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Soviet-U.S. Trade Relations

The Slogan for Long Term Credits

(November 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 33 (Whole No. 92), 28 November 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“... There is every reason to count that under the conditions of the present commercial and industrial crisis, particularly in case of its further aggravation, the Soviet government by a correct policy can gain an incomparably larger access to the resources of the world market. Unemployment is a factor of huge importance which can make its impression upon the whole politics of the near future ... One of the most important slogans of the transition period can and must become the demand for economic collaboration with the Soviet Union.” (L. Trotsky in World Unemployment and the Five-Year Plan)

The recent announcement by the Amtorg Trading Corporation, the Soviet commercial agency in the United States, that orders placed in this country had fallen off 52% during the first ten months of 1931, as compared with a similar period in 1930, raises the problem posed by comrade Trotsky once again in a very sharp and concrete form. On the question of economic relations between the Soviet Union and capitalist countries – between the Soviet Union and the United States – Trotsky’s thesis today retains its complete validity.

The Campaign Against the Soviets

The reactionary business and political forces in the United States, led by the Matthew Wolls, Hamilton Fishes and Herbert Hoovers conduct a systematic, unceasing, bitter and relentless propaganda against the Soviet Union on the economic front as well as on the political. The stupid and ostrich-like policy of the American section of the Stalinist Comintern has played directly into the hands of these bitter opponents of the Soviet Republic and all revolutionary workers’ movements.

Amtorg Asks For Better Credits

The Amtorg Trading Corporation, in its official statement pointing out the decline of purchases in the United States for the ten month period mentioned, from $102,800,000 to $49,400,000, says:

“Soviet commercial organizations are prepared to carry on and expand trade with the United States only on condition that long-term credits are extended comparable with those received by other countries in Europe, and on the further condition that the exceptional obstacles put in the way of the importation of Soviet products into this country are removed.”

The credit terms now extended in the United States, continues the Amtorg declaration, are not acceptable, and are the sole reason for the decline of trade relations with the United States.

Its purchases, it points out, have increased in England by 33% and have doubled in Germany, due to the more favorable credits established. In the United States, however, cash payments have been made in many instances. At the same time, all payments of bills have been made when they fell due.

The Department of Commerce of the United States, though acknowledging that the Soviet Union has made good on all its obligations, now advises officially business men to be “cautious” in their trade relations with Soviet Russia. The reactionary elements are speeding up their propaganda of hostility to the Soviets. Naturally there are protests from the friends of the Soviet Union, from itself and its trade agencies against the attitude of the American government on business relations with Russia. But what is being done, what policies are put forward to thwart these acts that hinder the development, to the greatest extent possible, of socialist construction in the Soviet Union. Has the Soviet Union a political line on the immediate issue of credits to the Soviet Union and what is the line of the Communist International, the “policy” of Stalin?

The False Doctrine of Stalin

Most unfortunately, the Stalinist line has been the enunciation and propagation of the false doctrine that the Soviet Union can function as an isolated and self-sufficing economic and political entity – as a Workers’ State within the capitalist world – and in time even build, barring military intervention, a complete socialist society. The Left Opposition condemned this theory of national socialism as inimical to the interests and needs of the workers of the Soviet Union and the international proletariat. The Stalinist policy has already broken a leg on the hard rock of world economic facts, particularly aggravated in the world economic crisis of which the Soviet Union is a part, though a lesser on because of the methods of planned socialist economy.

To develop its natural resources to the utmost, to push construction ahead in this period of the immature development of Soviet economy, in the period of the beginning of the socialist revolution (in which Soviets Russia is the first of the fortresses established by the proletariat) and the international proletariat revolution, the Soviet Union must utilize the resources of the capitalist world.

