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Ernest Lund

Straight Talk

(5 June 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 23, 5 June 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On May 22 in Basle, Switzerland, there sat down at the council table representatives from Germany, the United States, Great Britain, and other powers.

They were all bankers. They are the board of directors of the Bank of International Settlement.

Axis bankers and United Nations bankers sat side by side to act upon the business of the bank. Its business is to facilitate the payment of debts and reparations still remaining from World War I.

In the chair, as president, was Thomas McKittrick. He is an American. He is on the board to represent American interests. He is also the president of the First Mutual Bank of New York City.

The capitalist press said almost nothing about his meeting. It was buried in the financial pages of the New York Times.

However, the capitalist press had screaming headlines about a place only a few hundred miles south of Switzerland. Here Germans were meeting Americans also. This place was Anzio. But here it was a meeting across a battlefield, not a council table. The “discussion” took place with shrapnel and machine guns. Death, not dividends, was on the agenda.

In last, week’s column I discussed the great degree of class consciousness which the capitalist show in defending their system. The above news about the Bank of International Settlement induces me to return to that subject and expand upon it.

Capitalist Internationalism

American capitalists show class solidarity in action against the American working class. But that is not all. The capitalists ot the world have shown throughout their history that they will unite in time of crisis on a world scale against the forces of world labor and to preserve world capitalism.

The meeting in Basle is an indication of this. Does this mean that the capitalists don’t care about who wins the war?

No. Such a view is both childish and utterly fantastic.

The capitalists of the various nations are strongly supporting their own governments in the war. American bankers want an American victory over Germany just as much as German bankers want a victory over the United Sattes.

Wall Street sees in an American victory an opportunity for dominating the finance, industry and trade of the whole world.

German bankers see the opportunity in a German victory.

However, there is one thing both German and American capitalists are agreed on. That is that no matter which side wins, capitalism must continue.

That is why we have heard many reports recently which show that I.G. Farben, Krupp and other German corporations are making preparations – now that they fear Germany will lose – to become junior partners in the great world cartels which American and British capital will organize after the war.

Yes, the war at Anzio is a real war.

And the meeting at Basle is a real meeting.

The war at Anzio is part of the stupendous, world-shaking conflict to decide who will rule the world.

The meeting at Basle is a sideshow to take care of a few practical business matters to keep international finance from getting all gummed up during the war – because that would be bad for international capitalism.

However, if international capitalism were to crack up somewhere and threaten the whole structure, we would then see, as we have seen so many times in the past, the international solidarity of capitalists as the main business.

A Case in Point

When the Russian workers overthrew the rotten ruling class of Russia in 1917, both German and Allied armies invaded Russia to defend capitalism and fight the hew workers republic. The Red Army of the Russian workers and peasants fought the Germans in Finland and the Ukraine, the Americans in Archangel, the British in the Crimea, and the Japanese in Siberia.

Some of the most important discussions between Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau at the peace conference in Versailles in 1918 were devoted to international capitalism’s fight against the workers’ government of Russia.

And the people who called most loudly for an invasion of Russia were the defeated capitalists of Russia itself. They were patriotic supporters of the war as long as they were in power. But when the working class took over, they invited foreign bayonets to come in and butcher the men and women defending Russian soil.

Another Instance

Germany defeated France in 1871. However, when the workers of Paris set up their own government – the Commune – the German Bismarck assisted the Frenchman Thiers in putting down the workers’ revolt.

From these examples of history we can draw many valuable lessons for use today.

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