From New International, Vol. 7 No. 4, May 1941, pp. 68–73.
Transcribed & marked up by Damon Maxwell for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Proofread by Einde O’ Callaghan (December 2012).
THE COMMUNIST PARTY of the United States leads the largest movement in this country against American participation in the Second World War. Yet, paradoxically enough, it is the greatest obstacle in the labor movement for the development of working class and socialist opposition to Roosevelt’s war course.
The paradox flows from the very nature of the Communist Party. Whatever the episodic policy (be it “class against class” or “People’s Front,” “Democratic Front” or “a people’s peace to end imperialist war”) the program of the Communist Party remains unaltered, viz., to defend Stalinist totalitarian Russia by any and every possible means. All else is either a specific way of executing this program or sheer demagogy and rationalization.
However, the main source of the strength of the Communist Party, through all its dizzy turns, is not the tremendous material resources at its disposal, but rather the ability of its leaders to convince large masses that Stalinist Russia is the “socialist fatherland” whose interests and policies are identical with those of the working class of the capitalist countries. This success is facilitated by the bankruptcy of the capitalist world, the treachery of social democracy, and the inability of the revolutionary socialists to build parties with mass influence among the workers and capable of reaching the Stalinist workers with the truth about Russia and the Comintern.
In his Criticism of the Draft Program of the Communist International (1928), Leon Trotsky wrote that the Stalinist doctrine of national socialism would lead to the degeneration of the Comintern.
“The task of the parties in the Comintern assumes, therefore, an auxiliary character; their mission is to protect the U.S.S.R. from intervention and not to fight for the conquest of power. It is, of course, not a question of the subjective intentions but of the objective logic of political thought” (page 61).
The events of the last thirteen years have proved to the hilt the validity of this prediction.
However, in the same study, Trotsky saw another consequence of the theory:
“If it is at all possible to realize socialism in one country then one can believe that theory not only after but also before the conquest of power. If socialism can be realized within the national boundaries of backward Russia, then there is all the more reason to believe that it can be’ realized in advanced Germany. Tomorrow the leaders of the Communist Party of Germany will undertake to propound this theory. The draft program empowers them to do so. The day after tomorrow the French party will have its turn. It will be the beginning of the disintegration of the Comintern along the lines of social-patriotism. The Communist Party of the capitalist country which will have become imbued with the idea that its particular country possesses the ‘necessary and sufficient’ prerequisites for the independent construction of a ‘complete socialist society,’ will not differ in any substantial manner from the revolutionary social democracy which also did not begin with a Noske but which tumbled decisively on August 4, 1914, over this question” (page 72).
In other words, Trotsky foresaw two possible roads which the Comintern would travel on the basis of the program of national socialism. It is clear now that these roads are alternative ones. A genuine social patriotic development of the national parties was in conflict with their role as mere agents of the Kremlin. During the People’s Front period it appeared as though both functions had been fused and many predicted that in case the need for a choice between the Russian masters and the national bourgeois ruling class arose, the Communist parties would choose the latter. The contrary took place. With a few isolated exceptions following the Stalin-Hitler pact and the outbreak of the war, the leaders and members of the Communist Party followed their Kremlin leader in his break with the democratic imperialists.
Trotsky’s error on the social-patriotic evolution of the Comintern – which means the mistake of our movement – arose from the fact that he analyzed the Communist parties, in this respect, too much in terms of the development of revolutionary social democracy into reactionary social democracy. However, the social democratic parties were national working class parties, decisively influenced by their particular bourgeois-national as well as working class pressures. The Communist parties, on the other hand, particularly following the complete liquidation of factions in early 1929, were and are merely national detachments of the Stalin regime operating within the labor movement of the various countries. Though subject to national influences, bourgeois and working class, these influences have had, and have, no significant independent weight in determining the policies of the national sections. They have importance only in so far as they affect Russian foreign policy, and thereby the orders given by Moscow for a particular country.
It is the peculiar bureaucratic and totalitarian character of Russia and the Comintern which closed the genuine social patriotic road of development of the national sections. The Communist parties are alien to the indigenous class struggle within the capitalist countries. This unfortunately does not mean that they have no effect on it. Serving a foreign reactionary power they seek to utilize the working class and through it the middle classes and the bourgeoisie, in the interest of this power. The working class, confused, misled and deceived by Stalinist demagogy, is the chief victim in all cases while, the bourgeoisie is the chief beneficiary.
