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International Socialist Review, Fall 1958



Which Road to Peace?


From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.4, Fall 1958, pp.115-118.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE Eisenhower administration appears, reluctantly, to have made up whatever collective mind it has that a concession must be made to the worldwide demand that it follow the Soviet initiative and suspend nuclear poisoning of the earth’s atmosphere. The public has been informed, consequently, that negotiations on America’s giving up nuclear tests for “one year” will be undertaken – after ten more tests. Nothing was said, of course, about dismantling the stockpile now sufficient to exterminate all life a dozen times over or of giving up the manufacture of additional stockpiles for use as good measure.

Nevertheless, this grudging gesture, coupled with equally grudging US acquiescence in the United Nations resolution calling for the “early” withdrawal of American and British troops from Lebanon and Jordan, aroused fresh hopes that a “summit conference” is now possible in which some kind of settlement assuring peace might be reached between the USSR and the USA. Among liberals and pacifists especially the continued appeal of the Soviet government for such a meeting of the heads of states is approved as a welcome display of good will; now if Eisenhower could just be dragged from the golf course to the bargaining table where Khrushchev is waiting!

What a “summit conference” can accomplish is determined by the aims and policies of the participants. These, as a great body of grim experience should teach us, are not necessarily the same as the declarations the participants make for public consumption. We are not confined to guesswork in determining what aims and policies the imperialist representatives of the United States and the bureaucratic representatives of the Soviet Union might pursue at a top level meeting Such meetings have already been held. Most of the secret part of the confabs – the part that counted – has become public property. We now know that when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin got together at Yalta and Teheran, what they did was to divide the world into spheres of influence, deciding which ruler was to get which section of the world’s population and resources. For example, the Kurile Islands were to go to the Soviet Union; all of Greece and half of Yugoslavia to Great Britain. This was the secret, “practical” side of the famous “Four Freedoms” that Roosevelt and Churchill had proclaimed as the Allied aims in World War II.

Attention should be paid to the anti-democratic character of these conferences. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin arrogated to themselves regulation of the fate of the peoples of the world. They assumed powers that no kings, emperors or dictators had wielded before them. None of the three considered himself subject to control by parliamentary law, still less to control by the people he pushed around on the international chessboard.

Lest it be assumed that calling attention to such unpleasant facts indicates a bias on our part against international diplomatic relations, negotiations, governmental conferences and agreements in general, let us specify right here that such is not the case. We are for a conference to remove the obstacles to trade like the ban on shipment of so-called “strategic” goods to the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and the countries of Eastern Europe. We are for an agreement to do away with customs duties and tariff walls. We have long advocated, for instance, a United States of Europe and a United States of South America where intra-continental trade could flow freely. We have likewise persistently advocated American recognition of the People’s Republic of China, just as socialists in the twenties and early thirties advocated recognition of the Soviet Union. We are for cultural exchange and friendly relations among all nations.

What we oppose are policies, whether conducted through ordinary secret diplomatic channels or through secret get-togethers at “summit conferences,” that block the road to enduring peace.

These policies are not openly acknowledged by the statesmen. In fact, in accordance with the rules of their venerable trade, they generally deny them. However, the policies can be determined from the evidence – just as we can determine from the evidence that the tracks we saw in the woods were left by a bulldozer.

In contrast to Eisenhower, who refuses to take time off from his putting practice on the White House lawns, the sick Roosevelt and the aged Churchill went all the way to the Black Sea to talk things over with Stalin. Roosevelt had already asked and obtained from the Generalissimo dissolution of the Communist International. He wanted more of the same. His need of Stalin’s services and his expectation that Stalin could deliver were evidently great enough to make the arduous trip worth the inconvenience.

Agreement was reached on a united front in handling the inevitable postwar revolutionary upsurge. Stalin came through with his part of the bargain in generous style. In Greece, upon defeat of the Nazi occupation, the Communist party was brought into effective power by overwhelming popular consent. The party thereupon facilitated the landing of British troops and the restoration of power to the House of Glucksberg. In Italy after the downfall of Mussolini the Communist party emerged as the largest and most influential organization. A series of great strike waves put it in power in towns and cities throughout the country. But the policy was to refuse to take power. Anything but socialism for Italy! Similarly in France following the collapse of Petain the armed resistance movement pushed the Communist party repeatedly toward government power. Policy was to turn down the opportunity and keep France capitalist. The deal that Roosevelt and Churchill made with Stalin at Yalta and Teheran prevented the continent of Europe from going socialist in 1945-47. That was what the policies agreed on at those two summit conferences and later at Potsdam cost the struggle for enduring peace.

