Leon Trotsky

Apropos the Foreign Policy
of the Stalinists

(May 1933)

Written: 12 May 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 30, 10 June 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

In the Orient the Soviet government is prepared to sell its rights in the Chinese Eastern Railroad. In the Occident it is renewing the old German-Soviet treaty over Hitler’s signature. In the two opposite directions of its foreign policy, the Stalin-Molotov government is bowing before imperialism and Fascism.

The abandonment of the Chinese Eastern Railroad does not signify simply the loss for the workers’ state of an important economic and strategic position, but the direct transfer into the hands of Japanese imperialism of an important instrument which will on the very morrow be directed against China and also against the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s agreement with Hitler strengthens the position of Hitler and cannot help reacting painfully upon the state of spirit of the German workers. “If the powerful workers’ state is obliged to seek friendship with Fascist Germany, then that means, the position of the Nazis is solid.” This is what every thinking German proletariat inevitably says to himself. At the moment at which the bureaucracy of the Communist International presents the Hitler victory as a passing incident and puts on the order of the day, the question of the general strike and the insurrection (on paper), the Soviet bureaucracy finds it indispensable to establish “normal” relations with the Fascist dictatorship in Germany. The actions of Litvinoff-Chinchuk characterize much more exactly the point of view of the Stalinists than the cheap literature of Manuilsky-Kuusinen.

A revolt has taken place in European revolutionary circles apropos the latest steps of the Stalinist bureaucracy in foreign policy, not only in the opposition groups by the way, but also in the official parties. The word “treason” is found more often, if not in the articles, then at least in letters and conversations.

Such protestations are not difficult to understand psychologically; but we cannot associate ourselves with them politically. The question of the relations between the Soviet state and imperialism is in it essence, a question of the relation of forces. After the Chinese revolution in the Orient and the powerful vanguard of the European proletariat in the Occident were crushed, the relation of forces became brusquely modified to the detriment of the Soviet state. To this must be added the disastrous internal policy, the complete attenuation of the bonds between the proletariat and the peasantry, between the apparatus and the personal dictator, between the party and the proletariat, between the apparatus and the party. Everyone of these political causes force the Centrist bureaucrats to batter down the opposition and to beat a retreat before the Mikado and before Hitler.

The Stalinist bureaucracy is responsible for the whole of its opportunist and adventuristic policy. But the consequences of this policy are no longer dependent up on their own will. It is impossible to withdraw at will from an unfavorable relationship of forces. What policy could be expected of the Soviet government with regard to Fascist Germany? The breaking off of relations? The boycott? These measures could not have had any sense except as preludes for military operations. Two years ago we put forward this sort of a perspective, not isolated from but in direct connection with a radical change of policy in the USSR and in Germany, that is to say, counting upon a re-enforcemenut of the workers’ state and of the German proletariat. Developments took the opposite road. Today, when the German workers are crushed,when the Soviet state has been weakened, the course toward revolutionary war would be adventurism of the purest water.

Without such a course, that is, without direct preparations for revolutionary war and the insurrection in Germany, the breaking-off of diplomatic relations and the economic boycott would only be an impotent and miserable gesture. The absence of Russian orders would, it is true, increase somewhat the number of the unemployed. But has there been a lack of unemployed for the revolution up to the present? What was lacking was a revolutionary party and a correct policy. That is doubly lacking at present. We cannot avoid examining now the question as to whom economic reprisals would benefit in Germany: Fascism or the proletariat. It is clear that the general problem of the conjuncture is not solved by Soviet orders. Reciprocally, the refusal of economic connections with Germany would, on the other hand, hit Soviet economy heavily, and consequently, the workers’ state still more.

We repeat: the Stalinist faction bears a direct and immediate responsibility for the collapse of the Chinese revolution, for the destruction of the German proletariat and for the weakening of the workers’ state. Along this fundamental line, the struggle against it must be conducted. It is necessary to cleanse the world labor movement of the leprosy of Stalinism. But it is necessary to fight against the roots of the malady and not against the symptoms of its inevitable consequences.

In the struggle against bureaucratic centrism, we remain, as Marxists, on the grounds of revolutionary realism. If the Bolshevik-Leninists (Left Opposition) were at the head of the Soviet state today, they would be forced, in their immediate, practical acts, to proceed from the relation of forces that has resulted from ten years of epigone policy. They would be forced, particularly, to maintain diplomatic and economic connections with Hitlerist Germany. At the same time, they would prepare themselves for revenge. That is a great task, which requires time, which is not solved by a demonstrative gesture, but which demands a radical change of policy in all spheres.

Prinkipo, May 12, 1933

L. Trotsky

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