Joseph Hansen

New Stalin Plea: “I Want a Deal”

(7 February 1949)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 6, 7 February 1949, 1 & 2.
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Stalin’s declaration Jan. 30 that he has “no objection to a meeting” with Truman to discuss the possibility of drawing up a “pact of peace” has touched off the usual speculation in the capitalist press about the meaning of the Generalissimo’s statement. Is Moscow ready to make a deal with Washington?

The answer is obviously, yes. Stalin has repeatedly indicated his eagerness to reach an understanding with American imperialism. The difficulty has been that Washington’s price could not be met by the Kremlin bureaucracy. Up to now, Stalin has not been prepared to withdraw from Eastern Europe and open up the Soviet Union to western capitalism. Wall Street, on the other hand, has felt no pressing need, since the immediate postwar period, to buy what the Kremlin has to offer – professional services in Heading off and putting down revolutionary movements.

Stalin now feels his hand strengthened as a result of the victories of his followers in China. Perhaps American imperialism would be interested in a mutually profitable, overall understanding at the expense of the Chinese people among others?

Cachin Interview

How quickly the entire World Stalinist movement would make a flip flop in its attitude toward Anglo-American imperialism should a temporary deal be reached was indicated by Marcel Cachin at a press conference in Rome Jan. 23. This top spokesman of the French Communist Party repeated the long-ago-exploded Stalinist dogma that world capitalism and the Soviet Union can exist side by side indefinitely in peace.

He praised the Marshall Plan, saying in direct contradiction to the current Stalinist line that “nobody questions that the American offer to help economies damaged by war is a great plan.”

Cachin also recalled Truman’s campaign gesture of readiness to send Fred M. Vinson on a mission to Moscow and the President’s statement that certain leaders in the Soviet Union are eager to reach an understanding with the United States.

Other lieutenants of the Kremlin have likewise indicated how pleased they would be to do business, with Wall Street, not the least among them being the Chinese Stalinist leaders.

“Peace Offensive”

The capitalist press calls this a “peace offensive,” as if wanting to stave off war constituted a crime. This strange label ig designed to help justify Washington’s open preparations for atomic slaughter. While Moscow calls for peace and a deal, Washington coolly goes ahead with organization of the most far-reaching military alliance in history, the Atlantic Pact, and prepares to convert the countries bordering the Soviet Union into a springboard for attack. These bellicose preparations alarm the working people of Europe and the rest of the world, hence the need of the Washington propagandists to try to discount Moscow’s advances and to picture them as “nothing but propaganda.”

It is true that Moscow loses nothing in the cold war by indicating its readiness to reach an understanding. And it can be added that these bids for a deal give real sting to the denunciations of Wall Street which fill the Stalinist press. The working people naturally conclude that American imperialism must (be the aggressor, since it spurns the Kremlin’s advances and goes right on stockpiling atom bombs And lining up its allies in a worldwide coalition for war.

However, Moscow’s propaganda gain is only incidental. The Kremlin is not bluffing. Stalin really wants a deal – on terms the bureaucracy can meet. But ever since the profitable transaction in which the Kremlin saved French and Italian capitalism at the end of the war in return for government posts for its agents, American imperialism has rejected even a temporary understanding with the Kremlin.

Defensive Steps

Thus the Moscow bureaucracy has been forced to take what it considers to be the most effective possible defensive steps, consonant with its bureaucratic rule, against the obvious preparations for military attack. The first of these was organization of the Cominform. The latest was announced Jan. 25. It is a Council for Economic Mutual Assistance (CEMA) for the countries of Eastern Europe with the exception of Yugoslavia.

This is the culmination of the economic counter-moves to the Marshall Plan. Like the Marshall Plan it is being ballyhooed as, a mutual aid project. However, just as the Marshall Plan is really aimed at fortifying and advancing American imperialism, so the CEMA is aimed at fortifying and advancing the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Drain Satellites

The CEMA will help bring the economies of the satellite powers into closer integration with the economy of the Soviet Union. The Stalinist aim is more, systematic draining of the satellite countries for the immediate benefit of Moscow’s position.

If the satellite countries are permitted to trade with the western powers it will be along lines dictated by Moscow and strictly in accordance with the opportunistic interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

A few examples will show how the bureaucracy has been operating in the satellite countries since the first days of outright plunder.

Poland was forced to sell 6,000,000 tons of coal to the USSR last year for the equivalent of $1.20 a ton when world prices ranged from $14 to $20 a ton.

The Kremlin charged Czechoslovakia the Chicago price for wheat last year and added half of what it would have cost to ship the wheat from Chicago to Czechoslovakia.

On a loan of $32,000,000 to Czechoslovakia for supplies, Moscow charged 3½%, which is 1% more than the Export-Import Bank gets for such loans.

Domestic Opposition

When Rumania, Hungary, Finland, etc. make deliveries of goods as payments on reparations imposed by Stalin, they are allowed 1938 prices plus 10%, despite inflationary increases of as much as 100% in world market prices since that time. The CEMA is designed to intensify this kind of “mutual assistance.” Such exploitation engenders intense dissatisfaction among the satellite countries. In the case of Yugoslavia, resentment flared into the open.

In addition there is widespread oppositional sentiment to the Stalin regime inside the USSR, as is indicated by the following interesting report of the well-informed Foreign Policy Bulletin:

“If the judgment of observers who have recently spent considerable time in the USSR is to be trusted, Russians who differ with the Kremlin are not thinking in terms of replacing the Soviet system by one patterned on the United States or Britain, but of ridding it of some of its most ruthless controls and bureaucratic deficiencies – in short, of making the Soviet system work better and more humanely.”

Besides evidence of this kind, the recent series of far-reaching purges in all spheres of cultural and. scientific life were a certain indication, as in previous purges, that dissatisfaction with the regime is profound.

Kremlin Worried

The Stalinist bureaucracy is worried about this bitterness and unrest and believes that a deal with Americap imperialism would facilitate “pacification” of the satellite countries and liquidation of the disturbing trends at home. One of the first “benefits” of the understanding could be the throttling of the Tito opposition.

On top of this, a deal would postpone Wall Street’s projected military assault, thus winning more time for the bureaucracy.

Without such a deal, Moscow will continue to counter Anglo-American blows by bureaucratic devices like the Cominform rmd CEMA whose defense value to the USSR the Kremlin measures by only one yardstick – how well they strengthen the dictatorial rule of Stalinism.


Last updated on: 29 February 2024