The Global Zeitenwende
How to Avoid a New Cold War in a Multipolar Era
WEAK, ruined, exhausted Russia, this backward country, has won out against all nations, against an alliance of the rich and powerful states that dominate the entire world." So said Lenin in his report on the international situation on July 19, 1920, addressing the delegates to the Second World Congress of the Communist International.
The usually sober man was in a confident mood. All major countries were represented at the Congress, many of them with handsome delegations representing "real" movements; the civil war in Russia was won; the Red Army was on the road to Warsaw, carrying the revolution west at bayonet point. And beyond Poland lay Germany, industrially the most advanced country on the European continent, the country of the strongest party within the International apart from his own. "We," he added, speaking German, "were not in a position to oppose them with forces equal to theirs, and we have won out nevertheless. Why? Because between them there was not even a semblance of unity."
This was the point he endeavored to hammer into the consciousness of his audience, explaining, in great detail, why there could be no unity among capitalist states, why they were bound to fight each other for markets, spheres of influence and imperialist super-profits, and why only a world revolution could "save the world." In other words, what he expounded on that occasion was his theory of imperialism, a theory to which he attached the greatest importance.
To make it stick in the minds of his followers, German and French translations of his book, "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism," had been published in time for the Congress, with a special preface written by the author on July 6, 1920. This preface makes clear beyond any doubt what the theory is designed to accomplish. Its two concluding paragraphs read:
Not the slightest progress can be made toward the solution of the practical problems of the Communist movement and of the impending social revolution unless the economic roots of this phenomenon (imperialism) are understood and unless its political and sociological significance is appreciated.
Imperialism is the eve of the proletarian social revolution. This has been confirmed since 1917 on a world-wide scale.
Until a few months ago, this theory has been sacrosanct, subject to reverent exegesis and statistical amendment, but otherwise as inviolable as any dogma of any church. It was revised by Stalin in his article in Bolshevik, published on the eve of the Nineteenth Party Congress. Pravda confirmed the extraordinary importance of this development by calling it "the greatest event in the ideological life of the Party and the Soviet people." His successor or successors must take it as their point of departure, whether they hold to it or try to change it.
In order to get at the true meaning and full implications of Stalin's revision of Lenin's theory we must isolate it from the rest of Stalin's text, certain parts of which--particularly the part about the "inevitability of wars between capitalist countries"-- tend to obscure rather than to illuminate the conceptual landscape. This surgical move leaves us with the three following paragraphs:
A. Can one affirm that the well-known thesis of Stalin on the relative stability of markets in a general crisis of capitalism stated before the Second World War still remains in force?
B. Can one affirm that the thesis of Lenin--stated by him in the spring of 1916, to the effect that notwithstanding the rotting of capitalism, "as a whole capitalism is growing immeasurably more rapidly than formerly"-- still remains in force?
I think that it is impossible to affirm this. In view of new conditions arising in connection with the Second World War, both these theses must be considered as having lost their validity.
If we now, obeying the counsel of prudence, proceed to study the two theses referred to in their original context, we immediately make the interesting discovery that Stalin's own "well-known" thesis had actually seen the light of day not merely "before the Second World War" but actually more than 27 years ago. It is, of course, entirely possible that the peculiar phrasing of this passage was not due to guileful design. But we may wonder. For the Soviet dictator, never one to be unaware of the propaganda effect of his infrequent statements, might conceivably have thought it a good idea to throw the non-Communist world off the scent. After all, he had done so before.
Whatever his intention in this case, the fact remains that his thesis about the relative stability of capitalism was originally presented in the form of a closely reasoned--if repetitiously worded--theoretical analysis before the fourteenth Conference of the Soviet Communist Party in 1925, with the clear purpose of impressing upon his audience that Trotsky was wrong in putting the emphasis on revolutionary developments outside Russia. Stalin would have none of that. As he saw it, the revolutionary tide had receded, capitalism had recovered from the destructive impact of World War I, and the Soviet régime had no alternative but to adapt its policies to the new situation and to plan in long-range terms for strategic periods of unknown duration. The "epoch" of world revolution, he said, "covers a whole strategic period which may occupy years, or perhaps decades." And he added: "In the course of this period there will occur, nay, must occur, ebbs and flows in the revolutionary tide."
