extent be explained by her strategical importance. The chief port in the South, Pusan, is only 120 miles from Japan. Its most north-easterly point is within 100 miles of Vladivostock. The Japanese used to refer to it as a ‘ dagger p ointed at the heart of Japan,’ which it could be, although in fact Korea has always been more in evidence as a bridgehead of Japanese penetration of the Asiatic mainland.”
If America, now the occupying Power in Japan, fears a Korea under Russian influence it is not surprising that the Chinese and Russian Governments equally regard the American intervention as directed against them, especially as, simultaneously with intervention in Korea the American Government declared its intention of protecting the remnants of General Chiang Kai-shek’s forces on the Chinese island of Formosa against attack from Communist controlled China. A reporter of the Evening Standard (July 1st, 1950) put the Chinese Government’s point of view:— “The Chinese Communists’ determination to capture Formosa can only be understood in terms of their conviction that the United States intends to use Formosa as a base for invading China.”
When we turn to the statements of the Governments and parties justifying their attitude on the Korean war we see on all sides how high-sounding pacific sentiments can serve as a cover for the determination to wage war where capitalist interests are at stake. They are all against war, but . . . The American and British Governments are in the war because, so they say, unless they stop Russian aggression now a third world war is inevitable. “By accepting this fresh challenge he had every hope that a world war could be averted. That was the only way to preserve peace.” (Mr. Herbert Morrison speaking at Manchester— Times, July 3rd, 1950.) To which the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Gromyko, retorts:—”The U.S. Government … demonstrated that, far from seeking to consolidate peace, it is on the contrary, an enemy of peace . . . The U.S. Government … is gradually impelling the country step by step towards open war.” Daily Worker, July 5th, 1950.)
So both sides are prepared to wage a small war because each effects to believe that the other side is preparing for a larger one.
Both sides use in their justification legalistic arguments about whether this war is a properly accredited United Nations war. The American-British side stands by a vote of the United Nations Security Council though American action actually preceded the vote; and Russia says it is all illegal because she was absent from the meeting. The only point of all such arguments is the implication that, if properly blessed by the United Nations, a war is not a war. And indeed the Egyptian Minister of State, Dr. Hamed Zaki, says so. He declared that “the events in Korea, he thought, amounted simply to international measures for peace and could not be regarded as war.” (Daily Telegraph, July 4th, 1950.) Nevertheless while his Government approves the United Nations action against aggression in Korea it declined to share in the action because it claims to be wrongfully deprived of United Nations aid against the aggression of Britain in continuing to maintain armed forces on Egyptian territory at the Suez Canal.
Both sides hide behind the plea that the other side started it, a plea that cannot be disproved because both Korean Governments had at some time in the past two years been responsible for frontier aggression and war-like threats. So if we are to accept that a United Nations war is not a war we are also asked to accept that it is quite all right for the ”friends of peace” to wage war and refrain from any action to stop it provided that they believe the other side started hostilities.
The armies on both sides are conscripts and nobody thought it necessary to consult them or the Korean workers and peasants on the question whether they want to go to war.
Mr. Gromyko, seemingly in difficulties to explain how if happened that the North Koreans (who he alleged are the innocent victims of South Korean aggression) were, within a few days, advancing in force 50 miles or more into South Korea, has to fall back on the argument that this is a “civil war” and therefore the United Nations should keep out. He discovers, as a precedent, the American Civil War of 1861-5, and says:—”When attacked by the South, the armed forces of the North States did not, as is known, limit themselves to defence of their own territory. They transferred military operations to the territory of the Southern States . . .” (Daily Worker, July 5th, 1950.)
So, according to the Russian Government, which has just given its official blessing to the Peace Appeal of the Communist sponsored “World Peace Congress,” it is quite in order for peace lovers to go in for a war provided it can be legally denned as “Civil War” and though it may, like the American civil war, cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
In taking the American Civil War as his example, Mr. Gromyko was closer to reality than perhaps he appreciates. He described that war as an example of a “Struggle waged by the peoples for national unity and for democratic rights.” If he had not been so anxious to find a precedent awkward for the American Government to answer he might have recalled that it was the Northern States’ victory in that war that laid the foundation for the modern American capitalist-imperialism. All the so-called national unity movements, including the Russian have had similar causes and lead to similar capitalist-imperialist results.
