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Fourth International, July 1941


Defend The Soviet Union

Manifesto of the Socialist Workers Party


From Fourth International, Vol.2 No.6, July 1942, p.170-173.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The Soviet Union is in mortal danger! Under the most adverse conditions the Soviet masses are heroically defending the Workers’ State against imperialist invasion. The Second World War, which could have been prevented only by victorious socialist revolution and destruction of world capitalism, menaces the very existence of the isolated Workers’ State. All the warnings of Lenin and Trotsky have come true.

German imperialism seeks to overthrow the October revolution and to restore the capitalist system in its degenerate fascist form. This is the essential meaning of Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union. Every worker who realizes the significance of this attack will have no hesitation in accepting the slogan of our party:

Defend the Soviet Union at all costs and under all circumstances against imperialist attack!

The Russian working class in October 1917 established a government of Soviets which took the land from the landlords and gave it to the peasants, and took the, banks, industries and railroads from the capitalists and placed them – as nationalized property – under the management and control of the workers. Thereby the Soviets abolished the system of private property which permits a handful of capitalists to own the wealth of a country and to exploit the vast majority of the people. This achievement of the October revolution is the greatest advance ever made by any people. It proved, beyond any refutation, that the working class is capable of taking its destiny into its own hands. The unprecedented development of this nationalized property proved for all time the superiority of socialist methods of production over capitalist anarchy.

The productive forces were nationalized by the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. Those Soviets no longer exist. They have been destroyed by the Kremlin bureaucracy, which has usurped all political power. But the productive forces are today still not in the hands of private owners. This means that, in spite of the damage done to the revolution by Stalin and his Kremlin clique, the essential conquest of that revolution survives.It is this nationalized property that we call upon the workers of the world to defend against every enemy. It is this nationalized property which the capitalists of Germany, represented by Hitler, are out to seize and transform into capitalist property. Today, therefore, the main enemy of the Soviet workers is German imperialism. Against this enemy must be pitted every worker conscious of the tremendous advance which the October revolution made in the progress of mankind. Every blow of the Red Army against German imperialism is a blow for the socialist future of mankind. It is the duty of every worker to aid the Red Army to victory.

What We Do Not Defend

The Soviet Union and Stalin’s regime are not at all identical. The October revolution was not made for the bureaucrats who have usurped the seats of power. In defending the Soviet Union, we do not defend these usurpers. Stalin and his clique have brought the Soviet Union to a point where Hitler feels confident that he can in a short time conquer it. Within the Soviet Union the Stalinist bureaucracy has destroyed every form of workers’ democracy established under Lenin and Trotsky. The Cain in the Kremlin has murdered the best, the most devoted and most capable Bolshevik leaders of the Soviet workers, and at this very moment keeps imprisoned in his dungeons hundreds of thousands of revolutionary workers upon whom he now perpetrates the last indignity of all – he prevents them from defending the Soviet Union arms in hand. Outside the Soviet Union, Stalin strangled the Chinese revolution and led the whole European labor movement to catastrophic defeats. Thus the Soviet Union was deprived of its only reliable allies.

By his pact with Hitler, his collaboration with the Nazis in dismembering Poland, his 1939 attack on Finland, and his leaving Hitler free to master Europe, Stalin has alienated from the Soviet Union the sympathies of tens of millions of workers.

Not for one moment do we suspend our struggle against the Kremlin dictator and the bureaucracy which he represents. For the fact is already evident, and will become more so with each day, that the Soviet workers must rid themselves of this bureaucracy and re-establish workers’ democracy in order to assure victory against the Nazi armies. The overthrow of Stalin by the workers is demanded by the needs of the struggle to save the Soviet Union. We are confident that the Russian workers who made three revolutions in the space of twelve years – 1905, February 1917, October 1917 – will rise again to the level of their great revolutionary traditions.

Stalin must be overthrown – but only by the working class. His overthrow by Hitler would mean restoration of capitalism. For the sake of the Soviet Union and of the World Socialist Revolution, the workers’ struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy must be subordinated to the struggle against the main enemy – the armies of Hitler Germany. Everything that we say or do must have as its primary object the victory of the Red Army.

