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Henry Judd

Once More on Invasion of Iran ...

(September 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 37, 15 September 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The invasion of Iran by joint British and Russian action is now all but completed. The British imperialists have safeguarded their oil fields, another obstacle has been placed in Hitler’s road to India and another route for supplying Russia has been opened up.

All that remains is for the pitiful Iranian government to sign the terms imposed upon it by the British-Russian troops ... and the 15,000,000 colonial workers and peasants of that nation – who once enjoyed a slight vestige of independence – will “enjoy” the combined blessings of British and Russian rule.

But this cynical victimization of a colonial people by one of the imperialist war camps has pot passed unnoticed. Barrister Albert Goldman, leading spokesman for the Socialist Workers Party (Cannon group), devoted a lengthy column to Iran in The Militant of September 6. He waxes morally indignant – at those who condemn the invasion as imperialist and reactionary? Heaven forbid! No, Goldman is indignant at those who CONDEMN the invasion. They are “petty bourgeois moralists” Who, as the Daily Worker tells us each day, cannot see that it is all for the good of “defending the Soviet Union!”

What Is Goldman’s Argument?

Here runs Goldman’s argument: Russia is a “degenerated workers’ state”; it is fighting for its existence against German imperialism; it must take “every measure necessary for its defense provided it does not conflict with the interests of the world revolution.” The fact that Iran is invaded “at the same time” by British imperialism (notice how Attorney Goldman makes it appear that the joint invasion is merely coincidental in time, whereas BOTH governments announced they undertook it as a JOINT, deliberately planned action) is not of “the slightest importance.” Conclusion: All class-conscious workers and peasants (including those of Iran naturally) “will not permit anything to interfere with the defense of the Soviet Union.” That is, the people of Iran should welcome their invaders and join with them, (or is it only the Russian invaders who should be welcomed, Comrade Goldman?).

What does this position mean? It is nothing but a total whitewash for Stalinism and its action in the war! Is this a harsh judgment? Consider for a moment. Goldman is telling the people of Iran that they must subordinate themselves, their interests as colonial slaves, their interests as people who seek national freedom – to the military needs of Stalinist Russia AND, by indirection, to the military needs of the British Empire. For the British Empire is ALLIED WITH Stalinist Russia in the war; it conducts joint military action with Russia. Any step taken by the people of Iran (or any other colonial country, for that matter) cannot but have an effect upon both Russia and Britain.

If this is true for Iran, is it not also true for every other country that Germany threatens to drag into the war against Russia? Turkey, Iraq, India, etc.?

Does Goldman contend that the 3,000 Germans in Iran were “threatening the defense of the Soviet Union?” Obviously, he must, or else there is no justification tor Russia’s Iranian invasion. But this is precisely the cynical excuse given by British imperialism for its share in the invasion. An excuse to cover up its REAL motives – namely, to secure its oil fields, to protect the road to its Indian colony, to establish air and naval bases, etc. Goldman would like to ignore the unpleasant fact – but Russia is NOT fighting its war in a vacuum; it is already up to its ears in the mud and filth of British imperialism.

Nor is Goldman untainted by that Stalinist cynicism he now apologizes for. He refers to the treaty between the Soviet government and Iran in 1921. This treaty gives Russia the right to march troops into Iran if the Iranian government is unable to prevent an attack or a threatened attack upon the Soviet Union through Iran. Such is Article VI of the Constitution.

But Article II Says:

But our barrister forgets Article II which (1) unqualifiedly rejects as a “criminal policy” the policy of the Czarist government toward Iran which consisted of concluding treaties with European powers “whose objective was a gradual annexation.” Furthermore, (2) “The Russian Soviet government declares its renunciation of participation in any measures which aim at a weakening or violation of the sovereignty of Persia (Iran) and declares that all conventions and agreements between the former government of Russia and third states injurious and relating to Persia (Iran) are abolished and nullified.”

To what disgraceful depths has Goldman stooped! Stalin in 1941 JOINTLY CARVES UP Iran with Churchill; Lenin in 1921 would have marched into Iran to stand by the side of the Iranian people AGAINST a British invasion. Stalin marches to meet Churchill in comradely embrace; Lenin would have marched to met him in mortal revolutionary combat. And Goldman says these are one and the same thing


  1. The Cannon group and its spokesmen here, as in other instances, act as shamefaced apologists for the crimes of Stalinism.
  2. This apologism is being extended to include the momentary “allies” of Stalinist Russia – beginning with Great Britain.
  3. The enslaved colonial peoples – victimized by both warring camps – are looked upon by the SWP as abject pawns in the World War. The colonial movement for independence, an essential part of the world revolution, is subordinated to “defense of the Soviet Union.”
  4. The logic of defensism in the present war appears to lead inescapably from “critical support pf the Stalinist bureaucracy” to critical support (or should) we say, CRITICAL support?) of the “democratic” imperialist war camp.

Goldman’s paper appeared too early for him to answer the questions raised in the article on Iran in last week’s issue of Labor Action. We trust he will take them up in his next article ... unless he is too busily occupied replying to the terrific anti-Soviet pressure of the “democratic bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie” which – as we all know so well – so harshly condemned the Stalinist invasion of Iran!

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