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Albert Gates

The Mainsprings of Russian Imperialist Policy

(May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 22, 28 May 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Russia’s role in world politics today is difficult for the average person to understand. This difficulty is caused by a single factor, which can be put under the general heading of confusion on the kind of nation Russia really is. It has been said repeatedly that what Russia will do in a given situation is difficult to forecast because the ruler of the country, Stalin, acts so differently In similar situations.

Some have blamed the difficulty on the fact that Russia is really not a European power but an Asiatic one and acts with Oriental cunning to deceive the plain, outspoken and unsuspecting imperialists of the West.

All of this is nonsense. Russia’s conduct in world affairs is logical, consistent and not difficult to understand if one correctly estimates the character of the nation. For then its purposes become plain as day.

Taking the character of the country into account, Russia’s role in world politics is as logical and consistent as it was in the time of Lenin and Trotsky, with this fundamental difference: the aims of Russia during the time of Lenin and Trotsky were altogether different from the aims of Russia under Stalin. And this is so because the Russia of the workers’ revolution and the Russia of Stalin are, in fact, two different nations.

Russia Not Socialist

The confusion which exists today in the minds of millions, consciously cultivated by the imperialist powers, is that Russia is a socialist nation. Thus it pursues aims which represent the interests of the peoples of the world, the workers who live under capitalism and the oppressed colonial masses who live under capitalist-imperialist rule.

Russia in Lenin’s Time

If Russia were truly a “workers’ fatherland,” a representative of the future socialist world, how is it explained that it pursues the game of secret diplomacy and power politics which were so vigorously denounced by Lenin, the man who, with Trotsky, organized and led the Russian Revolution? The explanation lies in the fact that the Russia of Stalin is not the workers’ state of Lenin.

In Lenin’s time, Russia was ruled by the workers. This was reflected in the complete freedom of the workers of the city and the poof peasantry pf the countryside, in the extension of economic, political and social freedom to the classes formerly oppressed by, Czarism and capitalism.

The basic form of political representation was the soviet, or workers’ council, based upon the mills, the mines and the factories. There were also soldiers’ and peasants’ Soviets. The workers, peasants and soldiers were directly represented in government through their own elected delegates. They were the government.

Under the workers’ state, trade unions operated freely and in the interests of the Russian working class. Co-operatives and fraternal organizations existed as workers’ and peasants’ organizations, defending and extending the interests of the masses against the bureaucracy which existed even at that time.

Industries were operated by the state, but under the direct supervision of workers’ committees.

Production was carried on not only for the purpose of expanding and improving industry, but in this expansion and improvement to raise simultaneously the living conditions arid standards of the people. In all important respects, however – the working day, the conditions of labor, wages and management – the workers, through their plant committees and unions, had a decisive say.

In the farm areas, the peasants too, through their own committees and peasant organizations, had an important say in the determination of their rights and livelihood.

The country was desperately poor after the Revolution. There was never enough to supply the needs of the people. Russia was blockaded by the capitalist world and suffered intervention by Allied armies, organized counter-revolution of the old Czarist forces, famine and pestilence. By all standards of progress, Russia was a backward industrial country. But the leaders of the nation worked with one aim in mind: improving the conditions of the people, and fighting for the extension of workers’ rule throughout the world.

They were not reactionary nationalists. They were socialist internationalists. They sought the emancipation of the exploited and oppressed peoples of the world. They sought genuine economic, political and social freedom for. the whole world.

They Told the Truth

The “Old Bolshevik” rulers, as they were called, carried on an incessant campaign against imperialism. They showed how capitalism contained within it the seeds of war in the competition between the monopolistic powers who sought a redivision of the spoils of the world. They proved that the First World War was an imperialist war for this purpose and that the League of Nations, formed after the war, was merely an organization, serving the Interests of British arid French imperialism.

They explained how the victorious Allies were counter-revolutionary and proved it by showing how these powers united with their former enemies to put down the revolt of the European peoples who were striving to establish a new order in Europe which would forever end imperialism, war arid the exploitative profit system.

In all these things the Old Bolsheviks told the truth and they told it frankly and openly. When the Germany of the Kaiser forced a robbers’ peace on Russia. Trotsky made this known to the world and appealed directly to the people of Germany to defend workers’ Russia. Always, the Russian leaders appealed to the people. No secret treaties, they cried. Let the world know what the imperialists plan. They took up Wilson’s cry, “Open covenants, openly arrived at.” They really put it into effect to show how the imperialists are hypocrites and never do what they say and always say what they do not do in order to deceive the people.

When Lenin called the League of Nations a “thieves’ kitchen,” he meant that they were imperialists whose only interest was to preserve the rotten capitalist world of profit and exploitation and to maintain it through lies, chicanery, hypocrisy and fraud.

Lenin and his comrades always understood, however, that workers’ Russia could not last forever in a capitalist world unless labor in the rest of the world came to its aid by taking state power. Lenin constantly warned the workers against the plans of imperialism to plunge the world into another slaughter.

In all respects the conduct of Stalin’s Russia in foreign affairs is opposite to that of Russia during Lenin’s time. While workers’ Russia based itself on the movement of the working class in all countries, bureaucratic Russia, which helped to destroy the political and economic movements of labor in Europe, bases itself on imperialist agreements with the capitalist powers.

Whereas the old Russia of Lenin denounced all territorial seizures and guaranteed the independence of nations, the Russia of Stalin, pursuing its imperialist aims, seizes territories and violates the independence of nations.

