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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(26 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 17, 26 April 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Why We Defend the Soviet Union

Since many various and contradictory interpretations are being given to the recently signed Soviet-Japanese pact, it offers another opportunity to point out that our defense of the Soviet Union depends neither upon what Stalin does nor upon the significance which we attach to any agreement entered into by the Kremlin murderer.

It will be remembered that when Stalin openly proclaimed to the world in August 1939 that he would henceforth play ball with Hitler rather than with the democratic imperialists, a number of people within the ranks of our own party (who subsequently split away and formed their own organization), decided that they could no longer defend the Soviet Union. By their decision they in effect stated that they were willing to defend the Soviet Union only if Stalin would fight alongside the democracies but would not defend it if Stalin fought on the side of Hitler.

On our part, we insisted that our policy of defending the Soviet Union was based on the existence in that country of those property relations which had been established by the October Revolution and which had not yet been destroyed by the Stalinist bureaucracy. Defending the Soviet Union means defending these property relations, and not Stalin, whose policies we invariably condemned, including his pact with Hitler and his invasion of Finland.

We interpreted the pact and all Stalin’s subsequent acts as indicating a fear on his part of being involved in a major conflict, a desire to avoid such a conflict and at the same time to get military-strategic advantages to guard against a future attack on the part of Hitler. The minority in our ranks, as well as the Social-Democrats and most bourgeois democrats, interpreted the pact as evidence of a close partnership between Hitler and Stalin for the purpose of conquering and dividing the world, at least the British Empire. By this time the latter interpretation has become so ridiculous that even the minority which left us has dropped it. (I don’t see any references now to the “Moscow-Berlin Axis” in their paper.)

The point that it is essential to make, however, is that it is possible for us to make a mistake in interpreting the causes and the significance of an agreement made by Stalin, without its having any effect on our policy of defending the Soviet Union. Many questions have, for instance, arisen with reference to the signing of the Soviet Japanese pact. Did Stalin sign the pact because it gives him a free hand against Hitler? That is hardly plausible for the simple reason that he is not foolish enough to trust the Japanese imperialists in case of a war between the Soviet Union and Germany.

Hitler’s Pressure Behind Pact with Japan

The most plausible explanation of the pact is that it was entered into under pressure from Hitler. The pact creates the impression that Japan is now ready to send its military and naval forces towards the Malayan Peninsula and the Dutch Indies. Such a move on the part of Japan, or even the threat of such a move, Hitler hopes, will prevent the United States from involving itself too deeply in the war in Europe. It does not seem likely that Japan will make any actual attack in the southern Pacific until it appears that Hitler is fairly certain of winning the war. The pact therefore can be taken as having been signed under the pressure of Hitler, a pressure which became all the greater with his decisive victory in the Balkans.

There are other questions about the pact which are difficult to answer. Does it mean that Stalin has made a deal with the Mikado with reference to China? Will Stalin continue to send aid to the Chinese in their struggle against Japan? The Stalinists are trying hard to create the impression that such aid will continue, but it is hardly probable that a pact between the Soviet Union and Japan should be sighed without taking into consideration such an important question.

Pact Is a Blow at China

It is impossible for anyone to be absolutely definite in answering such questions. Marxism offers no key to solving the riddle of Stalin’s intentions and purposes at any particular time or in any signing any particular agreement. Whether Stalin will attack Hitler or refrain from attacking him; whether he will help Turkey against Hitler or divide Turkey with Hitler; whether he will cease or continue giving aid to Chiang Kai-shek, are all questions subject to a great deal of speculation. Basing ourselves on all the relevant facts we can indicate the most probable course that Stalin will follow.

Marxism does offer us a method of analyzing the nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy and the nature of the state over which Stalin has control. Marxism also enables us to predict with certainty that Stalin will be unable to solve the problems confronting the Soviet Union and consequently we can predict with certainty the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy by the Soviet workers.

We do not have to speculate on certain questions involving the Soviet-Japanese pact, just as we did not have to speculate on certain questions involving the Stalin-Hitler pact. We are absolutely certain that the mere signing of the pact is a blow at the Chinese people who are exerting every ounce of energy to expel the Japanese imperialists. We may be wrong in thinking that Stalin will cease sending military aid to China but we are not and cannot be wrong in indicating the adverse effect that the treaty must have upon the struggle of the Chinese people.

And as we have pointed out on innumerable occasions the signing of these pacts reacts against the Soviet Union because the millions of workers and peasants who are not trained to make the distinction between Stalin and the Soviet Union can no longer, by virtue of their resentment at the pacts, be relied on to defend the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s politics – domestic as well as foreign – weaken the Soviet Union but thus far have not changed the essential property relations in the Soviet Union. And it is always necessary to remember that we defend only the Soviet Union and not Stalin.

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