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Mary Bell

U.S., Russia Main Contenders
for War Booty

(1 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 40, 1 October 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The newspapers continue to headline the meetings going on in London by the Foreign Ministers, James Byrnes, Vyacheslav Molotov, Ernest Bevin, Georges Bidault and Dr. Wang Shih-Chieh as the “Big Five” conference. They err in one respect.

There are two dominant world powers which are calling all the turns: the United States and Russia.

France was a fallen star among the great imperial powers even before the time Hitler was able to conquer her, and the depths to which she has sunk is attested by the recent visit of General de Gaulle to this country to beg for financial assistance. There followed on his heels Lords Halifax and Keynes, also come a-begging the U. S. to bail out the bankrupt British Empire. China’s role in the war has been that of a satellite to the United States, and her Foreign Minister in London is doing little other than rubber-stamping the decisions of Byrnes. China, too, is hoping for a two billion dollar U.S. loan for postwar reconstruction.

While Russia is asking financial assistance from the No. 1 world power, she has plenty of weight to throw around, which lies in her military might, backed by her industrial strength, plus her vast extent and resources, made vaster in the course of this war through her imperialist swallowing up of smaller countries and her share as a victor in the spoils of war.

Now that, the fighting is over, now that it is no longer necessary to convince the masses of the people that the war is worth fighting for, and now that the rival German-Italian-Japanese imperialisms are subdued, the conquerors demonstrate callously what they were fighting for. That is the exploited colonies, semi-colonies and small nations that were once under the control of their Axis rivals and as much as they can get from their very allies.

They, the Big Five, dominated by the Big Two, are disposing of the fate of a dozen nations and the lives of millions over a conference table where sits not a single representative of the exploited masses of the world for whose freedom and independence the war was supposedly fought!

There has been much high-sounding, humanitarian talk about the “international trusteeships” over the Italian colonies. This was never proposed for the colonies of the victor nations, Not for India, not for the Dutch East Indies. Nor for the Philippines, nor Martinique, nor French Indo-China, nor any other colony possessed by the victors.

Stalinist Russia, however, who more than any other country pretends to be for the liberation of the exploited and oppressed, asked not for “international trusteeship," but individual trusteeship over the Italian colonies of Tripolitania and Eritrea. Russia, said Molotov, was “extremely interested in the future development of the Mediterranean and Africa and believed with modernization of communications it was fully qualified to undertake this job.”

How fortunate, indeed, that “communication” has been so “modernized” that Russia is at last able to emulate the older imperialisms and assume her share of “developing” the backward Tripolitanians and Eritreans! Molotov stated) that these demands were “logical” also, in view of Russian interest in the Dardanelles. Quite logical, indeed.

The Western powers are finding “international trusteeships” as dangerous a formula as that of the atomic bomb. Anyone may use it. It may be applied by Russia to the colonial countries now under the individual trusteeship of the U.S., France or Britain. But the mills of the gods grind slow, and since Britain, for instance, has had a bare two centuries to civilize the Indians, it is obviously premature for the Russians or the Americans to be invited into a collective trusteeship. Therefore, the Russians can on}y fall back on the formula of “individual trusteeship”

Yugoslavia also has demands to make of the conference. This Country enjoys the refined type of democracy which exists in Russia and the latter’s border states. Its democracy is so refined, in fact, that over 100,000 prisoners jailed by the Yugoslav government (generously aided by the NKVD, Russian secret police) are not yet sufficiently elevated to enjoy it. Yugoslavia put in a bid, vigorously backed by Russia, for Trieste and Fiume, Venezia Giulia, Istria, Gorizia and half a dozen Adriatic inlets and islets. Being a shrewd bargainer, she hoped mainly to get the Adriatic seaport of Trieste, to which both she and Italy, who hopes she has paid for her sins by being a co-belligerent of the Allies for two years, make ethnological claim. Neither, of course, is interested^ in the strategic location of the port nor that it leads to sources of coal and bauxite, the latter used in aluminum manufacture: Both stand firmly for the triumph of pure ethnology, i.e., racial and cultural affinity.

