No worker can afford to be uneducated about the meaning of Stalinism. Of the enemies against whom the working class must guard, there is none more insidious and destructive than Stalinism. For it lives inside the working-class movement and nourishes itself on subverting labor's struggle against capitalism in the interests of the Russian slave society which is described elsewhere in this issue.
Who are the Stalinists? They call themselves "Communists" and as members or follow travellers, open or concealed, present the line of the Communist Party. Why then do we call them Stalinists? Because they derive their purpose and policy from the Russian despotism. And why they use the word Communism is very important to an understanding of Stalinism.
Unlike other totalitarian, anti-working class movements, Stalinism bases itself primarily on working-class-support. It seeks to attract such support by appearing as the advocate of specific and immediate working-class aims, and more generally as the champion of a society in which men and women will be freed of exploitation by capitalist owners of industry. To the extent that it is able to convince people that this is so, it is the sinister bearer of a slavery the like of which the world has never before seen.
Stalinist parties exist in virtually every country of the world. The success of Stalinism - that is, its mass strength is in direct proportion to the degree to which the peoples of these different lands are fed up with their exploiters, and the degree to which Stalinism can appear as spokesman for the exploited.
But whether m Johannesburg or Joplin, whether counted in millions or in tens, the primary aim of the Stalinist parties is the same: to advance the interests of the Russian despotism. If these interests seem to correspond at any moment with the interests of the people in the given land, there is still nothing in the relationship that will benefit the working class. Whatever the policy of the Stalinist parties, it is dictated by the needs of Russian foreign policy.
If we remember back ten years, back to the days when Hitler and Stalin.were united in war alliance, we will recall how the Stalinists organized peace fronts, led demonstrations promising that "the Yanks are not coming." And we will also recall how they denounced interventionism as imperialist, called Roosevelt a warmonger. And we will also recall how all this automatically changed on June 21, 1941. Hitler attacked Russia. The peace fronts were demobilized so quickly that many who had taken them seriously never did regain their breath. Picketers sloganeering peace before the White House vanished as if swailowed by the earth, and were replaced by the most ardent warmongers in the country. The imperialist war overnight 'it took a minute, not a night!) became a hallowed crusade for democracy.
During the years of the war, no more rapacious flagwavers stalked the land than the Stalinists. They were loud in endorsement of the no-strike pledge, and sought to bludgeon militants who opposed that terrible invasion of labor's rights. Stalinist union leaders like Harry Bridges offered to make the no-strike pledge just about permanent. (And that came quite naturally, for the right to strike does not exist in Stalinland.) They touted incentive pay and every other iniquity so long as it benefited Russia, in this case by benefiting the war - no matter at what expense to labor.
Made in the Kremlin
The end of World War II was followed by the cold war. Blinking an eye only to the extent of shuffling leaders around a bit, the Stalinist parties embarked on a campaign of "militancy." They were ready to seize upon the legitimate grievances of the working class, and offered themselves as leaders in struggle.
They will, if they can, intrude themselves inlo every situation in the guise of militants; but their militancy is manufactured in the councils of the Kremlin, not in grievances of labor. It is therefore suspect and untrustworthy, for it can be bent to any use. Militancy may be the directive today, its opposite the directive tomorrow.
Sometimes, for special reasons, both lines are promoted simultaneously. They can be fire-eaters in one union, satisfied only by the best possible contract - generally a union where they are in disrepute, as in the UAW - and craven scoundrels willing to settle for any kind of contract—as in certain UE situations where they want to hold on to a contract for their split union at any cost.
Union-wrecking, violence against opponents (particularly socialist, militant opponents!) - this and much else is part of their record. They have played ball with the labor bureaucracy when it suited their purpose, and opposed them when that was ordered. They have split unions when Kremlin policy made it expedient. They have opposed new party movements and organized them (the Progressive Party) — whichever suited the Kremlin foreign office. And even in the moment of organizing a third party; they have not hesitated to make deals with the dirtiest elements in the old parties - as Congressman Marcantonio has done with Tammany. (Similarly they have gone to any lengths to hold control of a union.) In every country and in every case, their policy is tailored to the Kremlin's measure.
