Presentation on theme: "The 20 th Century International Relations Since 1919 Who was to blame for the Cold War?"— Presentation transcript:
The 20 th Century International Relations Since 1919 Who was to blame for the Cold War?
Cold War Mythology What were the 1945 summit conferences? Why did the USA–USSR alliance begin to break down in 1945? How had the USSR gained control of Eastern Europe by 1948? How did the USA react to Soviet expansionism? How was Germany occupied and what was the Berlin Blockade? What were the consequences of the Berlin Blockade? What were NATO and the Warsaw Pact? Who was the more to blame for starting the Cold War: the USA or the USSR? Framing the study of the Cold War with these leading questions turns the student of history into a blind man holding an elephant’s tail.
Cold War Reality The first usages of the phrase “Cold War” to describe the conflict between the USA and its allies and the USSR and its allies were by George Orwell (1945), Bernard Baruch and Herbert Bayard Swope (1947), and Walter Lippmann (1947). The Cold War, however, began with the Russian Revolution of 1917. Soon after, American and British troops (among others) were sent into the territory of the new Soviet Union and, at least as important, were supplying the White Army and the Cossacks with materiel in their struggles against the Red Army. “American Troops Landing in Russia on Sept. 5, 1918 from the British Troop Ship Somali” (Chicago Tribune, 26 Feb. 1939)
Attempts to undo the revolution that began in 1918 continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s in forms varying from de facto economic blockades to muffled support of the USSR’s external enemies—including Nazi Germany. In the Locarno Pact of 1925, for example, the USA and Western European nations guaranteed their mutual borders but significantly left the borders of Eastern Europe without guarantees, hoping the USSR might be reduced in size. The WWII alliance the USA and the UK made with the USSR was necessary because only the USSR could defeat Nazi Germany. Even before the war had ended, however, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was scheming to eliminate the USSR and “to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire.” Government Poster (USA, 1942)
And the US military produced a plan to atom-bomb the 20 chief Soviet cities within 10 weeks of the end of the war. US President Harry Truman did more than scheme: he dropped the atom bomb twice on Japan to warn the USSR of the destructive power at his disposal. After WWII, the publicly- stated policy of the USA (and to a lesser extent of the UK) was based on a nightmare scenario of the Soviet superpower poised for the immediate conquest of the globe, directing a godless “communist world conspiracy” ever ready to overthrow the realms of freedom, requiring permanent nuclear confrontation based on the assumption that only the fear of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) would prevent the USSR from giving the ever-ready signal for the planned suicide of civilization. Nagasaki after the Atom Bomb (Yosuke Yamahata, 10 Aug. 1945)
Entire generations grew up under the shadow of a global nuclear battle, which, it was widely believed, could break out at any moment, devastating humanity. Privately, however, the policy of the USA was not to contain communism but to maintain US supremacy, and the policy of the USSR was defensive, not expansionist. The main concern of both the USA and the USSR was how to prevent warlike gestures from being misinterpreted as actual moves to war. Thus, behind the scenes, the Cold War was actually “a cold peace.” “Is This Tomorrow: America under Communism!” (Catechetical Guild, 1947)
Moreover, the politics of mutual intransigence, even of permanent power-rivalry, did not necessarily imply the daily danger of war. The virulent anti- communism crusading of the Cold War that constantly threatened nuclear Armageddon was a product of the internal dynamics of the political economy of the USA. America’s allies were not as committed to the destruction of communism. Nevertheless, they accepted both US anti- communism and US supremacy as the price to be paid for the containment of the USSR. “Two Faces of Communism” (Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, 1961)
World War II Summit Conferences US war aims in World War II were to destroy the German domination of Europe and to prevent the domination of Europe in the future by any single power, such as the USSR. In 1943, the Big Three powers (the USA, UK, and USSR) outlined two possible futures for postwar Europe: dividing Europe into three spheres of interest or admitting the right of all to an interest in all parts of Europe. The first test case came with the liberation of Italy. Stalin demanded that he be involved in deciding occupation policy. Roosevelt and Churchill refused, establishing an Anglo- American sphere of influence. Churchill and Roosevelt Discuss the Italian Campaign (24 May 1943)
Shut out of Italy, Stalin indicated his intention to control eastern Europe as his own sphere of influence. In November 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met with Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo. Roosevelt sought to replace the British as the dominant foreign power in China after the war and to build up China so that it could be a junior partner to the USA. Despite Churchill’s protests, Roosevelt invited China to be one of the “four policemen,” the nations that would organize the postwar world. The Cairo Declaration called for Japan’s unconditional surrender and for the return of Formosa (Taiwan) to China. In November-December 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met with Stalin in Tehran, where the US agreed to launch a second front in France in 1944. Chiang Kai-shek, Roosevelt and Churchill (Cairo, 25 Nov. 1943)
The Big Three agreed to dismember Germany and to create a United Nations organization after the war. Churchill and Stalin convinced Roosevelt not to object to new borders for Poland, giving the USSR eastern Poland and moving the Poles westward into Germany. Using Roosevelt’s “four policemen” idea, Stalin proposed dividing Europe into spheres of influence, giving the Soviets domination in eastern Europe. Unhappily, Roosevelt admitted that his “four policemen” idea contradicted the US war aim of an open, international system. And Roosevelt admitted that isolationists favoring neutrality in the US Congress probably would not allow American troops to be stationed in Europe after the war. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill (Tehran, Nov.-Dec. 1943)
Roosevelt hoped to use America’s massive industrial superiority to transform the whole world into a single US sphere of influence, free trade providing it with open markets everywhere. Churchill, committed as ever to maintaining an empire run exclusively from London, would not countenance this, and neither would Stalin, who had the sheer size of Russia’s army to counter US economic power. Between them, they persuaded Roosevelt to accept the division they wanted. After Tehran, Churchill (and Stalin) could not be certain of Roosevelt’s position. Who would be America’s main postwar partner: the weakening British Empire or the Soviet Union, which was breaking the back of Nazi Germany? Moreover, if American isolationists pushed through neutrality, would Roosevelt be in a position to cooperate in organizing the postwar world even if he wanted to? Would the US stay out of the United Nations after World War II as it had stayed out of the League of Nations after WWI?
