Mr. Truman’s Hammer
The Truman Doctrine scares Europeans, says Shapiro — used wisely, it means peace; bungled, it could hasten war
L. S. B. SHAPIRO
Maclean's European Correspondent
ROME—In the United States, Canada and Great Britain, the intricate framework of bundies-for-democracy known as the Truman Doctrine is regarded mainly as an instrument of foreign policy. It is a program designed to promote the safety of the nation fostering it, and to propagate that nation’s ideals and enhance its trade with other nations. As such it has no immediate effect, on the way of life of the average American, Canadian or Britisher. It’s like a 24th of May rocket shot into the air spectacularly and then forgotten.
To Europeans the Truman Doctrine is far more than a declaration of foreign policy. It is a declaration of war, diplomatic war against the Soviet Union—an acceptance by the United States of the Soviet Union’s challenge to diplomatic war. The war is being fought on European soil. Certain selected countries are marked as the main battlefields. The war affects the lives of every man, woman and child in these countries,
To average Europeans, therefore, the Truman Doctrine is very real, very frightening. Whether they approve or disapprove it, they dread the prospect of its natural development. For it has brought a new kind of war into their weary hearts and their impoverished households.
It’s important for Americans to realize this. They have shot a rocket into the skies—a fine, spectacular impersonal rocket which has disappeared from sight somewhere over the Atlantic. But its sparks are falling on Europe, and where they are falling there are powder kegs strewn, and the people are watching grimly, and praying.
A few days ago, on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean at Capri, an elder statesman of Italy pondered the peace that shone from the heavens and made highlights on the crystalline green of the sea. Nature was in her most placid mood. Even the seabed, clearly visible from the terrace, seemed to slumber under the summer sun.
The old gentleman nodded his head gently and sadly. His eyes were transfixed by the lovely color of the water. At length he mused, “The Doctrine can be a magnificent force for good or for evil. I often wonder to myself whether the people of America realize its power. It is like the secret of atomic energy. It can be a great blessing to civilization, or it can be its doom. It can be a constructive force if properly applied, or if it is grossly handled it can be like a push-button war— the Americans push a button, or sign a cheque, and war comes to Europe. They must be very careful how they put the Doctrine into action.”
It is urgent that Americans possess a full and sensitive conception of the power of their chequebook and of their pronouncements of state. It is urgent, and yet it is difficult, because the Americans have become the world’s leading power with a fabulous suddenness. I don’t think they quite realize the supremacy of their position. They regard the Soviet Union as their military rival. And yet military power is a minor factor in the supremacy of Americans. The major factor is their wealth and productive capacity. They are the only nation in the world capable of bringing about the -conomic recovery of humanity, a task in which Russia does not and cannot figure. They are saddled with a responsibility which has never before fallen to any nation in history, not even Great Britain in its gaudiest and most affluent period, because never before have world poverty and a single nation’s wealth made so sharp a confluence with the stream of history.
Delicate Touch Needed
THE greatest immediate danger to European peace lies in the way the Americans use the Truman Doctrine as an instrument of foreign policy. If the operation is faulty—if the Doctrine is wielded as a big stick in an attempt to belabor the Europeans into a so-called American sphere of influence, if it is used in a bare effort to bribe Europeans to turn against Communism—it will fail. And its failure will hasten a third world war.
On the other hand, if it is sensitively and honestly used, it can make possible a Europe of sufficient stability to give the world a reasonable chance of outlawing war as far into the future as we dare to envision.
How has it operated thus far?
A short answer must be that the Doctrine was clumsily handled at its inception, and although Washington has hastened to correct the initial mistakes (by President Truman’s Ottawa speech and by previous pronouncements by Dean Acheson and Secretary of State Marshall) it remains too rough an instrument for the delicate operation „on which it is being used.
Almost every European diplomat with whom I have spoken has privately expressed shock at the language of the original Truman speech which announced the Doctrine, and with the manner in which the Doctrine was initially wielded.
The Doctrine, as it was originally announced and operated, was a clear invitation to European peoples to divide themselves into anti-Communist and proCommunist camps. This invitation immediately attracted the forces of reaction and Fascism to the side of the American policy, and it left the great masses of Europeans in the dilemma of having to join with their enemies of the extreme Right, or to give their support to their doubtful friends of the extreme Left.
