From Fourth International, April 1947, Vol.8 No.4, pp.103-104.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
That the Kremlin will retreat rather than venture a head-on collision with Washington is a foregone conclusion. In point of fact, Moscow has been retreating all along the 1ine ever since Stalin issued his conciliatory statement in October 1946. Stalin’s diplomats have already yielded on three issues on which they have hitherto been the most “adamant”: Iran, Trieste and the Dardanelles. They gave way on opening up the Danube for international commerce, on the question of the economic unification of Germany and several others.
In its characteristically groveling manner, the Stalinist oligarchy has in recent days expressed its eagerness to placate American imperialism. (It is obliged at the same time to reassure the Soviet masses who are most sensitive to the resurgence of the war danger.) This was the purpose of Molotov’s “surprise” disarmament plea before the United Nations. Molotov’s double-talk was supplemented, a few weeks before the Moscow Conference, by Stalin’s demonstrative withdrawal from the post of Minister of the Armed Forces. Appointed in his place was General Bulganin, an obscure military figure. In addition, wide publicity was given to cuts in projected Soviet military expenditures, reduced to 18 per cent of the new budget as against 24 per cent for 1946.
A few days before Truman spoke, and obviously timed for the occasion, Stalin employed another of his favorite devices. He went out of his way to underscore that “retreat under certain conditions was correct tactics” not only militarily but from the standpoint of “Marxist-Leninist” politics. This was done in a letter he ostensibly wrote in reply to an inquiry by Colonel E. Razin who wanted to learn about Lenin’s views on Clausewitz and on military strategy in general. Stalin’s Razin Letter was published on March 8 in the Bolshevik, theoretical organ of the Russian Communist Party, and therefore intended “solely” for domestic consumption.
Apart from all other considerations, the critical domestic situation leaves the Kremlin despot no alternative other than to stall as long as possible before grudgingly retreating, In his placating public remarks of last October, Stalin mentioned, as if in passing, that it would take six or seven years an even longer to achieve the reconstruction of Soviet economy. In other words, the Fourth Five-Year Plan, which was calculated to accomplish this and more by 1950, will fall far short of the officially set goals (unrealizable to begin with).
Production in the former Nazi-occupied areas of the USSR, containing the heart of Soviet industry, still lags at levels below half of the pre-war. This was acknowledged officially several weeks ago. Last year’s drouth and its disastrous consequences still affect agriculture, especially in the Ukraine, the Soviet granary.
The unfolding economic crisis finds its expression, as usual, in a vast purge that has been in progress since the termination of hostilities. Blows have begun to fall on members of the inner ruling circle. The hitherto immune Khruschev, “Stalin of the Ukraine,” has been dismissed from his post as head of the Ukrainian CP and replaced by Kaganovich. Zhadanov, another top-ranking bureaucrat, frequently mentioned abroad as a possible candidate to replace Stalin, has been removed from his post as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet. The shake-up in the ministries continues, with the Minister of Health as the latest victim. All this adds up to an incipient crisis at home, which may readily assume major proportions as the international offensive against the USSR deepens.
The unstable internal position of the Kremlin, coupled with the grave economic difficulties, undoubtedly plays an important part in the calculations of the American imperialists. They feel confident that they can force the Kremlin to retreat. They need immediate successes of this kind in order to publicly justify their new policy on the grounds of its effectiveness.
But retreats by the Kremlin can only postpone the head-on collision. They will not avert it because the question is not how far Stalin is willing or able to retreat, but how far Wall Street wants him to go. The more Stalin retreats in Eastern Europe, as he must, the greater will be the demands made upon him. The American imperialists will not long remain satisfied with anything less than an all-out effort to bring the Soviet Union back into the orbit of capitalism.
Whatever else may happen, it will prove impossible for Stalin to restore even a semblance of an unstable equilibrium on the international scene. In turn, this excludes the possibility of the regime stabilizing itself internally. The next period will therefore at the same time usher in the historic crisis of Stalinism. It is hardly likely that Stalinism will escape the steel jaws of history this time, too.
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Last updated on 13.2.2009