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Ernest Lund

The Theory of the ‘Long War’ and

The Coming Invasion of Europe

(July 1943)

From The New International, Vol. IX No. 8, September 1943, pp. 245–248.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Our perspectives on the war have had as their central axis the concept of the “long war.” This concept was adopted following America’s entry in December 1941. It was based on the view that the production and military potentials of the Allies and the Axis, considered from the standpoint of logistics, sufficiently balanced each other to make a military knockout highly improbable until after a war of attrition of unforeseeable length. (Estimates ran from ten to fifteen years.) However, we added, this military appraisal must be complemented with a revolutionary appraisal of the warring nations. The latter led us to the conclusion that it is likewise highly improbable that the masses would permit such a protracted reign of blood-letting, starvation, and destruction without intervening to bring it to a revolutionary end.

The recent turn in the fortunes of war in favor of the Allies has caused a widespread feeling that the above perspective is no longer tenable. This view, usually implicit but often explicit, has been voiced particularly in the present discussion of the national question, by both the supporters and critics of the resolution of the Workers Party.

Optimism About the War’s Duration

Following the American landings in North Africa last winter, many of our supporters were ready to throw overboard the “long war” theory, being convinced of a rapid Allied victory. This optimism dissolved during the early stages of the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, especially with the initial American defeats. However, it seems once more to have shot way up with the successful conclusion of the North African campaign and the accelerated bombing of Europe. Some have almost given way to the optimism of the bourgeois commentators, viz., that German power is rapidly disintegrating and needs but the appearance of a second front on the Continent to give it a death blow.

An examination of the military prospects in Europe is very essential to the revolutionary forces. For us it is not idle speculation based upon purely military hypotheses, as with the average “military expert” in the press. The basic approach for us stems from an understanding of the economic and political forces at play. If we err in our estimates of the forces at play we will adopt a perspective that the events themselves will continually overturn and, consequently, leave us disoriented and without compass or rudder.

This applies above all to the present discussion of the national question. It is easy to see that a war of attrition ended by revolutionary upheavals will leave Europe in a considerably different state of affairs than an Allied “blitz” with Allied armies of occupation. Though not on the same level of importance, it is yet exceedingly important to examine where the Allied occupation will most probably occur in any event, what the r61e of the Red Army will be, and where English and American forces will seek to “police” the revolution.

It is a matter beyond debate that the initiative has passed into the hands of the Allies. From the expected invasion of England we have now come to the expected invasion of Europe. The course of the war has advanced the latter as the next logical step.

But what is the significance of an invasion o£ the Continent? Can it be equated, as so many think, with a knockout blow for Germany? Where will the invasion come? What will its effect be upon post-war revolutionary developments? Events that have occurred since we first adopted a perspective on the war permit us now to elaborate and bring some details into sharper focus.

From a purely military point of view the destruction of the enemy’s armies and the occupation of at least strategic parts of his homeland must be the aim for a total victory. The shortest route to the German homeland is across the Low Countries, less than two hundred miles at its widest point and nearer to one hundred miles at its narrowest point. But is anyone so foolish as to believe an Allied army could land on these coasts and push across to Germany without staggering losses? Here, above all, the prospect would be one of stalemate, reorganization, large-scale replacement, delays, reverses and, at best, a slow, piecemeal reduction of an intricate system of German defenses directly based upon the German home industries and connected by means of the most excellent transport facilities found anywhere. A British army on the Somme in 1943 will not necessarily be nearer to Berlin than a British army on the Somme in 1915.

Significance of the Invasion Routes

But this short-line invasion route seems least likely to be adopted, if for no other reason than that the military considerations, which admit it as a possibility, will be outweighed by the political considerations, which exclude such a possibility.

It is the failure to appreciate this relationship between political and military considerations that leaves most bourgeois commentators at sea when dealing with the second front. They fail to understand that the capitalist statesman, when discussing strategy, places the question of “Who will occupy what at the finish?” before the question, “How can we finish it most quickly?”