The Soviet Union can be best understood as a great trade union fallen into the hands of corrupt and degenerate leaders. Our struggle against Stalinism is a struggle within the labor movement. Against the bosses we preserve the unity of the class front, we stand shoulder to shoulder with all workers. The Soviet Union is a Workers’ State, although degenerated because of Stalinist rule. Just as we support strikes against the bosses even though the union conducting the strike is under the control of Stalinists, so do we support the Soviet Union against imperialism. Despite imprisonment and repression, our comrades in the Soviet Union, the hounded Trotskyists, will prove to the Soviet masses that the Trotskyists are the best fighters against the capitalist enemy.

Defense of the USSR, Against Its Capitalist Allies

Churchill has indicated that he will consummate some form of military alliance with the Kremlin. When the United States reaches the “shooting war” stage, Roosevelt will likewise enter into a formal alliance.

The Soviet Union is now compelled by sad necessity to seek these alliances. That is necessitated by the isolation and weakness of the Soviet Union. What, however, shall be the attitude of the working class toward the Soviet Union’s capitalist alies? The Cbmmunist Interntional today evades answering the fundamental question; tomorrow it will answer it as in the period of the Franco-Soviet pact – calling upon the workers to support the imperialist war of the “democracies.”We warn the workers: the “democratic” ally is just as hostile to the nationalized property of the Soviet Union as is the fascist enemy. Roosevelt and Churchill will seek two things at the same time: the defeat of their German imperialist rival, and also to prevent the Soviet Union from strengthening itself through victory. Even at the cost of weakening their fight against their imperialist rival, Roosevelt and Churchill will try to hold down the world working class, including the Soviet Union.

The chief contradiction in modern society, we have said since 1917, is between the Soviet Union and the imperialist world. That still holds true. Special circumstances now, as during the time of the Stalin-Laval pact, bring about an alliance between the Soviet Union and capitalist countries. Not the least of these circumstances is that Stalin’s reactionary policy lessens capitalist fears of the revolutionary role of the Soviet Union and weakens the effect of the example of the October revolution. But only for the time being is the fundamental antagonism between the Soviet Union and Anglo-American imperialism relegated to the background.

The fundamental antagonism remains and will come to the fore precisely if the “democracies” begin to win. Only a week ago the sober spokesman of American monopoly, the New York Times, said about the Soviet Union: “The democracies, having got rid of dictatorship in Germany, would hardly support dictatorship elsewhere.” The Times has not unsaid this vicious threat, any more than Churchill unsaid his enmity to the Soviet Union. Kerensky, the representative of Russian “democratic” capitalism; hails the democracies for agreeing to “help” the Soviet Union; “a victory of the democracies,” he says, “would end in the collapse of the Soviet regime” – that is, in the restoration of capitalism. The Vatican announces it is training priests for work in Russia in case of a “change” – which it anticipates whether the fascist or the democratic imperialisms become masters of Europe. Irreconcilable proletarian opposition to the imperialist allies of the Soviet Union offers the only guarantee that the workers will be on guard to save the Soviet Union from destruction at the hands of the victorious “democracies.”

Even during the course of the war, Churchill and Roosevelt, in the name of greater efficiency in the prosecution of the war, may attempt to intervene in the economic life of the Soviet Union. The already grave economic crisis in the Soviet Union – caused by capitalist encirclement and the uncontrolled mismanagement of the bureaucrats – will grow ever more profound under the stress of war. The Kremlin bureaucracy will tend to yield to close collaboration with the “economic experts” of Roosevelt and Churchill. For their “services” the capitalists will demand immediate payment in the form of economic concessions which would undermine the nationalized property. It is unquestionable, we repeat, that the “democracies” are just as anxious to destroy nationalized property as is Hitler.Hitler understands very well that the fundamental antagonism of modern society is between the Soviet Union and the capitalist world. While alluding to an alleged agreement between Britain and the Soviet Union as one of his pretexts for the invasion, Hitler’s main war-cry is that he is saving Europe from Bolshevism. While preparing for the contingency of waging a full-length war against a Soviet-British alliance, Hitler is also exploring the possibility that he will secure a free hand against the USSR. It is plain that he has hopes of forcing a peace in the west during the course of his war against the Red Army.

