14 February 1944

14 February 1944

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14 February 1944

War at Sea

German submarine U-738 sunk after colliding with a merchantman off Gotenhafen (Gdynia)

German submarines U-1224 enters the Japanese Navy as RO-501

Western Front

Eisenhower establishes SHAEF headquarters

Eastern Front

Soviet troops capture Korsun


Allied troops attack Green Island. The fall of the island isolates Japanese troops in the Solomons

Americal Division's artillery replaces the last Marine Corps artillery on Bougainville, completing the transfer from Marine to Army responsibility on the island.

Of Special Interest to Women

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 7, 14 February 1944, p.ك.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The extreme shortage of low-priced textiles has been felt by every housewife trying to keep her end up. Take children’s panties, for instance. Those nice soft garments in white or pink that you could buy for ten or fifteen cents in Woolworth’s or almost anywhere else – they have gone with the wind.

But here comes the War Production Board to your rescue. It has allowed material for the production of these indispensable panties. But wait a bit. It’s too soon to rub your hands in anticipatory glee. There’s a catch.

The WPB order says that panties from sizes two to twelve may be manufactured, not to cost more than FIFTY CENTS retail. How do you like that? Do you think any manufacturer is going to make them to sell for ten or fifteen cents?

You will pay three, four and five times as much for your textiles. The textile manufacturers will make three, four and five time’s as much profits.

Would you like to know why the WPB is so very considerate of the textile manufacturers? Would you like to know why this so-called government agency, supposed to represent the interests of the people, works hand-in-glove with the war profiteers? Live and learn.

The man at the head of the WPB in charge of textiles, clothing and leather is J. Spencer Love – whose love for his own interests surmounts all else.

For this man Love is the president of Burlington Mills Corporation – WHICH PRODUCES TEXTILE GOODS. No two-by-four concern is Burlington Mills Corporation. It has forty-four plants in North Carolina and is worth $50,000,000.

On the WPB Mr. Love is paid one dollar a year. In 1942, however, he received from his connection with Burlington Mills a remuneration of $196,340. That was made up of his base salary of $52,800 a year and the balance of $143,540 was his 3% per cent slice of the net profits of the corporation.

Why wouldn’t Mr. Love be in favor of charging fifty cents for ten or fifteen cents’ worth of pantie? THE MORE NET PROFITS FOR HIS CORPORATION, THE MORE “TAKE-HOME PAY” FOR MR. LOVE.

Want to know something else about Mr. Love and his Burlington Mills Corporation?


As president of this great manufacturing chain he has put up a die-hard fight against labor organization – -and he still fights labor. All of his plants are on an open-shop basis.

In the last two years the Textile Workers Union, CIO, succeeded in winning collective bargaining rights through a War Labor Board election in three of the corporation’s plants. Then what happened?

So rock-bedded is Mr. Love’s opposition to labor’s rights to organize and bargain collectively that he closed down those three plants in which the union won recognition – rather than deal with the union!

This is the type of man who is placed at the head of the important textile, clothing and leather department of the WPB – presumably to protect the “public” interest, including that of labor and the consumer.

Every department of government is honeycombed with the gentry typified by Mr. Love of Burlington Mills Corporation. It is high time to throw them out – together with these government agencies which are camouflages for big business.

Throughout the length and breadth of the land should arise a cry of angry protest. Let us demand that committees of workers, housewives, working farmers and the common people take charge of the business of supplying consumer needs at fair prices.

This column’s hat is off to the 2,700 workers in the Roebling’s Sons Company plant at Trenton, N.J.

Recently they walked out on strike in sympathy with nineteen women employees whose demand for equal pay for equal work had been refused by the War Labor Board. The women involved are wrappers of wire, who are getting fifteen per cent less pay than men doing the same job.

Charles Kovacs of the United Steel Workers, CIO, called this flagrant injustice a “minor grievance.” The 2,700 fellow workers of the nineteen aggrieved women, didn’t think so.

Kovacs tried to do the dirty work heretofore done exclusively by the capitalists, namely, break the strike. “Only the nation’s enemies can profit from this walkout,” he said.

However, looking the situation squarely in the eye, the 2,100 men and women workers saw clearly that only the enemies of labor profit from wage differentials between men and women workers.

Readers of this column have become acquainted with “We, the Mothers, Mobilize for America.” The outfit smells to high heaven with America First and other fascistic connections.

Now it is planning to hold a national convention in Chicago in the hear future – to call for “an immediate armistice and a negotiated peace.”

“Peace” is a wonderful word – and the contents of real peace we all yearn for. Already this monstrous war has taken a world toll of 25,000,000 missing, wounded and dead. We shudder away from visualizing this gigantic mass of human carnage.

The share of the United States in this useless human sacrifice is still comparatively small, but from all sidles come official warnings that casualty lists of American boys are going to increase arid multiply to what ghastly figure nobody knows.

It is only natural that the mothers of American boys in the armed forces should be interested in armistice and peace. But they must keep away from “We the Mothers, Mobilize for America” and similar fascistic organizations. Their purpose is only to utilize the honest suffering of mothers in a DISHONEST, REACTIONARY CAUSE.

