Part 2: Russian imperialism.
Before I can return to this question I find it necessary to deal again with the point: Is there anything new in the situation to cause us to change our policy? Yes! And in reality everybody acknowledges it, if not explicitly then tacitly.
Is it because of the pact with Hitler? If so, then you are a People’s Fronter. No, that is a slander. I have already pointed out that the questions we now raise were first raised three months ago, at the time of the Soviet alliance with the democratic imperialists. No, it is not the pact itself that changes the situation. I have pointed out a hundred times in articles and speeches that an isolated Soviet State not only may but often must conclude commercial, diplomatic, and even military agreements with imperialist powers, and that there is not a particle of difference in principle between an agreement with a democratic country, a fascist country or a feudal country. So it is not the pact itself that necessitates a change in our policy. It is the concreteness of the events and it is doubtful that we could have foreseen them in their actuality. And the actuality, if only because of its concreteness, is different from our necessarily limited prognoses as different as arithmetic is from algebra.
As I understand it, that is how Lenin dealt with the reality of the democratic revolution in Russia. His prognosis about the “democratic dictatorship” did not and could not conform with the concrete reality. He had no hesitation in altering his political conclusions to suit that reality. I can give many other examples. It is argued that there is no need to be surprised at the events and no need to modify our policy because we foresaw them. Before 1914 Lenin foresaw the degeneration of the Second International. But it was only after August 4, when the Second International ranged itself openly and, so to speak, dramatically on the side of imperialism that he proposed a change in policy, that is to say, to withdraw from the Second International to which he had belonged and to call for a Third International.
Another example. Trotsky saw and foresaw the degeneration of the Third International. In Germany Stalinism betrayed the proletariat and the revolution no more than it had betrayed them in China six years earlier. Yet although we retained our fundamental views on the principles of revolutionary Marxism, we broke with the Comintern not on the occasion of the Chinese betrayal but on the occasion of the German. It is argued against us now that we propose a change in policy only because the alliance is made with the fascist imperialists and that we did not propose such a change when the alliance was made with the democratic imperialists four years ago. One could just as legitimately argue that we considered it all right for the Stalinists to betray Chinese coolies but not to betray the superior white workers of Germany. Both arguments are equally wrong. What was involved in both cases was an accumulation, precipitated in the form of a concrete event or a series of events.
Similarly in the case of the invasion of Poland and the Baltic countries. In the period of the pact with France, the question was essentially theoretical and we could put forward only hypotheses. It is true Stalin was then also an agent of imperialism. But the war and the concrete events attending it had not yet broken out. Years ago the Stalinist regime indicated that it might or would act in the way it has now really acted, just as before the war of 1914 the social democracy indicated that it might or would act the way it finally did when the war broke out.
The challenge to present some fundamental change in the situation is in this case either superficial or irrelevant. As I understand our basic position, it always was to oppose separatist tendencies in the Federated Soviet Republics. Now I ask: what fundamental change occurred, what was the nature of this change, and when did it occur, to cause us to raise the slogan of an independent united Soviet Ukraine, that is to say, a separatist slogan?
Another example: when and why did we decide in favour of a political revolution in Russia? Because of the imprisonment or the shooting of Zinoviev? No. That is so much nonsense. We changed our policy on that question because an accumulation of things dictated that change.
Take the question from still another angle. I do not have to be instructed on the admissibility of a workers’ state extending the revolution to other countries, even by military means and without regard for frontiers laid down in imperialist treaties, or for that matter any other kind of frontiers. I have taught that to thousands of people. But I point out that throughout the early years of the Bolshevik movement we hailed the advances of the Red Army into other countries. when the Red Army marched into Poland in 1920, then regardless of whether or not it was tactically correct, we hailed its progress enthusiastically. We called upon them to weaken and destroy the Polish army and to facilitate the victory of the Red Army. We took the same position when the Red Army invaded Georgia; We said then that “democratic” considerations about which international menshevism howled so much were entirely subordinate (if they were involved at all in the Georgian case) to socialist considerations. We denounced the opponents and critics of the Red Army. We justified the entry of the Red Army into Georgia.
