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Mary Bell

Big Three Divide Spoils of War at Potsdam

(23 July 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 30, 23 July 1945,pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“A triumvirate of truly global dimensions, which commands virtually all the effective power on earth, meets in Potsdam ... to lay the cornerstone for a new world.”

Thus a New York Times editorial described the meeting of the Big Three. Truman, Stalin and Churchill, sitting in imported comfort and luxury in the former shrine of militarism, surrounded by the ghosts of sixty million military casualties of the Second World War, meet rather to lay a tombstone on the aspirations of the peoples of the world for freedom, security and an end to war.

They meet to divide further the booty of conquest.

In each successive Big Three conference, from Teheran to Potsdam, the military might based upon the industrial and financial power of the Big Three has determined the strategy of the war and the division of the world into spheres of influence.

The closer the powers come to complete victory and cessation of the present war, however, the more the exigency of unity for winning the war is subordinated to the centrifugal national tendencies based upon imperialist rivalry for the markets of the world. The old slogans of the Four Freedoms and the democrats principles of the Atlantic Charter for which the peoples of the world were mobilized behind the Allies are buried deeper.

That the course of the war with Japan will be one of the major points involved in the discussions was only highlighted by the summoning of Admiral Land by Truman to the conference. Here arise difficult problems. The United States has bigger stakes in the Far East than in Europe, but the other powers also have vested interests. They don’t want to see the U.S. “monopolize” the war against Japan. There has already been some complaint by Britain that the U.S. is not sufficiently utilizing British ships in that area.

If the other big powers do not come in for a good share of the responsibility for the military victory, they will have no moral basis for a claim to the Far Eastern spoils. Russian participation requires a settlement of the Chiang Kai-shek dispute with the Chinese Communists.

Of key importance to both Russia and the Anglo-American powers is the disposition of Germany. There appears to be extreme skittishness on both sides, not merely because of the significance of Germany’spower, but its location as meeting ground of the big powers, separated up to this point by their buffer states, puppet regimes, protective boundaries and spheres of influence.

The dual policy of Russia on the one hand and the Anglo-Americans on the other will have to be solved. Russia, while calling for the maintenance of “free enterprise,” has been enterprisingly carrying off machinery and industrial equipment to incorporate into the Stalinist empire. Nor does she allow much leeway to the business men who remain. A Jewish publisher, for example, a genuine “free enterpriser” of the house of Ullstein, which was confiscated by the Nazis during the Hitler regime, was refused the management of his business by the Russians for being “too Western-minded.”

The vaunted “democracy” and “fraternization” in the Russian area of Germany, coming through censored news dispatches, conceals the ruthless suppression of serious democratic opponents by the NKVD (Russian secret police), the utilization of the made-in-Moscow puppets of the “Free Germany” committee, etc.

But Russian policy, emanating as it does from a totalitarian régime that permits no opposition, is easily carried through. That of the United States, for example, is confused and uncertain. There are proponents of the restoration of German industry to take care of civilian needs for Europe, and proponents of the Morgenthau-Baruch school which would raze industry and agriculturalize Germany.

While the Russians hoist picked and safe anti-fascist parties into power and here and there an ex-Nazi who is willing to exchange the Nazi insignia for the hammer and sickle of the communists, the Americans have barred anti-fascist parties in Bavaria and openly supported outright Nazis in administrative posts.

Meanwhile the economic problems that beset Germany, flowing in no small measure from its tripartite division, are acute. The heavily industrialized American zone is cut off from the breadbasket, which is in Russian hands. This problem, in miniature, is the problem of all Europe, split up into artificial zones, divided by tariff walls and political barriers.

Italy, Middle East

Italy has recently declared war on Japan as a bid to become part of the United Nations and to effect the settlement of her status. Yet there is some reluctance, even on the part of Italian leaders, to make public at this late date the terms of the armistice, which are undoubtedly severe. This will bring up immediately the disposition ofthe Italian Empire and consequent squabbles among the big powers.

France may make her bid for Tripolitania to add to Tunisia. Britain would find Italian Somaliland a convenient neighbor to British Somaliland. Greece would like to stake a claim to the Dodecanese Islands. The Italian port of Trieste, seized by Stalin’s Marshal Tito in a “unilateral” action and claimed by Italy, is up for solution.

The question of the Middle East, a pot pourri of oil imperialism, strategic ports and inflamed national sentiments for liberation will be up for bargaining among Truman, Stalin and Churchill.

There have already been military clashes between the Levantine states and French soldiers, with Britain magnanimously recognizing the demand for independence of these people because of her own interests in the area.

Of foremost concern is Russia’s demand on Turkey, made unilaterally and now in the hands of the Big Three, for a change in the status of the Dardanelles, Russian outlet to the Mediterranean, plus perhaps a demand for Turkish European territory for one of her Balkan satellites. She also backs Turkey’s demands of Britain and the United States for Iraq oil. This Turkish demand arises as aresult of Russian monopolization of Rumanian oil through reparations and commercial agreements.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, Tangier hangs as a counterweight to the Dardanelles. France appealed to the British and Americans, in a sort of trilateral action excluding Russia, to internationalize the area opposite Gibraltar, forming the lower lip of the western entrance to the Mediterranean. Britain and America proposed British-American-Spanish-French control – at which point Russia stepped in. If the fate of the Dardanelles is to be decided by Big Three arrangement, so will that of Tangier.

How the great powers chafe under the bonds of the “United Nations” and how they struggle to make separate agreements!

New, Old Tasks

The aspirations of the European and Asiatic masses for freedom from a totalitarian, foreign yoke have not been met in Allied victory. In practically every case the conqueror and enslaver has merely changed nationalities. At the same time, the world division of natural resources and the world division of labor are pressing for an international solution, an international federation of free, democratic states, a free international exchange of the products of labor.

The domination and division of the world by the Big Three perpetuates the chaos of society, its misery, starvation, crises and wars. These will be gotten rid of only through socialism. In order to achieve socialism today it is necessary for the newly enslaved Europeans to regain their democratic rights. To aid in that task as well as achieve their own freedom, American workers should demand withdrawal of the occupying forces of their own government from Europe which are holding down their fellow workers.

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