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Albert Goldman

A Discussion of Stalinist Imperialism

Why Revolutionary Socialists
Can’t Support Russia

(23 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 38, 23 September 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What is the explanation of Stalin’s aggressive and truculent foreign policy?

Only they who are blind or prisoners of an outworn formula continue to assert that the capitalist-imperialist nations are plotting to attack Russia in order to destroy nationalized property and that the danger of war corries from these plots. It is from this premise that the writer who, in The Militant, described the incident of the shooting down of an American plane by Tito’s airmen, concluded that Tito permitted himself “to be provoked” by American imperialism. We get a picture of a peaceful Tito who, outraged at the violation of sovereignty by imperialist forces, lost control of himself and ordered his forces to shoot.

The fact is that everything said or done by the official representatives of American and British imperialism during and, for a certain period, after the war indicated that the ruling groups of those imperialisms were perfectly reconciled to arrive at an agreement with the Stalinist bureaucracy on the basis of doing business with nationalized property. Especially was this the case since they recognized that only with Stalin’s help could they hope to prevent a revolutionary uprising in Europe.

Even now, after relations between Stalinist Russia and American-British imperialism have become very strained, Donald Nelson writes a letter to Stalin suggesting that a commission of American business men go to Moscow and arrange for a lucrative commerce between the two countries.

Aggression and Imperialism

There can be no doubt that the representatives of American and British imperialism are anxious to have nationalized property remain within the confines of Russia. But their opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy at present is not a result of the existence of nationalized property in Russia but of the evident desire of the Stalinist bureaucracy to extend its influence outside of Russia and thus interfere with their imperialist interests. American and British imperialists had no objection to Hitler’s fascism when it limited itself to destroying the rights of the masses and even some rights of the capitalists; they had strenuous objections when Hitler became aggressive outside of Germany and threatened their imperialist interests.

Should there be a war between Russia and the American-British combination, the victory of the latter would undoubtedly lead to the destruction of the Stalinist foreign trade monopoly; it might eventually lead even to the denationalization of some industries. But this does not mean that the cause of the war would be the desire of the capitalist imperialists to destroy nationalized property in Russia. It would be the aggressiveness of Stalinist imperialism and the unwillingness of American-British imperialism to yield to that aggressiveness.

Even they who would defend nationalized property under any conditions should recognize facts that stare them in the face. Alas, the vision of even sensible people has frequently been blinded by a formula.

It may not be superfluous to say that the tactics of our party in case of a war would not be determined by the accidental fact that one imperialism was the aggressor as against another. We did not determine our attitude to the last war because Hitler was obviously the aggressor. We determined our attitude by the fundamental fact that we considered it an imperialist war.


Why Stalin Is Confident

That Stalin is pursuing an imperialist policy is clear to everyone except to the followers and apologists of Stalin and to “official” Trotskyists who are bewitched by words and by formulas. The basis of that policy has already been described by Comrade Logan in his article, The Eruption of Bureaucratic Imperialism, in the March 1946 issue of The New International.

Russian generals

This picture of two generals In Stalin’s army says more than a dozen articles could say on the character of that army.

They are not generals of a workers’, a socialist army, but of an army that represents a new ruling class, a new imperialist power.

When the Russian Revolution took place, the Red army was truly a people’s army not only because of its aim, the struggle for socialism, but because consonant with its aim, the army rejected the standards and laws characteristic of imperialist armies. It was an army of free men, of revolutionaries. Stalin’s army is an army of a new exploiting class, an army of Imperialist conquerors. The decorations and rewards given the generals of this army befits its new class character.

What needs explanation now is the aggressiveness of that policy. As meek and humble as Stalin was toward Hitler, so proud and haughty is he to those who conquered Hitler.

In the first place must be mentioned the fact that neither American nor British imperialism has the forces in Europe that Hitler had. Stalin’s armies in Europe are much more powerful than the combined forces of England and the United States. The factor that counts for most, however, is that Stalin knows that neither Great Britain nor this country is prepared to wage a war immediately. The fact that the United States has demobilized most of its armed forces is an assurance to Stalin that he can go far without running the risk of war.

Stalin also knows the undoubted fact that the American and British masses are opposed to any war and it would take something like a Pearl Harbor before their governments could mobilize them for another war. He has the great advantage of being master in a totalitarian country and does riot have to take “public opinion" into consideration even to the extent that the governments of democratic capitalist countries must do. Whereas the Stalinist bureaucracy can make any decision it desires’ and can carry it out without any fear of objection on the part of the masses, that is not the case in the United States or Great Britain.

Dissatisfaction in Russia

This does not mean that Stalin pays no attention to the Russian masses. Like every autocrat, he attempts to get the support of the masses and through the controlled press tries to get them to think in a certain manner. The ruling clique has been trying to convince the masses of Russia that the capitalist countries are about to launch an attack on their country, hoping that the masses would be induced by that belief into accepting their miserable lot without questioning.

We can very well assume the existence of tremendous dissatisfaction among the Russian masses. We have just been permitted a peek behind the iron curtain and we find that in parts of Russia workers have not been paid for several months and that labor arid living conditions are intolerable. It was found necessary by the bureaucrats to publicize the fact that trade union officials are indifferent to the conditions under which the workers slave. Many officials speculate in industrial materials; there is falsification of reports. More than half of the leading bureaucrats in the Ukraine have been replaced in the course of the last year and a half.

The lifting of the veil ever so slightly justifies the conclusion that things are not going so well in Stalinist Russia. The top bureaucrats may make their grandiose plans, but under conditions of slavery and misery that actually prevail there can be no real planning. The little that is revealed creates the impression that instead of planning there is chaos in the economic life of Stalinist Russia. The dissatisfaction existing among the Russian people is probably a factor inducing Stalin to pursue an aggressive foreign policy.

There is also great plausibility in the hypothesis that he wants to keep a large army of occupation outside of Russian borders because he can feed the soldiers at the expense of the occupied countries. There is not enough food for them in Russia and Stalin would be adding to his troubles if his armies were sent home.


But in spite of the Stalinist aggressive foreign policy, there is slight possibility of a war breaking out soon. Fundamentally, because Stalin knows that a war means his certain defeat. It will take many years before Russia recovers from the destruction wrought by Hitler’s armies. And it is altogether probable that he is not sure of the support of the masses in case of another war. That hundreds of thousands of Russian workers and peasants did not support the war even against Hitler is now certain. That many millions will not support another war with capitalist democracies can be taken for granted.

Should Stalin continue his aggressive policy up to the point of war, then it will simply mean that he sees no way out except through the tremendous gamble of war. In effect, war will mean that he is ready to risk suicide and the Russian masses should and undoubtedly will help him attain his objective.

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