Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 4 April 1949


Eugene Keller

Discusses Aims of United States Policy

Will Atlantic Pact Delay War?


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 14, 4 April 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The North Atlantic Pact is being hailed as a great step toward lasting peace (Bevin), as a powerful insurance policy against World War III (Sen. Vandenberg), as strengthening the United Nations (Truman) and as an open covenant openly arrived at (N.Y. Times).

“Peace” is the keynote of the innumerable propaganda statements of editors, official spokesmen and high-pressure organized public opinion. If this “peace” policy has not and will not in any way impair the vast preparations for World War III now proceeding apace, this need not disturb anyone: “If we can Snake it sufficiently clear in advance that any armed attack affecting our national security would be met by an overwhelming force, the armed attack might never come” – thus President Truman.

The Senate has promised extensive hearings before it ratifies the pact, and the State Department has assured Congress that its prerogative to declare war is in no way affected by the terms of the pact. And if anyone should question the good intentions of the pact’s framers, let him heed Dean Acheson’s words: “Anyone with the most elementary knowledge of the processes of democratic government knows that democracies do not and cannot plan aggressive wars.”

Such statements cannot possibly be taken seriously; they are designed to “sell” this pact to the American people, from which a modicum of support is required if it is to serve as the legal basis for the coming war. This, too. is the purpose of the scheduled hearings which will hardly be more than a democratic farce, in no way affecting the ratification of the pact.

As the conflicting interests of Russia and the U.S. become more crystallized, American foreign policy gained in clearness and purposiveness; its aims, however, have been obscured by the appearance of “defending” democracy, “our way of life,” etc., etc. This is only natural, since even the possibility of being suspected of aggressive intentions is in itself a political setback in an age of total war. However, the rulers of Russia, too, are aware of this truism; they, too, have fought a “defensive” cold war. To insist on conducting the argument on this level means to lose one’s independence of mind (and this is, of course, the major interest of the vast propaganda organs of both camps).

The fact is that America’s “defense” against Stalin’s new tyranny has consisted in buttressing all the old tyrannies; and if the threat of Stalinism remains as dire as it ever was, this is in the first instance due to a foreign policy which is primarily motivated by considerations of military-strategic and military-economic advantages, and of domestic stability at the expense of the misery of other peoples.

The Truman Doctrine, giving support to two of the most corrupt and despicable regimes in Europe, was the first rather crude step in this newly evolving foreign policy. The Marshall Plan evidenced signs of political sophistication on the part of its framers; it was dressed up as a progressive measure when isolated from U.S. foreign policy generally. But its inception was accompanied by the Brussels

Five Powers Agreement, in which Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg. France and England formed a “defensive” alliance.

The State Department, with its wonted tact, “scrupulously” abstained from interfering in the proceedings, of course. The passage of the so-called Vandenberg Resolution in the Senate in June 1948. however, made it legally possible for the State Department to enter into negotiations for what culminated in the North Atlantic Pact.

The Marshall Plan, therefore, could not and cannot at any time be considered apart from the military-political aims of U.S. foreign policy, and it is bound to take a position subsidiary to the North Atlantic Pact now that the latter comes into effect.

Will Speed War

The North Atlantic Pact is not merely another step toward war; it is the achievement of a major aim of American foreign policy and as such is designed to set in motion a chain of events which will speed up the approach of war. For to the planners in the National Military Establishment and the State Department – both of which departments are closely associated in the National Security Council, the real top policy-making organ in the U.S. – war is only a question of time; its “inevitability” has long been assumed.

Time, however, works on the side of the Russians, especially militarily. If this were not the case, both power blocs could equally derive continued profit from the present state of tension and insecurity called “cold war.”

There is, for example, the contradiction between the political necessity of assuring the defense of Europe west of the Elbe against the Russian troops and the military concept of giving up the continent, with the exception of the Iberian peninsula, and waging primarily an air war.

That this latter concept governs military planning of the Western powers is evidenced by the disproportionately large outlays for air forces, rocket devices, etc., and the “victory” of the U.S. Army Air Force over the U.S. Navy in getting its 70-group program approved by Congress, as against the 48-group program, recommended by President Truman, which obviously would have allowed a larger budgetary allotment to the Navy. (Ever since Bikini the Navy has been in the doghouse.)

Moreover, the fact that the pact, as it now stands, does not provide for arms aid but leaves this implementation up to Congress, or better, to a Congressional committee which in its decisions, is guided by the expert opinions of militarists and diplomats (who themselves often are militarists) eloquently bespeaks the gap between political and military necessities.

From a strictly military standpoint, the pact is devoid of any meaning; as matters stand today it is obvious that the continent CANNOT be defended. The mutual assistance treaties prior to World War II, if adherence to them was often doubtful, at least were consistent with any foreseeable strategic situation. The Nortfi Atlantic Tact is clearly inconsistent with the foreseeable strategic situation. It will not be possible for the American bourgeoisie to extricate itself from this fateful contradiction. The fact that Russian occupation of all of Europe will spell both the social and physical doom of the European bourgeoisie and the decline or destruction of its economic bases, renders the contradiction between present and urgent military needs on the one hand and objective political needs on the other practically irreconcilable.

From this point of view, the scheduled Senate hearings may produce much heart searching and, possibly, opposition on the part of those who would extend Marshall Plan aid to the whole world, de-emphasizing its military aspects (such as the Foreign Policy Association).

May Aid Stalin

The weighty argument that the pact is “defensist” cannot, of course, be answered by the Wallaceites, Stalin- oids or well-meaning liberals. It is far from unlikely that the Kremlin will “attack.” when the time comes. Properly prepared, Russia has important military advantages over the Anglo-Americans. It is improbable that its level of scientific research and theory lags behind that of the United States in any important technological area. Which means, they know all the “secrets” but lack, for the present, the industrial potential to apply them on a mass production basis.

But the Kremlin’s power is based on terror at home and the exploitation of popular discontent abroad. As pointed out above, U.S. foreign policy has in no way brought to or even encouraged democracy in foreign lands; and thus, indirectly, it has strengthened Stalin’s hand in Russia. Stalin, in an unprecedented move, had the text of the North Atlantic Pact published in every newspaper of the Soviet Union. It is only too obvious that such a regime will use the threat of foreign domination and of the atomic bomb to stabilize its terror rule.

It is likely that the North Atlantic Pact will play into Stalin’s hands outside Russia, too. Twice in the past six months Stalin has taken the initiative and offered to negotiate; both times the Anglo-Americans declined. Not that such offers portend any efforts at a decent peace; we have ample experience with previous Big Three meetings and their devastating consequences. But the fear of World War III is universal and pervasive and the hope of peace will cling even to the words of a butcher like Stalin.

The pact can have this effect, or it can make for even greater political passivity and apathy than prevails at present. What it will NOT do is exactly what it professedly aims to do: it will not safeguard and promote democracy, for that means the active and conscious participation of the masses in decisions affecting their lives, a principle of obvious simplicity which was ignored even while the pact itself was formulated in many secret sessions.

The Western powers may think it wise not to arouse the European masses to political activity, excepting perhaps the ritual of elections; but such inactivity, too, must play into Stalin’s hands; he will need fewer police to atomize their organizations.

The true nature of the Third World War thus becomes ever more apparent in the pre-war politics of the contending forces: The distinction in the character of their politics is diminishing.

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 9 June 2021