Long Live the War! – Paul Mattick

Source: http://aaap.be/Pdf/International-Council-Correspondence/International-Council-Correspondence-5-02c.pdf

Living Marxism : International Council Correspondence, Vol. V (1940-1941), No 2 (Fall 1940)


One year of war has changed quite a number of things, but as yet not enough to allow a convincing prognostication of further trends and the eventual outcome. Of course, the general lines of development may be vaguely predicted, just as it was possible to forecast the outbreak of the war by a serious consideration of fundamental capitalistic contradictions.

Predictability is limited. Questions that bother people most can be least satisfactorily answered. It means very little to them to know that eventually capitalist war production will exhaust itself as did peace production; that in the end some kind of re-arrangement will have to be forced or agreed upon by the rulers of the war-tired populations or by the people themselves. Assurance that out of the present there will evolve new social and productive forms, creating different problems and situations from those which led to the war and determined its character, is easily accepted, but without enthusiasm. To be aware of the obvious, to know that what exists today will not endure, is not particularly consoling.

The people are far more eager to know whether or not Hitler will invade England before the onset of winter; whether America will or will not within a short time enter the war, and what situations they will have to face in the immediate future. Though H. G. Wells in his recent book “The New World Order” called the present war – with a nowadays rather rare objectivity – merely incidental, and the thing of real importance the great need for socialist re-construction of the world, it will, nevertheless, be quite difficult for people crouching in air-raid shelters to balance the terror of scream bombs with this longview historical attitude. If the war is only incidental, so also are the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The present chaos, not its final meaning interests those who see curtains of death beging daily lowered from the skies. The great historical perspectives they gladly leave to the historians; they question the next morning, and the greater the chaos the less visionary and the more narrow-minded they become.

And this is as it should be; otherwise there would be no hope. It is and often observed fact that any war for unfamiliar interests, foreign ideals, and abstract concepts eventually contrats to a mere struggle for a bare existence. When large and decisive masses realize through the bitterest experience that no escape is open, that not some but all must suffer, then the revolt against death sets in. There were gladiators in ancient times and today there are suicide squads; but there never was a whole population determined to end its existence. The war will change its course towards peace if it really and decisively affects the greater part of the masses.

However, after one year of warfare, and despite all that has happened in Europe, it seems that this war has been kept within boundaries controlled by the ruling classes of the world. What would certainly have meant an end of the war twenty-five years ago indicates today only its serious beginning. Bringing the larger part of continental Europe under German control, or in some form of coordiation with her, has not weakened the German war machine, but has rather increased its striking power and its resources. The defeat of France has not limited the theatre of war, but only shifted the scenery. The more restricted the war will be in Europe, the more it will expand in other parts of the world.

At this writing the most dramatic acts of war consist of the bombing of English cities, harbors, railway-juctions, depots and factories. No one knows whether the German invasion of England will follow, and what chance it will have. Such things are much more quickly decided upon and undertaken nowadays than, for instance, it takes a group like ours to write, print and ship a magazine. The question as to the further turn of the war depends on military-economic considerations, evaluations and gambles over which no individual, particular group, state nor power-bloc has any decisive control. Hitler’s boast that he alone is going to decide when the war will end is an empty propaganda gesture. His own decisions, as well as those of his adversaries, even if made by them, have also, nevertheless, been forced upon them.


There can be no doubt that at present the invasion of England will be a costly and difficult enterprise. It would in all probability please the Germans better if they could reach a peace favorable to themselves without the destruction of the Island. It is by no means out-of-the-way to assume that Germany’s momentary advantage in air-power and air-bases (provided this advantage can be maintained), the continuous disruption of shipping, production and distribution, the loss of world-trade, and the demoralization of the population may sooner of later force England to see in a Hitler-peace the lesser evil. However, it seems that the opportunity for a compromise solution has already been passed up, and that any attempt to steer the ship around would presuppose a political revolution of the greatest magnitude. The forces for such a revolution are not visible.

The question as to what is going to happen further in Europe is closely associated with America’s attitude towards the war, for the present struggle between England and Germany is now only a part of the struggle between Germany and the United States. Present procedures in the U.S. House and Senate are certainly strange. Strange are the quarrels about the different draft-bills proposed and enacted. Strange also is the behaviour of the press. While one part feigns and anti-war sentiment, the other sees Hitler’s armada already crossing the Atlantic; but both know quite well that all their gibberish is absolutely meaningless, and neither deals at all with questions of the war, but only with the coming election fight. The war, despite all the talk about it, and the character of the war, despite all the political bargaining connected with it, are already decided upon and arranged for. It is only a question of convenience as to when to enter the conflict openly. The fake-isolationists hope only that formal peace lasts long enough to defeat the New Dealer. But Mr. Willkie doesn’t dare to speark any other than Mr. Roosevelt’s language. He knows that the question of war is independent of the outcome of the elections, or of the will of the people. Whoever doesn’t know it will soon be made to.

Because of this situation, because of the fact that this war is America’s as much as it is Germany’s, England is already defeated in more ways than one, long before the first Nazi barges have touched her shores. After the fall of France there remained for England no other choice than that between two masters; she chose the more familiar. Since then she has been in the same relation to the United States that France formerly was to England. And as England was quite willing to “fight to the last Frenchmen”, so America is not reluctant to fight to the last Englishman.


