XLV. ISOLATION AND COLLAPSE
THE Sixth World Congress of the Communist International finally was convened in 1928. By that time, the revolutionary movement as manifested in the General Strike in England and the Revolution in China had received signal defeats. In the United States, for the next year and a half, capitalist production reached new peaks, breaking all records. Regardless of this situation, the Sixth Congress laid down a line based on the following concepts: First, the world was on the eve of a new revolutionary wave. This would usher in the third period of post-War history, the first having ended in 1923, the second in 1928. Secondly, in view of the coming struggle for power, communists must consider socialist and other workers’ reformist groups as their chief enemies to be destroyed at all costs. The socialists were really social-fascists, that is a wing of fascism, and by no means could united fronts be made with them or with the reformists in the trade unions. Third, the communists no longer were to work within the reactionary trade unions, but everywhere were to form their own trade union centers. The Congress also adopted a new Communist Program which justified the idea of Socialism in One Country.
The policies of the Sixth Congress wrought enormous damage upon communist forces throughout the world. At first sight it might appear that all the Right Wing errors of the four years since the Fifth World Congress were being corrected. In reality, all the Leftist blunders against which Lenin had polemicized here were repeated in the crassest form, so that the Congress achieved not an antidote for past mistakes, but a multiplication of all the Right Wing blunders by new Leftist ones.
Particularly fatal was this course to the German movement. Following the line of the “Stalintern,” the German communists fell headlong into a bottomless abyss. Before the next Congress of the International could be called, the great German Communist Party no longer existed. Although the political storm troops of Hitler were composed mainly of students, youth, declassed petty bourgeois, and slum proletarians who in no way should have been a match for the well-organized and trained workmen, yet these sections were able overwhelmingly to defeat the strongest working class in Europe and to crush it mercilessly. The whole world watched with amazement as the powerful German Communist Party with two hundred and fifty thousand members, with a defense group of half a million, and with voting support of six million, give up its cause without even a fight. To lose in an open conflict not necessarily would have constituted disgrace, but the German communists capitulated without engaging the enemy in a single battle. The loss of the Chinese Revolution had not been decisive, after all, for world affairs; the loss of the German Revolution penetrated the very heart and soul of the international proletarian forces.
Although the German revolutionary movement was destroyed precisely because it adhered so loyally and closely to the line of the Stalintern, that body in return did no more than print the bare news of the events. When Hitler threatened to take power, no emergency congress was called to discuss the drastic change in the situation, nor was a special congress convoked afterward to clarify the lessons of this terrible defeat and to work out a new policy. All during the critical days in Germany, before, during, and after the advent of Hitler to power, there took place merely a perfunctory gathering of the Executive Committee of the Communist International in which it was affirmed that no mistakes had been made, either in Germany or in Moscow. From now on, the Left opposition groups took the stand that the Third International was dead as a revolutionary force and could play only a counter-revolutionary role. The German defeat seemed to demonstrate that the Russians were so engrossed with their own national problems that they concerned themselves very little with what took place outside their own country. As for the other Parties of the Third International, they did not dare to raise their voices in protest to the killing of the German Revolution.
But the German Communist Party was destroyed not only because the Third International failed to act, but also as a result of its fatal decisions at the Sixth Congress. In the name of Leninism, all the wisdom of Lenin quietly had been discarded. Incalculable harm was done the German movement by the declaration that the Socialist Party was but a branch of fascism and in reality the chief enemy of the workers. That the actions of the socialist leadership more than once had destroyed the Revolution in Germany was, without doubt, correct. But at this time, it was not the socialists who were representing reaction, but the rapidly growing Fascist Party which murderously attacked both communists and socialists. When the socialists were killed by fascist raids, the communists refused to help, on the ground that it was simply a case of two reactionary forces killing off each other. When the communists received the same treatment, the socialists also abstained from coming to their assistance. This division of the workers immeasurably hastened the advance of the fascists to power.
As a matter of fact, the Socialist Party never could have been considered correctly as a wing of fascism. The Socialist Party might be the agent through which capitalism retained power, but it was, after all, a party composed in the main of workers bearing the traditions of Marxism and espousing the cause of the proletariat. Objectively, its role was to demoralize the proletariat from within by basing its program on social reform rather than on social revolution. The fascists, however, as we have already seen, were of entirely different stock, and came into power because it was possible no longer for the capitalists to sustain social reform. Indeed, the very fact that fascism was arising and socialism was being dismissed by economically dominant classes was a sign that now more than ever both socialists and communists could be united in struggle.
Now that the concessions which had been invaluable no longer were forthcoming, the socialists were in an entirely different position. At worst, many of them might be willing to fight for their old jobs, their old reforms and privileges, and to join hands with whomever they could on these issues; at best, some socialists might be moved by the new situation to act in a revolutionary manner. Certainly the socialists no longer were in any position to refuse to make united fronts with other sections of the labor movement. The onrush of fascism, thrusting aside social reform, dragged the socialist bureaucracy out of its old entrenched positions and diminished its influence over its members.
It was at this very juncture, when the possibilities for a united front were greater than they had been for some time, that the Communist Parties decided to change their tack and to wipe out all united fronts with socialist organizations. No longer would the pure communists sit with the socialist traitors. The Stalinists declared the only united front they would make would be the united front “from below.” That is, in trying to win the socialist worker for united action, they would not appeal to him through his organization, permitting him to elect whatever representative he pleased; instead the Communist Party now decided to dictate to the socialist worker what delegate he must elect and what policy he must choose. Thus, to form the united front, the socialist worker had to break the discipline of his own organization. This, of course, most of them refused to do, especially in Germany, where traditions of discipline and organized action were so strong. No longer did the communist consider it his duty patiently and painstakingly to convince his socialist fellow-workers of the proper policy to be pursued, but now a policy of threats and bureaucratic ultimatums were issued. The Stalinist might succeed in this action in backward Russia, where he had control of all jobs; he could not succeed in Germany. The result was that no united front at all was obtainable.
Such a situation also played into the hands of the old die-hard socialist officials who for many years had sabotaged the united front with the revolutionary forces, in order to form a united front with the capitalists against the communists. Thus the new policy of the Third International became the chief means to prevent the Leftward-moving socialist workers from actually breaking the bonds of their Party and attaining united revolutionary action. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Germany prior to the victory of Hitler.
The Third International functionaries tried to justify their rupture of the united front policy by alleging that, in a period of revolutionary upswing, such as characterized the “third period,” united fronts with reformists were vital to the revolution. They closed their eyes to the fact that Lenin had made united fronts with similar reformist parties in the Russian Revolution, up to and including the moment of seizure of power. Indeed, the soviets themselves were united front bodies so that, far from denying the value of the united front in acute revolutionary situations, the Russian experience proved that the united front was invariably the best instrument for seizing power, and that the united front itself, in the form of soviets, became transformed into an organ of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat for the maintenance of power and the establishment of the socialistic regime. If the united front under given circumstances leads to the soviet, conversely genuine soviets can not be formed without the united front. Can it be that the Germans believed they could skip this stage and create soviets without the united front? The 1927 Canton adventure should have shown them the lethal character of such a course. The fact is, the German communist leaders did not believe the time was ripe for soviets. How natural then was their sabotage of the united front!
