Chapter Twenty Five: The Unnecessary Cold War.
Rethinking the Cold War.
The Cold War became normal for my generation throughout most of their lives. It lasted from, say, 1946 to 1990, forty four years, and cost some $10 trillion at a minimum, but really more than twice as much if the lost trade and development is taken into account. We rarely questioned this impoverishment, because the dominant narrative told us the expenditure was absolutely necessary for our safety. As a result of it, a billion or so people lived in a state of normal fear of military attack for over four decades, and it generated a series of events that could have led to human destruction. It was a War which, as we were frequently told, nobody wanted, Hot or Cold, but it had to be. It was absolutely necessary
Yet, the wringing of hands needs examining, though we were all taught to believe this line without question. As it was, both sides accumulated and stockpiled weapons for decades without going to war, and then when the USSR went broke in 1990 and the Cold War officially ended, still nothing happened and the United States and Britain continued their Cold War armoury when the reason for it did not exist, in case some other super-power threat came along, which it has not. During this period the Cold War has been hard-wired in our heads in the biggest propaganda campaign the world has ever seen. We have been taught to treat it as unquestionable; we must be strong to prevent the USSR taking over the world and destroying life and freedom by Communism, and strong we were, voting through the funds to provide more or less unlimited weapons to stop war occurring, and we congratulate ourselves that there has not been a nuclear holocaust destroying us all. The Cold War seemed normal, but, of course, it has been a deliberate human creation. It was by no means inevitable. One of the most obvious and legitimate questions is why it came to exist? Perhaps, it need not have been like this. With some understanding, humility, wisdom and generosity maybe more than $20 trillion could have been saved, military tensions in dozens of countries avoided, and millions not have died through nuclear test radiation-induced cancers, especially breast cancers. The world could have developed more harmoniously and been a much better place. We think of saving a few dollars when we go shopping, but thinking how $20 trillion could have been saved is a bit more crucial. So this chapter sets aside the hard wiring and is an exercise in seeing what, and who, went wrong.
Here we look at how it was caused. It was no accident, but happened because enough politically placed people wanted it. Indeed, it is worse than this. The people who were wise and saw the big picture were shouldered aside by those who were on the make and wanted their version of power to dominate. These people did want the Cold War through their own motives. Their wealth and jobs depended on it, and they were keen to promote military strength and were intent on being in power and running international events. Individuals, financial structures, institutions and arms companies required it both in the United States and the USSR, but especially in the United States. They built pressure to adopt this policy, often for their own selfish reasons. They “needed” and could control the Cold War, as largely they have, because this business was useful to them. In 1945 people had learned the habits and skills of war, and some of them were going to make sure the business of weapons and war carried on.
Surely, we might protest (using the standard answer), the Cold War was the great ideological conflict of the 20th century between Democracy and Communism, and Stalinist politics was the long-term danger to the West and to the world. At the end of the Second World War the USSR had taken over Poland, East Germany, the Baltic States, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Roumania and potentially any other country it could gobble up. In 1950 China succumbed to Communism on the same model and Mao was even worse. Communism was a dangerous predator. Stalin was a dictator prepared to kill millions in order to maintain power and impose Socialism, and the Cold War was therefore an entirely realistic political response. The USSR had become a great ideological and military power, exactly like Hitler, and so the West, primarily the United States, needed to defend against this encroaching power. There is evidence to support this view. We will call it the “Churchillian view”, since Churchill was the most articulate presenter of this position, especially in his “Iron Curtain” speech. But a proper understanding of the position of the USSR in the Second World War, Stalin’s loyalty to the West, the USSR’s weakness after 1945, the position of world socialism and the Fascist position in the States and elsewhere makes it a fabrication rather than a necessary response, It has become largely uncontested in popular thought, but, as we will see, this view was carefully constructed for the masses and we have swallowed it.
Though there was a USSR contribution to the Cold War, the suggestion here is that the United States and British contribution was far greater. The Cold War was our baby. It built up from the West at a number of different levels and through a range of key players in a story that has not been fully told for a long time. It came fast, and it came from a few mainly American people with their own agendas and ambitions who could not think peace, and got rid of those who could. It came to involve a histrionic level of demonization, both of the USSR and also of a lot of western citizens so that the politicians and electorate would fall in line and support the Cold War. The full story involves many decades and many weapons systems, but here we concentrate on its early formation and the actors who largely brought it about. It was activated in the relatively short period of six months between 2nd September, 1945 when Japan surrendered and the 5th March, 1946 when Churchill made his Iron Curtain speech. It is astonishing how quickly it followed on from the end of the Second World War. The USSR had been fighting with the United States to defeat Japan in August 1945 and moved from being our greatest ally to our arch enemy in March, 1946. We look at these six months and their precursors.
Some background on the USSR, Churchill and the Long War.
The USSR became Communist in the middle of the First World War when the Russian Army led by the Tsar fell apart under the attack from Germany. The old imperial regime had refused to reform and was first removed in the February Revolution and then the Bolsheviks moved in forcefully to take control as the Germans advanced in the “October” Communist Revolution. In November, 1917 they declared the USSR’s participation in the War at an end, saying the War was an imperial adventure of which the wanted no part. They were subjected to a humiliating Treaty by Germany, the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, which ceded a lot of Russian territory to Germany and at the time they had to accept it. At the end of the Great War much of this, but not all, was returned as the Curzon Line was drawn designating Russia’s boundaries. But the USSR’s War was not over.
After the Armistice Churchill was made Minister of War to clear up the military affairs which remained outstanding. He used this position to arm and support the White Russians who were still fighting against the Reds, or Bolsheviks, with a lot of the surplus weaponry left over from the war. He aimed as he said to “strangle the Bolshevik baby in the cradle.” Most commentators see him as going beyond the brief of Parliament in attacking the new USSR Government in a way which evidenced his personal animosity. As Lloyd George said, “He has Bolshevism on the brain and he is mad for operations in Russia.” This included dropping chemical weapons on Bolshevik troop locations from August 1919. David Carlton sums up Churchill’s attitude thus. “In fact they represent the convictions of the visceral anti-Soviet that Churchill had never ceased to be since the first days of the Bolshevik Revolution. In short, his anti-Nazi phase, for which ironically he will always be principally remembered, was for him something of a digression, however necessary, in his extraordinarily long career.” Churchill used extremely vituperative language against the Bolsheviks, and was even unbraided by his Conservative friends and The Times for so doing. He was the product of Blenheim Palace, saw red, and only red, in his relationship with those who would depose and destroy the Russian aristocracy. As he said on 29th May, “1919 Bolshevism is not a policy; it is a disease. It is not a creed; it is a pestilence.” This attitude would become important again in 1946. The Civil War was fought on every side of the new Soviet Union, and Churchill supplied weapons to make the attacks effective. Trotsky kept the Red Armies together, often with vicious discipline to force soldiers to fight. General Deniken and the Cossacks fought in the South supported by Churchill. In central Asia, when the Whites were defeated, Lt. Col Bailey, General Malleson and Major General Dunsterville were sent with resources to try to reverse the defeats. The British occupied Murmansk, but retreated in the winter, and Major Ewan Cameron Bruce captured Tsaritsyn for the White Cause. But the winter saw the White armies waning and western support for this continuation of the Russian Civil War ended in November 1919, as Churchill’s role was questioned in the Commons.
Even then the War did not end, as the Poles, seeing the weakness of Bolshevik Russia, attacked. By now the USSR had some four million dead and their industrial production was as much as 80% lower and their food production down 60%. They had the greatest casualties of all World War One assailants. The attack by the Poles, also helped by Churchill’s provision of arms, again pushed into Ukraine territory in 1920 and started another all-out war which resulted in another 40-60,000 Russian dead. Some three million also died of Typhus in 1920. Some two or three million White Russians, often members of the old upper classes, moved out of the USSR to other locations to become the enemies of and to the Communist regime.. The bloodbath of ten years from 1914-1924 is unimaginable to most of the rest of the world, leaving the USSR torn by the bloodshed, hatred and destruction of fighting Germany and Austro-Hungary, with Red against White, Russian against Pole, and the USSR deeply distrusting their allied capitalist powers of Britain, France and the United States which had done their best to make sure that the Soviet Union arrived dead in the water. In the United States the right wing organized a Red Scare to make sure that Communism was demonized, and the United States Communist Party had a lot of its members sent out of the country before it was declared unconstitutional. So in 1919 the ideological map was set.
Gradually the USSR began its industrialization out of this chaos. Lenin and then Stalin were involved in internecine struggles in the twenties and thirties, as farms were collectivized. Stalin’s political position on Communism was different from Trotsky’s. Trotsky wanted to encourage armed revolutions against Capitalism throughout the world. Stalin’s focus was on the USSR and making a success of Communism in the USSR first. In that sense, he was not the same international threat as Lenin and Trosky were. Stalin began to direct centrally an economic transformation through a series of economic plans. There were vicious purges, prompted by Stalin’s fear of Trotsky and others who might sabotage his Soviet state, and then the USSR began to emerge as a powerfully growing nation. With the Wall Street Crash in 1929 the USSR with its vast population and territory began to be a successful economy, posting growth rates of 5-10% during the era when recession was hitting the States and Europe. During this period the anti-militarist emphasis within Communism came to the fore, and at the 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference the USSR was asking for full disarmament of all nations, an important theme in Communist policy. With the failure of the Geneva Conference and when Hitler came to power in January, 1932, Stalin realized immediately that the USSR would be attacked and began a process of giving the USSR a modern military with tanks, planes, and modern artillery. Arms factories were bought in from the United States in interesting deals with capitalists, and Stalin prepared for the coming war. In 1935-6 he looked to Britain, France and others for stronger opposition to Fascism in the Spanish Civil War and other areas, but they adopted the appeasement-neutrality stance that Churchill criticized so strongly.
The lead into the Second World War was also important for USSR-Western relationships. In early 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Austria, Czechoslavakia, part of Lithuania and Hungary largely becomes a Fascist State. Germany declared that they wanted part of Poland in March. In March, too, the Spanish Civil War is won by the Fascists with Nazi support. On 18th April the USSR proposed a Triple Alliance with Britain and France, effectively the Alliance which, with the United States, which had won the First World War, but Stalin was ignored in Britain. On the 24th April the Prime Minister flatly refused to make any comment on possible negotiations with the USSR. The Government even made a hash of extending normal reciprocal diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. It was an amazing failure to make the move which could have inhibited Hitler’s march to war, basically because we did not care about the USSR. Only on the 9th July, 1939 did Churchill, outside Government, urge this military alliance with the USSR. It was an abject failure by the Tory Government to stop Hitler going to war. The issue was clearly stated by Hitler on 11th August, 1939 to Carl Jacob Burckhart, League of Nations Commissioner. “Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this, then I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and then after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine so that they can’t starve us out, as happened in the last war.” At the beginning of August a military mission went to Moscow, but by now the USSR was out for its own survival with the War coming, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact was formed on 23rd August partitioning Poland and agreeing not to fight one another. In other words Stalin, unsupported by Britain and France, was trying to prevent the War starting on the Eastern Front and buying time. Germany had the advantage that it did not have to worry about the Eastern front and could pile all its resources westwards. This Triple Alliance failure was the beginning of the Second World War. When, Hitler had overrun western Europe he turned back to the USSR, as he inevitably would do, ratted on his agreement and invaded the USSR in the biggest attack ever mounted in human warfare – Operation Barbarossa. The USSR had moved its munitions factories eastwards to avoid being overrun, produced a vast output of tanks and other weapons and gradually and heroically defeated the Nazis in the East. Really, in the three years between 22nd June, 1941 and 6th June, 1944 with the Normandy landings the USSR alone was fighting Nazi Germany for the central half of the War. As historians acknowledge, it was the USSR mainly who defeated Nazi Germany, an amazing and costly feat. So the USSR had been ignored as an ally against the Nazis before the War, when, perhaps, it could have been prevented.
The USSR as the Friend of Britain.
The enormous scale on which the USSR fought Nazi Germany when it was invaded by four million troops on a two thousand mile front with 600,000 armed vehicles is scarcely now recognized. It was a long, brutal war involving the greatest confrontation in military history. Two million Soviet prisoners of war died through starvation because they were unfed in the prisoner of war camps. Eventually after the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad and many others across that great front, the USSR prevailed. Rightly, the USSR came to be seen as the great wartime ally in Britain. Bradley Smith describes it thus.
