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Henry Judd

Big Power Blocs Vie for Control of Trieste

Wishes of Trieste People Disregarded as Big Four Ministers Wrangle
over How Strategic Area Shall Be Governed

(2 December 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 48, 2 December 1946, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At the meetings of the Big Four Foreign Ministers, now taking place in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, a tight , deadlock exists and grows deeper. The issues involved, reaching far beyond the fate of that seaport city, have become of such importance that it is claimed that their solving will unloosen the deadlock involving all the Powers and make possible the speedy conclusion of treaties with Italy and other European Powers.

While the Trieste issue has great importance, it is incorrect that its solution would bring a speedy end to the conflict between the Powers and move Europe more rapidly toward peace and reconstruction. Its solution would only pave the way for discussions on the yet more difficult, complex and more controversial problems of treaties with Austria and Germany.

Strategic Center

Yet the dispute over Trieste is significant for what it reveals of the motives and methods of the Big Four in handling Europe and its problems. Trieste, and its surrounding territory of Venezia Giulia, is not so much a sore spot in Europe to which the soothing balm of agreement, peace and economic recovery needs to be applied. It is a strategic center, a vital spot in the power game of the imperialist rivals and each is anxious to maneuver so that it dominates the fate of this city.

Trieste is a strategic port on the Adriatic, and whoever wins it wins control over that sea. Trieste is a railway center, branching out in all directions to Yugoslavia, Italy and Austria. Trieste is a valuable shipbuilding center, a trading and commercial center of high importance. In the fundamental division existing between the Anglo-American partners and the Russians with their satellites, Trieste is a prize package worth slipping into anyone’s pocket.

But the longer the negotiations have proceeded, the more serious have the differences become. This does not exclude the final arriving at an agreement, but at the moment this does not appear to be in sight. During the course of the negotiations, the Russians, represented by leading Stalinist Molotov, have cleverly maneuvered so that they (lo and behold!) appear as the democrats, while the Anglo-Americans represented by Byrnes and Bevins appear as the anti-democratic authoritarians! As for the French representative (some stupid Comte or other), he doesn’t appear at all.

Reasons for Dispute

How did this occur? A Free Territory of Trieste, established by statutes, is to be established under United Nations control. To this degree, all have agreement. It is over the concrete statutes, investing powers in a proposed Governor of Trieste, police, etc., that the sharp disagreements have taken place. Russian imperialism, knowing that Yugoslavs are a majority in the territory and knowing too that their friend and stooge Marshal Tito is just around the corner where he can exert terror-pressure on the population, is anxious to fix the statutes so that the Yugoslavs can, through supposedly legal forms, seize power and turn the entire area over to Stalinized Yugoslavia. They therefore want a Governor with weakened powers, and with real power resting in the hands of a constituent assembly to be called for the purpose of creating a permanent government for the territory.

Byrnes and Bevin, on the other hand, are most anxious of all to prevent seizure of the area by Tito, and therefore desire to install all kinds of safeguards against such possibilities, as well as statutes that will give them, the Anglo-Americans, the power to intervene at any moment. They therefore wish a Governor with wide powers, including the right to control the police, suspend legislation, issue decrees, declare martial law, etc. This Governor proposed by America and England would, in effect, have the powers of an all-mighty dictator. He would also be appointed by the Security Council of the UN, where the Anglo-Americans have a majority, as against Molotov’s proposal that the Foreign Ministers agree on who he is to be.

People Not Consulted

In addition, the whole question of fixing a date for the evacuation of Trieste by foreign, troops is under dispute, with Molotov insisting upon a date 90 days after the Italian treaty goes into effect and the others insisting upon no definite dale at all. They aren’t particularly anxious to pull out and see Tito’s strutting Stalinists walk in the next day!

These differences, of course, reveal the profound and mutual distrust these two power-hungry blocs have for each other. It goes without saying that the desires and wishes of the Trieste people – be they Italian or Yugoslav – are in no way whatever consulted or considered. There is no spokesman from either nationality permitted at the hearings. This is the situation, reactionary and the proposed socialist solution to this hypocritical, as it appears today. For difficult problem, see November 11 issue of Labor Action and the coming issue.

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