What is that cause? The cause of Coughlin, of Gerald K. Smith, of McWilliams. The cause of the anti-Semitic gangs. The cause of the Jim Crow pogromists. The cause of the union smashers. The cause of the fascists in this country.

What kind of peace can these enemies of human progress stand for?

Does Labor Action want “an armistice and a negotiated peace”? Yes, indeed – but with the realization that peace to be lasting and to give the world the real contents of peace cannot be had with the existing powers.

The armistice must be made by workers’ governments that have replaced the present regimes in all belligerent countries. The terms of peace must be negotiated between such workers’ governments talking for the suffering peoples of the would.

Labor Action appeals to the mothers of America to help in the struggle for a workers’ government in America – to set the example for all working people to follow.

Willkie’s Plan Would Mean 40% Withholding or 15% Sales Tax

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 7, 14 February 1944, p.ل.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In some circles Wendell Willkie is regarded as the “New Dealer” of the Republican Party. Not only has “Information Please” taken him to its bosom as a “true liberal.” Certain sections of the labor movement are playing with the idea of accepting him as the very latest edition of “A Friend of Labor in the Capitalist Camp.”

When Mr. Willkie spoke the other night before a conference on the subject, American Plans and Dreams, he was holding forth on his political program in case he is the presidential nominee of the Republican Party in the coming election. What has he to offer?

For the war period Mr. Willkie’s foremost idea is to raise $16,000,000,000 additional annual tax revenue. This is a figure of the boldest proportions, considering that the Treasury asked for a mere $10,500,000,000 – while Congress saw fit to produce only the mite of something over $2,000,000,000.

However, Mr. Willkie is not fazed. We must “tax ourselves now beyond any limit that we have hitherto imagined possible,” he says. We must “actually lower materially the American standard of living,” he says – and the New York Times editor proclaims Mr. Willkie’s arguments are “unassailable.”

Workers Have Reached Limit

Immediately after Mr. Willkie’s speech, a few arithmeticians picked up their pencils and calculated that an additional annual tax of $16,000,000,000 would mean EITHER A WITHHOLDING TAX OF FORTY PER CENT OR A UNIVERSAL SALES TAX OF FIFTEEN PER CENT.

Speaking as a member of the privileged class, Mr. Willkie can not know how tight a squeeze the working people of this country are already in. Take-home wages are actually far below the normal subsistence level set by economists. When he talks about “the change of our habits to the use of things that constitute necessitous living,” he is obviously talking like one used to luxuries.

As for the wording class, RIGHT NOW it cannot afford many of the things “that constitute necessitous living.” That is why the organized labor movement has started the fight to bury the Little Steel formula which freezes wages 28.5 per cent below the cost of living. What would happen to the workers’ “way of life” if Mr. Willkie’s tax plan were in effect and the workers were subjected to either a one hundred per cent increase in the withholding tax or to a fifteen per cent sales tax?

Vaguely Willkie included “every group” in his zeal for “major and in some cases dangerous sacrifices.” But did he say a word about limiting salaries to $25,000? Did he mention taxing all war profits made out of this global blood-letting? Neither he nor any other capitalist politician stands for making the capitalist class pay for the war – the only people who can afford to!

As for the workers of this country, they have reached the limits of “major” and “dangerous” sacrifices. From here on, labor must shift the sacrifices onto the shoulders of the wealthy. This point is “unassailable,” to use the word employed by the New York Times regarding Mr. Willkie’s argument.

So much for Mr. Willkie’s wartime plans. What are his “dreams” for the future?

A Worker’s Nightmare

First, he visualizes a post-war national income of $120,000,000,000 per annum. Think of that! Today the national income is $165,000,000,000 – and there are some 11,000,000 men and women in the armed forces who are not participating in the productive enterprises of the country.

Mr. Willkie, while giving lip service to expanded production and the rest of that palaver, actually figures on contracting the annual income by $45,000,000,000 at a time when the working force will be increased by those 11,000,000 returning soldiers.

Can this mean anything but a reduced standard of living for the American working people? And isn’t it just this that Mr. Willkie wants to prepare the workers for by stepping on them now?

Secondly, Mr. Willkie estimates a national peacetime budget of government expenditures amounting to $20,000,000,000, This, be it known, is about one-fifth of the present national war budget.

And how does Mr. Willkie allot the $20,000,000,000 national budget? For the interest on the national debt, $6,000,000,000 for a military establishment to police the “peaceful” post-war world, another $7,000,000,000 the remaining $7,000,000,000 is to be used for all other government expenditures, including public provision for returning soldiers and for “better housing, broader education, sounder health” for everyone.

A post-war millennium in which two-thirds of the national budget will go for war purposes!

This is “our standard of living in the future” for which Mr. Willkie tells us “our standard of living must go down.” His figures do not bear out his grandiose words – but only prove that a lower standard of living for the working people is the “dream” of the ruling class for the post-war period.

