United Efforts


By MAXIM M. LITVINOFF, Russian Ambassador to the United States

Delivered Before the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Philadelphia, Pa., April 10, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 422-424.

I SHOULD like to begin by saying how greatly I feel the privilege of being able to address your academy. I have been formally associated with it for many years now, and have always followed its publications from afar with the deepest interest. It was with special satisfaction that I accepted the proposal to speak on a theme so near to my heart as "United Efforts."

For institutions like your academy, devoted to the study of political and economic sciences, there is still one problem which has not been studied in all its intricacy—namely, the question of how it happened that governments, peoples and die scientific societies concerned could, for a period of six years, look on calmly and indifferently at the birth and development of the theory of Hitlerism, poisoning as it has the whole of international life, spreading anguish, death and destruction, at first in its native land, then in the countries nearest, and finally throughout all continents, the whole world.

I say "all continents" because every one must now realize that what is at present going on in the Pacific stems from that same Hitlerism which has brought to life all the potential forces of aggression.

It is this question which will perplex the historian of the future. The question how it was that statesmen, responsible popular leaders, governments, knowing the program of Hitlerism, its aims and the means by which these aims were to be achieved, knowing that the realization of this program would mean the destruction of century-old achievements of the human spirit, of the most important social-political conquests, knowing that it would be equivalent to a return to the Middle Ages, if not to primeval times, that it would spell the end of the independence of most States, the enslavement, in the literal sense of the word, of whole nations, yet did nothing to prepare for self-defense, nothing for the unification of the efforts of those marked out as victims of Nazi aggression. I am convinced that the study of this question will throw fresh light on the whole structure of modern society and furnish fresh standpoints for the study of nationalism, patriotism and the State. But this is not the time for such a study.

I must, however, qualify what I have said: indifference and apathy to Nazism and the dangers which it presents have not been quite universal. There have of course been people —journalists, statesmen and even governments—who have understood the ominous significance of Hitlerism.

I must single out the government of the Soviet Union, which, in the very first stages of the development of Hitlerism, realized the necessity for the united efforts of many countries for the aversion of the catastrophe which Hitler intended to and did bring upon humanity.

For many years the Soviet Government called untiringly for collective security, which meant united efforts, at the same time preparing to create a material basis for its own efforts. But in spite of its sincere efforts it became finally convinced of the absence on the part of other governments of any real desire for the organization of a common active front against Hitlerism on the basis of equal rights, and community of efforts and sacrifice.

But Hitler had to begin carrying out his program in full before there was any return to the idea of united efforts. And even now I am not quite sure that this idea, what it implies and what is essential to the determined struggle against the common danger, is adequately realized everywhere.

Any war requires tremendous efforts, but there are wars and wars. We know of past wars, launched for the sake of conquest, in which the instigators sought the expansion of their territory. We know of wars undertaken to remove or weaken a powerful rival. The losing side in such wars, whether the aggressor or the defender, generally speaking, lost provinces or colonies, had to pay for a term of years a greater or smaller sum in contributions to the conqueror, suffered a weakening of its political and economic power and so on.

The history of the last few centuries yields few examples of the losing side surrendering its national independence. Not a single conquered State has disappeared from the map of the world, even after the first World War. On the contrary, the number of independent States has increased, and nations which had long been without independence have come back to political life.

Everything is different in this World War, in which, with the exception of the so-called Axis powers, all the other States are waging the struggle for their very existence in the most literal sense of the word. For them to lose the war would mean not only the diminution of territory but the complete loss of political and economic independence, the enslavement of their populations, the surrender to an alien and repulsive ideology, the renunciation of all their historical traditions, faith, morals, all their political and social ideals, all that is dear to every nation and every human being brought up in the spirit of modern civilization.

If, then, previous wars demanded tremendous efforts, this war, in which everything is at stake, imperatively demandsfrom the countries opposing Hitlerism the utmost intensity of effort, the utmost sacrifices. In these countries only persons with no conception of patriotism, national honor, conscience, liberty, international solidarity, civilization-—persons hoping to get from the conquerors the posts of Quislings-hangmen, gaolers, oppressors of their own compatriots, persons generally known as the fifth column—can deny the need for such efforts and sacrifices.

I am happy to be able to testify before you that, in the country which I have the honor to represent, such people cannot get themselves heard or read. The peoples of the Soviet Union fully understood at once what a Hitler victory would mean both for themselves and for other nations, for the whole of humanity, and entered like one man into the struggle against the Hitler hordes.

There is no sacrifice too great for the Soviet peoples in this war. All physically fit men have thrown themselves into the fight, and those remaining in the rear, women as well as men, are working unceasingly day and night to supply all that the fighters are in need of.

In places overrun by the enemy their inhabitants destroy everything of value, their own property, the accumulation of years, rather than leave it to the despoilers. They destroy constructions on which decades of work and vast capital have been expended, so as to prevent the enemy using them. They have carried to perfection the tactics of guerrilla warfare behind the enemy lines.

They are enduring incredible privations and discomforts in connection with mass evacuation of the population and all the other hardships of war. They are ready to make similar and still greater sacrifices in the future, so long as they have any strength left, to drive the foe from their territory and to insure the triumph of our common anti-Hitler cause.

