Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 11, 2018

My Dear Americans – The British Sceptre Passes to the US

Filed under: Brian A. Mitchell,Great Britain,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 10:02 pm

(A guest post by Brian A. Mitchell)

The British Government, having lost their gamble with the Nazis in the pre-war Munich deals with the Nazis, then having had to run begging to the US for economic and military aid in the war and afterwards, had to cede Britain’s colonies, overseas assets, markets and foreign military bases to the US and submit to US demands for bases in Britain in order to bring our wartime allies, the Soviet Union, within range of US nuclear bombers in the US led Cold War and without any British control. In other words the British Sceptre passes to the US.

“…to set forth the political, military, territorial and economic requirements of the United States in its potential leadership… including the United Kingdom itself as well as the Western hemisphere and the Far East. The first and foremost requirement of the United States in a world in which it proposes to hold unquestionable power in the rapid fulfilment of a programme of complete re-armament… to secure the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by foreign nations that constitutes a threat to the minimum world area essential for the security and economic prosperity of the United States.”

(Economic and Financial Group of the US Council of Foreign Relations, 1940.)

“The question of leadership need hardly arise. If any permanently closer association of the two nations is achieved, an island people of fifty millions cannot expect to be the senior partner. The centre of gravity and the ultimate decision must increasingly lie with America. We cannot resent this historical development.”

(The Economist Oct 19 1940.)

“Well, Boys, Britain’s broke. It’s your money we want.”

(British ambassador to Washington, Lord Lothian, November 23 1940.)

“Whatever the outcome of the war, America has embarked on a career of imperialism in world affairs and in every other aspect of her life… Even though by our aid England should emerge from this struggle without defeat, she will be so impoverished economically and crippled in prestige that it is improbable that she will be able to resume or maintain the dominant position in world affairs that she has occupied for so long. At best, England will become a junior partner in a new Anglo-Saxon imperialism in which the economic resources and the military and naval strength of the United States will be the centre of gravity… The sceptre passes to the United States.”

(President of the US National Industrial Conference Board Virgil Jordan, to the Annual Convention of the Investment Bankers’ Association of America, Hollywood, Dec 10 1940.)

“Gradually, very gradually, and very quietly, the mantle of leadership was slipping from British shoulders to American.”

(Elliott Roosevelt, on the Atlantic Charter conference with his father US President Franklin Roosevelt and British PM Churchill in August 1941.)

“My dear Americans, we may be short of dollars, but we are not short of will… We won’t let you down. Standards of life may go back. We may have to say to our miners and to our steel workers: “We can’t give you all we hoped for. We can’t give you the houses we want you to live in. We can’t give you the amenities we desire to give you.” But we won’t fail.”

(British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin to the American Legion, London, Sept 10 1947.)

“Today Americans know that they are the dominant power in the world… and they expect the rest of us to respect their leadership.”

(Tory Lord Woolton, Sunday Times, July 16 1950.)

“Mr. Bevin went to New York, determined to prevent the precipitate rearmament of Germany… He failed… Faced with an American ultimatum… he toed the line.”

(New Statesman and Nation, Dec 2 1950.)

“We British must recognise that American policy must prevail, if there is an honest difference of opinion between us as to what to do next in the world struggle. He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

(Labour MP Commander King-Hall, National Newsletter, June 28 1951.)

“Do we need Britain? The British Empire, for all its reduced power, has a valuable string of naval bases around the world – Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Suez, Aden, Singapore, to mention the most important… The colonies take one into the economic sphere – tin, rubber, uranium and other raw materials… We need Britain.”

(New York Times, Jan 9 1952.)

“You may be sure that we shall stand by you on fundamentals.”

(British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in letter to US President Eisenhower, 1953.)

“…this Marshall Plan is going to be the biggest damned interference in international affairs that there has ever been in history. It doesn’t do any good to say we are not going to interfere. … I don’t think we need to be so sensitive about interfering in the international affairs of these countries.”