The Soviet Union couldn't go it alone? Socialism in one country was impossible? Nonsense! Anything was possible, provided one applied the "correct" strategy and tactics to the given situation. After all, the stabilization of capitalism was "only one aspect of the matter;" the other aspect was "that side by side with the ebb of the revolutionary tide of Europe, we have the rapid growth of the economic development of the Soviet Union and the growth of its political might."
That was the point. Again and again, Stalin would repeat it:
In other words, we have not only the stabilization of capitalism, we have at the same time the stabilization of the Soviet system. Thus we have two stabilizations: the temporary stabilization of capitalism and the stabilization of the Soviet system. The setting in of a certain temporary equilibrium between these two stabilizations--such is the characteristic feature of the present international situation.
Did Stalin's revision of his thesis mean that the "temporary equilibrium" between the "two stabilizations" has come to an end--that the "strategic period" he was talking about in 1925 was drawing to a close? It would seem so. And the fact that Lenin's thesis is characterized along with his own as having lost validity tends to suggest exactly that.
It would be a mistake [Lenin's thesis runs] to believe that this tendency to decay precludes the possibility of the rapid growth of capitalism. It does not. In the epoch of imperialism, certain branches of industry, certain strata of the bourgeoisie and certain countries betray, to a more or less degree, one or the other [parasitic or decaying] of these tendencies. On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before. But this growth is not only becoming more and more uneven in general; its unevenness also manifests itself, in particular, in the decay of the countries which are richest in capital.
On this thesis Stalin superimposed his own. "Lenin," he declared, "fully proved that the growth of capitalism does not cancel, but presupposes and prepares for, the progressive decay of capitalism." And he added, returning to his main theme: "Thus we have two stabilizations. At the one pole we find capitalism stabilizing itself, consolidating the position it has reached and continuing its development. At the other pole we find the Soviet system stabilizing itself, consolidating the position it has won and marching forward on the road to victory. Who will defeat whom? That is the essence of the question."
Kto kavo?--Who whom?--that was the essence of the question for Lenin, too. He was, in fact, the first to employ these words in the sense which affected the struggle between capitalism and Communism with an inescapable either-or quality, which made peaceful coexistence of the two economic systems a proposition of tactical expediency rather than an end desirable in itself and to be worked for in the interest of humanity. And he had no patience with those who thought otherwise. "The existence of the Soviet Republic side by side with imperialist states for a long time," he declared categorically in one of his outbursts of impatience, "is unthinkable. One or the other must triumph in the end. And before that end comes, a series of frightful clashes between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois states is inevitable."
This prophecy--and the intellectual arrogance expressed in it --is understandable only in terms of Lenin's acceptance of Marx's "Das Kapital" as the last word of scientific analysis of capitalist economy. "Official science," as he put in, "tried, by a conspiracy of silence, to kill the works of Marx, which by theoretical and historical analysis of capitalism showed that free competition gives rise to the concentration of production, which, in turn, at a certain stage of development, leads to monopoly. Today, monopoly has become a fact." What was needed was merely to bring Marx up to date, to analyze the world situation from the viewpoint that makes the rise of monopolies "a general and fundamental law of the present stage of development of capitalism." Which he did, to his own satisfaction, in the book written in Zurich during the spring of 1916.
In the foreword of the book, dated Petrograd, April 26, 1917 (shortly after his return to Russia with the aid of the Imperial Government of Germany), Lenin put his dogmatic assurance in plain words: "I trust that this pamphlet will help the reader to understand the fundamental economic question, viz. the question of the economic essence of imperialism, for unless this is studied, it will be impossible to understand and appraise modern war and modern politics."
The economic "essence"--or, as Lenin more frequently calls it, "quintessence"--of imperialism is monopoly capitalism, that is, "parasitic or decaying capitalism." Its parasitic character is deduced from the "exploitation of an increasing number of small and weak nations by an extremely small group of the richest or most powerful nations;" the decay from the complete "division of the world" among the colonial Powers since the beginning of the century. The inevitable consequence of this was a "particularly intense struggle" for markets, imperialist "super-profits," and, finally, a "redivision of the world" by war.
