Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor: The Marxist view

How Roosevelt Provoked Tokyo's Attack On Pearl Harbor  


The following are major excerpts from the article "War Guilt in the Pacific: A Political Analysis of the Pearl Harbor Reports." It was first published in the October 1945 issue of the Marxist magazine Fourth International, a predecessor of New International. The author, C. Frank Glass, signed the article with the pen name Li Fu-Jen. We are publishing it on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Tokyo, which took place on December 7, 1941.

C. Frank Glass (1901-1988) was a revolutionary socialist journalist and a longtime leader of the Socialist Workers Party. Born in Birmingham, England, he emigrated with his family to South Africa when he was 10.

Glass was one of the founding members of the South African Communist Party in 1921 and was later elected as one of the party's four executive officers. He broke from that organization in 1928 as part of those veteran communists who opposed the growing Stalinization of the party leadership and supported the fight led by Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky to continue V.I. Lenin's communist course.

In 1930, Glass's work as a journalist took him to Shanghai, China. At that time the bourgeois regime of Gen. Chiang Kai-Shek was carrying out bloody repression of a powerful revolutionary uprising by workers and peasants in China that had erupted in 1927.

Glass worked actively to help establish the Communist League in China, whose ranks included veteran militants of the Chinese Communist Party who had continued to fight for a Leninist course in the face of that party's Stalinist degeneration.

Glass reported for the Militant during the 1937 invasion of China by the Japanese armed forces. He was forced to leave the country in 1941 as Tokyo's troops approached Shanghai, and he moved to New York. There he joined the SWP and served on the Militant's editorial staff for the remainder of World War II.

Glass was elected to the SWP's national committee in 1944 and served on that body until 1963. In the late 1940s he moved to Los Angeles, where he became active in the party branch. He lived there for the rest of his life. Over the years he contributed many articles to the revolutionary press, particularly to the early New International magazine, and its successors, Fourth International and International Socialist Review. His articles appeared under the pen names Li Fu-Jen, Ralph Graham, and John Liang.

The Fourth International and the other theoretical magazines of the communist movement in the U.S. are being scanned and will soon be available on CD-ROM. The article below is copyright New International and is reprinted by permission. Subheadings are by the Militant.


After this article was written, striking confirmation of the author's thesis was given by John Chamberlain, in an article which appeared in the September 21 [1945] issue of Life magazine. Chamberlain declared that "long before" the 1944 election Republican Presidential Candidate Thomas E. Dewey learned "that we had cracked the Japanese `ultra' code some time prior to Pearl Harbor and that [U.S. president Franklin D.] Roosevelt and his advisers knew what the Japanese were going to do well in advance of the overt rupture of relations."

But Dewey joined Roosevelt in the conspiracy of silence and deception which made it possible to brand Japan as the "aggressor" and fasten "war guilt" on the Japanese nation. Had the American people known the full truth, even as late as the 1944 election campaign, the "political impact," as Chamberlain says, "would have been terrific and might well have landed Dewey in the White House." But Dewey, concerned like Roosevelt for the interests of U.S. imperialism, kept silent, and by keeping silent sacrificed the chance to deliver a telling and perhaps fatal blow to his opponent's candidacy.

On August 29, 1945, President Truman released for publication lengthy reports by the Army and Navy giving the facts and circumstances of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which precipitated the extension of the Second World War to the Pacific area. The lengthier of the two reports, that of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, is dated October 20, 1944, and is accompanied by a statement of Secretary of War Stimson. The other is a fact-finding report of a Navy Court of Inquiry with a statement by the Secretary of the Navy and is dated October 19, 1944.

Why were these reports withheld from the public for almost a year? An attempt has been made to represent the suppression as having been necessitated by considerations of military security, since the war was still in progress. It is true that the reports deal largely with matters of a purely military character.

Yet the principal event to which they relate, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, had occurred almost three years prior to the completion of the reports. What they contain in the way of military information was already stale and musty and had no bearing whatever on the further course of the Pacific war. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the reports were suppressed for political and not for military reasons….

The Army Board and the Navy Court were charged with the task of ascertaining the facts of the Pearl Harbor disaster and establishing the responsibility therefor. The Army investigation centered on the acts and policies of General Short, who was in charge of the Hawaii Command of the Army. The Navy investigation centered on the acts and policies of Admiral Kimmel, who was commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet.

These high-ranking officers were removed from their posts after Pearl Harbor and were called upon to defend themselves against charges of incompetence and dereliction of duty. In order to exculpate themselves from blame for the disaster, they were obliged to make reference to the general policies of the Administration by which they were bound, for much more was involved than simply matters of military precaution and preparation. The investigators, too, had to delve into Administration policies, for without doing so there clearly existed no possibility of establishing the full truth or apportioning the blame for what had occurred.

It is precisely here that the reports are highly revealing, for they establish incontestably the following conclusions, even though these conclusions are not drawn in the reports:

1. That President Roosevelt, while proclaiming his love of peace and hatred of war, was embarked on a deliberate course of war with Japan (and Germany) long before Pearl Harbor and that this was the conscious policy of his Administration.

2. That Roosevelt's policy toward Japan was one of systematic pressure to force the Japanese imperialists to commit the overt act which would touch off a war explosion. Roosevelt was obliged to pursue this strategy in order to be able to brand Japan as the "aggressor" and stampede the people of the United States into a war to which a majority of the nation had been steadfastly opposed. The "peace- loving" President had assured the American people that their sons would not be sent to fight in "foreign wars." This made it necessary that the United States should be "attacked" so that the drive of American imperialism for mastery of the Pacific could be presented in the guise of a war of national defense and survival.

When Roosevelt read the reports, he must have realized their explosive political quality. Here, out of the mouths of his own generals and admirals, he was convicted as a war conspirator who under cover of unctuous protestations of his love of peace plotted to plunge the American people into the most terrible of all wars so that the "manifest destiny" of American imperialism might be achieved....

The Roosevelt strategy

The Roosevelt strategy of forcing Japan to become the "aggressor" is revealed unmistakably in that section of the report which relates to messages between the War Department and the Hawaiian Command in the last days before Japan struck. On November 27, 1941, 10 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chief of Staff radioed General Short as follows:

Negotiations with Japanese appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese Government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat cannot, be avoided, the U.S. desires that Japan commit the first overt act.

That Roosevelt himself was the author of this policy was stated by General Gerow of the War Department who testified that "the President had definitely stated that he wanted Japan to commit the first overt act." From desiring the commission of an overt act by Japan it was but a short step to provoking one. This is just what Roosevelt sought to do. The vast economic power of the United States, and the economic frailty of Japan guaranteed the success of Roosevelt's strategy of provoking war by tightening an economic noose around Japan. The sanctions imposed on Japan in 1940-41 are referred to in the Army Board's report. The Army's investigators understood their drastic character and had no doubt that the Roosevelt policy "led only to war." The pertinent section of the report reads, in part, as follows:

It was in the fall of 1940 that we cast the die and adopted economic sanctions. And we find it significant that about June 1940 General Herron as Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department upon Washington orders went into an all-out alert into battle positions with live ammunition for six weeks.

In September the export of iron and steel scrap was prohibited. The effect of the United States policy was to cut off from Japan by the winter of 1940-41 the shipment of many strategic commodities, including arms, ammunition, and implements of war, aviation gasoline and many other petroleum products, machine tools, scrap iron, pig iron and steel manufactures, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, and a variety of other commodities. . . .

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