Felix Morrow

Can Workers Accept Molotoff’s Explanation?

(7 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 87, 7 November 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Soviet press, echoed by the Stalinist press throughout the world, is complaining bitterly that the Anglo-French-American capitalists and press are attempting to “poison relations” between the Soviet Union and Finland and the other Baltic countries. A Moscow radio broadcast of Nov. 3 went further: it accused “certain powers” – obviously the “democratic” bloc” – of egging Finland into a war against the Soviet Union.

It is certainly true that the American press is being inspired by the Roosevelt government to beat the drums for war against the USSR. In the City of Flint incident, in the comment on Molotoff’s speech, the retort of the White House, etc., it is clear that Washington is deliberately inciting a hostile attitude toward the Soviet Union, and Washington is, of course, acting in concert with the British and French empires.

The “democratic” incitement against the Soviet Union is a fact and a fact which should cause us to treat with the greatest skepticism all comment in the American press on the relations of the Soviet Union with Finland. But this fact does not exhaust the question. We have at hand, not only “democratic” comment, but also Soviet statements, notably Molotoff’s speech of Oct. 31, reviewing foreign affairs before the “Supreme Soviet.”

The Stalinist regime today asserts it claim to the support of the masses of the world in all questions, including the Finnish, on the ground that it defends the interests of the toilers of the world. The Soviet press suddenly reminds us that the demands on Finland are motivated by the need for defending “Leningrad, the cradle of the Socialist revolution.”

Today as always, we are prepared to defend the cradle of the Socialist revolution! But is that the motivation of Stalinist foreign policy?

What Is the Record of Stalin’s Policy?

Stalinist foreign policy is, like all foreign policy, a continuation of its internal politics. We have characterized both its internal and external policy over many years as a policy serving the interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy and not the interests of the Soviet masses and the world working class.

When the Stalinists say they are defending the cradle of the Socialist revolution, the blood of those who made the revolution and were murdered by Stalin cries out in protest. When the Stalinists say they are defending the interests of the world toilers, millions of martyrs give them the lie: the revolutionists they murdered in Spain, the French working class which they shackled to its “own” bourgeoisie in the Peoples Front, the Chinese masses whom they delivered twice! – to Chiang-Kai-Shek, the American workers whom they taught to swear by Roosevelt, etc., etc. The entire record of the Stalinist bureaucracy confounds their belated claim that they are acting in the interests of the world toilers!

The Stalinist bureaucracy comes before the court of proletarian public opinion with unclean hands. Never mind what the democratic imperialists are saying – that scarcely explains why millions of workers throughout the world, who are irreconcilably hostile to their “own” bourgeoisie, do not accept the Stalinist version of the annexation of Western Poland, and view with the greatest suspicion the Stalinist moves in the Baltic.

Molotoff’s speech motivated the demands on Finland on the need for increasing the security of Leningrad. He denied any claims against Sweden and Norway, emphasized how modest the claims against Finland are, that compensation is provided for – in the way of land cessions, disarming the Soviet-Finnish frontier on the Karelian isthmus, improved economic relations, etc. – and an assurance that Finland’s independence will in no way be impaired.

Can the Finnish workers, or the revolutionary workers of the world, accept Molotoff’s version of the Finnish situation at its face value?

They cannot. The Kremlin has forfeited the right to the trust of the workers. We need not recapitulate its reactionary course of the last fifteen years to demonstrate that. We have only to refer to the most recent event – the invasion of Western Poland.

What did the Kremlin ask the workers to do in connection with Poland?

Molotoff’s Promises – Second Chapter

On Aug. 23, the day the Stalin-Hitler pact was signed, the Stalinists promised support of Poland against Hitler and called upon the workers to do likewise:

“The people of Poland, whose national independence is in imminent danger from the threats of fascist aggression. and Chamberlain’s appeasement schemes, now as before realize the firm position of the Soviet Union in uncompromising support for their freedom, and independence. And as they gather their strength to resist the fascist threats and to defend their national independence, this support will be continued and further strengthened.