In the United States, Stalin’s policy was known as “Browderism,” although both Foster and Dennis approved and practiced it. It meant seeking class peace with J. Pierpont Morgan. Strikes of the United Mine Workers were denounced, other strikes were broken. The no-strike pledge was extended in unions under Communist party influence to the postwar period, the jailing of advocates of socialism was commended, and independent electoral activity was forsworn. The pernicious effects of Stalin’s deal at Yalta and Teheran are felt to this day in the American radical movement.

In addition time bombs were planted in the new status quo that was agreed upon at Yalta, Teheran and Potsdam. One of them was Korea. The artificial division of this country into two halves, neither of which could exist independently of the other, assured the later outbreak of civil war. Another time bomb still ticking away is Germany. The occasional flare-ups in Berlin are warnings that the partition of this country at the end of the war created an explosive issue in the heart of Europe. World War III may yet focus around Germany as did World War I and World War II.

FORTUNATELY for the struggle for peace, Stalin did not succeed in making delivery everywhere. In India, the Communist party became so discredited by its opposition to the independence movement that it was cut to ribbons. Over its blind resistance to disturbing the status quo, the Indian masses pushed through the break from British rule. If India is today toasted by the Kremlin as “neutral” and “uncommitted,” no thanks is due the shade of Stalin. In Yugoslavia, the Communist party proved independent enough to break from Stalin’s domination. The social revolution that brought Tito to power succeeded in tearing this key Balkan country from Britain’s imperialist grip. In China, Stalin’s orders were disregarded. Instead of continuing their alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, the Mao leadership finally bowed to the surging might of the greatest revolution since 1917 and took power. This revolution, upsetting the status quo in Asia and the western Pacific, struck the single biggest blow for peace in the postwar period.

The Yalta-Teheran-Potsdam deal lasted barely until 1947. This was testimony in its way to the futile utopianism of trying to maintain the status quo. In that year, the Kremlin recognized that the Truman-Churchill policy of “cold war” was not temporary diplomatic pressure but signified the beginning of an imperialist effort to change things in accordance with what seemed to be a more favorable balance of forces for reaction and counter-revolution. European capitalism by now had been stabilized, the postwar revolutionary upsurge was receding, and the United States had a monopoly of the atomic bomb. When Stalin understood that the Marshall Plan was not meant to include aid for the war-ravaged Soviet Union and the areas taken by the Red Army as it rolled toward Berlin, he responded by himself upsetting the status quo. In bureaucratic fashion the capitalist structure in Eastern Europe was knocked over; and the various Communist parties began talking in militant terms – without too much success, for their prestige by this time had dropped abysmally. Even in the United States, the Communist party shifted from support of the Democratic machine to support of the Wallace movement. This was too little and too late, for already America’s greatest witch-hunt was gathering momentum and the Communist party had spent the war years preparing for its own easy victimization.

“All this is ancient history!” a critic may respond. “Who is interested in rehashing the dreary crimes of Stalin today? Reforms have been undertaken in the Soviet Union; the cult of Stalin is dead; a new, dynamic leadership is in power. Besides, since Truman and Churchill started the cold war, a new factor has appeared in international relations – the H-Bomb. This totally changes the character of war so that it no longer serves as a way of continuing politics by other means. Atomic war means suicide. Therefore it becomes inconceivable. Consequently it is in the interest of both imperialism and the new social order to reach a peaceful way of competing. This is the realistic basis for reaching a modus vivendi at a summit conference. That it is possible to ease tensions by top level meetings has already been demonstrated. The Geneva Conference in 1955 is proof enough.”

