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Susan Green

“Peacemakers” Paint Picture
of World War III-in-Making

People Are Pawns in
Big Power Wrangle at Paris

(20 May 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 20, 20 May 1946, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A socialist does not put any faith in peace treaties between imperialist governments for the simple reason that when imperialist interests so dictate, peace treaties become meaningless scraps of paper. But the mass of humanity that is not yet socialist, still puts some faith in peace treaties. They watch to see what will come out of the Paris conference of foreign ministers who met there weeks ago to arrive at preliminary agreements as a basis for peace treaties to end World War II legally – and have done nothing!

Capitalist reporters in Paris, both conservative and liberal, are of the same opinion, namely, that the peacemakers have other objectives than peace. Thus Freda Kirchwey writes in the liberal weekly The Nation:

“But the big fact behind every specific dispute is that no basis for any fundamental agreement now exists.”

And in the conservative New York Times, C.L. Sulzberger is tempted to paraphrase the famous saying of Clausewitz that war is the continuation of politics by other means, by cynically remarking that “nowadays peace is a continuation of war by other means.”

And mind you this: Byrnes, Molotov, Bevin and Bidault met to consider merely the fringe questions of European peace. On the agenda are Italy, the Balkans and Finland. Germany was the main enemy, whose fragments lie scattered across the middle of Europe, and about which certainly something has to be done. But Germany was not even put on the agenda. That is how controversial the subject is and how hostile are the four powers whose armies control the four German zones like armed bastions. But even on the less important problems the foreign ministers are getting nowhere very fast.

Dispute over Trieste

Thus far the bone of imperialist contention has been the Italian city of Trieste. Trieste is a fine city with good docks, a shipbuilding industry, other industries and businesses, and commercial connections to and from mid-eastern Europe. But above all, Trieste is important because it lies at the head of the Adriatic Sea, connecting with the Mediterranean and thence east and west to all parts of the world. Yugoslavia and Albania, both Russian satellites, flank one side of the Adriatic and Italy the other. The Russians, therefore, want Trieste to go to Yugoslavia, while the United States, Great Britain and France wish Trieste with seventy-five percent of its 700,000 population Italian, to remain an Italian city under the benevolent wing of the western powers.

But there is more to the unbending attitude on both sides than that. Trieste has been chosen to test the power of the two leading imperialists, Russia and the United States. Russia fights for Trieste not merely because it is the rich plum Russia promised to Belgrade. If Russia gets Trieste it means Russia strengthens the tentacles it has extended into western Europe and expands southward into the Mediterranean. On the other hand, Byrnes and Bevin are working to push Russia back behind the line of the Oder-Niesse Rivers, out of western Europe and away from the western Mediterranean, and they hold onto Trieste as the first step in this direction. So after fourteen sessions, a perfect stalemate was arrived at by the worthy foreign ministers, the staffs and the experts of the United States, Russia, Great Britain and France.

When Secretary Byrnes proposed to arrange for the general “peace” conference in Paris on June 15 with all twenty-one victor nations present – presumably not on the assumption that twenty-one clashing interests would get further than four, but rather that the United States can control more of the twenty-one nations than can Russia – Molotov protested with his usual vigor that preliminary agreements must be arrived at.

“War by Other Means”

And sure enough, a day or so later the correspondents were sending in reports overplaying a “new attitude” on Russia’s part. Lo and behold, a tentative agreement was reached about some of Italy’s North African colonies. Russia, which had an eye on Tripolitania and thereby gave the British imperialists hysterics, graciously consented to a United Nations trusteeship with administration over Tripolitania in Rome. Agreement on a reparations figure of $100,000,000 that Russia is to collect from impoverished Italy was played up, as were also some more or less important settlements of Balkan boundaries and an understanding on handling war criminals after peace treaties have been signed. So the air was full of expectations. They were fulfilled, for who could have expected anything but more dissension!

The next day Mr. Sulzberger wrote in the New York Times that while $100,000,000 was the figure settled upon for Russian collections, Byrnes wanted it paid out of Italian property in the Balkans and by transferring Italian naval and commercial vessels, while Molotov was holding out for that huge slice of current Italian production. But the real pay-off came when Molotov, without batting an eyelash, declared that now that he had made several concessions to the western powers – meaning Tripolitania which was not Russia’s anyway – he thought the western powers should give him his way on Trieste. So there was Trieste again, and still is!

The latest reports, as this article is written, are that Mr. Byrnes is bristling with another proposal regarding North Africa. Libya is to be under United Nations supervision with Rome as administrator, and special autonomy is to be given to Cyrenaica to avoid Italian administration of that province. Now it is Britain whose imperialist feathers are ruffled. It had its hand ready to grab off Cyrenaica for itself because Tobruk and Bengazi are strategic points, the latter being within single engine fighter range of the British island of Malta. On this issue Molotov has jumped onto Byrnes’ bandwagon planning to have some fun with Bevin. However, this does not look at all funny to the masses of the world hoping for peace.

Stop War-Makers Now!

What will happen when the ministers tackle the question of the Balkans? The issues there will be very hot indeed. What about the industrial equipment that Russia bundled off to the motherland? What about the special trade agreements made under the mouths of Russian guns? What about the Russian armies of occupation?

Then, as stated above, there is Germany. Molotov has firmly refused Byrnes’ offer for a twenty-five year agreement to keep Germany without the means for waging war. Molotov thereby revealed the real issue, which is how to utilize Germany TO WAGE THE NEXT WAR. In a debate in the House of Commons a Laborite Member of Parliament described Germany and Austria as “battlegrounds in which former allies are maneuvering for position.” Along the same lines, columnist Walter Lippman, back from a trip to Europe, wrote:

“The most important conclusion I have to report is, I am sure, indisputable. It is true that all European governments, all parties, and all leading men are acting as if there would be another world war.”

That is why Mr. Sulzberger was absolutely correct in remarking that “nowadays peace is a continuation of war by other means.” That is why the liberal Miss Kirchwey is also right when she reported:

“Peace is not going to be made in a room. It peace is made at all, it will be by people fighting their way out of a desolation of suffering and ruin toward new forms of social and political control.”

But being only a liberal, Miss Kirchwey doesn’t go the whole hog. What the suffering masses must do is overthrow the war-making imperialist powers and establish their own workers’ governments.

At the same time the fight against World War III has to begin right now. All measures in preparation for that annihilating conflict must be combatted by the people who will be devastated by atom bombs. Conscription must be fought; peacetime military training, military appropriations, manufacture of atom bombs, all are war measures that must be stopped. The working people have but to take a look at the foreign ministers in Paris to be convinced that only the working people of the world can bring peace by uniting against the war-makers.

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Last updated: 22 January 2019