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John G. Wright

Red Army Wins Victories
with Armed Workers Aid

Worker Detachments Helped to Drive
the German Armies Back on All Fronts

(10 January 1942)

From The Militant, Vol 6 No. 2, 10 January 1942, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Red Armies continue to advance along the entire front. In several sectors the German armies have been driven back more than 100 miles.

For a period of five months the Red Army had known nothing but defeats and grave reverses. Vast areas and strategic centers had been yielded to the enemy. The losses in equipment and manpower were staggering. Yet precisely at the moment when it seeiiied that nothing could stem the onward surge of the Nazi armies, the tide suddenly turned.

The troops which had been so badly beaten in the entire preceding period proved capable not only of withstanding the largest offensive yet launched against them, but of assuming the initial tive themselves. For more than a month the Red Army has been scoring a series of successes along the entire 2,000 mile front. To our knowledge, such a. development had not been foreseen by anyone.

The Nazi High Command in addition to blaming the severity of Russian winter, the difficulty of maintaining long lines of communication, etc., acknowledges that the enemy had proved far stronger than realized. The opinion of the Allied experts coincides by and large with the Get man alibis.

The Kremlin, after a period of reticence which is an ample commentary of its own astonishment, has finally dared to advance its own ritualitistic explanation, to wit, – that the successes are entirely due to Stalin and his “military genius.” Thus, if the Red Army advanced in the Stalino-gorsk area, it was because Stalin had called the headquarters in that region on the telephone. Stalin “personally planned and directed the operations” which led to the encirclement of the Nazis in the Solnechnogorsk area, northwest of Moscow. (Daily Worker, Jan. 4). Similarly, in the case of Crimea.

Dispatches from Moscow or Kuibyshev, which are issued by the official Stalinist agency TASS but which appear abroad as Associated Press or United Press dispatches, contain an ever increasing number of “announcements” that the victories are the fruit of Stalin’s “personal planning.” The interesting thing about these ritualistic and ridiculous boasts is not that Stalin is being credited with successes but rather that he is given credit for so little, and furthermore only for victories in the most recent period.

But whatever their source, the tenor of the explanations, is the same – in every case the answer in sought on the military arena alone. Naturally, climatic conditions, length of lines of communication, etc., play an important role in military activities. But they are not at all decisive.

Thus, during the Finnisn Invasion in 1939–1940 the Soviet troops had very short lines of communication and yet were unable to advance against a foe vastly inferior to the German Army. We might point out in passing that Stalin’s ‘genius’ was as available then as it is now to the Red Army, but, for some reason, it failed to, manifest ttSbit then any more than it did throughout the first five months of the present war.

What the Masses Are Fighting For

We explain the victories in exactly the same way that we explained the stubborn resistance of the Soviet soldiers and masses prior to the latest phase. What we are witnessing on tnb Soviet battlefields is a revolutionary war being fought by the masses in the straitjacket of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The Red soldier, the Soviet worker and peasant are demonstrating on the battlefields the unyielding courage and incentive of those fighting to protect the conquests of the October revolution of 1917. In defending the first workers state in history, they have really Something to fight for. There is no ruling class of capitalists to sabotage and betray the struggle.

The events which are occuring in wartime in the USSR are taking place under conditions and against a background without precedent in any other country in the world. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the tremendous resurgence of the Soviet masses Since the outbreak of the war.

Arming of the Workers

One of the manifestations of this resurgence is the arming of the population, especially the workers in the large cities. From the columns of the official Moscow press it is clear that the initiative for this arming, the formation of workers’ detachments and the institution of universal military training (which went into effect October 1, 1941) did not originate at the top. As early as last August large workers’ detachments were formed and they have since participated very actively in the War.

It is by no means accidental that the German armies suffered their first decisive defeats when they reached Rostov, Leningrad and Moscow where the largest of these detachments participated directly in the defense. While this is featured in the Moscow press, the Kremlin carefully deletes all reference in dispatches abroad to the role of these proletarian militias who fight hot as guerrillas behind the lines, but coordinate their activities with those of the regular troops.

