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John G. Wright

Why We Oppose Stalin’s Foreign Policy

(August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34, 23 August 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In recent weeks the Kremlin has concluded a number of agreements with the camp of the “democratic” imperialists; one with Churchill; another with the “Czechoslovak Government in Exile”; and, on July 30, with the “Polish Government in Exile.” And now a Three Power Pact, that is, an alliance with Roosevelt and Churchill against Germany and Japan, is in the making.

Trotskyist views are gaining such sympathy among American workers that the local Stalinists in addition to slandering us are compelled once more to lie about our position in order to “refute” it. To believe the Daily Worker, what the Trotskyists oppose are the practical aspects or Stalin’s foreign policy, i.e., the fact that the Kremlin arrives at agreements with this or that camp of the contending imperialist bandits.

No, we did not oppose this in the past; we do not oppose it now. We are in favor of the Soviet government grabbing with both hands the greatest amount of material aid from its imperialist allies. Nor do we hold that practical concessions made to London or Washington constitute in and of themselves an indictment of the Kremlin.

We would not for a moment deny to the Soviet government, although headed by Stalin, the right to utilize every rift among the imperialists. Lenin taught us that the proletariat must know how to analyze and utilize every contradiction in the camp of its enemies. The proletariat in power must do so in relation to its external enemies; the workers who are trying to rid themselves of the exploiters must proceed similarly in relation to their internal enemies.

Lenin And Trotsky – Revolutionary Realists

In the Infantile Disease of Leftism Lenin explained:

“... To refuse beforehand to tack and veer in one’s course and to make good use of antagonisms (no matter how temporary) between the interests of one’s enemies; to reject agreements and compromises with possible allies (no matter how temporary, vacillating and adventitious) – isn’t that too ridiculous for words?”

The position which Lenin characterized as ridiculous is the position which the Daily Worker tries to ascribe to us, whereas, in point of fact, we reject it as false, and as having nothing in common with Marxism.

The question of relations between the Soviet state and its imperialist environment is, in essence, – as Trotsky pointed out time and again – a question of the relation of forces. The weaker is the position of the USSR, all the more necessary are alliances.

Nothing is altered fundamentally by the fact that Stalin’s ruinous policies have led to the weakening of the international position of the Soviet Union to the advantage of imperialism. That is true. But the consequences, of these Stalinist, policies are independent of Moscow’s will and cannot be dismissed arbitrarily. There is no withdrawing from an unfavorable situation merely by ignoring it or wishing it away. One must always take the existing relation of forces as the starting point.

Lenin and Trotsky never hesitated to undertake measures dictated by necessity. Thus, because of extremely unfavorable circumstances, they agreed to make onerous concessions to German imperialism at .Brest-Litovsk in 1918. In the early days of the Civil War, the Bolsheviks were prepared to make equally onerous concessions to Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau.

Far from denying the Soviet Government the right to make alliances with imperialists, our movement has from the beginning pointed out that Stalin’s policies – above all, the theory and practice of “Socialism in one country” – drove the USSR into a position which made such alliances unavoidable. In 1934 Trotsky wrote:

“In the existing situation an alliance of the USSR with an imperialist state or with one imperialist combination against another, in case of war, cannot at all be considered as excluded. Under the pressure of circumstances, a temporary alliance of this kind may become an iron necessity ...” (War and the Fourth International)

Marxism never departs from the ground of revolutionary realism. In the past we broke unhesitatingly with all those who associated themselves with ridiculous and contrary views.

Stalin Repeats the Treachery of the Second International

Today as yesterday, what we oppose in Stalin’s foreign policy is this, that in utilizing the contradictions between imperialist governments, he goes beyond practical concessions and makes political concessions, or, more correctly, capitulates completely to his current imperialist ally. In return for practical concessions, Stalin barters the political interests of the USSR and of the world labor movement. Such was the case in the period of the Stalin-Laval pact and of People’s Fronts, it was the same with the Stalin-Hitler pact; it is the same today with regard to agreements with Roosevelt and Churchill.

