Ernest Erber Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Ernest Lund

Power Politics of the Big Three

Tightening Tensions in the Allies

(September 1944)

From The New International, Vol. X No. 12, December 1944, pp. 393–398.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To grasp the depth of the change in world politics during the course of the present war we need but contrast Munich with the Teheran conference. From a seven-power world it had become a three-power world. From Hitler, with the aid of Mussolini, bullying Chamberlain and Daladier into agreement at Munich, we have Stalin, with the aid of Roosevelt, bullying Churchill into agreement at Teheran. From Russia excluded from a conference dealing with the fate of its ally Czechoslovakia at Munich, we have Stalin boldly insisting upon a Russian reorganization of Central Europe and the Balkans at Teheran. From the United States distantly exerting an influence upon Munich through Great Britain, we have the United States all but displacing Great Britain as the non-European arbiter of Europe’s destinies at Teheran. From the economic mobilization of the British Empire to hold its own with American world imperialism, we have the entire world, including the British Empire and its satellite empires (French, Dutch, Portuguese) placed upon American rations. From British efforts to keep its foot jammed in the door of Latin America (Argentina) to block Washington’s “closed door” policy, we have Britain thrown on the defensive by aggressive American imperialism both in the colonial world and its own Dominions.

France’s two-decade long masquerade as a first-rate power came to an end in 1940. The blast furnaces of the Ruhr and the chemical plants of Leuna and Oppau had outweighed, in the scales of war, the jerry-built structure of the French système continentale fashioned at Versailles. Krupp guns and I.G. Farben powder proved far more potent than French reliance upon the rotten regimes in Warsaw, Belgrade, and Bucharest. Political power, as always in the long run, reflected economic reality and Germany, the strongest economic power on the continent, became the strongest political power. In a few years, Germany established itself from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus, and from the oases of the Sahara to frozen Spitzbergen, harnessing a continent to a single military-economic program. But the Hitler empire now lies crumbled beneath the combined blows of the new colossus – Russia – seeking to establish itself as master of Europe and the super-colossus – the United States – seeking to establish itself as master of the world.

What kind of post-war world do the “victors” have in mind? What will be the nature of the post-war power alignments? The answer can now be seen by a study of the relations between the “big three” during the course of the war. For the conduct of the war will, as always, determine the post-war relationships.

The first meeting of the “triangle” took place in Washington a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. Churchill came over on his first war mission and Litvinov sat in for the Russians. The points of conflict at this first meeting are of the highest significance, for they immediately indicated the interests of the three powers and in what manner they clashed.

Two Basic Conflicts

The first meeting produced two basic conflicts: (1) the “de Gaulle question” and (2) the “second front.”

The real implications of the de Gaulle question were only to become apparent as time went by and the ramifications of the problem were to become entwined with the rest of the Anglo-American controversies. The immediate phase of the problem came under four heads:

  1. General attitude toward the “Free French”;
  2. U.S. policy on Vichy;
  3. “Free French” signature on the United Nation’s charter;
  4. De Gaulle’s seizure of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

These questions threw emery into the Anglo-American gears right at the outset because they involved a clash between the historical aims of American imperialism and the interests of the British Empire. American imperialism had emerged out of the first world war as the lusty young giant wrestling with British imperialism for world economic domination. The British had managed to hold their own for twenty trying years of “peace-time” competition. But less sensational and more responsible spokesmen for American imperialism than Henry Luce had already determined that the second world war should usher in the “American Century.” American imperialism has no interest in saving the British Empire from Germany and Japan in order to set it up in business again as a competitor on an equal footing. France permitted Britain to rescue her in the last war at the price of British domination for two decades after. American imperialists have no inclination to be more generous with the British after this war.

Ever since the last war, the British Empire had appended to it as sub-empires the other Western European colonial possessions (French, Dutch, and Portuguese empires), In the last analysis their final protection was the British fleet. Hong Kong was as much a bastion for French Indo-China as was Saigon, and Singapore was as much a bastion for the Dutch East Indies as was Batavia.

France and the Netherlands now lay prostrate, their richest colonial plums plucked by the Japanese or at the mercy of the Germans. The Dutch were guests in London, completely dependent upon the British. The “Free French” were seeking to rally what colonial resources were left in the stray corners of the French empire. Were American resources to be poured out in reconquering and reconstructing the French and Dutch empires only to hand them back to their erstwhile owners who had proved too weak to defend them? It is not necessary for the American empire-builders to be in the business as long as the British nor to develop an equal sense of “realism” to tell the difference between playing cricket and playing power politics. The latter is played with only one rule in the book: you do what you can get away with within the limits of military power and popular opinion at home.

