From Fourth International, vol.4 No.9, September 1943, pp.259-263.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
THE LATEST STAGE OF A FUNDAMENTAL CONFLICT Those who have followed in these pages our analysis of Soviet-US-English relations since they became “allies,” were scarcely surprised at the latest outbreak of signs of conflict between the USSR and the “democracies.” Before we discuss the present stage of this conflict, permit us to recall briefly our previous analysis. We do so particularly for new readers who are members – or sympathizers of the Communist Party and who, lulled into a false sense of security during the past two years by the Stalinist picture of idyllic relations between the “allies,” are now being awakened by the force of events.
That we are the firmest defenders of the Soviet Union we proved by warning the workers of the dangers of the alliance from the first. On June 23, 1941, the day after the Nazi invasion of the USSR began, the Socialist Workers Party wrote in its manifesto, Defend the Soviet Union:
“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 allies? ...
“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 fundamental antagonism remains and will come to the fore precisely if the ‘democracies’ begin to win ...
“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.” (Fourth International, July, 1941.)
Precisely at the first faint signs of victory over the Nazis, the fundamental conflict between the “democratic” capitalists and the first workers’ state came out into the open – last winter and early spring, when the Anglo-US forces successfully invaded North Africa and the Red Army began to drive the Nazis back. At that time we analyzed the disputes as follows:
THE PRESENT STAGE OF THE GROWING CONFLICT Everything that has happened since March further illumines the fundamental correctness of our previous analysis. We were still alone then in writing that “The almost untouched armies of the United States and Britain have stood by while the Red Army has been bled white.” Now it is becoming such a commonplace that the columnist Drew Pearson has charged that the State Department “wants to see Russia bled white.” (That he struck home was indicated by the viciousness of Roosevelt’s attack upon him.) Yet the present stage of the dispute is still characterized by fantastic attempts of the Stalinists to picture Roosevelt as the innocent victim of reactionary forces who prevent him from doing the right thing. Lest we appear to be burlesquing the Stalinist line, we provide a typical quotation from a Stalinist editorial: “We have no second front because defeatism, anti-Sovietism and pro-fascism have been able to block it by blurring and diverting the correct war orientation of the Commander-in-Chief and many of the forces which support him.” (Daily Worker, August 24.)
To maintain this idyllic picture of Roosevelt requires more and more gymnastic ingenuity from the Stalinist trapeze artists, The Kremlin-sponsored “Union of Polish Patriots” issues a particularly devastating attack against the Polish government-in-exile; Roosevelt simultaneously sends warm greetings to the head of that government. The Stalinist press brands the Greek and Yugoslav governments as participating in a plot for a cordon sanitaire against the USSR, and the Kremlin backs a Partisan central government in Yugoslavia; Churchill, in his August 31 speech – obviously in agreement with Roosevelt – goes out of his way to endorse the Kings of Yugoslavia and Greece. After months of silence, the Soviet press feels compelled to brand AMGOT as “anti-democratic”; Roosevelt fiercely defends AMGOT in his press conferences. Finland remains one of the sorest differences: it is still a Nazi ally and a deadly base of submarine operations against Soviet shipping; but Roosevelt firmly continues to bar a declaration of war against “little Finland.” Soviet claims to Bessarabia, western Ukraine, western Byelorussia and the Baltic states continue to be firmly repulsed by Roosevelt. Moscow must release the information that a Soviet emissary had been prevented by American authorities from contacting the French Committee of National Liberation, and that the British authorities were preventing President Benes of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile from going to Moscow where he is scheduled to conclude a pact with the USSR. But all this, according to the Stalinist myth, is not supposed to have anything to do with Roosevelt. Finally – not to mention other contradictions of the same kind – Browder’s September 2 speech has to warn that Soviet-American relations are bound “to deteriorate sharply” if the situation continues, and he even imputes “bad faith” toward the Soviet Union; yet his formula requires him to leave Roosevelt and even Hull without blemish. Who is fooled by this combination of all-out attack on Roosevelt’s foreign policy and all-out support of Roosevelt and his war policies? Certainly not Washington. Only the workers, the loyal friends of the Soviet Union, are fooled, confused, disoriented-and that means to deal terrible blows against the Soviet Union, for only if they are clear-sighted and prepared can the class-conscious workers defend it well.
ONCE AGAIN ON THE FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE As Nazi power begins to crack, the question of the future organization of Europe becomes more and more an immediate problem. Every class-conscious worker, every real friend of the Soviet Union, wants a Europe which can never again be a battering-ram against the Soviet Union – and that means a socialist Europe.
