Felix Morrow

Stalin’s Speech

Every Word Was Alien to the Leninist Program

(July 1941)

Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 28, 12 July 1941, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2016. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

Stalin’s speech of July 3rd was successful in its main objective. It sought to assure Washington and London that the Kremlin would conduct the war against Germany within political limits entirely acceptable to “democratic” capitalism. There would be no summoning the great masses of Europe to the overthrow of capitalism, breeder of fascism. There would be no pledges to the German proletariat against a second and worse Versailles. The Soviet Union would not fight a revolutionary war as it did in 1918–1921 against the imperialist interventionists, but would limit itself to methods acceptable to its imperialist allies. Such were the assurances which Stalin gave by his speech; and they were understood very well by the class-conscious bourgeoisie. An editorial in the New York Times made clear what Stalin’s compact with the “democratic” bourgeoisie involved:

“Stalin’s broadcast yesterday was not the appeal of the Communist leader to the embattled proletariat... It is no class war now to which the Supreme Commissar summons ... It is a ‘national war in defense of our country.’ Over and over again he appeals to the oldest fighting instincts ... In the ultimate emergency all the revolutionary catchwords go with the wind ... More, he reverts instinctively to the traditional Russian tactic of the ‘scorched earth’ ... It is not strange that Stalin speaks like a muzhik relying on the power of the earth, or that a wave of religious orthodoxy and old-fashioned patriotism sweeps over the Soviet Union. For whatever the immediate fortunes of war, these are signs that the fate of Russia, of Germany, and the world, will be determined at last by the inevitable rebound of human nature and of the human spirit.”

The editors of the New York Times cannot hide, do not even try to conceal, their pleased contempt for Stalin’s adaptation to the bourgeois methods of war. And that adaptation arouses in these bourgeois swine the hope that “whatever the immediate fortunes of war” – whether the Soviet Union loses or wins under Stalin – there will result “the inevitable rebound of human nature” – i.e., there will result a return to capitalism. Unlike the Kremlin bureaucracy, the “democratic” bourgeoisie never calls a halt to the class war.

One burns with shame and bitterness that a bourgeois spokesman is in a position to speak with such patronizing contempt about the official leadership of the Soviet Union twenty-four years after the October revolution! These “friendly” barbs of the Kremlin’s “ally” unfortunately are an accurate description of Stalin’s speech and of his fixed policy.

Stalin Bans the Methods of 1917–1921

Since 1921 we have feared this moment of imperialist invasion of the Soviet Union. From 1918 to 1921 Trotsky’s Red Army successfully repelled invasion, thanks to the revolutionary policy of Bolshevism, which inspired the world masses to aid the Soviet Union and which wrought havoc and demoralization in the interventionist armies. The great traditions of that Civil War, its successful methods, are obviously the traditions and methods which must be put into practice today, if the Soviet Union is to survive.

But war is the continuation of the politics of “peace.” Stalin remains today what he was yesterday. The reactionary domestic and foreign policy which he pursued yesterday govern also his conduct of the present war. The last thing to be expected of him is that he will revive the traditions of October and the Civil War. Those are the traditions that he has trodden underfoot since 1924.

Like Molotov (who of course merely did what he was told), Stalin offers the defenders of the Soviet Union, as a tradition to emulate, the fact that “Napoleon’s army was considered invincible, but it was beaten successively by Russian, English and German armies.” This ignoramus unerringly picks the worst conceivable tradition; but of course no Red professor would dare to explain to Stalin that the defeat of Napoleon came at the hands of the Holy Alliance representing all that was feudal and reactionary in Europe; that Napoleon, representative of bourgeois society, proclaimed the abolition of serfdom when he invaded Poland, and this serfdom was reinstituted by Czarist Russia.

But what cares Stalin for a Marxist understanding of history? Napoleon was beaten by Britain, Stalin’s present “ally”. That makes the example of Napoleon a good one to offer to his audience in London and Washington. That it can stir within the Soviet Union only the most narrow Russian-patriotic and reactionary impulses does not trouble Stalin at all.

