Thursday, December 31, 2020

GERD, Border Disputes and the Quest for African Unity


December 27, 2020

Ethiopia and Sudan Prime Ministers Ethiopia and Sudan Prime Ministers. | Photo: borkena

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Fighting Words, Journal of the Communist Workers League (CWL)

Since November 4, the focus of the international community in their observations of the internal conflict in Ethiopia has largely been centered on the central government’s suppression of a rebellion against its authority in the northern region of Tigray.

Within a matter of three weeks, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had declared victory over the authorities and their supporters in Tigray.

Nonetheless, it has been reported that tens of thousands of Ethiopians have fled the northern region to seek refuge in eastern Sudan. These developments are occurring while a decades-long disagreement over boundaries between the Republic of Sudan and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is being played out on the ground in the territory in question.

These events over the last two months are also overshadowing the ongoing differences surrounding the role of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERD) which is designed to provide energy resources to Ethiopia and the contiguous states throughout North, East and Central Africa. Ethiopia has invested enormous sums of money in building the dam and is relying on its launching as a key element of its national and regional development schemes.

Surveys for the GERD development date back to the period between 1956-1964 when the United States Bureau of Reclamation issued a 17-volume report on the feasibility of the project. Since 2011, Ethiopia has been constructing the dam which was initially scheduled to begin operations in 2017.

An article on the mission of the GERD project says that:

“The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), formerly known as the Millennium Dam, is under construction in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, on the Blue Nile River, which is located about 40km east of Sudan. The project is owned by Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO)…. The people and Government of Ethiopia are funding the project, which will not only serve Ethiopia, but Sudan and Egypt as well. The latter two countries depend on the Nile River for their water although 85% of the river flows in Ethiopia. The dam’s construction is expected to create up to 12,000 jobs. Approximately 20,000 people will be resettled during the course of the project.”

Conflict Between Ethiopia and Egypt over GERD

Problems surfaced over the objections of the Egyptian government which opposed GERD saying the full realization of the scheme would redirect waters from the Blue Nile to Ethiopia. However, the existing water arrangements governing utilization of the Blue Nile were instituted during the colonial period when Britain exercised tremendous influence over Cairo.

Egypt was a British colony from the 1880s until the early 1920s when the country gained political independence after the uprisings which began in the post-World War I period during 1919. Neighboring Sudan was also colonized by British imperialism and the consequent imposition of border demarcations and ownership of waterways can be traced to these historical events.

Ethiopia had fiercely resisted becoming a colony of Europe. Menelik II fought a successful war against Italy at the conclusion of the 19th century. During the early to mid-20th century, Ethiopian monarchies became even more surrounded by imperialist states which controlled territories in the countries known today as Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya and Eritrea.

Andrew Carlson, an historian who has studied the origins of the conflicts over the Nile, says of the situation involving Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and other states:

“After achieving its independence in 1922, Egypt negotiated the Nile Waters Agreement of 1929 with the East African British colonies. This accord established Egypt’s right to 48 billion cubic meters of water flow, all dry season waters, and veto-power over any upriver water management projects; newly independent Sudan (1956) was accorded rights to 4 billion cubic meters of water. The Ethiopian monarch was not consulted—at least in part because no one understood how much Nile water actually came from Ethiopia. The 1959 Nile Waters Agreement between Egypt and Sudan was completed before all the upriver states achieved independence: Tanganika (1961), Uganda (1962), Rwanda (1962), Burundi (1962), and Kenya (1963). The signatories of the 1959 Agreement allocated Egypt 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually while Sudan was allowed 18.5 billion cubic meters. These 79 billion cubic meters represented 99% of the calculated average annual river flow. The treaty also allowed for the construction of the Aswan High Dam (completed in 1971), the Roseires Dam (completed 1966 on the Blue Nile in Sudan), and the Khashm al-Girba Dam (completed in 1964 on the Atbara River in Sudan).”

This Nile Water Agreement served to further the underdevelopment of the Horn of Africa and East African states. Founding Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, an anti-imperialist and socialist, called upon all post-independence nations to disregard the treaties established by Britain in the colonial era.

Former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I was so outraged by the failure of the-then President Gamal Abdel Nassar to recognize Addis Ababa’s rights to the Blue Nile he severed relations with Egyptian Orthodox Church which had been closely linked with its Ethiopian counterpart for 1600 years. At this point $10 million was allocated from the Ethiopian treasury to research the development of dams along the Blue Nile, hence the eight-year long research done by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Sudan, Ethiopia and the Tigray Conflict

The disputed control of the region bordering Ethiopia and eastern Sudan has led to clashes between their respective armed forces along with militia groups loyal to Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Abiy has attempted to downplay the seriousness of the military encounters.

Sudan is at present in a transitional stage politically. The Sovereign Council, which is an interim body, is composed of a tense coalition of civil society groupings, popular mass organizations, professional associations, technocrats, and the leading officer corps within the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The Sovereign Council is chaired by Sudanese military leader Gen. Abdelfattah al-Burhan and since his ascendancy to power through a Transitional Military Council (TMC) in April 2019, the country has moved even further towards the U.S. and its principal allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and the State of Israel. Khartoum normalized relations with Tel Aviv without any debate within the Sovereign Council and its components. The act carried out largely at the aegis of the White House of President Donald Trump is a complete violation of the Israel Boycott Act of 1958, adopted just two years after the independence of Sudan from Britain.

A report published by the Sudan Tribune on December 22 claimed that the SAF had ejected pro-Ethiopia militias and the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) from the contested border region. According to the dispatch:

“The Ethiopian troops, from the Amhara region, waged severe attacks on the Sudanese army since last April. The outbreak of the Tigray crisis and a recent attack on a Sudanese force patrolling the border triggered Khartoum’s decision to control the whole international border in line with the 1902 agreement. In the same context, the Sudanese army deployed its troops in Mahaj area, which is located south of Lugdi town, of the Tigray region. The army reported that an Ethiopian militia, presumably Fano militiamen, attacked Alosra area inside the Sudanese border. They shot a shepherd in the area. Amhara militiamen have played a significant role in the fight against the TPLF fighters of Tigray.”

A joint delegation from Sudan and Ethiopia were scheduled to meet on December 22 to discuss the situation in the border areas, ironically on the same day that the U.S. Congress approved an agreement to delist Sudan from the targeted states accused of state-sponsored terrorism. Sudan will be assessed more than $300 million for alleged complicity in several attacks on U.S. interests in Tanzania, Kenya and the Gulf of Aden. In Tanzania and Kenya, the U.S. embassies were bombed in early August 1998. Two years later, several Pentagon soldiers were killed when the USS Cole was struck off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. Additional U.S. aid has been promised to Khartoum in reward for the “normalization” of relations with Israel and the deeper penetration of Pentagon forces within the military apparatus of Sudan.

Implications for African Unity and Development

The Trump White House attempted to force an agreement on GERD in contravention of the interests of Ethiopia. President Trump later said in a phone call with Sudan Interim Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok that Egypt will have no alternative other than blowing up the GERD project. From these statements along with the role of Sudan in the internal conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the mission of GERD is thrown into serious jeopardy.

Ethiopia is the headquarters of the 55-member African Union (AU) whose aim is to foster greater cooperation among continental states. Yet the contradictions which have arisen over the role of colonial-era laws, the necessity for respecting the existing and largely inherited territorial boundaries along with the imperatives of regional integration as a prerequisite to genuine independence, sovereignty, and economic development, must be resolved in the coming period.

This required mechanism for the resolutions of such conflicts must be found inside the current AU structures established by the Peace and Security Council. A broader regional conflagration in the Horn of Africa and North Africa will only provide opportunities for even wider deployment of U.S. troops on the continent.

Regional Dimensions and Imperialist Interests in the Ethiopian Tigray Conflict

December 11, 2020

AFRICOM troops at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa AFRICOM troops at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. | Photo: defenceWebEthiopian troops patrolling in the Tigray region Ethiopian troops patrolling in the Tigray region. | Anadolu Agency

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Fighting Words, Journal of the Communist Workers League (CWL)

With the intervention of Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) troops into the northern Tigray region of the Horn of Africa nation, aimed at dislodging the provincial leadership and establishing firm administrative control, various reports indicate that what Addis Ababa has called a “law-enforcement” operation must inevitably be viewed within the context of relations between contiguous states and the role of the United States and its allies.

This northern section has been under the control of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which played a dominant role in the country for 27 years as the de facto leadership within the formally ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).\

The EPRDF government which came to power with the support of the United States in May 1991, served as a staunch ally of Washington in its military operations in the region. Ethiopian troops were the first deployed to Somalia in 2006-2007, when the former administration of President George W. Bush, Jr. sought to control political events inside that neighboring state.

Since the intervention of regional forces primarily from Ethiopia and Uganda into Somalia, the country has not yet gained the degree of stability which would allow a withdrawal of forces from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). The Somalian occupation which has lasted more than a decade, has been largely funded by Washington and the European Union (EU) with the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Although the number of AMISOM troops stationed in Somalia at one time numbered as many as 22,000 over the period in question, the Pentagon through its U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) along with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), EU troops and others remain in an effort to stabilize the federal government in Mogadishu. U.S., European and Canadian oil corporations are involved in the exploration for petroleum in Somalia whose coastline on the Indian Ocean serves as a gateway to the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf of Aden. Both geo-political areas are important in the domination of shipping lanes for energy resources and military positioning.

Since the rise of Ethiopia’s present leader, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, a major restructuring of the internal political apparatus has been under way. Abiy called for the formation of the Prosperity Party (PP), dissolving the EPRDF and therefore severely curtailing the political authority of the TPLF and its military wing, the Tigray Regional Special Forces (TRSF).

There has been a growing interest in the plight of Ethiopian refugees fleeing to eastern Sudan in response to the clashes between the TPLF and the ENDF. A report surfaced on December 8 noting that the ENDF troops had opened fire on a UN convoy seeking to provide assistance to displaced persons. The Ethiopian government has denied any hostile intentions saying that the UN vehicles had failed to halt at two checkpoints and were on the verge of breaching a third. Officials from the government say that the incident was a reflection of the failure of the UN to abide by its guidelines in the Tigray region.

Redwan Hussein, the spokesman for the Ethiopian government’s Task Force on the Tigray region and State Minister for Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying:

“The agreement we entered with the UN was in the belief that the UN would coordinate with us but the government would call the shots…. Ethiopia is being run by a strong functional government. It doesn’t need a babysitter.”

A Reuters news agency article cited above described the current humanitarian situation in Tigray emphasizing that:

“The government has said it was delivering aid in areas that it controlled, but relief agencies are increasingly frustrated at the difficult access to Tigray. The Norwegian Refugee Council said it had waited weeks for clearance to deliver food, shelters and other essentials. ‘Children, women and men in Tigray have now borne the brunt of this conflict for more than a month without any emergency assistance from outside the region. These people can no longer be made to wait. Aid must not be left at a standstill.’ The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had begun distributing clean water in Mekelle.”

The Role of Eritrea and Sudan in the Regional Situation

Just two years ago, the Abiy government signed peace agreements with the government of neighboring Eritrea under the leadership of President Isaias Afwerki. The accord signed in mid-2018 resolved a border conflict which had resulted in two large-scale wars in 1998 and 2000. Abiy was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in the aftermath of the rapprochement with Asmara. Both ruling parties in Ethiopia and Eritrea have a common adversary in the TPLF.

Reports indicate that the Eritrean military forces have entered Ethiopia in support of the ENDF and consequently against the deposed TPLF regional authorities. Addis Ababa and Asmara have both denied these allegations.

Nonetheless, western diplomats and refugees who have left the Tigray region say that Eritrean forces are present in Tigray and are carrying out military operations. There are approximately 96,000 Eritrean refugees living in the Tigray province many of whom have grievances against the government of President Afwerki.

Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan are the source of many of the reports emanating from the Tigray province. Sudan is undergoing a transitional process where divisions within the recently empowered Sovereignty Council has resulted in serious disagreements within the Force for Freedom and Change (FFC) and between the FFC and Transitional Military Council (TMC). Recently, the Chair of the Sovereignty Council, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced the formation of yet another administrative authority in Khartoum much to the chagrin of the other political parties and coalitions which make up the interim regime.

The Ethiopian and Sudanese border dispute in the eastern El Gedaref area has been a source of tension for a quarter century. The conflict over demarcation of the two borders stems from the colonial era when Britain controlled Sudan. Since the outbreak of fighting in Tigray and the relocation of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in the area, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) claims to have taken control of the El Gedaref area around Khor Yabis. Previously, the area was controlled by Ethiopian militias which challenged the authority of the SAF. It remains to be seen if the TPLF attempts to utilize this region as a rear base in its stated objectives of continuing to wage a struggle against the central government in Addis Ababa.

Kenya, Djibouti and the U.S. Military Presence in East Africa

AFRICOM does have troops in Kenya and Djibouti at the Manda Bay Naval Base and Camp Lemonnier respectively. Although the U.S. claims that its principal purpose of being in Africa is to battle groups such as al-Qaeda, ISIS and al-Shabaab, the Pentagon has been on the continent long before these organizations came into existence or were considered a threat by Washington.

The Manda Bay Naval Base was attacked ostensibly by al-Shabaab in January of 2020. Three U.S. troops were reportedly killed in the incident. This base is also known as Camp Simba. The camp is used by Kenyan and U.S. troops and is located on the mainland of Lamu County.

At Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, a description of the U.S. military says that the base:

“[P]rovides, operates and sustains superior service in support of combat readiness and security of ships, aircraft, detachments and personnel for regional and combatant command requirements; and enables operations in the Horn of Africa while fostering positive U.S.-African Nation relations. Camp Lemonnier is a U.S. Navy led installation operated by Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central via U.S. Naval Forces Africa and Commander, Navy Installations Command. The Base supports approximately 4,000 U.S., joint and allied forces military and civilian personnel and U.S. Department of Defense contractors. Additionally, the base provides employment for approximately 1,000 local and third country nation workers.”

All of these developments involving U.S. military presence in East Africa will have an influence on the efforts to stabilize the situation in Ethiopia’s northern province of Tigray. In order for the AU member-states to bring peace and stability on the continent, there must be the elimination of the occupation by Pentagon forces. Africa must have its own effective mechanism to address internal conflicts and to guard against subversion and terrorism. The groups which are designated as “terrorists” by the U.S. and other political entities have their origins within the intelligence apparatuses of the western imperialist countries. The presence of these organizations in Africa and other parts of the world provides a rationale for the continuation of military operations by AFRICOM, NATO and its allies on the continent.

Ethiopian Government Says Mekelle Has Been Retaken by Federal Forces


December 3, 2020

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Fighting Words, Journal of the Communist Workers League (CWL)

On November 4, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) came under attack by the provincial government in the northern Tigray region.

Reports indicate that numerous ENDF personnel were killed while the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) local leadership declared that the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali in Addis Ababa as being illegitimate.

Between 1991 and 2018, the TPLF was the dominant political party within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which had fought the former government of Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, the ruler of the country from 1974 to the early 1990s. Mengistu was aligned with the former Soviet Union, the Eastern European socialist countries and Cuba. He was a part of the armed forces grouping known as the Derg, the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC), which seized power from the Monarchy under the control of H.I.M. Haile Selassie in 1974 amid a national uprising inside the country.

With the advent of unrest in Ethiopia during early 2018, the former EPRDP leadership of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned from office. Hailemariam said he wanted to pave the way for much-needed reforms creating the conditions for the rise of the incumbent administration of Abiy.

Abiy has described the conflict as an internal matter which does not require the diplomatic and military intervention of the African Union (AU), whose Secretariat is based in Addis Ababa, along with the United Nations and other international bodies. The deliberate and rapid military actions taken by the ENDF was characterized by the Ethiopian government as a law-enforcement operation.

A delegation from the AU visited Ethiopia for discussions with Abiy on November 27. The talks appeared to have been cordial resulting in the issuing of communiques by both the delegation empowered by the current AU Chairperson South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the federal government in Addis Ababa.

A report published by says of the meeting between the AU delegation and Abiy that:

“African Union envoys meeting Friday with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali ended with no apparent progress towards averting an attack on Mekelle, capital of the northern Tigray region. Abiy has demanded that regional forces surrender and urged international actors not to intervene, saying Ethiopia is capable of resolving the situation internally. The envoys, three former presidents – Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano and Kgalema Motlanthe from South Africa – have been seeking a negotiated solution for the conflict, which has already displaced 43,000 Ethiopians, according to UNHCR. In a statement after the meeting, Abiy expressed ‘utmost gratitude to President Cyril Ramaphosa & his Special Envoys for their concerted effort to understand our rule of law operations,’ he said in a Tweet. ‘Receiving the wisdom & counsel of respected African elders is a precious continental culture that we value greatly in Ethiopia.’ The African Union in a communique described the positions outlined by the prime minister but gave no indication of any further actions by the envoys.”

