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James Burnham

Their Government

(13 September 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 69, 13 September 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Roosevelt is back on top of the heap. When he realized that his internal policy was hopeless, that it was collapsing miserably, he gambled his entire stake on the war. And he won.

When he brings together his special session of Congress, he will resume the command that he lost in July. He will call the tune, and a big majority will swing into the dance. Full speed ahead toward the war!

But let us hope that no one will be so simple as to imagine that this will mean a revival of the New Deal. It will not be the dead Roosevelt of the dead New Deal who takes the helm, but the Roosevelt of the War Deal. And the War Deal will hand out short shrift to those who try to remind it of the old promises of “reform” and “the more abundant life”.

The aim of the War Deal, on a world scale, is to bring the United States into the war in such a way that American imperialism will dictate the war settlement. Internally, the aim of the War Deal is, in the shortest possible time, to fasten on the people of the United States a totalitarian military dictatorship – a dictatorship which will never be lifted so long as American imperialism survives.

That will be the reward to the American people for dying in the “crusade against Hitler” abroad: totalitarian dictatorship at home.

Roosevelt on Easy Street

It is certain that Roosevelt plans to send this country into the war well before the party conventions next Spring. If he succeeds, he takes it for granted that his nomination for a third term (and his election) are in the bag. Who will dare oppose him? He will be able to take chief personal credit for the war, will he not? And he has good grounds for his anticipations.

Roosevelt is the leading, and most skillful warmonger in the United States. There is, in fact, substantial reason to believe that Roosevelt’s march toward the war is considerably faster than that desired by the Sixty Families themselves, and by the economic needs of American imperialism. The Sixty Families would like a maximum interval for war-time super-profits under conditions of formal neutrality, with direct military intervention delayed until the decisive last stages of the war. Then, with all the European powers exhausted, they could make sure that “victory” would guarantee not merely the crushing of Germany – which is only one part of the purpose of the Sixty Families in the war – but firm dominance over their “allies” as well. American imperialism does not want any victors in this war except itself.

But all of Roosevelt’s actions since his Chicago address of October 1937 prove that he is impatient for the role of war-lord, that he wants to become “world-leader” from the outset – and, in the process, save his own political carcass from being thrown into discard.

It is reported on good authority that one big factor in Great Britain’s decision to precipitate war this autumn was the fact that Roosevelt was entering the last year of his second term of office, and, without a war, would have had little chance for a third term. Though Great Britain would in any case have counted on U.S. aid, it would not have been so sure of enormous and rapid aid from another President.

Everyone is so convinced of Roosevelt’s intentions that his declaration of the embargo required by the Neutrality Act had not the slightest dampening effect on the rise of the “war baby” stocks, or the stepped up speed of production of military planes for export. Roosevelt proposes, everyone knows, to transform large sections of American industry into a base of supplies for England and France which will be free of the risk of German bombers.

The Forgotten Man again Forgotten

Meanwhile, WPA dismissals are still continuing; the rolls are down below 2,000,000 now. It is no doubt unpatriotic to mention such details when everyone should be practising up for the trenches. Still worse, I imagine, to recall that, according to the record, it is not Hitler who has thrown 1,500,000 WPA workers into the streets in less than a year.

How convenient for Roosevelt, this war! Here is your blanket cure-all; no more talk is in order now about unemployment and starvation and misery and wretched houses and mounting debts and taxes. And here is your ticket for an express ride to a third term.

It is unutterably tragic that even a single worker believes he can defeat Hitlerism by supporting Roosevelt’s war plans and his war to come. By such support we only strengthen Hitler at home, since he can then prove to the German workers that they are deserted by their brothers in other nations who fight to defend the colonies and profits of “their own” imperialisms. And in this country, by such support we give a free hand to reaction, we necessarily abandon all struggle for jobs and decent living conditions, and we accept in advance the totalitarian dictatorship which Roosevelt’s subordinates and his Morgan-Rockefeller-DuPont War Resources Board have prepared to the last item. By such support we make certain the victory, not of Hitler perhaps, but of Hitlerism, throughout the world.

To Roosevelt’s call for national unity in the crisis, it has never been so important to reply: Against the national unity of the imperialists! For unity of the working class in uncompromising class struggle against Roosevelt and his war and his reaction!

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