Likewise with his further appeal to the tradition that “Kaiser Wilhelm’s German Army ... was beaten several times by Russian and Anglo-French forces and was finally smashed by Anglo-French forces.” Scarcely a tradition to stir Bolsheviks who were telling the Russian soldiers that the war against Wilhelm was not their war! There are millions still living in the Soviet Union who participated in making the October revolution, not by defeating Wilhelm, but by destroying Czarist and bourgeois Russia despite the imminent danger of German invasion – but these are not the people, these are not the traditions and methods, to which Stalin is appealing. On the contrary, he has destroyed the entire leadership of the generation of the October revolution and extirpates their tradition wherever he can find it.

October Tradition and the German Worker

Yet only the tradition, and methods of the October revolution can destroy Hitler’s armies. A revolutionary government in the Soviet Union could say to the German workers, in the army and the factories:

“Comrades, brothers: You do not want this war, but you fear that if Germany is again defeated as in 1918, there will follow a second and worse Versailles. The ‘democratic’ armies have made clear in advance that such is the fate in store for a defeated Germany. Fearing above all the yoke of the foreign invader, you endure Hitler.

“But victory for the ‘democracies’ is not the only alternative to Hitler. There is an entirely different road – that opened up by a victorious German socialist revolution. Have no fear that while you are destroying the Nazis, the ‘democracies’ will succeed in occupying Germany. The Mensheviks used to try to frighten the Russian workers with the thought that while we would be making the socialist revolution, the imperialists would overrun Russia. It is now history, how we made our October revolution and drove the imperialists out of all Soviet territory. You can do likewise with a Soviet Germany.

“This is now especially true since the Soviet Union and its Red Army stand ready to unite with Soviet Germany in repelling the imperialist powers. We give our solemn pledge that the day you overthrow Hitler and take the power into your own hands, we shall turn our guns against the imperialist enemies of Soviet Germany.

“Nor shall we and you have an endless battle oh our hands. On the contrary, the German revolution would inspire all Europe to put an end to the capitalism which has brought it two devastating wars within two decades.

“And American imperialism would send armies against us only at the risk of its own head. It is one thing for Washington to send troops against a rival imperialism; entirely different would be the attempt to send troops against us. If American troops revolted in Siberia in 1919, refusing to fight against the Bolsheviks, the far more mature American working class of today would use its gigantic powers to crush any attempt of its ‘own’ imperialism to send expeditionary forces against us.

“Comrades of the German factories and armies: Take the power into your own hands and together we shall put an end to war and fascism, capitalism and fascism, throughout the world!”

That is how a revolutionary Soviet government would address the German working class. But the degenerate Stalinist bureaucrats will not and cannot thus speak to the German proletariat in the name of the October revolution.

In Stalin’s speech these are the only references to the German masses: “... all the finest men and women of Germany condemn the treacherous acts of the German fascists, approve the conduct of the Soviet Government and see that ours is a just cause, that the enemy will be defeated, that we are bound to win.” And: “In this great war we shall have loyal allies in the peoples of Europe and America, including German people who are enslaved by Hitlerite despots.”

But if “the enemy will be defeated,” will you, Stalin, aid the German masses to prevent the imposition of a second and worse Versailles ? On that, Stalin’s speech breathes not a word. Likewise silent on this basic question are the leaflets which, the Daily Worker reports, the Red Army is showering on the German troops. The leaflets are exactly like those Churchill showered on Berlin. They ask the German soldiers not to fight against Britain (or the Soviet Union). They have not a word to say about socialism. In a word, they offer the German masses no alternative to Hitler except the yoke of the foreign invader. Similarly, the Daily Worker reports that German soldiers (four or five) have crossed the lines, unwilling to fight against the Red Army, and are now writing and radioing appeals to their German brothers. Splendid! But their appeals say no more than Stalin’s speech or leaflets – i.e., no more than Churchill’s leaflets. On that basis it is manifestly absurd to expect masses of German troops to desert or to overthrow Hitler.

Churchill and Roosevelt have been cementing the German masses to Hitler by their imperialist policy. Stalin has now become the agent of this foul policy. Woe to the Soviet Union if the Soviet masses permit this suicidal course to continue. The Soviet Union can assure victory over Hitler only by the methods of October and the Civil War.

