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T. Stamm

The Johnson Bill and Credits to the U.S.S.R.

(May 1943)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 20, 19 May 1934, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Johnson Bill barring the purchase or sale in this country of bonds or securities of governments in default ou their debts to the government of the United States has been interpreted by the Attorney General as including the Soviet Union in the category of defaulters because of the traditional refusal of the Soviet to pay the loans made to the Czarist and Kerensky governments. The ruling will make it difficult for the Soviet to get credits here for the purchase of machinery and necessary materials.

The United States knows it will never get even the better part of the colossal sums its rivals owe it under the head of war debts. To pay them is a sheer impossibility. Roosevelt is trying to put a squeeze on them to get better trade terms, to force down the enormous tariff walls which impede the flow of exports from the U.S.

Purpose of the Loans

With the Soviet Union the question stands somewhat differently. The loans to the Czar were used for the brutal suppression of the workers and peasants. The loans to Kerensky were a mite of the golden flood the U.S. poured into the treasuries of the Allies of whom it considered Russia one, to beat German imperialism to its knees. The Bolsheviks served notice before they came to power that they would repudiate! the loans and they kept their word. Moreover against these claims which the United States makes against the Soviet there stands for settlement the costs, insofar as they can be calculated, of the invasion of the territory of the U.S.S.R., by the allied imperialists, including the U.S., the murder of peaceful workers and peasants, the pillage of crops and livestock, the devastation of cities and towns, the destruction of railroads – the immense havoc wrought by the attempt to satisfy the rapacious hunger of insatiate capitalism for the Soviet market.

The Russian Market

The appetite of the U.S. profit-makers has not decreased with the years. On the contrary, it has grown apace as its difficulties in getting markets multiplied. The crisis has whetted it now to the keenness of a razor-edge. Every market is doubly, triply, ten times as important as it was. Among the markets of the world the land that runs eastward from the Polish border to the Pacific Ocean and southward from the Arctic Circle to China, India, Persia, Turkey and the Black Sea is certainly not the least.

What it can mean to Wall Street which is rising from a sick bed to smite the world can be seen in the Commerce Department’s foreign trade figures for March. Exports to the Soviet Union which can absorb – on favorable credit terms according to Litvinov’s figures at the London Economic Conference – one billion dollars in machinery, materials and the products of light industry, were less than a million dollars, a little more than one half of one percent of the total export for the month. Compare this with the export to little Cuba, wracked by a social and economic crisis – about four and a half million dollars, four times as much!

Soviet Union Needs Credit

What trade would mean to the Soviet Union should be obvious from Litvinov’s figures alone. The Militant has discussed the question many times. Here let us note from Litvinov’s figures to what extent the Soviet Union’s dependence on the world market has grown with its economic successes and what demands on the market its further progress makes necessary. Notwithstanding, imports from Russia to the United States in March according to the Commerce Department were also less than one million dollars while from Cuba the U.S. imported more than two and a half times that amount.

Why doesn’t the Soviet Union buy more, the U.S. export more? The Soviet Union has explained again and again that it will buy plentifully up to the hilt, if it gets favorable credit terms. Despite all the treaties signed by Stalin and diplomatic approaches to capitalist governments the Soviet has been unable to get credits on the scale required.

Until now the United States has discouraged trade with the Soviet Union. Its policy was motivated by fear of the October Revolution and the hope of preventing its growth economically and consequently in the military sphere as well, by withholding from it what it required most – machinery. To a large extent they failed. Despite the capitalist blockade and the false course of Stalinism the Soviet Union achieved gigantic and historic successes.

Now the American imperialists are vitally concerned with the Far Eastern market. In the Soviet Union’s strength they see a check to Japan. They are not averse to lend a cautious hand in strengthening the Soviet Union a little – on their terms. And, if they can get it they want the Soviet market for themselves.

Pressure on Soviet Union

Trade and credits are the subject of the discussions taking place in Moscow now between Bullitt and Soviet officials. The ruling of the Attorney General is to put pressure on the Soviet Union. It is an act of aggression characteristic of the strategy and methods of the world’s dominant capitalist power. It gives the lie direct to the Stalinists and their Lovestoneite apologists who maintained in the face of what the world saw to be untrue, that the U.S. was forced to grant recognition because of its desperate internal situation.

What the U.S. demands, what the Soviet Union offers we do not know. The discussions are taking place according to the best rules of Stalinist-capitalist diplomacy – in the dark. No word has leaked out. That is what fills us with misgiving.

Fight for Soviet Credits!

Five years ago the internationalist Communists proposed to the Comintern that it mobilize the masses of the capitalist countries to bring pressure on the capitalist governments to grant the credits, by this means to assist the Russian workers in building up the economy of the country and to relieve their own situation through the employment trade with Russia would create. The C.I. – think of it! – denounced the idea as counter-revolutionary and went hat in hand to the capitalist governments.

Today the C.I. which has no real existence cannot mobilize the masses for a revolutionary struggle to assist the Soviet Union. The Marxists must do it without and against the C.I. That is the duty of the League and all those working class organizations which really mean to defend the Soviet Union, and especially of those which declare for the revolution internationally and in the U.S.

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