«Winchester, UK Washington, USA First published by Zero Books, 2012 Zero Books is an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd., Laurel House, Station ...»
I am tired of government being flouted, vilified and now I want you men who are my comrades-in-arms, you men who fought battles to save the nation just as I did twentyfive years ago, to come along with me and eliminate the Lewises, the Whitneys, the Johnstons, the Communist Bridges and the Russian senators and representatives … Let’s put transportation and production back to work, hang a few traitors, make our country safe for democracy, tell Russia where to get off.21 Traitors were not hung, but the ‘atomic spies’ Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sent to the electric chair. Truman attacked the Labour Unions, too, using the war-time legislation to seize control of strike-bound industries: ‘In one year he had seized the coal mines twice; he had seized 134 meat packing plants, he had seized twenty-one tugboats; he had seized the facilities of twenty-six oil producing and refining companies; he had seized the Great Lakes Towing Company.’ 22 It was in this frame of mind that President Truman re-motivated US policy globally with
his own ‘Truman Doctrine’ of 12 March 1947:
I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.
It was a triumph of hypocrisy. For the sake of ‘free peoples … work[ing] out their own destinies in their own way’ the United States would intervene extensively in the internal affairs of other countries, through economic blackmail, clandestine subversion and military intervention. Through Truman’s cold war glasses though, the ‘armed minorities’ and outsiders seeking to pressure and subjugate were not the United States and its allies, but those who opposed them. Popular nationalist or labour-based movements that were unwilling to dance to Washington’s tune were characterised as ‘communists’, whether they were or were not. Identifying all opposition with the authoritarian regimes in the east was a way of parcelling up all America’s fears. Anti-communism was a political motivation for US involvement in the wider world. It was remarkably similar to the Axis’ appeal for an AntiComintern Front and its popular forms of the Anti-Bolshevik League. Now that the Nazis were out of the picture, conservatives in the European governments and in Washington were free to take up the anti-communist cause, rallying the same deep-rooted fears of social change and working class militancy.
The anti-communist crusade, though, was not only being rallied in Washington. West European elites were deeply anxious about their future. Paul Henri Spaak told the Belgian parliament in 1951 that The Europe of which we are speaking is a Europe which we have allowed to become grossly mutilated. Poland, Hungary, the Balkan countries, Eastern German – all these have gone. It is a Europe against which Asia and Africa have risen in revolt.
The largest among us [Britain] is at this moment being defied in Iran and Egypt. It is a Europe which for the last five years has been living in fear of the Russians and on the charity of the Americans.23 European elite fears’ centred on the external threats of the eastern bloc and of third world nationalism, and the anxiety that once again the United States would withdraw from Europe.
European statesmen were looking at ways to motivate a continuation of the alliance after the war. No longer Prime Minister, Winston Churchill chose Fulton, Missouri to give a speech outlining the world’s coming challenge. Churchill picked up a phrase of Joseph Goebbels to scare his audience about the ‘iron curtain descending across Europe’. Taking up the Nazi baton of anti-Communism was audacious, considering that it was Churchill who had proposed the division of Europe into spheres of influence in the West, and in the east to Stalin, at Yalta. But West Europeans, Britain especially, needed an ideological projection of western interests that would keep America in Europe, just as Washington did. As long as America accepted the role of the world’s policeman, then Britain could have a role for itself as the willing lieutenant. More, in that Britain had extensive military bases, personnel and experience, it could, if America was willing to pay, continue to punch above its weight.
The military expression of the new Cold War was the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Its first Secretary General was Britain’s wartime chief of staff Sir Hastings Ismay.
NATO was both a continuation of wartime policy, in that it motivated US involvement in West Europe, but also a transformation, in that the enemy was now the former ally, the Soviet Union, and the ally the former enemy, Germany. More than an Atlantic alliance, NATO was the means by which Germany’s sovereignty was restored – but within a subordinate hierarchy. The West German authorities in Bonn were glad to be finally recognised as a sovereign power and therefore willing to accept pointedly disadvantageous terms.
Sovereignty was only recognised for West Germany – in other words the Bonn regime had to accept as a fait accompli the division of the country. American and British bases were sited in Germany, and West Germany was allowed to rearm only within the context of the NATO command structure. The external threat motivated internal discipline among the powers, under US leadership. NATO Secreatary General Ismay summed up the triple meaning of NATO with the saying that NATO was there ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down’. Keeping the Russians out was ostensible reason for the alliance, its ideological motivation; keeping the Americans in as sponsors of capitalist stabilisation was what West European elites needed; keeping the Germans down was what the US (and Britain) needed from the alliance, the subordination of European rivals in the Great Power game.
The Cold War policy did not just work at the interstate level. It assumed, as Cabot Lodge explained, extensive intervention into the internal affairs of European states. America helped to reconstruct political institutions along lines that corresponded to US ideals.
The allied administration oversaw German reconstruction on the basis that popular sovereignty was a potential danger, and helped create political institutions in the West that introduced many of what America constitutional theorists called ‘checks and balances’ to limit the ‘tyranny of democracy’. ‘Germany was explicitly created as a wherhafte Demokratie (defensive democracy), one with structures designed to “protect the Germans from themselves”’.24 The important structures were the German Constitutional Court, the Presidency, The Bundestag, the Länder and the Bundesbank. The Constitutional Court is part of the judiciary and stands above any elected institution with powers to strike down legislation passed by the Bundestag. ‘The German Constitutional Court does serve as a formidable check on governmental action’ explains political scientist Lisa Conant.25 It was the Constitutional Court that outlawed the Communist Party in Germany (1956), and later sanctioned laws against radical civil servants (the Anti-Radical Decree of 1972). The Bundesbank (as it is now called) is also independent. Wilhelm Vocke, first president of what was then known as the Bank Deutscher Länder set out the case in 1948: ‘The independence of the Bank and its leadership is an absolute necessity’ he said. ‘Only when independence is guaranteed on all sides will the central bank be able to earn that asset which is more important than popularity and applause … trust at home and abroad’.26 On the model of the American Federal Reserve, the independent Bundesbank would put finance policy outside the reach of politicians and in the hands of economists committed to tight fiscal policy (‘trust at home and abroad’). Regional political power is devolved among the Länder. The Presidency is apolitical. The German polity exemplifies Cold War liberalism and its distrust of popular democracy.