Military Clashes Resulting in Humanitarian Crisis

Even though the Ethiopian government has declared victory in the current conflict, TPLF leaders at present are refusing to concede and vowing to continue the fight against the ENDF. The clashes between the ENDF and TPLF loyalists has prompted the departure from the country of tens of thousands of Ethiopians from various nationalities and regions.

Many of the refugees are temporarily settling in eastern Sudan where humanitarian agencies are reporting on their status in a country which is itself undergoing a political transition. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted in a November 26 article that those displaced number around 40,000.

The report emphasizes:

“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partners are delivering and distributing life-saving aid, including hot meals, water and latrines for the arrivals. Staff at the Hamdayet border crossing in Kassala State and the Lugdi crossing in Gedaref State, are registering thousands of new arrivals each day. The most vulnerable refugees including older people, pregnant and lactating women and children are receiving special care, including supplementary feeding. But the humanitarian response continues to face logistical challenges. The relocation of refugees away from the border is hampered by logistics and distances, limiting the number of people being transferred to Um Rakuba camp in Gedaref, some 80 kilometres inside Sudan.”

International Dimensions of the Internal Conflict

Although it has been nearly three decades, the role of the United States government in the current political crisis in Ethiopia cannot be overlooked. Under the administration of former President George H.W. Bush, Sr. in May 1991, the U.S. State Department encouraged and facilitated the seizure of power by the EPRDF.

This was the period of decline and dissolution of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies which had played an enormous role in the efforts by the Mengistu government to create a socialist society under the leadership of the Workers Party of Ethiopia (WPE).  Herman Cohen, the-then U.S. Undersecretary for African Affairs, had been involved in negotiations to bring about peaceful settlement to the wars in Ethiopia between the Mengistu administration and the EPRDF. Cohen emerged from the talks held in London issuing a statement recognizing the TPLF-EPRDF as the legitimate government in Ethiopia.

In the early phase of the EPRDF government in Addis Ababa, there was extensive military cooperation with the U.S. Ethiopia at the aegis of Washington under successive Republican and Democratic administrations engaged in military operations in neighboring Somalia, which is still not stable even decades after direct and indirect interventions by Washington. Relations with the U.S. and Britain had been very close from the time of the Italian occupation during 1935-1941 to the post World War II period of the Cold War.

When Ethiopia experienced a Revolution stemming from demonstrations and strikes in the early months of 1974, the mass sentiment among many inside the country was in opposition to U.S. foreign policy. Ethiopia turned towards the socialist camp, declaring itself Marxist-Leninist and eventually attempting to form a vanguard party. Yet the internal problems of the sectional conflicts with the Tigray and Oromo groups prevented the WPE from consolidating its national development policies. In addition, a war of independence waged by Eritrea against the central government lasted from 1961-1991, when the former Italian colony declared itself a sovereign state and two years later, after a referendum on independence was recognized by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the AU, and the United Nations.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Cohen is still denying rumors related to his political bias towards the EPRDF. A twitter post by Cohen said of the resurfaced allegations that:

“I was surprised to see frivolous rumors alleging I have taken money from the TPLF. There is no truth to this.”

An Ethiopian news agency,, reported during mid-November that many people consider Cohen as some sort of “political godfather” of the TPLF. The existing federal system of governance in Ethiopia which Prime Minister Abiy is trying to transcend, has been favored by Cohen. Borkena quoted a Cohen twitter post which asserts that the:

“’Best solution for #Ethiopia is a truly decentralized federal system, in which Ethiopia remains unified but each ethnic nation has the self-determination they desire. If Abiy wins militarily, [the] international community should still press for this outcome through political dialogue,’ he said.”

The formation of the Prosperity Party (PP) in December 2019 by Abiy is designed to usher in a new era of governance for the country of 110 million, the second-most populous state in Africa. It appears to many that the TPLF is attempting to rekindle its political dominance exercised during its 27-years of undisputed rule. The refusal of the TPLF to join the PP and to hold its own provincial elections after the central government postponed voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fueled tensions with the Abiy government in Addis Ababa.

In the last several months, the administration of President Donald J. Trump has interfered in the ongoing talks to resolve the dispute between Addis Ababa and Egypt over the operations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project which is viewed as essential for the further modernization and industrialization of the Horn of Africa state and its neighbors. After the Ethiopian government refused to accept a U.S. proposal advanced by the Trump White House, Abiy was condemned by the administration.

A recent conference call over the question of “normalization” of relations between the Republic of Sudan and the State of Israel, gave an indication of the hostility directed towards Ethiopia by Washington. Trump said during the conversation that the Egyptian government would have no other choice than to “blow up” the Dam. Such reckless comments could very well have been interpreted by the TPLF as a signal from the U.S. welcoming its hostile action against the central administration of Abiy.

Attempts by the TPLF to bring Eritrea into the conflict have so far failed. Reports on November 29 from Asmara say that there have been six explosions in the capital city of Eritrea without mentioning the exact cause.

Abiy had negotiated a peace agreement with Eritrea after taking power in 2018, putting an end to the border conflict around Badme which erupted in 1998 and 2000. Abiy was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations with the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki resulting in the signing of accords and a deepening of bilateral relations.

Since Ethiopia is an important nation within the AU and the international community, with thousands of years of history and cultural contributions, the outcomes of the present crisis will be followed closely by many people throughout the world.

Lawsuit Filed to Halt Voter Suppression in the Runoff Senate Elections in Georgia


December 13, 2020

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Fighting Words, Journal of the Communist Workers League (CWL)

After the third certification of the results of the presidential elections in the state of Georgia, efforts are underway to ensure equal access to the franchise leading up to the pivotal race to determine the composition of the United States Senate.

The administration of President Donald Trump along with its failed campaign organization has sought over the last month to overturn their defeats in several key states won by incoming President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Georgia, a southern state with a sordid history of African enslavement and national oppression, voted by a margin of 12,000 against the Trump-Pence ticket. These developments came as a shock and disappointment to the right-wing which was relying on the Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reject and reverse the popular will of the electorate in favor of the administration.

Republican incumbent Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue represent the hopes of their party since a victory by Democratic challengers John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock would shift the majority within the Senate, removing the current leadership of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Trump visited Georgia to campaign on behalf of the Republican candidates claiming once again the presidential elections were marred by fraud and that he is the rightful winner. The president has attacked both the Governor and Secretary of State of Georgia after they would not go along with his charges and mandate to interfere with the documented results.

Lawsuit Filed Against Disenfranchisement

In Georgia a lawsuit was filed during early December claiming that 200, 000 people have been purged from the voter rolls. The legal action is seeking to avoid the circumstances which resulted in the ascendancy of Governor Kemp in 2018 when he was serving as Georgia’s Secretary of State.

Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, was poised to become the first African American to hold the position of governor in the state. Although a protracted struggle was waged in the courts to redress the electoral irregularities, Kemp prevailed as the winner. (

Barbara Arnwine, of the Transformative Justice Coalition (TJC) and one of three litigants in the case, told Ms. Magazine that:

“Black Voters Matter et al. v. Raffensperger was filed in the United States District Court on Dec. 2. Black Voters Matter Fund, TJC and the Rainbow Push Coalition are the plaintiffs in the case suing Secretary of State of Georgia Brad Raffensperger in his official capacity for violations of the National Voters Registration Act.”

The decision to remove so many people from the voter registration list, the plaintiffs contend, is a direct violation of a law which was passed nearly three decades ago. The rationale utilized by Secretary of State Raffensperger is that those denied eligibility had not updated their addresses along with non-participation in the two most recent elections. The plaintiffs refute this position saying that the Secretary of State did not exercise the proper methodology in determining whether the voters were still qualified to cast their ballots on January 5 in the runoff senatorial election.

Arnwine emphasized in regard to the eligibility of these members of the electorate saying:

“The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 is clear on this. There’s no way of misreading the statute: It says that if you’re going to remove somebody because you believe they put in a change of address, you’ve got to use a certified USPS licensee. Georgia didn’t. The tragedy of it is that since they were told about it, they’ve done nothing to restore these people’s right to vote. They knew this going into November, that they had wrongfully removed 70,000 people, and that they had violated the law in doing so, and they did nothing to restore those people. We couldn’t sue them then because the NVRA requires that we give the state 90 days’ notice. So, we had to run the full 90 days and unfortunately those 90 days ran beyond November 3, but fortunately they just ran in time for us to file for this January 5 runoff election.”

Universal Suffrage, Self-Determination and the Need for an Independent Political Program

African Americans have historically been subjected to national oppression, institutional racism and economic exploitation, particularly in the former antebellum slavocracy in the South. After the conclusion of the Civil War, the question for the ruling interests in the U.S. was what would be the future status of the 4.5 million people of African descent.

Reconstruction efforts aimed at dismantling the plantation system and providing an avenue for “citizenship” to the formerly enslaved population became a serious point of contention on a national level. There were advances made during the late 1860s and 1870s with the support of the Radicals within the U.S. Congress to provide voting rights, land, education and due process to the African American people.

Nonetheless, the post-Civil War plantation economy still required the super-exploitation of Africans and even poor whites, in order to prevent the emergence of a genuinely democratic system in the U.S. After the elections of 1876 and the historic compromise over the outcome of the contest between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden, the federal government withdrew its support for Reconstruction. Over the proceeding decades of the 19th century, African Americans were systematically disenfranchised and placed in a social status quite similar, if not worst, than what existed during legalized slavery. (

The criminal justice apparatus was a tool to charge African Americans with various crimes so they could be further marginalized and incarcerated in order to work without wages as in a slave system, and even lynched. Between the 1880s and the 1960s, it is estimated that approximately 3,700 African Americans were murdered extra-judicially. Despite these atrocities, the federal government refused to pass anti-lynching legislation to hold the white racist mobs accountable for their crimes against humanity.

Today, in the third decade of the 21st century, 2.5 million people remain jailed and imprisoned in the U.S. Over half of the people detained are African Americans, people of Latin American descent and working people in general. There are no rich people on death row. The death penalty is still in effect as evidenced by the scheduled federal executions of four African American men and one impoverished white woman as the Trump administration is slated to leave office on January 20. These events are taking place amid the pardoning of Trump loyalists, and possibly himself, for crimes committed while in office. ( (

African Americans and people of color communities must have the right to vote and equal protection under the law. The nationally oppressed should have the right to determine their own destiny from a political and economic perspective. There can be no democracy in the U.S. absent of the full participation of the most oppressed and exploited sections of the population.

The senatorial elections in Georgia represents a test for the U.S. political system. Irrespective of the outcome of January 5 elections, ultimately African Americans cannot achieve genuine equality and self-determination without a fundamental change in the structures of the racist capitalist system. The mobilizations by various organizations nationally must extend their scope to demand the destruction of institutional racism and the realization of the social liberation of all working class and exploited peoples in the U.S.

The Coming Crisis for Republicans and Democrats

December 17, 2020 

By David Sole

Fighting Words, Journal of the Communist Workers League (CWL)

The extreme measures being taken by Donald Trump and most of the Republican Party to overturn the victory of Joe Biden in the November 3 election are not simply support for the desperate actions of the sick mind of a single individual.

In spite of the most rabid exploitation of racism, anti-immigrant hysteria, anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, vicious anti-woman prejudice, anti-unionism, anti-science idiocy and denial of climate change, the Republican Party was not able to cobble together a majority to hold onto the top post in the United States. They are terrified that they may become a perpetual minority party.

Measures are being taken which are unprecedented in U.S. history. So far state and Federal courts have examined almost 50 lawsuit submissions asking one judge or another to throw out some election results. Every case so far has either been thrown out by the court or been withdrawn by the Trump campaign attorneys. On December 8 attorneys-general from 18 states, led by Texas, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments to throw out the election results. Previously the entire bench of nine Supreme Court justices refused to hear an application for a pleading to throw out the results of the election in Pennsylvania. On December 11 the Supreme Court refused to hear the Texas-originated case.

As one court after another tossed out Trump’s cases, often with scathing opinions, retired General Michael Flynn (only days following Donald Trump’s pardon for his crimes) and retired three star General Thomas McInerney publicly came out supporting a call for President Trump to suspend the Constitution, declare martial law and have the U.S. military carry out a new election!

Not only have Democrats come under criticism and attack. Republican officials, in “swing states” where Trump lost but the votes have been certified, have received denunciations directly from the President followed by numerous death threats by Trump supporters. One Georgia top election official (Biden defeated Trump in the historically Republican stronghold of Georgia) publicly decried the attacks, warning that “someone is going to be killed.”

President-elect Joe Biden and the Democratic Party apparatus nationwide seem to have decided to discount these threats and are committed to a course of calmly proceeding in preparing to take office on January 20, 2021. The various organizations across the country that held many demonstrations just after November 3 to demand “Count Every Vote” have fallen silent. Union locals and central labor councils that had built some momentum with resolutions threatening a general strike if Trump tried to steal the election also appear to have adopted a wait and see attitude. Liberal news media have strongly criticized the calls for martial law and a coup, but only the lone voices from the Moratorium Now Coalition in Detroit, Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement, and Peoples Alliance Bay Area issued a call to soldiers to refuse illegal orders if their superiors decided to follow General Flynn’s proposal.

There was widespread and understandable jubilation when the election results showed a decisive defeat for Donald Trump. But the emerging Biden administration has not thrilled progressive or even moderate forces as announcements have been made of various future Cabinet level appointments.

.A quick look at a few key Biden choices to join him starting January 20, 2021 shows that the nation cannot expect any break with the Wall Street / Pentagon iron rule of this capitalist and imperialist country.

Antony Blinken will be Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, a key figure in U.S. relations with the rest of the world. He previously served from 2009 to 2013 as Deputy Assistant to the President [Obama] and National Security Advisor to then Vice-President Joseph Biden. Wikipedia says he was a “key player in drafting Syria policy” which has led to so much death and destruction in that nation. Wikipedia also reports that he “helped craft U.S. policy on Afghanistan, Palestine and the Iranian nuclear policy” all aimed to continue United States domination over the oil rich Middle East.

This imperialist warmonger supported the 2011 U.S. military intervention in Libya, Israel’s 2014 murderous attack on Gaza and directed the U.S. in supplying weapons to Syrian rebels.

He favored the U.S. backing of the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen, which has continued for over five years of genocide of the Yemeni people. How did he facilitate the war against Yemen? In his own words “as part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination and planning all in the Saudi operations center.”

Blinken also developed and promoted a “wide and expansive sanctions regime” against Russia’s leaders. Additionally, he wanted the sanctions to target “the Russian public at large.” Blinken’s whole history has been as a strong supporter of U.S. imperialist interests in dominating the world economic order and militarily opposing any and all nations that assert any independence. This matches Joe Biden’s entire history as Senator and Vice-President where he was a faithful servant of militarism and imperialism.

Biden is looking to put retired four-star general Lloyd Austin to head the Department of Defense. Austin has strong ties to the military contractor Raytheon where it is reported he has $500,000 in Raytheon securities. From September 2010 to December 2011 he was commander of all U.S. and coalition military personnel in the occupation of Iraq. He also will need a congressional waiver to serve, since he has not been out of the Army for the required 7 years,a requirement intended to keep the Secretary of Defense a civilian position, independant from the Pentagon.

While not all of Biden’s choices have been announced, those that have offer no hope of any radical shift in policy substance. A look at the proposed Secretary of Agriculture exposes Biden’s conservative agenda. Tom Vilsack served as President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary for his entire 8 years in office. Agriculture oversees farm policy but also the critical food assistance programs. It’s budget is around $146 billion.

Anger at Vilsack’s selection has been swiftly expressed. Since leaving the Department before Trump took office, Vilsack has been chief executive of the Dairy Export Council that represents the big corporate dairy industry. He also exposed his racism when he fired Shirley Sherrod, a top official under his direction, when she was the victim of a right-wing doctored tape of a speech she had given. Vilsack took the false audio track as good coin and only later apologized to Sherrod, after she had been fired.

There is no reason to believe and no evidence to suggest that Biden will break with the policies of catering to Wall Street and the Pentagon that all U.S. administrations of both major parties have faithfully carried out. What then can cause a shift that can benefit the working class?

In truth, only powerful mass movements have ever won any progressive changes in U.S. history. Certainly the conditions are getting so severe as to demand some radical changes. The Democratic Party steered clear of any real program to alleviate mass suffering, especially felt during the COVID pandemic. Biden’s slogan of “Build Back Better” is pitiably hollow.