The Ministry of Information Home Intelligence surveys, as well as every other barometer of public opinion, show that without exception, the most impassioned and long-lasting outpouring of British enthusiasm during the whole war was occasioned by the bravery and endurance of the Red Army and the Russian people… Outpourings of public gratitude to the USSR were legion, as were expressions of remorse that Britain was not providing more aid to Russia, or taking enough load off the Red Army. The great outcry for a second front, which racked Britain all through the middle part of the war, may have been orchestrated in part by the political Left, but it rested on a nearly universal British feeling that the United Kingdom was being saved by Russia and her army, and that every possible effort should be made to help them… By the fall of 1943 when those polled were asked to rank which country had done the most to win the war, the USSR came first with 50% and Britain was second with 42%… The British public’s sympathetic identification with the Soviet Union carried with it a concomitant concern that the American and British governments should not try to deprive Russia of her fair share of the fruits of victory.
Uncle Joe Stalin was more popular than Roosevelt, and there were repeated requests for the opening of a second front to take some of the pressure off the USSR, a move which Churchill firmly ignored, choosing rather to fight eventually in North Africa. Really, the USSR won the War for us.
Friendship with the USSR was also much closer in 1945 in ideological terms. There had been a long hatred of Communism by the British Aristocracy and the Tories. When Churchill and the Tories were defeated in the 26th July, 1945 election, it was the first time that this group was removed from the British Governments. The Labour Government was also firmly disassociated from Soviet Communism. Joint Labour/Communist Party membership was forbidden and infiltration was carefully watched. But Labour and the majority of the electorate, were in favour of the nationalization of most monopoly industries on the basis of both efficiency and fairness, a National Health Service, a state housebuilding programme and equalizing taxes in a Socialist programme of reform. The Attlee nationalization programme was not a long way from Russian socialism and worked well in a variety of ways. Aside the capitalist propaganda for the last seventy years, the ideological debate as to how socialism could work was much more open and nuanced than is often seen today. There was no ideological divide with the Soviets, but just an insistence on democratic and parliamentary methods. Sir Stafford Cripps, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would more or less describe himself as a Communist by persuasion and most people saw Socialism and Christian Socialism as the normal and thoughtful political response . So there was no source here for the origin of the Cold War. Britain was warm but in a separate container.
President Roosevelt and the USSR.
Nor was there much of a problem in the United States’ Government with the USSR. President Roosevelt and his Vice-President Henry Wallace had established a good working relationship with Stalin as the major ally in the fight against both Germany and Japan. People knew that the USSR had borne the brunt of the War and contributed way beyond other countries. Roosevelt was conscious of this, and set out to work with Stalin. Moreover, Roosevelt was big-minded enough to see through to a model of peaceful world development after the end of the War. He was a statesman, not a politician. Indeed Stalin and Roosevelt shared some views. They saw in part the post-war problem in Britain’s seeming determination to hang on to its empire, for both the United States (because of its origin in the War of Independence against Britain) and the USSR (which understood capitalism and imperialism as two sides of the same coin) were anti-imperialist. More than this, the USSR had suffered twenty four million deaths, while the figures for both the United States and the United Kingdom were less than half a million and much of the War had taken place on Russian soil. When your ally has lost that number of people, you are for them, as Roosevelt was, with a deep gratitude. Roosevelt’s words to the American people were “I believe we are going to get along very well with [Stalin] and the Russian people – very well indeed.” The USSR had had fought through to victory at Stalingrad and turned the war. It had had some western help but as David Reynolds notes, “Between June 1941 and June 1944 (from Barbarossa to D-Day), 93% of the German armed forces’ combat losses were inflicted by the Soviets.” That is an impressive figure, and an ally like that needed honouring and some support. Nor was this recognition merely theoretical when they met.
Stalin must have been very happy as the War moved towards a victory. Russia had not won a major war for a hundred years, but this time it had the industrial weight and will to defeat the Germans in the greatest war of history; he was warm towards his Allies. When they came, he was a good host, trying to give his visitors a festive welcome, full of toasts and Russian bonhomie despite the desperate condition of the USSR. He wanted to trust and get on well with the team who had defeated the Nazis. Indeed, in 1943-5 Churchill’s fear was that the United States and the USSR were getting on too well, with both happy to see the British Empire dismembered and the British no longer a significant world power. Churchill is a key actor throughout this saga. Roosevelt and Stalin discussed their shared view of colonialism during the Teheran Conference on 28th November to the 1st December, 1943. Lord Cadogan remarked that the ‘Big Three’ seemed to have become the ‘Big Two-and-a-half’. Churchill was, in part, the odd man out. On the 9th-19th October, 1944 Churchill and Stalin met in Moscow to agree spheres of influence in eastern Europe. It produced the so-called percentages bit of paper where the share of influence in eastern Europe was set out as follows by Churchill [Russia first] and Stalin ticked it: Roumania 90-10%, Greece 10-90%, Yugoslavia 50-50%, Hungary 50-50%, Bulgaria 75-25%. This was an agreement to make sure that there was no dissent between these two allies at the end of the War. Churchill was agreeing to considerable Soviet influence in eastern Europe and we will discuss the outcome of specific countries later. At Yalta on the 4-11th February, 1945 Poland was also incorporated into agreement. Stalin, who held the territory by conquest, wanted to retain Eastern Poland back to the pre-World War One boundary and push the Polish boundary west into Germany to give him a buffer state against future German attack. The Allies agreed to this, but the Polish Government in exile did not. There was to be a democratic election after a caretaker government largely set up by the USSR. These agreements seemed a reasonable interim settlement. Surveys showed that three quarters of the American people favoured co-operation with the Soviet Union and ideological polarization was not inevitable. Apart from Roosevelt, key American public figures including Robert A Taft, Claude Pepper, Glen Taylor, Walter Lippman, Henry Wallace and Henry Morganthau were in favour of co-operation. They knew this need not be a hostile relationship and were anxious to avoid the polarisation they knew some of their compatriots were looking for.
Moreover, Stalin’s broader position, aside his viciousness, could be partly understood. His underlying philosophy in the 1930s was towards the internal development of the USSR, not towards external military aggression, but he had had to arm to meet the inevitable Nazi aggression which he saw with great clarity. This was not endemic militarism, but a reaction to Nazi aggression. Stalin knew he would be attacked. It did not take much working out – Fascists hate Communists; The Nazis were beating them up and killing them whenever they could. After Hitler’s defeat, Stalin needed two things. First he needed some kind of economic and territorial reward and support for his people after all they had suffered to give some sense of victory. Second, he needed absolute assurance that the German menace was dead; that meant Germany dismembered and Eastern Europe as a bulwark against Fascism. After two horrific experiences, the USSR must never again face German imperial aggression. That was an understandable and non-negotiable requirement.
So Stalin’s position was well understood, and Churchill’s relation to Roosevelt was more precarious than it might seem. The USSR, not Britain, was becoming the major ally of the United States.
The World-wide Ideological Scene – the Failure and Danger of Right-Wing Fascism.
More than this, the world ideological scene was different then. We look at this past through more than seven decades of anti-Communist rhetoric, often with quite an overwhelming emphasis on “democracy, freedom and capitalism being in the right and Communism in the wrong”, a vast propaganda machine which few people in the west under sixty years old can stand outside. But it was not like that then. Fascism and the Nazi Party were obviously wicked right-wing totalitarians, and they had gone out and murdered Jews and Socialists on the streets, so that capitalism and militarism could have their own way. Everyone knew Right Wing politics and Fascism was the world problem and had formed the two World Wars. It was outrageously evil and anti-democratic. Fascism had been present before the Second World War in Italy, France, Britain, Spain, Japan, the United States as well as Germany and it was the primary world ideological problem. It needed defeating. Destroying right-wing Fascism with its militarism, anti-semitism, racism, anti-christian, anti-democratic, anti-worker, anti-equality ideology was the major issue. At a more immediate level, ordinary workers were acutely aware of poverty and inequality and knew that only Socialist and Christian parties would stand up for them.
Right wing parties faced this awful record in their ideological camp nervously and were far from being seen as the champions of democracy or freedom. Moreover, capitalism had generated the Wall Street Crash leading to unemployment for millions in the United States, Germany and France and was hardly an economic success. State corporatism, where great national capitalist corporations like Krupp were backed by the State was a development of capitalism, and millions of workers wanted the hands of the plutocrats eradicated from the economy. Roosevelt’s New Deal was a fight against Capitalism, a system that favoured the few and oppressed the many, a grossly inefficient way to run the economy. Meanwhile in Russia during the thirties the economy had seen levels of growth of between 5-10% of GDP per capita, making it undoubtedly the most successful major economy of the inter-war era. Thus, ordinary working people newly with votes around the world were looking to the USSR. In this situation the capitalist class had to tread carefully. Their links with Fascism were suspect. In contemporary language, they had a toxic brand, and they were in danger of losing power to a world-wide movement for socialist governments. So Britain had a socialist landslide in the July 1945 election by 393 votes to Churchill’s Conservatives on 199, and in France in October 1945 Communists and Socialists won 317 seats over the Conservatives 205. In February 1946 Christian Socialists won in Belgium. Socialism was a normal democratic ideological response for the period. This ideological landscape had to be changed if capitalism was to flourish again.
In the States this Socialist-Fascist divide was also an issue. It is traced in War or Peace? through the thirties and the Second World War. The Fascists were well known and identified. The Fascist groups in the United States, centred around the Du Ponts, Morgan, Pew, Rockerfeller, Harriman, Singer and other dynasties. They distrusted democracy, looked to Mussolini as a good example of government and tried to organize a Fascist coup against Roosevelt in 1934 which was thwarted by General Smedley Butler. Opposition to this Fascism was an important part of American public life. As Starobin notes, the American League against War and Fascism built up to about five million members and then became the American League for Peace and Democracy. Opposition to United States’ Fascism and Capitalism is a big part of our story. In the late thirties Roosevelt defeated the Liberty League, set up to unseat him, and exposed it is a Fascist front for the Du Ponts and other families. In 1941 Orson Welles produced Citizen Kane showing a capitalist lost in his own pursuit of wealth. Chaplin’s attack on capitalism, Modern Times (1936) and on Hitler, The Great Dictator (1940) show the popular public support against the Right Wing. This was overt, popular, democratic anti-Fascism.
The Attlee nationalization programme was not a long way from Russian socialism and worked well in a variety of ways. Aside the capitalist propaganda for the last seventy years, the ideological debate as to how socialism could work was much more open and nuanced than is often seen today. The capitalist failure of 1929 left millions of Europeans reasonable and convinced Socialists. The Nazis and Fascists generally were right wing allies of capitalism, and the Second World War was really a further ideological defeat for capitalism and militarism. State corporatism, where great national capitalist corporations like Krupp were backed by the State was a development of capitalism, and millions of workers wanted the hands of the plutocrats eradicated from the economy and the nationalization of industry.
To all intents and purposes the right-wing politics throughout the world were in deep crisis in 1945, and we have not even mentioned the slow Communist conquest of China.
No More War.
There was another reason why the Cold War was not really a starter. Those who have not experienced war directly, and that includes myself, cannot fully understanding or feel the deep antipathy and soul-rooted opposition to war which it produces. Most participants soldiers do not focus on winning or losing, but on the horror of killing and being killed and of unfettered destruction. They are beyond war weary, and into an inner abhorrence that this should happen to humankind. War had to end, and the Cold War was therefore unthinkable and should not come to pass. But the point was more practical than this.
The popular longing for peaceful living was immense everywhere. There was no other option because so much needed clearing up and rebuilding. Most countries faced a decade of hard work to repair the war damage. They needed bread, houses, curtains, plates, shoes, carpets, coal and clothes. War expenditure had to be translated to domestic needs, and guns replaced by margarine. The obvious preoccupation domestically was to cut military expenditure hard and invest in prefabs, factories, health, education, road mending and jobs. For the British, French, German, Russian, Italian and American politicians this was the priority. Millions of workers wanted the hands of the plutocrats eradicated from the economy and governments which met the needs of ordinary people. Not caviar and champaigne, but eggs and orange juice, was the order of the day. The last thing they wanted was the creation of another enemy to preoccupy life. The repudiation of Churchill in July 1945 in favour of the Attlee Government was not ingratitude for Churchill’s wartime role, but a recognition that we needed a Health Service and a domestic revolution in welfare and economic provision. After a decade of neglect, the domestic economy needed vast attention and repair in all these countries and that was Labour’s business. For most people, the last thing they wanted was the creation of another enemy.
