L. Trotsky

The Kremlin in World Politics

(July 1939)

Written: 1 July 1939.
Source: The New International, Vol. VIII No. 9, October 1942, pp. 260–263.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

Moscow is being invited, Moscow is being cajoled, Moscow is being implored to join the “peace front” and come to the defense of the status quo. Moscow, in principle, consented long ago, but it now doubts that the capitalist democracies are ready to fight for the existing order with the necessary energy. This paradoxical redistribution of rôles shows that something has changed under the sun, not as much on the Thames and the Seine as on the Moscow River. As always in processes of an organic character, the changes have matured gradually. However, under the influence of a great historical impact they appear suddenly and this is precisely why they shock the imagination.

In the last fifteen years Soviet foreign policy has undergone an evolution no less great than the internal regime. Bolshevism declared in August 1914 that the borders of the capitalist states with their custom-houses, armies and wars were obstacles to the development of world economics as great as the provincial customs of the Middle Ages were for the formation of the nations. Bolshevism saw its historic mission in the abolition of national borders in the name of the Soviet United States of Europe and of the world. In November 1917, the Bolshevist government began with an implacable struggle against all bourgeois states, independent of their political form. Not because Lenin did not assign, in general, importance to the difference between military dictatorship and parliamentary democracy, but because in his eyes the foreign policy of a state is determined not by its political form, but by the material interests of the ruling class. At the same time the Kremlin of that period made a radical distinction between imperialist, colonial or semi-colonial nations and was entirely on the side of the colonies against the mother countries, irrespective, here also, of the political form of either.

It is true that from the beginning the Soviet government did not abstain in the struggle to defend itself from utilizing the contradictions between bourgeois states and made temporary agreements with some against others. But then the question was of agreements o£ a limited character and specific type: with defeated and isolated Germany, with semi-colonial countries such as Turkey and China, and finally, with Italy, wronged at Versailles. The fundamental rule of the Kremlin’s policy was, moreover, that such an agreement of the Soviet government with a bourgeois state did not bind the corresponding national section of the Communist International. Thus, in the years following the treaty of Rapallo (April 1922), when an economic and partial military collaboration was established between Moscow and Berlin, the German Communist Party openly mobilized the masses for a revolutionary insurrection, and if it did not succeed in accomplishing it, that is not at all because it was hindered by Kremlin diplomacy. The revolutionary tendency of the policy common to the Soviet government and to the Comintern excluded in this period, of course, the possibility of the Soviet Republic’s participation in a system of states interested in the preservation of the existing order.

Fear of the Kremlin’s revolutionary role remained in force in the diplomatic chancelleries of Europe and America much longer than the revolutionary principles in the Kremlin itself. In 1932, when Moscow’s foreign policy was entirely impregnated with a spirit of national conservatism, the French semiofficial paper, Le Temps, wrote with indignation of “the governments which imagine that they can, without danger to themselves, introduce the Soviets into their game against other powers.” A close contiguity to Moscow threatens “a disintegration of the national forces.” In Asia, as in Europe, the Soviets “create disorder, exploit misery, provoke hate and the sentiment of vengeance, speculate shamelessly with all international rivalries.” France, the country most interested in maintaining the Versailles peace, still remained Enemy No. One of the Kremlin. The second place was occupied by Great Britain. The United States, because of its remoteness, was in the third rank. Hitler’s coming to power did not immediately change this estimate. The Kremlin wanted, at all costs, to maintain with the Third Reich the relations which had been established with the government of Ebert and Hindenburg, and continued a noisy campaign against the Versailles Treaty. But Hitler obstinately refused to answer these advances. In 1934 the Franco-Soviet Alliance was concluded, without a military covenant, however – something like a knife without a blade. Eden visited Moscow but was forced to resign. Meanwhile, Europe enriched itself with the experience of the Munich accord. Many diplomatic chancelleries and semi-official publications were hastily obliged to change their positions. On the 12th of June of this year, when Mr. Strang flew from London to Moscow, the same Temps wrote on the necessity of “inducing Soviet Russia to accelerate the conclusion of the Anglo-Franco-Russian Pact.” The contiguity to Moscow has ceased, apparently, to threaten the “disintegration of the national forces.”

