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Henry Judd

Powers Clash at “Peace” Conference

(12 August 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 32, 12 August 1946, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Whatever hopes the people may have had for a democratic People’s Peace and rehabilitation of a war-battered and tired world have quickly been dashed in the opening week of the Paris Peace Conference. Birds of many hues and feathers are gathered together in the Luxemburg Palace of Paris, but the mild and gentle dove of peace is reported to have beaten a hasty retreat out of the nearest window on the Conference’s opening day. The atmosphere of shabby double-dealing, cynical trickery and deceit proved too much for her.

Twenty-one nations have gathered together, for the announced purpose of restoring harmony and peace to broken Europe: the harmony and peace which is supposed to lift the old Continent out of its divisions, economic doldrums and atmosphere of hunger and decay. Yet, it is clear, one week of the Conference indicates that anything but this will occur; that the division of Europe into two sharply opposed camps (the Anglo-American Europe and the Russian Europe) will be intensified; that little or nothing will be done to revive economic and social life. The fact that UNRRA goes out of existence in December of this year has not yet been mentioned at the European Peace Conference!

Peace Is Not the Imposing of Arbitrary Boundaries

The Big Four Powers, who dominate the conference, have presented the 17 other nations, with a series of proposed treaties to be imposed upon the unwilling, humiliated nations of Italy, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland – the losers of World War II. A study of the details of these Treaties (including the disputed sections) clearly reveals the first and basic truth about the whole Conference: we have here a gathering of victor imperialist Powers, with their satellites, determined to impose robber, imperialist, reparation and territorial grabbing Treaties upon vanquished peoples. These proposed Treaties are harsh treaties of revenge and cruelty, signifying the effort to permanently enslave millions of Italians, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians and Finns.

Boundaries are to be arbitrarily fixed, traded and exchanged. But boundaries involve people, the Finns formerly within Petsamo province who now will go to Russian totalitarian hands; the Rumanians of Bessarabia who will likewise fall into Stalin’s bloody hands; the Italians of Breda who must go to the French; the Italians of Venezia Giulia, who will feel Tito’s boot on their neck, etc. Are not these people to be given a choice or say in the matter? According to the Big Four treaties, no! Each boundary settlement of the “peacemakers,” then cannot but fail to become a sore point for another war.

Peace Is Not the Extraction of Reparations from Starving People

Russia will extract, with the approval of the Big Four (and the little Seventeen), $1 billion from the poor people, the workers and peasants, of the defeated lands. We know the politicians won’t pay for this; it will come from the toil and blood of the castdown peoples.

Furthermore, it is already estimated that Russia alone has robbed and plundered to the tune of $2 billion from these same countries (making a grand total of $3 billion). America, Britain and France have likewise, although not to the same degree, taken substantial swag from Germany, Austria and Italy. The hands of the “democracies” are also burdened with loot.

Peace Is Not Denial of National Independence

The Treaties so weaken and nullify the nations upon which they are to be imposed that, in effect, they cease to exist as free and independent countries. Italy loses Trieste, a major economic port for the country’s life; Italy has its merchant fleet divided up among the Powers; its colonies are taken away (into the hands of England, to be sure, and not into the hands of the native people who live in them); its navy is destroyed. Italy will be a third or fourth rate Power, producing reparations for Russia.

Rumania, Hungary and Bulgaria are turned over to the Russian economic sphere; deprived of all but minute armies and forced to swallow a diet of reparations to Russia, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Finland must lease whole cities and bases for occupation indefinitely by Russian troops. Land grabs, reparations and economic subjection – this is the content of the Big Four Treaties.

Peace Is Not the Struggle of Power Bloc vs. Power Bloc

The Conference is dominated by blocs of imperialist nations, each busy at work to outmaneuver the other.

There is the Russian bloc, dominated by Stalinist Russia. If this bloc has its way, it will gain de facto control over Trieste and the Adriatic ocean through its treaty with Italy. It will win a billion dollars in reparations. It will have undisputed control over the Balkans, the Danubian and other waterways of Central and Southern Europe; the whole of Eastern and Central Europe will be under its sway.

The Russian bloc, dominated entirely by Russia proper, is obviously the most aggressive and best organized group at the Conference. Its victory would mean an enormous thrust by Stalinist imperialism, with its barbaric regime of totalitarianism, into the heart of Europe.

Then there is the Anglo-American bloc, fighting for its own interests against the Russian bloc. It seeks to slow up Stalin’s onrush, to lessen the degree to which Russia shapes the occupied territories after its own dictatorial image. It wants to preserve its own property rights and interests in the defeated countries occupied by the Russian Army, from brutal-handed expropriation and nationalization by Stalin and his supporters. Thus, it fights to keep open the Balkans to free trade, and make the Danubian riverways available for use by all nations. This bloc, today in retreat, is likewise anxious to propagandize and prepare for future struggles against its chief opponent bloc.

Finally, there is the Big Four (or Five, if we include China) bloc, symbolizing the plane on which the chief imperialists get together – at the expense of the conquered powers, the small nations, and for their mutual benefits. Principles are discarded and the common sharing of loot from Germany, Italy, Austria, etc., is agreed upon.

This bloc extends, when necessary, to the political plane and is used as a club against the small nations, to shove the iniquitous treaty measures down: their unwilling throats. On this plane, the whole Conference was prearranged and has no real powers – it cannot vote changes in the Treaties, only recommendations. It cannot actually assert any real influence, if the Big Four have ordained otherwise.

Farcical Struggle over Two-Thirds Vote vs. Majority Vote

The small nations demand decisions by majority vote. The Big Four, particularly Russia’s man Molotov, reject this. Russia’s continuance at the Conference depends upon the retaining of the two thirds vote system – that is, a guarantee that nothing Russia does not want will be inserted into the treaties, since Russia already controls 8 (over one third of the votes). Listen to what reporter Sulzberger writes in the New York Times (August 5):

“For the Big Four, plus the five Russian satellites, will all vote in favor of the decisions of the Big Four. This makes nine certain votes, or enough to prevent a two-thirds majority from overruling the Big Four decisions.”

The dice are loaded by the Big Four, cry to the Heavens though the small nations will. Honest men are not wanted at Luxembourg Palace. The Big Four spokesmen may score debating points against one another, but thieves notoriously stick together when a common danger comes round the corner.

Real Problems of Peace Excluded from Agenda

Our analysis of the conference would be incomplete without pointing to the basic problems omitted (deliberately) by the convenors:

  1. What will be the fate of Germany?
  2. What will be the fate of Austria, latest battleground of rivalry between America and Russia?
  3. How will atomic warfare and the Atomic Bomb be handled?
  4. What is the goal and ultimate objective of Russian imperialism? World War III?
  5. What is the goal and ultimate objective of Anglo-American imperialism? World War III?

A conference for Peace? Only the free, independent, socialist united peoples of the earth could convene such a conference. This Conference, dominated by every contrary motive, is a conference ground for political and diplomatic pre-war maneuvers. Discord and disharmony are its key notes, plunder and pillage its actions, continued economic chaos and sinking living standards will be its results. Scoundrels, bandits and despoilers are in conference – let honest people be on guard.

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