Churchill decided to protect British interests in Greece by making a private deal with Stalin in Moscow in October 1944. Churchill said to Stalin, “So far as Britain and Russia are concerned, how would it do you to have 90 percent predominance in Romania, for us to have 90 percent predominance in Greece and go 50-50 about Yugoslavia?” Churchill wrote down a list of countries with the appropriate percentages next to them, and Stalin wrote a large tick on it. Churchill and Stalin also reaffirmed the division of Poland discussed at the Tehran Conference. Churchill’s Copy of Secret Agreement with Stalin (Moscow, Oct. 1944)
At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Big Three resolved issues concerning the structure of the United Nations and the borders of Poland, Stalin agreeing in general to a “broadly based” government established by “free elections.” German dismemberment and reparations to the USSR were agreed to “in principle.” And Churchill pushed through his demand that France be made an occupying power in Germany. As the Red Army was occupying much of eastern Europe and defeating the Nazis, Stalin was in the strongest negotiating position, and he refused to sell out Soviet Security for any amount of money. The Yalta agreement was couched in political language making it palatable to the American and British electorate, but Roosevelt and Churchill understood that Stalin interpreted its wording differently. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin (Yalta, Feb. 1945)
Roosevelt and Stalin agreed that the USSR would join the fight against Japan three months after German surrender. In exchange, the Soviets regained territory lost to Japan and gained a sphere of influence in China, provided Stalin reach a formal understanding with Chiang Kai-shek. On 12 April 1945, Roosevelt died; an inexperienced Harry Truman replaced him. And Clement Attlee defeated Churchill in a general election, the results being announced on 26 July 1945. Thus, at the Potsdam Conference of July- August 1945, Stalin met with the new leaders of the USA and UK. Truman attempted to renegotiate the Tehran and Yalta agreements, calling for a unified Germany and a Poland independent of Soviet influence. Attlee, Truman and Stalin (Potsdam, Jul.-Aug. 1945)
Stalin countered by demanding the four occupying powers share the administration of a united Germany, giving the USSR influence throughout all of central Europe. Truman backed down, accepting the new Poland and a divided Germany but stopping German reparations from the western zones to the USSR. Stalin insisted that the new Poland have German territory. The World War II summit conferences gave Stalin’s armies a free hand in Eastern Europe, and Stalin was not going to let Communists elsewhere upset this arrangement by attempting to lead revolutions, however favorable the mass of people might be. Stalin’s former foreign minister Maxim Litvinov spelt it out bluntly to US representatives in Italy in September 1944: “We do not want revolutions in the West.” Consequently, Stalin did not interfere when Communist resistance movements in France and in Italy (through CIA covert operations) and in Greece (through civil war) were forced to accept the restoration of pre- war ruling classes.