Hitler’s role as guardian of Europe against Bolshevism brought him rich dividends from Chamberlain. The party of Chamberlain is still at the helm in England. The main driving force in Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union was undoubtedly the wheat, oil and other raw materials which he needs for a long war. But he also hopes that his anti-Bolshevik slogans will again win him an understanding with his imperialist rivals. Thus far Churchill, representing at present the most important section of British imperialism, has rejected the perspective of negotiating a peace; Churchill and Roosevelt fear Hitler more than Stalin. However, the powerful groups of imperialists in England and here who are anxious to make peace with Hitler will now redouble their efforts to win the British and American governments to their program.Appeasement gains mightily from Hitler’s assault on the Red Army, for the basic motivation of the appeasers is a belief in capitalist solidarity against the workers of the world. The real fight against the appeasers is not aided by those who line up with the capitalist war-mongers. Those who subordinate the working class to the governments of the “democracies” make it that much easier for the Roosevelts and Churchills to come to an agreement with the appeasers without any fear of a vigilant and independent working class movement.

On guard against the capitalist allies of the Soviet Union! That is the only possible position of the real defenders of the Soviet Union: irreconcilable opposition to all the imperialist powers, whether “allies” or enemies.

For Revolutionary War

To rally the utmost energies of the Soviet masses, to rally around the Soviet Union the masses of all countries, to arouse in the German proletariat the determination at all costs to undermine and sabotage the Nazi war machine – these tasks of the hour require a policy in the Bolshevik spirit of Lenin and Trotsky, tribunes of the people summoning the whole world to revolt. Nothing could be further from this than the statement of Molotov upon the outbreak of hostilities. It could have emanated from the most conservative capitalist regime in the world. There is in it not a word of appeal to the world masses; nor a word about socialism or the traditions of the October revolution. Molotov seeks to inspire the Soviet masses by reminding them that “This is not the first time that our people have had to deal with the attack of an arrogant foe.” That is true. Enshrined forever in the hearts of the working class are the successes of Trotsky’s Red Army in beating back on twenty-two fronts the armies of the imperialist world. But that is not the tradition that Molotov is talking about! His tradition now is “our people’s reply was war for the fatherland” – against Napoleon! In this avoidance of the traditions of the October revolution, Molotov reveals the character of the Kremlin regime, its fear of the masses and their revolutionary heritage.

In everything it does the Stalinist bureaucracy indicates its lack of trust in and fear of the great masses. It is to the capitalist masters that the Kremlin looks for aid. In his policy Stalin finds a place for the masses only as so many pawns whom he can yield to the bourgeois masters as payment for collaboration. The Soviet broadcasts of Churchill’s speech omitted Churchill’s anti-Communist statements; Stalin is already dressing up the leader of British imperialism.

The Kremlin bureaucracy is interested only in maintaining its privileges, at no matter what cost to the Soviet and world masses. Stalin gave Hitler everything that he could, so long as these concessions did not directly involve the surrender of the power and position of the bureaucracy.

In the light of his fundamental policy, Stalin surely will not carry on this war as it ought to be carried on – as a war in which the Soviet Union, though taking advantage of all aid from Hitler’s imperialist enemies, plays the independent role of a Workers’ State, rallies the world masses to the banner of socialism, calls upon the working masses of Germany to overthrow Hitler and capitalism and to join in an alliance with the Soviet Union. Stalin represents the antithesis to such a revolutionary policy, he has crushed that policy wherever he could, inside and outside the Soviet Union. He has murdered its best representative, Leon Trotsky.