The only alternative to wars resulting from imperialist conflict was world revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat. "In the pamphlet," wrote Lenin, "I proved that the war of 1914-18 was imperialist (that is, an annexionist, predatory, plunderous war) on the part of both sides; it was a war for the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies, 'spheres of influence' of finance capital, etc. Proof of what was the true social, or rather, the true class character of the war is naturally to be found, not in the diplomatic history of the war, but in an analysis of the objective position of the ruling classes in all belligerent countries." Consequently, the question of good or bad intentions, of defensive war or aggressive war, does not even arise. It is quite immaterial what people think they are fighting for. Objectively, they are "dupes" of monopoly capital --unless they join the revolutionary proletariat, led by "true" Marxists, who alone possess the scientific understanding of the historical process necessary to establish a society without exploitation, oppression and war.
"Whoever is not with us," as Lenin once put it with utmost frankness, "is against us."
Stalin, therefore, was on safe ground--so far as a dogma can be considered safe--when he promulgated his thesis of the "two stabilizations" which, by implication, denied the possibility of One World. "A single and all-embracing capitalism," he said in 1925, "no longer exists. The world is now split into two camps: the capitalist camp, with Anglo-American capital at the head; and the Socialist camp, with the Soviet Union at the head."
In the "temporary equilibrium" reached between the two camps, an equilibrium "slightly in favor of capitalism and, consequently, slightly disadvantageous to the revolutionary movement," the policy of the Soviet Union was to build up its economic and political strength, and to exploit for that purpose the inherent contradictions of capitalism.
This, as Stalin made clear on several occasions, is the point where "coexistence" enters the equation. In September 1927, for instance, in an interview with the first American labor delegation in Russia, he went to great pains to explain why agreements between the Soviet Union on the one hand, and individual capitalists or bourgeois states on the other, were "possible and expedient in conditions of peaceful development." He added:
Exports and imports are the most suitable ground for such agreements. We require equipment, raw material (raw cotton, for example), semi-manufactures (metals, etc.), while the capitalists require a market for their goods. This provides a basis for agreement. The capitalists require oil, timber, grain products, and we require a market for these goods. Here is another basis for agreement. We require credits, the capitalists require good interest for their credits. Here is still another basis for agreements.
International relations? The same thing:
We are pursuing a policy of peace and are prepared to sign a pact of nonaggression with bourgeois states. We are pursuing a policy of peace and we are prepared to come to an agreement concerning disarmament, including complete abolition of standing armies. . . . Here is a basis for agreement in the diplomatic field.
But there were certain limits for such coöperation, limits "set by the opposite characters of the two systems between which there is rivalry and conflict" according to Stalin's concept of imperialism, beyond which he would not go under any circumstances. As he put it: "Within the limits permitted by these two systems, but only within these limits, agreement is quite possible." In other words, Stalin was prepared to "peaceably coexist" with the capitalist world--but only on his terms, and only so long as the "temporary equilibrium" between the two camps remained "disadvantageous to the revolutionary movement."
The matter was put to a test in 1934, after the main pillar of the "movement," the German Communist Party, had been destroyed by Hitler, compounding the disadvantage of Stalin's camp. In this situation, the Soviet dictator decided to join the League of Nations, up to then denounced as an "instrument of imperialism." He would not, however, relent in regard to the fundamental issue. Coöperation with bourgeois states for the "maintenance of peace" was still no more than a temporary expedient: a tactical move, not a change of strategy.
"The old system is breaking down," he told H. G. Wells in the same year of 1934, "but it is not breaking down of its own accord." Nothing was to deflect him from his mission to "destroy imperialism," not even the threat of Nazi aggression, of a life-and-death struggle of the Soviet régime, and still less the obligations of membership in the League. The Communists, he said, could "not count on the old world voluntarily departing from the stage." They were, consequently, obliged to tell the (international) working class not to permit anybody to put manacles on its hands--"on the hands with which you will overthrow the old system." He added: "As you see, the Communists regard the substitution of one social system for another not simply as a spontaneous and peaceful process."