Thus, both the USSR and the United States had fought on the same side in the Second World and both only entered the war when it was necessary so to do, when proceedings were well under way. The United States had in the 30s equipped the USSR for military production with tank and aircraft factories, seemingly without qualms, and the USSR had borne the brunt of the Nazi war machine for nearly three years before the second front was opened on the Normandy beaches. The USSR must have felt relatively unsupported and certainly did not fully trust the West. Yet Stalin had been a good ally. Japan made overtures to Stalin to come to an armistice in East Asia which might suit both, but Stalin merely passed the information on to the Allies and co-operated fully in the Far East with the Americans. There was the possibility of working together. True, Stalin, too, had a powerful munitions and military establishment behind him, eager to talk up the threat of the United States, but it was vastly inferior in equipment. The USSR was on its knees; it had lost a generation of young men, was geographically devastated and struggling for food. It needed recovery more than any other nation including Germany. Stalin knew this and was looking towards domestic recovery from desperate devastation. His people needed everything. There was no dynamic for a Cold War from the USSR, because it just could not afford it.
For all these reasons movement towards a Cold War between the West and the USSR was unlikely, and yet it occurred because some people and organisations changed the flow. We look for its causes as World War Two was fought and ended.
The Emergence of the Pentagon.
One bit of the picture was the construction of the Pentagon – the largest building in the world. Nothing like it had ever been built before. It happened rather quickly. Brigadier-General Brehon Somerville asked Hugh Casey and George Burgstrom to construct a building for 40,000 military-related workers on Thursday, 17th July, 1941, several months before Pearl Harbour. They had a busy weekend and on Monday presented plans for The Pentagon. It was approved by the War Department staff on Monday, by the Secretary of State for War on Tuesday when the President and Congress were informed and a budget of $35 million agreed. It took less than a week to set up and construction started on the 11th September, 1941 and finished on the 15th January, 1943, a mere fifteen months. It became the permanent home of the vast military machine created by the Second World War. It had no elevators, four floors, 100,000 miles of telephone cable, and at its peak had thirty three thousand workers within its walls. There were seventeen and a half miles of corridor. It was built as a utilitarian building to do the job of running the War, but, of course, building the Pentagon changed the world. It did not disappear. It became the home of the biggest military establishment on earth and it especially brought together the military, the politicians and the vast military procurement industry created by the War. Now arms manufacturers were inside the system and regularly inside the building pushing their wares.
When it was being planned, some Senators and Representatives said it would be a white elephant, because after the Second World War the War Department would be cut back to normal size and most of the space would not be needed. Everett Dirkson, Representative from Illinois, said that after the War ended it would be a $35 million monument on the other side of the Potomac. (The actual figure was $83 million.) Roosevelt wanted it half the size. But the Pentagon was here to stay. It changed the whole weight of Washington. As Jack Raymond points out, “the chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee warned that if so huge a building as contemplated by the Army were constructed on the Virginia side, the city of Washington “may be a ghost city after the war.” It was the opposite of a white elephant, or, rather, the white elephant never died and had an enormous appetite. It was and is there. It was soon ready for the United States prosecution of the War and became the biggest military hub the world had ever known. It soon had a budget of some $300 billion, bigger than that of, say, Belgium. Effectively, it came to have the economic clout of a rich western country of 10-12 million people, and it institutionalized all the changes brought about by the Second World War. The arms companies, the Secretary of State for Defence and a range of other politicians, the military, the intelligence services all fused into a massive establishment which ran the War from December, 1941 for four years and then thereafter organized United States’ defence . A whole range of highly talented people had a strong vested interest in the enterprise of which they had been part, namely running a war. It was no surprise, therefore, that after the Allied Victory this group should continue a shadow operation which came to be known as the Cold War. The institutional structures made it likely.
Once it was in place, everything resisted its contraction. You could not demolish it and it represented the presumption of war. People were used to working there. Those with well-paid jobs were not going to vote themselves into oblivion. The Pentagon needed a way of justifying its long-term existence and that is what happened. So, the Cold War had a lot to do with the Pentagon chugging on about its business. Later, we shall look at James Forrestal and other key figures running the Pentagon, but the normality of the Pentagon was key. It organized war, even when it was not going on. The links with Congress, the President, State politics, the munitions people were oiled and made to work. I’ve been trying to discover whether the building had actual revolving doors, but it certainly had metaphorical ones as people in the forces moved to the great arms companies and went back to the Pentagon to sell and promote their wares. The arms manufacturers were automatic visitors, providing contracts, information, possible lines of research and weapon development, suggesting external threats and making sure that weapons procurement was a high and growing budget. Every day new arms contracts are issued from the Pentagon. There were open avenues to the President and to Senators and Congressmen, who would make sure that their State received a good slice of the weapons’ budget. Put another way, this was the biggest multinational company on the globe, devoted entirely to arms.
It is interesting to ask how this “company” was run. Its income seems straightforward. It is paid through taxes which are raised nationwide through the United States Federal Government. That money is then channelled through a budget into the Department of Defence. But, of course, it is not quite so straightforward. Taxes are not overly popular, unless people are convinced that they are for their good and are not too high. But the main political emphasis became not on what you spend, but on what you get. By and large, apart from the waste that occurs through a whole load of equipment and people doing nothing most of the time, much of it returns to the States in the form of incomes and local demand from military bases and munitions factories. It is the gravy train, the pork barrel over which thousands of Congressmen have been fighting for decades. This is Bilkoland. As Investopedia succinctly puts it, “Historically, the Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Act contains the most pork.” So the focus in Congress was on getting this defense money spent in your state or district. There were links with the arms companies. The distribution of armed personnel, contracts and instillations throughout the United States is fought over in Committees and through pressure from elected representatives. The Army and the Navy are a bit thin in Wyoming, but the Air Force made up for it. Why do the Armed Forces have to be in every State of the Union? Is it for strategic reasons – to guard against an attack from Canada? No, these are the State political rewards of defence expenditure.
But defence has to make sense. People have to believe that “We need de fence at the bottom of the garden”. So, the Pentagon needed an enemy. When an enemy is available, people need security and are willing to pay for defense through their taxes. Then everybody is happy. The department of Defense needs a product and all it has got is defence. If nobody wants its product, it is sunk. You might as well be selling ice cream at the North Pole if you have no enemies. So, we ask the inevitable question, have the Pentagon and other Defence Departments manufactured enemies? Clearly, at one level the answer in certain periods is “No”. Hitler was dangerous as a military aggressor and the Cold War was not just a Pentagon plot. But one does not need a conspiracy theory to identify the demonization of an enemy. Here are people who are paid to think militarily, to develop new weapons, new strategies and to identify enemies at the earliest possible opportunity. What do you do when the Nazis are defeated? You say, “Sorry, boss, there just isn’t a job to do anymore; I sack myself.” or you find another enemy. So now we examine in a bit more depth the way the USSR turned up as the enemy. It was useful if the enemy was big; it offered economies of scale. Enemy creation is worth our study. It may be more sophisticated and real than the war between Coke and Pepsi, but it need not be much different; it too is mainly about jobs, sales and profits. The Pentagon had to come up with an enemy and in due time it did.
The Military-Industrial Complex controls the President.
When the United States entered the Second World War, it involved the greatest military mobilization of any nation. Suddenly, industry was moved over to weapons. Domestic car production more or less stopped as these firms went for military production. The great American corporations whom Roosevelt had been fighting were now, by and large, the patriotic producers of weapons. When war came, Roosevelt had to use these people. He was a consummate war leader, keeping lines of command simple, delegating, knowing where co-ordination should take place and making things happen fast. But this model had consequences. Connery describes how naval procurement became more and more informal so that letters of intent set up contracts before any price was considered, and capital loans were guaranteed by the Navy, allowing companies to proceed with maximum speed. Although controls on price and profits were attempted, they were quite loose, and war entrepreneurs expanded companies with extraordinary speed in 1941-5, eclipsing some of the older munitions companies. The industrial-military and banking establishment moved into positions of influence because they could do the job and gradually Roosevelt’s people were marginalised. Roosevelt knew what he was fighting, and in the great 1944 State of the Union address he tried again to nail the profiteers in the war machine. Here are some of the things he said on 11th January, 1944. Note the date.
“However, while the majority goes on about its great work without complaint, a noisy minority maintains an uproar of demands for special favors for special groups. There are pests who swarm through the lobbies of the Congress and the cocktail bars of Washington, representing these special groups as opposed to the basic interests of the Nation as a whole. They have come to look upon the war primarily as a chance to make profits for themselves at the expense of their neighbors – profits in money or in terms of political or social preferment.
Therefore, in order to concentrate all our energies and resources on winning the war, and to maintain a fair and stable economy at home, I recommend that the Congress adopt: (1) A realistic tax law—which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate, and reduce the ultimate cost of the war to our sons and daughters. The tax bill now under consideration by the Congress does not begin to meet this test. (2) A continuation of the law for the renegotiation of war contracts—which will prevent exorbitant profits and assure fair prices to the Government.”
This is fighting talk aiming at legislation, but the question is – who heard it? Roosevelt repeated it in one of his fireside chats on radio, but his opponents controlled the media and edited down what he said. Time Magazine seems not even to have covered the State of the Union Address. Why edit out the President? Because you do not like what he says. By this time the munitions corporate interests were controlling Congress and Roosevelt had lost power and was approaching death. The vultures were inside American Government and insuring things went their way. In the end there were limited controls on the wartime profits bonanza and the munitions’ people were awash with profits and running the system.
The military-industrial complex had vast power in the United States during the War. It was the political establishment and for a while, it could do things its way. The main obstacle, President Roosevelt, died on the 29th March, 1945 and they were free to shape the post-war settlement. The key figures who steered America into the Cold War were the people who had been part of the financial/munitions and even fascist elite before the Second World War and had tried to challenge Roosevelt. Earlier they had lost to the most popular President ever, but as Roosevelt grew frail, they learned from their mistakes and moved closer to the centre of power. They wanted control of the Presidency, Congress and later the newly built Pentagon, the CIA, as well as business and banking. The process was under way well before the War. By the end of the War the inner workings of Government were directed against the USSR and the labour unions in the States. This cabal had to be careful. They had traded with Hitler and the Nazis and were even financially linked to Germany. The Red Scare and the Cold War became the ideal way of turning attention from Fascism to the supposed Communist threat. Having a really dangerous “enemy” would validate all they wanted to do, and the USSR was to be that enemy.
One of the main vehicles of this control was the National Association of Manufacturers, or NAM for short. NAM was run by a Special Conference Committee controlled by twelve dominant firms. They were ATT, Bethlehem Steel, Du Pont, General Electric, General Motors, Goodyear Tire, International Harvester, Irving Trust, Standard Oil of N.J, U.S. Rubber, United Steel and Westinghouse. These were mainly the firms that had done business with the Nazis, were involved in munitions and now were rolling on the wartime bonanza; their central concern was to keep the unions and wages down so that profits could continue to flow. This group met in the offices of Standard Oil, and Rockefeller was in some sense the ringleader. Another way of describing this group is in terms of the plutocratic families involved. They were Ford, du Pont, Rockefeller, Mellon, McCormick, Hartford, Harkness, Duke, Pew, Pitcairn, Clark, Reynolds and Kress. Of these, five were linked to the Fascist plot against Roosevelt we looked at in War or Peace?: Du Pont, Mellon, Pew, Pitcairn and Clark. This group had an agenda. First they had to use their media outlets to downplay their Nazi past. Second, they had to subdue the anti-capitalist wing of the Democratic Party. Third, they had to secure their long-term economic position and, fourth, they had to keep labour under control. They were very successful. Earlier, under Roosevelt they had been outsiders, but now they made sure they were on the inside track in both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Another group was the bankers who had now made a great deal of money out of two World Wars. At the end of the War they needed the Allies to be held to their debt. Britain was nearly bankrupt, with vast debt to the United States. When lend-lease stopped immediately at the end of the War, Britain just could not pay for the goods it had and was receiving. It could have gone bankrupt, defaulting on its debts, because it just could not pay over £2bn of loans and France was not much better. They moved into political control. War had made it easy. They were experts in war and their people therefore were promoted and gained dominance. The solution was easy. They had to make sure that the US Government lent enough to France and Britain to make sure these countries honoured their debts to the United States banking system. One key political figures were Averell Harriman, Thyssen’s banker and funder of the Nazis and later Presidential candidate, his brother Roland (Bunny), who stayed mainly in banking, Robert Lovett, who procured aircraft during the war, and was linked into the Brown Harriman bank, John McCloy, linked to IG Farben and the Rockerfeller Bank, who was the Assistant Secretary of War, John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles, who represented I.G. Farben and Thyssen earlier. This group had quite sympathetic links with the Nazis and with right-wing financial capitalism, and were expecting to steer America in their direction. It was quite willing to relate to the USSR, but would use the USSR as it saw fit. Its background was within capitalism and munitions and the kind of direction it would chart, well before McCarthy, Nixon and the Second Red Scare were fully under way, was to define the Cold War against Communism, just as had happened after the First World War and to defend the continued strength of the United States’ military. That position was useful to it, and would make America right-wing again and immune from Communism.