How Stalin “Inspires” Soviet Masses

You will seek in vain the word socialism in Stalin’s speech. You will seek in vain the word capitalism. He does not arouse the Soviet proletariat – now thirty million strong in industry – with the powerful thought that they are defending the nationalized property against capitalist restoration. He dare not. To recall that the Soviet working class made the revolution is to recall also the fact that they did not make the revolution for the bureaucrats! Nor does Stalin desire to disturb his capitalist “allies” with the memory of the revolution which put an end to private property on one-sixth of the earth.

Instead, with the typical psychology of a labor bureaucrat, Stalin ignores the Soviet proletariat altogether in his speech, making no class appeal to them whatsoever. In this, Stalin reminds one of the usual reformist labor candidate, who takes for granted the support of the workers, and devotes himself entirely to appealing to alien classes for support. That the workers may be inspired by a revolutionary class appeal to do even more than they are doing – that consideration is alien to the labor bureaucrat.

How, indeed, could Stalin remind the Soviet workers of their heroic conduct in the Civil War of 1918–1921? To do so would bring to the fore the question of the Soviets and factory committees which Stalin has destroyed – and which were the basic organizational form through which the initiative and inexhaust-able energies of the masses were then mobilized. (The Soviets of those days were rooted in every factory, formed on an occupational basis – by deputies from the factories – functioning every day and had nothing in common with the so-called “Soviets” of today which are “elected” on the basis of vast geographical units and meet only periodically.)

While thus ignoring the proletariat Stalin finds it necessary to make a direct appeal to the class interests of the peasantry, on whom he has so often leaned as against the proletariat. Stalin knows, despite all his pretenses, in past years about “the irrevocable victory of socialism” in the Soviet Union, that the collectives merely conceal the class-stratification of the peasantry: that within the collectives and outside in the millions of remaining individual land-holdings, the peasantry ranges from “millionaire kolkhozi” – i.e., prosperous petty-bourgeois and even bourgeois farmers – down to landless agricultural laborers. In the territory which he occupies Hitler will be speedily seeking agents from among the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois peasant elements. Hence Stalin appeals to them, warning them that Hitler “is out to restore the landlords, to restore Czarism.”

But this appeal would have a thousand-fold more efficacy if it were to be accompanied as in 1918–1921 by formation of the peasants’ “committees of the poor” which, drawing sharply the class line between the rich peasants and the great masses of the peasantry who are the natural allies of the proletariat, organized the poor peasants into a powerful force guarding the Soviet Union against imperialist invaders and their native agents. But Stalin, who has feverishly been seeking during the last decade to create a labor and peasant aristocracy as a support against the great masses, would scarcely rally the great masses of the peasantry against his prosperous friends – even though these “friends” are potential agents of Hitler.

Thus in every sphere Stalin, by his entire past, is inevitably driven, even at this moment of mortal danger to the Soviet Union, to suppress all the political weapons which saved the Soviet Union in the Civil War.

And woe to the Soviet critic of this foul Stalinist policy! Stalin cannot find time in his speech for October and the Civil War, but he finds time to launch a new wave of repressions. Like all reactionaries he resorts to the device of the amalgam to destroy his critics at home: he lumps them with the external enemy. “We must wage a ruthless fight,” he says, “against all disorganizers of the rear, deserters, panic-mongers, rumor-mongers, exterminate spies, diversionists, enemy parachutists, rendering rapid aid in all this to our destroyer battalions.” As neatly turned as one of Hitler’s – or Roosevelt’s – amalgams between Communists and enemy agents.

Stalin “Explains” the Plight of the USSR

With his usual modesty Stalin concluded his speech by calling everybody to “rally around the party of Lenin-Stalin.” Nevertheless, for the first time since he destroyed the Left Opposition, he felt compelled to justify himself. “A grave danger hangs over our country.” How did that happen ? The Soviet masses still hear ringing in their ears the Byzantine boasts of the Kremlin about its invulnerability thanks to the Stalin-Hitler pact. Stalin is now compelled to report that “the war of Fascist Germany on the USSR began under conditions favorable for German forces and unfavorable for Soviet forces.” Why? Every Soviet worker must be asking himself that question, and Stalin for the first time in more than ten years feels compelled to give an account of himself. But what an account! The USSR begins the war under unfavorable conditions because fascist troops were “only awaiting the signal to move into action, whereas Soviet troops had little time to effect mobilization ‘and move up to the frontiers.” But why, then, was the Red Army caught unawares? “Of no little importance in this respect,” explains Stalin, “is the fact that Fascist Germany suddenly and treacherously violated the non-aggression pact, disregarding the fact that she would be regarded as an aggressor by the whole world.” Hitler, it seems, didn’t warn Stalin of what was coming!

