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Albert Gates

Kerensky Makes a Lawyer’s Defense of

Russia and Atlantic Charter

(January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 4, 22 January 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There was a time when the Atlantic Charter was regarded by the Allied statesmen as a “sacred document, presaging a new postwar world of freedom. But the disillusionment was not long in coming. In recent months, the true meaning of the Atlantic Charter has been made clear for everyone to see,

Russian Power Politics

One of the latest wrinkles in interpretation of the Charter comes from the Russians. As everyone now knows, Russia has chipped off a piece of Finland – the fruit of two wars. She seized Latvia, Lithuania and Esthonia, held a plebiscite at the point of a gun in each country and “legally incorporated” them into the borders of Russia.

The big dispute over Poland is being resolved in Russia’s favor with her sponsorship and recognition of the Lublin Committee. Upon the liberation of the country from Germany it will be turned into a Russian vassal state, i.e., those parts not already incorporated into Russia.

Parts of Romania have already been, incorporated into Stalin’s so-called socialist fatherland, where labor is enslaved. In all these instances, the will of the people means nothing – they are not consulted, nor are they permitted to decide their own national fate.

Naturally, the objections to these practices of power politics are many. They come not only from the people, but from unemployed governments in exile – which were retained by the Allies only as long as militarily advisable – and the ambassadorial representatives of these governments all over the world.

In the United States, there are a great number of these “unrecognized” ambassadors and representatives. One of these is P. Zadeikis, who continues to act as Washington Minister of a non-existent Lithuanian “government.” In a letter to Alexander Kerensky, Zadeikis takes Kerensky to task for endorsing Stalin’s incorporation of Lithuania into the borders of Russia. Who is Kerensky and what is this all about?

Kerensky’s Past

Alexander Kerensky was head of the provisional [1] government of Russia which was overthrown when the Russian workers and peasants, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky took power and set up the first workers’ government in history. He was from that day on an enemy of the Russian Revolution. Of course, he was a supporter of the first revolution which overthrew the Czar and put him (Kerensky) into office at the head of a capitalist government. But the second revolution, which overthrew the power of the capitalists and landlords, he opposed most bitterly. Eventually Kerensky became an exile from Russia.

In the intervening years he remained a bitter, opponent of Soviet Russia, when the workers really ruled. His opposition to Russia cooled considerably after Stalin and his bureaucracy seized power. The more nationalist Stalin became, the warmer did Kerensky feel toward Russia. And when Stalin cast off all his pretentions of being a socialist, when he destroyed the Soviets, the bolshevik party, the communist international, the rights of the workers and peasants, and enslaved them, Kerensky began to find many things to admire in Stalin and Russia.

Thus, when Stalin was forced into the present war by his erstwhile partner, Hitler, Kerensky came to the defense of Mother Russia. And while he continues his holiday outbursts against Stalin’s totalitarian regime, Kerensky hails the wartime achievements of the Kremlin oligarch and calls upon all Russians to give the latter complete support, especially on the destruction of the independent states of Latvia, Lithuania, Esthonia, and the now threatened loss of independence to Poland.

How Imperialists Reason

And when Mr. Zadeikis asks Kerensky how he squares this with the Atlantic Charter, and the whole cause for which the war is fought, what answer does he receive? A deceitful one. But one which is gaining favor in the diplomatic chambers of the Allied powers.

Kerensky supports Stalin since Hitler’s attack, because Stalin “had ceased all Communist Propaganda inside Russia at the time of the Hitler invasion and put forward only such slogans as were in harmony with the national sentiments of the people and the national interests of Russia.” Secondly, the war with Hitler “was proclaimed a defensive war ... and the war aims were given as defense of the motherland ....”

And “insofar as Russia continues to fight for these aims I continue to support them. These aims have nothing to do with the form of government existing in Russia.” He doesn’t go for the government, but “none of us, however, can alter the pattern of history as it has shaped itself at this moment.”

But what about Lithuania? “As regards the 6,000,000 inhabitants of the Baltic states, their incorporation within the federation of Russian states likewise has nothing,to do with the character of the existing political regime in Russia or with the political regime now installed in the Baltic states.” Some mighty fancy jabbing and side-stepping, this answer.

But Kerensky is coming to the point, in his own round-about and ponderous way. Was this incorporation a violation of the Atlantic Charter, as Mr. Zadeikis insists? No, says Kerensky. Just listen!

“I contended it did not (violate the Charter) ... One may consider the incorporation of the territories in question as unjust; one may try to persuade the Soviet government to revise its action, but no one can justly accuse the Soviet government of having violated the Atlantic Charter.”

And why not? Well, you see, the Atlantic Charter, which bars such incorporations, was “promulgated by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill on Aug. 14, 1941. The representatives of the Moscow Government signed the Charter on Jan. 1, 1942. The reincorporation of the Baltic states (you see, the Czar, once plundered these peoples, too – AG), Western White Russia and Bessarabia, and the incorporation of western Galicia and northern Bukovina into Russia, took place during the period between the end of 1939 and the middle of 1940 (during the Hitler-Stalin Pact – AG) one year before the promulgation of the Atlantic Charter.”

There it is. The Atlantic Charter is not a doctrine, after all. It is a date. If before January 1, 1942, Russia gobbled up a number of states in violation of the will of the peoples of these states why, – it has nothing to do with the Atlantic Charter, because when Russia seized these territories it had not yet signed this noble document

England and the United States, of course, will support Russia in this. After all there are India and Puerto Rico. There is, however, a name by which all this goes. It is not unknown, either. It is called “imperialism!

Alexander Kerensky hasn’t changed at all. He was a great Russian Nationalist and imperialist when he headed the Provisional Government in 1917. He remains that today. Stalin has changed. He was once a revolutionary socialist. Today he is a great Russian nationalist and imperialist.

Footnote by ETOL

1. In the printed version the word “provincial” was used instead of “provisional” – this was obviously a typesetting error.

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