The specific differences between reactionary social democracy and reactionary Stalinism are of the utmost importance for understanding the policies and evolution of each. On the eve of the present war (in July, 1939) Trotsky wrote:
“Just as the international social democracy constitutes the left flank of democratic imperialism, led by Great Britain and under the supreme control of the United States; just so the Comintern – the direct instrument of the Soviet bureaucracy – is, in the last analysis, subject to the control of the very same imperialism. Following in the footsteps of the Second International, the Comintern has today publicly condemned the colonial struggle for emancipation. Atlee and Pollitt, Blum and Thorez work in the same harness. In case of war the last remaining distinctions between them will vanish. All of them together with the bourgeois society as a whole will be crushed under the wheel of society.” (Progressive Paralysis: The Second International on the Eve of the War, Fourth International, May, 1940 (pages 15–16. Emphasis mine. – J.C.)
Though written at a time when it was expected that Russia would be an ally of British and American imperialism against Germany, the analysis is wrong even on the basis of this assumption.
In the first place, the nature of the “control” of international social democracy and the Comintern by democratic imperialism is essentially different. Trotsky, of course, understood this fact, but only partially, not in its full meaning. He was convinced that in a new World War the distinction between the two “will vanish.” But even if Russia were a war ally of Britain against Germany, the role of Atlee and Pollitt would not be identical precisely because Atlee’s direct masters would be the British ruling class while Pollitt’s would remain the Stalinist bureaucracy in whose interests he would support British imperialism. Attlee and Pollitt would be allies, the difference between them would not “vanish,” but rather would be expressed in every conflict between British imperialism and the Stalinist regime in the further course of the war. Such, for example, was the relation between Blum and Thorez during the People’s Front period.
In the second place, it is precisely because of the distinction between social democracy and Stalinism that the latter unlike the former could become an ally of German fascism. Since the Stalin-Hitler pact Russia has been under the “control” of German imperialism, and the Communist parties changed their policies correspondingly. Such “independence” or flexibility is excluded for international social democracy by the very character of the movement. (Within Nazi-occupied territory, however, the Communist parties are illegal. Even though the Norwegian Communists did not attack the German invasion of Norway – they confined their attacks to British imperialism and the Norwegian social democrats! – they remained legal only for the briefest period, and then their usefulness to Hitler was over; and so, they were forced underground. Fascist totalitarianism, like Stalinist totalitarianism, permits only a single legal party in countries under its rule – its own party.)
So that of the two possible roads that Trotsky predicted the Comintern would travel – which we can call the Russian bureaucratic (or Stalino-patriotic) and the bourgeois (social patriotic) – the second was blocked and destroyed by the first. Predictions which were made on the course of the Comintern on the basis of Trotsky’s prognosis that the Communist parties would be reduced to organizations whose sole mission is to protect the U.S.S.R. from “intervention” have been strikingly confirmed by life.
To cite one example (others, no doubt, can be found). During the Stalinist period of “collective security” and “democratic front,” in May 1938, Max Shachtman wrote:
“The important and often decisive point is nevertheless this: the bourgeoisie understands perfectly well that the Stalinists are ready to defend its ‘democratic’ rule only as a function of their subservience to the Moscow bureaucracy; that, for example, if it served Stalin’s policy to make the alliance with Hitler which he tried to achieve in 1933, the communist parties everywhere would once more discover that the Versailles peace treaty and the status quo are viciously reactionary and bourgeois democracy a hoax and a snare.” (New International, July 1938, pages 202–203)
In a speech delivered on September 11, 1940, Earl Browder explained that for several years the New Dealers welcomed Communist Party support. He continued:
“Now, realizing its mistakes, the Roosevelt Administration is as viciously hostile to the Communist Party as formerly it was friendly and helpful to us when it needed and received our help. But we are the same party; it is not we who have changed, but rather the Roosevelt Administration.” (The Most Peculiar Election – The Campaign Speeches of Earl Browder. Workers Library Publishers, page 13. Emphasis in original.)
