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The New International, August 1941


Stalin in Iran


From New International, Vol. VII No. 7 (Whole No. 56), August 1941, pp. 167–8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


AFTER THE FIRST ROUND of cheers from the liberals for England because she has “finally” adopted Hitler’s technique of attacking first and explaining afterward, they have settled down to the more sober and embarrassing problem of elucidating what one of them calls the “ethics” of the invasion of Iran. At bottom, the elucidation is admirable in its simplicity:

When German imperialism does it in the name of self-defense, in the name of preventing the enemy from converting the country in question into a base of war operations, in the name of the “new order” – it is uniformly bad. When British imperialism does it in the name of self-defense, in the name of preventing the enemy from converting the country in question into a base of war operations, and, what’s more, in the name of “democracy” – it is uniformly good and deserves to find favor in the sight of the Lord. The modern version of non olet is, “Oil doesn’t stink.”

In a word, we have here only another of those sordid cases of purely imperialist aggression which requires a copious supply of shamelessness among its apologists. In none of the hundreds of cases that soil the pages of modern history have the invasion and occupation of the weaker and, usually, defenseless country been unaccompanied by assurances that it is all being done for the benefit of the country itself; in most of the cases the imperialists add that if they hadn’t done it, some other bandit would have. This is always a great relief to the victim.

The case of Iran, however, is somewhat “complicated” by the Soviet Union’s participation in the invasion, as were the invasions of Poland, the Baltic countries, Finland and Rumania in the first stage of the war. At that time, all species of apologists for Stalinism were no less shameless than they are now. Then, it is true, the invasions were effected in concert with German imperialism, but the apologists explained, confidentially, that Stalin was really not sharing the loot with Hitler but preventing him from doing more looting and – this between you and me! – laying the basis for an attack on Hitler. Anyway, Poland was an imperialist state and Mannerheim a butcher of the people (which Stalin is not). Anyway, it is necessary to defend unconditionally the Soviet Union.

In August 1941, the Kremlin apologists feel a little easier – not less shameless, just a little easier. In the first place, Stalin is acting in alliance with a very nice, popular, suave, democratic bandit, instead of with a most unpopular fascist bandit. And in the second place, somebody managed to dig up – glory be! – a sanctifying document, a genuine one this time, not forged or anything like that. It is nothing less than the Russo-Persian Treaty.

Yes, the treaty does indeed exist. It was signed in Moscow on February 26, 1921, by Chicherin and Karakhan for the Russian Soviet Republic and by Moshaverol-Memalek for the Persian (now Iranian) government. The ghost of Losovsky, who now functions as head of the Soviet Information Bureau, quoted truthfully from Article VI of the treaty which provides that:

... in the case of attempts made on the part of third countries to pursue an annexationist policy by means of an armed intervention on the territory of Persia, or to transform the territory of Persia into a base for military operations against Russia, and if thereby the frontiers of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic or the states allied with it should be threatened, and the Persian Government, following a warning on the part of the Russian Soviet Government, should not possess the necessary strength to ward off this danger, the Russian Soviet Government is empowered to direct its troops into the territory of Persia in order to adopt the necessary military measures in the interests of self-defense. After the elimination of the danger, the Russian Soviet Government obligates itself to withdraw its troops immediately from the territory of Persia.

What would Stalin have done if he didn’t have this wonderful Article VI from way back in 1921? Why, he would have done exactly what he did in Poland and in the Baltic countries and in Finland and in Rumania, for which he had no Article VI or anything like it. But whatever you say, he does have it now, doesn’t he? He does, and every apologist for Stalinism, including most of his allies in the democratic-imperialist camp, are effusively delighted. An imperialist invasion without an Article VI is all right in its way. An invasion with it is almost wonderful.

But before the word there was the deed. And before Article VI of the treaty there was Article II, which Losovsky, not having sufficient time on the radio, was not able to quote. It reads as follows:

The Russian Soviet Government stigmatizes the policy of the governments of Czarist Russia which, without the agreement of the peoples of Asia and under cover of guaranteeing the independence of these peoples, concluded treaties relating to the Orient with other countries of Europe whose objective was a gradual annexation. The Russian Soviet Government rejects unqualifiedly this criminal policy, which not only violated the sovereignty of the countries of Asia, but also led to an organized, brutal violation of the living body of the peoples of the Orient by the European robbers.

Accordingly, and in correspondence with the principles set forth in Articles I and IV of the present treaty, the Russian Soviet Government declares its renunciation of participation in any measures which aim at a weakening or violation of the sovereignty of Persia and declares that all conventions and agreements between the former government of Russia and third states injurious and relating to Persia are abolished and nullified. (Russische Korrespondenz, Vol. II, Sec. 1, No. 5, May 1921, p. 371)

Thus the necessary pre-condition for fulfilling the Russian obligation under Article VI of the treaty in alliance with British imperialism was the violation of Article II, both in letter and in spirit. Iran is only another, and even clearer, proof of the inadmissability of the cry for “defense of the Soviet Union” in a war in which it is allied with an imperialist camp and, by virtue of its control and direction by the reactionary Stalinist régime, is conducting a reactionary, imperialist war. Imperialist war? Yes. And Iran is an even plainer case than was Poland. It is a war of joint imperialist expansion on the part of Churchill and Stalin, according to the simple and exact description by Lenin, who wrote on February 24, 1918, not of capitalist imperialism alone and in particular, but of imperialism in general: “I characterize here as imperialism the robbery of other countries in general, as imperialist war a war of robbers for the division of the booty.”

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