However, it was the aim of the “Free (i.e. colonial) French” to keep as much of the French empire intact as possible as part of the British orbit and reconstitute it after the war upon the old basis. Far from having any quarrel with this the British were, of course, in hearty agreement and took de Gaulle’s committee under their wing from the outset. The defence of the French possessions was part of the defence of the British Empire. De Gaulle was their man.

Roosevelt and the “Free French”

Roosevelt aimed to treat de Gaulle exactly as that, i.e., a military adjunct of the British forces. This would mean denying the French a political voice until, as the Americans never wearied of repeating with “democratic” demogogy, the French people were free again and in a position freely to elect their own government. Until then Roosevelt sought to recognize Vichy as the legitimate government as long as possible and in the meantime seek for some French clique willing to play ball along American lines.

As a result of this conflict of interests, President Roosevelt and Churchill sparred around over the above listed “French” problems. The “Free French” had managed to get into Roosevelt’s hair on the very eve of the conference by sending an expedition to seize the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland. Secretary of State Hull issued a statement which, considering his even temper, sounded as if someone had pilfered one of the counties in his native Tennessee. To send an expedition into the North American waters without permission from Washington was bad enough, but to do it when Washington was conducting a policy of opposition to de Gaullist influence was rubbing salt into the wound. The fact that the French islands are off the Canadian coast and that General de Gaulle must have had British permission for his move – as without a doubt he did since the expedition set out from England – mattered little. For the Western Hemisphere had been declared under “our” jurisdiction by Roosevelt, including Canada (whose defense he had guaranteed without being asked), and even Iceland, which, Roosevelt said with a smile, was thought to belong to the Western Hemisphere by some geographers.

Roosevelt would very much have liked to “rescue” these islands from Vichy rule at the appropriate time and utilize them as part of the Atlantic chain of island defenses. In this case there would be slight chance that France could again establish complete sovereignty over the islands after the war. The best the French could hope for in this case was nominal political control with American right to maintain military installations. With de Gaulle in possession of the islands it would be quite impossible for the American “liberators” to simply move in on them against their wishes without rousing a terrific fuss, above all among liberal opinion in America and Britain.

(For the same considerations outlined above, the British-de Gaullist attack upon Dakar in 1940 was treated most unsympathetically by the American press.)

The other “French” differences Roosevelt and Churchill tried to compose involved the “Free French” signature to the United Nations charter. This involved the question of the status of the de Gaulle committee. No one accepted it as a government-in-exile or as a provisional government. But the British sought to grant it a semi-governmental status as an armed ally in the war. In this capacity the British maintained that the “Free French” had a right to place their signature to a declaration of general intentions such as the United Nations Charter, since the latter was no binding treaty and would play little role in diplomatic relations. The Americans conceded the point but continued their recognition of Vichy as the legitimate government of France.

(At the moment of writing, de Gaulle seems triumphantly installed in Paris and to have won despite all obstacles placed in his path by the Americans. However, the last chapter is still to be written. De Gaulle has Paris, but French possessions remain to be allocated in the struggle between America and Britain. The latter has already all but pushed France out of control of Lebanon and Syria, vital to British oil interests.)

14 Points of Controversy

The controversy over de Gaulle between Roosevelt and Churchill at their first Washington meeting became the first public manifestation of the British-American conflicts that were to bedevil relations at each stage of the war and remain, in the main, unsolved. Other points of controversy that come to the fore as American imperialism begins to squeeze its older rival are:

  1. U.S. interests in Dutch empire (East India oil and Dutch Guiana bauxite).
  2. U.S. interests in Saudi Arabian oil, developed as a wartime project but actually the first real entry of American capital into the British Near East oil preserve.
  3. U.S. interests in the Red Sea, arising out of the need to safeguard new oil routes by maintaining present U.S. control of Eritrea.
  4. U.S. Asiatic interests (a “free” India, Burma and Malay States to permit American economic penetration on an equal footing with Britain).
  5. U.S. interests in the “internationalization” of Hong Kong, Singapore, Saigon, and other imperialist bases in the Pacific area.
  6. U.S. desire to “close the door” in Latin America by driving Britain out of Argentina.
  7. U.S. interests in French empire (Indo-China, Dakar, Martinique, St. Pierre, Miquelon and New Caledonia).
  8. U.S. influence in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
  9. U.S. interests in maintaining present bases in British Atlantic islands (Bermuda, etc.).
  10. U.S. needs of a 5-ocean navy to secure its new world position (in contrast with old 5–5–3 ration).
  11. U.S. displacement of Great Britain as the leading merchant marine power.
  12. U.S. (Hull) policy of “free trade” versus British Empire restrictions.
  13. U.S. “gold standard” policy as expressed at Breton Woods versus British “credit system” proposals (Keynes plan).
  14. U.S. policy of “freedom of air” versus British policy of “spheres of influence” in post-war aviation.

    (No matter what Churchill may say, he is presiding over the dissolution of the Empire.)

However, the politics involving the above questions became, of necessity, involved with politics concerning the third partner, Russia. These politics also had then: starting point in this first Washington meeting. At the conclusion of the Roosevelt-Churchill talks, Litvinov joined the pair at the White House (New Year’s Day 1942). He had only one axe to grind, the opening of a “second front” in Western Europe in the shortest possible time. Thus opened the second major question of “three power” relations. From then until the Teheran conference, the second front issue was to place the most severe strains upon United Nations relations. If the question of de Gaulle symbolized the nature of the long list of British-American differences, then the “second front” concentrated within itself all the many facets of British-Russian differences. [1]

Where to Invade Europe?

The question as to where to invade Europe involved almost automatically the question of the domination of Europe after the war. The defeat of Germany through an invasion of Western Europe meant certain Russian domination of Poland, the Balkans, Finland, and a strong voice throughout the Continent. The latter was made all the more certain by the role of the Communists in the underground movements of Europe. Such a termination of the war would leave Moscow the “boss” of Europe with the exception of the Atlantic fringe of British satellites. The British have made it a cornerstone of their diplomacy since the Middle Ages to prevent a “one-power” domination of the Continent. England, with its economic resources and control of the seas, depended for security upon a balance of power on the continent which would always permit an alliance with one of the continental powers. Every last Englishman felt the effects of a “one-power” Europe when Germany established continental hegemony from June 1940 to June 1941. With the “Blitz” raging over London and the island living in daily dread of invasion, the English realized their peril in the face of a Europe mobilized against them by an enemy power.

As a result, Churchill used every device and strategem known to the age-old ruling class of Britain to prevent the war from ending with Russian hegemony replacing German. He sought to block every “second front” move in Western Europe and push to the fore his pet alternative of the “soft under-belly” of Europe, specifically an invasion through the Balkans. All the wisdom of British statecraft proved unavailing in the end. The relationship of forces resolved it against British interests. But the two-year struggle of Churchill to save the British position in Europe makes an instructive chapter in the history of world power-politics.

It is not yet clear just what Litvinov was told at the White House. Reports have it that he received a blanket promise of a “second front” invasion of Europe in 1942 from Roosevelt, with Churchill making modifications and conditions. Thus began what the Russians have since referred to as the “January promise,” for Litvinov reported to Moscow that the stage was set for the 1942 invasion of Western Europe.

As the “second front” controversy developed, the roles between the three powers remained the same. Russia pressing hard, Britain resisting obstinately, and the United States supporting Russian views. A “Russian solution” at the expense of Britain’s role in Europe would weaken the British Empire all the more and confirm its role of vassal to American imperialism. With Russian hegemony threatening most of the Continent, Britain would have no choice but to cling to American protection, as France, in the face of the Hitler threat, had no choice but to cling to British protection.

This division of views on the “second front” became apparent during the spring of 1942. As the German armies began to push forward again in their great spring offensive in South Russia and the Russian position became critical, they pressed all the harder for the “second front.” Yet it was becoming obvious that no such move was in prospect on the part of the Anglo-Americans. The British general staff was resolute in its opposition.

Angry over what they considered the breach of the “January promise,” the Russians sent Molotov to Washington in May on a quick visit. Just what was discussed between Roosevelt and Stalin’s errand boy is not yet known. However, a public announcement at the conclusion of the conference stated: “In the course of these conversations full understanding was reached with regard to the urgent task of creating a second front in Europe in 1942.”