Less clumsily handled, the Doctrine could have been the rallying point for the European masses who hate the oppression of their late masters, the reactionaries, and who fear the totalitarianism of the Communists. This was manifestly the purpose of the Doctrine, but Washington failed initially to make clear the ideals which it sought to promote.
Let us see how the impact of the Doctrine reacted on the remnants of Fascism in Italy.
On May Day Italy was shocked by the now famous Sicily massacre. In a community of subburban Palermo the local Communist, party organized a parade and picnic for its members on the labor holiday. Some 300 men, women and children marched out of town into the hilly countryside in midafternoon, and they had almost reached their appointed place for speechmaking and picnicking when machine guns spattered down on them from behind a clump of bushes overlooking the road. For 10 minutes the machine guns blazed upon the panic-stricken people. When the shooting stopped, eight persons, including three women and a child, lay dead in the ditches. The screams of 32 wounded filled the bright afternoon.
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In Rome the coalition De Gasperi Government was shocked. Interior Minister Mario Scelba ordered a fullscale enquiry and rushed his best investigators to the scene. Palermo and the surrounding country were combed for the murderers. Within two days 124 suspects were rounded up. After many days of questioning four men were detained as likely suspects.
Who were the men? It was said they were common bandits of the type for
which Sicily has become infamous They were sullen. They said nothing.
But the Italian people were not so much concerned with their guilt or innocence. The big question was, and still is: Who ordered the massacre? Who arranged it? What forces were at work?
There have been no official answers to these questions. There probably never will be. The men who are proved guilty will be sentenced to long prison : terms—capital punishment has been abolished in Italy—and the big question will persist: What prompted this ghastly crime?
This correspondent has learned that the keenest investigators on the scene incline to the following theory:
The massacre was ordered by one or more large landowners in Sicily for the express purpose of inciting Communist violence in the hope that American and British garrisons in Italy would be rushed into the island to fight the Communists and cripple the movement.
This may be difficult for readers on the western side of the Atlantic to believe, but in this land it is easily the most likely of all possible theories on the mystery. The medieval minds of some landowners, grossly misinterpretj ing the Truman Doctrine and British action in Greece, operate along these lines.
The incident points up the most glaring weakness of the Truman Doctrine; it has been widely interpreted in Europe as being a bald anti-Communist policy with no embellishments and no refinements.
Not Ready for a Showdown
The fact is that the United States is in no position to play a showdown game with the Soviet Union among the European states. Democracy cannot operate like Communism. American foreign policy does not have the machinery to compete with the Comintern.
Proof of this lies in what has happened in Europe since the GrecoTurkish aid program marked the opening of the Doctrine’s operations. In France Prime Minister Ramadier dismissed the Communists from his Government and Italy’s De Gasperi followed suit after a series of intricate but only mildly camouflaged manoeuvres. In both countries the Communists still retain their full memberships, their wide influence with the voters, and their opportunities of winning increased support in forthcoming elections.
So much for the achievements of the Doctrine. On the debit side of the ledger we have the Soviet countermoves. Hungary has been lost completely to the ranks of ,the democracies. Romania and Bulgaria are all but lost. At this writing Czechoslovakia is in grave danger of a Communist coup. It cannot be said that the Truman Doctrine has advanced the cause of democracy in Europe. The net result is heavily in favor of the Communists who play to no rules and know no half measures.
What has happened thus far is merely preliminary to the great test which will decide whether Communist influence is halted at the line of the iron curtain or sweeps across western Europe to the English Channel.
The main diplomatic battlefield looms more and more clearly as Italy. This fact is recognized by every foreign mission in Rome, and is readily admitted by the three men who are principally engaged in the struggle which will determine whether Italy becomes the Russian gateway into western Europe. These three men are Alcide do Gasperi, the Christian Democrat party leader and Prime Minister at the time of writing; Palmiro Togliatti, chief of Italian Communists; and Pope Pius.
The struggle will be hard because the stakes are high. An Italy dominated by Togliatti’s Communist Party would place Russian influence astride the Mediterranean; it would make the Adriatic a Communist lake, and certainly cancel out the neutrality of
the Free Territory of Trieste; it would place Greece, Turkey and the whole Middle East in an untenable position so far as resisting Russian influence is concerned; and it would give the dominant Communists a clear line into weakened and disunited France.
