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James Burnham

Their Government

(10 February 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 6, 10 February 1939, p. 4
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

About three weeks ago a special attack bomber, newly developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company, crashed during a test flight in California. The incident would scarcely have been noticed had not astonished onlookers pulled from the burning wreckage the injured body of a man who turned out to be Paul Chemidlin, representative of a French governmental air mission assigned to purchase military planes in this country. Chemidlin’s presence in this country, and his purpose, were a closely guarded Administration secret.

During the same week, a test pilot reported that in a Curtiss-Wright pursuit plane he had achieved the incredible speed of 600 miles per hour. Very few of the news dispatches that carried this story mentioned that this plane was one of several hundred on order by the French government.

Secret White House Conferences

William Bullitt, Ambassador to France, and Joseph Kennedy, Ambassador to Great Britain, left their posts a couple of months ago and have since been in this country. When they first arrived, they went at once to Warm Springs, Georgia, to report to the President. No news of this conference was released: the conference was secret. They later attended several discussions at the White House, and testified before Congressional Committees. Both the discussions and the testimony were secret.

The Military Affairs Committee of the Senate has been meeting almost continuously since Congress opened. A stream of General Staff officers, diplomats. War and State Department representatives has appeared before it. All of the key sessions have been secret.

The members of the Military Affairs Committee were summoned to the White House on Tuesday, January 31. For more than an hour they met with the President. They were told to regard everything spoken at that meeting as – secret. When reports nonetheless leaked out as to what had transpired, these were three days later brazenly denied by Roosevelt; but along with the denial there was not a single word about what had actually been said at the Tuesday conference.

Last year a number of authoritative British representatives came to this country to visit the White House, including Runciman (subsequently hero of the rape of Czechoslovakia), Montagu Norman (head of the Bank of England), Anthony Eden, and several military attaches. No news of what transpired at any of these meetings has ever been published. They were all secret.

* * *

When the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917, one of their first official acts was to publish to the world all of the secret treaties, alliances and agreements of the Tsarist regime. They made remarkably instructive reading for the workers of all the warring nations.

Those documents showed the true nature of “wars for democracy.” They told what “democracy” means to imperialists. The undercover, double-crossing deals for colonies, mandates, spheres of influence, rights of exploitation, were duly listed. The phrases about “civilization” and “freedom” were omitted: those were reserved for the public speeches.

Men who have nothing to hide do not need secrecy. The Bolsheviks told, and tell, the truth to the masses because they have nothing to hide from the masses. Their aims, their full aims, are entirely open, for every worker to know and to judge.

Workers Must Demand Full Accounting

But imperialism can never tell the truth. For public consumption it offers only the multitudinous lies of its demagogues. Its real aims and plans are mentioned only behind the locked doors of secret chambers. Imperialism cannot tell the truth openly because if it did the masses would recognize their real enemy and would turn their anger away from the scapegoats conveniently provided and direct it against that enemy, against their own imperialist government.

All conspiracies are nourished in secrecy. The great conspiracy of the Roosevelt government through which it hopes to dragoon the people once more into a war for the salvation of the Sixty Families is no exception. The secrets will remain until the workers themselves bring the imperialist conspirators to their full accounting.

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