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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(14 June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 24, 14 June 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Why Stalinists Now “Attack” Hitler

In the press of the Swedish Communist Party, there have recently appeared manifestos of both the German Communist Party and the Italian Communist Party. In both of them the Stalinists go beyond calling the war an imperialist one on both sides. They come very close to calling for a struggle against Hitler, characterizing the war of the Yugoslavs and Greeks against the Germans as just war and designating the Germans as “robbers in the Balkans.”

What significance do these attacks of the Stalinists have as an indication of Stalin’s foreign policy at the present time? Every intelligent person interested in politics and who is not a devout follower of the Kremlin dictator knows by this time that the Communist International and its affiliated Communist parties are instruments of Stalin’s foreign policy. To understand the major policies of the various Communist parties, one must understand the fundamental line of Stalin’s foreign policy. It follows also that through a study of the policies of the Communist parties one can obtain a clue to Stalin’s line on foreign affairs.

On the surface, there is an apparent contradiction between the policy of appeasement Stalin has been following with reference to Hitler since the conquest of the Balkans, and the attacks levelled against Hitler in the Stalinist press. It would almost appear as if Stalin has suddenly decided to permit the Comintern to follow an independent policy. But this cannot be, and it requires only a little thought to convince one that the attacks of the Stalinists against Hitler are intended to serve Stalin’s foreign policy.

Stalin’s appeasement policy follows from his fear of Hitler and his desperate desire to avoid war with Germany so long as the German army continues with its victories. The attacks on Hitler on the part of the Communist press follow from Stalin’s desire to exert pressure on Hitler in order to convince the latter not to attack but to come to some agreement with him. At the same time these attacks are intended to retain some influence with the workers in the democratic capitalist countries.

It is because of Stalin’s more serious situation that the connection between his foreign policy and the tactics followed by the Communist parties has become less clear than it has been up to now.

Previous Stalinist Lines on Hitler

The relationship between Stalin’s foreign policy and the policies of the various Communist parties during the collective security period was so absolutely clear as to require no explanation. Stalin feared an attack on the part of Hitler and he was trying his best to get the capitalist democracies into a military alliance with the Soviet Union. The Communist parties were shouting for collective security, defending capitalist democracy and calling for a war against fascism.

It is undoubtedly true that during all of that period (certainly after Munich), Stalin was sounding out possibilities for an agreement with Hitler, but since Hitler at that time did not find it necessary to enter into an agreement with Stalin, the fight “for democracy against fascism” was kept up both to prepare the ground for a possible defense against Hitler and to exert pressure on him to change his course.

The switch in Stalinist foreign policy symbolized by the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939 was naturally followed by a shift in the policies of the Communist parties. At that period also the connection between the policies of those parties and Stalin’s foreign policy was quite clear. All the blame for the war was placed on Great Britain and France. The war was imperialist only so far as these two countries were concerned. Nothing was said about German imperialism. Stalin was out to help Hitler consolidate his first victories and to get peace. For the time being Stalin, in the words of the Manifesto of the Fourth International on War and the Proletarian Revolution, “sold Hitler the Comintern along with oil and manganese.”

But Hitler’s phenomenal victories, unexpected by the Kremlin, brought fear into the heart of Stalin. Instead of peace or a war where neither side was completely victorious, Hitler by his victories became so powerful as to become an infinitely greater menace to the Soviet Union than he was before the war. Stalin saw this as well as anybody else. What was he to do? To go back to the democracies was out of the question so long as Hitler remained victorious. It was necessary for Stalin to begin a very cautious policy of preparing for the possibility of an attack by Hitler and at the same time of inducing Hitler to avoid attacking him and come to some new agreement with him.

Stalin Again Offers Hitler His Wares

It is probably true that Hitler has no fear of Stalin’s Communist parties. But even if Stalin knows that, he is still under the necessity of using every form of pressure available to him for the purpose of staying Hitler’s hand. Just as he sends troops to the Polish frontier in order to try and impress Hitler with his military preparedness, so does he set into motion his foreign instruments in the hope of impressing Hitler with his following outside of the Soviet Union.

The policy of attacking Hitler in the Stalinist press outside of the Soviet Union also serves to retain the hold Stalin still has over a section of the working class, Stalin’s friendship with Hitler destroyed the greater part of whatever influence he wielded on sections of the working masses of countries outside of the Soviet Union. He would like to keep the influence he still has in order to increase his bargaining strength both with Hitler and with the capitalist democracies if and when a shift towards the latter is deemed necessary.

For Stalin the difference between the Comintern and oil and manganese (all of which he sells to the highest bidder) is that whereas he can take back the Comintern, he cannot take back the oil and manganese. For the time being he has taken the Comintern back from Hitler.

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