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Albert Goldman

Stalin in Finland

Why He Invaded It and Why He Made Peace

(23 March 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 12, 23 March 1940, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Our party, in the resolution dealing with the invasion of Finland by the Red Army (Socialist Appeal, Dec. 9), characterized that invasion as an incident in the Second World War. That is what it turned out to be – an incident which ended by the achievement of peace before it became the beginning of a major conflict between the Soviet Union and Allied imperialism.

That the invasion did not develop into an open conflict between English and French imperialism and the Soviet Union is primarily due to the fact that Stalin’s chief aim is to keep from being involved in a major war.

That is what explains the Hitler-Stalin pact. The only enemy Stalin feared was Hitler who, of all the imperialists, had the best chance to attack the Soviet Union. A pact with Hitler would, Stalin thought, do away with the possibility of an immediate war. He was undoubtedly of the opinion that England and France would not go to war over the invasion of Poland and, if they did, he could avoid being involved in such a war.

Hitler Repays Stalin

As his compensation for relieving Hitler of the danger of facing enemy armies on Germany’s eastern borders, Stalin received from Hitler guaranties, in the form of territorial concessions in Poland and the Baltic countries which make the Soviet frontiers more easily defended.

Why does Stalin want to avoid a major war? Because war threatens the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy either through revolution or through a successful attack of one or more imperialist countries.

But if he wants to avoid a major war, why did he invade Finland? Because his demands on Latvia, Esthonia and Lithuania having been granted, he could not afford to permit Finland to defy him. His prestige was at stake and, besides, he was anxious to take advantage of the general situation to increase his defensive strength. He undoubtedly thought that he could settle matters with Finland very quickly.

Against whom is he trying to defend himself? Primarily against Hitler, for it must not be presumed that Stalin is so stupid as not to see that if Hitler is successful against the Allies, the Nazi war machine will turn to the East.

Stalin Drops His Puppet

The creation of the Kuusinen puppet government is evidence of the fact that Stalin at first thought of taking all of Finland. A few days after the invasion, in the early days of December, the Finnish government made a plea through Sweden to the Kremlin to renew negotiations. The Kremlin on Dec. 5 haughtily informed Sweden that there was no Finnish government other than the Peoples Government of Kuusinen with which the Soviet government had already “made” a treaty.

However, when Stalin found that his army, led by a general staff which he had decapitated and demoralized, could not repeat the exploits of Hitler’s army in Poland and that, as a result, there was a real chance of his being involved in war with the Allies, he beat a retreat from his original purpose. After the Red Army cracked the Mannerheim line he was willing to call a halt, settle with the same Finnish government which he refused to recognize in December, and thus avoid an attack by the Allied armies.

* * *

Was it merely the Finnish capitalist army that was defeated? In coming out for the defense of the Soviet Union and for the victory of the Red Army as a lesser evil to the victory of the Finnish capitalist army, we took the position that essentially the Soviet Union was at war with the imperialist forces standing behind Finland. It was clear to us that Finland could not have decided to resist Stalin’s demands without the encouragement of Chamberlain, Daladier and Roosevelt. It was clear to us that Finland could not have held out so long without receiving substantial aid from the outside. Only when Finland was ready to capitulate did Chamberlain and Daladier reveal how much armament material they had actually sent and how much more material and how many men they were ready to send if Finland would only keep fighting. Our assertion that Finland was fighting the battle for imperialism was completely confirmed.

Why Finns Made Peace

The cracking of the Mannerheim line would by itself be a sufficient reason for the Finnish government to accept peace terms. True, the Allies offered to send 100,000 men and all the material necessary to withstand the attack of the Red Army. But in view of the time that it would require to get these men over to Finland and especially in view of the refusal of Sweden and Norway to permit transit facilities, the Finnish government saw no possibility of accepting that offer.

And then it was certain, as Prime Minister Ryti informed the Finnish Diet, that to accept the offer of the Allies would mean to invite Germany to send its armed forces into Finland. And they could get there faster than the Allied forces. That meant that Finland would become one of the major battlefields of the war. The Finnish bourgeoisie preferred at this juncture to get peace by surrendering to Stalin the strategical frontiers that he had demanded. They had refused to grant his demands when originally made, only on the mistaken assumption – undoubtedly based on promises made to them by the Allies – that the Allies were going to declare war against Soviet Russia as soon as the invasion began.

Why did not France and England openly declare war on the Soviet Union at the very beginning and immediately send a huge army to aid Finland ? It must be recognized that there were serious practical difficulties in the way, chief of which was the attitude of the Swedish and Norwegian governments, unwilling to see their countries become a battleground.

Nor must it be forgotten that, while the contradiction between imperialism and the Soviet Union is real and fundamental, there are also inter-imperialist rivalries and, at this particular moment, those rivalries are in the forefront. British and French imperialism are of the opinion that if they can take care of German imperialism they will have no difficulty in settling scores with the Soviet Union.

