BY PROF. M. VENKATARANGAIYA, M.A.
It is now being proclaimed from the house-tops that what the world really needs is peace. In spite of the phenomenal advance in scientific knowledge and the ever-growing control of mass over the hidden forces of nature, humanity today is worse-fed, worse clothed and worse-housed than at any other period of history. As Sir John Boyd-Orr recently reported, there is an impending world food shortage due to rising population and wasting the forces of production. We are in a situation where the best and the only proper and legitimate course is to utilise all available resources for producing the things which give life to the people at large. Unfortunately, however, the power-mad politicians–the Stalins and the Trumans who are at the helm of affairs and who guide the destinies of mankind–are not in a mood to divert the world’s resources into productive channels. They are, on the other hand, bent on carrying on the Napoleonic tradition, the tradition of imperial conquests in the name of liberty, equality, fraternity, and that much-abused term democracy. What we are witnessing today is a repetition of what happened in Europe in the years following the French Revolution. The Communist dictator Stalin and the Capitalist dictator Truman do not want to leave the world alone. They are doing just what the revolutionary politicians and Napoleon on one side, and the monarchical and feudal regimes on the other, did in the period between 1789 and 1815.
This is the only conclusion that has to be drawn from the way in which the democratic world of Western Europe and the capitalistic world of America reacted to the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, carried out of course in the name of the democratic freedom of the working classes under the orders of Stalin. It is now Stalin’s policy to provide for the security of his country–and he is interested only in that and not in world security– by creating as large a number of satellite States around it as possible, so that, in any future war in which he has to fight, these States; might become the battle-grounds and his country be safe and at a long distance from the actual scene of battle, free from the devastation that might be caused by the invading forces. It used to be said of the British Government of India that, in the campaigns in which they employed the Indian troops, they made it a point to keep these troops in front of the battle-line and the British regiments behind, so that the whole brunt of the battle was borne by the former while the fruits of victory were enjoyed by the British soldiers. This is just what Stalin is doing in Europe. As a result of the Second World War which he, along with the other Allies, proclaimed as being fought to get the world rid of imperialism, Soviet Russia has become in Europe the mistress of an empire the like of which was never seen before. The Baltic States of Latvia, Esthonia, and Lithuania, and Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Eastern Germany have all become her dependencies. And with the conclusion of the military pact with Finland in April, Stalin has been able to bring under his control even this country. Of course what Stalin has been doing in Europe and elsewhere is also what Truman is doing in many parts of the world. He is anxious that France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Greece should become the battle-grounds so that America might be safe from Russian attack.
One outcome of the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, and of the pressure brought by Soviet Russia on Finland, was the conclusion of a fifty-year treaty of economic cooperation and military aid by Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg. Responsible spokesmen of these countries praised it on the ground that it was designed to fortify and preserve the principles of democracy, personal freedom, and political liberty, the gulf of law and constitutional government. These are the characteristics of West-European culture, as distinguished from that of Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe. The Treaty promises that, if an armed attack is made in Europe on anyone of the parties to the Treaty, the others will afford to it all military and other aid. It is nothing but a military pact of the traditional type, directed this time against Russian expansionism, although, in his announcement of the news of the pact to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Attlee gave to it a very high spiritual significance. In accordance with the military articles of the Treaty, the Defence Ministers of the five States met subsequently in a conference and set up a Permanent Military Committee to work out all the details. The defence stems of the five States are being converted into a joint defence system–not amalgamated but closely coordinated. And this whole machinery of alliance, which the Soviet regards as a disturbing factor, is considered by the Governments of the five countries as a stabilizing factor in the disturbed conditions of present-day Europe.
While the Brussels discussions were going on, there was also a conference of the foreign ministers of the sixteen nations of Europe who had already agreed to participate in the (Marshall Aid) European Recovery Programme. A sort of permanent “economic general staff” was set up to supervise the details. More important than this was the suggestion made at the conference that the programme should be extended to Western Germany and even to Spain. The first suggestion was accepted.
