Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact: when Stalinism worked as a catalyzer for Nazism

[:es]23 Aug 1939, Moscow, Russia --- Vyacheslav Molotov (right), foreign minister for the USSR and Joachim von Ribbentrop (left), foreign minister for Germany at the signing of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact with Joseph Stalin (center). Moscow, USSR, August 23, 1939. --- Image by © CORBIS[:]

August the 23rd of 1939 will be marked in history by the “Stalin-Hitler” pact.  Nine days after the beginning of World War II, to protect the counterrevolutionary oligarchy, the head of the counterrevolution in the USSR, signed a “peace and mutual aid” agreement with the imperialism of Nazi Germany.

By Nicolás Zuttión

This milestone was one of the most important empiric proofs that showed the counterrevolutionary nature of Stalin’s government. The first consequence of the agreement was a change in the politics of the Communist International. It caused a shift in the formulation of anti-fascist propaganda, “the ‘emigrated’ German newspapers and the novels of the anti-fascists suddenly disappear from the library of foreign literature. Beginning on August the 23rd in the afternoon, anti-fascist movies and plays are removed from all cinemas and theatres. Even the word “fascists” completely disappeared from the columns of the press…”

The road to the pact

The defeat of the European revolution that hampered the spread of the revolution outside the USSR, the exhaustion after the civil war and the confrontations with more than 15 imperialist armies were the motives behind the beginning of a process of bureaucratization of the first workers revolution. That is how a new bureaucratic caste emerged, took over power and set forth the theory of “Socialism in one country”, opposing the strategy of the international revolution pushed by the Communist International. Forced exiles and the subsequent murders, like in the case of Trotsky, and purges of the opposition were the methods used to shield a conservative political strategy with global consequences.

Defeated in World War I and hanged by the Treaty of Versailles, German capitalism was in a critical situation reflected on the inside of its social structure. The impoverishment of the petite bourgeoisie and the increasing unemployment of the working class were the perfect scenario for the development of Hitler’s party, National Socialism.

Seeing this situation and to counter the rising of fascism in Germany, Trotsky called for a “Worker’s United Front” with the Social Democratic Party. He conceived in this defensive tactic the possibility of stopping Hitler, grouping German workers to defend their own organizations and at the same time defeating the Social Democratic base by exposing the inconsistencies of its leadership. Summarizing and considering the programmatic differences between the different parties, the leader of the red army stated that: “The policies of our parties are irreconcilably opposed; but if the fascists come tonight to wreck your organization’s hall, we will come running, weapon in hand, to help you. Will you promise us that if our organization is threatened you will rush to our aid?” This is the quintessence of our policy in the present period.

However, the policy implemented by the Third International controlled by Stalin is the complete opposite. It was marked by the far-left ideology of the “Third Period” that defined reformism as social fascism, matching the Social Democracy with Nazism, refusing to unite to face it and thus enabling Hitler’s rise to power without any opposition.

A warning from Trotsky

Since the beginning of the 1930’s, typical of his acute political criteria, Trotsky thought of the possibility of a new world war caused by the irreconcilable contradictions of global imperialism. In that scenario, he suspected of a pact between Stalin and Hitler. The shelter of the “socialism in one country” made Stalin capable of anything. Fearing the possibility of an invasion after having purged the Red Army, Stalin, to preserve the status quo, fulfilled the prediction and made a pact with the German dictator.

In 1939, Moscow witnessed the meeting between Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s minister of foreign affairs, and Viachelsav Molotov, his counterpart from the bureaucratized Workers State, to sign a “non-aggression treaty”. This alliance showed that: “… what determines the domestic politics of the Kremlin is the interest of the new aristocracy in maintaining themselves, their hatred towards the people, their incapacity to lead a war. Any international combination covers some value for the soviet bureaucracy as it frees them from the need of turning to the strength of armed farmers and workers. And however, the German-Soviet pact is a military alliance in the full meaning of the word, as it serves the purposes of the aggressor imperialist war.”

Stalinism kept a part of the agreement hidden, which showed the criminality of what was signed when it came to light. Stalin not only did not fight Hitler’s fascist attacks but also, as Trotsky indicates, crowned the agreement with economic concessions. Thus the encrusted bureaucracy in the USSR “ensures Hitler the possibility to use Soviet raw materials in the same way as in Italy, in his attack on Ethiopia, he used Russian oil. While the military experts that England and France have in Moscow studied the Baltic map from the perspective of the military operations between the USSR and Germany, the German and Soviet experts considered the measures to be taken to safeguard the routes of the Baltic Sea in terms of maintaining the trade relations in a continuous way during the war.”

