Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

New International, December 1935



The Comintern and Social Patriotism

From New International, Vol.2 No.7, December 1935, pp.234-236.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



THE theory of socialism in one country is in itself an outright falsification of Leninism and Marxism, which are based upon the idea of the international socialist revolution. Today we see the other side of the Stalinist medal. Social-patriotism is always the reverse side of social-reformism. We have had already an instance of it in the Stalin-Laval pact. Stalin, by understanding and approving national defense of the French bourgeoisie, has definitely and clearly left the arena of the class struggle, the arena of proletarian internationalism. But the bureaucratic “wretches” of the Comintern, whom Stalin did not even consult before coming to an understanding with Laval, and who received a violent and an incredible kick on their backside, keep howling that Stalin is right. (And only yesterday they were acclaiming just the contrary!) Never has there been such vileness and servility inside the working class movement. But worse yet is the fact that these “wretches” seek to establish that Stalin was inspired by Lenin and Marx “in understanding and approving of the French bourgeoisie” and in dragging at the tail of the League of Nations. These people have really lost all respect for Marxism and Leninism, debasing it up to the point of using it as a cover for the national defense of French imperialism and today of English imperialism, which is playing the game of “sanctions” at Geneva. But in this, too, there is essentially nothing new.

In 1914 Cachin, in the name of Marx, made a trip over the frontier in order to assist Mussolini with French money to found Popolo d’Italia. And it was in the name of Marx, using the self-same quotations of Thorez on the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, that Mussolini sought to justify his own about face and Italian intervention on the side of “democratic” France. From the war “to preserve democracy”, Mussolini arrived at Fascism. And that is where one arrives, when one leaves the arena of class struggle and proletarian internationalism. We meet with nothing new here. It is the same old attempt to cover up the social-chauvinist positions of 1914 with a fig-leaf of several quotations from Marx. Fraud is added to betrayal. Will we have to wait, as in 1914, for the slaughter of peoples to expose the complete treachery of social-patriotism, in order to be on guard against it? We certainly hope not! But everything depends upon the ability of the international proletarian vanguard not to allow itself to be drawn into the social-chauvinist current; not to permit itself to be duped again by the leaders who betray it.

The argument that is most frequently employed, the specious argument used to cover up the Stalinist betrayal, consists of trying to establish an identity between the “Stalin-Laval compromise” and Lenin’s “alliance” with the “French monarchist de Lubersac” during the German offensive against Russia in February 1918, that is, during the Brest-Litovsk period. This argument is only a miserable subterfuge, another proof of the contempt which the Stalinists have for Leninism. To be sure, Lenin and Marxists generally do not condemn every compromise. As a matter of fact, it is not the Stalinists who can teach us anything in this sphere, they who only yesterday came out into the streets with the friends of Chiappe to demand the arrest of the “executioners” of February 6 (i.e. of Daladier himself whom they wish today to raise to power); they who made a bloc with the Nazis during the referendum in Germany in order to overthrow the democrats; and so on. There are compromises and compromises. And just as the compromises of yesterday with the Nazis and Chiappe’s friends were to be condemned, so today we condemn the compromises of Stalin-Laval.

But, what did Lenin say on the question of Brest-Litovsk? He said,

“Workers who, after a lost strike, agree to terms which are advantageous to the capitalist are not at all betraying socialism. Only those betray socialism who accept concessions for a section of the working class in exchange for benefits to the capitalists.” (Theses, January 21, 1918).

Let us apply Lenin’s teachings to the Stalin-Laval pact.

(1) In the first place, it is clear to all that there has been a “lost strike” – that is to say, the defeat in Germany, Austria, Spain, etc. And involved also is the question of the internal situation in the Soviet Union, despite – or to be more correct, it may be said, precisely because of – the indubitable successes of the two Five-Year Plans (viz., the Kirov affair, the imprisonment of Zinoviev, etc.). But was Stalin really forced to sign the “contract” which he has just made with Laval? Not at all. We think the contrary. On more than one previous occasion, we sounded the alarm to the workers of the entire world at the dangers which threaten the Soviet Union. But despite the ruins accumulated in the Orient and the Occident, as well as in the USSR itself, by the Stalinist leadership, the present situation of the USSR is far removed, in our opinion, from that of the “besieged fortress” of which Lenin speaks at the end of his letter to the American workers in August, 1918. At that time, the workers’ state had just been born; the civil war was raging; sabotage and wild resistance on the part of the overthrown classes raged everywhere. Such was the situation internally. Abroad, the workers still divided along the imperialist fronts, were cutting each other’s throats. The workers’ state truly resembled a “besieged fortress” at that time.

