Karl Radek

At A New Stage

(May 1935)

Source: From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 15 No. 22, 25 May 1935.
Scanned, prepared and annotated for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

The treaty of mutual assistance between France and the Soviet Union and the arrival of Pierre Laval,[1] the French Foreign Minister, in Moscow are the main subject of attention in the international press. Whilst the working class of the whole world, including the Social Democratic workers – under the pressure of whom the Second International was compelled ‘to welcome the collaboration of the European democratic countries with the Soviet Union’ – regard this treaty as a great advance on the part of the Soviet Union in the fight for peace, the bourgeois press judges this treaty from the standpoint of the grouping of powers which it represents. The press which supports German fascism is making a great outcry, declaring that the treaty constitutes an imperialist military alliance which is only thinly veiled by the Covenant of the League of Nations. The great majority of the French and British papers admit that the treaty is a measure aiming at the maintenance of peace. But the pro-German press and also the press which supports the measures directed towards the maintenance of peace, call attention with a certain amount of uneasiness to the new factor that this treaty represents.

This new factor is the tremendous strengthening of the influence of the Soviet Union. When, in 1917, the working class and the peasants of Russia forced their way out of the fiery ring of the world war, overthrew the rule of the bourgeoisie and the big landowners and created the proletarian power, there was not a single representative of the world bourgeoisie who would have admitted that the bourgeois monopoly of power was smashed for ever and that, in the shape of the Soviets, there had appeared on the stage of history a new class which is organising itself in a state.

The representatives of the bourgeoisie of Great Britain and France and also the representatives of the German bourgeoisie were convinced that they would succeed in closing up the gap which had been created in the imperialist system. The bourgeoisie of Great Britain and France accused the bourgeoisie of Germany of having opened the door to the modern barbarians by concluding the Brest-Litovsk Peace with the Soviets. The German bourgeoisie, however, endeavoured to take advantage of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk in order to set free its forces which were engaged in the Eastern front, making no secret of its intentions to take all the measures necessary, after the conclusion of the war, in order to destroy the Soviet power.

The proletariat of the Soviet Union, however, upset these plans. The bourgeoisie of Great Britain and France, who, as Winston Churchill said, mobilised 14 nations against the Soviet Republic, had to recognise the failure of their plans, and Great Britain was the first of the victor powers to commence diplomatic negotiations with the Soviet Union. She was followed by the other powers. All, however, were convinced that the recognition of the Soviet power and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union was only a brief armistice. They calculated on our inner degeneration and the return of the bourgeoisie to power. Others placed their hopes on the setting up of a united front against the Soviet Union and on a new intervention, which this time would be victorious. These hopes also proved illusory.

The Soviet Union became a great world power. The proletariat of the Soviet Union was able not only to defeat the bourgeoisie and the big landowners and liquidate the kulaks as a class, but also to create with its own resources an enormous industry, to mechanise agriculture and lay the foundations of Socialism. This process created the prerequisites for equipping the Red Army with all the achievements of modern technique.

The chief means employed by capitalism in its endeavours to throttle Soviet Russia at the time when it was mainly an agrarian country – namely, the blockade – is already ineffective. We can produce everything we need for the defence of our country. The hope of creating a breach between the working class and the peasantry has likewise proved vain. The alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry has become a hundred times stronger. All far-seeing men in the ranks of the international bourgeoisie realise what enormous power the Soviet Union represents.

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This realisation of the growing power of the Soviet Union, and the enormous difficulties which a war against it would entail, have rendered more difficult the attempts to create a united bloc against the existence of the proletarian state. The growing antagonisms in the imperialist camp also work in this direction. The plans of Japanese imperialists to create a great Asiatic empire, directed not only against the Soviet Union, but also against the interests of certain capitalist states in Asia, and the endeavours of Hitler-Germany to achieve a revision of the peace treaties, aroused great uneasiness among the capitalist powers which emerged as victors from the World War and also among the small powers which arose as a result of this war.

