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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(28 June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 26, 28 June 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(The following article was written before the Nazi-Soviet war began. As it indicates, Stalin’s present foreign policy will soon lead to a cessation of Stalinist strike activity – EDITOR)

What Motivates Stalinist Trade Union Policy?

The role that the Stalinists have been playing in a few of the recent and important strikes brings into sharp focus the question of the relationship between Stalin’s foreign policy and the trade union tactics of the Communist Party of this country. Especially has this question come up and been much discussed since the strike at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood California.

Those reading our press need not be reminded that we have nothing against strikes because they are under Stalinist control. Here it is simply necessary to recognize the fact that some of the recent strikes were under Stalinist leadership, as much as we may regret that fact from a point of view altogether different of course from that of those who attack the strikes as interfering with the war industries.

What motivates the Stalinist leaders in calling strikes at the present time? For Roosevelt and all of his supporters – from the extreme reactionaries to the liberals and social democrats of the New Leader – the answer is simple. Stalin wants to help his partner Hitler and therefore has instructed his agents to interfere with the “defense” industries by calling strikes.

The Roosevelt “Explanation” Is False

This contention is given the widest publicity and is used as a pretext by Roosevelt administration officials to label strikes as subversive. On that proposition, too, all the liberals and social democrats are basing their condemnation of strikes in so-called defense industries. They are justifying even the use of the army to break the North American Aviation strike on the ground that it was led by C.P. members conspiring to sabotage defense.

Reactionaries, liberals and social democrats, in attributing to the Stalinist leaders the specific intention to sabotage defense industries, utilize a correct general principle but distort that principle in order to serve their own purposes. The principle that the trade-union policies of the Communist Party, just as all of its major policies, are, in general, determined by the foreign policy of Stalin, is absolutely correct. But to conclude from this correct general principle that the Stalinists call strikes at this time for the specific purpose of sabotaging defense industries means to use a correct general principle not as a guide to explain events, but as an excuse for a reactionary and red-baiting policy.

People who reason mechanically would expect that because Stalin changed his foreign policy with the signing of the pact with Hitler he would therefore issue instructions for a campaign of strikes in all democratic capitalist countries. But these people forget that in the period of Stalin’s great friendship for the capitalist democracies there were strikes led by his followers in this country and in France.

True, the Stalinists put the brakes on the militant strikes of the French workers. Stalin feared a revolutionary upheaval in France because that would endanger not only the French capitalist democracy but also the rule of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless there were many strikes in France led by C.P. members.

For it must not be forgotten that Stalin’s power rests partly on the influence he can wield through the various Communist parties over sections of the working masses. And to gain influence among the workers it is necessary for the Stalinists to assume leadership in the struggles of the workers.

With the shift in Stalin’s foreign policy, as symbolized by the pact with Hitler, the brakes on working-class militancy were released. The militancy of the rank-and-file Stalinists was permitted full play. It is therefore correct to say that in the last analysis the fomenting of strikes at the present time is a result of Stalin’s foreign policy.

Soviet War Would Lead to a New Situation

But this does not mean that the immediate purpose of the Stalinists in leading the strikes is to sabotage the war industries or to exert pressure on Hitler or to prove that Roosevelt is just as much of a fascist as Hitler. The fact of the matter is that the Stalinists cooled down considerably and definitely retreated after the North American Aviation strike was broken by the army. It is even probable, judging by their subsequent actions, that they realize that they made serious errors in strike strategy in the North American Aviation strike.

Should Stalin join Hitler in a struggle against Britain and America, then Stalinist-led strikes could be attributed to an intention to sabotage war industries but Stalin has not as yet been compelled by Hitler to become the latter’s ally in actual warfare.

Naturally, had the war assumed a different aspect, had Stalin been allied with France and England against Hitler, the Stalinists would have tried to prevent any strikes in the countries of the capitalist allies of the Soviet Union.

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