But the enemy, too, is very strong. From the moment of his accession to power Hitler imposed a military regime upon his own people, and has been sapping their strength, squeezing their lifeblood from them for six years now, in the endeavor to build up a war machine which should surpass in power the means of defense of the peace-loving countries.

Owing to victories over countries which, in 1939 and 1940, defended themselves practically single-handed against him, he has gained dominance over almost the whole of Europe, between the western frontiers of the Soviet Union and the British Isles. He has got hold of all the industry, all the sources of raw material in the conquered countries, and made the whole able-bodied populations of those countries work for him and his war.

That is why even the utmost efforts of any single state might prove insufficient to overpower him. The united efforts, efforts really united, of states still capable of continuing the struggle against Hitler, are required, efforts which have not yet, I fear, left the realms of hope.

We do not forget the immense efforts made and still being made by individual countries drawn into the struggle against Hitler. Fresh in our memory are the ordeals undergone by Great Britain in her hardest days, when France caused the world a disappointment at once so unexpected and so tragic, when Great Britain only managed, thanks to remarkable skill and endurance, to avert enemy invasion of her islands.

We do not forget the bitter experiences of the English people when London and other English towns and ports had to beat off severe bombardments for months on end. We remember the initiative displayed by the British in their daring offensives against the Italian armed forces in Libya, in Ethiopia, in the Red Sea region; the generous aid given by Great Britain to Greece; the sacrifices made by her in other arenas of war. We appreciate the material help so loyally rendered, and still being rendered, by GreatBritain to our Red Army. We are inspired by the example of the heroic Chinese people, steadfastly defending their native land for four years.

The whole world has watched with admiration the heroic deeds of General MacArthur and his army. We appreciate the substantial aid which the United States, even before actually entering the war, rendered us, and is rendering us now. The Soviet people learn with sincerest gratitude of the arrival of ships with military material from the United States. Nor do we forget the efforts of the other united nations, who have fallen out of the struggle.

But this is not the moment for us to sing each other's praises, or distribute prizes. The only prize worthy of our united efforts can be absolute victory over Hitler and his satellites. But this victory still needs to be organized. So far we are only feeling our way toward it, we have not found the right path yet. It is essential to find this path by our united efforts, and we must be quick about it, or it may be blocked before we get there. For the solution of the problems which confront us we must start from the following axioms:

1. Victory is impossible without the destruction of Hitler.

2. Hitler cannot be destroyed either by blockading Germany or solely by bombarding German towns, but only on the field of battle.

3. The main field of battle lies at present on the territory of the Soviet Union, where the overwhelming majority of the divisions of Germany and of those wrung from her satellites are concentrated and will continue to be concentrated.

4. The Red Army has shown that these divisions can be beaten, driven back and destroyed.

5. The complete destruction and final defeat of Hitler demands definite united efforts of the Soviet Union and Great Britain, with some supplementary aid from the United States of America.

The task is clear to the layman, as well as to the professional strategist. Its execution will, of course, entail difficulties and risks, but who ever thought it would be easy or unhazardous to conquer Hitler and the powers of darkness he has called into being? However, I am sure the task will be found feasible the moment those on whom its fulfillment depends realize that it is not a question of some one or other's intriguing theory, to be mulled over at leisure, not a bit of strategical luxury, which may safely be ignored, but a thing essential, imperative, on which depends the possibility, or the impossibility of victory.

Among the multiplicity of fronts along which the United Nations are fighting, there are undoubtedly many on which appreciable victories are not to be expected for a long time to come, and where, moreover, considerable reverses must be regarded as inevitable. This being so, should we not pay special attention to the only front on which united efforts have a good chance of bringing about a great victory, more than compensating for those reverses?

This is of the utmost importance not only for the encouragement of the United Nations, and the depressing effect on the morale of the Axis countries, but also for the upsetting of Hitler's schemes to win over to his side the remaining neutral countries.

I do not think, ladies and gentlemen, that any of us desires to perpetuate a situation, in which, whenever we open our newspaper or switch on our radio, we read or hear of fresh vantage points occupied by the enemy, of fresh enemy victories and achievements, of untiring diplomatic activity on the part of the enemy, while we can only guess where the next blow will be dealt—on the northern sector of the Soviet front, or on the southern, in Turkey, Sweden, Spain, Cyprus or Malta.

The very fact that we have such a broad field for our guesses shows how advantageous is the enemy's position, compelling us to scatter our forces. Isn't it time for us to make Hitler rack his brains and wonder where his enemies will direct their next blows, on which part of the Continent they will land troops? Isn't it time to compel him to scatter his forces a little? That is what united efforts are needed for, and not united efforts in the abstract, or at some future date.

I mean united efforts now, for the definite purpose of inflicting defeat on Hitler on the only front where this is possible. Victory may be long in coming if one State has to exhaust its major forces in today's military operations, whileanother harbors them for possible operations at some indefinite time in the future.

But the infliction of defeat and the attainment of victory cannot be our ultimate aim. United efforts are required also for the final eradication of the Nazi-fascist tree with its poisoned fruits, for the healing of the wounds suffered by humanity in this blood-thirsty war, for the creation on a new basis of future economic and political international relations.

It seems to me that the more easily we can achieve united efforts now, all participants in the struggle making about equal sacrifices, the more successful will be our united efforts for the organization of the peace—a true peace—based on unity and concord.