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Fourth International, March-April 1948


World in Review

Washington’s ‘Cold War’ Moves Into Its Decisive Military Phase


From Fourth International, Vol.9 No.2, March-April 1948, pp.36-38.
Transcription & mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE “COLD WAR” AGAINST THE USSR WAS moved into its decisive military phase. This is the sober editorial evaluation made by the New York Times of President Truman’s St. Patrick’s Day address to the joint session of Congress, and the important legislative measures resulting from it. Other spokesmen have presented a more partisan interpretation of Washington’s belligerence. Truman was charged by the New York News with creating war hysteria as an electoral maneuver designed to save his dwindling political fortunes, particularly in his disintegrating Democratic Party. Such a motive is certainly not beyond the main product and pride of the Pendergast machine. But it could not have played more than a minor role. The quick bi-partisan support given in Congress to his demand for an immediate draft and related measures shows that the basic decision was made by Wall Street, and transmitted through the White House.

The Big Business oligarchy ruling the United States made up their mind some time ago to choose the road to War. The immediate pretexts for the speed-up of their war preparations have been furnished by the February coup of the Stalinists in Czechoslovakia, the threat of an election victory for the Communist Party and its Socialist ally in Italy on April 18, and the dangerous strengthening of the Kremlin’s positions in Europe as a whole during recent months.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA’S CP ATTAINED complete domination of the government by a combination of drastic police measures ,and unleashed, but carefully controlled, mass action for new and more thoroughgoing nationalization proposals and agrarian reforms. Led by Premier Gottwald, the CP bureaucracy pressured the reluctant Social Democracy into a bloc with it. This coalition with the Socialists gave Gottwald a legal majority within the framework of bourgeois parliamentarism, which left the Czech capitalists politically helpless. Their spokesmen, headed by President Benes, capitulated after a short-lived, feeble resistance.

While retaining, but in greatly reduced measure, economic positions, the business interests of the country were left with nothing more than the merest shadow of authority in the stale. The “National Front” established at Kosice in 1945 by the Stalin-Benes pact, which served for almost three years as the major class-collaboration machinery, has become a hollow shell. All real power in it is now wielded by Stalinism. The strongest industrial bourgeoisie in Eastern Europe proved as fragile a support for Wall Street’s “cold” war against the Kremlin as the agrarian reactionaries in Poland, Bulgaria, Roumania or Hungary. This “bridge between West and East” collapsed like the thinnest of: plank-boards. Alarmed, Washington reacted to the coup in Czechoslovakia with the wildest anti-Soviet propaganda campaign to date.

THE HEAVY SHADOWS CAST OVER ITALY have aggravated its fears still more. In Czechoslovakia, from their key government posts, the Kremlin’s henchmen resorted to police measures supplemented by controlled mass actions.. In Italy on the other hand, Stalinism has been advancing in accord with the traditional rules of bourgeois democracy. Togliatti and Nenni, the CP-SP leaders, have been ousted from the government, while the police and army remain firmly in control of the Slate Department’s reliable Christian Democrat, Premier dc Gasperi. No “Action Committees” are as yet in evidence in Rome, as they were in Prague.

However, there is an electoral “Democratic Front of the People,” made up of Stalinists and Nenni Socialists, with a few individual bourgeois politicians for decoration. This bloc has been sweeping by-elections and seems headed for a substantial vote on April 18.

Thus the postwar structure built up by Wall Street’s statesmen in Western Europe is beginning to crumble before their eyes. All the heavy loans and grants to that part of the world appear to be indeed an “Operation Rathole.” Even the power of the Holy See seems to have been enlisted in vain. The Bishops’ instructions to the clergy ‘to deny absolution to professed Communists” meet with no greater effect than the US Attorney General’s declaration that “Italians who join the Communist Party never will be permitted to immigrate to the United States.” And Italy is an overwhelmingly Catholic country which for years has found an outlet for its “overpopulation” through our shores.

On top of warnings from the Marshall Planners that “there would be no further question of assistance” in case of a Stalinist victory, a diplomatic stroke of genius has been added. The much-disputed port of Trieste, “internationalized” under the terms of the Italian “peace” treaty, has been generously proffered as a colossal election bribe to the strong nationalistic sentiment. The US, Britain, and France have “appealed” to the USSR for treaty revision in respect to Trieste. This has immediately raised the following embarrassing questions: Why should not the regions of Tende and Brigue, seized by France, and the former Italian colonies in North Africa, seized by Britain under the same “peace” settlement, be likewise returned to Italy? Why Trieste alone, in which Stalin’s Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia has merely a toehold?

THIS BRAZEN INTERVENTION OF AMERICAN imperialism in the internal affairs of a foreign country has not been without effect. But even the most hopeful observers do not think it enough to turn the tide. The Times correspondent in Rome explain why:

“Many Italian workers,” he writes on March 14, “have no love for the Communists (Stalinists) but ... distrust all other parties which they regard as capitalist.”

