GENERAL ARTICLES

"EUROPE WON'T GO COMMUNIST"

L. S. B. SHAPIRO December 1 1945
GENERAL ARTICLES

"EUROPE WON'T GO COMMUNIST"

L. S. B. SHAPIRO December 1 1945

"EUROPE WON'T GO COMMUNIST"

What does Russia want? How far left is Europe really going? Is Allied diplomacy breaking down? Maclean’s Shapiro offers his answers

L. S. B. SHAPIRO

Maclean’s European Correspondent

PARIS (by Wireless)—One of England’s favorite parlor stories during the war tells of three generals who found themselves in the same compartment of a train on the London-Birmingham run. They were on furlough from the front and were bristling with brass, bombast and campaign reminiscences.

As behooves men who find themselves important figures for only a comparatively short period in the otherwise dull career of professional soldiers, they threw their weight around the compartment like an outsize medicine ball— much to the annoyance of an insignificant little civilian, whose black-suited figure sat huddled in a corner chair, and whose indignant eyes blinked at them from under a bowler hat.

For more than an hour the little man held tightly to the handle of his umbrella as the generals outdid one another with stories of their own prowess and importance. When they did notice the little man it was only to eye him disdainfully as their chests bulged with ribbons and rambunctious pride.

Finally the civilian could accept these slights no longer. “My dear sirs,” he uttered in icy tones, “1 am

in the Foreign Office. If it wasn’t for us you wouldn’t be having vour damned war!”

Well, that little man is coming into his own again. In the postwar world today the generals are rapidly falling away from public consciousness and the diplomats are once more taking possession of the centre of the stage. In every capital beribboned khaki and glittering brass are making way for morning coats and striped trousers. After six years the heyday of the diplomat has returned.

Unashamed and unpurged, diplomacy has returned in exactly the same form as the world left it six years ago. It has apparently learned nothing in the six years that have elapsed since force took over its function of trying to make order in the troubled world. The face of the world has changed, and probably the mind of the world’s peoples has altered by reason of the unprecedented strife and destruction. But, despite the physical wreckage and human tragedy which surround its chancelleries and conference rooms, diplomacy seems blithely unconscious that any change has occurred.

If the diplomatic reporter shuts his eyes and uses only his ears he finds himself back in 1938 and 1939. He hears the same timeworn protestations of highminded motivates in public speeches and formal pronouncements, the same hopes beautifully expressed for co-operation among nations toward a goal

of security and prosperity for all. He hears the same excuses for failure to reach agreement in the same old phony terms— “We concur in principle but must refer back to our Governments on certain minor points.”—“Conversations were conducted in a most cordial atmosphere but the agenda was improperly prepared.” And in outer lobbies of conference halls he hears the same diplomats talking oil* record in confession of abject failure, selfishness, stupidity, fear and lively suspicion.

There are two distinct forms of diplomatic activity rampant in Europe. The first in surface diplomacy— the sort of thing you read about in newspapers—the diplomacy of conferences, communiques, banquets, and charming photos of statesmen smiling and armlocked. The other is inside diplomacy—the sort no one talks about publicly but that every student of international affairs knows or can learn about by travelling to certain capitals and mingling in certain circles. Contrary to popular legend, diplomats talk—frankly and freely—but never about themselves; always about the other fellow, and always oft" the record.

This reporter spent two weeks covering the London Conference of Foreign Ministers. But I learned more about it from certain “neutral” diplomats in Paris. I spent a week in Paris, haunting governmental departments, but I learned about France’s motivating purposes from members Continued on page 6

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of the diplomatic corps in Brussels. During the pomp and pageantry of De Gaulle’s state visit to Brussels I got an insight into Russia’s curious foreign policy. And so it goes. Europe’s capitals are articulate centres that whisper truths about others and bellow platitudes about themselves. By travelling long enough and far enough one finds revealed the whole pattern of Europe’s inside diplomacy.

What Happened in London?

