Joseph Hansen

On the War Fronts

(December 1941)

Source: Fourth International, Vol. 2 No. 10, December 1941, pp. 298–301.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

I. The Soviet Front

Winter swirling down from the Arctic is freezing Hitler’s armies poised before Moscow, Leningrad, and Rostov; and bringing intense suffering to the beleaguered divisions of the Red Army as well as to the German forces. Desperate sorties have brought no relaxation of the Nazi stranglehold. Moscow is still in great danger and will remain so, according to one dispatch passed by the censor at Kuibyshev.

On the southern sector, the Nazis have continued to capitalize on the Stalinist lack of leadership and the Kremlin’s rejection of the methods of revolutionary warfare. They have forced the narrow Perekop Isthmus, swept over Crimea, and have seized Kerch, springboard to the Caucasus oil region. They control the Sea of Azov and have gained the possibility of taking Rostov through a double envelopment. Sevastopol, most important base of the Black Sea fleet, is under bombardment. The siege of Sevastopol on top of the loss of such major bases as Odessa and Nikolayev have so reduced the effectiveness of the Soviet fleet as to bring perilously near Nazi control of the Black Sea. Not only are the oil lines from the Caucasus now seriously endangered by these new gains of the Nazis, but also the lines of communication over which military supplies can reach the Red Army.

How long can the Soviet Union continue to absorb the blows of Hitler’s armies? The answer to this question is of vital importance to every class-conscious worker passionately defending the Soviet Union. From an opposite point of view it is also of keen interest to the big bourgeoisie of the Allied powers who are struggling with the German bourgeoisie for domination of the earth but who fear socialist revolution far more than they do a possible German victory. Undoubtedly it was precisely this question which was uppermost in the minds of the Allied diplomats and militarists who met with representatives of the Stalinist regime at Moscow to determine to what extent Allied aid should be given the Red Army.

Whatever doubts the Allied chancelleries may still entertain as to the possibility of Stalin arriving at a new deal with Hitler, he clearly convinced them – if they were not already convinced – that so long as he remains in power revolutionary methods of struggle are completely excluded. In return for material support for his regime, Stalin guarantees to the Allied bourgeoisie that he will not raise among either Hitler’s troops or Red Army troops Lenin’s and Trotsky’s revolutionary call to build the Socialist United States of Europe. This is at the same time the guarantee of certain defeat for the USSR, for Stalin has surrendered the country’s most powerful weapon, the international class struggle.

Stalin has reduced the struggle to a single combat between the Red Army and Hitler’s troops. And on this plane, it is only a question of so much time in the eyes of the Allied bourgeoisie before the Soviet Union goes down. As Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, puts it, “Only a miracle seemingly can prevent a collapse of Russia’s organized military strength ...” In case a miracle should occur the possibility is always open to the Allies, however, of arriving at a truce with Hitler at the expense of the Soviet Union.

“Defeat on Every Battlefield ...”

The probability of a military miracle has been estimated by the Allied command as very slim. In the November 1 issue of the Army and Navy Journal an article signed by “Strategicus” and entitled What May America Expect from Russia? draws a military balance of the Nazi-Soviet struggle. “Strategicus” appears to represent the views of the highest military authorities in the Roosevelt regime. He begins by paying tribute to the resistance of the Red Army a

“Nothing has astonished the world more In recent years than the now four months old struggle of the Soviet ... Defeat has been the lot of the Soviet marshals on every battlefield of the past summer, but even defeat after defeat has not yet crushed the fighting spirit of the Red Army. Today one would be a rash military critic who would not predict at least an eight months further resistance by the Soviet army ...”

The Degree of Resistance

But in granting this period of resistance, the author warns that there are various degrees of resistance. What must be determined is not the willingness of the Red Army to continue its resistance – that is already proved – but the degree to which it can continue to offer resistance. This can be judged, in the opinion of “Strategicus,” by weighing the still unconquered industrial capacity of the Soviet Union against the industrial capacity available to the Nazi troops:

“The Russian evacuation of the western and southern Ukraine, together with the imminent conquest by the Axis armies of the South, of the rich Donets basin, has or will inflict shortly upon Russia the loss of approximately 70 per cent of her coal, 60 per cent of her Iron ore and 50 per cent of her facilities for producing steel. The encirclement of Leningrad has deprived her of about 18 per cent of her plants producing finished manufactured articles. If Moscow is lost as well (and the probability of this loss must now be reckoned with) another serious industrial blow will have been struck by the Axis. Around Moscow has been concentrated the bulk of the aviation Industry of the Soviet and a large proportion of the factories producing tanks. Not less than 70 per cent of all the nation’s airplane factories are actually situated In a circular area extending 100 miles in all directions from the Kremlin. Thus the capture of Moscow by the Germans would be a military catastrophe for the Russians of the first magnitude. The Industrial losses already sustained, and the prospective losses now impending, will inevitably diminish Russian capacity for further resistance. The Ukraine, Leningrad, Moscow; these are three (pillars of the Soviet industrial effort. Without these pillars, no such military effort can be made by Russia next year as astonished the world in 1941.”

