Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech
On March 5, 1946, the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was invited to Fulton, Missouri by U.S. President Harry S. Truman where he delivered his “Sinews of Peace” speech, in which he claimed that the Soviet Union had imposed an “iron curtain” on Europe. Churchill prepared his speech in Washington, DC and discussed it at length with U.S. president Truman who accompanied him on stage in Fulton.
The first recorded use of the “iron curtain” metaphor used by Churchill was by the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels during the war. In his speech, Churchill condemned the communist system of states and called for an alliance of the “English-speaking nations” to save the world from Soviet domination and communism. All of it was to accuse communism of violating the right to conscience so as to present it as an ideology of enslavement. In fact communism is the condition for the complete emancipation of the working class and, as such, a condition for the emancipation of all humanity. It cannot be communism unless it establishes the condition for the complete emancipation of the working class.
Because of the great prestige communism enjoyed after World War II, the Anglo-American imperialists needed a justification to smash the anti-fascist alliance. Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech was an important rationalization of the Anglo-American imperialists for attacking the anti-fascist united front, claiming that there now existed two worlds, one called “free” and centred around the U.S., the other called “enslaved,” centred around the Soviet Union. Churchill, along with others, called for a grand Anglo-American strategy (including geo-political considerations and war aims) linked to notions of laws and values to combat this development. The Soviet Union subsequently conciliated with the notion of two worlds and on this basis a bipolar world order was created.
Winston Churchill’s formal declaration of the Cold War in his “Iron Curtain” speech put the right to conscience in utter disrepute in the post-war period. In this way, in the years which followed World War II, first the U.S. and then the Soviet Union raised their hand against the right to conscience. This right was held in such contempt that it was “granted” only on the basis of which camp an individual or a country belonged to.
U.S. President Truman proceeded to demonstrate the meaning of this when he convinced the U.S. Congress to send more than $400 million to support the fascist forces in Greece. The aim was to restore the monarchy linked to Queen Victoria’s dynasty so as to ensure the defeat of the democratic struggle which was underway in Greece and thereby guarantee the geo-political interests of the U.S. over western Europe as well as position it to take over eastern Europe. By this act, not only was Greece deprived of the right to self-determination but the Greek people who refused to renounce the anti-fascist resistance were accused of being communists and kept in concentration camps established by the British for forty years. All over Asia and Latin America communists were slaughtered in the name of this high ideal.
In the late fifties and thereafter, the world was to witness the Soviet Union also defining what was progressive on the basis of whether the country, organization or individual in question was its friend or enemy. No sooner had the Cold War officially ended in the 1989-91 period with the demise of the Soviet Union than it became quite clear that under the U.S. striving to become the sole superpower, the right to conscience was again to be made the target of attack. Today, the U.S. imperialists and their allies continue to trample it underfoot in the name of defending the national interests of the big powers, as they once more attempt to redivide the world between their own spheres of influence.
Pravda Interview with J.V. Stalin
On March 16, 1946, a Pravda correspondent requested that J.V. Stalin clarify a number of questions connected with Mr. Churchill’s speech at Fulton, U.S.A. Below are J.V. Stalin’s replies to the correspondent’s questions.
Question: How do you appraise Mr. Churchill’s latest speech in the United States of America?
Answer: I appraise it as a dangerous act, calculated to sow the seeds of dissension among the Allied States and impede their collaboration.
Question: Can it be considered that Mr. Churchill’s speech is prejudicial to the cause of peace and security?
Answer: Yes, unquestionably. As a matter of fact, Mr. Churchill now takes the stand of the warmongers, and in this Mr. Churchill is not alone. He has friends not only in Britain but in the United States of America as well.
A point to be noted is that in this respect Mr. Churchill and his friends bear a striking resemblance to Hitler and his friends. Hitler began his work of unleashing war by proclaiming a race theory, declaring that only German-speaking people constituted a superior nation. Mr. Churchill sets out to unleash war with a race theory, asserting that only English-speaking nations are superior nations, who are called upon to decide the destinies of the entire world. The German race theory led Hitler and his friends to the conclusion that the Germans, as the only superior nation, should rule over other nations. The English race theory leads Mr. Churchill and his friends to the conclusion that the English-speaking nations, as the only superior nations, should rule over the rest of the nations of the world.
Actually, Mr. Churchill, and his friends in Britain and the United States, present to the non-English speaking nations something in the nature of an ultimatum: “Accept our rule voluntarily, and then all will be well; otherwise war is inevitable.”