Of course, institutions had to be brought into line. By now the Committee on Un-American Activities had changed sides; it was chaired by Martin Dies who was hostile to Roosevelt and began looking for “subversives”. Other Committees also began undoing the “New Deal” welfare programmes and shifting vast amounts of funds into military expenditure. The character of the Democratic Party moved to the right after the 1942 elections. Personnel moved smoothly into place to take up the positions that would shape the post-war world.
The Formation of the OSS, the CIA, Reinhard Gehlen and Allen Dulles.
The early development of the Office of Strategic Services and the CIA is a cultic subject among some people. It is mixed up with “Nazi and Japanese Gold” and the movement of all kinds of assets around after the War in clandestine operations. Spying also has a panache for many people. Perhaps, spying is less important than is often thought. The gathering of ordinary information from newspapers and other public sources often gives a better and more balanced picture of a nation than a few spies. Spies tend, tediously, to spy on one another and to have a vested interest in dramatizing the tension between nations, seeking out enemies. Nevertheless, spying has a place in this chapter because of its emergence from the Second World War and also because the idea of Communist spies became significant for the Cold War well before the McCarthyite era.
During the War American intelligence was largely organized around the figure of “Wild” Bill Donovan who reported directly to Roosevelt and who ran the Office of Strategic Services. Donovan proposed in 1944 and early 1945 the creation of a Central Intelligence Agency reporting directly to the President and accountable to him, not the armed services. They naturally opposed this plan. At the same time Edgar Hoover, running the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was proposing in 1944 a “world-wide intelligence system” to be run by the FBI, which was a domestic intelligence system. At this stage we note that Hoover was an avid anti-Communist, who felt that Donovan was too open in his relationship with the USSR, and he wanted Donovan out of the way and his own intelligence empire to grow. Truman to his credit did not want anything like the Gestapo, and favoured the buck stopping with him. But for a while the intelligence system was footloose, and certain people took their own initiatives. One outcome of this situation was the recruitment of Nazis into the military/technological/intelligence community after the War. It centred on Reinhard Gehlen, who was the Nazi’s chief spy in Eastern Europe, gathering a great deal of evidence of how the Russians were fighting and what their moves might be. He recruited a vast number of spies and was promoted to Major General. He had been on the edge of the assassination attempt against Hitler, but not implicated, and this will have been a significant as he organized his translation to the Allies as the War entered its close. He hid a massive supply of Soviet intelligence in drums in the countryside and the handed himself over to the Allies in May, 1945. He was tested, the evidence dug up, and he was then recruited by the United States’ military. He was then allowed and encouraged to set up a full spy network back in Germany in July, 1946 recruiting from the Nazi SS, the SD (the Nazi Security declared a criminal organization at Nuremburg) and the German army to carry on spying on the Soviets which he began to do later in that year. Eventually he had 4,000 agents gathering material and conveying their concerns towards on the Soviet Union. If we ask what Gehlen’s orientation to the USSR was, it is obvious. To save his own skin, Gehlen had to emphasize the importance of the work he was doing and present the Soviets as extremely dangerous. He merely carried on the Nazi hatred of the Soviets and formed the agenda of seeing Russia as the United States’ enemy. It was an extraordinary move. Gehlen was employing war criminals to feed OSS and then the CIA with anti-Soviet propaganda against the United States’ ally.. His agents included Willie Krichbaum, a senior Gestapo Officer who managed the deportation of 300,000 Hungarian Jews for extermination, Franz Six, Eichmann’s supervisor in the SS, Gestapo Captain, Klaus Barbie and SS Colonel Walter Rauff, who murdered some 250,000 eastern Europeans, mainly Jews. The whole process, Operation Sunrise, effectively ignored the Nuremburg Trials and the business of holding war crimes to account. The effect is described in Simpson’s book, Blowback: American recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War and other publications. Clearly this group, linked with a right wing American intelligence community, would easily demonize the Soviets. That is what they did. The group gathered around General Reinhard Gehlen was given money and resources to develop an anti-Russian stance for the United States. Even in 1945-6 Gehlen would be having an effect.
Perhaps the main establishment person responsible for this transition was Allen Dulles. He, and brother John Foster Dulles had been linked with the Wall Street law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell during the inter-war period. It was active in Germany, acting for the Harriman Bank, led by Averell Harriman and Prescott Bush who provided funds for Thyssen, the big steel and weapons conglomerate, while Thyssen was backing Hitler during his early years. The Harriman bank then become the monopoly bank investing American funds in Nazi Germany after 1933 on a large scale. John Foster Dulles was quite pro-Nazi while Allen was aware of the atrocities, but both men were able to bury moral scruples if they thought it was necessary. Surprisingly, they were actually present at the meeting where Hitler got the backing of industrialists which more or less guaranteed his route to becoming the Chancellor. Allen Dulles was more interested in spying than law and in the First World War as a young man he had located in Bern. He was quite an hedonistic man; his sister said he had over a hundred extra-marital affairs and not surprisingly his wife became rather depressed. In the Second World War he went back to Bern to a big Baroque style mansion overlooking the river, Herrengasse 23, where he both entertained women and established a powerful spying network, and then became the centre of an information hub involving a lot of his German contacts. He was also inside the web of international financial transactions associated with the Bank of International Settlements which kept the Nazi trading machine on the road. He tried to finish the War in Italy quicker through deals with some of the German military, and enjoyed the position of powerbroker that he found himself in at the end of the War, especially after Roosevelt died. Both John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles hated the Soviet Union. It was in this position that Allen played a strong role in setting up Operation Sunrise by backing Gehlen and moving him into position to provide his covert information to the United States. Later, of course, Allen Dulles would head the CIA. So another pressure towards the demonization of the USSR was in place both in the person of Allen Dulles and in the Gehlen Organisation..
Averell Harriman and the Business Elite.
During the Second World War all kinds of people moved into the central Government in the States and they tended to be members of the old business elite who had been running the country for a century or so. For example, who should be the United States’ Ambassador in Moscow but Averell Harriman whom we encountered earlier in War or Peace? This was the key position in relating to the USSR, especially after Roosevelt died. Averell Harriman’s family was seriously rich over several generations from banking and railroad money. The Harriman Banks, especially Brown Brothers, Harriman and Union Banking Corporation were intimately linked to Fritz Thyssen, the main early financial supporter of the Nazis throughout the twenties and thirties. Key partners of the main bank, Brown Brothers, Harriman and Co., were Averell Harriman, Bunny Harriman, Prescott Bush (father and grandfather of the future presidents) and Robert Lovatt. The Harriman Bank became the key conduit between American finance and the Nazi Government in the late 30s and through into the Second World War. Indeed, after Pearl Harbour when the Union Banking Corporation was still trading with the enemy, it was closed down and all the assets were impounded. Also closed down were the Holland American Banking Corporation, the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation and the Silesian-American Corporation, all Harriman companies in whole or in part. Trading with the enemy was a serious offence, but Harriman was helped by the Dulles brothers in Sullivan and Cromwell, especially Allen Dulles, from June, 1936 and, when the time came, the resources of Thyssen and the Harriman family were sequestered in safe places, and without acrimony. This process was concluded in October and November, 1942. You might wonder how Averell Harriman managed, at the same time as these assets were being seized for trading with the enemy, to move into the United States Government, but at that time the very rich experienced few barriers; they just had a few words with friends and jobs opened up. In the Spring of 1941 Averell Harriman became a special envoy to Europe helping with lend-lease, essentially a banking operation, and was present at the meeting when Roosevelt met Churchill. He established a relationship with Churchill there. Indeed, Harriman also established a relationship with Churchill’s daughter in law, Pamela Churchill, who had married Winston’s son, Randolph in October, 1939. Her affair with Harriman less than a couple of years later when she was twenty two and he was fifty helped break up the Churchill marriage, and was part of his war effort. Churchill seemed to know about and accept the liason. Randolph had lost a lot of money at cards in Egypt, was a bit erratic, and Churchill was not averse to the contact with an American diplomat. Indeed, Harriman then moved on to be the American Ambassador in Moscow, a key post in relation to our subject. This is mentioned not as gossip, but as evidence of the interlinking of the small elite who would steer the Cold War into existence. As a sequel, Averell married Pamela Churchill later when he was 79 and she about fifty. Harriman, who had been at ease dealing with the Nazis over three decades, providing loans for them on a large scale, and wanting the business of Thyssen and others to succeed, now moved over to do business with the Soviets. Being the pivotal banking link between the Nazi Government and American banks had been a lucrative business and his assets and primary business loyalty, although sequestered, were still tied up there.
Harriman also knew the USSR quite well. In the mid 20s he was involved in a manganese mining venture in the Caucasus, and he met Stalin and Trotsky. Later he was deeply linked with Britain during the War in relations with Russia. He and Beaverbrook met Stalin, and discussed what support they could offer as the USSR took the brunt of the German attack. Harriman was well aware of Stalin’s value in the War, although he was also present at the Moscow Conference where he and Churchill tried to explain why the western Allies were not able to open a second front and help the USSR. With those two, it was hardly a convincing performance. This contrasts with Stalin’s commitments to the West which Harriman states a lot later in his Memoirs,
It is significant that Stalin kept his military commitments during the war. He had agreed that after we landed at Normandy in June, 1944 he would attack in the east. People forget there were at that time about two hundred Nazis divisions and about fifty satellite divisions on the Eastern Front. Our plans were based upon the premise that we could not land successfully in Normandy if there were more than about thirty mobile German divisions in the west of Europe. Therefore the transfer of a relative small number of divisions from the Eastern Front to the west could have been disastrous.
He was thus aware of the immense strategic debt owed to Stalin during the Normandy landings, but this did not quite square with the advice he gave to Roosevelt a few months later. As Ambassador on 9th September, 1944 Harriman sent a memorandum from Moscow in the following terms.
“Now that the end of the war is in sight, our relations with the Soviets have taken a startling turn evident during the last two months. They have held up our requests with complete indifference to our interests and have shown an unwillingness even to discuss pressing problems.” Soviet demands, on the other hand, “are becoming insistent… The general attitude seems to be that it is our obligation to help Russia and accept her policies because she has won the war for us.”
This tone hardened further in early 1945 as the death of Roosevelt approached. Here are some Harriman comments.
The Soviet Government views all matters from the standpoint of their own selfish interests… we should be guided as a matter of principle by the policy of taking care of our western allies and other areas under our responsibility first, allocating to Russia what may be left…the Soviet Government’s selfish attitude must, in my opinion, force us if we are to protect American vital interests to adopt a more positive policy of using our economic influence to further our broad political ideals… we have recognized that the Soviets have deep seated suspicions of all foreigners including ourselves….[Minutes of meeting] the country is still amazingly backward..if we give the liberated areas the fats, oil and sugar they need, shipments of these products to the Soviet Union will have to be stopped. Meats shipments will have to be stopped also. Harriman said this should be done – the liberated areas of western Europe should be supplied first… and we should supply the absolute minimum requirements.
This was when the USSR was suffering famine, destruction, death and hardship on a scale which the West had not remotely faced. Stalin, deeply affected by Roosevelt’s death, did not expect any change in policy to follow from it. “We shall support President Truman with all our forces and all our will” were his words to Harriman as the War in the East went on. But Harriman was no friend of Russia when the victory was won. With Roosevelt’s death, he conveys a tetchy hardness and a determination to change policy His long banking relationships with the Nazis into the Second World War meant that he was pro-German and anti-Soviet. Not to help your ally in order to help your enemy is scarcely good manners. Of course, Harriman had moved on from his banking and Nazi contacts. He was not pro-Nazi in a conspiratorial sense, but he was a capitalist financier who would automatically be antagonistic to a Communist ally. The United States’ Ambassador was placed to demonize and harm his Soviet hosts. In January 1945 Harriman scuppered a $6 billion loan to the USSR for post-war reconstruction, and a process began to refusing aid to the USSR despite all it had gone through during the war.
Henry Wallace and the fight with American Fascism.