(US Senator Cabot Lodge to the US Foreign Relations Committee regarding post war Marshall aid to Britain and Western Europe.)

“Whether we like it or not, we must all recognise that the victory which we have won has placed upon the American people the continuing burden of responsibility for world leadership. The future peace of the world will depend in large part upon whether or not the United States shows that it is really determined to continue its role as a leader among nations.”

(US President Truman’s message to Congress, Dec 19 1945.)

“Am I wrong in saying all British governments since 1945 have done what the Americans have wanted?”

(British MP Tony Benn.)

“…the United Kingdom is already dependent on United States support.”

(British Foreign Office, 1958.)

“It is cheaper to fight with soldiers of other nations even if we have to equip them with American arms, and there is much less loss of American life.”

(US Senator Taft, Washington, May 19 1951.)

“It takes a man and a gun to fight. The United States is providing the gun, Europe the man.”

(US General Eisenhower, Paris, August 1951.)

“We fought World War I in Europe, we fought World War II in Europe, and if you dummies will let us we will fight World War III in Europe.”

(US Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque.)

“…what has been our one and only basic policy in the last thirty years. This is that we prefer to fight our wars, if they be necessary, in someone else’s territory.”

(US JCS document, 1946.)

“We are proposing dollars to arm men other than our own men. We are contributing dollars rather than men.”

(US General Marshall, August 1 1951.)

“Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient… I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world… has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.”

(US President Carter, on British PM Tony Blair’s subservience to the US, on BBC Radio.)

“The UK will… take on at times the role of a Trojan Horse … but its effectiveness in this role will depend on… not appearing to act as a US stooge.”

(British Foreign Office, 1972.)

“We’ve got to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.”

(Observer editor Roger Alton to his journalists, January 2003.)

“…the US did not want to be the only country ready to intervene in any trouble spot in the world. We hoped the British would continue to uphold their world-wide responsibilities.”

(US Secretary of State Dean Rusk to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.)

Brian was born in the bombed out wartime East End of London and developed an interest in political books early on. He worked in various technical fields for 20 years, all of which thoroughly bored him. He entered academic life (History and Classical Economics) and became an independent journalist, worked for the ANC (secret at the time) until the end of apartheid, and was a trade union representative in a large hospital. He is now retired and still works (when able) as an independent journalist.



  1. A reasonable summary of Anglo-US relations from 1940 although note the Nathan Mayer Rothschild quote towards the end. The author clearly hasn’t researched it since it is often quoted by anti-semitic Red-Brown alliance types. This discussion on Wikipedia seems reasonable : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ANathan_Mayer_Rothschild#Biassed_quotes

    Comment by Derek Bryant — April 12, 2018 @ 12:02 am

  2. I recall reading talks by Trotsky in Moscow in the mid 1920s about the inevitability of the US swallowing up the British Empire.

    Comment by Dennis Brasky — April 12, 2018 @ 12:23 am

  3. “Do we need Britain? The British Empire, for all its reduced power, has a valuable string of naval bases around the world – Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Suez, Aden, Singapore, to mention the most important… The colonies take one into the economic sphere – tin, rubber, uranium and other raw materials… We need Britain.” (New York Times, Jan 9 1952.)

    Thank you for this piece, Mr. Mitchell. I have a question about the above quote from NYT, Jan 9, 1952. It would be great to read the whole article that contains this excerpt. If possible, would you (or anybody) know the title of article, or have a link to the text of the original full article? Would love to read the document in full to get a sense of what the thinking was behind the original question, “Do we need Britain?” from the point of view of (at least some sections of) American ruling elites at the time.

    Comment by Reza — April 12, 2018 @ 7:34 am

  4. Reza — The title of the January 9, 1952 New York Times editorial is “Do We Need Britain?” It appeared on page 28. The editorial mentioned numerous reasons for the U.S. needing Britain. The quotation mentions naval bases, and raw materials in British colonies. I think the overall tone of the editorial is captured in this sentence:

    “The support one seeks from an ally can rightfully be divided into military, economic and political categories, plus a more nebulous field in which human affinities, historic relationships and character analysis provide the basis for judgment.”

