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Jack Weber

Stalin Is Now Groping Around for a New Line

(May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 19, 10 May 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On the eve of the war, Stalin and Blum, the Comintern and the Second International, were in a “People’s Front,” with each other and with the “democratic” bourgeoisie. In line with the Franco-Soviet pact, Stalin had placed the Third International at the service of Anglo-French imperialism. The Second International was already in that service.

However, Stalin suddenly switched at the very outbreak of the Second World War, assumed a position of “neutrality” and withdrew the Comintern from its support of “democratic” as against “fascist” imperialism. Relying on the proverbial shortness of memory of mankind, Stalin tried to lay the entire blame for war-mongering on the Second International and virtuously broke collaboration with it.

But if the war-mongering of the Second International and the actual development of the war gave that already bankrupt organization the final coup de grace, the cynical and perfidious actions of Stalin alienated the entire world proletariat from the Soviet Union. This is particularly true of the European workers who suffer directly the full consequences of the victories of Hitler.

More than ever before, Stalin needs working class forces outside the Soviet Union which he can use for his foreign diplomacy as pawns in the game of bargaining: With each fascist victory the isolation of the Soviet Union grows more menacing to its existence, Stalin would like to be able to scare Hitler by means of the working class of Europe, so as to prevent his turning on Russia. But bluff alone will not do in this game. The sudden appearance of the German Communist Youth manifesto in the Swedish Communist, organ, calling for the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war in Germany, was intended not so much for bluffing Hitler, as for fooling the working class. Stalin thinks he can once more rally the revolutionary workers under his banner with this bait.

Stalin’s New Line in France

In France, the Stalinists have started systematic propaganda to win over the social democratic workers. How is this to be done under the chaotic conditions and the military rule of Hitler? Why, by the revival of the old Third Period policy of the united front – from below! The Communist International for October 1940 tells us:

“The bolts that kept the masses riveted to the, bourgeois regime (that is, the Social Democratic parties) have been broken and the social democratic masses are now so situated that the question of what is to be done becomes ever more urgent with them ... At this point the Communists in a comradely way address their Social Democratic class brothers to tell them that there is only one way out of the situation to which their leaders have brought them – the formation of a united front from below.”

What is the purpose of this move? It has two purposes, both related to each other. In France the bourgeois regime lies, in ruins. Only the forces of Hitler prevent its complete collapse. Only the German military dictatorship, and not that of the senile Petain, keeps the workers in check. What will happen later? A real revolution would be as menacing to Stalin as to Hitler. Stalin would like to be able to control any movement among the workers so as to steer it in accordance with his own reactionary interests, Above all he is afraid, and with the best of cause, that the French workers will be polarized around the Fourth International. Hence he will use the entire resources of the powerful Soviet bureaucracy to gain control of the French movement.

What would Stalin do with such control if once it could be achieved? His real purpose would be to demonstrate his usefulness to the bourgeoisie. and to Hitler once more. But if worst comes to worst and he must play a last card, then Stalin would not be averse to an adventure in France to divert attention away from Russia, or to force the imperialists to make peace and to leave Russia alone. We are told in another article in the Communist International that social democracy “wants to force the masses to accept but one alternative, the victory of either one or the other imperialism, as if the world contained only imperialists and not also peoples, hundreds of millions of human beings, that can rise up in arms to put an end to the war in their own way and in their own interests,”

The Stalinists cry everywhere “Stop the War!” The Russian proletariat and the peasants stopped the last war by resorting to revolution. Short of revolution there can be no such thing as a “people’s” peace for which the Stalinists clamor. In reality they want a negotiated peace on any terms so that the war will stop – or so they hope – before Russia is dragged into it. Whoever takes seriously the idea that the Stalinists could or would prepare the working class for revolution, or could or would lead a really revolutionary struggle against imperialism, has learned nothing from the terrible defeats brought on the workers by Stalinism. But that Stalin, as a last desperate measure might try an adventure against Hitler – that is not only not excluded, but is a distinct possibility.

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