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E.R. Frank

Wallace, Trotsky and the
Third World War Drive

(19 April 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 16, 19 April 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Henry Wallace has brought the name of Trotsky into his presidential campaign. On a number of occasions he referred to Trotsky and his program of the world revolution in contrast to Stalin and his program of national socialism. lie did so in his recent speech at Duluth, Minnesota. He repeated the argumentation in a statement printed in the March 20 Colliers magazine. Obviously Wallace attaches extraordinary importance to this question, which constitutes in reality the cornerstone of his so-called Peace Program. Here is Wallace’s argument as printed in Colliers:

“There are those who insist that Communism and capitalism cannot exist in the same world. This is the view of the extreme rightists in this country who fear the mere idea of Socialism and thus reveal distrust of the democratic free flow of ideas. It is also the view of some Marxists who have insisted that it is impossible to build a Socialist country that can stand by itself. This was the fight, between Stalin, who thought he could conduct a successful experiment with Socialism in Russia, and the exiled Trotsky, who insisted that world revolution was necessary. I don’t like to see vtmerican reactionaries lend support to the Trotsky position of world revolution by constant threats against the Russians.”

As we see, Wallace lines up solidly with Stalin on the theoretical front. Both believe in the theory of "Socialism in one country” and that capitalism and the Soviet Union can live peacefully side by side for an indefinite period of time.

On the factual side, it is indeed true that not only Trotsky but Lenin and the whole Bolshevik leadership took for granted that the Soviet Union could not indefinitely survive surrounded by capitalism. In other words, the alternatives were: Either the working class revolution would be extended to other parts of the world and in time triumph on a world scale, or the Soviet Union would sooner or later succumb to capitalist restoration, either by conquest from without, or counter-revolution front within, or a combination of both.

As a matter of fact up until 1924 when he promulgated his theory that it was possible to construct “Socialism in one country,” Stalin himself adhered to this Leninist conception of the incompatibility of the two social systems. Only in 1924, when the new bureaucracy began to consolidate its position under Stalin, did he abruptly break with the Bolshevik viewpoint and declare that Socialism could be built within the confines of Russia and that the two systems could indefinitely live one alongside the other.

Now Marxist theory is not something spun out of thin air based upon abstruse quotations or scriptures. Marxist theory is generalization based upon experience. Let us apply the experiences of the past 50 years to the problem at hand and see whether they lend support to the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky – or of Stalin and Wallace.

Capitalists Showed Their Opposition

In 1918 the imperialists of the Allied camp, England, Erance, Japan, the U.S. as soon as their hands were freed by the German surrender, launched a series of aimed invasions against the young Soviet Republic. The U.S. and Japan occupied the eastern portion of Siberia. The French fleet entered the Black Sea. The British took over the Baku region. Later the imperialists subsidized with money, arms, staff officers, every counter-revolutionary, whiteguardist gang that was willing to wage warfare on the Soviets. In other words, the capitalists demonstrated that, so far as they were concerned, the Soviet Republic represented a deadly menace to their existence and that the two social systems were not compatible.

That they failed in their attempts was not due to their lack of trying. It was the magnificent solidarity of the working masses of Western Europe which finally put a stop to the intervention attempts and saved the young Soviet republic from extinction at its very birth.

But isn’t it possible that the imperialist leaders of 1918 – Churchill, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson – isn’t it possible that they were mistaken in their ideas? Isn’t it possible that new light has been thrown on this subject? Doesn’t the continued existence of the Soviet Union for 30 years encircled by a capitalist world prove that Lenin and Trotsky were wrong – and that Stalin and Wallace are right?

Let us see. Undoubtedly the undreamed, of degeneration of the Soviet Union coupled with its counter-revolutionary policy throughout the world served for a period to attenuate the conflict between these two social systems.

First, the conversion of the Soviet Union into a police state with a political regime similar to Hitler’s has lessened its attractive power for the exploited and downtrodden of the capitalist world. Secondly, the Communist parties have degenerated and become transformed from Marxist parties into conscienceless agencies of the Kremlin ruling oligarchy. These parties have long since abandoned the struggle, for a socialist revolution and only want to gain influence over the workers movements so they can pressure the capitalist rulers to adopt a conciliatory policy toward the Kremlin.

