Eight months have passed since the fateful date of 22 June 1941 when Hitler began his march on Russia. From that day the two most powerful armies in the world have been locked in epic combat from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Although the German Panzer divisions have in this time conquered a territory no smaller than that of Germany itself, nothing foreshadows the breakdown of the super-human heroism with which the Russian revolution fights for its life and for its banner. Bleeding profusely it finds its greatness anew. The destiny of the world now hangs in balance across the vast spaces of the ussr. Everywhere—in occupied Europe, in the British Empire, in both Americas—people are listening with the same anxiety and hope to the sounds from the distant battlefields. This does not mean, however, that the conflicting class interests have now been replaced by a peaceful class idyll. But in the present war divergent class interests have become temporarily so interwined that a diehard English conservative, a liberal, a bourgeois democrat, a Polish socialist, a Komsomol youth from a kolkhoz—all link their hopes and fears to the struggle on the Don and the Neva.
There is no need to conceal that in this enormous historical game different sides play for different stakes. For English conservatism the Empire is at stake, with all its economic advantages derived from the exploitation of the colonies. Bourgeois democracy knows that the German bombers and tanks are out to destroy not only the Soviet state, but also the whole parliamentary system of democratic freedoms—the system which is the historic product of Western European capitalism. Finally, for socialists it is obvious that on the Neva, the Volga, the Don, and the Azov Sea stand perhaps the last bulwarks of defense in the battle so tragically, but temporarily, lost on the Vistula, the Spree, the Danube, and the Seine. It is a battle for the very existence of the workers’ movement and the freedom of European peoples—a freedom without which socialism cannot be achieved. Such is the objective logic of historical development. Only the blind or pretenders to the role of Quislings fail to understand that logic. In the terse war communiques we socialists read not only the reports about ‘normal’ war operations; we are also reading in them the fate of the deadly struggle between revolution and counter-revolution.
Since 22 June 1941 the Russian Revolution has once again begun to forge unbreakable links with the European labour movement. These links are proving stronger than all the opportunistic manoeuvres of Soviet diplomacy in recent years. It was not the Russian Revolution that in September 1939 shared the torn body of Poland with German fascism. In those unhappy September days Russia had not shown her true revolutionary face—no revolution in history has yet taken on the shape of a jackal scrounging the battlefield. The face which was then turned towards the dispairing worker and peasant was the totalitarian mask imposed by the post-revolutionary bureaucracy. Now history is stripping off that mask and revealing the Revolution’s true countenance: bleeding but dignified, suffering but fighting on. Cruelly, but justly, history is putting an end to all cynical masquerades.
What is left of those congratulatory telegrams in which the Kremlin spoke high-sounding words about ‘the Russo-German friendship cemented by blood spilled in common’? How many other castles, built not so much in the air as on the wrongs done to nations, were to be ‘cemented’ by the wretched Kremlin architects? On the very eve of 22 June, Moscow was still trying to salvage its friendship with the arch-executioner of Europe by recognizing his occupation of Yugoslavia, Greece, and Norway. The shadow of total war was already darkening the German-Soviet boundary when communiques and denials, laborously produced in the offices of the Narkomindel, tried to prove to an incredulous world that the giant concentration of German troops presented no danger to the Soviet Union, and that nothing had yet clouded the friendship between Berlin and Moscow. Ostriches hatched in eagle’s nests were timorously burying their heads in diplomatic sands refusing to admit that a storm was imminent. But an approaching storm does not usually wait for the ostriches to trot out to confront it.
One fundamental truth about the German-Soviet war has to be understood: the heroic resistance of the Russian workers and peasants is proof of the vitality of revolutionary society. Soviet workers and peasants are defending all that, in spite of various deformations, has remained of the revolution: an economy without capitalists and landlords. They defend what they see as their socialist fatherland—and here the accent is on the adjective no less than on the noun. They defend it not because, but in spite of the privileges which the new bureaucracy has usurped for itself; not because, but in spite of the totalitarian regime with its gpu, concentration camps, cult of the leader, and the terrible purges. Whoever has had an opportunity to observe Soviet reality even for a short time knows that the totalitarian regime had not strengthened, but on the contrary had weakened the Soviet state. The huge quantity of modern weapons which the Red Army wields in battle could have been produced on a far greater scale and in better quality without the whip that lashes the backs of the Soviet workers. The sword of the revolution would be sharper today if it had been honed by a true democracy amongst the working masses. Solidarity with Russia does not in any way demand that this truth be concealed.
22 June 1941 also cleared up another confusion endemic in the socialist camp, which found expression in the cliche about the ‘solidarity of totalitarian regimes.’ Nearly two years of German-Soviet ‘friendship’ and the policy of annexations which culminated in the first Finno-Soviet War seemed to confirm the slogan about the solidarity of totalitarianisms. From today’s perspective, however, the motives of Soviet policy appear more clearly. This was the period in which the Soviet Union was obsessed with assuring for itself the most advantageous strategic positions for the coming conflict with the Third Reich. At the root of Soviet expansionism there were none of those elements which characterize every genuine imperialism. There was no frantic quest for markets, for raw materials, or for profitable investment of capital. Soviet annexation policy was not dictated by the needs inherent in its socio-economic structure, rather it was dictated by the exigencies of the politico-strategic game. This does not mean, of course, that we should condone or justify Soviet policy. There is a limit beyond which, from a socialist viewpoint, no state should be allowed to proceed even in the struggle for its own existence. The freedom and self-determination of other nations constitutes such a limit. Moreover, it is clear that even from an utterly pragmatic standpoint, the violation of the sovereignty of neighbouring countries has turned out to be of doubtful advantage to the Soviet Union.
Since 1939 Soviet diplomacy has treated the problem of defence in purely military terms, neglecting all political and national considerations. A great deal of thought has been given to bases, territories, strategic positions, while the national sentiments of the Poles, Lithuanians, Letts, Estonians, Finns, and others have been treated with contempt. Then, in the moments most critical for the survival of the Soviet Union, these aroused nationalist sentiments have rebounded with a vengeance. The defence of Leningrad, for example, was certainly not strengthened by the damaging wound inflicted on the Finnish