Nationalism – The New Creed

The Kremlin’s transformation from a revolutionary factor in world politics into a conservative one was brought about, of course, not by the change in the international situation, but by internal processes in the country of Soviets itself, where above the revolution and above the people a new social stratum has arisen, very privileged, very powerful, very greedy – a stratum which has something to lose. Since it has only recently subjugated the masses to itself, the Soviet bureaucracy does not trust them any more than any other ruling class in the world fears them. International catastrophes can bring it nothing, but can deprive it of a great deal. A revolutionary uprising in Germany or Japan might, it is true, ameliorate the Soviet Union’s international situation; but in return it would threaten to awaken revolutionary traditions inside the country, set in motion the masses and create a mortal danger for the Moscow oligarchy. The passionate struggle which unexpectedly and, as it seemed, without exterior inducement, was unfolding in Moscow around the theory of “permanent revolution,” appeared for a long time to the external observer as a scholastic quarrel; but, in reality beneath it is a profound material basis: the new ruling stratum attempted to insure its conquests theoretically against the risk of an international revolution. Precisely at that time the Soviet bureaucracy began to tend toward the conclusion that the social question was resolved, since the bureaucracy had resolved its own question. Such is the sense of the theory of “socialism in one country.”

Foreign governments have long suspected that the Kremlin was only screening itself with conservative formulas, and that it was in this way concealing its destructive schemes. Such a “military ruse” is possible, perhaps, on the part of an isolated person or a closely welded group for a short time; but it is absolutely inconceivable for a powerful state machine over many years. The preparation of the revolution is not alchemy which can be carried on in a cellar; it is assured by the contents of the agitation and propaganda and by the general direction of policies. It is impossible to prepare the proletariat for overthrowing the existing system by defending the status quo.

* * *

The evolution of the Kremlin’s foreign policy has directly determined the fate of the Third International, which has been gradually transformed from a party of the international revolution into an auxiliary weapon of Soviet diplomacy. The specific weight of the Comintern declined simultaneously, as very clearly appears in the successive changes in its ruling personnel. In the first period (1919–23) the Russian delegation in the leadership of the Comintern consisted of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin and Radek. After Lenin’s death and the elimination of Trotsky, and subsequently of Zinoviev, from the leadership, the direction was concentrated in the hands of Bukharin under the control of Stalin, who until then had stood aside from the international labor movement. After Bukharin’s fall, Molotov, who had never troubled himself with the theory of Marxism, who does not know any foreign country or any foreign language, became, unexpectedly for everybody and for himself, the head of the Comintern. But soon it was necessary for Molotov to act as president of the Council of People’s Commissars, replacing Rykov, who had fallen into disgrace. Manuilsky was appointed to the direction of the “world proletariat” – evidently only because he was not fit for any other task. Manuilsky rapidly exhausted his resources and in 1934 was replaced by Dimitroff, Bulgarian worker, not lacking in personal audacity, but limited and ignorant. Dimitroff’s appointment was utilized for a demonstrative change of policy. The Kremlin decided to throw away the ritual of revolution and to openly attempt a union with the Second International, with the conservative bureaucracy of the trade unions and through their intermediary, with the liberal bourgeoisie. The era of “collective security” in the name of the status quo and of “People’s Fronts,” in the name of democracy, was opened.

The Degeneration of the Comintern

For the new policy new persons were necessary. Through a series of internal crises, removals, purges and outright bribery, the various national parties were gradually adapted to the new demands of the Soviet bureaucracy. All the intelligent, independent, critical elements were expelled. The example was set by Moscow with its arrests, staged trials and interminable executions. After the assassination of Kirov (December 1, 1934) several hundred foreign communist émigrés, who had become a burden to the Kremlin, were exterminated in the USSR. Through a ramified system of espionage, a systematic selection of careerist functionaries, ready to carry out every commission, was accomplished. At all events the purpose was obtained: the present apparatus of the Comintern consists of individuals, who by their character and education represent the direct opposite of the revolutionary type.

In order not to lose influence with certain circles of workers, the Comintern is obliged, to be sure, to have recourse from time to time to demagogy. But this does not go beyond some radical phrases. These individuals are not capable of any real struggle, which demands independent thought, moral integrity and mutual confidence. Already in 1933 the Communist Party of Germany, the most numerous section of the Comintern next to the USSR, was impotent to offer any resistance to the coup d’état of Hitler. This shameful capitulation forever marked the end of the Comintern as a revolutionary factor. Since then it sees as its principal task the convincing of bourgeois public opinion of its respectability. In the Kremlin, better than anywhere else, they know the price of the Comintern. They conduct themselves toward the foreign Communist parties as if the latter were poor relatives, who are not exactly welcome and very greedy. Stalin surnamed the Comintern the “gyp-joint.” Nevertheless, if he continues to sustain these “gyp-joints,” it is for the same reason that other states maintain ministries of propaganda. This has nothing in common with the tasks of the international revolution.

