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Sam Gordon

For Economic Collaboration with Russia

(April 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 7, 1 April 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The last census figures record more than six million workers out of a job. Considering the usual disparity experienced in the past between the official data and the actual numbers, this means in reality, close to ten million unemployed. 10,000,000 workers without jobs. With their families, additional millions are condemned to a starvation diet. Meanwhile, industry still remains clogged up, the crisis keeps on swelling, drawing more and more branches of production into the jam, and no outlet is in sight. Another capitalist country, only recently said to be going through a period of “belated capitalist bloom” – France – has entered the ban of the world wide depression. There too, the unemployment figures are mounting, misery and discontent are growing. The world market “has shrunk.”

One country alone shows signs of bustling economic life. That is the Soviet Union. While capitalism is on the down slide, while capitalist anarchy once more, and to a far more serious degree than ever the fore, upsets the already shaky balance of the existing social conditions, planned, socialized industry in Soviet Russia advances by leaps and bounds, pointing out the inevitable road that world economy must take in the future.

On the one side, we have world unemployment, an expression of the failure of the capitalist system. On the other, we have the Five Year Plan, an example of successful socialist construction.

In the capitalist United States, the last census figures tell us that new millions of workers have been thrown out of industry. In Soviet Russia the latest statistics show that nearly a million new workers have been introduced into industry, in the course of the execution of the Five Year Plan. The second year shows that the plan has been far surpassed in the oil output, and has registered enormous rises in steel, machinery and electro-technical production. The collectivization of agriculture, which, according to the figure given, has reached 50 per cent in the grain area, has enabled the Soviet Union to export threefold the amount of grain exported in pre-war years. The seven hour day has been established for 43.5 per cent of the total number of workers and the average wage has been increased by 12.1 per cent for the period of the first two years of the plan. All in all, an especially pointed proof of the superiority of the socialist system of production over the capitalist methods, particularly offset by the depression and decline of world economy.

These indisputable successes stand firm. The Five Year Plan has confirmed the expediency of socialist production and has guaranteed successes for the future. But the Five Year Plan cannot be carried out without the aid of the outside world. The backwardness of Russian industry cannot altogether be wiped out. Finished products (shoes, clothing, etc.) are needed to raise the living standards of the workers, to replenish the energy, the material resources of the Russian workers who have spared no sacrifice in their enthusiastic execution of the plan. Light machinery must be imported in large quantities to supply these needs.

The basic product of Soviet export is grain. The collectivization of agriculture, based on high class technique, can bolster up the grain export immensely and thus greatly increase the purchasing power of the Soviets with which industrialization, planned economy would receive new, more stupendous impulses. For this purpose too, large imports of agricultural machinery are required.

At present, the capitalist governments, despite the deep-going depression that is undermining them, are unwilling to facilitate these imports to the Soviet Union, which would give work to thousands upon thousands of workers in their own countries. They prefer to divert the workers’ discontent away from the real causes by fairy tales of “Soviet dumping.” They want to force the workers’ state to retreat from its hard-earned socialist positions. They fear the great sweep that the Five Year Plan gives to international revolutionary action.

Soviet Russia, despite its great achievements, is not an isolated, self-sufficient economic unity. It is bound up by the threads of world economy and must act as part of it, utilizing its strengthened positions as a weapon of the world revolution. The Soviet Union needs the aid of world economy for the success of the Five Year Plan. The capitalists are reluctant to grant this aid. The workers of the capitalist countries are out of work in large numbers. Soviet orders from their countries means work for thousands of them. The workers are the ones that must fight for long term credit grants to enable the Soviets to buy machinery with which to assure the success of the Five Year Plan.

Soviet orders to the United States, even under the limited credit possibilities of the present, have already given work to thousands of American workers, who would otherwise have been thrown into the gutter. “Had it not been for these Russian orders [for machine tools]” writes the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “many Cleveland factories would have faced a shutdown when automobile orders temporarily stopped.” “Employment for several hundred additional men will be furnished ... in filling a contract ... to recondition thirteen steamers recently acquired by the Soviet government from the U.S. Shipping Board.” The last, an item from the Boston Herald.

Tractor factories, automobile plants, transportation enterprises and all sorts of industrial undertakings have been kept going by Soviet orders. A group of American business men is even now negotiating with the U.S. government for credits to the Soviet Union. Their leader, Col. Cooper, the engineer of the Dnieprostroy Power Station in Russia, stated in a speech before the American-Russian Chamber of Commerce recently, that “It requires but a small amount of study from my point of view to visualize the not far distant time when we can be exporting to Russia at least one billion dollars per annum”.

