From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 13, 8 July 1940, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
With the complete approval of Hitler and Mussolini, Russian troops occupied Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina following a twenty-four hour ultimatum to the Rumanian government calling for the ceding of these territories.
Hitler gained control over Rumania and the Balkans, as King Carol accepted the ultimatum and renounced the guarantee of protection pledged a year ago by Anglo-French imperialism. The country is now facing complete dismemberment as Hungary demands the return of Transylvania, a province taken from her after the first world war, and Bulgaria asks for Dobrudjo, a province seized from her in 1913. Hitler will decide how and when these demands will be met.
At some points the Russian troops clashed with the Rumanian army because of the rapid occupation of the ceded territory and, according to reports, because they went beyond the frontiers established by the agreement, apparently by mistake. Fighting also broke out between Stalinists released from prison and local police, and as a result of the increased anti-semitic drive in Rumania which caused Jews to flee to Russian-occupied territory.
At the same time there are persistent reports that Stalin has demanded from Rumania naval bases at Constanza and at the mouth of the Danube; and from Turkey, participation in control of the Dardenelles, the narrow straits linking the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. These reports although not confirmed ore in harmony with the general course of the Stalin-Hitler alliance.
The official Russian explanation for its new annexations are given in Molotov’s ultimatum-note of June 26. The communique declares that the Soviet Union has never reconciled itself to the seizure of Bessarabia by Rumania at the end of the last world war. It claims that the overwhelming majority of the people of that province are Ukrainians and should therefore be united with the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. This change, it continues, is made both possible and necessary by the new military strength of Russia, and the “present international situation;” and is connected with the need af transferring to Russia Northern Bukovina whose people are bound to the Soviet Ukraine by language and national composition. At the same time the transfer of this province would also be a partial compensation for the 22 year domination of Bessarabia by Rumania. The note concludes by demanding the two provinces within twenty four hours, by June 27.
Meanwhile, speculation was rife as to the meaning of Russia’s invasion and as to what Stalin’s next steps would be.
Both Berlin and Rome affirmed that they had approved Russia’s action beforehand, and had advised King Carol to accept Stalin’s demands. According to a United Press dispatch from Berlin:
“A tri-power agreement between Germany, Italy and Russia dividing zones of interest in Southeastern Europe opened the way for the Soviets’ ultimatum against Rumania, it was stated in well-informed Nazi quarters early today.” (New York Times, June 28)
Stalin’s action was therefore no surprise to Berlin or Rome. Nor was Washington unaware of the agreement for control of the Balkans by Germany, Russia and Italy. Last week Labor Action quoted Frank L. Kluckhohn’s Washington dispatch, written before the public announcement of the ultimatum:
“Germany has an agreement with the Soviet Union under which the Russians will be permitted to take over Bessarabia and the Reich is urging the recently constituted Rumanian government to concede this territory without fighting, it was reported in well-informed diplomatic circles here today.” (New York Times, June 26)
In the same dispatch Kluckhohn wrote that Stalin will seek to give his annexation move a “stop-Hitler” appearance. And it appears that he has succeeded in this.
With Russian troops only 100 miles from the Rumanian oil fields, vital source for Hitler, and apparently in control of the Danube, London looks at Stalin’s actions as anti-German, and some people here credit the new British ambassador to Moscow, Sir Stafford Cripps, with proposing it. The dominant view in the press of this country follows the British interpretation.
However, there is no room for doubt that Stalin’s new moves received the full approval of Hitler, and are part of their agreement far the joint control of the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Near East.
Ever since the Stalin-Hitler pact, signed on August 23, 1939, the two parties to the agreement have collaborated in accordance with Article III providing for mutual information and consultation on matters affecting their common interests. Thus it was with the invasion of Poland by Hitler and Stalin and their joint partition of the country. So also in the cases of Stalin’s early occupation of the Baltic countries, his invasion and annexation of a part of Finland, and his more recent seizure of the Baltic countries.