Illusions are nourished not by dreaming of the future but by thinking about the past. England’s long rule, her present status and remaining opportunities, make it very difficult to imagine that she is doomed, that the Empire is breaking up. It is nonsense to blame her age for the present troubles; England is a little “decaying” as Germany is “rejuvenated”. She loses her proud position in the frame-work of world-trade and world-power not because of any senility on her part, but because the old frame-work of world-economy is collapsing. The power centers of yesterday lost their force because the weapon of competition has lost its strength in a declining capitalist world. All foreign policy based on traditional successes has become meaningless. New power constellations arise no longer based on, or forced to obey, the rules of yesterday (i. e., free-trade, and the balance-of-power policy which secured England’s rule), but based rather on political-economic forms and activities designed to secure capitalist exploitation by breaking, if necessary, all capitalist rules hitherto held unassailable.

England entered this war much stronger than she was in 1914. Everything seemed to favor her cause; the future could only be one of increasing military and economic strength. By 1941-42 she would have been powerful enough to enforce upon Europe an English peace. The German offensive, as soon as it had spent its force, would then be broken with a powerful counter-offensive. Money-diplomacy would meanwhile encircle Germany and secure the force of the blockade. England, despite all her stagnation since the beginning of the century, was still the richest country in the world and controlled the greatest Empire.

But, though England could justifiably feel quite secure, she could do nothing to prevent the approaching Armageddon brought about by the everending depression in many countries, especially in Germany, in the wake of the last war. She could to nothing because she could act only in her own interest; she could succeed only in keeping what she had. As long as the whole world economy was expanding, English privileges, though they hindered the development of other countries, did not hamper them enough to force them to challenge English dominance. The power that England possessed allowed her a dominant influence on world politics. She drove other nations into war and defeat, but secured peace and success for herself. But eventually the unsolvable world crisis of capitalism proved to be the unbeatable enemy of English capitalism.


If, however, Hitler today blames England for all the evils in the world, as yesterday he blamed the Jews, and if he gets especially excited over the British conspiracy which prevents Germans from drinking their coffee, he is nevertheless, blaming the wrong cause. He has to state false reasons for the miseries of the German workers because he would not be Hitler if he pointed in the right direction. Hitler and the war are there because the people will not and cannot see the real reasons for their troubles, and hence find the right solutions. Previous history has created institutions, social, economic, and national, which force people in their practical, direct activities to proceed as if these social, economic, and national institutions were unchangeable and beyond their power to alter.

There is no choice: “While airplanes whirled in combat over London”, reported the Chicago Tribune (9/10/40), “the directors of the Decca Record Company, Ltd., met in air raid shelter and declared an initial dividend of twenty-five per cent on the company’s ordinary shares”. There is no choice: Their homes in ashes, their children blinded, their wives hysterical, nevertheless the workers, today as yesterday, march to work to produce more instruments for their enslavement and destruction. There is no choice: The editors and the artists of Punch and Lustige Blaetter have to keep on making jokes in order to live, and it makes no difference to them whether people laugh over collapsing buildings or over spilled milk.

There is no choice for the workers, the bosses, the soldiers, the priests, because capitalist society is not social; because for each individual altering things means risking his profits, his income, his wages, his life. Each one must, if only to keep what he has, fight mercilessly and continually for more – and against others. In such a society there can be no common interests, there can be no peace, but only different forms of warfare. The fight against hunger may change into one with guns and poison gases, the struggle of all against all may change into struggles of groups of nations against other groups of nations – nothing has changed. What asserts itself here is still the only thing that is “social” in capitalist society.

Even if this truth is understood it cannot be acted upon. As individuals, people can only act as they do regardless of what they may think. Their “capitalistic individuality” cannot be destroyed, unless capitalism is first done away with. “We can cease being completely swinish only when some catastrophe strikes us”. The magnitude of the catastrophe necessary may be guessed by a mere glance at the European scene. The people continue to work and die for a cause they cannot realy understand, because the real hysteria of suffering has not as yet displaced the artificial hysterias of current slogans and beloved symbols. The war goes on, though nothing can be gained. It goes on for the sole reason that, under present conditions, it cannot be stopped.

But capitalism is tottering. The governments may guarantee replacement of the worker’s possessions destroyed by bombers, they may insure capitalist property, conscripted and used up, with the profits of the future; they may promise whatever they like, they will not be able to make good on any of it. People fleeing barefoot and in nightshirts from bombed cities only to be machine-gunned by the dare-devils of the air – so favored by the girls – are bound to lose their capitalistic individuality, that is, the ideology which urges them to do to everybody else, what everybody else is doing.

Hundreds of volumes have been written to solve the 1914 war-guilt question. Hundreds more are in preparation – some have even been published – to determine what and who caused the present debacle. In 1914 it was Sarajevo, a Germany misinformed of the contents of an ultimatum to Serbia and encouraging the Austrian Monarchy into an adventure that released all the war dogs of the world. Today it is Hitler’s character the German revenge-ideia, fascist aggression, or more directly, Poland’s unwillingness to come to terms with Hitler in a stipulated period of time, a memorandum too hastily read by von Ribbentrop to Henderson, and many other things. By such means the war guilt will never be established and one may as well declare that war is not willed but destined.

And it is destiny, though man-made destiny; but it appears as if willed by the gods. For though the social, economic, and national institutions are apparently unchangeable, they nevertheless change continually. But they change, so to speark, behind the backs of the people; that is, they determine the real social process without allowing for the correspondingly necessary conscious adaptation of individuals to altered situations. The atomization of society – where each one has to act against all others – allows for development only at the most enormous sacrifices of life and happiness. As no one wants to fall into the abyss, the tries to push the next one down. Society marches on by way of the incessant struggles of her creators.