But couldn’t the Soviet Union, with its Intelligence Service, the devoted Communists within Germany (not to speak of the fact that for weeks before the invasion the whole world press was rife with rumors of it), find out in time and place itself on guard? Stalin answers – unbelievable words but here they are in the Daily Worker, July 4: “Naturally, our peace-loving country, not wishing to take the initiative of breaking the pact, could not resort to perfidy.”

Behold this gentle dove, unable to move first! Unable, that is, to move first against Hitler. Against Finland, with which the Kremlin had a pact, Stalin was able to “take the initiative of breaking the pact.” Likewise against beaten Poland. Similarly Stalin has found it quite possible “to take the initiative of breaking” every clause in the statutes of the Communist Party, to violate every clause in his own “Stalin Constitution” of 1936. But against. Hitler he could not bear, for ethical reasons, to bring himself to take steps in time. Has any leader ever told a more absurd tale? This story alone disqualifies Stalin for leadership of the Soviet Union.

The true story, which is now clear enough, he dare not tell – namely that he intended all along to make a new and more far-reaching pact with Hitler, capitulating still further in the way of substantial economic and political concessions. That was why TASS, the Soviet press agency, on June 13, nine days before Hitler’s onslaught, denounced the world-wide rumors of Hitler’s preparations for that onslaught, in the following terms:

“According to information at the disposal of the USSR, Germany abides by the provisions of the Soviet-German Pact of Non-Aggression as unswervingly as the Soviet Union, in view of which, in the opinion of Soviet quarters, the rumors of Germany’s intention to disrupt the pact and undertake an attack on the USSR are devoid of any ground ...” (Daily Worker, June 14)

In anticipation of such a new Stalin-Hitler pact, the Daily Worker (June 20!) denounced the war rumors as designed “to discredit such further steps for the advancement of peace and for the safeguarding of Soviet neutrality that the Soviet Union may take.”

But Hitler, it is now apparent, did not even bother negotiating for new concessions from Stalin! The pact with Stalin had served its purpose: it had saved the Nazis from a two-front war until all Europe had been subjugated. Now, having overrun the entire continent, Hitler wanted nothing less than complete subjugation of the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s Alibi for the Pact With Hitler

Hitler struck, as Stalin admits, “under conditions favorable for German forces and unfavorable for Soviet forces.” This is true not only in the narrow sense of the immediate unpreparedness of Soviet forces, but also in the much broader sense that Hitler struck under far more favorable conditions than had he had to fight the Red Army at any other period in the war. This fact is easily demonstrable. But at all costs Stalin, conceding the smaller point with an air of objectivity, must deny the broader admission. For he bears the full responsibility for having made it possible for Hitler to pick his own moment for the conflict. Hence Stalin must vehemently deny that the Hitler-Stalin pact was an error. Here are his arguments:

1. “Non-aggression pacts are pacts of peace between two States. It was such a pact that Germany proposed to us in 1939. Could the Soviet Government have declined such a proposal? I think that not a single peace-loving State could decline a peace treaty with a neighboring State even though the latter was headed by such fiends and cannibals like Hitler and Ribbentrop.”

This is less an argument than an insult to one’s intelligence. Stalin talks as though we are all like his flunkeys who must nod their heads in agreement even if the Leader of the Peoples is gibbering senseless words. Of course the Soviet Government could have rejected Hitler’s offer of a pact in 1939. The Stalinist hirelings kept asserting, in the few days intervening between the pact and the outbreak of the Second World War, that the pact was bringing peace and was a blow at the Axis – fantastic gibberish but they had to say something – but Stalin knew perfectly well that the pact was a go-ahead signal to Hitler, insuring him against an Eastern front. “Could the Soviet government have declined such a proposal?” Stalin now smirkingly asks. Yes, it had the elementary duty to decline, in order not to’ give Hitler a free hand. Nor is this hindsight on our part; we denounced the pact in precisely these terms at the time it was signed.