We can readily agree with Browder that the Communist Party is the same organization it was when it supported Roosevelt. However it must be said in all fairness to the President that his administration is pursuing today the same general interventionist course as in the period when the Stalinists were his allies – only more openly and more aggressively. The break between Browder and Roosevelt is the direct outcome of the switch in Russian foreign policy from one of alliance with the democratic imperialists against German fascism and Japan to that of an alliance with Hitler (and more recently, friendship with Japan).
The attitude of the American Communist Party towards the Roosevelt Administration can be divided into three periods: 1933 to late 1935; late 1935 to late 1939; late 1939 to the present date. At each stage Stalin’s foreign policy and Roosevelt’s attitude towards it determined the policy of the Communist Party.
During the first period when Roosevelt sought to solve the social crisis primarily on the national arena and pursued the policy of “neutrality” and “isolationism,” the Communist Party was against the President. When Stalin shouted for “collective security” against Germany and Japan, Roosevelt was deaf to the plea. So the Communist Party stated that “American capitalism is more and more fascizing its rule. This is particularly being performed by the Roosevelt Administration under the cover of the ‘New Deal.’” (Resolution of the Eighth National Convention, April, 1934. Communist, May, 1934)
In August 1935, the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, which inaugurated on a world scale the policy of the “People’s Front,” called a halt to the anti-Roosevelt course of the American Stalinists. As Roosevelt’s foreign policy became more and more interventionist (reaching a high point in his famous October 1937 speech in which he called for a “quarantine of the aggressors”) the Communists became his ardent champions. They presented the President as the great leader against fascism at home and abroad. In their election platform of 1938 they declared:
“We propose an American peace policy in line with President Roosevelt’s October, 1937, speech to quarantine the war makers, to promote concerted action with France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the other democratic peoples and governments of the world in order to halt and isolate the fascist war makers, to assist their victims and to guarantee world peace. We oppose the expenditure of billions on armaments and war preparations as a substitute for concerted action for peace.”
In accordance with this line the Stalinists were ready to support the United States government in a war against Japan and Germany. For example, in early 1938, when the Japanese sank the United States ship Panay – carrying Standard Oil supplies – Browder was asked:
“Q. Assuming that war between Japan and the United States arises out of the situation in China, as illustrated by the Panay incident, would the communists support the Roosevelt Administration in such a war?”
His answer, though embellished with all the characteristic Stalinist verbiage, was clear enough:
“A. All of our proposals are directed toward creating such a relation of forces as to prevent war and to rectify wrongs without resort to war. If in spite of all our efforts to this end, war between Japan and the United States arises out of the present world situation, it is our firm conviction that the cause of progress and democracy everywhere would demand the defeat of Japan. We would support the American government in such a war to the extent that its policies and methods contributed toward the national independence of China and the protection of democracy and progressive policies at home and abroad.” (Questions and Answers, New Masses, March 22 and 29, 1938. See Fighting for Peace, by Earl Browder, pages 77–78)
A just war, a war for “democracy and national independence” in the Stalinist vocabulary is always a war which serves the interests of the Russian Stalin bureaucracy. That is why the Communists were ready to support American imperialism against Japanese imperialism. That is why the American Communist Party denounced the Trotskyites in Latin America for telling the masses that Yankee imperialism is their main enemy. In this connection, William Z. Foster wrote:
“In raising the slogan of Yankee imperialism as the main danger they (the Trotskyites – J. C.) are insidiously spreading a smokescreen for fascist domination of Latin America. And in so doing, they demonstrate themselves to be real agents of fascism.” (See The Communist, July, 1938, page 607)
But perhaps the American C.P. considered “German-Japanese-Italian fascism” as the central danger in Latin America because of Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor” policy? This fraud is easily exploded by the fact that the British Stalinists followed the same course for the British Empire! The main enemy of the Indian masses, they proclaimed, was not British imperialism but German fascism! Throughout the world they gave up the struggle for national independence of the colonial peoples in order to cement the alliance between the democratic imperialists and Russia against Germany.