Things have changed considerably, though the full meaning of the changes are grasped only belatedly. For instance, it is only now, with the second world war raging, that it becomes possible to appreciate fully the significance of the first. Was it an accident, was it the Lusitania, was it the foreign-loan policy, was it Wilson’s hatred for the enemies of democracy which brought America to the side of the Entente and helped her to win the war? None of this. It was American imperialism pure and simple attempting to participate in the first great round for the re-division of the world to suit the requirements of an altered situation. In that battle expanding imperialist Germany lost. But the kill was meager and the hunters many. France and England took their share, recognizing quite well that America – old Uncle Shylock – had already pocketed all there was to be pocketed. Out of the war America emerged no longer a debtor nation but a creditor nation, no longer the capital-importing country in the process of construction, but the capital-exporting looking for profitable imperialistic investments.

The expansion America experienced during the war was still further accelerated by the boom after 1921. Expanding America seemingly had found the answer to all capitalistic problems. It was the more celebrated until 1929 because of the fact that during the same time English economy stagnated, European economy declined. England’s attention in Europe centered on France; in the world, on America. England tried to check the growing continental power of France with the support of Germany; she tried to check American imperialism by fostering Japanese interests in the Far East. She fought for both, for the control of Europe and for her old position in the world. But she fought a loser’s battle. England, the world’s banker, slowly had to make room for the new banker, America.

War debts and billions of other credits could no longer be paid, however, because (among other reasons) America not only lent capital but exported those commodities on whose export the European nations were also dependent. Europe found itself in a continuous crisis; even English profits declined and sometimes disappeared altogether. England could live on ther large reserves, but her position as world-financier was slowly lost. With this her political power also declined. The strength of the capital-poor nations such as Germany and Italy increased correspondingly, and by changes of economic policy and political assertions it became possible for these countries once again to challenge England’s rule in Europe.

However, what had now become possible by the decline of English power – that is, a European re-organization favoring the capital-poor nations – was no longer of real avail. The economic and therewith the political problems of Europe could no longer be solved by continental re-arrangements, but only by those which had the world for their base. But the European re-organization was a necessary prerequisite to the re-organization of the world. If England could still stagnate – thanks to her enormous wealth accumulated during better times – this was not true of other European nations. The capitalistic necessities of Europe demanded some form of united European economic policy able to operate against the expansion of American capitalism; but private capitalistic interests, and the diverse sources of profit-appropriation in their specific, historically-determined, nationally-oriented, and quite rigid character, excluded the fulfillment of the “real capitalist need”. Or rather, what “theoretically” could have served as some kind of capitalist solution, was practically precluded because of the fact that capitalism is capitalism. All that it was possible to reach in Europe that resembled some form of cooperation was a League of Nations dominated by England and serving exclusively the needs of the nominal victors of Versailles. But even this form of distorted “collectivism” was recognized by America as foreign to her own interests and was consequently sabotaged.

England had the Empire. The Commonwealth of Nations spread all over the globe. She was neither willing nor able, for fear of losing the Empire and her favored European position, to pool her resources with the meager offerings of the impoverished continental nations. At any rate, and for whatever additional reasons, history proved the impossibility of a European economic union. Despite all talk of Pan-Europe, the post-war period was one of increasing national frictions, of plot and counter-plot, of increasing suspicion and fear – with each nation acting like a lone wolf. England, however, as the main obstacle to European unification, was duly rewarded for her services to American capital with promises of support whenever needed and with special tariff considerations that benefited her exclusively.


If anything, the long American depression indicates sufficiently that expansion within the country has reached its barriers. It indicates too what capital export for exploitative purposes is a greater necessity than ever before. But the traditional capital-export policies have come to an end; the commercial imperialism must be replaced by open military conquest. It is true that the old imperialism was also accompanied by military action; colonizatin was one form of military conquest. As soon as capital is invested, the question of protectorate arises. But the new imperialism “protects” first and invests later, if it invests at all, and does not simply appropriate what is there already.

This imperialistic need is the more pressing because the declining exchange between Europe and America offers no prospects of revival. The decline is not only due to world-wide crisis conditions, but more specifically, to the present economic “dislocations” (relative to pre-war conditions) which, however find their final explanation also in the general over-expansion of capital which brought forth the crisis. If America before the first world war exported mainly agricultural products and finished goods, she has since then become and exporter of everything under the sun. Tariff walls were erected against European competition. Year in, year out, America exported more than she took in return. The capital of the world flowed slowly into her treasury. Though this export-offensive was largely stimulated and made possible by loans and credits, which had later to be re-organized as losses, nevertheless the European economy was thereby increasingly disrupted. It was thereby disrupted, to repeat, because this process was no longer accompanied by a vast general expansion of capital.

American capital exports, helping in the industrialization of backward countries, reduced still further the decreasing opportunities of European capitalism. It made the backward countries more independent of European industry, destroyed further the markets for industrial commodities made in Europe. Those “old” capitalistic countries, unable to expand internally, were robbed of their remaining investment opportunities abroad. The same phenomena which had once spelled success and expansion now led to misery and decline. The growth of capital slowed down, that of competition was accelerated. If competition once meant a general increase in the formation of capital, it indicated now no more than its progressive destruction. It meant the growth of American imperialism and her inescapable interest in a Europe that was weak and divided. And though American capital exports also came to an end in the wake of the world crisis, and though credits for lack of security were no longer granted, the situation prior to the general stagnation drove the European economy to the verge of ruin.