But the nations shed their blood in the course of five years’ fierce war for the sake of the liberty and independence of their countries, and not in order to exchange the domination of the Hitlers for the domination of the Churchills. It is quite probable, accordingly, that the non-English-speaking nations, which constitute the vast majority of the population of the world, will not agree to submit to a new slavery.
It is Mr. Churchill’s tragedy that, inveterate Tory that he is, he does not understand this simple and obvious truth.
There can be no doubt that Mr. Churchill’s position is a war position, a call for war on the U.S.S.R. It is also clear that this position of Mr. Churchill’s is incompatible with the Treaty of Alliance existing between Britain and the U.S.S.R. True, Mr. Churchill does say, in passing, in order to confuse his readers, that the term of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance and Collaboration might quite well be extended to 50 years. But how is such a statement on Mr. Churchill’s part to be reconciled with his position of war on the U.S.S.R., with his preaching of War against the U.S.S.R.? Obviously, these things cannot be reconciled by any means whatever. And if Mr. Churchill, who calls for war on the Soviet Union, at the same time considers it possible to extend the term of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty to 50 years, that means that he regards this Treaty as a mere scrap of paper, which he only needs in order to disguise and camouflage his anti-Soviet position. For this reason, the false statements of Mr. Churchill’s friends in Britain, regarding the extension of the term of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty to 50 years or more, cannot be taken seriously. Extension of the Treaty term has no point if one of the parties violates the Treaty and converts it into a mere scrap of paper.
Question: How do you appraise the part of Mr. Churchill’s speech in which he attacks the democratic systems in the European States bordering upon us, and criticises the good-neighbourly relations established between these States and the Soviet Union.
Answer: This part of Mr. Churchill’s speech is compounded of elements of slander and elements of discourtesy and tactlessness. Mr. Churchill asserts that “Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, Sofia — all these famous cities and the populations around them lie within the Soviet sphere and are all subject in one form or another not only to Soviet influence, but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow.” Mr. Churchill describes all this as “unlimited expansionist tendencies” on the part of the Soviet Union.
It needs no particular effort to show that in this Mr. Churchill grossly and unceremoniously slanders both Moscow, and the above-named States bordering on the U.S.S.R.
In the first place it is quite absurd to speak of exclusive control by the U.S.S.R. in Vienna and Berlin, where there are Allied Control Councils made up of the representatives of four States and where the U.S.S.R. has only one-quarter of the votes. It does happen that some people cannot help in engaging in slander. But still, there is a limit to everything.
Secondly, the following circumstance should not be forgotten. The Germans made their invasion of the U.S.S.R. through Finland, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Germans were able to make their invasion through these countries because, at the time, governments hostile to the Soviet Union existed in these countries. As a result of the German invasion the Soviet Union has lost irretrievably in the fighting against the Germans, and also through the German occupation and the deportation of Soviet citizens to German servitude, a total of about seven million people. In other words, the Soviet Union’s loss of life has been several times greater than that of Britain and the United States of America put together. Possibly in some quarters an inclination is felt to forget about these colossal sacrifices of the Soviet people which secured the liberation of Europe from the Hitlerite yoke. But the Soviet Union cannot forget about them. And so what can there be surprising about the fact that the Soviet Union, anxious for its future safety, is trying to see to it that governments loyal in their attitude to the Soviet Union should exist in these countries? How can anyone, who has not taken leave of his wits, describe these peaceful aspirations of the Soviet Union as expansionist tendencies on the part of our State?
Mr. Churchill claims further that the “Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous, wrongful inroads on Germany.”
Every word of this is a gross and insulting calumny. Outstanding men are at the helm in present democratic Poland. They have proved by their deeds that they are capable of upholding the interests and dignity of their country as their predecessors were not. What grounds has Mr. Churchill to assert that the leaders of present-day Poland can countenance in their country the domination of representatives of any foreign State whatever? Is it not because Mr. Churchill means to sow the seeds of dissension in the relations between Poland and the Soviet Union that he slanders “the Russians” here?
