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Albert Gates

Imperialist Conflicts Sharpen
in UN Arena

(18 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 46, 18 November 1946, pp. 1 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The meeting of the United Nations and its various subcommittees and sub-departments at Lake Success (!) in New York State is heavily overladen with hypocrisy. No one country has a monopoly over this dubious quality. For each power and its satellites is embroiled in an. involved and complicated game of imperialist politics. The true aim of the game is camouflaged by copious use of the words “democracy,” “freedom,” “self-determination” and the “rights of the people.” Yet, however ingenious the camouflage, the imperialist aims of the contestants sticks out at every stage of the struggles which dominate the sessions of the UN.

There is endless testimony to prove that the UN does not differ in principle from its predecessor, the League of Nations. The participating nations are almost the same (except for the two dominant powers, the United States and Russia); some of the architects of Geneva ply their trade at Lake Success; the new figures are cast in the same mold as the old. Each dispute which reflects the bitter clash of conflicting imperialist interests is covered with the camouflage cited above; the disputants hurl epithets at each other like actors rehearsing a play. But they are all deadly serious. In Common they deceive the people; among themselves they are fighting for high stakes.

So long as the UN meets there will be no end to the obscene exhibitionism of the big powers carving up a world in the name of freedom and democracy. We shall follow its sessions closely as a living exhibit of the hypocrisy of imperialism and the. decay of capitalism. At the moment we cite only three examples among many:

1. Trusteeships over Non-Self-Governing Territories, Including Areas Mandated by the League of Nations. The charter of the UN adopted a plan of trusteeships by “directly concerned” nations over such territories. The professed aim of the powers was that trusteeships would be the initial steps toward a future complete independence for the territories involved. The imperialists turned anti-imperialist! But in the context of the real aims of the powers, the fight over trusteeships reduces itself to a struggle between the two main imperialist blocs – the Anglo-American and the Russian.

Shortly after the war ended in Europe, the Russian imperialists demanded a share of the former Italian colonies in Africa. Their demand is still before the UN. Now the Russians claim to be “directly concerned” in the former Japanese Pacific territories held by the United States. The United States has demanded the right to be sole administrator over some 1,500 Pacific islands under a United Nations’ trusteeship. She has asked that the veto be set aside on this question. In the event, however, that objections are made against American trusteeship, President Truman has already described, these territories as “strategic areas” of the U.S. If the UN does not accede to the American demand, then the territories formerly held by Japan will be retained by the U.S., anyway. This is tantamount to a veto over other powers’ objections, despite pious objection on the part of the U.S. to the veto principle. The areas involved are the Marianna, Caroline and Marshall islands, German possessions mandated to Japan after the First World War, and other Japanese possessions, such as Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

Now the Russians have put in their claim for a “joint trusteeship” of these territories as a “directly concerned” state. To bolster up this demand the Russians cite their interest in Germany. Since the above mandated areas were former German colonies Russia cannot be excluded from participation in the trusteeship. In attacking the American proposal, Russia also denounced the British strategy of discussing the Palestinian situation with the U.S., Arab and Jewish representatives outside official channels of the UN.

This is indeed a spectacle! Russian imperialism protests the type of trusteeships proposed by Great Britain, the U.S., France, and Belgium because they would lead to the setting up of “colonial territories,” and would violate “the principles of the United Nations Charter, which establishes a trusteeship system over non-self-governing territories including former mandates.”

But while Russia is deeply concerned about trusteeships tor “non-self-governing territories including former mandates,” she has herself gobbled up states which were self-governing, thus violating every democratic principle of self-determination and national freedom. She incorporated the Baltic States, parts of Finland, Poland, and other Eastern European territory. And while Russia is right in her criticisms of her rivals, they are also right about her. Having acceded to Russia’s territorial seizures, the Western powers are a little taken aback that the Russians won’t grant their demands.


2. General Smuts and South-West Africa: As part of the general problem of trusteeships but standing apart because of its special character is the proposal of Africa’s leader, Field Marshal Smuts, that South-West Africa, over which it holds a mandate, shall be annexed to it and not placed under a UN trusteeship. In defending his proposal for annexation, Smuts declared that 200,160 (!) of the 303,850 natives had been consulted on their wishes in the matter (how, when, where and by whom has not been declared). We can easily imagine the manner in which they were consulted by Smuts’ Jim Crow government which is notorious for its racial practices. The sanctimonious Smuts was roundly attacked by Delegate Herard C. L. Rey of Haiti and José Mendose of Guatemala. Prior to this outburst, Indian delegates submitted Smuts and the, South African government to a proper dressing down for the policy of discrimination they practice in what they regard as a “white man’s” hunting ground.