Today, despite the grave international defeats, the situation of the USSR is quite different. The possibilities of socialist revolution are still great in Europe, particularly in France. But that is where the real danger lies: Stalin and his acolytes, after preaching “peaceful coexistence” of “socialism in one country” with European capitalism; in the face of Hitler’s assumption to power (which they prepared with their own hands by the theory “after the Nazis, our turn will come”) ; in the face of the advent of Hitlerism – Stalin and his acolytes, frightened by their own handiwork, turn to “the most militaristic power in Europe” (as Stalin used to say only a short time ago), to the France of the Versailles Treaty, which is today baptised, along with Italy and England [Italy had not yet been declared to be an “aggressor state”] as a power “sincerely attached to the work of safeguarding peace”. In this appalling turn there is to be found only a sincere avowal of genuine panic. It was panic that dictated the Stalin-Laval communiqué, a panic arising from a complete lack of confidence in the force of the revolutionary international proletariat. (A story is current that Radek, who appeared to be contented and satisfied in the retinue of Pilsudski, during his visit to the famous leader “of Polish Fascism”, – whose death Bukharin mourned as that of a “friend”, of an “ally” of France – joked with Polish comrades who advised him to maintain a modicum of reserve. He said, “Don’t worry! I tried to make the revolution with you; it was unsuccessful. Now I hope to make it with them.” (By “them” he meant Pilsudski’s officers! – Indeed, a joke in Radek’s best manner; but a joke which reveals the complete degeneration to which the Stalinist bureaucracy has led world communism. From Pilsudski they went to Laval, to the French General Staff. The circle is complete!)

(2) Thorez has good reason to repeat today what we have been telling him for a long time: “Grave dangers are threatening the Soviet Union.” But the gravest dangers, in a capitalist world that is decaying arise for the Soviet Union from the internal weaknesses of the international workers’ movement; they arise as a result of Stalinism which is capable only of disintegrating and demoralizing the workers’ ranks.

(3) We have seen that the Stalin-Laval pact signed at Moscow was not at all inevitable, despite the numerous lost “strikes” as a consequence of the international Stalinist leadership. It was not at all inevitable, above all when one considers the political and revolutionary situation in France, where the proletariat has not yet lost its chances to win its “strike” against its own bourgeoisie. And it is precisely from this standpoint that the “contract” signed by Stalin with Laval reveals most clearly its treasonable character for the French and the world proletariat. The Stalin communiqué, came at the time of the gravest “strike” of the French proletariat against its own bourgeoisie; it came in the course of its struggle against Fascism which must be conquered in order to bar the road to war, and which cannot be conquered without conducting a determined struggle for proletarian power, that is to say, without conducting a determined struggle against the perfidious “national” policy which Stalin declares he “understands” and “approves”. For, if instead of weakening one strengthens the bourgeoisie; if one accepts the precept of Stalin-Laval that the first duty is “not to permit the weakening of the means of national defense” of the bourgeoisie, – how then will the working class be able to struggle for the overthrow of its class enemy and to prevent Fascism and war?

The “contract” Stalin signed with Laval is not different from a contract a strikebreaker signs during the strike of workers against their capitalist boss. And the precise name for this is – betrayal.

(4) As a matter of fact, the “contract” Stalin signed entails very great benefits for capitalists (unlimited increase of armaments, since the certificate of approval to the French capitalists serves equally well . for Mussolini at Rome, and Hitler in Germany). And in return for having smashed the international class front, Stalin receives the meager recompense of a dubious “alliance” with the French General Staff which may prove of some temporary usefulness to allay the fears of the frightened Stalinist bureaucracy; but which provides no guarantee whatever for the defense of the workers’ state. Quite the contrary. At the proper moment, once the proletariat finds itself weakened even still further, the capitalists, after having utilized the “strikebreakers”, will again turn against the Soviet proletariat and reestablish their united front against the USSR.

Once again the act of treachery reveals itself as an act of incurable stupidity: which is, above all, a distinctive trait of Stalinism.

