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Mary Bell

San Francisco ‘Peace Planners’
Won’t Stop Wars

(May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 22, 28 May 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If “war is the continuation of politics by other (i.e., forcible) means,” then the peace is the continuation of the politics of the war. It is in this light that the San Francisco Conference to form a new “League of Nations” and to construct a new peace must be viewed.

The First World War was a struggle for profits and markets between two groups of imperialist powers which ended in a robbers’ peace at Versailles. The victors of that war formed their organization to keep the peace, the League of Nations. How well they kept it is shown in the accompanying list of thirty-odd big and little wars since 1918!

Just as the “war to end wars” ended in a mockery, so is the “crusade against fascism,” the war for the principles of the Atlantic Charter, ending in a betrayal of its professed aims. While fascist arms have been defeated by those of the United Nations everywhere in Europe, no real democracy exists on that entire continent. Fascists less conspicuous than Hitler, Goering and Goebbels – but fascists, nevertheless – are used by the Allied Military Government to continue the rule, harassment and exploitation of the German people.

How could it be otherwise? The profiteers and exploiters control the governments of the United Nations. It has been their armies, their policies, their war, and now it is their imperialist peace.

For them it has been a profitable war. Singly or collectively, they have gained control over or annexed outright most of the territories and populations of Europe between France and Russia. Just as great fruits are about to be picked in the Pacific.

But the war has its other side, even; for the imperialist plunderers. It has meant a frightful destruction of the property they value so highly, their own and that of the newly enslaved countries. It has meant the weakening of the faith in their system of the masses of the people who hear the burdens of their wars. They fear too much further extension of the present war. They quake at the anticipation of a third world war.

“We cannot fail,” Said Anthony Eden at San Francisco, expressing their sincere horror at the prospect of lack of agreement among the United Nations; in order to obtain peace. “This pilgrimage of death” must be stopped, said the Prime Minister of South Africa, and war must be made a “moral impossibility.”

And that is the purpose of the gathering in California, to set up a new “League” of the victorious nations to try once again to keep peace. But, however sincere the anti-war wishes of the gentlemen at ’Frisco, they are making an imperialist peace and thereby guaranteeing, as surely as the earth turns, new wars.

The Same – Yet Different

Who is at San Francisco? “The same old codgers” as participated at the first League conference, one liberal wails. No, not quite. The same old imperialist codgers – the governmental and diplomatic representatives of the imperialist profit-takers who run the nations.

Some of them, especially the Europeans, are not even the legally elected representatives of their countries, since no elections have been held since the early Nazi invasions.

Practically all of the smaller nations’ representatives are subordinated to one or another of the big powers.

Semi-fascist powers – and Argentina is not the only one, nor even the only Latin American one – are there.

No one at San Francisco represents the millions. The workers and producers and anti-fascists and underground movements and occupants of concentration camps and the forty million fallen of all nationalities have not a single spokesman. It is only to the shame of the labor leaders that they beg across the bay in Oakland for admission to this assembly of the ruling classes.

Did we say that this new “League” was like the old? While its organization, charter and personnel are fundamentally like the old, it reflects the deterioration of capitalism which has taken place since the First World War.

Monopoly of Power

Just as monopoly in industry has .broken down free competition in the system of capitalism, so has a monopoly of political power supplanted the free competition among nations, The Big Five run the show. And of those Big Five, China is a satellite of the United States and France is only a second-class power.

Stettinius, in an unguarded moment, stated that if the Big Five disagreed, neither the world security organization nor any of its provisions would mean anything. Incontrovertible fact! The supremacy of the big powers is embodied in the creation of two bodies, the assembly of the smaller and middling nations subordinate in all respects to that of the Big Five Council. This is in contrast to the first League, which gave at least formal democracy and one vote on ALL matters to each of the participating nations.

The monopoly of power is further assured by the right, insisted on by Russia and concurred in by the other great powers, that each of the big powers shall be able to veto any situation involving world security, i.e., war, in which it is involved.

Therein is indicated another retrogressive aspect of this league. Russia, with Lenin and Trotsky at her helm and a program of world socialism as her perspective, boycotted the first “den of thieves.” Now, Russia not merely participates, but is foremost in insisting on the domination of the great powers over the smaller. As for her international “socialist” perspectives, they are for the next century.

Sentiments Do Not Count

The charter of the first League made a formal pretense of disarmament and was concerned about the private manufacture of munitions. Disarmament has not even been mentioned this time.

Nor do the United Nations dare whisper the “peace without annexations” slogan – it was, of course, only a slogan – of the first peace. That would be too blatantly hypocritical after all the grabs made in Europe and Africa and the contemplated and announced grabs in the Far East.