Now, if there is nothing new in the situation, why does not the majority propose to hail the advance of the Red Army into Poland, into the Baltic countries, into Finland? Why don’t we call upon the workers and peasants of these countries to welcome the Red Army, to facilitate its victory, to help destroy all the obstacles that stand in the way of this victory?
Again we endorsed Stalin’s seizure of the Chinese Eastern Railway in 1929. We defended the action from all varieties of democratic and “revolutionary” critics who pointed out that the railway was Chinese or partly Chinese, and that the Chinese were not consulted about the seizure. Why don’t we by the same token endorse the seizure of Poland and other countries by Stalin today? What is new in the situation? The refusal even of the majority to take the same position today that we all took in 1920 and even in 1929 indicates that at least in this respect the burden of proof about what is new in the situation rests upon the majority.
I cannot take seriously the argument of the majority that the only thing really new in the situation is that people in the party are succumbing to “democratic pressure.” That there is an enormous democratic pressure being exerted upon the labour movement and even our movement is undeniable. That it is necessary to guard against yielding to that pressure is equally true. But it is necessary not only to guard against that pressure but to fight against it. How? We must first recognise that the whole policy of Stalin facilitates the work of democratic demagogues. As in the past they exploit Stalinist crimes and the resentment against them felt by the working class in order to bring the working class more completely under the sway of imperialist and anti-Bolshevik ideology. We can combat the efforts of the democratic imperialists’ agents only by a correct and unambiguous policy of our own and not by mere denunciation. We can combat them only by pointing out that Stalin’s course has nothing in common with ours. Only by condemning the Stalinist invasion as an act which is contrary not only to the interests of the international working class but to the interests of the Soviet Union itself. We cannot combat it — the workers will rightly turn their backs on us — if we endorse Stalin’s action, if we condone it, or even if we appear to do so.
Now as to the slogan of unconditional defence which we must now abandon, in my opinion, unless we mean to keep the formula and by means of sophistry to fill it with a new content. What did this slogan mean to us in the past? Goldman says now: “I repeat. It was taken for granted that the slogan of defending the Soviet Union applied only in case of war by a capitalist nation against the Soviet Union.” Let us grant that for a moment and we shall see who it is that unwittingly yields to the pressure of democratic patriotism and to the pacifist distinction between wars of aggression and of defence.
What we really meant in the past when we said we were for unconditional defence was this: We are for defeatism in the enemy country and patriotism in the Red Army. In the Red Army we are the best soldiers. we are for the victory of the Red Army and for the defeat of its enemy, and that regardless of who “started the war.” We never asked who struck the first blow or who first crossed his own frontiers. By Soviet patriotism we also meant that we call upon the soldiers and population of the enemy to give active support to the Red Army; that we call for sabotage in the country and in the army of the Red Army’s enemy. Isn’t that what we always said and meant in the past by our slogan?
Now why didn’t we and don’t we say that in the case of Poland, or tomorrow, in the case of Finland? Isn’t Poland a capitalist country? Isn’t it an imperialist power? Isn’t it an ally of the democratic imperialists opposed to Russia? In accordance with our old conception, we should have called upon the Polish masses to welcome the Red Army. Why didn’t we? Was it because Russia was the military aggressor? But we have not ever and we should not now draw any basic distinctions between defence and aggression, and Cannon was a thousand times right in pointing out that Marxian platitude, as he so very often is.
