“Keeping America
Out of War”

(June 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 24, 11 June 1938, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Just as the Stalinists seek to unite all their forces behind “peace and democracy” congresses whose purpose is to swing American imperialism behind a “collective security” program, so the recently constituted Lovestone-Thomas combination is seeking to unite all and sundry behind a program of imperialist isolationism. The first stage of its efforts has just culminated in the Washington “Keep America Out of War” Congress, at which, taking a leaf out of the strategy book of the Communist Party, the actual sponsors of the Congress kept in the discreet and modest background and shoved forward the by now customary assortment of retired generals, capitalist politicians, professional pacifists and nostrum-vendors, priests and rabbis. The exceptionally shy Lovestoneites, among the chief manipulators of the congress, did not even have their representatives listed in the roster of sponsors.

The assertion that the Washington Congress adopted the program of imperialist isolationism may appear, at first blush, to be at once exaggerated and contradictory. Yet, in point of cold fact, that is precisely the case. And it explains the otherwise perplexing fact that this self-styled “anti-war” movement could have among its sponsors such rankly reactionary Republicans as Senator Capper; Representative Hamilton Fish, red-baiter and purveyor of Nazi propaganda in the United States, against whose presence in the official committee the Socialist Party issued a mealy-mouthed protest in the columns of its Chicago paper, without having the courage to take up the question on the floor of the Congress itself, where it might mean something; and Representative William Lemke, late presidential candidate on the Union Party ticket of Father Coughlin, the illustrious warrior for democracy.

What the Congress Failed to Do

Before considering what the congress did, it is perhaps even more important to learn what it failed to do. There was no expression of solidarity with the workers and peasants of Spain who are engaged in a life-and-death battle against fascism, although it would seem that a congress preoccupied with the question of war would take some notice of the event. Neither did the Lovestoneites and Thomasites dare to put before the Congress a resolution that the infamous Roosevelt embargo against Loyalist Spain be lifted. Neither of these steps was taken because of one simple consideration: the fear of antagonizing the swarm of petty bourgeois pacifists who were present; so that the latter, who represented nothing but their own confusion and reactionary prejudices actually prevailed over the labor delegates, who at least represented some forces. To save their faces, the Lovestone-Thomas bloc had the so-called “labor group” adopt an anti-embargo resolution, with emphasis on the fact that this did not commit the congress as a whole. In other words, it delicately refrained from compelling the pacifist melange from taking a position on this crucial question.

With respect to the Soviet Union, the Congress acted even more shabbily. That is, it did not act at all. Neither the S.P. nor the Lovestoneites had a single word to say about the defense of the Soviet Union from imperialist attack, although this, too, is not among the least important problems of our time. The pressure of the pacifists and bourgeois politicians was enough in this case also to bring about the total capitulation and silence of the “radical wing” of the Congress.

Imply Approval for “Defensive” Wars

Neither did the latter propose any revision of the Ludlow Amendment as at present formulated, a revision, that is, which would extend the referendum on war to cover also the so-called “wars of defense,” which the present Amendment provides may be engaged in by the government without consulting the electorate and which, according to all indications, will be precisely the pretext upon which the U.S. will precipitate the masses into the coming imperialist war.

The key to the program of the congress is contained in the report of the commission on Building a War-Less World, and the recommendations in its 3rd section, How the American People Can Work for Peace. The very wording of that section indicates its decisive importance, for it is in the concrete steps proposed whereby the “people can work for peace” that the true measure of this and similar congresses can be taken.

The key sentences in the concrete proposals of section 3 are worth quoting:

“As a first measure of immunizing the American economy to the armament infection, a government reflecting the popular will for peace would deny the economic resources of the United States to all countries now dominated or in the process of being dominated by the armament system of economics ... As a second measure of American initiative in resisting the armament and war offensive we propose that the economic resources of the United States be offered to the arming powers only on condition that they shall not be used for armament purposes ... If these ‘poor nations’ (the Fascist nations – M.S.) abandon armament economics and gear the production of their industries to the consumption of their people, they can secure American raw materials. A government expressing the popular will for peace would declare that, on condition and in the measure that armaments production is reduced, the United States will take its part (while protecting American labor standards) along with other nations in lowering tariff barriers, in extending raw materials credits, in setting up agencies for economic world cooperation to relieve distress and to make an economic alternative to war possible.”