But the Kremlin in all its actions indicates its hostility to the European socialist revolution. Let us note here only the two latest indications.
Quite correctly, the Soviet press condemns the various plans for European or regional federations as being designed to serve as a cordon sanitaire against the Soviet Union. The universal conviction of the masses everywhere that Europe must be unified if a third world war is to be prevented is undoubtedly being manipulated to secure popular support for federations which would inevitably be pitted against the Soviet Union. But what alternative is offered to the masses by the Kremlin? Here is a typical example of its attacks on capitalist proposals for European “unity” – and a typical example of its failure to propose a progressive alternative. The article appeared in the Soviet organ, War and the Working Class:
“Every logically thinking person understands that to the Soviet Union – the biggest power on the continent which in the course of the war has revealed its state and military strength – will belong one of the leading roles in the organization of the post-war reconstruction of Europe and of the whole world. Nevertheless, anti-democratic and semi-fascist elements are trying to prevent the participation of the USSR in the organization of the post-war world and are building the most fantastic plans in this direction, clearly hostile to the Soviet Union.” (Sunday Worker, July 25.)
In this Stalinist conception of “one of the leading roles” for the USSR in organizing Europe there is not the faintest hint of a socialist solution. Its collaborators would be the great imperialist powers. What kind of Europe would they organize together? Obviously it would remain capitalist in structure. In truth, even this proposal is not meant seriously by the Kremlin. It has no real proposals for the unification of Europe. On the one hand the Soviet bureaucracy does not want a socialist Europe, for the revolutionary wave in Europe would inspire the Soviet masses to put an end to the privileges and power of the bureaucracy and revive the Soviet and party democracy of the early years. On the other hand, the Soviet bureaucracy knows that, even with its participation, a unified Capitalist Europe would be a dagger at the heart of the workers’ state. Hence the course followed by the Kremlin simply comes down to keeping Europe disunited.
The formation of the “Free Germany Committee” likewise indicates the Kremlin’s perspective of a capitalist but disunited Europe. The launching of this committee undoubtedly is, as Alexander Werth, Moscow correspondent, was permitted to cable, “part of a ‘Russian insurance policy’ again at various ‘political surprises’ which, it is widely felt, may be hatched through various elements in the Allied countries.” (New York Times, July 25.) That is to say, it is aimed to win Germany to collaboration with the Soviet Union as against the Allies and their European satellites. To this end, the committee is conducting a vigorous campaign by leaflets and radio from Moscow, assuring the German bourgeoisie and Junkers that if they accept Stalin’s terms, capitalism will be retained in Germany, its army preserved, and the country saved from dismemberment. In short, Stalin is competing with his “allies” in offering the German capitalist class terms for making peace. Stalin’s basic reasoning is quite clear and superficially plausible: Germany after its defeat will not be a threat again to the USSR for a decade or two; meanwhile its industrial resources can serve to rebuild the Soviet Union. At bottom, however, this kind of calculation is no better than that of the despot who said: “After me the deluge.” No matter how close the relations of a capitalist Germany and the Soviet Union would be in the first years, the inevitable out come would be a new imperialist attempt to utilize the resources of all Europe in a new invasion of the Soviet Union. Let us recall that, as the outcaste of Europe, Germany and the USSR were joined together even in the most secretive military collaboration until Hitler came to power! In twenty years there would be a new Hitler, if capitalism is permitted to survive in central Europe. Yet that is all that Stalin offers the European and Soviet proletariat.
CHURCHILL WONDERS: WILL STALIN SURVIVE THE WAR? In his August 31 speech, Churchill appeared to pay Stalin an extraordinary compliment: no other regime, he said could have survived the defeats and sufferings visited upon the Soviet peoples. But was Churchill aiming to pay a graceful tribute to Stalin’s regime? Or was he – his speech was in large part an attempt to justify the continued state of disagreement with the Kremlin – attempting to turn the minds of his class to the thought that the continuation of the Stalin regime, or a similarly bureaucratic successor, could not be safely counted upon?
Reactionaries like Rickenbacker, thinking in terms of the perpetuation of the Kremlin’s bureaucratic regime for a long time to come, are ready to go half-way in finding a modus vivendi with the Soviet state. More far-seeing, Churchill cannot but wonder whether concessions made to Stalin will not turn out to be useless in the end. Churchill is a life-long student of revolutions; as he explained in his first speech after Badoglio assumed office, he knows that revolutions undergo various phases and mutations. He knows that the Kremlin bureaucracy is but a phase, product of the isolation, exhaustion and economic backwardness of the Soviet Union after the civil war. He knows that revolutions are certain to come in Europe and that before long they may find a response in the Soviet masses which will topple the bureaucracy. What value, then, of any agreement with Stalin?
