From Fourth International, April 1947, Vol.8 No.4, pp.99-103.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
President Truman’s speech to Congress on March 12 marks a new stage in the preparations of the American imperialists for world War III. The decisive section of the US capitalist class are evidently resolved to be deterred by nothing in order to install themselves once and for all as the unchallenged rulers of the terrestrial globe, and, in the first instance, of Europe. The full implications and meaning of this new stage can be understood best in the light of preceding events.
The interval since the termination of hostilities two years ago may be divided into four distinct phases.
First came the phase of “amicable” collaboration between Washington, London and Moscow. It was a direct continuation of their wartime collaboration. The “unity” of the Big Three reached its culmination with the secret agreement of Potsdam in July-August 1945. The wartime “allies” vied with one another in assuring the peoples of the world that their alliance would endure indefinitely; that with the crushing of Germany and Japan, mankind had at last passed the threshold to lasting peace and prosperity; and that, in any case, the United Nations Organization would guarantee the establishment of “one world,” forever abolishing war.
The Kremlin and all its foreign agencies shouted the loudest. On September 2, 1945 Stalin solemnly proclaimed:
“Now we can say that the conditions necessary for the peace of the world have already been won ... The long-awaited peace for the nations of the whole world has come.”
Only one dissenting voice was then heard amid the din of deception and falsehood; it was the voice of Trotskyism. We alone warned that there was and there could be no peace under capitalism. The projected United Nations Organization was even more fraudulent and reactionary than the moribund League of Nations, and would prove even more impotent, we said. The danger of another global war could be averted only by the socialist revolution. We explained that the threat of atomic destruction was not a relatively dim prospect but a fearsome reality.
Events corroborated our analysis and predictions far more swiftly than anyone could have anticipated. The period of harmonious collaboration of the “Big Three” quickly began to turn into its opposite. The second phase began in September 1945, the very month in which Stalin saluted a world-era of peace. No sooner did the diplomatic conferences begin – in Paris, in London, in Moscow, etc. etc. – than the “allies” found themselves deadlocked. Washington and London reneged on their secret wartime commitments and pressed to scrap the Potsdam pact which left Eastern Europe under Stalinist domination; the Kremlin flatly refused to comply.
Deadlocks gave way to temporary “agreements” which left the major issue unresolved and which led only to sharper diplomatic clashes. This second phase was in reality a diplomatic armed truce. The Anglo-American imperialists refrained from an open rift with the Kremlin, because they still urgently required its services. The first post-war revolutionary wave that swept over Europe had not yet subsided. In virtually every country in Europe it was necessary to restore the capitalist state machinery, especially its police and military branches, from the ground up. It was still necessary to destroy the organs of dual power set up by the masses, and to disarm the workers. Without the aid of the Stalinist parties in Western Europe and of the Red Army and the GPU in Eastern Europe, this could hardly have been accomplished. The Stalinists everywhere lined up unconditionally on the side of the counter-revolution.
Furthermore, all the victorious belligerents were confronted with the critical period of demobilizing their armed forces and reconverting home economy to a “peacetime” basis.
When this was achieved and when Washington and London became convinced that the first revolutionary wave had been beaten back, more quickly and successfully than they expected, they began moving toward a showdown with the Kremlin. Their purpose at that time was not so much to invite a head-on collision as to prepare public opinion, especially in the United States and England, for war against the USSR.
The diplomatic armed truce, in the course of which the Kremlin diplomats spoke and acted so self-confidently, and almost truculently, was superseded by a third phase, which may be characterized as a diplomatic “war of nerves.” The curtain was rung up by Winston Churchill on March 5, 1946 when he delivered his famous Fulton, Mo. speech. It coincided with the formal launching in the United States of the UN. In his speech Churchill brought out into the open the conflict that had been developed behind the scenes during the secret diplomatic conferences.
Churchill called for the “grand pacification of Europe.” The first necessary condition for this was the destruction of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, or the lifting of the “iron curtain,” as he grandiloquently put it. His proposals boiled down to two: first, an Anglo-American military alliance, i.e., joint policing of Europe, and secondly, the Consolidation around this axis of an anti-Soviet bloc for the eventual onslaught against the USSR itself. Truman demonstratively sat on the platform. This was a flat notice that the Kremlin’s services were no longer required, or at all events, they were not worth the asking price.