What has been hailed in many quarters as Mr. Willkie’s political bravery in coming out for reducing still further the standard of living is simply the reflection of his belief that the working people should be made ready now for the retrogression capitalism, has in store for them in the future.

Our Answer

Mr. Willkie wound up his speech with the usual hackneyed comparison of civilian “comfort” to soldiers’ discomfort: “There is not much comfort in the foxhole. There’s little comfort waist-deep in the mud of Guadalcanal, it is not comfortable to crash-land a flaming plane. There is small comfort in the cold sea. There is no comfort as a prisoner of the Japs. Why should we be comfortable?”

To which the working class must answer:

“We are not responsible for having sent the youth of the world into foxholes, waist-deep mud, flaming planes. That is the doing of the capitalist system. But if we allowed the standard of living of the working class to be beaten down as the capitalist class wishes to do, we would be responsible to our brothers in the foxholes, mud and flaming planes.

“We figure it will be more ‘comfortable’ for those of them lucky enough to return home, to find a standard of living that will permit them to assume their position in society as self-respecting workers and not as sweat-shop slaves.”

Readers of Labor Action understand that in showing up Wendell. Willkie, the “New Dealer” of the Republican Party, we do not do so to add prestige to the ex-New Dealer in the White House. We do so because sections of the labor movement, disillusioned with Roosevelt, are looking hopefully toward Willkie.

This folly of choosing between one or the other side of the same counterfeit coin is suicidal to the labor movement. Capitalist politics is the coin. Its two sides are the Democratic and the Republican Parties – neither is worth a tinker’s damn to the working people.

For American labor to move progressively onward, the organization of an Independent Labor Party is imperative NOW.

Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial—which probably occurred around A.D. 270—others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 𠇌hristianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

U.S. troops recapture Philippine island of Corregidor

On February 26, an ammunition dump on the Philippine island of Corregidor is blown up by a remnant of the Japanese garrison, causing more American casualties on the eve of U.S. victory there.

In May 1942, Corregidor, a small rock island at the mouth of Manila Bay, remained one of the last Allied strongholds in the Philippines after the Japanese victory at Bataan. Constant artillery shelling and aerial bombardment attacks ate away at the American and Filipino defenders. 

Although still managing to sink many Japanese barges as they approached the northern shores of the island, the Allied troops could not hold the invader off any longer. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, commander of the U.S. armed forces in the Philippines, offered to surrender Corregidor to Japanese Gen. Masaharu Homma, but Homma wanted the complete, unconditional capitulation of all American forces throughout the Philippines. Wainwright had little choice given the odds against him and the poor physical condition of his troops—he had already lost 800 men. He surrendered at midnight. All 11,500 surviving Allied troops were evacuated to a prison stockade in Manila.

But the Americans returned to the Philippines in full strength in October 1944, beginning with the recapture of Leyte, the Philippines’ central island. It took 67 days to subdue, with the loss of more than 55,000 Japanese soldiers during the two months of battle, and approximately another 25,000 mopping up pockets of resistance in early 1945. The U.S. forces lost about 3,500.

Following the American victory of Leyte was the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the struggle for Luzon and the race for Manila, the Philippine capital. One week into the Allied battle for Luzon, U.S. airborne troops parachuted onto Corregidor to take out the Japanese garrison there, which was believed to be 1,000 strong, but was actually closer to 5,000. Fierce fighting resulted in the deaths of most of the Japanese soldiers, with the survivors left huddling in the Malinta Tunnel for safety. 

Ironically, the tunnel, 1,400 feet long and dug deep in the heart of Corregidor, had served as MacArthur’s headquarters and a U.S. supply depot before the American defeat there. MacArthur feared the Japanese soldiers could sit there for months. The garrison had no such intention, though, and ignited a nearby ammunition dump𠅊n act of defiance, and possibly of mass suicide. 

Most of the Japanese were killed in the explosion, along with 52 Americans. Those Japanese who survived the blast were forced out into the open and decimated by the Americans. Corregidor was officially in American hands by early March.

Rommel’s Last Day

Today, 76 years ago, one of Germany’s most famous military commanders met an inescapable death sentence—not by the hands of the enemy, but by the leaders of his own country. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, 52, was forced to commit suicide near the scenic village of Herrlingen on Oct. 14, 1944.

“To die at the hands of one’s own people is hard,” Rommel told his 15-year-old son Manfred minutes before he left their house for the last time. “But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason.”

Rommel and his family. They hoped to avoid Allied bombing in Herrlingen

The peaceful town, Herrlingen, located in a rugged and hilly region known as the Swabian Alps, was a place Rommel had been familiar with since boyhood. In the hopes of keeping his family safe from Allied bombing, Rommel chose this out-of-the-way spot as a refuge for his wife and son.

Herrlingen became Rommel’s “home base” during the last year of his life. Sensing an imminent threat from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime, yet wishing to avoid capture by the Allies, Rommel holed up in Herrlingen and refused to leave the area.