The inclusion of Western Germany in the programme is a turning event in the contemporary history of Europe and of the world. This amounts to a definite reversal of the policy originally agreed upon by the Allied Powers, that German industry should be kept for years at a very low level, so that Germans might not at any time have at their disposal those industrial resources which in the past enabled them to become aggressive and plunge the world into two destructive wars. It is now felt by the British, the Americans, and even the French, that without the development of the resources of Western Germany, and especially of the Ruhr which is its industrial heart, there can be no European recovery at all. The output of coal, iron, and steel in the Ruhr was responsible for the prosperity of most countries in Western Europe in the past, and the people of these countries have now realised that they cannot recover, even with the aid extended by America, unless once more they secure adequate supplies of these commodities from Germany. They have now come to the conclusion that an impoverished Germany would mean an impoverished Europe.
But here was a real dilemma. An industrialised Germany might once more become a great military power. The problem therefore was how to develop Germany’s economic resources without her becoming a military power again. This formed the subject of secret talks that were held in London in the last week of February, in the early days of March, and in April again at a conference of the members of the Western European Union and the United States. The solution put forward was the establishment of international control over the development of the Ruhr resources, This gives a hand to France and her neighbours in determining the extent and direction of German economic development. To present the growth of German political power, it was suggested that Germany should in future have only a loose form of federal government instead of her becoming a centralised State as under Hitler, capable of directing the military and foreign policy of the country. There was, however, no agreement on this issue, specially because of the French opposition to any kind of central government and administration. So far as the inclusion of Western Germany in the European Recovery Programme is concerned, there were no differences of opinion. The result was that when the experts of the sixteen Marshall Aid Nations met again in the middle of April, Western Germany was also represented at the conference, and she became a signatory to the Charter which created a permanent organisation to administer the Marshall Aid.
The attempt to include Spain in the European Recovery Programme raises issues of a highly controversial character. Franco, the dictator of Spain, is a lineal successor of Hitler and Musolini. His Fascism has destroyed the liberties of the Spanish people. It was on this Score that Spain was not admitted into the United Nations or into any of the other international bodies organised under its auspices. That the ‘democratic’ nations of Europe and America should be thinking of extending Marshall Aid to this country indicates how, in the pursuit of the game of power-politics, principles have no influence whatever. The American House of representatives approved of the inclusion of Spain in the programme, though at the subsequent joint conference of the representatives of two Houses of Congress there was a vote against this inclusion. It was in these discussions that a Republican Representative remarked that Spain was the greatest bulwark against Communism in Europe, and as such she should receive all possible American aid. No wonder that proceedings like these provoked several left-wing observers to remark that America is interested not so much in aiding the democracies of Europe as in destroying Communism, and that, in exchange for strategic bases in a war against Russia, she is prepared to sacrifice all her principles.
The net outcome, however, of the events in Western Europe in March and April was the formation of the West-European Military Union under the Brussels Treaty, and the coming into closer co-operation of the sixteen Marshall Aid nations for economic purposes. In these days it is impossible to divide economics from politics or to think of any group of countries pursuing economic policies without providing for security. It is because of this that there is already a move that, along with economic aid, the United States should provide to these sixteen countries any military aid they might be in need of.
In this ‘cold war’ now going on between Russia and America, the centre of interest shifted to Italy in March and Apri1. This was because of the General Elections due to be held there on April 18. The contest between the Communists and their allies, the majority Socialists, on one side, and the Christian Democrats on the other, was very acute. The Communists put forth all their best efforts to dislodge the Christian Democrats who were the party carrying on the government of the country. The elections however ceased to be a purely domestic affair. The Big Powers took active interest in them. To Russia, a Communist victory was naturally welcome. It meant the inclusion of Italy in the Soviet sphere of influence, and it would also ensure the triumph of the Communist party at the next general election in France, and the extension of Communism to the Atlantic. The British and the Americans are equally anxious to see the triumph of the Christian Democrats. Italy occupies a strategic position in the Mediterranean, and American expansionism into Greece and Turkey and her hold over the middle East, vital to her from the point of view of her oil supplies and her general strategy, depends on Italy remaining in her circle of allies and participating in the Marshall Plan.
