James P. Cannon

War and the Franco-Soviet Pact

(May 1935)

Written: February 1935.
Published: New Militant, Vol. I No. 21, 11 May 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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The military alliance between the Soviet Union and the French government, formally effected by the signing of the mutual assistance agreement on May 2, raises fundamental problems of the present epoch before the advanced workers of the world in the sharpest form. It was precisely on the question of war, which is only the other side of the question of proletarian revolution, that International Social Democracy consummated its historic betrayal in 1914. Will Stalinism, hand in hand with the unregenerate reformists, lead the masses to a similar catastrophe in the impending war?

A military alliance between the Soviet Union and one or more capitalist countries against others is not the main question here. In the absence of support in the form of revolutionary movements in the capitalist countries the Soviet Union might have no alternative in the event of war. That such a policy is deemed necessary now only testifies to the weakened position of the Soviet Union which ensued from the catastrophic defeats to which the Comintern under Stalin’s domination has led the international working class. The betrayal of the Chinese revolution bore fruit in the aggressions of Japanese imperialism. The shameful capitulation of the Comintern in Germany, supplementing the treachery of Social Democracy, prepared the conditions for a Hitler offensive against the Soviet Union. The pact with the French government takes place on the basis of these defeats!

The Soviet Union agrees to defend the territory of imperialist France with the troops of the Red Army in return for a corresponding promise of the French government regarding the territory of the Soviet Union. Such an agreement could be made only because the heads of the Soviet government do not, or feel that they cannot, rely on the European working class to come to its defense. But in that case it is necessary to say: the heavy defeats inflicted on the working class movement by the policy of Stalinism have weakened the international position of the Soviet Union and compelled it to depend on the flimsy structure of a pact with imperialist France.

That is the blunt truth and the workers ought to know it. But the Stalinists, true to their policy and practice of deceiving the workers and leading them blind-folded to the abyss, do not talk this language. They paint up the rapacious French imperialists as advocates of “peace” and represent the pact with them as a “victory for socialism,” an “advance,” etc. That is a lie, a deception, a fraud! By such perfidious methods the French workers can be dragooned into the trenches to fight for “peace-loving” French imperialism; they cannot be led into a revolutionary struggle to overthrow it.

* * *

What position should the French working class take in the light of the military pact? That is the main question for France at the present time, and will very likely be the main question later in America. That is the heart of the problem of the coming war as it will be presented concretely in those countries which are lined up in the same bloc with the Soviet Union.

The Workers Party alone has given a clear answer to this question in its Declaration of Principles. We say, with Liebknecht and Lenin: The enemy is in our own country! We reject the treacherous formula of “peaceful” imperialists on the one side and “aggressors” on the other. No truce in the class struggle, no moderation of the class struggle for a single day! The answer to imperialist war is the workers’ revolution!

But what about the defense of the Soviet Union? cry the venal lackeys of the Soviet foreign office who will turn into social patriots overnight. We answer: An imperialist power will never “defend” the Soviet Union; its agreement to do so is treacherous through and through; in the logic of the class struggle it cannot be otherwise. The only way for the work crs in a capitalist country to defend the Soviet Union is to defend themselves against the imperialists at home.

That means to fight the war, to struggle from the first day to overthrow the capitalists and establish a revolutionary workers’ government which would make a loyal alliance with the Soviet Union and, together with it, carry on the war against the capitalist nations. Woe to the French and American workers, woe to the labor movement of the whole world, if these simple precepts of Leninism are forgotten.

Can the Second International and the Comintern be depended on to arm and prepare the workers for this irreconcilable attitude toward their own imperialists in a war involving the Soviet Union? By no means.

The social patriotic position of the Social Democrats in the “democratic” countries is predetermined. They are already taking responsibility for the government in one “democratic” capitalist country after another. The social democrats of all countries will be ready to shoulder arms, or more correctly, to call the workers to shoulder arms, the moment the capitalist “Fatherland” is “attacked.”

The policy of Soviet diplomacy, which has long since substituted a reliance on pacts with capitalist powers for the line of proletarian internationalism, and the servile acquiescence of the Comintern in this rotten policy, lead straight to the same conclusion.

The trumpet of uncritical approval with which the journalists of the Stalinist press greet the military agreement between the Soviet Union and capitalist France and their attempt, with utter cynicism, to pass it off as a revolutionary victory, sound the warning again in clearer, louder tones.

On the basis of the reactionary theory of “socialism in one country” and under the slogan of “Defend the Soviet Union” the Stalinists are preparing a new social patriotic betrayal.

The organization of the revolutionary struggle against the coming war depends entirely on the success of the movement to liberate the proletarian vanguard from the influence of Stalinism as well as Social Democracy.

The slightest taint of nationalism is fatal in the face of war. Those who, for any reason whatever, dally with the idea of a truce with the class enemy at home are certain to land in the camp of the jingoes when the real test comes. Without a thorough-going internationalist outlook a consistent opposition to imperialist war is impossible. And the first duty of the true internationalists is to unfurl their banner and organize their forces on an international scale, however few their numbers may be at the beginning. These are the great lessons of experience written in blood and fire in the last imperialist world war.

Those who have drawn the conclusions from the actual state of affairs in the international labor movement have proclaimed the necessity of a new International, as Lenin did in 1914. Swimming against the current, against unprecedented difficulties and complexities, against slander and poverty of resources – in spite of all the advocates of the Fourth International increase in strength and numbers. They, and they alone, are the real inheritors of the great tradition of Liebknecht and Lenin. They are the heralds of the revolutionary struggle against war precisely because they are the carriers of the only idea which can arm the workers for this struggle. Speed the day when the revolutionary internationalists of all countries will establish firmer relations among themselves and proceed with practical, concrete steps toward the actual formation of the Fourth International!

Last updated on: 28 July 2015