The location of Rommel’s house along a public village road and the presence of nosy locals kept Nazi police at bay—but only for a short time. Throughout summer and early fall of 1944, Gestapo agents and SS plainclothes officers infiltrated Herrlingen. The remote town became a death trap.

The Nazis wanted to get rid of Rommel because of his opposition to Hitler—and his concrete plan to overthrow their reign. According to Lieut.-Gen. Fritz Bayerlein, Rommel and his chief of staff, Hans Speidel, had developed a plan to allow the Allies unopposed access to certain key regions of Germany and to contact Allied leaders for a separate peace. Before this plan had a chance to develop further, an unknown German betrayed Rommel to the Nazis. This informant remains unidentified. Possibilities have given rise to much speculation. Most historians agree that Rommel’s name “came up” during the reign of terror and interrogations following the failed July 20 assassination plot against Hitler in 1944.

However, the exact details of the accusations against Rommel—and who betrayed him—remain shrouded in mystery.

Despite these ambiguities, it was already well-known among Rommel’s inner circle by 1944 that he was bitterly disillusioned with Hitler. Rommel allegedly remarked to family and friends after the July 20 plot that: “Stauffenberg had bungled it, and a frontline soldier would have finished Hitler off.”

Rommel’s writings from as early as 1942 demonstrate increasing antagonism towards Hitler and the Nazi government. Forced to rely on the Führer’s leadership from the battlefield, Rommel found Hitler more than lacking as a leader, and was jarred by the fact that Hitler did not seem to care about the fate of the troops or German civilians. Rommel began socializing with anti-Nazi dissidents in 1943.

“I began to realize that Adolf Hitler simply did not want to see the situation as it was, and he reacted emotionally against what his intelligence must have told him was right,” Rommel wrote in his memoirs about interactions with Hitler in 1942.

By Rommel’s own admission, the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy pushed him to his limits. “My nerves are pretty good, but sometimes I was near collapse. It was casualty reports, casualty reports, casualty reports, wherever you went. I have never fought with such losses,” Rommel told his son in mid-August 1944 at their home in Herrlingen. “And the worst of it is that it was all without sense or purpose…The sooner it finishes the better for all of us.”

On the last day of his life, Rommel and his son had breakfast shortly after 7 a.m. and took a walk in their garden. Rommel announced that two generals from Berlin were arriving to meet him at noon. By that time, many of Rommel’s associates had been executed or arrested. Rommel expressed a lingering hope of being sent to the Eastern Front. Before meeting with the Nazi emissaries, Rommel changed into his Afrika Korps tunic.

Hitler’s henchmen, Wilhelm Burgdorf and Ernst Maisel, arrived at noon and politely asked to speak with Rommel alone. After isolating Rommel, they presented him with a final sadistic choice: commit suicide by cyanide, or face trial in a so-called People’s Court (Volksgericht). If Rommel refused to end his own life, they warned, his family also would be imprisoned and face the People’s Court. These show trials usually ended in grim deaths.

For example, dissidents Hans and Sophie Scholl were guillotined after facing a People’s Court in 1943. Officers implicated in the July 20 plot against Hitler had been hung on meat hooks and strangled with piano wire their trials and executions were widely publicized to terrorize potential dissidents.

Rommel agreed to commit suicide, but insisted on being able to tell his family what was happening. The Nazis agreed—on the condition of the secret being kept in absolute silence.

Rommel in Africa. On the last day of his life, he met Nazi officials wearing his Afrika Korps tunic.

Rommel realized the Nazis wished to execute him quietly to save their propaganda image of him. Therefore he expected them to keep their sinister bargain about not persecuting his family due to the regime’s interests. He explained this to Manfred after announcing in a tense voice: “In a quarter of an hour, I’ll be dead.”

The teenager, shocked and desperate, was ready to fight. “Can’t we defend ourselves?”

“There’s no point,” Rommel cut him off. “It’s better for one to die than for all of us to be killed in a shooting affray.”

Also present in the house was Capt. Hermann Aldinger, an old friend of Rommel’s from World War I. The pair, both from Württemberg, had been best friends for years since fighting alongside each other as infantrymen. Over the years, Rommel kept Aldinger on his staff.

The Nazis had tried to keep Aldinger away from Rommel by distracting him with a conversation in the hallway. Eventually Rommel summoned Aldinger and told him what would happen. Aldinger reacted with outrage and desperation. He was ready to go down in a hail of bullets rather than simply surrender his friend to die alone. However, Rommel refused.

“I must go,” Rommel insisted. “They’ve only given me 10 minutes.”

Rommel put on his overcoat and made his way out of the house accompanied by Manfred and Aldinger, pausing once to stop his pet dachshund from trying to follow him. An SS driver waited in a car outside. The two generals offered hypocritical salutes. As villagers watched, the last gestures of goodbye Rommel could give his son and his old war buddy were quick handshakes. Then Rommel was driven out of town, with Burgdorf and Maisel sitting on either side of him in the back seat to prevent him from escaping.