It isn’t rocket science to know that a true national health care system for all Is desperately needed. Masses of people are expected to lose their housing in the next month, as the federal eviction moratorium expires. Food shortages across the country are staggering, as unemployment continues to rise. Cancellation of the crushing student debt burden has not been addressed. The 2020 election campaign paid no serious attention to the issue of police terror and systematic racism. Immigrant rights have been avoided for decades. A real commitment to women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights cannot be ignored. Real programs to protect the environment need to be pushed. Defunding the Pentagon and ending imperialist foreign intervention would promote justice and, at the same time, provide the funds needed to pay for vital social programs. Many more issues can be put forward.

But the only way for any and all of this people’s program to be promoted is for the mass movement to hit the streets and to break from the strangling grip of the Democratic Party. That is the real crisis facing the Democrats. A real struggle with clear demands will be able to unify broad sections of the working class. It is the only thing that can disintegrate the right-wing forces that have gathered around Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

A Specter is Haunting Wall Street

December 10, 2020 

The capitalist ruling class has good reason to fear that this past summer’s wave of protests will quickly transform into a broad, united working class revolutionary movement. | Photo: ABC News

By David Sole

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of the theory scientific socialism, noted in their 1848 classic work, the Communist Manifesto, that “a specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.” This apparition terrified all the ruling classes even though the working class had barely begun to get themselves organized. The Manifesto begins with the observation that “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle….of oppressor and oppressed, [who] stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight.”

Today, in the United States, that specter is still terrifying the capitalist ruling class even though the class struggle is seemingly muted and hidden from view. But the ruling class is quite aware of how quickly the class struggle can break out into the open and spread among the masses, especially with the speed of internet communication. The huge rebellion rebellion  following the racist police murder of George Floyd reminded them of this fact.

Some people have difficulty trying to figure out how 74 million voters, many of them from the U.S. working class voted for Donald Trump on November 3, with his program of favoring big business and his hatred of people of color, immigrants, Muslims,  Muslims, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, unions, etc. Of course this is disturbing to every progressive minded person but it should come as no surprise.

The capitalist class has been firmly in power in the United States at least since the end of the Civil War (1865) when the powerful slave owning class was soundly defeated and chattel slavery was ended (at least in law). Consider how much money has been spent every day, every year, every decade in those 155 years in educating the populace to glorify big business, the banks and their capitalist system. This has gone on in crude grade school propaganda and sophisticated college curriculums. Think of the control of the mass media for 155 years first in books and newspapers, then radio and TV most of whose content is designed to make it unthinkable to challenge the system.

This is precisely why Marx and Engels, who saw so much so clearly, wrote in 1845 that

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.” [The German Ideology].

In the United States, the strongest component of ruling class ideology has been racism and white supremacy. Along with it the ruling class and their agents have promoted anti-LGBTQ+ ideas, anti-women sentiment, anti-people with disabilities and anti-immigrant thinking.

In order to further weaken the ability of people to think clearly and break through the ruling class’ hold on them, they have spread, for more than a century, anti-scientific thinking including attacks on biological evolution. It should be no wonder that 74 million people voted for Trump. It is remarkable that a majority voted against him.

Of course the November 3 election doesn’t mean that 80 million voters have broken with capitalist ideology and are ready for revolution. The Democratic Party serves as a safety valve to contain the multi-millionfold working class and oppressed nations. The Democrats promise their mass base relief from the worst of the capitalist system while the Wall Street billionaires keep firm control to make sure no substantive changes take place.

During the 2020 election campaign, and afterwards, many of Trump’s minions and the Republican Party itself, attacked the Biden-Harris ticket as “socialist” and “communist.” This is ridiculous in the extreme. Only a handful of the Democratic Party elected officials identify as socialist or democratic socialist. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are on the most conservative side of the Democratic Party spectrum. But the bizarre charge plays well with the miseducated and deluded right-wing base. It generates a knee-jerk reaction of hostility when the “socialist/communist” label is thrown before them.

The ruling class can do very well under a Biden-Harris Democratic administration – as long as they are able to keep the base of the party under control.

Times, however, are not “normal.” The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented economic crisis. Job losses in the tens of millions have devastated the working class. Evictions are being carried out across the nation despite the CDC moratorium which is set to expire December 31. The lack of health care, food and other necessities are widespread. It may not be a question of can a mass working class struggle suddenly emerge here in the U.S. It may be a question of when. And if it does erupt, it may break apart the electoral strait-jacket of the Democratic Party.

So maybe the right-wing Republicans are not that wrong in calling the Democratic Party “socialist.” Certainly not today or tomorrow will that be true. But the hidden class struggle, when it breaks out into the open, will bring together the broad working class, the African American and Latinx communities, and all the other people suffering oppression of one sort or another – not to vote for a weak candidate – but to fight for their very existence. Maybe the right-wing Republicans see that in their own twisted minds and are terrified of it – like they have been trained to be.

Just because the right-wing Republicans are seeing ghosts (specters) doesn’t mean that the specter of communism doesn’t also haunt Wall Street and the ruling class. And it doesn’t mean that the specter of communism can’t quickly take on flesh and blood.

CLR James (aka, J.R. Johnson) On State and Counter-Revolution, August 1940

Source: The New International, Vol. VI, No.  7 (Whole No. 46), August 1940 pp. 137–140.

Transcribed: by Damon Maxwell.

Proofread: by Einde O’Callaghan (July 2013).

What’s In A Name?

THERE are some who doubt the revolutionary potentiality of the workers and the validity of the struggle for a socialist society. The bourgeoisie at any rate does not. It fights a continuous war not only against the workers’ organizations, industrial and political, but specifically against the idea of socialism and the permanent revolution. In less critical times the bourgeois theorist demonstrated with learning and logic the impossibility of socialism, the politician harangued against it. But soon, the politician, who had to look into the hostile eyes of the workers, quickly learned to call himself a socialist, or adopted “socialist” measures.

The Social Democracy was born in sin, the shame-ridden offspring of democracy and a prostituted socialism. That was nearly a hundred years ago. A generation later this misbegotten bastard rose in the world: Sir William Harcourt, the English politician announced that “We are all socialists now.” In France, one wing of the bourgeoisie called itself the Radical-Socialist Party. With the decay of bourgeois Europe and the rise of the Communist International the Social Democracy could no longer be trusted with the defense of the capitalist system among the workers under the guise of working for socialism. The German counter-revolution, facing the German millions organized under the socialist banner, took the ultimate step and draped itself in the very garments of the enemy: Hitler called his party, the National Socialist Party. In Austria, where, next to Germany, the working class movement was stronger than anywhere else in Europe, Dolfuss followed suit with his Christian Socialist Party. As bourgeois society continues to deteriorate, the bourgeoisie more and more sees world revolution and socialism as its mortal and imminent enemy. Therefore, while the FBI and the vigilante groups are stimulated and encouraged to round up the revolutionaries, the bourgeoisie wages a comprehensive and variegated but systematic warfare on the idea of socialism. The liberal defenders of capitalism do not attempt nowadays to defend the system as such. From Shanghai to Gibraltar it stinks. Instead they seek to disrupt and confuse the working class and the petty-bourgeoisie as to the nature of the alternative to capitalism.

In 1936 the Blum Popular Front government under the threat of the workers in the factories accepted the forty-hour week and holidays with pay. Major Attlee, leader of the British socialists, wrote a purring article in the British Daily Herald, in which he described the achievements of the French workers as socialism. Socialism gives the forty-hour week. Socialism gives holidays with pay. Socialism gives this, socialism gives that. Having confused the workers as to the method by which bourgeois society is to be superseded, these defenders of bourgeois society are driven to blur the boundaries between capitalism and socialism. Today bourgeois society is in far more serious difficulties than it was in 1936. Hence on all fronts the bourgeoisie diligently sows more contusion than ever. Robert Ley, Hitler’s labor leader, calls upon the workers of the world to unite to destroy the British plutocracy. We hope that some day not too far off the German workers will call this political pimp specially to account for this exceptional impertinence. These people at any rate know the force of our ideas better than some of us know it ourselves. After the Republican convention in Philadelphia, Dorothy Thompson wrote a gloomy article on the urgent necessity for a “co-operative commonwealth” in America, to be achieved, however, under the banner not of Karl Marx but of Wendell Willkie. One month later, on July 21, speaking on the radio in Montreal, she went a step further and embraced world socialism. “The plutocratic England you (Hitler) attack is today a socialist state created without class war, created out of love and led by ... a man who cares ... only for Britain and for the coining world that a free and socialist British society will surely help to build if ever it is built.” She does not yet believe in the inevitability of socialism, but she is travelling fast. Pause to observe this curious spectacle – Dorothy Thompson accusing Hitler of not being as good a socialist as she and Winston Churchill. It is burlesque, but burlesque that reflects faithfully the pressure that the bourgeoisie is feeling from the weakness of bourgeois society and the obvious alternative-socialism. When Attlee spoke in favour of the bill giving all power to the government this expert in confusing the workers was outdone by Peter Howard, the British journalist, who confessed that both he and Attlee were astonished at seeing socialism in our time. “I am bound to record that no-one could have looked more surprised than Mr. Attlee when he found himself forced to stand up in the House of Commons and create a Socialist State.” This in the most widely read Sunday paper in Britain, Beaverbrook’s Sunday Express. It is not a new trick. Roosevelt has been consistently painted by his more vulgar enemies as a Red. But the British Empire as socialism. Here is something new, and it did not fall from the sky.

The Hitlerite World Revolution

The attack is carried on from all angles. Otto Tolischus in his dispatches from Europe always represents the Nazi system as a paternal “socialism,” though he has the grace always to put the word in quotes. Hitler has “got something.” The bourgeois theorists insist on this, which is, among other things, one way of hitting back-handed blows at the proletarian revolution. Hitler smashes the workers at home and destroys rival imperialisms abroad. In other words, he accomplishes the needs of finance-capital better than the old-line politicians. Naturally, the big bourgeoisie everywhere, despite its differences with Hitler, approves of the method. Therefore, the bourgeois writers of all countries not yet fascist hammer at the workers and the small bourgeoisie. Submit yourselves. Stop all this talk about labor’s rights and democracy. Let us discipline ourselves. See what the Germans have achieved. That is the real revolution of our day. But there is a catch to this. The workers oppose Hitler precisely because he destroys the rights of labor. The American bourgeoisie, in its eagerness, over-reached itself and had to retreat. Roosevelt denounced those people who think that Hitler “has something.”

The Times of June 16, warned against too much praise of Hitler. “One important factor in a successful democratic defense against Hitler is not to endow him with supernatural attributes. We should be careful about using adjectives like ‘demonic’ ... they are words that should be avoided in the interests of anti-Hitler morale.” That is to say, we must bear in mind the prejudices of the workers: We cannot praise Hitler and at the same time defend American imperialism under the slogan of anti-Hitlerism. On June 6 the Times ridiculed the idea that Mussolini and Hitler had discovered any new form of economy. “Mussolini’s planned economy ... is not economics but military preparedness.” And of Hitler’s “planned economy”; “It made an impression even in this country where Hitler’s solution of the unemployment problem seemed one more proof that the planned economies knew how to do things tor which our own unplanned democracies seemed unable to find the answer.

“In the last year, and particularly in the last two months, we know definitely how much was economy in Hitler’s planning and how much was guns and planes and tanks and bombs.” Very good. But that was only a warning not to go too fast. The propaganda goes on and the events in Europe fortify the general line of the bourgeoisie about all that America, capital and labour alike, has to learn from Hitler. Thus Robert LaFollette in the Post of July 20: “The cruel fact has been driven home to a shocked world that a nation with a dynamic, expanding economy can smash a nation or a combination of nations in which manpower, capital, human and natural resources are not at work producing real wealth.” The implication is that the “dynamic expanding” economy of Germany is producing “real wealth.” Some of these people are merely stupid, others are frightened. But so bankrupt is capitalism that many petty-bourgeois and workers also are looking at fascism and wondering if Hitler has not got some solution after all. Far and wide, the press adds to their bewilderment by calling Nazism a “world revolution.” How they roll the words on their tongues! The American bourgeoisie will fight Hitler but if there is going to be a revolution it very much prefers Hitler’s to the Leninist type. The whole procedure is to push into the background, to ignore, to distort Marxian socialism and the Leninist world revolution. For that is the main enemy. Watch the analyses and symposiums of even the most radical intellectual circles whose function is to paint bourgeois ideas a bright pink. With unction and objectivity they discuss capitalist intervention, capitalist non-intervention, capitalist isolationism, “short of war,” and finally “pure pacifism.” Don’t they know Lenin’s “Turn Imperialist War into Civil War?” Of course they do, but that kind of “pacifism” is too impure even to talk about. There is a general conspiracy to pretend that it does not exist. When they do mention the revolt of the masses, they say “Bolshevism” and always add immediately “chaos.” The Stalinists of course, have added skyscrapers to the contusion by insisting that the Stalinist tyranny is socialism, and by linking themselves with Hitler. And, as always, even some intellectuals, using (God forgive us) the name of Marx, hear the chatter in the forum, prick up their ears, rush to their typewriters, and add their little piece of “theory” to the confusion.

We have to observe that the bourgeoisie fears socialism and the proletarian world revolution with a mortal fear. It is not at all lulled by the apparent passivity of the masses and strives to disorient and confuse their thoughts. This lays upon us the duty ruthlessly to combat and expose all distortions of our doctrine. Capitalism, fascism, socialism, communism. These words have very definite and precise meanings. The more the bourgeoisie and its rag, tag, and bobtail of babblers seek to create confusion, the more assiduously we must clarify. For this confusion, in the last analysis, serves one transparent purpose – the defense of bourgeois society. We must observe phenomena. There is no substitute for study. The Cannonite method of shouting slogans, formulae and abuse as a method of theoretical controversy reaps ultimately its own reward, an arid and self-destroying sterility. But the basic structure and movement of capitalist society in our period were laid bare nearly a generation ago. Only jitteriness, drawing sustenance from conceit and its twin brother ignorance, prepares a brand-new theory for every brand-new event.

The State and Revolution

During the years 1914–1916, Lenin, as the basis of his attack on bourgeois society, analysed the nature of imperialism. At the same time he prepared his notes for an analysis of the state. His preface to the first edition of The State and Revolution, August 1917, begins as follows: “The question of the state is acquiring at present a particular importance, both as theory, and from the point of view of practical politics. The imperialist war has greatly accelerated and intensified the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism. The monstrous oppression of the laboring masses by the state – which connects itself more and more intimately with the all-powerful capitalist combines – is becoming ever more monstrous. The foremost combines are being converted – we speak here of their ‘rear’ – into military convict labor prisons for the workers.” In fascism we see the culmination of that process – nothing more. How sad that those who wish to teach us something new do not take the elementary precaution of learning what is old.

Lenin approached the question by an analysis of existing theoretical writings on the state. But during the revolution this question of the state had, as he said, an urgent practical importance. It is this aspect that we propose to treat first, as being less familiar than his study The State and Revolution. As early as May, 1917, Russian capitalist economy was heading for disaster. The question was how to arrest this headlong rush to chaos. The remedy was no mystery. Even the Mensheviks could see it. The Menshevik Executive Committee in Izvestia, No. 63 (May 24), published two articles, one dealing with a resolution of the Executive Committee of the Soviet.

“Many branches of industry have reached the point where they are ripe for a state trade monopoly; ... others are ready to be organized by the state, ... and finally, nearly all branches are in need ... of state supervision in the matter of distributing raw materials and finished products, as well as in the matter of fixing prices ... Simultaneously with the above, it is necessary to put under state and public control all credit institutions with the view of preventing speculation in goods subject to state regulation ...; compulsory labor should be instituted if necessary ... The country is already in a state of catastrophe, and the only thing that will save it is the creative effort of the entire people under the guidance of the government.”

This was in 1917, over twenty years ago.

