Commentary Magazine


Crossroads of Two Continents, by Feliks Gross

Power Politics Triumphs

Crossroads of Two Continents: A Democratic Federation of Eastcentral Europe.
by Feliks Gross.
New York, Columbia University Press, 1945. 162 pp. $2.00.

When this book was published, some six months ago, its basic thesis—for all its logic and sanity—was a dead issue. Mr. Gross conclusively proves that federation for Eastern Europe is an economic necessity; and he insists on the political desirability of a federated Europe because a “world-wide organization,” without which “there can be no lasting peace,” can be achieved only through “regional organizations.” Confident of the “natural trend of history toward world economy” and well-acquainted with the desperate situation of the “pulverized states inhabited by Poles, Czechoslovaks, Rumanians, Serbs, Croats . . . and others,” he surveys the history of the idea of federation, gives very valuable material on economic conditions in Eastern Europe and adds a much needed selection from contemporary accounts to show that all the peoples who joined the resistance did not do so just to fight the German invader but had gotten it into their heads that they were fighting for something. What they were fighting for was a federated Europe.

But then came Soviet Russia and declared that any federation not dominated by herself was a hostile cordon sanitaire. And then came the rest of the Big Three and found out that in spite of all their internal differences there was one point upon which all three agreed, and this was that no new political structure was to be allowed in Europe. And then came the governments back from their exile and told their peoples that what they had fought against was the Germans and what they had fought for was the status quo. And that was that.

The obsoleteness of this book is, however, not merely a result of the changed situation. It is also a consequence of the author’s pathetic faith in the validity of economic arguments. It is true, and almost self-evident, that the whole Continent is likely to collapse because of the principle of national sovereignty, and it is beyond doubt that great sections of Eastern Europe will be ruined by a state of affairs which nobody has quite the courage to call peace. The transfers of population make no economic sense whatsoever and can result only in the depopulation and devastation of vast agricultural regions, which may weaken Europe permanently. The point the author overlooks, and which is all-important for modem politics, is that nobody cares. Everything is decided from the point of view of politics. In the present instance the restoration of national states with homogeneous ethnical populations is the chief issue. President Benes and his abruptly changed approach to all these questions is a perfect case in point, precisely because Benes is not a fool and knows the key importance of economics to the European situation as well as Mr. Gross does.

Even more damaging to Mr. Gross’ argument is another oversight. To this new neglect of economic factors on the part of those who make politics must be added the new over-emphasis on power. Mr. Gross takes Russia’s arguments against a possibly non-democratic federation at their face value and solemnly reassures her of the longing of the peoples concerned for truly democratic and peaceful institutions. He completely overlooks what, after all, is obvious, namely that Russia being a big Power wants nothing so much as to become an even bigger Power. Therefore, she feels—rightly—that no matter how peaceful and democratic and friendly an Eastern European or a general European federation would be, it still would almost automatically check—not Russia’s present power, but her plans—judging by the facts of every postwar Soviet move—for an ever increasing accumulation of power.

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