The decision that the Socialist Party was to be treated as a wing of fascism meant also that communists were duty bound to destroy the Socialist Party physically, as they had boasted they would the Fascist. Thus, the socialist workers often found themselves attacked on two fronts; their meetings were broken up by hooligans, and they were forced to defend themselves not only from the side of the reactionaries but from the side of the communists.
The situation was aggravated by the new decisions of the Sixth Congress in regard to the organized trade union movement. Hitherto it had been the policy of the communists to work within the established trade unions. Now it was decided wherever possible to split the old unions and to form new revolutionary ones. In Germany, above all, this policy proved disastrous. In 1929, the reformist trade unions counted about eight million members. Communist members and sympathizers in these unions amounted to no more than about three hundred thousand. Yet the Reds decided to withdraw their forces from these reformist unions and to form their own Red Trade Union Center. This action of course split the trade union movement wide open. Not only did it cement the power of the reformists over the workers who remained in the unions, but it entirely isolated the communists from the mass of members, and transformed them from an active force to an isolated sect. The paper unions formed by the Stalinists were helpless to prevent the employers from launching their attacks and, because of the split in the ranks of labor, the workers lost battle after battle. No wonder, when the communists decided at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute to call a general strike to prevent Hitler’s rise to power, nobody responded! The Communist Party always could declare that it was provoked into splits by expulsions and other actions against it by the reformist officials; the fact remained that communists were only too willing to accept this gage of battle, forgetting that these officials were playing the game of the employers, whereas their own duty was to unite the workers in struggle.
In line with their designation of the Socialist Party as a social-fascist group, the Stalinists had to declare that all the parties to the Right of the socialists were thereby fascist. Thus, simple republicans and democrats became transformed over night into fascists and, if the united front could not be made with the Socialist Party and the unions, certainly it could not be made with these other groups. Furthermore, this sort of analysis meant that the democratic parliamentary regime was to be considered no better than a fascist administration. This failure to distinguish between various forms of capitalist States had also dire effects.
In Germany, the communists at different periods denounced as fascist Hindenburg, von Papen, von Schleicher, and others who had held office under the Weimar Republic. But, under these administrators, the right to vote freely had existed, certain social reforms were still granted, there was still the right to speak, to organize, and to strike. Evidently, if this was fascism, fascism was not so terrible as painted. Thus, in effect, the communists glossed over the real meaning of fascism and thereby helped to pave the way for the victory of Hitler.
Furthermore, if the existent regime was fascist, this could imply only that the fascists already were in the saddle and that it was futile to struggle to keep them out of power. In this way, the Stalinist theory further paralyzed the people’s fight against fascism. Just as by its theory of social-fascism, Stalinism had decided that masses of organized workers already had been won to the cause of fascism, so, by its confused identification of democracy and fascism, it denounced every supporter of the Weimar Republic as a Hitler sympathizer, thus driving him towards the Nazis. Instead of comprehending that the mass of people were hostile to fascism and that the workers were ready to fight to the end against Hitler, German Stalinism was busy proving that the mass of people already were fascist. A timely psychological interpretation of the Stalinists’ attitude would have exposed this sort of theory as the reflection of their intention to run away from the fight. To spread the belief that the democrats all were in favor of fascism was to popularize the idea that all those not communists were in league against communism. This was the conception of one reactionary mass against which Marx had polemicized as far back as 1875, when the Gotha program was adopted by the German social-democrats. Instead of seeking to drive wedges among the ruling class elements in order to disunite them and, above all, of trying to win over the petty bourgeoisie, the Stalinists made it as easy as possible for the fascists to unite the people against the revolutionists.
Furthermore, by their false analysis, the Stalinists showed that they had failed to understand the essence of capitalist democracy. They went to great lengths to prove, for example, that each time the policeman’s club descended upon the head of some unfortunate striker, this was a fascist act, and the State was thereby fascist. Hence, they concealed from the people the simple fact that wherever policemen flourish, even in the most democratic or social-democratic states, they use their clubs and guns against those who challenge capitalism in any form whatsoever. Democracy does not mean the absence of terror, but merely a particular form of it.
Since to the Stalinists the democratic parliamentary republic had become identical with fascism, it was now possible to unite with fascists to overthrow parliament. Thus, when the Nazis in Prussia in 1930 brought forth the proposition to issue a referendum on the question whether the Landtag should be abolished, the communists voted for this fascist measure, uniting with the Hitlerites against socialists and democrats. The Stalinists, of course, declared they were not in favor of the fascist dictatorship, but advocated the smashing of parliament and the installation of Soviets.
Yet it must be remarked that, if this was truly the aim of the communists, they certainly did not prepare for its realization. Assuming that the referendum really had been passed and the Landtag dissolved, then the communists should have been preparing feverishly for insurrection, so as to allow the soviets to take power. Indeed, soviets already should have been formed. But nothing of the sort was done, nor could have been done in the light of the objective circumstances. The Communist Party of Germany was dreaming neither of insurrection nor of building soviets. By engaging in this demonstrative referendum without the slightest preparations for revolution, the communists showed that they believed soviets could be established either suddenly, by Party decree, as in Canton, or through the parliamentary measure of the referendum, or that they were indifferent whether the fascists took power or not. Certainly, had the referendum gone through, it would not have been soviets that would have been established, but rather a reactionary institution much closer to Hitler’s desire.
In this period, communist collaboration with the fascists, both in theory and in practice, gradually was worked into a system. The communists, for example, began to raise as their chief slogan “Down with the Versailles Treaty.” From the very beginning, the Comintern had been against this robber treaty, but Lenin distinctly had advised the German communists not to make this their principal demand, since it would play into the hands of the imperialists of Germany. For communists to make such a demand the center of their campaign meant to arouse the most intense national feeling at precisely the time when the Nazis were making such feeling their principal objective. Thus the line between communists and Nazis tended to become blurred, especially when the National Socialists also thunderously were denouncing capitalism. The masses were now being instructed that their chief enemies were not the German employers but the foreign oppressor, who must be overthrown. This whole orientation added grist to the mill, not of the communists, but of the fascists. In the ranks of the German communists, the Stalinist policy of Russian nationalism was bearing fruit in German nationalism. Nationalism could have been avoided by the German communists if, instead of declaiming against the Versailles Treaty, they had pointed out that Germany was suffering because she was not intimately related to the other peoples of Europe, but torn asunder from Europe by capitalism. Not the isolation of Germany, but her intimate relation with Russia and her other neighbors, through a Soviet United States of Europe, could have been demanded as the way out of the crisis.
