From International Socialism (1st series), No.29, Summer 1967, p.36.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The Age of Containment
The Approach of War
The Framework of Economic Activity
Macmillan, 25s Paperback 12s 6d each
Macmillan are publishing a new series of books, The Making of the Twentieth Century, designed to give a concise and lucid interpretation of recent historical events. Thirty books are in preparation, and it is easy to predict, from the specialist authors and their topics, that readers of this journal are certain to find some of them indispensable.
Nevertheless, I have misgivings. Reading the first three books, I am afraid the series may be tilted toward an orthodox Establishment view of events. Mr Rees interprets the Cold War from a Western standpoint: on the one side you have the democratic and freedom-loving Americans and on the other the Russians, who, until recently, were hell-bent on expansion. Hurrah for NATO, SEATO, BLOTO and all! No serious attempt is made to consider the thesis that the United States was primarily responsible for the Cold War. The powerful indictment of Pentagon policy by C. Wright Mills, Fleming and others is simply disregarded, and the book ends with a stirring quotation from President Kennedy on the need to defend liberty – presumably in Vietnam, not in the Negro ghettoes.
Mr Thome, who edits the series, has written on the appeasement period. It is a counterblast to what, in my opinion, is a much more correct analysis, than in A.J.P. Taylor’s Origins of the Second World War. Mr Thome sees the men of Munich in a much more kindly light; whereas for him socialists ‘were second to none in ensuring Britain’s weakness when the crisis came.’ He places responsibility for the War squarely on the Nazis. The close and intimate links between Hitler and the Tories, their admiration for his anti-communism and smashing of trade unions, are discreetly forgotten.
The best of the trio is Mr Harrison’s book. He gives a clear account of international economic affairs throughout the 20th century. He shows that the state’s role in the economy has not only increased in Britain but everywhere else in the world. Whatever the political ideologies of the countries, the dissatisfaction with the performance of private enterprise has led to a great centralisation of decision-making. The lesson for us as socialists, although Mr Harrison does not make it, is that all our compass readings will be wrong if we equate state control with socialism.
Last updated: 6 May 2010