1940s >> 1946 >> no-500-april-1946

Where Do They Go From Here?

A Slight Dilemma for the War-Supporting “Friends of Democracy”

 Wanting to pay tribute to the likeableness of the Italians, the late Lord Castlerosse once remarked that, though every war ends with the war-time allies disliking each other more than they do “the enemy,” nobody hates the Italians—not even their allies. It was not a profound thought, but it touched on a truth about the wars of capitalism. Alliances are temporary associations forced upon rivals by the menace of another Power or group of Powers grown dangerously strong. Once the menace is removed the normal rivalries of the allies again come to the surface. (Italy, not being strong enough to be a menace on its own, is wooed by all and has a habit of changing sides—hence Lord Castlerosse’s observation.)

 We have now reached the normal stage that follows wars of alliances, with the former allies regrouping and jockeying for position for the coming struggle over markets, air bases, spheres of influence and so on. Everyone knows what may be the outcome in a few years’ time, though war-weariness, food shortage and the need to make costly preparations for new kinds of warfare, determine that for the present the struggle shall be waged with words.

 There is still some talk of “no more war,” but preparations hurry on. In Britain and U.S.A. the talk is of permanent conscription and the maintenance of armed forces much greater than they were before 1939. A new Sea Lord is appointed, in Britain, Admiral Sir John H. D. Cunningham. His job, according to the Daily Express (1/3/46), will be retrenchment, but also “the reorganisation of the Navy with new weapons.” In Canada the Air Force is to have a strength of more than 30,000, including auxiliary and Reserve units, and the regular force of 16,100 is to be “capable of rapid expansion” (Times, 23/2/46). Its function is to be the “air defence of Canada”—against whom is not stated, but the anxiety to prevent Russia from hearing what is going on and the anxiety of Russia to uncover military secrets there, shows how the military minds are moving. Russia, too, is showing how little confidence is really placed in the United Nations Organisation, and a sign of the times is the unification of land, air and naval forces into a single Commisariat under Generalissimo Stalin (Soviet News, 28/2/46). America keeps its atom bomb from its allies while Russia encourages its scientists to discover the death-dealing secret by giving handsome prizes of £5,000 to several of them (Daily Express, 28/1/46). Australia demands air and naval bases in New Guinea and Stalin declares that “the Soviet people love their army and are constantly concerned to strengthen its might . . . we must . . . raise still more the military and economic might of the Soviet State” (Daily Express, 23/2/46). Russia feels strong enough to pursue an expansionist policy with the inevitable result of provoking hostility in the ranks of the ruling groups in the countries affected, China, Persia, Turkey, etc., and of alarming the British and American capitalists whose economic interests are also concerned. Under the secret agreement at Yalta, Russia, as a condition of declaring war against Japan, obtained from Britain and U.S.A. the right to pre-eminent Russian interests over the Chinese Eastern and South Manchurian railways while nominally preserving full Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria (Manchester Guardian, 12/2/46). China was not consulted and it is ironical to recall how the Labour and Communist Parties, back in 1931, demanded immediate aid to China to stop the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

 Lenin once described the older colonial powers as the “older and fatter bandits,” and sought to stir up resistance movements in all the colonies. Russia now, with its many encroachments on territories round all its frontiers and its demand for Mediterranean Islands and North African colonies, is seeking to enter the ranks of the fatter bandits. This threatens both British and American capitalism, hence the clash between Mr. Bevin and Mr. Vishinsky and the American note to Russia and China protesting that Russian policy in Manchuria “ would be contrary to the open-door policy and would constitute clear discrimination against Americans who wanted to join Manchuria’s industrial development ” (Manchester Guardian, 6/3/46). Britain, however, is not strong enough alone to hold the too far flung empire in the face of the growing strength of the Capitalist-Nationalist movements and the emergence of Russia as a world Power, and it is to meet this situation that Mr. Churchill proposes what is, in effect, an Anglo-American alliance against Russia. In an editorial the Manchester Guardian (5/3/46) puts the point of view of the more sober and far-seeing sections of the capitalist class, a view that may be summed up in the phrase “It is better to give up something in order to more firmly hold the remainder.” The Guardian says:—

