Max Shachtman

A Stalinist Swine Insults
the Working Class of Italy

(16 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 37, 16 September 1946, p. 3.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

You would find more honor, decency and sincerity at a convention of cattle rustlers assembled to share out their loot than can be found at the Paris Conference of what is called, ironically, of course, the United Nations. For sheer banditry, cynical trading in human beings and defenseless nations, and vicious chauvinism, however, the representatives of Stalinist Russia have easily caught up with and outstripped their older imperialist colleagues.

One of the most important pieces of live loot which every one of the war victors is trying to keep his rapacious talons sunk into is Trieste. In an appeal before the Conference’s Italian political and territorial commission for his country’s claim to Trieste, Ivanoe Bonomi, the Italian delegate, advanced the argument that during World War I Italy had contributed to the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and thereby to the subsequent creation of an independent Yugoslavia.

Vyshinsky Recalls Czarist Exploits

On September 5, Bonomi received his reply from Andrei Y. Vyshinsky, representative of Russia, which is the patron, sponsor, protector and boss of the other Trieste claimant, Yugoslavia. Vyshinsky dismissed the assertion that Italy had helped defeat the Austrian Empire in the First World War. On the contrary, he said proudly, it was the offensives of the Russian Czarist armies that had overturned the Austrian Hapsburgs. Then, according to the N.Y. Times of September 6, he proceeded to pay tribute to the old Russian Czarist General Alexei Brussilov as “one of the greatest generals of his time.”

This tribute from the servant of the present Czar of all the Russians to the servant of the former Czar of all the Russians makes sense. The contemporary feels a certain kinship with his forerunner.

Brussilov, as one of the many not very outstanding generals of Czar Nicholas, was commander of the Armies of the Southwest in the First World War. For a time, he did indeed overrun a considerable part of Austria in the Czarist war of plunder aimed at bringing the “little Slavic brothers” of the Balkans, the Serbs in particular, under the autocratic rule of the Romanovs and the State Church. His success was facilitated not only by the concentration of the Central Powers’ armies in the West, but by the policy, in which the Czarist regime excelled, of pouring millions of troops into the slaughter with the indifference that others pour muck into a sewer.

But how is it possible for a representative of the “Bolshevik Government” today to speak with such pride of the exploits of a Czarist General in the first imperialist massacre?

Brussilov was indistinguishable from the rest of the Czarist military camarilla in point of reactionary outlook. Early in 1917, when the wave of the first revolution against Czarism, and against the futile slaughter in the war, was sweeping through the Russian armies, Brussilov, as commander-in-chief, of the Southwestern front, kept sending telegram after telegram calling for “the most vigorous measures” against the “disorganization and anarchy” creeping into the army.

As late as June 23, 1917, after the first revolution, Brussilov sent an urgent wire to Kerensky, head of the government, saying:

“I consider that the purging of the army can be effected only after the purging of the tear and after the propaganda of the Bolsheviks and the Leninists has been proclaimed criminal and punishable as high treason.”

How Explain Vishinsky Speech?

In August 1917, Brussilov was prominent among the militarists, bankers, manufacturers, and landlords – monarchists all – who set up what was known as the Council of Public Men, for the purpose of backing the ultra-reactionary General Kornilov’s bid for power in Russia. Kornilov wanted not only the physical extirpation of all the Bolsheviks but the overturn of the moderate Kerensky government, as a prelude to the restoration of Czarism.

After the failure of Kornilov and the victory of the Bolsheviks, Brussilov was one of the reactionaries arrested by the Soviet power. The workers had to be restrained from doing him in as one of those chiefly responsible for the butcheries of the war.

How, we ask again, explain Vishinsky on September 5, 1946?

It is not hard. In the first and most important place, he no more represents a Bolshevik, or workers’ government, than the generals of the old Czarist armies represented, let us say, democracy. But there is more to the explanation.

Vyshinsky may not have been a supporter of Kornilov in 1917, but as a hard-shell conservative Menshevik he was nonetheless a violent enemy of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks. It is true that after the Bolshevik Revolution had consolidated itself, Vyshinsky leaped nimbly on to the bandwagon and proceeded to make a career for himself. But even in this he was not Brussilov’s superior.