Rommel met his death in an isolated wooded area which is much farther from the town of Herrlingen than one might imagine. The road leaves the village, passing up a steep hill and through a dense forest. Eventually the forest diminishes into open fields, which in 1944 were hemmed with more trees. It is a quiet and lonely spot—far removed from civilization and potential witnesses. The woods were infested with Nazi gunmen.

The site of Rommel's death in 1944.

“Gestapo men, who had appeared in force from Berlin that morning, were watching the area with instructions to shoot my father down and storm the house if he offered resistance,” Manfred later wrote.

What happened after that point remains open to question since the surviving witnesses are less than credible. Those present who later offered their version of events had all been directly involved in causing Rommel’s death.

Their testimony gives rise to doubts. For example, the SS driver claimed he stepped away from the car for 10 minutes and returned afterwards to find Rommel “sobbing” in death throes however, this seems untrue since the type of cyanide capsule presented to Rommel is usually lethal in about three minutes. Maisel, who survived the war, claimed he was not present in the car when Rommel died, but stated Burgdorf was there instead—at the time of this allegation, Burgdorf was conveniently dead, having committed suicide in Berlin in May 1945.

Rommel's last residence (right) has not changed much since his funeral in 1944 (left)

Furthermore, the SS driver claimed Rommel’s service cap and Field Marshal’s baton had “fallen” from him in the car. However, postwar interviews collected by U.S. Army intelligence officer Charles Marshall and British historian Desmond Young revealed that the Nazis took these two items as trophies and later kept them on a desk at Hitler’s headquarters. Burgdorf allegedly boasted about them and showed them to visitors. Learning of this, Aldinger became determined to reclaim these belongings and managed to return them to Rommel’s family in November 1944. It is possible that, instead of merely picking up belongings that “fell” in the car, Hitler’s henchmen had pried the hat and baton from Rommel’s body.

A statement given by Dr. Friedrich Breiderhoff to the Cologne police department in 1960 described how the Nazis forced him to “examine” Rommel after death and attempt “resuscitation” for show—even threatening the reluctant doctor with a gun. Although Breiderhoff found the empty cyanide capsule Rommel had taken, he was forced to write the death off as a “heart attack.”

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (left) delivers a promotional speech for Hitler as Rommel's eulogy at his funeral in 1944. Photo courtesy of Haus der Geschichte Baden-Württemberg

The Nazis used Rommel’s funeral as a propaganda spectacle. They claimed Rommel’s death was induced by war wounds and staged a speech promoting Hitler as the eulogy. They attempted to use Rommel in death to perform a task he was was unwilling to do in life—to motivate Germans to continue fighting.

Some people today wonder what might have happened if Rommel had chosen to fight back or face a People’s Court instead of accept such an end. Some have argued he might have inspired Germans to resist by causing a shootout at his home, or by accepting a show trial, however unlikely it was for Nazis to let the truth be known. But it seems clear that the Nazis had deliberately made the decision difficult for Rommel. They chose to confront him at home and threaten his family and friends. Rommel’s last words to his son and former war comrade indicate that the safety of people he loved was the most important thing on his mind when he decided to accept Hitler’s “offer.”

Veterans from former Allied countries have left tributes to Rommel at this stone memorial marking the site of his death.

Speech of President Laurel addressed to the Filipino youth, February 29, 1944

In this critical period of our history, we need the heart, the soul and the vigor of the youth of our land to help us build our country on the most enduring basis of brotherhood and solidarity of all Filipinos. I am, therefore, happy to know of the integration of the Filipino youth and that the Filipino youth is now on the march. The question is: Where is it going? Is it marching with irresistible will and determination toward progress and civilization, peace and order, and the prosperity and happiness of the Fatherland? If it is, I, as the chosen head of our nation and our people, heartily welcome it and bid it Godspeed.

It is trite saying that the future belongs to youth, especially to those dynamic, aggressive and self-confident young men and women who have foresight. Thus they have the bounden duty to ensure it. So much faith the greatest Filipino patriot and hero, Rizal, had in the youth of the land that while he was still in his teens, he dedicated to it his prize winning poem entitled “To the Filipino Youth,” and he called the Filipino youth not without reason and justification “Fair hope of my Fatherland.”

Several years later, when Rizal was in Madrid, he thought again of the Filipino youth. On the occasion of the signal honor and distinction conferred upon the famous Filipino painter Juan Luna when one of his paintings was awarded the highest prize in the artistic world, Rizal offered a touching toast. He expressed the fervent hope that the worthy and commendable examples of Juan Luna, and Resurrection, another famed Filipino painter, will be imitated or emulated by the Filipino youth. In the course of a few years that youth had become to him more than the “fair hope of my fatherland” it had become the “sacred hope of my Fatherland.”

Rizal’s fair and sacred hope is represented by the young men and women of today, by you, the Filipino youth on the march, you who will be either the leaders and masters of your country and your country’s fate tomorrow or the hewers of wood and drawers of water for other people more ambitious and far-seeing than you, men with vision, with courage, and with an indomitable will to succeed whatever be the obstacles.

