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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(27 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 82, 27 October 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The papers here have failed to take notice so far of an extremely significant interview given to the London News Chronicle by Sven Hedin, the aged Swedish explorer who called on Hitler a week ago under conditions that seemed to suggest he might be called upon to play the role of an unofficial bearer of peace proposals from Hitler to the western powers.

Hedin indirectly quoted Hitler as saying that Anglo-German co-operation against the “westward advance of Bolshevism” (i.e., of Stalin) was the only thing that could save “western civilization.” Such cooperation, he said, is still “Hitler’s dream.”

The News Chronicle asked Hedin if Hitler would join a western bloc strong enough to dictate reorganization of Europe.

“Germany would undoubtedly do so,” Hedin replied.

The Hedin interview offers a further glimmer of light into the shadows in which the present war of arms, nerves, power diplomacy has enshrouded itself. With the opening of the winter season it is now generally assumed that military operations will continue on their extremely limited scale while the more important battles are fought out in the chancelleries and diplomatic back-alleys.

On the diplomatic front the western Allies have been winning the victories so notably absent in the military sphere during the last few weeks. The pact with Turkey has at least for the time being established a pro-Ally balance in the eastern end of the Mediterranean and has severely weakened the slim chances that remained that Germany would be able to count on any cooperation from Italy.

Signature of the Ankara pact has been followed by the opening of new diplomatic drives in the Balkans by the Italians and by the Russians, both of which are seeking to form blocs of the southeastern European states which they could manipulate as the further course of the war dictates.

In Moscow, Izvestia, the gov-ernment paper, blustered that afresh Anglo-French attempt to set Germany against Russia had failed, that the Russians had “no-thing to regret” over the outcome of the parleys with the Turks. Nevertheless, the Kremlin has embarked upon a Balkan fence-mending campaign upon which Germany can look with scarcely a benevolent eye. And the reopening of Russian talks with Turkey is confidently predicted in London.

This, taken together with the obvious coolness developing between Rome and Berlin, has given the British diplomats a somewhat easier breathing space and has provided the basis for continuing with the waiting game that the Anglo-French general staffs have evidently decided upon.

Just what they are waiting for is the prime problem of the war. To guess that they hope for the replacement of Hitler by a German military dictatorship which will fall in with plans for a joint war against Russia is probably not very far from the mark. It may very well be the pressure of the military leaders that is forcing Hitler to go easy on the western fronts and to send out feelers, such as that carried by Hedin, for a possible understanding with his present enemies.

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