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Socialist Alternative, November 1936, Volume 2 No. 10, Pages 9-11
Transcribed, Edited and Formatted by Damon Maxwell in 2008 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

War and the Comintern


THE PERIOD of so-called successes of Soviet diplomacy, the will-o’-the-wisp diplomacy of “disarmament,” of non-aggression pacts and “collective security” fashioned by Stalin-Litvinov, has come to a discordant close. The concluding stages of Hitler’s re-armament of fascist Germany permit the Fuehrer brazenly to crusade for a war of intervention to crush the Soviet Union. He chooses as an appropriate cue for shaking the mailed fist the Civil War in Spain, which poses in acute form once again to the bourgeoisie the need for ridding themselves of the dangerous proximity of the USSR – despite all the unsparing efforts of Stalin to give assurances that no real danger to capitalism exists so far as he is concerned. The Litvinov maneuvers, based on the theory that it was possible through the channels of properly conducted diplomacy (the “astute” diplomacy of concessions to capitalism) for the Soviet Union and the capitalist countries to live indefinitely side by side in peace, have ended in a blind alley. Rapidly moving events are forcing the Soviet bureaucracy to improvise a new “line.”

The Russian bureaucracy has accepted the inevitability of approaching war and it is clearly orienting its entire policy towards war and the new situations created by war. The entire “line” of the Comintern, internal and external, can be understood only from this political aspect, since the Third International is tied hand and foot to Soviet diplomacy and pursues no independent working-class policy of its own. If the nature of the coming struggle is complicated by the exigencies of the Soviet Union in a world of enemies, it is all the more complicated due to the policies now adopted by the Stalinists. A real defense of the USSR is absolutely unthinkable without a revolutionary policy on the part of the vanguard of the proletariat of the Western European countries. It remains truer than ever before that only the spread and success of the proletarian revolution in other more advanced countries can save the USSR from destruction. Yet less than ever does Stalin pin his faith on the ability of the international proletariat to defend the Soviet Union. Less than ever does or could the bureaucracy demonstrate any desire or any ability to conduct the coming war in revolutionary fashion, against capitalism and for the world’s workers. On the contrary the Stalinists base themselves completely on the Franco-Soviet pact; desperately they rely on the treacherous French bourgeoisie to prevent themselves from being hemmed in completely by enemies. Nobody would think of condemning Soviet diplomacy for attempting to secure military allies, particularly in view of the great strength of the opposing military alliance aiming to wipe out the last vestiges of the Soviet system, to restore private property in Russia, and to carve colonies out of a defeated workers’ fatherland. It is the criminal political role played by the Soviet apparatus and by those branch offices of Stalinist diplomacy, the “Communist parties” of the various countries, that must be exposed and condemned.

Crumbling of Franco-Soviet Alliance

Since France has become the mainstay of Russian policy, it is precisely in France that the gangrene of Stalinism reveals itself most nakedly. The Russian bureaucracy is far from certain of its French imperialist ally. It is feared, and with the best of reasons, that if the Germans and their allies once start the attack on the Soviet Union, the French bourgeoisie will completely fail its “ally,” pact or no pact. The entire strategy of the Stalinists is therefore aimed at preventing the crumbling of the Franco-Soviet alliance, at bolstering it up. The Popular Front became the medium through which the Comintern hoped to maintain the alliance and at the same time prevent the fascist enemies from coming to power in France. This bloc of classes tied the working class to the “democratic” section of the French bourgeoisie that was willing to fight against Germany even at the side of the Red Army. To maintain a powerful military France – under the rule of capitalism of course – the Stalinists declared a truce in the class struggle so that class “differences” should not disturb the harmony of “national unity.”

But the class struggle refuses to down despite the zealous efforts of the Stalin cohorts to conjure it away. In the Spanish events we see the struggle for power that is inherent in this imperialist epoch of wars and revolutions breaking out in its most violent form in spite of and through the very Popular Front itself. Should the workers in Spain cast off the treacherous net of the Popular Front and begin to move in the direction of Soviets and proletarian dictatorship, the whole war structure of Stalinism would begin to totter. The Spanish Popular Front would go up in smoke the moment the workers moved to take matters into their own hands, the moment they began to move in the direction of socialism. Immediate consequences would follow in France. The petty bourgeoisie might take fright and break with the left to tie up with the right, thus giving support to fascism. Or the flames of Spanish civil war might set fire to the French tinder-box and start a conflagration on an even greater scale than in Spain. In either case the value of the military alliance from the Stalinist viewpoint would be destroyed. A France torn by civil war would, according to the Stalinists, prove of little help against an immediate attack by Hitler. The French fascists would undoubtedly seek and obtain the help of Hitler, as do the Spanish reactionaries. Hence the utter dismay and consternation of the Russian bureaucrats at the course of events in Spain.

