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Hitler’s Attack on Russia

A New Turn in the War

(July 1941)

From New International, Vol. VII No. 6 (Whole No. 55), July 1941, pp. 131–7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan.

THE LIFE OF THE political prophet, in recent years, is a most exciting one. If he cannot be consistently correct in his forecasts, he can, in any case, observe the rapidity of changing events, for, indeed, there is no lack of gigantic overnight transformations having decisive political and military consequences in the very midst of World War II. War is one of the sharpest forms of the social crisis. Occurrences are rapid and successive; many appear to be illogical and without reasonable foundation. Sad, indeed, then, is life for those who have no sound political moorings. Events beat mercilessly upon their heads whilst they bend and break under the blows, seeking catchholds in every direction, but never once landing upright and able to understand clearly the reason of it all. Marxists search for the root causes of events and if they do not always answer every problem, they can and do reasonably approximate the true answer.

In August of 1939, the hangman of the Russian Revolution “Cain” Stalin, signed a solemn pact of non-aggression with that sterling dove of peace, Hitler. Thus the arch-enemies became bosom friends. The pact of peace was to cover a period of ten years! Its justification was, said Molotov, Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, that it “guaranteed peace in the world.” The immediate effect of the pact was the collapse of the campaign, planned and initiated by Stalin’s international agent, the Comintern, for collective security, the Peoples Front and the war of the democratic nations against the fascist. Although the Stalinist parties throughout the world were literally speechless for several days while awaiting cabled instructions from Moscow, the drive for collective security ceased abruptly.

The Aftermath of the Pact

Thereafter came the dawn. The capitalist world personified in Anglo-French-American imperialism denounced Stalin and the Soviet Union as “cheats, double-dealers, dishonest and godless people” without “integrity or shame,” and concluded that, after all, the democratic imperialists should have been prepared for this double-cross (one must not forget that the Hitler-Stalin pact was long in the making and at the time of its announcement an Anglo-French military and political mission was in Moscow attempting to bring about an alliance of its own with Stalin) since Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were merely different sides of the same coin.

Hitler and Von Ribbentrop hailed the pact as a great historical achievement on the ground that Germany and the Soviet Union were in reality “natural” allies; that the democratic imperialists were responsible for hitherto keeping apart these “natural” friends; that there never was the slightest reason for a conflict between the two countries and that the pact which guaranteed their peace for ten years would be renewed for many decadesl

The brown shirted murderers were not alone in their praise. Stalin graced the diplomatic conferences with an ebullient smile, as if to inform his world cohorts that this was really “the goods”; it wasn’t just a Trotskyist slander. The pact was justified as a measure of peace, the single guarantee of peace on the European Continent. Fascism was a matter of personal taste, according to Molotov. There was no real point of conflict between the two countries.

The Common Interests of Stalin and Hitler

In a speech to the Supreme Soviet Council on August i, 1940, Molotov declared:

“The good-neighborly, friendly relations between the Soviet Union and Germany are not based on fortuitous considerations of a transient nature, but on fundamental state interests of both the USSR and Germany.”

What transpired in a few weeks after the seal was set to the treaty is now history. Assured of her eastern borders, the German military machine began to march, and Poland, its first victim, fell. Stalin marched, too. He took part of Poland in agreement with Hitler. Stalin also took Lithuania, Latvia and Esthonia. In the midst of the outbreak of the Second World War, which came as a mockery of Molotov’s declarations about the insurance of peace, Stalin’s Red Army crossed the borders of Finland. Throughout the world, the Soviet Union became indistinguishable from Nazi Germany. The explanation given for these movements of the Red Army was the need for protection of the borders of the Soviet Union from aggression by Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia and Finland. The latter country was denounced as a tool of Great Britain and America! Great Britain was declared to be the main enemy of the Soviet Union! Russia thence became a source of material support to Germany in the war; it was also the base where were formulated the policies of what remained of the Comintern in the bourgeois world, and the subsequent chaos and confusion created by the Stalinist parties in all countries was without bounds. Stalin sought, by his adventures, to increase “the power, prestige and revenue” of his enormous bureaucracy.

In the United States, in Great Britain, in France, the war was denounced as imperialist. Germany, according to the Stalinist penmen, was fighting a defensive war to protect itself against Great Britain. Thus, on May 19, 1940, the Sunday Worker, quoting a Red Army commentator, wrote:

“The official memorandum of the German government states that German troops are going into Belgium and Holland in order to prevent its enemies from using these countries for the struggle against Germany. It is quite probable that this is the main objective.”