Lenin in Pravda quoted this passage and then asked the Mensheviks: “Here we have control, state regulated trusts, a struggle against speculation, labor conscription-for Mercy’s sake! in what sense does it differ from ‘terrible’ Bolshevism?” That was exactly the Bolshevik program. The only question was: who will bell the cat? The Russian capitalists themselves saw the necessity of complete state-control as the only way out of chaos. But they stormed and raged at the Soviet, for they didn’t want any labor organizations to carry out such a program. The Social-Democrats saw the necessity. But they were, as always, afraid. The Bolsheviks saw the necessity, and burned with eagerness to carry it out, with the help of the masses. When the capitalist class, in the throes of crisis, smashes the working class and carries out such a program in its own interest, you have Fascism. When the revolutionary party carries out such a program it leads inevitably to socialism. For a revolutionary party carries out all such measures in the interests of the toiling masses. The capitalists immediately sabotage and compel the revolutionary state to pass from workers’ control to expropriation. Lenin, greatest of revolutionaries, seemed to have had illusions as to the possibility of disciplining the capitalists with-in the framework of the capitalist system. Conscious of the unripeness of Russia for socialism, he did not want to go too far and too fast. Even between February and October he often used the phrase, “The revolutionary democracy.” But years before Trotsky had stated:

“You cannot stop. Once you begin you have to go right through to the end. This will be no question of revolutionary democracy or democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. It will be the dictatorship of the proletariat or the capitalist dictatorship.”

The Mensheviks Demand Statification

On May 29 and 30 Lenin returned to this subject which soon assumed an enormous importance. He points out that the Menshevik minister Skobelev had declared the state economy to be on the brink of a precipice. Skobelev said that the government must intervene “in the various domains of the economic life of the country.” In typical Menshevik fashion, Skobelev used terrible words. “If capital wishes to preserve the bourgeois method of doing business, then let it work without interest, so as not to lose clients ... We must introduce obligatory labor duty for the shareholders, bankers and factory owners ... We must force the gentle-men shareholders to submit to the state ...” Yet this Menshevik would have derided the idea that he was introducing socialism in Russia. This was his method of saving capitalism. He said so. “If capital wishes to preserve the bourgeois method of doing business ...”

Lenin points out, and this is very important, that Skobelev’s program was more radical than the Bolshevik program. When Skobelev said he would tax the capitalists 100 per cent he “goes a step further than we do.” All we Bolsheviks are asking for is control and “a transition to a more just and progressive tax on incomes and property.” The trouble was that this kind of program, moderate or extreme, could be carried out by a working class organization only in one way, by the mobilization of the working class and the use of force. Lenin knew that only force could do it, but he wanted the capitalists also to take part in this reorganization, because “at present (they) have more of the required experience, and more talented organizers.”

In Pravda of June 8, Lenin collected a list of statements by Menshevik ministers. Every word is a blow at the neo-Fascists who discover to-day that Fascism is a “new” form of society. Minister Cherevanin: “What we need is a general plan, what we need is state regulation of our economic life ...” Avilov: “... there must be state control of all the sources upon which industry draws for means of subsistence and turnover, i.e., all credit institutions.” Bazarov: “What is needed is compulsory state trustification of industry.” G.V. Shuba: “In addition to regulating the entire economic life of the country, we must demolish and rebuild the entire executive apparatus of the government.” Kukovetsky: “The second measure is the compulsory regulation of industry, the fixing of prices on goods.” And the final conclusion by Groman: “Neither the government nor the country at large has up to now developed a central organ which would regulate the economic life of the country ... It must be created ... A powerful executive organ must be organized. An economic council must be built up.”

Like Mussolini and Hitler, all the Menshevik ministers knew what was to be done. They did not have to read Houston Chamberlain to find out. The rotting economic system was crying out for state-regulation. Lenin asked them every day “why don’t you do it.” There was no question here of socialism. It was a question of the capitalist state and capitalist economy and later we shall see the specific proposals Lenin made, all to be carried out within the framework of the capitalist system. This became the central internal question of the Russian Revolution. Had the Russian capitalists been able to smash the working class movement, they would probably have carried out the program themselves. Now in 1940 when we see the German fascists, after smashing the German workers, carry out precisely such a reorganization, within the framework of the capitalist system, and in the interests of heavy industry and finance-capital, Sidney Hook and other petty-bourgeois intellectuals thrill with the joy of discovery and yell like explorers who behold a new continent. They teach us nothing at all about society but a great deal about themselves.

(To be continued)

CLR James (aka, J.R. Johnson) On Labor Will Take Care of Its Own Union Problems, 29 July 1940

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, vol. 4 No. 16, 29 July 1940, p. 4.

Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

On July 8, this column was guilty of an error. In the imaginary speech which unfortunately was not delivered by a delegate to the NAACP Convention, the orator called upon the President of the United States to do several things. Among them was the demand to summon William Green to the White House and inform him that any union which discriminated against Negroes would henceforth be dubbed Fifth Columnist and an enemy of democracy.

It was pointed out to me, and with truth, that we do not call upon the capitalist government to interfere in trade union affairs. That is very true. Also it has been pointed out that under the present circumstances to call a union Fifth Column and enemy of democracy on account of its discrimination against Negroes is, to say the least, unwise, if not politically dangerous. I accept both corrections.

Whose Job Is It?

First, let us get the political points clear.

There is racketeering in the unions, and every honest workers hates it. But when Westbrook Pegler writes article after article attacking the unions we mobilize all our forces against him even though what he says is true. Why? Because we know the capitalist class from long, long experience. wherever a capitalist or a writer in the capitalist press attacks racketeering in unions, he is hoping really to weaken the unions. We tell him, “Even if what you say is true this is our business not yours. We know what you are up to. We shall struggle against the racketeers, but without your help, thank you.”

The same with the Stalinists. They are the most dangerous force for corruption and betrayal that has ever been a part of the labor movement. But we do not want the capitalists to drive them out of the labor movement. The capitalist attack on the Stalinists means always an attack on the labor movement. We, the workers, must analyze the role of the Stalinists, point it out to their rank and file, and then gather as much support as possible to drive them out of all positions of influence and authority.

In the same way, discrimination in the unions is the business of the unions and of those Negroes who attack discrimination, not as enemies of unions, but because they wish to participate in the benefits of unionization as free and equal members of the working class.

It is true that the demand appears in a long list whose main object was to expose the hypocrisy and pretense of Roosevelt as a friend of democracy and of the Negroes. We know that Roosevelt would not carry out one of the demands. Yet we must make them in order to expose and keep on exposing the colossal fraud that American democracy is. But we must always be careful and keep the class line clear. The same in regard to William Green and the unions being called Fifth Columnists and enemies of democracy by the President. However, that does not close that matter, not by any means.

Answering Real “Fifth Columnists”

Today every capitalist, every member of the Government, all the war-mongers never open their mouths without shouting “Fifth Column” and calling all those who oppose their war “enemies of democracy.” They are preparing to drive millions into the slaughter to defend what they are pleased to call “the American way of life.” As every Negro knows, this way of life means economic discrimination, Jim Crow, lynch terror and all the other familiar features of Negro life in America. Negroes must be ready for these war-mongers. As soon as they begin their blah about fighting for democracy, Negroes should hurl back at them exactly what this democracy is.

Now William Green is one of those who has repeatedly helped to sabotage the struggle against discrimination in many unions of the AFL. But Mr. Green is one of the noisiest shouters for the necessity of defending our liberties and wants action taken against all Reds,

by which he means all revolutionaries who oppose the Government’s war preparations. Now we don’t want President Roosevelt interfering in this, but if William Green or any henchman of his stood on any platform and talked about the necessity of defending democracy by going to war against Hitler, every Negro in the hall would be perfectly justified in shouting at him, “What about democracy here, in your unions, Mr. Green?” And if Green called revolutionary workers Fifth Columnists, then a revolutionary worker is quite entitled to tell him, “If a Fifth Columnist is an enemy of democracy, then you are one, Brother Green.”

We do not want Roosevelt interfering but for that very reason we must be vigilant and spare no effort to make the unions examples of true workers’ democracy, in which all, Negroes and whites, will function as free and equal citizens.

In conclusion let me say that we would welcome letters addressed to this column expressing a point of view on the Negro’s fight. We are a party who welcome discussion, not necessarily expressing a party point of view, nor coming from party members. We hope to have in the future regular letters from our friends.

CLR James (aka, J.R. Johnson) On The Speech That Was Not Made at NAACP Meet, 8 July 1940

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, vol. 4 No. 13, 8 July 1940, p. 4.

Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Mr. Chairman and Delegates:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is holding its conference, and we can truly say that it has never held a conference at a more critical period in the history of humanity. Today we live while one war rages in Europe and Africa, another rages in Asia and preparations for American entry into one, the other or both, are going on openly before us.

We speak in the name of the Negro people but we are all Americans. We must think in terms of the country as a whole. If the country goes to war, then the Negro people are at war.

The war, we are told, is a war for democracy and Mr. Spingarn, our president, has just told us that “No Negro will be found in the ranks of the Fifth Column.”

Now the Fifth Columnists are the enemies of democracy, the men who preach and practice race-prejudice, the enemies of human equality, the persecutors of the poor, all the things for which Hitler, France and Mussolini stands. We of the NAACP know that these enemies of the people and friends and admirers of Hitler are found in every country and we openly declare war against them. In this country you can look for them in those who propose an end to social legislation and labor unions.

The NAACP therefore, calls upon President Roosevelt immediately to declare:

The American people are determined to stamp out race-prejudice in America so as to show the population that Hitler and Hitlerism will have no basis in this country for their criminal practices.

The President will summon Mr. Willkie to the White House and both will issue a statement in the Name of the Democratic and Republican parties that all poll-taxes, grandfather clauses, violence against Negroes at elections and. any discrimination whatever against them in the exercise of their lawful electoral rights shall henceforth cease and that Congress will mercilessly punish all those enemies of democracy in America who for 75 years have carried on Hitlerite practices against the Negroes.

The President will immediately publish an emergency decree which will prohibit any Jim-Crow practices against Negroes in any part of the country. The Federal government will heavily punish all breakers of this decree.

The President will summon William Green to the White House and inform him that if any union in the AFL should exclude a Negro from its ranks, or in any way discriminate against the Negroes, that union will thereby be considered an enemy of democracy and a supporter of Hitlerism and the Fifth Column.

The President will inform all employers that if any of them discriminate against Negroes, either as workers or office employees, they will be excluded from all government contracts.

That we think is the plain duty of the President, and we can assure him that if he were to take the lead in enforcing these elementary laws of democracy, we would be more impressed with his anger against Hitler and Hitlerism abroad and Fifth Columnists at home.

Suggestions to John L. Lewis

Mr. John L. Lewis has also spoken to us and he seems to be asking us to support the Republican Party. We Negroes have supported the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the past, and wo have nothing to show for it. For the most part we are working people and Mr. Lewis is a labor leader. We therefore, as working people, propose to him the following:

Mr. Lewis should within eight weeks from to-day summon a conference of all the ranks of of organized labor, poor farmers, Negroes, youth groups, and old age pension groups.

At the Conference Mr. Lewis should propose:

a. A united working class organization on the basis of working class democracy.

b. As association of poor farmers which will collaborate with the workers organization for the attainment of common ends.

c. A gigantic program of public works which will give thirty dollars a week for thirty hours of work to every worker in the country.

d. Sixty dollars a month for all over 60 years of age.

e. A special fund to provide training and special opportunities for the youth.

f. The rich to be taxed and Wall Street bankers to be expropriated to find the funds for the above program.

g. That the government take over all the war industries and run them under the control of the workers.

h. That the government arm the people under the control of the unions and the workers themselves so as to constitute the best defense against the real Fifth Columnists at home and Hitlerism abroad.

On such a program the NAACP would support Mr. Lewis for President and it can assure him that it will not only mobilize 99% of the Negro vote in America but will make of every Negro a propagandist and agitator among the white workers for a real democracy in the U.S. In this way the NAACP would advance the colored people, would make its contribution to the prosperity and the well-being of all Americans, and would carry on the only real war for democracy that can be fought today.

CLR James (aka, J.R. Johnson) on Capitalist Society and the War

First Published: The New International, , Vol. VI No. 6, July 1940, pp. 114–128.

Transcribed: Damon Maxwell.

Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (July 2013).


WAR is one great destroyer of illusions. Churchill tells the British people that they were so glutted with victory in 1918 that they failed to use it: imperialist Germany should have been destroyed once and for all in 1918. Thus even in the mouth of a great democrat the survival of democracy in Britain demands the destruction of the greatest nation in Europe. Reynaud’s representative in Britain, General de Gaules, with a third of France in German hands and the French army in full retreat, advises his countrymen that the “same methods” which gave Germany victory can give them to France: this patriotic Frenchman believes that if Fascist boots are to tramp down the Champs Elysees, at least they should enclose French feet. The eternal unity of France and Britain in defence of liberty has burst asunder, revealing two groups of greedy and frightened self-seekers, each one blaming the disaster on the other, trying to throw the responsibility on the United States, finally exchanging bullets. Hitler the conqueror sits in the very chair of Foch, and does to France what Churchill now regrets was not done to Germany in 1918. He makes one exception-France will retain enough armed forces to protect her colonies. On this point, “protective custody” for the colonies, Fascism and democracy are agreed.

The War and Marxism

The Marxist movement, the Fourth International, has not been taken unawares as to the general character of this war. But we have been guilty of some grievous, if excusable blunders. We predicated all our strategy on the victory of British and French imperialism. With that schematism which is the besetting danger of Marxism, we have applied the concept of victory going automatically to the countries of greater economic resources. Trotsky who told the Dewey Commission that Germany was certain to be defeated in the coming war now digs out a quotation of 1934 to prove that the “weakness of France and Great Britain was not unexpected” and “The power of the Fourth International lies in this, that its program is capable of withstanding the test of great events.” The power of the program can be amply enough demonstrated without these papal claims to infallibility – even when obvious mistakes have been committed. We have underestimated the political and subjective factors in war. The result is we were mentally unprepared for the possibility far less the probability of a German victory. In the war of the classes, as in any other war, surprise is a powerful weapon for disorganization, and disorganization is weakness. From a complete underestimation of the military and political power of Fascism, the bourgeois world today is swinging to an opposite extreme, in part propaganda, but in part genuine. The revolutionary movement cannot escape the consequences of so strong and sudden a reversal of opinion. Already, before the blitzkrieg, there were on the left, genuflections before Fascism. Some comrades posed the probability of “bureaucratic state” or “managerial society” as the next stage in social evolution. Should Hitler dominate Europe we shall see a rapid growth of these ideas in the revolutionary movement. Fascism as we know it has reached its culmination in the present war, and we must analyze its role in the war in specific and not in general terms.

The Marxists Predicted Fascism

First, however, we must restate some fundamentals. Neither the war nor Fascism fell from the sky. Your democrat and your empiricist hate to be reminded of this. As in 1914 they want to forget everything in view of the new unexpected danger. The danger is not new, it is not unexpected.

Lenin and Trotsky not only stated the broad alternatives of our period, but specified its details with a precision which is a triumph as much of their method as of their minds.

The Communist International, in its first manifesto, predicated the coming forms of the state.

“The statification of economic life against which liberal capitalism protested so much, is an accomplished fact. The return to free competition is henceforth impossible; we move inevitably to the domination of trusts, syndicates, and other capitalist octopuses. One question alone remains to be decided: who will control the statification of production, the Imperialist State or the victorious Proletarian State?”

That was Trotsky. Just a year before that, in March, 1918, Lenin, speaking at the Seventh Congress of the Bolshevik Party on the program and name of the party almost in an aside revealed his conception of the years ahead

“Marxists have never forgotten that violence will be an inevitable accompaniment of the collapse of capitalism on its full scale and of the birth of a socialist society. And this violence will cover a historical period, a whole era of wars of the most varied kinds – imperialist wars, civil wars within the country, the interweaving of the former with the latter, national wars, the emancipation of the nationalities crushed by the imperialists and by various combinations of imperialist powers which will inevitably form various alliances with each other in the era of vast state-capitalist and military trusts and syndicates. This is an era of tremendous collapses, of wholesale military decisions of a violent nature, of crises. It has already begun, we see it clearly – it is only the beginning.”

German Fascism is “a vast state-capitalist military trust and syndicate.” By the German blitzkrieg is achieved the first of the “wholesale military decisions of a violent nature.” There will be others. At the rate the American bourgeoisie is going we shall not have to wait long for them. But however powerful the military trusts, and however wholesale the military decisions, the situation of capitalism is to use another of Lenin’s phrases, “objectively hopeless.”

These are the boundaries of our theoretical arena. No armed guards prohibit the adventurous from wandering further afield, but those who cross the border either turn up in the camp of the enemy or reappear penitent and chastened.

