[DEBATE] : The Good War
eve and tony hall
matumi at icon.co.za
Fri Jul 7 06:42:24 BST 2006
Here are a couple of goodies for the collection of anyone interested in historical items:
A coherent defence of the Soviet Union and all its works -- in a US Army briefing to its mission, in 1945;
Reports on the crucial and dynamic role played by the Communists and Unions in the post war reconstruction of France -- by famous right wing journalist Joe Alsop.
So it was, for a moment in history, until the Military Industrial Complex said to Truman: Enough of this namby-pamby pinko love-in -- we have arms to make, cold (and hot) wars to wage -- ring down the Iron Curtain!
They wrote that. ?!
It was Chicago-based leftist radio broadcaster and oral history documenter Studs Terkel who titled his book of interviews with people about World War II "The Good War".
Read the following two passages, if you care to, note their extraordinary provenances, and marvel at how much understanding, probity and goodwill there was - for a time (and the agonizing parallels and might-have-beens that come to mind about our own opportunities for real transformation).
(I found both passages in a 1949 book by a British Labour MP)
1.) Extract from a (1945) article on the difference between Fascism and Communism:
The USSR, like the US, is opposed to the fundamental Fascist ideas on which Germany has operated: (1) The master race; (2) the State is all important; (3) Lebensraum: and (4) desire to dominate the world.
Master Race: If the US is a 'melting pot', then the Soviet Union is an electric mixer. Scientists have counted 189 'races' in USSR. Under the Tsars, many of the racial minorities were persecuted; today in the Soviet Union, there is no such thing as racial discrimination in practice or in theory. The people of each 'race' have been encouraged to retain their own language, customs and individuality and to educate themselves and develop the economic area in which they live.
All-Important State: Some people profess to see strong likeness between the Soviet and Nazi forms of government; each permits but one legal political party, each uses propaganda and secret police. However, the goals of the two Governments are poles apart. The monopoly of the Communist Party is imposed to protect the interest of the common people against those who had formerly taken advantage of them. The purpose is the welfare of the people not the welfare of the State. In Germany, dictatorship sacrificed the people's welfare to the goal of preparing the Germans for aggressive war.
To illustrate this fundamental difference, the Soviets have encouraged trade unions; Hitler destroyed unions, Russia adopted the eight-hour day and later reduced it to seven (until the danger of war was imminent); the Nazis lengthened the working day long before the outbreak of war. The Soviets granted equality to women - they work as farmers, engineers, heads of industries; the Fascists compelled women to give up jobs on the theory that woman's primary job was to produce children.
The number of Soviet men and women in high schools and colleges increased greatly from 1914-1937; in Germany, college enrolments alone decreased by more than 50 per cent from 1932 to 1937. Before World War 1, only q small minority of the people of Russia could read or write. Today, the great majority has been taught to do so
Living Space: In area, the USSR is as large as all of the US, Canada and Alaska; it covers one-sixth of the land surface of the earth. Like the United States it has nearly everything and lots of it - space, iron, coal, electric power, oil and grain.
Many people cannot reconcile Soviet occupation of Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Rumania, and Poland with USSR statements that they want no foreign territory. W.D. Pamphlet 20-3 says:
'The ultimate military consequences are the best evidence of whether the USSR's 1939 attack on Finland and subsequent overrunning of the Baltic provinces were barehanded aggressions, motivated by greed for territory, or were done to strengthen USSR's western frontiers against attack by Germany. The possession of this buffer territory did greatly facilitate the USSR's defence when the attack duly fell. Without attempting any moral judgments on the matter, it is enough to state the military fact that had the USSR not acted so, the Allied cause would be weaker today.'
How did these territories serve the USSR militarily?
Finland: The Russo-Finnish border was only 20 miles from Leningrad, second largest Soviet city. After negotiations with Finland for a buffer territory failed, war resulted. The territory gained enabled the USSR to hold out 30 days after the Nazi attack in 1939. Although besieged, Leningrad never fell.
Baltic States: Occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania helped delay the Wehrmacht 59 days and gave naval and air bases to hammer German shipping in the Baltic sea.
Rumania: Bessarabian territory delayed the German advance for over a month.
Poland: By occupying Eastern Poland, the Soviets acquired 77,705 square miles to cushion to some extent the German attack when it came.
In addition, the territories were part of the Russian empire before 1917 and, with the exception of Poland and Rumania, had been closely associated with Germany.
