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Sam Adams

Why Russia Joined the War on Japan

(20 August 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 34, 20 August1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Russian declaration of war against Japan was without surprise. Once Foreign Minister Molotov announced last April the Russian intention of abrogating the treaty with Japan, it was only a question of time before Stalin would join his partners in the Far Eastern conflict.

The history of the Russian break with Japan is interesting only in the sense that it adds another chapter in the long history of imperialism. Russo-Japanese conflicts in the Far East were of long standing. Battle skirmishes were fought as late as 1939. When the Second World War became imminent, Russia and Japan arranged for an armistice which coincided with the Hitler-Stalin Pact of September 1939. The armistice was followed by a neutrality pact signed in April 1941, shortly before the invasion of Russia by Germany.

These diplomatic maneuverings were not accidental. They were part of Russia’s orientation toward the Axis nations, an orientation which arose from the certainty that the Allied powers would be unable to prevent the victory of Germany-Italy-Japan. The turn in the war, however, did not change Russian-Japanese relations. On the contrary, Stalin did everything in his power to maintain peaceful relations with the latter as long as he was deeply committed in the European theatre of war.

Diplomatic Misrepresentation

The certainty of a German defeat, coming on the heels of the Italian collapse, changed the whole relationship of forces in the Far East. It was not the sudden discovery that Japan was an ally of Germany, or that it was ruled by a reactionary government which prompted Russia’s actions in the Far East. When Molotov stated in April that “Germany attacked the Soviet Union and Japan is helping Germany in the war against the Soviet Union. In addition, Japan is at war against Great Britain and the United States who are allies of the Soviet Union. In such a situation the neutrality pact between Japan and the Soviet Union has lost its meaning and the prolongation of this pact is becoming impossible,” he spoke in the tradition of imperialists. Why?

Russia had been at war with Germany for four years! Russia had been allied with Great Britain and the United States during the same four years! And Russia maintained its neutrality treaty with Japan during those same four years. Did it take Mr. Molotov four years t oascertain facts which were accessible to any school boy? Obviously not!

Russia retained her pact with Japan so long as her relations with the United States and Great Britain were not fully ascertained. First, she did not want to fight a two-front war. Secondly, she wanted guarantees from her Allies on European questions (what territories Russia shall receive) and guarantees in Asia. Russia is as much an Asiatic power as a European. Her imperialist interests cover not only Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean, but also China, Manchuria, and a Pacific port. Recently, it became known what Russia’s demands in the Far East were. Stalin demanded the re-establishment of the 1906 Russian influence in Manchuria, creation of a sphere of influence in Mongolia, return of her interests in the Russo-Chinese railway, and the Port of Dairen.

Russian Entry Decided at Yalta

These were the “practical” matters discussed in Teheran and Yalta. But it has also been disclosed that Russia’s entry into the war against Japan was decided in “principle” when Roosevelt was alive. The questions discussed at the Potsdam meeting related only to the date of Russia’s entry, number of troops to be used, materiel to be employed and material assistance to be rendered by the United States. These supplemented the “practical” agreements referred to above.

The anti-Russian press which endeavored to explain the belated Russian entry into the Far Eastern war as one of the results of the atomic bombing of Japan and the desire of Stalin to get in on the kill, reveal either political obtuseness or willful misrepresentation of the situation. It is not difficult to understand Russia’s action if one understands first of all that Stalin’s Russia is not a “workers’ fatherland,” not the “land of socialism,” and is no more interested in advancing the struggle of the people for true freedom and independence than the capitalist powers.

Russia, under Stalin, that is, under the rule of a new bureaucratic class which bases itself on nationalized economy, pursues an imperialist policy of its own. Its role in the European war was as imperialist as that of all the other powers. It was not merely a “war of defense” as is so eloquently demonstrated by the manner in which Russia seized new territories, incorporated them in Russian borders, violated the independence of other nations and instituted imperialist rule over other countries.

Stalin’s policy in Europe has been to re-establish the territorial borders of Czarist Russia which was based upon the oppression of other peoples. Having achieved these aims in Europe as a result of the successful war waged in coalition with the Allied powers, Russia’s imperialist appetite is now being whetted for the Asiatic division of spoils.

Russian Imperialism

Molotov’s announcement that Russia entered the Far Eastern war to end it quickly and destroy the fascist rulers of Japan is so much nonsense when it is remembered that Russia signed a pact with fascist Germany which opened up the Second World War. At that time, Molotov found it possible to say that “fascism was a matter of personal taste!” Since the end of the European war, Russia continues to use fascist and reactionary elements to aid in her rule of Balkan countries and to advance her own interests in Europe. Certainly, Russia was not endangered by a Japanese attack. Japan had already lost the war. That much was already clear even before the Potsdam meeting. Japan’s fear was that Russia would enter the war against her, much in the same manner as Italy entered the war against France in 1940.

It will be interesting to hear what the Allied “moralists” will say about this when the war is finally over. It will be even more interesting to hear from those who defended Russia’s role in the European war (the Socialist Workers Party), called for the defense of Russia while denouncing the war as a whole as imperialist, and hailed the advance of Stalin’s army in Europe as a victoryfor world socialism. We can understand why it is difficult for peoplewho have been so wrong on every important event in the war years to speak up frankly. But they owe it to the workers of this and all other countries to tell the truth, not only about the past, but the present as well.

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