So it was with such reservations that the Soviets signed the Covenant of the League, and, 11 years and a world war later, the Charter of the U.N. They felt under no obligation to make their reservations explicit. "Bolshevik morality," the morality that makes right everything that helps destroy the "old society," exempted them from such expressions of good faith. But the reservations were implicit in Soviet actions and policies, particularly in the unchanging insistence that "sincerity" and "truly peaceful intentions" could not be proved by loyalty to the world peace organization, but only through signing a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union--equivalent to a declaration of non-belief in the principle of collective security.
Hitler obliged. This transformed the Nazis, automatically, into a force for peace. The Western Powers refused, and so became, just as automatically, "warmongers" and "cannibals." The classification was reversed during the time of the Grand Alliance, and once more after its breakdown following the war. Today, the Western Powers, by virtue of their unwillingness to sign nonaggression pacts with the Soviet Union and their defense of the U.N. Charter in Korea, are again in the category of "warmongers" and "cannibals."
There is a kind of logical madness about it, a madness which recognizes facts only to the extent they happen to fit the conceptual pattern. In his last text on capitalism and Socialism, peace and war, Stalin demonstrated this anew in a most revealing fashion. His argument was based on the following syllogism:
1. Imperialism makes war inevitable.
2. But war against the Soviet Union is "more dangerous for capitalism than a war between individual capitalist countries" because it "must put the question of the very existence of capitalism."
3. Therefore wars between capitalist countries are inevitable.
And Stalin presented as proof for the validity of his premises and conclusion a piece of history still vivid in the memory of this generation. "The Second World War," he said, "began, not with a war with the U.S.S.R., but with a war with capitalist countries;" and he found it "typical that it was none other than the United States and England which helped Germany raise herself economically and raise her military and economic potential." He added:
Of course the United States and England, helping Germany to rise economically, had in view to direct the risen Germany against the Soviet Union, to use it against the country of Socialism. However, Germany directed her forces in the first place against the Anglo-American-French bloc, and when Hitlerite Germany declared war against the Soviet Union then the Anglo-American-French bloc not only did not unite with Hitlerite Germany but on the contrary was forced to engage in a coalition with the U.S.S.R. against Hitlerite Germany.
Consequently, the struggle of the capitalist countries for markets and their desire to drown their competitors were, as it turned out in practice, stronger than the contradictions between the camp of capitalism and the camp of Socialism.
There was, of course, method in this logical madness--the method of Leninized Marxian dialectics, the method that makes it possible to glean the "true character" of historical facts from their "objective tendencies," and the identity of the "main enemy" from an "objective analysis" of the "given situation." It enabled the Soviet dictator to prove, implicitly, that the Soviet-German pact had nothing whatever to do with the outbreak of World War II, and, explicitly, that the United States must be held responsible for this international catastrophe. He wrote:
Each of the two capitalist coalitions which buried their claws in each other during the war counted on breaking the enemy and obtaining world domination. In this they sought a way out from this [general] crisis [of the capitalist system]. The United States of America counted on putting out of action its most dangerous competitors, Germany and Japan, and on seizing foreign markets, world resources of raw materials and obtaining world domination.
Crime doesn't pay, however; Stalin's history sees to that. The hopes of the American "imperialists" are disappointed. He continued:
It is true that Germany and Japan were put out of action as competitors of the three chief capitalist countries. But along with this there fell away from the capitalist system China and other people's democracies in Europe, forming together with the Soviet Union a united and powerful Socialist camp counterpoised to the camp of capitalism. The economic result of the coexistence of the two counterpoised camps was that the united all-embracing world market fell apart, and as a result of this we now have two parallel world markets also counterpoised one to the other.
The purpose of this simple dialectical twist was to eliminate the Soviet Union as an active factor from the analysis. The premises (or theses) then yield the theoretically foregone conclusion, and the military and political conquest by the Soviet Union of areas with more than half a billion inhabitants appears not as imperialist expansion (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) but as "the economic result" of the policy of "peaceful coexistence" of the "two camps" between which "there is rivalry and conflict."
