M. Turov

The Divide

(Winter 1961)

First published in International Socialism (1st series), No.7, Winter 1961, p.30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Between War and Peace. The Potsdam Conference
Herbert Feis
Oxford University Press. 36s.

This is an interesting book describing the diplomatic history of the end of the Second World War and the origins of the Cold War. It concentrates on the Potsdam Conference, the turning point from US-USSR collaboration against Germany to estrangement and conflict.

Feis gives a good description of the jockeying for positions in the act of imposing the unconditional surrender of Germany – the tussle over the question of how far the US army should advance into Austria and Czechoslovakia, the first steps in establishing Russian rule over Eastern Europe, the founding of a system of satellites, and of US rule over Western Europe to establish the US bridgehead.

He describes the conflict over the reparations payments by Germany, well-to-do US capitalism waiving her demands for any (except for the retention of German assets in the US), while Russia, suffering from under-production and general poverty, was bent on taking as much as she could, leading to the looting of East Germany.

Diplomatic juggling at the founding Conference of the UN at San Francisco as regards the powers and procedures of the Security Council is dealt with.

Also Stalin and Hopkins’ arrangement of the composition of the Polish Government without discussion with any Pole.

As regards China, Stalin’s statement to Hopkins is typical:

‘In regard to the Generalissimo (Chiang Kai-shek) ... he knew little of any Chinese leader, but he felt that Chiang Kai-shek was the best of the lot and would be the one to undertake the unification of China. He said he saw no other possible leader and that for example he did not believe that the Chinese Communist leaders were as good or would be able to bring about the unification of China.’ (p.112)

Stalin’s reaction to hearing from Truman that the US had an atomic bomb: all he said was that he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make ‘good use of it against the Japanese’. (p.177) This despite the fact that, as Stalin himself said, the Japanese had already some three months earlier put forward peace feelers. (pp.114-5) All these and many other interesting incidents from the political horse-trading at the summit are recorded by Feis. As his values are those of capitalist power politics, the record is stated in a direct fashion, without adornment and hence with great punch.

Last updated on 25 February 2010