Joseph Hansen

Go Forward

(16 November 1940)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 46, 16 November 1940, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: 2019 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2020; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Prediction of Trotsky a Triumph of Marxist Analysis

Fourteen months ago, upon the invasion of Poland from the west by Hitler and from the east by the Red Army, the social democrats and those clinging to their coat tails were thrown into complete confusion by the complex events. With the disappearance of the Polish bourgeois government and the advance of Soviet troops, they were utterly incapable of foreseeing what might be expected to occur in the eastern occupied territories.

Among our own ranks certain elements raised the question of changing our slogan of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union because of the Red Army invasion of Poland.

Leon Trotsky’s Analysis

Leon Trotsky analyzed the Polish events on September 25, 1939, in an article The USSR in War in the following lucid words:

“It is more likely, however, that in the territories scheduled to become a part of the USSR, the Moscow government will carry through the expropriation of the large land owners and statification of the means of production. This variant is most probable not because the bureaucracy remains true to the socialist program but because it is neither desirous nor capable of sharing the power, and the privileges the latter entails, with the old ruling classes in the occupied territories. Here an analogy literally offers itself. The first Bonaparte halted the revolution by means of military dictatorship. However, when the French troops invaded Poland, Napoleon signed a decree: ‘Serfdom is abolished.’ This measure was dictated not by Napoleon’s sympathies for the peasants, nor by democratic principles but rather by the fact that the Bonapartist dictatorship based itself not on feudal but on bourgeois property relations. Inasmuch as Stalin’s Bonapartist dictatorship (bases itself not on private but on state property, the invasion of Poland by the Red Army should, in the nature of the case, result in the abolition of private capitalist property, so as thus to bring the regime of the occupied territories into accord with the regime of the USSR.”

Trotsky in his next paragraph explains that this change in property relations could not however cause us to favor the invasion of Poland by the Red Army, since it would be “achieved in military-bureaucratic fashion” and hence lower the capacity of the proletariat to defend the old conquests and to make new ones through socialist revolution.

Trotsky’s conclusion was that class-conscious workers should condemn the invasion of Poland by the Red Army but continue their unconditional defense of the Soviet Union including the new territorial gains.

Trotsky saw the invasion as providing a remarkable demonstration of the analysis of the Fourth International that the Soviet Union is still a workers’ state but suffering from bureaucratic deformations.. He concluded that there was nothing “new in the situation” which should cause us to change our position of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union.

“Imperialist or Quasi-Imperialist”

This analysis by Trotsky drew derision from all sides especially among those under the influence of the bourgeois war pressure. They declared that the invasion of Poland proved that there “was something entirely new in the situation,” and that the Soviet Union had become an “imperialist” state seeking imperialist territorial gains.

James Burnham, for example, declared that the policy of the Soviet state had become “imperialist or quasi-imperialist.” Max Shachtman declared in a resolution dated September 28, 1939, that “Stalin and the Red Army thus played a flatly counter-revolutionary role in Poland. The bitter realities of the recent events, most particularly of the events in Poland, dictate a revision of our previous concept of the ‘unconditional defense of the Soviet Union.’”

Now it is possible to ascertain just who was right and who wrong in their analysis of the events in Poland – not that we expect either Burnham or Shachtman to acknowledge themselves wrong!

In an article in the press, Ludwig Lore reports that private capitalist property has been entirely abolished in the occupied territories of Poland.

“The nationalization of big industrial enterprises and banks ... was the first,” he states. Then came other important financial institutions.

“The small and middle-sized industries were a difficult matter,” he continues. “No immediate nationalization was attempted. The owners remained in possession of their enterprises and were merely ordered to submit statements to the workers’ delegates regarding the cost of production, wages paid, hours employed and working conditions generally. For every branch of industry and again for the individual concerns, councils consisting of representatives of the employees and the employers were established, which jointly fixed a ‘just rate of profit’ and supervised working and wage conditions.

“However that was a transitory situation. After seven months complete state ownership was established. According to a government statement, the dual regime of employers and employees control over production was ‘ineffective and working to the disadvantage of state and industry,’ wherefore abolition of private ownership in small and medium industries was decreed.

“A similar situation was created in the trades. Wholesalers and retailers were given a period of grace in which to wind up their enterprises and to sell out their old stocks. After that the Soviet state trusts refused to sell them supplies and private trade died.”

Already the Stalinist bureaucracy has purged the local organizations in the occupied territories of any elements who might prove anti-Stalinist. This was likewise predicted by Trotsky, when he warned that the workers of Poland must organize resistance against the crushing totalitarian hand of Moscow.

With nothing but the meager details furnished by the bourgeois press dealing mainly with the bare fact of the invasion by the Red Army, Trotsky was able from his analysis of the Soviet Union as a workers’ state with bureaucratic deformations to predict with absolute accuracy the course which history actually took. A remarkable triumph of Marxian analysis!


Last updated on: 14 November 2020