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When Henry Wallace Rejected Communism

[ 56 ] February 23, 2013 |

Very interesting.

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  1. Wallace tried to understand what the communists were doing by putting himself in their shoes.

    The problem is, Stalin and Mao and the Czech Communists weren’t Wallace. They weren’t motivated by the motives that would have driven Wallace if he was in their place. They had their own psychological, cultural, and ideological drivers.

  2. J. Otto Pohl says:

    The year 1952 is pretty late. But, it is not as late as many in the west. Indeed, it is only four years later in 1956 that the western communist parties suffer their greatest losses following the 22nd Party Congress denunciation of Stalin by Khrushchev in February and then the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution in November. Not that Wallace was ever a communist, but he was certainly much more sympathetic to the Stalin regime than most and his views prior to 1952 make him look pretty naive. It is not like there was nothing known about places like Magadan in the 1930s and 40s.

  3. Data Tutashkhia says:

    First, it sounds like what he rejected was Stalinism.

    And second: who cares. Yes, I watched Untold History, but, again, why does it always have to be about the struggle between evil and wise leaders? That’s just silly. There are objective reasons for things that happen, and a part of it is that certain individuals, certain kinds of individuals rise to power or fall from grace.

    • Richard says:

      I disagree. It wasn’t inevitable that either Hitler or Stalin became leaders of Germany and Russia. Lenin was no saint but millions of people would not have been killed if he had lived longer or prevented the rise of Stalin. History is not just about evil and wise leaders but evil and wise leaders make a big difference

      As far as Untold History, the failure to mention the fact that Wallace recanted his views on the Cold War demonstrates the fundamental dishonesty of that series

      • Data Tutashkhia says:

        It wasn’t inevitable that either Hitler or Stalin became leaders of Germany and Russia.

        Of course not. But it was extremely likely that the USSR would have to industrialize, at a great sacrifice to the population.

        And that Germany would be rearmed by the Western powers and enticed by them to do a ‘drang nach osten’, in one form or another, to go fight the bolsheviks. Hitler or Schmitler, it doesn’t make much difference.

        • Eric says:

          Oh dear Lord.

          But it was extremely likely that the USSR would have to industrialize, at a great sacrifice to the population.

          It wasn’t inevitable that they had to do it like Stalin did.

          And that Germany would be rearmed by the Western powers and enticed by them to do a ‘drang nach osten’, in one form or another, to go fight the bolsheviks. Hitler or Schmitler, it doesn’t make much difference.

          So a massive bloody war between Germany and the USSR was inevitable, and it’s all the West’s fault. WTF?

          • Data Tutashkhia says:

            Of course it wasn’t inevitable that they had to do it like Stalin did it, it could happen the way Mao did it in China, for example. Either way, like I said: at a great sacrifice. Even in undeveloped places where the US facilitated industrialization (Korea, Taiwan), it took 40-50 years of a fascist dictatorship to achieve it.

            So a massive bloody war between Germany and the USSR was inevitable, and it’s all the West’s fault. WTF?

            You shouldn’t think of everything as someone’s fault. Yes, some sort of showdown was inevitable. The West fucked it up by betting on Hitler, and in the end WWII was inconclusive. What’s so ‘WTF’ about this?

            • What’s so ‘WTF’ about this?

              To start with, there’s the idea that the West, which allied itself with the Soviet Union to fight Hitler, after spending decades limiting Germany’s military, was actually “betting on Hitler.”

              • Data Tutashkhia says:

                Before April-May 1940 they didn’t fight Hitler.

                Of course after Germany attacked Northern and Western Europe instead of marching east, then they had to. That’s exactly the fuck up I’m talking about.

                • Eric says:

                  Before June 1941, the USSR didn’t fight Germany, either. What’s your point?

                • So the “betting on Hitler” argument is “no longer operative?”

                  If I seem to be having trouble understanding the fuck you’re talking about, it’s because you keep changing it from comment to comment.

            • Eric says:

              I don’t think of it as being anyone’s fault, but you seem to.

        • And that Germany would be rearmed by the Western powers

          Umwut?

          • IM says:

            The one outside power helping german rearmament was actually the Soviet Union.

            • Data Tutashkhia says:

              Nonsense. Until 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop pact (at which time Germany was already well-armed), there was very little trade even, let alone any help.

