( Originally Published 1952 )
`Within the framework of Marxist dialectic, the Communists have a case, and we Americans have done our best to help them prove it.'
Editorial, Saturday Evening Post May 1, 1948
THE CRUCIAL FACT OF THE WORLD'S POST-WAR TRAGEDY IS THE fatal chain reaction between the United States and the Soviet Union, between their mutual suSpicions, fears and recriminations, their mutual checks and counter-checks, manoeuvres and counter-manoeuvres, blows and counter-blows.
It haS brought out in the domestic and international policies of both their harShest, mutually most objectionable qualities, has convinced each more deeply every day of the other'S deliberate, irrevocable, deadly hostility.
It haS forced each to yield to the other much of the initiative for its own decisions—often making the White House set the course of action for the Soviet Union, and the Kremlin for the United States.
The basic motivationS of this chain reaction are well illustrated by a conversation between an American labour leader who visited Moscow soon after the war and Foreign Minister V. M. Molotov.
'As far as he could see, the standard of living in the USSR was, to use his own word, "lousy", the American labor leader remarked', according to a belated report in the New York Herald Tribune of June 28, 1946. 'He went on to say that it seemed to him the reason for the lousy standard of living was that the Russians insisted on maintaining a huge war machine, even now that the war was over. Would Mr Molotov explain why this was necessary?'
Was it not true', Molotov retorted, 'that American union men had higher wages during the war than ever before? Was it not also true that farmers were more prosperous, that business made larger profits?'
The American labour leader 'warily assented'.
`Obviously then', said Molotov, 'since all Americans were better off during wartime, Russia must look to her defences.'
Such Soviet logic was not unfamiliar to Americans during the early post-war period. From time to time they were reminded of Moscow's conviction that, through the danger of depression, American capitalism would 'be forced into militaristic and imperialistic adventures and finally into the third world war, in order to save itself', as the New York Times summarized 'the theory of Marxism as applied to the United States'.
Put so categorically, the argument may not really have seemed justifiable to Americans who thought of nothing less than militaristic and imperialistic adventures and another world war. Yet the danger of depression as the consequence of peace was so real and frightening to them at the time that many accepted statements like Mr Molotov's as understandable though strangely exaggerated expressions of genuine Soviet fears. The more s0 since other nations, too, dreaded the drift to depression of America's economy and the false remedies which might be sought to forestall it.
`The whole world—all of Europe, Britain, Russia—are living today with an acute sense that an economic catastrophe in the United States would shake the world', Walter Lippmann wrote on December 31, 1946. 'If we were able to assure them that we have the will and the knowledge to avert another 1929, we would do more to relieve them of their worst anxieties, more to persuade them that peace is possible through the United Nations, than by any other thing we could do.'
Many Americans felt that one of the very reasons for the world-wide trend toward some kind of socialism was the wish of nations to protect themselves against the dangerous impact of the ever unstable American economy. It seemed only reasonable, therefore, at the time, to regard the Soviets' fear of an American depression drift as the motivation for their disappointing post-war actions at home, in their new safety belt of the People's Democracies, and in adjoining danger areas of potential conflict, like Greece and Persia. The very term 'Iron Curtain' fitted into the picture of a Soviet Union that wanted to protect the scene of her socialist development against the spread of fire from the outside; for it is a translation of the German term 'Eiserner Vorhang', the safety curtain of the theatre.
`Welles Sees Soviet Imperialism Based On People's Security Aim', read a headline in the New York Herald Tribune of May 6, 1946, summing up the opinion of the former Under Secretary of State and of many plain Americans, that 'the Soviet Union is still saturated with by no means unreasonable suspicions'-some of which date back to the years when America, Britain, Japan and France lined up with the Soviets' domestic enemies to suppress their revolution—suspicions that had clouded the harmony of Soviet-Allied co-operation during the second world war and were intensified by the post-war trends of the American economy. Again, on August 21, 1946, Mr Welles wrote of his belief that 'the underlying objectives of Soviet policy are safety, reconstruction, the industrialization of the Soviet republics, and the development of natural resources as essential parts of a program designed rapidly to raise Russian living standards. . . '.
