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Henry Judd

World Politics

Berlin Beats Stalinism

(20 December 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 51, 20 December 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is doubtful if Russia and Stalinism have suffered more consistent and more humiliating defeats since the end of the war than those to which they have been subjected by the workers and people of Berlin. Every effort of Stalinism to bulldoze and beat into submission the over 3,000,000 people of this fantastic city has been, until now, crushingly defeated. There is every reason to believe and hope that Stalinism will be unable to conquer Berlin, barring the unlikely step that the Russian troops simply take over by force of arms and precipitate a world war. This is surely Stalinism’s worst and bitterest political defeat in many years, and there cannot be too much praise for the people of Berlin who have defied the world’s most powerful totalitarian machine.

Close to 1½ million people voted, under innumerable threats and provocations inspired by the phony Stalinist government created several weeks ago in the Russian image. “Whoever refrains from voting, has chosen life over death,” announced the Berliner Stalinist Zeitung, in demanding an election boycott. Only 14 percent of the eligible voters in the Western districts chose Stalinist “life.” The rest of those who failed to vote came from the Stalinist sector of the city where, naturally, there were no polling booths.

The American State Department hypocritically stated its admiration of the “civic courage” of the Berlin people who, it said, “had earned the admiration of the democratic peoples of the world.” This, from the same government which gracefully held back its armies a mere three years ago so Stalin could have the honor of occupying Berlin and then set its name to the infamous Potsdam agreement which provided the basis for the present occupation of the city and led to the present crisis. This is the, type of watery propaganda which the Berlin people can well afford to ignore. If American imperialism is attempting to horn in and garner credit for this successful struggle against Stalinism it is because it is increasingly nervous about certain developments in the struggle which it does not care to see.

A Working-Class Victory

It is entirely wrong to believe that this victory at the polls was a conservative, rightist, “democratic” – in the bourgeois sense of the word – demonstration against Stalinism. The facts are otherwise. This was a working class, pro-socialist and generally leftist victory over Stalinism. The Social Democratic Party of Berlin in the eyes of the people, represents a left-wing and progressive political movement against Stalinism and – in Berlin, at any rate – it has very consistently and sharply combatted the Stalinists. (Whoever heard before of Social Democrats organizing defense squads and throwing Stalinists physically out of meetings?) A vote for the Social Democracy in Berlin was both anti-Stalinist and anti-western occupation in the sense that this Party has, throughout western Germany, become the medium by which general dissatisfaction is expressed. The other parties are most closely bound to and with the occupation authorities, particularly the Christian Democrats. Therefore, a supporter of the occupation would naturally vote for these parties and not for Social Democrats. Look at the results:





(Western Sector)

Social Democrats



Christian Democrats



Liberal Democrats





The Social Democracy, in other words, literally swamped its opponents two to one and received a clear mandate to continue its struggle against the Stalinists, but in a socialist manner. Of course, the Social Democratic leadership immediately violated this clear mandate by proposing a continuation of the present city coalition government with those two parties whom the population had just decisively repudiated. Such actions, of course, lie in the very nature of Social Democracy which resist all efforts to force it into independent action.

Symbol for All of Germany

But those efforts and pressures will continue. The Berlin which resists Stalinism today is not the fear-ridden and trembling Berlin of six months ago. Instead, it has become a symbol for all of Germany and the German people who look toward the city not only for its courageous struggle against the Russians and their German quislings, but also as laying out the road towards independence. This is the important thing.

Berlin has become a mass political movement, with many important political and social implications. A Germany, crushed by the war and the occupation, is fighting its way back and – with the workers in the lead – beginning to organize its former social and political life. This process, particularly in a political sense, has gone furthest in Berlin whose workers have known how to take advantage of antagonism between America and Russia to their own advantage and in their own interests.

Six months ago, an Allied withdrawal could only have resulted in a total Russian occupation of the city and, subsequently, a disastrous effect upon western Germany’s people. Now Stalinism is on the defensive and the real impetus of the struggle no longer lies in the hands of the occupation forces and their handful of troops, but in the Berlin population itself. This is the essence of the victory and the meaning of Berlin today.

Just how far this initiative and independence of struggle will develop cannot, of course, be foretold. Today it is strong, because the Berlin people have a new confidence in their power and feel that they have become a center of Germany’s entire struggle. Even the Social Democrats demand a doubling of the airlift supplies – a demand which every socialist should support. The most disconcerting factor in the situation is the absence of a revolutionary party in the city, or even of a left-wing, strongly critical of the leadership, within the Berlin Social Democracy.

A socialist wing in this Party would press for Increased independence from the military authorities, for a doubling and trebling of the airlift (do we remember how leading Airforce authorities at first said it couldn’t be done?), and – most important of all – begin the organization of defense squads, armed and trained, to guarantee the retention of its victory and its freedom. It would demand, of course, dissolution of any coalition government with the bourgeois parties.

It is precisely this tendency for Germany’s anti- Stalinist movement to free itself from dependency upon the western Allies which the State Department is aware of, and fears. Can one imagine General Clay giving arms to the anti-Stalinist workers of Berlin? Far easier is it to imagine his arriving at a “deal” with the Russians at the expense of these workers. Yet such is the real movement throughout Germany today where, as economic life and production grows stronger, the workers’ movement and all national institutions stand up once more on their own feet. It will still take a long time before all this matures into a force sufficiently powerful to assure the defeat of Stalinism and, at the same time, be a force independent of the Allies. But such is the inevitable tendency, and the Berlin electoral victory is a major step along this line. We are learning valuable lessons about how Stalinism can and will be defeated.

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