This fateful struggle is now beginning and will continue during the next six or eight months.
No one realizes the significance of the struggle'for control of Italy more clearly than Togliatti. The 53-year-old heavy-set Communist leader may or may not receive political guidance from Moscow; whether he does makes no real difference. He knows the Kremlin’s political mind and aims as keenly as though he were sitting at Stalin’s elbow. For 18 years of his 20-year exile from Fascist Italy he was a leading member of the Comintern with headquarters in Moscow, and he returned to Italy in 1944 with the reputation of being the shrewdest and most trusted of Stalin’s foreign lieutenants.
His activity in Italy since 1944 has underlined his training and his shrewdness. In three years he has promoted Italy’s scattered Communist cells into a major party numbering two and a half million registered members— the biggest Communist party outside Russia. He has the unqualified support of the left-wing section of the Italian Socialist party which gives him another 600,000 last-ditch followers.
It is estimated that Togliatti can today lay claim to 30% of the Italian vote in a free election, and he is confident that the election scheduled for early 1948 will make the Communists the dominant parliamentary party and perhaps give them a clear majority over all other parties.
He is far and away the shrewdest politician in Italy. Even his enemies grant him this. He has given the Italian Communist party a respectability it enjoys in no other European democracy. Recognizing the deep Catholic fervor of the Italian masses, he threw his support to the confirmation of the Lateran Pacts, the treaties under which Mussolini came to terms with the Vatican in 1929. . This move confused some of his close followers, but gained him added popular favor. He has carefully nurtured his professed belief in the democratic process. He has carefully balanced his friendship for Tito’s regime with the nationalism of the Italian people on the question of ceding territory to Yugoslavia. He has held his firebrands in check and has thrown the limelight on the respected intellectuals among his followers. He has succeeded in keeping secret the collection of arms of which it is reported his party has huge quantities. He is a smart operator.
De Gasperi, who is now carrying the ball for the Truman Doctrine, is an honest middle-of-the-roader, politically weak, sympathetic to the masses but
unwilling to tighten the checkrein on the vested interests. He has no popular appeal, and in the past has depended on the Catholic Church to make votes for him. His record as an anti-Fascist is impeccable. His Christian Democratic party and its splinter parties can today depend on perhaps 35% of the Italian vote.
This, then, is the situation in Italy as the Truman Doctrine begins to operate on the side of Premier De Gasperi.
Togliatti has in his favor political wisdom, immense personal appeal for the masses and glaring economic inequalities which have thus far defied correction. De Gasperi has control of the Government, support of Pope Pius and the promise of economic aid under the Truman Doctrine.
What is likely to happen? It all depends on the extent and the promptness of American aid, the shrewdness with which it is administered, and the spirit in which it is given. Here is the great test of the Doctrine. Indeed, the fate of the Doctrine and the fate of Europe hang on the result.
If American economic aid is given in the guise of a bribe to the Italian people to turn their faces from Communism, then, in my opinion, it will fail. The Italian masses are hungry—but they have been hungry a long time. They will not exchange their right to permanent economic reform for a bit of beef and a crust of bread. Togliatti has already laid a solid foundation among the masses for a rejection of what he calls Yankee-dollar imperialism.
If American economic aid is closely tied up with the few big industrialists and landowners, the Doctrine will fail. The smell of Fascism hangs too heavily over the Italian industrialists and the landowners.
In order to succeed in Italy, the Truman Doctrine must operate nonpolitically. American economic aid must be given freely and promptly, and with the fullest guarantees that it will be used to raise the standard of living of the people. It must be proffered in the spirit of utter faith that the Italian masses, given half a chance to earn a decent living for themselves and to win a future for their families, will of themselves reject Communism—even Togliatti’s currently “respectable” brand of Communism—in favor of a working democracy.
That is the only way the Doctrine can operate successfully, in Italy and in France and other European countries where a semblance of democracy still obtains.
For students of European politics the byword must be: Watch Italy during the remainder of 1947. For as Italy goes, so goes all of western Europe. ★