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The Militant, 22 November 1941

Trotsky Showed How to Defend the Soviet Union

Not Support of the Imperialists in the War, But Relentless Class Struggle
Against Them Is Only Way to Save Workers State

(30 June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 47, 22 November 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


More than 24 years after the October Revolution, the Soviet masses are engaged in a life and death struggle to defend the first workers state against its imperialist enemies. In spite of the heroism and sacrifice they are displaying, they have suffered terrible reverses.

What is the correct policy of defense? Should workers in the United States and Britain call for the opening of a “western front”? Would that aid or hurt the defense of the USSR?

Trotsky posed these questions in the manifesto, War and the Fourth International (1934), and answered them. Those answers retain their full force and pertinence to this day, when the Stalinists, whose policies have brought the USSR to the very brink of catastrophe, are clamoring for a “western front” by the imperialists as the only means of preventing the defeat of the workers state. We print here the section of the document dealing with these questions:

* * *

In the existing situation an alliance of the USSR with an imperialist state or with one imperialist combination against another, in case of war, cannot at all be considered as excluded. Under the pressure of circumstances a temporary alliance of this kind may become an iron necessity, without ceasing, however, because of it, to be of the greatest danger both to the USSR and to the world revolution.

Tasks of the Workers

The international proletariat will not decline to defend the USSR even if the latter should find itself forced into a military alliance with some imperialists against others. But in this case, even more than in any other, the international proletariat must safeguard its complete political independence from Soviet diplomacy and thereby also from the bureaucracy of the Third International.

Remaining the determined and devoted defender of the workers’ state in the struggle with imperialism the international proletariat will not, however, become an ally of the imperialist allies of the USSR. The proletariat of a capitalist country which finds itself in an alliance with the USSR must retain fully and completely its irreconcilable hostility to the imperialist government of its own country. In this sense its policy

will not differ from that of the proletariat in a country fighting against the USSR. But in the nature of practical actions considerable differences may arise depending on the concrete war situation. For instance, it would be absurd and criminal in case of war between the USSR and Japan for the American proletariat to sabotage the sending of American munitions to the USSR. But the proletariat of a country fighting against the USSR would be absolutely obliged to resort to actions of this sort – strikes, sabotage, etc.

“A Real Alliance”

Intransigent proletarian opposition to the imperialist ally of the USSR must develop on the one hand, on the basis of international class policy, on the other, on the basis of the imperialist aims of the given government, the treacherous character of this ‘alliance’, its speculation on capitalist overturn in the USSR, etc. The policy of a proletarian party in an ‘allied’ as well as in an enemy imperialist country should therefore be directed towards the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the seizure of power. Only in this way can a real alliance with the USSR be created and the first workers’ state be saved from disaster.

Within the USSR war against imperialist intervention will undoubtedly provoke a veritable outburst of genuine fighting enthusiasm. All the contradictions and antagonisms will seem overcome or at any rate relegated to the background. The young generations of workers and peasants that emerged from the revolution

will reveal on the field of battle a colossal dynamic power. Centralized industry, despite its lacks and shortcomings, will reveal great superiority in serving war needs. The government of the USSR has undoubtedly created great stores of food supplies sufficient for the first period of war. The general staffs of the imperialist states clearly realize, of course, that in the Red Army they will meet a powerful adversary, the struggle with whom will require long intervals of time and terrific straining of forces.

But precisely the protracted nature of the war will inevitably reveal the contradictions of the transition economy of the USSR with its bureaucratic planning ...

The political conclusions following from this are obvious: a) only the proletarian revolution in the West can save the USSR as the workers’ state in case of a long protracted war; b) the preparation for a proletarian revolution in ‘friendly’, ‘allied’ as well as enemy countries is conceivable only with the complete independence of the world proletarian vanguard from the Soviet bureaucracy; c) the unconditional support of the USSR against the imperialist armies must go hand in hand with revolutionary Marxist criticism of the war and the diplomatic policy of the Soviet government, and with the formation inside of the USSR of a real revolutionary party of Bolshevik- Leninists.

June 30, 1934.

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