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Notes of the Month

North Africa Interlude

(February 1943)

From The New International, Vol. IX No. 2, February 1943, pp. 36–37.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan.

The invasion of North Africa by the Allies and the subsequent Casablanca conference of the Anglo-American leaders heralds a turning point in the war. Involved in these events is not only the military strategy of the United Nations, but more important, its political strategy, and even its moral position in the world.

Hardly more than a year ago the military position of the Allies was quite feeble; its strength was to be found essentially in its economic and military potential. But its military position largely influenced its political and moral conduct. There is a striking parallel between the former weak military position of the democratic camp and the liberal-democratic, and at times, even radical, political and moral positions assumed by the Roosevelt-Churchill declarations.

It is not difficult to recall the great prominence given to their meetings which produced the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms. The bourgeois liberals were not merely certain of a new era; it was guaranteed, they declared, by the Anglo-American assent to the right of self-determination of all national minorities, the occupied countries and, some even thought, the colonial peoples. Moreover, the right to free speech and free press were declared an inviolate right of all humanity. This was not merely a military struggle, said the leaders of the Allied camp. It was a political and moral crusade against fascism, intolerance, bigotry and the darkness of the Middle Ages. Truly, if words were accepted as reality, a millennium, even if a little one, was on its way.

Yet, in the midst of endless palaver delivered from the high places and the low, there were many events which gave unmistakable evidence that, behind the liberal facade forming the public face of the Allied camp, there lurked the real war aims completely incongruous to the professed programs.

The Four Freedoms Applied

The Indian situation became very acute in the midst of the democratic splurge. In this particular case, the British attitude was made abundantly clear through the declaration of the Prime Minister that the Four Freedoms and the Atlantic Charter had no application to India. The attitude of the British did not find a happy accord in the United States, where national interest desired an Indian solution which would accrue to the American position in the Far East.

There were other smaller incidents occurring with monotonous regularity which indicated the wide gulf between the real and the verbal. But the denouement came in North Africa. Here was a concrete circumstance in which the Allies could have demonstrated, if it were in any degree an integral part of its economic, political and military physiognomy, that despite almost insurmountable difficulties and immense contradictions which reside in its alliance, the democratic political aims which it professed would be realized step by step with an improvement in its military position. But quite the contrary took place. As military improvement came, political degeneration accompanied it.

The deal with Admiral Darlan, which Roosevelt was compelled to announce as a temporary political expedience, thus placating, at least momentarily, the bitter reactions which followed all over the world, especially among his own “New Dealist” colleagues, was fortuitously “solved” in the assassination of Petain’s collaborationist disciple. In the Darlan case, however, the American leaders were able to plead military needs for the arrangements which were made. Subsequent events, however, do not have even this reason to justify the political collaboration with the reactionary Giraud, the fascist General Nogues, the numerous other fascist and semi-fascist military men of Vichy, and the political collaboration with similar fascists and semi-fascists, the outstanding example being the appointment as Governor of Algeria, the fascist Peyrouton.

Morality and Bourgeois Politics

The buck-passing which has followed the storm of protest from all official quarters is merely subterfuge. Any and all explanations are given by Secretary of State Hull for the conduct in North Africa. He even found it “expedient,” when questioned by The Nation Washington correspondent, I.F. Stone, to ask if his name were not really Feinstone! It is now explained that General Eisenhower had nothing to do with the Peyrouton appointment, that he was enlightened about this fascist gentleman who received exit papers in Brazil on the orders of Hull, by his brother, Milton Eisenhower. The blame was then placed on the State Department’s special man in North Africa, Robert Murphy, long noted for his reactionary views and associations. But Murphy acted in complete concert with directions and agreement of the State Department. In all these machinations, the liberals of the New Republic and The Nation would have you believe that President Roosevelt was uninformed about all these events, or was unable to intervene; that Hull, unable to fight any longer, succumbed to the pressure of the fascists, semi-fascists and reactionaries who are his subordinates, and finally, that the liberals in Washington, the true Rooseveltians, were completely powerless!

Only a few days ago, the Social-Democratic New Leader published an article which declared that the whole North African venture was laid many months ago through Vichy, in understanding with Churchill and Roosevelt, and that behind Vichy stood a large group of the French 400, industrialists and financiers. It is this same group of bourgeois reactionaries who were described by Winkler in The Nation as playing the delicate game of repairing their fences in case the Allies won the war, or retaining their relations with Hitler in the event of a German victory.

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