Max Shachtman

When Three Powers Get Together

Dividing the Spoils in Moscow

(November 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 45, 8 November 1943, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Oceans of ink are being spilled all over the press for the purpose of concealing the most important basic points in the agreement reached by the three big Allied powers at the Moscow Conference.

Point One is the common fear of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin of the coming revolution in Europe, and their agreement to prevent it from breaking out, to control it and take the heart out of it if it does break out, to suppress it by force if it cannot be controlled and rendered harmless.

That is why the joint declaration of the three powers (four with China) recognizes “the necessity of ensuring the rapid and ORDERLY transition from war to peace,” and speaks of: “the re-establishment of law and order.” That is why it calls for the use of “their military forces within the territories of other states ... for the purposes envisaged in this declaration and after joint consultation.” Anyone who understands anything about imperialist politics knows what such declarations as the one adopted in Moscow mean by the words “law and order.” They mean: no revolution, down with revolution, down with the rule of the working people!

The imperialists are fully aware that millions of workers and peasants in Europe are already determined to put an end to the rule of the reactionaries, the exploiters and oppressors, who are responsible for their dreadful sufferings and agonizing misery – not only in Germany in Italy, but in practically every other European country. They know that at the first opportunity the people will rise in revolution as they did in the period of the First World War. Again, as in the First World War, “law and order” means: stop the revolution if you can; crush it by force if you cannot stop it.

On this point, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt are already agreed. They have already showed it in Italy, where their “co-belligerent,” Badoglio, the assassin of Ethiopia and Albania, is being propped up by Allied bayonets, while militant anti-fascists are gagged and even arrested for trying to publish an independent press.

Preparing a European Hash

Point Two is their agreement that the continent of Europe must be hacked into small and feeble parts, economically and politically dependent upon the Big Three, and prevented from achieving that unity of peoples and nations that Europe must have to survive, to be free and secure, and to prosper.

A free Europe, united economically and politically as it must be, united above all as a Socialist United States of Europe, would not only guarantee the peoples of the continent prosperity and peace, but would also guarantee them against domination of any kind, direct or indirect, by American, British or Russian imperialism.

To realize their expansionist plans the Big Three are therefore determined to split up ravaged Europe even more hopelessly than it was before the war, making its helpless parts easier to control or absorb.

The Meaning of “Free” Austria

The announcement that “Austria ... shall be liberated from German domination” is one of the first signals of the Big Three’s intentions. It is not of Hitlerite or fascist domination that the Moscow, declaration speaks, but of “German domination.”

Talk by the Big Three of “liberating” anybody is one of the cruellest jokes of our time, as the people of India and North Africa can bitterly testify. When they speak of “German domination of Austria,” they mean the union of Germany and Austria.

Before Hitler came to power, the PEOPLES of Germany and Austria were overwhelmingly for a free union of the two countries. Its accomplishment might have been a big progressive step toward a free union of Europe. It was prevented then by France and England. It was later accomplished by Hitler, not as a free union of free peoples, but as a reactionary imperialist rape. Now, Washington, London and Moscow plan to break it up, to prevent its realization on a democratic basis, as part of the Balkanization of Europe.

The declaration further officially divides the United Nations into masters and servants. Thus, England, the United States and Russia “will consult with one another and, as occasion requires, with other members of the United Nations, with a view to joint action on behalf of the community of nations.”

The Big Three will decide/and the “other members” will be informed of the decisions affecting them “as occasion requires,” Thus is formalized the relationship between masters and servants that has been pretty consistently followed in the past The three big powers will form the “European Advisory Commission” in London to decide the fate of all peoples and nations of the continent.

Point Three is their agreement to divide Europe into respective spheres of imperialist interest, influence and control.

Not one of the five official declarations and communiques of the Moscow Conference has a single word to say about the vital question of the right of self-determination – the democratic right of peoples to self-government, as against rule from abroad like colonies. Without guaranteeing this right to ALL peoples and countries, the war against Hitler in the name of “national sovereignty” remains what it was, imperialist hypocrisy.

The Big Three, however, cannot guarantee this right and will not. For one thing, it would mean abandoning their lusts for new conquests and colonies. For another, it would mean giving up, now, all claims to their imperialist conquests of the past, Puerto Rico for the United States, India and Northern Ireland for England, the Baltic states and other Eastern European countries for Russia. There is as much chance of their doing anything like this as there is of Hitlerism turning into democracy.

Big Three Conflicts

In addition to the points of agreement, there remain the points of disagreement among the Big Three. And the latter are not unimportant.

They agree that the coming European revolution must be crushed, but they give no clear evidence yet of full agreement on the way it is to be crushed. Shall it be done in the “Anglo-American” way, which means suppressing labor’s aspirations in order to maintain capitalism? Or shall it be done in the Stalinist way, which means no less violent and complete a suppression of labor, a reduction of the working class and peasants to slavery, but also the transfer of capitalist property into the hands of the Russian bureaucracy, at least in the Eastern part of Europe? To what extent the disagreement over the “method” has been composed, remains to be seen.

They agree that Europe must he kept divided and weak. They agree that Europe must be partitioned into spheres of influence dominated by the Big Three. But what section of it is to be under Stalin’s domination, and what section under England’s domination, or that of the United States?

That the Anglo-Americans will launch an attack on Germany from the West some time in the coming period seems to be a foregone conclusion, and an evidence that they will confine their major interests to Western Europe, in exchange, it seems that agreement has been more or less reached in favor of Stalin’s imperialist demands for Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, at least part of Finland, Bessarabia and Moldavia.

Who Gets What?

But there is more to Europe? Who is to be dominant along the Danube and in the Balkans? How is Germany to be split up, how will it be ruled by the Big Three, which of them will rule what part of it?

These and similar problems of the division of the booty of the war remain to be settled by the great champions of democracy. It will take a dozen more conferences and declarations before they can compose their differences over the peoples and countries they treat as pawns in the chess game of imperialism.

But the Moscow Conference is already enough to show that to look for a genuinely democratic peace, a peace that solves the agonizing problems of Europe – to say nothing of the rest of the world – under the auspices of the big three, or any other imperialist combination, is to look for miracles. And, as has often been said, the day of miracles is gone.

Only the people, acting by themselves, can bring about a democratic peace and a lasting peace!

Only the people, led by the Workers of Europe, who set up their own governments in every country, can bring an end to oppression and suffering, to war and destruction!

Only the people of Europe can rid themselves of Nazi slavery and avoid a new enslavement by their pretended “liberators,” by a free union under the banner of a Socialist United States of Europe!


(Other aspects of the Moscow Conference will be dealt with by Max Shachtman in the next issue of Labor Action.)

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