They became the champions of American imperialist interests in Latin America and the Far East. At that time Browder wrote:
“Let us put the question in the simplest possible terms, such as even a business man can understand. The United States must either come to terms with the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo war alliance, which means abandoning the Pacific and most of Latin America to those powers, not to speak of fascist domination within the United States itself, or it must organize resistance to the war makers.” (April 25, 1939. See The Second Imperialist War, by Earl Browder, abridged edition, page 18)
What to do? “Cooperative arrangements” with Russia “will cost less than half as much as it would without the Soviet Union.” (Ibid., page 18.) Appealing to the “business man,” that is, to those with investments in the affected countries, he urged that a Soviet-American alliance “would provide the most effective conceivable protection of American national [!] interests in the Far East and in Latin America.” (July 5, 1939. Ibid., page 30.)
These speeches were made only a few months before the Stalin-Hitler pact, the outbreak of the Second World War and the change of policy of the Communist Party towards Roosevelt and his war schemes. Then, as now, Browder denied that the C.P. was an agency of Russian foreign policy.
“They cry out against us, the Communists, that we are agents of a foreign power trying to get America to sacrifice its own interests in favor of the Soviet Union. But such hysterical jingoism reveals its true face ...
“Defense against the aggression of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo war alliance has now become a life and death issue for all the rest of the world, including the United States. And defense today involves armaments, although armaments is not the sole answer, as some seem to think, nor even half the answer. But an unarmed people in the world of Hitler aggression is the predestined victim of fascist conquest. The United States, with the rest of the world, must choose between uniting the anti-fascist and democratic forces for common defense – a defense by arms in the last analysis – or submitting to fascist world conquest.” (January 20, 1939. Fighting for Peace, pages 227–228.)
What a different tune is sung now by Browder! No, it isn’t Roosevelt who has changed! Nor has the Communist Party changed its real program – it has only changed its demagogic verbiage to suit the interests of Moscow. Or more exactly, their Russian masters unexpectedly ordered a change in tune.
A few months before Stalin joined hands with Hitler and occupied Poland in violation of his non-aggression pact with that country, Browder declared in a challenging tone of voice:
“... there is the argument that the Soviet Union cannot be depended upon, that it may at any moment go over to Hitler and double-cross the rest of the world. But when has the Soviet Union ever in its history failed to keep an obligation?” (April 25, 1939. The Second Imperialist War, by Earl Browder. Abridged edition, page 17.)
Browder is now serving four years at Atlanta as a result of Stalin’s “double-cross” of the democratic imperialists! For if Russia were today a war ally of British and American imperialism against German fascism, Browder would not be in jail today; he would be shouting with the most extreme jingoists for convoys and outright U.S. entrance into the war. Of course, under these conditions he would find that American imperialism was fighting for “democracy against fascism.”
The spokesmen of the Communist Party openly acknowledge that this would be the case. In The War Crisis, Questions and Answers, by William Z. Foster (January 1940) we find:
“Q. How can you call this war imperialist when the Soviet Union might well have been in it had Great Britain adopted the mutual assistance pact proposed by the U.S.S.R. in August:
“A. ... As A.B. says in the October issue of The Communist:
“‘... if despite everything, England, France and the Soviet Union would have had recourse to the force of arms, this would have resulted from an anti-imperialist fight for the liberty of small nations ... Such a war would have been a just war, a democratic war, a liberating war. In such a war the working class, its allies, and all democratic forces would have had to fight in the front ranks.” (page 54)
Could anything be clearer? If Russia were on the side of England and France (and the United States) in the present war it would be ... “an anti-imperialist fight!”; the Communist parties would be in the “front ranks” of the jingoists! Churchill, Daladier (and Roosevelt) would then be anti-imperialist fighters!
This means that if tomorrow Stalin is compelled to jump back to the camp of the democratic imperialists the Communist Party, faithful to its real program, would once again be in the advance guard of the warmongers – and the chief finger-men against the militant opponents of the war.
The post-Stalin-Hitler pact line of the Communist parties, proclaimed after a few weeks of bewilderment during which time the French and British parties supported their respective governments in the war, and the American C.P. continued its pro-Roosevelt policy, was stated by Georgi Dimitroff, general secretary of the Communist International, in October 1939:
“The character of a war, as Lenin taught, ‘depends not on who attacked and on whose side the “enemy” is, but on which class is waging the war, what policy is being continued by the goven war.’