There was also some realization in America at the time that the obvious answer to the Soviets' fears and the alarming reactions they provoked in Communist policies all over the world would have been for America to reform her economic order, so that it could 'pull through the next fifteen years without a major depression and without going "fascist",' as John Fischer pointed out in Harper's magazine of August 1946. 'If we can find some democratic method of controlling the violent ups-and-downs of our economy—if we can hold on to full employment and our freedom at the same time—then we will have proved beyond question that the Communist forebodings are all wrong. That is the only kind of proof Stalin and his associates will readily accept. Their conviction that the capitalist world is inherently unstable, dangerous, and pregnant with war probably can never be shaken by mere verbal argument. But they can be shown.'
Not only many plain Americans but some businessmen and politicians were confident at first—as Roosevelt had been—that the strained situation of the time need not be the beginning of a fresh drift to war. That, on the contrary, the early post-war tension might be 'resolving itself into a struggle of political or social systems bent upon proving they are best because they have devised ways and means of maintaining better living standards for all their peoples and not merely the fringes of their peoples . . . was the thought placed before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee last week by Ralph E. Flanders, a manufacturer who is chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston', the New York Times reported on March 17, 1946. The future Senator 'thought Russia was not out for a "fighting war" but welcomed a contest between different types of social organizations'. He counselled `we should gladly join in it, because fundamentally it is competition to improve the material conditions of humanity'.
Yet, as the idea of economic reform was buried in America and the Cold War grew, such sane warnings soon became suspect. And the course of events in the United States, year after post-war year, seemed to confirm the sinister import of President Truman's words in September 1945 about the 'great emergency' created by the end of the war; and of those of Bernard M. Baruch, America's representative on the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission, on October 12, 1946, that 'peace seems beautiful during the savagery of war, but it becomes almost hateful when war is over',* which were frequently cited by Soviet speakers at the United Nations.
The facts disproved as wishful thinking occasional American statements that there was no danger of depression. Prosperity, propped up by more and more Cold War expenditures, was less complete and less secure than it had been in wartime, and the trend to economic crisis remained unmistakable.
'How naive the Soviet rulers would be if they accepted the prediction made last week by the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Maurice Tobin, before the International Labour Organization, "I do not believe we will ever again experience a major depression",' U.S. News & World Report wrote on June 3o, 195o. The Russians have able economists. Their periodicals — . reveal a good grasp of the factual data about business conditions here. The Russians don't need to come to America to find out the strain under which our economic system is laboring—all they have to do is to read the American newspapers.'
Roosevelt had warned the nation on January 6, 1945, a few months before his death: 'In our disillusionment after the last war we preferred international anarchy to international cooperation with nations which did not see and think exactly as we did. We must not let that happen again or we shall follow the same tragic road again—the road to a Third World War. . . . We must be on our guard not to exploit and exaggerate the differences between us and our allies.'
But one infringement of this principle occurred before the war was over; and another a day after victory. Both were later admitted to have been mistakes; but by then they had already contributed so much fuel to the fatal chain reaction between 'West' and 'East' that they could no more be undone.
The first of these events was the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, a few days after the end of the Potsdam conference at which the new President, Harry S. Truman, gave no inkling of it to Stalin whom he faced across the table.
What Moscow suspected, but what many Americans did not and still do not realize, was confirmed three years later: the American intention, at the time, to use the threat of the new weapon to replace the Soviet regime with one according to America's conception of freedom and democracy. 'At the Potsdam conference, some three weeks before the outside world knew of the bomb's existence, Mr Stimson wrote Mr Truman a memorandum, warning that "no permanently safe international relations" could be hoped for as long as Russia was governed by a Communist dictatorship', a United Press report on March 30, 1948 quoted the memoirs of Henry L. Stimson, who, during those critical days of 1945, had been Secretary of War. Mr Stimson, therefore, 'suggested that, as a condition of sharing in the benefits of atomic energy, the Soviet rulers be required to abandon their police state and move toward genuine democracy'.