Allied statesmen have spent many a sleepless night over the question of “Who will occupy what?” Beginning with the Allied chief in the White House and running the gamut through to the most insignificant little government-in-exile, they have all devoted much thought and time to the jockeying and maneuvering to determine who will be where when it is all over.

Above all have the gentlemen of Downing Street drawn upon their age-old experiences in statecraft to juggle the many delicate and intricate factors that make up “the European question.” Churchill once referred to post-war Europe as “that uninviting jungle,” about which he would rather not think. However, that was nearly two years ago. We can rest assured that the British statesmen have done considerable thinking since then on how best to “restore order” in this “jungle,” with the least possible harm to capitalism in general and British capitalism in particular.

Such Anglo-American plans for a “reorganization” of Europe must deal with two obstacles – the proletarian revolution and the Kremlin. For those who start at seeing these opposites linked by the conjunction “and,” a little realistic analysis will show how they are related to each other.

As revolutionary Marxists, we have long ago characterized the Kremlin as a deadly enemy of the proletarian revolution and a reliable emergency prop of the bourgeois order in countries where it begins to crumble. All we need do is to remember the GPU in Loyalist Spain. But let no one conclude from this that Churchill will calmly turn over to Stalin the task of “organizing Central Europe.” To begin with, we must not forget the elementary fact that even if Churchill were dealing with a Czarist Russia he would want most jealously to delimit Russian influence over European affairs. But the Russian bear today is a far stranger and more unpredictable animal than anything the British Foreign Office was ever called upon to fathom. And in its long history it has dealt with many strange and unpredictable peoples. Even we Marxists engage in polemics over what to call this monstrosity that has been fastened on the Russian people. What are we to expect from the products of Eton with their contempt for theory and penchant for a conservatively practical “muddling through”?

The British will be less impressed by the fact that the Russian bear is led, ring through the nose, by the executioner of the Third International than by the fact that in the lair of the bear exists an economy different from and hostile to capitalism.

We ourselves ask: “Is bureaucratic collectivism an export commodity? Will the Kremlin seek to impress its economic image upon the face of the Balkans and Central Europe?”

We can be sure that there is many a different answer given to these questions in different bourgeois circles. However, they will all agree in answering one question: “Can we safely entrust the policing of the Balkans and Central Europe to the Kremlin?” Here their unanimous answer will be “No!”

The Allied policy for post-war Europe will therefore be based upon a strategy to exclude Russia.

Russia and Her Allies

How will Russia react to such a policy? Whatever else we may debate about bureaucratic collectivism as a base for imperialist expansion, we know from considerations of Russia’s national security (as diplomats politely call it), that the Kremlin will seek at least the boundaries of the Hitler-Stalin pact period and, either as spheres of influence or direct acquisitions, Bulgaria, Rumania, Ruthenia, parts of Hungary, parts of Yugoslavia, most of Poland (including Warsaw) and more of the Finnish coast line. This would leave the Kremlin the strongest power on the Continent until such time as Britain could restore Germany or France as a counter-balance.

Would not the Anglo-American statesmen go to untold lengths to prevent such Russian expansion? Only a cursory knowledge of imperialist power politics in Europe for the last several decades is sufficient to understand this.

Russian agents and pro-Russian sentiment will cause the Allies enough headaches in revolutionary Europe without the added factor of the Red Army in Warsaw, Belgrade, Sofia and perhaps Budapest. The European bourgeoisie would shudder with fear as did once the Catholic prelates when the Turks marched out of Asia to appear under the walls of Vienna. How can The City and Wall Street proceed with plans for European reorganization, with capitalism being overturned by masses of workers and peasants in Eastern and Southeastern Europe who may view the Red Army as deliverers from class exploitation?