“Strategicus” estimates the capacity of other industrial areas of the Soviet Union, first those he believes are certain to remain in Soviet hands for the coming period. These are the Baku oil fields which lie south of the Caucasus mountains, and produce 85 per cent of Russian petroleum, but which have a few armament plants; and the Ural-West Siberian industrial area 1,500 miles away. If these units were close geographically as a combined unit they would represent “probably 30 per cent of Russia’s total industrial power.” The author assigns 20 per cent of this total as the share of the Ural region and 10 per cent as that of the South Caucasus.

The Industrial Capacity Left the USSR

He considers it very probable, however, that “before winter sets in, the Axis armies of the South will interpose themselves between the Urals and the Caucasus and limit all Russian communication between these areas to that which the Caspian shipping can provide.” Should this occur:

“It will force lowering of the estimate of the industrial power of these two regions from 30 per cent to only about 22 per cent of the pre-war figures for Russia as a whole. This 22 per cent it will be noted is just about the same figure as that estimated for the Ural West Siberian region by itself. This is indeed a very low figure compared to that which provided the sinews of war for the Russian armies in 1941.”

However, “Strategicus” holds open the possibility that certain regions now in the “doubtful” column may be retained by the Soviet Union, which would raise the power of resistance :

“The first, that of Ivanovo-Nijni Novgorod, is by far the most important as it contains a whole series of arsenals, airplane factories and textile plants. The second, Stalingrad, also is an important industrial asset and possesses one of the largest steel works in Europe, while the third, the North Caucasus contains a series of minor oil fields and a fairly diversified industry.”

If these regions remain in Soviet hands during the winter and if the ability of these regions to communicate with one another is maintained, the author believes that “our estimate of Russian industrial power as a whole will have to be lifted to 35 per cent of the pre-war total.”

But the keystone of the Soviet Union’s 1942 war effort, in the opinion of “Strategicus,” will be the Ural Siberian region:

“In 1917 its industry could not have furnished the supplies for even a single Russian division. Now, the factories of the Urals and Siberia, account for approximately 20 per cent of the whole Russian industrial production. This is truly an imposing success of Communism, and one which stands her now in good stead in her hour of trial.”

However, the industry in this region is not well rounded. There are “endless coal and mineral mines; there are large modern steel works, but there are also only a few automobile, artillery and airplane factories.” Nor has this weakness been made up, as the Stalinists are boasting, by the transfer of factories from the conquered regions:

“Undoubtedly in the past months some machinery has been shipped by) the endangered factories of western Russia to Siberia ... but in view of the recent heavy traffic burden imposed by the war on Russian railways, the volume of such shipments cannot have reached large proportions.”

To this it must be added that if Lenin in 1917 envisaged retreat to the Urals where “industry could not have furnished the supplies for even a single Russian division,” he had in mind not the transportation of the factories of Leningrad to that region but the possibility of saving the workers’ state from the imperialist onslaught by calling on the workers of the world to rise up and cast off their chains. Stalin long ago renounced this method of defense.

Military Prospect of 1942

The reduction in industrial capacity entails a corresponding reduction in the number of effective soldiers the Soviet Union can maintain in the field. In Siberia, “Strategicus” reports, the Red Army has stationed 25 divisions (unless some have been withdrawn to the Moscow front) with enough supplies for perhaps a three months campaign before it would become necessary to draw from European and Western Siberian factories. If Japan attacks, the picture will thus immediately become much blacker for the Soviet Union even if Japanese troops are held off successfully for some months.