Better to concede nothing, seize every possible bastion against the European revolution and the Soviet Union. If this conception is not firmly fixed in the minds of Churchill and Roosevelt as yet, the first phases of revolution in Europe will drive them towards it.
WHAT RICKENBACKER LIKED IN THE USSR Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker is a bourgeois with a keen sense of what is useful to his class. He showed that six months ago when, rescued in the southern Pacific, he promptly began to wave the bloody shirt against absenteeism, high wages, a $25,000 limitation of Big Business salaries, etc. He is showing that again now, on his return from a War Department mission to the Soviet Union. In his press interviews and radio broadcast he is skillfully coupling admiration of the heroism of the Red Army with warm praise of Stalin’s reactionary foreign and domestic policies – policies which, Rickenbacker understands very well, are serving not the Soviet Union and the world working class but the world bourgeoisie.
Rickenbacker saw many things in the Soviet Union which serve his class, and he gleefully points them out. “Russia has been moving to the right,” he says, “away from Bolshevism in the direction of capitalism.” He is pleased by the compulsions employed against the Soviet workers: “They have no labor difficulties,” i.e., the workers have no way to object. “They have no absenteeism problem,” thanks to reprimands for lateness backed up by wage-cuts, cuts in the offending worker’s rations and, in “flagrant” cases, dismissal and “the bread line.” He likes also the “incentive pay” system which leads further and further away from equality of wages, for he knows how that tends to divide the workers. Similarly he praises the “compulsory overtime” system which forces everyone to work an 11-hour day six days a week.
Above all he is pleased with the fact that the “iron discipline” does not come from below but from the top; he understands that repression of the masses’ initiative serves his class:
“Bolshevism in Russia is not what we have been led to believe by communistic enthusiasts in this country. The Russians have been constantly turning to the right. Nowhere in the world have I seen so much respect for rank in the Army as I witnessed in Russia from the bottom to the top, which is in the direction of capitalism and democracy. Officers’ uniforms have in great measure been copied from the old Czaristic designs, and the press is selling pre-revolutionary heroes to the people.”
The August 18 Daily Worker reported the press interview in which Rickenbacker made these statements under the headline: “Rickenbacker Pays Tribute to Soviets.” Its story deleted the foregoing details, except for the following generalization: “Leaving his technical specialty, Rickenbacker offered the novel opinion that ‘Russia has been turning to the right’ ...” Not wrong, but “novel”! The capitalist newspapers of course happily devoted many columns to Rickenbacker’s detailed statements.
THE DAILY WORKER’S ALIBI FOR STALIN The contrast between the other stories and that of the Daily Worker was too daring and the next day it felt compelled to publish an editorial entitled The Wily Captain. It evades all the points made by Rickenbacker. It says nothing about the compulsions employed against the Soviet workers or the return to Czarist ranks and methods in the Red Army. It says nothing about Rickenbacker’s warmest praise of Stalin, that “anyone who knows his history knows that Stalin has been opposed to world revolution.” Instead the Daily Worker erects a straw man to knock down:
“Rickenbacker has ‘discovered’ that the Soviet workers receive incentive pay ... According to him this is ‘capitalism.’ [He] fails to explain that no one in the Soviet Union receives millions in profits, that there is no exploitation of one class by another – the basic facts of Soviet socialism which explain the high degree of national unity he found there.”
But Rickenbacker did not say that incentive pay and the other phenomena he observed constituted capitalism; he stated, very precisely, that it was “in the direction of capitalism.” To this unfortunately all too scientific observation, the (how rare!) reference of the Daily Worker to the nationalized property is no answer. All it proves is that Stalin’s policies have not yet resulted in destroying the nationalized economy of the Soviet Union. Thanks to the class understanding of the Soviet workers and soldiers that at all costs the economic achievements of the October revolution must be defended, the nationalized property has been saved so far. But within the Soviet Union the initiative and solidarity of the masses is repressed and undermined by Stalin’s repressive measures; and abroad Stalin’s counter-revolutionary policies serve to prevent the extension of the October revolution, the only permanent assurance of the survival of the Soviet Union, Thus Stalin undermines the conquests of the October revolution and aids world capitalism. Rickenbacker understands this very well and praises Stalin for it; the Daily Worker, even in pretending to rebuke Rickenbacker, cannot refute the indubitable facts he produces.