World Domination: Early leaders of Communism in Russia advocated world revolution. Communist policy was modified in 1927 by Stalin, who believed Russia's most important contribution to Socialism lay not in revolution but in building Socialism successfully at home. The Soviet Union became one of the strongest supporters of co-operative action to preserve peace; Trotsky, leader of the 'world revolutionists' was exiled in 1927. .Russia accepted the Kellogg-Briand Pact to outlaw war in 1928. they joined the League of Nations in 1934 and supported all attempts at disarmament; they abolished the Comintern (the Communist International) in May 1943. The willingness of the Soviet Union, like other powers, to make concessions in order to fashion a durable international peace organisation was demonstrated at the San Francisco Conference. In Stalin's words: 'We have no ideas of imposing our regime on other peoples. our aim is to help liberate them from Nazi tyranny and then leave them free to live their own lives as they wish.'
This extract is from an Information Bulletin, Volume 1, No.17 of August 19, 1945
Issued by the United States Armed Forces Institute (!!)
In order to 'assist Instructional and Educational people in their mission'
Quoted in 'I Choose Peace', by K Zilliacus,* pp 405-407
Penguin Special, October 1949
*British Labour Party MP for Gateshead until 1949.
In so far as the Soviet Government have departed from this admirable principle - and they have done so less than the United States have done in Greece, China, Italy, and France - they have acted not on revolutionary or doctrinaire grounds, but out of concern for their national security. Sometimes their fears have been exaggerated. But all too often they have been justified by American intervention and power politics.
2.) Communist role in post-war reconstruction in France
Immediately after liberation the French people were in a condition of exhaustion and demoralisation. The urgency and magnitude of the problems to be solved were so appalling that there was a general mood of apathy and despair.
The Communists did a great deal at this crucial time to put heart into the French workers. They gave a militant lead through the trade unions in carrying out emergency and salvage work, repairing railway lines, rolling tock, locomotives, bridges, roads and factories, restarting production in the mines and so forth.
>From there they went straight on to becoming the driving force behind reconstruction. In the New York Herald Tribune in July 1946 Mr Joseph Alsop [he and his brother Stuart were two very prominent and in/famously right-wing journalists] gave his impressions of the situation in France, based on his own investigations on the spot.
French reconstruction, he explained, hinged on the Monnet plan, worked out by Jean Monnet (who was the first Deputy General Secretary of the League of Nations and in charge of its Economic, Financial, Transport and Health organisations). The plan provided for a council composed of commissions for each of the key sectors of the French economy, such as mining, steel and so forth. On these commissions representatives of workers, owners and the Government (without the owners in the case of nationalised industries) conferred on the best methods of modernising plant and technique in their sectors and estimated their requirements of manpower and new investment. Investment was to be planned on a large scale over a period of years and financed partly by credits secured abroad, such as France's American loan, and by intensive exports.
'The key to the success of this plan to date, which has been considerable', writes Mr Alsop from Paris on July 12, 1946, is the enthusiastic collaboration of the French Communist Party. The Communists control the most important unions of the CGT, the great French confederation of labour unions. Communist leadership has been responsible for such surprising steps as acceptance by the key French unions, of a kind of modified piecework system by which a high output per worker is duly rewarded. Before initiating his plan, Jean Monnet discussed it with the leader of the French Communist Party, and especially with the shrewd Billou, Minister of Reconstruction, and obtained assurances of help.
Reconstruction comes first, is the party line. Communist labour leaders sit on the more important planning commissions, and the manpower and mining commissions are actually provided by them.'
The next day Mr Alsop described how the '200 families', that is the small closely knit French higher bourgeoisie who throughout the Third Republic 'exercised a predominant, almost uninterrupted influence over the political life of France through their control of the banks, heavy industries and other sources of economic power have been replaced in the nationalised coal industry by 'brisk, impressively intelligent French Communist labour leaders'. The Communists have replaced the '200 families' in control of the coal and electrical industries, the former through the direct action of the Communist Miners' Union immediately after liberation. They are also almost certain to control the electrical industry and have 'infiltrated the new national administration of the banks and the old railroad administration'.
They have eighty per cent control of the French TUC and dominate the 'unions in mining, railways, steel and virtually all other heavy industries'. They have the largest women's organisation in France, a big veterans' organisation, and are receiving a heavy vote in country districts, besides controlling key posts in the Government 'They have the most dynamic leaders in France.'
Quoted in 'I Choose Peace', by K Zilliacus,* pp 192-193
Penguin Special, October 1949
*British Labour Party MP for Gateshead until 1949
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