Mr. Churchill is displeased that Poland has faced about in her policy in the direction of friendship and alliance with the U.S.S.R. There was a time when elements of conflict and antagonism predominated in the relations between Poland and the U.S.S.R. This circumstance enabled statesmen like Mr. Churchill to play on these antagonisms, to get control over Poland on the pretext of protecting her from the Russians, to try to scare Russia with the spectre of war between her and Poland, and retain the position of arbiter for themselves. But that time is past and gone, for the enmity between Poland and Russia has given place to friendship between them, and Poland — present-day democratic Poland — does not choose to be a play-ball in foreign hands any longer. It seems to me that it is this fact that irritates Mr. Churchill and makes him indulge in discourteous, tactless sallies against Poland. Just imagine — he is not being allowed to play his game at the expense of others!
As to Mr. Churchill’s attack upon the Soviet Union in connection with the extension of Poland’s Western frontier to include Polish territories which the Germans had seized in the past — here it seems to me he is plainly cheating. As is known, the decision on the Western frontier of Poland was adopted at the Berlin Three-Power Conference on the basis of Poland’s demands. The Soviet Union has repeatedly stated that it considers Poland’s demands to be proper and just. It is quite probable that Mr. Churchill is displeased with this decision. But why does Mr. Churchill, while sparing no shots against the Russian position in this matter, conceal from his readers the fact that this decision was passed at the Berlin Conference by unanimous vote — that it was not only the Russians, but the British and Americans as well, that voted for the decision? Why did Mr. Churchill think it necessary to mislead the public?
Further, Mr. Churchill asserts that the Communist Parties, which were previously very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to prominence and power far beyond their numbers and seek everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments prevail in nearly every case, and “thus far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.”
As is known, the Government of the State in Britain at the present time is in the hands of one party, the Labour Party, and the opposition parties are deprived of the right to participate in the Government of Britain. That Mr. Churchill calls true democracy. Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Hungary are administered by blocs of several parties — from four to six parties — and the opposition, if it is more or less loyal, is secured the right of participation in the Government. That Mr. Churchill describes as totalitarianism, tyranny and police rule. Why? On what grounds? Don’t expect a reply from Mr. Churchill. Mr. Churchill does not understand in what a ridiculous position he puts himself by his outcry about “totalitarianism, tyranny and police rule.”
Mr. Churchill would like Poland to be administered by Sosnkowski and Anders, Yugoslavia by Mikhailovich and Pavelich, Rumania by Prince Stirbey and Radescu, Hungary and Austria by some King of the House of Hapsburg, and so on. Mr. Churchill wants to assure us that these gentlemen from the Fascist backyard can ensure true democracy.
Such is the “democracy” of Mr. Churchill.
Mr. Churchill comes somewhere near the truth when he speaks of the increasing influence of the Communist Parties in Eastern Europe. It must be remarked, however, that he is not quite accurate. The influence of the Communist Parties has grown not only in Eastern Europe, but in nearly all the countries of Europe which were previously under Fascist rule — Italy, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Finland — or which experienced German, Italian or Hungarian occupation — France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, the Soviet Union and so on.
The increased influence of the Communists cannot be considered fortuitous. It is a perfectly logical thing. The influence of the Communists has grown because, in the years of the rule of Fascism in Europe, the Communists showed themselves trusty, fearless, self-sacrificing fighters against the Fascist regime for the liberty of the peoples. Mr. Churchill in his speeches sometimes recalls the plain people from little homes, slapping them patronisingly on the back and parading as their friend. But these people are not so simple as may at first sight appear. These plain people have views of their own, a policy of their own, and they know how to stand up for themselves. It was they, the millions of these plain people, that defeated Mr. Churchill and his party in Britain by casting their votes for the Labourites. It was they, the millions of these “plain people,” who isolated the reactionaries and advocates of collaboration with Fascism in Europe, and gave their preference to the Left democratic parties. It was they, the millions of these “plain people,” who after testing the Communists in the fires of struggle and resistance to Fascism, came to the conclusion that the Communists were fully deserving of the people’s confidence. That was how the influence of the Communists grew in Europe.
Of course Mr. Churchill does not like this course of development and he sounds the alarm and appeals to force. But neither did he like the birth of the Soviet regime in Russia after the First World War. At that time, too, he sounded the alarm and organised an armed campaign of 14 States against Russia setting himself the goal of turning back the wheel of history. But history proved stronger than the Churchill intervention, and Mr. Churchill’s quixotry led to his unmitigated defeat at that time. I don’t know whether Mr. Churchill and his friends will succeed in organising a new armed campaign against Eastern Europe after the Second World War; but if they do succeed — which is not very probable because millions of plain people stand guard over the cause of peace — it may confidently be said that they will be thrashed, just as they were thrashed once before, 26 years ago.