Credits for Soviet Union

Stalinists Change their Stand but Evade Most Essential Points

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 22, 5 September 1931, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Communist party has finally incorporated into its unemployment program a part of the demand put forward by the Left Opposition for a campaign in favor of large, long-term credits to the Soviet Union. In the new unemployment program published in the Daily Worker of August 29, 1931, we find that the last point which the party “declares that the masses must demand” reads as follows:

“10. Development of trade relations with the Soviet Union (including the demand for recognition of the Soviet Union not only as a fundamental requirement of international working class solidarity, but also as a vital immediate economic need of the starving masses) in order that the idle factories may work, fill the constantly growing demands of the successful construction of the workers’ government and its five year plan.”

Following upon the insertion of a similar point in the demands of the Unemployed Councils of New York, upon which we commented last week, it is clear that, on this question, the Stalinists have made a turn about face in the direction of the Opposition – not their customary hysterical turns of 180 degrees, nor even a complete turn to the correct position, but at any rate, a turn in the right direction. The cool and offhand manner in which the change is made cannot conceal the fact that for more than a year now the Stalinist hierarchy in the party – and throughout the Comintern – has systematically and bitterly sabotaged the promulgation of this vitally necessary slogan of economic collaboration with the Soviet Union.

What We Demanded

As far back as April 5, 1930, the Militant wrote:

“We regard it necessary for the Communists to conduct a campaign for and to make demands upon the Hoover government for the establishment of broad and long-time credits to the Soviet Union by the United States. This should, in fact, be a central slogan of the Communists in all countries. It is possible to demonstrate to the American workers the simple material needs that link them closely with the needs of the Soviet masses.”

More than two months later, on June 21, 1930, (that is, still more than a year ago) the Militant, under the heading of Towards a Concrete Program of Action, had the following to say:

“The demand for credits for the Soviet Union at once reveals the inner link between the interests of the American working class and the workers of the Soviet Union. Millions are idle in the United States. But the socialist plans of the Soviet Union cry out for machinery and other industrial equipment. Employment here and collaboration with the Five Year Plan in the U.S.S.R. would be the consequence of large scale credits. Thousands of American workers would receive practical lessons in the implications of internationalism in the fundamental struggle between capitalism and socialism and the meaning of Communism. Thousands could be mobilized for the U.S.S.R. and against the capitalist government of the U.S.”

In this manner, we advanced the slogan for trade and credits with the Soviet Union on a revolutionary basis, coinciding in this with the demand raised by the International Left Opposition and first initiated by comrade Leon Trotsky from his Turkish exile in an article written on March 14, 1930.

Stalinist Objection

What did all the Stalinists of the world reply to this imply and irrefutably correct proposal? They rejected it decisively. The Czecho-Slovak party organ wrote that according to the “Trotskyist plan”, the contradiction in principle between the Soviet state and the capitalist world is to be replaced by their mutual collaboration ... It is a pity that the Messrs. Trotskyists did not tell us on what principles the general Czecho-Slovak-Soviet plan for the solution of the crisis should be constructed:

“on capitalist principles – but by that, aid would be given to the victory of capitalism within Russia; or on socialist principles – this would mean that the Trotskyists believe in the readiness of the capitalists themselves to introduce socialism ... the responsibility for unemployment is to be thrown upon the Soviet Union which does not give us sufficient orders ... instead of compromising the worthless capitalist system, the industrial crisis is to serve to compromise the Soviet Union.” (Rude Pravo, June 24, 1930)

In one form or another, these same unbelievably stupid objections were repeated by the Stalinists in every other country. In the American party, such a job naturally fell to the lot of Earl Browder, who could not find words violent or contemptuous enough with which to excoriate the “counter-revolutionists” and their “counter-revolutionary” plan.

Our answer to the infantile clownings of the Stalinists was contained in the words with which comrade Trotsky concluded his proposal: “But is there any hope that with their present leadership the Communist parties are capable of a serious revolutionary mobilization of the masses? We will not decide this question beforehand. The policy which we defend has such profound roots in the objective situation and in the historical interests of the proletariat, that it will finally make its way through all the obstacles. It is entirely a question of time. But that is a very important question. The duty of the Left Communist Opposition, therefore, is to exert all its strength to shorten the period.”

