Delivered: 28 July, 1924.
First Published: Izvestia August 5, 1924, No.177 as The Premises for the Proletarian Revolution
Source: Fourth International New York, Vol.6 Nos.6, 7 & 8, June, July and August 1945.
Translated: John G. Wright.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Original introduction from the Editors of Fourth International magazine
America’s real role in Europe and in the world is one of the central questions of our epoch. It is not a new question. It confronted the revolutionary Marxists after the first imperialist war. In the post-Versailles epoch, the theoretical analysis and programmatic position were elaborated by Leon Trotsky and constituted the official position of the Communist International. It goes without saying that it was later discarded by the Stalinists, along with the rest of the program of Bolshevism.
Among the key documents relating to the role of US imperialism are two speeches made by Trotsky, two years apart: the first delivered July 28, 1924 and later published (Izvestia, August 5, 1924) under the title, The Premises for the Proletarian Revolution; and the second delivered February 15, 1926. Both of these speeches together with other material were issued by the Soviet State Publishers as a pamphlet, Europe and America.
In the introduction to this pamphlet (February 25, 1926) Trotsky wrote:
“The staggering material preponderance of the United States automatically excludes the possibility of economic upswing and regeneration for capitalist Europe. If in the past it was European capitalism that revolutionized the backward sections of the world, then today it is American capitalism that revolutionizes over-mature Europe. She has no avenue of escape from the economic blind alley other than the proletarian revolution, the destruction of tariff and state barriers, the creation of the Soviet United States of Europe and the federative unification with the USSR and the free peoples of Asia.”
These basic ideas of Trotsky and the method he employed in arriving at them retain their full force today.
The speech delivered on July 28, 1924 – Leon Trotsky briefly summarized the Marxist approach to revolutionary situations, and, in particular, the preconditions for the proletarian revolution. From this standpoint he then went on to analyze the decade of 1914-1924, differentiating several clearly defined periods within this decade. The conclusion drawn from this analysis is that the defeat of the German revolution in 1923 ushered in “a new era in the development of Europe.” The outstanding feature of this particular stage of European development was the resurgence of reformism, the revival of the Social Democratic organizations as a consequence of the spread of reformist illusions among the masses. Trotsky poses the question: What are the material foundations of this neo-reformism? And in answer he refers to the role of US capitalism in Europe. The analysis of America’s role in post-Versailles Europe is the main theme of this installment.
Trotsky’s February 1926 speech was published by us in the April and May 1943 issues of Fourth International. With this issue we begin publication of his July 1924 speech. The translation by John G. Wright is from the Russian original.
Comrades, ten years have elapsed since the outbreak of the imperialist war. In that interval the world has greatly changed; but still it hasn”t changed quite so much, far from it, as we had supposed and expected ten years ago. We analyze history from the standpoint of the social revolution. This standpoint is at one and the same time both theoretical and practical, dynamically so. We analyze the conditions of development as they take shape behind our backs and independently of our will in order, after having understood them, to act upon them through our active will, i.e. the will of the organized class. These two sides of our Marxist approach to history are linked most closely and indissolubly. Were we to confine ourselves solely to taking into account what is happening, then such an approach would in the long run degenerate into fatalism and indifferentism, into social apathy, and at a certain stage it would assume the aspect of Menshevism, which contains a large dose of fatalism and worshipful acceptance of what takes place behind the backs of people. Were we to confine ourselves, on the other hand, solely to revolutionary action, to the revolutionary will, we would then incur the risk of falling into subjectivism, which is multiform: one of its varieties in anarchism, Left S. R.”ism is another, it is our native Russian variety of subjectivism, and finally included here are those manifestations in communism itself which Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin) called “the infantile diseases of leftism.” The whole art of revolutionary politics consists in correctly combining objective analysis with subjective action. And in this is the gist of the Leninist school.
I said that we approach history from the standpoint of the revolution which is bound to transfer the power into the hands of the working class for the communist reconstruction of mankind. What are the preconditions for the social revolution? Under what conditions can it arise, develop and conquer? There are a great many preconditions. But they can be grouped under two main headings, and perhaps, as a beginning, under two. The objective preconditions, namely, those that take shape behind the backs of people and the subjective. Objective preconditions, if we are to begin with the foundation, with the fundamentals – and that is how we ought to begin – are first of all created by a certain level of the development of the productive forces. (I ask the indulgence of those to whom what I am now saying is ABC. I assume that these questions are not ABC for all who are assembled here. And besides, all of us have had occasion from time to time to return to the ABC, to the fundamentals, in order by means of the old method to arrive at new conclusions, prompted by the existing situation.) And so, the fundamental, cardinal precondition for the social revolution is a certain level of the development of the productive forces a level under which socialism and later communism as an economic system, as a mode of production and distribution of goods, offers material advantages. On the plow of a peasant it is impossible to build either communism or even socialism.
A certain level of technical development is presupposed. Has this level been already attained, if we take the capitalist world as a whole? Unquestionably, yes. How is this proved? It is proved by the fact that large-scale and biggest capitalist enterprises and their combinations-trusts and syndicates – are conquering middle-sized and little enterprises all over the world. Consequently, a socio-economic organization resting solely on the technology of large-scale and biggest enterprises, an organization correctly constructed along the line of trusts and syndicates but on principles of solidarity; an organization that embraces the whole nation, the state and then the whole world would offer colossal material advantages. This precondition exists, and, moreover, it has existed for a long time.
The second objective precondition is that society must be so divided that there exists a class interested in the socialist overturn, and strong enough numerically and influential enough industrially to assume this overturn upon its shoulders. But this is not enough. It is necessary for this class – and here we pass over to the subjective preconditions – to possess a clear understanding of the situation and to consciously desire the overturn. It is necessary that there stands at its head a party able to lead the class during the overturn, and capable of assuring victory. And this, on the other hand, presupposes a corresponding condition of the ruling bourgeois class, its loss of influence over the popular masses, its own ranks in disarray, its class self-confidence gone. Such a condition of society is a revolutionary condition. Psychological, political, and dynamic organizational preconditions for the accomplishment of the insurrection and its culmination in victory can arise only on the basis of certain productive-social relations.
If we inquire into the second precondition, the class division of society, i.e. the role and significance of the proletariat in society, then here, too, we can say one thing and only one: it has long ago matured, decades ago. This is best proved by the role of the Russian proletariat which is very young. What then has been lacking up to now? What has been lacking is the final subjective precondition, the awareness of the proletariat of Europe of its position in society, and its corresponding organization, its corresponding training by the party capable of leading it. This is what has been lacking! More than once have we Marxists pointed out that contrary to all sorts of idealistic theories, the consciousness of society keeps lagging far behind the objective conditions of development – and we see this on a huge historic scale in the fate of the proletariat. The productive forces have long ago matured for socialism. The proletariat has long ago played the decisive economic role, at least in the leading capitalist countries. Upon it depends the entire mechanism of production, and consequently the mechanism of society. What is lacking is the final factor, the subjective factor. Consciousness lags behind being.
And so the imperialist war came, on the one hand, as the historical penalty for the lag of the proletariat’s consciousness behind its being; and on the other hand, it came as a mighty impulsion forward. That is how we viewed the imperialist war. It unfolded because the proletariat did not prove strong enough to avert it. For the proletariat had not succeeded in orienting itself in society, in becoming conscious of its role, of its historic mission, in organizing itself, in setting itself the task of seizing power and in solving this task. At the same time the imperialist war, which came as a penalty for that which was not the responsibility but the misfortune of the proletariat, was destined to play and did play the part of a mighty revolutionary factor.
The war laid bare the acute, profound and unpostponable necessity of effecting a change in the social structure. I said that the transition to socialist economy offered considerable social advantages long prior to the war. This means that even before the war the productive forces would have developed far more powerfully on socialist foundations than they could on capitalist foundations. But we have seen that even with the retention of capitalist foundations, the productive forces before the war grew swiftly not only in America but in Europe. In this lay the relative “justification” of the very existence of capitalism. Following the imperialist war we already observe an entirely different picture: the productive forces are not growing but are being destroyed. As hitherto, and even to a far greater degree than ever before, they are constricted within the framework of the private ownership of the means of production and within the framework of the national states that have been created by the Versailles Peace. The events of the last decade have for the first time revealed incontrovertibly that further human progress is incompatible with capitalism. In this sense the war was a revolutionary factor. But not only in this sense. By turning with its ruthless methods the entire organization of society inside out, the war has knocked the consciousness of the toiling masses out of the grooves of conservatism and tradition. We have entered the epoch of revolution.
