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John G. Wright

USSR Scores First Major Victory
in Rostov Battle

But Fate of Soviet Union Still Depends on
Adoption of Policy of Revolutionary War

(6 December 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 49, 6 December 1941, pp. 1 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The recapture of Rostov by the Red Army – the first victory for the Soviet Union and the first major reverse for the Nazis in this war – is most welcome news to every friend and defender of the workers state. A position of great strategic importance has been regained. Rostov, gateway to the Caucasian oilfields, commands Soviet pipe lines supplying the Red Army and the industries with indispensable fuel, and is the pivot of the southern front.

This victory gives the Red Army forces a much-needed opportunity for restoring the gravely weakened southern front; it has undoubtedly dealt a blow to the morale of the German troops, and, conversely, raised the confidence of the Red soldiers and the Soviet masses; it will inspire the heroic fighters in the occupied countries to greater action and initiative; and it indicates that it is not yet too late, despite the terrible losses and defeats of the first five months of the war, to save the Soviet Union from destruction.

But it would be a fatal illusion and of no service to the defense of the USSR – to believe that now the tide has definitively turned in favor of the Red Army.

The Nazis still hold an enormous preponderance on the military arena. Despite their reverse at Rostov, the Nazi drive to encircle Moscow has not been lessened but intensified. The advances in the Klin and Volokolamsk areas, admitted by the Kremlin, imperil still further Moscow’s lines of communications and supply. Only three such supply routes are now actually open, Leningrad remains besieged, and the recent Nazi advance in the Tikhvin area endangers not only Leningrad itself but also Moscow, since Tikhvin is directly on the road to Vologda, the capture of which would cut a vital supply route to the capital.

Illuminating Admission

One of the most significant aspects of the Rostov victory is the admission by the German General Staff that the workers of the city played a crucial role in driving back the invading troops. Far from conquering the city, the invaders had entered a living inferno – the flames of the Revolution, which is still alive, were licking at their heels. It is hardly surprising that the German High Command pours out its venom at these workers; that it resorts to bestial threats of “reprisals against the city’s civilian population.”

It is equally understandable why the Nazi propaganda agencies suddenly dropped this “excuse” for the retreat from Rostov, and produced a different alibi. Nothing is more dangerous to Hitler than this news that the revolutionary workers of Rostov have stripped his military machine of its myth of invincibility in which the Nazi propaganda machine has so long sought to envelop it. Once again history is reaffirming the greatest lesson of all, namely, that the key to the whole situation in the Soviet Union as in Europe, Germany and the whole world is in the hands of the workers themselves.

What is necessary to spread the victory of Red Rostov to the entire front, and, above all, to Hitler’s rear?

There is only one way, and that is by returning to the policy and methods of revolutionary war employed by the Soviet masses under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky in the days of the Civil War and imperialist intervention. The Red Army was victorious then because the soldiers openly fought under the banner of socialism and international solidarity; because the Soviets, representing the workers and peasants functioned democratically behind the lines; because the revolutionary propaganda disintegrated the morale of the enemy armies.

The German High Command who have not forgotten how their Ukrainian armies of occupation were “poisoned by the virus of Bolshevism” must tremble at even the thought of a repetition of that struggle and strategy on their armies today.

Stalin’s greatest crime is his rejection of this policy of revolutionary war in favor of a policy of dependence on aid from the “democratic” imperialists.

What Holds German Soldiers Back

As long as the bulk of the German army continues to believe that only another Versailles Treaty, or something far worse, is in store for them in event of defeat, they will continue to support the war. Stalin’s policies enable the Nazi leaders to tell the German masses that the workers state and the British Empire are one in their war aims to crush Germany. Goebbels is able to hammer away at this point at the moment when the German generals are trying to reform the ranks of their southern armies and to bring up reinforcements. Even now as the crucial battle for Moscow continues unabated, the main weapon of the German High Command in whipping up the spirit of the soldiers is this threat of what will happen to the German people at the hands of the imperialists if the German armies are defeated.

In this way the effect of the. Rostov defeat upon the morale of the German troops is in large measure dissipated. Naturally, military defeats are bound to have repercussions, the soldiers begin to think and the seeds of doubt are planted. But only an appeal to the German workers and soldiers, pledging them solidarity and support in their struggle against Hitler and the German ruling class, pledging them aid in the struggle against “democratic” imperialists, and against another Versailles, can have the necessary explosive effect on the German masses.

Stalin Surrenders This Weapon

Stalin has surrendered this decisive weapon in return for promises of aid from Churchill and Roosevelt. What these promises amount to were shown in Churchill’s recent statement that Stalin can expect no military aid from Britain until possibly 1943. This means – as we have persistently pointed out – that the Soviet Union with its admitted shortage of tanks and aircraft, can depend only on the aid of the revolutionary masses of Germany and Europe.

With Stalin’s policies and the Stalinist leadership the Rostov victory, inspiring as it is, can remain only an episode.

If the necessary steps are taken, if the policy of revolutionary war and revolutionary appeal to the European masses is adopted, the victory at Rostov could immediately be utilized for the turning point in the war.

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