This is by no means all, however. Stalin's dialectically-enriched logic did not apply merely to the past; it can be employed, too, for the purpose of predicting the future. And Lenin's successor was no more reluctant than his teacher to show himself in the garb of prophet. He cheerfully predicted that the sphere of application of the forces of the chief capitalist countries to the world resources will not expand but will contract, that the conditions of the world market of sale for these countries will grow worse, and idleness of enterprise in these countries will increase. "The capitalists feel this themselves, for it is difficult not to feel the loss of such markets as the U.S.S.R and China. They try to make up for these difficulties with the Marshall Plan and war in Korea, by an arms race, by militarization of industry. But this is very like a drowning man clutching at straws."
"Ink will kill modern social organization," said Napoleon, whose knowledge of the power, uses and limitations of military means was unequaled in his time. Stalin, as the record proves, was not unaware of that. For a generation now, his epistles, spread to all corners of the globe through the medium of print by his enemies as well as by his disciples, have served as guides to action for hordes of de-individualized men--men trained to about-face at any time upon order from Moscow, orders that more often than not are stated implicitly in dialectical terminology rather than in explicit directives. And his recent discussion of the tactical rôle of the "peace movement" provided an excellent example of that technique: "The contemporary movement for peace is distinguished from the movement in the period of the First World War for the transformation of an imperialist war into a civil war, since the latter movement went further and pursued Socialist purposes."
Today, on the other hand, the movement "limits itself to the democratic purposes of struggle for the keeping of peace." But this "contemporary movement for peace" should not be regarded as being forever committed to peace. That would be "bourgeois pacifism." "It is possible that in a certain concatenation of circumstances the struggle for peace will develop in certain places into a struggle for the overthrow of capitalism."
This dialectical twist, which makes "peace" and "civil war" tactical equivalents, Siamese twins of Stalin's logic, deserves our most careful attention. For it has various uses. It can, for instance, be employed to advantage if the Kremlin feels a need to substitute the term "civil war" for the word "war" (war in the form of outright military aggression). And it was so employed in regard to Korea. All that was required was Stalin's magic wand of the theory of imperialism and two theses:
Thesis No. 1: The conflict in Korea is not a "war" but a "civil war."
Supporting argument: "As is known, the Soviet Government withdrew its troops from Korea earlier than did the U. S. Government and thereby confirmed its traditional principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states." (Note of June 27, 1950.) "At the behest of its American masters, the Syngman Rhee Government on June 25 began civil war in Korea." (Note of the North Korean Government of July 2, 1950, in Russian language, addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Trygve Lie.)
Thesis No. 2: Interference in a "civil war" by foreign Powers is "aggression."
Supporting argument: "The Soviet Government holds also now to the principle of the inadmissibility of the interference of foreign powers in the internal affairs of Korea." (Note of June 27, 1950.)
Conclusion: The United Nations (by failing to make this distorted version of the Korean conflict the basis of its decisions) is guilty of "interference," "intervention," "aggression" and "crimes against humanity"--all because of its defense of collective security against barefaced aggression.
For the Soviet dictator simply refused to permit any other interpretation of facts, present and past, than his own. As far as Korea is concerned, he made that clear beyond any doubt in his interview with Pravda on February 16, 1951, declaring that "the United Nations Organization, created as the bulwark for preserving peace, is being turned into an instrument of war, into a means of unleashing a new world war."
With this assertion, the matter was settled and the task of preventing war passed into other hands. "Peace," Stalin stipulated, "will be preserved and consolidated if the peoples will take the cause of preserving peace into their own hands and will defend it to the end. War may become inevitable if the warmongers succeed in entangling the masses of the people in lies, in deceiving them and drawing them into a new world war. That is why the wide campaign for the maintenance of peace as a means of exposing the criminal machinations of the warmongers is now of first rate importance."
Twenty months later, confronted with an undeniable decline of Communist influence in the West, he took a somewhat dimmer view of the ultimate effectiveness of that campaign. With a frankness unequalled up to then, he described the functions of the "peace movement" in illuminating detail as: 1, the prevention of a given war; 2, its temporary postponement; 3, the temporary maintenance of a given peace; 4, the retirement of a warlike government; 5, the replacement of such a government with one prepared to maintain peace temporarily.
