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A. Roland

Relations Between Great Britain
and the U.S. in the War

(17 January 1942)

From The Militant, Vol 6 No. 3, 17 January 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

British Resentment About U.S. Role

It was a Labor Party member of parliament who expressed the feeling of resentment of the British ruling class over its complete dependence on the United States in the war. He called attention to the fact that England was in danger of becoming the Helgoland base of the United States in Europe. The world press, including the press of the United States, featured the apt expression without disputing it or commenting on it.

The actual entry of the United States into the war (formally speaking) has tended to readjust the balance somewhat in the English favor and they have not failed to take quick advantage of this new fact. It will be recalled that the United States exerted pressure through its lease-lend aid, to force England to forego exporting any real quantity of goods to South America for the duration of the war. Much as this action angered British business, it was compelled to obey and the United States was given a free hand in South America.

United States diplomacy was engaged just before the fateful Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, in trying to come to some agreement with the English government concerning the post-war handling of the return of lease-lend equipment – or some equivalent. There can be no illusion that the “loans” made by the United States to its allies will ever be repaid in cash. All that the United States can do is to try to extract whatever advantages it can in place of repayment in cash or in kind.

Thus the press contained references to the act that negotiations were going on with a view to adjustment of lease-lend aid by the ceding of naval bases and territory in the Western Hemisphere to America. This was to be not merely a matter of long leasing but of actual change of sovereignty. Some congressmen had advanced this dea when the lease-lend act was first broached.

The Negotiations Have Halted

The magazine Newsweek now points out in an editorial that the formal entry of the United States into the conflict has halted these negotiations and has brought a change in English attitude. Whereas previously the English seemed quite ready to discuss the matter of post-war settlement in all its phases, that has now changed. From Churchill down to the lower rungs of the diplomatic ladder, the new line is followed of refusing to discuss post-war settlements. “First let us win the war; that is the only question of importance now,” says Churchill. He prefers leaving other matters to the future.

This new attitude represents a first faint revolt against United States domination. But the relations between the two countries remain and must remain pretty much the same, despite the fact that they are now “equal partners” in the war. The fact that all discussions center in Washington is evidence of the role of this country. Churchill travels to Washington not only because of the war dangers abroad, but because the last word must be said there.

Not only Churchill himself, but the governments of the English colonies and dominions recognize their dependence on United States help. The situation of Australia is becoming rapidly more critical as the Japanese threaten to take Singapore. The loss of this Pacific Base would be a tremendous blow at both allies. The way would become open for the Japanese to strike further south towards Australia and New Zealand. Their complete control of the Asiatic side of the Pacific Ocean would enable the Japanese to threaten seriously India itself.

No wonder then that Premier Curtin of Australia appealed for help to the United States and made a none too veiled threat to take Australia out of the Empire. His later denial of any such intention does not change the actual situation. In the next period of the war Australia will be completely dependent on the naval forces that the United States can dispose as a screen between the South Pacific and the Japanese.

What Fall of Singapore Would Mean

There is another aspect also to the possible fall of Singapore. That great base with its naval facilities, represented one of the most powerful bargaining points for England in its relations with the United States. Should it be taken by the Japanese, then England has that much less to offer to the United States for its help in the Pacific. There can be little doubt that to gain an ultimate victory over Japan, America would have to regain the vital Singapore base. It will be at heavy sacrifice of American planes, ships and tanks that the Western Pacific area will be retaken by this country. This will complicate the status of the colonial empires all the more.

Naturally both England and the United States will fight as desperately as they can to hold Singapore. This is the critical center of the Pacific War, now and in the future. Here again, while most of the fighters may be soldiers of Australia, India, England itself, the equipment in planes, guns and munitions must come in the main from the U.S.A.

The stupendous program of armaments promotion of Roosevelt means that the dependence of England on the United States will increase in the future rather than decrease. Thus the real relation of forces cannot help assert itself through diplomacy. The English will hardly be able to throw off the “yoke of dependence.” The voice of the American government is the dominant one in the councils of the “United Nations.” It will have the last say on any vital questions in dispute.

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