Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 2 | Summer 1983 (Seattle) /// Issue 4 of 24 /// Master# 4 of 24

— there was a common movement of resistance. Polish and Czech units served alongside British forces; British liaison groups — among them Churchill’s son, Randolph, and the Conservative MP, Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean — served with the Yugoslav partisans. It is the fashion to be cynical about all that now, and for good reasons. The expectations and hopes of that moment were naive. The alliance of anti-fascist resistance — the alliances of liberals, Communists, agrarians, social-democrats, Conservatives — were later dishonoured, and on both sides. But we also recall that they were honoured for a while, and honoured with sacrifice of life. The aspiration for a democratic Europe —- extending the good faith of those alliances forward into the peace — was authentic. Some of these expectations were to be betrayed. But they remain there, in the record. I have said that others now seem to us as naive. Here is a young British officer — aged twenty- two — writing in a private letter from the Middle-East in 1943: "How wonderful it would be to call Europe one’s fatherland, and think of Krakow, Munich, Rome, Arles, Madrid as one’s own cities. I am not yet educated to a broader nationalism, but fora United States of Europe I could feel a patriotism far transcending my love for England.” This Union he saw as “ the only alternative to disaster." And later in the same year he wrote: “ There is a spirit abroad in Europe which is finer and braver than anything that tired continent has known for centuries, and which cannot be withstood. You can, if you like, think of it in terms of politics, but it is broader and more generous than any dogma. It is the confident will of whole peoples, who have known the utmost humiliation and suffering and have triumphed over it, to, buiWtheirown lives once and for a l l . .. There is a marvelous opportunity before us — and all that is required from Britain, America and the USSR is imagination, help and sympathy. . . ” What sad reading this makes today! Some will find it Euro-centric, others will find it sentimental or innocent in its view of the motives of politicians and states, all will know that the hopes were to be defeated, within two or three years, by events. But the expectations were commitments, to the extent of life itself, and they were shared by many thousands across the continent. In January 1944 this officer wrote to his brother: “ My eyes fill very quickly with tears when I think what a splendid Europe we shall build (I say Europe because that’s the only continent I really know quite well) when all the vitality and talent of Its indomitable peoples can be set free for co-operation and creation.” Ten days later he parachuted onto a high plateau in East Serbia — in the region of Tsrna Trava — where he was to serve as liaison officer with a contingent of Bulgarian partisans. They were overwhelmed; most of them were massacred; and the British officer, my brother, was executed. He was subsequently proclaimed a National Hero of Bulgaria, and despite some nasty twists and turns in Bulgarian politics, he remains that to this day. My point is this. My brother’s aspirations for the future were not unusual, although his fate exemplified the cause of this common resistance in an unusual way. Throughout Europe men and women looked forward to the fruits of victory: a continent both democratic and at peace. There would be different social systems, of course. But it was supposed that these systems would be chosen by each nation, with popular consent. The differences need not be occasions of war. These expectations were becoming casualties when British forces confronted Greek partisans in Athens in December 1944. None survived the shock of the onset of the Cold War. The polarization was absolute. I am not concerned, now, to examine why this happened. But happened it certainly did. Communists were expelled from the political life of the West: in France, in Italy, and to the prison islands of Greece. Liberals, socialdemocrats, agrarians, and, then, Communists who had proved to be too sympathetic to the alliance with The first atomic detonation over Hiroshima sent panic-waves across the Communist world which contributed much to the onset of Cold War. For over twenty years the West had an overwhelming superiority in destructive nuclear power. democracy or too critical of Stalin: all these were purged from the political life of the East. Some were subjected to monstrous faked trials, were executed or imprisoned. The Cold War era, of two hostile Europes, commenced. Freedom vs. Peace /will make only one, over-simplified, comment on that moment. The cause of freedom and the cause of peace seemed to break apart. The “West” claimed freedom; the “ East” claimed the cause of peace. One might talk for hour upon hour in qualification of both claims. Each is made up of one part of truth and another part of hypocrisy. “ The West,” whether directly through NATO or indirectly through the arrangements of the United States military, co-existed and co-exists easily enough with regimes notorious for their abuse of freedom and of human rights: with Salazar’s Portugal, Franco’s Spain, the Greece of the Colonels, or with the military tyranny in Turkey today. And this is before we look to Latin America, Asia or Africa. The Soviet Union’s dedication to “ peace” co-existed with the military repression of unacceptable motions towards democracy or autonomy within its client states: notoriously in Hungary, 1956, and Czechoslovakia, 1968. And this is before we look towards the military support given to Third World regimes within the Soviet sphere of influence, or towards Afghanistan. But, in the time open to me, I can only note both claims, which have long underpinned the ideological contestations of the Cold War. And I must add that, when every allowance is made for hypocrisy, both claims have a little color. It is not that “ the Free West” has been an exemplar of democratic practice. But it is in the West that certain important democratic practices have persisted, whereas in “ the East” — after gulag and faked trial, the repression of the Hungarian insurrection and of the Prague Spring, the psychiatric confinement of dissidents, and the monotonous State-licensed idiocy of Communist intellectual orthodoxy — the very term “ People’s Democracy” became sick. That is familiar, and a source of much self-congratulation to Westerners. What is less familiar — for the young are not taught this carefully in our schools — is that the West was perceived by the East — and perceived for good reasons — as the most threatening and irresponsible military power. The first atomic detonation over Hiroshima, by the United States (but with the assent of our own government [Great Britain]) sent panic-waves across the Communist world which contributed much to the onset of Cold War. From that moment, and for over twenty years, there was no question of “ balance” in the nuclear arsenals of the two parties: the West had an overwhelming superiority