    I cannot provide you with a link. You can access the article if you have a subscription to The New York Times. Additionally, ProQuest has a New York Times database which is available through many U.S. library systems. (I don’t know about other places.) It might be listed under ProQuest Historical Newspapers and/or New York Times 1851-2013.

    Comment by Alan Ginsberg — April 12, 2018 @ 5:36 pm

  5. It often pays to ask the most obvious questions and to avoid taking things for granted just because they have always been a part of our mental equipment. The visit of Winston Churchill and his advisers takes on a different light according to the weight we give to the Anglo-American alliance. The support one seeks from an ally can roughly be divided into military, economic and political categories, plus a more nebulous field in which human affinities, historic relationships and character analysis provide the bases for judgment. From a hard-boiled, unsentimental point of view is Britain vital to us, and if so, why.

    What are the military assets? Geographically, Britain is the sentinel, the advance post, of the European Continent. As a naval and air base she was vital in the Second World War and would appear more so in an atomic war. She has national service of two years for British youth, and Britons are good soldiers. Four divisions of land troops are now in Germany, and if Russia were to move westward tomorrow the British would be fighting for Europe with more strength than any Continental country. The British Empire, for all its reduced power, has a valuable string of naval bases around the world—Gibraltar, Malta, Suez, Aden, Singapore, Hong Kong, to mention the most important. The British Navy, itself, although it no longer rules the waves, is the second largest in the world and second to none in skill, experience and spirit. The Royal Air Force also must be rated high and is pioneering in the field of jet planes. Finally, one has to take into account Britain’s central position in a world-wide Commonwealth. With Britain as an ally one can count at least on Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ceylon and the many colonial possessions, and probably on India, Pakistan and South Africa.

    The colonies take one into the economic sphere—tin, rubber, uranium and other raw materials. The sterling bloc is the largest monetary unit in the world, dealing not only in these commodities but in wool, hides, jute and the like from the Commonwealth countries. As an industrial unit Britain is, again, only second to the United States. Her manufacturing skill, her craftsmanship, her business acumen are of the highest order. The City of London may not be the center of world finance any more but it still contains brains of unrivaled experience and ability in international finance, insurance and shipping.

    In the political field there can be no question where Britain stands. No people in the world are more jealous of their individual freedom, (none more stable or homogeneous or more determined to defend liberty and democracy against totalitarianism than the British. The fact that they have a welfare state and will continue to have one does not and cannot affect this judgment in any way, since the decisive factor is not a label or a form of society and government but the indomitably free character of the British people.

    The Briton as a human being has always been a sturdy, reliable friend and a tough foe. His courage and bulldog qualities have been shown innumerable times in history and never to better advantage than in that “finest hour” to which Winston Churchill gave expression and leadership. Such people are good to have as allies and much to be dreaded as enemies.

    This is the favorable side, the asset column of answers one can give to the question, “Do we need Britain?” On the side of liabilities one must place her need for military and economic aid, her weakened position at home and abroad, the distrust of her among Middle Eastern peoples, her competitive role in world trade and her sometimes selfish handling of financial and economic responsibilities, the anti-American element in the left wing of the Labor party, the suspicions of American motives and policies in high places, the differing viewpoints on details like China and European integration.

    The way in which the balance sheet can be drawn up is naturally subject to considerable variation, depending on such things as the point of view and the degree of isolationism or the lack of it one introduces in the role of the United States. However, it is hard to see how by any realistic, common-sense method one can arrive at any conclusion except the obvious one that we need Britain and cannot defend the free world without her.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 12, 2018 @ 6:16 pm

  6. Jawohl, Lewis you are right. I would really like to have the Englisch on my side. The thing is they never have been and they are stricklers for tradition.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — April 12, 2018 @ 10:10 pm

  7. Thank you Alan Ginsberg, and thank you Louis for posting (what I presume is) the original editorial.

    Comment by Reza — April 12, 2018 @ 11:23 pm

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