“Strategicus” concludes his analysis by predicting that next Spring the German armies will cross the Volga in a drive to destroy Russian industry in the Urals:

“The Axis army of next Spring will be definitely superior in numbers and material to any army which weakened Russia can then put into the field without outside aid. Certainly, this superiority will reach the ratio of three to two. Possibly it may attain a ratio of two to one. At any rate a Russian defeat will be inevitable unless German Strength is drawn off to Western Europe, or unless Anglo-American supplies reach the Russian armies in large quantity and thus permit the Russians to increase the number of their divisions. There can be little hope for a successful Russian defense in 1942, unless the Soviet can place in the field 175 divisions. Hence the complete supplies for from 50 to 75 divisions (1,250,000 to 1,875,000 men) must be furnished by England or America. Tanks and airplanes will have to be supplied in yet larger quantities, as, if Moscow falls, Russia will lack all but a fraction of its manufacturing capacity of these two types of weapons. If these supplies are not delivered to Russia this winter, then, England will have to attack the continent, or sit idly by and witness the complete destruction of its ally ...”

“Strategicus” does not analyze the possibilities of supplies for such an enormous number of soldiers actually reaching the Soviet Union within the time specified. However, to determine these possibilities it is sufficient to recall that of the available routes over which supplies could be shipped, Murmansk is ice-bound in winter, Vladivostok must be approached through Japanese-controlled waters, and Soviet connections with the single track railroad which comes up 900 miles through the mountains of Iran are now within striking distance of the Nazis.

“Felicitations” from Roosevelt

It is in the light of the above balance sheet of the military situation drawn by his own military analysts that we must consider Roosevelt’s telegram to Kalinin extending his “felicitations” on the 24th Anniversary of the October revolution. Both the telegram and the proffered billion dollar loan were designed to keep Stalin on his present course and to bolster up his regime against the possibility that the Soviet people might overthrow him in order to establish a regime which would pursue the revolutionary policies of Lenin and Trotsky. With the same aim in mind, Roosevelt supporters such as Davies, former Ambassador to the Soviet Union, have lately attempted to sprinkle the encrusted blood of the Moscow trials with whitewash. To make this job easier, Stalin has sent Litvinov – “democratic” mannequin of the Comintern – to replace Oumansky, who as an old GPU careerist and as head of the Soviet Embassy in Washington was in charge of the organization of Leon Trotsky’s assassination. Stalin is thus able to point to his new powerful allies in justification of his policy of betrayal and defeat and say, “See, Wall Street is loaning us a billion dollars without any interest!”

What proportion of this billion dollars will reach the Soviet Union ? According to the protestations of the Roosevelt administration, shipments of supplies to the Red Army are proceeding at maximum capacity. Statistics, released by the United States Department of Commerce, show that shipments to the Soviet Union in August, the latest month for which figures are available, amounted to $9,038,000 – three times the shipments for July but something less than 2 per cent of the total exports for the month as compared with 71 per cent going to the British Empire and Egypt. At this rate it would take more than nine years to ship one billion dollars worth of goods to the Soviet Union, if all the present avenues were kept open.

Nevertheless Stalin in his November 7 speech wherein he admitted that the Soviet Union could not survive without outside aid, accepted Roosevelt’s fraudulent offer “with sincere gratitude” as “unusually substantial aid.”

Day by day it becomes clearer that Stalin’s whole policy is preparing the certain defeat of the Soviet Union.

No power can really aid and save the Soviet Union other than the power of the world working class. But to release that power, to raise up the mighty hosts of the international proletariat against the menace of fascism it is necessary to call forth the revolutionary slogans and the revolutionary methods of warfare taught by Lenin and Trotsky. The German workers will not remain cold. Once they are convinced of the possibility of uniting with the Russian workers to spread socialism throughout Europe and the world they will put an end to Hitler’s regime. But the time is growing short The fatal policies of Stalinism have brought the USSR to the brink of the abyss. To save the Soviet Union it is necessary to replace the Stalinist regime of betrayal and defeat with a new regime of revolutionary struggle. It is necessary to replace the Stalinist policy of slavish bootlicking of the Allied bourgeoisie with the Leninist policy of irreconcilable opposition to their war aims. It is necessary to replace the blind faith of Stalin-:ism that some imperialist miracle will save the USSR with a firm and conscious faith in the revolutionary power of the proletariat. Above all it is necessary to replace the Stalinist slogan of opening up an imperialist front in Western Europe – a slogan which can lead only to further slaughter in the interests of imperialism – with the slogan of Trotskyism: Open up the class front in Western Europe!

II. Powder Keg in Far East

“Out westward, the Orient is like a vast powder keg – potentially ready to explode with a roar that will be heard all the way across the Pacific.” In thus describing the tenseness of the Far Eastern situation, Frank Knox might well have added that the Roosevelt Administration is doing its utmost to bring about an early explosion.