Russian imperialism in eastern Europe was real, and the USSR was a totalitarian state; its crimes against its own people were horrific. But after WWII, the Soviet Union did not expand from the territories ceded to it by the Allies in the wartime conferences, from the territories occupied by the Red Army at the end of the war. The idea of Soviet expansion in the postwar period was a product of US propaganda. The agreements between the Western powers and Russia were not confined to Europe. Britain and Russia divided Iran into two spheres of influence during the war and maintained their forces there for a couple of years. The Russian and US division of Korea in the summer of 1945 was more permanent— along a line drawn by the US’s General MacArthur. Communists Imprisoned in the Greek Civil War Protest “The British Must Go” (1947)
Each picked a dictator to rule in its half: on one side a small- scale guerilla leader, Kim Il Sung, who had spent the war in the USSR; on the other, right wing nationalist Syngman Rhee, who could be relied upon to do what the US wanted. The division of Korea was the last great act of cooperation between the wartime allies. Kim Il Sung and Stalin Syngman Rhee and MacArthur
A Façade of Harmony United Nations Conference on International Organization (San Francisco, Apr.-Jun. 1945) The Big Three powers established a new international organization, the United Nations. Its founding conference in San Francisco in April-June 1945 promised the peoples of the world a new order of peace and cooperation, which would vanquish war forever. It was claimed that this was going to be different from its inter-war predecessor, the League of Nations, which had not been able to do anything to stop World War II. The “failure” of the League of Nations had not been accidental—it followed from an intrinsic fault.
The League was set up by the victorious powers after 1918 as part of the Treaty of Versailles by which they parceled out the world among themselves. Lenin had described it as “a thieves’ kitchen.” The UN was no different, even if it had a “soup kitchen” annex in Geneva (the children’s fund UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and son on). Decision-making lay with four permanent Security Council members—the US, the UK, Russia, and France—and between them these dominated, oppressed, and exploited the rest of the world. The rulers of each needed a sense of international harmony as a cover for consolidating structures of control. In France, Italy, and even Great Britain, governments still benefited from Communist Party opposition to strikes. First Session of UN Security Council (London, 17 Jan. 1946)
In eastern Europe, it suited Stalin that the states occupied by Russian troops should be run by coalition governments involving figures from the pre- war right, center, and social democratic parties. Tension festered below the surface for more than a year, while each of the powers consolidated its position— reorganizing industry now the war was over, overseeing the parts of the world it had recently occupied, and dampening domestic expectations. Britain’s Labour government sought to placate the wave of radicalism of 1945 with plans to improve welfare provision and nationalize the railways and mines. The US experienced a level of strikes even higher than in 1936-37. The Russian occupying forces in eastern Europe oversaw the transformation of what had been small Communist parties into mass bureaucratic organizations. In 1946, the façade of harmony cracked. The US and the USSR entered into a state of war. Who was to blame for the start of another war less than a year after WWII ended?
Of all the damage done during World War II—whether counted in deaths and casualties and/or in destruction of economies, it was the USSR and its people who paid the highest price: a UN study reported that of the 60 million European dead, a minimum of 28 million were of the Soviet Union, and proportionate damage was done to the entire economy— agriculture, factories, infrastructure. The USSR emerged from the war in ruins, drained and exhausted, its peacetime economy in shreds, its government distrustful of a population much of which, outside Great Russia, had shown a distinct and understandable lack of commitment to the regime. American Anti-Communism Soviet War Dead (1942)
On its western fringe, it continued to have trouble with Ukrainian and other nationalist guerillas for some years. It was ruled by a dictator who had demonstrated that he was as risk-averse outside the territory he controlled directly as he was ruthless within it. It needed all the economic aid it could get, and, therefore, had no short- term interest in antagonizing the only power that could give it, the USA. The USSR posed no immediate danger to anyone outside the reach of the Red Army’s occupation forces. Of course, Soviet imperialism was not an invention of American ideologists. It was real enough in eastern Europe. Of course, the USSR was a totalitarian state; of course, its crimes against its own people were horrific. Stalingrad (1943)
But the main threat to US supremacy, as Herbert Schiller noted, “was the possibility that significant chunks of the ex- colonial world might break away from the world business system, adopting some form of socialist economy.” This threat existed despite of the USSR, not because of the USSR, yet American ideologues in the ruling class, in the government, and in the mass media misrepresented the threat as a Soviet military threat. Why? The Red Menace Film Poster (Republic Pictures, 1949) I Married a Communist Film Poster (RKO Pictures, 1949)
The American crusade against Communism was in part an effort to prevent independent economic development, to prevent indigenous movements from extricating their societies from the integrated world system dominated largely by American capital and from using resources for their own social and economic development. But it functioned in other ways as well. Economist Joan Robinson: “It is obvious enough that the United States campaign against Communism is a campaign against development. By means of it, the American people have been led to acquiesce in the maintenance of a huge war machine and its use by threat or actual force to try to suppress every popular movement that aims to overthrow ancient or modern tyranny and begin to find a way to overcome poverty and establish national self-respect. In those countries whose governments have been prepared to accept American support, ‘aid’ is given in a form which may do more to inhibit than to promote development.”