The Communist Parties, wherever possible, developed campaigns against the Anglo-American sector of the war front. In England, the People’s Convention was called for the purpose of fighting for a People’s Government Which would proclaim as its immediate purpose the establishment of peace. In the United States a desperate struggle was organized against aid to England, the Lease-Lend Bill and American preparations for entry into war. The Stalinist propaganda was neither anti-militarist nor anti-imperialist. It was opposed only to one camp in the war, the Anglo-America. One way or another, by innuendo or directly, it justified Germany’s participation in the war as being forced upon her; omitted references to the Axis in its pretended anti-war tirades, or pleasantly chastised fascism when the expediency demanded it. But there was no mistaking its genuine policy: the Soviet Union was an ally of Germany, a junior member of the Axis, but, nevertheless, a member in good standing. As a subordinate member of one of the warring camps, it was integrally a part of the imperialist war. Its propaganda and agitation conformed to its place in the war. The Communist Parties became, automatically and not always subtly, propaganda agents for the Axis. That was the necessary and logical result of the Hitler-Stalin pact.

What Impelled Hitler’s Attack Now?

The German attack upon the Soviet Union came as swiftly, and as surprisingly, as the Pact of 1939. The pact, ostensibly designed to keep the peace and secure the neutrality of the Soviet Union for at least ten years burst asunder one year and ten months after it was “sealed by the blood of both countries” (Molotov). The explanation for this event can not be found in the philosophies which govern the two countries. Those who complacently asserted that the coming together of the two countries was “a natural,” are now stunned. It cannot be found in the supposedly “socialist character” of Stalin’s Russia. The explanation of the attack on Russia is to be found solely upon military grounds. In war, countries which pursue a purely national policy (all the participants in this war do), govern themselves primarily upon, and act in accordance with, their vital national interests. Thus, to understand Hitler’s policy one must understand the development of the war.

The War at the Present Stage

We do not propose to make a thorough military analysis of the war. But certain important facts emerge from the whole panorama of the conflict. They are:

  1. Hitler hoped, with the signing of the Russian pact, to conclude the war in a short time. His military staff apparently knew the state of Allied arms and had promised a quick victory. The theory of the blitzkrieg was predicated upon the idea of a rapid, all-out attack upon the enemies, employing immense air armadas, wave upon wave of tanks, great formations of artillery batteries and masses of men, all coordinated in one mighty offensive. Being well aware that a prolonged war might end disastrously for the Reich, Hitler promised the nation immediate victory and peace, with enormous gains in Europe, a colonial empire and economic prosperity, yea, even (sic) socialism.
  2. Securing its eastern border, Germany turned to the west. There it was faced with the combined armed might of the Anglo-French alliance, an opposing force which soon disintegrated before the new military methods of the modernized and mechanized Reich army. France capitulated, adding her name to the long list of conquered nations. The number of victims was imposing and yet Hitler, even though he had so far achieved many small victories, failed to bring the war to a conclusion.

    Germany now occupies and controls the entire western coast of Europe. It controls the Baltic Sea. It defeated England in the Balkans and won the Island of Crete. The Battle of the Atlantic is still being fought, but Hitler is truly master of all Europe west of the Soviet Union. However, he is still a long way from achieving his cardinal objective.

The British Continue to Fight On

  1. The British Empire, to the utter surprise and amazement of many and the chagrin of Hitler, while battered and groggy, continues to stand up. Moreover, it is fighting back with great courage and determination, since British imperialism is struggling for its very life. The great industrial machinery of the United States moves ahead with giant strides and, as production increases, enormous quantities of war materials are shipped to England, enhancing the strength of John Bull, whose military power is rising rather than diminishing with the passage of time. In addition, the Empire has enormous resources which are only first beginning to make themselves felt. English losses, except on the sea, are not actually debilitating. Her army remains intact, her navy is still dominant over the Axis, her air force, surprisingly efficient, is growing quantitatively and her arms are constantly increased.
  2. The United States is a more belligerent opponent of the Axis. Roosevelt long ago placed America in the camp of the “democracies” presumably engaged in a great struggle against the ideology of fascism. America daily moves closer to actual military participation in the war. The occupation of Iceland by American sailors and marines, and Roosevelt’s warning that he will not tolerate Axis attacks on the North Atlantic sea lanes, is an open invitation to Hitler to make the first move ere the American Navy goes into action. Intervention of the United States has brought home to Germany the conviction that this war will not end quickly, that it must now prepare for a long, long struggle.
  3. The war is now approaching the close of its second year and has long since passed “the blitzkrieg stage.” The concrete state of the war and its apparent endlessness belie its blitzkrieg character. In recognition of this salient fact the German military machine now charts its course.