“Now, as in 1914, the war is being waged by the imperialist bourgeoisie. This war is the direct continuation of the struggle between the imperialist powers for a new repartition of the earth, for world domination.” (War and the Working Class, page 5. Emphasis in original)
How well the devil quotes scripture! If what Dimitroff wrote is true – and it is – then the whole previous course of the Comintern stands condemned. This course, according to the Stalinists, was based on the principle that the democratic imperialist powers (and Russia) should unite against the “aggressors” and defend the “attacked.” Compare Dimitroff’s quotation from Lenin with the above-cited statements of Browder and Foster!
But why does Dimitroff now discover and quote the well-known views of Lenin? Simply because Stalin is an ally of the “aggressors” and himself has attacked the small states whose defense was a major item in the Communist propaganda yesterday (Poland, Latvia, Esthonia, Lithuania, Finland, Rumania).
Dimitroff therefore finds that while all the belligerent ruling classes share “responsibility” for the war, “... the imperialists of Britain and France have passed over to the offensive, have hurled their peoples into war against Germany, endeavoring in every way to win a number of other states to their side. What is more, it is the British and French imperialists who now come forward as the most zealous supporters of the continuation and further incitement of war.” (Ibid., page 7)
The American Stalinists repeated this line in a statement on October 15, 1939. All the belligerents “are equally guilty” for the war, it stated, but did not have a single word of direct criticism of German fascism.
In November 1939, Stalin himself placed the responsibility for the war even more squarely solely on the shoulders of the democratic imperialists and whitewashed the role of German fascism:
“(a) it was not Germany that attacked France and England, but France and England that attacked Germany, thereby assuming responsibility for the present war;
“(b) After hostilities had broken out, Germany made overtures of peace to France and England, and the Soviet Union openly supported Germany’s peace overtures, for it considered, and continues to consider, that the earliest possible termination of the war would radically improve the position of all the countries and nationals;
“(c) The ruling circles of England and France rudely rejected both Germany’s peace overtures and the attempt of the Soviet Union to secure the earliest possible termination of the war.
“Such are the facts ...” (See History of Soviet Foreign Policy, by M. Ross, Workers Library Publishers, December 1940.)
Hitler’s ally dares not mention Germany’s conquest of Poland, for his pact gave the signal for this action and was followed by Russia’s annexation of eastern Poland. As to Hitler’s peace gesture: it was a clever, demagogic appeal in order to place the exclusive responsibility for the war on the British and French governments and thus strengthen his own prestige among the German people. Stalin and the Communist parties conspired with Hitler to put across this trick!
And so long as the war was confined to western Europe and the Scandinavian countries, the Communist parties dropped their propaganda against German fascism and concentrated their attack – in all countries, including Germany! – exclusively on Britain and France. When the German army occupied Norway, the Communist Party of that country (as its brother parties in Britain and the United States) directed its fire at Britain for provoking the Nazi attack, and at the social democratic leaders who went underground. For a short while the Norwegian Communist Party remained legal and continued publishing its official organ – under the martial law of Hitler.
The German Stalinists followed the same line – the main enemy for them was not Hitler, but rather British imperialism and the Thyssen (anti-Russian) group in Germany. As the German Communist leader Ulbricht wrote:
“If Hilferding and the other one-time Social Democratic leaders direct their war propaganda against the German-Soviet Pact, it is simply because the British plan has the less chance of success, the more deeply the friendship between the German and Soviet people is rooted in the working masses. Therefore not only the Communists but many Social Democratic and National Socialist workers regard it is their task not in any circumstances to permit a breach of the pact. Those who intrigue against the friendship of the German and Soviet people are enemies of the German people and are branded as accomplices of British imperialism. Among the German working class greater and greater efforts are being made to expose the followers of the Thyssen clique, who are the enemies of the German-Soviet pact. There have been many demands that these enemies shall be removed from their army and government positions, and that their property shall be confiscated. [Hitler has carried out these demands! – J.C.]
“The fight of the German working people against the agents of British imperialism, against the Thyssen clique and their friends among the Social Democratic and Catholic leaders in Germany ...” (Quoted in the British New Leader, March 22, 1941. Emphasis in original.)
On October 9, 1939, the Russian official government organ, Izvestia, declared:
“One may respect or hate Hitlerism, just as any other system of political views. This is a matter of taste. But to undertake war ‘for annihilation of Hitlerism’ means to commit criminal folly in politics.”