The author of this annexationist proposal is undoubtedly the ancient Field Marshal, once an opponent of British rule in South Africa and now one of its outstanding imperialist spokesmen. Like all late converts he outdoes his sponsors. On holiday occasions Smuts makes learned speeches about the new era of “democracy and the right of freedom for all peoples.” But in practice, he is the heed of one of the most vicious “white supremacy” governments in the world. Some of its practices are even worse than these employed in the South in the U.S. As is to be expected, race discrimination, Jim Crow and white chauvinism in South Africa are accompanied by a brutal, vicious system of exploitation of the native population, who are herded into ghettos beggaring description. The natives have no right to organize and assemble; they have no right to free speech or free press; they are subject to curfew laws which make it impossible for them to do anything except to slave for their white exploiters. If this South African Bilbo won his proposal, it would merely place several hundred thousand more natives under the heel of the gang of unconscionable exploiters for whom he speaks.

(P.S. Smuts is not alone. The United States has its own Smutses at Lake Success who never fail to rise and deliver perorations about democracy and freedom. Why not? They make those speeches in the very South where democracy is only for the white population – and not all whites either. They make those speeches on election day when the poll tax rules the South, when Negroes are not permitted to vote, and when the tiny well-knit political machines of the Southern bourbons organize and “win” their elections. But if these hypocritical speeches are good enough for the South, they’re good enough for the UN. It is interesting to note also that no representatives of the “great nations” rose to say a word about Smuts’ proposition!)


3. Refugees and Democracy: Poor Mrs. Roosevelt! There is no doubt that she is an honest and earnest liberal. But like all liberals she has her head square up against an impenetrable barrier. She tries hard to achieve what she regards as real freedom and democracy in an imperialist-capitalist world which is the very antithesis of these. Her popularity in the United States with the people at large is due to her intervention on many democratic and trade union questions in favor of the workers, the Negroes and other discriminated minorities. She is a “do-gooder” (this is not meant to be entirely derogatory) in the decaying, rotting society in which she believes. And that is the basis of her contradictions and her inconsistencies.

Right now, Mrs. Roosevelt is a member of the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee of the UN. At one of its sessions, she became embroiled in a dispute with that notorious democrat, Russian Vice-Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinsky, who was a leading participant in the judicial murder of hundreds of Old Bolsheviks during the Moscow Trials. Vishinsky and the Russians oppose the formation of an International Refugee Organization to assist the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of refugees throughout Europe, vast numbers of whom refuse to return to their former countries. The reason for this refusal is that in most cases it means returning to Russia (the Baltic States and annexed Poland) or territories under the control of the NKVD and the Russian army.

Mrs. Roosevelt defended the right to the refugees to refuse to return to their former homelands on the grounds that in many cases these homelands no longer existed as free and independent nations, and because these refugees feared reprisals against them. But Vishinsky, displaying that same fiendish zeal with which he called for the death of those who made the Russian Revolution which he opposed, entered into a dispute with Mrs. Roosevelt on the right of these people to refuse to return and on the meaning of democracy. At one point, in the debate, Mrs. Roosevelt declared :

“I gather that Mr. Vishinsky felt that any who did not wish to return to their homelands must of necessity be fascist. I talked to a great many of these people who do not strike me as being fascist.”

This is not news. Anyone acquainted with the Stalinist school of falsification knows that in its simplification of politics one is either a pro-Stalinist, or a pro-fascist, or, what is the same thing, a “Trotskyist mad dog.” Certainly Stalin’s secret police would like to get hold of the refugees who refuse to return to the hell of his rule. And the refugees who refuse to return know what fate awaits them if they do: the NKVD prisons, convict labor camps, forced labor and death.

What Parades as “Democracy” at Lake Success

To the new ruling class in Russia this is all democracy. More precisely, their type of democracy. What a travesty! The revolutionary socialist movement – bitter foes of Stalinism – are the outstanding champions of democracy: the right to free speech, free organization, free assembly. For revolutionary socialists, genuine democratic rights are an indispensable part of the struggle for socialism. Because genuine democracy is resisted and curtailed by capitalist society it is something always to be fought for and defended. But in the universal social decay of present times, Stalin’s Russia – that prison of the peoples where no one dares speak out the truth, write what he believes, or organize an independent meeting, let alone a political party or fraternal society – is represented as a genuine democratic land!

Because the Stalinists have perverted the idea of democracy as they have every principle of revolutionary socialism, Mrs. Roosevelt, the liberal defender and advocate of capitalism, is able to defend this system as “democratic.” The net result of all this is confusion of the people at large. Looking at Lake Success from a distance one sees:

“Democratic” imperialism: a world of class exploitation, colonial persecution, racial discrimination, military rule, poll tax elections, Jim Crow practices, outlawing of strikes, suppression of freedom – all of it mixed up with a bit of democratic rights depending on the richness of the countries involved and the state of class organization and struggle. This is represented as “pure” democracy!

Stalinist imperialism: a world of dictatorship and the rule of the secret police; no democratic rights whatever, a new exploitation of the peoples under the rule of counter-revolutionary parties, the prison or death for opponents. And this is represented as the “new” democracy!

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