Chapter 6: The Role of Russia

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

That England and France should have taken such an attitude with respect to the Spanish war is no surprise to anyone who takes into account the deeper-lying causes in social affairs. Both are great capitalist states whose internal and foreign policies are determined by principles that look only to economic privileges and considerations of poltical power. That is, indeed, the curse of the present social system, whose inevitable logic operates more disastrously with each new stage of its development. The caste of power-politicians has never let itself be guided by ethical principles. To suppose that its representatives today are any more sensitive to the dictates of social justice and humanly worth-while aspirations would be unpardonable self-delusion.

Of greater significance is the attitude of the Russian government toward the Spanish question. Not that we had the slightest illusions on this side either. We had foreseen the inevitable results of the Bolshevist dictatorship from its first beginnings, and the later developments in Russia have confirmed our conceptions in every respect. The so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat," in which naïve souls wished to see a passing but inevitable transitional step to real socialism, has, under the domination of Stalin, developed into a frightful despotism wilicll lags behind the tyranny of the Fascist states in nothing, goes, indeed, beyond them in many respects -- a despotism which suppresses all free expression of opinion with b]oody brutality and deals with the lives and fate of human beings as if they were inanimate objects.

Unfortunately only a small minority had from the begimling a correct estimate of the occurrences in Russia; while even today there are in every country still hundreds of thousands who are completely blind to the Russian reality. We are not speaking now of the hired foreign scribes of the Russian government, who with brazen faces and no scruples of conscience defend even the most revolting crimes of the Russian autocrats and, at command, exalt to the heavens today what only yesterday they were trampling in the mud. No, we are thinking of those thousands of honest, but unfortunately utterly blind, human beings who with unexampled fanaticism work toward a goal that would mean the brutal extermination of all freedom and all human dignity.

The reaction of today not only finds expression in systems of political power whose living symbols are tyrants of the stamp of Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin. Its actual strength is in that blind faith of the great masses which justifies any atrocity so long as it is perpetrated by one particular side, and recklessly condemns everything that opposes this contemptible violation of human personality. This is the dictatorship of unreason, which neither recognizes nor respects anyone's opinion, and which at command lets itself be swept along into the vilest actions, because it is wholly destitute of personal responsibility. This blind fanaticism which finds in any critical judgment a sin against the infallibility of the dictator is also the reason why those masses are quite unable to perceive the great political transformation that has been going on in Russia since the death of Lenin, so that they plead with the same fanatical zeal for things which only a few years ago were denounced by the Russian autocrats as "counter-revolution" and "treason to the proletariat."

Not that it is our purpose here to play up Lenin against Stalin, as so many do today who have broken with Moscow and have taken refuge in one or another of the numerous Communist oppositions. Lenin, Trotzky and all the others who have fallen victims to Stalin's regime were merely pathbreakers for him. They prepared the foundation on which so-called "Stalinism" was later to rise. He who finds freedom a "bourgeois prejudice," who defends hyprocrisy, deception, and cunning as permissible instruments of warfare, as Lenin did openly, thereby destroys all ethical ties between man and man, annihiliates the trust of comrade in comrade, and must not wonder when the seed he has sown bears the fruit that it bears. The great transformation which Stalin brought about one step at a time was only- the logical result of thc work of his predecessors. Today this change is not manifesting itself in Russia alone; it puts its stamp on all the tactics of the Communist parties abroad, which have never been anything but instruments of Russian foreign policy. This is revealed today with impressive clarity in the attitude of the Stalin governmelnt on the Spanish question.

During the first three months of the Fascist uprising the Russian press hardly troubled itself at all about the occurrences in Spain. Stalin had his hands full standing his former friends against the wall and systematically bringing to its conclusion the liquidation of the old Communist Party in Russia. If he had really been at all concerned to come to the aid of the Spanish people in their desperate struggle against Franco's hordes, he would have had the best opportunity to do so in the first few months of the anti-Fascist war, for just then the battling masses stood almost weaponless before a foe armed to the teeth, to whom German and Italian Fascism was furnishing all possible assistance. Irun and San Sebastian fell only because their defenders lacked the military equipment with which to continue their heroic resistance. If Franco was not then able to overrun Spain as he had expected, it was not Russia who was to be thanked for it, but chiefly the heroic resistance of the C.N.T. and the F.A.I., which cleared the enemy out of Catalonia, and by doing so saved Spain -- a fact which at the time was acknowledged without reserve bv everybody, and which even Franco's press did not deny.

Russia's first intervention in Spanish affairs was her signing of the so-called neutrality pact, which originated solely in the imperialist interests of England and France. The moral significance of this pact at first lay merely in the fact that it put the Popular Front government growing out of the elections of February, 1936, on the same footing with the mutinous generals who had committed high treason against thc republic and were seeking to overthrow it by force, a thing which, for example, the republican government of Mexico did not do. When the Communist Party in France at first raised a mighty outcry against this pact and accused the French government of betraying the Spanish republic, Leon Blum needed only to call attention to the fact that Russia had been the first power to sign the pact and that therefore the charge of treachery recoiled upon Stalin.

Russia was bound to France by a military rapprochement the point of which was directed against Germany. Germany was therefore leaving no means untried to get this alliance broken off, and to this end was bringing every possible kind of political pressure to bear upon France. Russia was well aware of this danger and was, therefore, making every effort to nullify Hitler's policy, even to setting herself up as attorney for the imperialist interests of England and France in Spain. It was not the celebrated "class interests of the proletariat," but the national interest of the Russian state which led Stalin to take this attitude. And England and France were now in a position to play off Russia against the ambitions of Hitler and Mussolini while they went on spinning their own plans, plans which had as their object to prevent a conclusive victory for Franco and at the same time to block the social revolution in Spain.

Communist workers in other countries were naturally not in a position to see through this cunning game behind the scenes and were happy because Russia was from time to time sending the Loyalist government larger or smaller supplies of weapons and provisions. They naturally had no inkling that this, also, was done with the approval of France and England, who respected the provisions of the neutrality pact just as little as did Hitler and Mussolini and tacitly approved the importation of arms into Spain just to the extent that this suited their purposes. But what the Communist press diligently concealed from its readers was the fact that the Russian government never delivered a single cartridge to the Spaniards that had not been paid for dearly and in cash with the gold of the Valencia government.

But Russia did not content herself with sending now and then a shipload of weapons to the Spanish Loyalists. Her secret agents and, more particularly, her official representatives in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona worked by every means to stir up discord in the ranks of the anti-Fascist front and to exert pressure on the Spanish government to induce it to lend a favorable ear to the whisperings of Anglo-French diplomacy. The Stalin government was here quite deliberately furthering the secret activities of the great capitalist powers and the cause of the counter-revolution against the efforts at liberation of the Spanish workers and peasants. England and France could not have asked for a better agent. Exactly where their own efforts aroused a justified distrust the Russian agents could operate in full publicity, as no one would suppose that the alleged "fatherland of the proletariat" would lend itself to such a base betrayal of the cause of a splendid people. With complete justice the English Member of Parliament, McGovern, stated at the last congress of the Independent Labor Party of Great Britain:

"The working class of Spain not only had to meet with the forces of Franco, Italy and Germany, but with more cunningly organized support from the British ruling classes. London big business is solidly lined up behind Franco.

"Undoubtedly Russia had given valuable aid, but it should never have been accompanied by any kind of political domination. It was a shameful thing that the accompaniment of arms had been the attempted domination of the whole political movement in Spain"