- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 21 Feb 1946, p. 241-255
- Woodside, Willson, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Reference to the recent Soviet accusation against Canada of a great anti-Soviet campaign, based on our official statement of the scope of a spy ring and fifth column activity in this country. The speaker's detailed discussion, entitled "The Russian Riddle" proceeds under the following headings, which serve to summarize topics addressed: Diplomacy On Military Lines; Some Facts For Deluded Canadians; The Soviets Are Still Very Russian; Comintern More Active Than Ever; Were They Right On Munich?; We Have Not Used "Atomic Diplomacy"; Soviet's Isolate Selves At 'Frisco; A Friendly Offer Rejected; The Soviet Post-War "Line"; What Soviets Expected In 1939; Better Multi-nationalist System?; More Steel; Potential Enemies; One World: Free World. The speaker's conclusions of Soviet action warn of the dangers of an intensive propaganda campaign being carried out through the whole Moslem world from their vast new military program and their grab for oil all around their borders; that the Soviets see us and our way of life as potential enemies; that they will use UNO for what it is worth in securing the period of peace which they will need while intensifying their work inside all other countries, especially in those all around their border, from Poland to Manchuria. He ends with a short discussion on how to deal with the Soviets, discarding appeasement as a viable alternative. Working for One World, a Free World and the need not to compromise on this.
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- 21 Feb 1946
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- Full Text
- THE RUSSIAN RIDDLE
AN ADDRESS BY MR. WILLSON WOODSIDE
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Thursday, February 21, 1946
MR. THOMPSON: Gentlemen, our guest of honour needs no introduction to an Empire Club audience in that this will be his sixth address from our platform.
However, for the benefit of those who may not know him well, I would like to say that he is a graduate in engineering of the University of Toronto, with the degree of Bachelor of Science,
Following graduation, he was for five years a member of the Faculty of the University of Toronto, from 1929 to 1934, during which time he took the utmost advantage of the long summer recesses by visiting Europe each year and familiarizing himself with the continent, it's people and it's problems.
In one way or another, by foot and bike, bus and boat, train and plane, he has crossed the continent eight times and, there is no important corner that he has not visited.
In 1934, he became a free lance reporter and lecturer on International affairs and it was in September of that year, that he first addressed this Club, speaking at the time on German Propoganda, under the title "The Whole World is Against Us".
During World War Two, his name became well and favourably known from Coast to Coast in this country, because of his excellent analysis of the War news, which was heard nightly over the air. His ability to untangle the fast occurring events made him one of the most popular commentators.
A journalist of note, he has been, since the beginning of the war, Foreign Editor of Saturday Night and, his weekly articles in that journal are of great interest to the student of world affairs and, we are all looking forward to his address of today.
Gentlemen, it is with pleasure that I now turn the microphone over to Willson Woodside, who will speak to us on "The Russian Riddle".
MR: WILLSON WOODSIDE: Obviously you have a very enterprising program committee. After booking this talk last Wednesday, they seem to have hustled around and persuaded the Prime Minister to blow the lid off a great international spying affair, in order to bring the crowd out! Apparently they had no worries lest I should be picked up by the RCMP.
The latest development, the Soviet accusation that we have acted in an unfriendly manner, and made a very small affair an excuse for a great anti-Soviet campaign, on the bidding of Mr. Bevin because of the rough time they gave him in the Security Council, has broadened this into the diplomatic field. This is to be understood as a diplomatic counter-attack. And I think it is an attempt to intimidate us into pussyfooting in our official statement of the scope of the spy ring and fifth column activity in Canada. They threaten us with breaking diplomatic relations! The thief accuses us of being unfriendly because we made a fuss over handing over our wallet; and then says, anyway, our wallet-that is, our secrets, were not much good anyway, and he has far better ones!Diplomacy On Military Lines
This kind of diplomacy, the same which Mr. Bevin stigmatized in the Security Council debates, shouldn't be very hard for us to understand, as we met it from another country before the recent war. It is a diplomacy carried out on essentially military lines, with attack and counterattack, faints, surprise moves, and camouflage; and strategic retreats when necessary in order to prepare the position for a further advance.