This seemed to put teeth into the “January promise” and Molotov went hurrying home. However, the announcement was made only in the name of the Americans and Russians. It is quite likely that the peculiar language of the announcement, “with regard to the urgent task,” was meant to convey that Roosevelt’s agreement with the need of a “second front” was still contingent upon British approval before it could be realized.

The announcement must have given Churchill one of his explosive moments. For, hardly two weeks after Molotov left with the glad tidings, Churchill flew into Washington to find out “what was up.” His answer to the “second front” this time was an abrupt “no.” According to Lyle C. Wilson, chief of the United Press Washington bureau, “Churchill argued that the point of attack should be from the south, against what he termed ‘the under-belly of Europe’ and he enlarged his ideas to propose that the major assault on Hitler’s fortress should include an Allied movement into the Balkans.” (U.P. dispatch, June 6, 1944.)

The North African Invasion

Stalin’s rejoinder from Moscow when he heard that the “second front” was off must have been written on asbestos paper. For it so thoroughly frightened Roosevelt that he sent Gen. Marshall, Admiral King, Harry Hopkins, and Stephen Early, his secretary, on an emergency trip to London in July. According to the above-quoted Wilson dispatch:

“Marshall, King, and the others had orders to attempt to win Churchill over to a 1942 European invasion. John Bull stood pat. Marshall and King had an alternative proposition. It was for the invasion of North Africa at Oran and Casablanca, and at London in July 1942, that plan was agreed upon.”

Stalin recognized the North African operation as poor “Ersatz” as far as the military need of drawing German divisions out of Russia was concerned. As for the political implications of the North African invasion, Stalin viewed this move in the Mediterranean basin with hostility. It seemed to indicate Roosevelt’s yielding to Churchill’s Balkan perspective. Stalin’s answer was to whip the “second front” campaign in the Russian and foreign Communist press to a frenzy. Above all did the British C.P. go into action. Demonstrations, petitions and resolutions descended upon 10 Downing Street and the Parliament like a storm. Meanwhile columns were rolling toward the Caucasus. An alleged offer by the British to move troops up from Iran to defend the Caucasian oil fields was reported rejected by Stalin with the advice that they be used in France. British-Russian relations seemed to have reached the breaking point.

The Russian tone began to worry Churchill seriously. He resolved that a face-to-face talk with Stalin would help matters. On August 12, the King’s first minister appeared at the Kremlin: anything to keep Russia fighting. Churchill is reported to have spent four unpleasant days in somewhat heated discussions with Stalin. Upon his return he was to refer to Stalin in a House of Commons speech as “a man direct and even blunt in speech.” The discussions evidently ended in an impasse. Stalin did not retreat from his insistence upon the “second front” and Churchill did not yield to his pressure.

Upon Churchill’s departure, Stalin pleasantly surprised Henry C. Cassidy, Associated Press correspondent, by replying to his routine written inquiry with a personal letter. It was Stalin’s method of revealing to the world that the Churchill visit had changed nothing. The central point of the letter was a demand that the Anglo-Americans make good their commitments “fully and on time.”

The Russian and German armies were locked in decisive battle at Stalingrad. The “second front” campaign was lashed to new heights. The British C.P. filled Trafalgar Square with demonstrators howling for the “second front” and 35,000 massed at Madison Square Park in New York City. Ominous was the appearance of banners attacking “British imperialism” and calling for the “immediate freedom of India.” Among other new demands was one calling for the immediate trial of Britain’s No. 1 prisoner, Rudolph Hess. The Russians raised the question in such a manner as to cast suspicion upon both the purpose of the Hess flight to England and the reason for Britain’s keeping him in such a shroud of mystery.

Churchill’s Demonstration at Dieppe

At this time, late in August 1942, Churchill decided to make a demonstration of his own. Some 10,000 troops, mainly Canadians, suddenly launched a night attack upon the French coast at Dieppe. After a night of indecisive fighting, the Allied forces withdrew, having suffered some 6,000 casualties. The announcement of the Dieppe casualties sent a chill through all “second fronters” but the most hardened Stalinists.

The true story of Dieppe is yet to be told. The official designation was that it was a “reconnaissance in force.” The explanation, that the Dieppe attack was a valuable rehearsal for invasion in force seems most unlikely. What did it demonstrate beyond that known fact that 10,000 men cannot storm a fortified beach without previous artillery or aerial saturation and expect to live to tell the tale? It did, however, serve as a gag in the mouth of many a glib-tongued “second fronter.”