      “What the Government must do during this transitional period is to think out again from the beginning what are the vital interests of the British Empire and how these can best be defended. Even if we can rid ourselves of our temporary commitments it is difficult not to feel that our imperial strategy will have to be trimmed a little from nineteenth century ideas if we are not to overstrain our resources. Much will depend on the development of India during the next twelve months, but we should not forget that the map of the Empire will look very different when India is a free and independent country. This in turn will affect our judgment as to the value of the Middle East and the Suez Canal, though the latter will certainly remain high on the list of priorities. But it may be that we shall have to rely more . . . on co-operation with the Dominions (and Egypt?) and less on our own strength for the defence of outlying bases.”

 Here then is the situation in the matter of postwar groupings of the Powers, and what do those who supported the war against German and Japanese capitalism in the simple belief that it would make the world safe from dictatorship and war think of it now? With Russia taking the place of Germany as the threatening expansionist Power what are they going to do? Where do they go from here? Already the language of the capitalist Press is precisely the same as it was about the Nazis. The Daily Mail (5/3/46) demands a “showdown.” The Russian demand on Persia is the “latest example of power-politics. Russian policy in Persia is dictated by strategic considerations and the search for oil. If Persia gives in, the vital interests of the British Empire will be affected.”

 Soviet methods, says the Mail, “bear a depressing resemblance to those practised by Hitler between 1933 and 1939.”

 The Liberal Manchester Guardian talks in the same tone: “We can try ‘appeasement ’—which could not end until we, too, became a Communist colony, or we can try firmness on behalf of the things in which we believe ” (6/3/46).

“Firmness,” of course, is a nice way of saying that we must have military force and be prepared, in the last resort, to use it.

 Where, we may ask, will the Labour Party “friends of democracy” be standing in the coming clash with Russian interests? On the side of  “democracy”? But do they not recall how, between 1941 and 1945, they were able to swallow their denunciations of Russian dictatorship and sing the praises of that alleged “democracy”? Will they be asking us to fight against Russia because it is not a democracy?

 Before they drift into that tragic situation it would he well to pause and consider just how successful was the recently ended “war for democracy.” What have they to say about Mr. Churchill’s reading of the present condition of Europe? “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe . . . all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence, but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow. . . .

 The Communist parties, which were very small in nil these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.” (Churchill’s speech in U.S.A., Manchester Guardian, 6/3/46.)

 Mr. Churchill added the revealing admission: “Whatever conclusions may be drawn from these facts —and facts they are—this is certainly not the liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is it one which contains the essentials of permanent peace.”

 So the second world war for democracy has produced, according, to the man who presided over the British Government with the enthusiastic approval of the Labour and Communist Parties, not liberation, but Russian totalitarianism in place of German totalitarianism. The crusade for democracy has not succeeded, it has still to be fought.

 Addressing our remarks to the workers of all lands, we ask again that consideration be given to the Socialist case against supporting capitalism’s wars. Our position is clear. We asserted in 1914 and again in 1939 that war arises because of the clash of capitalist trade and strategic interests. It does not solve the problems of the working class and does not safeguard democracy. Russia is indeed a dictatorship, and the clique that holds power there, like ruling groups in the rest of the capitalist world, will stick at nothing to maintain their own power and privilege, but we are not in any circumstances prepared to be drawn into supporting a future war against Russia any more than we were prepared to support the past wars. We urge the workers of all lands, no matter whether their exploiters are of their own nationality or foreigners, to abandon the fatal doctrine of nationalism and concentrate on the one thing that matters, ridding the world of capitalism and establishing Socialism. For this it is necessary for the workers to turn their backs on the rivalries of the Powers and give their allegiance to the international Socialist movement.

Edgar Hardcastle

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