I. “Dynamic” Fascism

The German Army Before Hitler

HITLER’s chief contribution to modern civilization so far has been the blitzkrieg. Now the spearhead of the blitzkrieg is the German army, its basis is the German economy. Let us note well that German Fascism created neither. The military achievements and traditions of the German army date back before Frederick the Great. The French and British bourgeoisie, as far back as the late seventeenth century, owed their power to wealth created by their success in the scramble for colonies and international commerce. Germany, ruined by the Thirty Years War, first achieved European importance through the efforts of Frederick Wilhelm who, soldier by soldier, built a powerful army, drilled and equipped as no other army in Europe: the Prussian drill-sergeant, in actuality if not in tradition, dates back nearly 200 years. This was the army used by Frederick II to make Prussia into one of the great powers of Europe and extend its boundaries at the cost of its neighbors. However, the Prussian State, under Frederick, in comparison with the rest of Europe, represented no progressive social formation. The creation of the army was a tour-de-force. It declined in Frederick’s last years and deteriorated after his death; Prussia, along with the rest of Europe, reeled under the blows of Napoleon’s military genius manipulating the new mass armies of the French Revolution. But the basis of the Prussian tradition had been laid.

The Treaty of Tilsit, 1807, was for Prussia a nineteenth century Versailles. Germany’s army was reduced to 42,000. But Stein and Fichte, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau led a movement of national regeneration whose psychological significance must undoubtedly have played an important part in the creation of Fascist morale. They evaded the limitations placed on the army by passing men through it with great speed, thus accumulating reserves. They dismissed incompetent officers. They opened schools for military training. They reduced the privileges of the officers. They created the landwehr, a national militia, the nearest they could get to conscription. They remodelled the whole educational system. They tried even to tinker with the social system. In all these efforts they met with stiff opposition from the Junkers. Intimately, however, the Reformers succeeded in transplanting to the German army as much of the spirit and organization of the French revolutionary armies as was possible without a social overturn. They reaped their reward when Blücher’s troops marched into Paris in 1814 and played the decisive role in the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

The Blitzkrieg Before Hitler

Surrounded by France and Russia and on the south by Austria, her powerful rival for hegemony over the numerous Germany states, the Prussian army became to Prussia what the British navy has been to Britain. The greatest theoretician of war, Clausewitz, was a German who analysed the transformation of warfare which had followed the French Revolution. The theory of total war which Clausewitz developed from his personal experiences in the French Revolutionary wars, was put into practice by the Germans more than by any other European people. The idea of the blitzkrieg, the lightning stroke, was conceived and practised long before Hitler.

In 1886 Bismarck crushed Austria in 7 weeks. In 1871 the Prussian army was outside the walls of Paris in 7 weeks and 3 days. The organization of the army, the study of military strategy and technique kept pace with the phenomenal progress of German industry between 1871 and 1914. In 1914 the Germans came within an ace of winning the first imperialist war. The Schlieffen plan just failed, and, in the words of Winston Churchill, “we survive to this day,” a tribute by one well qualified to judge how nearly the Kaiser’s blitzkrieg came to making Germany the master of Europe. Even before the 1914 war, in 1911, a military critic of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, an Englishman, made the following profound summation of the old German army: “The value of war was analyzed and the secrets of success and failure were laid bare; and on these investigations a system of organisation and of training were built up which, not only from a military, but from a political and even an economical point of view, is the most striking product of the nineteenth century.” Hitler has achieved much. We shall examine it, but we must render to Hitler the things that are Hitler’s no more.

Germany Economy Before Hitler

If Fascism inherited in Germany the skeleton and military tradition of the most powerful army of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it inherited also the magnificent economic structure of Germany, the finest in Europe, and in many respects, the most highly organized in the world. Any well-informed person knows the history of the rise and development of pre-1914 German industry, its efficiency, its mastery of the most modern processes, the scientific character of its technicians, its high degree of concentration of production and centralization of ownership. Much of this forms an important part of Lenin’s book, Imperialism.

But there is one special feature of pre-war German capitalism which it is worth while to recall at this moment. The German bourgeoisie unlike the French, English and Dutch, who bordered the Atlantic Ocean, was never wealthy enough either to establish the national state or accumulate large reserves. British industry had a long start when Germany really began in the nineteenth century. German capitalism was tended: it grew up behind tariffs, it fed on state subsidies, the Junkers deserted their estates and made vast profits supplying the needs of the army. Thus German industry was the foster-child of the state more than any of the great industrial structures of Europe. From its very birth it was trained in the school of statification.

In 1919, chaos set in which was checked only by the entry of American capital after the defeat of the German workers in 1923. To pay reparations, Germany had to extend her foreign trade. But the workers’ organizations still existed and the workers could not be reduced to impotence. To meet the demands placed upon it, the already highly efficient technical capacity, concentration of production and cartelisation of German industry underwent a further process, rationalisation, which awakened the interest and tempered admiration of industrialists and technicians the world over. If post-1918 Germany has contributed anything progressive to the technique and administration of production it was this rationalisation, which took place between 1924 and 1929.

Already in 1931 in the important exporting industries, coal, potash, metallurgical, electro-technical, and chemical, large-scale production had reached a level of concentration comparable with that in the United States, though in mechanization Germany still was second. In 1924 the Steel Ingot Cartel controlled about 94 of output and by 1931 production was in the hands of two great enterprises. By 1930, in the iron and steel industry taken as a whole, the existence of a few large combines had facilitated the organisation of a cartel structure more closely integrated and of a wider range than ever before. Two corporations accounted in 1931 for about 75 of the total output and more than 80 of the exports of the German electro-technical industry. In 1929 an international cartel of chemical dye-stuffs was formed consisting of five countries which two years before had produced between them three-quarters of the quantity and more than four-fifths of the world’s exports of coal-tar dyes. Germany in 1931 had 75 of the total export quota. One chemical trust was responsible for 90 of German production. The coal industry had failed so completely to prosper under private ownership that by 1924 the whole industry was subjected to state regulation. The potash industry was similarly controlled. Later the whole iron and steel industry came under state control. Thus by 1933 when Hitler took over Germany, the Nazis had two enormous advantages, both sides of the same coin. Not only was German industry of a high technical standard, but more than any other industry in the world, it was ready for its inevitable end – statification.

Fascism: The Marxian Analysis

The Nazis inherited the skeleton German army and the German economic potential. They also inherited a country whose actual industrial production was just half of what it had been in 1929. There were six million unemployed. By 1938 production was 138% of 1932; unemployment has been abolished. The Nazis have constructed a military machine such as the world has never seen before. How did they do it? What is their “secret”? Have they solved the contradictions of capitalism?

Marx wrote three large volumes describing the structure and function of capitalist economy. For Marxists, labor power is a commodity like any other commodity which the capitalists buys and sells. Consumption is a function of production. The iron law of such a method of production is the accumulation of profits in the form of capital leading to an ever-greater concentration. The increasing disproportion, inevitable in the capitalist system, between the accumulating capital and the possibilities of consumption causes great and increasingly devastating economic crises. At a certain stage concentrated capital assumes a form which we know as imperialism. Lenin analyzed the nature of imperialism, contrasting its need for foreign markets, colonies and spheres of influence with the limitations of the avail-able supply. Under such circumstances, the necessary division among the competing imperialisms takes place by war. Such a war the Kaiser fought in 1914. Such a war capitalist Germany is fighting today. But capitalist Germany of 1933 was a Germany economically at the last gasp. It had to win the coming war or go down to ruin. The Fascist bureaucracy therefore transformed the whole of German economy into a vast state-capitalist and military trust. To do this, the Fascists cheapened the most important element of production, labor power, and compelled the bourgeoisie to invest a portion of its profits in armaments. The system however, remains a capitalist system, in the method of production, the use of labor power as a commodity, the inevitable accumulation of capital, the need for imperialist expansion. The bourgeois investment in armaments is in reality a form of investment in colonies and new industrial opportunities which the armaments will win for them. The Fascist bureaucracy acts in the interests of German imperialism as a whole, as did the German imperial and royal families and their nobility. The nature of bureaucratic power and the extent of its revenues are subordinate to the essential features of capitalist production in Germany. Fascism politically and economically is neither a new society nor world revolution. It is the old society land counter revolution. It is capitalism in its last stages, stripped to the waist and trained for war as its sole means of survival. Such is the Marxian analysis of this question.

We must bear this in mind when we address ourselves to the question of how Germany created the economic and military power which resulted in the defeat of France.

The Marxist Investigator

Guerin in his book, Fascism and Big Business, gives an admirable analysis of the economic policy of Fascism. It places the working class at the mercy of the capitalists in regard to wages and working conditions. At the same time, Fascism limits the liberty of movement of each capitalist and sacrifices all other branches of economic activity on the altar of heavy industry.

For heavy industry write armaments for war and the interior structure of the whole process is laid bare before us.

Guerin points out that when the Fascists came to power they hastened to give back to Kirdorf and Thyssen control of the businesses which they had lost in 1932. The Nazis gave back the state’s share of capital to big bank mergers, in one case 90, in another 70, in another 35. Municipally-owned enterprises, which even during the depression, had made profits amounting to 650,000,000 marks, were ruthlessly liquidated and their business restored to private capital.

The capitalists were allowed to deduct from their taxable income all sums used to purchase new equipment. Finance-capital was assisted by the formation of compulsory cartels. The Nazis, according to Guerin, created new enterprises but only when it was a question of profitless ventures. When profits could be made the enterprise was left to the capitalists.

Pre-Nazi capital could find no field for investment. The Nazis found an unlimited one – the field of what we can call “public works.” All capitalist politicians know this method of creating business, Roosevelt more than any other. But whereas Roosevelt knew that unlimited taxation for public works which bring in no returns leads to bankruptcy, the Fascists taxed heavily and invested all in their military construction, because these “public works” might someday bring fat returns in the shape of colonies, markets, and industrial opportunities wrenched by war from rival Imperialisms. That is the Fascist contribution to the science of capitalist economy. The famous abolition of unemployment is no more than a gigantic WPA for the destruction of rival imperialisms.

Inevitably, the Fascist state piled up a mountainous debt. But it had at its disposal all the wages which it could squeeze out of the defeated workers. It could force the capitalists to invest in its novel form of “public works.” It took savings in banks, and insurance companies under its protective custody. The only security it could offer was what it hoped to win by the war.

It is true that the Nazis compelled capitalists to reinvest profits over a certain amount in such industries as were indicated by the state, chiefly the armament industry. But the direction of these enterprises they left to the capitalists themselves and they forbade any increase in the state ad-ministration of industry.

Such a form of economy carries with it the danger of inflation, the most terrible word in the German language. To prevent this inflation getting out of bounds the Nazis rigidly controlled prices. But they also controlled consumption, feeding the people as little as possible, clothing them as badly as possible, so that all available funds could go into the production not of butter but of guns.

Like every modern nation, the Germans had to battle for foreign trade. The Nazis particularly needed raw materials for the great preparations demanded by war. They set out on the reactionary task of creating synthetic products, oil from coal, etc. most of it at a cost far beyond its production elsewhere. By this means they struck more blows at the living standards of the country, and under-mined still further one of capitalism’s most important contributions to society – the international division of labor. But with war in mind they had to be as far as possible self-sufficient, to create what the economists call the regime of autarchy.

The Nazis had promised, among other promises, to expropriate the big estates for the benefit of the peasants. This, with communal farming, is one of the most pressing economic needs for the advancement of modern society. Germany needed an expansion of agriculture, but the Nazis carefully guarded the property of the Junkers.

Such in essentials is the analysis made by a Marxist of what the Nazis with their usual impudence and bluster pronounce to be a world revolution.

An Observer on the Spot

How the Nazis mobilized economy is the question which naturally occupies the central position in any discussion of the war. To many sincere observers Guerin’s analysis may seem too strongly colored by Marxist spectacles. Let us therefore look through the spectacles of Otto D. Tolischus, for years New York Times correspondent in Germany. Mr. Tolischus’ paper is sufficient guarantee that those of his writings which appear in it will not reflect the least tinge of Marxism. In the New York Times Magazine of June 30 he sums up his unrivalled experience of Germany’s economic mobilization for Hitler’s world revolution. Though he and his employers would be horrified at this, his summary has a familiar sound. “A nation of 80,000,000 ... has been converted into a gigantic trust which has no other aims or dogmas except total economic and military war ... that will establish German world supremacy.” In other words, “a vast state-capitalist and military trust” aiming at “wholesale military decisions of a violent nature.” Lenin with his sharp eye for good theoretical work and his genial objectivity would have said “Bravo, Mr. Bourgeois, Bravo!”

Tolischus lists “the main principles and measures.”


1. Fixed prices and adjusted currency by a price commissar “on a cost plus basis.” This limited the inevitable inflation to not more than 25%.

2. The limitation of profits; these were limited by price control and by compulsory investment of all profits above 6 to 8 in government loans. But this investment was subject to later distribution to stock holders. “The gross dividend declaration is still up to 14.%.” This we may note in passing is what admirers of Fascism call “abolition of the profit motive.”


Fixed wage rates based mainly on deflated wage levels of 1932, job control, abolition of the right to strike.


Rationing of virtually all food and of most other necessities under the slogan cannon instead of butter “which lowered the living standard almost to the point of mal-nutrition.”

In no essential does Mr. Tolischus differ from the analysis and details of the Marxist, Guerin.

Mr. Tolischus finds this system, which reduces the consumer to the point of malnutrition, while the level of dividends remains at 14 per cent, a form of “paternal socialism.” But Tolischus at any rate makes no claim to be a Marxist. As to its future he says that “while it lasts it compensates for loss of liberty with economic security.” On the whole, Mr. Tolischus comes very well out of this. His “while it lasts” shows a caution which hotter heads might emulate.

A Bourgeois Economist

Tolischus is a reporter on the spot. John C. de Wilde is an economist who investigates German economy for the Foreign Policy Association. He has written on Germany three times during the past year, using almost exclusively German sources, official and unofficial.

The gross earnings of workers and salaried employees rose from 25.7 to 38.8 billion marks and probably attained 41.5 billion in 1938. The increase came largely from extension of the average working day in industry to the extent of 12%. This, we may waste some time in pointing out, is no new economic discovery. Capitalists have always known it. The question is to be able to carry it out and that is a question of the class-struggle.

The share in the national income of those living on investments in real property or stocks and bonds dropped from 6.6 to 5%, but increased about 3 times between 1932 and 1937. “As production increased and plants were utilized more fully, industry did in fact earn handsome profits;” but these had to be re-invested in business and were in many cases conscripted for the Four Year Plan. (The nature of this conscription, Wilde makes clear later.)

The Nazis have done all they could to increase agriculture, and large sums have been spent on land reclamations and improvement, but the acreage affected has been smaller than the area used for “air ports, roads, buildings, and other purposes connected with rearmament.” The German bourgeoisie invests its surplus in air ports. The air ports will give it good land at the expense of Denmark, Holland, Belgium, French Colonial Africa, etc.

Of Goering’s Four Year Plan, Wilde says that it obviously costs much money. Obviously. Producing oil from coal and rubber of the synthetic variety usually does. But it profits were conscripted for this necessary preparation for war let no one believe that capitalism suffered. The “main burden” of Goering’s plan has been “thrust” upon private enterprise. The private capitalist financed some of the enterprises. When he needed outside capital the government guaranteed bank-credits or opened up the capital market. The State made 5 or 10 year contracts with him, guaranteeing a price that would cover cost of production Interest and the amortization charges, as well as a definite profit The government often guaranteed him a market. These are the burdens borne by the suffering capitalists in Germany.

Writing again on June the 15th, 1940, on the German economy after some months of war, Wilde has little to say that we do not know before. The cost of the war has been imposed on private business. This is not strange – little more can be squeezed out of the workers in Germany. But Dr. Funk, Minister of Economics, has repeatedly warned against heavier taxation which would impair the capital of industry and “deprive business of the incentive to produce, a factor he apparently believes essential even in a totalitarian state.” Funk, that noble Nazi, sounds remarkably like the leaders of the Republican Party, and we may be sure that Hitler like Roosevelt, heard the cry of anguish. Finally, although everything is subordinated to the war and sacrifices are being exacted from all, yet “the State did not with few exceptions assume direct charge of production. It decided what was to be done, but imposed the responsibility for carrying out the program squarely on private enterprise. It has readily employed expert engineers and industrialists, but always under the strict control and direction of the government.” Wilde concludes: “this is an example which the United States could perhaps follow with profit. He need not be afraid. The United States government and the capitalists will follow, both with profit.

