Felix Morrow

The Class Meaning of the Soviet Victories

(March 1943)

Source: Fourth International, Vol. 4 No. 3, March 1943, pp. 69–76.
Transcribed: Ted Crawford.
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Great masses throughout the world are rejoicing at the victories of the Red Army. Without a rounded theory but nevertheless with a basically class loyalty, they understand that the Soviet victories are their victories too. They are definitely aware of a distinction between the Workers’ State and its capitalist “allies.” It is deeply symbolic that at Cardiff, Wales, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army, the miners from the surrounding valleys paraded with lighted lamps, the girl munition workers in overalls, while over the City Hall flew the red flag. Of course, the parade was officially sanctioned. Deputy Prune Minister Attlee was the chief speaker, and we can be sure that the Stalinists sought to identify the affair as a symbol of unity between the Soviet Union and British capitalism. But in the essence of the matter the red flag and the lighted lamps and overalls, so different from the symbols of the usual British celebration, signify that the workers were primarily celebrating for the Workers’ State. Certainly no one can seriously pretend that the rejoicing in India over the Soviet victories is on behalf of Britain! No, at bottom it is a class phenomenon, the feeling of the oppressed toward the victories of the army established by the October revolution.

Equally a class phenomenon are the first frank reactions of the “democratic” capitalists toward the Red Army successes. These – the very first victorious battles! – have already brought out into the press the anti-Soviet sentiments – and activities – of the “democrats.” The Nazi armies are still deep in Russia, are still intact – let already authoritative voices in the “democracies” indicate their dismay at the thought of a decisive Soviet victory over the fascist foe.

A leading editorial in the New York Times, undoubtedly the most responsible and sober spokesman of American capitalism, undertakes “a frank discussion of the problem.” The editorial states:

“Swiftly, inexorably, the Russian armies continue to drive toward the west. One supposedly impregnable Nazi stronghold after another falls before their assault ...

“But as the Red Armies plunge forward, they are also raising many questions in many minds as to what other order they have written on their banners, and the greater the Russian victories grow the more insistent these questions become. They are raised in private conversations, in the press, over the radio and in Congress. And these questions carry the danger that they will provide a fertile ground for the latest Nazi propaganda with which Hitler hopes to escape the consequences of defeat – the propaganda which raises the bogy of a Bolshevist domination of Europe in an effort to scare the world, divide the United Nations and therewith pave the way for a compromise peace.

“Under these circumstances it would do more harm than good to ignore these questions ...

“The fears and suspicions about Russia are based primarily on two considerations. The first is that Russia will use Communist groups in other countries as instruments of ideological conquest. And the second fear is that the power which has the greatest share in victory will also dictate the peace, and that Russia, having the power, will also use it for conquest, or at least for gaining ‘strategic frontiers.’ In this connection we cannot fail to note the Washington dispatches yesterday, reporting that the Soviet Embassy is circulating an English translation of an editorial from Pravda, asserting an emphatic claim to Bessarabia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, on the ground that they are legally a part of Russia. This is a claim that our Government has not recognized.

“Russia has accepted the principles of the Atlantic Charter ...

“... Binding Russian engagements to observe these principles were laid down in both the Anglo-Russian Mutual Assistance Agreement of May 26,1942 and in the War Aid Pact between Russia and the United States of June 11, 1942, and it was on the basis of such acceptances that both America and Great Britain agreed to extend material and other aid to Russia – aid which she solicited ...

“In these circumstances it seems clear that further and more explicit agreements are necessary in order to give concrete meaning to the Atlantic Charter ...” (New York Times, February 14, 1943) (Our italics)

These words are clear enough. The reference to the “first fear” about Stalinist groups abroad is obviously perfunctory. It is the “second fear” that is really at issue: American capitalism has not recognized (and, the tone of the Times indicates) does not intend to recognize the Soviet Union’s claims for strategic frontiers; it was on the basis of this non-recognition as embodied in the “principles” of the Atlantic Charter that Finland and America have been “aiding” the Soviet Union – and presumably only on this basis; it is time now to demand from the Soviet Union still more binding and material (“explicit,” “concrete”) guarantees that post-war Europe wilt be made up according to specifications from Washington. And if these guarantees are not forthcoming ... During the days immediately following this editorial, as the Times happily noted in another editorial on February 17, “a number of bills and resolutions looking forward to the post-war world have been introduced in Congress.” Senator Gillette proposed immediate negotiations for “a post-war charter in order to give substance” to the Atlantic Charter. “As matters stand now,” he said, “there is no guarantee that the declarations arrived at in that agreement will be crystallized into action after the war.” Representative Kee proposed that Roosevelt “without undue delay enter into agreements with the several United Nations and other members of the community of sovereign nations to secure and maintain law, order and peace.” (What “other members” – Finland? the Baltic states?) In short, the American bourgeoisie demands “without undue delay” new, still more satisfactory, guarantees that the Soviet Union will submit to the Peace of Washington.

