Why This Profit System and Its Government Bar a Democratic Foreign Policy

Submitted by AWL on 10 July, 2013 - 9:55 Author: Hal Draper

Is the U.S. Defending Democracy - or Capitalism?

(Article from Labor Action's annual May special issue, 1951)

When an Indian tribe went on the warpath to grab a 
neighbor's choice hunting ground, it is not likely that the
 braves spent too much time convincing each other that the
 scalps were necessary to further an idealistic crusade. They 
knew what they were fighting for because the real object
 of the war was also in the interest of the entire tribe. There 
was no overweening need for sloganized deception.

Bewilderment and demagogy over "war aims" has been
 an accompaniment of "civilization" - that is, of societies
 divided into ruling and ruled classes. This is the kind of
 civilized society we have known up to today.

No ruling class has ever inscribed on its war banner: 
''We fight for the Greater Glory of Our Class Interests." That is, no
 ruling class has ever done so if it expects the mass of people to do 
the fighting for it. It always wars, instead, for God, for country, for 
honor, for defense, for freedom - for an aim which is also shared by those who have to do the dying.

In the world wars of our modern age, there has been a pattern
 which cannot fail to provoke thought by those who are too ready to
 accept the current slogan used to explain why more millions must be

The First World War was fought to save the world for democracy
 - and there was less democracy left in the world after victory was 
won against Kaiserism. "Something" went wrong. There is plenty of
 evidence to prove that the war was really fought on behalf of one 
group of imperialist powers against another.

So they said the Second World War was different. It was different in many significant respects, but not in this: It was supposedly 
fought to save the "peace-loving democracies" from aggressive fascism,
 but the victors are now greasing the way for the return to power of
the neo-Nazi reactionaries of Germany as well as preparing the 
rearming of Japan, rehabilitating the only fascist ally of Hitler still
 in power (Franco), etc.

"Something" went wrong again.

To lovers of freedom, the world picture is blacker today than 
before the second crusade for democracy. From the standpoint of a
 better world, both wars were tragic, useless butcheries.

Yet Kaiserism had to be fought. Nazism had to be fought. It was, 
indeed, the anti-war socialists who fought those despotisms more uncom
promisingly than anyone else.

But the two world wars of our century were not directed against 
these as the enemies of freedom, peace or a better world. They were
 capitalist wars.

And now we face a third.

'What's Wrong' - Right Now?

How can you doctrinaire socialists call this developing war with 
Russia a "capitalist war" on the part of the U. S.? Isn't it clear that 
Moscow menaces the whole of the free world? Are we supposed to
 stand aside and let Stalin grab up country after country for fear of
 being called "capitalist warmongers" by you socialists? Does your 
opposition to capitalism blind you to the fact - this time, anyway - 
the U. S. is not at bottom fighting to defend capitalism, but to defend 
its very life and every possibility of progress against the most brutal 
regime the world has ever seen? What planet are you living on?
 etc., etc.

It ill behooves those whose sincere liberal intentions were twice
 deceived - who proved two times running that they understood little
 of what, was going on and who now retrospectively ask themselves
 "What went wrong again?" - to pour arrogant scorn on the socialists.
 They would do better to ask themselves, with a little foresight this 
time, 'What is wrong now?'

If the aim of this cold-war struggle, and of the big shooting war
 it is leading to, were really to crush Stalinist totalitarianism and 
ensure the blossoming of democracy, then we Independent Socialists
 would have no hesitation in getting behind it. But then many other
 things would be different, including the inevitability of that atomic 
war itself.

What is wrong is that this capitalist government cannot and will
 not wage either war or peace except in defense of capitalism and its 
interest. If you like the capitalist system, that may not trouble you - 
Russian expansion will be stopped anyway, won't it?