History is written by the winners, but it is not necessarily good history for that. We saw in the first book, War or Peace?, how Roosevelt had to fight against American capitalism, and the Fascist coup attempt that he faced in 1934 which was exposed by General Smedley Butler. We have also seen the links into Mussolini’s Fascism and Hitler’s Nazi Party that there were in the 1930s in the States. The rich East Coast elite had a sympathy was Fascism and the deep distrust of democracy and socialism. Roosevelt directly faced it and had the public behind him. He used and understood Christ’s eviction of the moneychangers from the Temple, and was going to do the same, even from his wheelchair. Then, when the War came, Roosevelt was fighting a new battle, trying to keep control of the arms companies and other groups making vast amounts of money out of the War. He and others around him saw the issue clearly. They were fighting Fascism externally, but also internally because Du Pont and others wanted a Fascist style government often with sympathies with Nazi Germany. We have seen the links with the Harriman Bank, Prescott Bush, Ford and the others avidly supplying Germany. This American Fascism has been written out of United States’ history as though it did not exist. Yet it not only did exist, but it won dominance during the period of the War and publicly understood. Roosevelt was President, but he lost, because the body of people on whom he depended to run the war were gradually dominated by the Fascist Class. By the McCarthyite era, the battle was over and the opponents could be vilified as Communist traitors. This battle is most obviously personified in the person of Henry Wallace, United States’ Vice President from 1940 to 1944.
Henry Wallace came from Iowa. His father and mother were involved in agriculture, especially plant breeding and his father was Secretary of Agriculture in two administrations. His mother encouraged Henry in the same way and he became involved in breeding the best kinds of corn for Midwest farmers and other kinds of agricultural reform. The family was Christian and Presbyterian, and for Henry too his faith was the centre of life. was interehad risen through running the Department of Agriculture with some innovative ideas to become Roosevelt’s Vice-President in 1940 and was a capable politician, aware with Roosevelt of the fights against Capitalism and Fascism which were going on within America during the War. During the War Wallace was Chairman of the Board of Economic Warfare, responsible for procuring and shipping all the raw materials needed to prosecute the War, a massive task. Graham White and John Maze give Wallace’s general concern at this time about big business.
The domestic goals Wallace thought worth fighting for included a condition of economic democracy, ensured primarily by guarding against any plans of big business to form cartels or monopolistic agreements under the cloak of meetings the exigencies of war. A situation in which the central government had to increase industrial production as rapidly as possible, at almost any price, was very favorable to companies already of sufficient size to take advantage of massive war orders. Such companies might emerge from the war with unchallengeable dominance over particular industries.
In this role he found himself at loggerheads with Jesse Jones, Secretary of Commerce from Tennessee, whom Wallace thought was helping the United States’ major companies sew up a lot of raw materials markets. He was correct in this supposition. The market for synthetic and natural rubber was one such market. But it was Wallace against big business. His opponents were so disturbed that they pressured to get the Board of Economic Warfare closed down. He was also up against Cordell Hull, Secretary of State from Tennessee, and Congressman Martin Dies, who was now head of the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC as it was known. Earlier in Roosevelt’s Presidency it had uncovered the Fascist plot against the Presidency, but now it was packed with right-wing people and already in April 1942 it was on a Communist hunt. Dies was linked to Jesse Jones and agreed to try to get the Board of Economic Warfare closed down. He soon “charged that the Board of Economic Warfare had in its employ a number of people affiliated with Communist, or Communist dominated organizations as well as a prominent nudist. Dies described the man in question, Maurice Parmelee, as ‘a prolific writer,’ whose ‘revolutionary’ works included Nudism in Modern Life, ‘a book of 300 pages with thirty five photographs taken in nudist camps, all of which are obscene.’” It was not clear how a book about nudist camps could bring down the American War effort, but the right wingers found that if you made enough noise somebody turned the music down, a technique which has not gone away.
Wallace, like Roosevelt, had his mind on the big picture and an international vision. Around this time on the 8th May, 1942 he delivered a famous speech, the “Century of the Common Man” speech. It was mainly about defeating Nazi and Japanese Fascism, but also looked to the future. It emphasized that the United States as a massive creditor nation must not have corporate tariff barriers against its debtor nations, preventing their recovery from the burden of debt – a clear obvious economic point for conduct after the end of the war. Wallace also warned against a peace for the benefit of the United States and Britain, but not also for India, Russia, China and Latin America – and not merely in the United Nations but also in Germany, Italy and Japan, the defeated nations. There can be no privileged peoples. The concept of freedom is rooted in the Bible, with its extraordinary emphasis on the dignity of the individual, but only recently had it become a reality for large numbers of people. Democracy is the only true political expression of Christianity, he declared, adding that with freedom must come abundance with enough for all. Men and women can never be really free until they have plenty to eat, and time and ability to read and think and talk things over. We cannot perpetuate economic warfare without planting the seeds of military warfare. He attacked international cartels which serve American greed. It was a great internationalist speech that set the agenda for a post-war world and looked to God for the strength to finish the War. He and Roosevelt must have discussed the problem of capitalism and fascism often, and it fitted Roosevelt’s vision and continued it. Wallace was Roosevelt’s obvious successor and this vision would offer the world the healing it so desperately needed and equality within united nations.
Yet, Roosevelt was now becoming infirm and closing with death, while the majority of those on whom he depended to prosecute the War were in the Fascist/banking establishment camp. FDR had to keep the show on the road. Eventually the Board of Economic Warfare was closed down to protect the American War Effort from nudist camps, its most dire threat, and the corporate interests gained full control of wartime economic policy. We remember that at this time the arms companies were harvesting profits on a vast scale. Wallace tried again to address the American fascist groups exploiting the War, but now the establishment was in place and he was beginning to be on the outside of the power system along with the other members of Roosevelt’s inner circle. On 9th April 1944 he wrote an article in the New York Times under the heading, “The Danger of American Fascism”. It is worth quoting at length, because we do not now believe American Fascism could have been discussed so openly as a public problem, let alone by a Vice-President in the leading American newspaper.
The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power….If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead….The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
Roosevelt would have had sympathy with these views, as would many others, especially among the ordinary electorate, but, of course, these statements were a declaration of war against this powerful group, and public opinion carried no weight in the corridors of power in the middle of a war. Once they had been stated, the person who stated them had to be eliminated.
Wallace was courageous, but he was now losing. He had also taken on the cause of racial equality, and was openly meeting with and even campaigning with blacks in the South in an era when segregation was unchallenged. As a result another group were out to get him. He had a Christian understanding of personal freedom and equality and saw the role of government as giving everybody the resources to have “plenty to eat and time and the ability to read and think and talk things over.” But big business and the financial elite now had to get him out of the way. The big issue was the Vice Presidency. Whoever was Vice President would become President when Roosevelt died, and now he was ailing. Wallace was very popular nationally, but when the Democratic Primaries came later in July,1944 there was a great tussle. In a Gallup poll of rank and file Democratic voters on the 19th July, 1944 Wallace scored 65% to Senator Barkley’s 17%, Sam Raeburn’s 5%, Byrnes 3% and Harry Truman’s 2%. In other words in popular terms, it was a walkover. At the speech he gave supporting Roosevelt he received a tremendous ovation, and it seemed he would be automatic Vice-President. But the people in charge of the party conspired to prevent the vote being taken then and keep Wallace out. The included Edwin Pauley, treasurer of the Democratic Nomination Committee, who was President of Fortuna Petroleum and had Coconut Island in Hawaii as his private retreat. He was also linked to the Harriman network. The Chairman was Robert Hannigan, who had lined up with Truman in the Pendergast Tax Fraud case in Kansas. He was a Truman backer who in turn had been recommended by Truman for the position of Chair of the Nomination Committee. He later joked he wanted the words “Here lies the man who stopped Henry Wallace becoming president of the United States” on his tombstone. They and others refused to take the vote for two days so that the momentum for Wallace was slowed. It is regularly described as a “conspiracy”, undertaken because Wallace was too anti-Fascist. When the vote came Wallace was ahead in the first round of the Democratic Convention, by 429.5 delegates to 319.5 for Truman, still a big lead, but then, behind the scenes, the situation changed and the capitalist establishment made sure that Wallace was eased out. Roosevelt himself was too weak physically and in relation to the new right wing establishment to support Wallace properly. Suddenly Truman came from the wings to become Vice President, and, as it soon proved, President. Wallace, against colonialism, capitalism and racism, and for a genuinely new world order, was eased out in stages. But it was only stages. Roosevelt, probably with a sense of poetic justice, sacked Jesse Jones and made Wallace Secretary of Commerce..
After a while, in April 1945, Roosevelt died, and although Truman respected Wallace greatly, he was no friend. Wallace was moving to the edges. Before his final exit, he had a brush with Churchill. It is worth looking at in detail, because it shows where the lines were drawn. As Graham White and John Maze report, “At an embassy luncheon, the British Prime Minister suggested that Britishers and Americans should enjoy joint citizenship after the war and more or less run the world. Wallace immediately queried whether Churchill’s implicit assumption of Anglo-Saxon superiority might not be offensive to other nations and to many in the United States, but Churchill said dismissively that there was no need to be apologetic about the matter because ‘we were superior.’ Wallace then proposed that joint citizenship be extended to Latin Americans as well, but Churchill disliked the idea: ‘if we took all the colors on the painter’s palette and mix then up together, we get just a smudgy grayish brown.’ Did this therefore mean, the Vice-President asked, that Churchill believed in the pure Anglo-Saxon race or Anglo-Saxondom-uber alles?” The is no record of Churchill’s response; he had probably drunk too much, but Wallace did not flinch from confronting the Anti-Nazi with his own sense of racial superiority, one which was to reoccur in Fulton Mussouri in the famous Iron Curtain speech dressed up in flattery to his hosts.
So Wallace, who could have prevented the Cold War, was defeated and pushed from the scene, though he continued to fight democratically for the principles of economic equality, peace and racial equality and harmony through the era of McCarthy and the Red Menace. Two Christians, President and Vice President, who thought and understood peace, were replaced by the elite and capitalist class who were out to make money, arms and, if necessary, war.
George Kennan and the Long Telegram.
The people shaping the relationship with the Soviet Union tended to be operating from this right-wing, capitalist perspective. Sometimes, as with the Gehlen group, the stopping of Wallace, or the meanness of Averell Harriman it was malicious, even evil, but largely it was the background worldview of this right-wing group and the conclusions they came to. The Chargé d’Affairs in Moscow with Harriman was George Kennan. People are multi-sided, but part of Kennan was a conclusion which emerged in a private essay written in 1937. He suggested that American democracy and culture had fundamental flaws and needed to drastically change. “The only solution to the problem lies along a road which very few Americans are willing to contemplate: along the road which leads through constitutional change to the authoritarian state.” In other words he was looking to a Fascist form of government. He probably changed his mind a few years afterward, but he conveys the possibility that his mind was not very supple. Later in Moscow he came to believe that he understood what the Russian mind was like. It is difficult to take him seriously when you read “Their (Soviet officials) behavior is not influenced by games of golf or invitations to dinner.” Some of this is just an inability to move outside his own social mores.
But it becomes more serious when Kennan writes the famous “Long Telegram” seen as defining the way the USSR should be approached in 22nd February, 1946, just before Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. Kennan began the Telegram by quoting the things Stalin said to a group of American workers in 1927 before the Wall Street Crash and the Second World War. One feels that Stalin might have been a bit more nuanced twenty years later in 1946. He then goes on to detail what the Soviet system is like. It ends,
In summary, we have here a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with US there can be no permanent modus Vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power is to be secure. This political force has complete power of disposition over energies of one of world’s greatest peoples and resources of world’s richest national territory, and is borne along by deep and powerful currents of Russian nationalism. In addition, it has an elaborate and far flung apparatus for exertion of its influence in other countries, an apparatus of amazing flexibility and versatility, managed by people whose experience and skill in underground methods are presumably without parallel in history. Finally, it is seemingly inaccessible to considerations of reality in its basic reactions. For it, the vast fund of objective fact about human society is not, as with us, the measure against which outlook is constantly being tested and re-formed, but a grab bag from which individual items are selected arbitrarily and tendenciously to bolster an outlook already preconceived. This is admittedly not a pleasant picture. Problem of how to cope with this force is undoubtedly greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably greatest it will ever have to face.
This viewpoint can hardly be described as fair or empathetic. Moreover the idea of the USSR attacking the American way of life in February 1946 was ludicrous. Nor was Kennan aware of how strong the threat of the far more powerful capitalist United States might be to the communist USSR. Deep and powerful currents of Russian nationalism might be there when you have just lost 25 million people in a devastating war, and, of course, absent from all other nations. Yet, this telegram was quickly passed around the Truman administration, especially by James Forrestal, whom we shall shortly meet, as defining the necessary response of Truman and others to the USSR. Really Kennan was not very bright with a mind which ran on train-lines. Yet this was the understanding which shaped American policy. In this short period from the end of the War in 1945 to the Spring of 1946 the Anti-Soviet people were gathering.
The Eastern European Problem.
