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Albert Goldman

Shall We Campaign for
U.S. Government Aid to the USSR?

(19 July 1939)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 29, 19 July 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is to be expected that many people who accept our fundamental principle of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union should be anxious in some way or other to translate that principle into action. Once the principled question of the necessity of defending the Soviet Union is accepted, we are still left with the problem of HOW to defend the Soviet Union. What shall we in this country do to defend the Soviet Union? These questions are uppermost in the minds of many members and sympathizers of our party.

Should our party begin a campaign for U.S. government aid to the Soviet Union under the Lease-Lend Act? The Stalinists are making that demand the basis for their agitation. Should we join them in that demand? The answer is, emphatically – No!

There have been situations in the past where a similar problem presented itself to the revolutionary movement – the problem of asking a capitalist government to help a cause in which the working class in general and our party in particular were interested.

The Example of Ethiopia

When Italian imperialism sent its-troops to conquer Ethiopia, a wave of indignation swept through the working masses throughout, the world. All class-conscious workers were for the defense of Ethiopia. The imperialist, democracies were not at all enthusiastic about, Mussolini’s efforts to conquer Ethiopia but they decided to remain “neutral,” that is, to offer indirect help to Italian imperialism.

The question at that time arose as to whether or not we should raise a demand for government sanctions against the Italian effort to subjugate the Ethiopians. We definitely opposed such a demand and raised the counter-slogan of working-class sanctions.

Our position was based on the following reasons: First, we. cannot rely on any capitalist government to fulfill progressive tasks; Second: we cannot make a demand for government sanctions because the very nature of such a demand would have a tendency to compel us to support the government, in all imperialist war which might result from the exercise of sanctions; Third: it is essential for us to stress independent working-class action.

The Example of Loyalist Spain

During the struggle between the Loyalist government and the fascists in Spain the same problem was posed. Again we took the position of independent working-class activity in defense of Loyalist Spain. We favored material aid to the Loyalist government but, for the same reasons that actuated us in the case of Ethiopia, we refused to campaign for government aid but insisted on independent working-class action for aid to the Loyalist government.

We were, of course, opposed to any government embargo on shipments to the Loyalist government. The embargo represented a hostile act by Roosevelt which prevented the Loyalist government from purchasing arms. We carried on a campaign against the embargo.

Nor would we have opposed, the sending of aid by any capitalist government to the Loyalist army. There is a difference between not raising any objection, when a capitalist government sends aid, and agitating for such aid. The key to the whole question consists in the understanding that we cannot rely on bourgeois governments to aid our cause. Neither can we take any responsibility for bourgeois governmental policy.

And if the above reasons made it impermissible for us to agitate in favor of governmental aid in the case of Ethiopia and Loyalist Spain, they certainly make it impermissible to carry on a campaign on behalf of U.S. government aid to the Soviet Union.

Class Defense versus Class-Collaboration

The United Slates is involved in the imperialist conflict. It is not officially neutral as it claimed to be in the case of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia or of the civil war in Spain. It is a non-belligerent ally of Great Britain. When Hitler ordered the Nazi army to attack the Soviet Union, the Roosevelt government condemned the attack. It has promised aid to the Soviet government because it is interested in the defeat of Hitler. In all probability the Roosevelt government will send aid to Stalin, not because it is interested in a victory for the Soviet Union but because it wants the defeat of Hitler.

It must be remembered that, while it is necessary to defend the Soviet Union, it is also necessary to be in opposition to the imperialist war of the U.S. government. In fact, the real defense of the Soviet Union – the class defense – demands a relentless opposition to all the imperialists in this war. We must therefore be a thousand times more careful about doing anything which would tend to bring us into a partnership with the Roosevelt government and weaken our opposition to its imperialist war.

Were we to agitate for aid to the Soviet Union by the Roosevelt government, would we then not be compelled to favor convoys to guarantee the arrival of the material shipped to the Soviet Union? Should we then not demand that the waters to Vladivostock be kept open by the U.S. government against Japan? Opposed as we are to the imperialist war, it is absolutely essential not to take a single step which would tend to weaken our position in the eyes of the masses.

To leave the ground of independent working-class action in favor of a working-class cause is to jeopardize the cause itself.

Soviet Government Can Ask Aid

Nothing that we say with reference to the impermissibility on the part of a revolutionary party to agitate for government aid to the Soviet Union applies to the Soviet government itself. Just as it is permissible for the Soviet government to enter into military agreements with capitalist states, when necessary, so is it proper for the Soviet government to ask for aid from a capitalist state. We have not the slightest objection to having the Soviet government ask for aid or having the United States government grant aid.

Our duty is to organize the working masses to defend the Soviet Union.

This brings up the question of the advisability of attempting to organize certain practical actions to defend the Soviet Union. By that is meant such actions as a section of the workers did organize on behalf of the anti-fascist struggle in the Spanish civil war. Shall we try to raise funds or send workers to fight in the ranks of the Red Army? These questions are not principled ones. The answer to them depends on practical considerations.

In the Spanish civil war the Loyalist government needed men and material. It had money but the capitalist democratic governments refused to sell it armament material. A campaign for men and materials to fight the fascists in Spain was something that was perfectly plausible to the workers and was therefore perfectly in order.

But in the case of the Soviet Union the situation is quite different. The Soviet Union certainly has plenty of men; it has vast quantities of material; those materials it lacks it can, unlike Loyalist Spain, obtain in England and the United States.

The Best Method to Defend the USSR

Analyzing the situation from all angles, we come to the conclusion that the most effective method available to revolutionary Marxists in the United States for the defense of the Soviet Union is the method of political support, of explanation, clarification and propaganda.

That the Soviet Union is a Workers’ State despite Stalinist degeneration. That every worker should defend it. That victory for the Soviet Union is victory for the socialist future of humanity. To win the workers of the world to these positions would be infinitely more important than any capitalist “aid” for the Soviet Union.

And to win the workers, it is necessary to answer a thousand different questions which trouble the minds of the workers, thanks to the confusion spread by the enemies of the Soviet Union and by the Stalinist falsifiers.

We must tirelessly explain that the program of Soviet victory is not dependent on capitalist “aid” but on the efforts of the Soviet and world working class. The revolutionary propaganda methods employed by Lenin and Trotsky against imperialist intervention in 1918–1921 can wreak far more havoc upon the Nazi armies than could be done by any capitalist aid. Revival of the democratically elected Soviets, and release of all pro-Soviet political prisoners and their restoration to their rightful place in industry and the army, would strengthen the Soviet Union immeasurably.

That the defense of tho Soviet. Union is not to be placed in the hands of capitalist governments; that only the workers can or will really defend he Soviet Union, and that they can defend it in the last analysis only through taking power away from all the imperialists and establishing Workers’ Governments – this is our way of defending the Soviet Union. We dedicate ourselves to win the working class to that glorious task.

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