Further. Why don’t we take that line in the ease of the Baltic countries — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia? They are capitalist countries, they are tools of one or another imperialist bloc. If they are engaged in any kind of struggle — regardless, I repeat, of who fired the first shot or who first crossed frontiers — it is obviously a question of war between the Soviet Union and a capitalist power. In that case, by unconditional defence we must mean, as we always did in the past, that we are for the victory of the Red Army. Surely we never took the position in the past that we gave unconditional defence of the Soviet Union only when the troops of a capitalist power take the initiative in the struggle and cross into the territory of the Soviet Union. By virtue of our old position, we should fight for the victory of the Red Army and simultaneously for the defeat of the opposing armies. The majority is simply not consistent with itself. While holding to the old conception, it has adopted a document which says that we are opposed to the seizures of new territory by the Kremlin. According to Comrade Trotsky, the Stalinist invasion was shameful and criminal, that is to say, we condemn it. Now we would not condemn Russia for invading Germany, would we? And if Poland had first attacked, militarily, the Soviet Union, I do not believe we would condemn Stalin or the Red Army for repulsing this attack and pushing the Polish Army back to Warsaw or further. Why would we? Would it be because in that case Poland was the “aggressor," whereas in the actual case Russia was the “aggressor”?
Again. Comrade Goldman said his error, which he now acknowledges, consisted in supporting the invasion under the impression that it was not done in agreement with Hitler. When he became convinced that it was done in agreement with Hitler, he opposed it. It seems to me that Comrade Goldman replaces here one error with another. If that is his motivation for opposing the invasion, then at the very least we overlooked an important problem in failing to oppose a similar step when Stalin sought to take it in agreement with Daladier and Chamberlain. That was precisely the point that was dealt with by Comrades Johnson, Carter and myself at the last convention. Certainly the reason we failed to act at that time could not have been based upon the fact that Stalin planned his action in alliance with the democratic imperialists.
You give no answer to the concrete questions! Trotsky says: “We were and we remain against seizures of new territories by the Kremlin.” Goldman says now: All right, but it’s all over now in Poland; consequently, the basis for the dispute has been removed. Unfortunately this is not the case. If we are against such seizures, we are against them not only after they take place but also before. It is radically false to think that Poland was an incidental or accidental episode in the war, an episode of no characteristic importance. Yesterday it was Poland and today the Baltic countries, tomorrow and the day after, Finland, Rumania, Afghanistan, India, China, and other countries. The same problem will arise continually and with it the necessity of giving an answer far more concrete than we were systematically given by the majority of the P.C.
Do not think for a moment that you can dispose of such questions the way Cannon tried to do today. I was shocked when I heard him say half jokingly, “off the record”, that the best thing that could happen to Finland would be to wipe it off the map altogether. That is a piece of first-class political cynicism. I am not a Finnish patriot any more than I am a Polish patriot. But as a revolutionary Marxist I am at the same time a consistent democrat. I am ready to subordinate democratic considerations only to socialist and internationalist considerations. I have no hesitation at all in saying that I am concerned not only with the socialist revolution but also with the national and democratic rights of Finland and the Baltic countries. I am prepared to subordinate even these rights to the interests of the socialist revolution if and where the two conflict. I am not ready to subordinate them to the interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Decisive in politics is not only the “what” but also the “who.” I am damned particular as to who “liberates” countries like Danzig or the Sudetenland. Under Hitler the right of self-determination “triumphed” in appearance. In actuality reaction triumphed. And when Stalin invades Poland it is the Stalinist counter-revolution that has triumphed.
Your policy or rather your lack of policy makes it impossible for us to talk intelligibly or effectively to the masses of these countries who are threatened by Stalinist seizures or invasion. I want to see the party and the International adopt a policy which enables us to advance the cause of international revolution in these countries. We say in our international program that the anti-Hitlerite patriotism of the masses in the bourgeois countries has something potentially progressive in it. I want to be able to say to the masses of Russia’s border states:
“Your anti-Stalinist patriotism has something potentially progressive about it. Your fear of a Stalinist invasion, your hostility to it, is entirely justified. You are not so ignorant that you do not know what Stalin’s rule over you would mean. You must resist any attempt, military or political, to establish that rule. You must fight against the Red Army and not for its victory, if it seeks to establish Stalin’s domination over you. But I say to you, your present patriotism is only potentially progressive. You cannot and must not fight against Stalinism under the rule of your own bourgeoisie, be it in Poland or Latvia or Finland, because that bourgeoisie is imperialist or the agent of imperialism. You must resist being driven into slavery under Stalin. So fight for power in your land. Win over the army and establish an army of your own, the people’s militia, and fight for your own socialist cause.”