German nationalism was farther advanced by the Stalinists when they changed their slogans from the call to the proletarian revolution to an appeal for a Volks Revolution, or “People’s Revolution.” This was indeed aping the fascists, who had made this their shibboleth from the very beginning, in contradistinction to the Communist Party, which had formerly urged the international proletarian dictatorship. In Germany, more than elsewhere, such a vague idea of a “People’s Revolution” was entirely inadequate, since it was in Germany, of all the industrial countries of the West, that the proletarian revolution was the ripest, that it had been most discussed theoretically, and attempted practically. It meant an admission that the proletarian revolution was not really in order, that it was not the workers who must rule, but the heterogeneous people. In this wise, the Stalinists made it plain they had no great faith in the proletariat’s running the revolution, that the proletariat was too narrow a class. But if the communists had no faith in the firmness and ability of the workers to rule, why should the petty bourgeoisie have such faith? Lack of confidence in the proletariat was precisely the decisive factor in moving the petty bourgeoisie completely over to the side of fascism; in creating this lack of faith, the Stalinists did their part very well.
Thus the logic of their actions impelled Communist Party members objectively to support the Nazis and to fight the socialists and liberal-democrats. Instead of a united front being made against fascism, there was being created in fact the united front against the Weimar Republic and the social reformists and democrats. For this reason, in spite of the growing revolutionary situation, the communists could break away but few workers from the Socialist Party, so that, to the very end, the social-democrats were able to retain their adherents and their eight million votes.
Coupled with their attacks on the socialists, the communist officials made all sorts of boasts of what they would do were Hitler actually to get into power. They declared that his rule would not last more than a couple of weeks, that such rule would compel the formation of a united front from below of all the workers, to sweep him out. One of the Stalinist leaders declared: “If they, the Nazis, once come into power, the united front of the proletariat will be established and sweep everything away… . They will come to grief more speedily than any other government.” (*1)
Indeed, the communist officials actually voiced the opinion that it would not be too harmful for the Nazis actually to take power, since this would be the best way to expose the demagogy of the fascists and thus destroy them. The fascists would not be able to live up to their multifarious promises; they would fall of their own weight. With such a platform, the communists gave the impression that the installation of fascism was not to be fought too hard. On their side, by no means were the Nazis opposed to finding new arguments why they should get into power. They understood far better than the communists that it would be infinitely more difficult to dislodge the Nazis after they were entrenched in office and had the armed forces of the State at their disposal.
None the less, as the situation grew more and more revolutionary, in 1932 the communists became the beneficiaries of an immense sweep toward the Left on the part of the masses. The communist vote, which had been about four million at peak, now surged upward to six million. In the most important industrial sections of Germany, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Saxony, and the Ruhr, the German Communist Party had an absolute majority of the working class. (*2) These workers, feeling a battle impending, construed the attitude of the Communist Party to mean that they would fight before Hitler would get into power. They had no inkling that the communist officials later were to declare that there was no revolutionary situation in Germany, and that the advent of Hitler was inevitable.
According to all the theories upon which the Communist International was founded, the revolutionary forces in Germany should have been able to prevent the victory of fascism. The world was then in the throes of a deep economic and political crisis acutely affecting the whole of Europe, in the course of which the communist forces had grown considerably. Had the Comintern lived up to its early internationalist conception of the revolution, had it recognized the gravity of the situation, it could have mobilized its parties in Poland, in Czecho-Slovakia, in France, and in the other bordering countries, to help the Germans. It could have made every effort to form united fronts with other working class organizations throughout Europe which would have declared that, should Hitler take power, it would mean international struggle. To back up this threat, the Red Army should have been mobilized immediately on the Western frontiers of Russia. This would have been the Soviet Union’s method of demonstrating that it not only called on the workers of other countries to defend the workers’ Fatherland, but that it felt bound to help the revolution throughout the world as well.
Such a policy was impossible for Stalinism. The Russian leaders running the Third International had turned away from the world revolution. They had adopted the program that the Soviet Union did not rest upon the support which the international working class could give, but relied solely upon its internal strength, its Red Army and its factories, upon the deals that it could make with foreign capitalist diplomats. The Russian bureaucrats failed to realize that, by allowing the German and European working class movements to be destroyed, the attack against the Soviet by capitalist Europe led by fascist Germany would become inevitable, since there would then be no force within those capitalist countries able to stave off the war. They failed to see that the destruction of the German proletarian organizations was a decisive step toward the destruction of the Soviet Union itself. Not by posing the national interests of the Soviet Union against those of the world revolution, but only by throwing the weight of the soviets themselves behind the drive for world communism at the decisive time and place, could Russia herself be safe.
The mobilization of the Red Army, far from provoking war, might have been the very factor temporarily to prevent it, had the German fascists in this way been defeated and the pacifist social-democratic regimes retained the power in Central Europe. The real question was not whether Russia should mobilize her Red Army—this would have to occur sooner or later—but whether 1932 was the right moment for Russia to act. But time already has shown how correct such a move would have been. In 1932, Japan had not as yet seized the whole of Manchuria and fortified her positions all along the Siberian border. In 1932, Hitler was not yet Chancellor, and there was no reconstituted German Army. The Red Army would have had a far easier task to prevent Hitler’s getting into power than to stop him from launching war after he had become dictator precisely on a program of war and militarism.
After all, the German workers had a difficult task to carry out a revolution alone. Up to now, at least in the West, proletarian revolutions had been concomitant with war. Only in China and Spain had it been demonstrated that in the present era revolution did not have to depend upon the outbreak of war. The situation in 1932 was far more difficult in a way than the one the Russians had had to face in 1917. In that period the world was divided and could not unite to crush the communists. The Russian workers and peasants were armed. Russia was inaccessible to a considerable extent and far from being surrounded on all sides by a ring of enemy countries. In 1919, when the soviets had to defend their victory, they were favored by the fact that capitalist Europe was exhausted and torn by internal revolution. Fundamentally, Russia had been saved by the activities of the world proletariat. In Germany in 1932, on the contrary, not only were the workers disarmed, but all the European capitalists were armed to the teeth, united and ready to attack a German proletarian revolution.
Under such circumstances the German workers needed some assurance that, should they begin their revolt, they would receive substantial international aid. They understood well that, should they take to civil war, it would mean foreign intervention, with the possibilities of world revolution. The question was, in case of intervention, would the Red Army be ready to help the embattled German proletariat? Furthermore, was the Communist International prepared to initiate the world revolution and to throw all the forces of the Soviet Union behind it?
The answer that the German workers received was clear. The Stalinists were interested solely in building up socialism in their own country. They were unwilling to halt the Five-Year Plan in order to help the German workers. The German revolution would be a bothersome disturbance of all the utopian plans of the Russian bureaucrats, busy putting forth pacifist plans at disarmament conferences. Such a policy was in line with the Stalinist strategy never to take the military offensive, but to give the enemy the full advantage of choosing the time and place of battle. In short, there was to be no world mobilization on behalf of the German workers.
Such a reply was bound to discourage the German working class. Had the Red Army been mobilized and plans prepared for revolt, the German bourgeoisie would have been compelled to consider seriously the feasibility of supporting Hitler to the end. At the same time, the demonstrated determination of the communists to bring on the revolution in Germany, should Hitler attempt to take power, would have rallied large masses of German middle class elements and workers who had moved away from the cause of the proletariat precisely because of the vacillating, negative policy of the advanced workers’ organizations. Furthermore, the foreign capitalist rulers would have felt the ground stirring under them and would have mobilized all their forces to prevent the victory of German fascism.
