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The Militant, 27 December 1941

M. Stein

Our Answer to Foster’s Questions and Answers

Foster’s Explanation of the Stalin-Hitler Pact Is Intended Only
to Whitewash and Justify Course of the Stalinist Bureaucracy

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 52, 27 December 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Every time the members of the Communist Party are swept off their feet by a new turn in the party line, the C.P. apparatus sets the well-oiled “enlightenment” machine into motion. The object of this machine is to knock out of the party members’ heads the ideas of yesterday, the ideas they have grown accustomed to seeing in their party publications and for which they argued so heatedly with their friends and shopmates. Simultaneously with this difficult operation, a new set of ideas is to be pounded home. And all this must be accomplished in a way which will leave unimpaired the “prestige” of the leadership and the infallibility of Stalin.

Foster Tries to Calm C.P. Ranks

In the “enlightenment” campaign now under way to put over the. new war position of the C.P., William Z. Foster, appropriately enough, plays a prominent role. He did his bit in the first World War “to make the world safe for democracy” by peddling Liberty Bonds. He is no slacker this time either. Part of his modest contribution to the U.S. war effort consists of a column on the editorial page of the Daily Worker under the general heading: The People’s War: Questions and Answers. In it he undertakes each day to answer questions about the war which are agitating the minds of C.P. members.

In this article we wish to deal with his answer on Oct. 30 to the important question: “Did the USSR make a mistake in signing the non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany?”, for the answer he gives is typical of all the other apologies made by the Stalinist bureaucrats for Stalin’s policies before the German-Soviet war.

From the time of the signing of the Stalin-Hitler Pact up to the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union – almost two years – it has been drilled into the minds of the Stalinist rank and file that the Pact was just about the cleverest piece of strategy the world had ever seen, that in a world torn by war, Stalin had played his cards so well that he had succeeded in keeping the Soviet Union out of it.

Cost of the Pact

To be sure, many Stalinists felt that it was a terrible price Stalin had paid for this peace. They knew from their own experiences and contacts that many workers held Stalin responsible for giving Hitler the green light for the opening of the Polish offensive, they knew that, so far as the best militants were concerned, the prestige of the Soviet Union in this period had reached the lowest point in its history. But, argued the Fosters in that period of “enlightenment”, life itself will teach the workers in time; for when the whole capitalist world lies in ruins, the Soviet Union will still be there in its full glory, attesting to the indisputable correctness of Stalin’s course in signing the pact.

But the whole thin web of rationalization thus spun by the Stalinists was blown to bits by Hitler’s armies, which laid waste the most productive, the most industrial sections of the country and killed and maimed countless hundreds of thousands of the bravest defenders of the Russian Revolution.

Foster’s aim, it is clear from his answer to the question, is not to tell the truth to the C.P. rank and file, but only to salvage out of the debacle of the Stalin-Hitler Pact the prestige of his master, Joseph Stalin.

Industrial Output

Foster makes three points in his answer: “First, in the period that the pact lasted the USSR increased industrial output by a full 25 per cent ...” We do not know where Foster got his figures. The official Soviet figures, at least those which have been published, show on the contrary a decline in production. (See How Stalin Cleared Road for Hitler by John G. Wright, Fourth International, November 1941)

But let us for the sake of argument take Foster’s figures for a moment. What significance has this alleged increase in the face of the undeniable increase in German productivity? In this same period Hitler conquered the territories and workshops of all of Europe. And what is the significance of the alleged 25% increase in the face of the recent losses in industrial capacity suffered by the USSR?

Strategic Position

Foster argues:

“Moreover, the USSR through incorporating the neighboring states of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, White Russia and Bessarabia within its borders, greatly improved its strategic position by creating a cushioning territory to ease the shock of eventual German Blitzkrieg.”

These lines were written at a time when Hitler’s armies were at the gates of Leningrad, Moscow and Rostov. Foster does not dare to say whether this “position” justified the most – the alienation of the sympathies of the world proletariat. Nor does he tell how well this “improved strategic position” was utilized or how much actual advantage was taken of it by Stalin.

