Written: October 1941
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4, No. 1, October 1941
Kiev has fallen to the legions of German imperialism. The Donetz Basin is threatened. Leningrad and Odessa are besieged. Even the bourgeois press speaks of the seriousness of the military situation in which the Soviet Union finds itself and is already preparing an alibi for the failure to send substantial aid.
The German armies are blasting their way inch by inch into Soviet territory, paying a bloody price in casualties, it is true. Already the regions conquered are twice the area of greater Germany. The bitterly contested but triumphant advance of the German troops is due, of course, to the superiority of German technique, organisation, industry and military skill over that of Russia.
But in war, morale is the decisive factor. Even these victories would not be of vital importance if the armies of German imperialism had their morale shattered. The German soldier today is apathetic and indifferent. Insofar as Russian propaganda has any effect, it serves only to drive him, in despair, into support of Hitler. At the time of the wars of intervention almost the whole of Russia was at one time in the hands of imperialism. All that was left to the Bolsheviks at one period were the two towns Petrograd and Moscow and one province. An overwhelming superiority in military equipment was in the hands of the armies of intervention. Annihilation of the young Soviet Republic seemed certain. And if it had been allowed to remain a purely military question, annihilation would have been the result. But that was a revolutionary war, led by Lenin and Trotsky.
What are the methods of waging a revolutionary war for which the Socialist Appeal calls - the methods which would avert the disasters now facing the Workers' State?
First: the reintroduction of complete workers' democracy within the Soviet Union, and the re-establishment of Soviets.
Second: a clear explanation to the peoples of the Soviet Union, Germany and the world, of the real nature and causes of the war. Not the lying and meaningless statements of the capitalist politicians, that it is due to the blood-lust and megalomania of Adolph Hitler. But the simple truth that it is in the interests of finance capital and the preservation of the capitalist system. Above all, it is the duty of Stalin to clearly differentiate to the German workers between the war being fought by the Soviet Union and that being waged by capitalist Britain under Churchill.
Third: instead of the chauvinist appeal, an international socialist call to the German and European workers and soldiers for the extension of the socialist revolution to all Europe; this would be the only means of awakening the class solidarity of the once proud and mighty German working class.
Stalin and the Soviet bureaucracy will not and cannot make use of these revolutionary methods. Why? Workers have often asked us - "If you are in favour of the Soviet Union why do you attack the leaders in Russia?"
Russia is a workers' state because the land, mines, banks, factories, railways have been taken out of the hands of the capitalists and have been nationalised. That is why, in spite of all the crimes of Stalin, the Soviet Union must be defended by every class-conscious worker to the fullest extent.
Lenin laid down certain conditions for the existence of a workers' state which can be summed up as follows:
1. All officials to be elected with right of recall through workers' Councils (Soviets).
2. The abolition of the standing army and its substitution by the armed people.
3. No official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker.
4. Administrative posts to be filled gradually in rotation so that no permanent officialdom could be formed.
But a similar process has taken place in Russia to that which took place in the Labour and Trade Union movement in Britain. The trade union movement here was formed as a weapon of struggle against capitalism. But the officials - the Citrines and Bevins - gradually took over control and operated the trade unions in their own interests. Every trade unionist knows this from his own experience. But this does not mean to say we reject trade unionism. What it does mean is that we must conduct a struggle to get rid of the Citrines and Bevins and the whole strata of bureaucrats in order to transform the trade unions into fighting instruments of the working class.
In Russia, likewise, because of the backward development of the country and the defeats of the world working class, power has been seized out of the hands of the workers by the officialdom, the bureaucracy. In this case the officials not of a trade union, but of a state. The 11 million government officials, managers, heads of industry, etcetera, are now utilising the workers' state in their own interests instead of those of the workers. All the conditions laid down by Lenin are being eradicated. The Soviets no longer exist. The officials are arbitrarily appointed and removed from above with the workers having no control over them. In place of the armed people, we have the old reactionary caste system restored in the army and the privileged officer strata. The law that the wages of officials do not exceed those of the skilled workers was abolished years ago.
This privileged caste defends its power and privileges against the working class, just as Morrison and his ilk do. To understand this is to understand the destruction of the entire Old Bolshevik Guard, the destruction of the rights of the working class, of the officer cadres of the Red Army when 90% of the General Staff were murdered and three quarters of the officers executed. The representative of this bureaucracy is Stalin, who has organised nothing but defeats for the workers.
The victories under Lenin and Trotsky were obtained, not only by the response of the Allied and German working class to their international calls, but by relying on the democratic organisations of the workers. Lenin based his power on the workers, placed his trust on their initiative and self-sacrifice, and made his first rule to tell the workers the truth. At every crisis in the wars of Intervention, the Bolsheviks made an open, worldwide appeal to the masses, never misinforming them or sowing illusions. But the incompetent and venal bureaucracy dare not do this. One of the principal factors in the demoralisation of the French nation was the vicious censorship. In Russia today we see the contempt and panic with which the bureaucracy regards the masses in an even more rigid stifling of news. According to the News Chronicle Moscow correspondent, the destruction of the Dniepnostroy Dam was not known to the masses of the people in the capital. The correspondent himself was not aware of it until he heard it on the British wireless.
The acceptance by Stalin of the Atlantic Charter deception is a betrayal of the workers of Russia and the world. Churchill and Roosevelt are despatching carefully calculated aid to Russia. But behind the scenes, the policy which Moore-Brabazon indiscreetly blurted out is the policy of the ruling class. They wish to see the Soviet Union destroyed - but only after Germany has been sufficiently weakened to collapse under the offensive of Anglo-American imperialism. By relying on them, Stalin has placed the workers' state in the gravest danger of destruction. The capitalists will turn the flow of supplies on and off as it suits them.
Under the most favourable conditions, the production of war materials within the Soviet Union is only half that of Germany and occupied Europe. But with the occupation of some of the main industrial areas of the USSR, this disparity is now even greater. From this point of view, apart from the superiority of German military technique and organisation, if Hitler retains the support of the German people and his armies and if the peoples in occupied Europe do not rise (and these two conditions are largely interdependent), then Russia is doomed.
Reliance upon the capitalist democracies means inevitable disaster. Churchill and Roosevelt are not out to smash fascism or defend the conquests of October. The ruling class is taking advantage of the sentiment among the workers for support of the Soviet Union for their own ends. That is what lies behind the "Tanks for Russia Week" which was launched by Beaverbrook. Every worker would like to see the greatest possible material support sent to the gallant defenders of the USSR. But while control of these supplies remains in the hands of the ruling class there is no guarantee that these will be sent when most needed, or even that they will be sent at all. To trust the promises of aid given by Mr Moore-Brabazon and his ilk who control the government, would be suicidal.
Russia must be defended in spite of the fact that Stalin and the bureaucracy are in control, in the same way as we defend the trade unions from capitalist attack even though the labour bureaucrats control them. The defeat of Russia would signal the most terrible setback for the working class for the past two decades. Because of this, we dare not sow illusions among the workers. The only guarantee that real aid will be despatched to our Russian brothers in sufficient quantities to affect the issue of the great battles, is when the Shop Stewards and Trade Union Committees control the despatch of supplies.
The tasks of the British workers arc clear: full support for the fight of the Soviet Union against the onslaught of German imperialism. But to rally behind Churchill and the British ruling class would be to make certain the ultimate destruction of the Soviet Union and the victory of fascism. Only a workers' government in Britain could impel the German masses to overthrow Hitler and together with the Russian and British workers, establish a Socialist Europe.