Leon Trotsky

Stalin’s Capitulation

(March 1939)

Written: 24 March 1939.
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 22, 7 April 1939, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2016. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

First reports on Stalin’s speech at the current Moscow congress of the so-called Communist Party of the Soviet Union show that Stalin has hastened to draw conclusions from the Spanish events, as far as he is concerned, in the direction of a new turn toward reaction.

In Spain Stalin suffered a defeat less direct, but no less profound, than that of Azana and Negrin. It is a question, moreover, of something infinitely greater than a purely military defeat or even of a lost war. The whole policy of the “republicans” was determined by Moscow. The relations that the republican government established with the workers and peasants were nothing but the translation into wartime language of the relations existing between the Kremlin oligarchy and the peoples of the Soviet Union. The methods of the Azana-Negrin government were nothing but a concentrate of the methods of the Moscow G.P.U. The fundamental tendency of this policy consisted in substituting the bureaucracy for the people, and the political police for the bureaucracy.

From One Set of Boots to Another

Thanks to the war conditions, the tendencies of Moscow Bonapartism not only assumed in Spain their supreme expression, but also found themselves rapidly put to the test. Hence the importance of the Spanish events from the international, and especially the Soviet, point of view. Stalin is incapable of struggle, and when he is forced to struggle, he is incapable of producing anything but defeats.

In his speech to the congress, Stalin openly shattered the idea’ of the “alliance of the democracies to resist the Fascist aggressors.” The instigators of an international war are now neither Mussolini nor Hitler but the two principal democracies of Europe, Great Britain and France who, according to the speaker, want to draw Germany and the U.S.S.R. into conflict under the guise of a German attack on the Ukraine. Fascism? That has nothing to do with it. There can be no question, according to Stalin’s words, of an attack by Hitler on the Ukraine and there is not the slightest basis for a military conflict with Hitler.

The abandonment of the policy of “alliance of’ the democracies” is supplemented at once with a humiliating cringing before Hitler and a hurried polishing’ of his boots. Such is Stalin!

In Czecho-Slovakia the capitulation of the “democracies” before fascism found expression in a change of government. In the U.S.S.R., thanks to the manifold advantages of the totalitarian regime, Stalin is his own Benes and his own General Syrovy. He replaces the “principles” of his policy precisely in order not to find himself replaced. The Bonapartist clique wants to live and govern. Everything else is for it a question of “technique.”

In reality, the political methods of Stalin are in no way distinguished from the methods of Hitler. But in the sphere of international politics, the difference in results is obvious. In a brief space of time Hitler has recovered the Saar territory, overthrown the Treaty of Versailles, placed his grasp on Austria and the Sudentenland, subjected Czecho-Slovakia to his domination and a number of other second-rate and third-rate powers to his influence.

During the same years, Stalin met only defeats and humiliations on the international arena (China, Czecho-Slovakia, Spain). To look for the explanation of this difference in the personal qualities of Hitler and Stalin would be much too superficial. Hitler is indubitably cleverer and more audacious than Stalin. However, that is not decisive. The decisive things are the general, social conditions of the two countries.

Real Differences Exist

It is now the fashion in superficial radical circles to lump the regimes of Germany and the U.S.S.R. together. This is meaningless. In Germany, despite all the state “regulations” there exists a regime of private property in the means of production. In the Soviet Union industry is nationalized and agriculture collectivized. We know all the social deformities which the bureaucracy has brought forth in the land of the October Revolution. But there remains the fact of a planned economy on the basis of the statification and collectivization of the means of production. This statified economy has its own laws which accommodate themselves less and less to the despotism, the ignorance, and the thievery of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Monopoly capitalism throughout the entire world, and particularly in Germany, finds itself in a crisis that has no way out. Fascism itself is an expression of this crisis. But within the framework of monopoly capitalism, the regime of Hitler is the only possible one for Germany. The enigma of Hitler’s success is explained by the fact that through his police regime he gives highest expression to the tendencies of imperialism. On the contrary the regime of Stalin has entered into irreducible contradiction with the tendencies of dying bourgeois society.

Speech Is a Trial Balloon

Hitler will soon reach his apogee, if he has not already done so, only to plunge thereafter into the abyss. But this moment has not yet arrived. Hitler continues to exploit the dynamic strength of an imperialism struggling for its existence. On the other hand, the contradictions between the Bonapartist regime of Stalin and the needs of economy and culture have reached an intolerably acute stage. The struggle of the Kremlin for its self-preservation only deepens and aggravates the contradictions, leading to an incessant civil war at home and, on the international arena, defeats which are the consequences of that civil war.

What is Stalin’s speech? Is it a link in the chain of a new policy in process of formation, basing itself on preliminary agreements already concluded with Hitler? Or is it only a trial balloon, a unilateral offer of heart and hand? Most likely the reality is closer to the second variant than to the first. As a victor, Hitler is in no hurry to determine his friendships and enmities once and for all. On the contrary, it is to his utmost interest that the Soviet Union and the western democracies accuse, each other of “provoking war.” By his offensive Hitler has, in any case, already gained this much: Stalin who only yesterday was almost the Alexander Nevsky of the western democracies is today turning his eyes toward Berlin and humbly confesses the mistakes made.

Tough Job for Comintern Liars

What is the lesson? During the last three years Stalin called all the companions of Lenin agents of Hitler. He exterminated the flower of the General Staff. He shot, discharged and deported about 30,000 officers – all under the same charge of being agents of Hitler or his allies. After having dismembered the party and decapitated the army, now Stalin is openly posing his own candidacy for the role of ... principal agent of Hitler. Let the hacks of the Comintern lie and get out of this how they can. The facts are so clear, so convincing that no one will succeed any longer in deceiving the public opinion of the international working class with charlatan phrases. Before Stalin falls, the Comintern will be in pieces. It will not be necessary to wait for years before both these things come to pass.

Coyoacan, March 11, 1939

P.S. – After Hitler’s entry into Prague rumors spread of a return by Stalin into the circle of the democracies. It is impossible to consider this excluded. But neither is it excluded that Hitler entered Prague with proof of Stalin’s estrangement from the “democracies” in his hands. Hitler’s abandonment to Hungary of the Carpatho-Ukraine, which did not belong to him, is a fairly demonstrative renunciation of plans for a Greater Ukraine. Whether this will be for any length of time is another question.

In any case, one must consider it likely that Stalin knew in advance the fate of the Carpatho-Ukraine and that is why he denied with such assurance the existence of any danger from Hitler to the Soviet Ukraine. The creation of a common frontier between Poland and Hungary can also be interpreted as a manifestation of Hitler’s “good-will” toward the U.S.S.R. Whether this will be for long is still another question.

At the present pace of development of world antagonisms, the situation can change radically. But today it would seem that Stalin is preparing to play with Hitler.

Coyoacan, March 24, 1939


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Last updated on: 18 January 2016