Faced with this brutal challenge, the Kremlin kept a stunned silence for almost a week. It was not until March 11, 1946 that Pravda summoned up enough courage to denounce Churchill as a warmonger and to correctly point out that “All you need to complete the picture is a frank formula for a ‘cordon sanitaire’ against the USSR.” This omission was to be rectified by Washington itself almost exactly one year later.
Pravda’s comment followed the lines of Stalin’s own first and bold declaration at the time. However, the Kremlin and all its foreign branches pretended that Churchill really spoke for no one but himself, or at most, for small reactionary groups in England and America. While the American and world capitalist press was busy preparing public opinion for the next phase of war developments, the Daily Worker continued to beat the drums for “unity of the Big Three.” A few weeks after his bold denunciation of Churchill, Stalin summed up the situation, March 22, 1946, in the following timid words:
“I am convinced that neither the nations nor their armies are striving for a new war.” He then added for good measure that the UN was an additional safeguard, “a valuable instrument of preservation of peace and international security.” By spreading illusions of this kind the policy of Stalinism invariably plays into the hands of the capitalists, whether “friendly” or hostile.
Now, with Truman’s March 12 speech. the fourth phase begins. The diplomatic “war of nerves’; and the first period of preparing the American people for war is being replaced by brazen moves to consolidate strategic positions, to mobilize the forces in Europe, and to intensify the war propaganda.
Truman’s speech dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the “t’s” in Churchill’s speech of a year ago. The Anglo-American military alliance had already been established de facto through the so-called standardization of arms agreement. Europe would be policed jointly by England and the US Wherever England moves out, the US moves in. (England’s “evacuations” in Greece or anywhere else, should not be taken too literally. It is promised that by August English troops will withdraw, but “British military training and supply missions, on the other hand, will not be withdrawn” from Greece. (New York Times, March 17) They will function side by side with American “military training and supply missions.”)
But Truman went beyond Churchill. To be sure, he did not use the formula “cordon sanitaire” preferring instead Roosevelt’s formula of “quarantine the aggressor.” Which means exactly the same thing. Furthermore, Truman did not wait four years to implement it as did Roosevelt. Instead Truman immediately proclaimed the policy of lend-lease to any and all governments that line up with Wall Street; and in addition, he moved to consolidate the first bastions in the new “cordon sanitaire” – Greece and Turkey.
By moving into these countries, Washington will immediately flank not alone the Soviet Union but also its Balkan buffer zone. The American Navy will keep the Soviet Union bottled up in the Black Sea. The winged formula of Admiral “Bull” Halsey to the effect that the American Navy goes where it “damn pleases,” has been supplemented to read it will stay there as long as it “damn pleases,” too.
Several weeks have elapsed since the proclamation of this policy, but not a single prominent Moscow spokesman has yet uttered a sound. The official Russian press whimpers that peace is being threatened, that the UN has been by-passed, and so on. The Daily Worker hides behind the redoubtable Henry Wallace. But neither the Kremlin (nor Foster-Dennis) have dared even to demand that the issue be raised in the UN, this “valuable instrument of peace,” as Stalin called it only a year ago. And when on March 28, Warren R. Austin, presented some face-saving phrases on this subject in the name of Washington, Soviet delegate Gromyko took the floor merely to mumble that this was a “new issue” and therefore he needed time to study it. He awaits orders from the Kremlin which itself does not yet know what to do or what to say. Wall Street’s decision to force a showdown has apparently come as the greatest shock precisely to the Kremlin, which had advance knowledge of it, but kept hoping against hope that it would turn out just another “bluff.”
To be sure, war will not come overnight. No one knows and no one can tell just when and where the shooting war will start. But whereas, prior to the actual hostilities before World War II the exact alignment of the belligerent camps remained in doubt (leaving the Kremlin ample room for sudden maneuvers and shifts), this time the main protagonists are clearly delineated in advance (leaving room only for retreats). But most important of all is that events will henceforth unfold not under the sign of peace but of war. The Truman doctrine expressing the war plans of US imperialism becomes the dominant factor in world politics, unless the proletarian revolution intervenes.
