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George Stern

On the War Fronts

Stalin-Nazi Clash Is Unlikely Now

Stalin’s Fear of Hitler Means He Is Ready
to Grant Substantial Economic Demands

(21 June 1921)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 25, 21 June 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

News of a severe strain in Nazi-Soviet relations fills the newspapers. Rumors fly of an impending Nazi-Soviet clash. From all the capitals concerned a heavy smokescreen of report and counter-report billows up to obscure the realities of the situation.

So far as can be judged from the various versions of the “crisis”, the following are the apparent facts:

  1. Hitler is pressing a series of vital demands on Stalin.

    These probably include demands for German access to the grain of the Ukraine and the oil of the Caucasus. This access is to be had through direct German control, either through “specialists” and “experts” sent in to supervise production and transport, or through actual military occupation.

    It is probably also true that Hitler is demanding transit for Nazi troops through Soviet territory for a vast flanking movement through Iran against the British in Iraq.
  2. In support of these demands Hitler is staging a military demonstration aimed to frighten Stalin into acquiescence. News of German military dispositions along the long eastern frontier from Finland and the Baltic to the Dardanelles has been coming freely from German-controlled news sources.

    This suggests that while the military movements are a fact, they are perhaps being presented in an exaggerated form in accordance with the well-established Nazi propaganda-pressure methods. In any case Moscow officially told the world last Saturday that these German movements are actually in progress – and Moscow must know.
  3. As part of his effort to resist or at least to bargain for a reduction in Hitler’s demands, Stalin is putting on a cautious counter-demonstration of his own – the movement of Red Army troops in Moscow under the guise of “summer maneuvers.”

“Democracies” Vainly Hoping

These are the apparent facts. From these facts wishful observers in London and Washington are building up the hope of an early and widespread collision between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. If, secretly, they really know better, they are at least trying by this means to fan a little the smouldering embers of Nazi-Soviet conflict which are indubitably present.

In the absence of positive information or overt acts by the parties concerned, one can at best speculate, to be sure, concerning the real line-up. But there are certain general observations which one can draw upon for orientation in measuring the possibilities and probabilities of the situation.

First of all, it is highly unlikely that Hitler wants at this time a frontal clash with the Soviet Union. For Hitler to become involved in such a conflict would mean – regardless of the easy optimism of the German military staff – that Britain gains a desperately needed respite, a respite that might well be the difference between ultimate victory or defeat.

If Hitler were actually balked in his death drive against the British Empire, it is conceivable that he might seek a solution in the East. But that is by no means his present position. The Battle of the Middle East has not yet even begun and Britain’s position there is by no means impregnable.

It is also conceivable that Hitler’s need for Russian oil and wheat is so desperate that he is willing to take the broad gamble of military action to acquire them. But it is, on the one hand, not yet clear that his need is this desperate and, on the other hand he can certainly still count on extracting his wants – or a fair share of them – from Stalin without going to war.

Appeasement Would Follow

One factor should be noted at this point however: Should Hitler in tlie near future decide that he has to use force against the Soviet Union, it is quite safe to assume that such a turn in the war will be utilized to bring about a negotiated peace with Britain and to forestall U.S. entry into hostilities. It has always been the hope of the Anglo-American imperialist bloc that Hitler would become engaged with the U.S.S.R. in a mutually costly and even exhausting war.

But none of the conditions at the present time suggest that Hitler is considering this course. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that he intends to press forward his effort to deal a death blow to the British Empire and believes he can bend the Kremlin to his will without resorting, to force.

This view finds support in a general estimate of Stalin’s position. Stalin’s basic; policy premise is to do everything possible to avoid war because war would endanger the power of his bureaucratic clique. This has motivated his every move.

The question right now is: how far will Stalin go in appeasing Hitler? How many of his demand will he accept to avoid war?

It may be taken for granted that Stalin will offer fresh concessions in an economic agreement giving Germany much of the wheat and oil that it wants.

But it is not so probable that Stalin would consent to measures of military occupation or even troops transit because these concessions would lead to the same result as a war, eventual destruction of Stalinist power in the Soviet Union at the hands of the Nazis and the internal reaction which Hitler would surely sponsor once he got a foothold.

The chances are that the Hitler Stalin seesaw of pressure and counter-pressure will come to a precarious halt somewhere be tween those two points. Hitler will not press so far as to make hostilities necessary. Stalin will not hold out so long as to force Hitler’s armed hand.

The Outcome

Our guess of the outcome is a new economic agreement giving important advantages to the Nazis. The military clash, which we deem inevitable, will be postponed until Hitler has settled accounts with Britain.

Such an accord would leave the Soviet Union even more perilously exposed than before to eventual attack and destruction. Every step of Stalin’s designed to shield the Soviet Union from involvement and attack has only succeeded in increasing the Soviet Union’s peril.

Stalin Endangers USSR

Thus it becomes ever more plain: Stalin and his clique of bureaucratic leeches are incapable of assuring the defense of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack.

Stalin, by destroying the revolutionary movements in Western Europe and in Asia in the decade preceding the war, cut the Workers’ State off from the only reliable allies it could have. By throwing in his lot with Hitler, he alienated what was left of the sympathy and support of anti-Fascist masses all over the world. By surrendering now, step by step, to Hitler’s demands, he hastens the day of reckoning between the Soviet Union and the imperialist world, represented by the Nazis.

Advanced workers will hold ever more staunchly to the two basic principles of their attitude toward the Soviet Union: to carry on the struggle against Stalin with a view to restoring the democratic power of the Soviets and freeing the Soviet working class from the incubus of the bureaucracy – but at the same time to fight in defense of the Workers’ State against any imperialist assault.

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