The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

Reactions and second-guessing following Stalin’s avoidance of involvement in the war Against Japan

Roosevelt took America to war with Stalin’s enemies within four days of Pearl Harbor. This was not reciprocated by Stalin, who pointedly stayed at peace with Japan and became involved in the Pacific war for just a few hours at its conclusion in August 1945 when there were many political plums to gather resulting from the gross oversight of his Anglo-American war partners. The staggering importance of this Red policy got little or no play in U.S. communications, and such as emerged were very largely apologies for Stalin’s decision. The New Masses within days of the U.S. declarations of war on Italy and Germany in December 1941 began a continuous drumroll for the establishment of a “second front” in Europe by Americans in assistance of Stalin. But this journal did not exhort Stalin to go to war with Japan and open a “second front” against that land from its Pacific Siberian bases. The persistence of peace with Japan on the part of Stalin also made impossible any other party to the war establishing a “second front” from Siberia, and effectively denied the region to the bombing planes of its “allies” as well.

It amazed a few observers how little comment was aroused in the U.S.A. when the USSR failed to go to war with Japan. The usual apology was that the Russians had their hands full with Hitler, and were fearful that the result of formal hostilities would be a big drive into Siberia by the Japanese. That the Reds in Siberia along the Korean, Manchurian and Chinese borders had fought many hundreds of battles with the Japanese in the previous decade was carefully neglected. All that was fed Americans was the notion of some antiseptic form of scrupulous state of peace existing in this region.

U.S. News uttered a few quiet words on the subject a week and a half after Pearl, expressing the belief that Russian support was “vital, if the Allies are to attack Japan.” The journal noted that Vladivostok was the nearest and likely most effective base from which an air attack might be raised, but conceding that without access, the chances of “avenging” Pearl Harbor were “slim."(177) A later discussion asserted that “A pact is needed binding all Allies to fight on all fronts until victory,"(178) but no Rooseveltian or Churchillian political magic ever moved Stalin a centimeter in this direction at any time.

It was generally conceded in American commentaries that Stalin had the freedom to stay out of the Pacific war, and no one ever mentioned the employment of any form of compulsion or pressure upon him to do differently, though Roosevelt held by far the most potent hand in this game, the threat of the withholding of lend-lease supplies until Stalin had become a full belligerent in the Pacific. It was never done, or even slightly hinted at as a possible move. The mouthpieces of comfortable affluence well exceeded the threadbare Communist organs in their solicitude for Stalin on this issue.

Time was perhaps the warmest and most sympathetic to the explanations as to why the USSR remained at peace with Japan after December 7, 1941. These were forthcoming from the new Stalinist ambassador to Washington, Litvinov, who boldly uttered harsh words at the combined enemy, describing them as a “vast conspiracy of international gangsters,” but chose to see his master, Stalin, gingerly skirting the Far East contingent of these “gangsters,” as engaging in eminently sound conduct in the maximization of the safety of his skin. As the author of the famous political cliche of the Popular Front, “Peace is indivisible,” he certainly thought World War II was divisible. The Russians rarely admitted there was an Asiatic front in World War II. And Time supported the decision in substance by remaining uncritical of the hands-off-Japan decision of Stalin in separate commentaries on December 22, l941,(179) and January 19, 1942. Nor was there the slightest diminution of the pro-Stalinist wave of support which swept across the Anglo-American peoples during the next three and a half years of war as a result of Red refusal to become involved in a truly world war with its anxious “Allies.” In the meantime most of the belligerence aimed at the Japanese came from American song writers. In the first three days after Pearl Harbor, some 260 song titles were registered, involving a mixture of patriotic and racial-slur stereotypes the latter mostly anti- Japanese. These and many more, before and after December 7, 1941, provoked the famed band leader, Paul Whiteman, to castigate the entire product musically to mid-January, 1942 as “dribble.” Remarked the portly Whiteman, it was “enough to make a band leader lose weight."(180)

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