Peter Petroff, Labour, October 1939

Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany

Source: Labour, October 1939, p. 73-77;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

“The 23rd August, 1939, when the Soviet-German non-aggression pact was signed, must be considered a date of great historic importance. This non-aggression pact between the U.S.S.R. and Germany is a turning point in the history of Europe and not of Europe alone.”

Thus spake Molotov in the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union on 31st August, 1939.

It was a turning point indeed! It encouraged the Nazis to invade Poland and start the European war.

Stalin and his caucus who cannot see further than their noses took Hitler’s word for it that the subjugation of Poland by Nazi hordes would be accepted as an unalterable fact by Britain and France without bringing these countries into war.

“The importance of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact,” said Molotov na´vely, “lies in the fact that the two largest states of Europe have agreed to put an end to the enmity between them, to eliminate the danger of war, and to live in peace with each other. Thus the field of possible military clashes in Europe is narrowed. Even if it should prove impossible to avoid military clashes in Europe, the scale of such military action will now be limited.”

In his speeches Molotov always quotes Stalin’s words as a new Bible. But he does not explain how his hope of localising the German-Polish war tallies with Stalin’s solemn declaration at the Congress of the Communist Party in March, 1939: “We stand for the support of peoples who become victims of aggression and are fighting for the independence of their country.”

The essence of Stalin’s character is treachery and spite. He has proved this in inner-Party strife when he murdered his rivals slandering them as “agents of Nazi Germany.” He is proving it now in his foreign policy when he tries to avenge the insult of Munich by a demonstration of friendship with Hitler. The world looks aghast at this offspring of medieval Asia who rules one-sixth of the earth’s surface as an absolute despot. Stalin’s policy is reminiscent of an ancient Tartar Khan: When going to war with an ally against a common enemy this Khan had the pleasant habit of pillaging his allies’ tents while they were engaged in fighting the foe.

Behind the backs of the Franco-British missions Stalin has, for months, carried on secret commercial and political negotiations with the common enemy

His wide-spun net of agents abroad inside and outside of the Communist parties were ordered to clamour for “united” or “popular” fronts against Fascism, and sanctions against the Fascist aggressor states. The Russian Trade Unions were ordered to demand such sanctions as a condition for their affiliation to the International Federation of Trade Unions.

In his speech in March, Stalin could not find expressions strong enough to chide the “non-aggressive democratic powers” who “taken together are undoubtedly stronger than the Fascist States both in the economic and military sphere” for their concessions and weak-kneed retreat before the aggressors.

At that time Stalin derisively described the policy of the Democracies in these words: “Let each country defend itself against the aggressors as it pleases and as it can, that is not our business, we shall trade both with the aggressors and with their victims.”

Now Molotov tells us that “already in Spring of this year the German Government proposed to re-open trade and credit negotiations. Negotiations were soon recommenced. By mutual concessions it was possible to reach agreement. This agreement, as is known, was signed on the 19th August.”

According to this agreement Germany provides credits to the amount of 200,000,000 reichsmark for the Soviet Union to purchase German machinery and equipment over a period of two years. The Soviet Union is to export to Germany various raw materials and commodities to the amount of 180,000,000 reichsmark during the same period.

From an economic point of view this agreement is valueless to the Soviet Union. No credits can help her to buy what Germany cannot supply. Germany’s industrial capacity was overstrained by State orders for armaments before hostilities started. She was unable to export machinery or industrial equipment, nay, she was unable to replace her own outworn machinery. How then can Germany export machinery now that she is engaged in war!

Trade between Russia and Germany has been rapidly declining during the last years. And this not because of any ideological reasons but simply because Nazi Germany could not pay in cash nor in commodities for her imports from Russia:-

 Export to U.S.S.R.Import from U.S.S.R.
  In Million Reichsmark.

Russia could of course supply Germany’s urgent demands of timber, manganese, certain agricultural produce and various other commodities. Whether or not transport facilities would permit her to supply Germany with oil is doubtful. But what could induce Stalin’s Government to finance Germany’s bankruptcy by robbing the Russian peasants and ruining Russia’s economic life for the beautiful eyes of Hitler?

