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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(13 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 78, 13 October 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The bolts of Stalin’s diplomatic blitzkrieg are still splintering the fragile frontiers of Eastern Europe while the war of arms on the western front, as the saying now has it, has settled down to a war of nerves.

In between interviews with foreign ministers queued up at the Kremlin gates, Stalin advised his former would-be allies in Paris and London that they would do well to talk terms with his friend Hitler. He at the same time advised the workers of the world that little details like Fascism are “matters of taste.” As for him, Stalin, he is making hay, for he knows well the sun shall not shine much longer. And his harvest is already reaching tidy dimensions. Just what it will bring on the imperialist war market is a question that is as yet unsettled.

Hitler’s peace offer so obligingly seconded by the Master of the Kremlin consisted of a proposal that the French and British capitulate to him now instead of later and give back to Germany in the process the colonies wrested from her in the last war. The French and British imperialists announce they will fight on to “crush Hitlerism” or in other words, as Bernard Shaw was good enough to point out, to defend Anglo-French swag against the Nazi hijackers.

For either side in this slaughterfest peace is predicated on markets and profits and not on the “bunk and balderdash” (as Shaw puts it) of democracy and civilization. Such a “peace” – whether dictated by Chamberlain-Daladier or Hitler-Stalin can mean only continued misery and death, a prolongation of the agony through which the dying capitalist world is dragging the peoples of all nations.

Doesn’t this pompous exchange of lies, this hypocritical fraud, this toying with the lives of whole peoples, make clear for the thousandth time that the interests of the human race can and will be served only by the destruction of both these warring cliques?

And what now? While Stalin pushes his frontiers into the lower Baltic and eyes the Balkans and the East, the belligerents in the West are waiting for each other to move. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are acutely aware of their immediate peril, for on both sides it is realized that the war can be fought across these lands at less cost than an attempt to storm the Maginot or Siegfried lines. Italy, too, sits on the shaking lid of this boiling kettle and may soon be blown off.

The war in the air also awaits the next moves of the armies, for the experiences in China and in Spain have shown the extreme costliness and dubious military value of exclusively aerial actions.

Whatever action is undertaken right now, however, will be less important and less decisive for the war’s course than the outcome of the diplomatic game involving Turkey, Rumania, and the Balkans, for this outcome will determine Germany’s capacity to fight a long war, the kind of long war the Western Allies are counting on to batter him down.

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Last updated on 17 February 2018