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The New International, July 1934


The Soviets and the League of Nations

From New International, Vol. I No. 1, July 1934, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE press is filled with persistent reports that the Soviet Union is about to join the League of Nations. Unlike past rumors, the reports this time bear the earmarks of verisimilitude. None of the official Communist papers has denied it. Quite the contrary. The latest turn in Soviet diplomacy, which marks such a sharp departure from former days, is being justified not only in the Russian governmental press but also in the press of the Stalinist parties. Karl Radek has already fished out of the slime pools the theoretical apology for the approaching entrance into the League and all the other choir boys in the Daily Worker, l’Humanité and the rest of the talking machines solemnly join in with their mechanical obbligato.

The Black International, as we once called it, is no longer, do you see, as sinister as it was painted. It has gone through spiritual fires from which it emerged with a good deal of the dross burned out. Japan has quit the League; Germany has quit the League – which eliminates from its ranks the two most direct antagonists of the Soviet Union. “But those powers remained in the League,” observes Radek, “who are interested in the maintenance of peace.”

In this quarter-truth is revealed the essence of the new Stalinist turn, that is, its nationalism. France is, it is true, interested for the sake of its own momentary imperialist interests in the maintenance of peace with the Soviet Union; so is the United States; so is Italy; so are a number of other reactionary states. From this it does not follow, neither necessarily nor in fact, that they are interested in maintaining peace with each other or with other countries. Italy is actually engaged in war in the Near East behind the cloaks of its Arabian satraps. France continues to put its Africans to the sword, and to preserve the Versailles status quo with the aid of vassal bayonets and its own. England still wars on Egyptian and Hindu. None of them has slackened the frenetic armaments pace at which mankind is being driven to the nightmarish devastation of that war about which the Stalinists babble with more conviction than understanding. But for Radek peace with the Soviet Union is the equivalent of peace in general. The pacific qualities of imperialism are measured exclusively by its temporary attitude toward* the Soviet Union, that is, by the worthless yardstick of socialism in one country. Having found that the “remaining powers” reach the proper height, the Soviet Union is prepared to join the League.

Not so many years ago, to the question “Why does not the Soviet Union participate in the League of Nations?” – Stalin replied:

“The Soviet Union is not a member of the League of Nations and does not participate in its work, because the Soviet Union is not prepared to share the responsibility for the imperialist policy of the League of Nations, for the ‘mandates’ which are distributed by the League for the exploitation and oppression of the colonial countries, for the war preparations and military alliances which are covered and sanctified by the League, preparations which must inevitably lead to imperialist war. The Soviet Union does not participate in the work of the League because the Soviet Union is fighting with all its energy against all preparations for imperialist war. The Soviet Union is not prepared to become a part of that camouflage for imperialist machinations represented by the League of Nations. The League is the rendezvous of the imperialist leaders who settle their business there behind the scenes. The subjects about which the League speaks officially, are nothing but empty phrases intended to deceive the workers. The business carried on by the imperialist ring-leaders behind the scenes, that is the actual work of imperialism which the eloquent speakers of the League of Nations hypocritically cloak.” (Questions and Answers, A Discussion with Foreign Delegates by J. Stalin, Moscow, November 13, 1927.)

The departure of Germany and Japan from the League changes its political complexion, however little it alters its imperialist character. If England thereby becomes increasingly isolated on the continent, France becomes more desperately concerned with the preservation of its European hegemony. This objective requires the maintenance of the debilitated League, and the prestige and power of the Soviet Union are to help bring some color back to the hag’s cheeks.

For Russia, joining the League is a sharp departure in policy only in the sense that a leap is the sudden culmination of a running start and a tensing of the muscles. Faced on the eastern and western fronts by two foes of serious caliber whose immediate aim is military attack, the Soviet Union hopes to take advantage of their breach with the League by joining with those who have remained within it, manoeuvring between the rival imperialist powers, and leaning upon France.

A workers’ state surrounded by capitalist powers cannot refrain from utilizing any and every rift in the imperialist lute, or from sharpening every quarrel among the imperialist thieves. Often enough this means concessions to one of the bandits or another. It is the price which the proletariat in power must pay for its isolation.

But what a price is being paid this time! It means that the Soviet Union will be helping to cover up all those misdeeds, crimes, hypocrisies and deceptions of which Stalin spoke in 1927. It means that the Soviet Union will be watering the powder used by every Communist party in the past to fire at the Black International From its irreconcilable antagonist, the Soviet Union will become at best a sort of Loyal Opposition, sowing Kautskyan illusions among the masses, about disarmament and peace, using the good name of the Russian revolution to disseminate the fatal teaching about the bad powers who want war, the half-bad powers who are not so anxious for war themselves but are egging on the others, and the good powers who want no war at all – the latest department of the Friends of the Soviet Union which embraces those newly discovered countries that are now “not interested in war, and would wish to avert it, and therefore agree now to cooperate with those who are interested in the consolidation [!] of peace” (Pravda, June 1, 1934).

The Stalinists will explain it all away, for to what other end did nature produce Radek and Browder and Cachin? But how will they explain the flagrant contradiction between the new turn in Russia’s foreign policy and the clamorous revolutionism of the thirteenth plenum of the Third International which proclaimed the struggle for Soviet power as the next step? Very easily: they will not explain it at all. Yet the apparent enigma is solved only by an understanding of the real situation in the Third International and the working class as a whole.

The Stalinist center knows just as well as we do that the Third International is a political corpse! Barthou may be a weak reed to lean on, but the impotent, paralyzed “Communist parties” are no reed at all. All doubts on that score were conclusively dispelled by the showing made by the largest of them, the German. The Soviet bureaucracy long ago lost its belief that the world revolution would triumph – at least not for decades to come. Germany, Austria. Latvia, Bulgaria – defeats which were determined by the treacherous course of the social democracy and the Stalinists – only mean to the latter that the world proletariat is no longer an effective ally. They attribute their own incurable impotence to the proletariat!

Were there a powerful world Communist movement capable of restoring and organizing the power of the proletariat, the Soviet Union would not today try to bolster itself up by bolstering up the decrepit League of Nations.

“Were there a powerful world Communist movement” – but there isn’t one! The windbags who talk so much about the defense of the Soviet Union, have done their utmost to smash this movement. We will build it up anew.

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