E. Germain

Where Is the Soviet Union Going? 2

The Policy of the “Strategic Bulwark”

(20 April 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 25, 22 June 1946, p. 3.
Originally published in La Lutte Ouvrière, 20 April 1946.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

On the morrow of the second world war, the dominant fact concerning the Soviet Union’s situation is the imperialist encirclement that is being completed. The bureaucracy is incapable of counteracting this encirclement by its old policy of balancing itself between the powers.

It sees itself forced to elaborate a new system of defense, based neither on revolutionary politics of the proletariat (1917–1924), nor on alliances with certain capitalist countries (1924–1944), but on the progressive conquest of a “strategic bulwark,” separating the Soviet frontiers on all sides from the imperialist bases of operation.

The creation of the “strategic bulwark” appeared as the immediate aim of Stalin’s foreign policy at the time of the Teheran Conference, that is to say, at a time when Hitler’s defeat seemed certain and when the conquerors were discussing division of the spoils. In the beginning Stalin attempted to create this bulwark in a “peaceful” way, that is to say, with the consent of his imperialist “allies.”

Knowing that the Red Army was bearing the main brunt of the German armies and conscious of the progressive enfeeblement of the USSR in the course of the prolonged warfare, the English and American imperialists postponed their settling of accounts with the bureaucracy until after the war with Germany and Japan. They accorded Stalin, as “spheres of influence” large parts of Europe and Asia: Poland, East Germany, all the Danubian and Balkan countries except Greece, Manchuria and North China.

Under Pressure

But Stalin knew very well that this occupation would be only temporary. At the “Peace Conference” when American imperialism would be forced to redraw the map of the world according to its plans of world domination, the question of evacuation of all these countries would be posed. But the “strategic bulwark” threatens to crumble even before that as a result of the constant pressure of English and American imperialism.

Already this pressure succeeded. a year ago in the introduction into all the governments of those countries occupied by the USSR of representatives of the “native’’ capitalist class, direct agents of imperialism: Mikolajczyk in Poland, Tartarescu in Rumania, Geol in Yugoslavia and others. Also the bureaucracy entered upon a series of maneuvers aiming at the more or less temporary “stabilization” of its influence in these countries by establishing obedient governments.

Reactionary Methods

At the moment when the Red Army entered these countries, broad revolutionary movements appeared. The workers seized the factories and established a network of all-powerful factory committees. The peasants seized the long-coveted land.

But the Soviet bureaucracy which fears the revolution as much as do the world capitalists, far from supporting or consolidating these workers’ actions, helped the “native” capitalists all it could to restore law and order; either by force (Poland) or by a series of deceitful maneuvers (Czechoslovakia). Moreover, by ruthlessly pillaging these countries already impoverished by the war, by introducing a hateful police regime, the Soviet bureaucracy soon alienated the sympathies of large sections of the working masses who had at first welcomed it as a liberator.

Later, when it was a question for Stalin of establishing a more strict control over the countries in the “strategic bulwark” he no longer received the workers’ support in dealing mortal blows to the capitalists of these countries. He was forced to arrive at his goal by vile bargains, by military “coups,” by the odious blackmail of hunger, or quite simply by brutal police intervention.

Having abandoned the revolutionary methods of defense of the USSR, Stalin is forced to borrow his entire policy from the infernal arsenal of imperialism. Instead of creating on the periphery of the Soviet Union sister soviet republics supported by the enthusiasm and devotion of the toiling masses, Stalin surrounds it with a group of police buffer states where large layers of the population, starving and desperate, are turning again to imperialism.

Our Condemnation

While we condemn the bureaucratic expansionism as a reactionary policy, we do not grant to the imperialists the right to shed crocodile tears over the fate of the “poor little oppressed peoples.” We have seen these “humanitarian democrats” at work when they atomized Nagasaki, burned Bekasi and other Indonesian villages, organized the white terror in Greece and starved India. But it is precisely on the basis of the defense of its own interests that the world proletariat must recognize how futile and criminal the Stalinist policy is,

Futile because in the age of the atomic bomb, an additional few hundred kilometers do not in any way constitute a sufficient defensive base. To fight against the atomic bomb by means of strategic bases, is like fighting against artillery with spears. Criminal because it brings discredit upon the USSR in the eyes of the world proletariat and the colonial peoples, because the similarity of political methods leads the masses to identify the Soviet Union with an imperialist country.

To the extent that it widens the gulf between the policy of the bureaucracy and the interests of the proletariat, to the extent that it enables imperialism to array the English and American masses not only against Stalin but against the USSR as such – to that extent Stalin’s policy favors the imperialist war preparations and increases the threat to the USSR.

At Brest-Litovsk, Lenin “sacrificed space to gain time.” Stalin is in the act of sacrificing time to gain space which will protect him neither against his internal difficulties, nor against the atom bomb.

(Translated from the Belgian Trotskyist paper, La Lutte Ouvrière, April 20, 1946. Next week’s Militant will feature another article on this question.)

Last updated on 2 January 2019