So powerful is a correct revolutionary idea that in the span of more than a year it has broken through the opposition of the bureaucratic apparatus and has finally made its way into the program of the Stalinists, giving new justification – if it were needed – for the insistent advocacy of the idea by the opposition. What value has the contemptible reference, in the same “unemployment program”, to the Left Opposition’s program being identical with that of the A.F. of L. when the new turn of Mr. Browder and Co. so glaringly reveals their own doleful bankruptcy and incompetency in this question, which they have overcome shamefacedly after a harmful delay of a year and a half – a period in which the intense unemployment crisis in the United States offered the richest possible soil for rooting the idea in the minds of the workers?

The Need of Credits

Yet, even now it is not completely overcome. The formulation of the demand in the party program is a half-way measure. The Opposition’s proposal must be adopted in its entirety. The party demands recognition of Russia and the “development of trade relations” for the entirely correct purpose of putting idle American factories to work and of filling Russia’s growing demands. But what is one of the – if not the – outstanding obstacles to trade relations? Not merely non-diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union, but the virtual credits boycott against it by the U.S. It is no secret that the Soviet trading agency in New York is compelled to pay interest rates running as high as twenty-five and thirty percent – a particularly outrageous sum in the face of “easy money” – in order to swing even the smallest purchase of American products. All the babble about “trade relations” remains babble unless one raises the demand for large, long-term credits to make these relations possible for the Soviet Union on the most advantageous basis.

The demand for long-term credits to the Soviet Union is particularly facilitated at the present time when the United States is expending hundreds of millions of dollars in credits to bolster up the collapsing structures of reaction in England, Germany and elsewhere. What pointed lessons in the class struggle the Communists can teach the American workers in this connection! The present party proposal leaves the whole issue without its spearhead.

Further: Aside from the proposal being buried at the end of nine other points – instead of being up at the head of the list as a central, urgent demand – there is nothing said about organization a nation-wide campaign among the workers and throughout the organized labor movement to press for its adoption. This demand gives the Communists a splendid opportunity to organize a broad united front movement of workers of all industrial or political standpoints by approaching the non-Communist labor organizations with the proposal for joint action on this issue. Their replies to this proposal will show the workers following the reformist leaders where the latter really stand on questions of importance to labor.

Still further: the party speaks in a permanently hysterical monotone about the defense of the Soviet Union, as though it were a purely military question. Behind military power stands the factory – industrial power, and for Russia especially, it means the power (and consequently the consolidation) of the proletarian dictatorship. But for this it requires that which it has not, at least what it has not in adequate or properly developed quantities: machinery. To get this highly essential machinery, it must trade with the bourgeois nations. To trade on a scale commensurate with its “growing demands”, requires not so much diplomatic recognition – which we favor unreservedly – as it does credit facilities which Russia hasn’t got and which Hoover seeks to prevent it from getting. In short, regardless of what angle of the question is approached, the formulation in the party program reveals its inadequacy and half-heartedness in exactly the same degree as the rounded and incontestably correct standpoint of the Left Opposition is confirmed,

Finally, one phase of the party’s demand requires comment. It says that the “development of trade relations ... fill the constantly growing demands of the successful construction of the workers’ government and its five year plan”. The essence of what is said here is a repetition of what we have always contended and a slashing refutation of the reactionary theory of “socialism in one country”. According to the latter, Russia can be made a self-sufficient socialist island, not dependent upon any of the rest of the world, because it has all the economic resources and prerequisites for the construction of a socialist classless society. If this is so, and if we have – as the Stalinist bureaucracy declares – “entered the period of socialism in the Soviet Union”, trade relations with capitalist countries would not need “development” but “diminution”. The party tells us, now, however, that precisely because of the “constantly growing demands of the successful construction” there must be a “development of trade relations”. It is this simple and ordinarily indisputable idea that we have defended against the vulgar national socialists for years. The Opposition declared a thousand times, against the furious denials of the Stalinists, that Russia’s connection with, its need of and even its subordination to the world market would become more acute precisely in the period of its economic construction and reconstruction. We pointed out that the contradictions which each passing year multiplied for a capitalist encircled workers’ state would bring increasingly conclusive refutation of the theory of “socialism in one country”.

Time and its events are great teachers, even if their teachings moan so little to the mentally ossified Stalinist official. The Browders not only refuse to learn, but try to prevent others from learning. The former have at their disposal an enormous, usurped apparatus. Our weapons are chiefly correct ideas. The machine has a temporary strength. But in the end, ideas last longer and prove invincible. The ideas of the Left Opposition are even now making a way for themselves to the minds of the militant workers. The only boast of the Centrist official is that he can succeed for a time in delaying their progress.

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