It is true that by this line I will not succeed in having a revolution in Poland or Finland overnight. But if I reach two workers with it I will have brought them one stop closer to the goal they must attain, and that is what should be the purpose of any political line. The majority says: We will not approve and we will not condemn. We will merely “explain” the invasion. I say: Resist. Fight the Stalinist army under your own independent class banner. Fight them because they have imposed upon them the execution of an imperialist policy.
At this point the majority objects. The term “imperialist policy” cannot be applied to the Stalin regime. Comrade Goldman adds that while the term may be used in a broad or journalistic sense, it is incorrect because it may be deduced from this term that the Soviet Union is a capitalist imperialist state. That may well be. I do not deny it. But it does not necessarily follow, for otherwise many of our characterizations would have to be rejected on the same grounds. In the first place I am not the first one to have used this term in our movement. Only a couple of years ago, in a discussion with a Chinese comrade about the dangers of Stalinist intervention in China, the question was asked by the comrades: does that mean that Stalin can follow an imperialist policy in China? To which Trotsky replied: Those who are capable of perpetrating the Moscow frame-ups are capable of anything. Could not a “capitalist imperialist Soviet State” also be deduced from this entirely correct statement?
We say that Stalin has adopted the political methods of fascism. Stalin’s regime is closer to the political regime of fascism than to any other we have ever known. From this statement, often repeated by us, some people have deduced that fascism rules in Russia. But this has not altered our characterization of the Stalin regime. We say in one and the same breath that Hitler’s regime is totalitarian, Mussolini’s regime is totalitarian, Stalin’s regime is totalitarian. I still believe that this is entirely accurate. The false deductions that some make from these statements do not mean that the statements are wrong.
We say that there is a Bonapartist regime in Germany and in Russia. I recall that when Trotsky first presented the formula of Soviet Bonapartism, he was criticized by many comrades. They argued that his Bonapartism covers too many different things. He replied that while neither Marx, Engels or Lenin had ever applied the term Bonapartism to the workers’ state that was not to be wondered at; they never had occasion to, although Lenin did not hesitate to apply terms of a bourgeois regime with the necessary qualifications to the workers’ state, as, for example, “Soviet state capitalism.” Bonapartism, said Trotsky, is an exact, scientific, sociological characterization of the Soviet regime. Yet it may very easily be objected that it follows from this characterization that the Soviet Union is a bourgeois state.
Again. Trotsky points out — and I think it is right even though Comrade Weber characterized it as stupid — that in one sense the Soviet Union is a bourgeois state just as in another it is a workers’ state. Elsewhere he says that the bureaucracy which has the state as its private property is a bourgeois bureaucracy. Shouldn’t we reject these characterizations because of what some people may deduce from them as to the nature of the Soviet State?
It is in accordance with this spirit that we say Stalin is pursuing an imperialist policy. In two senses. In the first place, he is acting as a tool of imperialism, an agent of imperialism. To that characterization nobody seems to take objection. Stalin crushed Poland jointly with Hitler. The spoils of their victories are being jointly divided throughout eastern Europe. But also, in another sense, he is pursuing an “independent” imperialist policy of his own. To my characterisation, Comrade Weiss among others answers that there is no such thing and can be no such thing as imperialism except as a policy of decaying monopoly capitalism. That reply is correct only in one sense; namely, that the policy of monopoly capitalism is the modern form of imperialism. But there was imperialist policy long before monopoly capitalism and long before capitalism itself. “Colonial policy and imperialism,” said Lenin, “existed before this latest stage of capitalism and even before capitalism. Rome, founded on slavery, pursued a colonial policy and realized imperialism.” It is entirely correct, in my opinion, to characterize the Stalinist policy as imperialist, provided, of course, that one points out its specific character, that is, wherein it differs from modern capitalist imperialism. For, as I have insisted on several occasions, I do not identify Stalin with Hitler, Chamberlain or Roosevelt.
