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The penultimate year of the 20th Century's fourth decade will not go down as one noted for athletic records, medical discoveries, great works of literature or other achievements in the realm of the intellect, muscle or spirit. It will be remembered, in Europe particularly, as a year in which men turned or were forced to turn their attention almost exclusively to politics.
The whole post-War I period was preoccupied with politics to a degree matched only by the 16th Century's preoccupation with theology. So thoroughly was Europe inured to political shock that the transition last autumn from war of nerves to war of guns was accepted by most of its millions with an extraordinary calm. The calm was tempered with some fear, but also with nostalgia, for few men believe that Europe will ever again be the Europe of Aug. 31, 1939just as the July of 1914 never came again. Whether Europe's new era will end in nationalist chaos, good or bad internationalism, or what not, the era will be newand the end of the old era will have been finally precipitated by a man whose domain lies mostly outside Europe. This Joseph Stalin did by dramatically switching the power balance of Europe one August night. It made Joseph Stalin man of 1939. History may not like him but history cannot forget him. As for his contemporaries on the 1939 scene:
> By early last year Adolf Hitler had already shown the world that his bag of tricks was not bottomless. Instead of winning another bloodless conquest in Poland, he ran his land empire at last afoul the sea empire of Britainand into an expensive, probably long and debilitating war which may well end disastrously for him and his country. The Allies have not cracked his Westwallbut he has not cracked their Maginot Line. His vaunted air fleet has not leveled Britain, as advertised, and once again Germany finds herself dangerously blockaded by the British Fleet.
> Generalissimo Francisco Franco won his civil war in Spain, but his country was so exhausted at the war's end that Spain's weight in international affairs remains negligible.
> Most vigorous character to arise anew in European affairs was Britain's Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, but he was not the head of Government. Doubtful it was, moreover, if Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain would go down as a great war figure. History would probably regard him as an example of magnificent stubbornnessstubborn for peace, then stubborn in war.
> Benito Mussolini was caught bluffing with his Nazi-Fascist "Pact of Steel," and when the Allies called his bluff, II Duce rather awkwardly last fall backed down and declared "non-belligerency." Grumbling at home last autumn and a major shake-up among his top officers indicated that Mussolini's Italy had to do a lot of sail-trimming. > After seven years of Franklin Roosevelt, the U. S. was still in the dumps, offered no example to the rest of the world as to how to get along. Best Roosevelt deeds of 1939 Were his earnest but unheeded plumpings for peace (see p. 7).
Joseph Stalin's actions in 1939, by contrast, were positive, surprising, world-shattering.