The Stalinists being what they were, the terrible debacle of 1933 resulted. The destruction of the German organizations inevitably was followed by the crushing of the workers’ movement throughout all of Central Europe, thus removing the chief brake to intervention against the Soviet Union. From this time on, world imperialism became far more arrogant to the Soviets. Japan advanced with seven league boots in the East, Germany sprang forward as the spearhead of the attack in the West. Under Stalinism, the Soviet Union had now become isolated and forced to defend itself against the whole world.
In a meeting of the high functionaries of the Stalintern, after the German disaster, the infallible leadership attempted to prove conclusively that no other course of action had been possible. In brief, thousands of communists had been killed, tens of thousands had been jailed, hundreds of thousands had fled the country, fascism had become victorious throughout Central Europe, the most important proletarian outposts had been surrendered without a shot being fired, and all that Stalinism could declare was that events had gone along “as predicted"; it had been inevitable that Hitler was to take power!
In Italy, while Lenin was alive the workers fought fascism, although those engaged in industry and trade represented but six and one-half million compared to ten and one-half million agrarians; in Germany, under Stalinism, the workers did not fight fascism, although there were eighteen and one-half million engaged in industry and trade compared to ten million agrarians, and although the communists controlled the decisive sections of the country. With a Party and a following not much stronger than the Germans, in a backward country two and a half times the size of Germany, Lenin boldly had fought for power. The Germans under Stalin, although having behind them the best theoretical and practical training, did not even make a fight for it.
In “Proof” of their point that Hitler’s victory was inevitable, the Stalinists gave voluminous evidence to show the treachery of the social-democrats in that they had refused to follow the lead of the revolutionary Stalinists. But these bankrupt Stalinists could not stop there; they had also to attempt to show that the German people did not want to fight, and that no revolutionary situation existed in Germany. The Comintern, however, lived on hopes and affirmed that, while there had been no revolutionary situation as yet, there would soon be one, and the communists must prepare for a revolution.
How empty was this analysis could be seen by the events that occurred in Germany later. The blood purge of the Nazis, by which Hitler finally separated himself from his former socialistic comrades, the plebiscite in the Saar, the Austrian revolt, the French revolutionary ferment, the rearmament of Germany, and the open declarations against the Soviet Union, all found Germany silent as the grave, so far as organized demonstrations of communists or workers were concerned. Measured by the barometers of these events, it was plain that the Third International was now completely dead in Germany.
The defeat of the proletariat in the decisive portions of Europe in turn only drove the Russian leaders still farther to the Right. In proportion, as they could rely less and less on the international working class organizations for active support, the Russian diplomats turned to intrigue and to alliance with the world capitalists. With the advent of fascism in Germany, Russia became a member of the League of Nations precisely at a time when that happy family itself was no longer an instrument effective to prevent German imperialism from declaring war, and when it functioned merely as a variation of the old pre-War set-ups to maintain the imperialist balance of power and the status quo. It was impossible for Russia to become part of the League of Nations, to enter its machinery and to assume responsibility without adding her weight to the great incubus of oppression already bearing down upon hundreds of millions of colonial slaves. It was not enough that Russia had entered a defunct organization effective only as a war machine and anti-colonial force; it was now necessary to idealize the whole set-up and to build theories on France and England as real forces for peace.
The military aspect of Russia’s entrance into the League of Nations was soon seen in the creation of the Franco-Soviet Pact in May 15, 1935, in which both France and Russia pledged mutually to assist each other in case of invasion by another country. Prior to this time, Russia had made non-aggression pacts with her capitalist neighbors in which each pledged not to invade the territory of the other. This was the first time that Stalin had dared to gamble with the Russian workers’ lives to the extent of promising to aid some capitalist country if invaded by another imperialist rival. He declared in a signed statement that he understood and fully approved the national defense policy of France in keeping her armed forces at a level required for security. This statement was supported the next day by an article appearing in the official Soviet newspaper, “lzvestia,” which affirmed: “Until a system of collective security including countries governed by elements endangering peace has been firmly established, France and the U.S.S.R. will maintain their armaments at a level guaranteeing their safety. This, it is true, a heavy burden for both countries. But to weaken these forces now would be to strengthen the hopes of the opponents of peace and to subject other peoples to the risk of having to pay dearly for negligence in preparing their defenses.”
The arguments of the sovietists were identical with those which the French militarists had adopted in the various disarmament conferences to prove why France should not follow the line of the Versailles Treaty and either disarm or allow Germany to arm. In these conferences, Litvinoff had challenged the French thesis, advocating disarmament; now France suddenly became a great force for peace, and her army had to be supported.
In their pact with the French capitalists, the Stalinists involved themselves in the whole metaphysical question, when is a country the aggressor and when is it on the defensive? During the World War, the opportunist Socialists had banged their heads in vain against the wall of that problem, all the socialists maintaining that “their” country was the one attacked. The Germans proved this fact by referring to the Russian invasion, the French by pointing at Germany, the English by parading Belgium, the Russians by stressing the invasion of Serbia, the country of their “fellow-Slavs,” by Austria, and so on. As a matter of fact, regardless of the form that the world conflict happened to take at any particular moment, the War was the result of the mutual rivalry and aggressions of all the imperialist powers whom the socialists were defending. It became a highly dubious question whether any country was solely on the defense. Now, thirty years later, the Red bureaucrats of Russia again raise the problem of “mutual defense” as though it were a cud for the proletariat to chew upon indefinitely, to their own destruction. Who will undertake to say what is “offense” and what is “defense” in the jungle world of imperialism? For example, if Germany tries to recover Alsace-Lorraine, will that constitute an act of defense or of offense? To the Germans it is simply regaining possession of a piece of German territory which wrongfully had been seized.
To take up the question of defense and offense is to presume that there is an abstract law of international morals, something eternal and holy which all nations must obey. The truth is, a country can be weakened and overthrown without a territorial invasion, so that there can be aggression without invasion just as conversely, there can be invasion without aggression. Suppose that a country that desires to make war on France first attacks an ally of France whom the latter is pledged to defend? Could not France maintain that this fight for her ally is really a measure of self-defense, that if her ally is beaten in advance she is bound to be defeated later? Let us suppose that Czecho-Slovakia is invaded by Germany, would not France interpret this as an attack upon her interests preliminary to an attack upon her territory? Would she not be able legitimately to call upon Russia for support? And if Russia counts on France to help her, will not Russia be bound to engage in war against Germany for the preservation of Franco- Czecho-Slovakian friendship?
At the same time as the Franco-Soviet Pact was signed there was forged another alliance between Czecho-Slovakia and the Soviets engaging to perform the same obligations. This is even more scandalous, since every one knows that only the greatest act of violence tore the three and a half million Germans of Bohemia from their brethren in Germany and put them in an independent rival state. Thus, if these three and a half million Germans want to be free from an alien yoke and to join their blood brethren in Germany, Russia is now pledged to interfere to the point of war in order to separate the German people.