Stalin has showed himself capable of pursuing imperialist policy. That is the fact. The Kremlin bureaucracy has degenerated beyond all prediction. when we say it has interests all its own, we do not only mean that they are diametrically opposed to the interests of the proletariat but that these interests are very specific. They also have a specific economic basis. Like every bureaucracy, the Stalinist is interested in increasing the national income not in order to raise the standard of living of the masses but in order to increase its own power, its own wealth, its own privileges. In its struggle for self preservation not only from the living forces of the proletariat and peasantry in the Soviet Union, but also from the consequences of the chronic economic crisis in the country, it is now seeking new territories, new wealth, new privileges, new power, new sources of raw material, new trade facilities, new sources of labour power. A policy of expansion which under Lenin and Trotsky would mean extending the basis of the socialist revolution means under the Stalinist bureaucracy, degenerated and reactionary to the core, a policy of imperialism. That is, it has an imperialist policy peculiar to the Soviet regime in its present stage of decay.
Now, that is as close to a characterization of it as I can come. How do you characterize this policy? What is your political or sociological definition of it? You do not give any. Bonapartism, too, is not 100 per cent exact. The analogy upon which it is based is like all great historical analogies a limited one, but it is close enough; it is an approximation and no improvement upon it has yet been made. Similarly with the term imperialist. Until a better term is found to describe the present Stalinist policy and you have proposed neither a better one or any at all I shall persist in using the one which I have put forward.
These are the considerations which in our opinion make it impossible for us to continue employing the slogan for the unconditional defence of the Soviet Union in the sense in which we construed it in the past. It is that sense which dictated the attitude of the majority, most explicitly, consistently and not accidentally expressed in the position taken by Comrade Goldman.
It is, of course, entirely true that a fundamental line is required for a correct approach to all concrete political problems. That fundamental line must be in general the interests of the world socialist revolution. In so far as the war itself is concerned, we must proceed from the fundamental and decisive character of the war, and judging it by that standard it is necessary to characterize the war as imperialist in its decisive aspects. I say, “in its decisive aspects,” because in all modern wars there are, so to speak, conflicting elements. Let me take a well known example: In the last world war, Lenin contended in 1914 that if the struggle had been confined as to a duel between Serbia and Austro-Hungary, on the part of Serbia the progressive element of struggle for national unity would have been decisive, that is, revolutionists would have wished for the victory of Serbia, even of the Serbian bourgeoisie. But scarcely had that war started than it was extended throughout Europe. The progressive element represented by Serbia’s national aspirations was lost in the midst of the struggle for imperialist mastery between the two big blocs. That is, the character of the war changed. In its decisive aspects it was imperialist. Serbia was nothing more than part of one of the imperialist camps.
Another example is furnished by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Bismarck’s struggle against Napoleon III for the establishment of a united German nation was historically progressive. But when Bismarck proceeded to take Alsace-Lorraine, the character of the war changed, so to speak, and was condemned by Marx and Engels. Now the present war may and in all probability will also change. Our resolution foresees that and provides for it. If the character of the war changes into a war of imperialist attack upon the Soviet Union, the position of the revolutionary party must change accordingly. Comrade Cannon notes that this is contained in our resolution, but instead of recognizing it for its real and simple significance, he devotes himself to scathing remarks about the phrase “bourgeois counter-revolution is on the order of the day.” For this obviously true statement I am denounced as a pessimist. Why? Trotsky used exactly the same phrase more than two years ago. As far back as then he said that if Franco wins in Spain, the bourgeois counter revolution will be on the order of the day in the Soviet Union. I deeply resent the attitude which accepts without a word a phrase or formula or concept uttered by Comrade Trotsky, and for purely factional reasons condemns those who merely repeat the phrase as pessimists, if not worse. If the character of the war changes, I repeat, and if the bourgeois counter revolution has not triumphed in Russia, we will defend the Soviet Union from imperialist attack.