The Russians, however, losing as many men every hour at Stalingrad as the total loss at Dieppe, were totally unimpressed. If anything, the Allied inaction during the nerve-straining test at Stalingrad made the “Vozhd of all the Russians” all the more vicious. A story is told about Stalin’s conduct at one of the state banquets for Willkie. Both the Russian attitude and Stalin’s character lend credence to it. The story has it that after the usual endless round of toasts, someone proposed a toast to “our gallant Allied airmen.” As the gathering arose to the toast, Stalin remained seated. In embarrassed surprise the others resumed their seats. Stalin then rose to propose a toast to “our gallant Soviet flyers going to their death in cast-off planes” sent by the Allies. He then continued to say that Churchill had “stolen” 150 new American fighters from a Russia-bound convoy while in a British port. The British later claimed that the planes had been removed on orders of Gen. Eisenhower in preparation for the North African landings. Churchill shortly after referred to “the very strong and stark assertions” made by the Russians. He could quite easily have had the banquet story in mind.

In December 1942 the Americans hit the beaches of French North Africa. The American and British press hailed the operation as the “second front.” This was to be the long-expected relief to the hard-pressed Russians. Stalin gave no more than a public grunt of approval, and stated merely that it “fulfilled the prerequisites for undertaking a second front.” A month later, as Roosevelt and Churchill met at Casablanca, Stalin was significantly absent. His reply to their invitation was a biting statement which said in effect, “You people have plenty of time for such things but I am too busy fighting a war to attend.” Nor did he bother to reply to their friendly message or give a hint as to where the Russians stood on the “unconditional surrender” formula of Casablanca. Stalin’s reply came a month later when, on the anniversary of the Red Army he said in an order of the day:

“In view of the absence of a second front in Europe, the Red Army alone is bearing the whole weight of the war.” [2]

The North African invasion raised anew a whole series of complicated questions of British-American relations arising out of the question of the French Empire. Roosevelt revealed the outlines of his anti-de Gaullist strategy (really anti-British in essence) by springing his own jack-out-of-the-box in the person of the reactionary militarist, General Giraud. Whether Darlan came into the picture by accident or previous plan cannot be said for certain. In any case, he immediately fitted into the American strategy of operating in the French possessions through pro-American Vichy contacts. The Darlan-Giraud-Peyrouton stench brought forth a feeling of revulsion throughout the democratic and liberal world. In Britain, and to a lesser extent in America, the North African situation was assailed with fury by an outraged public opinion that had been taken in by the Four Freedoms talk and the allegedly anti-fascist character of the war. Roosevelt felt obliged to duck out with a statement attributing it to General Eisenhower on grounds of “military expediency.” The American liberals, who can forgive almost anything but criticism of Roosevelt, discovered the guilty culprit in a State Department official “by the name of Murphy” (since designated as American gauleiter for Germany). However, Churchill arose in the House of Commons and stated with a broad smile and open-handed generosity that the entire “credit” for the North African venture goes to his “esteemed friend, President Roosevelt.”

Though Churchill was alleged to have said that of all the crosses he had to bear, the Cross of Lorraine was the heaviest, it proved the one cross which was so important to Britain that Churchill was willing to show exceptional patience under its load.

The Fear of a Separate Peace

Following Stalingrad, the Russian armies undertook their great winter offensive, which rolled the Germans back for hundreds of miles. This change in the military situation altered Russia’s role in relation to her Allies. It now became apparent that the Germans’ hopes of knocking Russia out of the war were over. The Germans had a choice of either putting up with the dreaded two-front war or making peace with one of their enemies. Whereas before Stalingrad the Russian question posed itself to Britain as a matter of staving off a Russian surrender, after Stalingrad it became a matter of convincing Russia not to make a separate peace. The latter situation left Russia in a vastly more powerful position in dealing with her allies. Stalin began to use it to the full.

All through the Spring of 1943 the Americans and British were given repeated cases of the jitters as the Russians unloosed a flood of “separate peace” rumors. The situation caused Churchill to undertake another trip to Washington in May. Following Churchill’s visit, Joseph E. Davies was dispatched on his so-called “Second Mission to Moscow.” According to Lyle C. Wilson, the mysterious letter to Stalin is said to have contained the following:

Dear Mr. Premier:

Winston and I want to see you at your earliest convenience. You can say where and when.

[Signed] F.D.R.