The American crusade against Communism was in part a technique of domestic control. Even if they were not, dissenters could be silenced by being denounced as communists. The American crusade against Communism was in part a means for overcoming isolationism and defensive protectionism. If America was not safe, then there could be no withdrawal from the responsibilities—and rewards—of world leadership, as after WWI. The American crusade against Communism was in part a means to create public hysteria, making it easier for the government to raise the vast sums required for American policy from a citizenry notorious for its disinclination to pay taxes. The American crusade against Communism was in part created by demagogues, some of them, like the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), not even particularly anti-communist, who discovered the political potential of wholesale denunciation of the enemy within, launching frenzied and squalid anti-Red witch- hunts. The demagogues both facilitated and constrained US policy by pushing it to extremes.
The American crusade against Communism was in part a useful strategy for winning votes in Congress or in presidential and congressional elections. Therefore, it was promoted by both politicians who were not sincerely convinced of their own rhetoric and by those who were clinically mad, such as Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who committed suicide because he saw Russians coming from his window in the hospital. The American crusade against Communism was in part caused by the military-industrial-congressional-educational complex: the increasingly vast agglomeration of men and resources, which lived by the preparation of war. Richard Barnet: “The war economy provides comfortable riches for tens of thousands of bureaucrats in and out of military uniform who go to the office every day to build nuclear weapons or to plan nuclear war; millions of workers whose jobs depend on the system of nuclear terrorism; scientists and engineers hired to look for that final ‘technological breakthrough’ that can provide total security; contractors unwilling to give up easy profits; warrior intellectuals who sell threats and bless war.”
The American crusade against Communism was in part misplaced moralism and self-delusion. Most Americans sincerely believed that the ideologies of US capitalism and US democracy served as the model for the world, presenting the question of how to respond to those who would not accept that American model, those who dissented. If Americans represented the good, dissenters represented the evil. And the response to the evil is deeply rooted in American Protestantism: the impulse to isolate, to convert, or to repress. This religious response was translated into an American foreign policy that denied self-interest and transformed aggressive invasions into merciful rescue missions. Charles Bohlen: “…one of the difficulties of explaining this policy…is that our policy is not rooted in any national material interest of the United States, as most foreign policies of other countries in the past have been.” The New Republic expressed the American idealism: “The moral pull for the US to go on rescue missions will always be enormous. There are dozens of such spots today. Our conscience aches for them.”
The American crusade against Communism was in part the result of the minimal tactical flexibility of the USA, committing the military not only to an essentially nuclear strategy of bombs rather than men but also to the ominous strategy of massive retaliation. The USA became committed to an insane arms race to mutual destruction organized by generals and intellectuals whose profession required them not to notice this insanity. The American crusade against Communism was in part the result of mutually supporting factors, highly resistant to change, despite its irrationality and the cost it imposed on the citizenry (almost 70 percent of taxes were used to pay for past, present, and future wars), not to mention the threat to continued survival. The USA was dependent on foreign resources primarily because of its war production. Acquiring those raw materials required an empire. Acquiring an empire required military power.
The American crusade against Communism was in part a highly effective technique of popular mobilization in support of policies of intervention and subversion in the postwar period. It was an ideology adapted to an era when the civilizing mission of the white race could no longer be invoked. Thus, when the US conquered the Philippines in 1898, it was bearing the White Man’s Burden, whereas post-WWII, America’s foreign invasions were defending the Free World against the savage Communists. The American crusade against Communism was in part a means for providing a psychological climate of psychosis in which a continuing public subsidy could be provided to technologically advanced sectors of American industry for maintenance of a huge war machine. Only a population that feared for its survival could be induced to consent to this subsidy, which had become a central factor in the American postwar economy. The primary economic lesson learned from World War II was that wartime government spending, not the New Deal, had overcome the Great Depression.
The crusade against Communism depoliticized American society and created the psychological climate of psychosis in which the government was able to intervene, in part through fiscal policies, public works, and public services, but largely through was spending, to preserve economic health. The American ruling class saw no other form of government-induced production that would not harm but would rather enhance the interests and power of the private empires that controlled the economy, that would be endlessly expandable, and that, at the same time, would be tolerated by the mass of the population, which would have to foot the bill. Vice-President of LTV Aerospace Samuel F. Downer explained: “It’s basic. Its selling appeal is defense of the home. This is one of the greatest appeals the politicians have to adjusting the system…. We’re going to increase defense budgets as long as those bastards in Russia are ahead of us. The American people understand this.” The fact that the Russians were not ahead of the US did not prevent the US ruling class from playing this cynical and deadly game.
The American crusade against Communism was highly functional for the American elite (and to a lesser extent to the Soviet elite). It served to provide an ideology for empire, and to mobilize support for the government-subsidized system of military state capitalism. Opportunities to end the Cold War were sidestepped, and challenges to Cold War ideology were bitterly resisted. The American ruling class sought a permanent Cold War. Increasingly, under the guise of the crusade against Communism, the control of the economy and of political life was centralized by the interpenetration of the executive branch of the government and the corporate elite. At the same time, the role of democracy, the role of Congress, was diminishing. The House Armed Services Committee described the role of Congress as “that of a sometimes querulous but essentially kindly uncle who complains while furiously puffing on his pipe but who finally, as everyone expects, gives in and hands over the allowance.”
