The estimable online journal Democratiya is featuring some recently unearthed cabinet memos by the British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin from early 1948, “setting out the case for the Atlantic alliance and for a muscular social democratic antitotalitarianism,” as Democratiya’s editor, Alan Johnson, puts it. (The memos can be read here; Johnson’s gloss is here.)
Bevin was a self-educated worker, who had been forced to drop out of school at the age of ten in order to support himself. His native wit propelled him to the top of Britain’s trade union movement and then to a leading position in the Labor Party. His clear-eyed recognition of the threat and the evil represented by Soviet Communism led him to become the mastermind behind the North Atlantic treaty (although these memos don’t bear directly on the treaty). In contrast, America’s brainchild for keeping the postwar peace was the UN. The biggest fear of that generation of statesmen was that a third world war centered in Europe might soon follow the first and second.