There's the rub: The only way in which this capitalist government
 can wage its war, cold or hot, is one which facilitates Russian Stalinist
 expansion on the one hand and offers, on the other, the possibility of 
stopping Russia only at the cost of destructive atomic warfare and only with the consequence of the intensification of every trend toward
 reaction, totalitarianism and a new barbarism.

Liberals may then no longer be able to write third-round articles 
about "What Went Wrong?" and "Why Did We Lose the Peace?"

It would be better to understand something about this social system 
of capitalism, which is going wrong right now, and about its relation to the war which the U. S. is preparing to fight.

Please, Make a Revolution!

Take, for example, the latest resolution on foreign policy adopted
by the ADA (Americans for Democratic Action), the center of
 America's organized liberals. Take, in fact, its best features.

The ADA sharply criticizes U. S. aid to Franco; calls for wheat
 grants to starving India; urges the U. S. to "become the chief proponent of the revolutionary aspirations of the Asian peoples"; supports Indo-China's independence from France; is "alarmed by the 
growing power of reaction and militarism in Latin America" and 
cautions that "any American military aid given to these countries 
ought to he dependent upon guarantees of essential political freedoms"; notes that German "economic recovery has been accompanied 
by the resurgence of the power of the industrialists who aided Hitler";
 complains that, outside of Britain and Scandinavia ("where government is in the hands of strongly progressive groups") a result of the 
Marshall Plan has been that "a disproportionate share of the benefits
 has accrued to the already rich or well-to-do."

A long list - is it not? - for a group which supports U. S. foreign
- policy as a whole . . . But not long enough, even in ADA terms. The 
White Paper breaking with Chiang Kai-shek is now a piece of paper,
 and Chiang now is rehabilitated on the U. S. dole on an equal status
 with Marshall Plan countries. In Korea the U. S. supports the
 assassin regime of Syngman Rhee. In the Philippines the infamous
 Quirino is the U. S. stooge. . . .

In every hot spot of the world, there never has been a time when U. S. policy has been so overt in support of every reactionary force 
it can muster, so long as that force is anti-Russian.

Read the ADA resolution, and a startling omission appears.
 Nowhere in the long document can one discover that these reactionary
 policies are being carried on - not by the Republicans, not by the 
Dixiecrats, not by MacArthur, none of whom happens to be in the
White House - but by Truman and his Fair Deal colleagues!

Are these things merely regrettable mistakes and deplorable errors 
in an otherwise progressive foreign policy? The list of "mistakes" and
"errors" cover the whole globe and every continent!

Nowhere is it asked "Why?" Why are Truman-Acheson deliberately propping up the leading fascist in the world, in the very face 
of anti-Franco revolts among his people? Why did Franco get his
 grain in a twinkling, while India has so long been left to starve in 
the face of famine? Why has the U. S. occupation countenanced the 
return to power of Krupp and the cartels in Adenauer's Germany?
 Why does the U. S. support Rhee, under whose regime Robert Taft 
would be considered a dangerous subversive? Why? Why? Why?

It would be easy to reply that Truman and his fellow policy-
makers simply dote on fascists and reactionaries - but that would not 
only be false, it would miss the main point. The fact is that a creature 
like Syngman Rhee, with his semi-feudal landlord clique, for example, 
is a pre-capitalist fossil repugnant even to a self-respecting capital
ist reactionary. Acheson no doubt shuddered the last time Rhee
 ordered the murder of a political opponent. But -

He had no choice. The only other social force in Korea, besides 
the landlord clique, is the nameless lowly mass of the peasantry who,
 for generations, have been straining from below to rise up and throw off their semi-feudal exploiters in mass revolt. In' a country like 
Korea, the only alternative to Rhee is: going to the people, supporting their rebellion in mass revolution from below against "law and
 order" and "established authorities."

That does not stop more than one good liberal from advocating 
that the U. S. do what is necessary - that it, "foster the Asian revolu
tion," that is, become the vanguard of the world revolution. But it does stop the capitalist government of the U. S.! Washington is interested 
in preserving the states quo in the capitalist world, not in fostering 
revolution. . . . How naive is a liberal permitted to be?