Austin’s belated declaration to the UN security Council to the effect that the new US foreign policy is “emergency and temporary” is a hypocritical subterfuge that fools nobody. Neither Washington nor the capitalist press has bothered to conceal that Truman’s March 12 speech marked a sharp and lasting turn in foreign policy. On the same day that Truman spoke, the New York Times, mouthpiece of the dominant section of the American monopolists, declared that Truman “will ring down the curtain on one epoch in America’s foreign policy and begin a new chapter.” This candid statement has one meaning and one only. It means that the ruling circles in this country have committed themselves to a course from which they will not be diverted of their own volition.
When it comes to the real content of this “new chapter” in US, foreign policy, frankness ceases, of course, and the maximum of deception begins. The propaganda now emanating from Washington and filling the columns of the press and the airwave channels harps on a single note. As the Times editors put it, “the new policy is designed not to ‘declare war’ but to prevent it.” The cloak of “peace” has served all the war-makers – even Hitler. Peace was never yet maintained by shipments of War equipment and maintenance of military missions. These assurances are needed to throw sand in the eyes of the American people and to dragoon them all the more easily into another war.
To judge just what these assurances are worth, suffice it to recall that the co-author of the new foreign policy is none other than General of the Army Marshall, incumbent Secretary of State. This five-star General drafted all the US plans for World War II and participated in all the important “Allied” conferences. As Secretary of State he is in charge of implementing this new policy in action. Like all military specialists, he firmly believes in the inevitability of war. Marshall has not kept this conviction to himself. Before retiring from his post as Chief of Staff, he presented the Biennial Report to the Secretary of War. This document written in October 1945 is the timeliest of timely commentaries on Washington’s real plans. It is nothing less than a blueprint of US military preparations for the next world war. In it Marshall contemptuously dismisses the prospect of peace in the following unmistakable terms:
If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record ever known.
Marshall is in a better position than anybody else to know that the next global war must begin where the previous one ended – with radio-guided supersonic planes, long-range rockets, bacteriological missiles, radio-active gasses. If the military mind never excludes war no matter how slight might be the chances of civilization and mankind itself to survive it, it is precisely because the one thing that is excluded is – peace. The new and cataclysmic means of destruction signify to the military mind that decisions must be reached under a new set of conditions, that military operations and plans must be adjusted accordingly, and nothing more. Any other course would constitute “the most revolutionary reversal.”
Even a cursory reading of the text of Truman’s March 12 speech shows that it is the chemically-pure product of this school of thought. Shorn of its diplomatic equivocations, the Truman-Marshall doctrine speaks the language of unbridled militarism. There is a deadly parallel between this doctrine and the doctrines of all militarists in modern times. It reproduces point for point the kind of foreign policy practiced not so long ago by Japanese statesmen. From their lips, too, came cool justifications of every act of intervention on the ground that it represented a positive step toward the “maintenance of peace and order” in their Asiatic “co-prosperity sphere.”
Let us recall the classic, if not subtle, explanations of Baron Hiranuma. As the then prime minister of Japan, he presented Tokyo’s intervention in Manchuria as proof of “the desire of our nation to maintain peace and stability in the Far East.” Wherein does this differ from the Truman-Marshall explanations for US intervention in Greece and Turkey? The difference is that the Japanese spokesman was more modest. To get the gist of Truman-Marshall’s explanations, one must add Europe (and the rest of the world) to the Far East specified by Baron Hiranuma.
Militarists, whether ensconced in Washington or Tokyo, know no other language, and they even express themselves in the same words.
The end-result of Japan’s foreign policy is quite well-known. But it might perhaps be forgotten that it was the Japanese militarists who by moving into Manchuria started the series of undeclared wars (Mussolini’s move into Ethiopia and Albania, the Rome-Berlin intervention in Spain, etc.) which ultimately led to the outbreak of World War II. Is then another series of undeclared wars in the offing? The Truman-Marshall doctrine guarantees it on a world scale. This is not a matter of speculation but of fact. The American militarists will at once take their place alongside of England in waging the undeclared war against the Greek people. By moving into Turkey, they announce in advance their intention to wage war against the Turkish people for the sake of maintaining the despotic regime of Inonu. Similar “aid” is projected for the reactionary puppets in Korea. And all this, as Truman affirmed, is only the beginning.
