1930s >> 1938 >> no-404-april-1938

Will There Be Another War?

At no time since the end of the Great War has the talk of war, the fear of war, the imminent probability of war, so weighed upon the minds of men and women as during the last few years. For a decade following the Great War the comforting reflection prevailed that it could not happen again, pacifist sentiment grew, and books and plays portraying the horrors of war became popular. Then events happened in rapid succession. Japan conquered Manchuria, Italy Abyssinia, and now Germany has marched into Austria and has wiped it out as an independent State—the latter event throwing the whole world into consternation, because of the implied threat to French and British capitalist interests. What is the explanation of the German invasion of Austria and why should British capitalists appear to be so shocked by it?

Quite obviously, the political union under one government of people speaking the same language and having the same traditions is in itself not a sufficient explanation. In fact, English statesmen, Tory and Labour, have approved the idea, and when a few years ago the attempt to form a customs union by Germany and Austria was frustrated by France the same Labour and Tory Pecksniffs wagged their heads sadly at the bitterness of the French. The explanation for the British capitalists’ concern is that the event threatens to bring the danger of war perilously near its own doorstep.

What is the position?

After the Great War, as part of the business of breaking up German alliances, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up and Austria was created an “independent” State and maintained in that position by the allied enemies of German capitalism. Germany’s conquest of Austria means more than the surface appearance of just the union of German-speaking people. It means that German capitalism has recovered from the dismembered condition in which its victors left it after the Great War. It means that Germany has developed the economic, military and political power to throw off a dominance exercised over it by similar forces stronger than its own. Any capitalist who faces the realities of the capitalist world, who can see through the mealy-mouthed pieties which the event has provoked, knows that Germany could not have achieved the same result by any other means than those used. Germany has been undergoing industrial expansion, which until recent years had been restricted by the political situation inside Germany and by competitive forces outside it. In response to their needs, Nazism developed to solve the domestic problem for the German industrialists and the problem of their clash of interests with capitalist competitors outside Germany.

As Mr. Winston Churchill points out, the Nazi mastery of Vienna dominates all the roads, railways and rivers upon which the States of the Little Entente depend for their military cohesion, and all the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe depend for their economic life. Vienna, the ancient capital of a once mighty empire, is the ganglion nerve-centre of the trade and communications of all countries of the Danube basin, and others besides.

Thus Germany has achieved a position of strategic military importance, besides gaining the power of economic dominance in Central Europe formerly possessed by France and her allies.

What, then, are the chances of war?

Unquestionably, the expansion of German capitalism will demand opportunities for raw materials and trade which will conflict with those powers who already have a grip on the world’s sources of supply and markets. Must—need—this conflict break into war? The plain and simple fact is that the factors likely to lead to war to-day are more alive than at any time since 1914. Enormous military machinery has been created at staggering costs, in order to defend existing possessions and advantages—or to gain them. This process has gone on because respective capitalists do not intend to concede what they have and because they cannot obtain what they have not without force. It would represent a bad investment if the purpose for which armaments were built up were forsaken. But what of the possibility that the fear of “war being the end of civilisation” will act as a brake? This pious sentiment is very little short of a wish-fulfilment. It is doubtful whether any capitalist really believes war would be continued to the point where “civilisation” was destroyed beyond power of recuperation. It is more likely that capitalists, if the armed conflict occurred, would hope for and aim at a short war of a violent and decisive nature—resulting, perhaps, by reason of its shortness and violence, in no greater
loss in cost and destruction of property than would a larger war fought with less effective military weapons. In short, the position is that in the present condition of the capitalist world a war fought out for that rich, ripe plum—the British Empire—is ever an imminent possibility.

But if war comes the workers will not be told that it is a quarrel over markets and trade, and fought out in the interests of the capitalists. They will be told anything but that—the humbug, the liar, the Press, the pulpit, the Labour leader, the Tory, the sincere and the insincere would join together to persuade the workers that it is war to preserve peace—democracy—the independence of Austria.

The independence of Austria! It is a lie and a myth. For twenty years the meaning of the word has been foreign to Austrian capitalist and worker. For twenty years Austrian capitalists have been in the pockets of the French and British capitalists. The rulers of Austria, whom Hitler suppressed, were Fascists, the tools, until Hitler stepped in, of Mussolini, the exterminators of Austrian democracy and of Austrian working-class industrial and political organisations, the bloody murderers of Austrian working men and women when the Christian-Fascists took power in 1934.

The independence of Austria is not at stake. British capitalist interests are; and when the miscalled Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker, headlines an article which demands that the British Government take action in defence of Austrian independence with the slogan, “Britain’s Honour at Stake,” they are playing the capitalist game of deluding the workers.

The Austrian question represents a quarrel between the capitalists of Europe over the wealth they own and want to own. The working-class bone is not at stake. Socialists will play no part in obscuring the issue in this quarrel or any future quarrel between the capitalists of Europe.

Harry Waite