Goldman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Goldman

The Marxist Attitude on Iran Invasion

The Soviet Role and the British Role Are Each Evaluated
from the Standpoint of the Class Character of Their States

(6 September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 36, 6 September 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To some people all violence is hateful. The violence of the master against the slave is to be condemned – and also the violence of the slave who attempts to free himself from the master. When British imperialism uses violence in India to keep millions of people in subjection, the moralists who are above the social conflict in society protest. They would also protest if the Indian masses should use force to drive the British rulers out of India.

People who argue that way have some abstract standard of good and evil, a standard that ignores classes and class struggles.

The Marxist never evaluates the activities of classes and nations from some abstract moral standard but the needs of classes and nations to achieve their freedom. Are all invasions bad? The Marxist answer to that question is in the negative. He replies: who is doing the invading and who is being invaded; what are the circumstances of the invasion; does it further the interests of the revolutionary working masses?

The Soviet Union invades Iran and British imperialism invades Iran. Middle-class moralists who think every invasion, no matter by whom or against whom or under what circumstances, is an imperialist act, rise in their righteous indignation, to condemn both.

The Marxist says: the Soviet Union is a workers’ state, although a degenerated one. It is fighting for its existence against German imperialism; it is under an obligation to take every measure necessary for its defense provided it does not conflict with the interests of the world revolution.

Lenin and Trotsky on Invasion

The Soviet Government issued a statement in connection with its invasion of Iran justifying the act on the ground that Article 6 of the Soviet-Iranian treaty or 1921 gives it the right to march troops into Iranian territory in order to take necessary military measures whenever he Iranian government is unable to prevent an attack or a threatened attack on the Soviet Union through Iran.

The treaty with Iran was made under the regime of Lenin and Trotsky and is significant of the attitude the leaders of the Russian Revolution took to the possibility of marching troops into a territory that did not constitute part of the Soviet Union. In the interests of defending the Soviet Union they demanded and obtained the right to send their armed forces into an adjacent country. The treaty does not require the Soviet Union to obtain permission from Iran before sending troops.

It can be taken for granted that Lenin and Trotsky would have sent troops into neighboring territory even without permission, and even without a treaty, if the interests of the Soviet Union and the world revolution demanded such action.

It is quite true that British imperialism was the enemy that the Soviet Government had in mind, at the time of the treaty, but the fact that German imperialism is the enemy that now threatens the Soviet Union makes not a particle of difference. And neither is the fact that, because of a particular military situation, the British imperialists are invading Iran iat the same time that the Soviet Union is doing so, of the slightest importance insofar as determining the right of the Soviet Government to send its troops into Iran. But did we not condemn the Stalinist government for invading Poland, Finland and; the Baltic countries? Yes, we did, but only because under the circumstances the damage done to the Soviet Union, because the act of invasion alienated the sympathies of millions of people, was greater than any benefits that could be derived from the compulsory annexation of the territories invaded.

Lenin and Trotsky would have been compelled to weigh advantages and disadvantages in undertaking an act like invading another country. They would have made the necessity for such an invasion clear to the workers of the world. And above, all, the masses would have had complete confidence in their motives and in their promises.

No one can deny that Stalin’s act in invading Iran is viewed with great suspicion. That is because the policies that he has been and is following have justifiably created suspicion as to his motives and very few people believe in his promises.

All his explanations and excuses for invading Poland and Finland were of no avail. To the vast masses those invasions appeared in the same light as Nazi invasions. Stalin’s crime consisted of exactly this – that he made the Soviet Union appear to be in the same category as Nazi Germany.

Although we Trotskyists knew that Stalin had annexed part of Poland and the Baltic countries and part of Finland for military-strategic reasons, to prepare against an attack by Hitler, still we condemned the invasions because the loss of faith in the Soviet Union on the part of millions of people outweighed by far the possible military advantages.

We are not over-confident that Stalin will abide by his promise to withdraw the Red Army from Iran when the necessity for its occupation will have disappeared. That is something to be settled in the future. At present, as far as the Soviet Union is concerned, the class-conscious workers and peasants, including those of Iran, will not permit anything to interfere with the defense of the Soviet Union.

Goldman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 27 May 2016