Furthermore, if the Riff tribes rebel in Africa and the Syrians in the Near East, if the Indo-Chinese fight in Annam, if the Sudanese rise up and the great colonial empire of France is threatened, then the French generals can reckon on the fact that Stalin fully approves the large standing army of French imperialism and cannot afford to have that military force weakened or its prestige diminished in the slightest. In the colonial countries it now becomes the duty of the communists to prove why the French colonial army is better than others, why by no means must colonial revolts embarrass this force. Since France stands for peace and for true national defense, it is thoroughly improper for any colonial people to demand their freedom from such a force and to risk war with it.
As in the case of Russia’s entering the League of Nations, it was not enough for the Stalinists to sign the Pact, it was necessary for the Communist International to idealize it and to “prove” that there was nothing class collaborationist about it. Later they would call a special world congress of the Third International to perform this sleight-of-hand. In the meantime, Stalin gave notice to all the Communist Parties that French militarism was now to be supported. Only a short time previously, the Soviet Union leaders had been working overtime to prove that France was the arch enemy of Russia, had been organizing a White Guard Army of one hundred thousand in Paris for intervention at the proper time. The murders of Voikoff and Vorovsky, Soviet diplomats abroad, had been laid directly at the door of French capitalism. Concurrently, the German workers were being informed that Germany was Russia’s best friend and that Russia would have to fight side by side with the Reichswehr, were France to invade Germany. The Germans were told to concentrate their attack upon the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations, its off-spring.
Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, history has proved that it is always its best friend who turns traitor, but the lesson is never learned, and always there are new friends. This was the case first with Chiang Kai-shek and later with Wang Ching-wei in China; this was the case with Germany in the West. Accordingly, no sooner had Russia won France as a new friend than French fascism made startling advances, and signs appeared on every side that it would be victorious eventually. Thus, evidently, the best friends of Russia are those countries which are so weak that they need Russia’s support until they can reorganize their economy along fascist lines. But at the moment, at any rate, France has suddenly blossomed out as the bosom friend of the Soviets, for whom the latter is ready to give the life of all its citizens.
We have already shown the nationalist behavior of the Stalinists in Germany in directing their principal attacks against the Versailles Treaty rather than against the German capitalist class. Under the new line, the Russians were protecting the League of Nations and status quo which previously they had denounced. This time they were playing into the hands of the French nationalists as before they had played into the hands of the German. To the German workers, the chief enemy was pointed out as the French; to the French workers, the chief enemy became the Germans. In 1932, the Russian Army could not lift its finger to declare its solidarity with the German workers; in 1935 it could pledge to sacrifice all for the French capitalists. When the German workers were on the verge of civil war, the Stalinists were filled with pacifist phrases and disarmament proposals. When, however, the militarists were in the saddle and called for reinforcements, the Stalinists stood ready with arms in their hands to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for decadent French capital.
Most important of all is the fact that the French communists are forced to abandon all thought of revolutionary activity. Since the French Army is to be supported at its maximum efficiency, it becomes necessary to recruit for that army and to end all anti-militarist work; it is also necessary to put down strikes in all munition, metal, and other factories that might be useful in war time. Furthermore, since strikes would weaken the army, the French Communist Party must assure the French capitalist class that, in consideration for the support that Russia is to receive, the French workers will not attack their employers, but must unite the whole nation behind the pact. Further than that, if the army is to be supported to the maximum, it, is necessary to support the militarist clique at the head of the army. There is no question that this military clique understands full well the advantage in war that Germany has derived from its dictatorial reorganization under Hitler. These French militarists, for their own self-protection if for no other reason, are compelled also to move towards the same dictatorial centralization of forces. Thus, since the fascists support a strong army, and since the army officers must move towards fascism as a political mechanism for the efficient conduct of war, Stalinism has objectively given support to those very forces which must bring fascism to victory in France.
The Franco-Soviet Pact came at a time when the French employers were facing a difficult situation, both within and without. They were in desperate need of Soviet support to bolster up their position. Externally, they feared the power of Germany, and wanted the guarantee of the strong Red Army behind French interests. At the same time, in the light of the coming war, they needed some cause, some heroic symbol, by which to induce the French anti-militarist workers to fight. In the World War, the shibboleth was “to make the world safe for democracy.” Now the slogan: “Defend the Soviet Union” will be the bait to encourage French workers to shoot down their German brothers.
The feelings of the German militant workers, drinking the dregs of reaction to the last drop in the concentration camps under Hitler, can be imagined. Now they are told that, as sympathizers of the Communist International, it is their duty to support the army of France against Germany. This becomes a powerful argument in the hands of Hitler to disillusion the German workers, showing how they always have been made the dupes of Russian nationalism. As Stalinism develops its new French nationalist orientation, it must drive the workers deeper and deeper into the grip of German nationalism, thus helping to prepare for the new world war. It must make the German workers hate the Soviet Republic as a sham to cover a new Russian imperialism. Stalinism has done everything possible to convince the German workers that the Soviet Union should not be defended, but rather overthrown.
The French employers need the Soviet alliance for another internal reason. In Germany, although both socialists and communists were split and urging the members of the opposing group to break discipline and to join the other, none the less, so great was the influence of discipline and organization upon the German working class that, as we have seen, practically no one left his organization to enter the other. The socialists and communists both maintained their membership practically intact to the last. In France, however, the situation is entirely different. There organizational discipline is not so highly valued; on the contrary, the masses have a tradition of taking matters into their own hands. Here it is socially necessary, if capitalism is to stave off the revolution, to bring both socialists and communists together, for, even when both parties act jointly, there is no safeguard that the workers will follow their leaders and be directed into safe channels. The Franco-Soviet pact became an immensely powerful instrument to bring the Russian nationalist communists and the French nationalist socialists together. From then on they began loyally to co-operate with one another and to join their forces to keep the proletariat enchained to the chariot wheels of French capitalism.
It must not be imagined that French capitalism will shed one drop of blood for the Soviet Union’s Dictatorship of the Proletariat. On the contrary, at every decisive moment, French imperialism will use the Pact as a lever to batter down that Dictatorship. France wants not a risky proletarian ally that may usher in the world revolution once war begins, but a safe partner, one that can be trusted to fight according to capitalist rules. Accordingly, France bends every effort to support the Stalinist bureaucracy and to put down the proletariat within the Soviet Union.
The danger of Russia’s new orientation to the workers of the world was fully seen in the Italian-Ethiopian conflict that broke in 1935. The Italian adventure was an important blow, upsetting the status quo so carefully preserved by the League of Nations. Unlike Japan’s attack on Manchuria, it was a blow which fell heavily, not upon the Soviet Union, but upon British imperialism, although in both cases it was directly an attack upon the colonial peoples and indirectly upon the proletariat generally.
Moreover, Ethiopia, in her struggles against Italian fascism, was thrust forward as a political factor capable of changing the entire situation of Europe. First of all, had Italian fascism been defeated, it would have meant in all probability the eruption of the proletarian revolution in Italy which, in turn, would have upset completely the political equilibrium in Europe. Secondly, there was always the possibility of the Ethiopian war’s starting a conflagration that would rage throughout Africa and all the colonial countries, thereby also involving the leading imperialist nations. These were the two great axes that should have determined the strategy of the communists.