Finland now looms as the first case in which these guarantees will be rigidly insisted upon. Indeed, this was long foreseen: Washington never declared war on the Finnish invader of Soviet Karelia. For that matter, however, the British declaration of war on Finland did not prevent Churchill from meeting with the Finnish Minister to Ankara, Baron Yrjoe Koskinen, during the Englishman’s visit to Turkey, as a Unites Press dispatch of February 12 from Stockholm reported. Permit us to recall that Britain is still at war with Finland. Yet this unprecedented interview between ostensibly warring ministets is reported casually in the American press, which does not conceal its class solidarity with Finnish capitalism against the Workers’ State.

The Issue of “Strategic Frontiers”

Finland, indeed, is well on the way to becoming the “poor little Finland” of the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939–40. If we do not yet read of the cocktail parties and theater benefit and airplanes and guns for Finland, we already read declarations unmistakable in their import. President Risto Ryti made a speech which the February 3 New York Times accurately headlined as Finnish President Appeals to Allies, and which it was quick to hearken to in an editorial declaring:

“If the United Nations win there is a good chance that that the Finnish rights to self-government and economic outlets will be respected. They will be if America has any say in the matter ...” (New York Times, February 5, 1943) (Our italics)

What are “economic outlets”? For the Finnish bourgeoisie, it means a Greater Finland embracing large portions of Soviet territory; what is it for the American bourgeoisie? In this February 5 editorial, Finland’s war against the Soviet Union was still defined by the Times as “aggressive.” Twelve day later, however, Finland’s war suffered a quick sea change. The term aggressive disappears; instead an editorial tells us:

“Despite her present alignment, Finland deserves our sympathy, for she is one of the small nations victimized by the power politics of her mighty neighbors ... The German exacted from Finland ‘transit facilities’ that enabled them to place German troops in that country. These troops, again were Russia’s reason for air attacks on Finland, which in turn caused Finland to enter into the ‘defensive war’.” (New York Times, February 17, 1943)

The Times lies, and knows that it lies. Why did the Finnish bourgeoisie more than willingly agree to what Nazi German “exacted,” in contrast to fighting a war rather than agree in 1939 to the Soviet offer of an exchange of territory to provide Leningrad with more defensible frontiers against Germany? Why did the Finnish bourgeoisie prefer to fight on the side of the German bourgeoisie rather than on the side of the Red Army? Obviously a class criterion was involve and bourgeois Finland chose accordingly. The Times is silent about all this, and silent likewise about the “Greater Finland expansionist aims for which Mannerheim led the invasion of Soviet Karelia and for which he provided the Nazis with bases to sink American ships bound for Murmansk. Instead the Times blames it all on the “power politics” not only of Germany but of the Soviet Union. Reading these editorials, one could hard discover that the United States is presumably the ally of the Soviet Union. And indeed that alliance is as nothing for the American bourgeoisie in comparison to a cry for help from their class brothers, the Finnish capitalist allies of the Axis.

The atmosphere in London and Washington has already encouraged the Polish government-in-exile to drop its previous pretense of harmony with the Soviet Union. In a press interview on February 21 in London the prime minister, General Wladislaw Sikorski, announcing a formal protest to Moscow, stated:

“For the moment I cannot deny that there are very great difficulties with Russia. However, they can and must be overcome. At the Polish-Russian frontier not only the Polish problem is being decided but also the question of peace in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the whole attitude of the Soviet toward democracy.

“The secret Russian radio in Poland – the Kosciuszko station – is always appealing to Poles for a general uprising and demanding that I issue orders to that effect. I cannot give an order for a revolt, because I would risk drowning my nation in a sea of blood. Now is not the time ...

“The Russians have dropped some parachutists in Central and Eastern Poland. They are not so much guerilla leaders as leaders of internal political warfare. They have been organizing Communist cells, but so far, however, without any results.

“Despite contrary reports, it is not true that our government has given instructions for fighting them actively. If there are any local incidents they are spontaneous. Underhand propaganda is using falsely this argument, but the Polish Government has only had recourse to an official protest [to Moscow] against foreign elements’ intervening in the internal affairs of the Polish state.” (New York Times, February 22, 1943)

This statement is particularly important since hitherto Sikorski has been the official leader of the Soviet “collaborationist” wing of the Polish bourgeoisie and has been sharply criticised by the anti-collaborationists, who control most of the Polish-language bourgeois press in America and elsewhere. His statement makes clear that no real differences separate the two wings; only that, hitherto, under British pressure, Sikorski has remained silent publicly – and now that pressure is released as the Red Army advances.

In the press interview Sikorski demanded “restoration of the pre-war Polish frontiers.” This means that what was formerly Eastern Poland, predominantly inhabited by Byelorussians and Ukrainians suffering national oppression under Poland, and which in 1939 were incorporated into the Byelorussian and Ukrainian republics of the Soviet Union, would have to be surrendered to the Polish bourgeoisie. But their incorporation into the Soviet Union was immensely popular both with the people involved and with the masses of the Soviet Union; what was disliked was that it was done by joining with Germany in dividing Poland; it is doubtful whether Stalin would dare risk rescinding the incorporation with which his prestige is so closely bound up. Morally, of course, the Polish bourgeoisie has not the slightest claim upon these national minorities which they oppressed so brutally.