In view of these facts, it cannot be repeated too often: Henceforth events will unfold under the sign of war. Failing the intervention of the Socialist revolution, the Truman-Marshall doctrine is henceforth the dominant factor in world politics.
The Truman-Marshall doctrine divests American imperialism of its former disguises and lays bare its authentic bestial fangs before the whole world. For many decades Wall Street’s foreign policy assumed a defensive, “idealistic,” almost philanthropic mask. These latter-day Tartuffes strove to avoid any public appearance of aggression.
Under Roosevelt, US diplomacy actually conspired to force ‘the imperialist rivals, in particular Japan, to strike the first blow, gladly, paying the price of Pearl Harbor for it. So traditional has this hypocrisy become that nine days before Truman was to publicly discard the mask of “non-aggression,” he made a speech in Mexico City, swearing to remain “faithful to the letter and the spirit” of the policy of non-intervention which he then went on to define as “part of the basic international law recognized by all American republics.” (New York Times, March 4)
The old policy sufficed so long as the century-old balance of power created by Great Britain remained more or less unaltered on the world arena. Under the former conditions there was no need for Washington to assume the initiative militarily. It could bide its time before throwing at the last moment into the scales the full weight of its industrial and financial superiority. Now that the world has become polarized into two huge power blocs, with the US in unchallenged command of the imperialist bloc opposing the Soviet Union and its satellites, such a policy is no longer realistic. From the standpoint of American imperialism it has nothing to gain and everything to lose unless it presses forward aggressively in all spheres, political, economic and military alike. Precisely because the new policy represents a sharp tactical break with the past, it must be advanced, as it is and will be, in the most resolute way both at home and abroad.
One of the first tasks of the American imperialists is therefore to blot out illusions which they themselves have so elaborately created. One is that they are in any way committed not to intervene permanently in European affairs; another is that they are irrevocably pledged to the peaceable establishment of a “world community.” These were among chief foreign policy planks of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the forgotten Willkie and the rudely discarded Wallace.
The only ones who remain committed to this junked policy are the impotent liberals. Their views are excellently summarized by Dr. Arnold Wolfers, former Director of the Institute of International Studies, at Yale University. This scholar wrote just the other day:
The realistic and the idealistic lines of American foreign policy merge in a passionate desire to prevent the breaking up of the world into two hostile blocs. The idealistic current should not be underestimated or disposed of as sheer hypocrisy. No American Government would at this time dare present its people with a policy exclusively designed to match or to check Russian power. That would appear as a counsel of sheer despair and defeatism. It would be interpreted to mean that the American people were asked to bury their dream of a better and more peaceful world, to resign themselves to another round of power politics and a third world war. The emphasis will continue to be on the United Nations. (International Affairs, No.1, January 1947, pp.25-26. Our emphasis)
The Truman government has done precisely what the learned Doctor and all the American liberals were so certain “no American government would dare” do. Events have shattered another of their happy dreams. Today they utter cries of sorrow and despair which are destined to be replaced with patriotic cheers in the future. So far as the decisive section of the American ruling class is concerned, however, they have definitely committed themselves to the policy of dividing the world into two irreconcilably hostile camps. This is the necessary condition for isolating and later destroying the USSR. The laws of the class struggle, which Stalin was sure he could forever cheat, have broken out into the open and imperiously asserted themselves. The irreconcilable antagonism between the Soviet Union and its nationalized property forms on the one hand and the capitalist encirclement on the other is taking shape in the form of a mailed fist planted beneath Stalin’s nose.
In drawing the dividing lines, Wall Street will tolerate no neutrals. Whoever fails to line up with them, will be treated as a present or prospective foe. Nor will they hesitate, at a propitious moment, to discard the UN, or more accurately, to unceremoniously kick out the Kremlin and any of its remaining supporters. Truman will undoubtedly find a convenient parallel in the expulsion of the Kremlin from the League of Nations before the outbreak of the last war.