It is true that for years the Stalin Government has been supplying Fascist Italy with wheat and oil on credit. Italian airplanes bombing the Abyssinians and the Spanish Republicans were using Russian oil. We know that while Russian peasants were starving, their last grain was seized by Stalin’s government to be shipped to Mussolini.

Yet the Soviet decree of 9th September, forbidding the export of goods not paid for in advance, indicates a quick disillusionment with their much-boomed new trade agreement with Germany.

And what is the value of the political agreement, the so-called non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany? Just another scrap of paper! Is Stalin really the last man alive who still trusts Hitler’s word?

Since the Russian Revolution the relations between Soviet-Russia and Germany have undergone several changes. Four distinct periods may be discerned.

The first period is the period of the monstrous peace of Brest Litovsk. Ever-increasing boundless German demands met with a total lack of resistance on the part of the Soviet Government.

Russia submitted to the atrocious peace treaty dictated at the point of the bayonet by the German militarists in Spring, 1918. Yet after peace had been concluded a large German army invaded the Ukraine, the rich Doniets coalfields, and marched towards the oilfields of the Caucasus. For almost a year the German hordes ravaged the countryside, robbing and murdering workers and peasants. The crushing defeat of the Germans by the Western Powers and the German Revolution which followed ended this period of armed robbery by Germany on Russian soil.

The second period, inaugurated by the Rapallo treaty, was a time of friendly political and economic co-operation between Soviet-Russia and the Weimar Republic and of an intimate friendship between the Soviet Government and the German reactionaries round the Reichswehr. During this time Russia was secretly producing for Germany those arms and war materials which the Versailles treaty had prohibited her from producing herself.

The third period begins with the declaration of Hitler’s Minister of Economics, Hugenberg, at the World Economic Conference in 1933, of German aspirations on the Soviet Ukraine. Hitler and his lieutenants ceaselessly attacked, insulted and threatened the Soviet Union. Hitler never tired of offering to the capitalist world his services as a would-be Jack the Giant Killer of Bolshevism.

The new non-aggression pact between Jack and the Giant now inaugurates a fourth period.

“History has shown that enmity and wars between our country and Germany have not helped but harmed both countries,” said Molotov. “The countries that suffered most during the war of 1914-1918 were Russia and Germany.” And Stalin’s obedient servant draws the conclusion that the interests of Nazi Germany and Soviet-Russia demand “peaceful” relations between them and that “the Soviet-German non-aggression pact puts an end to the enmity between Germany and the U.S.S.R.”

However, now that the Germans are sweeping over Poland, Stalin finds himself compelled to mobilise in a hurry. Who knows, perhaps we may yet see him a dear ally or co-belligerent of the Western Democracies, when he has attacked the tents of his newly-found friend Hitler, pitched too near the Russian frontier.

Or will he think of playing the jackal to the Nazi tiger?

It is true, politically the Stalin regime is a kind of Red Fascism. The One-Party State, the regimented press, repressive labour legislation, and the concentration camp are features both of Stalinism and Hitlerism.

By murdering and defaming hundreds of revolutionaries and by endless “purges” Stalin has tried to destroy the old revolutionary traditions and to replace internationalism by a narrow patriotism and by the cult of militarism.

But let Stalin bear in mind that the Red Army – a splendid instrument against Nazi aggression – might break in his hands if directed against the liberties of the peoples of Europe. Let Stalin – like Hitler! – beware of the middle-aged reservist.

* * *

The Red Army has now invaded Poland. Stalin’s proclaimed principle of foreign policy to support “victims of aggression fighting for the independence of their country” is translated into action by his attacking the Polish victim of Nazi aggression in the rear.

Stalin’s servants declare that the object of this invasion is “to Liberate the Slav brethren.” But the time has gone by when the Red Army carried the rifle in one hand and the torch of liberty in the other. Stalin has not only “liquidated” revolutionaries, he has liquidated the Revolution itself. His armies bear no message of liberation. Even if they kill the landlords and nationalise the land they will only replace one form of oppression by another. They will replace the Polish Shlakhta by the Stalinist commissar; the Polish gendarme by Stalin’s G.P.U. working in co-operation with Hitler’s Gestapo.

Be not gull'd by a despot’s plea!
Are figs of thistles, or grapes of thorns?
How should a despot set men free?”