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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(5 July 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 27, 5 July 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Our Analysis of the Hitler-Stalin Pact

It is a fundamental law of politics that a major political error, if persisted in and if not corrected in time, necessarily leads into ever greater and more numerous errors until one is led to adopt a wrong political line on almost all fundamental questions.

The Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939 unnerved and disoriented everyone who did not cling to the fundamental Marxist analysis, made by Trotsky, of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist bureaucracy. As our readers will recall, a minority in our own ranks (now no longer with us) jumped to the conclusion that the pact indicated a close alliance between Hitler and Stalin for the purpose of conquering and dividing the whole world, at least the British Empire.

It was quite common for all the middle-class democrats and also the minority in our ranks to speak of the Berlin-Moscow Axis being pitted against the London-Paris Axis. Their hysteria reached unbelievable heights, at the time of the invasion of “democratic” Finland (now, under the same government, fighting on the side of the Nazis).

As against all of these people our party explained the pact on the basis of Stalin’s fear of a major conflict and his anxiety to avoid it at all costs. We were careful to point out, however, that it did not follow from the fact that Stalin wanted to avoid war that war would avoid him.

We also contended that one of the aims of the Stalinist bureaucracy in sending the Red Army into Poland, the Baltic countries and Finland was to strengthen its military-strategic position. True, like all bureaucracies, the Stalinist one wanted to increase its power and prestige, but Stalin also had an eye on fortifying his military-strategic position.

Against whom? Geography answered that it could be only against Hitler. England and France had no way by which they could attack the Soviet Union while Hitler was right on the border of the Soviet Union.

To those who were not blinded by hate of Stalin it was as clear as daylight that Hitler’s designs against the Soviet Union were not given up. The Soviet Union still had raw materials that German capitalism needed and the fundamental antagonism between a Hitler Germany and the Soviet State remained. We did not hesitate to state on innumerable occasions that the Nazis would attack the Soviet Union.

It was not possible to predict exactly when and under what circumstances Hitler would attack the Soviet Union. We obviously underestimated, recently, Hitler’s urgent need for the raw materials of the Soviet Union in order to prepare for a long war against England and the United States. Unable to bring British imperialism to its knees; Hitler had to turn his guns on the Soviet Union in order to prepare himself for a long war. He certainly had intended originally to conquer England first because that would have left the Soviet Union completely at his mercy but, unable to do so, Hitler shifted his plans. The democrats and erstwhile Marxists who held the theory that Stalin and Hitler had entered into a partnership for the purpose of conquering and dividing the world, find it completely impossible to explain the sudden attack of Hitler on the Soviet Union.

The Fatal Line of the “Workers Party”

Let us take, for instance, the statement of the former minority of our party, issued immediately after the attack on the Soviet Union. This document of the “Workers Party” very nonchalantly states that whereas the Soviet Union up to now was part and parcel of the imperialist camp of Berlin-Moscow-Rome-Tokio, it is now part of the imperialist camp of London-Washington-Moscow. The statement clearly indicates that the Soviet Union was to be considered in the same light as Germany and Italy before Hitler’s attack and is now to be considered in the same light as England and the United States.

Having asserted this, the “Workers Party” is then confronted with the necessity of an explanation for such an unusual change in imperialist partnerships. The explanation it gives is as follows:

“Because it does not resolve its multitude of problems by the extension of its rule, but only increases the number of problems to be resolved, German fascism has now found itself forced to plan for a longer and more destructive war. This is why Hitler has now turned upon his ally of yesterday, etc. etc.”

All this about Hitler is perfectly true – but it does not follow from the “Workers Party” idea of a joint agreement on the part of Hitler and Stalin to divide the world.

For, if one claims that such a close partnership existed between Stalin and Hitler, then the fact that Hitler found himself in trouble need not and would not lead to his attacking the Soviet Union. Just as Hitler came to Mussolini’s aid when the latter was in trouble, so could Stalin have come to Hitler’s aid when such aid was needed. If Stalin had been so intimately connected with Hitler as to have agreed to divide the world with him, the most natural thing would be for Stalin to open the doors to Hitler and offer anything Hitler needed. He would give him more oil, more wheat and more of everything necessary for his partner to win. And if he did not have enough, Hitler would understand the situation and not ask for more than Stalin could give.

Is it possible to show by the example of the shift on the part of France from a partnership with English imperialism to one with German imperialism that such a shift occurred in the case of the Soviet Union? The example of France proves the exact contrary. France had to be defeated and had to establish a completely new government before shifting from one imperialist camp to another. In the case of the Soviet Union there was no defeat and no change of government. The whole situation becomes grotesque on the basis of the theory that Stalin and Hitler by the pact of August 1939 agreed to conquer and divide the world.

But those who leave the firm ground of revolutionary Marxism and persist in their errors must inevitably reach the realms of political stupidity if not of downright betrayal.

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