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Fourth International, February 1946


Review of the Month

The Big Three in Moscow


From Fourth International, February 1946, Vol.7 No.2, pp.38-41.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The “Big Three” conference in Moscow (December 16-26, 1945) marks another highly symptomatic phase in the unfolding of a crisis which erupted on the world arena with the cessation of military hostilities. The deadlock of the London “Five Power” Conference (September 1945) has been followed – by what? By another nefarious product of power politics and secret diplomacy. The change in faces – Byrnes in place of Hall, Bevin in place of Eden – has altered neither robbers’ policies nor methods. Perhaps the most notable difference lies in formal procedure. The cynical ballyhoo consequent upon each of the previous similar conclaves has this time been dispensed with.

Moscow, London and Washington perfunctorily “hailed” the breaking of the September deadlock and then the spokesmen and mouthpieces of both sides got busy explaining that the latest “agreement” did not amount to very much in reality. Thus the New York Times, authoritative organ of American Big Business, warned on July 7:

The world has learned that Big Three communiques never solve as much as they seem to, so optimism over the results was tinged with considerable caution.

The American Stalinists have hitherto never failed to find cause for jubilation over a “Big Three” communique. They cheered this time too, but not for long. The Daily Worker ran a special series of articles, the keynote of which is that the conference merely “temporarily abates a crisis,” and achieves “only momentary stabilization on very limited but useful grounds.” (Daily Worker January 2.)

Even the inveterate and professional optimists who serve the imperialists in the liberal press found themselves incapable of any enthusiasm beyond a “substantial reason for a rebirth of hope.” (The New Republic, January 7.)

That mankind needs hope, including reborn hope, is true enough. But much more is needed, in particular – a guarantee against the unleashing of another world war.

The wartime communiques of the “Big Three” almost invariably contained promises of lasting peace. What price peace in the light of the September deadlock and the December agreement?

Ernist Bevin

The seeds of the Third World War are being planted. The dire threat is almost universally acknowledged. The war makers who used to rattle swords are now rattling atomic bombs. Society is today confronted with the problem of atomic warfare. Secret plans in America continue to operate on a 24-hour basis. Nobody knows just how many hundreds of atomic bombs are already in storage. But we do know that their destructive power has been vastly increased. According to Professor Harold Urey, one of the scientists engaged in atomic bomb research, the fissure bombs now in production are several hundred times more powerful than the two dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with more powerful ones in the offing.

In his speech on the Twenty-eighth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Molotov made it a point of boasting that “we will have atom energy and many other things.” Almost in the same breath he stated:

Not for a moment may we forget our great obligation to insure the needs of the defense of our country and the needs of the Red Army and Fleet.

Following the First World War there was a wave of pacifism and even measures for “disarmament” were undertaken. We hear altogether different talk today. It is an open secret that a new world armament race is in progress. The Stalinists acknowledge it directly:

In actual fact, there is taking place a race of other countries to develop atomic energy and also atomic armaments. (Daily Worker , January 5.)

The U.S. is flaunting its plans of maintaining a huge military establishment. This can have only one purpose – preparation for war. War against whom? The major opponent of U.S. imperialism today is its “ally” in the Kremlin. These preparations are at the same time preparations against the USSR. Yet the Kremlin persists in sowing illusions that peace can be achieved and “international control” of atomic energy established in collaboration with American and English imperialists.

Stalin’s Diplomatic Horse-Trading

The world was cynically informed that one of the main purposes of the Moscow conference was to dispose of the atomic bomb, by regulating and even “outlawing” its use. The text of the communique continues this shameless fraud.

A major share of responsibility for the outbreak of World War II falls upon Stalin. Today he is providing a cover for the “democratic” imperialist warmakers and their preparations for the next world holocaust. What did Stalin receive in return for his services? He consummated a diplomatic horse-trade.

The main reason for the deadlock in London last September was Washington’s attempt to scrap the previous secret agreement which handed over Eastern Europe and the Balkans to Moscow. It was a squabble between two sets of bandits, one of whom sought to muscle in on the terms of the Crimea thieves’ bargain. The Kremlin refused to yield. Subsequently Washington decided to modify its stand.