IN TERMS, therefore, of inside diplomacy there are three current questions to be answered. First and most important is: Why did the London Con-

ference fail?

in frankest, bluntest possible terms the London Conference failed because the delegates came together presumably to outline the form of European peace, but actually to find out what the other fellow was thinking. Having found out—each to his own satisfaction—that the other fellow has political larceny on his mind the Conference broke up and the delegates went home to report this fact to their respective Governments. Some delegates went so far as to say the Conference was a partial success. In a curious way it was. The Russians found out that we are suspicious of their intentions, and we discovered that they are suspicious of ours. The next conference can therefore begin in an atmosphere of purest suspicion, unadulterated by any haze of idealism. From that point on progress is not only possible—it is absolutely necessary and probably inevitable.

It is interesting to investigate what happened during the four months between San Francisco and London that should have caused such deterioration in relations between Russia and the western nations. One diplomat, speaking off the record, put it thus: “Let us not fool ourselves. All multilateral political decisions during the next five years will be predicated on military power. It is inevitable. After six years of war the world cannot get out of the habit of wielding power while discussing peace. When Germany surrendered the atmosphere was eminently suitable for an orderly arrangement of stable world peace because there was fortunately a delicate balance of military power between East and West—that between Russia and the western Allies. This delicate balance was upset by the sudden emergence of the atomic bomb in the hands of one distinct bloc of powers. In order to create the proper atmosphere for resumption of negotiations it is necessary to restore the balance of military power between Russia and the western Allies. You cannot expect Russia to make concessions concerning her sphere of safety while the United States and Britain assume the role of God Almighty and back it up with the mightiest power on earth.”

This, then, is the story of the London Conference failure as diplomatic insiders see it. Delegates didn’t come together motivated by a new conception of the Brotherhood of Man and Nations. They were motivated by considerations of their own safety and political advantage. The international atmosphere is no less poisonous now than it was in 1939—with this one saving grace: the people of the world are weary of war and recoil from the very thought of it. From this one circumstance stems the hope that pressure from the masses everywhere will force conclusion of a stable world arrangement for peace.

What’s Russia’s Problem?

WHAT does Russia really want? We must go to inside diplomacy to find an unadorned, straightforward answer which in itself is a companion piece to the reasons for the failure of the London Conference.

Some Americans devoutly believe that Russia’s aim is to engulf all Europe, and eventually America, in Communism. Many Britons and Frenchmen are obsessed by the thought that Russia seeks to strangle the Balkans behind a black-out curtain until they scream for admission to the Soviet Union. To veteran diplomats Russia’s methods may be often obscure but her aims are exceedingly clear. One diplomat, whose wisdom is almost legendary, put it this way as he spoke in the privacy of his own drawing-room: “Russia wants and needs absolute security and a long period of peace. To attain this she is being both realistic and ruthless—which are fundamental characteristics of Russian foreign policy. Unlike Britain and America she cannot afford to indulge in the luxury of democratic processes either for herself or for countries in which she has installed puppet governments. Problem may be simply stated: Russia will not give up her strangle hold on the Balkans, Poland and the Baltic states Continued on page 48

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until she is satisfied that the new machinery for world peace will give her security. The western powers insist that no machinery for world peace can be set up until Russia releases her control of these countries. Voilà—a first-class impasse.” The truth is Russia has no real intention of allowing free elections in these pup {jet states, because they would immediately vote anti-Russian governments into power. No state on earth wants to be tied economically to a country with as low living standard as Russia’s. Nor has Russia any intention of withdrawing her troops from these countries, because her soldiers are living off the land they occupy. Russia doesn’t want them back so long as her food and housing situations are critical.

“You say this is unfair, unjust, undemocratic. Maybe so. Russia doesn’t think so. She feels that having been Number One sufferer in the war to free Europe from Fascism she is entitled to sustenance and gratitude from her neighboring countries. Whether or not they want to give these to her, she intends to seize sustenance and demand gratitude and she is doing it.”

