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Susan Green

War Is Good Business for Business

A Roosevelt Man Offers a Few Thousand Words of Advice to American Business

(1 December 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 48, 1 December 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

One thing the enlightened partisans of American imperialism are certain of is that it is doomed to play second fiddle if Hitler wins the war.

They know it is not to preserve “racial purity” that Hitler has put all his eggs into the war basket – and that it is not to save “democracy” that Roosevelt is spending almost $2,000,000,000 a month with the prospect of doubling and tripling that amount.

Another thing that this school of thought is agreed upon is that if Hitler wins, the British Empire will be his prize, while if Roosevelt wins, it will be neatly tucked away in the vest pocket of American imperialism. This constitutes the other reason why the American ruling class must engage in an all-out war.

“In Their Service”

But American capitalism is not all of one stomach. What is meat for finance capital may be of doubtful nourishment for the hinterland of American business. Mr. Miller obviously addresses himself to those recalcitrant business men who have not associated their own interests with Roosevelt’s plans for total war.

You Can’t Do Business with Hitler, by Douglas Miller, American commercial attaché at Berlin, 1925–1939.

As Mr. Miller writes in his short preface, he wants to do some plain speaking to American business men. He thinks he is in a position to do so because he has spent 15 years in their service at the United States embassy in Berlin, six of them under the Nazi regime. His aim is to put the fear of a Hitler victory into the heart of every two-by-four profit-grubber.

The general outline of Mr. Miller’s book is familiar to most fairly well-read people. Hitler’s unpretty economic, political and social practices, national and international, have been paid the compliment of extensive literary attention, as have also his real and imagined schemes for future world dominion. What distinguishes Mr. Miller’s contribution is that it goes into such details as would especially impress the trader mind.

The Complaint

He tells the story of how the Nazis shamefully discriminated against United States exporters of lard – in spite of a treaty. An American oil company, eagerly aiding and abetting Hitler by shipping petroleum to him, was rewarded by being obliged to take 8,000,000 mouth organs as a payment. Again, 200,000 canaries were all the payment an American manufacturing company got for a large auto body press delivered to the Nazi. How, pray, could American walnuts – of which the people here, of course, have a surfeit – be sent to garnish the tables of the Nazi elite when Germany would import $100,000 of the nuts only if the walnut growers would take $300,000 of burlap bags and barbed wire! And just how will American corporations take care of the situation that a victorious Hitler will be the holder of all the European-owned American stock? Will he be allowed to vote his stock at stockholders’ meetings? Now that’s something to worry about!

With implicit admiration Mr. Miller describes the scientific slave state that Hitler, the conqueror, will establish in Europe, Asia Minor and Africa. Its objective – unfortunately – will be to crowd American business off the face of the earth – including that portion known as the “good-neighborly” countries of Latin and. South America. It suits Mr. Miller’s purpose to make this a comparatively easy process, picturing the Nazi as using economic pressure of every kind, Nazi-staged revolutions, personal pressure through family ties a Nazi-controlled Catholic Church, etc.

As to the ability of the Nazis to establish their scientific slave state once they win the war, Mr. Miller has no doubt. In proof of his contention he cites the case of the forcible collectivization of Russian agriculture by Stalin, involving the extermination of millions of human beings. “In the same way, Hitler will not be unduly disturbed if there is widespread resistance to his agents in the conquered countries,” Mr. Miller writes. “It will simply prove to be the worse for the discontented; they will lose their meal tickets and soon pass out of the picture.” According to Mr. Miller, the Hitler empire will be threatened only from the top – not from the bottom – which is only an indication of the “master mind’s” wishful thinking concerning the power of the discontented.

Trophies of War

What the American ruling class visualizes as its trophies of war, as described by Mr. Miller, is enough to give every normal capitalist an impatiently itching palm. Says Mr. Miller:

“In thinking about the post-war world, after an American victory, we must imagine Europe almost completely stripped of peacetime production, her peacetime industries shattered, worn out from years of effort without installation of new equipment, and blown to bits by aerial bombs and land artillery ... Only one great country will possess the mechanical equipment, the raw materials, the finances and the energy to rebuild a post-war world. America alone will have the strength, the resources and the leadership which are needed.”

An American victory will furthermore mean that the 9.0 per cent of the world’s gold supply now buried in American vaults will become the basis of international currency – a veritable gold ball and chain shackling the rest of the world, including the British Empire. “We must not worry unduly about the British peace aims,” Mr. Miller assures American business. “By the time this war is over the chief British aim will be their aim to please us.”

With such complete world domination, victorious American imperialism should be sitting pretty. But Mr. Miller has, very sizable misgivings, and this, I believe, is the important section of the book,

To quote a few illuminating passages:

“Whether we like it or not, our whole system of comparatively unregulated free enterprise is temporarily in eclipse, and will not return during our lifetime. I do not say that with any satisfaction – I regret it.”

And so will the hinterland of American business which, to a great extent, will be made the goat for finance capital.

“It must be plain that after this war there will be more hate, less trust and confidence, and more suspicion, less friendship. After this war it will not be a case of getting ting the lambs and the lions to lie down together. The lambs will be mostly devoured. There will only be well-armed but torn and angry lions left. Nevertheless they must cooperate.”

We know too well how this kind of cooperation ends.

“Some people still begrudge the loans that we made to the outside world from 1921 to 1929; but remember we had eight years of prosperity. We increased our own production and our national income many times more during this period than the total amount we lost. Eight years of prosperity were worth much more, than all our defaulted loans together ... We can export again if we will finance the world in a big way. We shall have losses, but good management can minimize them.”

Until a 1929 deluge will once more overtake “good management.”

His Alternatives

An American victory with such precarious and short-lived prosperity or a Hitler victory with the establishment of his scientific slave state, are the only alternatives Mr. Miller considers. A stalemate due to mutual exhaustion he rules put definitely with the statement, “The day we declare war will be the day the Nazis know they are beaten.” The revolutionary possibilities inherent in this ruinous war which will go on “for several years more until we win” do not exist for this faithful servant of American business.

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