If we approach the decade that has elapsed from this standpoint, it will be seen that it falls into several clearly defined periods. The first period is the period of the imperialist war which embraces more than 4 years – for all of us, for Russia, a little less, a little over 3 years. The new period in this decade begins with February and especially October 1917. This is the period of the revolutionary payment for the war. The history of 1918-1919, and in part also of 1920 – at least for certain countries, the history of these three years proceeds wholly and exclusively under the sign of the liquidation of the imperialist war and the immediate expectation of the proletarian revolution in all of Europe. The October Revolution took place in our country, the monarchies of the central European states were overthrown, there was a mighty upsurge of the proletarian movement throughout Europe, and even in America. The final high points of the postwar upswing were the uprising in Italy in September 1920, and the March 1921 days in Germany. The September 1920 uprising in Italy virtually coincided with a movement of our own – the Red Army’s offensive against Warsaw – which was likewise an integral part of the mighty revolutionary tide, and ebbed back together with it. It is possible to say that this epoch of direct postwar revolutionary offensive culminated in the terrible flare-up in Germany in March 1921. We conquered in Czarist Russia, and the power of the proletariat has become intrenchcd in our country. The monarchies of Central Europe were overthrown, swept away virtually without a battle. But if we leave out the episodic events in Hungary and Bavaria, nowhere else did the proletariat conquer power; and in the foregoing episodic instances the proletariat did not succeed in holding power. After this it might appear, and to our enemies and opponents it actually did appear that an era of the restoration of capitalist equilibrium was in the offing, an era of healing the wounds resulting from the imperialist war, an era of the intrenchment of bourgeois society.
From the standpoint of our revolutionary policy this new period begins as a period of retreat. This retreat was announced by us – not without a serious internal struggle – at the Third World Congress of the Comintern in the middle of 1921. We took note of the fact that the first mighty assault after the imperialist war did not suffice to bring victory, because there was no leading party capable of assuring victory; and the final major event of this three year period, the March movement in Germany signalized the greatest danger: had the movement proceeded further along this road, it carried with it the threat of smashing the young parties of the Communist International to pieces. The Third International called a halt, ordering a retreat from the direct line of battle, where our parties in Europe found themselves as a consequence of the postwar events. There then opened up the era of struggle for the influence over the masses, a period of systematic, stubborn, agitational work under the slogan of the proletarian united front, and later the united front of workers and peasants. This period lasted approximately two years. And in this brief interval there took shape a psychology adapted to the moderated pace of agitational and propaganda work. Revolutionary events, it seemed, had indefinitely been postponed to a rather distant future. Yet precisely toward the latter part of this brief period Europe was again convulsed by a mighty paroxysm, that of the Ruhr occupation.
At first sight the occupation of the Ruhr might seem a minor episode in bleeding and torn Europe that had just about seen everything. But in the nature of things the occupation of the Ruhr was akin to a brief repetition of the imperialist war. The Germans put up no resistance, for they had nothing to resist with, and the French invaded, arms in hand, the neighboring country, seizing an industrial region which constituted the heart of German economy. As a result, Germany and along with her the rest of Europe again to a certain extent lived through a war situation. The economy of Germany became disorganized, and as a result French economy proved disorganized, too. It was as if history had decided to repeat an experiment. After the imperialist war had shaken up the whole world, had raised the most backward masses of toilers to their feet, but did not lead them to victory, after this, after five years, it is as if history tried to make a new experiment, a sort of re-examination.
I will give you a brief repetition of the imperialist war – thus spake history. I will once again shake to its foundations the already shaken economy of Europe, and give you, the proletariat, the Communist parties, an opportunity to make up for the opportunities you lost during these last five years.
We saw how in the course of 1923 the situation in Germany suddenly and drastically altered in a revolutionary direction. Bourgeois society was shaken to its foundations. Streseman, the bourgeois Prime Minister, openly stated that he was heading the last bourgeois government in Germany. The Fascists said: “Let the Communists take power, our turn will come later.” Germany’s national and governmental life was completely knocked from its grooves. You all recall the fate of the mark and the fate of German economy as a whole during that period. There was an elemental flood of the masses into the Communist Party. The Social Democracy, which is today the main force of stagnation in the service of old society, was split, weakened, with no faith in itself. The workers were quitting its ranks. Today, on viewing this period in retrospect, a period embracing all of 1923 and especially the latter part of 1923, from June on, after the termination of passive resistance – when you look back and survey the entire situation then existing in Germany, you say to yourself: History never created and will hardly ever again create more favorable preconditions for the proletarian revolution and for the seizure of power. If we gave our young Marxist scholars an assignment to think up a more favorable situation for the seizure of power by the proletariat, in my opinion they could not do so, provided of course they operate with actual and not mythical or fantastic data. But one thing was lacking. Lacking was the degree of tempering, the degree of vision, resolution and fighting ability of the Communist Party necessary to assure timely action and victory. And this example shall again and again teach all of us – all the more so, our youth – to understand the role and significance of the correct leadership in the Communist Party, which, by historical count is the last factor of the proletarian revolution, but not the last in point of importance.
The collapse of the German revolution ushered in a new era in the development of Europe, and in part throughout the world. We characterized this new period as the period of the coming to power of the democratic-pacifist elements of bourgeois society. To take the place of fascists have come pacifists, democrats, Mensheviks, radicals and other middle-class parties. Of course, had the revolution conquered in Germany, the whole historical chapter through which we are now living would have been entirely different in content. In that case, even if there were the Rerriot government in France, Rerriot himself would have had an altogether different appearance, and the span of his political existence would have been far briefer, although I would not vouch even now for his political longevity. (Applause) The same thing applies to Macdonald and all other varieties of this same basic democratic-pacifist species.
In order to have a rudimentary understanding of the change that has taken place, one must ask oneself: what is fascism? and what is pacifist reformism which is sometimes for brevity’s sake called Kerenskyism? I have already given definitions of these current concepts. But I repeat them again, for without a correct understanding of fascism and neo-reformism one will inevitably arrive at a false political perspective. Fascism may assume different aspects in different countries; it can be diversified in point of social composition, but in its essence fascism is that combat grouping of forces which is moved to the fore by threatened bourgeois society in order to repel the proletariat in a civil war. When the democratic-parliamentarian state apparatus becomes entangled in its own internal contradictions, when bourgeois legality hampers the bourgeoisie itself, the latter sets in motion the most combative elements at its disposal, freeing them from the fetters of legality, and obliging them to employ all the methods of force and terror. This is fascism. Therefore fascism is a condition of civil war on the part of the bourgeoisie, just as we have the grouping of forces and the organization for an armed uprising in the epoch of civil war on the part of the proletariat. We thereby say that fascism cannot represent a protracted and, so to speak, “normal” condition of bourgeois society, just as a condition of an armed uprising cannot be a constant, normal condition of the proletariat. Either the insurrection, on the one hand, or fascism, on the other, leads to the defeat of the proletariat, and in that case the bourgeoisie gradually restores its “normal” state apparatus; or the proletariat conquers, and in that case no room remains for fascism, but for entirely different reasons. The victorious proletariat, as we know from our not inextensive experience, has at its disposal several means of preventing fascism from flourishing, and all the more so from growing. (Applause)
Consequently, the replacement of the fascist chapter by the chapter of normal bourgeois “order” was determined by this, that the initial attacks of the proletariat, both the first (1918-21) and the second (1923), were repelled. Bourgeois society has held its ground, and it has regained a certain measure of self-confidence. The bourgeoisie does not find itself so directly menaced in Europe today as to arm and set the Fascists in motion. But it does not feel itself firm enough to rule in its own name. That is why Menshevism is necessary in the interval between the two acts of the historical drama – it is necessary to fill in the historical intermission. The bourgeoisie needs Macdonaldism in England; it needs a Left-Socialist Bloc in France even more urgently.
But is it possible to regard the Labor Party government in England or the Left Bloc government in France as a regime of Kerenskyism? Kerenskyism is the label we conditionally gave to the rise of reformism about three years ago when we expected that the parliamentary shifts to the left in France and England would coincide with the revolutionary changes in Germany. This did not take place, as a consequence of the defeat of the German revolution in the autumn of last year. When the definition of Kerenskyism is sometimes repeated even today with reference to the Left Bloc or Macdonaldism, it testifies to a lack of understanding of the situation and constitutes an abuse of accepted terminology.