There is no effective middle ground in Korea between the anti-
capitalist, anti-landlord revolutionary strivings of the people at the 
bottom, and the corrupt Rhee dictatorship on top. Between these two,
 the U. S. chooses reaction - holding its nose.

But that precisely is the type of choice all over Asia, and all over 
the world! If the "industrialists who aided Hitler" are coming back 
in Germany, under the Adenauer regime whose victory in the last German election was hailed by U. S. capital, it is because these are
 the people whose comeback is necessary if German capitalism is to be 
propped up. (As Henry Wallace once naively put it, the difficulty with
 the program of "progressive capitalism" is . . . the lack of progressive capitalists.)

Test case: In Germany the U.S. occupation policy was faced with 
the choice of sacrificing German capitalism to the "war for democracy," or sacrificing democracy to the need of organizing Western
 capitalism against its Russian imperialist rival. The U. S. chose the
 latter because the interests of capitalism are its first and only basic 
concern. Hence the character and consequences of this cold war and
 of the war to come.

In sharper or more muffled form, this same type of choice is behind
 every U. S. "mistake" in plumping for the deepest-dyed reactionary 
scoundrels everywhere on the earth. There is less and less middle
-ground between these, and the anti-capitalist, revolutionary and socialist aspirations of the peoples all over the world, in a world where U. S.
 capitalism remains the only one in which the old system has still a bit
 of fat around its belt, still at any rate a going concern. The increasingly
 open reactionary character of U. S. foreign policy has developed with
 the decay of world capitalism itself.

The revolutionary strivings of the peoples are left wide open to 
the demagogy of the Stalinists, who are able to ride the anti-capital
ist wave because they have no stake in capitalism themselves, being
 representatives of a rival exploitive system.

The U. S. cannot carry out a democratic foreign policy as long
 as capitalism holds sway at home.

This is the first sense in which capitalist America's war is neces
sarily a capitalist war.

It's Built Into Capitalism

To "contain" Stalinism, to prepare the war against Russia, the
 U.S. has to organize the West. It knows only one way to do that.
 The capitalist governments of Europe are split among themselves.

While all stand in fear and hatred before the upstart imperialism of 
Stalinist Russia, they are not too much more enthusiastic about 
ceding an inch of power and influence within the capitalist world than 
they are to lose all before Russian bureaucratic collectivist imperialism. They fight Stalinism not because it destroys democracy in the
 world but because it destroys their power along with their capitalist 
system. Their class interests are at stake within the tug-of-war of the
 Western bloc as well as in the tug-of-war over the globe.

The loose cooperating alliance through which groups of capitalist 
countries fought the previous world wars - ceding a little here, snatching a little there at the first opportunity - will no longer do. For 
one thing, the fate of their social world is at stake, not merely advan
tage in imperialist rivalry. For another, the capitalism of the U. S. 
has developed in overpowering strength as their own has declined.
The capitalism of the U. S. bestrides them as a colossus.

Such is the state of the old profit system that no one in Europe - 
not even the capitalist class - believes that even victory in war against
 Russia can mean much besides more destruction and decay for themselves. The U. S. can win the war - or Russia can win the war - but
 whoever wins, Europe loses.

These are the allies that the U. S. seeks to organize under its banner. 
It can marshal them into a fighting force only by imposing its own
 domination and control over them.

It is said that the U. S. "does not seek world domination." This
 is as meaningful a claim as the companion-piece that the U. S.
 "wants peace, and not war." Of course, the U. S. does not want war.
 Neither does Stalin. (Neither did Hitler.) They merely want that
 which can be gained, in the teeth of rivals, only with eventual war.

The U. S. does not "want" to control the world, if by that is meant
some megalomaniac desire for power for its own sake. It merely is
 driven to seek effective domination over the world if it is to gain 
that which it does want.

