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Manifesto of the Fourth International
For Defense of the Soviet Union

August 1941

Adopted: August 1941
First Published: October, 1941
Source: Fourth International, New York, Volume II No. 8, October 1941, pp. 229-31.
Author: Jean van Heijenoort (according to Robert Alexander’s History).
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, December, 2005
Public Domain: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the address of this work, and note the transcribers and proofreaders above.

The following manifesto, issued by the Executive Committee of the Fourth International, is reprinted From the International Bulletin Press Service.

The Soviet Union is at war! The Soviet Union is in mortal danger! In his desperate struggle to open the world to German imperialism, Hitler has turned to the east, hoping by a quick victory to strengthen his military and economic positions. At this hour of supreme danger the Fourth International proclaims what it has constantly said to the workers: Defend the U. S. S. R.! The defense of the Soviet Union is the elementary duty of all the workers true to their class.

We know very well—better than anyone—that the present government of the U.S.S.R. is very different than the Soviet power of the first years of the revolution, but we have something to defend and we defend it against the class enemy independently of all the misdeeds of its present leaders. The Soviet workers accomplished a tremendous revolution which changed the face of a vast country. They stood alone, they lacked the forces to realize all their hopes, and they had to tolerate on their necks vile usurpers. But now Hitler comes to annihilate everything. That, neither the peoples of the U. S. S. R. nor the world working class can permit.

How to defend the U. S. S. R.? To answer this question we must before all know why the first workers’ state, the first experiment in proletarian power, stands at the edge of the abyss. If a catastrophe is possible at this date, after almost a quarter century of survival, the cause lies above all in the internal degeneration of the workers’ state, now ruled over by a parasitic bureaucracy.

Stalinism Responsible for the Catastrophe

A little more than twenty years ago, the Soviet Union came through the civil war, having victoriously repulsed the attacks of the imperialist brigands of the whole world. If today the Soviet Union has been plunged into the most terrible of wars, if today its very existence is threatened, the responsibility for its plight falls first and foremost upon Stalin. The second imperialist war and the attack against the Soviet Union could occur only after the revolutionary forces of the world proletariat, and above all its European section, had been disorganized by the Stalinized Comintern.

The Soviet Union suffered a defeat each time that the workers’ ranks were smashed as a result of the treacherous policies of Stalinism. The Soviet Union suffered a defeat when the Chinese revolution was strangled by Chiang Kai-shek, protégé of Stalin, in 1927; when the Soviet bureaucracy crushed the Left Opposition, exiling and exterminating the flower of the Bolshevik party; when Hitler came to power in Germany, thanks to the fatal policy of the German communist party inspired directly by Stalin. The Soviet Union suffered a defeat when Stalin sold the French working class to the bourgeoisie as payment for a military pact; when the heroic Spanish Revolution was led to its defeat by Stalin’s agents, who fought for the maintenance of private ownership of the land and factories; when the horrible Moscow trials, staged by Stalin, alienated the sympathies of workers from the Soviet Union.

The present attack against the Soviet Union by Hitler is the last link in a large chain of defeats suffered by the forces of the working class throughout the whole world, and the responsible author of these defeats was the Comintern, acting under orders of the Soviet bureaucracy. Hitler is himself a product of the decline of the proletarian revolution, carried through by the great saboteur whose name is Stalin.

We have often stated: without a Stalin there could be no Hitler! Over the present decadence reigning in Europe, with its untold misery for the working masses and their great hopes lost, moves the black shadow of Stalin, the great organizer of working class defeats!

The Bureaucracy’s Foreign Policies

The Soviet Union remained isolated as a result of the betrayal by the Comintern of the revolutionary interests of the working class. The ruling bureaucrats endeavored to avoid the consequences of their crimes towards the workers by effecting diplomatic combinations with imperialist powers. But in the background of destroyed working class forces, they could go only from failure to failure. The disarray of the Kremlin, face to face with the results of its own policies, was never more apparent than on the dawn of June 22, when Hitler opened his campaign against the Soviet Union.

The foreign policies of Stalin during the last few years were in no way superior to those of Chamberlain. And for the same reason: they were both the policies of weakness. After the Munich pact Chamberlain promised the world a “new era of peace.” This “era” lasted less than a year. After the German-Soviet pact Molotov boasted that the agreement between the “two peoples,” Russian and German, would guarantee unlimited peace to the Soviet Union. With the military smashing of France and the German advances into the Balkans, Stalin found it necessary to give Hitler a series of “warnings,” which did not exceed the limits of small diplomatic maneuvers.

