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Sam Adams

The War:
FDR and Churchill in Fifth Conference

(May 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 21, 24 May 1943, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

For the fifth time since the outbreak of the war, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill have met, together with their respective experts, to discuss the war and map out their strategy. The meeting of the heads of the two most powerful members of the United Nations comes on the heels of the current victory of Allied arms in the North African campaign.

The victory in North Africa undoubtedly marks a significant stage, if not a definite turning point in the war. For the first time since the war began, the initiative in the struggle has gone over to the Allies. It is Germany and Italy which are now on the defensive in the European theater. Moreover, while Axis strength remains stationary, and may even be declining, the military strength of the Allies is growing. Hitler is fighting a war on two fronts, something which he sought to avoid when the war began.

It seems quite apparent that Italy, for all decisive purposes, is knocked out of the war or will soon be eliminated as an important factor to be considered by the Allies.

End of War a Long Way Off

The victory in North Africa over German forces demonstrates that the German army is not the invincible horde it was pictured to be a year or two ago. The battles in Lybia [sic!], Tripoli and Tunisia have shown that, given manpower and the necessary weapons and supplies, the Germans can be fought to a standstill and defeated.

The sudden breakdown of the German defenses before Bizerte and Tunis his given rise to a wave of optimism that the war may be over very soon. Nothing of the sort is true! What is true is that the next stage of the conflict, an invasion of the European Continent, will bring the war to a higher and more intensive period.

The conclusion of the war is still a long way off. This is the main point in the statement of government officials and important press columnists. The serious writers are all agreed that the war, in the European theater at least, will not be over for another two or three years. Government authorities warn against the false optimism which sees the end of the war by next spring.

Where Are the Four Freedoms?

The Roosevelt-Churchill meeting is, without doubt, concerning itself with these military questions. To date, however, no information has been forthcoming about their deliberations. We do not, of course, expect any military information, that is, a disclosure of the strategy of their armed forces in the next stage of the war. But the question of war aims and post-war aims is of extreme importance for all the peoples of the world. On these important subjects, the conferees are totally silent.

This silence is in sharp contrast to the position taken by the state leaders of the United States and Great Britain when the latter was fighting a completely defensive war, and in the first months of America’s entry. The propaganda about the “people’s war” was spread far and wide. Promises about “the beautiful life” AFTER THE WAR were constantly on the lips of government officials – promises, of course, couched in the vaguest and most incomprehensible terms. All of this was culminated in the Roosevelt-Churchill meeting aboard a warship, where the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms were promulgated.

There was much ado about the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms for a long time. But since the upturn in the military fortunes of the United Nations, less and less emphasis has been placed upon these doctrines, which are poor repetitions of Wilsons’ Fourteen Points.

As a matter of fact, those who made these promises never took them seriously. Hardly had they been uttered than Churchill made it clear that they were not meant to apply to the British Empire – specifically India.

The Charter and the Four Freedoms are hardly mentioned at all now. In practice, especially in North Africa and India, they are violated. Witness the bowl of the liberal press and the liberal columnists and radio commentators. They blame the State Department. They claim that the actions of the State Department in North Africa, where political power was placed in the hands of reactionaries and semi-fascists, were committed without the knowledge of the President and in opposition to the policies of Churchill. This is the most extreme kind of nonsense. Roosevelt is responsible for North Africa.

The one factor these commentators completely overlook is that, as the power of the Allies mounts, as their military perspectives improve and the prospects for winning the war become stronger, they have less and less need to make promises to the peoples of the world, or to repeat the promises already made. Churchill and Roosevelt know why they are fighting this war; they know it has nothing to do with a “holy crusade” – that its purposes are hard-bitten and clear-headed imperialist considerations. They can’t very well tell the people that. Therein lies the explanation for the complete silence of Roosevelt-Churchill, either at their various conferences, or separately, on the question of war aims or post-war aims, except for increasingly vague generalizations.

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