In attempting to answer Rickenbacker, the Daily Worker resorted to the rare and desperate expedient of reminding its readers of the socialist foundations of the Soviet Union. It concludes, however, by attempting to erase the class significance of nationalized property: Rickenbacker’s crime of crimes is that “he fights every [Roosevelt] Administration move towards strengthening economic controls and planning – the very things on a very much higher level which make the great Soviet war effort possible ...” Thus the difference between capitalist “planning” (which includes Roosevelt’s latest grant of powers to the WLB to punish unions) and Soviet planning becomes a difference of “level” which Roosevelt presumably could equal if the workers supported him enough. Here we see the completely reactionary role of Stalinism to conceal from the workers the most important truth which they must learn to understand – that the real road to planning is through proletarian revolution on a world scale. Here we see the role of Stalinism in the service of Rickenbacker’s class.
AN EXAMPLE FOR US TRADE UNIONS TO FOLLOW Every supporter of an Independent Labor Party based on the trade unions should acquaint himself with the inspiring facts of the labor victories in the recent elections in Canada. These facts should be told in every union hall; they show the trend of the workers and dirt farmers of this continent away from the capitalist parties; they are an annihilating answer to the pretense of the CIO and AFL leadership that the workers are not yet ready for independent political action.
The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, based on trade unions, farmers’ groups and constituency clubs – a Farmer-Labor Party – was founded ten years ago, a product of the economic crisis. Until recently it had strength primarily in British Columbia and the far western districts of Canada – the traditional stronghold of radicalism in the Dominion. During the last years it emerged as the second party in British Columbia, polling 150,000 votes out of a total population of about three-quarters of a million. On a national scale it showed comparatively little strength in the 1940 elections, winning eight out of the 245 seats in the House of Commons.
But in the three years since then, the workers and dirt farmers have been moving away from the capitalist parties. The first opportunity to record the extent of this development came in the August 4 elections to the legislature of Ontario province of eastern Canada. This province contains one-third of the Dominion’s population and more than half the country’s industries; previously the CCF had no seats in the Ontario legislature.
The CCF emerged from the election with 34 out of the 90 seats; two other seats were won by Communist Party candidates (under “Labor-Progressive” labels – the Communist Party was still illegal). The CCF won all its seats away from the two capitalist parties – 29 from the Liberals (representing the present Dominion government) and five from the Progressive Conservatives, the opposition capitalist party which came out first with 38 seats, leaving the present administration with a drop from 63 to 14. No party won a majority, so a coalition must govern Ontario; but the CCF has promised that it will not collaborate with the capitalist parties.
Every industrial seat in Ontario (its capital, Toronto, is Canada’s second city) went to CCF candidates (and the two CP candidates). Many of the 34 elected are trade unionists, mainly of CIO unions.
Of equal significance with the Ontario election were four by-elections on August 9 for the Dominion House of Commons; they showed the same trend. All the seats had been held by the Liberal Party which now rules Canada. The two western farm seats were won by CCF candidates. Of the two in the French-Canadian province of Quebec, one was won by the Communist Party (in Montreal, Canada’s principal city), and the other by the newly-formed Bloc Populaire, an anti-war but reactionary French-Canadian party.
THEY VOTED AGAINST THE CAPITALIST CLASS The main trend is indisputably clear: the hitherto dominant Liberal Party is being emptied, the workers and dirt farmers going to the left, while a section of the middle class is going to the right. Under the impact of the war and its economic consequences, class lines are being drawn sharply. In addition to its victories in labor constituencies, the CCF showed notable strength among young people and lower-income-bracket elements of the urban middle class – a clear indication that these elements are looking to labor for leadership.
The Stalinists supported the CCF only because the whole labor movement was doing so, and are trying to drag the CCF into “national unity” with the Liberal government. Fearful of the effect of the CCF example on US trade unionists, the Stalinists are attempting to minimize the class significance or the CCF gains. Thus a dispatch to the August 15 Worker says the elections showed “a lack of confidence not so much on the basis of the Government’s war record – Canada’s achievements in the war effort have been considerable – as its domestic policies.” In reality, however, the government’s conduct constitutes an inseparable whole against which the workers and farmers voted. In Canada as in the US, the government’s foreign and domestic policies are inextricably bound together.