Inspired by the same noble sentiment, the late Dr. Rafael Palma, builder of the University of the Philippines, dedicated to the same youth, to the same “fair and sacred hope” of the Fatherland, his last work and masterpiece, his life-size biography of Rizal. In his dedicatory remarks he gave voice to his abiding faith and confidence in the ability of the Filipino young men and women to make good.

Have they made good or are they making good? Were Rizal living today would he be proud of them? Would he say, if he could see them from beyond the tomb, that he did not die in vain, that his country’s sacred and beautiful hope has not disappointed him and those who like him had given their full measure of sacrifice for the glory of their Fatherland?

How fare the youth of the land? Are they planting the seeds that will make their country great? Do they realize the serious problems that now confront the Republic of the Philippines, which is their Republic, and are they contributing to the fullest extent to the solution of such problems? Are they putting their strong and broad shoulders on the wheel of progress and prosperity? Are they helping actively in the complete restoration of peace and order in their country and in the gigantic reconstruction work which both the people and the government must undertake? Are they doing their duty as citizens of the Republic, working for the common happiness and welfare of their respective communities?

As ye sow, so shall ye reap. Are the Filipino young men and women of today sowing the seeds of peace and prosperity so that they will reap the fruits of progress and tranquillity? Man is the archetype of society. Both society and the nation grow as the individuals grow. Unless our youth prepare for the future, there will be no future for them.

“I want to let those who deny us every feeling of patriotism,” wrote Rizal, “that we know how to die for our duty and for our convictions. What matters death if one dies for what one loves, for one’s country, and for those one adores?”

In one of his parting letters he wrote “My future, my life, my joys, all I have sacrificed for my love for her”—referring to the Philippines. “Whatever be my fate, I will die blessing her and wishing her the dawn of her redemption.” That, you will agree, is a wonderful sentiment. Does the Filipino youth of today feel and cherish it?

Isagani, one of the youthful characters that stand out in bold relief in Rizal’s Noli, once called on one of the leading lawyers in Manila for an advice. The lawyer advised Isagani to follow the line of least resistance. “Why fight, why think,” he argued, “when somebody else will do the fighting and thinking for you? Prosperity, happiness, and peace of mind,” the legal adviser pointed out, lie in the direction of the current. “Believe me,” he concluded, “you will remember me and think me right when you have gray heirs like mine.”

What was Isagani’s retort? “When I have gray hairs like yours,” he answered, “and I look back upon my past and see that I had worked only for myself, without having done what I could well have done and should have done for the country which has given me everything, then, every gray hair of mine will be for me a thorn and instead of being proud of my gray hairs, I shall be ashamed of them.”

Do the Filipino youth of today talk and feel that way? Are they fully aware of the tremendous responsibility placed upon them by Rizal when he called them “fair and sacred hope of the Fatherland?” Are they willing to die for their convictions, to fight hunger and poverty and all the other evils that hard times bring in their train so that their country, their people, their Republic, might live in peace and in abundance?

Contrasting his age and that of his son, the father of Ibarra, Rizal’s hero in the NOLI, said: “The future opens itself for you for me it is closing. Your affections are being born mine are dying. Fire burns in your blood frost is congealing in mine and yet you cry and do not know how to sacrifice the present for the future, a future which will be useful to you and your country.”

“You do not know how to sacrifice the present for a useful, fruitful future.” Surely, the youth of today cannot and will not accept that serious charge. They cannot and will not disappoint their greatest hero, martyr and model. They are ready and willing, I take it, to do their part, to work with their duly constituted leaders for the salvation of their country especially during these days of supreme ordeal when the fate of the Philippines is at stake as a result of the scarcity of food and the continued pernicious and disloyal activities of some of our citizens.

I am taking the liberty, therefore, on this occasion to invite and call upon all the youth of the land to join hands with the forces of the government to stimulate food production, to restore complete peace and order throughout the length and breadth of the Philippines, and to work actively and persistently for the welfare, progress and prosperity of the Republic. The Republic is not of this generation to keep, but it is particularly for the young generation and future generations to preserve and to enjoy.

I thank you for this opportunity of addressing the youth of the land on this memorable occasion. I shall be happy to say a few words to you later in connection with the integration movement of the Filipino youth not only in the public and private schools but of all Filipino young men and women all over the islands so that the youth of the land may be not only a strong factor in supporting this government and in making this Republic an enduring nation but also so that with the help and cooperation and loyalty of the Filipino youth, we may be in a position to transmit as a heritage to future generations a country, a people, compact and united in the bonds of a common affection.