Fascism – Guardian of Profits

That is the way Germany accomplished her economic mobilization. But the Fascist bureaucracy in the course of mobilizing the country for war gathered enormous power into its hands? How else pray can a vast state-capitalist military trust be created? The German bourgeoisie was too discredited to undertake this task by itself. The bureaucracy takes a large part of the national income? Every bureaucracy takes as much as it can get and Fascism has rendered services to the German bourgeoisie that can never be repaid. How much did the bureaucracy take from the capitalist share? Between 1932 and 1937 the percentage of dividends dropped a little over 1%. Without Fascism there would have been no dividends at all. The bureaucracy expropriated the Jewish capitalists? Yes. To give their property and profits not to some abstract “state” but to some very concrete Aryan finance-capitalists. We know their names and how much they got. A bureaucracy does not function in the void It has from its beginning and always intensifies the closest political social and personal relationships with decisive sections of the class whose interests it serves. Ah, but it expropriated the Aryan Thyssen. So what? Thyssen opposed the alliance with Russia. The Nazis were not going to have anyone however powerful disrupting them at that critical moment. Thyssen left the country and probably intrigued with the enemy. After all. Fascism is the government of finance-capital in decay. It cannot afford the freedoms and privileges of a healthy organism. The Nazis expropriated the Polish capitalists. Of course. What do you think they fought the war tor? Glory? Later we shall see they will precede. Their present business is to win the war. But they have given state property to capitalists before. They will give it to them again. We need not lose sleep at nights about the share which German capital will get in the exploitation of Poland.

We have gone at some length into this question of the whence, how and why of Germany’s economic mobilization. It can be summed up in a few words. Germany spent 253.5 million dollars on armaments in 1932. In 1935 she spent over two and a half billion, in 1936 over three and a half. In 1937, 1938 and 1939 she spent over four billion dollars each year. Such a gigantic transfusion of economic resources takes place only when it is an absolutely inescapable necessity for survival. Inevitably it brought vast changes in the political and economic structure. There has been a redistribution of income and a shift in political power, which afford scope for close study, and periodic revaluation. But through all the changes, the Fascist bureaucracy, even when, Bonapartist-fashion it makes gestures, concrete and symbolic, to other classes, preserved the fundamentals of capitalist society in our day, the profits of finance-capital with its inevitable consequences for national Germany and the world. And even such limitations as were imposed on individual capitalists were suffered for the purposes of imperialist war which meant, with victory, the greater glory and aggrandisement of the whole capitalist structure.

The Economic Blitzkrieg Abroad

With full control of economy at home, the Nazis prepared for war by an economic blitzkrieg – the economic warfare which they would afterwards continue by other means.

The war of 1914–1918 had ruptured the economic equilibrium of European capitalism and demonstrated the intolerable restriction of the national state. The bourgeois order stood squarely in the way of economic expansion. But France and Britain at Versailles could find no other solution to the taming of Germany and the isolation of Bolshevik contamination than by creating a number of small states with tariffs and customs barriers, thus adding considerably to those which had existed before 1914 and had so powerfully contributed to the chaos and ruin of the first imperialist war.

The fourth Congress of the Communist International pointed out that the economic basis of France, though enriched by the Versailles robbery, was still too small to dominate the entire continent. France had bitten off more than she could chew. Loans for armaments to Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Yugo-Slavia were not enough to keep Eastern Europe within France’s economic orbit. Once the Nazis had reorganized German economy on the backs of the prostrate workers they proceeded to dig themselves deep into the economic life of all the countries surrounding them, l process already begun by republican Germany. There is no need here to go into the methods of barter of buying dear and reselling cheap on the world market which the Nazis used. The bare data of results is sufficient.

In 1938 Yugo-Slavia’s imports from Germany represented 32.5% of her trade, her exports to Germany 35.9%. But this export percentage represented only 2.6% of Germany’s foreign trade. Germany thus could exercise enormous pressure upon Yugo-Slavia’s internal and external politics. In regard to France, imports and exports were each low down on Yugo-Slavia’s list. In 1939 France belatedly concluded a trade agreement with Yugo-Slavia. But that was useless. France’s economy, inferior to Germany’s, was geared to the trade of her empire. She could not be an economic power in Europe as well.

Germany stood at the head of both the import and export list of Czecho-Slovakia, France’s closest ally on the continent. The same with Austria before the annexation. The same with Poland, with Bulgaria and Rumania.

In 1938 Germany took 27% of Rumanian exports and sent Rumania 37% of her exports. She was at the head of the import and export tables of Greece, Poland and Italy. With Holland and Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, she held in their imports and exports either first or second place and more often first than second.

In the key area of South Eastern Europe, the percentage share in German exports was in 1929, 4.3%, in 1932 it was 9.4% and in nine months of 1938 it had risen to 10.1%. The percentage share of German imports from these countries had risen in the same period from 3.8% to 8.9%.

Inheriting a high technique and strategic position the Nazis used the broken working class and state control to speed their war preparations and to serve as the advance-guard of the diplomatic blitzkrieg. The economic basis of France was too weak to sustain her elaborate system of political alliances.

The Diplomatic Blitzkrieg

Hitler could fight no war without a statified industry. But during its organisation he had to prepare military strategy as well, involving the choice of the enemy and the preparation of allies, in the sinister business which masquerades under the name of diplomacy. He had one central problem – not to fight on two fronts at the same time. In alliance or entente with Russia he could strike at France and Britain. He could strike at Russia in alliance or entente with Western Europe. There is not the slightest reason as yet to doubt that his first plan was to strike at Russia.

As late as May 1939, Beck, speaking in the Polish parliament, referred to conversations with Reich representatives when “various other hints were made which extended much further than the subjects under discussion.” Beck very properly reserved the right “to return to this matter if necessary.” The French Yellow Book tells us what it needed no great perspicacity to know, that these proposals were for an alliance against Russia. The British were ready to support this fully. Hitler’s claim to be the advance guard of Western civilization against Bolshevism suited them exactly. Hitler tied Mussolini and Japan to him with promises of loot. By this means these two could squeeze Britain, alternately in the Mediterranean and in the Far East; and Hitler in the North Sea as well. He moved with Mussolini in Spain and Britain retreated. Mussolini being engaged in Ethiopia and Spain, Hitler struck at Austria and Britain acquiesced.

Chamberlain’s capitulation at Munich seemed to make it clear to Hitler that Britain would not fight unless directly attacked, and Hitler could take his time over that. Chamberlain, and with him the British bourgeoisie, counted above all on war between Germany and Russia. J.L. Garvin openly explained the British plan. Hitler was to be given no free hand in the East. When he attacked Russia, the British, French and others would declare a state of armed neutrality and see that the war ended “for the benefit of civilization.” The German domination of Czecho-Slovakia lost the British and French forty divisions, and armament factories three times as large as Italy’s. Britain did not deviate. As late as May 1939, Neville Henderson told Goering that compromise had its limits and he did not see how the situation could be saved unless the German government was prepared to wait “in order to allow excited spirits to calm down again and negotiations to be resumed in a better atmosphere.” When Henderson was leaving the house, Goering showed him pictures of naked ladies labelled “Goodness” “Mercy,” etc. Henderson commented that he failed to see Patience among them. In 1939 as in 1919 the British remained faithful to their policy. They were ready to appease to the last French colony. Hitler’s alliance with Russia, therefore, was a last attempt to squeeze some more appeasement out of Britain. He had no reason to believe that Britain would fight.

Hitler destroyed Poland and clamored for peace. If he had got his peace he could at will come to terms with Britain and France and strike at Russia, or, peace being refused, he could continue the entente with Russia and strike in the West. As we review this pliant and audacious diplomacy, one thing emerges. Never before has any modern statesman been able to exercise such an astonishing suppleness and freedom of maneuver. In comparison with that of Britain and France, his diplomacy pivoted with the range and oiled freedom of a modern machine-gun as compared to a seventeenth century muzzle-loader in the hands of a horseman.

Thyssen, and we can be sure, not Thyssen alone, thought the Russian alliance suicidal for Germany. In France, Britain or America he and his supporters might have been strong enough to paralyze the government or create a grave dissention beneath a fictitious unity. In Germany he had to fly for his life.

Whence this absolute control of the economic and political system, control not only of the workers but of all sections of the bourgeoisie? The Fascists owed it to the complete bankruptcy of the German bourgeoisie between 1918 and 1933. It had no force at its command, dared not show its battered and ugly face, and could find no new words to demand sacrifices from the population and even if it had had power, obedience. Secondly, however roughly the Nazis treated this or that section of the bourgeoisie, whatever expedients orthodox or unorthodox they adopted, however openly Hitler lied and deceived, he was doing the main job, getting rid of the Versailles chains which bound German economy; he was preparing to give German capitalism its place in the sun. He was consistently successful. But basically the Nazis owed their power over all sections of the bourgeoisie to the power they had established over the working-class.

In France Daladier could manoeuvre with the Social-Democracy and the Communists whenever the pressure against him was strong. In Britain Churchill, the anti-appeaser, was a hot candidate in 1938 for the Premiership in a Popular Front Combine. In Germany before 1933 Schleicher sought an alliance with the Trade Union bureaucracy. Even in Tzarist Russia in 1916 Miliukov and Kerensky could criticize Tzarist policy because they were certain of response outside. But once the working-class was prostrate the Nazis could systematically make themselves master of every aspect of economic and political life. Hence the suppleness and bewildering passes of their diplomatic sword.

The Blitzkrieg on Morale

Where the revolutionary movement as a whole blundered, and the British, French and American bourgeoisie, as well, was to indulge in fantastic hopes of a German army and people whose morale would be immeasurably affected by the steel chains in which Hitler held Germany. Clausewitz himself had stressed the impossibility of waging war with a hostile population, and Hitler’s regime was the regime of a ruler who ruled by terror. From these false expectations the bourgeoisie and some revolutionaries alike have rushed to exaggerate and hopelessly magnify the “inspiration” and the “new vision” given by Hitler to the German people. Hitler’s inspiration to the German people is not a new vision but a refurbished version of a very old one. For consider. Anti-Bolshevism was the very heart and core of it. Such were Hitler’s tirades against Bolshevism that for years the revolutionary movement foolishly thought an understanding between Hitler and Stalin an impossibility.

The revolutionary movement, after violently denying the very idea, did point to the possibility of an alliance between the two; but so did many others. What all said, however, was that Stalin was seeking an alliance with Hitler. And that was no great discovery because Stalin had openly proclaimed his wish for such an alliance in 1933. But this insistence on seeing it always as Stalin seeking the alliance from an adamant Hitler shows where our weakness lay – we had imbibed too much Hitler propaganda and took his anti-Bolshevik crusade too seriously. [1] We never once, until perhaps after Munich, considered that Hitler might want such an alliance, because we didn’t think that Hitler could put it over to the German people. We took his anti-Bolshevism for granted as something permanent. Thereby we paid Fascism the compliment of accepting it at its own inflated valuation as a new order of society with a revolutionary ideology. But the ease and suddenness with which Hitler swung the German army and the nation behind him to the alliance with Russia indicate clearly that Fascist morale owes its strength in the minds of its supporters, not to its anti-Bolshevism, but to the fact that it is nothing else but old-fashioned bourgeois nationalism decked out with anti-Semitism and pseudo-revolutionary trappings. Had Fascist ideology been based on any true conception of a new society to which “Jewish Bolshevism” was the anti-thesis, the sudden friendship with Russia, the joint campaign against Poland would have shaken the morale of the armies and disoriented the population. That Hitler could switch without a tremor means only that Germany, a victory for Germany, the defense of Germany from another Versailles, is the thought uppermost in the mind of his followers. The Horst Wessel song turns out to be a Wagnerian variation of My Country, ’tis of Thee.

All governments make abrupt turns of policy but, a genuinely new society which is the product of a revolution creates a genuinely new ideology which is a moral factor of enormous power and cannot be trifled with. As late as 1814 not only the peasants but even the workers of France, after all they had suffered from Napoleon, clamored for him to lead them in revolutionary struggle against the hated Bourbons. Napoleon had only to land in France for army and people to turn to him. He marched from Toulon to Paris without firing a single shot. After Waterloo the plebs called on Napoleon to invoke the revolution. For Stalin to be able to carry out his maneuvers in foreign policy without friction demanded the murder, exile, imprisonment or banishment of hundreds of thousands of Soviet revolutionaries, old and new. Hitler spun his followers around in less than a week, whereby he showed exactly how closely allied is his ideology to plain bourgeois patriotism, my country right or wrong.

Fascist Fakery

Even the famous war mentality so carefully instilled for years, has not captured the people. When Chamberlain went to Munich they crowded round him and cheered for peace. When Mussolini returned from Munich, the Italians welcomed him as never before. Never in 17 years was the prestige of Mussolini so high. The international brotherhood of Fascism is also a patent fraud. Not only did the two countries almost go to war over Austria; the great bulk of the Italian people hate and fear German imperialism and in recent months one could trace in the Italian press the frantic intensification of anti-British propaganda to whip the Italians into line with Germany. Can anyone imagine similar antipathy between two proletarian states?

That being understood we have to realize that Hitler’s army has shown an astonishingly high morale. He had the youth. Before 1933 he had a large following, and between 1933 and 1940 on the impressionable blank minds of the I young people of Germany he hammered home the national I socialist philosophy such as it was.

Every device of modern technique and psychology was used to make them docile subjects for his military machine. They learned history, geography, literature and science, all taught with the one purpose. Even educated minds find it difficult to resist such a barrage day after day. The raw youth had no defense against it at all. They succumbed in millions. There Hitlerism has won a notable victory, of a scope that was unsuspected even by enemies of the regime. But even this in the last analysis owed its success to the one cardinal fact. No hint of any other ideas was allowed to corrupt the unadulterated stream of Nazi filth and lies. Under similar circumstances, as André Gide found in Russia, you can teach millions to believe that subways exist only in Russia, due to the superiority of socialism to capitalism; and with no opposition even Chamberlain could have inspired millions of British youth with the idea that an Englishman was born for no other purpose than to die for the British Empire. Unfortunately, when Chamberlain said so, Winston Churchill the Social-Democracy and the Liberal and Labor press called him in their various ways a liar, a traitor, or an incompetent scoundrel.

How long the Fascist morale would resist under strain is another story. The morale of revolutionary France frightened Alexander I even after Bonaparte’s defeat in 1814. Could the morale of Hitler’s world revolution outlast one defeat? We doubt it. The diplomatic victories of Hitler raised his followers to wild enthusiasm, and correspondingly demoralized the millions of old Social-Democrats, Communists and Liberals who remain hostile to Hitler but hopeless. The youth in the army, and the army is for the most part, a young army, are swept forward on an un-checked tide of sweeping victory. The question, unanswered and for the time being unanswerable in precise terms, is whether this morale is such as to enable the nation to endure as Germany endured between 1914 and 1918. Even when we revise our previous estimates of Hitler’s grip over large sections of the German people, there is nothing, not one single fact, to make us believe that Hitlerite Germany is inspired with such a love for the “new society” as could enable it to stand half the strain of 1914–1918, or for that matter, even a single colossal defeat. Uncertain of their supplies and doubtful of the morale of their followers, facing either victory or annihilation, the German General Staff sought for an early and decisive victory. On the first page of his World Revolution, C.L.R. James in 1937 wrote as follows: “The working classes of Germany, of Austria, of Italy and of Hungary, will not bear the strain of the coming war as they bore the strain of the last ... Capitalists in those countries know that they must win and win quickly.” It is obvious that though they guarded against the worst it is on this belief that the German General Staff worked.

The Blitzkrieg: A Capitalist Strategy

If the revolutionary movement underestimated Hitler’s grip over the imagination and allegiance of German youth, it still more grievously underestimated the capacity of the German General Staff. Whatever secret stores of food and oil the Germans had accumulated, however much they badgered Rumania, in any long drawn-out war with France and Britain, they were losing with every day that the war dragged on. The Germans knew that the entry of the United States into the war in 1917 defeated them the last time. And any fool could see that Roosevelt was determined to bring America in just as soon as it was politically possible. Whatever Germany might hope to gain from Russia could be no compensation whatever when thrown into the scale against the incomparable resources and man-power of the United States. Ludendorff’s great offensive in 1918 was a last desperate attempt to break through before America could throw its full weight into the scale. This time the entry of America was a foregone conclusion, and the uncertain sources of supply, the large number of the disaffected in the rear, not only Germans, but millions of Austrians and Czechs, demanded that what Ludendorff tried as a last resort in 1918 should be tried first in 1940. This time it was not to fail, for failure and a war of stalemate meant certain disaster. The German High Command worked in the spirit and traditions which had been theirs since the days of Frederick the Great.

They used every device of existing technique to improvise a means of breaking through the center. They carried to a high pitch the concentration of weapons. How brilliantly they succeeded is now history. Any attempt to underestimate the scope of this victory and Germany’s military superiority to France, i.e. by attributing the victory to the treachery of General Corap or Fifth column activity, is to betray not a mistaken judgment but fanatical stupidity. There was wide-spread treachery in the revolutionary armies of France from 1792 onwards and in those of Russia in 1918 but both won victories which altered the whole course of history.