Why the Attack Is Made Now

With this brief summary, it becomes clearer why Germany turned east against its erstwhile partner. If the war is to be a long one, if Germany must face the material might of the United States and its probable entrance into the war, she must have the means whereby a prolonged war may be fought. Russia offers a material source for waging a prolonged war. With her western borders presently inviolate, the north impregnable, the Mediterranean shores well guarded, Germany could attack Russia without paralyzing interferences from other fronts. Thus Stalin reaped a harvest from seed planted long ago.

There is not the slightest doubt that the break between Hitler and Stalin came over the demands made of the Kremlin dictator. The precise character of these demands is not definitely known. But it is bruited about that Hitler demanded the whole production of Russia oil, all the grain produce of the Ukraine and, above all, demobilization of the Red Army, which did appear as a Damoclean sword and which, through its mobilization, was using up enormous quantities of materials needed by the Reich. In addition, it is reported that Hitler demanded control of Russian economy, to subordinate it to Germany’s war requirements. It was all or nothing. Rumors of a conflict between Stalin and his military staff do not appear to be fiction. Stalin was ready to yield, at least in part, to Hitler. But the demands were so paralyzing that capitulation could not be carried through without sharp internal reverberations.

It is reasonable to suppose, on the basis of the latest turn of events, that the Hess trip to England was taken for the express purpose of working out some modus vivendi with the British, in preparation for the German attack on the Soviet Union. It is reasonable to suppose, too, that England may have forewarned Stalin and that this fact was responsible for his sudden assumption to the post of Premier – to be able to command, no matter what course would be chosen. The Red Army, at the very least, was in partial readiness for the attack which came without the preliminary declaration of war.

No matter, once German troops were on the march Stalin had no choice. Capitulation now was precluded by the military situation. It was necessary to fight to the grim end. But the attack itself was a measure of desperation on Hitler’s part also. His huge army can not remain immobile. He must constantly produce victorious results for fear of repercussions at home. The war thus drives him to desperate acts.

Why Was the German Attack a Surprise?

The idea that Germany might attack the Soviet Union, at one stage or another of the war, was forecast in many circles. For many it was merely a guess. Others who took a long-term view on the war regarded it as inevitable, but nobody expected it so soon, and least of all the Soviet Union, the Communist Parties and their peripheries.

On June 19th, the June 24th issue of The New Masses appeared for public sale. Rumors had been rife for several weeks about strained Russo-German relations. But an editorial of The New Masses sought to calm the fears of the more agitated by saying:

“Useful as the (war) rumor was designed to be, it also indicated the course of the British government’s wishful thinking. Remember that a Soviet-German war is only conceivable if Germany first reached an understanding with Great Britain.” (Emphasis mine – A.G.)

How come then? Why was the Stalinist movement taken by such unalloyed surprise by the German attack? Because, as our Labor Action correspondent pointed out, Stalin was prepared to capitulate to Hitler’s demands! In the end, either German demands were too great, or German patience was exhausted, or both. Once the Russo-German war broke out, the international game of changing horses mid-stream began.

In correspondence with the “new line” brought about by the new world situation, an editorial in the Daily Worker offered the following post-mortem explanation of past relations between Stalin and Hitler. It said:

“One of your (the bourgeois press) favorite inventions which you have used ad nauseam was the ‘alliance’ which you said existed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Hitler’s war aggression has demonstrated that this was merely a fiction, created in your offices. It was non-existent, as the Daily Worker has said times innumerable.”

How They Continue to Lie

Obviously, the Daily Worker lies! If surprise and confusion are now rampant, it is due in the main to the manner in which the Soviet Union initiated its pact with Hitler, the course it pursued in the furtherance of the same, and the lengths to which it was prepared to go to maintain its hitherto “warm and genial” relations with the Third Reich.

At no time did the leaders of the Soviet Union declare that the Hitler-Stalin pact was the result of dire necessity in the interest of gaining time and preparing for the future. If it is countered that the regime could not very well say such a thing, we reply, first of all, that such was not Lenin’s way in these matters, for he was concerned, in the last analysis, with the effect his actions would have upon the world proletariat and international socialism. Secondly, if diplomatic considerations prevented telling the whole truth about the pact, then neither was it incumbent upon the Soviet Union to misrepresent its true nature to the world.