These two factors have been responsible in lessening for a time the tension between the two social systems. In other words, Russia’s degeneration plus the systematic sellout of one revolutionary struggle after another made the "Russian Question” less acute for the capitalist world.

Temporary Truce at Best

But even in the halcyon days of the Thirties, the relationship between these antipathetic social systems never added up to more than a temporary truce; not a peace. This was made clear again and again – by England’s and America’s refusal to grant long-term credits to Russia, by their covert support of Hitler, by the anti-Russian campaigns launched time and again in the leading imperialist countries, by the continued animosity and fear even after the granting of recognition to Russia.

Then with the world economic crisis and the disruption of the existing capitalist, equilibrium by the expansionist policies of Germany, Italy, Japan – the “have-not” imperialist states – began a new period of heightened tensions and repeated incitations for war against the Soviet Union, culminating in the Nazi invasion of 1941. Today, scarcely more than two years after the conclusion of the most devastating of all wars, American imperialism, armed to the teeth, is preparing for a new, and this time they hope the decisive assault upon the Russian state.

In other words, the capitalist statesmen of today, far from thinking that Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson and Churchill were wrong in 1918, believe that they were not only right, but the time has come for their vindication.

Why? Can it be that the rulers who determine the destinies of a planet are bent upon plunging into the terrifying unknown of a new world war simply because of a mistaken notion? Can it be that in such a big question they don’t understand their own interests, and that Wallace is unable to straighten them out?

Hardly. World history knows of no accidental wars, much less so where wars of a major character are involved. Diplomacy, history teaches, may hasten or postpone an armed conflict between rival powers or systems, but if is powerless to avert it. Events greater than men intervene in these, cases to shape the destinies of nations and peoples. And the “irrepressible conflict” between U.S. imperialism and Russia is the least accidental of any in history.

Why is this conflict irrepressible and inevitable? What is it that is goading the American plutocracy to make this fateful decision for war?

If we examine the causes of the Second World War, we find that England, France and the U.S. took the bit in their teeth to declare war because Germany was expanding and destroying the old relationship of forces. The Allied powers feared – and with good reason – that Germany, unless stopped, would grow strong enough to menace their imperialist interests and empires, and would then attempt to conquer them if they did not move quickly while they still had the strength.

But, in contrast to Hitler’s Germany of 1938, Russia is not expanding now, the tons of war propaganda notwithstanding. The anti-Soviet barrage has obscured the fact that the important Russian expansion all took place in 1944 and 1945. What the Kremlin has done since then in the main is to consolidate the “sphere of influence” allotted to the Russians by the Anglo-American diplomats at Yalta.

Stalin Seeks a Deal

Moreover, as all informed students are aware, the talk about the United States being “menaced” and in danger of attack is just, bait for suckers. Not only is Russia woefully, pathetically unprepared to make war upon the American colossus; not only do its rulers stand petrified at the prospect; but its whole diplomacy is designed for the one and sole purpose of avoiding war; of pressuring, cajoling, threatening and coaxing U.S. imperialism into making a new deal.

American imperialism’s beating of the war drums thus cannot be explained either by “Russian expansionism,” or commercial rivalry or “Russian aggression,” or the danger that Stalin may start war. Why then the war scare, and more important, the unmistakable war preparations?

All their statements and actions show that even the cocky ignoramuses of the Wall Street counting houses, are not light- minded about this question of war. Even they know that it is a plunge into the vast unknown and that the results are incalculable and unforeseeable. Why can’t they turn back, then, from, this yawning abyss and adopt the more reasonable and less dangerous solution proposed by Wallace? Because they don’t believe in it. Because they don’t think it squares with reality. And what is the reality that they see? The disintegration of capitalism on a world scale in a manner and at a pace hitherto never thought possible, and that this process of disintegration must be halted, or capitalism will perish.

The Washington-Wall Street banker-statesmen now, are gripped with the fear that time is working against them and that the longer they wait the weaker capitalism will become and the less able to impose its will by force of arms.