On the eve of the formal sessions in Moscow, recognition was extended by Washington and London to the Stalinist dominated regimes in Yugoslavia and Hungary. In the course of the Moscow negotiations similar recognition was extended to the regimes in Bulgaria and Rumania. Bevin and Byrnes were the recipients of a few face-saving phrases concerning “democratic” additions to the incumbent cabinets and the holding of “democratic” elections.

Agreement was likewise reached on procedure in drafting the peace treaties for Italy, Finland, Bulgaria, Rumania. It is not hard to add up Stalin’s gains. London and Washington have reaffirmed, pending further developments, the recognition of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence in the Balkans.

And what did Stalin have to pay in return? Under the pressure of American imperialism he had to beat a retreat all along the line in the Far East.

With the downfall of Japan the old relationship of forces in the Pacific blew up. In order to pre-empt the vacuum thus created, the Kremlin hastened to move in. But so did the American colossus, moving much more swiftly and with vaster power. Wall Street is firmly ensconced in Japan. It holds and intends to keep the innumerable islands in the Pacific. In brief, the strategic outposts to the Asiatic mainland are in its hands. The might of American imperialism is now lodged not across the ocean but on the eastern approaches to the USSR.

The Kremlin which yesterday was in mortal dread of a cordon sanitaire, or the formation of a “Western bloc” in Europe, is now faced with a very palpable threat of a cordon sanitaire in the Far East. The Moscow press and its foreign agencies have been in the recent days talking more and more of plans to set up a bloc comprising Japan, Korea and China. The US. alone could be the driving force behind such a combination.

Moscow’s moves in an attempt to cope with this threat reveal quite clearly both the counter-revolutionary character of Stalinism as well as the extremely restricted field which now remains for Stalinist maneuvers.

Through its domination of Eastern Europe and the Balkans the Kremlin has succeeded in erecting in Europe a sort of buffer against capitalist encirclement, the effectiveness and value of which even on purely strategic grounds, is highly dubious in the light of recent technological developments. In search of a symmetrical supplement in the Far East, Stalin began by demanding “united control” of Japan, i.e., the same set-up as exists in Germany. To all intents and purposes, this demand has now been reduced to a mere formality. The creation of the Far Eastern advisory commission is simply window dressing for the continued and unchallenged military rule of Japan by the United States. At beat, all that Stalin has obtained is an observer able to watch American manipulations on the scene. In his radio address, following the Moscow conference, Secretary of State Byrnes minced no words on this score:

Under the agreement establishing the commission no basic Allied policy for Japan may be adopted without our concurrence. (New York Times, December 31, 1945.)

All the talking will be done in the commission, all the decisions and actions rest, as before, with MacArthur.

In the case of Korea, by its eleventh-hour entry into the war against Japan and by previous secret agreement, the Kremlin grabbed the northern part of the country. The American occupation troops hold the south. Korea had previously been promised her independence by England and the United States. By the terms of the Moscow agreement, this independence has been indefinitely postponed. For the time being, a five-year “trusteeship” has been established. In place of the Japanese despots, the Korean people have acquired two sets of masters, the Russians in the north, the Americans in the south. On January 7 the New York Times reported:

Koreans in US zone greeted the trusteeship with mass strikes and attacks on American soldiers.

Similar demonstrations have been reported in the Stalinist held zone.

Soviet Policy Under Lenin And Trotsky

Under Lenin and Trotsky the Soviet Union gained great prestige among the colonial peoples by voluntarily surrendering the Czarist share of the imperialist pillage of China and by demonstrating in many other ways that the young workers’ state was the staunchest ally of all oppressed peoples in their struggle for independence.

The Kremlin pursues a diametrically opposite course. Stalin does not hesitate to become a “co-trustee,” supplying a cover for one of the most cynical forms of imperialist colonial rule. Far from renouncing the Czarist past, under Stalin it is being advanced to justify the Kremlin’s territorial demands and seizures. For example, Molotov in the speech which has already been cited, reasserted the Russian “rights” to Port Arthur, Darien and the Manchuria railways. He said:

It remains to re-establish the rights of our state over railroads of Manchuria and also to re-establish our rights in the area of Port Arthur and Darien in the southern part of Manchuria.

The “rights” listed by Molotov, and originally enjoyed by Czarist Russia prior to its defeat by Japan in 1905,were “re-established” last August when Stalin signed a special treaty with Chiang Kai-shek. At the height of the civil war in China this treaty was made public. In it the Kremlin pledged that all Soviet moral and material aid would be given exclusively to “the National Government as the Central Government of China.” That is to say, at the crucial moment Stalin betrayed the Yenan movement which had invariably taken all its policies from Moscow and which unquestioningly accepted the latter’s leadership.