That the New Leader was shocked by the turn of events is not to be wondered at, since these sterling observers of current events through reactionary and counter-revolutionary glasses believed that the Stalin-Hitler pact was a product of Stalin’s world revolutionary aims. They believed that “Stalin himself helped Hitler to power in the hope that with the hands of the Berlin dictator he would make the Communist ‘world revolution.’ “ But the very fact that they believe that Stalin, the hangman of the international revolutionary movement, aimed or is now aiming for a Communist world revolution, disqualifies them from serious consideration as analysts of world political problems. Their hatred of Stalin stems not from their abhorrence of his counter-revolutionary course, but from the false belief that he truly represents the movement for international socialism. Finally, their analysis concludes that Hitler is an untruthful and unreliable monster, never to be trusted. His attack on Russia is proof positive that he desires to rule the world. Anyway, Stalin got what was coming to him.

We have already referred to bourgeois opinion. Their analysis was always superficial, based upon secondary factors. But since the greater part of that group herald the war as a boon to the Anglo-American war camp, they are satisfied to let well enough alone. It is in the ranks of the labor and political movement of the workers, however, that enormous reverberations occur.

In Partial Summary

Let us recapitulate the role of the Soviet Union in this war up to the moment when its partner turned. The pact gave the signal to Germany to open hostilities. The Red Army marched with Hitler on the basis of a prior agreement to divide Poland. While the war raged in the west Stalin seized the Baltic states and opened war on Finland. In each of these concrete instances, Russia’s r61e in the war was indistinguishable from that of Germany. By her material aid to Germany she made possible, if only in part, the latter’s prosecution of the war. Propagandistically, all her attacks were upon England and America as warmongers. Germany was absolved of blame. In general, Russia’s rô1e in the war was anti-proletarian, anti-socialist and pro-Axis. The bulk of the conscious proletariat throughout the world became alienated from the Soviet Union and were made easy victims of the demagogic propaganda of the democratic imperialists. Everyone understand that in England and the United States, for example, the campaign against war and for peace was a policy operating in the interests of the fascist Axis. These facts are ineradicable proof of the fact that the Russo-German pact converted the Soviet Union into a junior partner of Adolph Hitler. The dénouément is here, but at what a cost! The Soviet Union, forcibly ejected from one of the warring camps, now slides ungracefully into another camp, the camp of its former opponent, if not enemy.

Has the Character of the War Changed?

The attack upon the Soviet Union has, naturally, again raised the question of Russia’s rôle in the war. Has the German assault really changed the character of the war? Is the war any less imperialist now than prior to the attack? Does the new cooperation between Russia and the Anglo-American camp change the latter’s position in the war? Is Stalin’s defense aimed at safeguarding the “socialist” achievements of the October Revolution? These are some of the questions which require answers. Our answers are in part already indicated. They are based upon fundamental considerations relating to the character of the Russian state and the concrete position that the Soviet Union bears to the other powers.

The Communist Party and the unions and organizations which it controls, its press, the Cannon group, the Oehler group, The Nation and The New Republic and a variety of other individuals have hastened into print, all with the general acclaim: the character of the war has changed! With Hitler’s attack upon Russia, it is necessary to rise to the defense of Stalin’s state. The Stalinists proclaim that the Red Army is engaged in a crusade to defend “socialist” Russia against fascism. The liberals have rediscovered the impelling necessity to defend “democratic” Russia from totalitarian attack and in this manner realize the best defense of England and world civilization. The Cannon group and the Oehler group hasten to characterize Russia’s position in war as that of a degenerated workers’ state with nationalized property lighting reaction, and call for support to the “revolutionary war of defense” of the Red Army.

All follow the specious argumentation developed by William Z. Foster in his speech before the National Committee of the Communist Party, where he said:

“Hitler’s attack upon the Soviet Union changes the character of the World War, and thereby makes necessary changes in our party’s attitude toward that war. Previously the war had been a struggle between the rival imperialist power groupings ... With Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union the whole situation is basically altered.”

This new line of Stalinism, which has great practical political significance, as we shall soon establish, is repeated in the manifesto of the American Communist Party which began: “The people of our country face a new world situation.”

The only new situation in the present war is that Hitler turned upon an erstwhile ally. But this important political and military fact does not and can not alter the basic character of the war, despite the involvement of the Soviet Union. To say with the Stalinists that the attack of Hitler is an attack upon socialism, or a workers’ state, however degenerated, or upon nationalized property per se, is merely repeating in reverse the clamor of Hitler and his wild cohorts that his war is a crusade against Bolshevism. Neither is the case.

A defense of Stalin can be justified only upon the following grounds: that the base of world socialism is threatened; that it is socialism in the Soviet Union which is being attacked and that a workers’ state, however degenerated, is imperiled. None of these conditions obtain in the present situation.

Stalin’s defense is purely nationalistic, having not the slightest relationship to socialism. The “genial” leader has already placed his country in the camp of the “democratic” nations fighting aggression! He has been warmly and enthusiastically received by Churchill and Eden. The transformation of the policies of the Communist Parties is in response to the nationalist requirements of the Stalinist regime. In the final analysis, Stalin is fighting solely for the preservation of his bureaucratic regime which ruthlessly exploits the Russian proletariat.