Political scientist Harold Stein concurs: “The basic determination of foreign-military policy, or military expenditures and organization, and of weapons has been made by civilians in the Executive Branch, usually with the President in active control. Congress has exercised an occasionally restraining but never a guiding hand.” As Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI) feared, the US President became “the number one war lord of the earth.” Mutual fear escalating from confrontation until the American and Soviet camps started mobilizing under their two opposing banners explained the congealing of the fronts in 1947-49; the step by step partition of Germany, from 1947 to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961; the failure of the anti-communists on the Western side to avoid complete involvement in the US-dominated military alliance (with the exception of de Gaulle’s France); and the failure of those on the Eastern side of the divide to escape complete subordination to Moscow (except for Tito’s Yugoslavia). The blame for the apocalyptic character of the Cold War, however, can be placed squarely on the USA.
The Iron Curtain On 9 February 1946, Stalin announced that the USSR would turn inward and rebuild itself with more 5-year plans, demanding sacrifice from his people. This was Stalin’s final rejection of the US- sponsored postwar open capitalist system of the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (the IMF). US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas called Stalin’s isolationism a “Declaration of World War III.” At Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on 5 March 1946, with Truman by his side, Churchill delivered the “Iron Curtain” speech. Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech
Churchill said, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Tieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended on the continent.” Churchill thanked God for entrusting the atomic bomb to the Anglo-Saxon people and urged an alliance of the English-speaking nations for the coming “trial of strength.” He did not mention his own role in bringing about the iron curtain through his deal with Stalin in Moscow only 18 months before. Nor did he notice the irony of repeating his declamation about “freedom” and “democracy” two days later in the segregated Jim Crow state of Virginia. Truman acknowledged the Soviet threat, but did not want to tie US interests to the British Empire; Stalin angrily called Churchill a war-mongering racist trying to decide the destiny of the entire world. Map of the Churchill’s “Iron Curtain”
On 22 February 1946, the longest telegram in State Department history was sent to Washington, DC from Moscow by George Kennan, analyzing Stalin’s recent “election speech” (9 February 1946). Keenan explained that the dictator needed to portray the West as evil in order to justify his own control over the Russian people. Because of the leadership’s internal needs, Stalin viewed the West as an enemy and would exert constant pressure to reduce Western power but was in no hurry and had no timetable. Kennan ignored the 18-year history of US aggression against the USSR, blaming the USSR entirely for the growing Cold War. The Long Telegram George Kennan (c. 1948)
Kennan argued that the Soviets would have to “be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” If Americans could be patient and work to ensure the long-run prosperity and stability of their own system, Kennan advised, containment would result in the break-up or gradual mellowing of Soviet power. Consequently, the US should no longer negotiate or compromise with the USSR. After the “long telegram,” Truman discarded views suggesting America had made mistakes leading to the Cold War and views suggesting, because US power was so much greater than Soviet power, the US could safely try to work out a long-term settlement with Stalin, including the possible sharing of atomic secrets. From this point, Truman commanded US officials to depend more on economic and military power, justified by the containment theory, than on diplomacy to deal with the Soviets. To Kennan’s regret, US diplomacy became overmilitarized.
Truman committed “the worst blunder” of his career in June 1946. Without Truman’s authority, his Secretary of State negotiated with the USSR on the international control of atomic energy, forcing Truman to adopt a policy providing for an international body to control the raw materials and the production facilities used for atomic energy. When multi- millionaire Bernard Baruch presented this plan at the UN, he inserted a voting procedure that would give the US control over every action of the body— even over the establishment of atomic power for peaceful purposes within the USSR, which the Soviets rejected. A historic chance to control atomic power had been ruined. The Baruch Plan Bernard Baruch at the UN (Oct. 1946)
On 1 August 1946, Truman signed into law the Atomic Energy Act, outlawing any exchange of atomic-energy information. The world remained embarked on an uncontrolled atomic-arms race. In late 1945, leading scientists had come out against Truman’s policies, publishing the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists each month “to preserve our civilization” as one scholar said, “by scaring men into rationality.” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock (created in 1947) Truman’s Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace gave a speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden on 12 September 1946 in which he condemned the arms race and blamed American as well as Soviet policy. Truman fired Wallace.
