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New International, September 1939


The Editor’s Comment


From New International, Vol.5 No.9, September 1939, p.259.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

THE MASK IS OFF, at last. The blood-stained, monstrous face of Stalinism is exposed, now, for the whole world to see quite clearly. The illusions, the veils, the deceptions are abandoned.

Stalin, as the press of the Fourth International has consistently predicted since Munich, has capitulated to Hitler. For the Russian bureaucracy and the new exploiters which it represents and of which it is an integral part, there was no other course. Driven by an unbroken series of defeats for its external policy, knowing its utter failure within, faced with the universal hostility of the Russian masses, motivated solely by the desperate wish to save somehow its own power and privilege, the bureaucracy seeks a respite by throwing itself at the feet of the Nazi giant.

The text of the “non-aggression pact”, put together with the previously signed trade and commercial agreement, proves it to be in reality an alliance. There is no escape clause, such as in all analogous treaties provided for cancellation if either party were guilty of aggression against a third state. Hitler and Stalin each binds himself against any agreement with any power or group of powers directly or indirectly threatening the other. Unquestionably there are secret pledges attached to the pact which go far beyond the public document.

The Russian bureaucracy capitulates to Hitler in order to try to save its own neck. But it capitulates in vain. Far from bringing salvation, the signing of the pact only seals the doom of the bureaucracy. The sole question for the future is whether it will be put in its grave by Hitler, once the treaty is no longer of use to him (an alliance, Hitler explains in Mein Kampf, is simply one of the weapons wherewith to crush an enemy), or by the Russian people once more rising in triumphant revolution to sweep away their tyrants and exploiters.

At one stroke, the signing of the pact has destroyed the remaining parties of the Communist International. They were annihilated long ago as revolutionary instrumentalities, indeed as living political organisms of any kind. But now their speedy organizational breakup, as well, is certain. Already the French Communist party, largest in the Comintern, is hopelessly in pieces. The collapse of the American party has begun on a large scale, and it will be so in all countries. For five years, the Stalinist members in the “democratic” countries have been taught to support their own imperialist governments “for the sake of Stalin”. This two-faced game could seem to work so long as the course of Stalin and of the home imperialisms seemed to be in the same general direction. But now the definitive break has come, and Stalin cannot – even if he wants to – carry his parties with him. The bulk of the bureaucrats and the petty-bourgeois layers recruited so widely during the Popular Front years, will choose the master at home, and will become the loudest, vilest patriots on the national scenes. What the rank-and-file workers of the Stalinist parties will do – whether they will sink into passive disillusionment, or follow the flag-wavers, or seeing the truth from the pact will join with the revolutionists of the Fourth International – is a decisive question for the future.

The pact makes everything clear, throws everything to the surface. The meaning of the Trials: how clear it is now why Stalin had to wipe out every vestige of the living tradition of the revolution, had to murder the whole generation of those who made the revolution. The end of the Spanish war: how clearly we can know now why Russian aid was withdrawn from Spain shortly after Munich, why Catalonia was abandoned without a fight, why the Spanish Stalinists accepted the Prieto-Negrin surrender terms ... perhaps also why Miaja was never expelled from the Communist party. The dismissal of Litvinov, the speeches of Stalin and Molotoff to last winter’s party congress, how clear they all are now. And no wonder Stalin had to rule his state and his parties by an iron monolithism: he had to try to manufacture suborinates ready to embrace Hitler at his nod.

But the Stalin-Hitler pact, that ultimate betrayal of the masses of the entire world, is itself today swallowed up in the war crisis, is itself in fact only one part of the war crisis. When this issue leaves the press, the war may already have begun. If it is postponed another week or month or two months, what has changed? The world, the capitalist, imperialist world, is rotted through. There is no medicine. The crisis will not end, will not end until it is settled. If Chamberlain and Roosevelt and Hitler and Daladier and Stalin have their way and their war – for that is all that is left for them, it will be settled by the destruction of the very foundations and roots of civilization. Against them and that prospect can be launched only the masses of the peoples of the world, in unremitting and final struggle within every nation against the rulers and the oppressors.

The Stalin-Hitler pact strengthens every sector of reaction. As it gives a free hand and concrete aid to Hitler, so it gives a new impetus and a new lie to Chamberlain and Daladier and Roosevelt. Under the new circumstances which it creates, Roosevelt aims to hurl the United States far sooner than would have been otherwise necessary into the war. But it is imperialism, Roosevelt’s and Chamberlain’s as well as Hitler’s imperialism, which is the foul mother of the pact, and of Stalinism itself for that matter. To denounce and reject the pact – and who but the utterly depraved could conceivably accept it? – is wholly meaningless, unless that rejection is coupled with the thousand-fold renewal of the international struggle against world imperialism. For every worker in every nation, the main enemy remains – the enemy at home.

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