‘I don’t think I’m Wrong about Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic and Diplomatic Assumptions at Yalta

On 23 February 1945 Churchill invited all ministers outside the War Cabinet to his room at the House of Commons to hear his account of the Yalta conference and the one at Malta that had preceded it. The Labour minister Hugh Dalton recorded in his diary that “The PM spoke very warmly of Stalin. He was sure […] that as long as Stalin lasted, Anglo-Russian friendship could be maintained.” Churchill added: “Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust with Hitler. He was wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong about Stalin.”[1]

Just five days later, however, Churchill’s trusted private secretary John Colville noted the arrival of:

“sinister telegrams from Roumania showing that the Russians are intimidating the King and Government […] with all the techniques familiar to students of the Comintern. […] When the PM came back [from dining at Buckingham Palace] […] he said he feared he could do nothing. Russia had let us go our way in Greece she would insist on imposing her will in Roumania and Bulgaria. But as regards Poland we would have our say. As we went to bed, after 2.00 a.m. the PM said to me, ‘I have not the slightest intention of being cheated over Poland, not even if we go to the verge of war with Russia.”[2]

At an initial glance, there seems to be a powerful contradiction between these different sets of remarks. In the first, Churchill appears remarkably naïve and foolish, putting his faith in his personal relationship with a man whom he knew to be a mass murderer. In the second he seems strikingly, even recklessly bellicose, contemplating a new war with the Soviets, his present allies, even before the Germans and the Japanese had been defeated.

Surprising though it may seem, the disjuncture is not as large as it appears on the surface. Relations with the USSR and the future of Poland were not the only things that were at stake at Yalta. The Big Three took important decisions regarding the proposed United Nations Organization, and the post-war treatment of Germany, and even Anglo-US relations were not uncomplicated. In this post, however, I want to focus on the Polish issue and the broader question of how Churchill viewed the Soviet Union and its place in international relations more generally. I will outline three key assumptions that governed Churchill’s approach and which explain the apparent discrepancies in his remarks upon his return.

Assumption 1: The key to the Soviet enigma was the Russia national interest.

This assumption is the one that needs explaining at greatest length. In a radio broadcast given in the autumn of 1939, a month after the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill told his audience: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”[3]

What Churchill meant was that the Soviet Union was acting on traditional Great Power lines, in a rational and predictable way. This was a striking, and remarkably sanguine, thing to say just a few months after the conclusion of the Nazi-Soviet pact. The pact had clearly not disrupted his conclusion, reached earlier in the thirties, that the USSR was a potentially responsible actor with which it was possible for Britain to collaborate.

That conclusion was in marked contrast to Churchill’s attitude in the fifteen years after 1917. To him, in the aftermath of WWI, the Bolsheviks were ‘the avowed enemies of the existing civilization of the world’.[4] He believed that Lenin, Sinn Féin and the Indian and Egyptian nationalist extremists were all part of ‘a world-wide conspiracy’ to overthrow the British Empire.[5] His central objections to Bolshevism, then, were a) that it involved a reversion to barbarism, and b) that its proponents were attempting to spread its seditious principles globally.

As late as 1931 he was portraying the USSR as a “gigantic menace to the peace of Europe”.[6] There followed almost three years in which he failed to offer substantive comment on the Soviet Union, a period during which, however, he appears to have significantly adjusted his views. The rise of Hitler was of course crucial here. In August 1934, the Sunday Express reported that Churchill had had a change of heart on Russia. An article by the journalist Peter Howard was headlined: ‘Mr. Churchill Changes His Mind: The Bogey Men of Moscow are Now Quite Nice.’[7]

Howard’s piece was prompted by a speech by Churchill the previous month. In this he had praised the proposal – which in fact never came off – of a mutual-aid treaty between the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This was an idea, Churchill said, which involved “the reassociation of Soviet Russia with the Western European system.” He cited the speeches of Soviet foreign minister Maxim Litivinov. These, he said, had seemed to give the impression which I believe is a true one, that Russia is most deeply desirous of maintaining peace at the present time. Certainly, she has a great interest in maintaining peace.”

It was not enough, in Churchill’s view, to talk about the USSR as “peace-loving” because “every Power is peace-loving always.” Rather: “One wants to see what is the interest of a particular Power and it is certainly the interest of Russia, even on grounds concerning her own internal arrangements to preserve peace.”[8] Thus, by the mid-1930s Churchill had reached the conclusion that the USSR had abandoned world revolution and that, acting once again as a traditional Great Power, it shared Britain’s interest in preserving the peace of Europe. This determined his attitude at the time of the Munich crisis in 1938 and held good through to the time of Yalta.

Assumption 2: Stalin would respect ‘spheres of interest’ and the so-called ‘percentages agreement’.

The Moscow summit of October 1944 was the occasion of the notorious “percentages agreement”, via which Churchill believed he had secured Stalin’s consent for the division of the Balkans into British and Soviet spheres of influence. What, if anything, Stalin had really agreed is open to debate.[9] It is striking, though, that the Soviet press reported that the two men had reached genuine unanimity over Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Greece, and warmly welcomed the “disappearance of the Balkan powderkeg” from the European scene.[10] Crucially, Poland was not mentioned in the agreement. This explains why Churchill did not feel able to protest about Soviet actions in Rumania and Bulgaria yet spoke of his willingness to go to the brink of war over Poland.