Two months later, Mr Stimson changed his mind. He 'abandoned hope that the American lead in atomic development could be used as a "lever" to pry open the iron curtain (since) W. Averill Harriman, then American Ambassador to Moscow, persuaded Mr Stimson that Soviet leaders would reject stubbornly any American effort to "bargain for freedom in Russia".'
But it was too late. When Mr Stimson 'retracted his earlier stand and counselled the President to take "immediate and direct action" to seek an atomic agreement with Stalin', his original proposal had already become the basis of American policy, from which there was no retreat. Mr Stimson's 'final warning that relations between the two nations "may perhaps be irretrievably embittered" if this country postponed a top-level approach to Russia and continued "to negotiate with them [indirectly, through the United Nations, in which America enjoyed a large voting majority against the Soviet group], having this weapon rather ostentatiously on our hip",' became a mere footnote to the history of the world's new drift to war. For, by 1948, when some of the more serious newspapers printed this revelation, as a mere miscellaneous item, the Cold War was already in full swing.
It was also found out too late that the atom bomb even threw its destructive shadow ahead of Hiroshima. It probably was responsible for a good deal of the mutual suspicions between the Soviet Union and the United States during the war and for the tragic after-effects those wartime frictions have had ever since. 'It becomes possible to consider certain Russian actions—such as the repeated demands for a second front—from this aspect', reported the New York Herald Tribune on February 14, 1950, explaining that Moscow knew all the time about the development of an atomic bomb in America. 'It might be suggested that Russia had a real fear that the Allies planned to permit Russia to bear the entire brunt of German arms while they waited—however long—for their new weapon.'
Two weeks after Hiroshima there was still another event which fitted into the Soviet theory about dangerous new pressures arising from 'capitalist encirclement' : the abrupt cancellation of American Lend Lease assistance. It was accompanied by unmistakable signs that America wanted to use negotiations on post-war aid to the devastated Soviet Union in the same way as the negotiations on atomic energy—to undo the Russian revolution.
Harry L. Hopkins, Roosevelt's former adviser, whom Mr Truman sent to Moscow in 1945, noted in papers published after his death that Stalin complained about the manner in which Lend Lease was suddenly ended and told him: 'If the Russians were approached frankly on a friendly basis much could be done, but that reprisals in any form would bring about the exact opposite effect.'
"The abrogation of Lend Lease hit Russia more than it was ever suspected abroad",' a 'top-ranking American businessman' who spoke with the Soviet diplomat Andrei Gromyko was quoted by United Nations World on August 4, 1949. "Gromyko frankly told me that Stalin at first refused to believe the news when Molotov informed him of the brusque American note. He instructed the Soviet Ambassador in Washington, Nikolai V. Novikov, to ask for an extension to enable the USSR to initiate at least the first phase of its post-war recovery, and was further shocked when Novikov told him that, in view of Washington's 'peculiar mood', no such extension could be obtained".
Stalin's suspicion froze into a weary distrust when the Soviet application for a U.S. loan, designed to offset the loss of Lend-Lease, "got l0st in the State Department", and when the Department of Commerce, "upon explicit instructions from the State Department", began to embargo exports to Russia, especially of machine tools and heavy industrial equipment.'
President Truman admitted four-and-a-half years later, in an interview with Arthur Frock of the New York Times on February 14, 1950, that 'to abolish lend-lease at the time was a mistake'. But it was too late to correct it. And the President added a fresh mistake to the old one when he continued: 'The real trouble with the Russians is that they are still suffering from a complex of fear and inferiority where we are concerned.' It was the mistake of ignoring the continuing effect which American trends and actions and also the words of prominent Americans must have had in the formulation of much-regretted Soviet policies at home and abroad.
These are a few of Mr Truman's own utterances that may well have contributed to Moscow's 'complex of fear'. At the beginning of the Soviet Union's life and death struggle with Hitler Germany he said, according to the New York Times of June 24, 1941: 'If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many as possible.' The New York Herald Tribune reported on February 25, 195o: 'Shortly after he became President, Truman granted a still unpublished interview. On this occasion, the new President blandly assured his visitor . . . that the Russians would soon be put in their places; and that the United States would then take the lead in running the world in the way the world ought to be run.' And at his news conference of September 1, 1949, in the words of the New York Times, the President 'expressed the hope that the deep conflict between the democratic nations and Russia and her satellites would end in the surrender of the Communist bloc', giving 'a strong connotation to his use of the word surrender'.