The arrival of the Red Army in these countries must not be confused with the arrival of the Nazis. The profound disturbances of property accompanying the Nazi occupations were in their fundamentals really bookkeeping operations. The native capitalists (Czechs, French, etc.) were forced to accept worthless German notes in return for majority control of their banks and industries by German capitalists. With the end of German occupation, it will not be too difficult to untangle these bookkeeping transactions and restore the property to its “legal” owner. But the prospect in the countries occupied by the Red Army is quite different. As in the Baltic states and in Poland, the entry of the Red Army will be viewed as the occasion for the workers and peasants to rise and settle old scores with their oppressors. The Kremlin can afford to sponsor an initial period of a “revolution from below,” demagogically blessed from on top. Then the commissars will arrive to “help” the occupied peoples organize “their” governments and industries and “vote” themselves into the Soviet Union.

Let the Anglo-Americans protest. The peoples of these “liberated” countries may very well rally or be rallied around the Kremlin standards. Would the Allies go to war with Russia to wrest the Balkans and Eastern Europe from her control against the sentiment of the peoples of these countries? And if they were reoccupied by the Allies through military force, could they reestablish and maintain capitalist ownership without the continued presence of Allied bayonets? And all this with the home front in Britain and America highly unstable, to say the least, and a worse situation in Western Europe. At best an unsavory prospect for the Anglo-American guardians of bourgeois order.

It must be firmly established that Stalin has no fears of the overturn of capitalism, as long as the Kremlin has a firm hand over the forces doing the overturning. It is only where the masses participate in the onslaught against capitalism independently, as in Spain, with the prospects for the creation of a real workers’ state, and not a Stalinist caricature of one, that Stalin sees the handwriting on the wall. Churchill may find the Russian agents who lead the Communist Parties of Western Europe unexpectedly cooperative in bolstering bourgeois order. It would be a gross error, however, to expect the same from the Red Army under all conditions.

It will be British strategy, therefore, to make sure that at the end of the war the Red Army will be as far as possible from the Balkans and Central Poland and that an Anglo-American army will be in a position to drive a wedge between the Red Army and Central Europe.

The “Second Front”

The way of guaranteeing the exact opposite would be for the Anglo-American forces to become enmeshed in Northern France and the Low Countries, giving the Red Army, in the event of a German collapse, a free hand in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. It is not for nothing that the Russian agents have been bellowing for a second front. And no matter how many new fronts are opened, they will keep on calling for a “second” front. For what they really mean is a front in Western Europe.

A second front in Western Europe would be as foolish for the Anglo-Americans as for a burglar to choose to break down the front door of a house, with his untrustworthy accomplice slipping in the back door while the householder is attracted by the noise in front. It would end with the burglar sustaining the blows and the accomplice getting the booty.

An invasion of Italy seems also unlikely, and in any case indecisive. It would prove a long-drawn-out and costly affair, with little gained toward a strategic breach in the enemy’s armor. Its success would achieve the dubious asset of knocking Italy out of the war. But this would be accomplished for all practical purposes by continued aerial harassment of her industries and transport and would save the expense of feeding and policing the nation. The German lines in the Brenner Pass, swollen with the remnants of the Italian forces, would prove impossible to crack. All this, looked at militarily. Politically, an Italian invasion would be no more beneficial to Allied strategy than one in Western Europe.

The strategic value of Sicily in the middle of the Mediterranean and as an air base for operations against Italy and Southern France will be sufficient to cause the Allies to expend a major campaign in occupying it. But the real invasion will be elsewhere.

All political necessities, buttressed, however, by military considerations, point to the invasion coming via the Balkans – either by way of Crete, Salonika, and up the Vardar valley or, with the aid of Turkey, from the Turkish bridgehead in Europe into Bulgaria supported by landings on the Bulgarian and Rumanian Black Sea coasts.