Key to Question
In the United States their influence is relatively small, though even here it cannot be discounted. In other countries their influence has been, and is enormous in a country like France, for example. How is it possible with their record of duplicity? It is possible basically, because they are able to appear in the guise of enemies of capitalism. The French worker may be aware, to one degree or another, of the shameful twists and turns in Stalinist policy, but he still sees them as enemies of capitalism—enemies of the institution which daily oppresses him.
So it is with workers in the United States, or any other country, who ally themselves with the Stalinists. And the Stalinists are really enemies of capitalism—even when they are friendly with capitalism, or allied with it! This is what is most important, for it is the key to understanding the wholly unique character of this monstrous movement.
Hitler could not create mass movements of support in other lands. Riffraff was the best he could collect, and only in tiny bands. His system was clearly identified with the capitalism and imperialism that peoples all over the world hate. But Stalinism is genuinely anti-capitalist, and it is indeed difficult to perceive that here is a movement that is anti-working-class as well.
No such movement ever existed before. This aspect of Stalinism has not pierced the consciousness of many workers who therefore join the Stalinists for the most commendable reasons — because they desire to end capitalist rule, and because the end of capitalist rule means socialism to them.
The Stalinist parties are the agents of a new system of class exploitation — a system which at one and the same time destroys the hated capitalism, and strips the people of every freedom. That it opposes capitalism can be seen in any country. That it fixes a concentration-camp servitude on those whom it dominates can only be seen in the lands it has conquered.
It is. of course, evidenced in the brutally bureaucratic operation of the Stalinist parties themselves, where policy is handed down from above, where lines and leaders shift without the slightest appeal to the will of the membership, where disagreement is an invitation to expulsion. The one is the complement of the other.
The GPU, Stalin's secret police, runs the Stalinist parties of the world as surely as it staffs the slave-labor camps in Russia. So, too, the violence against socialist opponents by Stalinists in this and other countries is a small reflection of the world-wide GPU murder machine.
Ultimately it is the aim of Stalinism to duplicate internationally the system of totalitarian rule which we have described as bureaucratic collectivism. And to duplicate it under the strictest allegiance to the Kremlin; it will not tolerate such independent deviations as Yugoslavia under Tito.
Stalinist imperialism Is expansionist. It represents a system basically antagonistic to capitalism (as well as to socialism) and the issue between them must eventually be settled. How it is settled is of the utmost concern to every one of us, for the solution can subject us to the horror of atomic war and a frightening barbarism - or lead us toward the emancipation of mankind through socialist victory over both Stalinist bureaucratic collectivism and capitalism.
Stalinism has expanded by outright conquest or by infiltration. Latvia, Esthonia, Lithuania were subjected by direct force: Czechoslovakia was seized with the help of popular support. It is spreading over China. In all cases the penalty for the victims is the same - as it is in Poland, as it is in Russia, as it would be in Italy, or in France: terror for the people, power for the bureaucracy.
Russia and its satellites are the territorial bases of Stalinism. Its ideological and activist agents are the Stalinist parties in the other countries. However strong the Stalinist party may be in France, it cannot yet take power and replace French capitalism by Stalinist collectivism; moreover, the attempt, were it otherwise practical, would immediately and prematurely precipitate a war.
In the United States the Stalinists are yet so weak that it is preposterous (attorney generals and
judges notwithstanding) to think that they envisage the conquest of power at any time in the near future. But, whether in France or the United States, with greater or lesser degree of success, they can serve the Kremlin. And that they
The HOW of It
Stalinism is a mortal enemy of the labor movement - both in an immediate and in an ultimate sense. To fight it, to give it no quarter even where it pretends to champion a worthwhile cause, is an elementary act of self-defense. The HOW of fighting Stalinism, however, is quite as important as the WHY of it. It cannot be done by bureaucratic means that are self-defeating for labor. It cannot be done by the employment and imposition of principles which are inimical to labor. A Curran using methods he learned from the Stalinists to fight the Stalinists in the seamen's union is injuring labor. A Murray solving the problem by bureaucratic decrees is injuring labor.
The influence of Stalinism has to be exterminated. But to do the job effectively, it has to be done democratically, consciously, in open and damning argument. Best of all, it needs to be done socialistically - for Stalinism feeds upon the crimes of capitalism, and there is no stronger repudiation of Stalinism than socialist understanding.