Concretely this means that economic relations on a wide-scale must be established between the Soviet Union and the capitalist countries. Since, as affairs stand now, the ready resources of the Soviet Union are insufficient to meet the demands of the capitalists in order to make the necessary purchases from them, it is plain that the extension of large and long-term credits to the Soviet Union is essential and imperative. Otherwise, the Soviet Union cannot obtain now the necessary industrial and machine equipment required for its purposes; the development of socialist economy is necessarily enormously hindered. It is an unavoidable contradiction between an economically undeveloped Soviet economy existing side by side with capitalist nations. Nor can credit extensions remove the contradiction; they can only temporarily soften it a bit, and at the same time permit the working class in other countries to develop its own revolutionary movement and struggle for political power.

The Stalinists have been blind to the obvious. The theory of socialism in one country is, after all, for magicians who pull rabbits out of a hat. The Comintern has been wholly wrong, politically and economically, in its neglect and failure, and the more so during this period of economic and social crisis, to raise the slogan of economic collaboration, of trade relations and the extension of long-term credits to the Soviet Union, and to call upon its sections to carry on a campaign for their realization. In the United States more than elsewhere, perhaps, could these slogans have taken hold among the masses of workers and been brought to some fruition.

Immediate Demands

It has been pointed out time and again in the columns of The Militant that these slogans, connected concretely with the issue of the millions of unemployed in the United States, could have and will yet make their way to the minds of the American workers, if properly carried out under the leadership of the Communists ; and that pressure can be brought to bear upon the American bourgeoisie to extend to a far greater extent than now its economic relations with the Soviet Republic. For almost two years, the American Communist Party, led by the Browders, has ignored or derided this burning question, doing great harm both to communism in the United States and to the requirements of the Soviet Union. But facts have a way of making themselves seen and heard. In recent months, the American Party has smuggled the slogan of the extension of long-term credits into its program, but has not yet grasped its full significance and carried on a wide campaign for its realization. The recent elections are an example of this failure.

Immediate demands can never be permitted to cloud or retard the main strategical line or principles of Communism in the struggle for political power by the workers. Immediate demands, as formulated and carried through by the liberals and socialists, are aimed to draw the workers into the field of reform as against that of the proletarian revolution. The Communists aim to serve the immediate and revolutionary needs of the working class, and to develop their demands in accordance with that line.

For Working Class Unity

It is necessary to point out to the workers that the slogans for broad economic collaboration with, and the extension of long-term credits to the Soviet Union can serve two immediate objectives: 1. To aid in the alleviation of unemployment in the United States through the employment of worker needed to make the products to be pur chased by Soviet Russia; 2. To assist thereby in the development of the Five Year Plan in Soviet Russia and the development of socialist construction. Confidence and fraternal relations between the workers of the two countries are thereby increased. Support for the Soviet Union by the workers in all countries must be built upon the understanding and needs of the workers in the Soviet Russia; and, likewise the confidence of the workers in Russia in their task is increased by the knowledge that they can count upon the support of the workers in other lands. The spread of the ideas of internationalism is the best defense of the Soviet fatherland.

America remains for the Soviet Union the best market for its major needs tractors, automobiles, electrical equipment, machinery, etc. The Communists must direct a propaganda to demand that the U.S. government make possible economic and political relations (recognition of the Soviet Union) with Soviet Russia. Already the engineer Dr. Walter N. Polakov has brought forward the suggestion for a billion dollar pool for the extension of credits to the Soviet Union. Business selfishness and greed or profits can make it easier for the masses to carry through the demands upon the capitalist government. The slogans of the Left Opposition retain their full validity and strength for the immediate interests of the American workers and for the development of their class conscious and revolutionary spirit for assistance to the Soviet Union in its industrial and agricultural construction; for the development of international solidarity, understanding and the unity of the working class on immediate burning issues and ultimately for the international proletarian revolution.

What will the official Communist Party in the United States and the Stalinist Comintern do? Will they correct and change their line, or continue the policy of isolated, national socialism in Soviet Russia and the repudiation in fact, if not in name, of the development of the international forces for Communism?

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