War and Secret Diplomacy
With a fine bold air as of someone daring to tell the truth in face of popular prejudice the editor of the “New Statesman” (31/7/48) declares that “the first necessity is to get back to secret diplomacy.” But immediately his courage failed him, and he hastened to add, as if to excuse his boldness, that “no sane advocate of open diplomacy ever urged that difficult and detailed discussions between great Powers should be carried on in public.” Whether it is sane or not in the eyes of Mr. Kingsley Martin, there certainly have been and are plenty of people who hold that secrecy only serves the interests of the ruling class groups of the world and not the interests of the working class. Even in the ranks of the rulers there have been some who on occasion have declared for the abolition of secrecy. The well-known “Fourteen Points,” proclaimed by President Wilson during the first World War as a basis for reaching peace included as point number one, ‘‘Open covenants of peace openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
It happened to be the view of the President at that time that America had no interest in seeking to enforce the secret treaties made by Britain, France and Russia for the dismemberment of Germany and Turkey, but the Second World War showed that America like the other Powers was quite prepared to enter into secret treaties of her own.
Another and more telling example of the avoidance of secrecy was the declaration of the Russian Bolsheviks when they got power in 1917, that they too would have nothing to do with secret diplomacy. They backed up their words by insisting that the negotiations between Russia and Germany in 1918 should be carried on in the open. But here again there was a reason why the Bolsheviks favoured open negotiations then but have since reverted to the traditional secrecy of diplomacy. In the Proclamation addressed to the peoples and governments on 29th December, 1917, on behalf of the Russian Government, Trotsky declared that “in these negotiations, with the condition that there should be complete publicity, the Russian Delegation would continue to defend the programme of International Socialist Democracy as opposed to the Imperialistic programme of the Governments, Allied and enemy alike” (“Documents and Statements Relating to Peace Proposals and War Aims,” 1916—1918. Pub. Allen & Unwin, p. 107).
At that time the Russian Bolsheviks were hoping to get much support from the war-weary workers of all countries, and therefore had everything to gain by exposing the sordid imperialist aims of the governments on both sides. They had no imperialist aims themselves at the time and were therefore not afraid to make all their declarations about war and peace in the full light of day. By the same token the present Russian Government with troops in half-a-dozen countries beyond its borders, and cherishing the same imperialist designs as every other Power, has, like Kingsley Martin, been converted back to the belief in secret diplomacy—one set of declarations published openly for purpose of propaganda and another set for the secret archives.
War between the Powers in a capitalist world is not caused by secret diplomacy or by open diplomacy but by the clash of economic interests. Only those, therefore, who, in Trotsky’s words, are defending “international socialistic Democracy” can afford to put all their cards on the table. It is in the interest of the world working class, though not in the interest of their masters, that all negotiations should be in the open, but overshadowing the secondary question of open or secret diplomacy it is in the interest of the working class that they should repudiate capitalism and its aims and methods at home and abroad, and seek emancipation and peace by organising to achieve Socialism.