Felix Morrow

How Stalin Serves Hitler

How Lenin Negotiated a Treaty

Another Letter to a Communist Worker

(9 March 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 10, 9 March 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


Dear Will:

Last week I sent you an analysis of the Feb. 25 Sunday Worker article, German Communists lead fight on Nazi hunger. I tried to show you that the title of that article was a fraud, for the article showed that the main activity of the Comintern in Germany, by its own claim, consists of propaganda on behalf of the Stalin-Hitler pact. And, in claiming that the pact “protected the vital interests of the German people”, your party was helping Hitler. For if it is possible for Hitler to conduct a foreign policy beneficial to the German people, to that extent his overthrow is not a desperate necessity for the German people.

You reply to me, heatedly and at length. To sum up your argument, it is this: the Hitler-Stalin pact is of enormous benefit to the German people, but no thanks to Hitler. For, in the words of that Sunday Worker article:

“The Communists (in Germany) patiently explain to their fellow-workers that it was the victory of the proletarian October Revolution and the successful construction of socialism which gave the U.S.S.R. the strength with which to foil Chamberlain’s plans and to strike fear into the heart of Hitler and to compel him to seek peace with the Soviets.”

So we must thank Stalin, and not Hitler, for all the consequences of the Stalin-Hitler pact.

Very well, then. Let us, for example, thank Stalin for one of these consequences – the partition of Poland.

The Polish state was everything which the Comintern press has called it: a dictatorship of the colonels, a monstrosity, imperialist oppressor of the Ukrainian and Byelo-Russian peoples, etc. Yet – one more of his crimes – Stalin announced himself ready to defend this monstrosity in alliance with Britain and France, until the Hitler-Stalin past was signed.

But what has replaced this monstrosity, thanks to the pact? The Comintern press boasts about the “liberation” of the western provinces. Let us assume it is liberation. But this liberation is one result of the pact; and another is the enslavement of the rest of Poland by Hitler. Eleven millions liberated, 22 millions enslaved. At this rate, socialism will be achieved at the cost of the enslavement of two-thirds of the world’s population!

Hitler’s Gains Enslave German People

It used to be understood, among people who called themselves Communists, that the enslavement of a foreign people meant tightening by that much the hold of a ruling class on its “own” people. Hitler’s enslavement of 22 million Poles is therefore a disaster not only to the Poles but also to the German masses. That this is a result of the Soviet-German pact is a fact which terribly compromises the Soviet Union in the eyes of the German workers and class-conscious workers everywhere.

Note that your party does not say that the Soviet Union could not help itself and had to sign the pact. Your party doesn’t say that rather than plunge the Soviet Union into war and thus endanger its existence, it was better to save the Soviet Union even at the cost of letting Hitler enslave the Poles. If your party said that, one could then argue whether or not it was possible for the Comintern to call upon the Polish people – not the Polish state of the colonels – to rise up against Hitler and for the Red Army to join the Polish masses in preventing Hitler’s occupation.

But your party doesn’t say the Soviet Union couldn’t help itself. On the contrary, it boasts, in the words of the Sunday Worker article already quoted above, that the Soviet Union had the “strength” to “strike fear into the heart of Hitler and to compel him” to sign the pact as a result of which the Nazi and Red armies collaborated in dividing Poland and turned over to Hitler the lion’s share and 22 million Poles (not to mention the doomed Jews!).

Difference Between Stalinism and Leninism

Compare Stalin’s negotiations and collaboration with Hitler when the Soviet Union is assertedly “strong”, with Lenin and Trotsky’s negotiations with German imperialism when the newly-born Soviets were pitifully weak!

On December 12, 1917 Trotsky arrived in Brest-Litovsk to open negotiations. He insisted, successfully, that the negotiations be completely public. Every speech by the Soviet delegation constituted a public exposure of the imperialist aims of the German negotiators and a ringing call to the international working class to overthrow their rulers. By every possible device of radio, telegraph, speech and print, Soviet agitators communicated the proceedings to the entire world.

In the midst of the negotiations the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets on January 2, 1918, declared:

“We now declare that the Russian Revolution remains faithful to the policy of internationalism. We defend the right of Poland, Lithuania and Courland to dispose of their own destiny, really, freely. Never will we recognize the justice of imposing the will of a foreign nation on any other nation whatsoever.”

Izvestia, organ of the Soviet government, that same day denounced the German negotiators as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Treaty-Making a Revolutionary Weapon

The same day Soviet agitators distributed leaflets in the German lines, denouncing the German peace terms.

The German generals constituting the negotiating delegation constantly protested against the revolutionary propaganda conducted during the negotiations, and called Trotsky’s speeches “provocative” and “addressed to the gallery.” You behave as if you were dictating the peace to us, when the fact is that we are victorious and are negotiating on occupied Russian territory, the Germans complained to the Soviet delegation.

The German generals listened in bewilderment at some of the Soviet demands: that passports be issued immediately to the German Independent Socialists for a visit to the Soviets; that any publications the Soviets desired should be sent to prisoners of war in Germany and to the Socialists of Germany and Austria.

The Germans presented a proposed treaty which began with the usual diplomatic formula: “a treaty of peace and friendship between Germany and Soviet Russia.” Trotsky demonstratively struck out the phrase “of friendship.” A revolutionary government could not permit itself such a lie!

Strikes in Germany were greeted by official Soviet messages: as the Soviet Congress met on Jan. 25, great strikes broke out in Austria; the Congress hailed “the rising of the Austrian workers.”

Thus, in every possible way in the midst of the negotiations the newly-born Soviets called out to the German and Austrian workers over the heads of the negotiators.

After the German and Austrian revolutions of 1918 we learned how important in mobilizing the proletariat for those revolutions were the speeches which Trotsky delivered as “treaty negotiations.” Their revolutionary message took time, however, in reaching and moving the workers to action. The Soviets made one more demonstration of the situation to the world’s workers; they refused to sign the treaty, the Germans advanced, and then when the treaty was signed every class-conscious worker in the world understood that the iniquitous terms of the treaty were solely due to the German-Austrian imperialists.

What Soviets Said Then Indicts Stalin Now

The All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, meeting March 14, 1918, ratified the treaty in a declaration which said:

“It is unworthy of a true socialist if badly defeated ... to deny that fact ... It is not true that we have betrayed our ideals or our friends, when we signed the peace ... We have not sanctioned or covered any lie. We have not refused to aid any friend or comrade in misfortune in any way we could, or by every means at our disposal.”

The treaty sacrificed the national independence of the Ukraine. But every Ukrainian worker understood that the Soviets had “not refused to aid any friend ... by every means at our disposal.” No lie was covered or sanctioned.

Compare all this with what Stalin has done in the Hitler-Stalin pact!

The difference between the politics of Lenin and Trotsky and the politics of Stalin is epitomized in this:

The German social-democrats, lackeys of German imperialism, voted in the Reichstag for ratification of the Brest-Litovsk treaty, justifying their vote on the ground that the Soviets had ratified it. Lenin denounced them as traitors to the working class. For the Soviets, the treaty was a bitter necessity to secure a breathing-spell. But the social- democratic deputies should have been honor-bound to fight against their "own” rapacious imperialists.

Lenin denounced any German who supported the peace treaty of his imperialist rulers. But your party calls upon the German workers to support the peace treaty of their imperialist rulers. In that single difference is expressed the unbridgeable gap between the Stalinist bureaucracy and the' revolutionary internationalism of Leninism.


Felix Morrow

Last updated on 17 July 2018