Ethiopia’s battle could have become a rallying point for the awakening of Africa. After all, Italy’s attack was but the last of a series of aggressive moves that had been visited upon the hapless Africans, completing what England, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, and others had begun. From the communist point of view, the struggle against Italian imperialism could not be limited to Mussolini’s defeat, but inevitably had to be carried forward by the other oppressed sections of Africa until all imperialismís were driven out of that continent. The possibility of the whole of Africa’s becoming aroused was one aspect of the war that greatly worried French and British imperialism.
The Italo-Ethiopian conflict demonstrated the fact that even the darkest continent was ripe to play an important historic role and was becoming a decisive factor in world affairs. At a time when the advanced European workers of Italy and Germany had not been able to answer fascism with blows, it was the benighted Negroes of East Africa who dared to take up the challenge and in effect took their post as the vanguard in the struggle against fascism.
The Communist International, of course, should have done its best to widen and deepen the struggle of the African masses. Its policy should have been to set in motion the colonial masses of Egypt, of the Sudan, of Morocco, of South Africa, as well as those in the Near East whose interests were vitally affected. That these peoples were ripe for such action could be seen by the riots that broke out in Egypt, the insurrections in French and Spanish Morocco, and the great Arabian movement against British imperialism. However, these developments were inspired not by the Communist International but were instigated by fascist intrigue in the employ of Italian imperialism as a counter to the pressure of Great Britain.
The Communist International and Russia were too engrossed in following the lead of Great Britain and the League of Nations to undertake to spread the colonial revolt. Besides, Russia was pledged by the Franco-Soviet pact and by her adherence to the League of Nations to a hands-off policy. Russia would have a good deal to say about Italian aggression, but nothing about the fact that France and England were carrying out precisely the same colonial policy that Italy was attempting to pursue. In denouncing Italy’s efforts to obtain a place in the sun, Russia would forget that it was not Italy but precisely Russia’s newly-found friends, France and England, who were the chief imperialist powers. This, however, did not prevent Russia from selling oil to Italy during the conflict or from refusing to help, either with materials or credits, the people of Ethiopia battling for their independence.
Italian imperialism had now trod heavily upon the toes of the master of the colonial world, Great Britain. At once the League of Nations was convened to consider the grave crisis. When seizure was made of Fiume by Italy, of Vilna by Poland, of Memel by Lithuania, and of Bessarabia by Rumania, there had been no such outcry. When China was attacked by Japan and partially dismembered, there was no resistance. When Great Britain seized Egypt and vast colonial mandates, no whisper of protest was heard from the League. But once the sacred rights of the British Empire were infringed, heaven and earth were to be moved to protect this great uplifter of mankind and foremost representative of the White Man’s Burden. Great Britain proposed that drastic sanctions be adopted against Italy by all the countries of the world. Aggressively pushing the idea, even to the extent of military sanctions, was no other than Soviet Russia and the Communist International.
Sanctions is a term meaning law enforcement, in this case the law being the Covenant of the League ‘of Nations. There has never been a genuine body of international law, for the very reason that there has been no international state or government capable of enforcing such law. Up to now, international sanction has had one meaning—military conflict leading to war. Thus communist Russia, which had stood for the breaking of all capitalist laws, now brought forth the theory that there exists an international law that all countries must obey under penalty of being attacked by the whole world. Moreover, the international law to be defended was precisely the international law of world imperialism. Just as the lives of the Russian soldiers were to be offered in defense of French capitalism, so were they to be sacrificed for British imperialism.
Of course, the sanctions advocated by the League of Nations had nothing to do with Ethiopian independence, but rather with the Covenant of the League. This was clearly seen by the fact that both Great Britain and France were ready to come to an agreement with Italy for the dismemberment of Ethiopia and its transformation into spheres of influence. A treaty had already been prepared to this effect without serious protest from Russia. The only difficulty was that Italy decided to seize the whole country for herself, thereby violating “international law.”
In her demand for sanctions, Russia was even more aggressive than Great Britain. The latter country restricted itself temporarily to economic sanctions; Russia openly declared her willingness to go the limit. What was the motive behind her aggressiveness? Was it in order to stimulate war in the West so as to insure the weakening of any European united front against her, just as it is the policy of England and France to turn the coming war, if possible, into a struggle between Germany and Russia, with France and England free to enjoy the profits? Regardless of this speculation, it is a fact that at once the Communist Parties of Great Britain and France began to insist on military sanctions. But such a course could mean only a strengthening of the British navy and the French army. In this wise, these communists who only yesterday were building Leagues against War and Fascism and advocating peace, overnight were turned into protagonists of a policy which, carried out, must have led to world war. In all countries, nationalism and militarism, with their fascist counterpart, took marked strides forward.
Comparing her entrance into the League of Nations, Russia was able, also to enter into more friendly relations with the United States and to obtain recognition from that arch-capitalist country. Recognition was agreeable to the Americans since Russia no longer appeared a Red menace and could now become useful. The United States needed a friend in the Far East to oppose Japanese aggression and its menace to the Open Door Policy. Furthermore, if war were to break out soon, American capitalism wanted to be in a position where it could sell ammunition freely to both sides. There were other weighty internal reasons as well that led President Roosevelt to recognize Russia. The pressure of the crisis compelled him to demonstrate that he was doing all he could to open up new markets. His dictatorial tendencies and schemes of planned economy fitted in well with the recognition of countries that had put similar policies into operation. Finally, he needed the support of the liberals and of sections of the labor movement that had favored such a policy.
In order to appease the conservative forces in American life, however, it was necessary to convince them that Russia was entirely safe for capitalism and becoming increasingly so. Roosevelt therefore insisted that Soviet Russia outstrip all precedent in the way of guaranteeing that no revolutionary propaganda would be spread abroad. Hitherto Russia had consented to agreements that the officials of the Russian State would not propagandize for the overthrow of governments willing to sign treaties with Russia, but had never offered to control the Communist International, a supposedly independent body. Stalinism, however, now was ready to end the fiction of Comintern independence of Russian national policies and openly to announce its liquidation.
Point Four of the document recognizing Russia therefore declared that Russia was “not to permit the formation or residence in its territory of any organization or group and to prevent the activity on its territory of any organization or group, or of the representatives or officials of any organization or group which has as an aim the overthrow or the preparation for the overthrow of, or bringing about by force of a change in the political or social order of the whole or any part of the United States, its territories or possessions.”
It is well to analyze this truly astounding document. Russia here guarantees not only what her own agents will not do but what she will let any body of people do on Russian soil. As the document reads, no group of refugees or any body of men whatever can now gather on Russian soil, six thousand miles away from the United States, and hold a congress which will discuss the inevitability of a social change by force in the United States. The United States not only is controlling acts in its own country, it is controlling the actions of private people in Russia itself. This document sounded the death knell of the Communist International; from then on it was plain that the Comintern factually would be dissolved so far as America was concerned. A short time later it was decided, at the Seventh Congress of the Third International, that each of the Communist Parties would now be independent in the various countries and no longer would receive instructions from Moscow on national problems.