A few examples will best show how the Kremlin makes use of the Comintern, in one way to maintain its prestige in the eyes of the masses, on the other, to prove its moderation to the ruling classes; moreover, the first of these tasks retreats more and more before the latter.

During the Chinese revolution of 1927 all the conservative papers in the world, particularly the English, represented the Kremlin as an incendiary. In reality the Kremlin feared, even more than anything else, that the Chinese revolutionary masses would go beyond the limits of the national bourgeois revolution. The Chinese section of the Comintern was, on the categorical injunction of Moscow, subordinated to the discipline of the Kuomintang, in order thus to forestall any suspicion of the Kremlin’s intentions of shaking the basis of private property in China. Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov and Kalinin sent instructions by wire to the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party to restrain the peasants from seizing large estates, in order not to frighten Chiang Kai-shek and his officers. The same policy is drawn now in China, during the war with Japan, in a much more decisive manner: the Chinese Communist Party is completely subordinated to the government of Chiang Kai-shek and by Kremlin command has officially abandoned the teaching of Marx in favor of that of Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese Republic.

The task was more difficult in Poland with its old revolutionary traditions and its strong Communist Party, which has passed through the school of Czarist illegality. Since it was seeking the friendship of the Warsaw government, Moscow first prohibited the launching of the demand for the self-determination of the Polish Ukrainians; next it ordered the Polish Communist Party to patriotically sustain their government. Inasmuch as it encountered resistance, Moscow dissolved the Communist Party, declaring that its leaders, old and known revolutionists, were agents of fascism. During his recent visit to Warsaw, Potemkin, Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, assured Colonel Beck that the Comintern will not resume its work in Poland. The same pledge was given by Potemkin in Bucharest. The Turkish section of the Comintern was liquidated even earlier in order not to dampen the friendship with Kemal Pasha.

The policy of the “People’s Fronts” carried out by Moscow signified in France the subordination of the Communist Party to the control of the Radical Socialists, who, in spite of their name, are a conservative bourgeois party. During the tempestuous strike movement in June 1936, with the occupation of the mills and factories, the French section of the Comintern acted as a party of democratic order; it is to them that the Third Republic is indebted in the highest degree for preventing the movement from taking openly revolutionary forms. In England, where, if the war does not intervene, we can expect a supplanting of the Tories now in power by the Labor Party, the Comintern directs a constant propaganda in favor of a bloc with the Liberals, in spite of the obstinate opposition of the English Laborites. The Kremlin fears that a purely workers’ government, in spite of its moderation, would engender extraordinary demands by the masses, provoke a social crisis, weaken England and untie Hitler’s hands. Hence comes the aspiration to place the Labor Party under the control of the liberal bourgeoisie. However paradoxical it may be, the concern of the Moscow government nowadays is the protection of private property in England!

Stalinism and the Spanish Revolution

It is difficult to conceive of a sillier invention than the references of Hitler and Mussolini to the Spanish events as proof of the revolutionary intervention of the Soviets. The Spanish revolution, which exploded without Moscow and unexpected by it, soon revealed a tendency to take a socialist character. Moscow feared above all that the disturbance of private property in the Iberian peninsula would bring London and Paris nearer to Berlin against the USSR. After some hesitations, the Kremlin intervened in the events in order to restrict the revolution within the limits of the bourgeois regime. All the actions of the Moscow agents in Spain were directed toward paralyzing any independent movement of the workers and peasants and reconciling the bourgeoisie with a moderate republic. The Spanish Communist Party stood in the right wing of the People’s Front. On the 21st of December, 1936, Stalin, Molotov and Voroshilov, in a confidential letter to Largo Caballero, insistently recommended to the Spanish Premier at that time that there be no infringement of private property, that guarantees be given to foreign capital; not to violate the freedom of commerce and maintain the parliamentary system without tolerating the development of Soviets. This letter, recently communicated by Largo Caballero to the press through the former Spanish Ambasador in Paris, L. Araquistain (New York Times, June 4, 1939) summed up in the best manner the Soviet government’s conservative position in the face of socialist revolution.

We must, moreover, do justice to the Kremlin – the policy did not remain in the domain of words. The GPU in Spain carried out ruthless repressions against the revolutionary wing (“Trotskyists,” POUMists, left socialists, left anarchists). Now, after the defeat, the cruelties and frame-ups of the GPU in Spain are voluntarily revealed by the moderate politicians, who largely utilized the Moscow police apparatus in order to crush their revolutionary adversaries.

