Leon Trotsky

The US Will Participate in the War

(October 1939)

Written: 1 October 1939.
First Published: New York Times , October 4, 1939. Three paragraphs omitted by the Times have been added.
HTML Markup: Martin Fahlgren

The policy of the Soviet Union, full of surprises even for interested observers, flows in reality from the Kremlin's traditional estimation of international relations, which could be formulated approximately in the following manner:

Since a long time ago, the economic importance not only of France but of Britain has ceased to correspond to the dimensions of their colonial possessions. A new war would be likely to overthrow those empires. (Not by accident, they say in the Kremlin, the smart opportunist, Mohandas K. Gandhi, already has raised a demand for the independence of India. This is only the beginning.) To tie one's fate to the fate of Britain and France, if the United States does not stand behind them, means to doom oneself beforehand.

The “operations” on the Western front during the first month of the war only strengthened Moscow in its estimation. France and Britain decide not to violate the neutrality of Belgium and Switzerland — their violation is absolutely inevitable in case the real war develops — nor do they seriously attack the Siegfried line. Apparently, they do not want to wage war at all, not having in advance the guarantee that the United States will not acquiesce in their defeat.

Moscow thinks, consequently, that the present confused and indecisive conduct of operations by France and Great Britain is a kind of military sitdown strike against the United States, but not a war against Germany.

In these conditions, the August pact of Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler was supplemented inevitably by the September agreement. The real meaning of the algebraic formulas of the new diplomatic instrument will be clarified by the course of the war during the next weeks.

It is highly improbable that Moscow will now intervene on Hitler's side against the colonial empires. Stalin entered the extremely unpopular bloc with Hitler only to save the Kremlin from the risks and disturbances of a war. After that, he found himself involved in a small war in order to justify his bloc with Hitler. In the crevices of a great war, Moscow will try, also, to attain some further new conquest in the Baltic Sea and in the Balkans.

It is necessary, however, to view these provincial conquests in the perspective of the world war. If Stalin wants to retain the new provinces, then sooner or later he will be forced to stake the existence of his power. All his policy is directed toward the postponement of this moment.

But if it is difficult to expect the direct military cooperation of Moscow with Berlin on the Western front, it would be sheer light-mindedness to underestimate the economic support that the Soviet Union, with the help of German technology, particularly in the means of transportation, can render the German army. The importance of the Anglo-French blockade will certainly not be annihilated, but it will be considerably weakened.

The German-Soviet pact will have, under these conditions, two consequences. It will greatly extend the duration of the war; and it will bring closer the moment of intervention of the United States.

By itself, this intervention is absolutely inevitable. London wanted to think, in spite of the evidence, that Hitler's ambitions did not transcend the Danubian plain, and expected to keep Britain aside. In a similar manner, some people on the American continent expect to conceal themselves behind a paper screen of isolation from purely “European” insanity. Their hopes are in vain. It is a question of the struggle for world domination, and America will not be able to stand aside.

The intervention of the United States, which would be capable of changing the orientation not only of Moscow but also of Rome, is, however, only the music of the future. The empiricists of the Kremlin stand with both feet on the basis of the present. They do not believe in the victory of Britain and France, and consequently they stick to Germany.

In order to understand Soviet policy in all its unexpected turns., it is necessary to reject, above all, the absurd idea that Stalin wants to promote the international revolution by means of war. If the Kremlin strove to this end, how could it sacrifice its influence over the international working class for the sake of occupying some border territories?

The fate of the revolution will not be decided in Galicia, nor in Estonia, nor in Latvia, nor in Bessarabia. It will be decided in Germany, but there Stalin supports Hitler. It will be decided in France and in Britain, but there Stalin dealt a mortal blow to the Communist parties. Nor will the Communist Party of the United States long be able to resist the consequences of the September pact Poland will rise again; the Communist International, never.

In reality, there is no government in Europe or the whole world which at the present moment would fear the revolution more than the privileged caste ruling the Soviet Union. The Kremlin does not consider itself stable, and revolutions are contagious. Precisely because the Kremlin fears revolution, it fears war, which leads to revolution.

It is true that in the occupied regions the Kremlin is proceeding to expropriate the large proprietors. But this is not a revolution accomplished by the masses, but an administrative reform, designed to extend the regime of the USSR into the new territories. Tomorrow, in the “liberated” regions, the Kremlin will pitilessly crush the workers and peasants in order to bring them into subjection to the totalitarian bureaucracy. Hitler does not fear this type of “revolution” on his borders — and, in his own way, he is absolutely right.

In order to set the new-found friends at loggerheads with each other, Anglo-French propaganda makes every effort to present Hitler as a veritable instrument in Stalin's hands. That is contrary to good sense. in the September pact, as in the August pact, Hitler is the active party. Stalin plays a subordinate role, he adapts himself, he marches to Hitler's tune, and he doesn't go beyond the limits of what he is bound to do if he doesn't want to break with Hitler. Hitler's policies are of an offensive character, having worldwide scope. Stalin's policies are defensive and provincial. Hitler wants to split the British empire wide open, and prepare a base for war with the United States. Stalin supports him in order to divert him from the East. At each stage in his plan, Hitler knows enough to forge a new system of “friendships.” in August, he assured himself of Stalin's neutrality and his economic cooperation — for the attack on Poland. in September, he made Stalin an interested partner in his struggle against France and Great Britain. Half of Poland is not too high a price to pay for that. in any case, if Hitler loses the war, he will lose Poland. If, thanks to Stalin, he emerges victorious, he will once again put all questions of the East on the agenda.

Given the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of Germany's sustaining a prolonged war, Hitler wants to substitute for it a series of rapid coups. Today, Hitler again needs a breathing spell. Stalin, as previously, needs peace. Hence Stalin's eagerness to help Hitler obtain a capitulation from France and England without a fight. Certainly, the signing of a peace on the Western front would free Hitler's hands against the USSR. If, however, Stalin has associated himself with the latter's “peace offensive,” that is because he is pursuing a conjunctural policy. Stalin is a tactician, not a strategist Furthermore, after the partition of Poland, he lost his freedom of action.

To make the Kremlin change its policy there remains only one way, but a sure one. It is necessary to give Hitler such a decisive blow that Stalin will cease to fear him. In this sense, it is possible to say that the most important key to the Kremlin's policy is now in Washington.

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