From the February 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard
The curtain will soon be going down on the first act of the International Tragedy; the second will commence with the spring. So far the pace has been slow, the actors have not been sure of their lines, but we may expect the show to become more lively as the performers become more familiar with their parts.
The Balkans are looked upon as the setting of the next episode, though circumstances may induce the producers to suddenly change their minds. Russia certainly did not anticipate the delay in her "Santa Claus" operations to which she has been compelled to submit, and her frantic efforts to extricate herself clearly indicate she has an engagement elsewhere which she wants to fulfil on time.
Roumania is the country in possession of certain raw materials that are indispensable to Germany at present, and it is said that a railway is being cut through Russian Poland in order that the goods required may be more readily obtained; the fact that Russia allows Germany to do this is proof positive that Stalin realises that it will be detrimental to the interests of the Bureaucracy of Russia should Hitler lose the war.
The prevailing idea, previous to the outbreak, was that “Communism" was making headway in Germany. The purges undertaken by the Moscow Pontiff caused many to believe that Nazism was not going to be tolerated in the “only Socialist country in the world" but now, when the breeze of reality has blown away the smoke screen we perceive that Russia has been Nazified; Germany is to be called upon to teach the wage- slaves of Slavdom how to dance rapidly enough to keep in step with the modern exploiting mechanism: - Truly the “Marxism” of Moscow produces weird and wonderful results never dreamed of in our Socialist philosophy.
Future historians will define Russian “Communism” as a religion, the religion of Pan Slavism. To the “Communist" there is no God but Lenin, and Stalin is his prophet. The movement in Russia is analogous to that of Mohammed.
No heresy is tolerated. Whatever the Prophet decrees is law to the faithful, and whatever he says is true, even though the world at large may perceive it to be false. The function of Mohammedanism was to unite the Arab tribes and compel them to abide by a certain rule of conduct: the function of Russian “Communism" is to unite the Slavs and lead them against those who are not of the faith; the economic urge is the material need of Russia, and this is stimulated by the imperial aspirations of her bureaucracy.
The Roman Catholic Hierarchy have from the first realised the facts of the situation and taken steps to combat what they knew to be a menace to their Church. When the Treaty of Montreux (Britain, Turkey and France) placed Italy at a disadvantage in comparison with France, and, together with Britain’s agreement with Egypt, bottled Mussolini up in the Mediterranean, the Church pointed out to the latter where the real danger lay; the Italian army went to Spain, not only to strike at France, but also at Russia. The banner of the hammer and sickle does not deceive the black-international; it has for centuries had to combat the machinations of its Eastern rival, the Greek Church; as of old the pair come to grips in the Balkans.
The Roman Catholics will have the backing of Roosevelt, though not necessarily of his successor. This is one of the reasons why the election now pending in the United States is so important.
The New Deal was supported by the Catholics and opposed by powerful capitalist interests; the old Church believes in reforms; it expresses the religion of feudalism; it holds that the worker should be content to occupy the position in which God hath placed him, but believes that his bodily needs should be satisfied.
The unsuccessful outcome of the New Deal may have been to some extent due to the antagonism of vested interests, but it is interesting to note that big business in the land of Uncle Sam was not opposed to the hand Mussolini played in Spain. The cross-currents of capitalism are confusing; it is only by the application of the principles of Socialism that they can be traced and their propelling force exposed.
The rise of the Totalitarian States has made trade by barter possible between certain countries, to the delight of some nationalist leaders and the dismay of International Finance. When the imports and exports of a nation are rigidly controlled by its government, whatever is done in the way of trade is of political importance. The struggle going on between the rival groups of exploiters now assume an open political form; the industrial barons, like the feudal barons of old, are taking the field against one another. Capitalism demands they shall kill each other off.
Mussolini, who now represents all those interests in which the ruling class of Italy are involved, backed by the Pope, will move swiftly if Russia threatens Roumania. Hungary will line up alongside the Duce, and so will the Catholic Croats of Jugoslavia. Turkey, although of the faith of Islam, will also take her stand against the enemies of Catholic Poland, but the Serbian elements are still doubtful, and so is Bulgaria. It is said that King Carol and Prince Paul have made a deal, and that Bulgaria is being wooed by Turkey, and if success smiles on the banners of Britain and France we may expect the Balkans, including Greece, to take a position, of hostility to Russia and Germany.
The current issue of the Economist places the position before its readers in the following manner: —
“On his return to Turkey, the Secretary-General of the Turkish Foreign Office, M. Menemenjoglu, announced that financial agreements signed in London and Paris made available a credit for the purchase of armaments to the value of £25 millions, gold to the value of £15 millions, and another £3,500,000 in the form of a commercial loan. Interest payments are to be made against goods, including Turkish tobacco; and beyond this there are arrangements whereby Great Britain and France will buy up fixed quantities of surplus products whose normal market is Germany, Turkish clearing debts will also be liquidated. The transfer of these large sums should be proof positive to Turkey and her neighbours that Britain and France are taking the war far more resolutely than they took the peace; and their announcement at a moment when Turkey is suffering from the effects of great national disasters is a particularly happy touch. Turkey’s value as an ally needs no advertisement, but it is a natural consequence to the granting of these necessary credits that the Turkish Government should feel itself on stronger diplomatic ground in the Balkans. On his way home, M. Menemenjoglu stayed two days in Sofia—the initiative is understood to have been Turkish—and exchanged with King Boris and the Bulgarian Prime Minister conversations that were much more than formal. The statement issued later was taken on internal evidence—though the method of expression was customarily circuitous—to mean that Turkey and Bulgaria were now in substantial agreement on foreign policy; and that, in turn, would appear to mean that the rulers of Bulgaria intend to hold themselves free of German or Soviet influence. Add to this important conclusion the Italian Government’s willingness to help in bringing Hungary and Roumania together, and the latter meeting (confidently reported, though officially denied) between King Carol and Prince Paul, and the Balkan outlook becomes almost temperate. But over-confidence would be an error. Berlin has yet to have its say.”
The Economist is justified in curbing those who tend to be too optimistic.
Hitler is not yet defeated, by any means, even in the Balkans, and Russia can still depend upon the loyalty of her Slav brethren. Britain and France apparently have a great economic advantage, but appearances should not be taken at their face value. The United States in this war demands cash for goods supplied, because Britain fell down on her debts to Uncle Sam. The screws will begin to tighten shortly, and something may rip; the wage-slave is feeling the pinch already, and although our masters may think him blind, as well as dumb, unless the writer is mistaken, they are in for a great surprise.
Should the United States fail to renew the trade agreement with Japan, or refuse to consider drawing up a new one, Japan, Russia and Germany may be driven together.
The longer the war lasts the more complicated and involved will the system become; the difficulties that prevent capitalism from sailing on an even keel are insurmountable; the ship of profit is already listing badly and there is rough weather ahead.
Let those who are struggling for the establishment of a new society based on Socialist principles be of good cheer, the troubles of our masters are our opportunities. We place before the world the only practical proposition that can now be entertained—the common ownership of the means of life and the establishment of production solely for use in place of production for sale. The ruling class, one and all, say they won’t entertain the idea. History says we must. And, what is more, act upon it.