Reorganising Europe’s Trade Union movement America’s trade union leaders played a special role in US Cold War diplomacy. US Supreme Court Justice William Douglas told the Congress of Industrial Organisations in 1948, about the ‘challenges that should make labor and active participant in international affairs’.
Labor is peculiarly qualified to bridge a gap that has been growing between the United States and Europe. It is from the lips of Labor that Europe can most readily learn how democracy and freedom can be peacefully achieved in a framework of government.27 It might seem surprising that labour leaders should lend themselves to a Cold War anticommunist campaign. But the leaders of both the American Federation of Labor, and of the Congress of Industrial Organisations were steeled in campaigns against communists, and other radical militants in their own unions. For them, the struggle against communism in Europe was just an extension of the struggle against the militants in their own unions. As office holders, they valued orderly relations with management, and identified with those European officials trying to stave of militancy over there. With the support of the AF of L Jay Lovestone had set up a Free Trade Union Committee in 1944 with the goal of fighting communism in trade unions across the world.
In the US administration in Germany, union figures like Sidney Hillman and Jay Lovestone advised Manpower Division on the best way to stop the emergence of a radical labour movement. US administration Labor Relations director Mortimer Wolf had been an attorney at the National Labor Relations Board. Wolf was hostile towards German Socialists who ‘elevate immediate social and economic reform in Germany above reparations, and demand treatment of the Germans as a liberated, rather than occupied people’.28 But Wolf was sidelined accused of being too sympathetic to the communists. Jay Lovestone thought that it was only by building up a union movement in the US Zone that the communists in the Soviet zone could be stopped. The AFL and CIO advisors came up with an interesting way of re-organising the German unions. They chose a relatively strong organisation at the factory floor, but weak integration across industry. Under the ‘co-determination’ (mitbestimmung) laws workplace representatives were encouraged to sit on management boards. That meant that workers’ representatives were focused primarily on the production process, and less on national questions. Wage bargaining would be local rather than national. Co-determination is often seen as a specifically German development, but it was in fact drawn from the US union leaders’ experience of organising war production. Under war production, for example, ‘when an employer did not produce efficiently, the’ International Ladies Garment Workers ‘union’s engineering department had a right to examine his methods and recommend improvements in the manufacture of garments’.29 It was Jay Lovestone, who brokered this agreement.
Irving Brown of Lovestone’s Free Trade Union Committee landed in Paris in November 1945 and asked for $100,000 funds so that he could help split the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), Europe’s largest trade union body. Brown used the money to bankroll a right-wing group in the CGT led by Léon Jouhaux and Robert Brotherau. The group called itself Force Ouvrière and was set on fighting for control of the CGT, which Brown thought was unrealistic, but worth supporting all the same because it would lead to a split.
Lovestone backed Brown’s plan saying that ‘France is the number one country in Europe from the point of view of saving the Western labor movement from totalitarian control’.30 It was Marshall Aid that fomented the split.
On 27 June 1947 Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov came to Paris to talk to Georges Bidault and Ernest Bevin, his French and British counterparts, about how Marshall Aid might work, the Soviet Union at that time not sure what its policy should be. US Ambassador to France Caffery made it clear that ‘if the Communists get back into the government, France won’t get a dollar from America’.31 Seeing it turned into a crowbar to lever them out of West European ministries, the Moscow communists made it clear that communists worldwide ought to oppose Marshall Aid. It was a self-defeating policy. In 1947 the PCF, rightly, launched strikes against austerity measures – but wrapped them up in a pose of hostility to Marshall Aid that made little sense to most people. The communist delegates on the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), National Committee committed the unions to the view that Marshall Aid was ‘part of a plan of subjugation of the world by the capitalist American trusts and preparation of a new world war’.32 French communists struck out the docks that were bringing American food and goods to an impoverished country. This was the strike that was broken with the use of the Corsican mob. It was Irving Brown who struck the deal with the Corsican Pierre Ferri-Pisani, a drug smuggler and friend of mobleader Antoine Guerini, to terrorise the strikers. The wider public, though, could hardly sympathise with a strike against landing aid in a hungry France. The government fell, the communists lost their seats in the cabinet, and most destructive of all, the trade unions were divided between a pro-communist CGT and a more right wing Force Ouvrière that was launched at a special conference on 18 December 1947. Jouhaux saw Ambassador Caffery the following week and said ‘it would be helpful if the Americans did not claim they caused the split from the CGT’, hoping to silence Brown’s boasts. Caffery cabled Washington saying that the split was ‘potentially the most important political event since the liberation of France’. The US State Department sent $28,000 dollars to help, and Caffery sent a truckload of second hand typewriters.33
The original ‘Third Way’ and the myth of the postwar ‘SocialRevolution’
In 1949 Richard Crossman told parliament that ‘we have begun to construct during the last four years the beginning of a permanent democratic socialist system’.34 The myth that the British labour government, and indeed west European post-war governments had inaugurated a social revolution is built on the argument that, unlike their American counterparts, the Europeans had erected a welfare safety net of socialised medicine, unemployment benefits and nationalised industries.