Yet there is one reflection which must be made about the German victory. Like the victories of Hannibal, Gustavus and Frederick the Great it represents nothing new. The strategy and tactics are essentially an adaptation and refinement of existing technique. Of an entirely different order were the victories of Alexander the Great and Bonaparte. Alexander’s army was of a type never seen in Europe before, not only technically and tactically superior, but based on the people of Macedon, whereas the Greek democracies and the Persian King employed mercenaries. When we come to Napoleon’s armies we have an absolutely new phenomenon in European history, the nation in arms, the mass armies served by a centralized government which could devote all its resources to the prosecution of war.

All modern strategy stems from Napoleon. Clausewitz’ great treatise is based on his experiences of the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon himself said that tactics should be changed every ten years, and they change, though it is generally defeated armies with small economic resources which initiate the changes. But from Napoleon, through Clausewitz, Moltke and VonBrauchitsch and Von Keitel a straight line can be drawn-all are makers of war in bourgeois society. For a new type of warfare we shall have to wait for a new type of society, but the one will bring the other as surely as the French Revolution brought Napoleon. International social-ism will abolish imperialist war. But if for example the cursed Social-Democrats had taken hold of Germany in 1918, such wars as a Red Army of Germany may have had to fight would not only have resulted in brilliant victories. They would have been victories beyond the very conception of bourgeois strategists. Not only would socialist organisation in Germany have put bourgeois technique to shame. The millions of the international proletariat who rallied to the support of Soviet Russia in 1918 would have been doubled and trebled at the march of a revolutionary Ger-man army. The general staffs of capitalism would be beaten before they began.

The Blitzkrieg and The Fifth Column

In one sphere alone the Nazis have invented an apparently new method of warfare – their use of the “Fifth Column.” [2] Though this has been grossly exaggerated, it is not without importance. Most certainly in Norway and probably in Denmark, to some degree also in Holland and in Belgium, there was actual treachery and cooperation with the Nazis by highly-placed officers and wealthy bourgeois. The evidence for similar treachery among the French and British is conflicting and in the light of the above analysis, there is no need whatever for that hypothesis. Treachery did not win the German victory.

We can sum up the “dynamism” of Fascism in a sentence. Every victory of Hitler in every field is due to his first act on coming into power – the destruction of the organized working-class movement.

Norway, we should note, and Holland and Belgium, can have no independent existence. The Norwegian bourgeoisie having to choose between its own Social-Democratic Government and Hitler, chose unhesitatingly. But Britain and France had huge empires to defend. That there were negotiations for a deal is certain. Also great unwillingness to prosecute the war. But treachery such as working from the start to ensure conquest by the Nazi armies is unlikely. These gentlemen understand each other’s merciless rapacity too well to work for defeat at one another’s hands, except at the prospect of a proletarian revolution. To that all other considerations bow.

Yet the Fifth Column, though the bourgeoisie is blowing up the smoke to make the fire as large as possible, has a deep symbolic significance. In 1914 it did not exist. Today, the bankruptcy of capitalism has reached such a stage that, at both ends of society, there are groups that stretch out their hands to similar groups in other countries. The Stalinists are one group and, misguided as are most of their followers, they on the whole represent a genuine repudiation of national patriotism in favor of another idea, symbolized for them in the defense of the Soviet Union as they conceive it. The Fascists represent another such grouping at the other wing of society. The corruption of the Stalinist leadership has weakened, disoriented and demoralized the immense revolutionary forces which it controlled in a country as decisive as France. But for their vicious masquerade as defenders of democracy between 1935 and 1939, they could have exercised an enormous power against Hitler’s domination of Germany, particularly in France and Czecho-Slovakia, and the other countries that ringed Germany. Their treachery and the treachery of Stalin deprived the anti-Hitler forces in Germany of their last shred of moral and material support. In comparison to the genuinely revolutionary forces that they controlled in France, Hitler’s Fifth Column in France was negligible. For the unity of revolutionary workers knows no frontiers, whereas Weygand and Petain would have won a victory if they could. In that lies the immense difference between Fascist “inter-nationalism” and the internationalism of revolutionary socialism.

Finally, Chamberlain and Daladier could have used the Fifth Column with even more devastating effect than Hitler. The anti-Hitler forces in Germany were large. But the appeasers were handicapped by the same circumstances which lay at the root of all their difficulties. They could make no attempt to touch the vast reserves of anti-Hitler forces in Germany because they feared to. Blowing up Hitler from the rear was the last thing they wanted.

They could not stamp down on their own nearest approach to Fifth Columnists, the appeasers, because they were appeasers themselves. On the other hand. Hitler could contact and guide the forces sympathetic to him in the democracies while he and his Gestapo, once they had exterminated the working class organizations, established a regime in which terrible dangers hampered those who genuinely wanted to intervene, far less those who did not want to. Only at the very last moment, when they had decided at last to fight, did the British attempt some serious Fifth Column work on their own. But the leaflets with which Chamberlain showered Germany at the beginning of the war fell like artificial snow-flakes from the warm September sky.

II. “Decadent” Democracies

The Democracies Before Hitler

A mere recital of what Germany did is also an enumeration of what the democracies did not do, could not do. Now that France has been defeated there is a mounting rubbish heap of talk about the treachery of French generals, the sabotage of French industrialists etc. Most of this is superficial and beside the point. The fundamental question is: why did Britain and France allow Germany, beaten to her knees in 1918, rise again to become once more powerful. That being answered, all is answered. The first cause was the division between France and Britain.

This constant use of the term, the “democracies,” the “allies,” blinds us to the fact that all imperialisms are in constant conflict with each other. France wanted to destroy Germany in 1919, either by breaking it up into its separate states, or by creating a Rhineland republic. That would have finished with imperialist Germany for good and for all. Britain refused. Why? For the soundest imperialist reasons. A dismembered Germany would have meant the substitution of France for Germany as master of the European continent, and Britain didn’t want anybody, however democratic, to be master of the European continent. Further, the economic system of Germany would have been destroyed and Britain’s chief customer on the continent was Germany; thirdly, Germany would not have been able to pay reparations. France would have cheerfully foregone reparations to be master of the continent. But Britain would not have it.

France, bitterly disappointed, invaded the Ruhr in 1923. Whereupon the French learned another lesson. They unwittingly unloosed a tremendous revolutionary movement in Germany which threatened the whole capitalist structure of Europe. Poincaré had to retreat, having failed to accomplish anything enduring except the creation of the Hitler movement. On Feb. 21, 1924, Ramsay MacDonald, Britain’s Prime Minister, wrote a letter to Poincaré.

“France is endeavoring to create a situation in order to gain what it failed to get during the Allied peace negotiations ... Our economic existence has been gravely endangered, owing not to the inability of Germany to pay ... reparations, but to the acute and persistent dislocation of the markets – occasioned mainly by the uncertainty in the relation between France and I Germany, the continual economic chaos in Germany shown so clearly by the violent fluctuations in the value of currency, and the ultimate uncertainty in the relations between France and ourselves. Thus ... the people in this country regard with anxiety what appears to them the determination of France to ruin Germany, to dominate the Continent without consideration of our reasonable interests and future consequences to European settlement; that they feel apprehensive of the large military and aereal establishments I maintained, not only in Eastern but also in Western France; that they are disturbed by the interest shown by your government in the military organization of the new states in Central Europe ...”

What we are seeing here is not the “decadence” of democracies, but the “decadence” of capitalism. These rats are in a hole blocked at both ends. Will the defenders of democracy tell us what they would have done then, or what they will do if they defeat Germany tomorrow?

The Democracies Against Each Other

The Second Congress of the Comintern in one pregnant passage summed up the inescapable contradictions of post-Versailles European capitalism: “German scientific technique and the very high level of production of German industry, two factors of an extreme importance for the rebirth of European economic life, are paralyzed by the clauses of the Versailles treaty even more than they had been by the war. The entente finds itself in face of a dilemma: to demand payment it must allow Germany to work; to let Germany work it must let Germany live. And to give Germany, ruined, dismembered, bleeding to death, the means of once more making a life for itself, is to render possible an eruption of protest.” This was no mere question of reparations. It involved the whole economic life of Europe.

This division between Britain and France over Germany’s future, rooted in the bankruptcy of European capitalism, continued right up to 1936 and in one sense never ceased. It was on this that Hitler throve.

After Hitler came to power, France turned to Italy. Laval wanted to guarantee Austria, i.e., South-Eastern Europe, with the help of Mussolini, who would receive in return Ethiopia and certain concessions in French Africa. Hitler was to be encouraged to strike at the Soviet Union through the Baltic countries. And Britain? To the devil with Britain. Britain on the other hand aimed at precisely a similar agreement, an understanding with Mussolini and Germany, with France as the vassal state.

When Sir Samuel Hoare invoked the League of Nations against Mussolini, M. Cambon the French ambassador, on the very next day visited the British Foreign Office and asked if sanctions would apply to the invasion of Austria as well. Sir Samuel replied that the British were an idealistic nation, but that times change and Britain could not commit herself. Thus Hitler marched unchallenged into the Rhineland in March 1936.

The bourgeoisie is not homogenous. At various times sections of the French bourgeoisie wanted to fight a preventive war. The British set their face sternly against it. When the Spanish Civil War broke out and Hitler and Mussolini intervened; the much abused Gamelin urged intervention and the checking of the Axis powers: The French have always been acutely conscious of the German army and Britain could have turned the scale in favor of intervention. Britain said no. The British never wanted a Germany destroyed. They wanted a strong Germany, but not only against the Soviet Union, which we all know, but also as a counter-balance to France, and for the sake of the German market. If they could come to terms with Germany, then, dominating Europe, they could challenge America in the world market. Even after Munich, British industry was seeking an entente with German industry. It was only at the last moment that Churchill offered complete union between France and Britain. It was done only because the British felt the cold muzzle of the blitzkrieg on their temples.

The Democracies Against the Workers

The British bourgeoisie feared the domination of the continent by France. But it feared more the proletarian revolution in Europe and the revolution in the colonial countries. The French bourgeoisie, concerned at first about security against Germany, moved with increasing speed to the British policy of “order” at all costs.

To understand the British mentality we must realize that their empire nearly went to pieces in 1918–1920. The Russian Revolution, the revolutions in Central Europe, have overshadowed the convulsive shocks which Britain suffered. The population of Britain is seventy per cent proletarianised. In parts of Lancashire, and Yorkshire, Central England and South Wales, the proletariat is clustered thickly together in towns that are scarcely ever more than five miles from each other. In many great seaport towns, there are hundreds of thousands of sailors and ship-building workers. Instead of a large class of farmers, there is an agricultural proletariat of nearly a million workers, not one of whom is more than twenty miles from an industrial town of some size. When in 1919 the English working class formed councils of action and presented an ultimatum to the British government “Cease intervention in Russia or we shall violently overthrow the government,” the British bourgeoisie received a shock from which it has never recovered. At this very period, with the British workers in a state of ferment that was not conceivable to Englishmen in 1914, Ireland staged a revolution which resulted in the formation of the Irish Free State; in Egypt the nationalist movement broke out with uncontrollable violence. The Indian revolution made its first great attempt to eject the British. British power shook and it was Gandhi with his counter-revolutionary non-violence who came to the rescue of Britain. In the West Indies, in South Africa, in Kenya, in Malta there were risings. Between 1919 and 1921 it seemed that the British Empire might fall to pieces. Read the pre-1939 writings of J.L. Garvin, Editor of the Observer. Openly stated sometimes, and always underlying his argument, is the following thought: the next war means the end of the British Empire. Hence the main preoccupation of the British statesmen were – hostility to the Soviet Union, the fountain-head of revolutionary activity, and the preservation of “order” in Europe. Who more “orderly” than Hitler and Mussolini? Early in 1935 Anthony Eden visited Stalin. The Englishman made but one demand: cessation of Soviet propaganda in the colonies. Stalin of course agreed. The British welcomed the regime of Mussolini, and rejoiced at the coming to power of Hitler.

A mere enumeration of events will show the perils which hung over European capitalism and from which it was delivered by the triumphant Hitlerite counter-revolution in Germany. In February, 1934, the French workers and the Fascists fought bloodily in the streets of Paris. A few months after, the Communists and the Social Democracy formed a united front and the progress of French labor became an avalanche which culminated in the Popular Front victory the seizure of the factories and some four million workers joining the Trade Union movement in three months, a rate of 40,000 a day. At this same period, the Spanish workers and peasants were gathering momentum for the outburst which took place in July 1936. In Catalonia, the key province, bordering on France, the revolution was the most violent and powerful that history has yet seen. In less than seventy-two hours, the economic and social power of the bourgeoisie was destroyed and workers’ power to clinch the victory was to be had for the taking.

Democracies’ Main Enemy

In 1935 in Poland there was fighting on the barricades. There were barricades and pitched fighting on the streets in Amsterdam in 1935. Both engagements ended in drawn battles. The stay-in strikes in France were immediately followed by a general strike in Belgium, the uprising in Spain was immediately followed by a mutiny in the Portuguese fleet. In 1935 as soon as there was a threat of war between Italy and Britain the Egyptian WAFD with 90 of the population behind it forced dominion status from the British government. A few months after a similar rising broke out in French Syria with similar results. In Tunis and Morocco and Algeria there were risings against the government. Palestine blazed with revolt and the whole Arab world sat up to watch the course and result of the Palestinian struggle. In November 1934, in Great Britain itself, during the municipal elections, labor won such sweeping victories as had never been seen before. Constituencies which had been Tory for fifty years became completely Labor. Thus from 1933 on, a British statesman, looking at the map of Europe (with the British proletariat muttering outside) could draw a continuous line from Polish Danzig through Holland, France, Belgium, Spain, North Africa, Egypt, Palestine and French Syria, along which a flame of revolt could encircle the whole Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean. Further north, the Scandinavian countries were Social-Democratic, which might be a prelude to anything. The Indian Congress grew to a strength of five million and Gandhi steadily lost his restraining influence in India. Stalin began (publicly) to wash his hands of the revolution but so powerful was the Bolshevik tradition that it took years for people to understand that he meant it.

The British bourgeoisie did not need Hitler’s propaganda to arrive at a pro-Hitler policy. The destruction Europe and the Near East might end in Bolshevism. That is the second reason why Hitler was allowed to grow so that he could ultimately conquer.

For that very reason also, the French bourgeoisie from being a vigorous advocate of “security” became increasingly conscious of the revolutionary threat and ultimately, far more than the British, saw the main enemy at home.

The Popular Front Saved Bourgeois Democracy

The Popular Front Government epitomised the rottenness of bourgeois France. We did not see it then with sufficient clearness. All the more reason to see it now. The defenders of democracy who are prepared now to tell us what should have been done, have plenty to tell. The French bourgeoisie would have been glad for some real advice then. The French bourgeoisie would have needed advice first as to how to prevent the world economic crisis. French industrial production, 100 in 1929, was 76.7 in 1933 and 67 in 1935. The monthly average of bankruptcies, 726 in 1929, was 1,239 in 1935. Foreign trade, 9,030 millions of francs in 1929 was 3,034 francs in 1935, the wholesale price index, 100 in 1929 was 54 in 1935. The official number of unemployed 928 in 1929, was 426,336 in 1935. The budget deficit, 2,638 millions in 1930 was 5,000 millions in 1935. Now, Messrs, democrats, will you state precisely how you would have dealt with that situation? In America you shouted loudly enough for exactly the policy of the Popular Front only you called it the New Deal.

The French bourgeoisie did its best all things considered. The advance-guard of the counter-revolution struck at the workers, in February 1934. The thing would be solved in the Hitlerian manner. The workers resisted – defending their democracy; and the political struggle was launched. The workers thinking that the Communist Party was the party of the revolution followed it. They lifted the Party to a position of importance and influence never previously held by any proletarian party under capitalism. Its membership moved from 30,000 in February, 1934, to 350,000 in 1938. Such influence as the Communist Party did not have was kept by Blum and his Social-Democratic Party. And what did these two aim at? Have Messrs, supporters of democracy forgotten already? Have they forgotten that from start to finish, from the formation of the Popular Front in July 1935 until the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Communist Party and the Social Democracy used all their influence to make the workers moderate their demands, to impress upon them the necessity of working for “national defence?” The bourgeoisie was powerless. But for these “defenders of democracy” and advocates of “national defense,” the French bourgeoisie would have been swept away.