(Aside from Davies’ value as a symbol of Russo-American friendship, Roosevelt also based his choice, no doubt, on the need to preserve manpower and not use anyone of real mental stature to perform errand-boy missions.)

The next Roosevelt-Churchill meeting was delayed to the last minute awaiting word from the Kremlin. Finally they met without Stalin at Quebec in August 1943. The Russian military situation continued to improve. So did Stalin’s war of nerves against his allies. [3] The Quebec meeting took place in the midst of the most dire rumors about Russia’s intended course of action. In the very midst of the conference, Stalin suddenly recalled Litvinov from Washington. Churchill recognized that he was pressed against the wall. The question of Russia’s role in Europe could no longer be headed off by treating her as a poor cousin. The architect of the first cordon sanitaire against Russia realized that the cards were held by his opponents and a second cordon to keep the Russian bear in his native wilds was not realizable.

It was decided to send Hull and Eden to Moscow to confer with the Russians and let them know that the British were ready to talk terms. The Moscow conference of Foreign Ministers was the first taste of diplomatic victory for the Russians. It prepared the groundwork for the real showdown to come soon afterward when the three “big bosses” would get together. The Russians indicated that they were satisfied by the turn of events by setting their signature for the first time to a document that called for “unconditional surrender” of Germany.

It is significant that Eden stopped in at Ankara on his way back for a discussion with the Turks. The role of Turkey during a Balkan invasion would, of course, be a very important one. Were the Turks already setting things in motion for such an invasion, according to prior agreement with Great Britain? If so, Eden may have had the purpose of setting them straight on the latest turn of events. Did the British still hope for a compromise with Russia by which Russian troops would join the Allies for an invasion of the Balkans? In this case it would require Turkish agreement to permit Russian troops to use Turkish bases aside from the more general question of Turkey’s attitude to Russian influence in the Balkans.

The Results of the Teheran Conference

On December 1, 1943, the momentous gathering took place in Teheran that was to cast the new relationship of forces on a world scale. The exact story of what took place during the discussion is not yet officially released.

All accounts of the Teheran conference agree upon a violent conflict between Stalin and Churchill, with Roosevelt playing the role of “peacemaker.” A more accurate description of the role of Roosevelt would be to say he greased the skids under Churchill while Stalin was doing the pushing.

Professor Oscar Lange, who visited Stalin “on behalf of Polish-Americans,” reported to Drew Pearson that:

“When these plans for Poland had come up at Teheran, Stalin disclosed, President Roosevelt had been in complete agreement, but Prime Minister Churchill had hesitated.

“He asked me: Who is to guarantee the security of this new Polish state? I answered simply: The armed might of the Soviet Union.”

Forrest Davis states the same relationship between the three principals in his articles in the Saturday Evening Post of May 13 and 27, 1944. Davis is usually regarded as directly inspired by the White House. Together with Ernest Lindley, Roosevelt biographer and New Deal historian, he was commissioned to write the official White Book on how we got into the war. Davis also makes the point that Churchill and Stalin were at sword’s point during most of the conference and that Roosevelt exerted his influence to “appease” Stalin because of the President’s “tough-minded determination to enroll the Soviet Union as a sincere and willing collaborator in post-war settlements.”

The outlines of the Russian victory at Teheran are now becoming quite clear. They include:

  1. The “second front” invasion of Western Europe, as the indispensable military key to Russian aims.
  2. A free hand for Russia in Poland. The Lublin government of Stalin is already acting as the provisional regime. The London exile government is confronted with the threat of civil war if it seeks to interfere in Poland.
  3. Russian hegemony over the Balkans. Whether this includes Greece, traditional British sphere, is not yet certain.
  4. Russian occupation of eastern Germany.
  5. Russian domination of Finland.
  6. Russian annexation of the Baltic states.

The full magnitude of this Russian triumph will only fully impress itself upon us as we witness its unfolding. It far surpasses the most ambitious dreams of Pan-Russian statesmen under Czarism. It means, in actuality, nothing less than a Russian Europe. It means domination of the continent, except for the nations on its western fringe. Even these will feel its full effects through Russian pressure from without and Communist activity from within.

