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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(10 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 77, 10 October 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Ever since the consummation of the Stalin-Hitler pact, the remaining Communist Parties have been threshing about like headless snakes. Even in the agony of their passing, however, they continue to serve not the interests of the workers of the world but the vilest ends of capitalist reaction.

More, almost, than any other single factor in the history of the past 15 years, Stalin’s Comintern has been responsible for the disorientation and dispersal of the forces that could have transformed the world into a workers’ commonwealth instead of the foul charnel house that it has become.

Stalin’s pact with Hitler, the brazen rapacity of the Polish invasion, the cynical yoking of the Baltic states to the Kremlin’s chariot, are only the most recently forged links in the chain that Stalin has been fashioning for years and with which he has shackled and tortured the international revolutionary movement.

What a contemptible figure is cut by the Stalinist bureaucrat or so-called intellectual fellow-traveler who accepted without blinking the strangling of the revolution in China, Germany, Austria, France, and Spain – who supported without flinching the murderous purge and the witchcraft trials of the old Bolsheviks – and now finds himself suddenly “betrayed” by the pact with Hitler!

The break-up of Stalin’s parties in various countries has for at least six years been one of the prime requisites for the further successful development of a genuine revolutionary movement in the working class. Had that break-up come under the relentless pressure of fresh revolutionary forces, these parties would have been swept underfoot by the forward marching legions of workers everywhere in open struggle for the overthrow of capitalism.

But thanks largely to the Stalinists themselves, the workers were abandoned in one country after another to the talons of Fascist reaction and finally to the carnage of a new world war. Stalin bent the International of Lenin into a pliable tool which he used without scruple not to serve the international interests of the workers but the national interests of his own ruling clique. Now he has cast it aside to lean for a while on the stronger arm of Hitler. The Communist Parties, split, discredited, hated, and deserted by the masses everywhere, are falling easy prey to wartime police reaction directed by the bosses they served so well.

In France the most powerful section of the Comintern was crushed into the dust. There was no one to defend it, no one even to raise his voice in protest. The party that a little more than a brief year ago owned the allegiance of millions of militant workers has been snuffed out by order of its erstwhile hero, Daladier, amid the cheers and applause of its erstwhile ally, Leon Blum. Only his elevation to power by the Stalin-supported People’s Front and the effective dispersal of the revolutionary forces by the People’s Front has made this possible.

Stalin’s “betrayal” lies not in his pact with Hitler but in the powerful role he played in destroying the mighty working-class movement that could have crushed Hitlerism before it seized power and that almost engulfed French capitalism three years ago. His “betrayal” lies not in his invasion of Poland or his subjection of the Baltic States. It lies in the snuffing out of the Spanish revolution for which he was, above all else, responsible.

No, there is no cause for rejoicing in this debacle of the Comintern. In its present form it heralds not only the disappearance of the Stalinist parties. It heralds also the victory of reaction. In their passing the Stalinists afford aid and comfort to the Leon Blums, the Alec Roses, and all their ilk whose only aim is to bind the workers of all countries to the war chariots of their masters. To us they leave the ruins from which we must try to begin re-building the movement that under a stainless banner will resume the march toward a workers’ peace, workers’ security and a workers’ world.

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