Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 49 Number 6, April 13, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Origins of NATO

Conditions at the Time of NATO's Founding

The period that immediately followed the end of World War II, a time the whole world was celebrating the defeat, through so much sacrifice, of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and militarist Japan, was imbued with the forward march of humanity which had hoisted the banner of peace, freedom and democracy.

The need of the time was to carry out all the decisions which had been taken by the Allied powers at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences in 1945 to carry out the "four Ds": denazification of Germany; demilitarisation of the former Nazi Wehrmacht (armed forces); democratisation, including the formation of political parties and trade unions, freedom of speech, of the press and religion; and decentralisation of the German state into a federal system, which included establishing a new basis for Germany's economy, as well as other post-war tasks in Europe which presented themselves at that time.

The need to preserve the peace and interdict the dangers posed by imperialism was astutely grasped by the leader of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, Joseph Stalin. J V Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and then Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1941 when he led the Soviet Union, Red Army and partisans in achieving that victory. He summed up the experience and repeatedly emphasised the need to implement the agreements for the post-war arrangements so as to preserve the peace. As he assessed the situation, he warned the peoples of the Soviet Union and People's Democracies and the entire world of the threats to peace as a result of the betrayal of those agreements on the part of the Anglo-American imperialists.

Stalin on Preserving the Peace and Dangers from Imperialism, 1945-1952

On May 9, 1945, Stalin hailed the victory over Hitlerite fascism in a broadcast to the Soviet people. Henceforth, he said, the great banner of the peoples and peace among peoples will fly over Europe.[1] In September in a further address, he stated that "now we can say that the conditions for peace all over the world have been gained".[2]

Early in the following year he spoke several times of the origins and character of the Second World War. He explained that the capitalist system of world economy harbours within itself elements of general crises and armed conflicts. The result is a splitting of the capitalist world into two hostile camps and war between them. The Second World War had been prepared by international reaction and started by the main fascist powers. They had declared for all to hear that they were out for world domination and the establishment of a fascist regime throughout the world. They had showed that they were prepared to carry out their threat of enslaving all the freedom-loving nations. Thus, unlike the First World War, the Second World War against the Axis states from the very outset assumed the character of an anti-fascist war, a war of liberation, one aim of which was also the restoration of democratic liberties. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war against the Axis states could only enhance, he argued, and indeed did enhance, the anti-fascist and liberation character of the Second World War.[3]

In his May 1 address in 1946, Stalin pointed out that the smashing of fascism had led to a profound growth of the democratic movement of the people. People who want to change their lives take the fate of their state into their own hands, he said; they erect a democratic order and lead a struggle against the reactionary powers, against what he termed "the arsonists of a new war". The Soviet Union, he declared, was in the vanguard of this movement. It would continue its politics of peace and security, equality and friendship of the peoples. At the same time, he warned, the armed forces of the Soviet Union must be on guard, to protect the peace.[4]

Soviet cartoon of Churchill's Iron Curtain speech

First among these "arsonists", he maintained, was Winston Churchill. In March 1946 at Fulton, Missouri, Churchill had given his infamous Iron Curtain speech. Several days later, Stalin, in an interview with Pravda, stated that Churchill's speech had unquestionably prejudiced the cause of peace and security. He had taken the stand of the warmongers, and was not alone. He was calling for war on the Soviet Union. Stalin likened Churchill to Hitler and his friends, in setting out to unleash a war backed by a race theory - in Churchill's case, calling upon the English-speaking peoples to decide and rule over the destiny of the world. He denounced Churchill's disregard of solemn Anglo-Soviet treaties. He ridiculed Churchill's talk of the Soviet Union's "expansionist tendencies" and the subservience of the People's Democracies, while pointing out his support for former Nazi collaborators. He said that Churchill's correct observation of the growing influence of the Communists in Europe was a logical result of their fearless and self-sacrificing fight against the fascist regimes. He ridiculed too Churchill's patronising reference to "plain people from little homes", pointing out that these plain people in Britain had just swept Churchill out of office! He ended by asserting that should Churchill succeed in launching war against the Soviet Union - not probable because millions of "plain people" stood guard over the cause of peace - he would be thrashed as surely as he was when he led the intervention of 14 states against Russia in 1919-20.[5]

Later that month, questioned by an Associated Press correspondent about safeguarding world peace, Stalin replied that he attached great importance to the UN as a serious instrument for maintaining peace and international security. He did not believe nations or armies sought a new war, but that certain political groups engaged in propaganda for a new war in order to sow seeds of dissension and uncertainty. He went on to say that the public and ruling circles in the freedom-loving countries should organise widespread counter-propaganda against the propagandists of a new war, that not a single utterance should go without rebuff.[6]