And here is the way the Soviet Union figures in their scheme of things. The Soviet Union, despite its backsliding under Stalin, remains a system of nationalized property and planned economy. As such, despite Stalin, it exercises a disintegrating influence upon capitalism, which in the present juncture of world affairs, they view as nothing less than disastrous and intolerable.

Capitalist World Market Shrinking

First, the Russian revolution withdrew a territory comprising a sixth of the earth’s surface out of the orbit of World capitalism; While this factor has been a constant ever since the 1917 revolution in its debilitating effect on world capitalism, it has now become trebly demoralizing, as capitalism is suffering horribly from pernicious anemia. And the thought has become a veritable obsession that a transfusion of 16⅔% of fresh blood might take the capitalist patient out of the danger zones and ensure his pulling through.

Moreover, with the war s end, the Soviet Union was able to seize control of half of Europe and sizable chunks of Asia. They wiped out the political and military power of the capitalist classes throughout these regions. While these countries, from a sociological viewpoint, remain within the framework of capitalism, they are under Stalinist rule, they have been forcibly pulled out of the capitalist world market and their economies subordinated to and aligned with that of the Soviet Union.

Then, we must not forget that the lustre of the great revolution of Lenin and Trotsky has not completely dimmed. A strange phenomenon, but true. Twenty-five years of Stalinism, twenty-five years of unheard of betrayals, counter-revolutionary deeds, crimes, murders, frame-ups, prison camps, forced labor – twenty-five years of all this, and still the Russian revolution, even in its desecrated state, continues to exercise an astonishing influence upon the masses of the world and inspires them to revolutionary struggles.

In the present weakened state of world capitalism, this factor is profoundly disturbing to Wall Street’s rulers. They look at Italy, Greece, China – rent by civil wars. These conflicts are ripping the fabric of these countries and keep the whole world in turmoil, uncertainty, chaos and decomposition. All the arms, technical assistance and money that the U.S. has poured and is pouring into these countries seem to be accomplishing, at best, little more than preserving the status-quo. The Wall Street masters fear that this constant drain upon their resources and strength is too heavy, that if permitted to continue, it will in time render them too weak to put down the forces of revolt arising throughout the world, and that capitalism will succumb in the end. That is why they have decided to push for a decision while life and strength remain.

One might argue that even without the Soviet Union these social struggles would be going on; that as a matter of fact, Stalinist influence guarantees that these revolutionary movements fall short of their goals of overthrowing capitalism and introducing Soviet regimes. The leading capitalist circles understand this, too.

But they have come to the conclusion that this is not enough, that they can no longer tolerate the existence of the Soviet Union, even under counter-revolutionary Stalinist rule. Because, despite all of Stalin’s sellouts of the working classes and his services to the imperialists, the latter find they cannot in the given conditions stabilize the world and achieve some kind of even transitory peace.

As the chieftain of a highly unstable Soviet bureaucracy, lacking any firm class base, lacking historic outlook and perspective, holding on for dear life to its influence over the mass movement in order to maneuver between the workers and the capitalists – Stalin has proven to be for the imperialists, a grasping, treacherous and totally unreliable ally.

The most generous minded of the capitalist strategists are willing to concede that, in the light of experience, the Soviet-imperialist alliance, despite possible good intentions on both sides, must be dissolved on grounds of social incompatibility. These are the weighty considerations that have brought, the Wall Street strategists to their fateful decision to cross the Rubicon of war again.

The forces and pressures impelling Washington along the road of war are thus too powerful and compelling to be deflected or denied – unless the working masses take matters into their own hands as the Russian workers and peasants did in Czarist Russia in 1917.

In the unfolding chain of events leading to war, it is even possible that a new agreement may be consummated between the leading statesmen on both sides. But if this occurs, it will simply represent a “breather” of the “Munich” variety to enable both sides the better to prepare for Armageddon.

If this is not a radiant perspective, it has at least this virtue: It is undeniably correct. We are truly living in an age of blood and iron. Great things will be decided, one way or the other, in the lifetime of all of us. And the first rule for those who would engage in combat with the still mighty hosts of reaction – and emerge victorious – is to look reality straight in the face. And that reality reads: War – if revolution does not intervene to stop it.

(A subsequent article will deal with the lessons of the post-Second World War mass struggles and with revolutionary perspectives ahead)

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