Sikorski’s real demands, however, go far beyond return of the pre-war frontiers. Their real scope is indicated by Frederick Kuh, the well-informed head of the London Bureau of the Chicago Sun:

“It is known that General Sikorski, during his recent visit to Washington, handed President Roosevelt a memorandum dealing with the future frontiers of Poland ...

“What does Sikorski want? His government in London is thinking of creating a Greater Poland.

“Would that include East Prussia, the whole of Silesia and, in the west, a Polish frontier bounded by the River Oder? Would Czechoslovak Teschen be included in this blueprint of the future Poland? Vilna? Would there be an ‘independent’ Lithuania under Polish influence? And would Poland’s eastern boundary revert to the 1921 Riga Treaty line embodying millions of Ukrainians and White [Byelo] Russians?

”These are definite proposals we hear from influential Poles in London nowadays.” (Chicago Sun, February 5, 1943)

Let us sum up the issue of “strategic frontiers.” Washington and London refuse to recognize as Soviet territory Lithuania, Esthonia, Latvia, Bessarabia, western Byelorussia and western Ukraine and the Finnish territory which became part of Soviet Karelia. On the other hand Stalin, in his Order of the Day of February 23, explicitly names as permanent Soviet lands “Byelorussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia and Moldavia [which includes former Bessarabia] ... and Karelia [which includes the former Finnish territory].”

The Real Issue

So far we have discussed the dispute on the superficial plane on which it publicly appears. Now let us proceed to deal with the fundamental basis of the dispute.

The “democratic” bourgeoisie pretends that the sole issue is one of safeguarding the national “independence” of Finland, Poland, Rumania and the Baltic states. This threadbare hypocrisy would be easy to see through – were it not for the fact that Stalin plays into their hands. Thanks to Stalin’s bureaucratic and nationalistic conception of the defense of the Soviet Union, the Soviet side of the dispute is also presented to the world working class as one over frontiers and territorial acquisitions. Moreover, Stalin’s false policy prevents him from explaining to the international proletariat tine purpose of the territorial acquisitions. Here one sees the fundamental continuity between Stalin’s policy during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact and at present.

For time revolutionist the first task is to arouse the world masses in defense of the Soviet Union as a part of the world revolution. But Stalin is not a revolutionist and that is not his method. Stalin did not explain to the international proletariat that the territorial demands upon Finland in 1939 were to secure the defenses of Leningrad against an attack from Nazi Germany; instead he was publicly assuring Ribbentrop that Nazi-Soviet unity was “cemented by blood” shed in the joint division of Poland. Under these conditions the Soviet invasion of Finland and the partition of Poland alienated world working class sympathy from the Soviet Union – a loss which, Trotsky pointed out, far outweighed the territorial and strategical gains achieved by Stalin’s reactionary methods. Today the world masses are for the Soviet Union. But tomorrow, if Stalin again appears to be invading and dividing small nations, again without explanation, his bureaucratic methods are likely to re-awaken the suspicions of 1939–40 and once more alienate from the Soviet Union the sympathy of the working class of the world. Here lies a terrible danger for the immediate future.

Regardless of what Stalin does, however, it remains the class duty of the worker, to defend the Soviet Union. We must explain to them, as Stalin does not and cannot, what is really at issue in this ostensible dispute over frontiers.

Against whom would the desired frontiers guard? Not primarily against the small countries directly involved – Finland, Poland, Rumania, the Baltic states. Neither individually nor in coalition could these countries by themselves hope successfully to assault the Soviet Union. Nor for many years could they hope for aid from a defeated and disarmed Germany (not to speak of the fact that, far more likely, after defeat revolution will bring Germany to the side of the Soviet Union). That is why Walter Lippmann, dealing with the post-war “problem of carrying out the obligations of the Atlantic Charter on the western borderland of the Soviet Republic,” is not telling the truth when he writes:

“For Finland and for Poland the paramount reality will be that they are the weak neighbours of a very powerful Russia. Both countries fear Russia and both of them are seeking the support of Britain and America in opposing what they believe are Russia’s territorial and political designs. They are disposed to argue that if we do not align ourselves with them against Russia they will end by throwing themselves into the arms of Germany.” (New York Herald-Tribune, February 6, 1943)

Throwing themselves into the arms of a defeated Germany is an empty threat; we doubt that the Finnish and Polish bourgeoisie utter it. They are not, indeed in any position to threaten or to bargain with America and Britain; they are merely appealing to the class solidarity of Washington and London against the Workers’ State. And this fundamental appeal is being answered and, indeed, instigated. What appears superficially as disputes over frontiers between the Soviet Union and its small neighbors are in reality the steps being taken by the Anglo-American bloc to prepare new super-Wrangels against the Soviet Union.