In what way, for example, has the attack upon the Soviet Union altered overnight “the struggle between the rival imperialist power groupings”? Is England’s defense of her imperialist empire made more palatable now that Stalin is attacked and forms an alliance with her? Are American imperialist aims similarly altered? This is hardly so. The war remains fundamentally unchanged. The attack upon the Soviet Union is merely a tangent of the main current of the war: the struggle between German imperialism and Anglo-American imperialism. The war against Russia is subordinated to that main aim, for victory on that front may enable Hitler to continue his war in the west! Hitler is still fighting for world domination, for permanent control over Europe, for a colonial empire. At best, a victory over Russia can only serve as a means of achieving his desired goal. Contrariwise, England and America are fighting to preserve their present holdings and to destroy once and for all a most desperate and dangerous rival. Has the war, then, changed on this sector?

The Russian state, moreover, is a bureaucratic state. The bureaucracy represents a new class in the Soviet Union, resting upon the state ownership of the means of production (nationalized property) and the brutal exploitation of the Russian masses. There is not a scintilla of socialism in Stalin’s domain, and a defense of the Soviet Union as such has nothing in common with a defense of the basic interest of the Russian or the international proletariat. Stalin’s defense is in the tradition of nationalist defense, in this case waged in behalf of a dominant economic group, the bureaucracy.

What Is Bureaucracy Fighting For?

The attempt to describe the outbreak of Russo-German hostilities as a struggle between bourgeois imperialist economy and nationalized property is a pure invention having no basis in fact. It was not the character of Russian economy which drove Hitler to attack (if this was his aim, he could have done it more effectively at the time the Munich pact was signed); had he been able to obtain full concessions to his demands there would have been no war, the character of Russian economy notwithstanding. Precisely the character of the international situation and the nature of the World War excludes the idea that Russia’s particular struggle is against imperialist economy. Those who stand upon a position of defensism on this ground are merely inventing a situation to sustain a viewpoint based, not on the realities of the war, but upon sentiment and outlived considerations.

It is contended that an alliance between Russia and the democratic powers would not automatically lend a reactionary semi-imperialist stamp to Russia’s struggle. This would be automatically true if the Soviet Union were a workers’ state or represented in this war the prerequisites for the advance of the international socialist interests of the world proletariat. In the absence of these conditions, what is Stalin fighting for?

There is general agreement in our party that the Soviet Union is not a workers’ state and that the Stalin bureaucracy is a new social class emerging from the peculiarly mixed character of Soviet economy. The answer to the question, what is Stalin fighting for, is to be sought in the nature of the bureaucracy as a new class. Stalin is fighting for the retention of the economic, political and social power of that class. Given these conditions, given the relationship of the Soviet Union to the imperialist powers in this war, Stalin’s struggle is not one waged in behalf of nationalized property as an economic form, but for the preservation of the bureaucratic regime which exists on the basis of nationalized property.

Nationalized property in the Soviet Union, therefore, can not, merely by its existence, have a fundamentally decisive effect upon the character of the war. Nationalized property, for example, did not make progressive Stalin’s attack upon Finland. The essential task of the proletariat in Russia is the same as the task of the proletariat elsewhere in the bourgeois world. This is not, however, tantamount to saying that Russian economy and capitalist economy are identical. They are different. But, as one sector of the imperialist world finds it necessary to attack Russia in consonance with its particular war needs, another sector, for exactly identical reasons, makes an alliance with it. Nationalized property, therefore, is not the determinant for characterizing this war. To proceed from that point of departure is to go astray of the true situation. In the instant case, Hitler wants from Russia what he wants from other nations, no matter what the character of their economies.

Given these fundamental considerations, it is not necessary for Stalin to surrender the Soviet Union over to Anglo-American imperialism to transform his rôle in the war into a reactionary one. Why should Stalin turn the Soviet Union over to Great Britain or the United States? What becomes of our analysis of the Stalin bureaucracy as a class? Precisely because this bureaucracy is a new class, with complete economic and political power, it fights to defend that power against anyone who would dethrone it. There is no basic reason why Stalin should turn internal power over to any other country; on the contrary, there is every good reason why he does not and why he fights so determinedly to maintain his rule, not only against other imperialist nations, but, above all, against the Russian proletariat. In saying this, we do not imply that Stalin will fail to travel the high road of collaboration with England and the United States in order to maintain his reign. The presently announced pact between Great Britain and the Soviet Union, barring either party from making a separate peace, only draws closer and subordinates the Soviet Union to its more powerful ally.