The arrival of the Cold War centred on issues in Eastern Europe. That was to be Churchill’s focus in the Iron Curtain speech, and that was the issue highlighted by Harriman, Kennan and the State Department. Of course, the American understanding of this area was limited given its remoteness from America. It depended on its diplomats and businessmen to give it a grasp of what was going on. American policy under both Roosevelt and Truman was for countries to be given independence and to have democratic elections, but it recognized both in British colonies and in the USSR satellites that other considerations might come into play. The postwar settlement in Eastern Europe, Rumania, Poland, Bulgaria and the other countries would play out slightly differently.
One interesting case was Rumania. The United States was backing Radescu against a government headed by Petru Groza, the Communist backed leader. A bit of background makes this push for democracy a little less convincing. First, Radescu came from a party which was Far Right and Fascist called the Crusade of Roumania. It was headed by Mihai Stelescu, who wrote on democracy, “democracy sickens us, since it results in inept governance by a mass of nitwits”, hardly the American position. That view may not have been a problem since he was murdered in July, 1936 when his body was riddled with bullets and hacked to death. This allowed Radescu to emerge as leader of the Party. He was a General and probably had some say in Stelescu’s death. The National Leader was Ion Antonescu, another fascist who fought the War on Hitler’s side against the USSR, fully backed the extermination of the Jews, including the Odessa massacre of 15,000-50,000 Jews and was sentenced at the Nuremburg trials. After Antonescu went, General Constantin Sanatescu was Prime Minister for a while as the country collapsed and then General Radescu was backed by the king and tried to adopt strong anti-Communist policy. As Wikipedia reports, “ At the end of February 1945, the Communist Party of Romania and its allies organised a mass rally in front of the Royal Palace to call for his resignation. As the protest carried on, unknown persons opened fire from the Interior Ministry building situated across the street, killing some ten persons. Held responsible for this by the Soviets and the Romanian Communists, Rădescu was forced to resign. Joseph Stalin had Andrey Vyshinsky communicate the warning that the Soviet Union would not allow Northern Transylvania to be awarded back to Romania if Rădescu were to remain prime minister. He resigned his position on 1 March.” It may be more complicated than this, but it seems Antonescu primarily, but also Sanatescu and Radescu were part of Fascist, militarist and fairly anti-democratic political culture who had fought against the USSR on the side of Hitler, and Stalin was not going to leave a group like that in charge in his own backyard as the Soviet troops went home. The United States administration was not fighting for democracy, but just having their man in charge rather than a Communist.
Of course, there was a problem with the Soviet tendency, given their huge armies and occupation of the area, to impose compliant regimes rather than democratic ones, but democratic regimes were not easily available. In Poland, a key country, the interwar period had been marked by the Sanation movement, which aimed to fight corruption, but saw the way of doing it as outlawing political parties and invalidating elections. It came to power through a May, 1926 coup d’état. In invalidated the May, 1930 election and in August disbanded Parliament, limping through in a Pilsudski dictatorship until 1935 and then eventually faced the Nazi invasion. In other words, Poland, too, was hardly in good shape, given the pre-war governments to produce a democratic government, and given it had fought the USSR after the Great War, and a quarter of a million Poles had fought against the USSR on the side of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, it was completely understandable that Stalin was not going to let any old government emerge in Warsaw, Russia’s bulwark against Berlin. The whole area, with its past quasi-Fascist governments was a problem, but it was one which required diplomacy and co-operation, rather than a polarized and patronizing response from the West. Britain was not being asked for democratic elections in her colonies.
Senator Truman and Edwin Pauley.
Harry Truman became President on the 12th April, 1945 after serving as Roosevelt’s Vice President from the 20th January, 1945. Initially, he was a small town businessman, dependent on the corrupt Tom Pendergast’s political machine in Kansas for his earlier political career. The machine is summed up by the information that Kansas City out-murdered Chicago at the time, though the jazz was good. He became a Senator, and grew into the job. He made his wider reputation during the War by chairing an investigating Committee looking at the lax and suspicious way munitions contracts were doled out mainly to East Coast companies. Small businessmen complained that they did not stand a chance in competition with the giant corporations. Truman rightfully gained a reputation on the Committee for impartial and measured collection of information, for saving money, and for an effective reform of the system which led to the Office of Production Management being replaced by the War Production Board in January, 1942. Without exposing the big boys or undermining their position too much, the Committee conveyed that contracts could be awarded more widely, should be properly priced, and to some extent that was done. Truman did enough to open up space for the smaller fellows to get their businesses in war production and to keep the big munitions interests happy. Roosevelt trusted him in this role. He was effectively reviewing a vast weapons procurement system, with some independence. Because expenditure was growing so fast, no-one felt hurt. Soon there were contracts for everybody building to a great crescendo at the end of the War. The growth industries were bombers, fighters, nuclear, chemical weapons, battleships, especially after Pearl Harbour, submarines, missiles and towards the end of the War atomic fission. Truman’s reputation grew beyond the image of being “the Senator from Pendergast”. He was a man who understood the weapons business and would not be hostile to it. We note that Truman had little international experience; his Kansas business background was Midwest and out of touch with international affairs. He had a domestic War.
He was chosen as Vice-Presidential Candidate through the machinations of those who wanted to stop Wallace. These were partly southern business Democrats, for at this time the Democrats were partly rich business and through Roosevelt ordinary poor people, but the poor people were not running the party machine. Truman got enough support to stop Wallace, but he did not have a strong personal following. Some of his friends were not too great. Edwin Pauley was an oil entrepreneur, who was part of the Democratic Machine and helped Truman become Vice-Presidential candidate. In an interview he describes the way he opposed Wallace and supported Truman, because Wallace was too friendly with Russia, and didn’t use taxis. As Pauley reports, “One night we had a fund-raising dinner at the Shoreham Hotel. I had no car and was relying on taxis. He had a car but he dismissed it and said, “I’m going down toward the Mayflower, would you walk down with me?” I said, “I’d be delighted to.” So we started walking down and he brought along with us a young fellow that he had employed on the Government payroll to teach him the Soviet language. So after crossing the Rock Creek Bridge by the Shoreham, he said, “Do you mind if we take off our shoes?” I said, “No, I don’t.” We all took off our shoes and we ended up in a jog trot. I was against having a President like this. It didn’t help my mood any.” It’s not clear why they took off their shoes, but it sunk Wallace’s chance of being President, and within a few months Roosevelt had died; Truman was President. Pauley, was appointed by Truman to be Petroleum Co-ordinator for the Lend-Lease programme in Europe and in this role linked with the Russians, whom he did not like and found them always asking for oil, which was not surprising since they were fighting a War.. He was then proposed as Secretary to the Navy by Truman and there faced a confrontation with Harold Ickes, a cantankerous Secretary of the Interior who did not like graft. Ickes gave evidence that Pauley’s oil interests would compromised him in that position, because he would tend to buy oil from his mates and gave as evidence the time Pauley had told him that, if he dropped his opposition to giving out lucrative off-shore oil titles, $300,000 in donations would flow into Democratic Party coffers. So ended Pauley’s chance of being Secretary to the Navy. He was not particularly equipped for the job either.
So these were Truman’s people. By contrast, when he became President he was dependent on a group of smooth east coast people with international experience who were used to running affairs and had been limiting the power of the Roosevelt group, especially in its attack on Fascism. There is another Pauley aside in our story. He was not too bright, and a transcript of an oral interview shows him purring as Churchill praises Truman to him after Truman became President, knowing that the comments would get back to Truman and cement his relationship with the new President. Churchill uses him as the conduit of some useful flattery that would pay off later.
Churchill’s Iron Curtain.
Churchill was a great wartime leader, especially in the early part of the Second World War when he gave the country backbone against the Nazi menace. He was not only fighting the Nazis and also the appeasers at home. They are identified with Chamberlain and Munich, but they continued to be a powerful group into the War. Chamberlain, Halifax and other politicians continued to be circumspect about war against Germany, as were members of the aristocracy and the deposed king and there were movements towards an accommodation with the Nazis after the defeat of the French. The Cabinet Crisis between the twenty fifth and twenty eighth of May, 1940 was no forgone conclusion. The British Government, led by Halifax as Foreign Secretary, could have tried to do a deal with Hitler and Mussolini. They did not, and Halifax resigned. Churchill’s stand against Fascism involved personal courage and determination. He was fighting a kind of quasi-Fascist aristocratic set in British politics which was powerful. Montague Norman carried on dealings with the Nazis into the war era and stayed at the Bank of England until 1944. The Anglo-German fellowship involving a lot of influential German and English people ended in 1939, but presumably the patterns of contact did not. On 10th May, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbour, when Hess arrived in Scotland asking for the Duke of Hamilton, he was probably expecting a warmer welcome than he received. Padfield’s book, Hitler, Hess and Churchill, is quite clear that he came with consummate flying, hoping the war against Britain could be stopped and an armistice and co-operation between Nazi Germany and Britain could ensue. Then the Barbarossa Campaign could be undertaken on the eastern front without the distraction of Britain in the west and Britain could be sorted out later. But Hess did not make it to the Duke of Hamilton and was dumped in prison. Churchill stood firm against an evil regime overseas and the appeasing tendency in his own party, and he led the opposition to Hitler in Britain’s darkest hour with a true sense of its historical necessity.
But Churchill’s larger history and current reputation is too neat. We should note how strongly he was repudiated by the British electorate in August 1945 and how fragile his reputation was. That reputation was partly his own work. When he was rejected as Prime Minister, he was not going to exit right from the world stage. Part of his response was to undertake his history of the Second World War written to make sure his view of things prevailed. David Reynolds has identified in detail Churchill’s desire to present the definitive history of the era in which he was such a central actor. He was planning his history, and not a little put out at being rejected by the electorate, and sidelined; his place was at the centre of mid 20th century world history. There were a number of agendas on his mind. First, the history of the Second World War the pivotal role of Britain and its Prime Minister fighting alone, the Battle of Britain model (rather than emphasizing the overwhelming weight of fighting which the USSR took on). Second, he was smarting from the accord between Roosevelt and Stalin towards the end of the War which left him out in the cold. He had worked hard at a good relationship with Stalin during the War, but saw the leaders of the two big powers moving closer together to his exclusion. When Roosevelt died, he set about cementing his relationship with Truman, partly to stay on the world stage and maintain Britain’s status. Third, Churchill had past form with the USSR. He hated Bolshevism; his reckless war immediately after the First World War when he was going to strangle the Bolshevik baby in the cradle would have echoes after the Second World War. He had apologized to Stalin for the 1919 attacks and had needed a good working relationship with him during the War, but on the whole he did not feel beholden afterwards. He was not going to let Communism have its way. Fourth, to be ousted by Attlee’s Socialist Government must have troubled him sorely, though he retained a good relationship with Attlee as his colleague during the conflict. His remark in an election broadcast on 4th June, 1945 that a Socialist Government, if elected, “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance” reflected his sloppy thinking about democratic socialism, and upset the voters. He needed to mend his reputation in Britain and in the Conservative Party. Statesmanship was a good way of doing it. Further, Churchill was a fighter. He had fought the Kaiser, Lenin, had studied the Duke of Marlborough, had fought Socialism, Hitler, the Appeasers and Mussolini and he was not going to give up now. Fighting was his default mode, and a fight with Stalin (whom he also respected) solved a number of problems and energized him anew. It also put the new British Socialist Government on the defensive.
For, one of the things often ignored today is that a whole number of democratically elected Governments after the War were Socialist and Communist on principle. So in the French election on 21st October, 1945, the Communists were the biggest party with 148 seats, Socialist groups had 169, while other groups mustered 205. Socialism was a democratic choice, not a Stalinist plot, a thoughtful reaction to fascism and capitalism. Obviously this left the Blenheim-inspired Conservative leader uncomfortable. Churchill was on the right of his party, still believing in Empire, and he would fight socialism and use the United States as an ally to do so. He had not fought the War to hand Europe over to socialism. Moreover, he had other more generous motives. Nobody knew better than him the debts that Britain had incurred, and he wanted to help Britain and Attlee cover these debts. The United States was the only possible source of a loan for bankrupt Britain, and so a continued friendly link with the United States might be of financial benefit. Churchill’s speech was partly to be aimed at securing a big loan from the States.