But even before the diplomatic angle developed, our public rightly understood that this is a very serious matter. It is the greatest treason scandal ever uncovered in an English-speaking country--thought it is quite possible that as great a one could be, and perhaps will be, uncovered in the United States. I doubt that it could happen in Britain, where all of the Nazis' efforts before the war only succeeded in corrupting a single British officer, Captain Bailie Stewart.
As far as the actual Russian agents who have been operating in our country go, I wouldn't expend any moral indignation on them.
They were simply doing what they were paid for--and what the RCMP are paid to prevent.
There are, however, disturbing implications when one considers why the Soviet Government should have established such spying and fifth column activity in our country, which was friendly to them during the war, which freely handed over to them many of our most valuable war secrets, carried on clothing and relief drives, founded societies of friendship, and held so many public demonstrations, patronized by our highest dignitaries right up to the Prime Minister. It seems to have posed for us here an insistent question as to whether the Soviets ever felt so friendly towards us. But I shall come back to that, when I analyze their current policies as laid down by Stalin and his chief colleagues in their recent election speeches.
The thing which should concern us most in this spy exposure is the number of Canadians even in official positions, who are willing to sell out their country to a foreign power. Unfortunately, the trouble isn't quite as simple as just selling information. Worse was the fact that so many were willing to give it away, having come, through a long and insidious process of indoctrination in university and press, and from some pulpits, to hold what they considered a "higher patriotism" to Soviet Russia, than to their own country and the ideals it stands for.Some Facts For Deluded Canadians
That, we must be deeply concerned about. As McAree wrote in Tuesday's Globe, many of these people have simply come to accept that Soviet Russia can do no wrong, and that a thing like the atomic bomb is actually safer in her hands than in the hands of our own leaders. This, as he says, duplicated within every other nation, is an ominous development in international relations.
In this situation, it seems to me that we--and more particularly the deluded ones--badly need a thorough and critical analysis of what Soviet policy really is today. We cannot simply go along on Mr. Churchill's aphorism that it is a riddle, wrapped in mystery and enclosed in an enigma.
A British diplomat out at San Francisco said that the reason Soviet foreign policy was so difficult to fathom is that it is twice as foreign as any other. First, it is Russian. And second, it is Communist. I think most people underestimate how Russian the Soviets and their policies still are. National character is a very persistent thing. I recall the joke played by the American Ambassador Bullitt when he went to Russia several years before the war. Finding in the embassy files a report on the Russians made by a predecessor of his in 1845, describing the extreme censorship, the lack of political freedom, the secret police, the suspicion and the difficulty of doing business with them in general. Bullitt drew a fresh copy of this, dated it 1935, and sent it off to the State Department, where it was duly read and filed as a current report on Soviet Russia! I could recite other, older and just as remarkable comparisons.The Soviets Are Still Very Russian
The Soviets, then, are still Russian. And they ate now following old Russian, Tsarist, policies in dominating the Baltic, using Panslavism all through Central Europe and the Balkans, driving for the Dardanelles, penetrating Iran, and imposing on the Chinese a control of Manchuria almost identical with that secured by the Tsars 50 years ago. Indeed, in almost all instances the appetite has grown and the prosecution is much more vigorous.
Secondly, Soviet foreign policy is Communist. This is mixed with Russian imperialism to give what one writer calls a sort of "socialist imperialism." We had an accurate preview of this policy in Finland, in 1939. Behind the Red Army, and installing itself in the first village captured, came a so-called "Finnish People's Government," headed by the chief Finnish member of the Comintern, Kuusinen. The war came and went, and this policy was carried on in almost identical fashion in Poland, where the leading Polish Comintern agent Pierut was set up as the head of government by the Red Army; and in Yugoslavia, where Tito, the chief Yugoslav member of the Comintern, was sent from Moscow. Bulgaria became the special field for the head of the Comintern himself, the Bulgarian Dimitroff who defied Goering in the Reichstag Fire Trial. In Rumania the famous Anna Pauker dominates the government. Back to Italy has been sent Togliatti, the chief Italian Comintern member. Back to France Thorez and Duclos have returned after spending the war years in Moscow. The Communists, of the Free Germany Committee maintained in Moscow during the war have been moved into administrative positions and newspaper editorships in Berlin. Even in the United States a reorganization of the Communist Party has been ordered by the very important French member of the Comintern, Duclos. Browder and his policy of labor-management peace have been denounced, and a new line laid down, as the Daily Worker said, "to take advantage of the coming era of industrial strife". And how quickly that came! And here in Canada you should read the anxious apologies by Tim Buck and the rest in their publications; for their "mistake" in following Browder's line. Now, they say, they must fight even "the opportunistic CCF social reformers", to the death, for control of the labor movement.Comintern More Active Than Ever
These are facts. Anyone who can doubt that the Comintern, far from being dissolved, is more active and ambitious than ever today, is beyond the persuasion o f reason. The hopes and aims of this side of Soviet Policy are clearly revealed in the election boast last week of the very important Party Secretary and Stalin aide, Andreyev, that 16 Soviet Republics were taking part in this election against only 11 in the last one.