(5) But, indeed, can any sort of parallel be maintained even for a moment between Lenin’s “alliance” with the French monarchist, de Lubersac, and Stalin’s “alliance” with Laval? Lenin’s “alliance” with de Lubersac was established for real, concrete and immediate objectives. Lenin was making use of the training of the French officers during the particularly difficult period of the Red Army, which was then in process of formation, in order to check the offensive waged by German troops in Russia. But at the same time Lenin was saying to the French workers, the German workers, the workers of Europe and America (Letter of August, 1918, followed by his letter of January, 1919),

I am forced to act in this manner, to maneuver, veer and even retreat, so long as you, the other armies of the international socialist revolution, do not come to our assistance.”

Such was the language of Lenin, the language which every worker understood as being his very own. And when Lenin was told to wait, not to sign, etc., the Brest-Litovsk treaty, because the opponents of war among the German social democrats who had become defeatists were demanding this of him, Lenin wrote as follows:

“We are told that the opponents of war among the German social democrats have become ‘defeatists’ and are pleading with us not to yield to German imperialism. But we have always stood for defeatism only in relation to the imperialist bourgeoisie of one’s own country, and we have always rejected the idea of victory over another imperialism, a victory obtained in concert with a ‘friendly’ imperialism, since this method is inadmissible out of principled considerations, and, besides, can be only barren of results.”

Clear? Of course it is. Even if we were to allow for the moment a case where the USSR is forced into a war on the side of an “allied” Power, the duty of revolutionists is still that of remaining “defeatists”, first and foremost against the imperialist bourgeoisie of their own country.

(6) But on the other hand, what does Stalin do, and what do the Stalinists say? They “adjure” the proletarians “not to weaken the national defense of their country”; to “unite” with the bourgeoisie of their country, if their country is on the side of the USSR. They are today demoralising the working class by preaching a sacred union with the prospective imperialist “ally” of the USSR. They act in exactly the opposite way from Lenin.

Lenin made use of de Lubersac for real services to the Russian and international revolution: Stalin renders real services to the imperialists, prostituting the Russian and international revolution for Laval and other traitors to communism.

(7) Here is what Thorez blurted out on May 17 at Bullier (l’Humanité, May 24, 1936):

“Should, under these conditions, a war break out against the Soviet Union, and should an imperialist state be on the side of the Soviet Union, for whatever interests it might have, such a war is not a war between two imperialist camps, for it would be monstrous to consider as an imperialist camp that camp in which the country of socialism, the country of the working class is to be found. And now I reply to a question which has been put to me, ‘In a war unleashed by Hitler against the USSR would you apply your slogan here of changing the imperialist war into a civil war?’ Well, no. For in such a war it would not be a case of an imperialist war between two imperialist cliques; it is a question of a war against the Soviet Union.”

So that, since it would be monstrous to consider that camp as imperialist in which the country of socialism, the country of the working class is found, they are bent on committing the monstrous crime of identifying with the workers’ state the imperialist country or countries that find themselves in the same camp as the USSR. For, and here lies the whole monstrousness of the matter, what difference is there between the USSR that defends the workers’ state and the imperialist powers “allied” to the USSR who struggle for reactionary and imperialist objectives? Is it possible for anyone to forget so fundamental a distinction? Can the working class ever be made the “ally” of its class enemy, the bourgeoisie by virtue of the fact that the latter finds itself temporarily “allied” to the USSR? Such an abdication, as it is supported today by the Comintern, is equivalent to complete betrayal.

In reference to Brest-Litovsk, Lenin wrote:

Whoever claims that the struggle against German imperialism is a defensive and a just struggle; whoever accepts the support of Anglo-French imperialism and seeks to defend before the people the secret treaties that they concluded between them; whoever does so is a traitor to socialism.”

Do you grasp the trickery? Lenin underscored as “traitors to socialism” those who declared the struggle against German imperialism to be a defensive and just struggle; those who accepted the support of Anglo-French imperialism, etc. Lenin affirmed this principle not in 1914 but in 1918, that is to say, at a time when there was on the scene, as there is today, a workers’ state, and two imperialist blocs. Did Lenin preach a “defensive and just struggle” of the Franco-British imperialist brigands against German imperialism? And yet, German troops were already occupying Russian soil. What Lenin did was to utilise the antagonisms between the two imperialist camps to permit the Russian and international revolution to become organized and to advance. To get the work of the revolution moving it was necessary not to bind one’s hands by any combination with either the one or the other imperialism. That is why Lenin branded as treason the desire of the Russian social democrats to continue the war of Anglo-French capitalisms against German imperialism after the revolution. That is why, at the same time that he accepted the assistance of the monarchist de Lubersac, he also condemned the brigand policy of the Anglo-French alliance, and called upon the workers to struggle against such a policy and for the seizure of power.