It may be asked: How can you defend a country that has pursued an imperialist policy? The class struggle is not as simple as it is implicitly represented by that question. Under certain circumstances, we have done that in the past; we will do it in the future. Even in the case of Spain, which none of us believed to be a workers’ state of any kind, we were for the “defence” of Azana and his regime in our own way and by our own methods, even though that same regime was openly imperialist and still claimed imperialist domination over the colonies of Spain. With all the greater reason, with all the greater force, will the policy of defence apply in the case of an imperialist attack upon the Soviet Union.
I have said that Stalin is following an imperialist policy in two senses, in that he is a tool of imperialism, rather an agent of imperialism, and that his own policy is imperialist. I have at the same time denied the foolish charge that we consider this policy identical with the imperialism of Hitler or Chamberlain. No, there is imperialism and imperialism, just as there is Bonapartism and Bonapartism.
As a matter of fact I believe that the key to the imperialist policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy is to be found in the historical analogy with Bonapartism. The analogy between the Stalinist regime and the old Bonapartist regime has been used repeatedly by Comrade Trotsky and by our press in general. Given certain limitations, and allowing for the necessary changes, the analogy is both correct and illuminating, Bonaparte came to power to safeguard the social rule of the bourgeoisie by expropriating it politically. The bourgeoisie admitted, in Marx’s words, that in order to preserve its social power unhurt its political power must be broken. Yet though Bonaparte came to power to preserve the social rule of the bourgeoisie, Marx pointed out that the third Napoleon represented an economic class, the most numerous in France at that time, the allotment farmer. To be sure, the farmers then as now, were a class only in a limited sense. Like Bonaparte Stalin represents not what is revolutionary but what is conservative in the farmer and in all other groups upon which his regime rests. In order to perpetuate his domination, Bonaparte carried out a policy which Marx characterized as the “imperialism of the farmer class,” that is, the policy or hope of opening up new markets at the point of the bayonet, so that with the plunder of a continent the dictator would “return to the farmer class with interest the taxes wrung from them.”
Now it may be argued that imperialism is a class policy. In the interests of what class, it may be asked, does Stalin carry out this so-called imperialist policy? Let us assume the legitimacy of this question for a moment. Here, too, we can find illumination in the analogy with the Bonapartist regime. Like the second Bonaparte, Stalin “is forccd to raise alongside the actual classes of society, an artificial class, to which the maintenance of his own regime must be a knife and fork question.” I do not believe that the Stalinist bureaucracy represents a new class, in any case none comparable with the great historic classes of society like the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. But in the sense in which Marx used the term to describe the Bonapartist bureaucracy, so, too, the Stalinist is an “artificial class.” It seeks new resources of labour and of raw materials, markets, seaports, gold stores, and the like. It is compelled in life to recognize what it denies in theory, the impossibility of constructing a socialist society — even that caricature of socialism represented by the present regime — in one country. As a bureaucracy, increasingly separated from the masses because increasingly threatened by them it is interested in a growing national income only for its own sake. Only in order to enhance its privileges and power — economic, social and political. But its own existence, its own rule, constitutes the greatest brake on the development of the productive forces and consequently on the national income. Hence, its growing urge to expand and to resolve its crisis abroad. And where the earlier Bolsheviks sought to resolve the crisis abroad in a socialist internationalist sense, by spreading the revolution, by raising the spirit of the class struggle abroad, the Stalinist regime seeks to resolve its domestic crisis by a policy which we cannot characterize as anything but imperialist. It is substantially on the basis of this analysis alone that we can consistently oppose what Trotsky calls “new seizures of territories by the Kremlin.” It is on the basis of such an analysis that we are able to tell the masses or their vanguard what to do both before and after the Stalinist invasions.
