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“A Monroe Doctrine for Russia” – Byrnes

(12 November 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 46, 12 November 1945, p. 4
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Fresh from the fiasco of the Foreign Ministers at London, whieh was preceded by a long series of declarations, retractions, maneuvers, “unilateral” actions, recriminations and back-trackings, in the course of which the Atlantic Charter and San Francisco declarations were crumpled, torn to bits and tossed to the winds, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes came out with a new statement of “principle” on November 1, in the Herald Tribune forum.

Now, says Byrnes, speaking with the atomic production formula in his pocket, the United States grants to Stalinist imperialist expansion in Central and Eastern Europe the status of a Russian Monroe Doctrine. That is, just as the United States considers it in her interests to have friendly nations in Latin and South America, so Russia has, according to Byrnes, “special security” interests in Europe.

This latest “principle” to emerge from the big power jockeyings for dominance in the post-war world, comes shortly after both the United States and England have registered their objection to the latest "unilateral” action of Russia, namely, the favorable (for Russia) trade treaty just concluded with Hungary. This seeming contradiction in principles stems from the rivalry among the big powers to dominate the world markets, a rivalry which has not yet been “frozen” in any final peace agreement.

Granting What They Cannot Stop

Byrnes’ statement is undoubtedly an attempt to make a fresh start after the impasse at London, to try to throw to the Russians Eastern and Central Europe without any strings attached, if Russia will behave and confine herself to Eastern and Central Europe. As for Western Europe and the Far East, that’s a different matter. Byrnes is merely recognizing actions that have already taken place in Poland, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic countries previously incorporated into the Russian Empire, and about which the United States can do nothing.

After recognizing Russian control of the smaller countries in Europe, Byrnes tries to clothe this naked power politics with the following statement:

“In centuries past, powerful nations have for various purposes tried to divide the world among themselves. They failed, and in failing left a trail of blood through the centuries. Such efforts have less chance of success in the modern world, where all nations have become neighbors. Today the world must make its choice. There must be one world for all of us, or there will be no world for any of us.”

We can scarcely imagine the great comfort that Russia’s “neighbors,” the Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs and Yugoslavians, must take in Byrnes’ fine words. And, on the other side, his speech must make the Indonesians, Filipinos, Indo-Chinese simply delirious.

What This War Was For

The real nature of the war just ended is made clearer by the Secretary’s remarks. It was a war for power,’for the division and domination of the world by the respective powers. If, as the leaders of the United Nations maintain, this was a war for peace, a war between peace-loving nations against aggressors, why is it necessary for them to carry on in this way? Why is it necessary for Russia to acquire “special security interests?” Against the weak Eastern and Central European countries?

If this was a war for freedom, peace and democracy, why does the United Nations Organization find it impossible to really organize a peaceful post-war world? Why is it necessary to grant Russia a special European “Monroe Doctrine” just as America has one for the Western Hemisphere? It is because there is no peace in the world. It is because there is only an armistice which is punctuated by the heavy preparations the powers are now making for the future when, as they expect, a new struggle will break out in an effort to bring about a new redivision of the world in their respective interests.

Byrnes’speech is an additional indictment of the war which has cost the peoples of the world tens of millions of casualties, loss of homes, starvation and endless misery. This is what the organizers of chaos have achieved in the Second World War.

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Last updated: 24 January 2018