What is Kerenskyism? It is a regime which arises when the bourgeoisie has already lost hopes or no longer hopes to emerge as victor in an open civil war and makes the most extreme and risky concessions, handing over the power to extreme “left” elements among the bourgeois democracy. It is a regime which arises when the apparatus of repression has already dropped out of the hands of the bourgeoisie, or is in process of dropping. It is clear that Kerenskyism cannot be a protracted condition of society. It must terminate either in the victory of Kornilovism (in European languages – Fascists) or in the victory of Communists. Kerenskyism is a direct prelude to October, although, of course, October need not always and everywhere grow out of Kerenskyism ... Is it permissible to call the Macdonald regime or that of the Left Bloc in France as Kerenskyism in this sense? No, it is impermissible. That is not at all the situation in England. The forces of the English Communist Party are such that it could not possibly speak of any close perspective of seizing power. And if that is so, then there are no foundations for Kornilovism, either. In all probability, Macdonald will this time cede place to the Tories, in accordance with all the rules of parliamentary procedure. In France, neither the condition of the state apparatus nor the forces of the Communist Party are such as would presuppose a direct and swift evolution of the Left Bloc regime into the proletarian revolution. The concept of Kerenskyism obviously does not apply here. There must be a serious turn of events, before it is possible to speak of Kerenskyism. And here we are confronted with the question which is now the central one, namely: what is this interim period of reformism? what does it rest on? can this regime be stabilized? can it become a “normal” condition for a number of years, which would of course signify a corresponding postponement of the proletarian revolution? This is the central question of our time.
As has already been said, such a question cannot be solved solely on the subjective plane, that is, on the plane of our desires, of our mere readiness to effect a change in the situation. And here, as always, objective analysis, an accounting of that which is, of that which is undergoing change, of that which is becoming must be the precondition for our actions. Let us try to approach the question from precisely this aspect.
In the most important countries of Europe the reformists are now in power. Reformism presupposes certain concessions on the part of the possessing classes to the dispossessed; it presupposes certain “sacrifices,” even if modest ones, by the bourgeoisie in favor of the proletariat. Is it possible to believe and assume that in present-day Europe, which is far poorer than it was before the war, there is an economic basis for any sort of extensive or deep-going social reforms? There is little talk of this, at any rate on the continent, even by the reformists themselves. Whenever any reference is made today to “social reforms,” it is sooner from the other side: the repeal of the 8-hour day, or the introduction of such amendments as would in effect reduce it to zero, and so on. But there is a practical question quite close to “reforms,” which is a life-and-death question for the workers of Europe, first of all the workers of Germany, parts of former Austria-Hungary, Poland and also France it is the question of stabilizing the currency. The stabilization of monetary tokens – the mark, the krone, the franc means the stabilization of wages, insuring them against terrible downward plunges. This is the central question in the life of the entire continental European proletariat. Undoubtedly, those relative and far from reliable and unstable successes which have been reached in currency stabilization provide some of the most important foundations of the current reformist-pacifist era. Should the mark in Germany break and plunge downwards, the revolutionary situation would be restored in its full scope. And should the French franc continue skipping today rung by rung down the ladder as it did a few months ago, the fate of Herriot’s cabinet would become even more problematical and more dubious than is already the case.
It is therefore necessary first of all to formulate the question of neo-reformism as follows: what are the foundations on which rest the hopes of strengthening the economic equilibrium, even if a relative and temporary one, and in particular with regard to stabilizing currency and wages? What are these foundations and how deep-seated are they?
In approaching this question we run up against the central figure in the modern history of mankind: the United States of North America. Comrades, whoever wishes or tries today to discuss the destiny of Europe or of the world proletariat without taking the power and significance of the USA into account, is in a certain sense drawing up a balance sheet without consulting the master. For the master of the capitalist world – and let us firmly understand this! – is New York, with Washington as its state department. We observe this today even if only in the plan drawn up by the experts. We observe that Europe, which only yesterday was so powerful and so proud of her culture and her historical past – we observe that in order to get out from under, in order to crawl out on all fours from those fearful contradictions and misfortunes into which Europe has driven herself, she is compelled to invite from across the Atlantic a general by the name of Dawes whose wisdom is an unknown quantity. He may be wiser than Solomon, or not so wise. Nobody knows. (Laughter) And so, they invite him from America and he confidently sits down at a table, and some say that he even puts his feet on the table. (Laughter, applause) And he draws up a precise prescription concerning the regulations and dates of Europe’s restoration. And then this timetable designating the arrival and departure of governmental trains of all the states of Europe is proferred by him to the respective governments for fulfillment. And they will all accept it! Hughes, the United States Minister of Foreign Affairs, is making an “unofficial” junket of Europe. Macdonald and Herriot have organized in the meantime a super-official conference. But we are sufficiently acquainted with this routine, so habitual, so diplomatic and so sugary to the point of nausea. Behind the back of the conference, behind the scenes, and not so very far behind them, for from beneath the curtains one can readily perceive protruding a pair of excellent, sturdy American boots, stands Mr. Hughes who presents demands and issues orders. Why orders? Because he has the power to order. Of what does this power consist? Of capital. Of wealth. Of unprecedented economic power. 
In the past, the development of Europe and of the whole world proceeded by and large under the conductor’s baton of England. England was the first country to make large-scale use of coal and iron, and thanks to this took into her hands for a long time the leadership of the world. In other words, England cashed in politically – and in international relations – on her economic preponderance. She commanded Europe, pitted one country against another, issued loans, refused loans, financed the struggle against the French Revolution, etc., etc. And England ruled the world. The United States is after all England’s oldest daughter that inherited a great deal from her mother. But the preponderance which England possessed in the heyday of her prosperity over Europe and the rest of the world is nothing compared to the preponderance of the US today over the whole world, including England – and this, comrades, is the central question of European and world history. Without understanding this, one cannot understand the destinies of modern history, its next chapter. General Dawes did not appear accidentally from across the ocean, nor is it accidental that we are all obliged to know that his name is Dawes and that he has a general’s rank. He is accompanied by several American bankers. They thumb through the diplomatic papers of the European governments and they say: We won”t permit this; this is what we demand. Why? Because the entire reparations structure will collapse unless America provides the first installment, all told some miserly 800 million gold marks to stabilize German currency. Because it depends on America whether the franc stands or falls; and it depends a little on America whether the pound sterling stands or falls – or does not fall, but just keeps fluctuating. (Laughter.) Yes, all this depends on America. And you know that the mark, the franc and the pound sterling do play some role in the lives of the peoples.
America’s full and complete entry into the path of active world imperialist policy does not date back to yesterday. If we try to fix the date, we might say that the decisive breaking point in the policy of the US coincides approximately with the turn of the century. The Spanish American war occurred in 1898 when America seized Cuba, thereby assuring herself the key to Panama, and consequently the entry to the Pacific Ocean, China and the continent of Asia. In 1900, the last year of the Nineteenth Century, the export of American manufactured goods for the first time in US history exceeded the import of manufactured articles. This already made America, so to speak, bookkeepingly a country with an active world policy. In 1901 or 1902 America secured herself the province of Panama in the Republic of Colombia. In these matters America has a policy of her own which was applied in the Hawaiian islands, and I think in Samoa, but in any case, it was applied in Panama and is now being applied in Mexico. Whenever the trans-Atlantic republic finds it necessary to seize foreign territory, to subjugate it or to conclude some slave treaty, it stages a small native revolution and then appears on the scene in order to pacify and quell it – precisely in the manner in which General Dawes has now appeared to tranquillize and pacify Europe which has been ruined by a war waged with the assistance of this very same America. In this manner the US assured itself Panama in 1902 and proceeded to dig the canal. By 1914 they had it dug in the rough; while in 1920 the already fully completed Panama Canal opened up the greatest chapter, in the full sense of the word, in the history of America and the whole terrestrial globe. The United States has introduced a drastic correction into geography in the interests and aims of American imperialism. There is no map here before us, but you can imagine one. As you know the industry of the US is concentrated in the eastern part, on the Atlantic side. The country’s west is predominantly agricultural. The entire pull of the US, more correctly its main pull, is in the direction of China with the latter’s population of 400,000,000 and the country’s countless, uncharted and limitless resources. Through the Panama Canal, American industry has opened up a waterway for itself from the east to the west, shortening the distances by several thousand miles. These dates – 1898, 1900, 1914 and 1920 – are the dates marking the open entry of the US into the highroad of world brigandage, i.e. the road of imperialism. The decisive signpost along this road was the war. As you will recall, the US intervened in the war toward the very end. For three years the US did no fighting. More than that, two months before intervening in the war, Wilson announced that there could be no talk of American participation in the bloody dogfight among the madmen of Europe. Up to a certain moment the US remained content with rationally coining into dollars the blood of European “madmen.” But in that hour when fear arose lest the war conclude with victory for Germany, the most dangerous future rival, the United States intervened actively. This decided the outcome of the struggle.