We dismiss with the contempt it deserves the argument that the Soviet Union has no need to worry about its precise post-war frontiers because, forsooth, peace will reign under the aegis of a permanent international police force of the United Nations. It is, alas, true – not the least of his crimes – that Stalin has signed his name to such buncombe, for example the following clause in the December 1, 1941 pact between the USSR and the Polish government:

“3. After the victorious war and appropriate punishment of the Hitlerite criminals, it will be the task of the Allied States to ensure a durable and just peace. This can be achieved only through a new organization of international relations on the basis of unification of the democratic countries in a durable alliance. Respect for international law, backed by the collective armed force of all the Allied States, must form the decisive factor in the creation of such an organization. Only under this condition can a Europe destroyed by the German barbarians be restored and can a guarantee be created that the disaster caused by the Hitlerites will never he repeated.” (Our italics)

Similar clauses appear in the Anglo-Russian Twenty Year Treaty. Since he signed these, querulous voices of the “democracies” are demanding to know, why is Stalin worried about his frontiers? Thus Stalin’s signature – and the Stalinist propaganda in the “democracies” along the same line – is being used to create suspicion against the Soviet Union among the masses.

Stalin of course has no faith in those clauses and neither has Churchill or Roosevelt, although, if they can arrive at a temporary settlement among themselves, they will join in using those clauses against defeated Germany and others. But at most that could only be a very temporary and unstable arrangement. As for a longer-range perspective, Roosevelt has so little faith in an international police force that he is already openly preparing to safeguard the American frontier ... in Africa! At his press conference in Washington immediately after Casablanca

“Notice was served by the President on our allies as well as our enemies that this country and Brazil were determined to eliminate in the post-war arrangements any threat from the West African coast to the ‘bulge’ of Brazil, only 1,650 miles distant at the nearest point. He said it was well to have it understood now by the people of this hemisphere and those who hold territory on the West African coast that all military, naval and air threats from West Africa must be eliminated.

“Asked if this meant post-war demilitarization of West Africa, the President said it was difficult to state the method of achieving his goal, since the method had not yet been decided upon. It might be demilitarization or any other of a half dozen solutions, he added.” (New York Times, February 3, 1943.)

The international police force is pap for the multitude and a talking point against the Soviet Union’s seeking strategic frontiers. Roosevelt refuses to recognize a danger to the Soviet Union in a bourgeois Finland frontier twenty miles from Leningrad. But he is terribly concerned about the danger to America and Brazil from the frontiers of the British and French possessions in West Africa “only 1,650 miles distant at the nearest point.” No satirist could invent a crueller joke. It certainly illumines Roosevelt’s faith in the international police force and all other methods for post-war “peace.”

Are there politically literate people who really believe that Roosevelt and Churchill are interested in preserving the national independence of small nations? Try to tell that to the Ceylonese and Burmese nations, the Porto Ricans, the Negro people in the southern states and the West Indies as well as Africa, and the four hundred millions of India. Washington and London wish to preserve Finland, not as an independent nation but as what it has been since 1917 – an outpost of imperialism on the borders of the Workers’ State, a dagger point at Leningrad. To the same role they wish to return the Baltic states. As for Bessarabia, never ethnically Rumanian and forcibly seized from the young Soviet republic in 1918 while it was besieged by the imperialist armies of intervention – what argument can be made for returning it to Rumania except to strengthen that kingdom as an imperialist outpost on the Soviet border? If the issue were really a national unification, what claim can be advanced for Polish sovereignty over the Byelorussian and Ukrainian population of “Eastern Poland”?

Those in the “democracies” who deny these territories to the Soviet Union do so only to seek them as springboards against the Workers’ State. They would like as soon as possible to repeat more successfully what Churchill, leader of world imperialist intervention, did in 1918-1920. They know that private property and the nationalized property of the Soviet Union are two fundamentally antagonistic systems and cannot indefinitely continue to live side by side. One or the other – capitalism or the foundations of socialism – must conquer.

The present disputes over frontiers may be resolved. The temporary relation of forces between the “democracies” and the USSR in case of further Soviet victories, or Stalin’s agreement to help try to crush a proletarian revolution in Germany, may dictate to Churchill and Roosevelt a settlement recognizing as Soviet some or perhaps even all the territories now in dispute. But they will do so in the sense that Hitler agreed to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland and the Baltic states – in exchange for Stalin’s services (including those of the Comintern) [1] and to await a more propitious moment for assaulting the USSR. If, the “democrats” thus have to surrender outposts in Eastern Poland, Finland and Rumania, then they will find new ones in Central Poland, Bulgaria, the Scandinavian peninsula, etc. This incontestable fact also demonstrates the basic fallacy of Stalin’s bureaucratic and nationalistic method of defending the USSR. Vain is his search for “strategic” frontiers in the epoch of the bomber, parachutist and tank. The Soviet Union will remain in mortal danger so long as capitalism remains the stronger power on a world scale. Only successful proletarian revolutions in Europe and the establishment of the Socialist United States of Europe can assure the existence of the Soviet Union.

The Dispute on the Military Plane

Let us now go on to analyze the immediate military implications of the class antagonism between the Soviet Union and the Anglo-American bloc. This is not at all a question to be settled at the “peace” table after a definitive victory over Nazi Germany. It will be settled in the course of the war. Precisely for this reason the “democracies” are perturbed by the very first Red Army victories over the Nazis.