U.S. Preferences

At the present writing, the United States prefers the ethnological claims of the Italians on Trieste. Too, Italy is in the sphere of that Western bloc of nations that have not fallen under Russian influence. The United States also proposes to give the Dodecanese Islands to Greece. Molotov hasn’t said yes and he hasn’t said no yet: there may be some opportunity to “develop” an island base there, what with the development of communications, etc.

Aside from which, Greek “democracy” is unfriendly to Russian “democracy.” The Greek people enjoy what may be called the “Western type” which bears a degree of similarity to the “Eastern,” or Russian, type in that many thousands of ELAS-EAM fighters against fascism must be imprisoned until they are educated to enjoy it.

As for the position of the United States on the African colonies of Italy, Libya and Eritrea, she proposes international trusteeship and independence in ten years. Some cynics tell you to look at a map and say that the application of the principle of internationalizing the colonies here puts the United States in good position in relation to the oil routes to Syria-Lebanon and Iran, as well as on the Red Sea route to India.

Where the two forms of “democracy,” Western and Eastern; cause, the most conflict among the sparring ministers is in the Balkans – Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary (although the latter is not, strictly speaking, a Balkan country). This area, alternately called “the powder keg of Europe,” a “melting pot,” or “Europe’s deep South,” is a strategic area where East and West fuse, almost wholly agricultural, but with a few valuable industrial resources and industries.

Rumania, Bulgaria

Provisional regimes have been set up in Rumania and Bulgaria, hot wholly filled with Stalinist-Communists, but wherein, in order to educate people with their customary missionary zeal, the Communists have made sure to control-the Departments of Interior. Backed by an internal army of a hundred thousand or so in Bulgaria, the process of re-educating the Bulgarians has been speedy indeed. The lady Communist, Tsola Dragoicheva, now heads that government, while Petru Grozu flits between Moscow and Bucharest.

Every time the Western democrats point to these Balkan states, Molotov shouts: “Greece!” But Churchill and Stalin, with Roosevelt’s blessing, agreed at Yalta on the division of Greece and Rumania into British and Russian spheres of influence, respectively. However, the war was still on then, and agreement was urgent.

Now, while Byrnes and Bevin shout for free elections in Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary, Molotov replies that there is more democracy in those countries than they have ever had before (he could have added: “As much as exists in Byrnes’ poll-tax state of South Carolina, too”). This is true. Prior to June, 1940, only the employed and literate male Rumanians over thirty could vote (nearly fifty per cent of the population is illiterate) and only government candidates were allowed. During the Nazi occupation, no one voted. In Bulgaria, no parties were permitted, the Cabinet being responsible only to the King.

It seems that France and England have some interests in addition to their style of democracy in these countries. Here were their pre-war interests:

“The French control Yugoslavia copper and lumber industries, Bulgaria’s banking and Rumania’s banking, iron works and cement factories. The British control the Yugoslav lead and zinc mines, the Rumanian oil industry and the Greek nickel mines and public utilities. The Belgians control Bulgaria’s mining and public utilities.” (From Spotlight on the Balkans, Foreign Policy Association pamphlet.)

Now, most, if not all, of these properties have been nationalized by the Russian puppet regimes. It is a paradoxical note that it is Bevin, standing on the British Labor Party program of nationalization of basic industries in England, and the minister of de Gaulle, who promised to nationalize French mines, who are protesting the nationalization undertaken in Rumania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. While Labor Action desires nationalization of all industry, this is a graphic example that nationalization in and by itself is no guarantee of a progressive regime without workers’ control. The question of who is in control of the political regime which nationalizes the property is of paramount importance.

The negotiations for the super-Versailles drag on. Bulgarian elections, desired by Russia, have been postponed in response to British and American pressure. Russia opposes immediate elections in Czechoslovakia, where Bevin’s foreign policy speech was supposed to have had an influence, while she is indifferent to them in Greece, since not Russian, but British, troops are there.

The preparations of World War III in the making.

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