Wallace now prepared to challenge Truman for the presidency in 1948. His Progressive Party organized grassroots opposition to Truman’s Cold War policies. Henry Wallace, Albert Einstein, Frank Kingdon, and Paul Robeson Paul Robeson’s “Battle Hymn of ‘48” There’s a fresh breeze a-blowing all across this mighty land, And it sings of peace and progress and prosperity at hand, With security and plenty for the people to command, For the People’s March is on! Glory, glory, hallelujah, glory, glory, hallelujah, Glory, glory, hallelujah, for the People’s March is on! From the village, from the city, all the nation’s voice has roared; Down the rivers, ‘cross the prairies, like a torrent it has poured; We will march with Henry Wallace; we will fight with Gideon’s sword, For the People’s March is on!
Vern Partlow’s “Atomic Talking Blues” (written in 1945; censored in 1950 for being pro-communist) Well, I’m gonna preach you a sermon about Old Man Atom. I don’t men the Adam in the bible datum. I don’t mean the Adam that mother Eve mated. I mean that thing that science liberated. Einstein says he’s scared, And when Einstein’s scared I’m scared. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini! Here’s my moral, plain as day: Old Man Atom is here to stay. He’s gonna hang around, it’s plain to see. But ah, my dearly beloved, are we? We hold this truth to be self-evident: All men may be cremated equal. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, here’s my text! Hiroshima, Nagasaki, lordy, who’ll be next? The science guys from every clime, They all pitched in with overtime. Before they knew it the job was done. They’d hitched up the power of the goshdarn sun. They put a harness on Old Sol splittin’ atoms, While the diplomats was splittin’ hairs. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, what’ll we do? Hiroshima, Nagasaki, they both went up the flue! Then the cartel crowd put on a show To turn back the clock on the UNO, To get a corner on atoms and maybe extinguish Every damned atom that can’t speak English. Down with foreign born atoms! Hiroshima, Nagasaki! But the atom’s international, in spite of hysteria: Flourishes in Utah, also Siberia. And whether you’re white, black, red or brown, The question is this, when you boil it down: To be or not to be? That is the question. Atoms to atoms and dust to dust. If the world makes A-bombs, something’s bound to be bust.
In the 1948 election, Wallace was defeated badly. His loss helped discredit left-liberal analyses of the growing Cold War and led to the American consensus on how to fight that war. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini! No, the answer to it all isn’t military datum Like “Who gits thar fustest with the mostest atoms.” But the people of the world must decide their fate. We gotta stick together or disintegrate. World peace and the atomic golden age or a push-button war? Mass cooperation of mass annihilation? Civilian international control of the atom— one world or none? If you’re gonna split atoms, well, you can’t split ranks. Hiroshima, Nagasaki! It’s up to the people cause the atom don’t care. You can’t fence him in; he’s just like air. He doesn’t give a damn about damn politics Or who got who into what of a fix. All he wants to do is sit around And have his nucleus bombarded by neutrons. Hiroshima, Nagasaki! So if you’re scared of the A-bomb I’ll tell you what to do. You got to get with all the people in the world with you. You got to get together and let out a yell Or the first thing you know we’ll blow this world to…. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Moscow, too! New York, London, Timbuktu! Shanghai, Paris, up the flue! Hiroshima, Nagasaki! We must choose between the brotherhood of man or smithereens. The people of the world must pick out a thesis. Peace in the world of the world in pieces! Woosh!
President Truman’s approval rating had been 87 percent in mid-1945. By late-1946, it had fallen to 32 percent. Truman needed a miracle to win re- election in 1948, and he cynically escalated the Cold War to pull off that miracle— the Truman Doctrine. In February 1947, the British informed Truman they would pull out of Greece and Turkey and could no longer help the Greek government battling domestic left-wing forces or the Turkish government coming under Soviet pressure, which presented Truman with several serious problems. The Truman Doctrine Daily Worker (UK, 7 May 1946)
The repressive Greek regime had been responsible for the assassination of 1,300 left-wing opponents in the previous year, and the Turkish government was just as brutal and corrupt. Stalin could not be made a scapegoat because he had kept his promise to Churchill and had stayed out of Greece. Domestically, the Congress planned to cut taxes and the American electorate mistrusted imperial undertakings, so Truman would have neither the funding nor the support for intervention. Moreover, he had become unpopular throughout the country. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, however, solved all these problems in a few minutes: he would scare hell out of the American people. Secretary of Defense George Marshall, President Harry Truman, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and Secretary of the Treasury John Snyder (18 Oct. 1950)
Acheson postulated the “rotten apple” theory (a precursor of the “domino theory”). Like apples in a barrel infected by one rotten apple, the corruption of Greece would infect Iran and all to the east. The infection would communize Africa, then Europe, until the United States stood alone. Acheson developed this theory into the containment policy announced by Truman on 12 March 1947. The Truman Doctrine divided the world simply into “free peoples” and governments that relied upon “terror and oppression…the suppression of personal freedoms.” There was no third choice, and Americans had to choose a side. Truman never mentioned the USSR. Instead, Truman called for an open-ended commitment to oppose the ideology of communism wherever it appeared in the world. President Truman Addressing Congress (12 Mar. 1947)