This general trend, if not stopped, can lead to nothing but actual starvation in Europe. Europe needs foodstuffs, it cannot feed itself. To get foodstuffs it must export. Hitler’s “Export or Die” was not a propaganda slogan; its validity holds good for the whole of industrial Europe. But this export is hampered by the capitalistic needs of America, as, for that matter, it is hampered for each nation by all other capitalistic nations. Only because America, which cannot be checked by European captial, is the most powerful unit it is the arch enemy. Only because American imperialism is a necessity for American capitalism, and because the latter cannot afford a strong Europe, the sharpened general competition as a result of the world-wide crisis had to lead to new imperialistic attempts to solve forcibly the existing contradictions in the interest of the strongest powers.

Separate interests, the greed for profits continually interferes with the economic needs of the world. Coordinating the world economy to the needs and pleasures of the world population has become the most urgent necessity. But its fulfillment is precluded in a society dominated by class interests. The limited planning which can be enforced no longer suffices. The Balkans, under German control, may be easily forced to plan according to the needs of industrial Germany. Russia might be subdued in time and be obliged to coordinate her production with the needs of the Western Europe. Marshall Petain, not believing in any socialist future, has already announced that the slogan for France’s salvation is “Back to the land; the peasantry is the real backbone of the fatherland”. If Germany wins, it will not allow a further industrial growth of France exceeding German competitive needs and war requirements. India might be frustrated in her industrial development by whoever might rule her. Japan may control China’s development according to her industrial requirements. All this goes on as the struggle of all industrial nations against all others. Planning on a national scale cannot compensate for the world planning now necessary, because it has no further meaning except as part of the general preparation for war. Planning merely on a national scale can mean only the further disruption of the already hopelessly disrupted world economy. National planners, so proud of their liberalistic or socialistic attitude with regard to national needs, are no more than an appendage of the various general staffs of the world preparing for, or already participating in, the new slaughter now in progress.

Continental planning will not help either. It will only make it possible to really prepare for the struggle of continents against continents. A unified Europe does not mean a better world economy; it means only the opportunity for a capitalistic Europe to fight its American adversary efficiently. It means no more than the continuation of the present war or the initiation of another one. Those well-meaning people who today seem to see the solution of all the troubles of the world in a United States of Europe, under either German or English dominance, are only the first earnest advocates for the coming war of the hemispheres.


Without this excursion into some of the fundamental capitalistic contradictions in their present-day appearance, most dramatically displayed by the opposition of Europe to America, it is not possible to understand the full meaning of the present European struggles[1]. On the verge of the present war two alternatives were given to England. One was to “betray” America and “democracy” and line up with Hitler for the co-ordination of European economy in the interest of strong industrial nations, and for a trade-war against America and the rest of the undominated world. Such a policy would sooner or later have evolved into a new world war, but not immediately. Such a policy, however, would most certainly have led to the co-ordination of the so-called Western hemisphere under the control of the United States, to the loss of the British possessions in this hemisphere, the sacrifice of Canada and possibly even Australia, and to the cutting down of English world trade to an extent that could not possibly be compensated for by the otherwise quite cherished friendship with Hitler.

Such a line of development would have meant the expansion of the Munich agreement. By sacrificing Czechoslovakia, England simultaneously sacrified Poland, and consequently the whole of the little entente, the French security mechanism, and finally France itself. Under such conditions, Russia faced a war with Germany, unless it bowed down to the German demands, which certainly would have favored German rather than Russian interests. For England to continue Munich could lead only to the absolute German hegemony in continental Europe, which would transform England itself into Hitler’s vassal. This course of development Hitler was aspiring to when he begged for English friendship.

This friendship he could not obtain, for all he could offer England was a lackey position within the new German Empire; with a Europe under German control, the threat of invasion would always hang like the sword of Damocles over Britain’s head. At least he could not offer more for a long time to come and nowadays political decisions have to be made for immediate purposes. In an unruly world the far-sightedness of the celebrated builders, their patience in consistently following planned lines of conquest is excluded for the present generation of politicians. The rush for the riches of the world no longer involves light-footed runners; it has been “democratized” and now resembles a general rush to the bargain counters of history.

There then remained the other alternative: To prevent in her own interest, and in conformity with America’s need, the assembling of any kind of political-economic combination which could serve the urgently needed but unattainable capitalistic continental policy designated to postpone colapse. It is not only that America needs Britain because of the latter’s navy (because America has not been able, nor has she found it necessary in view of her friendship with England, to construct a two-ocean fleet), that the collaboration of the two powers was possible and neccesary, but that they also have identical interests in Europe proper. This collaboration with England States to serve her defense needs, but is adopted consciously as one method of imperialistis interference in the affairs of Europe. Not only the fear that Hitler, after capturing the English fleet, will hurt American imperialistic interests – leaving aside the nonsense of an invasion in which only idiots believe – dictates the friendship between England and America; but much more so does the American policy of keeping down the possible European competition, which might take on dangerous proportions in the event of the realization of a centralized European economy, or a unified political activity.

It is often said that Wilson was extremely disappointed in the results of Versailles. But there was no reason for it. In politics one must always be two-faced; in bargaining as in poker one must not betray his own feelings. It is quite conceivable however that Wilson was not really aware of what he was doing when he proclaimed and insisted upon the right of small nations for their national independence. The principle of self-determination, of course, was never practised by America south of the Rio Grande, but for Europe to oppose it was a sin against the highest moral of democracy. Just as little as Wilson might have known that really was behind his abstract concepts did the Kaiser, letting others fight for the glory of the greater Germany, know in 1914 that in actuality the first world war was a struggle against American world-rule and for the reconstruction of Europe. The maintenance of an impotent, broken-up Europe, was the sole content of instrument to that end. And all the while centralization celebrated triumphs in North America, Dollar Imperialism penetrated deeper and deeper into South America, and millionaires seemed to grow on trees.