It is true, if a workers’ state existed in the Soviet Union, if it represented the world base for socialism, an alliance with England and America would not, in and of itself, make Russia’s rôle reactionary in this war. But this does not obtain in the Soviet Union. It is, we repeat, precisely the class position of Stalin’s bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, and the relation of that bureaucracy to world imperialism in this war which makes it reactionary.

Stalin’s Speech and the ‘New’ Party Line

No better proof of the foregoing is offered than the speeches of Churchill, Eden, Roosevelt and Stalin. Their unanimity is indeed touching. Outstanding in their common attitude to the new turn in the war is the manner in which they brush aside secondary and superficial considerations for the real questions involved.

Churchill and Eden, in the name of the British Empire, and Roosevelt, in behalf of American imperialism, declared their continued hatred for communism and, consequently, the Russian Revolution. But they are unanimously determined not to permit these “secondary” questions to obliterate their main aim in the war: destruction of Hitler and German imperialism There is nothing in the character of Stalin’s prosecution of the war or in the conduct of Stalin’s agents in their countries to cause them anxiety. They are certain that Stalin’s nationalism makes him a safe gamble and they are even more certain that they shall not be confronted with the discomfiture of “defeatist” socialist propaganda by the Comintern behind the lines. The Stalinist holiday is over.

Stalin’s speech is the barometer for judging Russia’s part in the war and the manner in which it intends to prosecute it. It is a commonplace to say of a speech by Stalin that it contains the commonest of platitudes, that it is dry and stale or that it lacks relationship to the socialist ideal or practice. In this case it stands out more boldly because, unfortunately, it is not a Soviet Congress with which we are concerned. Those who had hoped that now, under the conditions of an invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin would be compelled to revert to his Bolshevik past, are disappointed. Aside from its brazen justification for the pact with Hitler, the speech is in the tradition of past Russian rulers.

The Aim of the War

Firstly, Stalin identifies the Soviet Union as a “democratic power” fighting together with England and the United States. Fascism, which was only yesterday a matter of “personal taste,” has now become abhorrent and “savage.” The Russo-German pact, which was “sealed by the blood of both countries,” is dishonestly described in post factum manner as follows:

“I think that not a single peace-loving state could decline a peace treaty with a neighboring state even though the latter was headed by such fiends and cannibals as Hitler and Ribbentrop ... The peoples of the Soviet Union now see that there is no taming (it could not see it before – A.G.) of German fascism in its savage fury and hatred of our country, which has insured all working people labor in freedom and prosperity.”

In the tradition of the bourgeois stateman, with the same specious reasoning, Stalin defines the war as a war of the “entire Soviet people against the German fascist forces.” He is even less the internationalist than Churchill or Roosevelt when he declares:

“The aim of this national war in defense of our country against the fascist oppressors is not only elimination of the danger hanging over our country, but also aid to all European peoples groaning under the yoke of German fascism.”

Stalin’s Bourgeois War

Yes, for Stalin this is a national war in defense of his country. In this war he has “loyal allies in the peoples of Europe and America.” His war will merge with the struggles of these people “for democratic liberties.” While the cruel despot of the Kremlin thus speaks of the “peoples” and “democratic liberties,” he fails to say anything about socialism and omits even the slightest word about the oppressed proletariat of the world, of the hundreds of millions of enslaved colonial peoples under the heel of world imperialism (England, America, France, etc.). There is nothing of the ringing cry of Bolshevism calling for the exploited of the world to overthrow their exploiters and establish true freedom and true democracy in the new order of socialism. National despot that he is, he can not wage a revolutionary war against Hitler; he can not even carry on a defeatist propaganda against the bloody fascist régime in Germany. Like the war of Britain and America against Hitler, it is being fought by purely military means. For just as Churchill and Roosevelt, molded and influenced by their class positions, dare not employ revolutionary methods in the midst of the war, methods which might realize the overthrow of Hitler, so Stalin (personification of the bureaucracy) , circumscribed by his class position, can not and dare not resort to revolutionary means of prosecuting the war.

Stalin, to be sure, finds place in his speech to praise “the historic utterance of British Prime Minister Churchill,” for his declaration of support to Russia in the war against Germany. He calls upon the Russian masses to support and “rally around the party of Lenin-Stalin” (!), for the totalitarian despot, no matter under what circumstances, must constantly carry along his totalitarian ideological baggage and force its imprint upon the minds of the people. Every word expressed by Stalin is opposed to the genuine internationalist and socialist spirit. He fears revolution no less than his new found democratic bourgeois allies. In the present period, one spark can serve to ignite a flame that might travel around the earth, to swamp all the bloody tyrants who rule over oppressed humanity. Stalin’s regime would be among the first to fall.