The League of Nations and the Proletariat

In order to struggle against war, we must first of all struggle against the fog of lies which prevents us from having a correct position on the problem of war. In the period of 1914, we had to carry on a desperate fight against the social-patriots; today, our struggle has become still more difficult because of the treachery of the Communist parties themselves, which have gone back to the position of the social-imperialists. Nothing shows this more clearly than their present attitude toward the League of Nations and toward the problems of sanctions. Let us try to put these matters in their proper perspective.

It was some time ago that we read the following:

“In understanding the League of Nations, the Berne Conference [the Socialist conference held in February, 1919 in an attempt to bring to life the corpse of the Second International] showed that the League followed the lead of those bourgeois elements who, under the deceptive appearance of a so-called ‘League of the People’, wanted to overcome the proletarian revolution which was rising throughout the entire world. Instead of unmasking the intrigues of the meeting of the Allies at Paris as those of a gang which acted as a broker for colonies and economic mandates, the Berne Conference reinforced the gang and became its instrument.”

The above appears in a resolution of the First Congress of the Comintern. How far we have travelled since that period! Today the Comintern has itself become the instrument of imperialist intrigues at Geneva. But, we are told, the situation has changed greatly since those days. Wherein, we ask, has the situation changed the nature of “imperialist Allies”?

“The ‘League of Nations’ is a slogan of betrayal, with the help of which the social-traitors, at the order of international capital, divide the proletarian forces and aid the imperialist counter-revolution.”

This, again, is what we read in the Thesis on the International Situation adopted by the First Congress of the Comintern. Today we would like to ask how this slogan “of betrayal” has become in the eyes of the “social-traitors” of Moscow the new gospel of “peace”. It is not, of course, by the mere fact of entering the League of Nations that the USSR violated communist principles. These principles call on “the proletarian revolutionists of all countries of the world to carry on an implacable struggle against the ideas of Wilson’s League of Nations and to protest against entry into this society of peace, of exploitation and of imperialist counter-revolution” (from the same thesis of the First Congress).

“Propaganda for the League of Nations is the best means for confusing the revolutionary consciousness of the working class. In place of the slogan for an International of revolutionary workers’ republics, there is substituted the slogan of an international association of false democracies, which would be achieved by coalition between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.” (Thesis of the First Congress)

And it is no longer merely the social traitors of the Second International who become propagandists for an institution of this kind, “the better” to confuse the revolutionary consciousness of the working class – now it is also the parties of the Comintern itself. Thus, once more is our estimate of this International – that it has become the International of lies and betrayals – confirmed.

Why should the attitude of the proletariat toward the League of Nations be one of opposition and struggle? Let us answer in the words of Lenin and of Bolshevism (with which Stalinism has only the same relationship as opportunism has to Marxism).

1. “One of the forms of the deception of the working class is represented by pacifism and abstract propaganda for peace ...

“At the present time all propaganda for peace without a call for revolutionary mass action does nothing except sow illusions, corrupts the proletariat by suggesting to it confidence in the humanity of the bourgeoisie, and makes of the proletariat a mere toy in the hands of the secret diplomacy of the warring powers.”

2. “The question of determining what group delivered the first blow or what group first declared war has no importance whatever in deciding the tactics of socialism. Phrases about defending the fatherland, about the necessity of resisting an enemy invasion, about a defensive war, etc., are nothing else than a fooling of the people.” (Lenin)

The idea of the aggressor nation, then, is false and deceptive when we are dealing with two belligerent imperialist powers. The last war proved that the two belligerent groups both prepared systematically for the war. The same thing is true today, whether in the case of those powers who “want peace” (that is, to keep what they have already acquired) or in the case of those powers who demand a new partition of the world.

On the other hand, non-imperialist wars, revolutionary wars, to lift the imperialist yoke from the necks of the oppressed colonial peoples, or wars on the part of the proletariat fighting against the bourgeoisie, such wars against the imperialist aggressor, are always entirely justified and admissible.

* * *

“The revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie can alone preserve the conquests of the workers and open up to the oppressed masses the path to a better future.”

This statement of the Bolshevik-Leninists was formulated in March, 1915. It must be reaffirmed and driven home to the workers deceived by the two Internationals.

The bankruptcy of the Second International was that of Socialist opportunism; the bankruptcy of the Comintern is that of Stalinist opportunism.

The chief present task in the struggle against war is that of the regeneration of Marxism and of Leninism under the banner of the Fourth International.

Top of page

Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 31.7.2006