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

Meetings on the 70th Anniversary of NATO

Developing the Cause of Peace and Progress

Chris Nineham speaking at the meeting in Newcastle

No to NATO - 70 years of war and aggression!

Based on a report from Newcastle Stop the War Coalition

On April 4, on the 70th anniversary of the Founding of NATO, a public meeting was held in Newcastle. The Chair introduced three speakers, Syed Ullah of Newcastle Stop the War, Charlotte Austin from Young Labour and Chris Nineham, Vice Chair of the Stop the War Coalition.

Syed Ullah, who himself is from Afghanistan, spoke about the destructive role of NATO in that country. In the last three years alone 45,000 Afghans and Afghan army have been killed in the NATO occupation. NATO continues to occupy and use Afghanistan to try out their weapons such as the "mother of all bombs". The speaker highlighted that NATO was using Afghanistan to confront Russia and China.

Charlotte Austin said that Young Labour had passed a motion in favour of withdrawing from NATO at its last policy conference and that there is significant support for this. Speaking about confronting NATO head on, she pointed out that in a student debate she had to oppose the claim that because Ernest Bevin of the post-war Labour government, who was one of the founders of NATO "was a working class hero" this was why we should support NATO! She pointed out the problem that the Labour Party had been a supporter of NATO from the Korean war to Afghanistan and to Syria nowadays. She spoke about the discussion on defence diversification projects to replace the heavy reliance on military production in Britain and the stand being taken within the Labour Party to oppose NATO especially by the Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Chris Nineham said that NATO was set up as a vehicle for western power projection and in the words of a British General, Hastings Lionel "Pug" Ismay; "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down". In the attack on Yugoslavia, NATO dropped more bombs than the number that were dropped in World War II, he said. Talking about the forthcoming programme of demonstrations to coincide with the government's NATO celebration in December and Trumps visit, Chris Nineham said this must be used as part of an educative process to get people to understand that NATO is part of the problem, that it is a toxic network that is designed to promote and defend the policy that is causing so much damage around the world.

Following the speeches there were many contribution and questions discussed on the role of NATO the anti-war movements role to end Britain's involvement in NATO by bringing about an anti-war government in Britain.

NATO: The Myth and the Reality

{short description of image}
A.S.F. Maynard, speaking on the Creation of NATO and the Falsification of History.

A well-attended meeting was held in Central London on April 6, organised by the Ad-Hoc Committee "The Things That Make For Peace". This meeting followed on from that successfully organised by the Committee last November marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. A representative of the Ad-Hoc Committee, in welcoming everyone, pointed out that at the end of World War II, in order for the forward march of humanity to proceed, and to preserve the peace, it was necessary to implement the decisions of the Potsdam and Yalta conferences of 1945. The betrayal of these agreements led to the formation of NATO. The peoples continue today to strive for peace, freedom and democracy, and work to establish Anti-War Governments. Their strength lies in the people's movement itself, imbued with collective consciousness and action. On this basis, he said, the Ad-Hoc Committee was formed, the aim of which is to develop unity around an anti-war perspective.

The main talk, "The Creation of NATO and the Falsification of History", was given by A.S.F. Maynard, the co-ordinator of the Young Historians Project. We give below a summary of her illustrated presentation.

* * *

This week marks the 70th anniversary of NATO, and it has also been a week of condemnation and protests around the world. NATO currently has 29 members, but it began with 12, developing out of the atmosphere of the Cold War in the post-war era. It was certainly anti-Soviet, but it was also a calculated step towards greater Anglo-American control of Europe and American access to European colonies in Africa and elsewhere.

The events I am going to run through today are the civil war in Greece and the British involvement in that, the construction of the Western Union, the Marshall Plan, the Dunkirk Treaty of 1947, and the London conferences throughout 1948, and the subsequent Berlin crisis which came up then and led to a justification for the formation of NATO.

While Britain was seemingly fighting a war against fascism in Germany, they were also colluding with fascism in Greece. On Churchill's orders, the British government in 1944 sent many thousands of troops to attempt to quash the resistance against fascist occupation. In 1944, these troops massacred 28 people peacefully demonstrating in Athens. This was an indication of things to come after the defeat of Nazi Germany, and the British government's attitude to the anti-fascist forces and its support for aggression and reaction.