In 1937 after the Senate had refused his request for special powers, Blum told the National Council of the Socialist Party: We had a revolutionary situation and there was good hope of success, but for reasons of an international nature which I need not go into, it was necessary to be moderate. The Popular Front saved French democracy. Such concessions as were made had to be made or the workers would never have left the factories at all. Today, Messrs. democrats join the bourgeoisie and without a blush inform us “It was the fault of the Popular Front.” It was. Stalin, wanting his alliance with France, gave his blessing to French rearmament in the Stalin-Laval communiqué, and through the Stalinists the French revolution was ruined. In that sense the present situation is undoubtedly the fault of the Popular Front. But you should be grateful to it, Messrs. believers in democracy. It saved French democracy for you from 1936 to 1940. Four long years. What more do you want?

It took time to wear down the workers, by constant transference of capital from Paris abroad and back again, by raising prices, by artificial financial panics. The French bourgeoisie could not build tanks or prepare a strategy. It had more urgent matters on hand.

The whole regime was in an insoluble crisis, the crisis of decadent capitalism. If the crisis was not so obvious in Britain it was because in traditional fashion, the Empire, especially after the Ottawa Conference was squeezed still drier. With the result that in Africa, East and West in the West Indies, in Ceylon and in India the class struggle approached the heights of 1918–1921. The end of that chapter is as yet unwritten.

The Democracies Mobilize Economy

The democracies had great resources. German economy in its basic structure, was, as we have seen more amenable to the totalitarian regimentation necessary for modern war than the more liberal economies of Britain and France. These had a thousand tentacles stretching to all parts of the world, particularly the colonies. Totalitarianism meant for them a far greater dislocation of the normal processes of their economy than it meant for German capital. But the resources at the disposal of Hitler’s rivals were immensely greater than his. French industrial production, 48 per cent of Germany’s in 1913, was 66 per cent in 1928. The areas reconstructed after the war were second to none in Europe.

But the governments of France, the constantly changing governments, never had the ability nor the will to regiment industry and trade to the degree required. Another task had to be settled first, the destruction of the working class movement. And that they could not do. The lethargy of a great class of rentiers reinforced their political difficulties. Yet, despite all these difficulties, the movement to statification was unmistakable even before the war – in both France and Britain.

Three months before hostilities began, James Frederick Green summed up his study of the Economic Mobilization of Great Britain as follows: “Great Britain appears to be gradually forced into the type of regimented economy which it is preparing to combat in Europe – but as yet without the accompanying political and social controls. The government is thus confronted with the dilemma of effecting an economic mobilization sufficient to enforce its diplomatic objectives but without resort to the methods of fascist states.”

That was their Achilles heel. For capitalism in crisis there is only one way. Fascism. And imperialist war is the greatest crisis of capitalism. Within their limits they tried. Britain spent 426 millions in 1932 and in 1937 had raised the amount to 1,263 millions, for 1939 it was 1,800 millions. France went from 509 millions to 1,800 millions in 1939. But in 1938 she spent only 731 millions whereas in 1937 she had spent 909 millions. The fierce class conflict had her paralyzed and to our wishful-thinking democrats we must respectfully urge that you do not solve great class-conflicts except by force. When Daladier, with the help of the Stalinists, had exhausted the working class and beaten it down sufficiently, military expenditure moved from 731 millions in 1938 to 1,800 millions in 1939.

The British capitalists, fighting a similar battle, could not mobilize their workers. They had to give every post in the Cabinet of any importance to a Labour member before they could dare to call for the effort the situation demanded.

The Democratic Diplomacy

Allied diplomacy, rooted in the same disorder, blundered continuously. The democratic idealists had it all solved: an alliance with Russia. But we have seen what that meant. We must not forget also that to the French capitalists an inevitable consequence of such an alliance was that the Communists, tools of Stalin, would have assumed commanding positions in every sphere of the national life, industrial, parliamentary, administrative and military, in addition to their almost complete control of the labor movement.

If we leave Britain and France for the moment and consider Belgium, Poland, Switzerland and Czecho-Slovakia, countries bordering on Germany, the democratic diplomatic dilemma becomes still clearer. Leopold at first continued the alliance with France. When he saw Hitler re-enter the Rhineland unopposed, he withdrew and called himself neutral. If Germany did go to the East, he was safe tor some years at least. Meanwhile he would do nothing to offend his powerful neighbor until war actually broke out. To the last he hoped that Germany might make a direct assault on the Maginot line or attack through Switzerland. If Britain and France in 1936 had shown him that they meant business, the confusion about the defense of the border between France and Belgium would never have arisen. Poland asked France tor joint action against Hitler in 1933. France refused. Whereupon Poland sat on an excruciating fence: alliance with Germany and a German victory over Soviet Russia meant that German troops would never leave Polish soil; alliance with Soviet Russia, and Soviet victory meant the Red Army on Polish soil. Poland had 5 million members of oppressed nationalities living on the Soviet border and her social system was almost as dislocated as Tzarist Russia’s in 1914. Poland knew this and France and Britain knew it too. Sections of the Czecho-Slovakian bourgeoisie wanted to fight and the social structure of Czecho-Slovakia was more stable than that of Poland. But the big agrarian interests feared a victorious Red Army as much as did the Polish landlords. Czech economy and German were closely inter-woven. Around Czecho-Slovakia were the rickety structures of the Balkans and Hungary. Which European capitalists wanted to set that dry tinder afire? Hitler alone could dare to risk it. And for him there was no turning back.

Switzerland, in bourgeois mythology, was the democracy of democracies. But during the period of sanctions against Mussolini, Switzerland asked that in view of her special situation in regard to Italy, geographical and otherwise, she be absolved. The request was magnanimously granted.

All these smaller countries took their cue from the vacillations of Britain and France, beside which they had a very healthy desire to have the war fought if possible somewhere else. These were the problems with which the democracies had to deal. They did their best according to their lights. It their lights burned low and gave a feeble gleam in which they could not see their way, they could honestly say that it was not their fault.

Thinking itself safe behind the fleet Britain temporized and appeased. The French, watching the German army, had more misgivings than the British. But in essence now they were united. At the period of Munich, a section of the British cabinet, led by Duff Cooper, representing the views of the army, appalled at the military and strategic consequences if Czecho-Slovakia were lost, challenged appeasement. But Daladier and Bonnet, against the advice of Gamelin, supported Chamberlain and thus assured capitulation.

It is out of such a rich and fertile soil of class conflict, dangers at home and abroad, that grew the tangled weeds of divided counsel, defeatist moods, inadequate preparation which is now reaping its reward. What policy could have saved the French bourgeoisie? To do what and when? The war has stripped it of its past and held it up in all its bloated and diseased nakedness.

The Democratic Morale

What moral preparation could leaders so torn by inner contradictions make for war? The answer is none. How could they mobilize populations to fight in a war which they did not want to fight themselves? How could they create or develop morale of any kind when the difference between what they said and what they did was obvious to all politically-minded persons in the country? They could oppose to Hitler only the slogan of defense of democracy. But the words turned to ashes in their mouths. For the crisis of French economy and the bankruptcy of the system united them only on one policy – the crushing of the workers and the destruction of democratic rights.

The Stalinists and the Social Democracy having the confidence of the French working class had by 1938 tamed it sufficiently for the French bourgeoisie to abandon their rear-guard action of the Popular Front period and attack on the most approved theories of the offensive. The workers were struck at from all sides. The burdens of rearmament were placed upon them, their militants were thrown into jail, and drastic restrictions placed upon their political liberties. And for what reason? In the sacred name of anti-fascism. At the same time the Cagoulards and notorious fascists went free and flourished.

In Britain the Prime Minister and leading members of his cabinet expressly disclaimed any intention of fighting on behalf of any form of government. As the crisis neared, their halting phrases and stiff-jointed obeisances to democracy not only failed to inspire but carried doubt and de-moralization into all sections of the people.

The Democratic Strategy

On France as the continental power would fall the main burden of the first military conflict. A strategy had to be worked out, embracing all aspects of the national life. But bourgeois France, feeling the proletarian pressure more than Britain, was divided into warring groups. Weygand and Reynaud wanted an offensive, but Laval and Bonnet were for appeasement to the end. In the Radical-Socialist party Herriot was for a firm policy, Daladier was for compromise. In the Social Democracy Blum was for a vigorous policy, Paul Faure for appeasement. Laval made the pact with Stalin, but on the way home stopped in Berlin to intrigue with Hitler. Doubtless they all underestimated Germany’s power. But they had underestimated in it 1914 also. Their error in 1940 was the error of having to guide a bankrupt society. They feared victory as much as they feared defeat. From their gangrenous society flowed like pus their ruinous strategy of the defensive.

Today the bourgeois theorists wake up to the fact that the strategy of the defensive was a criminal blunder and in fact always has been. But which country torn as the democracies were torn could even attempt to consider any other strategy but the defensive, in other words, the strategy of temporization, of hesitation, of waiting and seeing, of trying to compromise. Perhaps the most ironic commentary on the French defeat is that the method of breaking the center by a heavy concentration of mechanized forces was insistently urged on the French Government by the French general, de Gaule, as far back as 1934. In 1935 Reynaud published a whole volume on the subject He was ignored. The Germans, intent on victory, worked on the plan for years. They tried it out in the Spanish Civil War. They perfected it in Poland. It was open to the French if they had wanted it. THEY COULDN’t USE IT.

Was there treachery at Sedan? Perhaps, though this writer has seen no conclusive evidence. Did a French general sabotage the sending of tanks to the front? It is possible. Did Laval and Baudouin from the start oppose the war and do all they could to bring it to an end? That they most certainly did. To all those who never wanted to fight, the disaster in Flanders would certainly be the signal for frantic negotiations with the enemy. But in the French revolutionary wars, whole armies with their generals deserted. There were traitors in the Red Army. But revolutionary France and revolutionary Russia were not defeated, because the government knew its mind and had the enthusiastic support of large sections of the people. Blum and the Stalinists fought to save a rotting bourgeois France in 1936. They are the immediate cause of the catastrophe and the heavy travail of Europe today. Had they seized the power in 1936, they would have ensured the success of the Spanish revolution and the initiative would have passed from Hitler.

A revolution in France and another in Spain would have cut off Hitler’s blitzkrieg at its base. The corpse of German proletarian organizations upon which he sits would have stirred under him, and at its first movement every ad-vantage he enjoyed would have trembled in his hands.

III. The Future

The Fraud of Self-Sufficiency

WE have insisted that the superiority of Hitler’s “dynamism” to the “decadence” of the democracies rests on the destruction of the working class movement. This is not a moral question. The existence or disappearance of the workers’ organisations is judged on the historical scale by its effect on the general life of mankind – in this age, the crisis of capitalism. Though by his destruction of the German movement Hitler girded himself the more efficiently for war, by this very means he aggravated unbearably the general crisis of capitalist society and has opened the way to a future in which crises and wars of the past and present will be like the petty storms of inland lakes to the tempests of the open sea.

Unlike those dabblers in Marxism who can neither understand what is in books nor see what is happening around them, Hitler’s economic advisers know that national socialism is as bleak a utopia as Stalin’s socialism in a single country. By his regime of economic self-sufficiency Hitler sought merely reculer pour mieux sauter. The war was fought to bring the whole continent under German domination, not for the benefit of capitalism in general but as the sole way out for German imperialism. The idiocy of the German master-race theory is no more than a propaganda embellishment of the needs of German industry. Europe is doomed to become one vast colony of a victorious Germany. The industries of Britain, Northern France and Czechoslovakia are to be as restricted and subordinated to German imperialism as the industries of India have been to those of Britain. The whole continent is driven back a generation in the imagined interest of the German people. Imagined, for bitter disappointment awaits the fanatical Hitler youth of Germany.

A continent is not sufficient. Capitalism established the world market. It was the basis of progress. It is woven into the lives of more than a billion people. It can be destroyed only by incredible suffering. Hitler is not fool enough to attempt it. All theory apart, for anyone with eyes in his head it is clear that the Nazis, even while they are at war for the domination of Europe, are waging a gloves-off battle for control of Latin-America. Whoever listens to Hitler’s “Europeans to control Europe” is as dumb as those who listened to his “Germans to be controlled by Germany.” The American bourgeoisie has no illusions whatever about Hitler’s continental socialism. It knows what Hitler has done and what Hitler cannot do. What Hitler has done has driven American capitalism still further on its pre-destined road.

U.S. Moves Toward Totalitarianism

The crisis in 1929 pushed the United States, most liberal of capitalist states, violently along the road of statification. The Roosevelt government made the first attempt to control individual capitalists in the interests of capitalism as a whole. The New Deal was the response to the first serious crisis of American capitalism. But the continued depression and the Nazi threat foreshadow still greater crises in the years to come. Roosevelt now aims at the cartelization of a whole continent to meet the German economic warfare, and he does not neglect the “other means” by which the economic warfare will be continued. We have seen the methods Hitler adopted. What else is there for American capitalism to do but batter down the workers’ living standards, regiment industry and labor, and bring the whole continent under its command in the devilish competition with continental Germany. The “new” society has all the vices and none of the virtues of the old. Japan has now adopted the corporate state and the fascist one-party system, thus getting Ad of encumbrances to the better organisation of the “new order” in Asia. Sooner or later, according to the intensity of the internal and external pressure, American bourgeois society will find its way to the same solution. Walter Lippman, that great democrat, complains bitterly that “Washington ... has not yet nerved itself to asking for the authority over capital and labor which such a program requires ... Little has been done with lucidity and courage to liberate the national effort from the endless restrictions and complications enforced by vested interests, pressure groups, political indifference and bureaucratic inertia.” He wants “a labor policy suited to the emergency.” He wants the government to ask for “the necessary authority to commandeer and compel.” (Lippman must restrain himself and have patience until after the election.) Yet for American capitalism the case is indeed urgent. It faces two enemies who may ally themselves.

Thus the war that we face now is a world war for world mastery. It is today that we can fully appreciate the meaning of the passage in the theses of the Third Congress (1921), which said: “The last war has been in one sense the European preface to the genuinely world-wide war which will decide the question of exclusive imperialist domination.” Thus the word is made flesh.

Fascism or Socialism

Capitalism after climbing great heights came to a stand-still and has now slipped from its foundations. Great states crash, communities of millions are torn up by the roots; shocks, catastrophes, sudden reversals and annihilations, drawn-out agonies, events unpredicted and unpredictable follow and will follow each other with bewildering speed. As we look at the film of history it seems that the operator has gone mad. But through it all the general line is clear, the objective hopelessness of the profit system, the statification of production by the imperialist state, the reduction of the living standards of the people, political and social servitude, the creation of “vast state-capitalist military trusts and syndicates,” the struggle for world mastery by “wholesale military decisions of a violent nature.”

How ridiculous is therefore the would-be Marxist who in 1940 discovers that Fascism is a “new” society; or the Marxist, who in the face of a whole society in violent motion, dives into his cupboard, emerges with a spotted flag on a little stick, and waving it with the clumsiness of the renegade, proposes to arrest the march to world catastrophe by – the defense of American democracy. Even rats desert the sinking ship and brave the uncharted sea.

No, Mr. Democrat. To the tremendous forces that are leading us to a total ruin we must oppose forces of like range and scope – the scores of millions of proletarians and the hundreds of millions of colonial peoples. The same mastery of the historical process which enabled Lenin to foretell the precise nature of the colossal transformations of our day enabled him to see also the “civil wars within the country ... national wars, the emancipation of the nationalities crushed by the imperialists ...” The one are as inevitable as the other. It is in those wars that lie the struggle for a new society, not in peering anxiously with a microscope at Fascism, seeking what is not there, nor in supporting the democratic imperialists against the fascists in their common road to ruin. Just as the democratic rights and privileges of bourgeois society followed on the rise in the productive forces under early capitalism, were unthinkable without that expansion, and are now disappearing with capitalism’s decline, so not only the extension but the very preservation of such democratic rights as exist can come only from the release of the productive forces, that is to say, by the struggle for international socialism, in irreconcilable conflict with imperialism in all its shapes and forms.

Stalemate in Europe and compromise, or a victory for Britain do not solve one single contradiction of capitalist society. The crisis grows deeper every day. War is only one manifestation of it. The post war will contain others. Even, remote possibility, a capitalist Britain dominating capitalist Europe, could no more escape ultimate statification and fascism than a victorious Italy escaped it after the last war. And let us not forget: a victorious Britain that dominates Europe will at last face not only Japan but also America on equal terms ...

Bourgeois society is on its way. It can turn back as easily as a rock tumbling down a mountainside can turn back. Fascism or Socialism, that is the choice. And every additional human being who sees that clearly brings the socialist society just so much nearer.


1. Which does not mean that Hitler may not attack Stalin tomorrow.

1. Before the age of nationalist states, treachery was common in war.