And what policy shall we advance for the Russian masses? There, too, I do not believe we advance very far by the simple reiteration of the formula of unconditional defence. I would say to the Russian worker or soldier: The Stalinist bureaucracy is hurting Russia. It is discrediting the revolution in the Soviet Union throughout the working class of the world, which it is driving into the arms of the imperialist bourgeoisie. It is using you as tools of imperialism. The task that you are performing now under Stalin’s command is an ignominious and reactionary one. Unite with the Ukrainian workers and peasants in the territory you have been sent to conquer and jointly overturn the Stalin regime in order to establish a genuine Soviet power. And I would say this to them tomorrow in the case of an invasion of Finland or India.
But I am now asked by Goldman and Cannon: You give no answer in your document to what should be our policy towards the defence of property nationalized by Stalin after the invasion. Is it progressive or reactionary? I cannot characterize this question, considering who are its authors, as anything but impudence. The majority refused to give an answer to any concrete question. We at least tried to give an answer to some of the concrete questions. However, in so far as the question has an independent merit of its own, it presents no difficulties for us. Naturally nationalization of property is progressive as against private property, just as the freeing of the serfs by Alexander III was progressive as against the enslavement of the serfs. I would resist any attempt to reduce emancipated peasants to serfdom again. And it goes without saying that I would defend nationalised property. But I must continue to emphasise that the questions of today are not answered or successfully evaded by necessarily hypothetical questions about tomorrow. However important the latter undeniably are, they do not eliminate the urgency of today’s problems and the problem of a Hitler attack against the Ukraine was and is the question of tomorrow.
The question of Stalin’s invasion of Poland and of the Baltic countries is the question of today, and that is the one we must answer first and that is the one the majority failed and still refuses to answer.
I find very interesting and important the formulation in Comrade Trotsky’s latest document that we subordinate the overthrow of Stalin to the defence of nationalized property and planned economy, and we subordinate the defence of planned economy and nationalized property to the interests of the world revolution. I should like to ask a question about that formula. What is meant in it by “subordinate,” especially in the phrase dealing with the subordination of the defence of the Soviet Union, that is, of nationalized property, to the interests of the world socialist revolution? Now my understanding of our position in the past was that we vehemently deny any possible conflict between the two. The defence of Russia was always and unalterably in the interests of the world revolution, and especially against the Stalinists we maintained that the would revolution was the best way to defend the Soviet Union. But I never understood our position in the past to mean that we subordinate the one to the other. If I understand English, the term implies either that there is a conflict between the two or the possibility of such a conflict. If there is a possibility of such a conflict, and I believe there is (it has already been shown in life), that indicates again that we cannot continue maintaining the slogan of unconditional defence of the Soviet Union. By that slogan in the past we meant nothing more than this, that we place no conditions to our defence of the Soviet Union, that is, we do not say we will defend the Soviet Union on the condition that the Stalin regime is first removed. If I understand the meaning of Comrade Trotsky’s new formula, it is this: we defend the Soviet Union on the condition that it is to the interests of the world socialist revolution; that it does not conflict with those interests; and that where it does conflict with those interests, the latter remain primary and decisive, and the defence of the Soviet Union is secondary and subordinate.
I should be very much interested in having the comrades of the majority give me concrete examples of conditions under which they would subordinate the defence of the Soviet Union to the interests of the world revolution. Give me one or two, and by an example I do not mean the case of, let’s say, a political revolution of the workers and peasants in Russia against the Stalin regime. How can that be interpreted as subordinating the defence of nationalized property to the interests of the world revolution? We have said in the past at least that the political revolution against the Stalin bureaucracy is not a blow against its economic foundations but that it is the best way, and, in fact, the only really sound and fundamental way in which to defend these economic foundations. The two concepts in that case are not in conflict. There cannot be in that case any question of subordinating the one to the other. The interests of both are identical.
Until concrete examples are given by the majority, and until the other questions I have raised are answered, and answered objectively and convincingly, I continue to contend that our slogan of unconditional defence of the Soviet Union has been proved by events, by reality, to be false and misleading, to be harmful, and that therefore it must be abandoned by our party. we must adopt in its place a slogan which is clear, which is defendable, and which makes possible a correct policy in harmony with our revolutionary internationalist position.