In other words the Red Armv has been reinforced by an armed population, above all in the cities. In the last few months, the Red Army ranks have added millions of new soldiers. Parallel with this, changes have likewise taken place in the officer corps.

In the Officers’ Ranks

Among the ranking officers singled out for praise in the recent dispatches, the overwhelming majority are newcomers. Hardly a day now passes without a large number of new appointments and promotions. in the space of the last three months literally thousands of generals and tens of thousands of colonels, majors, captains and lieutenants have risen to replace the former incumbents. Among these newcomers there are unquestionably many men who have actually distinguished themselves in battle, have shown real ability, and have gained the confidence of the soldiers. Obviously a hew selection is taking place among the cadres of officers. And this selection cannot be confined like the previous ones exclusively within the framework of the Kremlin’s political needs and considerations.

From the columns of the official Stalinist press it is possible to adduce a great many striking instances of the growth of the initiative and confidence among the masses themselves. We comfine ourselveb herb to the fact that the gag law of July 3, 1941 has remained unenforced. This law, as the readers of The Militant will recall, is aimed hot against real spies and diver sioiiists, but against all Soviet citizens who violate the Kremlin’s prohibition of discussing the war or the conditions behind the lines. Any one who expresses doubts, criticisms or dissatisfaction is guilty of a crime punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison.

Pravda’s Complaint

On September 27, 1941, Pravda complained bitterly:

“We have not yet rooted out in our ranks a liberal and tolerant attitude toward ‘whisperers’ ahd others who disseminate false rumors.. There are not a few people, among them Communists, who are quite capable of listening calmly in a street car or in a store to twaddle which is essentially provocationist in nature. They do not at all deem it. necessary to interrupt and to call the disseminator of false news, to account. Nor have our courts really gotten down to business – Soviet society has still to hear about sentences meted out to those who are spreading provocationist rumors” (Pravda, Sept. 27, 1941).

The July 6 ukase is an integral part of the Kremlin’s current campaign against “spies and diversionists.” Naturally, no news of this is permitted to leak out abroad where it would prove very embarrassing – to say the least – to those who are now trying to explain away the Moscow Trials as having really extirpated the “Fifth Column.” The Kremlin’s admission that this iikase could not be enforced is proof of the growing confidence and self-action of the masses. Obviously only Stalinism is capable of pretending that fascist agents, spies, diversionists and their assistants are carrying on their activities in the open, and are actually obtaining help, sympathy and cover among the Soviet masses.

It is this mass resurgence that constitutes the major force behind the Soviet victories. In their turn these victories act directly to further strengthen the initiative and self-action of the masses.

Attempts to Divert Workers’ Resurgence

While speeding up the processes of regeneration, the war is at the same time accelerating the degeneration of the bureaucracy. The Kremlin is doing everything in its power to divert this resurgence iiito the most reactionary channels. A United Press dispatch front Kuibyshev for January 2 reports that the Red Star, the official organ of the Red Army, has removed from its masthead “the Marxist slogan ‘Proletarians of All Countries Unite!’ and substituted the battle cry, ‘Death to the German Invaders!’” (New York Times, January 5). The Kremlin is in mortal terror lest the Red soldiers and officers – the bulk of its readers – become infected with the spirit of international proletarian solidarity!

So long as the bureaucracy Continues in power, the terrible threat remains that the great resurgence of the Soviet masses will be dissipated. The policies of Stalinism do more to nullify the effects of victories than any possible military preparations of the German General Staff. Soviet victories bring into an even sharper focus the fact that the salvation of the USSR depends upon the growing initiative and self-action of the masses combined with a struggle agaihst the reactionary policies of Stalinism and for a return to the revolutionary program of the first workers’ state.


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