And the noteworthy thing is this, that while America avariciously fed the war with her industry and avariciously intervened in order to help crush a likely and dangerous competitor, she has nevertheless retained a reputation for pacifism. This is one of the most interesting paradoxes, one of the most curious jokes of history – jokes from which we did not and do not derive much merriment. American imperialism is in essence ruthlessly rude, predatory, in the full sense of the word, and criminal. But owing to the special conditions of American development, it has the possibility of draping itself in the toga of pacifism. This is not at all done in the manner of the imperialist parvenus of the old world where everything remains transparent. In the case of the US, however, its bourgeoisie and its government, thanks to the special conditions of America’s development, this same pacifist mask seems to have become so glued on the imperialist visage that it cannot be torn off. (Laughter) This was not accidental. Geography helped. History helped. The US managed without a land army. Why? Because it is so hard to reach. On the right there is the Atlantic Ocean and on the left, the Pacific (even the ocean is pacifist!) – how can it be reached? England is an island and this is one of the basic reasons for its peculiarities and at the same time it is one of England’s basic advantages. The United States likewise represents a gigantic island in relation to the old world grouping on the planet. England barricades herself with her fleet. But should the line of the English fleet be broken, the British Isles lie defenseless, they can be cut in two with a cavalry sabre, so narrow is this strip of land. But try to cut across America, across the United States! This is an island which at the same time possesses all the advantages of Russia – her vast spaces. Thanks to its colossal distances, the United States, even without a fleet, would be almost invulnerable to Europe or Japan. Here is the basic geographic reason for the pacifist mask which has become a second face. Actually, America, unlike Europe, unlike all the others, does not create an army ... And if America does undertake to create an army, it is only because it is under the compulsion to do so. Who compelled it? Barbarians did, the Kaiser, the German imperialists, people who were not educated in the virtues of Presbyterians or Quaker religions. Another reason for the pacifist virtue must be sought, as I said, in history. The US entered the world arena late, after the whole world had already been seized and divided. The imperialist progress of the US therefore proceeds under the banner of “the freedom of the seas,” “open doors,” and so on. Thus when America is compelled to engage in acts of open military criminality, the responsibility – in the eyes of the US population and to a certain degree in the eyes of mankind as a wholefalls upon all the other citizens on the planet but not on the USA itself.
Wilson helped finish off Germany and then appeared, as you will recall, in Europe accoutred from head to toe in his Fourteen Points which promised universal well-being and the reign of peace, the right of nations to self-determination, punishment for such criminals as the Kaiser and rewards to all virtuous people, etc. The gospel according to Wilson! We all still remember it. And the whole of middle-class Europe, and workers, too, by and large – the whole of worker-middle-class Europe, i.e. worker-Menshevik Europe subsisted for many long months on the gospel according to Wilson. This provincial professor summoned to the role of representing American capitalism and dripping from blood up to his knees and elbows – for after all he incited the European slaughter – appeared in Europe as the apostle of pacifism and pacification. And everybody said: Wilson will bring peace; Wilson will restore Europe. However, Wilson did not succeed in accomplishing what Dawes, accompanied by a suite of bankers, now arrives to accomplish; and Wilson petulantly turned his back on Europe and returned to America. And great were the democratic-pacifist and social-democratic wailings and plaints about the insanity of the European bourgeoisie who refused to come to an agreement with Wilson and prevented him from attaining peace in European affairs.
Wilson was replaced. The Republican Party came to power. There ensued in America a commercial-industrial boom based almost exclusively on the internal market, i.e. on the basis of a temporary equilibrium between industry and agriculture, between the East and the West. This boom did not last long, approximately two years. Last year the boom tapered off and an unstable condition resulted, but in the spring of this year many obvious signs became manifest of a commercial-industrial crisis, which hit the agricultural sections of the USA savagely. And, as always, the crisis gave a new quickening impulse to imperialism. As a result, US finance capital sent its representatives to Europe to finish the business which began so solidly with the imperialist war and was continued by the Versailles Peace, i.e. the business of degrading and enslaving Europe economically.
‘What does American capitalism want? What is it seeking? It is seeking, we are told, stability; it wants to restore the European market; it wants to make Europe solvent. How? By what measures? And to what extent? After all, American capitalism is compelled not to render Europe capable of competition; it cannot allow England, and all the more so Germany and France, particularly Germany, to regain their world markets inasmuch as American capitalism finds itself hemmed in, because it is now an exporting capitalism – exporting both commodities and capital. American capitalism is seeking the position of world domination; it wants to establish an American imperialist autocracy over our planet. This is what it wants. What will it do with Europe? It must, they say, pacify Europe. How? Under its hegemony. And what does this mean? This means that Europe will be permitted to rise again, but within limits set in advance, with certain restricted sections of the world market alloted to it. American capitalism is now issuing commands, giving instructions to its diplomats. In exactly the same way it is preparing and is ready to issue instructions to European banks and trusts, to the European bourgeoisie as a whole ... This is its aim. It will slice up the markets; it will regulate the activity of the European financiers and industrialists. If we wish to give a clear and precise answer to the question of what American imperialism wants, we must say: It wants to put capitalist Europe on rations.
This means that it will specify just how many tons, liters and kilograms and just what materials Europe has a right to buy and sell. In the theses of the Third World Congress of the Comintern we wrote that Europe is being Balkanized. At present this trend is being further reinforced. The states of the Balkan peninsula always had a protector either in the person of Czarist Russia or Austria-Hungary. Their entire political life: the succession of ruling parties and even the replacement of dynasties (Serbia) hinged on the will of the mighty protectors. Today Balkanized Europe finds herself in the same position with respect to the US and in part, Great Britain. To the degree that the antagonism between them develops, the European governments will scrape their feet in the waiting rooms of Washington and London; the shifts of parties and governments will be determined in the last analysis by the will of American capitalism which is issuing orders to Europe how much she is to eat and drink ...
Rations, as we know from personal experience, are not always sweet, all the more so since this American and rigidly standardized ration is being offered not only to the European peoples but also to their ruling classes who have become very accustomed to sweets. This involves, in the last analysis, not only Germany, not only France but also England. Yes, England, too, has to diffidently prepare herself for the same fate. To be sure, we hear it said often today that America is marching hand in hand with England, and that an Anglo-Saxon bloc has been formed. There is frequent allusion to Anglo-Saxon capital, Anglo-Saxon policy. It is said that the basic world antagonism lies in the hostility between America and Japan. But this is the language of those who do not understand the situation. The basic world antagonism runs along the line of American and British interests. And as time goes on, this will be laid bare more and more starkly.
However, before passing on to this highly important question, I want to analyze the place that American capitalism assigns to European radicals and Mensheviks, the Social Democracy of Europe – the same Europe which is now confronted with being placed on rations. The Social Democracy has been issued an assignment – and I do not at all say this for polemical purposes – to render political aid to American capitalism in placing Europe on rations. What is the Social Democracy of Germany, of France now actually doing? What are the Socialists throughout Europe doing? Let us study this closely and ponder over it.
They are now educating themselves and they are trying to instill in the working masses the religion of Americanism. This does not mean that they have all turned Presbyterians or Quakers. But it does mean that they are making a new political religion out of Americanism and out of the role of American capitalism in Europe. They are teaching or trying to teach the toiling masses that Europe cannot maintain herself without the pacifying role of American capitalism and its loans. They are leading the opposition to their own bourgeoisie, as, for example, do the German social patriots – an opposition not from the standpoint of the proletarian revolution, nor even from the standpoint of some sort of reforms, but from the standpoint of exposing the German bourgeoisie as intemperate, greedy, chauvinistic and incapable of reaching an agreement with the humane, democratic, pacifist capitalism of America. This is now the central question of the political life of Europe, and especially of Germany. In other words, the European Social Democracy is becoming before our very eyes the political agency of American capitalism. Is this development expected or unexpected? If we recall – and it is hardly a case that calls for recollection – that the Social Democracy is the agency of the bourgeoisie, it will become clear that the Social Democracy, by the logic of its political degeneration, is bound to become the agency of the strongest and most powerful bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie of bourgeoisies. This is the American bourgeoisie. To the extent that American capitalism undertakes the task of “unifying” Europe, “pacifying” Europe and “educating” Europe how to cope with the questions of reparations, war indemnities, and so on, and to the extent that the purse is in the hands of the American bourgeoisie, to that extent the entire dependence of the German Social Democracy upon the Germany bourgeoisie, and of the French Social Democracy upon their own bourgeoisie in France is gradually transferred to the chief master. Yes, a great master has come to Europe, American capitalism. And it is only natural that the Social Democracy should assume a position politically dependent on the master of its masters. This is the basic fact for understanding the present condition and the present policy of the Second International. Those who do not grasp this clearly will fail to understand the events of today and of tomorrow and will keep sliding on the surface, subsisting on generalities.