2. Stalin goes on to list the gains which accrued from the pact: “What did we gain by concluding a non-aggression pact with Germany? We secured for our country peace for a year and a half and the opportunity of preparing its forces to repulse Fascist Germany should she risk an attack on our country despite the pact.”

These are all the advantages that Stalin lists. He could have added a number of others: the seizure of part of Poland, the Baltic states, Bessarabia, the land taken from Finland. Why does not Stalin now list these as gains ? How often the Stalinist press has boasted about them! About how these territorial gains would safeguard the Soviet Union! Stalin now develops a sense of delicacy about these territories and does not mention them at all. Why? His silence is an implicit admission of what we have said during the last two years: the loss of the sympathy of tens of millions of workers shocked by these brutal seizures, seizures carried out in connivance with Hitler outweighs by far the episodic military-strategical advantages provided by the added territories.

Stalin addresses the Soviet masses like a pettifogging lawyer, defending his client – himself – and not like a political leader. He lists the “gains” under the Stalin-Hitler pact. He does not list the losses.

What the USSR Lost by the Pact

The most decisive of these losses we have already referred to m connection with Stalin’s seizures of territory. But this loss began with the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact. Untold millions of class-conscious workers throughout the world, who would have laid down their lives in defense of the first Workers’ State, were alienated from the Soviet Union by the pact. It was a terrible blow to their anti-fascist sentiments, one for which they do not forgive the Soviet Union which, unfortunately, they confuse with the degenerate Kremlin bureaucracy.

The Stalin-Hitler pact made possible the subjugation of Europe by Hitler. Of course the impotence of the “democracies” played its role in that catastrophe. But no Marxist expected anything of the “democracies.” It was the workers’ organizations, including the Soviet Union, which should have stopped Hitler. But, as a direct result of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Kremlin and the Comintern assured the victory to Hitler. As Trotsky wrote on June 17, 1940:

“The capitulation of France is not a simple military episode. It is part of the catastrophe of Europe. Mankind can no longer live under the regime of imperialism. Hitler is not an accident; he is only the most consistent and the most bestial expression of imperialism, which threatens to crush our whole civilization.

“But in line with the general causes of the catastrophe inherent in imperialism, it is impermissible to forget the criminal, sinister role played by the Kremlin and the Comintern. Nobody else rendered such support to Hitler as Stalin. Nobody else created such a dangerous situation for the USSR as Stalin.

“... With his shift to Hitler’s side Stalin abruptly mixed up all the cards and paralyzed the military power of tne ‘democracies.’ In spite of all the machines of destruction the moral factor retains decisive importance in the war. By demoralizing the popular masses in Europe, and not solely in Europe, Stalin played the role of an agent provocateur in the service of Hitler. The capitulation of France is one of the results of such politics.

“But it is by no means the only result. In spite of the Kremlin’s territorial seizures, the international position of the USSR is worsened in the extreme. The Polish buffer disappeared. The Rumanian buffer will disappear tomorrow. Mighty Germany, master of Europe, acquires a common frontier with the USSR. Scandinavia, a place of weak and almost disarmed countries, is occupied by this same Germany. Her victories in the west are only preparation for a gigantic move toward the east. In the attack on Finland the Red Army, decapitated of its leaders, again by Stalin, demonstrated its weakness before the whole world. In his coming march against the USSR, Hitler will find support in Japan.”

Prophetic words! And for them, and for his life-long service to the revolution, Trotsky was assassinated by Stalin’s GPU.

For the Defense of the Soviet Union

Stalin has brought the Soviet Union to the brink of the abyss. His speech shows that he continues the same suicidal bureaucratic course today as before. Along this road the bottom of the abyss can be the only end.

That is why defense of the Soviet Union requires, today more than ever before, the overthrow of the totalitarian clique in the Kremlin and the revival of Soviet democracy. Only then can the full forces of the Soviet peoples be unleashed for the death-struggle against German imperialism. Only then can the traditions and methods of the October revolution and the Civil War cross over the front lines to the German armies and disintegrate them with the corroding acid of the socialist revolution. Soviet patriotism is inseparable from irreconcilable struggle against Stalin and his degenerate clique.


Last updated on: 22 May 2016