However, a warning which is unaccompanied by real force changes into its opposite, that is to say, instead of restraining the enemy, it incites him to proceed further. By all these acts Soviet diplomacy demonstrated only one thing: that the Kremlin was mortally afraid of war. That could only encourage Hitler to undertake decisive action. To what extent the Soviet leaders were victims of their own policies is shown by the speeches of Molotov and Stalin. All that the “genius-like leadership” could think of saying in the face of the Hitler attack consisted of pitiful jeremiads about the dishonesty of the aggressor.

Stalin Stifles the Revolutionary Struggle

The war can only intensify the profoundly conservative policies of the bureaucracy. Internally Stalin has already strengthened the mechanism of police dictatorship at the expense of military interests. The bureaucracy lets it be known in this way that it may be willing to defend the Soviet Union but it is first and foremost concerned with defending its privileged position in the country. Externally the principal concern of the bureaucracy is to appear like a genuine member of the Anglo-American imperialist camp. It is in the name of this program that the Kremlin maintains an unbroken silence on everything which might call to mind the proletarian revolution.

The country where “socialism has finally triumphed” is at war, but the very word socialism has disappeared from the vocabulary of spokesmen of the bureaucracy. The Kremlin, with its mercenary writers, revives all the patriotic memories of Czarist Russia. It does not even dare recall to the Soviet masses the great events of the civil war. There are two reasons for this: first, not to disturb Churchill with burning memories and new fears, and second, because it is itself in mortal fear of the revolutionary traditions of the masses. The Communist International plays dead. In the countries of the “democratic” camp, the Stalinist parties made an instantaneous about-face. Their already long experience in this sort of drill step made it possible to carry it out without the slightest incident.

The immediate ally of the Soviet Union is the German working class which has the same enemy directly in front of it: German imperialism. But even now, when pressed by the armies of Hitler, the bureaucracy dares not appeal to it. The bureaucracy has appealed to the German people, including “honest National-Socialists,” in a manifesto which contains not the slightest proletarian note but is filled instead with pitiful and ridiculous lamentations.

For the destruction of German imperialism, proletarian internationalism is a far more powerful force than any aid which Moscow may be able to get from London or Washington. Lenin often repeated that it was that force which prevented the imperialists from strangling the Russian revolution during its heroic days. But in that period the Soviet leaders knew how to speak to the workers in a revolutionary tongue.

The present Kremlin leaders can only whine to German soldiers in the language of Russian nationalism; they are completely incapable of opening a revolutionary perspective to them. It identifies its war aims with those of Churchill and Roosevelt, and thereby serves only to strengthen German nationalism and in the end to help Hitler. It calls upon the English and American workers to support their imperialists and thereby cannot fail to tie the German workers to their leaders as well. The stifling of the revolutionary struggle in one camp makes its development more difficult in the other. The bureaucracy conducts the war with its own characteristic methods. They are the methods of a profoundly conservative caste of parvenus, which grew up from and was nourished by the decline of the revolution. The leaders in the Kremlin have many times justified the long series of their betrayals of workers’ struggles on the grounds of the defense needs of the Soviet Union. In reality, thanks to the Stalinized Comintern, the working class was defeated and the Soviet Union found itself more isolated than ever. Today the results are obvious. Yesterday the Kremlin fawned upon the Germany of Hitler just as today it grasps desperately at Churchill and Roosevelt. What has been achieved by this? Where has it led?

The Spirit of the Soviet Masses

The balance sheet of Stalinist policy shows an enormous deficit. The present catastrophe is only the bankruptcy of this whole policy. But if at the decisive hour the leaders in the Kremlin could only reveal their confusion, the Soviet masses, on the other hand, were able to demonstrate their courage and daring. The first weeks of war have shown the devotion and spirit of sacrifice of the Soviet troops. That is the fundamental fact of the campaign up to this time.

The Russian soldiers have been able to oppose the terrifying methods of German militarism with boldness and initiative. They do not fight “for Stalin,” for the hated bureaucrats who oppress them, but they understand fully the difference between Stalin and Hitler. They are aware that Hitler did not enter upon this formidable campaign in order to liberate the country from the parasitic bureaucracy; that he comes on the contrary to complete the latter’s task, to put a definitive end to a revolution already deeply wounded. The Soviet people, by its ferocious struggle, have shown the world that there still remains something to defend and that it expects to defend it to the end.

Despite all the crimes of the bureaucracy, the October revolution, which brought a new life to all the peoples of Russia, is not yet dead. The worker and collectivized peasant are fully aware of what a Hitler victory would mean: seizure of the economy by the German trusts and cartels, transformation of the country into a colony, the end of the first experiment in planned economy outside the profit system, the end of all hopes. They do not want to allow that.