“It is also clear that by entering into these negotiations for the conclusion of a pact of non-aggression with Germany, the Soviet Union is seriously weakening Hitler’s hold upon the German people.

“... The Polish people will be further encouraged to resist both the threats of fascist aggression and the underhanded conspiracies of the Municheers.” (Daily Worker, Aug. 23, 1939.)

The Kremlin lied when it made these promises. It did nothing to strengthen the struggle of Poland against Germany. The Stalin-Hitler pact, far from encouraging Polish resistance, undermined it. The Polish people got “uncompromising support for their freedom and independence” in the form of a Red Army invading Poland in collaboration with Hitler’s army. Forgetting what had been said on Aug. 23 – more exactly, cynically putting it aside – Molotoff boasted in his Oct. 31 speech: “One swift blow to Poland, first by the German Army and then by the Red Army, and nothing was left ...”

Thus did the Kremlin fulfill the promises it had made and which it had asked the world working class to underwrite!

But this is not the whole story.

When the Red Army began to march into Poland, repudiating all the previous promises made by the Kremlin, Molotoff made new promises. In his radio speech to the Russian people explaining the reasons for the occupation of the Ukrainian and Byelo-Russian provinces, Molotoff said, as a concluding point to justify the Red Army’s march:

“At the same time, the Soviet government intends to deliver the Polish people from the disastrous war into which they have been plunged by their unwise leaders and to give them the opportunity to live a life of peace.” (Daily Worker, Sept. 18, 1939)

This promise, solemnly made to the Polish people by Molotoff, was obviously meant to assure them that the Red army was not marching. In collaboration with the German Army. It was meant to assure the Polish soldiers in the western provinces that, if they yielded to the Red Army and surrendered their arms, it would not mean that the Polish people would be delivered up to Hitler. Press dispatches in those days reported that surrendering Polish soldiers thought the Red Army was marching against Hitler, and that Red Army soldiers also thought so.

More Broken Promises

How were his listeners and the Polish people supposed to understand Molotoff’s words? He was promising that the Soviet Union “intends to take every measure” to give the Polish people “the opportunity to live a life of peace,” Could the premier of the government of the “Workers Fatherland” mean anything but what the words indicated? Certainly he could not have meant to define “the opportunity to live a life of peace” as – life under Hitler’s boot! Those who listened and heeded his words did not believe that that is what his words mean. If that is what he meant, he could have said it.

That promise was, however, not repeated after the occupation of the Western provinces. It is not repeated, or even hinted at, in Molotoff’s speech of Oct. 31. On the contrary, the speech is a pro-German speech, calling upon the workers of the world to take as good coin Hitler’s offer of “peace,” saying not a word about the imperialist aims of the Hitler regime but, on the contrary, laying the entire blame for continuation of the war on the democratic imperialists. Hitler is whitewashed, including his annexation of Poland. After this string of broken promises in connection with Poland, Molotoff calls upon the workers of the world to accept his version of the Finnish situation. Can the workers accept it? They cannot.

Stalinism Cannot Defend the Soviet Union

We, the Fourth Internationalists, today as before, stand ready to defend the cradle of the Socialist revolution. We stand ready to defend the economic conquests of the October Revolution, the nationalized property wrested from the capitalist world.

We defend it, however, not at the bidding of Stalin-Molotoff, nor on their pretexts, nor by their methods, nor for their reasons. They seek only to preserve their rule. We, on the contrary, seek the destruction of their rule, for if they continue for long to dominate the Soviet Union, the first workers’ state is doomed. Only the proletarian revolution in the West can save the Soviet Union. And in the proletarian revolution, the Stalinists stand on the other side of the barricades.

Complete political and organizational independence of the world proletariat from the Soviet bureaucracy – that is the first step in the defense of the Soviet Union and the proletarian revolution.

Last updated on 19 April 2018