              • Anonymous says:

                um you are wrong
                hell long before that treaty the luftwaffe was allowed to train in Russia so the west couldn’t observe it.

                there was a little dust up called WWI remember?
                the west not only had no interest in helping Germany rearm after that but actively impeded it, such efforts unfortunately waning in the 1930s

                but the ONLY major power to actually assist Germany’s re-armament was the USSR

              • Until 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop pact (at which time Germany was already well-armed), there was very little trade even, let alone any help.

                Yeah, no. That’s not even close to true.

            • DocAmazing says:

              If you don’t count Ford Motor Company, which eventually spun off Opel to keep building trucks in Germany, or IBM, who put together machines to help track populations movement (read: deprtations to concetration camps) or Curtiss Aircraft, who taught the Luftwaffe about dive-bombing. Hell, even Coca-Cola spun off Fanta to keep selling in Germany.

              But of course none of that was official US government involvement. Just US-based companies.

      • wengler says:

        Lenin was far more ruthless than Stalin. People make this mistake all the time of believing that Stalin was the primary difference between an extreme or moderate course for the Soviet Union. In fact Stalin was far more pragmatic. Lenin was much more ideologically driven. Even NEP, which is pointed to as some great practical reverse, followed Lenin’s understanding of Marxist progression.

    • First, it sounds like what he rejected was Stalinism.

      More precisely, what he rejected was a particular foreign policy stance – that of treating the Soviet Union as if it was not an expansionist empire seeking to dominate the international order, and was instead an essentially benign actor that could be trusted to honor its commitments, respect democracy and self-determination in the countries where it had military or political influence, and exist peacefully within a stable world order.

      The precise ideological flavor that was in vogue in the Kremlin the week he wrote the essay doesn’t really seem to be all that central to its point.

  4. Richard says:

    The Hitler-Stalin pact, the rape of Poland and the show trials had soured most thinking people on Stalin by 1940. We are very fortunate that Wallace hadn’t remained on the ticket in 1944 and became president

    • Murc says:

      We are?

      I mean, I’m a big fan of Truman, but what giant disasters would have befallen the US had Henry Wallace remained on the ticket and become President?

      • Richard says:

        Wallace would have given a blank check to Stalin in Eastern Europe since he trusted Stalin and believed, until the change of heart in 1952, that the Cold War was the fault of the US and that all you need is peaceful dialogue with Stalin to create peace and prosperity for all (a view that he still seems to advocate in the 1952 piece). And he would have allowed Stalin to take over Germany since there would have been no Berlin Blockade and a lack of determination to support a pro-Western Germany. I dont think Stalin would have moved into Western Europe but the lack of opposition to Communist expansion might would likely have led to electoral successes for the Communists in Italy and Greece

        I referred to disasters, not disasters to the US. Italy and Greece controlled by parties subservient to the Soviet Union would have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people. And even if Italy and Greece had not fallen, the lack of any opposition to Soviet domination in Eastern Europe would have led to even more death and misery than what actually happened. I also think its likely that Stalin was restrained in his internal policies by the push back from Truman. AS it was, its very likely that the Doctor’s Plot, abrogated only by the death of Stalin, was the first step in a plan to forcibly evict all Jews from Moscow and St. Peterburg and send them to a soviet state specifically for Jews in Siberia. The thought of a President Wallace dealing with the Soviet Union after World War II is chilling.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Italy and Greece controlled by parties subservient to the Soviet Union would have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

          Debatable at best. What isn’t debatable is that in preventing the electoral victories of Communists in Greece and Italy we helped install a bloody military junta in the former and abetted neo-Fascist “strategy of tension” terrorism in the latter, which also resulted in a whole bunch of deaths.

          • Richard says:

            A “whole bunch” is far, far less than the deaths that would likely have resulted from Communist takeovers in those two countries. I highly recommend you read Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain, if you haven’t already, for a history of what life was like in Poland, East Germany and Hungary and think about what life might have been like in Italy and Greece

            • DocAmazing says:

              Anne Applebaum? Are you serious? Why not throw in some Amity Shlaes, too, just to keep our historical accuracy high, or trot out The Black Book of Communism to keep our World Anti-Communist League score up?

              You might want to read up on what life was like in Greece under the colonels. Poland was a step up.

              • Richard says:

                I know what life was like under the colonels. Fortunately, the colonels were never able to institute the type of totalitarian system they might have wished. Bad but not anything like life in Poland. Very unfortunately, the governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslavakia, East Germany and Rumania were able to create a totalitarian system the Greek colonels could only dream about.