Truman’s by-passing of the United Nations was not a careless oversight but a thinly veiled warning to all governments, including UN members, that now they had to choose between tagging along with US imperialism or passing into limbo.
By ignoring the UN, Truman dealt its prestige an irreparable blow. By failing itself to raise the issue, that is, by ignoring itself, the UN has expressed its anxiety to remain subservient to Wall Street. By ducking the issue in the UN, the Kremlin served advance notice that it will continue desperately to cling to this flimsy reed, just as it did to the League of Nations.
The immediate cause for the proclamation of the new foreign policy was the Moscow Conference, to which it was carefully synchronized in order to bring maximum pressure on the Kremlin. But Wall Street’s most authoritative spokesmen look far beyond concessions in Eastern Europe. They aim at opening the territories of the Soviet Union itself to capitalist penetration. That is why they are so warlike in their talk. The newspapers even more so than Truman. On the day after his speech, the N.Y. Times’ editors compared it with Roosevelt’s 1937 “quarantine the aggressor” speech and then went on to characterize today’s circumstances as being “analogous to 1937.” Correspondent Louis Fischer, who has access to reliable information, quotes a prominent American diplomat as estimating that today “is the 1931 or perhaps even the 1935 of the World War III. Greece is Manchuria. Turkey conceivably is Abyssinia.” (The Progressive, March 24) These are highly important symptoms of the mood now reigning among American ruling circles. It is an indication of how determined they are to press for a solution as swiftly as possible.
The Soviet Union is not the only target of the Truman-Marshall doctrine. Economic and military intervention in Greece and Turkey signifies that US imperialists intend to remain permanently in Europe and to intervene politically whenever and wherever they choose on the old continent. In addition to altering rapidly and drastically the relation of forces on the European arena, where up till now the Kremlin has been the dominant military power, they will also serve as the pole of attraction for and as the mobilizing center of all reaction. On the Asiatic mainland and in the Far East they propose to play exactly the same role. What the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis failed to achieve, the consolidation of a solid reactionary bloc in Western Europe and in Asia, lies within the grasp of Wall Street.
The real obstacle in the way is not the Kremlin – it only facilitates the moves of Anglo-American brigands – but the insurgent masses of Europe and of Asia. In his speech Truman made no mention of them, let alone the masses of Latin America, any more than he made direct reference to the Soviet Union. But it goes without saying that they are not omitted from the calculations of the master strategists of the American bourgeoisie.
Their task is to “organize” not only Europe but the whole world, that is, to set up everywhere a system of vassal capitalist states on the basis of rigidly allotted American rations. As the Kremlin moves out, Wall Street proposes to move in, either directly or through puppet regimes.
This “grand pacification” of Europe and the whole world requires stable and strong governments. Even with the aid of the most powerful microscope it would be difficult to locate any strong and stable political regimes in Europe today. These cannot and will not be achieved on a “democratic” basis.
The situation in the colonial countries, especially in the Far East, is even more critical. Here despite the unremitting services of the Kremlin, it proved impossible for the imperialists to dam up the first post-war revolutionary upsurge of the oppressed colonial people.
The Indonesian and Indo-Chinese peoples misled and betrayed as they have been, continue to deal paralyzing blows not alone to their Dutch and French overlords but to the entire system of world imperialism. The civil war in China still rages. India is on the verge of explosion.
With all their capitalist rivals lying prostrate, the US imperialists are still unable to pluck the prize of prizes, the colonial East. This is an intolerable state of affairs.
It is impossible to “pacify” the Orient so long as the situation in Europe remains unresolved. Intervention in the Near East paves the way for successful intervention in the Far East.
Worst yet, in their own backyard, in Latin America, the insurrectionary fires are flaming. The aroused colonial peoples must be crushed, but it is impossible to really deal with them until the European masses are completely subjugated.
For this task, the Stalinist parties are not only an aid but also a hindrance, especially in those countries where either the majority or a large section of the working class has rallied to their banner.
The first post-war revolutionary wave was dammed up and channelized in Europe thanks above all to the counter-revolutionary aid of the Kremlin and its respective national sections that still masquerade as “communist” parties. But while the masses in Europe have been held in check, nowhere have they been decisively defeated, not even in Greece, where one civil war was already fought and lost owing to the Stalinist treachery and where a second is now in progress.