We also note that Churchill knew the people we have already identified – Averell Harriman was in London and also saw him on the trip to Fulton, Missouri. Churchill was in regular contact with James Forrestal and shared their mutual opposition to the USSR. He had friends in the States of a similar mind, and was not really interested in leading a minority Conservative Party at the time. Truman recalls, “I had a letter from Mr. Churchill–oh six months ago or more–in which he said he was considering a vacation in the United States or North Africa. I sent him Dr. McCluer’s invitation and made a long-hand note at the bottom of it telling him that if he would spend his vacation in the United States, at whatever point he chose to pick, and then deliver this lecture, I would make it a point to come to Missouri and personally welcome him and introduce him for that lecture.” Churchill saw the chance to speak on the world stage. He cosseted it, and made sure that the world’s media were there. He gave the Iron Curtain speech on 5th March, 1946. A few days earlier mediation by US Secretary of State George Marshall led to an agreement for the Communists and Nationalist armies in China to be merged. Although the initiative failed, it showed at this stage there were strong attempts at bi-partisanship. Truman came to hear the speech and Churchill worked his audience with jokes about Westminster and his own background. He carefully planted a link between Fascism and Communism and rolled his oratory around the conception of a tie between the United States and Britain, the English-speaking peoples, who would protect democracy and freedom. He asked directly for a military link with shared bases and technology to defend world peace and planted the idea that the USSR was the problem in a variety of ways that needed addressing with firmness. Then Churchill talked of dangers and how he had not been listened to earlier. He was generous and not hectoring. His oratory watered the seed which had been planted and by the end of the speech the idea of a Communist Iron Curtain was normal. It was a masterly speech. Listen as he plied his trade:
Above all, we welcome, or should welcome, constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you. It is my duty to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe….
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. …
On the other hand, ladies and gentlemen, I repulse the idea that a new war is inevitable; still more that it is imminent. It is because I am sure that our fortunes are still in our own hands and that we hold the power to save the future, that I feel the duty to speak out now that I have the occasion and the opportunity to do so. I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here today while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.
Last time I saw it all coming and I cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind. There never was a war in history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe. It could have been prevented in my belief without the firing of a single shot, and Germany might be powerful, prosperous and honored today; but no one would listen and one by one we were all sucked into the awful whirlpool. We surely, ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you, surely, we must not let it happen again. This can only be achieved by reaching now, in 1946, by reaching a good understanding on all points with Russia under the general authority of the United Nations Organization and by the maintenance of that good understanding through many peaceful years, by the whole strength of the English-speaking world and all its connections. There is the solution which I respectfully offer to you in this Address to which I have given the title, “The Sinews of Peace”.
And so the wily, old bird, not averse to being in the limelight, or to recall the unheeded prophet of the late 30s, did not just write the history of the past, but also of the next forty five years. He coaxed his audience into the alliance of the English speaking peoples, to run the show led by the United States, then controlling half of the world economy. Peace would come through armament. Strength would confront strength. The USSR would stay behind the “Iron Curtain”. Britain would not quite be part of Europe and linked in a special relationship with the United States. Of course, Churchill did not write the future. He wrote a future that already suited a lot of people in the United States military/industrial/capitalist establishment. He was partly speaking the words that the military establishment wanted to hear, for he knew how to work his audiences. Though the speech was not a walkover in the American press, a lot of whom were neither wanting a close relationship with a declining world power, or as hostile to Russia as Churchill. But the speech did its work, and maybe in his vanity and desire to strut the world stage Churchill helped bring in half a century of militarised brinkmanship called the Cold War.
The Disappointment of Stalin.
It is interesting to see Stalin’s reaction, receiving details of the speech, knowing Truman was sitting there beside Churchill and these were his allies. He was upset. His response in an interview in Pravda a few days later is worth hearing at length.
Question: How do you appraise the latest speech Mr. Churchill delivered in the United States of America?
Answer: I appraise it as a dangerous act calculated to sow the seeds of discord between the Allied States and hamper their cooperation.
Question: Can Mr. Churchill’s speech be regarded as harmful to the cause of peace and security?
Answer: Unquestionably, yes. As a matter of fact, Mr. Churchill’s position is now that of the incendiaries of war. And Mr. Churchill is not alone in this – he has friends not only in England but in the United States of America as well.
It should be noted that in this respect Mr. Churchill and his friends strikingly resemble Hitler and his friends. Hitler set out to unleash war by proclaiming the race theory, declaring that the German-speaking people constituted a superior nation. Mr. Churchill sets out to unleash war also with a race theory, by asserting that the English-speaking nations are superior nations called upon to decide the destinies of the entire world. The German race theory led Hitler and his friends to the conclusion that the Germans as the only superior nation must dominate other nations. The English race theory leads Mr. Churchill and his friends to the conclusion that the English-speaking nations, as the only superior nations, must dominate the other nations of the world.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Churchill and his friends in England and the U.S.A. are presenting something in the nature of an ultimatum to nations which do not speak English: recognize our domination voluntarily, and then everything will be in order – otherwise war is inevitable.
But the nations shed their blood during five years of fierce war for the sake of the freedom and independence of their countries, and not for the sake of replacing the domination of the Hitlers by the domination of the Churchills. Therefore, it is quite probable that the nations which do not speak English and at the same time constitute the vast majority of the world’s population, will not agree to submit to the new slavery.
Mr. Churchill’s tragedy is that he, as an inveterate Tory, does not understand this simple and obvious truth.
Undoubtedly, Mr. Churchill’s line is that of war, a call to war against the U.S.S.R. It is also clear that this line of Mr. Churchill’s is incompatible with the existing treaty of alliance between Britain and the U.S.S.R. True, in order to confuse the readers, Mr. Churchill states in passing that the term of the Soviet-British treaty of mutual assistance and cooperation could perfectly well be extended to fifty years. But how can such a statement by Mr. Churchill be reconciled with his line of war against the U.S.S.R., with his preaching of war against the U.S.S.R.? Clearly these things cannot be reconciled by any means. And if Mr. Churchill, who is calling for war against the Soviet Union, at the same time believes it possible to extend the term of the Anglo-Soviet treaty to fifty years, that means that he regards this treaty as a mere scrap of paper which he needs only to cover up and camouflage his anti-Soviet line. Therefore we cannot treat seriously the hypocritical statement of Mr. Churchill’s friends in England concerning the extension of the term of the Soviet-British treaty to fifty years or more. The extension of the term of the treaty is meaningless if one of the parties violates the treaty and turns it into a mere scram of paper.
Question: How do you appraise that part of Mr. Churchill’s speech in which he attacks the democratic systems in the European states neighbouring with us and in which he criticizes the good-neighbourly relations established between these states and the Soviet Union?
Answer: This part of Mr. Churchill’s speech represents a mixture of elements of slander and with elements of rudeness and tactlessness.
Mr. Churchill asserts that “Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, Sofia – all these famous cities and populations around them lie within the Soviet sphere and all are subject in one form or another not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow.” Mr. Churchill describes all this as boundless “expansionist tendencies” of the Soviet Union.
No special effort is necessary to prove that in this case Mr. Churchill is rudely and shamelessly slandering both Moscow and the above-mentioned states neighbouring with the U.S.S.R.
Firstly, it is utterly absurd to speak of exclusive control of the U.S.S.R. in Vienna and Berlin, where there are Allied Control Councils composed of representatives of the four states and where the U.S.S.R. has only one-fourth of the votes. It does happen that some people cannot help slandering, but even then there should be a limit.
Secondly, one must not forget the following fact. The Germans invaded the U.S.S.R. through Finland, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary. The Germans were able to effect their invasion by way of these countries because at that time governments hostile to the Soviet Union existed in these countries. Owing to the German invasion, the Soviet Union irrevocably lost in battles with the Germans and also as a result of German occupation and the driving off of Soviet people to German penal servitude, some 7,000,000 persons. In other words the Soviet Union lost several times more people than Britain and the United States of America taken together. Possibly some quarters are inclined to consign to oblivion these colossal sacrifices of the Soviet people which secured the liberation of Europe from the Hitlerite yoke. But the Soviet Union cannot forget them. The question arises, what can there be surprising about the fact that the Soviet Union, desiring to insure its security in the future, seeks to achieve a situation when those countries will have governments maintaining a friendly attitude towards the Soviet Union? How can anyone who has not gone mad describe these peaceful aspirations of the Soviet Union as expansionist tendencies of our state?
Stalin was upset, even hurt, and at the time his responses may well have been genuine, reflecting a commitment to his allies and to mutual government in the mandated territories. The USSR was looting Germany and parts of Poland of the spoils of war. There was vindictiveness among the troops. After such a war and the horrors of eastern Europe, a vicious reaction among the soldiers was likely, and because Russia had been so destroyed, even understandable. Stalin wanted sympathetic governments in Eastern Europe rather than Fascist ones, and he needed some territorial control in his backyard, as the United States, France, Britain and other allies did in their colonies and satellite domains. The United States had twenty or so military bases in the Philippines and a big say in their governments. Britain and France were not holding elections in their colonies and France put down an independence movement by the Vietnamese. The West might preach democracy, but it was not then practising it. Churchill talked freedom, but practised colonialism. So Stalin would feel that there was a US-British military alliance against him. In three months the United States would gratuitously explode two atom bombs at Bikini Atoll to sink some useless ships and the message to Stalin would be clear. This was the point at which the Cold War froze. And so what Churchill said came to pass.
President Truman – the buck stops here?
The arms industry needed its man, one who would guarantee heavy arms expenditure and President Truman was that man in many respects, although more independent than the munitions people thought. The buck did stop a bit. He did other things of great military significance. The first was to sanction the atomic bombing of the Japanese. The nuclear bombing of Tokyo, which had already been nearly half-destroyed in incendiary attacks in the summer of 1945, and of Kyoto, was vetoed, but Truman had no hesitation in deciding to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He made the decision in a couple of minutes. Slizard and others advocated a demonstration to induce capitulation, but this and other possibilities were brushed aside. Oppenheimer who ran the Manhattan Project agonized over the direction that was being taken, but Truman just said, “Yes” very quickly and the deed was done. Oppenheimer, for his pains, was suspected of being a Communist traitor and treated in a paranoid way by the Fascist right. Why would you not want to vapourise Japanese people with nuclear weapons, except because you were a Communist? Other advisors also wanted to share the atomic information with the USSR so that it could be eliminated from divisive world politics and to try to prevent a nuclear arms race. Truman had no doubts; two minutes was a short time span to initiate the nuclear age, and soon nuclear weapons had become a major United States’ industry. In this area Truman did what was expected of him. Later he would similarly accept the building of a hydrogen bomb on being assured that the Soviets could probably develop one as well. Actually, at this time Russia had not developed nuclear weapons and Stalin might well have been amenable to a total moratorium after the Japanese attacks. The military were only interested in the fact that they had a five to twenty year lead in this weapon and it was likely to be a nice little earner, as indeed it has turned out to be. By the twenty first century it was netting $50 billion a year – for a weapon that has never been used after the initial foray, it has done well. Truman’s desk with the motif, “The buck stops here”, partly asserted what he was not. Given his lack of experience and his Kansas background, he relied on those around him, especially in the first year or two of his Presidency
But Truman was not an easy walkover in two respects. First, he was determined to cut expenditure, including expenditure on the military, and Congress at the time was of the same opinion. Budgets were cut, especially through land-lease, which was instantly stopped. Meanwhile, the munitions’ companies after their wartime bonanza faced heavy contraction if an enemy was not found. The decline of military spending on aircraft hit Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed and Martin hard. Desperate aircraft business leaders pleaded with Truman and Congress for an increase in military budget, because passenger aircraft had not yet emerged as a strong business. Sales had fallen from $8 billion in 1944 to about $1.6 billion a couple of years later. Truman, despite his earlier links with munitions, tried to keep the budgets quite low. After all, thousands of useless planes sitting on tarmac were not good sense. It was here, and with other such munitions companies that the pressure came to find a reason for increasing demand for munitions, and the best way was a scare associated with the USSR. Land-lease had been the primary route by which American arms had been sold overseas, and one of the stories of the next few years was the way the munitions people fought to get lending and aid to provide arms exports in the budget through military assistance programmes. For a few months they got no-where, but then chinks opened up. The initial areas were Latin America and support for Chiang Kai-Shek’s Civil War in China. China Chester Pack in Arming the Free World tells this story in full. It took a while to gather momentum after the end of the War, but already in 1945 “the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) was conducting a review and on 24th January, 1946 “the SWNCC declared eligible for additional arms aid almost every independent nation except Germany and Japan, the eastern European countries in which Soviet influence was predominant, and neutral Switzerland.” From then on the door was open and the aid-arms route began to spread worldwide. Truman, as we shall see later, was fitting in with a trend which his military administration had already charted. On the second issue, he was determined not to allow the military to be in charge of nuclear weapons and treat them as a matter of their military strategy, rather than a political choice. The notice, “The buck stops here”, on his desk was a firm statement on the use of nuclear weapons as much as anything else. On this thankfully, he was a bit firmer.
James Vincent Forrestal.