But this neatly calculated scheme of what could perhaps be called "cold civil war" contained, according to the master in political mathematics, an important unknown quantity, or rather two. First, Stalin was not sure that the peace movement would be "successful" in the discharge of its task. And second, although what the peace movement if it is successful can achieve is "good" --even "very good"--that does not fill the bill. Why? Simply because all this "is insufficient in order to destroy the inevitability of wars in general between the capitalist countries. It is insufficient since, with all these successes of the movement for peace, imperialism nevertheless will continue to remain in force--consequently there remains in force the inevitability of wars."
Thus having proved what Stalin set out to prove, the conclusion is logically inescapable. He gave it to us, for a change, straight: "In order to destroy the inevitability of wars, it is necessary to destroy imperialism."
Thus Stalin in his last text reaffirmed the fundamental thesis of Leninist-Stalinist theory on international relations, while at the same time discarding two subsidiary theses which hitherto granted capitalism a kind of reprieve during the period of the "temporary equilibrium of the two stabilizations." In plainer words, the essence of the question, as the Soviet Führer saw it, is still: Who will defeat whom? What had been added was the conclusion that the power relationships between the two camps had changed in favor of the Soviets.
What does this mean in terms of practical policy? How would Stalin go about this business of destroying what he called imperialism? Or can we safely assume that all this amounted to was liturgical exercise, thunder without lightning?
We cannot. Theory and practice, in Bolshevik reasoning, are dialectically interlinked, influencing and determining one another, with the "actual power relationships"--the "logic of facts"--dictating the course a true Communist is to follow. If this peculiar logic--revealed by means of "objective" analysis of any given situation--is unfavorable, he is under "moral" obligation to walk with caution, to retreat whenever defeat appears inevitable, and if necessary to "crawl in the mud on your belly," as Lenin put it, to avoid annihilation and ensure the survival of the régime.
This Stalin did in the thirties, following the destruction of the Weimar Republic--which his policy of treating democracy as the "main enemy" had helped bring about, after having earlier pushed the Chinese Party into defeat and brought the Soviet Union to the brink of disaster through his forced collectivization of agriculture. Then, indeed, he demonstrated that he knew how to "crawl" to save the "bastion of the world proletariat." When it became clear that Hitler, far from obliging the Soviets by "playing Kerensky" as they had confidently assumed, had irretrievably smashed the strongest "mass party" outside the Soviet Union, Stalin lost no time getting to his knees and making advances to Berlin for a "better understanding." But the Führer was hard of hearing then, and replied by intensifying his anti-Communist campaign for the sake of the impression it made abroad. Only after he had been repulsed by the Nazis in his first attempt at conciliation was Stalin prepared to accept the alternative (there was no other) of coöperation with the democracies and the League of Nations.
In this period of "inevitable" retreat, Stalin developed a new, hybrid terminology, used to advantage at Yalta and Potsdam and resulting in such verbal monstrosities as "people's democracy." He became very apologetic on the question of "interference," telling Roy W. Howard in 1936, for example, that to accuse the Soviets of wanting to interfere in the lives of other nations was saying "what is untrue, and what we have never advocated." He also showed a perceptible reluctance in expatiating on fundamental theoretical matters--without, however, withdrawing his "Problems of Leninism" from circulation, since "crawling" falls under the heading of tactics and does not extend into the sacred precincts of "Bolshevik strategy" and "Leninist ideology."
But in the fateful year of 1939, when Hitler's campaign of expansion without war began to run into difficulties, Stalin saw his chance and played it for all it was worth. The era of the pact between two kindred souls saw the Soviet leader displaying feats of undisputable mastery of the art of self-abasement. He refrained from all criticism of the Hitler régime, fulfilled with alacrity the stipulations of the trade pact which the Nazis treated with nonchalant carelessness, and tolerated the violation of the "inviolable" frontiers of the Soviet Union by scores of Nazi planes with the meekness worthy of a "bourgeois pacifist."