The latest Moscow agreement is another step in the betrayal of the Chinese masses. The policy of American imperialism calls for the stabilization of the reactionary regime of Chiang Kai-shek. The Kremlin has reiterated its willingness to serve as one of Chiang’s props. It requires no prophetic insight to determine that among the final results of Wall Street’s policy is the eventual extirpation of the Stalinist-dominated Yenan regime. In the few weeks since the Moscow conference, a step in this direction has been taken by the imposition of the “truce” by command of General Marshall. Upon the publication of the “truce” news, the New York Times gleefully announced in its January 11 editorial that the first point next on the agenda involved the fate of the Yenan armies which “will have to go before unity and peace can be assured.”

At the same time, all these betrayals deal irreparable blows to the prestige of the Soviet Union among the colonial peoples especially in the eyes of the Chinese masses. Supplementing these vile actions of the Kremlin is ita studied silence in connection with the heroic struggles of the Indo-Chinese and Indonesians. By his very policies, Stalin is rendering the best possible services to the consolidation of the Far East anti-Soviet bloc.

Counter-revolutionary Stalinism can follow no other course. The strongest cement that still binds Moscow and the “democratic” imperialists is their mutual fear of revolutionary explosions in the colonies and the metropolitan centers alike.

Why, then, the existing tenseness? Is it perhaps a “war of nerves” to force further retreats and concessions from the Kremlin? Not entirely. The answer to the unfolding crisis lies m such key issues as those deliberately evaded by the conferees, namely: Turkey, Iran, and above all, Germany. What all these issues essentially involve is the paramount problem of liquidating the Second World War. This, in turn, involves the economic reconstruction of the war-shattered world, Europe as a whole and the USSR in particular. Failing this, it is impossible to achieve any genuine stabilization, let alone a durable peace. But the whole question is: On what basis is this reconstruction to be achieved?

Stalin Agrees To Capitalist Restoration

Wall Street’s program for reconstructing Europe is plain enough: It seeks the reduction of the entire continent to a semi-colonial status, placed on strict American rations, and resting, of course, on a capitalist basis. So far as capitalist restoration of Europe is concerned, the Kremlin from the outset gave its agreement. The Stalinists have been for a long time the champions of the fraudulent “theory” that the social system represented by the USSR not only can exist peacefully alongside of capitalism but also that harmonious collaboration between the two can be realized in life. This orientation has provided the basis for the “realistic” policies of Stalinism, i.e. the betrayal of the program of Bolshevism.

The Kremlin did more than simply agree to the capitalist restoration of Europe. It also worked with might and main to bring it about. Everywhere they propped up capitalist regimes and did everything in their power, including the use of the Red Army, to suppress the insurgent masses. There is no ground to charge the Kremlin with duplicity in this connection. The Kremlin apparently, sincerely tried to live up to its agreements to prop up capitalism in Eastern Europe. But what happened?

One of the first actions of the Kremlin was to engage in a campaign of pillage, dismantling factories, carting off machinery, locomotives, rolling stock, cattle, grain, etc., from the occupied areas. This on top of the devastation caused by the war not only undermined the capitalist basis but threw these countries into complete chaos.

The capitalist foundations in Eastern Europe are further undermined by the policy of nationalization of industry, under Kremlin guidance. (We will discuss the problem of nationalization in detail in an early issue of the magazine.)

On January 7, the Wall Street Journal carried an Associated Press dispatch from Moscow, which we quote below in part:

The Polish government formally nationalized all the basic industries when the National Council of the Homeland, the country’s parliament, ratified a decree giving government control over every industry employing more than 50 persons per shift. Among the enterprises affected were communication systems, banks, mines, factories and public utilities.

Polish industry, like that of Eastern Europe as a whole and in the Balkans, was largely owned by foreign capital. Before the war 50 to 80 per cent of most Polish industries were foreign owned. American investments alone are in the neighborhood of 1 billion dollars. The Polish government promises to compensate “citizensof allied nations who have holdings in nationalized industries ... with cash or bonds.” Meanwhile, Poland remains virtually closed as an arena for the export of finance capital, whether from Wall Street or elsewhere.

