2. East-West Agreement

East-West Agreement

"...From the first moment of victory, mistrust must be directed no longer against the conquered reactionary parties, but against the workers' previous allies, against the party that wishes to exploit the common victory for itself alone... The workers must put themselves at the command not of the State authority but of the revolutionary community councils which the workers will have managed to get adopted... Arms and ammunition must not be surrendered on any pretext."
K. Marx & F. Engels. Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850).

Prior to 1939, all the powerful capitalist nations, including Hitler's Germany, were agreed that the USSR was the real villain on the stage of history. Then the nature of their economies led them into war with one another. In 1941 Hitler invaded Russia and the western capitalist 'democracies' contracted a union with the 'villain', with the USSR. But this was no love-match. It was a marriage of expediency, coloured by the fond hope that Russia and Germany would mutually annihilate one another. Strategy was planned towards this end. But this strategy failed. The grandiose dreams of the rulers of Britain and America of emerging from the war as undisputed masters of the world did not materialise. They had reckoned without the heroic resistance of the Russian people against German fascism.

Russia paid a staggering price. The Nazi invaders caused incalculable damage to buildings and to machinery. In the early months of the war, when the Red Army was in retreat, a 'scorched earth' policy was carried out. Millions of Russians gave all they had - their very lives. Yet while the battles of World War II were still being fought the causes of World War III were already maturing.

Russia emerged from the war the second most powerful nation in the world. In throwing back the German army to the borders of the Elbe, it had acquired half a continent. These were spoils indeed and hardly the outcome bargained for by the West. Their failure to contain 'the red menace' led to near panic in their ranks.

Veiled threats were made. Two hundred thousand people were murdered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atom bombs. The real purpose of this crime was to warn Russia's rulers to show them there would be no limit to the ruthlessness [1] of the Western ruling classes should they feel their interests threatened. But the Western powers were not strong enough to challenge the situation in Europe itself. They were in no position to dispute the established fact. Eastern Europe belonged to the USSR 'by virtue of conquest'.

Formal recognition of the new reality was given at the Yalta Conference, in February 1945. Those parts of Europe 'liberated' by the Red Army (the satellite states) would remain in the Russian sphere of influence. Western Europe and Greece would be left to Stalin's Western 'allies'. Persia was also recognised as being within the 'Western' sphere. During the war the Red Army had 'liberated' northern Persia. After hostilities ended, it withdrew.

With the defeat of Nazi Germany, the whole of Europe was seething for revolutionary change. Nothing like it had been felt since 1917. We shall later see how the Russian leaders maintained 'order' in their own sphere of influence in the face of this proletarian threat to their Power. In the West, the communist parties (and in some cases, the social-democratic parties) helped the ruling classes maintain their kind of order.

In FRANCE, considerable power was in the hands of Resistance groups. These were dominated by 'communists' and 'socialists'. All that really stood between the French workers and effective power were a few shaky bayonets in the hands of British and American soldiers, most of whom only wanted to go home.

On the instructions of the Communist leaders, the Resistance groups handed over their arms to the so-called National Liberation Government headed by General de Gaulle. On January 21, 1945, Maurice Thorez, General Secretary of the French Communist Party, announced that the Patriotic Militia had served well against the Nazis. But now, he said, the situation had changed. "Public security should be assured by a regular police force. Local Committees of Liberation should not substitute themselves for the local governments." [2] His statements and actions closely resembled those of General de Gaulle.

The Communist Party was instructed to continue the campaign of wartime 'unity'. They abandoned the class struggle. They preached the virtues of production. They denounced workers defending their wages and conditions. "The strike", they said, "was the weapon of the trusts". On November 17, 1945, they entered the coalition government formed by General de Gaulle. Thorez was one of the five Communist leaders in a cabinet of twenty-two members. He was appointed Minister of State.

The French Communist Party's programme in 1945 can be summarised as follows: (a) control of the trusts; (b) liberty of conscience, press and association; (c) the right to work and leisure; (d) social security for workers to be provided by the state; (e) aid to the peasants through the syndicates and co-ops. Hardly the programme of a revolutionary party! No liberal-minded Tory would have had qualms about supporting it.

In ITALY, the Communist leaders propped up the old ruling class in much the same way. The Communist Party, of which Togliatti was the General Secretary, had representatives in the governments of Bonomi and of Marshal Badoglio. They enthusiastically protected the capitalist state against revolution. The New York Times in a report during September 1944, stated: "A good many Italian fascists seek refuge in the Communist Party. Communists take over the party headquarters and institutions of the former regime like the Balila. etc.. thereby soothing the transition from the old to the new."

Nor were the 'communists' deterred when unable to enter bourgeois coalition governments. Indeed, they helped them as much as possible by calling on the masses to support these wartime alliances. Prior to the General Election of 1945, the British Communist Party declared itself in favour of a coalition government with 'progressive' Tories, like Eden and Churchill!

In EASTERN EUROPE, as we shall see, the Communists were able to gain complete control. This they did by appointing Communist ministers to take charge of the state security forces via the Ministries of the Interior. But in the West (France, Italy and Belgium) although the Communists participated in national governments [3] the Ministry of the Interior was never within their grasp. In France, Duclos reached out for this post. But the bid failed. It did not have the backing of the Red Army.

Why did these Communist Parties act in this way? What social interests did they represent? Had they ceased to be true parties of the working class? The Hungarian events of 1956 were to give clear-cut answers to these questions. But already the answers were being hinted at. The Communist leaders knew that if the state machines in Western Europe were to collapse, social revolution would certainly follow. And without the backing of the Red Army, the Communists would have been powerless to control the workers.[4] While Communists have from time to time proclaimed 'all power to the workers!' they always added - if only under their breath ' ... under the leadership of the Communist Party'. 'Under' is the operative word. How far under was demonstrated in Eastern Europe, from 1944 on. There they did have the Red Army.