Opposition to fascism “is a matter of taste”! And Stalin’s “taste” changed when he became an ally of Hitler.
Describing Hitler’s technique of conquest, R. Palme Dutt, British Stalinist theorist, once wrote that his “non-aggression” agreements are “not pacts for the maintenance of peace, but pacts to immobilize and paralyze collective defense against aggression and enable Nazi Germany to devour its victims one at a time.” (World Politics – 1917–1936, page 258)
How well this depicts the Russo-German pact!
Yet one additional feature must be added. Article III of the pact calls for mutual consultation and exchange of information on matters affecting both parties. Stalin became an active partner in the devouring of the victimized peoples. The partners agreed on the conquest and partition of Poland. In September, 1939, their representatives met and demarked the exact frontiers of their spoils. (In the words of Stalin, the friendship between the two regimes was “cemented by blood,” the blood of the Polish people.) In April, 1940, they reached an agreement on the Scandinavian countries; in June, 1940, in regard to the Baltics; the same month, on Rumania, etc. In each case Stalin sanctioned Hitler’s moves and received “due payment” for his “non-belligerent” friendship. This is what the Communist Party calls Russian “neutrality”.
However, the conflicting interests of these allies were not eliminated by their agreement. Stalin – as everyone else – did not expect the Nazi blitzkrieg victory over France, and feared the growing might of his partner. Their differences cropped up in acute form, especially in the Balkans – the old powder-keg of Europe – in which Russia, Germany and Italy each has its own “interests.” Each power sought to subordinate the Balkan countries to itself. Hitler tried to mediate the differences among the three powers, “appease” each – at least for the time being. In June, 1940, he partitioned Rumania, giving Stalin his allotment. Mussolini, however, was not satisfied and on October 27, 1940, invaded Greece. From all available evidence, it appears that this action was undertaken without Hitler’s consent. The Italo-Greek war opened up the Balkan front which both Hitler and Stalin sought to dominate without military hostilities. When Britain took advantage of this situation and the Italians suffered catastrophic defeats. Hitler was compelled from a military viewpoint to intervene.
The German Fuehrer then proposed that Russia join the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis in a pact of mutual assistance. This offer, made in November 1940, was rejected by Stalin. He did not choose to be reduced to a mere puppet of Hitler, as in the case of Mussolini. At the same time he did not relish engaging in a war with the democratic imperialists in view of the increasing intervention of the United States – the one power in the world outside Germany for which the Russians have great respect. And given the present internal situation in Russia, Stalin’s participation in any large scale war would be too risky for the present regime.
Hitler, it is to be assumed, made Stalin an “attractive” offer: the division of the booty among the four powers (Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy), with Russian participation in domination of the Balkans, joint control of the Dardanelles and the Near East. Though Stalin finally turned down this offer the mere fact of the proposal is of the utmost significance: German fascism asking Russia to join the original “anti-Comintern” bloc in a mutual assistance pact!
The first Russian announcement of this offer was made six months after the fact, in connection with the recent Russo-Japanese agreement.
Pravda, Russian Communist Party organ (April 20, 1941), reports:
“In November 1940, a proposal was made to the Soviet government that it join the tripartite pact of mutual assistance and turn this pact into a four power pact. Since the Soviet government did not find it possible at the time to accept this proposal, the question of a pact between Japan and the U.S.S.R. came up again.” (Daily Worker, April 21, 1941)
While Stalin “did not find it possible at the time to accept” an open military alliance with the Axis partners. Hitler was compelled by military necessity to enter the war in the Balkans. When the Nazis received “permission” to transport their troops across Bulgaria, the Russians informed the government of that country that such cooperation “doesn’t lead to the consolidation of peace but to the extension of the sphere of war.” (Daily Worker, March 4, 1941) This was the first time since the outbreak of the war that Russia placed the responsibility for its extension on Hitler.