When the Pilsudski regime in Poland attacked Soviet soil in 1920 without even a declaration of war, a patriotic fervor gripped even the non-Bolsheviks in Russia. Old, crippled Brussilov – a reactionary but an honest patriot as he understood it – came out of hiding and offered his services in the defense of Russia from foreign aggression. He offered them to the commander-in-chief of the Red army, Leon Trotsky, and he appealed so successfully to the honorable feelings of former Czarist officers to do likewise, that Trotsky appointed him president of a special Council of War attached to his own staff. Later, Brussilov continued his services to the Workers’ Government as an inspector of cavalry from 1922 to 1924. A year later he died, a confused patriot, but not a cheap careerist. He was given an official state funeral.

But it is not Brussilov, the Russian patriot who gave his last years to the Workers’ Republic, that Vyshinsky remembers with such adulation, but Brussilov the servant of autocracy, Brussilov the incarnation of semi-feudal militarism, Brussilov the instrument of Russian imperialism.

What Brussilov, in the latter capacities, did against the Russian people, the Russian revolution, and particularly against the Russian Bolsheviks, would bring down upon his memory not Vyshinsky’s curses but, if anything, a nostalgic admiration. What Brussilov, and Kornilov, and all their kith and kin could not accomplish, Stalin and his kidney, Vyshinsky prominent among them, did succeed in doing. They wiped out all the achievements and remnants of the Bolshevik Revolution, and beginning with the Moscow Trials which Vyshinsky prosecuted, they wiped out physically all the Bolsheviks, all the genuine revolutionists, all those who were a living rebuke and a menace to the likes of Vyshinsky and the rest of the wretched retinue of Stalinist despotism.

So we see things are not really out of order when the Stalinists glorify the ancient Czars and old Czarist generals like Suvorov, the assassin of the Polish, people, or Khmelnitsky, the ancient Ukrainian Cossack assassin of the Jewish people, or Brussilov – not the assistant of the Red army, but Brussilov of the Czar’s imperial adventures.

And things are still in order when Vyshinsky follows his glorification of the old reaction by a swinish attack, not on Italian imperialism, but on the Italian people. In the same speech, we read in the Times, Vyshinsky expressed himself on the fighting ability of the Italians: “Everyone knows they are better at running than at fighting.”

The only “fighting” we ever heard of Vyshinsky doing was his fighting against the young Bolshevik Government, and that only when he felt that it could be licked by the united forces of world reaction. His only other claim to fame was the management of the Moscow frame-ups which sent the flower of the Russian working class and revolutionary movements to its death, and that, too, only when he felt backed up by the Luegers of the GPU.

How Explain Vyshinsky Speech? The Truth About the Italians

As for the Italian people, they never signed a pact with fascism as Vyshinsky’s masters did with Hitler in 1939. On the contrary, they gave their lives by the thousands in years of battle against Mussolini’s Blackshirts and took the first favorable opportunity to string Il Duce to a lamppost and drive his minions into holes. If they were unable to do this earlier, ONE of the reasons undoubtedly is the fact that Vyshinsky’s masters were the only ones to continue supplying fascist Italy with Russian grain and oil with which to help prosecute successfully its war against the Ethiopian people.

And finally, if the Italians showed that “they are better at running than at fighting” under Victor-Emmanuel in the First World War and under Mussolini in the Second World War, they are to be complimented, and not abused. They are to be congratulated for refusing to “fight well” for Italy’s imperialist aims in both world wars. They are to be congratulated for their good sense in not allowing themselves to be driven to the slaughter like cattle – as the Brussilovs drove the Russians in the First World War and as more than one Stalinist Brussilov drove them in the war just ended.

This disgusting chauvinistic insult grunted out against a people which has such a rich history of civilized achievement, a people with such a proud record of more than a century-old struggle for democracy and for socialism, a people which cannot now successfully defend itself against the armed might which overwhelms it – properly belongs on the lips that uttered it, the lips of a Stalinist swine.

Max Shachtman
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 3 April 2020