Truman demanded and received $250 million for Greece and $150 million for Turkey. Despite US aid, Greek leftists held out until 1950 before the US-backed right-wing government prevailed. Truman’s success in pushing through the containment policy of the Truman Doctrine made him increasingly popular, putting him on the road to a surprising re-election in 1948. Truman followed up with a Red Scare at home, implementing a federal loyalty program to uncover Communists in government, while his attorney general published lists of suspected subversive organizations. The National Security Act of 1947 created the National Military Establishment, which in its turn created the “Establishment.” Truman consolidated the Departments of the Navy and the Army (which had included the Air Force) into the War Department while changing its name to the Department of Defense—just one year before George Orwell wrote 1984. Daily Californian (7 July 1949)
Then the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was created, along with the unprecedented and always more powerful National Security Council (NSC), whose director and members, appointed by the President without further confirmation, are accountable only to him. Truman institutionalized the military-industrial- congressional-educational complex, which began promulgating propaganda to shape public perception of the Cold War, propaganda rarely questioned by the media or by historians. Police Beat Attendees of a Paul Robeson Concert (Peekskill, New York, 4 Sep. 1949) Political Cartoon (provenance unknown)
From the perspective of US leaders, WWII had left Europe (and the world) a field of ruins inhabited by hungry, desperate, and radicalized peoples, ready to listen to the appeal of social revolution and economic policies incompatible with the international system of free enterprise, free trade, and free investment by which the USA and the world were to be saved. Moreover, as foes of fascism, the Communists had emerged from WWII far stronger than at any time in the past, and sometimes as the largest parties and electoral forces of their countries. The terrible harvest of 1946 and the appalling winter of 1946-47 made US leaders even more worried. The Marshall Plan The Hunger Winter in Kiel, Germany (British Occupation Zone, 1946-47)
The danger to Western Europe was not from the USSR but from economic collapse that could turn the population toward socialism, paralyze the US economy, and threaten the entire capitalist system. Indeed, the socialist premier of France warned US officials that without US aid, French Communists would democratically take over France in the next election. The USA responded to this threat of communist democratic electoral victory in Western Europe with the Marshall Plan, a $13 billion aid package designed to revive the economies of Europe under US hegemony, announced by Secretary of State George Marshall on 5 June 1947. Marshall Plan Aid to Europe (1948-1952)
The Marshall Plan was presented as an offer of aid to all of Europe, including those areas under Soviet occupation, but US leaders knew the USSR would never accept conditions placed on the aid. An economist who worked on implementing it, W. W. Rostow, said that the plan was part of an “offensive” which aimed “to strengthen the area still outside Stain’s grasp.” Within weeks, and prompted by the USA, the parties of the right and center forced Communists out of the governments in Italy and France. And in the spring of 1948, the USA poured funds into Italy to prevent Communist and Socialist candidates winning the general election— and began to recruit ex-fascists to an armed underground organization, Gladio (later to come under NATO’s wing), in case they did win. Communist Rally (Rome, Italy, 1948)
The popular forces of Resistance were broken in Europe, in part by force, and the Marshall Plan successfully reconstructed European capitalism: While there were humanitarian and economic justifications for the Marshall Plan, the strategic importance of keeping Western Europe out of the Soviet orbit was its ultimate if not its sole justification. In strategic terms, the Marshall Plan represented a commitment of American resources to the protection of Western Europe against the expansion of Soviet influence and control. The Marshall Plan also laid the basis for the integration of much of the world economy, largely, though not wholly, on American terms. Construction Worker (West Berlin)
Japan was reconstructed as an industrial power with an essentially colonial hinterland. The Japanese understood that Japan was “developed not only as a military base against China and the Soviet Union, but also as an industrial base supporting the counterrevolutionary cause in Southeast Asia.” The Marshall Plan contributed to the escalation of the Cold War. Scott Parrish, a US scholar who studied the Soviet archives in the 1990s, concluded: “Conceived by American policymakers primarily as a defensive measure to stave off economic collapse in Western Europe, [the Marshall Plan] proved indistinguishable to the Soviet leadership from an offense attempt to subvert the security interests of the Soviet Union. The upshot was the Cold War.” Demonstration against the Marshall Plan (Berlin, 1952)