They remember what happened when the Red Army was advancing in Eastern Poland in 1939. As the Mensheviks and the bourgeois press admitted at the time, the workers and poor peasants arose in a revolutionary wave as the Red Army neared, identifying their class interests with those of the Soviet Union. The same thing happened in Bessarabia. In a somewhat different form Red Army garrisons had first arrived by agreement with the bourgeois governments and incorporation into the Soviet Union came later – Sovietization of the Baltic states was also immensely popular with the masses involved. [2] Moreover in order to expropriate the bourgeoisie in those territories the Kremlin was compelled to call upon the masses, no matter how cautiously, to take matters into their own hands: workers’ committees seized the factories, peasants’ committees the land, they formed provisional administrations which arrested the capitalists, landlords and police, etc. Soon enough the Stalinist bureaucracy proceeded to stifle the workers’ initiative and to gather all power into the hands of the bureaucracy and the GPU, and we must warn the workers that the same process of repression will be attempted in any territory taken by the Red Army so long as the Kremlin bureaucracy remains dominant. The bureaucratism is, however, small comfort to imperialism which understands the mortal danger to world capitalism from revolutionary expropriation anywhere. In 1939–40 the revolutionary wave which arose as the Red Army advanced was necessarily limited by the domination of Europe by the Nazi army, as well as the still-intact bourgeois armies of Finland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, etc. But now if the Red Army continues to advance, the revolutionary example set by the workers and peasants of Eastern Poland and Bessarabia is likely to he followed by great masses in the Balkans and Central Europe. This thought is a nightmare in Washington and London and inevitably they must seek ways and means of preventing its realization.

That is why the peace feelers from Finland are clearly formulated to rule out the use of Finland as a base of operations against the Nazis. While insisting they were not taking part in the “larger war,” the Finnish bourgeoisie nevertheless supplied the Nazis with bases which are still being used against American and British convoys But, even in defeat, Helsinki has no intention of agreeing to a Finnish Soviet settlement which would permit the Red Army and Navy to use Finnish bases against the Nazis. The difference between Helsinki’s attitude toward the Nazis and toward the Soviet Union is a class difference. Even if Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill were to guarantee the post-war inviolability of Finland, Helsinki fears that their word would not prevent the Finnish workers and poor peasants from arising against the Finnish bourgeoisie if the Red Army and Navy enter Finland. Nor is Helsinki sure – and in this it is profoundly correct in its appreciation of the extent of the healthy revolutionary forces in the Red Army – that Stalin has the power to appease the Anglo-American bloc by ordering the Red Army to aid the Finnish bourgeoisie in an attempt to crush the workers and peasants. Hence it is certain that, if Finland does make peace with the Soviet Union, it will preclude the entry of the Red Army into Finland. Washington and London are sure to back Helsinki in this demand, despite its obvious disservice to the grand strategy of defeating Hitler. Their class solidarity with the Finnish bourgeoisie will take precedence.

Now we can also understand the full meaning of Sikorski’s protest, quoted above, against Soviet “internal political warfare” in “Central and Eastern Poland.” We do not know yet whether he is accurate in reporting Soviet parachutists in those areas engaged in organizing an uprising against the Nazis. That such activities are at least envisioned is indicated by a February 22 United Press dispatch from Moscow reporting a letter sent to Stalin by Dimitrov for the Executive Committee of the Communist International – this is the first mention of that body since June 22, 1941! – in which they “promise to exert even greater effort so that at the moment of the decisive battles we may successfully aid in the creation of a universal anti-Hitler war in the rear of the German fascists.” This resurrection of the Comintern is probably part of Stalin’s “war of nerves” with his allies for better terms. Quite apart from Stalin’s plans, however, the workers and peasants of Eastern Poland are certain to repeat again their revolutionary actions of 1939 as soon as the Red Army approaches. This is what Sikorski fears.

From the point of view of effective struggle against the Nazis, Sikorski’s protest is of course preposterous. His demand that the Red Army refrain from organizing uprisings in Central and Eastern Poland – i.e., in Hitler’s rear – is on a par with the position of the Beck government during the Franco-Soviet pact and the subsequent Anglo-Soviet negotiations, when Beck was ready to agree to a Polish-Soviet pact against Germany – but only on the condition that the Red Army must not enter Polish territory to confront the Nazi invader. Absurd as that condition was, it was backed by London and was one of the causes for the collapse of the Anglo-Soviet negotiations. Sikorski apparently has reason to believe that his present demand will be backed by Washington and London – his government-in-exile has in itself little bargaining power. But whatever concessions Stalin might be tempted to make, it is plain that the advancing Red Army would never agree now to Sikorski’s demand to abandon “internal political warfare” behind Hitler’s lines.