Both England and America, then, were and are the bitterest enemies of a European reconstruction which can only be brought about – because of the many opposing vested interests dependent on the maintenance of given national units – by way of warfare and the hegemony of the strongest power. Germany’s position in central Europe, its large population, its highly advanced industrialization, and for all these reasons its greatest expansive need is that power which could successfully dominate and, if at all possible, coordinate Europe to resemble some sort of an economic bloc able to compete with America on a more equal level. Germany not only works in this direction, however haphazardly, but has to, or it must perish as a power nation.

It is true, however, that though America is not the only competitor, it is the most important competitor for European capitalism. It is true also that the deterioration of Europe’s competitive position is only one, though the most important, of her problems. All other problems are more generally connected with the difficulties of capitalistic production as a whole; but the line-up in the present war, and its immediate consequences, are most directly related to the rivalries between England and Germany, Europe and America.

Until the time of the first world war there was a kind of international economy with Europe as the workshop, banker, and trade-agent of the world. The income of Europe was continuously and quite decisively augmented by the proceeds of the exploitation of backward nations and colonial people. Declining profit rates were bolstered by banking interests, trade profits, insurance rates and other forms of appropriation. The decline of such incomes through the self-development of South America, Asia and Africa, dependent or independent of the rise of American capitalism, only further accelerated the European difficulties. This decline in profits from abroad must be taken into consideration in any attempt to understand the present European situation. Otherwise it is quite difficult to explain the present impasse, because the decline in industrial production, export and import, as statistically established, is not very great. This relatively stable situation is quite misleading, unless one recognizes that this stability was “sufficient” only when augmented by additional profits derived from the labor of other countries. Futhermore, this stability itself is merely a crisis indicator, because only a progressively expanding capitalist economy can be a prosperous capitalist economy.

England benefitted most from this world-wide exploitation. Europe’s special position in the world made England’s position secure. The breakdown of this Europe-dominated world economy implies the breakdown of an England-dominated Europe. National politics are thereby ended; the continuation of nationally oriented politics is a swimming against the real stream of events. It finds its end in exhaustion. Though Germany, too, professes to serve nothing more than her national interest, her position in present-day Europe in connection with the present world situation forces her, so to speark, against her will, to go beyond her national interests by serving them most directly. The bastard-form of a European federation is possible only by way of Germany’s success and such a federation would hasten the decline of England.

Yet, it cannot be opposed by England with any measure of success. It is conceivable that Britain might have been able to prevent the new rise of German imperialism, but only by favoring French imperialism, which in that case would have attempted to bring into being some kind of pseudo-federation under French hegemony. A complete subjugation of Germany would have been necessary in that case, but France was prevented by England from bringing this about. There was no lethargy in English politics which might explain the return of German imperialism. It was the energetic and consistent continuation of her balance of power policy which could not take the altered situation into acccount, because its sole purpose was to prevent all alterations. Besides, there was Russia, a state-captialist system in a world of private property interests, showing all backward countries by her very existence that it was possible to escape a colonial or semi-colonial status. German capitalism and militarism could not be extinguished altogether without increasing the imperialistic potentialities of Russia. There were increasing difficulties in Asia, and a number of other problems. To blame English statesmen for her present impasse may be amusing, but it cannot serve as an explanation for the forces that hung the Dead End sign on the country. No longer able to determine the course of European politics, England became and island not only in the geographical but in every sense of the word. The new economy based on bayonets ripped to pieces the trade-web of money and investments.

It is not that capital has lost its power; as a matter of fact, it is the lack of capital which is the basis of the whole dilemma. It was the lack of capital which prevented the needed modernization of European agricultura, which limited the necessary capital expansion, and therewith prevented a relaxing of the tensions which led to the war. No European customsunion can really compensate for that capital shortage which led to the brink of starvation, and yet could call forth no other measures than those which made the bad situation worse. The time when the absence of tariff barriers and other trade impediments could give essential advantages to big industrial nations has already past. A custom-union may help, but it still amounts to no more than a drop of water on a hot stone. It will not solve the real problems. As a drowning man grasps at a straw, so governments too will do what they have to do without questioning the final value of their acts.

The need of and the possibility for alleviating, if only temporarily, some of the economic and social frictions infringing upon the profitability of European economy determines the actions of the new fascist rulers. The “automatism” of traditional capital investment and trade policies did not need to be replaced; it did not work any longer. If investments do not shift whole populations according to the private requirements of private investors, populations can still be shifted by a mere-command of the dictatorial governments. If people can no longer be exploited through the market mechanism, they can be ordered to work at whatever wage the governments see fit to pay. The market mechanism was after all only one mechanism for the succesful exploitation of labor; the new fascist mechanism serves this purpose just as well, though it partly eliminates those exploiting elements which were too closely connected with the old system, in favor of new exploiting elements which adapt themselves better and quicker to the new one. It eliminates those people not only in territories where the “new economy” is practised, but also where the “old capitalism” still prevails. The trade between European nations and Europe trade with the world is the more disturbed the more it becomes “managed”. On the basis of “mixed economics”, clearing agreements, and barter deals, international trade cannot be enlarged, but can only be prevented from disappearing altogether. It becomes more difficult for the “rich” nations to use their capital to their own advantage. It does not enrich the poor contries, and its eats into the capital of the rich. Totalitarian economics injected into free-trade leads to an economic world mixture much worse in its resulsts than either system could be by itself. “It Marx saw capitalism’s hair graying, and its teeth falling ou”, Herbert Heaton remarked recently, “perhaps today he would say that its hair has turned gray overnight from the shocks of the last ten years, and that its teeth have been knocked out in a concentration camp.”