That this powder keg may go up at any moment is indicated by the orders to Navy personnel in Guam to send their families home, and by the orders to Marines in China to leave that country. Evacuation of Japanese nationals from the United States has proceeded concurrently with evacuation of American nationals from Japan. On November 2 General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander of the British Indian Army, who has directed the armies on the African and Middle East front, arrived at Singapore to check up on the military defenses of that strategic naval base. Transports of British troops have been arriving at this port for months. The government of Panama, which is a puppet of the Roosevelt Administration and which last January revised its constitution to provide for racial exclusion of the Japanese, cancelled all business permits held by Japanese residents on one day’s notice, facing them with expulsion.

Winston Churchill climaxed these warlike moves on November 10 by declaring that in the event of war between the United States and Japan “the British declaration will follow within the hour.” Two days later British troops began the “most extensive maneuvers yet held” in Northern Malaya. By November 16 Chinese forces in Kwangsi and Yunnan provinces bordering French Indo-China were blowing up bridges and destroying roads for a depth of many miles from the frontier. Chinese troop reinforcements were pouring into this strategic area while the construction of pill boxes and other defense works proceeded feverishly in preparation for a possible Japanese thrust at Burma and the Burma road.

The Japanese government is likewise making last minute preparations for the conflict. Like the other imperialist powers, Japan has been watching the German-Soviet conflict with the closest attention. When the Soviet Union becomes sufficiently weakened from the blows of Hitler, Japan would feel free to move. Many observers saw in the fall of the Konoye ministry and its replacement by the Tojo ministry an indication that the Mikado had given his divine sanction to the Army belief that the historic hour had arrived.

Although more than 70 per cent of the national income is now being spent by the government, still more staggering tax burdens were prepared for enactment by the Japanese Parliament.

On November 1 the Bangkok press estimated that some 10,000 Japanese tourists, all males of military age, had entered Thailand. Japanese cruisers moved southward off the coast of Kwangtung Province, South China. Japanese residents in India and other British colonies as well as the Netherlands Indies began taking passage home. According to Chinese military intelligence reports, 20,000 Japanese troops were massed on the Yunnan border, with 10,000 additional moving toward the Burma border, and with tens of thousands more being shifted southward from various Chinese ports.

The Japanese press, which is rigidly controlled by the government, has at the same time conducted a virulent warmongering campaign, demanding that Roosevelt meet Japanese terms and threatening immediate action on the part of the Japanese Army and Navy.

Through these lowering war clouds flew Saburu Kurusu, Special Ambassador to Washington, bearing according to the Tojo Ministry Japan’s “last offer” of an amicable understanding. He arrived at the White House on November 15, precisely the same day that the Japanese Diet opened its special session in Tokyo with nothing else on its real agenda except the question of war.

In view of the fundamental clash in the war aims of American and Japanese imperialism, both of whom require domination of the fabulous wealth and natural resources of China, the Malay Peninsula, and the Netherlands East Indies, it is excluded that these two gangs of imperialists can arrive at an agreement of any lasting character. Since both Tokyo and Washington understand this thoroughly, there is considerable speculation as to the purpose of Kurusu’s flight.

It may be solely a diplomatic move on the part of Japan to retain the cloak of “peacemaker” in any conflict with the Anglo-American powers for the sake of publicity among the Japanese masses. The longing for peace on the part of the Japanese people hangs like a nightmare over the Imperial government. The flight can also serve as camouflage for the impending military thrust.

There is reason to believe that Kurusu may be a courier in Hitler’s behind-the-scenes campaign for a general agreement among the imperialist powers at the expense of the Soviet Union and China. On November 1, a few days before Kurusu’s trip was announced, the Japan Times Advertiser, which usually reflects the views of the Japanese Foreign Office, declared that “Japan is ready to undertake mediation of the Russo-German war if the opportunity can be found.” This semi-official paper added that “The United States would be wise to support such a move as an opening for general mediation of the world conflict.”

According to Pertinax, who generally expresses the unofficial views of the State Department, Washington can expect from Japan, when the “long-expected German peace offensive” begins, a simultaneous attempt “to get rid of the problems that harass them today.”

Japanese bargaining efforts rest on the assumption that the Soviet Union faces certain defeat and that Hitler will be so enormously strengthened by the conquest and subsequent exploitation of the Soviet Union’s industry and natural resources that the Anglo-American powers will be forced to make concessions to Japan. The Mikado would offer a truce in the Pacific in return for Chinese and Siberian territory and a guarantee in some form that strategic war materials such as rubber, tin, oil, etc. would be made available.

Roosevelt’s moves in the Pacific indicate that American imperialism believes it cannot postpone the conflict.


Last updated on: 23 March 2019