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Henry Judd

World Politics

(28 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 26, 28 June 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Has the Stalinist movement begun a new campaign for control and mastery over the European continent? Has the period of lull and retreat that began with the electoral defeat in Italy several months ago come to an end? While it is not yet possible to answer this question with absolute certainty there are many indications that a new phase in the Stalinist program for the conquest of Europe has begun.

We know, of course, that the retreat of Stalinism after its defeat in Italy would only be a temporary matter, in any ease. As a social system whose significance spreads far beyond the confines of Russian borders, Stalinism may be temporarily pushed back at given points,but can never be definitively defeated except by a force which would destroy it by means of its social superiority. This force could only be the socialist revolution, a non-existent force in Europe today. The only serious rival that Stalinism must face at the moment, therefore, is American imperialism which can only contain or check it at this or that point.

But Stalinism has its ups and downs and its road to power in Western Europe is far from easy or sure. In this sense there is a strategy and tempo for attempted European conquest which is largely determined by the Kremlin dictators and the Cominform bureaucrats operating out of Belgrade.

Thrust Towards Western Europe

After the Italian elections, a period of reorganization, retrenchment, hardening of the Stalinist party ranks, consolidation, etc., was ordered from above. This took many forms. The parties in Eastern Europe and Italy, with the Hungarian CP in the lead, were purged of “unreliable elements that had entered en masse since the end of the war,” and more rigid membership standards have been introduced. This meant a purge of opportunist, careerist and haven-seeking elements. Important Italian leaders were demoted – that is, punished; Gottwald was kicked upstairs to the presidency of Czechoslovakia and sharp warnings were issued about the abuse of governmental power. Simultaneously, a completion of nationalization and the erection of the new state apparatus in all the conquered countries was carried out, so that they now form substantially one solid bloc, unified elements in the Kremlin pattern. The Kremlin theory, clearly, is that a solid base in eastern Europe, tightly bound together by economic treaties, similarly patterned Stalinist regimes and the cement of GPU terror, will provide the best possible background for thrusts into western Europe.

By western Europe, of course, the Stalinists have primarily France and western Germany in mind. Since their major strategic effort for some time past, and in the future, will be the struggle against the Marshall Plan. It is quite natural that their efforts will be concentrated in those two countries key to the success or failure of this plan. France is to receive the largest share of Marshall Plan aid during 1948, while the revival of the Ruhr’s productivity is essential from the viewpoint of American imperialism. Thus, the early indications of a new Stalinist offensive are centered in these countries.

In France, where government policy has failed to drive back the inflated price levels (there has actually been a 2 to 5 per cent increase since the formation of the present Schuman cabinet), the labor movement is demanding revision of minimum wage standards, and both federations of labor have called for a 20 per cent general increase. Despite the fact that productivity in heavy industry is now above the 1938 level (the first country in post-war Europe to attain such a goal!), all the evils of inflation and high prices are still present. There is therefore enormous and justified discontent among the workers, making it possible for the French Stalinists to largely retain their influence among the workers despite their major defeats of last year and the general tendency of political stagnation even in the French Stalinist party.

Thus, in their stronghold of Clermont-Ferrant, the Stalinists were able to lead the rubber workers into aggressive strike action, spread this action into various key cities of France and pull off a one-hour general strike demonstration. All this was probably preliminary to more serious and widespread battles undoubtedly on the Stalinist schedule. It was a form of testing the mood of the French proletariat at this moment, and the response has undoubtedly been encouraging to the Stalinist leaders. While this does not necessarily mean a new wave of strikes similar to those of last winter, it does mean that the French working class is about to resume its class struggle – still under Stalinist leader-ship – over the issue of who shall benefit from the recovery brought about by the ERP program.

Struggle for Germany Nears Climax

Germany, of course, provides the real center for the renewed struggle between Stalinism and American imperialism for control over Europe. There the Stalinists are in the midst of a militant campaign, basing itself on the desires of the German people for national unification, against the Allied occupants of western Germany. The struggle for Berlin rages more violently than ever and is definitely approaching a climax.

The first steps in the formation of a western German state and the currency reform carried out by the Allies as a means of completing, on an economic plane, that splitting of Germany already carried out politically and geographically, has stimulated the Stalinists in Germany to new heights. They will shortly announce formation oft heir own German state which, henceforth, will wage war for absorption of the balance of Germany by any means conceivable.

Without necessarily adding up to a major effort or gamble on the part of Stalinism – such as an attempt to actually seize power in one of the countries of western Europe – all this seems to indicate active and aggressive days ahead for the Stalinists and their machines. To what lengths they will go is, of course, unpredictable. Stalinism operates on many complex levels – ranging from the organized squads and groups of gangster and criminal elements to the manipulation of great masses involved in social struggles. Its temporary respite and regrouping seems to be drawing to an end and, in view of the incapacity of European capitalism, aided though it is by American capitalism, to solve any of the major economic problems of Europe, the vast and restless Stalinist machine finds more than enough sources to feed its criminal appetite.

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