Stalinism has spurned the masses for deals with the imperialists and now finds itself driven to maneuver with the masses, or lose its only remaining field for maneuvers. This is rendered all the more compulsory by the fact that if they disregard the masses, the movement may at any time pass over their heads completely. All this tends to undermine political stability.
Politically, European capitalism cannot be stabilized except by the rule of blood and iron. But no European power is today in opposition to the Stalinist parties. Wall Street is moving into Greece and Turkey because, once it succeeds in bolstering up the tottering dictatorial regimes there, reaction throughout Europe will have more stable props and will receive the required assistance far more systematically than has been the case up till now. Let there be no illusions on this score. Once they are assured the backing of American capitalism, the various European bourgeoisie will be emboldened to organize and unleash an offensive against the working masses that will surpass in savagery the offensive under Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany.
But until at least the first bulwarks of reaction are firmly fortified on the continent, the European bourgeoisie must proceed with caution. They cannot rule without the aid of the Stalinists. On the other hand they still recall very vividly that both in Western Europe and in the Orient, the most severe revolutionary shocks consequent upon the First World War came not immediately after its termination but several years later (in 1923 Germany was in the throes of revolution in 1926 England was gripped by the General Strike, in 1925-27 the Chinese Revolution erupted, in 1931 the Spanish revolution began, and so on). What will happen in Europe when it is engulfed by the second revolutionary wave? The French, the Italian, the Belgian and other European bourgeoisie must continue to maneuver with the masses in general and the Stalinists in particular until and unless the American bourgeoisie proves to them that it is able to cope with the situation, that it can forestall the coming revolutionary wave, or, failing this, drown it in blood. In this sense, the Truman-Marshall doctrine will prove the most potent immediate factor for sharpening the class struggle throughout the world.
Finally, to achieve the goal set forth by their new foreign policy, Wall Street must completely subjugate the American working class and the American people as a whole. This is the meaning of the unprecedented wave of reaction, the anti-labor drive, the red-baiting campaign, the moves to suppress elementary civil liberties under the guise of outlawing the Stalinists, and so on. This unbridled reaction at home is a component part of the Truman-Marshall doctrine which sets forth Wall Street’s plans for world conquest.
US imperialism is thus heading for war on three fronts: against the Soviet Union, against the insurrectionary peoples of the world and against the giant working class at home. But with all their colossal resources and power, these power-drunk warmongers are far from omnipotent. They are plunging ahead under the most unstable political and economic conditions at home and internationally history has ever known.
They confront insuperable economic difficulties. Two years of “peace” and reconstruction booms find the crisis gripping not only the economy of strongest capitalism in Europe, Great Britain, but also most of the other countries as well. In England, in France, in Italy and elsewhere the living conditions of the masses have dropped below the levels maintained even in wartime.
Nor is all well at home. The storm signals presaging another economic debacle are multiplying so fast that alarmed Washington and the most conservative business men are asking themselves not whether there will be a crisis, but how soon it will erupt and how long it will last.
In the final analysis it is this critical economic condition of decaying capitalism that has dictated the Truman-Marshall doctrine, just as it previously led to the two world wars.
The unfolding economic crisis will spur the masses at home, in Europe, in Asia, throughout the world to ever fiercer resistance to the attempts by American capitalism to saddle them with all the burdens of decaying capitalism.
The American imperialists believe that the time has come for them to “organize the world.” They proudly boast that this is “the American Century.” But they will no more successfully consummate their Truman-Marshall doctrine than the German imperialists were able to achieve the far more modest task of “organizing Europe,” or than the Japanese imperialists were capable of reorganizing Asia.” These atom bomb statesmen are capable only of blowing up the world, or being blown up by the proletarian revolution.
Instead of conquering the world, they will detonate revolutionary explosions at home and in the world. In these coming battles against Wall Street’s dictatorship the American working class shoulder to shoulder with their international brothers will forge the alliance with the colonial peoples. This century will see the burial of capitalism and the birth of the world Socialist community.
This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Last updated on 13.2.2009