Stalin expanded on this theme later in 1946 in an interview with a Sunday Times correspondent. He said that he did not believe that there was a danger of a new war. The clamour about it was aimed to scare naive opponents and win concessions from them, to obstruct reductions in arms production, and to hinder troop demobilisation to prevent a rapid growth in unemployment. When asked about "capitalist encirclement" of the Soviet Union, he said this could not be done, even if desired. He called for a demilitarised and democratised Germany, as one of the most important guarantees of stability and lasting peace. He said that friendly and lasting co-operation between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies was possible. Asked about the US atom bomb monopoly as a danger to peace, Stalin replied that he did not think it such a force. It was intended to intimidate the weak. It could not decide the outcome of any war. It was certainly a threat, but the US monopoly would not last long, and its use would be prohibited.[7]

Cartoon of the signing of the the North Atlantic Pact

Towards the end of 1948, Stalin said that the policies of the leaders of the USA and Britain were policies of aggression, of unleashing a new war. Asked in an interview with Pravda on October 28, 1948, about the USA and Britain declaring null and void agreements already reached regarding Berlin, Stalin explained that they did not want agreement and co-operation, but rather to show that co-operation with the Soviet Union was impossible and to show the necessity of a new war, and thus to prepare the ground for the unleashing of war. The policy of the present leaders of the USA and Britain, he said, was a policy of aggression, a policy of unleashing a new war.

Asked how this would all end, Stalin replied that it could only end in ignominious failure on the part of the instigators of a new war. Churchill, he said, the main instigator of a new war, had already managed to deprive himself of the trust of his own nation and of democratic forces throughout the world. The same fate lay in store for all other instigators of war. The horrors of the recent war were still fresh in the memory of the peoples; and public forces favouring peace were too strong for Churchill's pupils in aggression to overpower them and to turn them towards a new war.[8]

On February 17, 1951, again in an interview with Pravda, Stalin refuted as a slander British Prime Minister Clement Attlee's claim in the House of Commons that the Soviet Union was not demobilising its forces but increasing them. He pointed out that no state could develop its war industry while, as was the Soviet Union, reconstructing its economy demolished by German occupation, expanding that economy and reducing prices, and developing huge hydro-power works, without risking bankruptcy. Attlee's government, he said, was justifying carrying on its own arms race, misleading the British people, blindfolding them with lies about the Soviet Union, dragging them towards a new world war that would be organised by the warmongering circles in the USA. If Attlee were for peace, he asked, why was he against the proposals of the Soviet Union to limit armaments and immediately forbid atomic weapons? Why had he forbidden the holding of the Second World Peace Congress in Britain?[9] Could the campaign for the defence of peace possibly threaten the security of Britain? Stalin concluded that it was clear that Prime Minister Attlee was not for keeping the peace, but for unleashing a new world-encompassing war of aggression.

Victory in Europe Day, Trafalgar Square, London

Asked in the same interview about the Korean War, then into its second year, Stalin said that if Britain and the USA declined the proposals of the People's Republic of China for peace, the war in Korea could only end in defeat for the interventionists. He explained that while the soldiers had considered the war against Hitler and Japan just, it was difficult to convince them that Korea and China were not right to defend their security on their own territory or on the borders of their state. That is why the war was unpopular among the American and British soldiers, why they did not believe in the justice of their mission, or feel enthusiasm.

As to the UN declaring China the aggressor, this was scandalous, he said. The UN, Stalin argued, which was created as a bulwark for keeping peace, had been transformed into an instrument of war, a means to unleash a new world war.[10]

Asked if he considered a new world war unavoidable, Stalin replied that he did not consider war unavoidable. He explained that in the USA, in Britain, and also in France, there were aggressive powers that longed for a new war. They needed war to achieve super-profits and to plunder other countries. These aggressive powers held reactionary governments in their hands and guided them. At the same time, they were afraid of their people who did not want a new war and were for keeping the peace. Therefore they used the reactionary governments to ensnare their people with lies, to represent a new war as a war of defence, and the peaceful politics of peace-loving countries as aggressive. They feared the campaign for the defence of peace. They feared the proposals of the Soviet Union on the conclusion of a peace treaty, on the limitation of armaments and on the forbidding of atomic weapons.

Peace will be kept and strengthened, Stalin said, if the people take the upholding of peace in their own hands and defend it to the utmost. War could be unavoidable if the arsonists of war succeed in trapping the masses with their lies, in deceiving them and drawing them into a new war. Therefore a broad campaign for the upholding of peace, as a way of exposing the criminal machinations of the arsonists of war, is of prime importance. The Soviet Union, he said, would continue to carry through the politics of preventing war and keeping peace.[11]

March 5 1946 Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech in Fulton, Missouri

Later that year, on October 6, 1951, Stalin spoke on the issue of atomic weapons in a further interview with Pravda. He asserted that there were no grounds for alarm regarding the Soviet Union's atomic bomb test. He explained that the Soviet Union not only opposed the employment of atomic weapons, but also stood for their prohibition and the termination of their production. The Soviet Union had several times demanded prohibition of atomic weapons, but each time this had been refused by the Atlantic bloc powers. Therefore, in the event of an attack by the USA on his country, he said, the ruling circles of the USA would use the atom bomb. This had compelled the Soviet Union to have the atomic weapon in order to meet the aggressor fully prepared. Thus, he argued, if the USA had no intention of attacking the Soviet Union, the alarm was false, as the Soviet Union did not contemplate ever attacking the USA or any other country.