More than that: one service deserves another! The Social Democracy prepares the soil for American capitalism; it runs ahead of the chariot, talks of the salutary role of American capitalism, sweeps the road, cleans away the rubbish, bestows blessings. This is not unimportant work! Imperialism is used to sending missionaries ahead. The savages in the colonies usually shot the priest, and sometimes ate him. Then the warrior was sent to avenge the saintly one, and hard on the heels of the warrior came the merchant and the administrator. In order to colonize Europe, to transform the latter into an American dominion of a new type, American capitalism has no need of sending priests – missionaries to Europe. On the spot, on the European continent, there is a political party whose entire task consists in proclaiming to the peoples the gospel according to Woodrow Wilson, the evangel according to Calvin Coolidge, the holy writings of the New York and Chicago stock markets. This is precisely the mission of present-day Menshevism. But I repeat, one service deserves another! The Mensheviks gain not a little thereby. As a matter of fact, the German Social Democracy not so long ago had to assume the direct armed defense of its own bourgeoisie, the same bourgeoisie that marched shoulder to shoulder with the Fascists. Noske is, after all, the figure that symbolizes the postwar policy of the German Social Democracy. And today? Today it has a different role. Today the German Social Democracy permits itself the luxury of being in an opposition. It criticizes its own bourgeoisie and thereby keeps a certain distance between itself and the parties of capitalism. How does it criticize its own bourgeoisie? It says: You are self-seeking, dull-wined, cunning but here is a bourgeoisie on the other side of the Atlantic which is first of all rich and powerful; secondly, it is humane, reformist and pacifist and it has again come to us, and wants to give 800 million marks cash in order to restore the currency. And this sounds very well in Germany – the gold mark! But you, the German bourgeoisie, are obstreperous. After you have pulled our dear fatherland up to its ears in the swamp of poverty, how dare you be so stubborn before the American bourgeoisie? Why, we shall expose you mercilessly in the eyes of the popular masses of Germany! This is spoken almost in the tones of a revolutionary tribune ... in defense of the American bourgeoisie. (Applause) This is the paradox of the German Social Democratic Party.
The same thing applies to France. Of course, in consonance with the political situation in France, and in consonance with the more respectable reputation of the French franc, everything in this country takes place on the sly and in modulated tones. But essentially the same thing is being done there, too. The party of Leon Blum, Renaudel and Jean Longuet bears full responsibility for the Versailles Peace and for the occupation of the Ruhr territory. After all, as we all know, it is already incontestable today that the Herriot government, supported by the Socialists, stands for maintaining the occupation of the Ruhr. But now the French Socialists are enabled to say to their ally Herriot: “The Americans are demanding that you clear the Ruhr under such and such conditions; do it ... We, too, demand it now.”
They are demanding this not through the will and strength of the French proletariat, but in the name of subjecting the French bourgeoisie to the will of the American bourgeoisie. It ought not to be forgotten that the French bourgeoisie owes 3,700 million dollars to the American bourgeoisie. This means something! America can topple the French franc any time it so pleases. Of course, the American bourgeoisie will not encroach on the franc. Oh no! After all, the American bourgeoisie has come to Europe to restore order and not to bring ruin. It will not encroach ... but it can encroach, if it so wishes. Everything is in its hands. For this reason, against the background of this debt of almost 4 billion dollars, the arguments of Renaudel, Blum and others have a rather convincing ring in the ears of the French bourgeoisie. At the same time the Social Democracy in Germany, France and other countries is enabled to oppose its own bourgeoisie, to carry on “oppositionist” policies on some concrete questions, and thereby regain the confidence of a certain section of the working class.
Nor is this all. Certain possibilities of joint “actions” are opened up for the Menshevik parties of the various countries of Europe. The Social Democracy of Europe already represents a rather harmonious chorus. In some respects this is a new fact. For 10 years – since the beginning of the imperialist war it has had no opportunity for presenting a common front. Now this possibility exists and the Mensheviks have now come forward as a solid chorus, supporting America, supporting her program, her demands, her pacifism, her great mission. And here we come to the question of the Second International in Europe.
Here is the key and explanation for certain signs of life in this semi-corpse. The Second International, like the Amsterdam Trade Union International, is being reestablished. Of course, not in the same form as before the war. The past cannot be resurrected; old strength is gone beyond return. The Communist International cannot be obliterated. Nor is it possible to obliterate the imperialist war which gravely injured the spine of the Second International, and in several places, too. This is a basic fact. This is beyond repair. Nonetheless, with this damaged spine, they are seeking to rise on American crutches, straightening themselves up as best they can. The change that is taking place must be appraised to its fullest extent, comrades. During the imperialist war, the German Social Democracy remained most closely and quite openly tied to its own bourgeoisie, its own military machine. The French Social Democracy – to its own. What kind of International could there be so long as they savagely fought each other, accused each other, defamed each other? There was no possibility whatever for maintaining a mask of internationalism, or even a shadow of it. In the epoch of the drafting of the peace – the same situation existed. The Versailles Peace represented simply the seal set upon the results of the imperialist war on diplomatic paper.
Where was there room for solidarity? The situation remained essentially the same in the period of the Ruhr occupation. But now the great American capitalism comes to Europe and it says: Here is a plan of reparations for you, Messrs. Mensheviks!
And the Social Democracy accepts this program as the basis for its entire activity. This new program unites the Social Democracy of France, Germany, England, Holland, Switzerland. Every Swiss citizen, after all, hopes that Switzerland will sell more watches once the Americans restore order and tranquillity in Europe. The entire middle class which expresses itself most articulately through the Social Democracy likewise finds spiritual concord on the program of Americanism. In short, the Second International now possesses a unity program: It was brought by General Dawes from Washington. (Applause)
Once again we see here the same paradox: When American capitalism launches into outright brigandage, it is fully enabled to step to the fore in the guise of an organizer and pacifier, as some sort of humanistic, historical principle. And in passing it creates a platform for the Social Democracy, far superior to the latter’s nationalistic platform of yesterday. The native bourgeoisie happens to be right on the spot; one can inspect it, as if it were on the palm of one’s hand, whereas American capitalism is removed by great distances; its doings are not clearly observable, and these doings, as everybody knows, are not always impeccable; and, besides, there is the power – and this is the most important thing – there is the colossal, unbelievable wealth, unexampled in history, which so impresses the average citizen and the Social Democrat.
Let me add parenthetically that in the course of last year, in the line of duty, I have been obliged to engage in discussions with several American Senators, Republicans and Democrats alike. In appearance they are out-and-out provincials. I am not sure that they are well acquainted with the geography of Europe. It is hard to say. But for the sake of politeness; let us grant them such acquaintance. Whenever they discuss politics they express themselves as follows: “I told Poincare,” “I said to Curzon,” “I explained to Mussolini ...” They feel themselves to be leaders and masters in Europe. This newly-rich manufacturer of condensed milk ... (Laughter) Condensed milk, comrades, is not at all inferior to other products. I note considerable sympathy here for condensed milk ... This wealthy food packer from Chicago or elsewhere refers with outright patronizing condescension to the eminent bourgeois politicians of Europe. He expects to be the master; he already feels himself the master. And it is precisely for this reason that certain calculations of the English bourgeoisie to retain their leading role will prove to be false. I promised to deal with this, and I shall now do so.
