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Harold Roberts

Soundings for Stalin-Hitler Pact Continue

Maneuvers Speeded by German Pressure for Poland Partition

(May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 32, 12 May 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Speculation over the possibility of a Stalin-Hitler deal overshadowed all other pre-war diplomatic developments in Europe this week.

Soundings going on both in Berlin and Moscow are now referred to in the press as undenied facts.

On both sides, of course, this speculation is itself being used as a diplomatic weapon. By strengthening the impression of an impending deal between the Nazi dictator and the autocrat of the Kremlin, the Germans hope to throw a monkey wrench into the continuing Anglo-Soviet negotiations. The Russians, for their part, permit the same impression to prevail in order to frighten the British and the French into offering more attractive terms for Soviet entry into their bloc.

Fire Under the Smoke

At the same time there is plenty of fire under all this smoke. It is not for nothing that Stalin and Hitler have both in their public speeches in the last few months abandoned their mutual attacks upon each other. It is not for nothing that the Nazi and Soviet press have cleared the path in the same way by dropping entirely their reciprocal mud-slinging. The purge of Maxim Litvinov last week from the post of Soviet foreign affairs commissar appears undeniably to have hastened the parleys that have been going on between the two countries.

Now the chances of a German-Soviet “non-aggression pact” have become common talk in Berlin, according to the correspondent of the New York Times. “It is no secret here,” he added, “that the Soviet government itself has been in favor of such a development. It took active steps to bring it about not only in years past but as late as last February.”

Pressure on Poland

In other words, Hitler seems at last to be lending an ear to the oft-made plea of Stalin for a pact that would leave Germany free to deal with its Anglo-French rivals and give Stalin a chance to sit a little longer on his shaky throne.

It is German pressure for a new partition of Poland that is bringing these developments rapidly to a head. In his speech to the Sejm last Friday Jozef Beck, diplomatic spokesman for the tight little military oligarchy that rules the Polish state, rejected Hitler’s demand for the return of Danzig and a road across the Polish corridor. Since then Hitler has been proceeding with his usual tactics to isolate the Poles in order the better to cut them to pieces under more propitious circumstances.

Part of his game is to separate Poland from the Baltic states. Among the latter he has already established his pactual predominance with Lithuania and Latvia and Esthonia and Finland are not likely to defy him.

Italian Alliance

Another part of the same process is the consummation of the formal military alliance between Germany and Italy. This serves the purpose of burning more Italian bridges leading back to the Anglo-French fold and silencing Italian fears of being drawn into a war over Poland, the Germans arguing that they will be able to swallow what they want of Polish territory without war if the Italians abandon the hesitation they have displayed over threatening to use force for the purpose.

Hitler’s final chore is to exorcise the Russian demon on the eastern frontier. This job has already been made easy for the Fuehrer by Stalin’s anxiety to come to terms with him. Hitler, contemptuous of the purge-rent Soviet state and army, might even think it sufficient to his purpose to break up the Anglo-Soviet negotiations. Beyond that, he would take, for the time being, a new German-Soviet trade pact which would provide the Reich with vitally needed food supplies and oil.

Such a deal would completely transform once more the ugly diplomatic face of Europe. David Lloyd George was undoubtedly correct when he declared in the House of Commons on Monday that the British guarantees to Poland and Rumania are worthless if the Soviet Union stands on the other side, or remains “neutral.”

The British and French would either decide that they would have to hasten war at all costs to crush their German rival before his strength outstrips them or else take refuge in a new Munich pact – i.e., seek a new breathing space for diplomatic maneuverings and rearmament. This would be the purpose of the new “appeasement” conference proposed by Pope Pius.

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