The democratic bourgeois world accepted Stalin’s speech with great enthusiasm. If there are revolutionaries and socialists who do not yet understand that the speech was the expression of a program and a policy, the New York Times does not make this mistake. In an editorial of July 4 entitled Back to the Russian Earth, the Times writes:

“Stalin’s broadcast yesterday was not the appeal of the Communist leader tb the embattled proletariat ... It is no class war now to which the Supreme Commissar summons all of the forces of the state. It is a ‘national war in defense of our country.’ Over and over again he appeals to the oldest fighting instincts. He repeats the slogans of patriotism, calling up on the people to save Russia, to defend the freedom of the homeland, their national independence, even their ‘democratic liberties.’”

Is it any wonder that the White Guardist Russians have sprung to life, that the Orthodox Church wasted not a moment in announcing its support to Stalin, that Kerensky has come out in print calling for support to Stalin’s war? All of these gentry recognize the stuff of which they are made: simple and undiluted nationalism. This is the spirit to which Stalin appealed.

Nothing in Common with Socialism

But there is an additional and even more important reason why Stalin can not employ revolutionary socialist methods in his war against Hitler. There is no socialism in Russia. The proletariat and peasantry live under a gruesome dictatorship which exploits them in the most cynical fashion. Every revolutionary worker and peasant in the Soviet Union, despite official pronunciamentos, knows this. There is an intense hatred for the bureaucracy stored up in the hearts of the great mass of people. The employment of revolutionary socialist methods in this war would light a flame in Russia that would burn away the rotten, exploiting regime.

We have said that Stalin is a nationalist. In the present epoch of international economics and international politics, Stalin does, it is true, play the game of international politics, governed not by socialist, but by purely nationalist considerations. The Comintern is one of his world agents. It is not necessary to repeat in detail what we have said so many times about the conduct of the Communist Parties throughout the world. Agents of the Kremlin, they carry out Stalin’s policies in the bourgeois world.

They have responded instantly in the present situation, again with policies developed for them in Moscow. Coinciding with the non-socialist defense of the Soviet Union organized by the bureaucracy, it has again hauled out of its arsenal of betrayal the policy of the People’s Front. It has taken a war of frightening proportions to bring about a return to the disgrace of popular frontism and class collaboration. But no other result was possible on the basis of Stalinism. Observe the manner in which William Z. Foster, Kremlin potentate of the American Stalinist Party, announces the return to the old policy. In his report to the National Committee of the Communist Party, he said:

“One thing our party must be especially conscious of is the need to translate its political line into life as speedily and thoroughly as possible. If we are to help build up a great People’s Front, to mobolize the American nation for militant struggle against Hitler, we must bring our party into action more quickly and thoroughly ... Now we must proceed boldly to develop the broadest united front and People’s Front activities.”

It is in this manner that the defense of the Soviet Union is organized by those who have destroyed the October Revolution. Back to the musicians, artists, ministers, professional defenders of Soviet Russia; back to the mire of bourgeois democracy after wallowing in the mire of the fascist Axis!

How Shall the Soviet Union Be Defended?

This is the crucial question. But it is precisely on this question that so many fail. The conduct of the Cannon group gives ample evidence of how adherence to an outlived, non-applicable policy can result in a complete disorientation of a movement. For more than a year now the Socialist Workers Party, embarrassed and with tongue in cheek, have attempted to explain away Stalin’s relation to the Axis. Their position of defense of the Soviet Union, confused as it was, arose unavoidably because that organization clung to the theory that Stalin’s regime was a “degenerated workers’ state” and that the existence of nationalized property, progressive in relation to capitalist property relations, requires defense under any and all conceivable circumstances, whether or not it is the nationalized property which is involved in any war, and no matter what the nature of the war is.

In contrast to their veritable silence on the question of defense during the Stalin-Hitler honeymoon, the Cannon group is now shouting loudly. Lacking a solid Marxist theory in their approach to the current problem, they have completely lost their bearing. In their zealousness to apply their particular concept of the defense of the Soviet Union, they have developed a campaign which is reminiscent of a period passed ten years ago when the international left opposition regarded itself as a faction of the Communist International.

Thus, after the complete degeneration of Stalinism, after the conclusive counter-revolutionary victory of the bureaucracy and the physical annihilation of the Old Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union, the Cannon group discovers a fundamental cleavage between the “revolutionary war” of the Red Army and the activities of the Communist Party in the United States. It pleads with the American Stalinists to avoid the pitfalls of popular frontism.