The basic world antagonism occurs along the line of the conflict of interests between the United States and England. Why? Because England is still the wealthiest and most powerful country, second only to the United States. It is America’s chief rival, the main obstacle on its path. If England should be squeezed, or undermined, or, all the more so, battered down, what would then remain?  The United States will, of course, dispose easily of Japan. America holds all the trumps: finances and iron and oil, political advantages in relations with China, which is, after all, being “liberated” from Japan. America is always liberating somebody, that’s her profession. (Laughter; applause) The main antagonism is between the US and England. It is growing and approaching ever closer. The English bourgeoisie has not been feeling so well, since the first years of Versailles. They know the value of ringing coin; they have had great experience in this connection. And they cannot have failed to notice that the Dollar now outweighs the pound sterling. They know that this preponderance inescapably finds its expression in politics. The English bourgeoisie has completely demonstrated the power of the pound sterling in international politics, and it now senses that the era of the Dollar is dawning. It seeks consolation, and tries to console itself with illusions. The most serious English newspapers say: “Yes, the Americans are very rich, but they remain, in the last analysis, provincials. They do not know the paths of world politics. We English have had far more experience. The Yankees need our advice and our leadership. And we English will guide these provincial relatives of ours, who have suddenly grown so rich, on the paths of world politics; and naturally we shall retain the corresponding position, while collecting a fee into the bargain.”
There is, of course, a modicum of truth in this. I have already mentioned my doubts about the Senatorial knowledge of European geography. I am sincerely uncertain about it. Yet in order to do big things in Europe, it does not hurt to possess a knowledge of European geography. But, how difficult is it for a possessing class to learn the sciences? We know that it is not at all difficult for the bourgeoisie, grown quickly rich, to learn the sciences. The sons of the lapti-wearing Morozovs and Mamontovs (rich merchant families in Russia whose founders were peasants) bear a striking resemblance to hereditary nobles. It is the oppressed class, the proletariat, that finds it difficult to rise, develop and conquer all the elements of culture. But for a possessing class, especially one so fabulously rich as the American bourgeoisie, this is not at all hard. They will find, train or buy specialists in all fields. The American is just beginning to take stock of his world importance, but is not yet fully cognizant of it. His American “consciousness” still lags behind his American and world “being.” The whole question must be approached not from the standpoint of a cross-section of the present-day situation, but in its proper perspective. And this is a perspective not in terms of many long decades, but rather in terms of a few brief years.
This Babylonian tower of American economic might must find its expression in everything, and it is already expressing itself, but not yet fully by far. What capitalist Europe has now at its disposal in world politics is the heritage of its former economic power, its old international influence which no longer corresponds to today’s material conditions. America has not yet learned to realize her power in life. That is true. But she is learning quickly, on the bones and flesh of Europe. America still needs England as a guide on the paths of world politics. But not for long. We know how swiftly a possessing class, in its ascent, alters its character, its appearance and its methods of operation. Let us take, for example, the German bourgeoisie. Was it so long ago that the Germans were considered as shy, blue-eyed dreamers, a people of “poets and thinkers”? A few decades of capitalist development transfigured the German bourgeoisie into the most aggressive, armor-clad imperialist class. True, the settlement came very quickly. And the character of the German bourgeois again underwent a change. Today, on the European arena, they are rapidly assimilating all the customs and usages of beaten curs. The English bourgeoisie is more serious. Their character has been molded in the course of centuries. Class self-esteem has entered into their blood and marrow, their nerves and bones. It will be much harder to knock the self-confidence of world rulers out of them. But the American will knock it out just the same, when he gets seriously down to business.
In vain does the British bourgeois console himself that he will serve as guide for the inexperienced American. Yes, there will be a transitional period. But the crux of the matter does not lie in the habits of diplomatic leadership, but in actual power, existing capital and industry. And the United States, if we take its economy from oats to big battleships of the latest type, occupies the first place. They produce all the living necessities to the extent of one-half to two-thirds of what is produced by all mankind. Oil, which now plays such an exceptional military and industrial role, totals in the United States two-thirds of the world output, and in 1923 it had even reached approximately 72 percent. To be sure, they complain a lot about the threats of the exhaustion of their oil resources. In the initial postwar years, I confess I thought that these plaints were merely a pious cover for coming encroachments on foreign oil. But geologists actually do affirm that American oil at the current rate of consumption will, according to some, last 25 years, according to others – 40 years. But in 25 to 40 years America with her industry and fleet will be able to take away the oil from all the others ten times over again. (Laughter) There is hardly any need for us, comrades, to spend sleepless nights over it. (Applause)
The world position of the United States is expressed in figures which are irrefutable. Let me mention a few of the most important ones. The US produces one-fourth of the world grain crop; more than one-third of the oats; approximately threefourths of the world corn crop; one-half of the world goal output; about one-half of the world’s iron ore, and about 60 percent ef its pig iron; 60 percent of the steel; 60 percent of the copper; 47 percent of the zinc. American railways constitute 36 percent of the world railway network; its merchant marine, virtually non-existent prior to the war, now comprises more than 25 percent of the world tonnage; and, finally, the number of automobiles operating in the trans-Atlantic republic amounts to 84.4 percent of the world total! While in the production of gold the US occupies a relatively modest place (14 percent), thanks to its favorable trade balance 44.2 percent of the world’s gold reserve has collected in its vaults. The national income of the United States is two and a half times greater than the combined national incomes of England, France, Germany and Japan. These figures decide everything. They will cut a road for themselves on land, on sea and in the air.
What do these figures presage for Great Britain? Nothing good. They signify one thing: England will not escape the common lot of capitalist countries. America will place her on rations. Whether Lord Curzon likes it or not, he will have to accept rations. This is our “ultimatistic” message to him from here. But we must also add: When England’s position becomes such as to compel her openly to accept rations, this will not be performed directly by Lord Curzon – he will not be suitable, he is too unruly. No, this will be entrusted to a Macdonald. (Applause) The self-esteem of the politicians of the English bourgeoisie is not such as to make them amenable to the transference of the greatest empire in the world to the meager foundations of American rations. Required here will be the benign eloquence of Macdonald, Henderson and the Fabians in order to exert pressure on the English bourgeoisie and to convince the English workers: “Are we, then, actually to engage in war with America? No, we stand for peace, for agreements.” And what does agreement with Uncle Sam mean? The foregoing figures speak eloquently enough on this score. Accept rations. That’s the only agreement for you, there is no other. If you refuse, get ready for war.
England has up to now retreated step by step before America. Before our very eyes, it is still fresh in our memory, President Harding invited England, France and Japan to Washington and in the calmest way offered England – what? That England limit – her fleet. No more, no less.
Yet before the war it was England’s doctrine that her navy must be more powerful than the combined fleets of the next two strongest naval powers. The US has put an end to this, once and for all. In Washington, Harding began, as is customary, by invoking the “awakened consciousness of civilization,” and he ended by telling England that she must except rations. You will take 5 units; I will take (meanwhile) 5 units; France – 3 units; Japan – 3 units. Whence these proportions? Before the war the American fleet was much weaker than England”s. In the course of the war it grew enormously. And there – with, whenever the English write with alarm concerning the American navy, the American naval writers reply by demanding: “What did we build our navy for? Why, it was to defend your British isles from the German submarines.”
That is why, mind you, they built their fleet. But it is useful for other purposes, too. But why did the United States resort to this naval limitation program at Washington? Not because they are unable to build warships fast enough, and the biggest battleships, at that. No, in this respect no one can match them. But it is not possible to create, train and educate the necessary cadres of sailors in a brief period. For this time is required. Here is – the source of the ten year breathing space projected in Washington. In defending the program limiting the construction of battleships, the American naval journals wrote: “If you so much as dare to balk at an agreement, we shall turn out warships like so many pancakes.” The reply of the leading English naval periodical was approximately as follows: “We are ourselves in favor of pacifist agreements. Why do you keep threatening us?”
This already expresses the new psychology of ruling England. It is growing accustomed to the fact that it is necessary to submit to America, and that the most important thing is to demand ... polite treatment. This is the most that the European bourgeoisie can expect from America on the morrow.
In the competition between England and the United States, only retreats are possible for England. At the price of these retreats English capitalism buys the right to participate in the deals of American capitalism. Thus a coalition Anglo-American capitalism seemingly arises. England saves face, and does so not unprofitably, for England derives substantial profits from it. But it receives them at the price of retreating and clearing the way for America. The US is strengthening her world positions; England’s are growing weaker.