At the end of the Second World War, the Yalta and Potsdam agreements were working towards demilitarising Germany, de-Nazification of Germany, the decentralisation of Germany into a Federal government, and democratisation. That is what was agreed in 1945. But in the months and years afterwards, we can see that Britain, the US, and also France as well, did not adhere to those agreements.

The Dunkirk Treaty was signed between Britain and France in March 1947. The rationale for this treaty was that it was a step towards a military alliance to prevent a Nazi resurgence on the Rhine, although it is worth saying that in 1947 there was no possibility of a Nazi resurgence. Germany had been demilitarised and it was being governed by the four powers. In reality, the conception of the Western Union was that it would lead to development in air power, in opposition to the land power of the Soviet Union. When Ernest Bevin became the Labour Foreign Secretary in 1945, he carried forward the baton of the Churchill plans. In March 1946, a year before the signing of the Dunkirk Treaty, he stated that his intentions were "the closest co-operation and integration, economically, socially and militarily, with our western neighbours". The first phase of the plan was meant to be the Dunkirk Treaty, and several months on from its signing Bevin spoke of his belief that Europe would inevitably divide into eastern and western camps. Bevin's message was that it "therefore became necessary to attempt to organise the western states into a coherent unity, and the time had now come for a return to the political plane". He envisaged a tight-knit cohort made up of Britain, France and the Benelux countries, with an outer circle to include the US and Canada.

In June 1947, the US Secretary of State at that time, George C Marshall, proposed what would become known as the Marshall Plan, the European Recovery Programme. This set out a US commitment to provide "economic assistance to Europe to support its recovery from the war". This act of generosity, of course, was conceived as part of the US policy of "containment", to "prevent the spread of communism" in Europe and in European colonies, and increase US political and economic influence on the European continent. During his unveiling of the plan, Marshall had delivered the following statement: "Our policy is not against any country or doctrine but against poverty, hunger, desperation and chaos. Any government which manoeuvres to block the recovery of other nations cannot expect help from us. Furthermore, governments, political parties or groups which seek to perpetuate human misery in order to profit therefrom politically or otherwise will encounter the opposition of the United States."

The Marshall Plan signified the US's investment in Europe to ensure that post-war recovery took the direction that it wanted it to, and the US now could assert its leadership of the Western alliance.

The Western Union is realised in 1948 with the signing of the Brussels Treaty. Ernest Bevin delivering a speech to the House of Commons in January 1948 in an unjustified condemnation of the formation of the Cominform, stated: "His Majesty's Government cannot agree to four-power co-operation while one of those four powers proceeds to impose its political and economic system on the smaller states." Throughout his speech, Ernest Bevin held Western Europe as "sharing a common destiny based on unity and shared political and moral principles". He stated: "The conception of the unity of Europe and the preservation of Europe as the heart of western civilisation is accepted by most people." Bevin argued that it is imperative to expand the Dunkirk Treaty to form alliances with the Benelux countries. He also had plans for Germany and Italy to be incorporated into this in later years. So the Western Union would exist as a collaboration between those countries on military, political and cultural lines. It was signed on March 25, 1948. It established the long-anticipated Western Union which had been planned since 1944. The Union established its own military committee and defence staff which was headed by the British general Montgomery, and military exercises were undertaken. But the Soviet Union was not informed about any of this, and it was also excluded from participating.

The Berlin crisis would be used by Britain and the US to provide justification for the creation of NATO. In 1946, Britain and the US had already merged their zones in Germany to form bilateral states. France had also been approached but had initially refused to participate in this. In 1948, they were persuaded to form a tri-zone in Germany. This isolated the Soviet Union in Germany and disregarded the Potsdam and Yalta agreements. The Soviet Union had not been invited to attend any of these conferences that took place in London, and was not informed of any of the plans that Britain, the US and France had ahead of time. So those conversations back in 1945, the 4 D's and the need to craft Germany into a peaceful and democratic state, were being unravelled by the actions of the British, US and French states.

Not only this, the three powers then proposed to form a separate government and also introduce currency reform for western Germany and west Berlin. If this had gone ahead it would have crippled east Germany's economy as it would have been flooded with the old currency. So on June 19, 1948, the Soviet military administration issued a statement to the German public on the situation, stating: "Another serious blow has been dealt to the state unity of Germany. The agreement on control machinery and the Potsdam Agreement, which stipulated that Germany must be treated as one unit and that unity of currency circulation be preserved, has been violated. The financial reform which has been carried out in the three Western occupation zones of Germany completes the splitting up of Germany." So as a safeguarding measure, the Soviet Union enforced travel restrictions in Berlin. This was a reaction to those calculated attempts to destabilise east Germany. This was labelled as the Berlin blockade.