If we take the testimony of Ralph Ingersoll, editor of PM, on this point, the Red Armies were able to put up real resistance only after they had reached the old Soviet border, while the newly occupied territories were lost, along with great masses of equipment, in short order. This was verified only a few days ago, when Litvinov told reporters in Washington on Dec. 13:

“Before declaring war he (Hitler) attacked almost all our airports and military bases just behind the frontiers. In this way he was able to destroy in a flash a very considerable quantity of our airplanes and tanks and, to a certain extent, throw into confusion our troops, as they were taken unawares and without the slightest expectation of war ... the whole of this monstrous machine was launched against the Soviet Union, before we were able to get properly prepared for such an attack and to mobilize our own forces. As a result Hitler managed for a long time to press back our troops, to force them into retreat and to penetrate deeply into our country ...”

Balance of Power

“Second”, argues Foster, “during the pact period two major Axis enemies of the USSR were greatly weakened and rendered less capable of attack: Japan ... and Italy”. This point might have had some validity if Foster had gone on to show that the power today was more favorable to the USSR than it was at the time the Pact was signed.

During the period of the Pact, Hitler subdued France with its immense army, the Low Countries, Norway and the Balkans which were in a category by themselves and were a potential threat to Hitler.

It was primarily for the sake of eliminating the danger of a war on two fronts that Hitler signed the Pact with Stalin, was ready to “share” with him in the conquest of Poland, induced Roumania to cede Bessarabia, and “tolerated” the war with Finland and the occupation of the Baltic countries. The Pact fitted in with Hitler’s strategy. To understand this, all one has to do is to recall for a moment the picture of Europe and the world at the time of the Pact.

“Third”, Foster informs his readers, “the attitude of England and the United States, because of events during the period of the pact, has become more friendly towards the USSR ...” What a roundabout way of winning the friendship of England and the U.S.! If Dale Carnegie does not have this method on his book on How to Win Friends and Influence People, he must by all means include it.

Apparently by the time he came to the end of his article, Foster felt he had not been very convincing, for he concludes with the following: “Later experience will show that the signing of the pact with the Soviet Union was a major defeat for Hitler, which will eventually end up in his downfall.”

Effect on German Workers

That Hitler’s downfall is imminent, we are convinced. But this will not occur because of the Pact, but despite it, and despite the treachery of Stalin and Foster. If anything, the Pact helped to prolong Hitler’s regime. His gains from the Pact were not only military. Even more important, the Pact helped to solidify Hitler’s home front and to disorient the working class everywhere. Germany had a great Socialist and Communist tradition and millions of workers who were supporters of either the Socialist or Communist Party. The Pact must have had the effect of a terrific body blow to these workers, many of them in army uniforms today. How could they help but feel that Stalin had discovered some hidden virtues in their arch enemy, Hitler, that perhaps there were some progressive features about Hitler’s war? And many of the German workers who were not thrown into Hitler’s arms most assuredly fell into a mood of despair where they felt, “What is the use of opposing Hitler when he has even the Soviet Union lined up?”

Decisive Criterion

The Stalin-Hitler Pact was only a link in the whole chain of Stalinist policy which is based on utter contempt for the independent role of the working-class. This contempt by the Stalinist bureaucracy for the working class has its counterpart in their servility before the capitalist rulers. Not so long ago Laval, representing the French rulers at the time, was hailed as the best friend of the Soviet Union, then it was Hitler, now it is Roosevelt and Churchill.

It goes without saying that the Soviet Union because of capitalist encirclement is compelled to enter into pacts with one or another group of imperialists. What is criminal on the part of the Stalins and Fosters is not the mere making of pacts, but their subordination of the revolutionary workers’ movement in the interests of the imperialists who are temporarily in an alliance with the USSR.

There is another criterion. The value of pacts must be judged in the final analysis by their results. Did the Pact strengthen the relative position of the Soviet Union? The terrible position of the Soviet Union in the war today speaks for itself. Only a hardened Stalinist scribbler can maintain the contrary.

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