Only the other day, Britain renounced the previously adopted plan of reinforcing Singapore. It is too bad we have no map here. Singapore and Hongkong mark the most important highways of imperialism. Singapore is the key between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. It represents one of the most important bases of English policy in the Far East. But in the Pacific England can conduct her policy either with Japan against America, or with America against Japan. Huge sums were appropriated for the fortification of Singapore. And Macdonald had to decide: with America against Japan? or with Japan against America? And so, he renounced the fortification of Singapore. This is not, of course, the last word of English imperialist policy. The question can come again for a new decision. But at the given moment it is the beginning of England’s renunciation of an independent policy – or an alliance with Japan – in the Pacific. And who ordered England (yes, ordered!) to break the alliance with Japan? America. A formal ultimatum was issued: break the alliance with Japan. And England broke. Meanwhile, England is conceding and retreating. But does this mean that this is how matters will proceed to the very end, and that war between them is excluded? In no case. On the contrary, at the cost of concessions today England is buying only redoubled difficulties on the morrow. Under the cover of collaboration, contradictions of unprecedented explosive power are accumulating. Things not only can but must come to war, because it will be extremely difficult for England to move to a secondary position and to roll up her empire. At a certain point, she will be compelled to mobilize all her forces, in order to resist with arms in hand. But in an open struggle, too, so far as it is possible to foresee, all the odds are on America’s side.
England is an island and America is likewise an island of a sort, but much larger. England is completely dependent in her day-to-day existence on countries beyond the ocean. But the American “insular” continent contains everything that is necessary for existence and for the conduct of war. England has colonial possessions on many seas and America will “liberate” them. Having begun the war with England, America will summon hundreds of millions of Indians to rise in defense of their inalienable national rights. The same summons will be issued to Egypt and Ireland – there is no lack of those who can be called upon to free themselves from the yoke of English capitalism. Just as today America in order to drain the living juices from Europe comes to the fore draped in the toga of pacifism, so in the war with England she will step out as the great emancipator of colonial peoples
Beldam history made things easy for American capitalism: for every act of rapine there is a liberating slogan ready at hand. With regard to China, it is – the “Open Door” policy! Japan seeks to dismember China and to subjugate certain provinces by military force, because there is no iron in Japan, no coal, no oil. These constitute three colossal minuses in Japan’s struggle with the United States. For this reason Japan seeks through seizure to assure herself of the riches of China. But the United States? It says: “Open Door in China.”
With regard to oceans, what does America have to say? “The Freedom of the Seas!” This rings superbly. But what does it mean in action? It means: Get over to one side, England’s navy, make room for me! “Open Door in China” means: Stand aside Japan and let me pass! It is essentially a question of economic seizures, of robberies. But because of the specific conditions of US development, this travail appears at one time under the guise of pacifism, and at another, it almost assumes a liberating aspect.
Naturally, England, too, possesses great advantages which derive from her entire past history. First and foremost, she disposes of powerful bases of support and the strongest naval bases in the world. America doesn”t have that. But, in the first place, it is possible to create all this; secondly, it is possible to take all this away, piecemeal and by force; thirdly, and lastly, England’s bases are bound up with her colonial rule and are vulnerable for just this reason. America will find allies and helpers all over – the strongest power always finds them – and together with these allies, America will find the necessary bases.
If at the present time, the United States binds Canada and Australia to herself through the slogan of defending the white race against the yellow – and in this way justifies her right to naval supremacy – then, on the next stage, which may come very soon, these virtuous Presbyterians may announce that in the last analysis the yellow-skinned peoples are likewise created in God’s image and are consequently entitled to replace the colonial rule of England by the economic domination of America. In a war against England, the United States would be in a highly favorable position, since it could from the very first day issue a summons to the Indians, the Egyptians and other colonial peoples to rise up, and could assist them with arms and supplies.
England will have to think ten times before deciding on war. But, in avoiding war, she will be compelled to retreat step by step under the pressure of American capitalism. The conduct of war requires the Lloyd Georges and the Churchills; the Macdonalds are required for the conduct of retreats without a battle.
What has been said about the interrelations of US and England also applies, with corresponding changes and, so to speak, in miniature, to Japan, and on a truly minute scale to France and other second-rate European powers. What is at stake in Europe? Alsace-Lorraine, the Ruhr, the Saar territory, Silesia, that is, some tiny area of land, some petty strips. In the meantime, America is drafting a plan to place everybody on rations.
In contrast to England, America is not preparing to create an American army, an American administration, for the colonies including Europe. It will “allow” them to preserve at home a reformist, pacifist, toothless order, with the assistance of the Social Democracy, with the help of the (French) Radicals and other middle class parties and at the expense of their respective peoples. And it will extort from them blessings (up to a certain time) for not having violated their “independence.” This is the plan of American capitalism and this is the program on the basis of which the Second International is being resuscitated.
This American “pacifist” program of universal bondage is by no means a peaceful one. On the contrary, it is pregnant with wars and the greatest revolutionary paroxysms. Not for nothing does America continue to expand her fleet. She is busily engaged in building light and fast cruisers. And when England protests in a whisper, America replies: You must bear in mind that I not only have a 5 to 5 relationship with you but also a 5 to 3 relationship with Japan; and the latter possesses an inordinate number of light cruisers which makes it necessary for me to restore a balance.
America chooses the largest multiplicand and then multiplies it by her Washington co-efficient. And the others cannot vie with her, because, as the Americans themselves say, they can turn out warships like so many pancakes.
The perspective this offers is one of preparation for the greatest international dog-fight, with both the Atlantic and the Pacific as the arena, provided of course the bourgeoisie is able to retain its world rule for any considerable length of time. For it is hard to conceive that the bourgeoisie of all countries will docilely withdraw to the backyard, and become converted into America’s vassals without putting up a fight; no, this is hardly likely. The contradictions are far too great; the appetites are far too insatiable; the urge to perpetuate ancient rulership is far too potent; England’s habits of world rule are far too ingrained. There will be military collisions. The indicated era of pacifist Americanism is laying the groundwork for new wars on an unprecedented scale and of unimaginable monstrousness.
If we return now to the question – which I have made central in my exposition – namely: the question of what the chances are for European reformism as it exists today, then our answer would read: Up to a certain point the chances of European reformism are directly proportional to the chances of America’s imperialist “pacifism.” Should the operations directed toward the transformation of Europe into an American dominion of a new type meet with a certain measure of success, that is, unless they run up in the next few years against the resistance of the peoples or unless they are interrupted by war or revolution; then, in consonance with this, the European Social Democracy will, as the shadow of American imperialism, retain a certain measure of its influence. In Europe a rotten equilibrium will be established, resting on the remnants of ancient power and on the elements of a new and lean existence upon standardized American rations. All this will be overlaid with an ideological hash consisting of the warmed-over truisms of the European Social Democracy, with an American dressing of Quaker-pacifism. It is hard to imagine anything more repulsive and obscene than this perspective. The question therefore ought not be posed as follows: What are the forces of the European Social Democracy? But rather: What are the chances that American capitalism will succeed, through a parsimonious financing of Europe, in propping up a new regime in Europe? It is impossible here to make any exact predictions. All the less so is it possible to fix any dates. Suffice it for us to understand the new mechanics of world relations: to clearly grasp the basic factors which will determine the situation in Europe; and to be able, in this perspective, to follow the march of events, taking stock of the successes and failures of the master-in-chief of the current epoch, the United States of North America. Suffice it for us to understand the political zigzags of the European Social Democracy, and thereby to increase the assets on the proletariat’s side. Therewith it is quite incontestable that from the very outset those contradictions which prepared the imperialist war and doused it over Europe’s head ten years ago; those contradictions which have been aggravated by the war, and sealed diplomatically by the Versailles Peace, and which then were deepened by the further development of the class war in Europe – it is quite incontestable that all these contradictions still exist today like gaping wounds. And the United States will collide with these contradictions in all their acuteness.
It is a difficult job to place a hungry country on rations. We know it from our own experience. True enough, we passed through this experience under different conditions and proceeding from different principles, obeying the iron necessity of the struggle for the salvation of a revolutionary country. But through this experience we have been able to convince ourselves that a regime of hunger – rations is bound up with shocks and upheavals, which upon intensifying resulted in the somber Kronstadt uprising. Today, out of her own capitalist considerations and driven by the logic of imperialist rapacity, America is making the experiment with rations on a gigantic scale and in relation to many peoples. This plan will not go through without meeting with resistance, without arousing a cruel struggle along class lines and along national lines. The more the might of American capitalism tends to become transformed into political self-assurance – and this process is picking up in tempo; the more American capitalism expands internationally; the more commands the American bankers issue to the governments of Europe, all the greater, all the more centralized, all the more resolute will be the resistance of the broadest masses of Europe, not only among the proletariat but also among the petty-bourgeoisie and the peasantry. Because, Messrs. Americans, it is not at all so simple a task, as you deem, to transfer Europe to a colonial position! (Stormy applause)
We stand before this process; we stand at its very beginning. Today, for the first time in a number of years, the German proletariat experiences a slight and pitiful alleviation. As you all know, when a worker becomes terribly exhausted, after he has gone hungry for a long time, he becomes very sensitive even to the slightest alleviation. The German worker has now been given this, by the stabilization of the mark and the stabilization of wages. For this very reason a certain political stability has been regained by the German Social Democracy, that is to say, a temporary stability. But this will not suffice for long. America is not at all preparing to increase German rations, least of all the share earmarked for the German worker. The same thing will apply to the French and English worker – who stand second and third in line, respectively.