The pattern for Washington's post-war policies toward the Soviet sphere was set by the decisions to use America's initial monopoly of the atomic bomb and her monopoly of reconstruction credits and supplies as the means of defeating Communism. The economic urge for the expansion of American business into the outside world and for sufficient armaments to stave off depression gave added impetus to the anti-Soviet attitude of Washington, if only because of the countermoves those trends caused in the Soviet world. So did America's political need for defeating the reform movement at home and the practice of tarring all progressives with the Communist brush. Social unrest and revolution in the vacuum areas along the capitalist-Communist border zones of Europe and Asia, linked in one way or another with the Cold War, further encouraged these policies. And the Captive Audience system of America's mass opinion industries prevented the nation, including many of its leaders, from judging objectively the basic causes of this new drift to world-wide conflict and the means of halting it.
America, in fact, 'gave up its independent mind, contracted its national will to the dry negation of the will of others, and threw away the historic initiative which, in the lives of nations as in the lives of men, is the key to greatness', as Archibald MacLeish, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, wrote in the Atlantic Monthly of August 1949. More and more Americans lost their 'way as a people, and wandered into the Russian looking-glass, primarily because we were unable to think, . . . unable, that is, to understand the nature of the crisis in which we were caught or the character of the role we were called upon to play'.
America's 'belief that the world crisis could be resolved merely by resisting and containing Communism was, therefore, a delusive belief; and the conclusion that the realization of the historic American purpose must be deferred and subordinated to the defeat of the Russian purpose was not only a false conclusion but a betrayal of the life of the Republic'.
It is no exaggeration, as MacLeish continued, that 'never in the history of the world was one people as completely dominated, intellectually and morally, by another as the people of the United States by the people of Russia'; that 'American foreign policy was a mirror image of Russian foreign policy: whatever the Russians did, we did in reverse'; and that 'American domestic politics were conducted under a kind of upside-down Russian veto: no man could be elected to public office unless he was on record as detesting the Russians, and no proposal could be enacted, from a peace plan at one end to a military budget at the other, unless it could be demonstrated that the Russians wouldn't like it.
This atmosphere made it inevitable for the chain reaction between the United States and the Soviet Union to proceed at ever faster speed, with ever growing dangers to the world, and with less and less hope that America—still by far the stronger of the two in wealth and productive might, in long range weapons, geographic security, and influence within the United Nations—might eventually decide to break the vicious circle by following the warnings of Roosevelt on economic reform at home and broadminded international co-operation with different political systems.
Many peaceful Americans thus ceased to realize that the Soviet Union may actually feel threatened by military encirclement—even though 'from Norway and Iceland to the Arabian or Iberian Peninsulas vocal groups complain of American expansion, asking: "How do they expect the Russians to keep quiet if they insist themselves on grabbing all those bases?"' as C. L. Sulzberger reported in the New York Times, June 23, 1946.*
Having walked into the 'Russian looking-glass', America has virtually developed a split personality where opinion on Soviet intentions is concerned.
On the one hand, judgments like these have cheerfully been accepted: 'General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, retiring Chief of Staff, today absolved the Soviet Union of any intention of deliberately provoking war' (New York Times, February 6, 1948). 'Russia will be unable to wage an offensive war before 1970' (Lt.-General Leslie Groves, March 9, 1950). 'Jet fighters, tanks, armoured divisions, submarines, radar nets, airfields in Eastern Europe and B-29 strategic bombers do not look like preparations to make war against the United States. . . . 'What the military preparations do suggest is that the Soviet Union is working to make it impossible for the United States to make war successfully against it' (Walter Lippmann, June 26, 1950). 'I do not myself see any conclusive evidence that the Russians expect to start a war with the United States' (Senator Robert A. Taft, January 6, 1951). 'At present there is no internal impulse for war in the Soviet Union. There is no clamour for expansion by military conquest. . . . There is no popular desire for a preventive war. The rulers of the Soviet Union, it is held (by United States and British experts studying Russian actions and trying to estimate Russian intentions), could reach rapprochement with the West and receive the warmest support of the Russian people' (New York Times, March 27, 1950.