From both sides there is the customary nauseating propaganda about the loftiness of their aims. According to the Daily Mail (July 3rd, 1950), it is a war between good and evil. Quoting a declaration by the Bishop of Rochester about the need “to fight Godless materialism with aggressive evangelism,” the Daily Mail had the following in a leading article : —
“In those six words he summed up the reason for the war in Korea. In every war the Right is on your side—whoever you may be—and the Wrong on the other. But this is different . . . We are engaged in a fight of Christian civilisation against Communist materialism; against terror and darkness and the degradation of men and women; against slave labour and forced famine.”
Not to be beaten, the Daily Worker the following day (July 4th, 1950) published the declaration of the North Korean Government that theirs is a “holy war for the freedom, unity and independence of their native land.” Forgetting the excuse that their participation in the war was supposed to be merely resistance against frontier violations by the South Koreans, the North Korean Government, after describing the speedy victorious advance of its armies, goes on to declare that they will continue “liberating” South Korea and “will intensify their struggle.”
The Socialist Party of Great Britain asserts that this war, like all modern wars, is provoked by the economic rivalries that are inherent in Capitalism and of which all the powers are guilty whether it be under the openly capitalist government of U.S.A. or the Capitalism of Britain and Russia administered by Labour and Communist Governments. While the capitalist struggle for markets, raw materials and strategic points goes on it is idle to believe that war can be abolished. The United Nations and the muddle-headed anti-war declarations of bodies of so-called lovers of peace are equally futile to stop it
The S.P.G.B. has often been told by its opponents that, notwithstanding basic differences of aims and principles, we should be willing’to co-operate with the “friends of peace,” the Labour Party and the Communists and should support the United Nations organisation. The Korean war shows how impossible and useless such co-operation would be. What would they have us do? Should we “preserve peace” by supporting United Nations war in Korea? Should we help the Labour Party “to stop war” when almost all of the Labour M.P.s have given their endorsement to participation in this war? Should we endorse the sanctimonious peace propaganda of the Communist Party which consists in fact of demanding action to stop American-British intervention so that Russia’s North Korean allies can have a clear field in their war against the South?
They are all, in theory, the friends of peace and all in practice will wage war for the respective capitalist interests they support.
When, on July 5th, the policy of the British Labour Government was debated in Parliament there were just two Labour M.P.s who took a different line. They called it backing a “socialist” policy; but what did it consist of? Their amendment demanded that the British Government should withdraw from intervention and should “repudiate all commitments which involve on our part any obligations to maintain the present division of the nations of the world into two powerful and dangerously poised hostile groups, and to declare in conformity with the Government’s socialist principles our determination to give every encouragement to all peoples aspiring for freedom and self-government.”
The movers of this are Labour M.P.s and as such fully committed to the Labour Party programme of administering British Capitalism in a capitalist world. They have accepted British Capitalism, and its export drive to capture foreign markets from rival Powers, but want it to pursue a “socialist” policy ! They think that one capitalist Power can escape from Capitalism by standing aside from rival groups . This was indeed Mr. Attlee’s own policy five years ago but it is as non-Socialist and as impracticable now as it was then. They might just as well suggest that Korea could escape from being a pawn in the struggle of rival Great Powers merely by saying that it wants to be left alone.
A Socialist policy can only be pursued by a Socialist party which bases its principles on the necessity of international Socialist action by the workers of the world against Capitalism everywhere, whether it be in America, Britain, Russia or in the smaller countries like Korea. Only a party built up on Socialist principles can have a Socialist policy. Only a party of Socialists can consistently oppose war, and in that struggle the socialist movement will receive no aid from the war-making false friends of peace.