But in the cold war, any plane daring to come even close to Soviet territorial waters has been likely to be shot down with complete disregard of civilized practices; and the uninhibited propaganda of hatred against the Western nations, especially America, has told all too clearly that the need for crawling was considered to be over.
If there still remained doubt about what Stalin thought of the "actual power relationships" in the present situation, he dispelled it with his promise of support for the Communist parties outside the Iron Curtain "in their struggle for liberation." The phrase is a synonym for "overthrow of capitalism" and "destruction of imperialism." Even a year ago any suggestion from the West that the Soviet Union countenanced this kind of interference in the affairs of other nations was "slander;" it was something "we have never advocated." In Stalin's thesis it became official Soviet policy.
In reaffirming a thesis proclaimed during his struggle for succession to Lenin's mantle Stalin apparently decided that he could safely throw caution to the winds, and two decades of apologetics out of the window. In June 1925, in an address at Sverdlov University (included in "Problems of Leninism"), he asked the rhetorical question whether the support of the "liberation movement" in China and Germany (always the two pivots of Soviet expansionism) was "worth the risk." He replied that any other policy meant treading the "path of nationalism and degeneration." The "logic of facts" which made retreat from this policy permissible during the intervening decades now recommended "Bolshevik boldness."
There is, of course, no lack of theoretical justification for the policy of direct, unconcealed intervention in the affairs of non-Communist nations. As early as 1913, Stalin, inspired by Lenin, expounded in his "Marxism and the National Question" the thesis that, while all nations had the right to self-determination, the "interests of the proletariat" were superior to the rights of any "class society." And in 1923, bringing this theme into line with the fact of Soviet power, he said: "There are occasions when the right of self-determination conflicts with the other, the higher right--the right of a working class that has assumed power to consolidate its power. In such cases--this must be said bluntly-- the right to self-determination cannot and must not serve as an obstacle to the exercise by the working class of its right to dictatorship. The former must give way to the latter. That, for instance, was the case in 1920, when in order to defend the power of the working class we were obliged to march on Warsaw."
Nor, we may add, with the experience of three decades behind us, did it prove an obstacle to another march on Warsaw in 1939, or on Helsinki, or, finally, on Seoul. For here--in this peculiar "higher right"--is the fountainhead of theory that has produced Soviet aggression whenever Stalin felt that he could take the risk.
It is against this background that we should read Stalin's last thesis of the inevitability of wars between capitalist states, and the promise of support for Communist-led "liberation" movements. No one can know what Stalin meant, but what he seems to have meant is that the Soviet policy of expansion would be continued and strengthened. We are probably justified in assuming that he announced no change in the tactical objective of keeping the Soviet Union out of any direct military clash with the West. The obvious aversion of the Western nations to war, and the lack of unity among them, suggest that there are dividends still to be gathered without that greatest of gambles. But his minions in all countries not under the heel of the Soviets were called upon to do everything in their power to strengthen the forces of extreme nationalism, including Fascism and Nazism--which, after all, provided the means for touching off World War II as a "war between capitalist states." At the same time, Communists were to promote national fronts on the broadest possible basis, as insurance against losing control over the march of events --the true function of the People's Front in the thirties--and to intensify the preparations for "liberation," through governments willing to accept Communist support or through civil war.
What we can safely infer from what the Soviet Führer said, and the way he said it, is this: first, that the Kremlin is prepared to underwrite greater risks in the international field; and second, that Stalin was determined to spare no effort in his attempt to deceive the free world in regard to the timing, the direction and the nature of future blows against "imperialism." In 1924, in one of his major theoretical analyses, he quoted Lenin to the effect that a "decisive battle" may be deemed to have fully matured when "all the class forces hostile to us have become sufficiently confused, are sufficiently at loggerheads with each other, have sufficiently weakened themselves in a struggle beyond their capacities."
As the world pondered the possible consequences of Stalin's death we heard again the romantic comment that he had been, after all, a force for peace. His last formal thesis was, in fact, an announcement that he had broadened his risks--the risks of war. Here is one yardstick by which to judge the intentions of his heirs.