Pleading a Case

In its appeal to the Communist Party, published in the July 5 issue of The Militant, the Socialist Workers Party says:

“The Soviet Union is now compelled to enter into temporary alliances with capitalist powers ...” (!)

This statement overlooks the inherent character of Stalinism as anti-socialist. What is meant by the phrase, “is now compelled to enter into temporary alliances with capitalist powers”? What kind of an alliance did Stalin enter into with Hitler? And prior to Hitler? That there are strong compelling forces driving Stalin in one direction or another is obvious, but the paths which Stalin and his bureaucracy chose are as much determined by their general anti-Bolshevik political theory and practice. When the SWP writes in the above manner, it is, consciously or unconsciously – it makes no difference which – seeking to justify the present course of Stalinism.

Proceeding from a false fundamental position, the Cannon group necessarily subordinates the struggle against Stalinism to their version of what constitutes the defense of the Soviet Union. In the closing paragraph of the aforementioned appeal, they state:

“Comrades of the Communist Party – only by deepening the revolutionary struggle, fighting ceaselessly against the imperialist war, capitalist terror, can you march side by side with the Red Army in its defense against Hitler. Not a People’s Front with the bosses, but a workers’ front of struggle! This is the only real defense of the Soviet Union. And in this defense we stand ready to join you in any action that will advance our common cause.”

Everything is telescoped and misrepresented in this appeal. It is false to attribute the slightest revolutionary possibilities to Stalinism. Yet the appeal desires to exact precisely the impossible from Stalinism. The Communist Party can not and will not carry on a revolutionary struggle in defense of the Soviet Union because it is alien to revolutionary ideas and practice, because such a struggle is against the basic interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy! Stalinism can not, therefore, organize a workers’ united front of struggle to defend the Soviet Union. What it will do now, with the turn in the war, is to fight against any movements of the workers to improve their class positions, whether it be strikes for wages, hours or conditions, or political struggles against the bourgeois state, on the ground that these struggles will impede the defense of Stalin. If the Cannon group stands ready to join with the Stalinists in a revolutionary defense of the Soviet Union, they are on safe ground, for this circumstance will not and can not come to pass.

The Struggle Against Stalin Is Eliminated

But the real criminal character of the position of the SWP, and all who believe as they do, is that they have completely obliterated now the program of the revolutionary overthrow of Stalin in the Soviet Union. It is no accident that the slogan for the independence of Soviet Ukraine has been omitted from the columns of the Cannonite press. It is no accidence that Cannon in his telegram to Stalin, sent through Ambassador Oumansky at Washington, demands only “the revival of Soviet democracy as the first step in strengthening the struggle against German Nazi imperialism and the capitalist world.” With the flourish of a pen, Cannon distorts the position of the Fourth International, which called for a political revolution against Stalinism, precisely because it is impossible to realize democratic demands and rights under that regime.

In this manner the SWP has thrown overboard the genuinely revolutionary content of the Fourth Internationalist struggle against Stalinism. That is why their defensism is shame-faced and politically dishonest.

The way to defend the Soviet Union, that is, to defend what remains of the historically progressive achievements of the October Revolution, is by ceaselessly waging the revolutionary struggle in the Soviet Union, especially under the conditions of war. Stalinism is incapable of defending these achievements in this war for the reason that it has alienated the overwhelming mass of workers and peasants in the Soviet Republics, and especially the international proletariat. What is needed in this war is the spirit of October. Such a spirit can awaken the great spirit of the Russian masses and the workers of the world. But to awaken that spirit it is necessary to ring out the revolutionary cry of freedom and that is impossible without continuing and deepening the struggle against Stalin and Stalinism now!

The Revolutionary Way Out

So long as Stalin and his bureaucracy remain, the struggle is doomed. The defense of the Soviet Union is genuine only if it carries with it the aim of destroying the bureaucracy, seeks to re-establish Soviets, the trade unions and the economic and political democracy of the workers and peasants. Any other defense is a defense of the “power, prestige and revenues” of the regime. Those who seek to couple a revolutionary defense of the Soviet Union jointly with Stalin against Hitler, or what they deem to call a struggle against capitalism, are in an insoluble contradiction and will never be able to extricate themselves from it.

The great lesson of the past two decades is that the economic and political freedom of the world’s oppressed, the realization of the socialist revolution, is only possible by the independent revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and it« allies everywhere, in the democratic capitalist world, in the fascist capitalist world and in the Soviet Union.

In our opinion the defense of the Soviet Union means the overthrow of Stalinism and the establishment of the genuine power of the workers state. Given such a condition, there is everything to defend.

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Last updated on 25 October 2014