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The New International, March 1940


Second World War and the Soviet Union

(Submitted March 1, 1940 by the Minority of the Political Committee)

From New International, Vol.6 No.2, March 1940, p.64.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


1. The present war, which began with the invasion of Poland by the German army on September 1st of last year, is a new struggle among the great powers for a re-division of the earth; for the hegemony on the European continent, and in particular for rule over the majority of oppressed mankind, living in the colonies and semi-colonies of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Latin America. Thus, in its decisive aspects, the present war is of the same general character as the war of 1914-18, this time occurring on a foundation of far more acute and desperate conflict and social degeneration. All attempts to describe the war, from the point of view of any of the participants, as being fought for the rights of national self-determination (Poland, Finland), for the sake of “democracy against fascism” (Britain, France), to “break the hold of capitalist plutocracy” (Germany), for “socialist liberation” or “defense of the Russian proletarian revolution” (Soviet Union) are only social-patriotic devices for hiding the true character of the war from the masses, and enlisting the support of the masses for one or another participant or group of participants.

2. From the socially reactionary character of the war there follows the strategy which revolutionary socialists are obligated to adopt with respect to it. The revolutionary orientation may be summed up as THE STRATEGY OF THE THIRD CAMP. This strategy envisages the struggle on a world scale against the war, against all the belligerent governments and belligerent armies, and for the international socialist revolution. The troops of the potential army of the third camp are to be found in the ranks of the workers and poor farmers, the women and the youth, in all countries, in the enslaved populations of the colonies, semi-colonies, subject-nations, throughout the world, all of whom have only sorrow, starvation and death in prospect from the war, and for whom socialist revolt against the war alone can offer solution. The ranks of the army of the third camp will be forged by the rejection of any support of any of the warring governments or armies, the resolute pursuance of the class struggle in all countries, irrespective of its influence upon the fortunes at the military fronts, and the fight for liberation by the peoples of the colonies and semi-colonies. The guiding slogans of the third camp are summarized by: AGAINST THE WAR! PEACE THROUGH SOCIALISM! FOR THE NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF THE OPPRESSED PEOPLES THROUGH THE SOCIALIST UNITED STATES OF EUROPE! FOR A SOCIALIST UNITED STATES OF THE AMERICAS! FOR A FREE AFRICA! FOR A FREE ASIA! FOR A WORLD FEDERATION OF SOCIALIST REPUBLICS!

3. The Soviet Union is participating integrally in the world imperialist war for the re-division of the earth. The Russian revolutionists and the Russian masses generally neither desired nor welcomed Stalin’s war. The Soviet workers and peasants and the nationally oppressed peoples of the USSR. will express their discontent and hatred of the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy and its predatory war as an anti-war opposition movement – the only real basis for the revolutionary overthrow of Stalin in the present war. The reactionary character of its participation is demonstrated equally by: the policy and aims of the Soviet government and army – bureaucratic expansionism – which in no way advance or defend the interests of the Russian or the world proletariat, but on the contrary are solely in the interests of the preservation and extension of the power, privileges and revenues of the bureaucracy; the character of the alliance with Germany; and by the effects of its participation, which are in no way to advance the prerequisites of the socialist revolution – above all the independent struggle of the proletariat and the colonial peoples for power,

freedom, and socialism – but on the contrary to wipe out those prerequisites. Stalin’s present war is no more a “war in defense of nationalized property” than Daladier’s is a “defense of democracy.”

4. Revolutionary socialists are obligated therefore to revise the former conception of “unconditional defense of the Soviet Union,” which, under the circumstances of the present war, leads to a strategy which is in direct opposition to the interests of the world socialist revolution. The general strategy of the third camp applies to the Soviet government and armies as to the other belligerent powers. In certain concrete cases, as, for example, in the invasion of Finland, we raise such slogans as, “Withdraw the Red Army from Finland!” “Stop the war!”, etc. The slogans FOR A FREE SOVIET UKRAINE! and for freedom of the other non-Russian nationalities within the Soviet Union who may wish it, FOR WORKERS’ CONTROL OF INDUSTRY! FOR WORKERS’ DEMOCRACY! DOWN WITH PRIVILEGE! FOR THE OVERTHROW OF THE BUREAUCRACY!, and the struggle for these and for the other economic and social demands of the workers and peasants, irrespective of the effect of this struggle upon the military front, together with the international orientation proposed in the general slogans applicable to the war, these alone answer the needs of the Russian masses, including the genuine defense of nationalized property and its utilization for socialist development, and will fuse their struggle with that of the masses of the entire world for PEACE THROUGH SOCIALISM.

5. It is not possible to give in advance a detailed reply to all hypothetical variants of future developments of the war. But, for example, if the present enemies of Germany were to engage the Red Army on Russian or non-Russian soil, as an extension of their opposition to Russian aid to Germany and conflict with Stalinist bureaucratic expansion – that is, if the character of Russia’s participation in the war would remain the same (as described in point 3), our present position would remain unchanged. However, if the character of the war changes from one of inter-imperialist conflict, in which the Red Army acts as a pawn of one imperialist power and as an instrument of bureaucratic expansion, into a war determined by the capitalist imperialist politics of destruction of Soviet state property and the reduction of Russia to a colony – that is, is determined by the world antagonism of capitalist imperialism and Soviet nationalized economy – our position would change corresponding to the change in the character of the war. In such a war, the Stalinist bureaucracy, despite the fact that it continues to defend, in its own way, its power and revenue, would be conducting a progressive war. The revolutionary working class would in this case adopt the position of defense of the Soviet Union. Our position would be dictated by the interests of the world proletariat which coincide with the struggle to defend Soviet nationalized property from liquidation by any imperialist power or powers. The defense of the Soviet Union would be conducted by us independently, without for a moment abandoning the political struggle against the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy.

6. In the United States, our main enemy remains at home. The special task of the Socialist Workers Party is resistance to all attempts of the bourgeoisie and its government, and of the labor bureaucracy and social-patriots, to exploit the crimes of Stalinism for the purpose of identifying it with revolutionary socialism, and for the purpose of whipping up an imperialist pro-war spirit among the masses and of dragging the country into war.

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