Assumption 3: The Polish government-in-exile would best serve its own cause by not rocking the boat, and that Soviet human rights abuses were best swept under the carpet.

This assumption is best illustrated by a 1943 diary entry by Ivan Maisky, the Soviet ambassador to London. This related to the notorious Katyn forest massacre, perpetrated by Soviet forces in 1940 the Nazis had recently announced the discovery of mass graves on territory now controlled by Germany. Maisky wrote:

“Churchill stressed that of course he does not believe the German lies about the murder of 10,000 Polish officers … But is this so? At one point during our conversation Churchill dropped the following remark: ‘Even if the German statements were to prove true, my attitude towards you would not change. You are a brave people, Stalin is a brave warrior, and at the moment I approach everything primarily as a soldier who is interested in defeating the common enemy as quickly as possible.”[11]

Churchill’s real concern was to prevent the affair damaging Anglo-Soviet relations, which he believed the Polish press in Britain was putting at risk. He fulminated to his Cabinet that “no Government which had accepted our hospitality had any right to publish articles of a character which conflicted with the general policy of the United Nations and which would create difficulties for this Government.”[12] One might say that there was a further assumption here, that history was driven by Great Men, like him and Stalin, and that Great Powers could legitimately settle the fates of nations over the heads of their peoples and governments. Omelettes could not be made without breaking eggs.

When he rose to speak in the Commons on 27 February in order to expound the Yalta agreement Churchill stated his impression “that Marshal Stalin and the Soviet leaders wish to live in honourable friendship and equality with the Western democracies. I feel also that their word is their bond.”[13] Justifying this latter claim in his memoirs, Churchill wrote: “I felt bound to proclaim my confidence in Soviet faith in order to procure it. In this I was encouraged by Stalin’s behaviour about Greece.”[14] As we have already seen, however, he claimed privately to be “Profoundly impressed with the friendly attitude of Stalin and Molotov.”[15] Colville wrote: “He is trying to persuade himself that all is well, but in his heart I think he is worried about Poland and not convinced of the strength of our moral position.”[16]

Churchill cannot be convicted of total naivety. There was a degree, certainly, to which he put too much faith in his own personal capacity to win over and deal with the Soviet leadership. But his comments about Stalin’s trustworthiness were to a great extent an attempt to put on a brave face in front of his ministers and the public. He never did make the mistake of assuming that Stalin was a pushover, but he did believe that he would respond to firm handling. More broadly his approach was determined by the belief that the Soviets were rational actors who could contribute to a constructive global order, even as they acted as rivals to Britain and the USA.

The conflict between the remarks recorded by Dalton and those recorded by Colville is explained by Churchill’s belief (or most profound assumption) in managed international rivalry. It was not that he thought that Yalta had solved or prevented conflict between the Great Powers but he believed that this type of international agreement could keep it within bounds. In respect of his apparent belief that Stalin could be induced to accept a free and democratic Poland, it is easy to see that Churchill was indeed wrong. But in regard to his overarching belief that the Soviet regime acted in line with rational calculations about its own national interests, rather than being primarily motivated by communist ideology, he may have been far less wrong than appears at first sight.

Richard Toye is Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. He is the author of Winston Churchill: A Life in the News and co-author (with Steven Fielding and Bill Schwarz of The Churchill Myths, both published by Oxford University Press in 2020. He tweets @RichardToye.

Cover Image: Winston Churchill sharing a joke with Joseph Stalin and his interpreter, Pavlov at Livadia Palace during the Yalta Conference in February 1945.

[1] Ben Pimlott (ed.), The Second World War Diary of Hugh Dalton, 1940–1945 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1986), p. 836 (entry for 23 February 1945).

[2] John Colville, The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955 (London: Phoenix, 2005), p. 536 (entry for 28 Feb. 1945).

[6] ‘Winston Churchill Sees Soviet Russia as Gigantic Menace to the Peace of Europe’, New York American, 23 Aug. 1931.

[7] Sunday Express, 26 Aug. 1934.

[9] See Albert Resis, ‘The Churchill-Stalin Secret “Percentages” Agreement on the Balkans, Moscow, October 1944’, American Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 2 (Apr., 1978), pp. 368-387.

[10] W.H. Lawrence, ‘Russians Indicate Unity on Balkans’, New York Times, 22 Oct. 1944.

[11] Gabriel Gorodetsky (ed.), The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s 1932-1943, Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 2015, p.509 (entry for 23 Apr. 1943).

[12] Cabinet Minutes, 27 Apr. 1943, WM (43) 59 th Conclusions, CAB 65/34/13, The National Archives, Kew, London.

[14] WSC, Triumph and Tragedy, p. 351.

[15] WSC to Clement Attlee and James Stuart, 14 Feb. 1945, Churchill Papers, CHAR 9/206B/207.

[16] Colville, Fringes of Power, p. 565 (entry for 27 Feb. 1945).

Watch the video: Ο Κ. ΤΣΏΡΤΣΙΛ ΣΤΗΝ ΑΘΉΝΑ 14 Φεβρουαρίου 1945 (July 2022).


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