If we refrain for a moment from the side-splitting laughter evoked by the mental picture of the fascist (or any other capitalist) nations “gearing the production of their industries to the consumption of their people” (this double-barrelled drivel was put out by a commission whose secretary was the noted Marxian scholar, Lewis Corey ...), we see stated in the smoothest possible terms the classic position of American imperialist isolationism.

Adopt Classic Position of U.S. Imperialism

It is true, of course, that American “isolationism” – like Nazi autarchy – is only a myth, a utopia, a deception; that it is the “typical American” method of preparing for imperialist expansion and aggression and for Wall St. domination of the entire world. But that only serves to emphasize the thoroughly reactionary, imperialist nature of American isolationism.

One administration after another – Roosevelt’s included – has cleverly put forward the very same ideas formulated by the “Keep America Out of War Congress.” They have enabled the American ruling class to pose as enemies of war, of armament races, as a “government expressing the popular will” ... and at the same time enabled it to justify its own war preparations, its own armaments program, and to advance towards the imperialist conquest of the world.

Why? How?

Wealthiest, most highly industrialized, most ambitious power in the world today, the United States since the end of the last World War has constantly sought to blackjack its imperialist rivals into reducing their armaments by holding over their heads the threat of its own economic and financial power. “If you disarm, we’ll give you loans.” “If you spend less money on cannon and airplanes, and pay us back the billions we loaned you during and after the war, we will help you economically.” “If you disarm, we’ll cut down our own armaments proportionally.”

A very cunning policy of tails I win and heads you lose. For the shrewd American “isolationists” and “disarmers” are perfectly aware of the fact that if every capitalist power in the world, the U.S. included, were to disarm 100 per cent tomorrow, the United States would be in the decisively dominant position when the next war broke out. Its industrial and financial superiority would enable it to turn out more arms and munitions per minute than its rivals could produce per hour.

Cover for Roosevelt War Preparations

And when its rivals, who are just as well aware of the stratagem, refuse to fall for it, and continue (as imperialism everywhere must) to pile up their armaments strength, the United States wins again! Then Roosevelt, like his predecessors, says with feigned resignation and sorrow:

“You see, we offered them a reasonable proposition. In the words of the ‘Keep America Out of War Congress,’ we offered our economic resources ‘on condition that they shall not be used for armament purposes.’ But they turned us down. They are arming at a furious pace. We regret it terribly, but we have no alternative but to arm ourselves in turn, not, God forbid! for aggression, but only for defense.”

It is this monstrous duping of the American masses that has now been taken up as the principal “anti-war” panacea of the Washington congress to “Keep America Out of War!”

Its fathers are not Lovestone, Corey and Thomas. They are only the belated god-fathers of the natural and legitimate child of American imperialism. To Roosevelt’s sabre-rattling Chicago speech on “quarantining the aggressor,” they echo: Economic quarantine for the “arming powers” (simply another name for “aggressor”). If this means anything, it means economic warfare on the so-called “fascist” nations, or the “poor nations,” or the “aggressor” nations. It means, more importantly, that Wolfe, Allen, Corey and Co. are calling upon the capitalist-imperialist government – the bourgeoisie – of the United States to launch this economic war, and that they are ready to support the government in it.

And Still They Become Patriots!

But Wolfe, Corey and Lovestone, who, unlike Thomas, are at least acquainted with the ideas of Marxism and the realities of modern politics, know that economic warfare is only incipient military warfare, that the latter is only a continuation of the former by other, more violent means. Their “knowledge,” also, has not prevented them from adopting a program of imperialist isolationism, forerunner of imperialist war.

That is why the Washington congress was not a means of mobilizing the masses for struggle against imperialist war, but a gross pacifist fraud, aided and abetted by the Thomasites and the Lovestone leaders. That is why – as in the Stalinist “peace-congress” masquerades – the class struggle was not mentioned. That is why the independent class action of the organized proletariat – the only possible basis for a struggle against war – was prominent only by its complete absence; it was Jim Crowed out of the Congress.

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