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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(26 September 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 73, 26 September 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Far Eastern front is now a definitely active sector of the second world war. Coming developments there will proceed in closest relation to events on the fronts of Europe.

From its seeming isolation after the signature of the Nazi-Soviet pact, Japan has returned to partial and tentative collaboration with the newly-extended axis. Japanese fears that the pact meant that Russia would be free to deal with a single-handed enemy in the Far East have been entirely dispelled. Russia has instead arranged a truce quite satisfactory to Japan and has become directly involved in the war in Europe.

Consequently Stalin’s “peace policy” has in quick succession given the go-ahead signals for war in Poland and renewed war in China. The Japanese have naturally taken up the cue. They have announced the opening of a new drive in West China and have resumed needling Britain and France. Most significantly of all, the Japanese army-inspired press has begun to assume a truculent tone toward the United States, in sharp contrast to the previous effort to smear milk and honey on the profoundly antagonistic relations between the two countries.

There are several straws in the wind to attest to further coming changes in the set-up. Gen. Juichi Terauchi, a former Japanese war minister, was on his way to Germany on a special mission generally assumed to be strengthening of Japanese contact with the axis. When the Stalin-Hitler pact was signed Terauchi’s mission was cancelled and he arrived in Italy as a plain tourist who announced he would not go to Germany. But Terauchi has now gone on to Berlin, to meet German leaders.

Some equally significant journeying is being done by Chow En-lai, one of Stalin’s principal acolytes in China. Chow left Chungking for Moscow last week on an unannounced mission. Is Chow going to be informed that the thin trickle of Soviet aid to China will now cease? Is he going to receive new orders for the Eighth Route Army which will in effect retire it from effective struggle against the Japanese invasion? Will the Chinese Communist Party – already half-strangled by the tortuous twists in its policy – be ordered to throw its support to the “peace party” in Chungking?

All of these are now strong possibilities, even though the transition to such moves is likely to go through a careful period of tentative reconnoitering. For the Soviet-Japanese truce is just as tentative as the Stalin-Hitler bargain.

In any case, the developments generally have created new and serious difficulties for the Chinese national cause. The road to Burma is still open and so is the road to French Indo-China, but there is little chance that French and British arms and supplies will be flowing over them in any significant quantities.

The situation leaves the problem primarily in the hands of the Roosevelt War Deal. For American imperialism the main issues of the war still remain in the Pacific, cradle of the great expansionist dreams of tomorrow. Wall Street has a definite stake in the destruction of German imperialism and in the weakening of Anglo-French imperialism. But its ultimate war aims are also premised upon the establishment of undisputed American domination of the Pacific. These aims will bring it into collision with Japan and possibly even with Russia if Russia remains part of the axis.

That is why the U.S. fleet remains based in the Pacific and that is why tiny dispatches reporting the regular ferrying of great American navy bombers to the Philippines are filled with such fateful significance.

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