What is now needed to bring into the world economy some kind of order which would enable people to speark once more of progress in social development can neither be done by democratic nor by fascist capitalistic methods and goals. The existing disorder has reached a point where only radical solution can help. The whole value production and value exchange has to be done away with, in its monetary as well as its barter form. After all, the fascist production of “use values for use” and exchange by barter agreements, the attempt to clean labor of its commodity character by giving it a modernized slave form has not change one iota the fundamental capitalistic social and economic relations. The production of “use values” serves production for profit as always, the barter system exchanges less for more labor, work is still exploited as before – only more so. Value production and value exchange must and can disappear only with the ending of class relations. Only because of the existence of the latter can the former not be seriously challenged, must the terror increase. Only then, when the fulfillment of the needs of the whole, not the symbolized whole of the state but the whole of society, is considered the pre-requisite for the satisfaction of the needs of the individual – and this in the restricted sense of the social relationship in any particular country, as in the large sense of the territorial relationships in the world economy – will it be possible to speark of the beginning of a new era of social development. Nothing short of this radical solution will help, and because it seems that we are still far away from this solution, it is not possible to find one single optimistic note in the present concert of hell.

Without such a radical solution the way may change its forms; it will not be ended. The only development possible now is the development of warfare. After the defeat of France, the continuation of the war meant the incorporation of England into the new American Empire. Short of the quite improbable occurence of an internal collapse of Germany, there seems to be no possibility of defeating Germany by military means for some time to come. The military aspects of the war between England, Germany and Italy can indicate, if anything, only the military defeat of England. However costly an invasion of England may be, it will be undertaken if it proves to be a necessity for Germany, or if unforseeable occurrences make it opportune. If England restricts herself to mere defense measures, if her aerial and naval tactics do not harm Germany sufficiently, it is not unthinkable that Germany will try to wear England slowly down rather than end her present existence by blitzkrieg methods. Even at this late hour a peace of compromise is not altogether precluded, and such a peace would split at least part of the English interests away from America. To exclude this possibility America must help England to a far greater extent than it has done so far. The greater this help, the greater the need for Germany to attempt the invasion.

It is no longer true that “England expects that every American do his duty”. Rather the opposite conforms to the facts. If Roosevelt’s frontier was once the Rhine, his shock-troops are now certainly on the Thames. This far-sightedness is the more astonishing because of the prevailing general short-sightedness, which does not see that the Starts and Stripes fly high above the Union Jack. It was rather superfluous to change the colors on the destroyers and tanks that were sent over to Canada.

To increase Germany’s difficulties, to keep her occupied in Europe, America must help England – but never decisively. Aside from the question as to whether America is as yet really able to grant decisive support to England, she only hastens the military necessity of invasion by so doing. More than on anything else invasion depends now on American actions, on her possibilities to supply England with war materials, on her desire to keep Germany’s striking power bound to the English scene. If America’s help is not sufficient to increase England’s military potentialities during the coming months to a point where her actions become unbearable for Germany, the latter country might consider it more important to fight England somewhere else than on her own ground. Spain’s present attitude that suggests participation in the war on the side of the axis, the Italian offensive in Egypt, the attempts to take the Suez canal and Gibraltar which will follow, the closing of the Mediterranean to English shipping, together with continuous bombing of England proper – these and other tactics might weigh more heavily in the speculation of the axis powers general-staffs than the invasion itself. But any day they might also consider it better to take England first, and thus break up the Empire. The initiative is still on the side of the axis.

Whatever may happen or has happened, the war is already a war between America and the axis powers. The latter might be further stregthened by allying Japan to themselves. The taking of Indo-China by the Japanese army, the final blow against China now in preparation to free Japan’s hands for the possible struggle with America, (a struggle which would relieve America’s pressure upon Germany), all indicate that any outcome of the struggle between England and Germany will not bring about an end to the war. In case of a successful invasion of England, whatever may be salvaged – parts of the fleet, or the dominions beyond Hitler’s reach – will become part of the United States. In case of a compromise solution, implying the formation of a fascist government in England, those forces able to escape the “new England” will continue to fight, but under the Stars and Stripes, just as part of the French Empire and the allied soldiers who escaped now fight under the English flag. In the form of military operations the war will then continue wherever the armies of the axis powers reach English interests; that is, in Africa, Asia, India. Between America, the axis powers, and possibly Japan, a naval, air, and trade war will be carried on.

Under such conditions the destiny of the Balkans will have to be decided between Russia and the axis powers. Russia will either have to continue her present relations with Germany, or fight against her – and hence against Japan, in case she should orientate herself towards the United States. Russia might be further appeased with parts of China, Persia, Turkey, and possibly even India. The Russian attitude towards the continued war will depend largely on the relations between Japan and America, on the progress the war will make in Asia. There are attempts on the part of America to come to an understanding with both Japan and Russia, as there are attempts made to include Russia in the expanding front of the axis powers. The probability of success is greater for the latter than for the former attempt. It is, however, not entirely excluded that at this time a war in the Pacific might still be prevented, if only by postponement, in case this should suit the most immediate interests of both Japan and America better. But as far as one can see right now, there seems to be a much greater possibility that, because America is much more concerned over the problems of the Pacific[2] than over her need to fight the coming German trade war, the war for the United States will be predominantly located in the Pacific.

Only with the isolation of Russia by reason of the German success in Europe is it possible for Japan to challege American capitalism in Asia and in the Pacific. America’s struggle against Japan is thus at the same time the continuation of her struggle against Germany. Germany’s support of Japan is designed to weaken the striking power of the United States, and is thus a part of the as yet unfinished European conflict, as well as a part of the coming trade-offensive. Despite all autarchy, national or regional, world economy has not come to an end; only now it spells world war.


