Tom Stamm Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page


American Foreign Trade and the Question of
Credits to the Soviet Union

(August 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V. No. 32 (Whole No. 128), 6 August 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Some figures on the decline in the foreign trade of the United States since the crisis set in, published in the New York Times of July 31, tell heavily in support of the slogan of the International Left for large scale, long term credits to the Soviet Union. According to the Times the decline in volume has been drastic. It arrives at this conclusion on the basis of the facts that the decline in the wholesale price level of commodities since June 1929, is 33.7 per cent; while the decline in value is 67.8 per cent.

“These heavy losses” says the Times, “amounting in several cases to more than 80 per cent, are not the result merely of a decline in prices, but also of a sharp contraction in volume.”

Machinery Decline

Among the commodities which the United States is exporting in diminishing quantities are plows, which declined from 105,958 in 1929 to 8,204; and grain harvesters, which declined from 11,871 to 213. In the first five months of 1929 the United States exported 60 million dollars of agricultural machinery; whereas in the first five months of 1932 this figure fell to four million seven hundred thousand. Similar figures obtain for industrial machinery. Included in this decline is a precipitate decline in Soviet purchases of agricultural and industrial machinery. In a statement issued by the Amtorg in October of last year the value of Soviet purchases was shown to have declined by 51 per cent.

But the years 1929–32 are the period of the great growth and expansion of Soviet industry; of the growth of its inter-relation with the world market. From August 1930 to June 1931, to take but one example, the Soviet Union doubled its exports to Italy and increased its imports sevenfold. So said Commissar of Foreign Trade, P. Rosengoltz, to a delegation of 32 Italian industrialists, who visited the Soviet Union in June a year ago.

What is the cause for the decline in the purchase of what the Soviet needs to build its growing industry? The Amtorg statement of last October says,

“The drastic decline in purchases is due to the lack of favorable credit facilities in this country as contrasted with long term credits extended to Soviet organizations by European countries.” (Our emphasis.)

Credits are what the Soviet Union needs, long-term credits. But the Stalinized Comintern, hamstrung by the fatal theory of socialism in one country, dares not call on the working masses to demand credits from their capitalist governments for the workers’ fatherland. It would be an open admission of the impossibility of building a socialist society in the Soviet Union with the efforts of the Soviet Union alone. And this admission Stalin cannot make.

He seeks to attain the same end – not through the class struggle; but by diplomatic maneuvers. That the Soviet Union has made diplomatic approaches to various capitalist governments for credits is no secret. The Times of July 15, 1931, reported the discussion between the Soviet delegation to Paris and the French negotiators in the following words: “The discussions center around a plan by which the Russians would obtain two to four year credits from France.”

In fact trade treaties have been signed. One was signed with Italy last June. Duranty reported it from Paris.

“The chief Soviet benefits from the trade agreement are credit for buying Italian machinery, aid from Italian specialists, use of the Italian merchant marine for shipping exports and a convenient market tor grain, oil and coal.” (N.Y. Times, June 20, 1931)

But, the Stalinists have argued, the Soviet Union gets its credits by treaty. What need is there of making a mass fight of it?!! As comrade Trotsky pointed out in his World Unemployment and the Five Year Plan, the interest of the workers all over the world in the Soviet Union and its socialist construction remains an abstraction unless it is concretized, in the present situation of world unemployment, by mobilizing the masses to fight for long term credits upon the basis of their understanding that the resulting orders would go some way toward relieving unemployment by opening up a number of factories.

In the United States it would mean that the index of employment in the agricultural machinery industry, for example, would rise from 22.1 at which it stood in June of this year. A similar rise would take place in every branch of industry with which the Soviet would place orders. An identical result would, be achieved in all capitalist countries in which the Soviet was able to place orders.

The volume of imports the Soviet would be able to command would be many times in excess of its present volume, including the volume embraced by its present trade treaties. The result in the construction of socialist industry is too apparent to need elaboration. As one result the volume of exports could be increased with a further increase in imports. So the whole cycle of imports and exports could be increased.

The prestige of the Soviet Union would be increased in the eyes of the workers by its ability to work out large scale plans pivoted on its export and import relations with the world market, and its ability to meet its obligations.

An organized fight for credits is a lever to set the masses in motion against their class enemies. It creates the basis for a united front with the socialist workers against their leaders should they, as is most likely, oppose the united front.

The opportunities such a struggle affords to Communism to appear before the class as the leader in the fight for relief, and the opportunities for class education are enormous. To pass them by and call the slogan counter-revolutionary, as the Stalinists have done, is not the least of their crimes.

The Stalinist idea of diplomatic maneuvering for credits without calling on the masses who are vitally interested in the question rests upon a lack of faith in the masses. But the masses, learning from the Left Opposition, will force the Comintern to place this slogan in the forefront of the fight for relief. In the United States the workers under the pressure of the deepening crisis will force the party to translate its paper turn of half a year ago into a real class fight for long-term, large scale credits to the Soviet Union.

Tom Stamm Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 31.12.2013