Stalin went on to say that the Soviet Union stood for international control of atomic weapons. He explained that US personages also spoke of control, but presupposing not termination but continuation of production relative to the amounts of raw material at the disposal of different countries. This was not control but a mockery of control, he said. This could not satisfy the demands of the peace-loving peoples.[12]

That same month, significantly, Stalin sent a telegram to Kim Il Sung, President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, wishing the brave Korean people success in their heroic struggle for the freedom and independence of their homeland.[13]

The following year, on March 31, 1952, in answers to US newspaper editors, Stalin said that he did not consider a Third World War likely in the coming years, that he thought a meeting of the Great Powers would possibly be useful, that the time was ripe for German reunification, and that capitalism and communism could live side by side if both sides co-operated, and had the readiness to do so, if both fulfilled their international duties, and if the basis was equality and non-interference in the affairs of other states.[14]

On October 14, 1952, in his Speech to the 19th Congress of the CPSU, Stalin spoke of the struggle for a better future for the people, the struggle against war, the struggle to keep peace. He expressed thanks for the support of the fraternal parties. He noted the special quality of that support of the peace endeavours of his Party by each fraternal party simultaneously signified the support of their own people in their struggle to keep peace. His Party must do its duty by its fraternal parties and support them and their peoples in the struggle for liberation and in their struggle for keeping peace.

Stalin ended his speech with his famous call concerning national independence and national sovereignty. Earlier, he said, the bourgeoisie, as the heads of nations, were for the rights and independence of nations and put that "above all". Now there was no trace left of this "national principle". Now the bourgeoisie sell the rights and independence of their nations for dollars. The banner of national independence and national sovereignty had been thrown overboard. Without doubt, he said, you the representatives of the communist and democratic parties must raise this banner and carry it forward if you want to be patriots of your countries, if you want to be the leading powers of the nations. There is nobody else to raise it.[15]

Most significantly, Stalin finished with these slogans:

Long Live the Peace Between the Peoples!
Down with the Arsonists of War!


1. Victory Speech: broadcast from Moscow, May 9, 1945. Works, Volume 16

2. Stalin's Address to the People, September 2, 1945. Works, Volume 16

3. Origin and Character of the Second World War, February 9, 1946, from a speech to the voters of his district during the election to the Supreme Soviet. For Peaceful Coexistence: Post-War Interviews (International Publishers: New York, 1951)

4. Order of the Day of the Minister of the Armed Forces of the USSR, No 7, May 1, 1946. Works, Volume 16

5. Interview with Pravda Correspondent Concerning Mr Winston Churchill's Speech at Fulton, March 1946. J V Stalin on Post-War International Relations, Soviet News, 1947

6. Replies to Questions put by Mr Eddie Gilmore, Associated Press Correspondent, March 22, 1946. J V Stalin on Post-War International Relations

7. Replies to Questions put by Mr Alexander Werth, Moscow Correspondent of the Sunday Times, September 24, 1946. J V Stalin on Post-War International Relations

8. For Peaceful Coexistence, op. cit.

9. The Second World Peace Congress had been scheduled for Sheffield, England in 1950, but British authorities sought to undermine it on an anti-communist basis. They refused visas to many delegates, with Prime Minister Attlee denouncing the congress as a "bogus forum of peace with the real aim of sabotaging national defence" and saying that there would be a "reasonable limit" on foreign delegates. In light of this, the congress was moved to Warsaw.

10. The UN flag was criminally co-opted by the US to give a veneer of legitimacy to the Korean War. In reality, it was a police action led by the US that involved 15 other countries, including Britain, in this unjust anti-communist aggression. A UN Security Council Resolution supporting military aggression was illegitimately passed when the Soviet Union was absent from the council, due to a boycott in support of the People's Republic of China's inclusion in the Security Council, rather than the Republic of China which had been defeated in the Chinese Civil War. The People's Republic of China later sent 780,000 troops of its People's Volunteer Army to bolster the forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

11. Interview with a Pravda Correspondent, February 17, 1951. Works, Volume 16

12. Prohibition of Atomic Weapons, October 6, 1951. Interview with Pravda Correspondent. For Peaceful Coexistence, see above

13. Answering Telegram to Chairman of Council of Ministers of DPRK, October 20, 1951

14. Answers to Four Questions from a Group of Editors of American Newspapers, March 31, 1952. Works, Volume 16

15. Speech to the 19th Party Congress of the CPSU, October 14, 1952. Works, Volume 16


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