To Oszkár Jászi (1945?)

From Karl Polanyi
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[9] Your country should not be judged {a rom} too near just now (letters I had from such who love it mirror a veritable anguish of pain over the moral superficiality of her new-born ways); it is from a distance that her basic staadiness can better be gauged. London is the centre of the political cyclone of our planet, and it is from here that one best can recognize the stabilizing role of the U.S.A. to-day. I was amazed to hear America friends complain of the utter lack of policy of the State Depart. That is eminently unfair to Byrnes and his crew in the St. D. They are not in words but in actual reality working for peace with all their might, and have done a good, a very good job. Lippmann (whose little books I admire for sheer straightforward pamphleteering) merely touched the fringe of the post-war political problem, and that rather than the politician. The real job was to tackle the far East, and thus to prevent an entirely unnecessary and yet avoidable war between the U.S.A. and the USSR or unless China was restored as an integral national state was no way of avoiding such an unwanted war. Its inevitability was purely geographic i.e., no conflicting interests entered; the Chinese vacuum alone would had been responsible for it. That Byrnes and Stalin, obviously following up the outlines of Roosevelt's (maybe unwritten) political testament succeed in fording that four hundred million broad maelstrom will for all times (and irrespective of the duration of their success) rank amongst the high lights of historical statesmanship.

The trouble is with us. Britain is reluctant, perhaps even unable, to do what is needed, namely, to go ahead and help to fill in the terrifying vacua of the political globe. The victory was much too great; some 600 million people in the East, and some 400 millions in Europe have been thrown out of their power fixture. The USA and the USSR are rushing in under sheer vacuum pressure - it is overpowering - to cover up the chasm reorganize the field of power so that life ca continue. Britain alone shies at the brink of the abyss and hesitates to take the jump. Consequently, she is forced to undertake the impossible, i.e. to maintain things as they are, in the midst of the cataclysm. Britain can exist as a larger [&] stronger entity, or as a much smaller one, but certainly not exactly as she was before. By insisting on this, she actually puts herself into the wrong. For history has no patience with the shirker. (In practical terms this means: taking the lead in Western and North Western Europe, planning as far as possible the Commonwealth plus Western Europe. Such a greatly at strengthened Britain could (and should) make reasonable concessions not on to India, Egypt, etc. but also to the USSR where the latter's vital intere° conflict with secondary assets of Britain. This is the way to compromise w[ith] the USSR and arrange for co-operation primarily on the reconstruction of Europe, including Germany.)° This would make co-operation with the USSR in Europe, with the USA in the Seven Seas possible, and allow UNO to be buil[t] up into the world clearing house of political debit and credit. The USA shou[ld] make here contribution to this solution by helping in a positive fashion to organise world economy on a semi-regional basis (instead of forcing an entirely utopian, because reactionary, free trade line upon a world which has just escaped the deadly dangers of such an artificial, abstract, Potemkin solution of the world economic problem.

Domestically, Britain is sound. The steady forward drive in her home affairs is borne along with an unsuspected vigour which is very far indeed from having spent itself. Her administrative chiefs are supported by innumberable similar enthusiastic in minor positions. That's why the practices [10], and so on, do not cause despondency.

Life is, on the whole, easier than it was during the war; there's no black-out and Vs. Maybe it is more difficult to bear, since we call it now “peace”. But after all, - what is in a name? People are beginning to realize the misnomer.

Churchill's speech fell through in this country, inter {chia} for the comparison that the country does not believe in “power-politics”. I am afraid, this silly word merely covers up its unwillingness to face up to the issues of the time. Britain should, in my belief, “go ahead”, since her weakness is the chief cause of world imbalance; but “going ahead” does not involve an irresponsible (and effortless) military alliance with the USA, but, on the contrary, it means national reorganization, a socialist Commonwealth, leadership on the {blasten} Continent, concessions to rising nations and Russian needs, with a view to genuine collaboration with Russia in rebuilding Europe and with the USA in reconstructing the Planet. I am afraid my views are not cutting much ice at present, but at least they permit me to take a positive attitude to the task of the hour.

Letter Informations

Date: 1945?
KPA: 30/02, 9-10