Regular consultations between German and Russian officials took place on all these occasions. Some were made public, others kept secret. For example, the Russian press agency Tass dispatch of May 3 announced that a fortnight earlier the two governments have reached an agreement on the Scandinavian countries. More recently, on the eve of Russia’s occupation of the Baltics, the same source revealed that another agreement “on frontiers” was reached between Stalin and Hitler on June 10, the day of Italy’s declaration of war. Perhaps, at a later date, the exact nature of the Russo-German agreement in regard to the Balkans will also be known.
But that such art agreement exists there is no doubt. Hitler permits these seizures of territories by Moscow as compensation for Stalin’s “non-belligerent” support of his war against Anglo-French imperialism; and as a means of his control of the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Near East. While Hitler wages war on the Western Front, Russia stands as a threat over Turkey and the Balkan countries, above all Rumania, in case they should decide to join the Allies against Germany. Turkey, whose control over the Dardanelles gives it a unique position in the Mediterranean and the Near East, has been forced to break its alliance with England and France. Rumania had to follow suit. Now Hitler controls that country, and with the aid of Stalin aims to dominate the Dardanelles. While Hitler is conducting his war against the British Empire, Russia will assure the regular flow of goods from the Balkans to Germany. Stalin’s aid to Hitler flows from his own desire to increase the revenues, power and prestige of the reactionary bureaucratic rulers of Russia, whose interests have nothing in common with those of the Russian or world working class. Through his partnership with the most powerful and aggressive imperialist power, German Fascism, Stalin has taken over part of Finland, the Baltics, part of Poland, and now Bessarabia and Bukovina. Like Russian Czarist imperialism, Stalin seeks control over the Dardanelles, and with that, influence in the Mediterranean and the Near East. He is ready to share this expansion with German Fascism, and in order to do so, seeks to make Hitler as dependent on Russia as possible. At the same time these new conquests would become defense outposts in case of a German attack on Russia.
Stalin is working hard for the long term agreement with German Fascism. Hitler has probably promised him such a lasting division of the spoils. Naturally, neither partner trusts the other. And in case of a quick and decisive victory of Hitler over the British Empire, particularly it there is not an immediate war between Germany and the United States, Hitler will turn on Russia, and seek to reduce it to a colony.
Despite apparent strengthening of Russia’s defenses, Stalin’s entire course has in reality weakened the country. His barbaric dictatorship over the Russian people, the wiping out of the old generation of revolutionists, the suicidal purges of the Red Army officer staff, the economic chaos which has resulted from his bureaucratic economic “planning,” his brutal crushing of the national independence of the bordering states, and his destruction of the growing revolutionary working class movements in Germany in 1932–33, and in France in 1934–39. have all contributed to repelling the masses, and weakening the Soviet Union.
At the same time by his support of Hitler’s war against Anglo-French imperialism, Stalin has strengthened. German Fascism in its struggle for world domination and has thereby increased the danger of a successful Hitler attack on Russia.
Within Russia itself, new measures were adopted last week for increased production in preparation for large scale military operations. The eight hour working day replaces the seven hour working day; the seven day week is substituted for the six day week, with a revolving rest-day so that while every worker gets one day of rest in seven, factories will operate on a full seven day schedule.
At the same time warnings were issued against the growing trend among workers to leave their places of employment without permission, and heavy penalties decreed. Undoubtedly, the turnover of labor is far greater than officially admitted, and is the expression of an increasing dissatisfaction among the workers with the existing labor standards and terroristic conditions.
Commenting on these decrees Pravda (June 26) recalls the words of Stalin that “the whole of our people must be kept in a state of mobilization and preparedness in the face of the danger of military attack so that no single ‘accident’ and no tricks on the part of our external enemies may take us by surprise ...”
However, it should be remembered that every adventure of Stalin, such as in Finland or in the Baltics, was undertaken under the guise of “defense” of the Soviet Union. Stalin is now preparing for large scale warfare – as an ally of Hitler if the German Fuehrer permits, or against him, if and when Hitler decides that he no longer needs Russian collaboration and turns on his ally of today.
Whatever course Stalin takes will be dictated by his own reactionary anti-working class, anti-socialist interests. The Russian workers and peasants, supported by the workers of other countries, can defend their country against Hitler and capitalist imperialism only by the relentless struggle for the overthrow of the Stalin regime and for socialist democracy.
Last updated: 9.9.2012