There are some who hold that this Soviet policy of annexing adjoining territory, creating buffer states beyond that and maintaining a fifth column in all other states is motivated, and justified, by their suspicion that the outside, "capitalist" world still harbors evil intentions against the security of the Soviet Union. Since the fascist states, Germany, Japan and Italy are laid low, that means us. Let's look into this question of Soviet suspicion.
Those who justify it say, look at the Intervention in Russia in 1918-19. Look at Munich. Look at the anti-Soviet writers and parliamentarians in our countries.
Well, about the Intervention which looms so big in Soviet histories, and has served them so well to hold their people together under a rigorous regime. Our position when the Eastern Front collapsed in 1917 didn't look much brighter than it would have had the Eastern front folded up in 1943 or 44, and we had been left alone to defeat Germany's 250 divisions. We sent three or four divisions to Russia, to guard the immense supplies which lay piled on the docks and support anyone who would reopen the Eastern Front and fight Germans, just exactly as Stalin supported Michailovitch in 1941, no matter what he says of him now, because he was fighting Germans. When it came to the question, after we had beaten Germany, of whether we would launch a real intervention in Russia, and send the large forces necessary to overthrow the Bolshevik government, the British and French cabinets and parliaments, and even more, the workers, and soldiers, just wouldn't do it. It is far more certain today that our people simply wouldn't support any aggressive attack on Russia.Were They Right On Munich?
Then there is Munich. The Soviet press interpreted this unhappy business, which I certainly opposed to the best of my ability, as a clearing of Hitler's road to the east, so that he could invade Russia. But it was Germany that forced through the Munich Pact, not Britain. When six months later, Hitler attacked eastward, Britain went to war against him. And when he invaded Russia, Britain offered her full aid the same day. So that case is shot full of holes.
Finally we come to the most vital point of suspicion whether the big remaining "capitalist" powers are planning a coalition to attack the Soviet Union. Well now, the Soviet theory that Munich was a coalition of European capitalist powers against the Soviet Union was proven completely wrong. The British people, in the "phony" war period, and the American people in their division and confusion up to Pearl Harbor, showed that they simply will not put their weight into any war today until and unless they are attacked. Imagine how long and how bitterly the American press and Congress would argue about forming an alliance with Britain, which can't be done in secret! Then the annual military estimates, which would show the preparation of great armaments, are debated in parliament, in both Britain and the U. S. and Canada. There are public opinion polls, and presidential elections, which show the trend of things, and to which the Soviets have the fullest access. And our chiefs of staff have no power whatever to declare war, or launch one by surprise, without declaration--the kind that people are worrying about, what with the new atomic weapons.
Quite the contrary, this sort of secret preparation and launching of war is only possible under a dictatorship, where there is no expression of public opinion in parliament or polls, no debates on the military budget, but every chance for secret deals like that with Germany in August, 1939, and sudden attack, like that against Finland in the same year. It is part of the historical record that our scruples and our public opinion are such that, under the most terrible pressure, we wouldn't even violate the neutrality of Ireland and Portugal, in the war.