From the military side it is worth noting that the British have always found it advantageous to utilize their sea power to conduct a peripheral war, i.e., to engage the enemy in the far-flung corners of the war map, where shipping gives the British the advantage (witness the wars with France fought in North America, India, Spain, Egypt, etc.). The Anglo-American quartermaster staffs would find less of a supply problem in sea-borne transport of divisions and equipment to Greece from America, Britain, and North Africa than would the German quartermaster brains in rail communication from Germany. This is especially true since many of the railroads radiating south and east from Vienna would be required to do double duty, adding the Balkan front to their load for the Russian front.

Another military aspect is the question of the reserves. In the event of an invasion of Western France the British would still keep close to two million men in the British Isles as a reserve in the event something catastrophic happened on the Continent and another Dunkirk proved impossible. These troops would serve no strategic purpose as a counterweight to the Germans. However, the German home reserves would be within a few hours of the front. These same two million troops, however, stationed in Britain during an Allied invasion of the Balkans would tie up a German force of nearly the same number in France and the Low Countries, for the Germans could not strip their Western defenses in the face of such a force across the Channel.

It is not an insignificant factor to note that Churchill fought the British and French general staffs during the last war in favor of sea-borne operations (Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Salonika) as against hopes for a break-through in France. As matters turned out, the Salonika army proved decisive in the last stages of the war in knocking Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria out of the war and sealing Germany’s doom at a time when the German armies in France still stood on the Hindenburg line.

The Invasion Through the Balkans

From the political side of the question, a Balkan invasion would have as its aim sending an Allied army into Europe through the rear door ahead of (at least abreast of) the Red Army. Allied control of the western shore of the Black Sea (Rumania, Bulgaria) and Yugoslavia would place them in a position to open a great offensive across the Hungarian plains toward Budapest and Vienna.

Meanwhile the Allies would keep a deft hand on the lend-lease faucet of Russia, turning it off and on to suit their own, not the Russian, military needs. If the Balkan campaign went well for the Allies, supplies could be withheld from the Russians to prevent them from utilizing the diversion in the Balkans to open offensives likely to make more rapid progress against the Germans in Russia than the Allies were making in the Balkans. If too many German troops were drawn from the Russian front into the Balkans, more supplies from the Allies to Russia would mean more pressure and the drawing off of German strength back to the Russian front. Lloyd George and Clemenceau sought to play the same game with Russia in the last war but usually the Russians got nothing at all because of the terrific needs of the Allied front in France.

If Allied offensives toward Budapest and Vienna then forced Germany to eventual surrender, Allied armies would race north from the Balkans toward Warsaw and Danzig, establishing an Anglo-American barricade across the path of the Red Army. Such a barricade, anchored on a British fleet in the Black Sea at one end and another British fleet in the Baltic at the other, would constitute a new form of the cordon sanitaire against the Russian menace, the difference being, however, that the cordon sanitaire of Clemenceau-Lloyd George was designed to keep the ideas of Bolshevism from “infecting” the masses of Europe who sought to follow in the footsteps of their Russian brethren. The cordon sanitaire of Roosevelt-Churchill would seek to keep the hob-nailed (probably lend-lease) boots of the Red Army from the streets of Warsaw, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest. The cordon sanitaire of 1919 sought to exclude from Europe the messengers of the Communist International with their revolutionary manifestos and world-shaking ideas. The cordon sanitaire of 194(?) would seek to keep from Europe the armed expropriators of the new Czar of the Kremlin, the totalitarian missionaries of bureaucratic-collectivist slavery.

Whereas the earlier cordon was openly hostile to Bolshevist Russia, the new cordon will be formed with the oily hypocrisy typical of capitalist diplomacy. Like so many other moves in the relations of the Allies to Russia, the Balkan strategy will be a stinging slap in the face to Stalin. The ostensible reason for the route north from the Balkans will be announced to the world by the Allies as an effort “to cut off the German armies in Russia,” “to unite with our brave Russian allies” and, above all, “to go to the aid of Russia.”