Workers and peasants of the Soviet Union ! We appeal to you in the name of our martyred leader, Comrade Trotsky. His voice would now be urging you on to revolutionary war against Hitler. This was the hour of danger which Trotsky was destined to turn into the hour of proletarian triumph – but his noble and heroic mind was crushed by Stalin’s pickaxe Since he has been denied the happiness of participating in your decisive battles and final victory, let Trotsky henceforth participate invisibly in your struggle. Let his voice, stilled by Stalin but living on in the movement which bears his name, advise you in your struggle for a better world. Avenge his death by destroying Hitler, overthrowing the Cain in the Kremlin, and reviving the Soviet democracy which in the heroic years of the October revolution made possible the victory over imperialist intervention.

Revolutionary workers of America! In the defense of the Soviet Union, clarity is necessary above all.

The Communist Party

What has been happening in the Soviet Union may be unknown to you, but you have evidence at hand to show you that Stalinism is incapable of leading the defense of the Soviet Union. You have the evidence of the Stalinist organ, the Daily Worker. Until after the invasion began, the Daily Worker had not one word to say to warn and arouse the workers about the danger of a Nazi attack. On the contrary, it branded “the extravaganzas now being dressed up as news” of a crisis between Germany and the Soviet Union as “Wall Street” lies “designed to give the impression that the Soviet Union is ‘weak’ and that it is ‘isolated.’” Stalin’s vainglorious boasting about the great gains resulting from the Stalin-Hitler pact, and his pretense that the pact was forced upon Hitler by the might of the Red Army, dictated the Daily Worker’s conspiracy of silence about the terrible danger confronting the Soviet Union. Moreover the Daily Worker’s editors – believing that Stalin would enter into still another agreement with Hitler – denounced the reports of impending Nazi-Soviet war as designed “to discredit such further steps for the advancement of peace and for the safeguarding of Soviet neutrality that the Soviet Union may take.” This lying and stupid policy, dictated by the Kremlin, left the members of the Communist Party more unprepared for the terrible news than any other group of the population.

The Communist Party is not an independent revolutionary party which boldly speaks out in the interests of the international working class. On the contrary, it is merely the supine agent of the Kremlin bureaucrats. Precisely now, when one of the main duties of a genuine revolutionary party is to speak out and warn the workers of England and America to be on guard against the capitalist “allies” of the Soviet Union, the Stalinist parties are beginning to shift their line toward open support of the imperialist war waged by these capitalists. The instructions they will receive from the Kremlin will be in the spirit of the “editing” of Churchill’s speech by the Moscow broadcasters: to dress up the “democratic” imperialists as progressive friends of the Soviet Union. The Stalinist parties tomorrow will “discover” that the imperialist war is no longer imperialist. They will drop their pseudo-militancy in the trade unions. They will sing Roosevelt’s praises again as loudly as they did in 1936. They will, in a word, do their utmost to deliver the workers bound hand and foot to Churchill and Roosevelt, as Stalin’s cynical payment to the imperialists for an alliance.

The Main Tasks of the American Working Class

Every worker must defend the Soviet Union as a class duty. The revolutionary worker cannot accept the corrupt and opportunistic line of the Stalinists. He defends the nationalized property of the Soviet Union and not the Kremlin bureaucrats. He defends the Soviet Union because capitalism has been overthrown there. He can under no circumstances support the imperialist war of Britain and the United States, no more than he would support the imperialist war of Nazi Germany. The revolutionary worker understands that if Churchill and Roosevelt find themselves allied to the Soviet Union that does not change by one iota the reactionary character of the war that Churchill and Roosevelt are waging.

The workers must fight fascism to the death – but the imperialist war of Britain and the United States is not a war against fascism, it is a war against their imperialist rivals. The only way the workers can fight against fascism is to take the power and establish a Workers and Farmers Government in the United States. Only such a socialist government would be a real ally of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile the method to defend the Soviet Union is to continue the class struggle against the imperialists. Defend the workers’ rights against government strikebreaking! Build the power of the working class until it becomes the governmental power. That is the best service which the American workers can render to their brothers in the Soviet Union.

June 23, 1941

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