Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

George Breitman

Pact’s Aims Are War, Dictatorships

Pledges Military Aid of U.S. to Crush Popular Uprisings

(28 March 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 13, 28 March 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Preparations for World War III and counter-revolution in Europe are the main aims of the North Atlantic Pact, scheduled to be signed in Washington by representatives of eight countries during the first week of April.

This pact marks the formal establishment of a military “holy alliance” dominated by American imperialism and designed to promote the transformation of the present cold war into hot wars against (1) the Soviet Union and her satellites, (2) rebellious workers and peasants seeking to establish socialism in the countries bound by the pact.

This program, giving Washington a ring of advanced military bases around the Soviet Union, is presented to the world in the name of “international peace and security and justice” as a defense against “aggression.” But how would it look if the Soviet Union had pressured Canada, Mexico and the rest of Latin America into signing a pact which established Russian bases in those countries, supplied them with arms and committed them to come to the aid of the Soviet Union in any war in which it became involved?

Pact’s Main Clauses

Would such an act be any more aggressive than the one the U.S. government is now committing through the formation of the Atlantic Pact and the diplomatic strong-arm methods it used to drive several small European nations into line for the pact?

Article 3 of the pact calls for a vast expansion inarms and military forces. Article 4 calls for consultation whenever “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.” Article 5 provides that in case of an “armed attack” on any of the pact members, each of them will take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” Article 9 establishes a council and a “defense committee” to implement the pact. Article 10 permits the inclusion of other European states by unanimous agreement. Article 11 provides for the ratification of the pact by individual members after it has been signed. Article 13 binds them to the pact for at least 20 years.

Against Revolution

At a press conference on Mar. 18, the day the details of the pact were finally released, Secretary of State Acheson undertook to explain the meaning of Article 4 when a reporter asked if it meant the council could take action in case of an internal revolution in any of the countries.

Yes, there would be consultation, Acheson replied. In his opinion, “purely internal revolutionary activity would not be regarded as an armed attack; a revolutionary activity inspired, armed, directed from outside, however, was a different matter.”

The important thing here is not the diplomatic reservation about revolutionary activity from “outside,” but the fact that under this pact the participating governments assume the power to intervene When revolutions threaten or take place. “Purely internal” revolutions usually are, can, and under this pact surely will be denounced as foreign-instigated. (Remember, for example, that when the Dutch imperialists attacked the Indonesian Republic a few months ago, they called it a communist movement instigated from “outside.”)

Acheson also noted that under Article 4, Greece, if it was a member of the pact, could ask for help and the other members could send armed forces there to put down the opponents of the regime. The same thing, under the “outside direction” formula, could be done in France or Italy or any other country where the majority of the people rebelled against their capitalist rulers and sought to establish a workers and farmers government.

And even if all the pact members would not intervene in such situations, it is obvious that the governments getting arms from the U.S. will use them against “purely internal” revolutionary movemehts at home, or in their colonies.

“Freedom of the Air”

Equally ominous were Acheson’s replies to other questions, particularly about the conditions Under which a third world war could be initiated. A reporter asked if “an attack on aircraft flying over Soviet territory into Berlin” would be considered an armed attack within the meaning of the pact.

It would, Acheson answered, emphasizing that it wouldn’t make any difference where it occurred. United States entry into World Wars I and II was hastened by the assertion of her right to “freedom of the seas” – to send ships wherever she pleased. The same thing is threatened by this new assertion of “freedom of the air.”

The pact pays its respects to “constitutional processes” and Acheson took special pains to stress that it would not commit the U.S. to "automatic” war because “under our constitution, the Congress alone has the power to declare war.”

Constitutional Problem

But, he added immediately, the U.S. would be “bound to take promptly the action which we deemed necessary to restore and maintain security in the North Atlantic area ... This is pot a legalistic question. It is a question we have frequently faced, the question of faith and principle in carrying out treaties.”

Acheson was talking out of both sides of his mouth – one of the specialties of capitalist diplomacy – but he cannot cover up the fact that by approving the pact, Congress would in effect transfer the real war-making powers into the hands of Truman and the State Department, whose actions in the pact council and whose power to send U.S. troops abroad would have twenty times greater weight in initiating war than a subsequent decision by Congress, which could only have a rubber-stamp character because of the “obligations” under the pact.

Support of two-thirds of the Senators voting will be needed for U.S. ratification of the pact. (Thus a smaller proportion of the Senate is required to approve a fateful decision to drag the American people into atomic war than is needed to stop a filibuster againstj civil rights legislation – where a two-thirds vote of the entire Senate is now needed.) There is little doubt that the necessary votes for the pact will be forthcoming in short order. (War is far more popular in the 81st Congress than civil rights.) The mepibers of Congress seem quite willing to grant, the wars making powers to the White House, provided they can retain the face-saving formality of participating in the decision.

Arms Plan Next

The pact itself contains no provisions on when or how or how much U.S. aid will be given to expansion of European armaments and military forces. But, as Acheson explained, the U.S. is the only power with the resources to rearm western Europe, and “therefore, we expect to ask the Congress to supply our European partners some of the weapons and equipment ...” Estimated costs for the first year are over one billion dollars.

This move is not as popular in Congress as the pact itself. That is why the arms plan has been separated from the pact; as a separate measure only a majority vote will be needed for its enactment. But after all, sending the arms is a logical consequence of the pact, just as the pact itself is a logical consequence of the Marshall Plan, and it is highly unlikely that the present bipartisan Congress would do anything to block it.

Who Can Block War?

Capitalist politicians certainly cannot be depended on to oppose either the pact or its consequences because in the last analysis all of them are committed to a war to preserve or restore the capitalist system throughout the world, and all of them support increased armament production as a means of staving off a catastrophic depression at home.

The only ones who can block the war drive are the people of the United States and Europe – the workers and farmers who will be sweated to pay for the whole project through higher taxes; who will have to give up some of their butter if they permit the capitalists to build mote guns; who will be asked to surrender more and more of their liberties if the ruling class is permitted to have its way in dictating the conditions of political life to the whole world; and who in the end will be ordered to serve as cannon-fodder in a war they never wanted and were never consulted about.

Their voice must be raised now, their energies aroused, to prevent mass murder and reaction on a scale never before witnessed in human affairs.

Breitman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 3 March 2024