It is perfectly true, in this sense, that the U. S. has accepted its
"world responsibilities" reluctantly and in spite of national traditions
 against foreign entanglements and commitments. A good part of the

"great debate" on foreign policy represents the continuing struggle 
between that tradition and the increasingly clear necessities of 
capitalist "internationalism." A good part of the internal incon
sistency of the Republicans and the grossly hypocritical and double-
tongued character of their foreign policy is due not merely to power-
politics maneuvering but also to the fact that not all of them have 
entirely made the adjustment to American capitalism's new world 
role and tasks.

No, American capitalism does not "want" world domination. It 
merely wants the fruits of world power. For decades it has been able
 to assert its preponderance in the world through the power of its 
economic wealth and industrial power, without direct political dom
ination. It has been able to capture and control one market after 
another, one source of raw materials after another, on the basis of its economic weapons.

And its economic weapons are still its most powerful today, when 
it has to organize the capitalist world against its Russian imperialist 
rival. The Marshall Plan, with its retinues of supervising controllers, 
checkers and overseers in the countries which are the beneficiaries of 
its charity, becomes an instrument to guide and twist the economies of
 the West in the direction that will fit in with the needs of the grand
 war alliance.

With lordly objectivity - when it's a question of the other fel
low's shoe pinching - the U. S. overseers complain about the narrow
 nationalism displayed by their fellow capitalists abroad, who do not 
relish having their economies geared to war according to blueprints
 which are engineered to benefit U. S. capital and not their own.

It isn't a cold-blooded plot, of course. It's merely something like 
this: an ECA administrator in Rome can see with complete clarity 
how absurd it is, from the common standpoint, for Italian capitalism 
to insist on building its own steel industry; and he can put the kibosh 
on it; and if, in turn, embarrassing questions are raised about the
"narrow nationalism" of U. S. tariff policy, for example ... he can
 do nothing but write deploring letters to Washington. ...

From the point of view of American capitalism, the Russian threat
 to world peace and democracy is no unmixed calamity. Without it, U.S. power could scarcely of extended to its present sway as the undisputed arbiter of the western world. Without it, the 
capitalisms of Europe - weakened though they are - would scarcely have been brought to submit in so short a period to the tender 
mercies of overseership by Washington.

For Europe, the cold war has meant: an unconscionable drain
 for armaments on their weakened economic structures; the distortion
 of their economies away from rebuilding the standard of living of
 their peoples and toward war outlays; the squeezing of their industrial
 structures by American monopolization of raw-material sources (as 
Aneurin Bevan pointed out in his speech in Parliament); the prospect of a war which can only drive them further toward complete

But for America, sitting on top of the capitalist world, the cold war
 has meant: prosperity, and the highest profit ranges in history.

In the heyday of the British Empire, it was estimated that every 
Englishman had five colonial slaves working for him. That is, the
 poverty and misery of the people in the exploited colonies were the 
basis for the Englishman's higher standard of living.

Today, if the American people enjoy the highest standard of 
living in the world, it is not because of the magic beneficence of 
"free enterprise." The reason is, if anything, precisely the contrary!
 When the Voice of America naively points to the television sets,
 refrigerators and automobiles which prove the happy lot of the
 American people as a selling point for capitalism, it can be under
stood if Europeans fail to grow enthusiastic at this propaganda.

They, in the birthplaces of world capitalism, do not have television 
sets and refrigerators; capitalism and its wars have left their coun
tries in shambles; and if America is rich, they have a right to suspect 
that it is because they are poor. . . .

Yes, the Russian threat is no unmixed calamity to American 
capitalism. One has only to ask oneself, as so many economists have
 done in fact: What would happen to U. S. economy if "peace broke
out," that is, if the U. S. had to return to a peace economy? . . .

