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John G. Wright

Why USSR Gets So Few Prisoners

(24 January 1942)

From The Militant, Vol 6 No. 4, 24 January 1942, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The official dispatches issued by the Kremlin in connection with the recent Soviet victories have been marked by reticences on many significant aspects of the struggle. Very remarkable, for example, is the dearth of information concerning the number of captured German soldiers.

Communique after communique lists the number of captured tanks, cars, guns, etc., together with the estimated number of German soldiers killed or wounded, but has nothing to say about the number of those who surrendered. This has been naturally accepted to mean that there have been comparatively few such surrenders.

The Soviet Bureau of Information has at last officially confirmed this fact. “Until recently,” said the Soviet bureau, “in many cases the German soldiers, despite the proposals of the Soviet command refused to surrender” (Daily Worker, Jan. 19).

Why have the German soldiers refused to accept the “proposals of the Soviet command” to give up a hopeless struggle? Why have the Soviet armies had to pay the costly price of such last ditch resistance?

An answer to this question has obviously an important bearing on the current as well as the future course of the struggle on the military arena. The Soviet Bureau of Information evades answering this question directly, but offers instead the purported explanation of the German soldiers themselves.

“German war prisoners declare that refusal to surrender is explained exclusively by the fact that the German officers shoot down all soldiers who give themselves up to the Soviet troops” (idem).

This explanation, if it means anything at all, is simply an affirmation that the discipline of the German army remains unbroken, despite the recent defeats, even at times when the soldiers are completely surrounded and know that the struggle is a hopeless one.

In other words, the much pulicized propaganda of the Kremlin, all its “appeals,” etc., to the German soldiers to turn against Hitler, have not had the slightest effect thus far in separating the rank and file of the German army from the officer corps.

Stalin Blocks the Road

By passing on this “explanation” of the German prisoners, the Kremlin is in reality unconsciously providing incontestable proof of its own political bankruptcy.

Far from offering the German soldiers and the German people a real way out of the war, the Stalinists are actually blocking that road. At the same time, these Stalinist policies are proving very costly to the Red Army and the Soviet Union even in the course of military victories.

There is only one political appeal that can or will meet with genuine response on the part of the German soldiers – and this is a summons for a revolutionary struggle against Hitlerism.

But this summons, in its turn, can have a meaning only in connection with a joint struggle for the establishment of the Socialist

United States of Europe. Stalinism bars this road. The Kremlin fears to advance such slogans as that of fraternization between he Soviet and German soldiers. It dares not breathe a word about socialism.

Among the Soviet masses the memory is still alive of the development of events during the Civil War of 1918–1920. They have not forgotten that in the course of this bitterest class struggle, the ranks of the enemy were disintegrated by the propaganda of the party of Lenin and Trotsky.

The very course of events must pose more and more insistently in the minds of Soviet soldiers and the Soviet masses, the difference between the policies of the leadership at that time, and the leadership today. Furthermore the price that they are paying for the Stalinist leadership is being brought more and more closely home.

In this way does the contradiction between the regime and the needs of the country and of the masses manifest itself in every important sphere.


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