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George Stern

On The War Fronts

Hitler Seeks Soviet Resources For Long War

Shift to East Forced by Need

(28 June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 26, 28 June 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At 5:30 A.M. on June 22, Nazi Germany launched a fateful attack on the Soviet Union, Hitler opened a new front in the East stretching from the Baltic to the Slack Sea. In a drastic shift of policy he embarked upon a campaign to win the wheat and oil of Russia before coming to final grips with Britain.

In this column last week we said that a German-Soviet clash at this time was unlikely because we believed Stalin would make fresh concessions rather than risk Nazi attack. We considered that Hitler would go the length of an attack on the Soviet Union only if his need of Russian wheat and oil were truly desperate and his attack on Britain stymied. All apparent evidence last week suggested this was not yet the case. But not enough evidence was in. Hitler’s move across the Soviet borders proves that.

It is not yet plain, however, how much of a chance Hitler gave Stalin to make his concessions. Motolov claimed that no demands at all were made. There is a significant passage in Hitler’s proclamation of war concerning the concentration of Soviet troops along the German frontier. The presence of these forces, he said was “intended mainly at the tying up of such powerful (German) forces in the east that the radical conclusion of the war in the west, particularly as regards aircraft could no longer be vouched for by the German High Command.”

What Hitler Needed

This is a substantial revelation for Hitler to make. It tells us that no concessions by Stalin were of any use to Hitljer so long as he had to maintain more than 100 divisions with accompanying mechanized forces and aircraft, along the Soviet border. It tells us that nothing could satisfy him in this situation short of total demobilization of the Red Army – that is, total voluntary surrender by Stalin.

As we pointed out last week, there are certain concessions that Stalin could not make, because they “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.”

Thus, it now appears, nothing could satisfy Hitler short of a military defeat of the Red Army or its equivalent in surrender without war. He chose the path of military conquest in preference to a new, insecure deal with Stalin.

Hitler in effect admits in his proclamation that without liquidation of the necessity for keeping such a large force employed in the East, he was unable to attack the British Isles. Consequently he had first to undertake this “liquidation.” It is quite possible that the Nazi High Command decided that in any case an attack on Britain was not now feasible.

The very fact that he would embark upon so vast a project, however, proves also that he needs the economic resources of the Soviet Union far more urgently than was generally realized. His conquered provinces in West Europe face a winter of starvation. In Germany itself, despite the dazzling military successes, the need is apparently going to be greater than Hitler was willing, to chance. And it now is clearer, likewise, that Caucasian oil has become an absolute necessity to keep Hitler’s planes flying and tanks rolling. Hitler has not reversed his war strategy because of some sudden aberration. He has done so because his drive of conquest has made it unavoidable.

October Still Lives!

How easily, can he expect to attain his objectives? Only now are we going to learn how far the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union has. succeeded in devitalizing the Red Army.

More accurately, we shall see what powers of regeneration and recovery still remain in the October revolution despite the years of bureaucratic suffocation and slow strangulation of the revolutionary forces of the country.

For if revolutionary energy can truly be unleashed in the, defense of the Soviet Union, Hitler will finally meet his Waterloo, at home and abroad. Stalin has not entirely succeeded in destroying the Russian revolution. Its power is greater than any of; Hitler’s “secret weapons.” Its power is the Soviet Union’s main chance to succeed against the, Nazi blitzkrieg. Yes, the strangled October revolution still lives!

Danger of Appeasement

We said last week Hitler might count upon an attack against the Soviet Union as a means of bringing about a negotiated peace with Britain which would, for the time being stabilize his European conquests. Prime Minister Churchill went on the air last Sunday afternoon to deny that any such outcome is possible and to pledge continued war to the death against the Nazis.

To be sure, Britain, already engaged in a life and death struggle, for its empire against the Nazi claimants to world power, is more

likely to welcome the opening of an eastern front as a veritable godsend. It means a certain easing of pressure on the British Isles and a badly-needed respite for British arms everywhere.

But Hitler undoubtedly calculates to some extent upon a strengthened hand in Britain for pro-peace or appeasement elements. Even more so, he hopes to forestall U.S. entry into the war by his new move. In this aim he probably has a greater chance of success.

Heavy involvement of Hitler in the East will certainly encourage the arch-reactionary “isolationist” sentiment here and may even to some extent slow down the urgent pace of the aid-to-Britain, program. Warnings against this are already emanating from the White House. But even the White House may see in the new development at least a postponement of U.S. entry into a “shooting” war against Germany.

But such speculation takes a gallery seat right now. Along the Soviet-German frontier, Nazi imperialism is waging war against the only Workers’ State in the world. Stalinism has weakened and deformed that state but it has not released advanced workers anywhere from the prime obligation to defend this one bastion of Socialism. This obligation, to the best of our power, we shall carry out.

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