That does not mean that the CCF has opposed the war or that the workers now brand it as an imperialist war. The CCF has supported the war, but with reserves and criticisms; it has protested the inevitably anti-labor methods of conducting the war. Its left wing (called “Trotskyist” by the Stalinists) claims to advocate a socialist solution to war and fascism, and has considerable strength. The CCF leadership has also increasingly emphasized the demand for “public ownership of natural resources and industries.” During the 1942 vote on conscription, the CCF advocated the “conscription of wealth” as well as men; just what that meant its advocates never made clear, but it appealed to the masses as anti-capitalist. In the Ontario election the CCF leader, E.B. Jolliffe, vaguely posed the issue as reaction or socialism: “Every democratic country is moving toward more collectivism organization ... Shall it be collectivism of the authoritarian brand, or democratic collectivism?” We need scarcely enlarge on our estimate of the reformist weakness of the CCF program. What is all-important, however, is that the votes of the masses indicated their resistance to the effects of the war and their desire for a break with capitalism and its parties.
Nor do the votes for the rabidly pro-war Stalinists indicate otherwise. They won their prestige among the workers in their “anti-war” period preceding Hitler’s attack on the USSR, a period in which they led strikes and demonstrations which the masses have not forgotten. Jailed during that period, Stalinist leaders were not released, in many cases, until long after they turned pro-war. To this day the government has not rescinded its outlawry of the Communist Party. The workers look upon it as the representative of the Soviet Union. These factors, and not its chauvinism, explain the Communist Party votes.
THE WORKERS DISTRUST THE CAPITALIST FUTURE The relatively small working class of agrarian Canada has shown the way to the giant proletariat of the industrial US. This example on the northern part of our continent must be shoved into the faces of the CIO and AFL leadership until they can no longer pretend not to have seen it. The US workers have no faith in the capitalist future; their next great step on the road to socialism will be to breakaway as a class from the capitalist parties.
Even the trade union bureaucrats admit in their own queasy way that the working class has no faith in the future of capitalism. Thus AFL president William Green on August17 declares: “We have made up our minds that organized workers of all nations, and particularly the AFL, shall be fully represented at the peace conference to prevent any such debacle [as territorial grabbing].” Green here reflects the workers’ distrust of a capitalist peace; but he and his bureaucratic caste propose no way whereby the workers may be “fully represented.” That could be done only by a Workers’ Government, while the Greens are resisting to the bitter end all steps toward formation of Labor’s own party. The fantastic gap between Green’s grandiloquent aim – nothing less than a labor-guided peace – and his servile capitalist-party politics is not accidental: it demonstrates the increasing gap between the workers’ needs and the inadequate machinery of simon-pure trade unionism. The gap can and must be filled by an Independent Labor Party. The day of its achievement can be speeded by broadcasting far and wide in the trade unions the example of the Canadian workers.
In a previous issue we were able to report the first news of a split in one of the most important centers of the British Communist Party. Further information is contained in the following letter from the British Trotskyist:
After persistent activity by our Glasgow local, consisting mainly of young and inexperienced people, we have managed to drive a wedge into the Stalinist organization throughout the Clydeside, and particularly in the factory which they have considered their key factory for years. A dozen militants have broken away including all the leading shop stewards in the plant.
The dissolution of the Comintern has had profound effects here where the mass of the workers have an international consciousness, and a statement of these12 rebels should be the last straw for many militants who hang onto the party out of loyalty and in the hope of an early change. In every important shipyard and plant on the Clyde, the CP fraction is split. The workers know it, and are watching the struggle with a keen interest. The effect of the Stalinist sell-out has also resulted in a new turn toward Syndicalism. In the last war this tendency was progressive, one moving towards politics, to-day it is moving away from politics. We have published another 1,000 copies of Trotsky’s “Communism or Syndicalism” (all we have the funds for) as a weapon in the struggle to combat this trend.
With fraternal greetings and high hopes.
Count Michael Karolyi, President of the short-lived Hungarian Republic after the last war, writes (in the August 13 British Tribune) an urgent warning that a Darlan deal is in the making with the Hungarian white guards. The Darlan is Count Stephan Bethlen, who in 1919 called in the Rumanians to crush the Hungarian Red Army. Karolyi writes:
“Like M. Thiers in 1871, like General Franco in 1936, and Marshall Petain in 1940, Bethlen sought the help of the enemy against his own people ...
“... They will come crawling, as they did in 1918. Then overnight everybody was ready to swear allegiance to the Republic. Archduke Joseph of Habsburg, the Bishops, the Counts and even Horthy, wrote a humble letter. Archduke Joseph went so far as to ask me to allow him to change his name in order to prove how wholeheartedly he supported the Republic.”
One could not improve on this incisive characterization of the role of the Republic – a shield behind which all the reactionaries tried to hide during the flood-tide of revolution. Needless to say, Karolyi’s understanding of this will not prevent him from trying to repeat it.
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Last updated on 12.9.2008