If Lenin’s Russia had been forced into a war on the side of the imperialist powers by German fascism, it would have fought the war to the end but independently from the policies and war aims of the Allied imperialists. It would have maintained at all times a working class policy and based itself on the political and economic movements of the workers in the Allied countries, constantly exhorting these workers to take state power in order to prepare to build a new society of genuine peace, freedom and security.

In contrast, Stalin’s Russia, which has become nationalist an the worst sense, and has exhumed the old Czarist legends. It has introduced the worst features of Czarist militarism into what was once a Red army. It has Ordered its agents in all capitalist countries to establish class peace and to prevent the workers from fighting for their rights in these countries.

Lenin would have built the labor movement to greater power; Stalin destroys the fighting capacities of labor.

Take Germany as a specific example. On the basis of socialist doctrine and practice, Lenin would have fought against a hard peace for the German people. As a socialist internationalist, he could not hold the German people responsible for the crimes of their rulers, the same industrialists, financiers, Junkers and fascists who enslaved them for twelve years. He would have called for a free Germany, for workers’ rule in Germany and an end to the rule of the vile capitalist murderers who dominate the country as respectable business men and associates of business men in the United States, England and France.

Not so Stalin. He prepares an imperialist peace for Germany, a peace of vengeance. He wants to make the German people and, in the first place, the workers, pay for the crimes of their rulers. He wants the German masses enslaved and brutalized for a war which he helped to bring about by his aid to Hitler when he came to power and his complicity in the war through the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Stalin has already incorporated the Baltic states into Russia. He is the ruler of Poland through his puppet government, the GPU-ized Lublin Committee. He has chopped off parts of Finland, Rumania and other areas of Eastern Europe. He has established his power in the Balkans and dominates Jugoslavia through his agent, the former GPU man, Marshal Tito. It is Stalin who is behind the Trieste affair. It is Stalin who has his eyes out for new territories in Asia and seeks to dominate the continent of Europe – not in the interests of socialism, but in the interests of his own power in Russia and the extension of that power elsewhere.

“Why and how is this possible?” many workers might ask. Is not Russia a workers’ country, a socialist nation? Did it not fight valiantly in the war and help defeat Hitler? These questions are important because the answers to them help to explain what Russia really is and why it acts in the manner described above.

It is true that Russia fought valiantly in the war and helped to defeat Hitler. But it fought this war in the same way that the capitalists fought it. It did not fight politically against Hitler and fascism. As a totalitarian stalte, it could hardly fight a “democratic” war. As imperialist states, the Allies could not fight a democratic war.

Stalin fought a purely military campaign with the aid of enormous manpower, lend-lease and a second front in the form of the Anglo-American armies in the West.

In all other respects, too, Russia fought a war with political aims identical with those of the Allies: no genuine liberation for the peoples of Europe, no unification of the many countries of Europe and no real effective economic and political changes and most important of all, no revolutionary changes on the continent.

What Stalin Betrayed

This role of Russia under Stalin is to be explained by the great changes that have taken place in the country since the rule of the bureaucratic class. All the achievements of the Russian Revolution have long ago disappeared.

The old revolutionary Communist Party which was the party of the workers, has long ago disappeared. The present Communist Party is the haven of the bureaucracy and preserves, through its control of the state, the interests of this new class power. The control and ownership of the state by the bureaucracy has meant the control and ownership of the factories by the total bureaucracy and the operation of the economy of Russia in its own benefit at the expense of the workers and peasants. The soviet system has been usurped by the bureaucracy. It is no longer the basic political form through which the people control the state.

The free trade unions of Lenin’s Russia have become, under Stalin, state institutions for the purpose of imposing upon the workers the decisions of the bureaucracy and preventing them from expressing their own interests and demands. The state trade unions are now purely administrative bodies ruled by representatives of the state. There is no such thing as free elections in these unions and independence of operation.

The old system of workers’ committees, i.e., factory committees which kept the industrial managers and directors in check, and which defended at all times the interests of the factory workers, has long ago been dissolved. Today the factory managers and directors reign supreme as part of the elite of the bureaucracy. The old seven-hour day introduced in Lenin’s time has not existed since long before the war broke out. The exploitation of the workers is fierce; their living standards and conditions of labor are unbearable.

Russian workers labor ten and twelve hours, seven days a week, under piecework and incentive systems that make American die-hard industrialists green with envy.

Russia has developed the labor camp system to a high degree, its occupants numbering from ten to twenty-five million slave workers.

All of this is exactly the opposite of a workers’ state, a socialist nation. What we have in Russia is a new kind of state power and a new kind of class rule, never before seen in history. We have the destruction of a workers’ state and its replacement by a bureaucratic collectivist state, that is, the rule of the bureaucracy which has in its hands as the state power and through that power, ownership of the collective property of the nation. This is not a “degenerated workers’ state,” as some people have described it, but a “prison for the Russian people.”

Power, Prestige, Revenues

The new ruling bureaucracy which Stalin heads has interests which are easily understandable. These are to preserve its own economic, political and social power in Russia and to strengthen its rule by imperialist expansion beyond the orders of Russia. The aim of the bureaucracy is, as Trotsky once wrote, to “increase its power, prestige and revenues.”

Once it is grasped that this is the kind of state which exists in Russia, it will be easy to understand why Russia engages in the game of power politics, why its conduct at San Francisco is fundamentally the same as that of the Allied imperialists, why it too seeks the lands of other peoples, new sources of profit (revenue), new power and prestige.

While it is not a capitalist state, and while it does not have all of the same propulsions which cause the capitalist imperialists to act in, the manner so obvious to all thinking people, it is a class society, an exploiting society, and acts in ways similar to the imperialists of capitalism.

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