Churchill recently promised some serious fighting in the Mediterranean “before the leaves fall.” However, the leaves will fall many times before Allied Armies reach the Hungarian plains and cross them to the gates of Vienna. It is already July and the Italians are still in Sicily and the Germans in Crete. Even if the occupation of Crete is accomplished this year, it is doubtful if a Continental bridgehead can be consolidated before next spring. The struggle up the valley of the Vardar will prove a much more protracted undertaking to the Allies than the headlong dash down the Vardar was for the Germans in 1941. The entry of an Allied fleet into the Black Sea depends not only upon Turkish agreement to open the Dardanelles, but also upon complete air mastery to protect the ships in this relatively small body of water flanked to east and north by German airfields. The vast edge of offensive mechanized weapons over defensive weapons which gave the Germans their “blitz” victories in Poland, France and the Balkans no longer prevails. Tank-destroyers and numerous special anti-tank weapons have once again brought defensive and offensive weapons on a more equal plane. Likewise, the infantry-scattering dive bomber has now become virtually a clay pigeon for a cool-headed crew on a modern anti-aircraft gun. Given sufficient time, the economic and manpower preponderance of the Allies will tell. But again we ask, how many times will the leaves fall before the enemy’s army is destroyed and his homeland occupied? All one can answer now is that the leaves will fall again and again upon millions of ever-increasing graves on the isles of the Aegean, on the ancient battlegrounds of the Vardar, on the wide wheatfields of Hungary – and still the slaughter will go on. For essentially the view we first enunciated – the theory of the “long war” – remains unshaken. Left to themselves, the capitalist rulers of the earth who called for the Frankenstein monster of war will prove unable to banish him.

But it is inconceivable that the toiling masses – in France, Belgium, Italy, Norway, Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans, Russia, Britain and even in America – will continue to send their best blood to redden the Vardar and the Danube, will continue to see the cities laid low, the fields laid waste, pestilence and hunger stalk the streets and countryside, nerves wrecked and muscles wracked in unbearable toil to produce the means of destruction, without at one point saying, “It is enough!”

Again we repeat – it will be a long war, unless ...

July 7, 1943

Ernest Lund

Postscript. The above was written a few days before the invasion of Sicily, which brought in its train a series of momentous events. The editor has, therefore, kindly permitted me to add this note of comment to indicate how these events have influenced the perspective outlined in the article.

Sooner than most of us expected, the toiling masses have raised their own voice in the midst of the bedlam of war to say in no uncertain terms: “It is enough!” By their peace demonstrations, the Italian workers have toppled Mussolini from his perch. And with it the war has entered a new phase. We are now turning the corner of 1917. The Italian revolution is yet far short of the February days in Russia. But even if the heroic workers of Milan and Turin are held at bay by a military dictatorship, supported either by German or Allied bayonets, the workers’ revolution has appeared on the scene to stay.

Whereas at the time the article was written it was necessary to indicate the role of the masses with the hypothetical “unless,” it is now possible to say that the revolutionary volcano of Europe will erupt long before the time-tables of the Allied general staff calls for any decisive knockout blows.

The liberal commentators, who never see further than their noses, are already speaking of the possibility of German peace demonstrations. Yes, they will come, and with a ferocity that will make these liberals wince. But with it will come more than they bargained for. When the Hamburg dock worker and the Krupp steel worker again find their voice, its echo will be heard in the downing of tools on the Clydeside, the march of Welsh miners, the rumble of revolution in India and among the millions of British, French, Dutch, Japanese and American colonial slaves. Yes, and in the United States the workers will tear to shreds the straightjacket of wartime control and unloose their pent-up resentments in a great surge of economic and political offensives.

Meanwhile the antagonism between Russia and her allies comes ever more into the open. The Anglo-American strategists will make many a move against Russia without regard for its effect in lengthening the war. Only the growing specter of a revolutionary Europe will convert their cat-and-mouse game into a frantic scramble to hasten the end and jointly prop up the old order before it is too late.

August 2, 1943


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