The example of Geneva is well taken. In a heroic struggle for their freedom and independence the people of Indo-China had won a costly victory over their French colonial masters. What occurred at Geneva? Instead of recognizing the will of the Indo-Chinese people, the diplomats partitioned Indo-China like Korea, saving one half for French imperialism. After this concession was in the bag, Eisenhower put his golf clubs aside and flew to Geneva to uphold his part of the bargain. This was to temporarily ease world tensions by passing the time of day with Khrushchev and Bulganin.

And what happened after Geneva? The new harmony did not last long. Britain, France and Israel staged a raid on the Suez Canal. The “reformed” Soviet bureaucracy crushed the Hungarian workers revolution. Khrushchev broke off relations once again with Tito. Eisenhower and Macmillan landed troops in Lebanon and Jordan. Such events have led more than a few peace-loving people to revise their concept that atomic war is “inconceivable.”

Our point is not to seek recognition for priority in discovering the crimes of Stalin and Khrushchev – or of Roosevelt, Truman and Churchill. In our view the deeds of these rulers are manifestations of contradictory economic and social forces that have a continuity of their own. The movement of these forces must be understood, we think, if we are to find genuinely realistic grounds on which to base the struggle for peace.

WE suspect that the gentlemen who plot the course of American foreign policy are aware of these deep forces and take them into consideration in their calculations. If Eisenhower is uninterested in sitting down with Khrushchev it is not due to petulance. Right now it’s more profitable to play golf, because Khrushchev can’t deliver in the area of interest. The Arab people are not following the Communist party; they are following leaders more responsive to their wishes and – to the shame of the Communist party – more militant in the struggle against imperialism. These leaders are petty-bourgeois nationalists like Nasser. The State Department experts need only ask themselves the question, “What could Khrushchev do about the overturn in Iraq?” to come up with the answer to the demand that Eisenhower should split a bottle of Vodka with Khrushchev. If a deal is required, they need no brokers. They can sit down with the Arab nationalist leaders in Cairo or Washington, or at the UN address in New York. If De Gaulle, on the other hand, evinces interest in a summit conference, it is because he calculates that Khrushchev could prove useful, as did Stalin in immobilizing the French working class while he consolidates his Bonapartist dictatorship. The Communist party still occupies a prominent position in French politics.

But what about the Kremlin? Doesn’t the new dynamic leadership recognize these realities? If so, why does it persist in calling for a summit conference?

In our opinion, the Khrushchev government is very much in need of greater stability in international relations. This is not altogether to its discredit. The Soviet economy by its very structure requires peace and not war to function smoothly. In representing this need, Khrushchev plays a progressive role.

We also believe that the Soviet bureaucracy is under great domestic pressure to avoid the disastrous policy which Stalin followed and which helped pave the way for the German imperialist invasion. The Soviet people are aware of the strains and stresses in relations with the satellite countries. They are disturbed by the bickerings, the jealousies and the bureaucratic policies that drive nations to revolt. They are resentful over the slow progress of socialism. How long must they hold out before an advanced country of the West goes socialist? Isn’t the bureaucracy responsible, at least in part, for the continued war danger, for the failure of the Communist parties of the West to achieve success?

The need to divert an enormous sector of Soviet industrial capacity and man power to an arms race with world imperialism lays a grievous burden on the Soviet masses. They want more food, more clothing, better housing, improved quality in all consumer goods. How can they get these, help China and Eastern Europe to industrialize, and at the same time compete with the American war industries?

If the threat of war could be allayed, the bureaucracy must think, domestic tensions, which are pointing to a political revolution, could at once be eased. What a happy solution if the imperialist powers could be persuaded to give up their war preparations!

Diplomatic needs also play a part in Khrushchev’s insistence on a summit meeting. The colonial masses, by and large, turn to the Soviet Union for inspiration. Their yearning for a world of tranquility is exploited and given a facile, “common sense” expression by the demand for a summit conference.

It is not without interest, however, that Khrushchev’s most intensive campaign for a summit conference, at the height of the Middle East crisis in July and August, did not meet with universal approval among the anti-imperialists. After Khrushchev had won agreement to a summit conference under auspices of the United Nations Security Council, it will be recalled, Mao summoned him to a different summit conference in Peking. After leaving that hasty meeting, Khrushchev backed out of his UN rendezvous, explaining rather belatedly that he could scarcely be expected to sit down at the same table with a political “corpse” like Chiang Kai-shek. It may be assumed that Mao expected no good from another conference like the ones at Yalta, Teheran, Potsdam and Geneva and offered Khrushchev his opinion.