The following month, on April 5, after an overturn of the pro-Nazi regime, the new pro-British Yugoslavian government signed a “treaty of friendship and non-aggression” with Russia. The treaty provided that: “In the event of aggression against one of the contracting parties on the part of a third power, the other contracting party undertakes to observe a policy of friendly relations towards that party.” (Daily Worker, April 7, 1941)
The next day the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia. Stalin – this time true to his promise! – ordered the Communist parties to support Yugoslavia (and Greece) against the Hitlerites. Though this order has had no practical effects on the war in the Balkans, it is Stalin’s warning to his ally as to what course he will pursue if Hitler muscles in on Russia’s “spheres of influence.” At the same time it was a friendly gesture to retain what little is left of Russian influence among the Balkan peoples.
According to a Moscow dispatch of April 20, 1941:
“The Communists of Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary are calling for the support of the just war of the peoples of Yugoslavia and Greece against the foreign invaders ...” (Daily Worker, April 21, 1941)
Another Moscow dispatch of the same day informs us that the May Day manifestoes of these parties emphasizes “that the resistance to national oppression is being more evident in the occupied countries and that people who have been attacked, as the Yugoslavs and the Greeks, are waging a just, defensive war.” (Ibid.)
These dispatches also report that both the German and British imperialists are attacked by the Communist parties.
Thus, with the outbreak of the war in the Balkans a new stage in Russo-German relations – and thereby in Communist Party policy! – has opened up. Not only have the European Stalinists been given the signal for an anti-Nazi policy; the American Communist Party has received similar instructions. For the first time since the outbreak of the war, it has held anti-fascist (“Free Thaelman”) mass meetings throughout the country.
Whereas until now the Stalinists have denounced the defense of the small nations in the present war, ostensibly because they were tools of Britain and the United States, now they have become defensists in these countries (including the Nazi occupied nations of western Europe and Scandinavia). How different they spoke when Poland, Denmark, Norway were occupied by the Nazis (not to mention Stalin’s own annexations!) When it serves the interests of the Kremlin master his puppets denounce defensism; when these interests require opposition to the war, the puppets quickly oblige.
The half-turn of the Stalinists reflects the contradictory, hesitant position of Russia at the present stage of the war. Caught between the Anglo-American and the Axis blocs, Stalin fears that a decisive victory of Hitler in the Balkans will jeopardize his own power. On the other hand, if he joins England and the United States against Germany the latter would be in an excellent position to invade Russia and get Japan to attack in the East.
In order to prevent such an outcome, the Russo-Japanese “neutrality” pact was signed, giving Nippon the “green light” to attack British and Dutch colonies in the Far East (which would inevitably involve the United States) and thus diverting Japanese military forces from the Russian frontiers.
The pact at the same time serves Hitler’s aims since he desires the diversion of British and American forces in a Far Eastern war and has little to gain from an invasion of Russia before he has settled scores with the British Empire and the United States. That is why, since his agreement with Stalin, Hitler has put pressure on both Russia and Japan for a “non-aggression” pact or a “mutual assistance” pact. Though Russia has thus far rejected these types of agreement with Japan, it has accepted a friendly relation of a lower order, involving less direct responsibility and immediate risks, and permitting greater flexibility for the future.
In commenting on the pact, Pravda (April 20, 1941) chided British and American writers who attacked it because their “masters fear for their interests in the Pacific, where they evidently have weak positions, and would want to divert Japan’s attention from those vulnerable spots by stirring up conflicts between the U.S.S.R. and Japan.” (Daily Worker, April 21, 1941.)
And so the Communist Party has for the time being dropped its slogan for an American-Russian alliance against Japan – the latter is now “friendly” to the “socialist fatherland.”
What Stalin’s next moves will be depends on the further development of the war, and particularly the results of the Battle of the Mediterranean and Hitler’s actions in regard to the Dardanelles and the Near East. He will seek to maintain his alliance with German fascism so long as the latter permits it.
While one cannot predict the exact future course of the Communist parties, it is clear that their policies are determined for them by the Stalin bureaucracy and will change only in accordance with the needs of the Russian reactionary rulers. The interests of the working class, in Russia, in the United States and elsewhere play no role whatsoever. If tomorrow Stalin would decide to line up with the democratic imperialists, the American Communists would join the pro-war chorus. The Communist Party is alien to the country in which it operates, alien to the working class and socialism.
The victorious struggle against Stalinism is an indispensable requisite for the struggle against capitalism, fascism and their imperialist war, and for socialist victory.
Last updated: 25 October 2014