The conditions incident to American recognition of Russia, however, are stricter than the laws of the United States governing its own subjects. In the United States it has been permissible for a soap box orator to call for the overthrow of the American social system. He could not urge the overthrow of the government, but he could demand the abolition of capitalism and the profit system, even by violence. The pact signed with Litvinoff by Roosevelt, however, specifies that no one in Russia shall be allowed to do what can be done in America, namely, no one in Russia can advocate the overthrow not only of the American government, but even of the social system of capitalism prevailing in the United States. Russia is to put an end not only to the conclusions of politics but to the finding of economics and philosophy as well.
Nor is this yet all. Point Four of the recognition terms declares that Russia shall allow no one to advocate the overthrow by force of the social order in any territory or possession of the United States. Thus, specifically, the communists of Cuba are to be ordered by Russia to end all anti-American propaganda and all denunciation of American imperialism. Nor must it be imagined that these are mere platonic guarantees.
The first illustration of the deadly menace of the treaty was to be seen in the activity of the Communist Party in Cuba. There in 1933 a powerful revolution had broken out against the Machado administration which was threatening to develop into a Soviet regime embodying the confiscation of American property. Roosevelt needed the communists to put down the revolution and to control it. For this the bait of Russian recognition was offered. At once Cuban communists changed their whole approach to American imperialism. Again the interests of Russian nationalism triumphed over the international revolution.
The situation in Cuba can be briefly stated. Under Machado, an open military dictatorship had been established, in the style of the worst Chicago gangsters, which already had taken the lives of over twenty-five hundred People. Behind the Machado regime stood the power of Wall Street. Since the Spanish-American War, the imperialist government of the United States never really had relinquished its prize plum. By articles II and III of the Platt Amendment, the government to be established was forbidden to contract a public debt over the amount it could meet with ordinary revenues. Also, the United States was allowed to intervene for the “Preservation of Cuban independence, maintenance of government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty.” This of course meant that the United States government could intervene with its military forces whenever the masses made any attempt to end the rule of capitalism and vicious landlordism which controlled the lives of the people.
In fact, since 1898 the United States literally had controlled the island by means of its armed forces. The first time the army was in occupation from 1898 to 1902; the second time, after the liberal revolution had occurred against President Palma, the United States intervened with its army from 1905 to 1909. Then, during the World War, General Crowder was sent to control the country. Only after the War was the military control removed. In 1924, Machado became President.
The 1929 crisis seriously affected Cuba and its chief industry, sugar. Imports and exports fell more than 80 per cent. Cuba was loaded with external debts greater in proportion than any other country in Latin America. In order to bolster up the shaky Machado regime, however, a new loan of fifty million dollars was made in 1930 by the Chase National Bank. Increasingly the puppet government had to resort to the most brutal terror. This action alienated the entire population of the island, so that even the students revolted, employing the social-revolutionary and anarchist methods of bomb throwing and assassination. To suppress them, the high schools and the university had to be closed.
Added to this was the situation confronting Cuban labor. The United States Consul to Cuba reported (*3) that within a year and a half wages had fallen 40 per cent, that complete chaos existed in the country, the agricultural laborers in many cases receiving no wages at all, but merely orders on the commissary department. Wage-earners who two years ago were earning from forty to sixty cents a day now received ten cents a day (five cents in cash). The working hours were from sun up to sun down. According to the Consular report “Wages paid in 1932 are reported to have been the lowest since the days of slavery in Cuba.”
Under such circumstances, not even the power of American imperialism and the highly trained special army of Machado could prevent the revolution. With lightning speed the revolution opened up with student strikes and demonstrations and led to a general strike of all labor. Machado was overthrown; De Cespedes was ousted, and the liberal Grau San Martin was set up as provisional president. But the workers were in no mood for half way measures. Immense union organizations were built over night; the union halls were armed with guns seized in the revolution. The workers advanced the boldest demands for improving their conditions. There was no one to gainsay them. In the countryside the agrarian workers were seizing the large estates and appropriating the foodstuffs for their own use. The Cuban Revolution reached the position of a dual power existing within the country. The provisional government regime that did not dare call for elections, in spite of its democratic pretensions, no longer could control the situation and had to look to the trade union centers, where the real power resided. The army had become demoralized and was under the leadership of the sergeants. The danger was that the sergeants would give way to the soldiers and the revolution be completed.
The tasks of the Cuban proletariat and communists were crystal clear, namely, to begin the formation of soviets or workers’ councils to fight for power, to arm the people, to further demoralize the army through fraternization and bringing forward the interests of the soldiers, to confiscate the land for the agrarians, to establish a workers’ control over production. Of course, none of these things could be accomplished without incurring American intervention. Americans controlled practically the entire property of the island. The question of the relation of the communists to the American government became, therefore, of vital importance. At this juncture, Roosevelt recognized Russia, and the communists declared they would not permit anyone to advocate by force the change of social system in any territory or possession of the United States. Litvinoff was to make his first payment to Roosevelt in Cuba.
Comrade Sanini stated the policy of the Cuban Stalinists: the Communist Party of Cuba is striving to do everything possible to avert intervention and to create the greatest possible forces for resistance to it, if it nevertheless take place. But this is only possible by means of concessions to the imperialism of the U. S. A., at the price of which the Cuban toiling masses, under the leadership of the Communist Party, will try to buy off intervention. It is precisely with this aim… …. the C. P. Cuba tries to direct the chief blow of the revolutionary masses above all against the local Cuban ruling classes…. It is precisely with this aim … that the Communist Party of Cuba considers it inadvisable for the workers to seize the American enterprises…. Precisely with this aim… the Communist Party of Cuba considers it inadvisable to force ahead the seizure of plantations belonging to American capital, and fights above all for considerable reductions of the rent of this land… . Precisely with this aim …the Communist Party of Cuba considers it advisable for the workers’ and peasants’ government, if it should be formed, to enter into negotiations with the government of the U. S. A. on the conditions of nationalization of big foreign property…. i.e., it allows the possibility of buying out this property. With the same aim the Communist Party of Cuba allows the possibility of retaining American ownership to some extent in the form of concessions…. the imperialism of the U. S. A. would obviously like to avoid armed intervention in Cuba. This is shown plainly enough if only by the statement of Roosevelt to the ambassadors of the countries of South and Caribbean America… .” (*4)
This decision found affirmation in the inspired article of a representative of the Communist Party of the United States who declared: "The Communist Party… will offer to deal with Yankee imperialism on the basis of concessions to avoid armed intervention in the event of the success of the workers’ and peasants’ regime." (*5)
The treacherous conduct of Stalinism here was illustrated with obvious bluntness. It was necessary above all to come to an agreement with Roosevelt. He was now a friend of Russia. But to come to this agreement and to prevent the threat of intervention it also was necessary to end the Cuban revolution. The masses had to be diverted from the line of confiscation of American property. But American property in Cuba comprised practically all of Cuba that was of worth. Thus, in effect, the masses were told by the so-called communists that they must not take over the means of production of Cuba. More than that, they were told that the American government was to be informed that American property would be protected, that the real enemy was not American imperialism—which could be bought off—but the Cuban capitalists. The Cuban capitalists, however, were, in the main, only the agents of American capitalists. It was ridiculous to attack the agent and to ignore the principal. The Cuban ruling class was the puppet of American imperialism. What the Cuban communists proposed, never-the-less, was that the people should stage a political show, but not a social revolution. To this effect, the Cuban Communist Party offered itself as the willing tool of American imperialism. (*6)
In China the communists were told to attack above all Japanese imperialism, that the Chinese bourgeoisie could be won over to a revolutionary united front with that sort of policy. In Cuba, on the contrary, the communists were informed they must attack not imperialism but the Cuban capitalists, although those local capitalists had no power and influence of any importance whatsoever. In the one case, Japan was Russia’s enemy; in the other, Roosevelt was now considered Russia’s friend. In each case, the movement was to be sacrificed for Russia’s temporary interests.