Tasks of the Working Class

The Fourth International has unceasingly proclaimed what the Soviet worker has grasped by his class instinct: unconditional defense of the Soviet Union!We defend the Soviet Union regardless of the betrayals by the bureaucracy and despite these betrayals. We do not demand this or that concession by the Stalinist bureaucracy as a condition for our support.

But we defend the Soviet Union with our own methods. We represent the revolutionary interests of the working class and our weapon is the revolutionary class struggle. The imperialist allies of the Kremlin are not our allies. We go on with the revolutionary struggle, even in the “democratic” camp.To support the imperialist masters of England or the United States would mean to aid Hitler in maintaining his hold over the German workers. Our stakes are wagered on the revolution, and the best method of assisting the revolutionary future of the German workers is to conduct and intensify working class struggles in the opposing camp.

In Germany and in the European countries occupied by German troops, defense of the Soviet Union means directly the sabotage of the German military machine. German workers and peasants in soldiers’ uniforms, the Fourth International calls upon you to pass over with your arms and equipment into the ranks of the Red Army! German workers and peasants now in the factories, on the railroads, and on the farms, and enslaved peoples of Europe, paralyze in every possible way the march of German militarism! You will not only by this means defend the Soviet Union, but you will also be preparing your own liberation, not the “liberation” which Churchill or Roosevelt holds in store for you, but your own, whereby you will be able as free men to build a new world.

In the Soviet Union, the Fourth International calls upon the Soviet workers to be the best soldiers at their combat stations. Our organization lives upon the teachings of the leader of the Red Army in the difficult first years of the revolution, Leon Trotsky, assassinated by the Kremlin’s hangman, but whose memory must now be recurring evermore frequently, in this hour of supreme danger, to the minds of all the former participants in the civil war. His example and the traditions of that great period must now be inspiring the soldiers, sailors and aviators!

But the miracles of heroism of those days were rendered possible only because the workers and peasants clearly understand what they were defending. In order to repeat these miracles of daring, which are so necessary if Hitler is to be defeated, the best weapon is the restoration of the democracy of the Soviets. War does not put an end to our struggles against the bureaucrats but, makes it more imperious than ever.

For the defense of the Soviet Union, form soviets of workers, peasants, and soldiers! That is our rallying cry.

But our struggle against the bureaucracy remains subordinated to the war against imperialism. That is true on the political plane, where we consider our criticism of the parasitic oligarchy as the method of best arming the country against imperialism, and it is also true on the military plane where practical actions against the bureaucracy are subordinated to the needs for defense of the country. Under wartime conditions all the problems of the regime are posed more sharply than ever in the minds of the Soviet workers. The first task of the present hour is the formation of cadres and the organization of the Soviet section of the Fourth International.

Stalinism Is Doomed!

In a more or less brief period, the bureaucratic regime, now living on a compromise between the proletariat and imperialism, cannot survive the war. Even in case of victory, the days of the Stalinist clique are numbered. A victory, even in the form of prolonged resistance, would awaken all the hopes of the Soviet masses, and would destroy the accumulated apathy engendered by the years of defeats. The workers and collective farmers would increasingly oppose the arbitrary actions of bureaucrats. Besides, the failure of the German armies would inevitably produce what Stalin dreads the most—workers’ insurrections throughout all Europe. On the burning terrain of the revolution, Stalin would lose his footing and follow Hitler straight into the abyss.

The turmoil of war now resounds through the whole world. All the imperialists are working feverishly for the annihilation of humanity. A tremendous wave of reaction is sweeping before it all the liberties and all the conquests of yesterday. Hitler, Churchill and Roosevelt are eager rivals in this terrible contest. Stalin seeks only to conform to the “democratic” robbers and his greatest fear is that he may let slip some revolutionary word.

As for us, we can well continue to be optimists. Within the depths of the masses a revolt is ripening which nothing will be able to restrain. The first imperialist war of 1914-1918 now appears as a simple rehearsal for the present war, and the revolutionary whirlwind which will come out of the present war will dwarf the revolutionary crises of 1917-1920. The resistance of the Soviet masses to the German advance cannot but hasten the explosion. That is why all the peoples of the world must support that resistance, each according to the particular methods which we have indicated.

Defend the Soviet Union and you thereby defend yourselves, you will hasten the hour of your liberation!

For defense of the Soviet Union!

Long live the World Socialist Revolution!

Executive Committee of the Fourth International

August, 1941.


Last updated on 2.2.2006