To forestall a Red Army advance into Poland and the Balkans, Sikorski is urging Washington and London to open a second front in the Balkans. As Frederick Kuh reports from London:

“Sikorski is known to favor strongly the earliest possible Allied expedition into the Balkans so that American, British and Polish troops could reach Eastern or Central Europe at least as soon as the Red Army. These tendencies are certainly heightening Russian suspicions.” (Chicago Sun, February 5, 1943)

Soviet suspicions that such a move is in prospect are also cited that same week in an editorial in the British Liberal weekly, the New Statesman:

“The Russians fear that when the continent is invaded by Allied armies the blow may be so delivered as to be indirectly aimed at the Soviet Union as well as against Nazi Germany. To many such suspicions may sound exaggerated, but let us not forget what no Russian ever forgets – that the last war ended with Allied intervention not in Berlin but at Archangel.”

That Soviet objections to such a plan have gone through diplomatic channels was indicated as early as last November by Edwin L. James, managing editor of the New York Times:

“There are reasons, well known in diplomatic circles, to believe that the second front Stalin desires is a second front in Western Europe ... In fact, the question arises as to whether if from Africa a second front could be established in the Balkan States it would meet in full the desires of the Russian chief.” (New York Times, November 8, 1942)

Publicly the Soviet opposition to the North African-Balkan plan was indicated only in indirect forms: extensive reports in the Soviet press about “second-front” demonstrations in Trafalgar and Union Square, the insistence of the Stalinist press that Roosevelt and Churchill in January 1942 had promised a second front in Europe during 1942, Stalin’s letter of October 4, 1942, to AP correspondent Henry C. Cassidy, insisting “that the Allies fulfill their obligations fully and on time.” None of this, however, made clear to the world working class the danger to the Soviet Union which would arise from a second front in the Balkans. The most the Stalinist press ever did on this question was to argue that a second front would be more possible and more effective against the Nazis in Western Europe than in the Balkans. Thus when Willkie on October 26, 1942, made his “report to the people,” and in advocating a second front in Europe suggested it might be best to have it in Southern Europe – Italy or the Balkans “A Veteran Commander” wrote in the Stalinist press:

There is a flaw – a military flaw – in this speech [of Willkie] ...

“The danger lurks in the words ‘free North Africa from Axis domination and begin an assault on the soft spots of Southern Europe ...

“It means that the second front in Europe is only to follow the completion of the North African campaign – note the word ‘and’! – and that that Second Front will be directed against the weakest link of the Axis and not against the strongest, as it should – note the words ‘soft spots of Southern Europe’! ...

“The African campaign is NOT a Second Front, and cannot be one, even if successful ...

“Access of troops and supplies to Africa is difficult and entails great loss of time and a lot of shipping, especially so for the Allies. It’s almost 16,000 miles from the USA to Egypt around the Cape of Good Hope ...” (Worker, November 1, 1942)

This cowardly argument collapsed when the North African expedition did succeed. Moreover Stalin and his flunkies are committed to justifying to the Soviet and world workers his sacrifice of their interests to the Anglo-American bloc in return for “aid” to the Soviet Union. Hence the Stalinist press hailed the North African expedition; so did Stalin, in a second letter to Cassidy, which said it “radically changes the political and war situation in Europe in favor of the Anglo-American Soviet coalition.” Thus Stalin ceased even his indirect warnings on the meaning of an Anglo-American front in the Balkans precisely at the time when its preliminary, the North African expedition, became a reality. Here again we see that Stalin’s methods are the polar opposite from those of Lenin and Trotsky, to whom the first consideration in defense of the Soviet Union was to arouse the world working class by explaining to it the real situation.

Stalin is all the more to be condemned by the workers for deluding them because privately he showed thorough awareness of the situation. In June 1942, Roosevelt and Churchill made the decision for the North African expedition without consulting Stalin, and in mid-August Churchill went to Moscow to break the news to his “ally.” Something of what happen then we now know from two very informative articles by Forest Davis in the February 20–27 issues of the Saturday Evening Post. Stalin vehemently protested to Churchill against the June decision for a North African expedition and insisted on a second front in western Europe, but of course Churchill remained adamant. Stalin showed his chagrin the next month in an astonishing incident at a private dinner he gave to Willkie on September 20, 1942:

“The Kremlin dinner was nearing its end when an American guest proposed a toast to the Russian and Allied pilots. Stalin proposed an amendment. With some feeling, he saluted the Soviet pilots who, he charged, had gone to their death while fighting in the ‘cast-off’ planes furnished by the Atlantic allies. While his guests listened in a stunned silence, the premier of Russia accused the British prime minister of ‘stealing’ 150 planes – Lockheed P-38 Lightnings – out of a Russian bound convoy.”

It is notable that Willkie thereupon answered Stalin, praising Churchill and asking Stalin “what Russia’s situation would have been had Britain been conquered or gone over to the enemy at a time when Russia, for her own good reasons, was standing aloof from the battle.” Willkie’s quarrel with Churchill is intra-class argument; he stands on the side of British imperialism in the more basic dispute with the Workers’ State.