It seems to me that, as a Canadian diplomat recently returned from a stay of several years in Russia said the other day, the Soviets are merely using this cry of "suspicion" f or all they can get out of it in the way of concessions, and for holding their own people in line. (For it is not to be assumed that they, alone of all countries in the world, have no domestic political and social problems, after such a devastating and exhausting experience.)We Have Not Used "Atomic Diplomacy"
It is significant that, immediately after we had used the atomic-bomb, the Soviet propaganda fell very quiet. Then at the London Conference the Soviets tried us sorely, to see how far we would go in applying "atomic diplomacy" to them. When we completely failed to do this, and to insist on any of the points we desired-and only then-did they start shouting about our "atomic diplomacy" and how suspicious they were justified in being about it. Then we went to the Moscow Conference and made further concessions to prove to them that their suspicions were unfounded. That's how "atomic diplomacy" works in soft hands. I wouldn't like to experience it in tough hands.
This suspicion, of which we hear so much. Let's go into our efforts to dispel it, and the return which we received. There was the Lease-Lend, given without strings-probably foolishly--and to an extent far beyond the mere sustenance of Russian defensive power. We gave a battleship and a cruiser, and put the Red Army on wheels with over 300,000 military trucks and jeeps. There were the clothing collections, relief funds and public demonstrations which I have mentioned. Yet we had never received a kind word, much less a ton of supplies when our backs were to the wall. Admiral Standley had to make a public fuss to get the Soviets to acknowledge our aid in their press. And no one has ever reported a single friendship meeting for us, held in Russia.
We gave them our secret weapons, but far from giving us theirs, they didn't even give us captured German weapons, which they had encountered but we had not. We allowed their correspondents and officials to travel freely about our countries, but that didn't make the least difference in the restrictions which limited every move of our people in Russia.Soviet's Isolate Selves At Frisco
I had an interesting experience with this policy of self-imposed Soviet isolatian. On the press train out to San Francisco, which was just a great rolling press-club, with everyone visiting with everyone else and a chance to talk things over with famous journalists from all over the world, the four Tass Agency men visited no-one, and took all their meals at the same table together. Out at San Francisco the Canadian delegation was lodged in the same hotel as the Russian, the St. Francis. Mr. McKenzie, King and our other delegates had ordinary rooms or suites, ate in the dining room or the coffee shop, and could be readily approached in the lobby.
The Soviets took a whole floor. They closed it off, turned the hotel servants out, and as the manager told me, moved every stick of furniture-obviously looking for listening devices. I never heard whether they found any. Then they got hold of a kitchen up on the French floor, before the French knew about it, and secured the use of a private elevator. Suddenly they brought in cooks, servants, food and vodka from a Soviet ship in the harbor. Just think, all this preparation must have been made immediately after the Yalta Conference, for everything had to be shipped across Siberia and loaded at Vladivostock for the long run across the Pacific. They went to this much trouble to isolate themselves at an international conference, where everyone else mixed as much as possible. And Mr. Molotov, of course, lived in the exclusion of the Soviet consulate and travelled to and from the conference with a phalanx of body-guards.
I'll give another and still better example. Everyone recognizes that the problem of getting along better with the Russians and breaking down the barrier of suspicion, is one of personal contacts and friendships. President Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia and President Conant of Harvard thought that they had a good idea for promoting these, a year or more ago. They decided that they would each offer free scholarships to a hundred Soviet students, and moreover, would offer to finance the same number of American students at Russian universities. A Friendly Offer Rejected
They put these proposals in a letter, and sent it through the Soviet Embassy in Washington. Month after month went by; they asked for an answer but never got one. Then last summer, when a new college year was coming up, they tried again, They made the offer more pressing, and asked for an early answer so that they could adjust their budget. This time they got one. It said that, due to conditions left by the war, the Soviet universities were unable to accept American students. And there were already sufficient Soviet students at American universities. They added these up, and there were 18. One must ask who is isolating whom?