                You have reason to distrust the scholarship of Applebaum? Her Gulag was the most thorough book ever on that subject (won the Pulitzer for history as well) and Iron Curtain is amazing research. I dont think anyone can call themselves educated on the subject of the Cold War and Eastern Europe without reading it.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Gulag was trashed by the Russians she interviewed. Applebaum was an apologist for the oligarchs during the Yeltsin era, and wrote reams of crap trying to make the case that life improved after the fall of the USSR, ignoring the evidence in front of her.

                  Google “Operation Gladio” and look into our efforts to prevent Communism’s electoral victories in Europe, and what they begat. Turkey got a neat integration of the Gray Wolves into law enforcement, Italy got the Bologna train station bombing, France got wildly increased organized crime, and Greece got the colonels.

                • Richard says:

                  All much better than what occurred in Eastern Europe. Gulag got universal high acclaim except from Stalinists

                  If you don’t believe that Russia is better now than under Brezhnev, well then it’s clear we have major differences in the way we look at things

                • DocAmazing says:

                  If you don’t recognize that lifespan dropped and infant mortality rose under Yeltsin, and have only slowly gotten better since that time, your grasp of Eastern Europe is slippery.

                  That there are still Stalinists im Russia in non-trivial numbers tells a lot about life under the oligarchs. Anti-Communism has a very bad track record.

                • Infant mortality is lower in Russia today, and life expectancy is longer, than in 1988.

                  You should stop. You sound like the guy who wrote the defense of Imperial Japan.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Yes, today. I know you don’t read well, but your need to look at what’s written: under Yeltsin.

              • J. Otto Pohl says:

                Nicolas Werth who wrote the Soviet chapter for the Black Book of Communism is a first class scholar of the USSR under Stalin. He is probably the foremost such scholar living today in France. His chapter for the Black Book is not the best thing he has ever written, but it is certainly a decent piece of work. It is also the best chapter in the book. His other work, at least in English translation is generally of very high caliber. I can not judge the work of the other authors in the collection as well. But, the work of Jean-Louis Margolin who wrote the chapters on China and Cambodia also strikes me as being solid academic expositions. However since the Werth piece is the center of the Black Book what exactly do you think is wrong with it?

                • Do you really think he’s read a word of the book he’s denouncing?

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Yes, joe, I have.

                  The Black Book is a straight-up propaganda piece. If I wanted to write a piece on deaths caused by capitalism and cited the Indian slaughters, I might come up with something similar. As history…let’s just say it lacks something.

                • J. Otto Pohl says:

                  Again you make no specific mentions of any factual or interpretive problems with Werth’s piece in the Courtois collection and what it is lacking. It is a history of Soviet repression and as such does not deal with other aspects of Soviet history. So what? Not every history of Nazi Germany or Native Americans has to deal with things other than persecution either. Many historians have written perfectly fine histories that deal only with the Holocaust. Many others have written histories that only deal with the massacres of Native Americans. It is perfectly legitimate to write a history of Soviet repression which is what Werth’s piece does. It is also perfectly legitimate to write a history of the Holocaust or massacres of Native Americans. Do you object to the scholarship of Raul Hilberg and David Stannard as well? After all Hilberg only talks about the negative aspects of Nazi Germany and Stannard only talks about the negative aspects of colonial and US policy towards Native Americans.

            • wengler says:

              Then there was that communist in Yugoslavia that prevented a whole bunch of deaths. You are seeing all communists as a monolith. A very distorted and unhelpful view of history.

              • J. Otto Pohl says:

                The communists in Yugoslavia were extremely brutal from 1944 to 1948. Over 48,000 of the remaining 350,000 ethnic Germans in the country perished in concentration camps during this time. That does not count the over 7,000 shot or the countless women to die while being raped by Tito’s partisans. It also only includes victims among the rather small German minority. I thought that the myth of Tito’s benevolence had been banished. But, evidently there are still people covering for him.

          • J. Otto Pohl says:

            It is not debatable what actually happened in the areas of Europe conquered by the USSR. If you think that the Italian and Greek post-war governments was worse than what happened in the Baltic States in 1948 (Operation Vesna in Lithuania) and 1949 (Operation Priboi in all three nations)then you really need to reexamine the events. The re-imposition of communist rule on the Baltic States, western Ukraine, and Moldova involved the massive deportation of civilians to Siberia. There is nothing equivalent in Italy and Greece.