The professed anti-war sentiments of the San Francisco delegations cannot be realized in the arena of imperialist power politics. Their rivalries for markets, territories, bases and profits will rend their covenant asunder, just as occurred last time. At the very time of their meeting, the Trieste incident very nearly pits two powers and their major backers against each other with armed force.

The fight over various provisions of the new charter cloaks the tensions and rivalries that will produce the future armed conflicts in one form or another. The latest and current of these are issues of “regional blocs” and the “veto.”

Autonomy Issue

The regional autonomy issue stems from the meeting of the Latin American nations and the United States at Chapultepec. There the United States hurriedly and demonstratively organized her satellites in preparation for the coming conference and yielded to their pressure for admission of Argentina. (There was never any principle involved in the U.S. attacks on Argentine “fascism,” and many little South American dictators who pattern their mode of governing on the Argentine model laughed up their sleeves at the demagogy of Roosevelt and Hull. What irked the U.S. was Argentina’s competitive products and its trade with Britain. After all, a little peccadillo like fascism does not stand in the way of friendly relations between our State Department and Spain.)

The Act of Chapultepec pledged mutual assistance of the signatories in the event of aggression by an American or non-American nation, in the event the world security organization “DOES NOT MAINTAIN” peace.

Russia, herself the puppet-master of a sizable group of European nations, waged a fight to subordinate the regional security pact of the Americas to the world organization. The conference agreed finally to recognize the mutual assistance of the regional blocs only if the aggression Breaks out “BEFORE IT [the world council – Ed.] CAN ACT.”

Behind this struggle for nice phrasing lay the fears of the Latin Americans of U.S. aggression and that if the world organization had prior authority, the U.S. could veto any interference from the outside. Behind it also lay the rivalry of Russia and the United States. Now, all agree on the wording of the document. But the tensions, rivalry and power struggle remain.

The Matter of Veto

The arguments over the “veto,” currently the thorniest problem of the conference, reveal most clearly and absurdly the intent of the whole organization. There is little attempt to challenge the Russian demand that each of the big powers have the right to veto in any situation or disturbance in which they are directly engaged. While it is reported the other big powers feel more lenient on this question, acceptance of this veto right is the price of Russian participation.

Any big power can go to war, aggressively or defensively, at any time and by vetoing action by the new world council can prevent any action against her! Such a safeguard for peace is the world security organization!

On the matter of the veto power being exercised in cases where the big powers are not involved, the Big Four are inclined toward leniency again, but Russia insists here also. The smaller powers are conducting the fight against this right. How would it work? If Marshal Tito, for example, wishes to take Trieste (an example in which Russia “nominally” is not interested!), Russia could veto the world organization from taking any action. Tito takes Trieste. The world organization is morally bound not to act by provisions of its charter.

But veto or no veto, regional priority or regional subordination, the new league can hang together only so long as the big powers remain friendly. This they cannot do. Not so long as the profit motive embodied in the system of private capitalism, with its constant need of expansion into foreign areas, exists.

How the first League
of Nations, organized after
the First World War, kept the peace ...


Intervention of the Czechs, Rumanians and the South Slavs against Soviet Hungary.


Intervention of Poland and the border states against Soviet Russia.


The Spanish War against the Riffs in North Africa.


Poland occupies Vilna.


Greek-Turkish War.


British War against the Wahabites in Arabia.


Japan occupies Vladivostok; the Irish rising against England. [1]


Lithuania occupies the Memel region; the Entente occupies the Ruhr.


French War against the Jebel Druses in Syria.


Spanish-French punitive expedition in North Africa.


U.S.A. intervenes in Nicaragua.


Italy’s temporary seizure of Corfu; Dutch regime of terror in Indonesia.


Seven expeditions against Soviet China.


French punitive expedition against the Annamites in Indo-China.


British colonial war in Burma and Northwest India.


Italy occupies Tripoli region.


Japan occupies Manchuria; fighting at Shanghai; French war in Morocco.


Japan-Chinese war; war between Peru and Colombia; war between Bolivia and Paraguay.


France occupies Yunnan and nine South Sea islands; Britain advances into Tibet.


Spanish-French war against North African tribes; war in Arabia;
Japanese advance into Mongolia; Ethiopia invaded by Italy.


Spanish Civil War.


German invasion of Poland; declaration of Second World War; Russian invasion of Poland.


U.S. and Japan declare war; U.S. enters Second World War.

The second “League,” the World Security
Council, is being organized on the
same basic principles
as the first!

Note by ETOL

1. This is not correct. The Irish War of Independence started in January 1919 and lasted until a truce in July 1921. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921 and its acceptance by Dáil Éireann (the insurgent parliament) in January 1922, the insurgent forces split, leading to a Civil War that lasted from June 1922 to May 1923.

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