Especially striking is the Kremlin’s change of attitude toward the colonial peoples, who have lost for it any particular interests, since they are not the subjects but the objects of world politics. At the last convention of the party in Moscow (March 1939) the refusal of the Comintern to demand freedom for the colonies which belong to democratic countries was officially proclaimed. On the contrary, the Comintern enjoined these colonies to sustain their masters against fascist pretensions. In order to demonstrate to London and Paris the high value of an alliance with the Kremlin, the Comintern is agitating in British India, as in French Indo-China, against the Japanese danger and not at all against French and British domination. “The Stalinist leaders have made a new step in the way of treason,” wrote the Saigon workers’ paper, La Lutte, on April 7th of this year. “Taking off their revolutionary masks, they have become champions of imperialism and express themselves openly against the emancipation of oppressed colonial peoples.” It merits attention that in the elections for the Colonial Council, the candidates of the party, represented by the quoted newspaper, received in Saigon more votes than the bloc of the Communists and the governmental party. In the colonies, Moscow’s authority is declining rapidly.

As a revolutionary factor, the Comintern is dead. No force in the world will ever revive it. Should the Kremlin once again turn its policy toward revolution, it would not find the necessary instruments. But the Kremlin does not want that and cannot want it.

* * *

The triple military alliance, which must include a covenant of the general staffs, supposes not only a community of interests, but also an important degree of mutual confidence. It is a question of a common elaboration of military plans and the exchange of the most secret information. The purge of the Soviet command is still in the minds of all. How can London and Paris agree to confide their secrets to the general staff of the USSR, at whose head only yesterday were “foreign agents” If Stalin needed more than twenty years to discover spies in such national heroes as Tukachevsky, Yegorov, Gamarnik, Blucher, Yakir, Uborevitch, Muralov, Mrachkovsky, Dybenko and others, what ground is there for hoping that the new military chiefs, who are absolutely drab and unknown persons, will be more secure than their predecessors? London and Paris were not affected, however, by such fears. Not astonishing: the interested governments and their staffs read very well between the lines of the Moscow indictments. At the trial in March 1938 the former Soviet Ambassador to England, Rakovsky, declared himself sole agent of the intelligence service. The backward strata of Russian and English workers can believe this. But not the intelligence service; it knows its own agents very well. Only on the basis of this single fact – and there are hundreds of them – it was not difficult for Chamberlain to make a decision as to the relative value of the accusations against Marshal Tukachevsky and other military chiefs. At Downing Street as well as on the Quai d’Orsay there are no romantics, no naive dreamers. They know there with what materials history is made. Many people, of course, frown at the mention of the monstrous frame-ups. But in the long run the Moscow trials, with their fantastic accusations and their entirely real executions, strengthened the confidence of these circles in the Kremlin as a factor of law and order. The wholesale extermination of the heroes of the civil war and of all the representatives of the younger generation connected with them was the most convincing proof that the Kremlin does not pretend to use cunning, but liquidates the revolutionary past seriously and definitely.

The Kremlin as Counter-Revolutionary

From the time they prepared themselves to enter a military alliance with the state spawned by the October Revolution, England and France answered in reality for the Kremlin’s fidelity before Rumania, Poland, Latvia, Esthonia, Finland, before all the capitalist world. And they are right. There is not the slightest danger that Moscow, as it was predicted many time before, will attempt to use its participation, in world politics to provoke war: Moscow fears war more than anything and more than anybody. Neither is there reason to fear that Moscow will take advantage of its rapprochement with its western neighbors to overthrow their social régimes. The revolution in Poland and Rumania would convert Hitler in reality into a crusader of capitalist Europe in the East. This danger hangs as heavy as a nightmare on the conscience of the Kremlin. If the very fact of the entrance of the Red troops into Poland, independently of any plans, gives, in spite of everything, an impulsion to the revolutionary movement – and the internal conditions in Poland, as well as in Rumania are favorable enough for that – the Red Army, we can foretell with assurance, would play the rôle of subduer. The Kremlin would take care in advance to have the most reliable troops in Poland and Rumania. If they were, nevertheless, seized by the revolutionary movement, this would menace the Kremlin with the same dangers as the Belvedere. One must be deprived of all historical imagination in order to admit for a single instant that in case of a revolutionary victory in Poland or in Germany, the Soviet masses will support patiently the terrible oppression of the Soviet bureaucracy. The Kremlin does not want war or revolution; it does want order, tranquility, the status quo, and at any cost. It is time to get accustomed to the idea that the Kremlin has become a conservative factor in world politics!

Coyoacan, D.F., Mexico
July 1, 1939.

L. Trotsky