Spanish Revolution Sacrificed

The Spanish Revolution is sacrificed for the supposed benefit of the Soviet rulers under the cloak of peace and defense of the Soviet Union. The Spanish Revolution must not become a struggle for Soviets and tor communism! The DAILY WORKER of Sept. 2nd carries a speech by M. Thorez, leader of the French C.P., in which he says: “About the events in Spain. How many slanders are being poured out daily by the so-called ‘information’ press. – It seems it is a struggle against Marxism, against Communism, in a land where neither Socialists nor Communists participate in the Government! – It is even said that it is a struggle against an attempt to set up Soviets in Spain. – It is a slander to say that there the fight is for communism, for the dictatorship of the proletariat. No. It is a question of the defense of the Republic. It is a question of the defense of the Republican Constitution against a minority of plotters. – Every day we hear a canard about nationalization. Spain has not confiscated, nor even nationalized. The Republic respects property, even capitalist property in Spain.” Thus does the C.P. “struggle” for the maintenance of the status quo!

Time now works against Stalinism. France is clearly on the verge of civil war. The skirmishes in the streets are the sure prelude to the pitched battles of tomorrow. The more the French proletariat demonstrates its readiness to fight against capitalism, the nearer the approach of civil war, the greater the nightmare dread of the Russian bureaucracy that a “united” France with great military power will not exist at all when war breaks out. The revolutionizing of the French workers has become a menace to the entire war structure conceived by Stalin-Voroshiloff. To the Comintern the whole question is now posed as a race between the outbreak of war, with France on the side of Russia, or the outbreak of civil war in France with Russia isolated – in the eyes of the present “leaders,” who shiver at the thought of their own downfall that would follow on the heels of a successful French proletarian Revolution. The leaders of proletarian defeats put more trust in the French and Polish generals. How L’HUMANITE exulted when the Polish dictator, Gen. Rydz-Smigly, visited Paris, with a “Long live Poland!” (the Poland of capitalist reaction!) The Stalinists are bending every effort to build strong dikes against the class struggle in France. The Popular Front no longer suffices. .Now the French Front is proposed to establish “unity” of the entire French nation. Not only is the social-patriotic “sacred unity” of 1914 repeated, but it is repeated by the very same individuals, the Vaillant-Couturiers, the Cachins, etc.! Let none dare quote Liebknecht that the main enemy is at home! The main enemy is Hitler abroad.

Unity of French Nation

A letter of Jacque Duclos, French CP leader, to Louis Marin is quoted in L’HUMANITE of Aug. 14th. Duclos calls Marin to order for slandering the C. P. in saying that it stands for a class struggle policy! “In effect your words could tend only to incite Frenchmen against oilier Frenchmen. That is, instead of uniting the nation, you work to aggravate the divisions at a moment when the interests of the country demand quite a different thing. – You said that the Communists demand the occupation of the factories. Is this due to lack of information or to a lapse of memory ? I don’t know, but in any case that assertion has nothing in common with the truth. Further you declared that we communists preach indiscipline in the army and the police forces. To that we answer that we have too great a concern for the interests of our country, whose liberty and independence are threatened by the Hitlerites at home and abroad, not to consider that the army must be capable of fulfilling its role of protecting the country with regard to its liberty. – Let me tell you how regrettable it is to see at the time when we want to unite all people of good will, that at the moment when we have set ourselves to realize the French Front, that some combat this union.” In this same issue of L’HUMANITE appears approval of a baldly capitalistic statement by the notorious Caillaux, who says: “We must say that France will tolerate in no case, and no matter what it will cost her, harm to her essential interests.” To which the editors reply: “Having expressed this point of view, M. Caillaux cannot but approve the policy of dignity of France and the safeguarding of the peace supported by the C. P., which for this very purpose is working for the union of the French nation!”