And he gave quite Substantial reasons to back up his contention. Yet, even if his estimate were a bit optimistic, there cannot be any doubt that the possibilities for Soviet purchases here would offer serious relief to large sections of the unemployed here in the states.

What then is the task of the Communists under these conditions. The task of the Communists is to link up closely this demand for the extension of long term credits to the Soviet Union with their general struggle for unemployment relief. To concretize before the workers the possibilities that these long term credits offer for their immediate relief, in the shape of filling orders required by the Five Year Plan. To make clear to them on this opportune occasion the superiority of the socialist system. And to mold on this basis their international class solidarity with the workers of the Soviet Union. In this popular and concrete manner of revolutionary propaganda, supported by facts and by a clear Marxist principle position that recognizes the international character of the working class movement at all times, unheard of progress can be made in the way of developing the class consciousness of the American workers and advancing the class struggle in the United States as well as in every other capitalist country.

But what is the official party leadership doing in this direction? Absolutely nothing. The aid that the Five Year Plan can be in relieving unemployment in the capitalist countries, finds no explanation, no place in the propaganda of the party around the unemployment problem. Why? Because such propaganda is in direct contradiction to the Stalinist theory of the building up of socialism in one country, which rejects the close international bonds between the construction of socialism in Russia and the class struggle in the rest of the world. Instead of asking the aid of the proletariat of the West to obtain credits for Soviet industry, Stalin deals with the capitalists behind the backs of the workers under the shameful un-Marxist and anti-revolutionary banner of “the peaceful cohabitation of capitalism and Communism.” The workers of Europe and America are not drawn into the concrete every day struggle of the heroic workers of Soviet Russia. The tasks of the Communists in the capitalist countries are considered isolated and apart from the tasks in Russia – if they are not held to be altogether insignificant. International revolutionary action is precluded by the narrow un-Leninist policy of national socialism. The Stalinist leadership in the U.S.S.R. and in the Comintern looks upon the international proletariat not as upon the indispensable allies in the struggle for the construction of socialism as part of the world revolution, but rather as upon admiring spectators who will some day, somehow be moved to emulate the example of Soviet Russia.

What happens under such circumstances? A recent event in Germany serves as a good illustration. A group of German capitalists, after a visit to the Soviet Union decided to grant the latter credits to the extent of $250,000,000. Immediately, the Berlin Rote Fahne, the central organ of the German Communist party, follows this with a headline “Five Year Plan Gives Work To Tens of Thousands of German Workers”. What part was played in this matter by the German Communists? Absolutely none. That is not at all. The credit grant has come up before the Reichstag for ratification. The reactionary Brüning government, supported by the yellow social democracy, refuses to guarantee the credits in sum, but proposes on the contrary to take up each case of credit extension seriatim: a process that delays the shipment of machinery absolutely necessary to meet the requirements of the Five Year Plan. But in all this, the Communist party is caught off guard. Opportunities come and go without being utilized, without being exploited to revolutionary advantage.

The Five Year Plan, executed without an international revolutionary perspective and in the well known bureaucratic manner of the Stalinist adventurers, has been considerably endangered in the past. The “one-hundred-percent collectivization” policy weakened it greatly on the peasant front. The irresponsible excesses on the industrial front, carried out in the name of “the Five Year Plan in three years”, inflicted considerable damage in the way of bringing about a definite and dangerous lagging behind the program, which the Pravda recently points out under the title: “Alarm Signals”. There is a great shortage in finished goods. The material conditions of the workers are not keeping pace with the rapid strides in industry. The Five Year Plan needs help. Already the Centrist bureaucracy under Stalin is preparing to capitulate before the difficulties by a Right wing turn in the direction of a “Neo-Nep”. All Communists must be on guard against the return to the opportunist swamp and fight against it.

The slogan of long term credits to the Soviet Union must penetrate the broadest layers of workers and unemployed in the formation of a solid united front of struggle. The fight around the slogan of long-term credits to the Soviets is a fight that eventually results in mutual benefits to the workers of both the United States and Russia. It cements the bonds of working class solidarity on an international scale, based on the actual needs of the moment. The slogan of long term credits to aid the execution of the Five Year Plan unites the workers of America and of Europe with the workers of Russia in a combined struggle against capitalism and for the victory of world socialism. It is the duty of the Communists to carry it deep into the masses.

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