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R. Fahan

Russia: How Judge Stalin’s Role in This War?

(February 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 5, 1 February 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Many minds have lost their balance and many eyes have acquired an unusual degree starriness as a result of the recent Russian military victories. People who had clearly seen, or had begun to see, the tyrannical and anti-labor character of the Stalin regime as well as the role which it plays in bolstering the international capitalist status quo, are now allowing themselves to be hypnotized into passive acceptance of the Stalinist dictatorship, because the Russian soldiers fight with ability and heroism.

The sight of men valiantly dying on the frozen plains of Russia, the sight of men who, even in the midst of the most horrible catastrophe of recent history, can fight and die with courage, is extraordinarily moving and refurbishes one’s faith in the capacities of the human race. But it proves nothing – absolutely nothing – about the justice, or righteousness of the cause for which they fight.

Heroism – and the Nature of the War

For, let us remember, it is not the Russian soldiers alone who have displayed heroism and enthusiasm. It is a depressing fact, but a fact nevertheless, that on many occasions the German soldiers have displayed the same qualities. And the Greeks, and the British, and the Americans, and many others.

Yet who would dare say that the countries for which all these soldiers fight have engaged in just and progressive wars? Who would dare say that because the German soldiers – filled with Goebbels’ verbal opium and prodded by Himmler’s blackjacks and bayonets – have on many occasions fought with tooth heroism and enthusiasm, that this in any way changes the fact that Hitler fights a reactionary war, which is against the interests of all humanity? Or, again, who would try to condone Britain’s imperialist record in India with references to the valor of the British troops fighting in Egypt? Or who could wipe out the memory of the exploitation of the Philippine people by American imperialists with reference to boys at Guadalcanal?

And the same thing is true about Russia. Because the Russian soldiers fight well, does that in any way change the fact that Stalin is one of the bloodiest dictators of modern history, that he is the grave-digger of the Russian Revolution and the aborter of many other revolutions? Does that change the fact that he is the murderer of the Old Bolsheviks, that he is responsible for the GPU and all which those three dreaded letters mean? Does that deny that he has enslaved the Russian workers, that he has deprived them of every possible liberty and democratic right? And does it deny that Stalin has besmirched and blemished the precious name of socialism by the practices of his bestial regime?

What Determines Character of War

The worker’s attitude toward Russia in this war must be determined not by such subjective factors as one’s admiration for the courage of the Russian soldiers, but by an examination of the role of Russia in relation to its allies, its war aims, the character of the struggle it conducts. The soldiers may fight because they have been deluded into believing that there is some kind of socialism in Russia, or because they have succumbed to Stalin’s chauvinist and nationalist propaganda, or because they see no alternative to supporting their “own” tyrant against the foreign tyrant, or because they simply have no alternative except to fight when the all-powerful state demands it. But the character of Stalin’s war does not depend on this.

The character of Stalin’s war is really illustrated by the fact that Stalin functions as a partner of the imperialist United Nations, by the fact that, in the words of the December 20 issue of the New York Times: “The slogans with which Stalin is spurring the Russian armies to ever greater efforts today are not the Marxist slogans, urging the proletarians of the world to unite, but slogans about patriotism, liberty and the fatherland.” The character of Stalin’s war is determined, too, by the events that led up to it: the imperialist-like invasions of Finland, the Baltics and Rumania – and the now all-too-often forgotten pact with Hitler.

And the character of Russia’s war is indicated by the bind of propaganda which he conducts among German soldiers – propaganda not of socialist revolution, but of nationalist braggadocio.

It is not for nothing that the New York Times of January 12 editorializes that “the Soviet Union is considered to have abandoned the aims of universal revolution which dominated the first years of its existence.” These people know whereof they talk.

Stalin fights as an integral part of an imperialist bloc. True, he has his differences with the other members of the bloc. But so, too, do the other members have serious differences among themselves.

We must, however, remember the past of the Stalinist regime. We must see, too, that its present internal character has not changed a whit. Brutal dictatorship, reactionary to the core, anti-labor to the marrow – that is what an objective examination of Stalinist Russia must lead to. And the fact that men die for his regime and its imperialist partners – be it because of an illusion of the mind or the prod of a revolver – cannot change the correctness of this analysis in any way.

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