Social-patriotism always poses as the lover of peace so as to justify the plea of “defense of the fatherland” made by the capitalists. The peace must be consistent with national “dignity and honor.” By adopting this line of betrayal of the working class, the Stalinists have become the defenders of national capitalist boundaries. And as a matter of fact the whole concept of the French Front is unity of those willing to fight against Hitler fascism (a distinction is even made between those fascists who will fight Hitler and those who will aid him!). Thus the DAILY WORKER of Sept. 2 quotes Thorez as saying: “Thus, in a difficult situation at home and abroad, we propose the following for the salvation of our people: 1. A French front for the respect of law, which at the present time can only mean the application of the Matignon agreements, the effective dissolution and the disarming of the leagues, the defense of the Constitution and of all the laws of the Republic. 2. A French Front for the defense of the national economy, which at the present time can only mean assistance and protection for the middle-class elements, support for the peasants, making the rich pay and preventing certain capitalists from sabotaging national production by dismissing their help and closing their plants. 3. A French Front for the freedom and independence of our country, which at the present moment can only mean an active and consistent policy in agreement with all countries which effectively want indivisible peace and collective security. That means that we must indignantly reject all foreign intervention in the affairs of our country.” Thorez adds: “On these points it is our opinion that we can meet with those who do not agree with the whole of the People’s Front program, even if they do not renounce their opinions.” Stripped of demagogy all this means is an agreement against Hitler, and nothing more.

Protection to French Colonies

The Stalinists do not fail to promise the French bourgeoisie, for such support, the protection not only of their rule at home but in the colonies as well. Vaillant-Couturier, in L’HUMANITE of Aug. 11, makes clear the danger of losing the colonies to Hitler and Mussolini. And of course he wishes to maintain the blessings of French civilization in Africa! “We who are the advocates of granting the largest democratic rights to the population of Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco, to speak of them only, we are – and by virtue of that very fact – equally resolved to do everything to prevent them from falling under the yoke of foreign fascism. We do not wish at any price to see Hitler installed in Algeria and Mussolini in Tunis, as they are already installing themselves in Spanish Morocco. – Those who refuse to see the amplitude of the Hitlerite operations which are in process of unfolding against Prance, from the Pyrenees to the coasts of Algeria, those who favor the insurgents and their plots for civil war in North Africa, act truly as traitors to their country.” Perhaps the most outspoken statement of all is made on behalf of the Political Bureau of the French CP by Thorez in a speech of Aug. 13th, quoted in L’HUMANITE of Aug. 14th: “In this dramatic situation that is taking place, not only the future of democracy and of peace is threatened by fascism, but also and above all the destiny of France; the CP considers that it is not possible to retreat further before Hitlerite bravado and that it is incumbent to apply an external policy exempt from hesitations and conforming to the will of our people who want peace in honor and dignity.”

Thus it is evident that the Stalinists have come to a momentous decision. The only way they can be certain that capitalist France will fight side by side with Russia against Germany, is for France to come to blows with Germany first, so that Russia can come to the aid of imperialist France rather than vice versa. Stalin has no more choice in the matter – except one. To try in some fashion to be sure that France will be on the right side in the war. Only this explains the course of the CI, its utter treachery to the proletariat. The CI is willing to dragoon the workers for the aim of French imperialism, even to defend the French colonies for that imperialism. It is the Stalinists who propose bigger war budgets. It is the Stalinists who welcome effusively the foreign militarists who may become the allies of France in the war.

It is the Stalinists who bolster up all the capitalist institutions that would have to be ground into the dust in order to assure the success of a working-class revolution – the army, the police, “law and order,” the capitalists’ state.

We witness in this manner how the theory of socialism in one country, based on the idea that peace was possible between capitalism and socialism, led progressively to the defense of the status quo. This defense of the status quo now reaches its culmination in the placing of the parties of the CI completely at the disposal of the bourgeoisie in peace and in war, for national unity and for national defense. In this new policy lies the real explanation for the Moscow trial and for other happenings in the SU. Just as in capitalist countries the certainty of war leads to the most stringent tightening up of the state apparatus against the workers, so in Russia the near approach of war leads to even greater precautions taken by a Bonapartist clique against all possible opposition to their regime, in this case an opposition wholly from the left.

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