Of course, if they conclude that, in order to get at German imperialism they must attack the Soviet Union, they will not hesitate to do so and try to kill two birds with one stone. To defend his government against the charge of cowardice in not joining Finland, Christian E. Guenther, Swedish Foreign Minister, showed that the Allied proposal to send troops to Finland was designed more for the purpose of getting at Germany than to assure Finland’s independence. To a certain extent Guenther is correct. But another primary motive of the Allies in sending troops to Finland would be to inflict a defeat on the Red Army, if possible, and if not, to keep Stalin busy so that he would not be in a position to help Hitler.

Why Hitler Wanted the Peace

It can be presumed that not only did Hitler agree to peace between the Soviet Union and Finland but he was actually pressing for it. While his general aim is to involve Stalin in a military conflict with the Allies, he obviously is of the opinion that, at this particular moment, Stalin can be of greater service to him if the Soviet Union is at peace. He was also anxious to avoid war in Sweden, for hostilities there meant a chance of having his supply of iron ore and other material cut off.

Nor is he very anxious to see Stalin entrench himself too strongly in the Baltic, for he realizes that any increase in the defensive strength of the Soviet Union makes his future task all the more difficult. However, his all-important problem is to defeat the Allies. He is perfectly willing to grant Stalin defensive positions if thereby the Nazi war machine can only achieve its main purpose at this moment.

What the Soviet Union Lost

It would be folly to deny that the defensive position of the Soviet Union, in a military sense, has been strengthened. But it would be greater folly not to realize that the defense of the Soviet Union depends primarily, not upon military strategic factors, but upon the sympathy of the masses throughout the world. Through the invasion Stalin brought discredit upon the Soviet Union; he destroyed the sympathy of the masses for the Soviet Union and tied them more firmly to the capitalist world. The loss to the Soviet Union because of that is far greater than the gains achieved in a military-strategic way.

No one except the misled people who blindly follow the Stalinist parties believed the absurd statements made by the Kremlin that Finland threatened to invade the Soviet Union and no one except those same people believe now that the Soviet-Finnish peace treaty is a tremendous victory for peace, as is claimed by Moscow and, of course, by the Daily Worker.

If and when the Allied imperialists should succeed in defeating Hitler and proceed with settling accounts with Stalin, or if the Allies should decide to invade the Soviet Union before defeating Hitler, it will be a thousand times more difficult to arouse the masses in opposition to such a war. Stalin has destroyed the faith of millions in the Soviet Union and has once more shown that the Stalinist bureaucracy is weakening the Soviet Union.

Stalin Is Not the Soviet Union

Millions of workers do not make the distinction that should be made between the Stalinist bureaucracy and the Soviet Union. Stalin acts in the same manner as Hitler and from that they draw the false conclusion that the Soviet Union is the same as Germany. We condemned the invasion because we knew beforehand that no matter what victories the Red Army would gain, the Soviet Union would lose in the esteem of the working masses, because the masses, repelled by the invasion, would tend also to become indifferent or even hostile to the Soviet Union.

But we were staunch in our defense of the Soviet Union and favored the victory of the Red Army against the Finnish capitalist army representing the imperialist world. Recognizing that nationalized property still exists in the Soviet Union we must defend it in any war against a capitalist nation. All that one has to ask is: what would have been the result of a defeat of the Red Army in Finland? Nationalized property would have been endangered and that is what we defend both against imperialism and against the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Has not the Stalinist bureaucracy strengthened itself because of the victory of the Red Army? Perhaps, yes, temporarily. But would not the Soviet Union be in danger if the Red Army had been defeated? We repeat what we have said a thousand times. The task of destroying the Stalinist bureaucracy is a privilege and a duty which the workers must reserve for themselves and not assign to the imperialists.

“Stalinist Imperialism” Theory Blasted

How will those profound theoreticians – the Socialist party, the Lovestoneites and their similars – justify their theory of Stalinist imperialism? Undoubtedly they will make all kinds of gyrations to show that they are correct, but anyone who is not blinded by hatred of Stalin can easily see that what he is after primarily is to obtain defensive footholds. It is well-nigh impossible to explain what he has done thus far on the basis of the theory that he has entered into a partnership with Hitler to divide the British Empire or even (some have said it!) the whole world. Of course people do not have to consider facts; they can let their desires and imaginations run away with them. But then these people are not Marxists,

And when the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union will meet it will undoubtedly nationalize industry in that section of Finland ceded to the Soviet Union by the peace terms. It is true that this will be done in a bureaucratic manner and to that extent it is not what we want. But as against permitting industry to remain under capitalism, even bureaucratic nationalization is progressive. Let the middle-class democrats howl about “Stalinist imperialism,” but Marxists will continue to make a distinction between imperialism and a degenerated workers’ state which, when it annexes territory, takes property away from imperialism and narrows the base of world imperialism.

No one can say with certainty when and under what conditions the Soviet Union will find itself at war. All that our party states is: whenever the Soviet Union will be at war with any capitalist country we shall call upon the workers of the world to defend it because in doing so we are defending the first conquest of the World Revolution. For workers everywhere the main enemy is imperialism. The workers must do their utmost to destroy the power of the Stalinist bureaucracy precisely in order to defend the Soviet Union most effectively.

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