Felix Morrow

Molotov Speech Shows Kremlin
Seeks to Regain Middle Ground

Softer Tone Adopted Toward Allies and a Cooler One Toward Hitler

(6 April 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 14, 6 April 1940, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2019. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

A comparison of Molotov’s March 29 speech on foreign policy to the Supreme Soviet with his speech on the same subject to the same body five months ago provides some significant contrasts.

The most significant changes are those in the tone employed toward Germany on the one hand and toward the Allies and the United States on the other.

In his Oct. 31, 1939 speech Molotov devoted a good third of his time to indicting the Allies as responsible for the war and whitewashing Germany; he cited the persecutions of the French Communists, “the curtailing of political liberties in England, the unremitting national oppression in India,” the Allies’ “profoundly material interests as mighty colonial powers ... which make possible the exploitation of hundreds of millions of people,” their “fear of losing world supremacy that dictates to the ruling circles of Great Britain and France the policy of fomenting war with Germany,” etc. Roosevelt’s intercession with Kalinin on behalf of Finland was answered with a sharp reference to the United States’ oppression of the Philippines and Cuba. Turkey’s treaties with the Allies were termed “entering the orbit’ of the developing European war,” and there was more than a hint of threat in Molotov’s query “whether Turkey will not come to regret it ...”

Very different is the tone in the latest speech. It is true that it says the Allies “declared war on Germany under the pretext of fulfilling their obligations toward Poland” and calls it a war to dismember Germany; but this is done in a sentence or two and there are no more references to the dictatorial methods of the democratic-imperialists at home or in the colonies. Despite the rich proof at his disposal, Molotov’s indictment of the anti-Soviet role of the Allies in Finland is couched in extremely calm, even defensive terms. There are no further tart remarks about American imperialism; instead, an offer to increase imports from the U.S. if American authorities do not put obstacles in the way. The tone toward Turkey does not repeat any note of reproof but instead points to the existing nonaggression pact. Rumania, unmentioned five months ago, is assured “there are no grounds for any deterioration in Soviet-Rumanian relations.”

Even the gathering Anglo-French colonial armies under Weygand in the Near East, plainly a move unfriendly to the Soviet Union, and which if the Kremlin so desired could be the peg on which to hang an all-embracing indictment of the Allies, is merely the subject of a single paragraph in which, naturally enough, the Soviet Union is stated to be exercising vigilance and prepared for counter-measures. This is further softened by a declaration that “the fantastic plans attributed to the Soviet Union of a Red Army ‘March on India,’ ‘March on the East’ and the like ... are such obvious absurdities that one must completely lose his senses to believe such absurd lies.”

No More Boasts of German Alliance

What makes even clearer the contrast in the tone of the two speeches is to add to the differences enumerated above those concerning Germany. In the speech five months ago the Hitler- Stalin pact was declared “bound to have its effect on the entire international situation ... Here development has proceeded along the line of strengthening our friendly relations, extending our practical cooperation and rendering Germany political support in her efforts for peace.” Collaboration between the German and Red armies in Poland was boastfully described: “one swift blow to Poland, first by the German Army and then by the Red Army, and nothing was left of this ugly offspring of the Versailles treaty ...”

Molotov even went so far then as to declare “that a strong Germany is an indispensable condition for a durable peace in Europe.” Those who wish otherwise fail to see that their attempt “may end in disaster for them.”

Nothing comparable to these statements is contained in Molotov’s latest speech. There is a perfunctory reference to the “new, good relations” with Germany, which “have been tested in practice in connection with events in former Poland, and their strength has been sufficiently proved.” But this is skillfully belittled by this significant passage:

“Attempts have been made to justify these hostile acts (of the Allies) toward our foreign trade on the grounds that by trading with Germany we are helping her in the war against England and France.

“It does not take much to see that these arguments are not worth a brass farthing. One has only to compare the USSR with, say, Rumania. It is known that Rumania’s trade with Germany makes up half of her total foreign trade and that moreover the share of her national production in Rumania’s exports to Germany, for example, of such basic commodities as oil production and grain, far exceeds the share of its national production in the Soviet Union’s exports to Germany.”

It is a far cry, this belittling of Soviet-German trade, from the boastful declarations in the speech five months ago.

Unmentioned in the earlier speech, Italy comes in for some sharp blows now. In addition to a denunciation of Italy’s support of Finland, the speech goes to considerable length, apropos of a contrast between Anglo-French policy in Finland and Albania, in denouncing “Italy’s predatory action in forcibly subjugating Albania without the least regard for its population of over a million people.” This, coming at the moment when the Nazi rulers of Germany are attempting to secure an agreement between Italy and the USSR, on policy in the’ Balkans to shut out the Allies, is a plain indication that the Nazis are not having success in getting Stalin harnessed in a tandem team with Mussolini.

Result of Finnish Events

It appears obvious that the change in tone is the result of the five months’ test in Finland. The earlier speech had said, “We do not think that Finland will seek a pretext to frustrate the proposed agreement.” Instead came war, with serious reverses for the Red Army, powerful support for Finland from the Anglo-French bloc; instead of occupying Finland as the Kremlin decided when the war began – the Kuusinen “Peoples Government” could have no other meaning – the Kremlin was more than glad to call a halt beyond Lake Ladoga and forget Kuusinen. Molotov had smiled skeptically when, the morning the Second World War began, the Polish ambassador had said he expected the Anglo-French declaration of war shortly; not until it felt the Anglo-French blows in the Finnish events did it finally become clear to the bureaucrats in the Kremlin that the pact with Hitler was not going to save them from Allied blows!

Molotov’s speech does not represent a definite shift in basic policy. Throughout, the Kremlin’s policy has been based on the fixed desire to keep out of the major war; not because the Kremlin’s inhabitants are pacifists – these fellows are no more pacifistic than Ivan the Terrible! – but because they fear the consequences at home in the course of war: the rising tide of revolt. And unlike the imperialist powers, the Kremlin, however corrupt and bureaucratic, is not driven toward war by the contradictions of an imperialist economy.

New Attempt to Veer and Tack

Molotov’s speech indicates, however, this much of a change. Up to the Finnish events the Kremlin was extremely confident that its pact with Hitler had assured the USSR a position in between the warring camps; in grateful return for the pact, the Kremlin was emphasizing its political support of Hitler’s policy, extension of economic collaboration, etc., and was doing so with cocksure conviction that the Allies were impotent to interfere with the Kremlin’s plans for strengthening its defenses against any future moves of Hitler. The events in Finland rudely destroyed this illusion.

For the coming period, therefore, the Kremlin, having burnt its fingers in Finland, will attempt to move more cautiously between the two camps. It will seek to edge away a little from Hitler in order not to sustain further blows from the Allies. But, having placed its fate entirely on maneuvers between the imperialist camps, which is simply another way of saying that it pursues a course of supporting one imperialist camp against another, the Kremlin’s attempt to steer clear of the war will bring upon it more and more pressure from both camps, and first and most pressing will be Hitler’s pressure.

(A second article on Molotov’s speech will appear next week.) [1]

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Footnote by ETOL

1. This article does not appear to have been published.


Last updated on: 24 March 2019