Emanuel Garrett Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Emanuel Garrett Geltman

Atlantic Treaty Marks
New High in Cold War!

(11 April 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 15, 11 April 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Duchy of Luxemburg declared that it would consider an attack on the United States as an attack upon itself. The United States reciprocated and declared that it would similarly consider an attack on Luxemburg as an attack upon itself. In all, twelve nations (including, in addition to the above two, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Portugal, Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium) affixed their signatures to the North Atlantic Pact.

The time: 4:51 p.m. on April 4, 1949. The place: the Departmental Auditorium on Capitol Hill in Washington, where the first numbers in the World War II draft were drawn. The master of ceremonies: Secretary of State Dean Acheson, of the United States.

The signators and visiting politicians joined in affirming that the pact was the mightiest blow against aggression and for peace struck in the history of the world. President Truman, topping the ceremonies with an address to the delegates, flatly avowed that had the treaty existed in 1914 and 1939, both wars would have been averted.

Off on a side, the Marine Band included George Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So, in its serenading of the solemn occasion.

The pact now goes to the Senate and to the legislatures of the six other nations who helped to frame the text (Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg) for discussion and ratification, after which the terms of the treaty become effective. There will undoubtedly be considerable discussion, and there will undoubtedly be ratification.

War Blocs Gear

Rarely has an event been attended by more solemnity, and with good reason. Rarely, too, have speeches, seemed quite so hollow as those made, in alphabetical order, by the foreign ministers of the participating nations.

From Acheson to Count Sforza of Italy, from Truman to Spaak of Belgium, the statesmen strained to attach the meaning of peace to their act, The labored sentences carried little conviction. But the reality, which poked its way through them, carried an infinite amount of conviction – the reality of a war bloc gearing itself for world decision.

Where such other famous agreements of recent times as the Atlantic Charter evoked general enthusiasm (except among such skeptics as we) in exact ratio with the hypocrisy of Its promised Four Freedoms, this newest and most real of agreements appears to have evoked little enthusiasm among the masses of people who seem to sense its depressing import.

With the signing of the pact, the United States secured formal recognition from the signator nations that it alone is the sovereign imperialism into whose plans the others must fit their fates. Marking the final finish of U.S. isolationism, the pact formalized, in cold-war terms for the present, the new stage of U.S. imperialism in which all areas of the world become the responsibility of the-master imperialism.

President Truman remarked that “we are like a group of householders living in the same locality” – the “same locality,” stretching as it does from Frisco to Florence, being the world.

In fifteen typewritten pages, the Pact provides that:

U.S. Is Imperialist Center

Inasmuch as “the individual and collective capacity to resist” is militarily entirely dependent on the United States, inasmuch as the central imperialist contest of our times is between the United States and Russia, the fate of the signator nations, and of others who are not here included only because they are outside of the “North Atlantic” region, is bound to be the design of U.S. imperialism.

At least, the U.S. imperialists hope it will be so. The people of these and other countries might decide otherwise, might decide not to serve either of the giant imperialisms. The pact is consequently framed as much against them as against Russian imperialism.

However vain and stilted were the speeches in their routine, for the record, efforts to encompass the pact in the framework of world peace, the serious excitement on a diplomatic level which attended the signing is a key to the true nature of the pact. The pact is no mere propaganda device, no piece of rhetoric concerted to snare the hearts and minds of men. It is serious business.

Never before in Washington history have so many high ranking dignitaries from other lands gathered in that city for a conference. It was fully in keeping with the situation that the United States should have been host. No pretense here that the United States was sending its envoys to another capital to sit as equals with the representative of Iceland.

Lost in the shuffle of attention given this significant and concrete imperialist achievement, the United Nations prepared for the opening of its Spring Assembly sessions two days after the signing. Secretary of State Acheson and a few other major diplomats intend to be on hand for the opening day, but the. session is expected to have fewer major envoys than other previous UN session. The real business of the world, its western half anyway, had been taken care of in Washington.

Even as a sounding board for the cold war, the UN is losing importance. Russia, of course, will sail into the pact at the UN. But its major assault on the pact will be demonstrated by its Stalinist henchmen on the streets of Paris and Rome, and through its own war bloc of satellite nations.

Thus, with the signing of the pact, the cold war has moved to new and more menacing levels.

Emanuel Garrett Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 2 June 2021