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The Militant, 23 June 1945

Trotsky’s Prediction on Stalinist Shifts

(December 1938)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 25, 23 June 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Editorial note: When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, the American Stalinists joined the ranks of the most rabid supporters of Wall Street’s war program. How they are attempting to pass off their outright betrayal of the working class as an “opportunist” deviation which has been called to their attention by the French Stalinist leader, Jacques Duclos. But Browder’s and Foster’s support of the imperialist war is not just simple “opportunism.” The Browder-Foster clique openly deserted the socialist struggle of the working-class and went over to the camp of capitalism, thereby branding themselves as renegades and traitors. Leon Trotsky long ago pointed out the direction in which the Stalinists were travelling. Below we reprint part of an article by Trotsky, in which he discussed the “Communo-Chauvinism” of the Stalinists. This article, entitled A Fresh Lesson on the Character of the Coming War, appeared in the New International magazine for December 1938 – more than two and a half years before the American Stalinists began waving the flag for Wall Street's war.

* * *

The monstrous and rapid development of Soviet opportunism finds its explanation in causes analogous to those which, in the previous generation, led to the flowering of opportunism in capitalist countries, namely, the parasitism of the labor bureaucracy which has successfully solved its “social question” on the basis of a rise of the productive forces in the USSR. But since the Soviet bureaucracy is incomparably more powerful than the labor bureaucracy in capitalist countries, and since the feeding-trough at its disposal is distinguished by its almost unlimited capacity, there is nothing astonishing in the fact that the Soviet variety of opportunism immediately assumed an especially perfidious and vile character.

As regards the ex-Comintern, its social basis, properly speaking is of a twofold nature: on the one hand, it lives on the subsidies of the Kremlin, submits to the latter’s commands, and, in this respect every ex-communist bureaucrat is the younger brother and subordinate of the Soviet bureaucrat. On the other hand, the various machines of the ex-Comintern feed from the same sources as the social democracy, that is, the superprofits of imperialism. The growth of the communist parties in recent years, their infiltration into the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie, their installation in the state machinery, the trade unions, parliaments, municipalities, etc. have strengthened in the extreme their dependence on national imperialism at the expense of their traditional dependence on the Kremlin.

The Roots of Degeneration

Ten years ago it was predicted that the theory of socialism in one country must inevitably lead to the growth of nationalist tendencies in the sections of the Comintern. This prediction has become an obvious fact. But until recently, the chauvinism of the French, British, Belgian, Czechoslovak, American and other communist parties seemed to be, and, to a certain extent, was a refracted image of the interests of Soviet diplomacy (“the defense of the USSR”). Today, we can predict with assurance the inception of a new stage. The growth of imperialists antagonisms, the obvious proximity of the war danger and the equally obvious isolation of the USSR must unavoidably strengthen the centrifugal nationalist tendencies within the Comintern. Each one of its sections will begin to evolve a patriotic policy on its own account. Stalin has reconciled the communist parties of imperialist democracies with their national bourgeoisies. This stage has now been passed. The Bonapartist procurer has played his role. Henceforth the communo-chauvinists will have to worry about their own hides, whose interests by no means always coincide with the “defense of the USSR.”

When the American Browder deemed it possible to declare before the Senatorial committee that in case of a war between the United States and the Soviet Union his party would be found on the side of its passionately beloved Fatherland, he himself might have possibly considered this statement as a simple stratagem. But in reality, Browder’s answer is an unmistakable symptom of a change from a “Moscow” to a “national” orientation. The “stratagem” arose out of the necessity of adaptation to imperialist “patriotism.” The cynical grossness of this stratagem (the turn from the “Fatherland of the toilers” to the Republic of the Dollar) reveals the profound extent of degeneration that has occurred and the full extent of the dependence of the sections of the Comintern on the public opinion of the bourgeoisie.

The Downward Course of Stalinism

Fifteen years of uninterrupted purges, degradation and corruption have brought the bureaucracy of the ex-Comintern to such a degree of demoralization that it has become able and anxious to openly take into its hands the banner of social-patriotism. The Stalinists (we shall soon have to say, the ex-Stalinists) have not of course, set the Thames on fire. They have simply picked up the well-known banalities of petty-bourgeois opportunism. But in propagating them, they have injected into them the frenzy of “revolutionary” parvenus, who have turned totalitarian slander, blackmail and murder into normal methods of “defending democracy.” As for the old classic reformists, washing their hands in innocence after every embarrassing situation, they have known how to use the support of the new recruits to chauvinism.

In that imperialist country which happens to be in the same camp with the USSR during the war (if any such is found), the section of the ex-Comintern will, naturally, “defend” Moscow. This defense, however, will be of no great value, for in such a country all parties will “defend” the USSR. (In order not to compromise itself with its imperialist ally, Moscow would probably order the communist party not to shout too loudly, and might possibly try to dissolve it altogether).

On the contrary in countries of the hostile camp, i.e., precisely where Moscow will be in greatest need of defenders, the ex-communist parties will be found completely on the side of their imperialist Fatherland: this course will be infinitely less dangerous and far more profitable. The ruling Moscow clique will reap the just fruits of fifteen years’ prostitution of the Comintern.

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