On the other hand, America has given in to the ever-increasing pace of rearmament and to wave after wave of war hysteria, admittedly incited to get Congressional approval for more armaments. America has taken in her stride reports and headlines like these, oblivious of the effect they must have in the Soviet camp:
`Strategy For "World War III": Drive To Choke Soviet Industry' (U.S. News & World Report, April 9, 1948). 'U.S. war plan for fighting Russia is blueprinted. . . . Phase 1: Surprise atom-bomb air raids over Russia. Phase 2: Holding operation with European troops. Phase 3: Combined offensive across Europe, spearheaded by U.S. commanders' (ibid., August 26, 195o). 'General Hoyt Vandenberg, Air Force Chief of Staff, said today that Russia is America's only enemy, atomic bombing in the event of war has "first priority", and the Joint Chiefs of of Staff are now selecting targets (United Press, August 12, 1949). 'The United States should be willing to pay any price to achieve a world at peace, "even the price of instituting a war to compel co-operation for peace", Secretary of the Navy Francis P. Matthews said .. . "it would win for us a proud and popular title—we would become the first aggressors for peace" ' (New York Times, August 26, 1950). The phrase "preventive war" continues to hang in the air like the smell of strong cheese. Some hate it, some like it, few can escape it' (Business Week, October 21, 195o).
And on peace: 'It's not the danger of Russia's starting a war that gives Secretary Acheson the jitters these days. It's the mounting popular pressure for a deal with Stalin', (Business Week, February 25, 1950). 'Mr, Truman has no intention to do any diplomatic business, now or in the future, with Joseph Stalin or his lieutenants. Orders issued to top officials to talk peace and possible negotiation are designed to calm the public and to avoid the vote loss that appears to go along with war talk and war threats. Tough talk is supposed to start again after November [election month]' (U.S. News & World Report, June 30, 1950).
America's 'tough' policies toward the Soviet Union were already in full force when the Marshall Plan was devised in 1947, and when Moscow rejected it—to the surprise and disappointment of many who had hoped that it might provide a new basis for peace.
`We know that the Russian refusal to cooperate with the Marshall Plan was due to her resentment over the Truman Doctrine . . . and her belief that the United States intended to wage a war of dollars against Russia', U.S. News & World Report wrote on September 26, 1947. 'We should not now be surprised because Russia uses her veto power and any other weapon of propaganda she possesses in an effort to checkmate the Western democracies.'
Not a few of the initial suspicions Moscow expressed of the Marshall Plan proposals and American loans in general were shared at the time in Western European capitals. For example, a New York Times report from Paris on May 20, 1947 spoke of 'French fears that American loans might impair France's independence or sovereignty have at last been officially expressed in speeches by members of the government'.
Later experiences of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan, with the ways it enhanced their dependence upon the United States and laid them open to manifold American interference, may well have confirmed to Moscow the justification of its refusal to join the Plan and of its insistence that Czechoslovakia and her other Eastern European followers stay out of it. The same was probably true of many later statements of American officials about the aims of the Marshall Plan—like this of Paul G. Hoffman, its administrator: 'Success of the European Recovery Program might point the way to the eventual overthrow of the Communists throughout the world, including Russia' (Associated Press, January 22, 1950).
Similarly, it is not surprising that the Soviet Union seems to consider the interference of the United States with the trade between her own and the Soviets' world as basically motivated by American economic needs; as a policy that antedates the violent phase of the Cold War, that transcends the later need of withholding from a virtual enemy supplies of conceivably strategic importance; as a policy that was bound to have prevailed, even if the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had joined the Marshall Plan.
