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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(2 March 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 8, 2 March 1940, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Welles mission is turning out to be secret diplomacy with a vengeance.

President Roosevelt announced he was sending his Under-Secretary of State to Europe solely to secure “information.” As we pointed out at the time, this sounded fishy enough on the face of it. With diplomats at every key point in Europe and various other sources of secret intelligence, Roosevelt had no need of sending a special emissary solely to secure “information.”

This fiction was exploded sky-high within a few hours of Welles’ arrival in Rome. He handed to Mussolini a secret letter from Roosevelt and thus, in the words of the Times’ correspondent, “put an end to the accepted (sic) version that his trip is purely informative.”

The Welles mission is part of a game played with millions of lives as the stakes. The American people must demand now more than ever:

“What is Roosevelt up to? What are the contents of the secret letter handed to Mussolini and what other communications is Welles scheduled to deliver in Berlin, Paris, and London?”

Why all the lies in the first place about the purpose of the Welles mission?

If, as the newspapers glibly suggest, Welles is making “peace soundings” – then why all the pussyfooting about it? Surely a move for peace could have no stronger basis than the unanimous support of the people in this country and in others? Why does it have to be kept secret from them?

Welles, himself, however, after he saw Mussolini in Rome flatly denied that he was in Europe to discuss a cessation of hostilities.

The obvious comparisons between the Welles mission and the activities of Col. House in Europe in 1915 have already been widely drawn. House went to “explore” peace possibilities and all he succeeded in doing was helping the Allies to bring this country into the war on their side. It took nearly twenty years for the real facts about House to come to light. In the meanwhile this country went into the European holocaust.

But when the facts come to light about Welles’ mission – and we hope it won’t take 20 years to drag them into the light of day – it will probably be seen that Roosevelt was by no means repeating the naive essays into diplomacy made by Wilson.

Roosevelt knows the game of power politics and intends to play it all ways to the middle. His intention is to assert the supremacy of American imperialism and to use its power to dictate the course of the war and its settlement. To this end he is preparing to use the whole economic, military, and naval strength of the country.

This is the road to war. We must demand a clear accounting from the man in the White House. We demand as our right full knowledge of the diplomatic maneuvers which he is trying to keep behind a smokescreen of guesswork and newspaper speculation. No secret diplomacy! No confidence in Roosevelt as a “peacemaker”!


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