Aside from the question of whether the Nazi regime can sooner or later subdue and incorporate the free-enterprise regimes still existing in Europe, what has happened so far can mean only that American must face a deepening of the existing crisis conditions or adopt totalitarian methods in her internal and external relations. The world-wide economic struggle cannot fail to reduce the existing living standards and the demand for commodities, unless war economy displaces the crisis economy. The intensified efforts in all countries to produce for export enhances this need still further. The “normal” markets for America disappear with the progress of the war.

A victorious Germany will still remain in need of export outlets, in need of capital, foreign exchange and war material. Her economy will face a situation of general scarcity in everything – depleted inventories, obsolete industries, run-down railroads, and the need for more arms. This need cannot be satisfied by confiscations in Europe, nor by mere re-arrangements in distribution. The increasing poverty in the “new” Europe will allow neither Germany nor Europe to rest on the laurels of military victories. Expansion must go on, if only to utilize what has been won. But the further this expansion goes, the more difficult and the less profitable it becomes.

With the defeat of England the question of the re-distribution of Europe’s colonial possessions will be opened. What is going to happen to Canada, Newfoundland, Greenland, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the French, British and Dutch West Indies, Honduras, Guinea, the Falkland and South Sea Islands, etc.? America is determined that they shall neither to Germany nor to Japan. There can be no doubt that with the defeat of England all European bases and possessions in the Western hemisphere will be seized by America. The enmity between Europe, Japan, and America will be thereby enormously increased.

But the coming Nazi trade offensive demands more than preventing German-controlled Europe from maintaining the old European possessions. South America belongs to the Eastern hemisphere rather than to North America. Its products are needed in Europe more than in America; its possibilities for trade with Europe are greater than with America. Barter agreements will move commodities where money economy has failed. American trade methods and tariff policies have emptied Latin America as well as many European countries of gold and foreign exchange. The German barter system offers a solution, as the gold will not by itself find its way back into countries with unfavorable trade balances.

By way of barter, clearing agreements, blocked currencies, and export subsidies Nazi Germany has been able to double her share in the foreign trade of raw-material-producing countries at the expense of England and America. As American exports to raw-material-producing countries were of much lesser consequence than her export to industrial nations, the further reduction of the former seems to be of small significance. However, the picture looks somewhat different if one considers the inescapable need of Europe to import raw materials, and her inability to continue to be America’s best customer. If there were the chance of a general capitalist expansion all over the world the decline of American exports to South America would be no cause for worry as it would be compensated for by increasing exports to industrial Europe. As it is, however, the possible losses in South American trade will accentuate the decline of American exports all over the world. It is then not so much a question of European competition in South America proper that is behind the present “rediscovery” of the South by the industrial North, but the inescapable need to combat, by combatting European trade in South America, Europe’s competitive position all over the globe. Control of the raw materials and foodstuffs from German and Japanese industries, the ability of those countries to take markets away from America by way of new trade methods is considerably reduced. The complete control of the Western hemisphere by America is so powerful a weapon that the German dream of a world reorganization on her own terms becomes quite ridiculous.

The raw material hunger of Germany, Italy, and Japan cannot bet satisfied with old trade methods, because those countries lack the necessary gold and foreign exchange to purchase them in the quantities needed by their industries. Nor for similar reasons can the hunger for industrial goods in less-developed countries be satisfied. Trade between Latin America and Europe as well as America declined rapidly with the deepening of the world crisis. However, the total exports of Latin America amounted to over 1.75 and 1.86 billion dollars in 1938 and 1919 respectively. Germany, France and Italy absorbed 15.8 per cent in 1938, and 11 per cent in 1939, 15.9 and 12.8 per cent of all Latin American exports went to Great Britain. In foodstuffs, four nations – England, Germany, Belgium, and Italy – alone took 79 per cent of Argentina’s total exports in 1938, while the United States took only 9 per cent. Half of the income that the South American nations derived from exports came from Europe. A serious disruption of trade between Europe and South America makes the existence of both territories quite difficult.

The fact that South America produces what Europe needs, and Europe what South America needs, made barter exchange both possible and necessary. The more this kind of trade flourished, the smaller became the possibility for competition among countries still basedon the gold exchange methods. With the decline of economic influence, political influence declines and therewith the value of investments in South America. The increasing independence of South America from is friendly nighbor points in the direction of grand-scale repetitions of the Mexican expropriation acts. Such a situation, together with the improvement of Europe’s competitive position by virtue of better relations between Europe and South America, would force American industry into retreat, strengthen the totalitarian forces now in the ascendency, and bring about alterations in private capitalism. Fighting the German trade offensive in South America, American private capitalism continues the struggle for its very existence, the first round of which has just been lost in Europe. The harder it fights fascism, however, the more totalitarian it will become.

The whole Western hemisphere under the control of the United States means the possesion of war-material resources unequalled in the world – food stuffs, nickel, aluminum, zinc, copper, etc. Partial control of rubber and military co-ordination of the hemisphere puts America in a position where she can dictate the commercial terms in her world relation; that is, where she can demand her share of the world-created profits. Neither her gold nor her industrial advantages, but a militarily-secured monopoly over an important part of the world can now guarantee profit appropriations beyond those spheres under control. The Germans, Italians, and Japanese will no longer be trading with a number of independent countries, but with America, which can take her share from any of the possible transactions. In other words, American imperialism is out to continue to share in the exploitation of all the other workers in the world besides her own, just as the “new” Europe will be out to prevent this muscling in on the part of America, and to create a condition where the bulk of the world-profits move in the direction of Europe.