`Unofficially, U.S. trade experts admit that it would be embarrassing to have Western Europe buy too much wheat from the East while the U.S. has such a big surplus', Business Week wrote on June 17,195o. 'Some of the Western European countries are seriously concerned that the United States is going to make an important Communist propaganda theme come true', the New York Times' Geneva correspondent reported on June II, 9 5o, referring to America's reluctance to let food-deficient Western European nations negotiate for the purchase of several million tons of Soviet grain. Tor, every time the Russians have mentioned their desire to cooperate in improving East-West trade, they have said in effect: "But of course we do not expect the United States to permit you Westerners to trade with us because the United States wants to dump its surpluses on your poor people":
Yet, the Soviet camp has grown stronger economically under the impact of America, and made relatively more progress despite the United States' hindrances than the rest of the world was able to make with American assistance.
When half of the Soviet economy lay devastated in 1945, it was expected by American experts that, even if the United States were to give it considerable help, the mere reconstruction of the enormous war damages would take at least ten years, and that without such help it might never be achieved. However, in 1948, the pre-war level of Soviet production was exceeded; and J. F. Lincoln, president of the Lincoln Electric Company in Cleveland, stated on October 12, 1948, that 'the reports of Russian progress are alarming. Russia is increasing her industrial output and is approaching the point where she can out-produce the United States. This show of material prosperity and the ability to produce it is doing much for Russia in her effort to discredit us and the democratic idea of free enterprise.'
The Soviet Union could not keep up the pace, Americans were told when reconstruction was completed. Continuing to sacrifice her people's hopes for rising living standards to armaments and to the `gigantomania' of enormous development schemes, the Communist system, bereft of American aid and 'know-how', would lag more and more behind and eventually bog down in open rebellion. America's very policy of 'containment' was based on this premise.
But the Soviet Union continued 'gaining industrial strength at least as fast as we are', wrote Business Week on June 17, 1950, at a time when the Cold War effort had once more revived the growth of America's stagnant post-war economy. 'Russia's national income is smaller—perhaps less than a quarter of ours. But by devoting a much larger share to capital investment, the Russians are ploughing back into investment each year about the same absolute amount as we are. . . . The risk of war will multiply, and fast, if Russia gains in the race for industrial power.' At the same time the 'Soviet standard of living has improved markedly in recent years', the New York Times of October 19, 1951 quoted 'a United States observer', who had spent several years in the Soviet Union.
Despite the destruction of the intervening years of war, the annual industrial production of the Soviet Union is stated to have risen by 188.4 per cent from 1937 to 1951 (U.N. Economic Survey of Europe in 052), against an increase by 94.9 per cent in the United States over the same period.
The strength and national independence of Communism in China has been underestimated in the same manner, year after year. When America gave vast help to the Kuomintang after the war, the expectation was that the Communist 'rebel' regime, developed in the twofold struggle against the Japanese and for national rejuvenation in areas behind the Japanese frondines, would soon disintegrate. And when it conquered the country and the people's acclaim, the prediction was that, without American aid for development, Communist China would be unable to make progress, or even to consolidate. Yet the new China, despite all American efforts at undermining her, is already giving the world a foretaste of her future as a strong, great power in her own right and an epoch-making example to all backward nations. As the New York Times on June 25, 195 r quoted 'arrivals in Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland', 'The Communists have achieved outstanding results in rehabilitating roads and railways, cleaning up cities, instituting administrative efficiency, eliminating corruption, controlling rivers and improving production in city and country . . remarkable achievements in construction and management'.
Much similar testimony could be cited on Eastern European countries—like that of 'an American diplomat, stationed in the city', who told the Warsaw correspondent of U.S. News & World Report on June 23, 195o : "The most frightening thing about Communism in Poland is that it works".'
In Eastern Europe as a whole, judging from figures in the U.N. Economic Bulletin for Europe, Fourth Quarter, 1951, industrial production rose 97 per cent from 1938 to 1951, against an increase by 44 per cent in Western Europe (55 per cent in the case of Britain) during the same time. And it seems that China, too, is already in the process of increasing her production considerably.