I don't give these examples in malice, but in deep concern-for I had my own experience in trying to be friendly with the Soviets, earlier in the war. There was a time when I was able to interview the ambassador, was welcomed at receptions at the embassy which the whole of Ottawa was eager to attend, was asked for a message to the Soviet press, and quoted in Izvestia for my tributes to the magnificent endurance of the Red Army and the Russian people. But all this came to a sudden end when I pointed out that other, smaller and earlier allies had rights too. Then I was suddenly discovered to be a "fascist", a "Goebbels agent" and all the rest; and the henchmen of the Soviets, our local Communists, began a tremendous letter-writing campaign against me to the press and radio. I have given these examples of the failure of our efforts to promote friendship, and of Soviet self-isolation, in the deepest concern, because they are now explained as an official line of Communist policy in the speech which Stalin gave ten days ago, on the occasion of the Soviet election. As the New York Times emphasizes, this speech deserves the most careful study, since it is literally the gospel, as laid down for the Soviet officials and people, and Communists all over the world.
What is this new line. Well, the worst is that it is far too much like the old pre-war line. I happen to receive every day an extensive report of all the important broadcasts given over national radios everywhere in the world, and I have carefully studied and compared the election speeches of all the leading Soviet figures: Stalin and Molotov, Kalinin and Voroshilov, Zhdanov and Kaganovitch, Andreyev and Beria. and several others of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It is quite clear that, sitting together, they have laid down the line as follows. Each speaker uses three or four of the themes, which come up time and time again in almost the identical phrasing.The Soviet Post-War "Line"
The line emerges as this: "The war was caused by capitalism." "Further capitalist crises are inevitable." "Capitalist states will bring forth new aggressors." "There are still fascists and reactionaries active in the states of our former allies." "Soviet Russia is within a capitalist encirclement."
Then: "We must be vigilant, and prepared against any eventuality." "We must consolidate the fruits of our victory; parts of the Yalta and Potsdam Agreements remain to be made good." "The Soviet position in the world has been immensely strengthened." And, "Stalin has made no mistakes." There was also a strong attack made by Kalinin on Social Democrats-naturally because they offer the working man an alternative to Communism. There was only the slightest mention of the U. N. O. And there was no mention whatever of any aid we might have given, or any suggestion that it was a common victory.
Much the most important was Stalin's speech. I can only go into it very briefly today; but I have written about it at length in the Saturday Night. The war, he said, arose inevitably from the development of monopoly capitalism. Now, as all four powers at Nuremburg agree, this war was launched by Nazi Germany; that is, by a nation which had set up National Socialism, severely restricted the operation of its big industrialists, and abolished all of the ordinary bourgeois or capitalist freedoms. Much more significantly, the war was launched by a dictatorship, which had first covered its rear with a deal with another dictatorship. The biggest capitalist nations, the U. S. and Britain, were the most reluctant to fight, and unhesitatingly supplied and supported Socialist Russia when she was attacked.
So what is there left of that theory of Stalin's? Surely the one great reason for the war was the German urge for sheer physical domination of other peoples. This is as old as history, just as other militaristic peoples have been led to war by other war-minded leaders. Then Stalin comes to the reasons for the Soviet victory--he doesn't say anything about our part in it. The chief reason for victory he says, was the superiority of the Soviet social system. Now this is a bill of goods which Stalin and his followers are trying to sell all around the world. Actually, in the crisis of the war Soviet propaganda turned almost exclusively to emphasize Russian nationalism, the defence of the homeland, the famous Russian Tsarist generals of the past. It used even religion for what it was worth. And it called the war, The Great Patriotic War, and not the Great Socialist War. For it can be proven that the Soviet leaders were completely mistaken in their notions of how the war would come out. What Soviets Expected In 1939
I reviewed in Saturday Night, in the fall of 1939, a little book which had been distributed to the entire Red Army, foretelling how the war would come out. It would be started by the capitalists of Western Europe. But their workers would not follow them. In Paris and Milan, as in Berlin, the workers would revolt and set up Popular Front Governments. Then the Red Air Force would strike a great decisive blow at Ruhr industry, and the war would be ended and a Soviet Europe arise, without the Red Army ever having left the USSR. In the event, as we know, the French workers fought as Frenchmen--except for the Communists leaders who deserted and fled to Moscow; German workers fought as Germans; and, I presume from Soviet propaganda, Russian workers fought as Russians. What they fought for, I suggest was to prevent any system being imposed on them, by Germans. After several millions of them saw how incomparably better were the living conditions in every other country which they invaded, or "liberated", the Soviet leaders are very busy indeed trying to reconvince them of "the superiority of the Soviet social system."Better Multi-Nationalist System?