The class meaning of the proposed Balkan front is further illumined by the situation in Rumania, ally of the Nazis. Why the touching solicitude of the “democracies” for the claims the Rumanian camarilla to Bessarabia? It is not even being said that the “democracies” would support this claim only behalf of a democratized Rumania. There is an obvious reason for this. As in Italy, the “democracies” are seeking a Darlan deal in Rumania. That they have no perspective of a full-scale military assault to knock Rumania out of the war is indicated by the fact that neither by bombing or sabotage have they touched the British and American-owned oil wells in Rumania now working full-speed for the Nazis. This significant fact is underlined by the able correspondent, C.L. Sulzberger, formerly in Rumania, in a dispatch from London:

“Many Rumanians are inclined to blame the Allies for this [the lack of Allied sabotage in Rumania] because of an alleged lack of desire to blow up wells owned by United Nations interests ... – and the writer never received a satisfactory answer to this question from the British group of oil men who used to frequent Bucharest’s Athene Palace.

“When Russians get within easier bombing range it is logical to expect that they will concentrate their efforts on devastation of refineries.” (New York Times, February 17, 1943)

To put it more plainly than Mr. Sulzberger’s broad hint: the Balkan-front-and-Darlan-deals is being pressed ever more hastily in order to forestall Soviet bombing of the Rumanian ally of the Axis as the Red Army advances nearer to bombing distance. The same Anglo-American considerations hold equally for Hitler’s Bulgarian friends – and even more so for Yugoslavia where they must back the royalist Mikhailovich against the successes of the pro-Soviet Partisans. [3]

Further developments may, it is possible, do away with specific dispute between the “democracies” and the Soviet Union over a Balkan front. As in the case of the disputes over the “strategic frontiers,” Roosevelt and Churchill may find it advisable to “appease” the Russians and open a second front in Western Europe first instead of in the Balkans. This shift may be dictated if Rommel’s army remains in being on the southern Mediterranean coast, making extremely risky an Anglo-American crossing to the Balkans. The Balkans would be closed off, too, if Hitler seizes Spain and Gibraltar, closing off the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. But whatever happens cannot blur the class meaning of the preoccupation of the “democracies” with the idea of a Balkan front which would cut the Red Army off from Europe. Basically, too, this class meaning will dominate any other front opened by the Anglo-American armies. Just as vain as Stalin’s search for “strategic frontiers” is his search for a “good” Anglo-American second front. At best Stalin’s false policy can succeed in leaving the “democracies” holding relatively poorer outposts on the Soviet borders. We repeat: the Soviet Union will remain in mortal danger so long as capitalism remains the stronger power on a world scale, i.e., so long as there does not exist the Socialist United States of Europe. The fundamental antagonism between the system of private property and the system of nationalized property will not be obviated by the shifting of Churchill and Roosevelt from plans for a Balkan front to plans for a Western European front.

If we were minded to forget this, we have just been forcibly recalled to it by the decision of Washington to expand its armed forces to eleven millions. This decision unquestionably means curtailing civilian manpower to the point where considerably less supplies will be available for the Soviet Union. This fact is pointed out by the Social-Democratic organ here, which writes:

“There is the suspicion that our Army men are, for reasons of their own, underestimating the importance of Lend-Lease. An over-sized Array of our own would limit our supplies to Britain, Russia and China. Russia and China have millions of men eager to fight who need equipment. There may be good reasons for building up our forces at the expense of our Allies, but it there are such reasons, they should be openly stated. Do we fear that some of these friends will be too powerful at the end of the war?” (New Leader, editorial, February 20, 1943)

We suspect that the New Leader editor pretends to be a little more naive than he actually is in real life. Undoubtedly he remembers the sage advice given by Auer to Edward Bernstein, when the latter too early and too openly revealed the anti-revolutionary content of his revisionist doctrine: “My clear Eddie, one does it but one shouldn’t say so.” Naturally, General Marshall cannot at this stage say publicly for what purpose he wants an “over-sized” Army. Incidentally, the sole difference between the General and the New Leader is concerning the means of putting the Soviet Union in its place. In the same issue an article on the Soviet territorial claims suggests that Russia, with its “terrible wounds to heal,” “will face a tremendous task of reconstruction, and she will need help. An effort should he made to persuade her ... Obviously the point of departure should be the situation existing before the period of aggressions and annexations.” In short, what the General would do by an “over-sized” Army the Social Democrats proposed to do by economic coercion. But, since the Social Democrats are not pacifists, we can be sure they will eventually be converted by the General, since they already agree with him on the objective. The counter-revolutionary role of Social Democracy against the Soviet Union is certain to he repeated here and everywhere.

What the Leader pretended not quite to understand was very well understood in plain-speaking bourgeois circles. Arthur Krock, the Washington correspondent of the New York Times, wrote on General Marshall’s secret testimony to a Congressional committee:

“The answers of the War Department are uttered in private and they may be good ones. It is possible to speculate that one of them is: to assure the kind of peace that will prevent a new war the United States must have overwhelming military strength behind its delegates to the peace conference. A victorious Russia, master of Europe, may need more than the sermons of Henry Wallace to retrain from seeking too high a price for its contribution ...

