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Labor Action, 7 March 1949


Jack Brad

Push Russification of Eastern Europe


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 10, 7 March 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Three years after the end of the war, the countries of Eastern Europe are taking on a common appearance under the forced program of Stalinism. In this relatively short period of time nations of as different a culture and history as Czechoslovakia and Hungary are being forced into a common mold, and an equalized level is gradually being established in which differences are eliminated and homogeneous subservience to the new master imperialism comes to dominate everywhere.

The end of the war saw all East Europe occupied by the Russian Army (except Yugoslavia). Under this occupation the Russians established the “new people’s democracies” as Coalition regimes of remnant capitalist elements, peasant parties, social democracies and church parties. However, all of these parties were successively penetrated by Stalinists. Whatever their origin or tradition their leaderships were split by a Stalinist core which took over power, or the old leadership was replaced by more direct attack.

At this early stage the Stalinists even recreated some of the traditional national parties in order to offset the possibility of independent development. Thus, in Poland, for example, the Stalinists actively participated in the reconstruction of the Socialist Party under Cyrankiewicz. In Czechoslovakia Fierlinger played a similar role. Peasant parties were likewise fabricated for the same purpose and by the same means.

Open and Bloody Stalinist Rule

This period of coalition throughout East Europe proved uniformly short-lived. For coalition soon became subordination to Russian control. At this stage, which is now in the process of completion, the facade of coalition was abandoned for more direct Communist Party rule. The penetrated and betrayed parties were gradually obliterated. The “People’s Fronts” are giving way to monolithic rule in naked fashion.

Social-Democratic parties were destroyed internally, split by Stalinist agents and betrayed by corruption and spinelessness. In Poland, Hungary and elsewhere the Social Democratic Parties were forced to “unite” with the Communist Parties. The process of unity was one of expanding political and police terror. Purges lopped off opponents at the top. Accusations of treason, exile and. imprisonment were used against leaders who resisted. Even the ranks could not be trusted. The terror was extended to the smallest unit.

Political screening boards reviewed every member’s history and family background. His neighbors, his fellow workers, his foreman, his janitor were questioned on his attitudes. Dossiers were established for tens of thousands; the secret police extended itself over every section of the population. The merged party was a purged party. Nevertheless this did not end the sifting process. For at the next stage of development collaboration, and even subordination were no longer enough. So the once “purified” parties are being purged again and again. Socialist parties and trade unions were the first elements brought under Stalinist control, for this group represented the greatest danger to the regime.

The workers are the focal point of the Stalinist economic program. Everywhere the CP has introduced piecework, speedup, the longer working day and longer workweek. Stakhanovist slogans and the pressure to produce under constant threat of accusation of sabotage have become the normal factory regime. The unions are transformed from agencies for the protection of the workers into arms of the state for enforcement of production norms. Political, economic and cultural organizations of the city proletariat have been integrated into the uniform monolithism that is emerging.

The parties of the remnant bourgeoisie were next brought under attack. These fell with little pressure. Only in Czechoslovakia was there a capitalist class of any strength, but under the Benes-Stalin pact it had already surrendered key political posts. The fate of Benes and Masaryk indicated the feebleness of the bourgeois opposition. It also explains the inability of the U.S. State Department to develop a policy inside these countries. The other urban groups which the Stalinists have brought under their control were the students and university faculties. These have been completely re-oriented into training grounds for the new class of bureaucrats.

The most numerous social class is the peasantry. All East Europe is a largely peasant area. To coordinate the countryside into its structure Stalinism first began the destruction of the peasant parties. The fall of Mickolajczk and the killing of Petkov were the symbols of this drive. Similar events took place in the fest of East Europe. Today peasant parties do not exist except as village . adjuncts of the state apparatus and its rulers. Village-cooperatives have become instruments for economic control of agricultural production.

The current destruction of independent churches, as exemplified by the Mindszenty affair and the case of the Bulgarian Protestant priests, is the culmination of the process of destroying the last bastions of peasant opposition or potential opposition. The specific charged crimes in each instance are relatively unimportant and incidental to the primary Stalinist objective of eliminating the last vestige of possible antagonisms and its transformation into national churches to serve as agencies among the peasantry for propagation of Stalinism. For Stalinism is not so much anti-clerical as anti-those-churches it has not yet taken over. In fact, the Russian Orthodox Church has been utilized to spread Pan-Slavism and Russianism.

Integrated into Russian Economy

East Europe is not developing into a buffer zone or transitional area but is being forced, by a common leveling pattern, into the closest organic relationship between these countries and between each of them and Russia. The common pattern is the tying of each economy to the next and of the whole to the Russian. Trade pacts, military alliances and the Cominform are the varied instruments of the coordination pattern.

Through “mixed companies” and radical alteration of trade direction toward Russia these economies are becoming not only Stalinized in the general sense, but Russified in the specific. The new stage in East Europe is toward Russification. The Tito schism has accelerated this trend, which is intended as a preventive to national separation.

Whether these countries become formally absorbed by Russia as the Baltic states were, only time will tell, but the tendency is toward such an extension of Russia into Europe. This seems to be the course of empire. In the process of absorption a leveling of cultural and economic life is essential because a higher standard in conquered areas than in the seat of empire is inadmissible. So the standard of living of East Europe is being driven down. The Russians extort from these countries huge quantities in order to raise the standards at home.

This tendency toward organic absorption, or as at present, coordination between Russia and its European satellites is motivated by strategic policies of the cold war and preparation of the next imperialist war. But not this alone. There are many pressures toward such a policy. What is emerging is the character of the new Russian empire under Stalinism.

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