American trade weapons such as embargoes, monetary control, control of shipping and insurance, of tourist traffic exchange-and-tariff manipulations, and her gold monopoly – all these weapons are no longer sufficient to secure world-wide exploitation for American capitalism. Nor will the measures taken to co-ordinate South America with American interests, such as have already been realized with regard to Canada, suffice in fighting Europe’s trade offensive. An economic cartel of this hemisphere must control its entire production, not single commodities. To be really effective it cannot solve existing problems by bribing South American nations to abstain from trade with Europe and Japan. Loans granted to South America as compensation for losses incurred by the new imperialistic policy of the United States will be accepted, but the committments connected with them will not be fulfilled. Some of the Latin American countries will blackmail America to grant ever-increasing loans which can never be repaid; others will refuse altogether to cooperate, since America could not possibly, in the case of the Argentine for instance, make up for losses incurred by a cessation of Argentine relations with Europe.

To fight Europe and Japan successfully the Good Neighbor Policy of the United States has to become still more neighborly; that is, as one reporter remarked, “The United States will be forced to put a little iron in the hand of the glove it extends to Latin America”. And the Catholic “Register” writes that “our business forces are going to drive our arms south into Latin America when Hitler’s barter system starts to kill our trade. Self-defense is making us build up a huge armed forces; but never in history has any nation gone militaristic without also turning imperialistic.” The excuse is at hand. Alsop and Kintner in their “American White Paper” say that “the situation is already accute. The immediate danger points are the largest and most important nations – the Argentine and Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and probably Columbia -. The State, War, and Navy Departments unite in believing that if there is an early German victory, it will be followed by German-inspired putsches in at least two and probably more of these countries… This will call for naval and military expeditions sent by the United States… And unless the Germans have obtained the Allied Fleets, the expeditions ought to accomplish their objective.” Yes, they ought to, but this means the further militarization of America, and that means the growth of fascism by way of fighting fascism; it means the prolongation and the spreading of the war. For American imperialism, no less than German imperialism, means the further postponement of the only possibility to end continuous warfare – by ending the capitalist system of exploitation. American imperialism in South America, though designed for no other purpose than to make the world safe for American profits, will only diminish those profits still further. It will impoverish both North and South America and so will impoverish the world as a whole. The destruction of South American agriculture in the face of a starving world, the “plowing-under” on a now hemispheric scale of the surpluses crated by the divorce of Europe from South America, the use of all industrial raw materials for almost exclusively destructive purposes – all this has to be “paid” for by the labor of American workers north and south of the Isthmus.


Though speculations as to the further course of world history are extremely interesting, they are by no means of great importance in so far as they cncern the lot of the laboring masses. The question as to who will fight whom, who will be the winner and who the loser can mean little to people who have long sice lost all they can lose and who can win nothing regardless of which side may be victorious. For so long as capitalist production relations are not done away with, in winning and defeated countries alike exploitation will be driven to the maximum; freedom and welfare will decline to the lowest point possible.

Also it no longer makers any difference to what policy one may subscribe, for the reality of today determines the actions of all individuals; and this reality no longer allows for any other policy than that fitted to the war-requirements of the various nations. How silly it is to say today that only a socialist America, or a socialist England, will be able to defeat fascism, to oppose Hitler successfully. Neither in England nor in America could a mere change of government, no, not even direct workers’ control, prevent the success of Fascism. To speark of a defense of America through an American socialism is beyond all serious consideration. Movements which could develop in the United States would have no socialist aspirations; they would be fascistic and imperialistic. To them belongs the immediate future.

For England, not a socialist government, but only a greater military power than Hitler’s can defeat the latter. Because British socialism could not, merely by being socialistic, create such power socialism will not come to power; it will be defeated. To expect that German soldiers may revolt because of a change in class rule in England means to under-rate the power to the Nazi ideology. A change of class rule in England would mean the immediate defeat of England; it would be welcomed by the Nazis and be killed in the act of her embrace. The presence of the Nazi force will transform a socialist into a state-capitalist fascist revolution, which will have to ally itself to the fascist imperialistic system dominated by Germany.

Only wishful thinking could assume that the next few years will present the opportunity for the rise of socialistic movements in the warring countries, or that the defeat of one or the other could be prevented by socialistic methods, or could be utilized for socialistic purposes. The antifascism practised by the existing labor organizations is in reality no more than the support of private property capitalism against the growing state-capitalist forces. This anti-fascism ends with the defeat of private-capitalism. The anti-fascism capable of defeating fascism must be directed also against state-capitalism, it must have a real international basis and must involve the greater part of the world masses.

We are still far away from such a situation. It can, moreover, be created only by the continuation of general warfare, by the further disruption of all essential and vital economic world relations and by an increase in the existing chaos. Those most interested in peace and socialism will have to shout the loudest “Long live the war![3]

[1] As this article serves as a sort of continuation of the paper “The War is Permanent”, in the spring issue of Living Marxism, it does not deal with all phases of the problems of the present war, but emphasizes those neglected or understated in the previous article, that is, the position of America in the present war panorama. We assume that our readers are aware of the first paper. If not, the spring issue should be read in connection with this article.

[2] The next issue of LIVING MARXISM will deal extensively with the relations in the Pacific.

[3] The continuation of this article in the next issue will deal with the revolutionary tendencies inherent in the present world situation, and with the opportunities still left to us to work in the direction of socialism.

All transcriptions were done by Felipe Andrade. Did you find any mistakes? Suggestions? Send e-mail to:
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