The “Socialist” Party of Saragat, which is in the de Gasperi government, has lost out because of its collaboration with the capitalists, the writer points out. The workers, tired of capitalism, want a new socialist order. The peasants want land and the Stalinists have been lavish with promises to break up the big estates, some of which belong to high church dignitaries and the Vatican itself. Finally:

“The Communists have somehow succeeded in convincing the working classes that ‘Wall Street’ is determined to make war on Russia at all costs.”

This anti-capitalist sentiment is the powerful underlying current swirling through Europe. Neither loans and gifts to the capitalists of that continent, nor the concentration of US naval armadas in the .Mediterranean, shows of aviation power over industrial cities, and the promises of the Marshall Plan have succeeded in arresting it. The economic crisis has worsened, the profiteers have continued to thrive while the lot of the working people has steadily deteriorated. That is why the masses are so determined to destroy the system which for them has meant only starvation, insecurity and war.

The Kremlin and its lackeys turn this situation to their profit so long as independent mass revolutionary parties do not arise to challenge them. But this same ferment of rebellion strikes consternation in Moscow no less than in Washington. For, despite repeated betrayals, the scope of class struggle is becoming vaster and may pass beyond the Kremlin’s control.

STALIN’S FEAR OF THE MASSES IS ONLY tempered by his fear of the military might of American capitalism. He carefully restricts utilization of the revolutionary sentiments and aspirations of the workers and peasants in Western Europe within the channel of bourgeois democracy and its parliamentary structure. The consolidation of his strategic positions by this means is accompanied by constant feelers for another deal with Washington.

But Wall Street has rejected the Kremlin’s overtures. It is disturbed by the ease with which the Stalinists are able to use the machinery of bankrupt bourgeois democracy in one country after another. To preserve their system of privilege and oppression, the monopolists aim at nothing less than complete capitulation by the Kremlin and the complete crushing of the inherently revolutionary mass movements Stalinism exploits.

This is the essence of the fateful decision announced in Truman’s St. Patrick’s Day speech and driven home by the subsequent acts of Congress.

THE KIND OF TOTALITARIANISM THIS signifies for Europe has already been made clear by the backing given to de Gaulle and the Greek monarchy. It has been even more shamelessly underscored by the attempt of the House of Representatives, at the instigation of the Brass Hats, to include Franco Spain in the ERP (Marshall Plan) Bill as “a potential ally in any future war against the Soviet Union.” This was deferred only because the State Department feared that such a provision would “hurt our argument that the ERP was a bill to promote democracy and peace.” (N.Y. Times, March 31).

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 29, “Elder Statesman” Bernard Baruch set forth a program of outright totalitarianism for the United States itself. “All war has become total war,” he declared in demanding forced labor, wage freezing and an expanded American Gestapo. “Others will protest that the measures I have proposed depart from “free enterprise” and are methods of the police state.” The sole reassurance he offered to them was that the projected police state would be “temporary!”

Such is the policy and perspective of the US ruling class today. This is what the labor bureaucracy, in its support of the ERP and the war drive, commit themselves to. But this course runs contrary to the basic needs and aspirations of the American masses. The conservative printers as well as the militant miners, the burly packing house workers in Chicago and the stock exchange clerks in Wall Street itself are demonstrating by their strike action, their will and capacity to combat the capitalists on the economic field today. The widespread rejection of Truman within the CIO and the AFL is a sign that this struggle can soon be extended into the political arena.

THE TROTSKYISTS BASE THEMSELVES UPON the inevitable unfolding of this fighting spirit of the American workers. In the Theses on the American Revolution adopted by its 1946 convention, the Socialist Workers Party counterposed its revolutionary perspective and policy to the war plans of monopoly capitalism.

The impending economic paroxysms must, under the existing conditions, pass inexorably into the social and political crisis of American capitalism, posing in its course pointblank the question of who shall be the master in the land. In their mad drive to conquer and enslave the entire world the American monopolists are today preparing war against the Soviet Union. This war program, which may be brought to a head by a crisis or the fear of a crisis at home, will meet with incalculable obstacles and difficulties. A war will not solve the internal difficulties of American imperialism but will rather sharpen and complicate them. Such a war will meet with fierce resistance not only by the peoples of the USSR, but also by the European and colonial masses who do not want to be the slaves of Wall Street. At home the fiercest resistance will be generated. Wall Street’s war drive, aggravating the social crisis, may under certain condition actually precipitate it. In any case, another war will not cancel out the socialist alternative to capitalism but only pose it more sharply. The workers’ struggle for power in the US is not a perspective of a distant and hazy future but the realistic program of our epoch.

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