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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(6 January 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 1, 6 January 1940, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Finnish events prove again that Stalin is incapable of defending the Soviet Union. If Stalin is not overthrown by the Russian workers, aided by the workers of the entire world, he will drag down with him into oblivion what remains of the conquests of the October Revolution.

The invasion itself is an act destructive both of the defense of the Soviet Union and of the interests of the world revolution. Stalin, calculating on the eventuality of having to fight Germany or a coalition of Germany and other powers, sought in Finland advance bases which would give him a military advantage over his opponents. Characteristically, he set about securing them in a manner which serves to drive the Finnish workers into the arms of their own bourgeoisie and in the process loses for the Soviet Union the friendly sympathy of millions of workers throughout the world.

By this alone he has immeasurably weakened the position of the Soviet Union and lent powerful aid to the anti-Soviet plotters in Washington, Berlin, London, the Vatican, and Rome. In their column, “Washington Merry-Go-Round”, Pearson and Allen last week gave the following summary of views held in important Washington quarters:

“Certain powerful forces both in Germany and England would not be at all averse to patching up their own row and then encouraging a politico-religious war against Soviet Russia. This would meet with the very decided approval of Italy, And there are potent people in the U.S. State Department also who would welcome such a move. Whether the Myron Taylor mission to Rome, just initiated by Roosevelt, will take this turn remains to be seen – but it may.”

It is, however, not only in the broadest political sense that Stalin affords aid and comfort to the enemies of the October Revolution. In his invasion of Finland he has also exposed before the world the state to which he has reduced his much-vaunted army. He has provided the military staffs of the powers with their first real opportunity to measure the results of the purges which swept the ranks of the Red Army, officers and men, during 1936-38. And what they have observed has already caused some rapid changes in the calculations of the chancelleries and general staffs in London, Rome, and Berlin.

By bogging down in Finland a poorly-staffed, poorly-supplied, politically disoriented army, Stalin has managed to prick the legend of Russian strength behind which he has been hiding during the past year.

One immediate effect of this in London seems to be the growth of the belief that the British need not seek a deal with Germany in order to dispose of Russia. Instead the feeling develops that the Allies can successfully dispose of both these enemies of Anglo-French supremacy without making costly concessions to one in order to beat the other. This is clearly stated by Augur, British foreign office mouthpiece in the New York Times:

“The Finns’ resistance also is defeating intriguers in Berlin and their sympathizers in Britain and France who favor a swift settlement of the war by agreement with Chancellor Hitler ... It would be much better, they say, to come to terms and create a united front against the Moscow peril. That intrigue was based on the assumption that the Russian army was formidable. The Finns, by inflicting defeats, prove that the Russian military machine is not as formidable and Russia is not as invulnerable as advertised. Thus the ground is removed from under the feet of the intriguers. If Russia is revealed as weaker than imagined, there is no need to be anxious about the bolshevist menace to Europe.”

What this means concretely, Augur indicates, is that extensive aid will be given to the Finns and the Swedes persuaded to come in to make sure the Russians remain deeply engaged in the north. This will have the double effect of cutting off the always problematical Russian aid to Germany and leave the powers free to crush their enemies, one after another.

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