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Labor Action, 12 April 1948


Paul Bern

World Politics

A Calm View of the World Today


From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 15, 12 April 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Secretary of State Marshall, at the very moment when he and Truman were deliberately whipping up the war atmosphere to an unprecedented degree, urged calm consideration by Americans of the international situation. Socialists are always in favor of calm analysis, the better to propose revolutionary solutions. Since business managers are notoriously calm and sober people, with a clear-headed insight into events, the editors of Labor Action have invited our business manager, Paul Bern, who has the additional advantage of being a Marxist, to give us his considered estimate of the situation, particularly on the question of the imminence of war.


So much has happened in the world in the last few weeks that now is a good time to take a calm look at the world today.

The United States is drawing a line, particularly in Europe, beyond which it will not permit further expansion of Russian imperialism. But it is still only in the process of drawing that line. It has not been definitely established. The Truman Doctrine stands; but it has now been more energetically defined as an attempt to halt both external expansion by Russian and internal “aggression,” such as seizure of power in Czechoslovakia, etc.

A commitment is being made by the United States to stop Stalinist imperialism at about its present borders. The iron heel to drive home this commitment is, first of all, the attempt to stabilize Western European capitalism through the Marshall Plan, now in effect. This Plan, no matter how it is worded, is clearly not an altruistic plan to increase industrial and food production in Europe, but is essentially a military plan for the stabilization of Europe as the advanced base for American imperialism and its allies in the event of a shooting war against Russia. The weakness of the American labor movement is further emphasized by its tailing behind the so-called bi-partisan foreign policy of the State Department, instead of developing its own program of class solidarity with its European brothers. It would have developed its own program for food supplies and industrial help to Europe, without any strings attached to such aid. It would have worked up a program to be administered by the trade unions, which would encourage democratic workers’ control of industry and likewise enhanced the socialist transformation of European political and economic life. For only such a positive social program can definitively defeat the Stalinist parties in Europe.

Is War Close at Hand?

A United States-Russian war still seems a remote rather than an immediate prospect. Russia is almost totally unprepared economically, and lacks the military weapons and strength for a war of the Atomic Age. No one in the United States wants war and a chill of horror crept up the backs of all in America after Truman’s speech calling for the revival of the draft. But Russia will take more chances – as it is now doing in Berlin – to gain further footholds by political means, short of war. War, however, could come almost automatically if the Stalinists make any overt moves threatening to seize Western Germany, France or perhaps even the Scandinavian countries.

But what of the possibilities of civil wars within the remaining nations of Europe where Stalinism has not yet conquered power? Such civil wars may not be immediately followed by a direct shooting war between the imperialist giants. According to all responsible opinion in American imperialist upper circles, there is a 50–50 chance of an isolated civil war occurring in Italy, no matter how the April 18 elections go. If the Stalinists get a majority or near majority (which is increasingly doubtful), then a civil war, provoked by the parties supporting capitalism as a desperate measure to prevent a similar fate to that of the Czech capitalist parties, is possible. Or, if the Stalinists are defeated, they may attempt to take over at least the entire region of Italy north of Rome, the industrial North. Such a civil war in Italy would speed up the conflict in France immensely and might even lead to an attempt to join up southern France (based upon Stalinist Marseille and the Spanish Stalinists in southern France) with Stalinist-controlled Northern Italy. Only the eventual involvement of all of France itself could lead to precipitation of World War III. A civil war In Italy could remain temporarily isolated.

Meanwhile, the effect of this perspective upon the United States is clear enough. What lies in the cards now as preparation for the shooting war is pushed ahead? A gigantic rearmament program is under way and will be gradually speeded up. Its effects upon the cost of living can already be felt in the fact that the trend toward price drops, after the grain market crash, has already stopped. A new period of scarcities will shortly begin, tending to actually push upwards once more the price level. An additional $3 billions is proposed by Truman for armaments, and this may leap to as high as $10 billions if the present tension continues, as it certainly will. This will completely kill any chance of a mass housing program, if the Administration has its way. Unpopular UMT will not be put through yet, but a flexible form of Draft, to be enforced in accordance with the situation, is very likely within a few months, or after the elections are over. There will definitely be a substantially larger army, navy and air force, with conscription, by the end of the year.

What Program for Socialists?

What must we do? The Marshall Plan has now been adopted and is already at work. We always favored full material aid for Europe, and we still do. We opposed the Marshall Plan because of its fundamental nature, and because of the strings and conditions attached to it. We must now continue our struggle for full aid to Europe by opposing, at each and every turn, all efforts to administer or effect the ERP in a reactionary, imperialist manner. If, for example, the ERP chief administrator proposes to cut off a country from aid because of a left turn in it’s inner political life, we must combat this tooth-and-nail. We must oppose any effort to make use of the Plan for beating down the European labor movement. Full aid to Europe, but no conditions to such aid.

Within America, the building of a Labor Party assumes a greater importance than ever. In what other way can we expect American labor to break its present subordination to imperialist foreign policy and work out its own independent program of cooperation with its European brothers? By what other road can we fight the militarization trend, and convert the armament billions into housing billions? The time is indeed growing short and American workers must create their Labor Party within the next period, or the opportunity will be lost forever. As for revolutionary socialists, the demand of Labor Action for a national referendum before conscription is imposed offers, at present, the best opportunity for putting forward their anti-war program as opposed to the war drive of the Administration.

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