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War in Finland

Albert Goldman

On the War in Finland

Why We Should Defend the Soviet Union

(24 February 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 8, 24 February 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


It would indeed be fortunate if, once having arrived at the conclusion that to defend the Soviet Union is the duty of every worker, we could simply proceed to say to the Russian, the Finnish and the workers of all other countries: do your utmost to see to it that the Red Army is victorious and to make Finland part of the territory of the Soviet Union.

As simple as all that would be our task if Lenin and Trotsky were still at the helm in the Soviet Union. The problem, at present, alas, is not so simple. The mere fact that we have to discuss the question of whether or not to defend the Soviet Union is indicative of the tremendous change that has taken place since the days of Lenin and Trotsky.

The degeneration of the workers’ state under the Stalinist regime makes the task of defending the Soviet Union far more complicated. At the same time that we are engaged in defending it against the capitalist army, in order to defend it more effectively in the struggle against imperialism it is necessary to struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy.

They who look for a simple solution can find it either in defending bourgeois Finland or in being indifferent to the victory of either side. The Stalinists also have a simple solution: defend the Soviet Union by defending everything that Stalin does. Revolutionary Marxists, however, must carefully analyze all the factors involved and decide what they are defending and how they should defend it.

Why We Irreconcilably Struggle Against Stalin

Our struggle against Stalin has been motivated fundamentally on the ground that his ideas and policies weaken the Soviet Union and consequently the world revolution. The proposition can likewise be put the other way around. Stalin’s ideas and policies weaken the world revolution and consequently the Soviet Union. The two are inextricably bound together.

We fought against his destruction of the democratic rights of the Soviet workers, his policy of forced collectivization, his foreign policy based on alliances with capitalist powers; we fought against his theory of socialism in one country and against his theory of destroying fascism by fighting for bourgeois democracy; we fought against all of these because they weakened the Soviet Union. These Stalinist policies disoriented and confused the workers within and without the Soviet Union, thus weakening the workers’ state.

If there was anything further needed to convince us that Stalinism must be overthrown in order to increase the strength of the Soviet Union so that it could be more adequately defended, Stalin’s adventure in Finland would have done it. The Soviet Union must be defended not only against the imperialists but also against the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The Russian workers have two enemies, the imperialists without, the bureaucracy within. Both endanger the existence of the state which the Russian workers created by superhuman sacrifice. The question arises: does the defense of the Soviet Union require that during a war against imperialism the struggle against the bureaucracy should cease? And the answer is a decisive “No!” If the Russian workers see a chance to overthrow the Stalinist regime they should do so even when the Soviet Union is involved in a war. The Soviet Union will thereby be strengthened tremendously.

The Main Enemy Is World Imperialism!

But it must be clearly understood at all times that the struggle against the bureaucracy should be subordinated to the struggle against the imperialist enemy. The main enemy is imperialism and during a war between the Soviet Union and imperialism it is absolutely imperative for the workers to prevent a victory of imperialism. It would he a tremendous victory for the workers if they should succeed in overthrowing the Stalinist bureaucracy but it would constitute a disastrous defeat if the imperialists should destroy the bureaucracy, because the destruction of the bureaucracy by the imperialists would result in the destruction of the Soviet Union.

During the Civil War in Spain the Fourth International followed a tactic with reference to the Loyalist forces that the Russian workers should follow with reference to Stalinism. The advanced Spanish workers had the double task of fighting against Franco and, at the same time, trying to mobilize the workers for the overthrow of the Loyalist government. We stated that unless the Spanish workers succeeded in kicking out the Stalinist-backed Negrin, the fascists would be victorious. We proved correct, but at the time of struggle against the fascists it would have been criminal for us to urge the workers not to fight the fascists because it was also necessary to overthrow the Loyalist government. At that particular time the main task was to destroy fascism.

Revolutionary workers in a union controlled by reactionaries understand very well that during a strike the reactionary leadership does not and cannot conduct the most effective struggle against the bosses and they would not hesitate to oust the reactionary leadership even during a strike. But they also understand that during a strike the main enemy is the boss and they concentrate their efforts to win the strike against the boss. In other words, they subordinate the struggle against the reactionary leadership to the struggle against the boss.

Revolutionary workers in an imperialist country at war consider that the main enemy is at home and carry on the struggle against the ruling class regardless of the effect on the front. Not so in the case of the Soviet Union, a workers’ state, based on nationalized property. There they must at all costs prevent a victory of the imperialist armies.

A Revolutionary Policy for the Finnish Workers

Revolutionary internationalists have always insisted that in any war against the Soviet Union the primary task of the workers outside of the Soviet Union is: the proletarian revolution, the best method of defending the Soviet Union. And the Finnish workers have that task now as they had before the invasion by the Red Army.

To that extent the task of the Finnish workers does not differ in any way from the task confronting the Polish workers in 1920 when the Red Army under Lenin and Trotsky invaded Poland. But only to that extent. In 1920 the Polish workers did not have to fear the Soviet regime; it was their regime as well as that of the Russian workers; they could fight not only for the revolution in Poland but also for the joining of Poland to the Soviet Union. They did not have to make a distinction between the Soviet Union and the Lenin-Trotsky regime.

But in 1940, when it is Stalin’s Red Army that is invading Finland and not the army of Lenin and Trotsky, the advanced workers of Finland find their task far more complicated and difficult than that of the Polish workers in 1920. They are confronted by the possibility of being swallowed up by the Stalinist regime and can hardly look forward with enthusiasm to that possibility. It is only a lesser evil in comparison with the evil of permitting the imperialists, through the Finnish army, to defeat the Red Army and thus prepare for the destruction of the Soviet Union.

The revolutionary workers in Finland should be agitating for that best of all possible solutions: a Soviet Finland independent of the Stalinist regime. In a struggle between the army of a Soviet Finland and the army of Stalin we would do our utmost to – help defeat Stalin’s army.

The Red Army’s Victory Is a Lesser Evil!

But while the politically advanced workers of Finland should constantly keep the goal of an independent Soviet Finland before the eyes of the Finnish workers, they dare not be indifferent to the actual struggle that is going on between the Red Army and the Finnish capitalist army representing the interests of world imperialism. Understanding what is at stake, the class-conscious Finnish workers must unhesitatingly choose the lesser evil of a victory of the Red Army and continue the struggle for an independent Soviet Finland against the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Those who have been thrown off their balance by the crime of Stalin in invading Finland will exclaim: what, you want the Finnish workers to accept slavery under the Stalinist regime? No, we do not want that. If all the Finnish workers would act as we would like them to, they would immediately establish a Soviet Finland and struggle for its independence against the Stalinist bureaucracy, calling upon the Russian workers to join them. But at present it is a question what the advanced workers should do before they get a majority and while the struggle is actually going on. Understanding the historic importance of defending what is left of the October Revolution, of defending nationalized property, they will do their utmost to prevent a defeat of the Red Army at the hands of the Finnish capitalist army.

(Continued next week)

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