            • Data Tutashkhia says:

              According to wikipedia, 10,000 people were arrested in the first day of the Greek coup of 1967.

              • J. Otto Pohl says:

                Wikipedia is not a reliable source. But, 1967 is far removed from 1948 and 1949 which was the period under discussion. However, 10,000 is quite small compared to the hundreds of thousands of victims in the Baltic states especially since Greece had considerably more people than Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia put together. To make your analogy of Greece being worse in the proper time period you need to show about 1 million arrests and several hundred thousand deaths as a result during the late 1940s not the 1960s.

                • Data Tutashkhia says:

                  1948&49 were immediate post-war years, right after the most brutal war of the modern times. Tens of thousands of collaborators (very loosely defined) were executed in France, for example. That doesn’t prove anything at all.

          • Debatable at best.

            Why, exactly, is it “debatable at best” to claim that Italy and Greece, if they had been subsumed into the Soviet empire, would have looked more or less like the other European countries that did so?

            • DocAmazing says:

              Because, joe, we’re talking about victory at the ballot box, not being conquered by the USSR. Yugoslavia, to take one example, was a European communist state not “subsumed into the Soviet empire”. Communist victories at the polls in Greece would not have meant T-72s rolling through the streets of Athens.

              • J. Otto Pohl says:

                Yugoslavia during its early days despite its independence from the USSR was extremely brutal. Among other things most of the ethnic German population were put into concentration camps by the early Tito regime. Some were also shipped off for forced labor in the USSR. There were also some brutal massacres of Croatians and Slovenes during Tito’s early rule. Even after Tito’s reforms after 1948, the regime still imprisoned dissidents and poets and had an official campaign by UDBA to assassinate Croation emigres in Europe and the Americas.

    • JosephW says:

      Of course, you sort of forget that in 1944, Stalin was our ally and the US had been providing Stalin plenty of aid to fight Germany.

      I would also point out that many American “thinking people” continued supporting Hitler and the Nazis, despite the German remilitarization of the Ruhr, the annexation of the Saarland and even saw no problems with the annexation of Austria or the Sudetenland. And just as many Britons were supportive of the Germans pretty much right up until the beginning of the Blitz (despite the evacuation of Dunkirk and other British military defeats and/or setbacks), so too were many Americans solidly pro-German right up to Pearl Harbor.

      • Richard says:

        Didnt forget at all that Stalin was an ally. But it was apparent that he and the Soviet Union would not always be an ally and that it was necessary to start preparing for the world after Germany and Japan were defeated. The nature of Stalin and the Soviet Union were apparent to anyone who chose to look. The Wallace view, that Stalin could be trusted and wasn’t different than our other allies like Britain and France, was delusional.

        As far as supporting Germany, you’re right that, as of 1940, there were considerable portions of this country that supported Hitler and considerable portions that supported Stalin. They did so despite the massive evidence that both were bloodthirsty killers and tyrants of an unprecedented sort

    • wengler says:

      Wallace would’ve been a great President. FDR’s new deal policies combined with someone with a scientific background. Imagine if those massive public investments in science hadn’t just gone into better rockets for ICBMs, and the President hadn’t been rolled into supporting a massive ‘defense’ state.

  5. Jim Lynch says:

    That Wallace then believed the post-war Czech people feared a resurgent Germany more than the Soviet Union is inexplicable. FDR did well when he bounced him from the ticket in ’44.

    • IM says:

      That Wallace then believed the post-war Czech people feared a resurgent Germany more than the Soviet Union is inexplicable

      Is it? As far as i know the communist party used fears of Germany as one of the instruments of their takeover in Chzechoslovakia.

    • wengler says:

      The Czechs had very little reason to trust the West either way.

  6. DavidT says:

    The thing about Wallace in 1948 is this: he expected a large number of New Deal liberals who were disillusioned with Truman to support him. But few did (Rexford Tugwell was one of the few exceptions). So he had to depend for his support on Communists and people close to the CP. These were the only people who were willing to do the hard work involved in organizing a new party, getting it on the ballot etc. And as his dependence on the Communists increased, even more liberals used it as an excuse to repudiate the third party and back Truman as the “lesser evil.” Which in turn made Wallace even more dependent on the CP and CP-aligned unions in the left wing of the CIO. It was truly a vicious cycle. Even if he had wanted to repudiate the Communists in 1948, he couldn’t, because his new party was dependent on them.

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