What is it that has held back the outbreak of another devastating 
depression and economic crisis such as raged in the '30s, until indus
try started gearing for World War II? What has happened to the 
galloping disease of capitalism which dooms it to recurrent spells of 
unemployment and breakdown in the midst of abundance - in fact because of an abundance of goods which cannot be purchased by the
 mass of people?

If the great productive machinery of the U. S. now in operation
were to be used to produce the necessities and luxuries of life for the 
consumption of the people, the expected post-war depression would
 already be upon us. For as long as the extraction of capitalist profit stands before the people's ability to buy back (with their wages)
 the goods which they themselves create, so long does the capitalist
 system periodically break down, choking in its own fat, as "over-
production" comes into conflict with the restricted purchasing power 
of the masses.

No. It's Not a 'Plot'...

But - happy times that we live in! - an economy decisively geared
 to the production of cannon, bombing planes, and the instruments of
 war destruction in general, does not have to depend on the inade
quacies of mass purchasing power. Its market is the government. As
 the cost of war and war preparation rises, the government squeezes
 its funds from the standard of living of the people. Instead of catas
trophic economic breakdowns, we are due to see a steady downward 
pressure on the workers' living conditions - while the capitalists draw 
their war profits unperturbed by possible stock crashes. . . .

Is this a diabolical plot to substitute war for depression? Of 
course not! This is simply the capitalist system in operation, following out its own trends behind the backs (and consciousness) even of
 its own "leaders."

If, to keep this war economy going at full blast, the U. S. must 
distort and strangle the economies of its capitalist colleagues abroad,
 is this the result of an evil conspiracy by Wall Street magnates to
 achieve world empire? Of course not! This is merely international
 capitalist competition at work, the fruit of the blessed private-enter
prise system. . .

If, in order for itself to remain healthy, U. S. capitalism must 
muscle in on and squeeze out the older capitalisms of Europe, in
 control of markets and raw materials all over the globe, is this the 
heinous intent of rapacious imperialists developing a deep-dyed plan in a smoke-filled room? Of course not! This is merely the imperialism
 which is the very warp and woof of modern capitalism...

And Stalinist Russia appears before the capitalist world, not merely 
as a challenger for the lion's share in an inter-capitalist division of
 world markets and wealth, not as an imperialist rival whose victory
 would mean a mere restriction of the loser's imperialist opportunities,
 but as an imperialist rival challenging the whole capitalist form of 
exploitation, in favor of its own form of exploitation and oppression.

Where it wins, capitalism is destroyed, and another section of
the world is removed from any capitalist's range of operation. As the
 Stalinist system spreads, as it has already spread over a third of the 
planet, capitalism is more and more forced back upon its home
market alone, in a tightening squeeze. If "socialism in one country" 
is impossible, "capitalism in one country" is even less possible.

From the point of view of a capitalist government, the struggle 
to "contain" Stalinism is the struggle to keep the world open for its
 type of exploitation, without which it would strangle behind its own
 national boundaries.

This is why, for the U. S., "everything goes" as long as it stops
 Russia - even if it also means the bureaucratic militarization and
 totalitarianization of capitalism itself.

On the one hand, the capitalist basis of U. S. foreign policy makes
 a democratic foreign policy IMPOSSIBLE.

On the other hand, the capitalist basis of U. S. foreign policy makes 
a democratic foreign policy DISPENSABLE as far as the real aims of
 the struggle are concerned.

The only kind of government which can realize a truly democratic
 foreign policy is one which is ready to subordinate the interests of
 capitalism and imperialism to the necessary steps for defending the 
nation and the working people from the threat of Stalinist aggression and totalitarianism.

Only a government of labor could do this - a labor government
 which does not act like the AFL and CIO leaders today, who parrot
 the war slogans of the capitalist powers-that-be, but one which 
boldly accepts its task of remaking society as the "architects of the
 future." Such a course, rejecting the downward paths of both capitalism and Stalinism, would be the path to a socialist democracy, 
a Socialist America, in a world of peace and plenty.