For what does America need? She needs to secure her profits at the expense of the European toiling masses, and thus render stable the privileged position of the upper crust of the American working-class. Without the American labor aristocracy, American capitalism cannot maintain itself. Failing Gompers and his trade unions, failing the skilled well-paid workers, the political regime of American capitalism will plunge into the abyss. But it is possible to keep the American labor aristocracy in its privileged position only by placing the “plebians,” the proletarian “rabble” of Europe on rations of cold and hunger, rations rigidly fixed and stingily weighed.
The further this development unfolds along this road, all the more difficult will it be for the European Social Democracy to uphold the evangel of Americanism in the eyes of the European working masses. All the more centralized will become the resistance of European labor against the master of masters, against American capitalism. All the more urgent, – all the more practical and warlike will the slogan of the All-European revolution and its state form – the Soviet United States of Europe – become for the European workers.
What is the Social Democracy using to benumb and poison the consciousness of the European workers? It tells them that we he whole of Europe, dismembered and sliced up by the Versailles Peace – cannot get along without America. But the European Communist Party will say: You lie, we could if we wanted to. Nothing compells us to remain in an atomized Europe. It is precisely the revolutionary proletariat that can unify Europe, by transforming it into the proletarian United States of Europe. (Applause) America is mighty. As against the little English isle, which rests on colonies all over the world, America is mighty. But we say: As against the united proletarian-peasant Europe, bound together with us into a single Soviet Federation, America will prove impotent. (Applause)
American capitalism senses this. There is no enemy of Bolshevism more principled and more savage than American capitalism. Hughes and his policy are not accidental whims. This is not a caprice: this is an expression of the will of the most highly concentrated capitalism in the world, which is now entering the epoch of open struggle for its autocratic rule over the planet. It comes into collision with us, if only because the paths through the Pacific lead to China and Siberia. The thought of colonizing Siberia is one of the most alluring thoughts of American imperialism. But a guard stands there. We hold the monopoly of foreign trade. We possess the socialist beginnings of economic policy. This is the first obstacle in the way of the autocracy and undivided rule of American capitalism.
And even where American capitalism penetrates into China with its slogan of “The Open Door” – and it does penetrate into China – it finds there among the popular masses not the religion of Americanism, but the political program of Bolshevism translated into the Chinese language. (Applause) Not Wilson, Harding nor Coolidge, nor Morgan nor Rockefeller, not these names are on the lips of the Chinese coolies and Chinese peasants. The name of Lenin (applause) is spoken with ecstasy not only in China, but throughout the Orient.
The United States can undermine Great Britain only by means of slogans calling for the emancipation of the peoples. On its lips this is the policy of hypocrisy, just as is its policy of pacifism in Europe. But in the Orient alongside the American consul and the American merchant and the American professor, alongside the American newspaperman there stand fighters, revolutionists who have proved capable of translating the liberationist program of Bolshevism into their own language. Everywhere, in Europe as well as Asia, imperialist Americanism is colliding with revolutionary Bolshevism. This, comrades, are the two principles of modern history.
I recollect that in 1919 in a conversation with Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin) with regard to Wilson’s arrival in Europe and in reference to the fact that the entire bourgeois press was filled on one side with Wilson’s name and on the other with the name of Lenin, I said in jest: “Lenin and Wilson – these are the two apocalyptic principles of modern history.”
Vladimir Ilyich laughed. Naturally, at that time I did not realize with what a vast content history would fill this jest. Leninism and American imperialism – these two principles alone are now fighting in Europe; these two principles alone cut across both the Atlantic and the Pacific. The fate of mankind hinges on the outcome of the struggle between these two principles.
The American enemy is far more centralized and powerful than the divided European foes. But our own strength, too, lies in concentration and our enemy is concentrating the workers of Europe. The resuscitation of the Second International is only a temporary and surface symptom the fact that the proletariat of Europe finds itself compelled to feel and fight not within national frameworks but on a continental scale. And the broader the labor masses seized by the need to resist, the broader the base of resistance, all the more revolutionary the ideas which must unfailingly gain preponderance. And the more revolutionary the ideas, all the more favorable the soil for Bolshevism. Every success of Americanism, insofar as Americanism does score successes, will thereby signify the centralization of the soil for the growth of Bolshevism – in a more concentrated and more revolutionary form, and on a more gigantic scale. The future works for us!
Since I am addressing a gathering called by the friends of the physico-mathematical faculty, you will permit me, comrades, after I have given you a revolutionary Marxist critique of Americanism to point out that we do not at all mean thereby to condemn Americanism lock, stock and barrel. We do not mean that we abjure to learn from Americans and Americanism whatever one can and should learn from them. We lack the technique of the Americans and their labor proficiency. Science is the premise of technology: natural sciences, physics, mathematics. Now, along this line we are reduced to the last extremity in our need to catch up with the Americans. To have Bolshevism shod in the American way – there is our task! We must get shod technologically with American nails. Today while we are still so poorly shod, we have nevertheless managed to hold our own. In the future, however, the struggle can assume far more terrible proportions. But it is easier for us to get shod in the American way than it is for American capitalism to place Europe and the whole world on rations. If we get shod with mathematics, technology; if we Americanize our still frail socialist industry, then we can with tenfold confidence say that the future is completely and decisively working in our favor. Americanized Bolshevism will crush and conquer imperialist Americanism.
1: On July 22, that is, just the other day, Hughes addressed a gathering of English ministers and jurists. This speech, according to Hughes, was not official. Not even a “shadow” of that. The orator referred ironically (his irony bore a close resemblance to the sole of American boots) to Europeans who make trips to America in order to lecture, instruct and captivate the sympathies of the Yankees and especially their aid. And then Mr. Hughes, for his part, proceeded to “lecture” and “instruct” Europeans how they could gain the cooperation and assistance of the United States. “The Western hemisphere (North and South America) are, I am happy to say, a model of peace.” They, the Americans, mind you, have succeeded where Europe has failed. “Our relations with Canada, are a model of peace .... We know almost as surely as that the planets move along their orbits that we shall preserve peace (with Canada).” In other words, if you Britons ever become so rash as to war against us, you should know that your colony Canada will be with us against you. “You have the Dawes plan ...” and you must accept it. For if you fail to satisfy the American investors, nothing will come of all your discussions. “My confidence that a way will be found out of all the existing difficulties is based on the fact that failure would lead to chaos.” That is to say, if you resist, then we shall leave you to your own resources and Europe will perish without our aid. “You can count ...” “you must ...” “you must not ...” That is the tone of the speech delivered before a gathering which included the heir to the British throne and His Majesty’s Ministers. All of official England replied by grinding its teeth at this speech which expresses very strikingly the interrelations between America and Europe. But, as everybody knows, grinding one’s teeth is the weakest of all resources in a struggle – Leon Trotsky
2. In the Manifesto (on the tenth anniversary of the war) which I have written on the assignment of the Fifth World Congress, this idea is expressed as follows:
“The sharpest world antagonism proceeds slowly but stubbornly along the line of the clash of interests between Britain’s empire and the United States. During the last two years it might have appeared that a firm agreement had been reached by these two giants. But this appearance of stability will be retained only so long as the economic rise of the North American Republic continues to develop primarily on the basis of its domestic market. Today this development is obviously drawing to its conclusion. The agrarian crisis, growing out of the ruination of Europe, has already come as a harbinger of the impending commercial-industrial crisis. The productive forces of America must seek ever broader outlets on the world market. The foreign trade of the US can develop first of all only at the expense of Britain’s trade; the American merchant marine and navy can grow only at the expense of the British marine and navy. The period of Anglo-American agreements must cede place to an ever-sharpening struggle, which, in its turn, signalizes the threat of war on a scale never seen before.” – Leon Trotsky
Last updated on: 15.4.2007