{short description of image}
Michael Chant playing the Shostakovich prelude and fugue from 1950-51, the performer pointed out that it was in 1950 that Dmitri Shostakovich had been one of those delegates denied a visa by the British government to attend the planned Second World Peace Congress in Sheffield.

This entire display and false narrative finally gave Britain, France and the US an excuse to bring to the UN and justify the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty. So in September 1948, the western governments issued a statement which concluded: "The Soviet government has thereby taken upon itself sole responsibility for creating a situation in which further discourse and means of settlement prescribed in Article33 of the Charter of the United Nations is not in existing circumstances possible, and which constitutes a threat to international peace and security. In order that international peace and security may not be further endangered, the governments of the United States, France and the United Kingdom therefore, while reserving to themselves full rights to take such measures as may be necessary to maintain in these circumstances their position in Berlin, find themselves obliged to refer the action of the Soviet government to the Security Council of the United Nations." They mentioned Article 33 of the Charter of the UN. Article 33 is as follows: "The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement and resort to regional agencies and arrangements or other peaceful means of their own choice." Those were the steps that they were supposed to have made before bringing the subjects to the UN. But they did not take those steps.

What we can learn from these events and from Greece, from the Dunkirk Treaty and the Marshall Plan, is that the core founder members of NATO - being Britain, France and the US - had initiated aggression, violence and, in the case of Greece, massacres, all in order to form an apparent peace-keeping military organisation. These members had lied to the UN, had broken international law, and therefore founded NATO on illegality. This has become a central theme of NATO, of its existence over the past 70 years. From Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, we can see that NATO has acted outside international law, continually created violent situations and manipulated narratives in order to carry out military intervention and destabilise democratic process in countries across the world. Although NATO is formed along the lines of anti-communism, and it does describe itself as that on its own official website, it is also more than that, in that it is a machine for neo-colonialism and imperialism and Western expansion.

NATO today very much revolves around its most powerful member, the US. But the British role in its creation should not be overlooked or diminished. We are at the 70th anniversary, and it is important for us to question what relevance the largest military organisation in the world, which was founded on mistruth, has to do with peace-keeping. It is actually the antithesis of peace-keeping, democracy and liberation. History must be defalsified, and put into the possession of the people who are also key to writing history, because we perform it every day.

* * *

In the discussion period which followed, many issues were aired, centred on how to turn things around today. It was mentioned that the people of Britain can make a very big contribution if they can block Britain as a pro-war government, which would be a powerful blow to the powers that make up NATO.

A cultural programme concluded the evening, with the involvement of many of the participants in the meeting. An ensemble of Turkish musicians played newly-composed music, in opposition to Turkey's membership of NATO. Several poems were read out on anti-war, pro-peace and anti-NATO themes, a number of which were authored by the speakers themselves. In playing a Shostakovich prelude and fugue from 1950-51, the performer pointed out that it was in 1950 that Dmitri Shostakovich had been one of those delegates denied a visa by the British government to attend the planned Second World Peace Congress in Sheffield.

In concluding the proceedings, the representative of the Ad-Hoc Committee invited everyone to join in the work of The Things That Make For Peace. It had been mentioned that the people are the key to writing authentic history, not the ruling elite. And it is the people also who are decisive in the making of history.

Forthcoming Meeting

There is only one world - No to the use of force to settle conflicts between nations and peoples!

On the 70th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The old geopolitical world of big power rivalry and world domination through military alliances is continuing to create a very dangerous situation. The interest of the peoples is to resolve conflicts between nations without war in the modern world.

Thursday 18th April 2019 Doors 6 pm Programme 7-9 pm


Brinkburn Community Centre Harton Lane, South Shields


Hakim Adi - Professor of History, University of Chichester, Specialising in Africa and the African Diaspora
Dr Keith Hussein - Lecturer in International Politics Media Selection

Film Clips & Poetry Selection

Organised by the South Tyneside Truth & Memory Preparatory Committee


Link to Full Issue of Workers' Weekly

RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Weekly Online Archive