Anyways, the peak of the pact was the distribution of Western Europe between Hitler and his commissar Stalin. Poland worked as the theatre of operations of this agreement, being invaded first by Nazi Germany a week after signing the pact. Then on September the 17th, the Stalinists troops took control of the other part of the Polish territory, devastating the little that was left and murdering the people. 

Stalin, a war hero?

Only thinking in safeguarding the power of the bureaucratic caste that had betrayed the revolution on 1917, Stalin was forgetting that Hitler’s ultimate strategy was to rip the USSR apart. Trotsky, referencing theses plans, claimed that “If Germany succeeds in emerging triumphant from the war with the help of the Kremlin, the Soviet Union will be in deadly danger. Remember that immediately after the agreement of Munich Dimitrov, secretary of the Comintern, he went public, surely ordered by Stalin, with a very explicit calendar of Hitler’s future conquests. Poland’s occupation was marked for autumn of 1939. It was then followed in order by Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, France, Belgium… and then, at the end, in the autumn of 1941, he would begin the attack on the Soviet Union.

The long night the mass movement globally went through during the decade of 1930 and part of the 1940’s has Stalin as one of its main perpetrators. Precisely, what was denounced by the founder of the Fourth International came true. It is in 1941 when Hitler decides to begin the Operation “Barbarossa” to invade the USSR. The defeat of the Nazi army’s mission in Soviet territory and the subsequent victory in Berlin was then not a product of a genius strategist as Stalin’s image was sold. With the Red Army beheaded during the “Moscow Trials”, said achievement can only be understood as the result of the great bravery of the Russian working people.

Both the lies that established Stalin as a war hero that defeated fascism and the concealment of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact can only be understood from the functioning of the biggest counterrevolutionary apparatus that ever existed. An anecdote of Nahuel Moreno, which appears on his book Conversaciones, fully illustrates all this.

In our country, in the Teatro del Pueblo, the leftist vanguard used to meet then with the main topic of debate being the fight against the rise of Nazism. Moreno and other Trotskyists comrades attended the shows that later culminated in big debates and controversies. In that situation, he recounted:

One night, at eight or nine, we received the news, brought by one of our friends of the newspaper El Mundo, that the Hitler-Stalin pact had just being signed. I immediately took the floor to denounce the event and Sergio Satanovsky [his friend, with strong ties to the PC], who was in the box on the right side of the stage, left. The rest of the Stalinists stayed, listening to me in silence. They were half of the attendants, and also they were mostly Jewish.

Around midnight, Satanovsky returned. He had clearly gone to consult to the Central Committee of his party if the news were true. What happened then shocked me tremendously. I have not been able to forget it to this day. He took the floor and said something of the sort:

We must condemn the imperialist villain that disguises himself as democratic to attack the German people and their great government! Hitler’s persecution of the Jews is a lie, his persecution of the PC is a lie; there are no concentration camps in Germany! Those are all lies of the Imperialism.

Next… all the Stalinist applauded him! We could not win a single Jew from the PC to our ranks! Not a single one! They all applauded him.”

Well, I was left baffled […]. Then I was convinced that Stalinism is like a medieval church, none questions anything, everyone accepts what their leaders tell them. I could not believe my eyes, although my Anarchist comrades had already warned me. […] The big concern of the PC is not the interests of the workers movement and the way to mobilize it, but the interests of the bureaucracy of the Kremlin.” Years after this pact, on the same line, Stalin negotiates the distribution of the world with the American Imperialism post World War II. That agreement, which establishes “pacific co-existence” to safeguard the interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy, gives rise to the construction of the Berlin Wall. That symbol made of concrete, product of the accumulated contradictions of a leadership that incessantly attacked the democratic and economic rights of workers was destroyed by a revolution that also wrecked the biggest counterrevolutionary global apparatus workers have ever have to endure. The result of this event was very contradictory as the achieved conquests that remained in the bureaucratized Workers States were lost. On the other hand, it relieved the working class from a bureaucratic rock that nowadays, before the big opportunities they represent, would only work as the corset of the ongoing rebellions and revolutions.