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Carl Cowl

Book Review

Russia: Market or Menace?

(June 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V. No. 24 (Whole No. 120), 11 June 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Russia: Market or Menace?
By Thomas D. Campbell
Longmanns, Green and Co., New York, Toronto and London 1932. 148 pages.

The appearance of this book urging American business men to develop trade with the Soviet Union by the extension of long-term credits, and eventual legal recognition, makes it instructive to draw a balance of the present state of this question in the ranks of the working class and its vanguard Mr. Campbell is a large scale agricultural capitalist, owner of a 95,000 acre giant farm at Hardin, Montana, a Mechanical and Agricultural Engineer, special expert and adviser to the Soviet Government in 1929–1930 in the development of large scale Soviet farm organization.

He marshals arguments convincing if only from the purely business point of view; for extension of credits:

  1. “It has, during the past fourteen years paid all its obligations promptly and in full”;
  2. “For many years to come Russia will be the world’s greatest consumers’ market for all kinds of manufactured goods”;
  3. Will relieve American depression;
  4. “American banking and financial institutions ... have sold to the American public since the war, two and a half billion dollars of German securities, a portion of which have been used by the Germans to extend credit to Russia.”
  5. “Germany has received a flood of orders from Russia including $75,000,000 worth of industrial equipment since April 15, 1931.”
  6. Stable Government. “It is my opinion that Russia would not now be the important nation she is, if Joseph Stalin and his supporters had not succeeded in displacing the more violent revolutionists of the Trotsky type ... Stalin is a strategist of another sort, a man who can advance or retreat, thrust or parry, denounce or defend, and still advancing towards his ultimate goal.”The American bourgeoisie will agree with him.

These arguments and others are advance by Campbell to assure timid business men that trade with Russia is a good business proposition, repeating again and again that he is firmly opposed to Communism in any form.

That Campbell represents a live view among certain strata of American manufacturers is attested to by the recent resolutions of the Toledo and Cleveland Chambers of Commerce, basing themselves on a three million dollar loss of orders from the Soviet Union due to the “short-sighted diplomatic policy” of the government, they want an immediate cessation of playing with this question, and demand recognition of the Soviet Union as a basis for revival of certain American industries.

The cry has been taken up by the Democrats in their anti-administration propaganda and proposals have come before congress. It may become a substantial secondary campaign issue in the coming elections.

The slogan of long-term credits and trade with the Soviet Union has a powerful political appeal to workers suffering unemployment in the present crisis. There is no question of the response that the Communist party and its auxiliaries got, after they reluctantly adopted this “counter-revolutionary” slogan because of their hesitant, “tongue-in-the-cheek” policy, however, there has been no real effort to build on this key slogan. Abstract and pacifist slogans of “Defend the Soviet Union” type have been substituted.

In spite of the obvious effectiveness of this slogan in connecting up the fight against capitalist misery directly with the cause of the Workers Republic, little progress has been made in the ranks of the American workers. It still remains for certain business men’s groups to take the lead in this question, motivated by real loss of orders, shut-down of their plants, and panic at the extent of the crisis. How silly the bureaucratic “arguments” about this slogan lending aid to the capitalists in stabilizing their industry. As if credits for the Five Year Plan program would eliminate the gigantic contradictions of chaos and glut in the capitalist market.

A most astounding revelation in this book is the lengths to which Stalin has gone in his false “strategy” of “deceiving the bourgeoisie.” While secret negotiations take place with capitalist magnates and diplomats for recognition and extension of credits as, for example, behind the scenes at Geneva, Sokolnikov in London and Bogdanov of the Amtorg in New York, in these manipulations behind the backs of the workers, the principles of the movement are bartered for a possible recognition or a possible extension of credits. That explains Litvinov’s defection in signing the Kellogg Pact. Not the bourgeoisie but the workers are thus deceived as to the aims of the Workers Republic in the international class war.

But aside from disastrous consequences of the false theory of national socialism in world politics, you have the petty “deception” of the world bourgeoisie thru the medium of Stalin’s interviews – the famous “twofold” policy, talking with one face to the workers and another to the bosses, and occasionally getting the faces mixed.

Campbell reports:

“He (Stalin) unhesitatingly admitted, with disarming frankness, that under Trotsky there had been an attempt to spread Communism throughout the world. He said that was the primary cause of the break between himself and Trotsky. That Trotsky believed in universal Communism while he wanted to confine his efforts to his own country. He explained that they had neither the time nor the money to try to communize the world, even should they wish to do so, and that his own chief interest was to improve the conditions of the people in Russia, without any interference whatsoever from the government of other countries.”

That this is an authentic statement can be shown by the following fact: “Upon leaving, he told me that the interpreter would prepare a typewritten copy of our conversation, which I received two weeks later in London, signed “J. Stalin”, and with this note – “Keep this record, it may be a very historical document some day.” (What arrogant conceit!)

Are the bourgeoisie really fooled by these utterances? Note the wave of editorial irony in the capitalist newspapers about Stalin’s back to capitalism (sic) movement in the questions of the new decree on individual sale of cattle and grain and the piece work system in the factories. They place a correct evaluation on Stalin’s interviews and “twofold” propaganda.

And finally, let us examine the views of the author himself, who so earnestly extolls the virtues of Stalinist leadership.

“Communism” he says, “Thrives only in dark places, the cesspools of the world ... (despite the depression) the producers of America’s manufactured goods were loth to deal with Russia. They held aloof during those first years after the revolution WHEN RUSSIA WAS DOMINATED BY RADICALS OF THE MOST PERNICIOUS BREED, who threatened to overthrow our government and those of the other great nations. Years before the financial crash of 1929, the militant advocates of world revolution have been banished from Russia and expelled from the Communist party which rules Russia’s 160 million people”

“Oh! What a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!”

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