Max Shachtman


In This Corner

(29 August 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 63, 29 August 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In signing the pact with Hitler, Stalin may not, as some wags put it, have joined the Anti-Comintern Bloc, but he did deliver a mortal blow to what is left of the communist parties organizationally. The resignation from the Communist party of Gabriel Peri, Stalinist spokesman in the French Chamber of Deputies and foreign editor of l’Humanité, who, under recent Kremlin tutelage became a raving French chauvinist, is only the first prominent herald of the hailstorm which will disintegrate the Stalinist parties in those few countries in which they still have any influence.

The Pact shows the hollowness of Hitler’s declamations of a crusade against the Comintern which he knew better than the next man had long ago been destroyed as a revolutionary force by the Stalin clique itself. The reactions of the “respectable” capitalist press and the Leaders of Public Opinion – from the Herald-Tribune to the New Leader – are as usual arch-hypocritical, and where they do not outrage an elementary sense of decency, they are simply ludicrous: the gentlemen who, in the interests of American imperialism, hailed Roosevelt when he pressed to his bosom butchers like Batista of Cuba, Vargas of Brazil and Somoza of Nicaragua, pretend to be overwhelmed with indignation that a Stalin could join hands with a Hitler.

Making “Victory” of Capitulation

Yet, most revolting of all is the brutal cynicism of the Stalin regime in trying to pass off its capitulation to Hitler as a triumph for the “forces of democracy,” “the democratic front,” “the cause of peace” and – most impudent of all – “the independence of Poland.”

More than a year ago, in April 1938, Earl Browder wrote that “the New Republic has gone over openly to the Chamberlain line (March 30 issue) by advocating rapprochement with Hitler without political conditions.” What else did Stalin do a few days ago?

On November 14, 1938, at the 21st anniversary of the Russian Revolution meeting of the C.P., the same Browder said:

“The reactionaries openly speculate that the Soviet Union may try to beat Chamberlain at his own game by joining hands with Hitler. But even those who hate the land of socialism cannot believe it, when they see the Soviet Union alone rounds up the traitorous agents of Hitler within its own land, and puts them beyond all possibility of doing any more of their wrecking, spying and diversions for fascism.”

Now, “joining hands with Hitler” is explained away by the same Kremlin mercenary as “a distinct contribution for the protection of the threatened peace of the world” – an almost word-for-word plagiarism from Chamberlain’s Munich-perod speeches.

“The direct lie was given to all protestations that the Munich Pact was an achievement for peace,” Browder said, and rightly, last December, “when, directly afterward, all governments announced vast expansions of their armed forces as their first response.”

What is to be said, then, for the “peace contribution” of the Hitler-Stalin Pact when, on its very heels, follow more brutal Nazi demands on Poland, and the mobilization of troops in virtually every corner of Europe, troops who may be marching under cannon-fire by the time this appears in print?

Kremlin Unmasks Itself

We were never partisans of the Stalinist policy of yesterday, the so-called “democratic front,” the policy of war alliance with Anglo-French imperialism, with its conversion of the masses into cannon fodder for the preservation of the loot taken by the “democracies” in the last war. But then, at least, the Kremlin gang had a plausible-specious screen behind which to operate. It could exploit the truly deep mass hatred of fascism with comparative ease: it could pretend that it was acting on behalf of Loyalist Spain or semi-colonial China; it could easily claim to be warding off fascist war-mongering and the danger of war in general.

The open shift to Hitler, however, cannot be justified by the Stalinists with the remotest degree of plausibility, and Browder’s arguments, multiplied by a dozen more that will be thought up for him, will impress only ox-heads, and even they would only be impressed by his vast effrontery. For no amount of wriggling can prevent the masses from assimilating the basic truths we have been repeating for some time:

The Stalinist bureaucracy, personified in Stalin, is at the end of its rope. It rules, and cannot but rule, by terror and fear, because it is itself terrified and afraid. It is concerned least of all – Hitler, Ribbentrop and Mussolini have known it for years – with world revolution or the “Comintern.” It is as much interested in “democracy” as in the snows of yesteryear. It is concerned, exclusively, with preserving itself and its tremendous vested interests, which are in direct conflict with the interests of revolution and of the world labor movement, Russia’s included.

It fears war, primarily for its own sake. And here, as is so often the case nowadays, the fear of war is the fear of revolution ... the revolution of the Soviet masses against the anti-Soviet bureaucracy.

We were not and are not today advocates of a war to “defend Poor Little Poland” – the Poland of the landed aristocracy, of anti-Semitism, of the martinet Colonels, of oppression for national minorities. We were and are for the armed national defense of a Poland ruled by its people, a people that has overturned its present rulers. We condemned the Stalinist policy of inciting the masses to die so that Beck and Smygly-Ridz might continue in power. That was yesterday. Today, we condemn just as vigorously the Pact and the policy by which Stalin says to Hitler: Keep hands off me and you can have all of Poland without a whimper from Moscow.

Therein lies the abominable treachery of Stalin’s Pact, conceived by the Kremlin bureaucracy in a desperate effort to save its miserable hide.

We said above: “bought off one enemy.” But only for a moment. Tomorrow Hitler will repay his new partner, and richly ... Tomorrow, Stalin’s crimes, and the advance of Hitlerism which they facilitate, will pose ever more clearly and urgently the Russian dilemma:

Either a new revolution that will stamp out the curse of Stalinism or the reduction of the Soviet Union to a colony of fascism.

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Last updated on 15 March 2016