But the statement of Sanini went much farther than that. Not only must the masses refrain from seizing American property, that is, refrain from taking over the means of production in Cuba, but the Cuban communists must fight “above all” for considerable reductions of the rent of this land to American planters. Thus the Cuban Communist Party became an agent to reduce the rent of American capitalists! But if American property was to be held inviolate, then what was the purpose of any revolution at all? With the maintenance of the power of American imperialism in Cuba puppets could be shuffled, but not one single important step for the solution of the great problems which had led the Cuban masses to venture their lives in revolution could be taken. Wages could not be raised, and neither social security nor political freedom obtained so long as imperialism controlled the island.
With their brazen counter-revolutionary program, the Cuban Stalinists did not hesitate to declare that American imperialism was opposed to intervention; they accepted at its face value the speech of Roosevelt to that effect made to a group of diplomats whose entire stock in trade was intrigue and trickery. Ever since the Spanish-American war, Cuban independence had been a myth. Now, according to the Stalinists, American imperialism suddenly was to take another course; this was evidenced in a general formal speech by Roosevelt, not to Cuban workers, but to ambassadors of Latin America!
The Cuban section of the Third International affirmed that Cuba would buy off American imperialism! Here was repeated the old argument of the opportunist socialists that they could buy out capitalism peacefully and gradually, and that the Marxist theories were false to the core. But, practically speaking, what funds, what wealth had the poor Cuban people with which to buy off American imperialism? Certainly if the Cubans were not to take over the wealth of the island held in the hands of the Americans, they would have not only no funds to buy off American imperialism, but no money to pay the interest on the huge debt accruing. Even if the attempt were made to buy off, it would mean that the Cuban masses would be in effect selling themselves to America in perpetuity in order to make the money payments. Finally, from a Marxist point of view, it was childish to believe that American imperialism would allow itself to be bought off and to lose control over such a colonial market as Cuba.
Thus the American and Cuban communists came out openly as the aides of Roosevelt to stop the Cuban Revolution, the only place where their aid was of decisive importance to the United States at the time. This new Policy was effective in checking temporarily the revolutionary movement. With this, the reactionaries of Cuba took heart and attempted a counter stroke. The masses again advanced and dealt a crushing blow to the former officers of the army who attempted the new coup. But as the masses moved to the Left, the ruling groups united to prevent its going too far. The San Martin government gave way to the Hevia government which almost immediately disappeared to make way for Mendieta, Cuba’s “strong man” who would restore order. (*7) Thanks to the aid of the Communist Party, the revolution again temporarily was halted and the masses demoralized and confused.
The second effect of the recognition of Russia by Roosevelt was the striking transformation of the Communist Party of the United States. Before the full effects of the Russian recognition policy had become felt, the position of the Communist Party towards Roosevelt and the New Deal had been expressed to the effect that the New Deal “is a sharper turn of the capitalist dictatorship in the United States to war and fascism.” (*8) Even as late as the Eighth Convention of the Communist Party, the National Industrial Recovery Act (N.I.R.A.) was interpreted as being a strike-breaking move in a trend towards fascism. The resolution of that convention stated: “The Roosevelt government is, however, moving in the direction of the incorporation of the company unions within the A. F. of L., the conversion of the existing A. F. of L. unions into company unions regulated by the government, the outlawing of all class unions, as part of the drive for the fascization of the government and the trade unions.” (*9)
Once Roosevelt had become Russia’s friend, however, a complete change of attitude took place. The independent unions and other organizations controlled by Stalinists which threatened to cause the administration embarrassment were liquidated. Whereas, in the days of Hoover, there had occurred periodic marches to Washington, hunger marches, farmers’ marches, bonus marches, and what-not, now no big militant demonstrations were staged at the capitol of the country. The recognition of Russia had been hailed as a great force for peace, as an act that would give many jobs to the workers. (*10) Now that Roosevelt had accomplished this recognition, it was difficult to attack him except for not going far enough.
Thus Roosevelt, instead of being a representative of the class enemy, became a sort of friend of communism. This attitude was to culminate in the presidential campaign of 1936, when Roosevelt stood for re-election. The attitude of the Communist Party suddenly became one by which it was no longer Roosevelt who was representing fascism, but Landon, and that at all costs Landon must be defeated, even though the campaign of the communists against Landon was to result in votes for Roosevelt. In the trade unions, certain communists became spokesmen for the Roosevelt Administration and did their best to mobilize labor behind his campaign. This was especially true of those communists who were officials of unions affiliated to the Labor Non-Partisan Committee and the American Labor Party of New York, both of which endorsed the candidacy of Roosevelt. It was no accident that the communist candidate suddenly could be considered respectable enough to be permitted to present his viewpoint over the radio on national hook-ups from which revolutionary speeches are barred. (*11) Browder himself has gone to great lengths to declare that it is slander to imply that his organization advocates violence and the overthrow of the American government by force. The Communist Party now stands for democracy as against fascism, for peace as against violence.
1. Speech of Remmele in the Reichstag, given in “Rote Fahne,” Oct. 16, 1931. Compare L. D. Trotsky: What Next? p. 60.
2. The fact that six million followed the German Communist Party politically and only three hundred thousand or so in the trade unions should have served as an ominous warning. These figures meant that the workers did not trust the Communist leadership in the day-to-day struggle although they still had faith in the Comintern and Russia as a revolutionary force.
3. See Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 35, No. 6, p. 1403 (Dec. 1932).
4. See, The Communist, Vol. XII, No. 12, p. 1228 (Dec. 1933). The Communist is the official organ of the Communist Party of the U. S. The parts eliminated are too long to give in full.
5. Harry Gannes in the New Masses, p. 16 (Jan. 9, 1934).
6. Note that the Communist Party did not talk of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, but of some vague Workers’ and Peasants’ Government although the number of “peasants” in Cuba is a relatively very small portion of the total toiling population.
7. Mendieta has now been impeached and deposed by the army run by Batista and an even more reactionary regime installed.
8. A. Bittleman: “The New Deal and the Old Deal.” The Communist, Vol. XIII, No. 1, p. 881. (January 1934.)
9. The Resolution is given in The Communist, Vol. XIII, No. 5, p. 461. (May 1934.)
10. See, for example, Earl Browder: "Out of a job,” pamphlet, where he makes the argument that unemployment would be considerably lessened were Russia recognized.
11. Or that Browder could break bread with Roosevelt, Landon, Hearst, Du Pont, Rockefeller and similar characters at the annual banquet of the Washington Gridiron Club.