Roosevelt and the Russians

Roosevelt’s aims in aiding this Russian triumph are to be seen from the previous description of the Anglo-American differences. The American domination of the British Empire (i.e., in essence, the colonial world) requires a Britain placed in a position of complete dependence upon the United States. Russian domination of Europe leaves Britain so little with which to maneuver between her two opponents that her chances of escaping vassalage to America are exceedingly small. Even the rumored plans of a “West European bloc,” to include Great Britain, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium cannot help Britain avoid dependence upon America, even if contradictions within the bloc were ironed out. The boasts of some British editors that such a bloc would represent two-fifths of the land area of the world is meaningless. The “land area” referred to is composed in the main of the colonial world. Given Russian pressure upon Europe and American (“liberation”) pressure upon the colonial world, this land area will reveal itself more as a volcano of seething discontent than a bastion of empire defense.

There is, of course, to offset this tendency, the matter of Russo-American differences. These include possible conflicts in China, in the Near East, and in Europe itself. However, in contrast to the immediacy of the conflicts with British interests, American conflicts with Russian interests are of a more historical character. In the immediate period they are more than offset by the many factors that make for mutually profitable collaboration between Russia and the United States. Russia is not a competitor in the world market, Russia is not a naval power, Russia’s main interests are not colonial (i.e., in the traditional colonial spheres), and Russia will need American capital to rebuild after the war and thus prove a considerable market for American goods. The extension of collectivized economy into eastern Europe and sections of the Balkans would be opposed by America, as by the entire capitalist community of interests. But this too is a conflict of historical scope and more than offset in the immediate period by Russia’s role as the most effective counter-revolutionary force in Europe. The defeat of the German revolution by Russian agents and Russian arms would certainly be worth the extension of Russian collectivism into Poland and Romania. American imperialism hopes to deal with the latter in its next chapter. However, the Central European proletariat must be dealt with in this one.

If the outline of new Russian and American spheres of domination was drawn at Teheran, we can say that the machinery for this maintenance is being constructed at Dumbarton. The League of Nations was the vehicle of Anglo-French domination of the continent and partnership with America in domination of the world. Dumbarton is to be the vehicle of an American-dominated Russo-British balance of power in Europe and an undisputed American domination of the entire world.

But the final word in the realization of these designs of the great powers will rest, not upon the strength of their arms or the ability of their statesmen, but rather upon the working classes and the exploited colonial peoples. The globe which the gentlemen at Dumbarton are wrangling over may well prove to be not a globe at all but a bomb with lighted fuses in Europe, in India, in the Arab world, in Africa, and, in the last analysis, the home countries of the principals themselves. As with the League of Nations during the post-war revolutionary wave, Dumbarton may prove of greatest service to its architects and builders as an instrument against the social revolution. For the architects of the new world of socialism, on the other hand, it is of great importance to note these tremendous changes of power relations resulting from the war in order the more realistically to cast our own perspectives in the struggle to tear the destinies of humanity from the hands of the capitalists and their statesmen and place them in the hands of the working people.

Sept. 18, 1944


1. In an article in the July 1943 New International on The Coming Invasion of Europe, the author emphasized the primarily political nature of the “second front” question. It was pointed out that the locale of the invasion would determine in large measure the control of post-war Europe. The entire struggle over the “second front” has since proved the complete validity of this approach. The prediction of an invasion through the Balkans proved in error because of a miscalculation of the relationship of forces. The analysis failed to take into account the American role in the problem as pro-Russian, rather than pro-British. What was attributed to Anglo-American policy on the “second front” turned out to be solely British policy.

2. “The question of full coalition warfare has become, for the Soviet Union, a question of shortening the war. For Britain and the United States It Is still a question of winning the war.” – Earl Browder, Teheran – Our Path in War and Peace, page 19. [Note by ETOL: In the printed version there is no anchor for this note. We have positioned the anchor where it seems most appropriate.]

3. Stalin’s war of nerves during 1943 included many sudden and seemingly contradictory moves. Almost every one of them was open to two seemingly opposite explanations. They included: 1. The dissolution of the Comintern, explained as a peace gesture to the anti-Komintern Axis and as a step to placate the Allies. 2. Restoration of the freedom of the Greek Orthodox Church, explained as a sop to American opinion and as a weapon for the penetration of the Balkan Slavic community. 3. Organization of the National Committee of Free Germany and the Union of German Officers in Moscow, explained as a means of liaison for a separate peace and as a vehicle of revolution within Germany. 4. Recognition of Badoglio at a time the Allies were hesitant, explained as a gesture to the conservative elements of Italy and Europe and as a support to the popular movement in Italy to undermine the Allied Military Government.

Ernest Erber Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 17 February 2016