All the attempts to effect a compromise between the victors of yesterday and those powers which insist on a redivision of the world have so far led to no result. German imperialism has rearmed, and its demand for equality now means: either you voluntarily give me what I demand or I shall take it by force. And German imperialism demands nothing more nor less than the creation of a powerful German empire, which would subject to the rule of German monopoly capital 150 million human beings and provide it with the material means and the manpower to conduct a fight for world domination.

The victor powers are by no means inclined to surrender their rule. For this reason the international situation becomes more and more pregnant with danger. All the powers are arming and making ready for war. The possibility of an alliance of the dissatisfied imperialist powers which are striving for a redivision of the world causes uneasiness to the other capitalist countries. Great Britain, which after the war supported German imperialism in order not to allow France to gain hegemony on the Continent, has become convinced that the newly-arisen German imperialism is becoming a danger to British imperialism. German imperialism has already achieved equality with Great Britain in regard to its air force. Germany is building submarines which, as the experience of the war showed, are a very serious danger to Great Britain. Germany demands a navy one-third as strong as that of Great Britain. This means that when the British fleet is engaged in the Far East Germany will be no less strong than Great Britain at sea.

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In this situation the imperialist powers as a whole were faced with the question: what would be the attitude of the Soviet Union to the danger of war which has arisen?

The Soviet Union has by her policy given a plain answer to this question. Her policy is a policy of peace. The Soviet Union has not only established good-neighbourly relations with the countries adjoining her, but has also concluded non-aggression pacts with the majority of them. The Soviet Union has given an exact definition of what constitutes an aggressor. Breaking through all juridical and diplomatic subterfuges, she laid down that an aggressor is a state which, no matter for what reason, is the first who by land, water or air crosses the frontiers of another country with armed forces.

The Soviet Union entered the League of Nations – although the League was set up in order to strengthen the bourgeois social order and colonial rule – as soon as it was seen that this organisation could become a hindrance to the forces making for war. The Soviet Union has proposed to all members of the League and also to the powers outside the League to adopt measures to secure peace. The Soviet Union, by proposing a regional Eastern Pact, has shown that she is prepared to act together with other powers against a disturber of peace.

This created the possibility of a rapprochement between the Soviet Union and a number of capitalist states which at present fear a new war. Of course, among the bourgeoisie of these countries there are considerable and influential circles which are not disinclined to undertake attempts to direct their war plans against the Soviet Union. There are not a few who dream of allowing Germany and Japan a free hand against the Soviet Union in order by this means to reduce the danger of a collision between the imperialist powers.

But the plans to remove the danger of a new imperialist world war by organising a war against the Soviet Union involve incalculable consequences for those who might attempt to realise them. The world crisis has so greatly undermined the ground in all capitalist countries, has so greatly intensified all the antagonisms, that a war which broke out in one place would inevitably become a universal war. Moreover, with the growing power of the Soviet Union the question has arisen: will the states which are striving for a redistribution of the world attempt to achieve their aims by a war with powers which are less strong than the Soviet Union? In this way tendencies arose to seek in the Soviet Union protection against war and support in the event of war.

Thanks to these tendencies the role of Great Britain as the organiser of the anti-Soviet tendencies in world politics has become somewhat weaker. In France the tendencies to a rapprochement with the Soviet Union have gained the upper hand. Among the countries of the Little Entente and the Balkan Entente,[2] which could be the first victims of an attack by Germany, this tendency to seek support in the Soviet Union has become the dominating tendency.

The Soviet Union has adopted a definite and clear attitude on this question. The Soviet Union cannot and will not take part in imperialist alliances, that is, in alliances aiming at the annexation and enslavement of other countries. The Soviet Union, guided by the teachings of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, bases its policy on the solidarity of the workers of the whole world. The Soviet Union has not enslaved other nations and does not take part in their enslavement.