In this struggle for securing in Italy a government favourable to themselves, both the rival groups among the Big Powers took recourse to tactics which might be appropriately designated as bribery on a national scale. Russia promised to give up her share of Italian separation and also gave a effort of written undertaking that at the meeting of the Council of Foreign misters she would support the Italian claim for the trusteeship of the colonies in Africa. In their turn Britain, France, and the United States proposed that the seaport of Trieste, which was in possession of Italy before Second World War and which was taken away from her in the peace treaty of 1947 should be restored to her. In addition to this, the United States threatened that she would not extend her aid to Italy–an aid without which Italian economic recovery was an impossibility–in case the Italian electorate voted for the Communists in large numbers. American war-ships were also seen in Italian waters. So great was the importance that the American attached to these elections that General Eisenhower, who knew at first hand all about Europe, observed:
“If this oldest corridor between the East and the West were walled up, the effects would be instant and catastrophic. Blocked to Western countries would be the direct air and sea-routes to our friends at the strategic heart of the Eastern Hemisphere. International commerce, the economic foundations of stable peace, would be disrupted. War, in such a case, would be close to us.”
The elections were held on April 18. The Christian Democrats were returned in absolute majority, and the danger of a Communist government being established in that country was averted. The Iron curtain remained where it was before the elections, and now Italy continues to be a member of the comity of West-European nations. This was a triumph for American policy and meant a defeat of Soviet Russia. During the last three years, controversies went on as to how far elections in the countries of Eastern Europe, which are in the Soviet sphere of influence, were really free. The same question may be asked with reference to these Italian elections. Whether free or unfree, the outcome, for the time being at least, is that Italy has a non-Communist Government. This has already produced a chastened effect on Soviet Russia. The willingness of Molotov to enter into discussions with the United States on the subject of the relations between the two countries is to some extent attributed to Soviet failure in the Italian elections.
Throughout March and April, the Government of the United States showed a distinct tendency to strengthening the defence forces of the country, in the hope that a firm policy in this respect would bring down Soviet Russia and put a stop to her aggressive and expansionist policy. The day on which the Brussels Pact was signed in Europe was also the day when President Truman declared, in his message to Congress, that Russia not only refused to cooperate in the establishment of a just and honourable peace, but, even worse, she persistently obstructed the work of the United Nations by constant abuse of the Veto. He recommended that conscription and universal military training should be immediately introduced into the United States, and in defence of it he stated: “Aggressors in the past, relying on an apparent lack of military force, have universally precipitated war,” and, if war is now to be prevented, it can only be done by increasing the military strength of the United States to the furthest extent possible. Throughout the whole of April, this was the dominating note of all his speeches and addresses and in the messages he sent to Congress. It was also the spirit that animated the statements made by his Defence Secretary and several other spokesmen of his Government, in the evidence they gave before the committees of Congress, for obtaining unprecedented sums of money for expenditure on the military, naval, and air defences of the country. It was as a part of this policy that steps were taken to strengthen the bases in Alaska and in the Aleutian islands. Negotiations were set afloat to obtain bases in Spain and in Spanish Moroeco and in Malta. More military equipment was sent to Turkey. And it was decided to give substantial military aid to China. Military aid was also offered to the countries of Western Europe as a part of the Recovery Programme. The Programme itself received the sanction of Congress at the beginning of April, and administrators were appointed to proceed to Europe and arrange for the regular dispatch to the different countries the commodities they were in need of. Defence talks were opened with Canada. Decisions were also taken in regard to the maintaining of Japan’s industry at a high level so that she might become a sort of American arsenal in the Far-East. It was clear to the whole world how strong was the militarist trend in the United States.
It is no wonder that in this tense atmosphere of the widening cleavage between Soviet Russia and the United States, the United Nations Organisation has lost much of its prestige. This is one of the tragedies of the post-war world, and it has come to the clearest gaze in the happenings in Palestine where a grim battle is going on between the Jews and the Arabs–a battle which is being fought by the Jews to uphold the scheme of partition decided upon by the General Assembly of the United Nations but which the United Nations is not in a mood to put into effect. This is, however, a long story and it has to be reserved for a later occasion.