“That would be an answer milling for serious consideration ...” (New York Times, February 12, 1943)

Likewise the Luce press reports:

“George Marshall’s testimony was deeply secret. Perhaps his program ... was insurance against the possibility that a victorious Russia might dominate the entire continent of Europe. Perhaps the expansion, unquestionably approved by Franklin Roosevelt, might have been planned to make U.S. weight felt at the peace table.” (Time magazine, February 22, 1943)

And the military expert, Hanson Baldwin, writes:

“America’s voice at the [peace] conference table must be an important voice if the whole job of the war is not to be repeated in another 25 to 50 years; yet the American point of view will be only as authoritative as the military strength behind it. This is not power politics but realism.” (New York Times, February 22, 1943)

These days do not permit one to savor the Homeric laughter worthy of these solemn statements that while the Red Army is bearing the whole brunt of the war the American Army is being readied to fight the peace. In truth the references to the use of American military power at the peace table are not at all accurate and are designed to blunt the sharp fact that this power is being expanded to face the Red Army on the continent of Europe long before a peace conference.

Meanwhile the first victories of the Red Army have been followed by a furious outburst of diplomatic moves in neutral capitals where both Axis and “United Nations” diplomats are gathered. Especially active are diplomatic circles at the Vatican, where Roosevelt was the first American president to maintain an envoy. Is it merely a coincidence that the American Archbishop Spellman (he saw Roosevelt before he left, according to the March 1 Time) arrives in Rome the same week that Mussolini’s son-in-law is accredited as Ambassador to the Vatican? The Vatican’s own diplomacy is quite frankly anti-Soviet and it has “some” support here, as the Luce press, reporting Spellman’s trip, writes:

“The Church regards the spread of Communist doctrine and Russian influence as its first problem ...

“One means of opposing a Russian sphere of influence would be a Catholic federation, pivoted on a Catholic Austria-Hungary, supported by Danubian agrarian parties and possibly involving exiled Otto Habsburg, who apparently has potent friends in high places. Poland would be a northern anchor, Italy the southern anchor of such a federation. But, should restoration of the Habsburgs meet with too great resistance from socialist Freemason Czechs and pro-Russian Yugoslavs, an Eastern European Catholic Federation might be contrived, binding Catholic groups together in a Balkan cordon sanitaire from Poland to the Mediterranean.

“Invasion of Hitler’s Europe may be aimed through the Balkans. If so, one result could be a misunderstanding with the Russians, whose armies would be in the north while Allied armies were moving in from the south. The best hope of avoiding such a misunderstanding is a complete rapprochement with Moscow. Lacking that, the plans credited to the Vatican appeared to be among the few under real consideration. High sources in Washington reported that at least some US support had been given to these plans.” (Time, February 22, 1943)

We can is sure that at some stage of this diplomatic drama one of the chief actors will appear – the Junker aristocracy who constitute Hitler’s general staff. Unlike most of the generals of the western world, the Junkers are extremely able politicians in their own right, with a long tradition as rulers. In 1918 they threw the Kaiser overboard in order to weather the revolutionary storm and military defeat. As revolution and defeat loom again they will be quite ready to drop Hitler and don the cap of “liberty.” They will certainly prefer to save capitalism by calling in the Anglo-American armies than permit the Red Army to cross the German border. And let us recall that the defeated enemy in 1918 was instructed in the Allied armistice terms to retain General van der Goltz’s troops in the Baltic states, where they crushed the Lettish soviets.

In war as in peace Stalin’s theory of “socialism in one country” demonstrates its bankruptcy, and this fact is being underlined for us every day by the responses of the bourgeoisie to the first victories of the Red Army. The almost untouched armies of the United Stales and Britain have stood by while the Red Army has been bled white. On the military plane the Soviet Union cannot hope to prevail against world capitalism. Only the shock troops of proletarian revolution can redress the balance. In spite of Stalin and against Stalin, we are confident, the strangled October revolution, which has so often demonstrated its persistent vitality, will find the road to unity with the European revolution.

(A second article on the class meaning of the Soviet victories, dealing with the developments in the Red Army and the Soviet Union, will appear in the April issue of Fourth International.) [4]


1. Stalin’s thanks for the Polish territory took the form of joining the Nazi “peace offensive.” The Declaration of the Soviet and German Governments of September 28, 1939 stated:

“After the conclusion today by the German and Soviet Governments of an agreement regulating the questions arising from the disintegration of Poland, thus creating a firm basis for protracted peace in eastern Europe, they express the opinion in mutual agreement that the liquidation of the present war between Germany on one side and England and France on the other side would coincide with the interest of all the peoples ... If, however, these efforts of both Governments are unsuccessful, then it will have been established that England and France carry the responsibility for the continuance of the war. In case of the prolongation of the war, the Governments of Germany and the Soviet Union will consult with each other on necessary measures.” (Izvestia, Sept. 23, 1939)

In accordance with this declaration the Comintern during the ensuing months branded France and England as the “war-mongers” guilty of continuation of the war.

2. John Scott, Duel for Europe, 1940, gives a good description of all the Soviet occupations.

3. The situation in Yugoslavia will be dealt with in an article by John G. Wright in the April issue of Fourth International. – Ed.

4. This article does not appear to have been published. – MIA


Last updated on: 21 August 2015