Stalin's next reason for victory is "the superiority of the Soviet multinational system over any other multinational system." That is, the arrangement by which they allow their many nationalities their folk costumes and dances, and the use of their language in school and literature, but deny them any free political activity. This, they argue, is the real solution to the question of national feeling and rivalry, which has undoubtedly plagued the world in the last century.
But surely the rallying of the many nations of the British Commonwealth and Empire, of their own free will, in the darkest days of the war, and without being invaded but in the cause of general freedom, was one of the war's most inspiring aspects. It is true that there is trouble today in India-which produced two million volunteer soldiers during the war. But political action and writing happen to be free in India. One may ask, what would the Ukrainians be saying today, if they were free to do so? One can only judge by the fact that hundreds of thousands of them remain in our zones in Western Germany, unwilling to return to paradise. Perhaps they recall that their nationalist movement, after being recognized by Moscow after the last war, was suppressed later by Red Army occupation, and by the deportation of all the most politically conscious part of the population. The same has been done with the Lithuanians, the Latvians and the Estonians since 1940, and is being done today with the Poles and Serbs and Bulgarians. Certainly it is a "solution" of the national problem as far as the rulers in Moscow are concerned, but hardly a pleasant one for the victims.
Finally Stalin came to the most important part of his speech, the program which he laid down for the country's future development. The most moderate editorialists and commentators on this continent have agreed almost unanimously that this is not a program for raising the welfare of the masses such as one would expect if Stalin envisaged a long period of peaceful co-operation and trade with the rest of the world.More Steel
He calls for almost the quadrupling of Russia's present steel production and an equivalent development of all heavy industry within 15 to 20 years. This has the distinct appearance of a military effort, just as he admitted and even boasted, that the 13 years of heavy industrial development before the war had been a military effort. Stalin justifies the further sacrifice which this will demand from his people by the need of "guaranteeing the country against any eventuality." Molotov is more explicit. He says that "by outstripping the most highly developed capitalist countries we will serve the interests of our own country, and the interests of Communism."
What can one conclude from the interpretation of the war, as given to Communists the world over? From the Soviet action in excluding us from Eastern Europe? From Soviet ambitions in the Mediterranean and Middle East, where they eye Trieste, Salonika, the Dardanelles, demand parts of Turkey and Iran, and are carrying out an intensive propaganda through the whole Moslem world? From their vast new military program, and their grab for oil all around their borders? From the fact that they damn even Social Democracy as unacceptable to them?Potential Enemies
I am afraid that what we must conclude is that, whatever our hopes and desires, the Soviets still see us and our way of life, as potential enemies. Further, we seem to be enemies by their own choice, as they won't be friends or mix with us-even with our Social Democrats. It looks as though they won't tell their people of our aid in the war, because how could they make us out as enemies if we were proven to be friends? It looks as though they were holding a grip on their people by the old, old device of telling them that they face a hostile world. It appears that they continue to hold to their theories that this must become a Soviet world, that while using UNO for what it is worth in securing the period of peace which they undoubtedly need, they are intensifying their work inside all other countries, but especially in those all around their border, from Poland to Manchuria.
How to deal with such people is indeed a hard thing to decide. One way of dealing we should have learned by now is of no use, and that is attempts at appeasing such people, by a one-way show of friendship, and oneway concessions.One World: Free World
Many well-meaning people have felt that if only we had handed over to them the atomic bomb secret, we might have finally secured their friendship, and everything would have come out differently. But with their attitude, and their aims of spreading their brand of totalitarianism, so consistently pursued over the years, could our leaders, your representatives, really take the responsibility of handing to a dictatorship which has shown its ruthlessness towards its own people and others so adequately, this decisive weapon for world conquest?
That might very well have been, freedom committing suicide. Surely it is obvious that freedom is still in great danger, that the free world must stand together, and stand up for what it believes in, while at the same time carrying out necessary reforms which will rob local Communist agitators of their appeal. If we are going to work for One World, we have got to make sure that it is a Free World. On that there can be no compromise.