Race For Economic Spheres Of Influence

But separate and apart from the question of nationalization there is another obstacle to genuine collaboration in propping up European capitalism. The Kremlin has converted its sphere of influence into a private, exclusive preserve and in monopolistic fashion has shut out half of Europe from the imperialists. Within its sphere of influence it imposes the most arbitrary conditions. For example, through the medium of trade agreements, Polish textile mills are to be supplied with Soviet cotton and other materials in return for which Moscowis to receive a major part of their production. Or, as in the case of Hungary, the bulk of the output of her remaining industries has been earmarked for export to the USSR and, furthermore the Kremlin extorted a “permanent 50 per cent interest in Hungary’s economy” (trade agreement of August 27, 1945).

Thus in place of the rosy perspective of economic collaboration we witness on the contrary a mad race for the extension of economic spheres of influence. In the very course of “Big Three” negotiations in Moscow, an autonomous Azerbaijan regime was proclaimed. Involved here is one of the richest oil reserves in the world, The cartel controlling these oil lands is the Irak Petroleum Co. composed of the following four oil trusts: Anglo-Persian, Royal Dutch Shell, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Socony-Vacuum. The gravity of this conflict hardly requires any comment.


It is this policy of the Kremlin together with the counter attempts of the imperialists to reopen to their own penetration Moscow’s spheres of influence that led to deadlock of the “Five Power” conference in London, and not any “democratic” inadequacies of the incumbent regimes in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The December conference resolves nothing fundamentally in this connection, but merely postpones a showdown.

The situation can be temporarily ameliorated only on condition that Stalin retreats in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. One of the factors that militates against such a shift in policy is the crisis in Soviet economy. The scope of the reconstruction problem in the USSR was succinctly sketched by Molotov in his report on the Twenty-eighth Anniversary of the October Revolution.

1,710 cities and towns lie in ruins; the number of industrial enterprises destroyed is estimated at 31,850.The number of ruined villages – more than 70,000; the number of collectives – 98,000. The loss in horses – 7 million; large horned cattle 17 million; pigs and lambs – “dozens of millions.” More than 6 million buildings have been destroyed, leaving “about 25 million homeless.” Official estimate of direct losses is 679 billion rubles (official rate of exchange is 5.3 rubles to one dollar). There is no reason to believe that these estimates are exaggerated.

One year has elapsed since the invading armies were driven off Soviet soil. How much of this havoc has been repaired? On this score too, Molotov gives eloquent testimony, declaring:

Immediately after expulsion of the invaders there began everywhere the work of reconstruction. But so far only a smaller part of the work has been done.

During the war years Stalinist propagandists assured the Soviet peoples that all the damages to the penny would be covered by German reparations. The official Russian press has long ago dropped this soothing lie; all it promises is “partial reparation.”

An additional strain is placed upon the country’s economic life by the need to continue vast expenditures on armaments and the maintenance of large forces. Meanwhile, the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1946-1950) must be put in operation. With what resources will all this be undertaken?

The huge loan expected by the Kremlin from Wall Street has not materialized, though asked for urgently. The American loan is hardly mentioned nowadays by the Moscow press. Stalin still withholds his signature from the Bretton Woods agreement, which is, in effect, the charter of Wall Street’s financial world hegemony. If the Kremlin permits a breach in its monopolistic control of the occupied countries and the spheres of influence, it will have to fall back solely upon its own internal resources. On the other hand if the Kremlin continues on its present course the less likelihood can there be for any durable agreements among the “Big Three.”

In any case, the Soviet Union remains the greatest single obstacle in the path of Wall Street’s program for the reconstruction of Europe and “organization of the world” under its domination. Thus what is actually happening is that two world powers now confront each other with daggers drawn both in Europe and Asia. They clash not only as the two decisive world states but as representatives of two irreconcilable social systems. On the one hand imperialism, represented by Wall Street; and on the other hand, the profoundly degenerated workers’ state which still rests on nationalized property forms.

At present neither side is in position to resort to arms and to resolve the conflict through open struggle. Powerful as American imperialism is it must eschew war for the time being. It needs time to liquidate the “postwar” crisis; it needs time to consolidate and digest its freshly gained victories. As for the Soviet Union, its resources are already strained to the limit. This is one of the main reasons why the September deadlock in London was followed by the December “agreement” in Moscow.

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