The move towards the Cold War depended on a few key figures, and another of them was James Forrestal, who became Secretary of the Navy on 19th May, 1944 and moved from that post to be the first United States Secretary of Defense on the 17th September 1947 in charge of all the Forces in the Pentagon. Our concern here is the earlier post and his role up until, say, June, 1945. But we shall also dwell with him as a person growing into this job and what his job did to him. He had an American Irish background, was disciplined at school and went to Princeton, where he gained prominence as an effective university journalist. He was less successful academically and did not finish his degree. As Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley report in their biography, Driven Patriot, he then served in Navy administration throughout the First World War and then moved to work for Dillon, Read and Company, a New York Investment bank selling bonds. He was part of the post war American boom, quickly got rich, left behind his parents’ Catholicism, became sexually active with a number of women, zoomed up the Dillon ladder and with Ferdinand Eberstadt became the key players under Clarence Dillon. He was an archetypal capitalist and liked to be in control. He married Josephine in an “open marriage” allowing dalliance elsewhere, which after a while left his wife depressed. He was soon a key Wall Street figure in the boom of the late twenties, enjoying the luxurious lifestyle that tended to go with it, and beginning to mix with the top East Coast elite. Eberstadt was a key partner and opened up the German market for Dillon, Read, and by early 1927 they had marketed $160 million of German bonds. Then Eberstadt moved independent, leaving Forrestal as the key financier under Clarence Dillon, who got out of the market before the Wall Street Crash leaving the company secure in the 1930s.
At that time the Forrestals became part of the Long Island set living in a thirty acre estate and they also had an apartment in town which Josephine decorated. On Long island she threw herself into hunting with the Meadowbrook Hunt but had begun to drink, was a liability on some occasions and saw little of her husband. Soon she was depressed and erratic. Forrestal had an affair with Phyllis Baldwin, but with the second child his own marriage staggered on, emotionally frozen, with Forrestal mainly locked in his work and with poor relationships with his two sons.
We recall that Dillon had an account with Fritz Thyssen and were part of the network which funded German rearmament. Forrestal was part of the pro-German American investment community, but then moved over to help in the war effort. He was a voracious administrator and soon became Navy Under-Secretary and obsessively worked through the war. Once, as he left the office at 10.30pm on Sunday having worked his staff seven straight days, he said, “Well, have a nice weekend.” His role was procurement, ordering the ships and weapons the US Navy needed to fight the War and by 1945 he had a good system in place. At that stage there was an intense rivalry between the three forces. The Army, Navy and Air Force were each seeking to become the dominant force. So, for example, the US Marines were soldiers, but under the control of the Navy because they operated through amphibious landings. The Air Force, especially with the arrival of the atomic bomb could claim to be the force of the future, but actually the Navy came to control nuclear weapons through submarine based missiles. This long-standing squabble emerged strongly at the end of the war when heavy cuts were coming, and Forrestal played an important part in this drama.
But another issue was paramount. Forrestal towards the end of the war began to see the USSR and Stalin as the coming enemy, as a letter from 1944 shows.
I find that whenever any American suggests that we act in accordance with the needs of our security, he is apt to be called a god-damned fascist or imperialist. While, if Uncle Joe [Stalin] suggests that he needs the Baltic provinces, half of Poland, all of Bessarabia, and access to the Mediterranean, all hands agree that he is a fine, frank, candid and generally delightful fellow who is very easy to deal with because he is so explicit in what he wants.
Forrestal focused on “the Communist threat”, saw it as crucial and began to bombard the politicians with warnings. When the Potsdam Conference took place Forrester went on an “inspection trip” and gate-crashed the Conference, to warn Truman about co-operating with Stalin in the Far East. He took with him the son of his friend, Joe Kennedy, the young John F. Kennedy. Forrestal also got to know Winston Churchill, sharing their distrust of the Soviet Union, and one does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to see a group of people who have similar anti-communist ideologies – Forrestal, Joe Kennedy, McCarthy, whom Forrester also influenced, Averill Harriman, Allen and John Foster Dulles, who with Churchill, were right-wing and had a strong agenda against the USSR. We will see this reinforced in a number of different directions. At the beginning of 1946 much of Forrestal’s time was taken up with “Operation Crossroads” a very odd programme whereby three atom bombs were to be dropped on Bikini Atoll to see whether naval warships could withstand the attack. He was imtimately involved with the planning for this operation. Externally, of course, dropping three atomic bombs unnecessarily on some old ships would be interpreted by Stalin as an implicit warning that they could be used against the USSR. Forrestal backed Churchill’s speech in early March, worked with Admiral Blandy in setting up the Bikini Atoll tests, now reduced to two tests, because supplies of plutonium were a bit short, went to watch the explosions which were harrowing and by July the Cold War was declared to Stalin and the world by word and deed.
But by now Forrestal was obsessed and kept on with his concern. On 5th March, 1947 he sent a memorandum to President Truman. It implied a momentous struggle against the Soviet threat. Its language was apocalyptic. “The present danger which this country faces is at least as great as the danger which we faced during the war with Germany and Japan. Briefly stated, it is the very real danger that this country, as we know it, may cease to exist.” It drew a straight line to world-wide defeat. “Of the strategic battlegrounds of the present struggle, we have already lost Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and a number of others; Greece is in imminent peril; after Greece, France and Italy may follow; and after France and Italy, Great Britain, South America and ourselves.” Forrestal outlined the strategy that he thought had to be followed. “This country cannot afford the deceptive luxury of waging defensive warfare. As in the war of 1941-45, our victory and our survival depend on how and where we attack.” Primarily, Forrestal was talking about an aggressive economic policy, but a strong military policy was also bound up in this momentous idea of confrontation with the USSR. Six days after the memorandum, Truman announced the Truman Doctrine, as it came to be known, which was a pattern of aid to Greece, Turkey and any other countries to stop them moving to Communism. A good deal of this aid was military. Forrestal had succeeded in creating a military/economic bloc against Stalinist Communism. But the argument was flawed. This world-wide Stalinist plot did not exist in the terms Forrestal laid out. Stalin was giving no help to the Greek Communists. That help was coming from the Yugoslav Communists and Tito and Stalin were not on good terms.
The Truman doctrine.
In a year or so, Truman enunciated the Truman Doctrine, as it came to be known, on 27th February, 1947. This was the formal start of the Cold War, but really the confirmation of what was in place by March, 1946. It guaranteed American support of arms to any anti-communist government, anywhere throughout the world. Of course, the money would go to American arms manufacturers, who would then ship the arms to whatever country was concerned. It was the recipe for arming the world, the recipe which has been followed down to the present. So early on, from the West, the tone towards Stalin was hostile, when Joe, it seemed, was more concerned with his domestic elections and rebuilding the economy to make it a bit more pleasant for the USSR workers. As we have seen, in late July, 1946, the Americans detonated a couple of atomic bombs just before a peace conference and not surprisingly the Russians became a bit jumpy and scared. In September, 1946, Henry Wallace who advocated a strong, non-aggressive relationship with the USSR, was sacked as Secretary of Commerce by Truman under pressure from the right. That all added up to a fairly high level of negativity and a march towards belligerence.
We also need to take seriously the fact that the United States contemplated extensive use of nuclear weapons against the USSR. As Pach notes, “As early as November 1945 the Joint Intelligence Committee began conducting preliminary studies of targets for an atomic offensive against Russia.” These early preparations developed and by 1949 the United States began planning the Third World War. It was called “Plan Dropshot” set out in three volumes of green-coloured paper. It became publicly available in 1977 through the Freedom of Information Act, so we know exactly what it contained. The U.S. had considered a nuclear strike against a twenty Russian cities; it was a proposal that the United States attempt a first strike using its superiority in nuclear weapons before the USSR caught up. The strength of European Communism was a worry. In 1947 Hungary had a Communist coup d’etat, and in Italy, Greece, France and other countries Communism was a strong democratic challenge and was backed by USSR political and military power. In China the United States’ position was deteriorating and as a result Congress passed the National Security Act which set up the structure of the Cold War. There were those arguing the case for a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and it seems that the Russians got wind of the possibility, and were very worried, but thankfully it did not come to anything. This kind of attitude does not help friendship.
The United States had ended the War the most powerful nation in the world, and with its domestic economy untouched by bombs. It soon moved into being the world’s supplier of modern goods producing roughly half of world GDP, an amazingly dominant economic situation not repeated in human history. It had no economic or military rival. Moreover, its economy made the transition to peace quite easily. Payments to veterans and exports kept demand buoyant, and housing demand was strong. There was some post-war recession, but it was limited. People were not looking for problems and keen to get back to a booming domestic economy. It is easy to forget how unequal the United States and the USSR were in 1945. The USSR had been a battlefield. Apart from 25 million dead there were 15 million more people wounded. Something like 30,000 factories had been destroyed and 40,000 miles of railway. Much of the development of the five year plans had been undone. Food was short and agriculture in a mess. It had given itself over to the War and at last the Nazis had been defeated, but the economy was in a state of near collapse. Against this background it is even possible to understand some of the vindictive cruelty of the Soviet occupation of Germany. Early in 1945 the United States denied Soviet requests for aid and lend-lease. In July 1946 the Soviet Union faced a famine for much of a year, when agricultural output was roughly halved through drought and the sheer lack of manpower to work the fields. While Harriman, Gehlen, John Foster and Allen Dulles, Kennan, Forrestal, Pauley and others were griping about Russia, they were starving in the Winter of 1946. They had fought Hitler, but they were to receive no help in reconstruction after the war. They were a suffering country and rebuilding was a priority for the war weary millions. It was hardly a generous western attitude and must have rightly caused deep resentment.
The USSR had been refused economic help. Communism was being vilified; nuclear weapons were being developed against it; unions were being attacked; the Iron Curtain was proclaimed, and it was not surprising that by mid-1946 Stalin felt a bit cold-shouldered and cool towards the West. Stalin was also worried about Germany. Twice Russia had been invaded by Germany wreaking untold havoc on the Russian people. He wanted to keep Germany divided and impotent, as did others in the West. Henry Morgenthau, an American Jew serving in Roosevelt’s cabinet, when he became fully aware of what had happened in Germany also thought that it should be deprived of its heavy industry and kept weak, but he was marginalized by Truman. In fact the Allies worked to merge the French, British and American governed zones. This came to a head in late March 1948 when the Soviet delegates walked out of the Allied Control Commission for Germany fearing the unification of the three sectors. A couple of weeks later they began to prevent traffic travelling to Berlin across their sector in eastern Germany. It was clearly an act of pique from Stalin. By July the stoppage was complete and the United States and Britain then began an historic air lift in which the needed supplies, including 4,000 tons of food daily, and movements of fuel and personnel carried on for a year. Some 200,000 flights were carried out. If one were cynical one could say, “How convenient that such a large-scale use for military planes turned up to lift the military aircraft companies out of the doldrums.” Eventually, Stalin’s bullying tactics were defeated and open access to West Berlin was granted again. It was a major triumph for the West and a setback for Stalin. Not surprisingly, it was also a stimulus for the aircraft industry, and they moved back into profit.
The Russians themselves did not develop a crude atomic explosion until 29th August 1949 and a better one on 24th September, 1951. Their hydrogen bomb really only arrived on 22nd November, 1955 with a weaker device two years earlier. We shall see that their military capabilities were vastly exaggerated throughout the 1950s to pump up United States weapons production.
The Western Cold War.
The Cold War is quite difficult to understand. There were always two versions of it – Western and Communist, each version denying the other. In the Western version the Communists were aiming for military and ideological superiority and unless they were met by strength, we would not survive. In the Communist version the West was aiming for military domination and the eradication of Communist states. For most of my life I have believed the western version – I hoped with good supporting evidence – the invasion of eastern Europe at the end of World War Two, the creation of the Iron Curtain, Mao’s military conquest of China, Korea, Vietnam, the vast military capacity of the USSR, the Cuban missile crisis and the feeding of weapons to many countries round the world. It made the USSR a formidable and aggressive superpower. Yet, now a revision seems to be necessary.
The USSR was not the main or prior aggressor. The USSR was let down during the War in the failure to open a Second Front, possibly to weaken her. The United States had groups of Fascist sympathizers who were anti-Soviet and other groups who needed an enemy at the end of the Second World War to keep the guns and planes rolling from the production line. The USSR faced the Red Scare and McCarthyism, the reneging of the Allies on the partition of Germany and the obvious economic and military superiority of the States, Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, and strong ideological rubbishing from the American right, when they were war-torn and suffering. Stalin and others were frightened of the United States using atomic weapons against them, as indeed, quite a few of America’s military were thinking of doing. Perhaps, we could conclude that the primary role in forming the Cold War was taken by the United States, aided by Churchill, because the militarists needed it. Really, it was unnecessary, useless and destructive, perhaps the biggest waste ever on the planet.