in destructive nuclear power. We have been reminded of this recently by two independent voices of authority, each of them dissenting voices from the opposed superpowers. George Kennan, the former American ambassador to Moscow whose famous despatch (by “ Mr. X” in Foreign Affairs, July 1947) contributed to the post-war policies of United States “ containment” of the Soviet Union, has reminded Americans that “ it has been we . . . who, at almost every step of the,road, have taken the lead in the development of this sort of weaponry.” (This is not, by the way, as the BBC Reith Lecturer for 1981 has alleged in his know-all way, “ at best a half truth” : it is a plain, and easily verifiable, fact). And Roy Medvedev, the Soviet supporter of free intellectual enquiry and civil rights, has commented that, with the brief exception of the Soviet advance in satellite technology in 1957-8, the United States has always led in weapons technology — “ obliging the USSR to try to catch up from a position of inferiority. This permanent dynamic has structured Russian responses deeply, creating a pervasive inferiority complex that has probably prevailed over rational calculations in the 70s.” It is a dramatic instance of the trajectory of our times that these two distinguished men, starting from such different presuppositions and passing through such differing experiences, should have now come to a common point of commitment in support for the active peace movement. From August 1945 onwards there were voices enough to argue that “ the West” should put its advantage in nuclear weapons technology to use. These voices went on for many years — calling for a “ preventative war” or for the “ liberation” of Berlin or of East Europe. Some voices were influential enough — John Foster Dulles, James Forrestal (the paranoid United States Secretary for the Navy who went mad in office) — to induce a legitimate “ paranoia” on the other side. The United States has rattled its nuclear weapons in their scabbard, as a matter of state policy, on at least 19 occasions. By the end of the 1940s it had surrounded the Soviet Union with a ring of forward strategic air-bases, all — with the exception of Alaska — outside United States’ territory. The only attempt by the Soviet Union to establish a comparable forward base was repelled by the direct ultimatum of nuclear attack: the Cuban missile crisis. The humiliation suffered then by the Soviet rulers powered the upward build-up of Soviet missiles in the 1960s. I am not endorsing either claim without qualification. I mean only to repeat that both claims had color: the West to “ freedom” and the East to “ peace.” And this placed the political culture of Europe in a permanent double-bind. Those who worked for freedom in the East were suspected or exposed as agents of Western imperialism. Those who worked for peace in the West were suspected or exposed as pro-Soviet “ fellow travelers” or dupes of the Kremlin. In this way the rival ideologies of the Cold War disarmed those, on both sides, who might have put Europe back together. Any transcontinental movement for peace and freedom became impossible. Such a movement glowed for a moment in 1956 and, again, in 1968. Each time it was, ironically, the “ peace-loving” Soviet forces which ground out the sparks under an armored heel. The Lessons of History Let us move back to our own time. For I am addressing the question — not what caused the Cold War, but what is it about today? And it is no good trying to answer this by standing at its source and stirring it about with a stick. For a river gathers up many tributaries on its way, and turns into unexpected courses. Nor is it any good asking me to deliver to you some homilies called “ the lessons of history.” History teaches no simple lessons, because it never repeats itself, even if certain large themes recur. In fact, received notions of the “ lessons” of recent history are often actively unhelpful in dealing with the present, since these establish stereotypes which interfere with contemporary vision. This is very much the case with today’s Cold War. Because it was widely believed in the 1930s that World War I was “ caused” by an arms race and by inflexible structures of alliances, essential measures of collective security were not taken to halt Hitler and to prevent World War II. Today the “ lesson” of World War II has stuck in the public mind while the “ lesson” of World War I has been forgotten. Because it is widely believed that military weakness and appeasement “ caused” World War II, many people now condone new forms of militarisation which will, if unchecked, give us World War III. At the same time there is, in both West and East, a simple transference of remembered images to the present. The 1930s burned in memory the image of a major militarist and expansionist power (Nazi Germany) whose appetite was only fed by each new scrap of appeasement; which had an insatiable drive to conquer all Europe, if not the world. Politicians and ideologists, Wdst and East, have renamed this insatiable potential aggressor as (respectively) Russia or America. It is a compelling identification. Yet it rests on the assent of memory rather than upon analysis or evidence. It appears plausible simply because it looks so familiar. But to understand the present we must first resist the great suggestive- power of memory. This is, surprisingly, where the historical discipline may be helpful, may teach “ lessons” of a different kind. For historians deal always with long-term eventuations — social, political, economic process —which continually defeat or contradict the expectations of the leading historical actors themselves. History never happens as the actors plan or expect. It is the record of unintended consequences. Revolutions are made, manifestos are issued, battles are won: but the outcome, twenty or thirty years on, is always something that no-one willed and no-one expected. Boris Pasternak, the great Russian poet, reflected in Dr. Zhivago on the “ indirect results” of the October Revolution, which “ have begun to make themselves felt — the fruits of fruits, the consequences of consequences.” I like this phrase, “ the consequences of consequences,” and wish we could see the Cold War in this way and not in terms of the intentions of the actors in 1947. We might see it, then, more clearly, as an abnormal political condition. It was the product of particular contingencies at the end of World War II which struck the flowing rivers of political culture into glaciated stasis, and struck intellectual culture with an ideological permafrost. The Cold War frontiers were fixed, in some part, precisely by “ deterrence” — by the unprecedented destructive power of the nuclear weaponry which, by coincidence, was invented at this historical moment. It is an odd and very dangerous condition. A line has been drawn across the whole continent, like some gigantic geological fault, with one great capital city catapulted across the fault and divided internally by a wall. On each side of this line there are not only vast accumulations of weaponry directed against 6 Clinton St. Quarterly