It’s Déja Vu All Over Again

I am finally back to working on the book. Other obligations called. There is still such a mountain of material to look at!

I have been reading letters from the Sixties and I came upon one from Anna Louise Strong written to Ann’s father, Warwick, Sr. Strong, always referred to as ALS by Warwick, was a communist ex-patriot and long time friend. You can check her out in Wikipedia, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll just note that she lived many years in Russia, until she was expelled, and she lived her final years in China, where Ann connected with her.

The letter is of particular interest now because I read it, coincidentally, on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was written on September 1, 1961 – just over a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the end, Kennedy and Khrushchev were saner than today’s heads of state appear to be. I’m guessing that Ann would be agreeing with me that the U.S. and NATO are the primary culprits in Ukraine.

Strong doesn’t have much good to say about Kennedy and I wonder if I’ll find a letter written after he and Khrushchev both backed down. But there’s a lot here that will sound very familiar today. I haven’t found Ann’s letters on the Russian nuclear testing, but her father’s letters indicate that she sympathized with the USSR. Warwick did not. He felt that the USSR should destroy its nuclear weapons unilaterally and that international opinion would eventually force the US to do the same. We’ll never know.

The “…” are Strong’s – all through the letter – not an indication that I’ve left something out.

“…..All day today I have been completely bowled over and thinking furiously on just the questions we have often discussed. This morning at 8 AM I went on the veranda for breakfast with Rewi Alley, who lives on the floor above…At once he told me the news: that Khruschev had announced that the USSR would test nuclear bombs, and also – that the USA had recorded two explosions in Siberia near the China border…and the world generally was denouncing the USSR…We were both of us in a state, wondering how soon we would evacuate Peking!…But at 9 AM I got on the radio, and learned – from the Voice of America, no less, which never sins by over-friendliness to the USSR – that the explosions might have been earthquakes in Peru! Then my nice secretary Feng-feng told me that…yes, the USSR was going to test bombs but so far had not done it, as far as she knew, and the Chinese government endorsed the idea in the morning’s paper…Se we got out the English news-sheet and I read it, and felt unhappy…and argued half the day with sundry Chinese friends, all of whom thought it was ‘all to the good,’ They even said it would ‘defend peace’ at which I snorted…BUT…

“They pointed out that in 1958 when the USSR had unilaterally stopped testing, in the hope that the others would do so, the USA had NOT stopped, but had carried through a long series of tests before also ‘stopping testing’, when the USA had nothing more to test…Then France tested, and its results were of military use to NATO…And now, in the past half year, Kennedy is speeding up everything towards war, very fast…He uses the mere closing of East Berlin’s outlet to West Berlin, to raise billions of money for armaments, and to stage a tremendous furor…In Laos Harriman says the US will take its troops out ‘when proper arrangements’ are made for control, and means by this, when the International Commission, with a majority for the West, is in full charge of all military affairs in Laos, and when the government is picked to US satisfaction, and the Pathet Lao liquidated…This will not happen, so the US has been stepping up fighting in Laos for a month, even while discussing in Geneva…Also the US openly sends planes with commandos and secret agents into North Viet Nam, and armed guerillas from South Viet Nam against the north. And now the US has overthrown the Brazil government, because Brazil sympathized with Cuba.

“Hence, say my friends, ‘Kennedy everywhere drives for war. He doesn’t really, really want a BIG war, but he wants to bluff, to drive to the brink, and to fight enough small wars so that he can get in position to dictate to the socialist camp…What thus far keeps the peace is that the USSR has the A and H bombs, so Kennedy does NOT want a nuclear encounter, but IF the USSR lets herself fall behind in nuclear weapons, then the USA will certainly try for a real war.

“’At present it seems, the USA has stockpiled in Britain and Germany enough bombs to destroy the world; she has stockpiled in Okinawa enough missiles to hit all the cities of China…She send the Polaris around the coasts of all socialist lands…and sends her U-2 and high up invisible planes which can map our country without our even seeing them. Unless we show we have something big, the US will pounce.’

“This seems to be the general opinion…I am not sure how much I share it. But I wish they would do more explaining before they make these moves…For I know just how this will hit those people who think the testing of nuclear weapons is the one best place to stop war…

“One friend pointed out that two months ago the USA said it was goiong to start testing and nobody made much of a howl about it…But when the USSR says it will, the world howls…Also, it is not clear yet whether the USSR said it WOULD, or merely that it felt free to do it…

“In any case, what I have been looking at all day is the phrase in the Chinese statement, supporting the USSR, which says “the danger of a new war prepared by imperialism is increasing”…Because only a few months back they said that the possibility of avoiding world war was ‘increasing with every passing day’…

“This is not inconsistent, because Kennedy has been stepping it up…But one wishes that all those good leftists in Moscow and New York, has not given so much praise to Kennedy for so many months…People in Peking were not deceived; they said at the start that the conditions precluded Kennedy being better than Ike and he might be worse…But they didn’t say this very strongly, not wishing to contradict the rather gushing friendliness that was elsewhere shown.”

An alarmed Warwick wrote to Ann, “If I seem somewhat pessimistic it is not to be wondered at because events have shown clearly that I was unduly optimistic not too long ago. My doubts as to all of the precepts on which I was brought up have grown into quite flourishing plants, true, but they have incubated in a climate providing them with much basis in reason. I feel that it is quite possible that the lag between humanity’s scientific progress and their morality is now so great that the machines are managing men instead of vice-versa and that simple blundering may well wipe out the human race before sanity can spread to enough people to prevent such a disaster. The present-day super weapons pose a threat which neither Marx nor Lenin could foresee although they did clearly point out that ruling classes facing destruction will stop at nothing and will quite willingly drag down all of humanity with them rather than surrender. Have you read Che Guevarra’s article in this month’s MONTHLY REVIEW? He points out most clearly that future revolutionary struggles in Central and South America will be harder and bloodier by far than was the people’s take-over in Cuba precisely because the imperialists are now oriented toward such a peril as they held inconceivable a couple of years ago. No other southern nation will seize power without the kind of struggle that can all too readily unleash general war. Although I think K and the Russians are miles ahead of our “statesmen” they continue to rattle weapons and to hike military budgets when, if they’d read their own speeches, they know that warfare is completely intolerable and the answer to nothing. I’m afraid there is sound justification for at least a modicum of pessimism, my dear!”


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