The same lack of enthusiasm for a confab between Khrushchev and Eisenhower was observable among the Arab nationalist leaders. What did they have to gain from these two statesmen getting together over a map of the Middle East? They pushed their own aims in the UN General Assembly which were to get greater freedom for themselves; and, deploying the power of the Arab revolution which had toppled King Faisal in Iraq, they won a concession – agreement on “early” withdrawal of American and British troops from Lebanon and Jordan. The Arab leaders thus removed one of the most powerful reasons Khrushchev had given for holding an immediate summit conference.

THE basic reality we must start from in working out a peace program, in our opinion, is the contradictory world economic structure. So long as capitalism endures, it is inevitably impelled in the direction of economic rivalries which sooner or later change into war. Capitalist foreign policy is built on this foundation, no matter how it is packaged for mass consumption. A realistic peace program must therefore take as its first point the extension of planned economy until it becomes world-wide. There is no other road to enduring peace.

It follows from this that planned economies must be defended where they have already been established, no matter what the defects in them that call for rectification. It also follows that no substitutes can be accepted in place of extending planned economy into new areas. There are no substitutes. No world “courts,” no special “peace” organizations, no “collective security” that can overcome the difference between the anarchy of capitalism and the scientific order of planned economy.

The means for establishing planned economies where capitalism now exists is known. Prayers and petitions to the ruling class are unavailing. The rulers follow policies that advance their own economic and social interests. While individual capitalists may achieve a broader outlook, the class as a whole never rises above its own limitations. Historically the establishment of planned economy corresponds with the interests of the working class. By stubbornly and intelligently fighting for these interests the working class can lead humanity into the new order of socialism where war is automatically excluded by the basic requirement of the system – cooperative labor.

A realistic peace program must therefore rely on development of the class struggle. This algebraic term signifies the arousal of political consciousness among workers, an understanding of what their class interests are and what successful pursuit of these interests signifies for the future of mankind. The task of socialists is to devote all their energies to this educational work.

To concentrate on this is neither Utopian nor sectarian. Mighty forces, operating in the socialist direction, facilitate the work.

In the first place, imperialism itself, no matter how it seeks to maintain the status quo, continually upsets it. Imperialism drags the most backward peoples into the main stream of industrial progress. The first wheel seen by some tribes in Equatorial Africa was the landing gear of a modern bomber. The Bedouin parks his camel before an automated oil refinery and the South Pacific islander in his dugout shields his eyes from the glare of an H-Bomb. To these primitives the imperialist missionaries hold up the American standard of living with its abundance, its medical facilities, its educational level and its machine-age conveniences.

The Soviet Union too, despite the efforts of the bureaucracy to maintain the status quo, continually inspires the masses of the world to break out of their miserable ancient routine. The sputniks, which Khrushchev utilizes to demonstrate Soviet prowess, tell the people of the most backward areas as they speed overhead in their orbits that modern miracles are not beyond their own capacities – all they need is a planned economy and they can do it themselves.

Let us add to this the very real threat of atomic annihilation in a third world war, a threat that serves to shake people up, to sweep away mental cobwebs and to arouse them to action.

Finally we should not forget to note that in the most powerful of capitalist countries tranquility is denied the working people. Economic insecurity is a never-ending worry, whether in its acute form of depression or in its chronic form of technological unemployment and early disposal on the scrap heap of humans too old to keep up with the belt line. Special insecurities affect the minority groups in jobs, education, housing and recreation. The unions are the target of legislative labor-baiters. The possibility of another war haunts the thinking of millions of Americans.

These gnawing problems clash with the buoyant American spirit that is not accustomed to remain cowed long before reactionary forces – as two successful American revolutions testify.

Such considerations should give American socialists every reason for confidence that their program for peace, based on the policy of advancing the class struggle, can succeed – and in time to prevent an atomic catastrophe.

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