But the growing strength of the Communist world only seems to have raised the American Cold War target from 'containing' it to `rolling it back'. 'Once Communism's expansion is checked'—U.S. News & World Report predicted on February 23, 195r, in an account of the intended increase of Western strength during a five- or ten-year period of business prosperity based on 'rearmament at home and arms aid abroad'—'there can be expected to follow a long process of trying by one means or another to push back its frontiers'.
In such a process, world war must remain a constant danger; and it is in the grim logic of the chain reaction between the United States and the Soviet world that larger and larger armaments cannot take from either side its growing fear of aggression by the other. American `political and military experts . whose duty it is to weigh the chances of a Russian attack in Europe', well illustrated this point. 'When the United States reaches the period of weapon predominance, as it will', the New York Times of March z6, 1951 quoted them, 'the rulers of the Soviet world will expect that the American people, weary of sacrifices for a national emergency that is neither peace nor war, will demand war.'
To judge the possibilities of ending the fatal cause-and-effect relationship between 'East' and 'West' it would seem to matter little what one's opinion is about the Communists' real views and aims.
One may feel the Soviet leaders really believe and fear that the depression trend must force America deeper and deeper 'into militaristic and imperialistic adventures and finally into the third world war'; and that they only act defensively when they continue trying to acquire and solidify what strategic positions, controls and armed strength they can, in order to protect the Soviet world against attack. Or one may be convinced that, on the contrary, the Kremlin looks toward the eventual depression in the United States and the rest of the capitalistic nations as its great opportunity of taking over a world shaken by acute economic crisis; and that, in the meantime, it is paving the way toward that goal with all possible aggressive and subversive means, cynically talking peace while preparing for, and fostering, more war and revolution.
From either of these points of view, it would seem that America could best protect herself and the non-Communist world against disturbing Soviet moves by reforming her own economy and supporting reform elsewhere, by doing away with the depression drift and putting a floor under the economic risks and difficulties of peace. For, whether such a change in the United States would aim at allaying genuine Soviet fears or at frustrating aggressive Soviet plans, the effect would be the same: it would allow, or actually force, the Soviet world to devote less of its energies to armaments and more to improvement of the living conditions of its people, to rely for its rivalry with a genuinely reformed capitalism less on military strength and more on social progress.
It is true that Soviet theory, on principle, has always denied the possibility of capitalistic reform that could abolish the danger of depression and the resulting 'compulsion to war'. Yet the practice of Soviet interpretation of current history seems to allow for alternative lines of capitalistic action that may either postpone or hasten the development of economic crisis, soften or intensify its character, mellow or aggravate the measures of domestic and foreign policy by which a depression-threatened system must seek to evade its breakdown, and thereby influence the policies of the Soviet bloc in one way or the other. 'The flexible nature of Russian communism and the existence of certain precedents make even a fundamental change in_ attitude toward the non-Communist world not entirely beyond the range of possibility', a report about Soviet-American relations of the American Friends Service Committee (which won the Nobel Peace Prize) stated in July 1949. 'It would seem unwarranted to believe that their Marxism would stand in the way of an acceptance of the idea of peaceful coexistence if "new historical conditions" made it appear advantageous.'
Sceptics will argue that Communism would still continue subverting foreign nationS. But if the United States really reformed her economic order, the full use of her tremendous capacities to produce and buy and sell and lend would help to strengthen every 'advanced' and 'backward' nation and stimulate economic, social and political reform and progress in every corner of the globe. And what hopeful society, in the midst of genuine advancement, has ever been successfully subverted?
However black one may see the character of the Communist system and the intentions of its leaders—the power of a reformed American economy for helping world-wide progress would be so enormous that nothing could possibly offset it.
Just as the theorieS and the spread of Communism, historically, are reactions to the shortcomings of the capitalistic order, the world's present Soviet problem is in the last analysis the world's American problem in reverse. Short of war, which would solve neither—even for nations that survived—only a solution of the American problem could lead to the solution of the Soviet problem. Only once non-Communist countries no longer found it difficult to live in the same world with the United States would they no longer find it dangerous to `co-exist' with Communist-led nations. Only then would there be hope that both groups could gradually evolve closer to one another.
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