The Soviet Union always considered desirable not only relations with the capitalist powers, but also such agreements with them as are aimed at strengthening peace and weakening the strength of those imperialist powers which threaten peace at the given moment. This attitude was the basis on which has arisen the rapprochement between the Soviet Union and France. The Soviet Union is prepared to enter into agreements for mutual assistance with any other state.

All the attempts to draw a comparison between the treaty of mutual assistance and the old imperialist military alliance, attempts which the German fascist press is making, are simply dishonest. The Soviet Union has not only no interest in a war against Germany, but, on the contrary, is endeavouring to avoid this war which German fascism has openly inscribed on its banners.

The Soviet Union is striving neither for the enslavement nor the dismemberment of the German people. Our friendship with the people of Germany has grown stronger throughout the whole existence of the workers’ and peasants’ power. It is based on our principles of international solidarity and on our respect for the creative and organisational abilities of the great German nation.

The treaty of mutual assistance between France and the Soviet Union is aimed at bringing the fight for peace which the Soviet Union is conducting into harmony with the fight for peace which the French Republic is conducting. Naturally, the assumptions on which the policy of France is based are not the same as those on which the policy of the Soviet Union is based. But even the German fascist press admits that France is not striving after conquests. The fact that the French policy does not aim at conquests is one of the unshakeable bases of the rapprochement between France and the Soviet Union.

In concluding the treaty of mutual assistance the Soviet Union has not forgotten for a moment that the forces of the workers, of the collective farmers, of the toiling peasants and the working intellectuals of our country are the only guarantee of our independence, and that the working people of the Soviet Union are able, with their own forces, to repel any attack on our frontiers. In the event of an attack on our country they will have the support of the international proletariat, the peoples of the colonial countries and all honest people throughout the world.

If, relying on any treaty of mutual assistance, the Soviet Union, the masses of her peoples and their friends were to weaken their fight for peace, were to weaken their preparations for defence against any attack, then all diplomatic agreements would prove harmful to the Soviet Union. For the independent strength of the Soviet Union is the source of the rapprochement of other powers with her. Any weakening of this strength would inevitably lead to an increase in the efforts for an agreement among the imperialist powers at our cost. Only by reason of the fact that we represent a great force are we a valuable factor in the fight for peace.

In concluding treaties of mutual assistance with powers with another social system, the great country of victorious socialism does not forget for a single moment its class interests, just as our capitalist partners do not forget their aims. Historical development is full of contradictions, and this finds expression in situations in which interests can arise which at a certain stage unite countries having a different social structure. In such a situation the sole danger lies in forgetting the fundamental antagonisms and also the tasks to be jointly solved.

The first danger has never threatened us. We are guaranteed against the second by the profound realism in which Lenin has educated our party, the best representative of which is Comrade Stalin.

Not abandoning our principles for a single moment, but, on the contrary, keeping ever in mind the words uttered by Lenin in his polemic against the ‘Left Communists’, namely, that the representatives of the proletariat, which has abolished all the robber secret treaties, is obliged in the event of a danger threatening from one group of capitalist powers to conclude agreements with another group in order to strengthen peace and to guard against an aggressor, the Soviet Union has concluded the treaty of mutual assistance and will honestly and determinedly carry it out.

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Notes by the Marxist Internet Archive

1. Pierre Laval (1883–1945) was a member of the Socialist Party up to the early 1920s, and then became an Independent; he was Prime Minister of France during 1931–32 and 1935–36, and was Foreign Minister during 1934–36, during which time he negotiated a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union. He was Prime Minister twice under the collaborationist Vichy regime, and was subsequently tried and executed for treason.

2. The Little Entente was an alliance formed in 1920–21 by Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) in order to counter Hungarian territorial claims and any restoration of the Habsburg Empire. It was backed by France. It started to fray in the mid-1930s, and was wound up in 1938. The Balkan Pact was signed by Greece, Turkey, Romania and Yugoslavia in February 1934 in order to maintain the international framework set up in that area after the First World War. Other interested parties, including Italy, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Soviet Union, refused to sign it.

Last updated on 16 July 2020