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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(10 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 86, 10 November 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

When the October revolution transformed Russia 22 years ago, victory of the world workers’ revolution seemed near. As the Bolsheviks saw it, their conquest of power advanced them only to the first ramparts of the citadel of capitalist reaction. They opened the first gates to a new future, the glimpse of which dazzled masses all over the world, sickened by the years of slaughter and suffering to which their rulers subjected them.

But the revolution fell short of the greater victories that were needed. Above all, in Germany, the workers held the power in their grasp. Had they retained it, the tides of history would have washed quite other shores. But the Social Democrats became stewards for the capitalists and to them the power was finally returned. In one country after another the masses rose and were beaten back. The revolutionary wave receded and left Russia an isolated rock in the black sea of world reaction.

This was the circumstance that gave rise to Stalin and the ruling bureaucracy he symbolizes and represents. Stalin has ruled revolutionary Russia for 15 of these 22 years. He and his minions have grotesquely mangled the form of the workers’ power but have not altered the substance. They remain the usurpers of the power created by the Russian workers in their great revolution. In the upheavals to come they shall be swept away along with all the other instruments of reaction that hold the masses of the world in chains.

It is firmly with that confidence that we celebrate this anniversary of the greatest historical event of our century. It is this that we seek to drive home into the consciousness of every American worker:

The Russian revolution showed the way out of a world of war and poverty. It was checked and turned off the road because it was left isolated in a hostile boss-ruled world to cope with the gigantic problem of reconstructing one of the largest and one of the most backward countries in the world.

It was the enormity and impossibility of this task that created the premises for the monstrous regime built up around Stalin.

But that does not mean, American workers, that we must fall for the cagy propaganda of our bosses that Russia proves the falsehood of the Communist program! No, Russia proves its truth, for the Communist program holds that Socialism must be erected on a world scale to flourish. It cannot survive in one corner of the earth’s surface, even so large a corner as Russia.

Stalinism was created out of the backwardness and isolation of Russia. But the American revolution will start from the advanced positions of the most highly industrialized country in the world, a country that holds in its grasp real world leadership. But who will wield it? If we let that leadership be assumed by Wall Street & Co., it will mean more wars, more destruction, fresh crises, and the establishment of Fascism in this land and everywhere. But if we grasp it ourselves we will break across all war fronts with a new revolutionary October which this time will not be hemmed in. It is looking forward to this struggle that we salute this anniversary.

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Last updated on 15 April 2018