Before the Marshall Plan, Moscow expressly prevented its client regimes and communist movements in Eastern Europe from building states on the model of the USSR. Contrary to the West’s image of societies behind the iron curtain, the states occupied by the Soviets established mixed economies with multi-party parliamentary democracies, specifically distinguished from the single party dictatorship of the proletariat officially in place in the USSR. The only state in Eastern Europe that did impose a single party Communist regime was Tito’s Yugoslavia, which had escaped Stalin’s control. Moreover, after WWII, the USSR had quickly demobilized the Red Army from 12 million men in 1945 to 3 million in 1948. After the Marshall Plan, Stalin reversed these policies. Marchers Carrying Posters of Stalin and Tito (Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1 May 1946)
In moves that paralleled those of Truman, Stalin consolidated his power behind the iron curtain, setting up a Molotov Plan to tie together the Communist bloc, using the Red Army to crack down on anti- communism, and taking control of the police and of the secret police. In Eastern Europe, non- Communist ministers were forced out of office; the social democratic parties were forced to merge with Communist parties regardless of the feelings of their members; Communist Party leaders who might show any degree of independence from Stalin (including virtually anyone who had fought in Spain) were put on trial, imprisoned and often executed. W ł adys ł aw Gomu ł ka in Poland and János Kádár in Hungary were merely thrown into prison. János KádárWladyslaw Gomulka
Traycho Kostov in Bulgaria, László Rajk in Hungary, and Rudolf Slánský in Czechoslovakia were all executed. Stalin was not only keen to remove pro-Western supporters of market capitalism. He was terrified of independent Communist-led regimes emerging— especially after the break with Tito’s Yugoslavia in 1948. A wave of show trials of Eastern European Communist leaders followed, accused, like Tito, of being “imperialist agents” and “fascists.” Jisop Broz Tito Rudolf SlánskýLászló RajkTraycho Kostov
In Germany, the USA, the UK, and France merged their occupation zones, introducing a new currency on 20 June 1948. This had the effect of cutting them off from the Russian zone. By this move, Truman signaled his intent to create a unified, independent West German state. Stalin reacted on 24 June 1948 by imposing a blockade on the movement of goods and food by road and rail to West Berlin, which was an isolated enclave in the midst of its zone. The Berlin Blockade and Airlift German Occupation Zones
Stalin imposed the blockade to force the USA to drop its plans for a West German government. A huge American and British airlift succeeded in keeping the supplies flowing to the 2.2 million West Berliners—and became part of a propaganda campaign about the “defense of freedom.” Western pilots landed almost minute by minute in the tiny West Berlin airfield to deliver 1.6 million tons of food and fuel over the next 320 days. On 12 May 1949, Stalin lifted the blockade. Berlin Airlift Propaganda Campaign (1948) The Berlin Airlift (1948)
The situation in Germany provided the background for a campaign against Communist and left wing activists in the West. In the USA, the Taft Hartley law required trade unions to purge Communist officials; government employees (including teachers and college lecturers) were sacked for refusing to sign “loyalty oaths.” Actors, directors, and writers who would denounce alleged “Communist” contacts were banned from working in Hollywood. Musicians were black- listed. Among the many alleged Communists imprisoned was writer Dashiell Hammett. Charlie Chaplin was banned from entering the USA, and Paul Robeson from leaving it. The Hollywood Ten and Their Families Protest Their Impending Imprisonment (1950)
In a grisly climax, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sent to the electric chair for allegedly passing atomic secrets to Russia. In France and Italy, anti- Communist splits tore the trade union movement apart. In Britain, several major unions banned Communists from holding office. While this was happening in the West, the most sterile form of Stalinist ideology was imposed in Eastern Europe, with prisons and labor camps for anyone who objected. Aleksandr Solzhenitsy after Release from Ekibastuz Gulag Camp (1953) Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (Sep. 1950)
The two blocs were quickly organized into rival military alliances, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact, and were cut off from one another economically. The NATO Treaty was signed 4 April 1949, and member states agreed “to develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack” and “an armed attack against one…shall be considered an armed attack against them all.” NATO “kept the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” The Warsaw Pact, the Moscow- directed military alliance through which the Red Army policed Eastern Europe, was signed on 14 May 1955. The USA banned a massive range of “strategic” exports to the Eastern bloc, while within it Russia insisted on “the unreserved subordination of politics, economics, and ideological activity to the needs of the bloc as a whole.” NATO and the Warsaw Pact
Cold War Military Alliances Founding members of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) 1949 Entry: Greece and Turkey 1952; West Germany 1955; Spain 1982 Founding members of the Warsaw Pact 1955 Entry: East Germany 1956 Withdrawal: Albania 1968
Military expenditure on both sides leapt to heights unprecedented in peacetime, reaching about 20 percent of US national output and up to 40 percent of Russia’s smaller output. The USSR built secret cities to develop an atom bomb to rival the USA, while the USA developed the H-bomb—100 times more destructive than the atom bomb—and maintained a fleet of armed nuclear bombers permanently in flight. It was not long before the combined arsenals of the two superpowers were enough to destroy the world many times over. Yet generals on both sides played war games, assuming the use of these weapons. USA’s B-47 Nuclear Bomber (11 Aug. 1950) USSR’s Hydrogen Bomb (22 Nov. 1955)