The contradictions between rival imperialists must be utilized in no other way than from the viewpoint of the fundamental interests of the Soviet Union and of the world working class. It is impermissible to sacrifice these interests for the sake of practical agreements and temporary benefits. Yet this has been Stalin’s policy. In return for material aid, the Kremlin now supports the program of Roosevelt and Churchill, and calls upon the American and English workers to follow suit. This is treachery. To be an unconscious dupe in this treachery is the greatest ignominy.

Lenin and Trotsky never sacrificed – as do Stalin and all his lackeys – the program of Bolshevism , for the sake of partial and temporary, advantages. Soviet diplomacy, under Lenin and Trotsky always, took into account the public opinion of the world proletariat. The Kremlin never does. The Bolsheviks always explained not only the meaning and expediency of alliances with imperialists but also the dangers. They called things by their right names. When the perfidious German Socialists voted for the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, under the pretext that, after all, the Soviet government had “wanted it,” had “agreed to it,” “needed it,” etc:, Lenin branded them for what they were – traitors to the working class. The Soviet government, he pointed out, had no choice, but to accept, as a practical measure, the terms of the Kaiser’s High Command, whose military boot was on the, neck of the young Soviet republic.

The German Socialists, on the other hand, were free, as spokesmen for the German workers, to expose the program of German imperialism and to wage an irreconcilable struggle against it. Instead, these scoundrels gave political support to the class enemy. They voted for the Brest-Litovsk Treaty in the Reichstag, with “reservations.” It is not hard to guess how Lenin and Trotsky would have characterized the conduct of “communist” parties who cite material aid as justification for their support – without reservation – of every one of the Kremlin’s political capitulations to “democratic” imperialists.

The latest diplomatic moves, in which the imperialists use the USSR as a cover, are a preparation for a new Versailles, not only for Europe but for Asia. Roosevelt and Churchill present their demands. Stalin accepts them, acclaims them and lies about them. The Kremlin and all its foreign agencies cannot tell the truth for in that case it would be impossible to curry favor with the “democratic” allies by supporting their imperialist war.

How the Stalinists Help the Imperialists

The Daily Worker, on Moscow’s orders, hails even a Sikorsky, this anti-Semitic, fascist-minded representative of the blood-stained Polish gentry, as a reliable defender of the Soviet Union, a champion in the struggle for democracy and against fascism, and so forth and so on. Ten years ago, in 1931, Stalin could find no slander more vicious to fling at Trotsky than the charge that he, Trotsky, was an ally of Poland, and Pilsudsky.

Today, when Stalin is allied with Sikorky’s “Poland,” the Soviet people and the American workers are not even reminded that another Sikorsky was Pilsudsky’s Minister of War, when the latter in an alliance with Anglo-French imperialism, and with Churchill’s blessings, struck at the Soviet Union, after all other attempts of the counter-revolution had been beaten back by the Red Army, under Trotsky.

The Churchills and the Sikorskys have not changed their nature. Gven a favorable opportunity, they would like nothing better than to pit another Polish army against the Red Army. For all of Stalin’s “favors,” Churchill, Roosevelt and Co. remain as hostile to the USSR as they always were.

Meanwhile the masses are lulled with illusions. Each time they are caught unawares. The enemy is free to choose his own time and place for striking. The blows which this or that camp of the imperialists is thus able to deal the USSR, are redoubled in force.

Yesterday’s “reliable” ally becomes the “treacherous” enemy of today. Not because events have suddenly introduced unexpected and extraordinary changes into the situation, but because. Stalin always capitulates politically to temporary, unreliable, and treacherous allies whom the Kremlin itself camouflages and glorifies. The end result is always the same – another blow, another defeat, another catastrophe for the world working class.

It is against these Stalinist lies, this Stalinist treachery – concentrated in its foreign policy – and against the terrible dangers which they conceal that we conduct our fight. We raise our voices in warning: The first prerequisite for the successful defense of the USSR is a complete break with Stalinism.

Last updated: 28 May 2016