From International Socialism (1st series), No.4, Spring 1961, p.28.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Proofread by Anoma Cartwright (April 2008).
The election of Mr Kennedy was hailed with pathetic enthusiasm by those whose politics are without substance. Thus Mr Gaitskell spoke of the new administration’s “purposeful and imaginative policies for peace”. (Guardian 1 January)
On January 30th the wraps came off. The new president delivered his State of the Union message to Congress. It was uncomfortably unambiguous – too much so for some. In Britain, presumably to preserve illusions, the Guardian the following day went to the extraordinary length of excluding any report of Kennedy’s formula on Cuba. This is what the President said:
“Communist agents seeking to exploit that region’s peaceful revolution of hope have established a base on Cuba, only 90 miles from our shores. Our objection with Cuba is not over the people’s drive for a better life. Our objection is to their domination by foreign domestic tyrannies. Cuban social and economic policy can always be negotiated. But communist domination in this hemisphere can never be negotiated.” (Times 31 January)
Since war is the only possible alternative to negotiation, (given that matters are not to be allowed to drift) this is diplomatic notice of intended attack. There can be no question of indifference for “the hopes of the world rest upon us – not simply upon those of us in this Chamber, but upon the peasant in Laos, the fisherman in Nigeria, the exile from Cuba ...” And “each day we draw nearer to the hour of maximum danger.”
Since atomic weapons would destroy erstwhile American property – besides wiping out the Cubans and alienating world opinion – it may be relevant that the ‘peace-loving’ president in the same speech said:
“I have directed prompt action to increase our air lift capacity” in order to “better ensure the ability of our conventional forces to respond with discrimination and speed to any problem at any spot on the globe at a moment’s notice.”
He added; “I have directed prompt action to step up our Polaris submarine programme” and “I have directed prompt action to accelerate our entire missile programme,” and then with sublime but doubtless unintended irony remarked that “we must increase our support of the United Nations.” Over Cuba it is the American ‘initiative’ that the world awaits. The tragedy is that the Cuban dilemma is incapable of resolution. Circumstances have forced the Cuban people to make a revolution before the socialist forces of the world are able to help them effectively. In the long run there is nothing to choose between Kennedy and Khrushchev. “They also serve” who stand up to either of them. The international peace and socialist movements have simply to make the utmost out of their inadequate best in support of the right of self determination of the Cuban people. But if it is American action we anticipate over Cuba, it is Russian initiative we await over Berlin. This may well explain the otherwise inexplicable avoidance of any reference to Berlin in Kennedy’s speech. Only five days earlier Max Freedman had written this ominous paragraph from Washington:
“The most surprising result of the general review of world problems held by Mr Kennedy and his major advisors has been to establish Berlin as the most dangerous flash-point in the world, taking precedence over Congo, Cuba, and Laos. These other problems are either on the rim of a distant continent or else their challenge falls heaviest on this country. By contrast Berlin becomes a challenge to the unity and resolve of the whole NATO community.”
The world thus teeters on two brinks. There is no mistaking the Russian position on Berlin. In the Soviet Note of November 27th 1958 addressed to the American, British and French governments it was stated that Berlin “has now become a dangerous centre of contradictions between the great powers which were allies in the last war. Its role in relations between the Powers can be compared with a slow burning fuse leading to a barrel of gunpowder.” (Keesings – 16517)
Then again on May 20th 1960 in a speech in East Berlin Khruschev said:
“I must warn our partners again that neither the Soviet Union nor the German Democratic Republic intends to wait endlessly for a favourable wind to blow as regards the question of a peace treaty with Germany. Our patience should not be overtaxed. The peace loving countries will not permit the occupation regime in West Berlin to be perpetuated ...” (Keesings – 17473)
In the last few months the Soviet Government have taken a series of steps to harden Russian public opinion against the West. This cannot be accidental. We have no reason to doubt the gravity of Kennedy’s briefing on Berlin by the State Department.
It is apparent that the two Ks are using identical language in flat mutual contradiction. The vast competitive system of Russia and America, both obsessed with rates of growth and world domination, are at each others throats over the barely articulate body of humanity. We who aspire to be articulate as part of humanity, and on behalf of it, have to find the answers quickly and devise the means of putting immense popular pressure behind them. The NATO-Warsaw Treaty incubus on Europe has to go, and in dispatching it the strength and experience of the European peace and Labour movements are such that our responsibility here, as for world peace generally, can be devolved upon none. From western Europe we must start sending the Russo-American brinksmen about their business and in so doing call in the common people of Russia and America as our allies.
Last updated on 3.5.2008