Of course it is a ruthless policy, which outrages western sensibilities. But then Russia is ruthless also with herself. Her leaders, who are in essence idealistic men, think nothing of starving several million Russians in order to bring the necessary discipline into the nation’s economy. They think nothing of hard methods. Some of Russia’s best divisions, who have fought in Germany and Czechoslovakia, may not be returned to their homes for 10 years because the Russian leaders fear they’ll spread discontent

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among their families by describing western living conditions. Russia’s economic problems in the next decade are so immense that they pass our understanding, and they require discipline and ruthlessness as only hard Communists can inflict it.

“To believe, therefore, that Russia covets an empire or seeks to export Communism is utter foolishness. She wants peace and security but she is not squeamish about using her power to make her neighbors conform to her economic and political needs. That’s the Russian problem.”

I interrupted to ask whether there wouldn’t be some chance of solving this Gargantuan problem if the Russian viewpoint—which is not without its merits—were frankly enunciated. The diplomat shook his head and smiled. “It could never be enunciated so brutally,” he said. “Frankness is the archenemy of diplomacy as we practice it. And it is not wholly the fault of the diplomats concerned. Public opinion everywhere is too unhealthy, too prejudiced, too much lacking in compassion for any case to be presented frankly. The Russians will continue to claim that they don’t control their puppet governments, and the western Allies will persist in some ineffective form of supervision, and both sides will fan the air until they stumble upon a make-believe settlement.”

“Then what,” I asked, “will be Russia’s future if she wins what she is now demanding and reaching for?”

“If Russia gets peace and security and the full co-operation of her present satellites, including commanding positions in the Mediterranean and Baltic,” he replied, “i:i 20 years she’ll be industrially, militarily and spiritually the most powerful nation on earth. This prospect terrifies a great many western diplomats—and this, too, is a very bright facet of the Russian problem.”

Red Europe?

This leads us to the third question on which Europe’s inside diplomacy has a ready answer. Is Europe going Communist?

The blunt answer is “no.” Of all diplomats with whom I have talked not one harbors the slightest notion that the Soviet political faith will move west of the Oder. In France and eventually Spain there will be very strong Communist representation in the national Government but the mass of the population in these countries is mentally and spiritually unsuited for Communism. Belgium, Holland and Scandinavia are as solidly wedded to the capitalistic system as they were 10 years ago. The Communist bogey, which loomed so large in the confusion and economic disturbance immediately following liberation, has largely been dissipated.

What about Germany and Communism? In Berlin I put this question to two powerful German Communists of 20 years membership in the party. Both hold high positions in the Soviet appointed civilian administration for Berlin.

The first replied: “Communism can never be successful in Germany. I know this because I have preached Communism among the German workers since the last war. Just as oil and water cannot mix, so Communism and the German character cannot mix. The average German is hard and frugal and without imagination. Such a character cannot embrace Communism.”

The second replied: “We Communists are striving to increase our party strength in Germany in the hope that it will be strong enough one day to pull

the German masse« to the left and act as a bulwark against the return of Fascism. But we do not even consider the possibility of a Communist Germany, because the country Is not adaptable to such a system. Germany eventually will go left but never far enough to suit us.”

Europe is going left—it has gone left from the Irish Sea to the Rhine—but every diplomatic listening post testifies that the process will stop at a stage of mild socialism.

At a recent cocktail party given at

the Soviet Embassy in London a diplomat from America expounded to his friends as follows: “The turning

point for western Europe came in the first six months after liberation. if countries like France and Belgium were going to go Communist, that was the time to act. Conditions were desperate for everyone. The masses were armed for revolution as they never were before and never will be again. Communist influence was at flood tide because of the Russian military victories. The legal governments were

i inept and insecure. The surge was to > the left everywhere in the world. The r Communists tried desperately to take 3 advantage of the confusion and disf content. But they didn’t even come 3 close to success, Communism missed 3 its chance because the masses didn’t 3 want it. If they didn’t want it then 1 they won’t in future—at least not in 3 our lifetime.”

He added smilingly, as he reached for e the champagne and caviar, “In some ways it is a pity. The Communists e certainly know how to throw a party.”