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On the 100th anniversary of World War I

YourCountryNeedsYou

The following entry is from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.

 – E.S.

World War I (1914–18) 

an imperialist war between two coalitions of capitalist powers for a redivision of the already divided world (a repartition of colonies, spheres of influence, and spheres for the investment of capital) and for the enslavement of other peoples. At first, the war involved eight European states: Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro. Later, most of the countries in the world entered the war (see Table 1). A total of four states fought on the side of the Austro-German bloc; 34 states, including four British dominions and the colony of India, all of which signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, took part on the side of the Entente. On both sides, the war was aggressive and unjust. Only in Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro did it include elements of a war of national liberation.

Although imperialists from all the principal belligerent powers were involved in unleashing the war, the party chiefly to blame was the German bourgeoisie, who began World War I at the “moment it thought most favorable for war, making useof its latest improvements in military matériel and forestalling the rearmament already planned and decided upon by Russia and France” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 16).

The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by Serbian nationalists on June 15 (28), 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. German imperialists decided to take advantage of this favorable moment to unleash the war. Under German pressure, Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia on July 10 (23). Although the Serbian government agreed to meet almost all of the demands in the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations with Serbia on July 12 (25) and declared war on Serbia on July 15 (28). Belgrade, the Serbian capital, was shelled. On July 16 (29), Russia began mobilization in the military districts bordering on Austria-Hungary and on July 17 (30) proclaimed a general mobilization. On July 18 (31), Germany demanded that Russia halt its mobilization and, receiving no reply, declared war on Russia on July 19 (Aug. 1). Germany declared war on France and Belgium on July 21 (Aug. 3). On July 22 (Aug. 4), Great Britain declared war on Germany. The British dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa) and Britain’s largest colony, India, entered the war on the same day. On Aug. 10 (23), Japan declared war on Germany. Italy formally remained a member of the Triple Alliance but declared its neutrality on July 20 (Aug. 2), 1914.

Causes of the war. At the turn of the 20th century capitalism was transformed into imperialism. The world had been almost completely divided up among the largest powers. The uneven-ness of the economic and political development of various countries became more marked. The states that had been late in embarking on the path of capitalist development (the USA, Germany, and Japan) advanced rapidly, competing successfully on the world market with the older capitalist countries (Great Britain and France) and persistently pressing for a repartition of the colonies. The most acute conflicts arose between Germany and Great Britain, whose interests clashed in many parts of the globe, especially in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, focal points of German imperialism’s trade and colonial expansion. The construction of the Baghdad Railroad aroused grave alarm in British ruling circles. The railroad would provide Germany with direct route through the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf and guarantee Germany an important position in the Middle East, thus threatening British land and sea communications with India.

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France, rooted in the desire of German capitalists to secure permanent possession of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been taken from France as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, and in the determination of the French to regain these provinces. French and German interests also clashed on the colonial issue. French attempts to seize Morocco met with determined resistance from Germany, which also claimed this territory.

Contradictions between Russia and Germany began to increase in the late 19th century. The expansion of German imperialism in the Middle East and its attempts to establish control over Turkey infringed on Russian economic, political, and strategic interests. Germany used its customs policy to limit the importation of grain from Russia, imposing high duties while simultaneously making sure that German industrial goods could freely penetrate the Russian market.

In the Balkans, there were profound contradictions between Russia and Austria-Hungary, caused primarily by the expansion of the Hapsburg monarchy, with Germany’s support, into the neighboring South Slav lands (Bosnia, Hercegovina, and Serbia). Austria-Hungary intended to establish its superiority in the Balkans. Russia, which supported the struggle of the Balkan peoples for freedom and national independence, considered the Balkans its own sphere of influence. The tsarist regime and the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie wanted to take over the Bosporus and Dardanelles to strengthen their position in the Balkans.

There were many disputed issues between Great Britain and France, Great Britain and Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and Turkey and Italy, but they were secondary to the principal contradictions, which existed between Germany and its rivals— Great Britain, France, and Russia. The aggravation and deepening of these contradictions impelled the imperialists toward a repartition of the world, but “under capitalism, the repartitioning of ‘world domination’ could only take place at the price of a world war” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 34, p. 370).

The class struggle and the national liberation movement grew stronger during the second decade of the 20th century. The Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia had an enormous influence on the upsurge in the struggle of the toiling people for their social and national liberation. There was considerable growth in the working-class movement in Germany, France, and Great Britain. The class struggle reached its highest level in Russia, where a new revolutionary upsurge began in 1910 and an acute political crisis ripened. National liberation movements grew broader in Ireland and Alsace (the Zabern affair, 1913), and the struggle of the enslaved peoples of Austria-Hungary became more extensive. The imperialists sought to use war to suppress the developing liberation movement of the working class and oppressed peoples in their own countries and to arrest the world revolutionary process.

For many years the imperialists prepared for a world war as a means of resolving foreign and domestic contradictions. The initial step was the formation of a system of military-political blocs, beginning with the Austro-German Agreement of 1879, under which the signatories promised to render assistance to each other in case of war with Russia. Seeking support in its struggle with France for possession of Tunisia, Italy joined Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1882. Thus, the Triple Alliance of 1882, or the alliance of the Central Powers, took shape in central Europe. Initially directed against Russia and France, it later included Great Britain among its main rivals.

To counterbalance the Triple Alliance, another coalition of European powers began to develop. The Franco-Russian Alliance of 1891–93 provided for joint actions by the two countries in case of aggression by Germany or by Italy and Austria-Hungary supported by Germany. The growth of German economic power in the early 20th century forced Great Britain to gradually renounce its traditional policy of splendid isolation and seek rapprochement with France and Russia. The Anglo-French agreement of 1904 settled various colonial disputes between Great Britain and France, and the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 reinforced the understanding between Russia and Great Britain regarding their policies in Tibet,Afghanistan, and Iran. These documents created the Triple Entente (or agreement), a bloc opposed to the Triple Alliance and made up of Great Britain, France, and Russia. In 1912, Anglo-French and Franco-Russian naval conventions were signed, and in 1913 negotiations were opened for an Anglo-Russian naval convention.

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The formation of military-political groupings in Europe, as well as the arms race, further aggravated imperialist contradictions and increased international tensions. A relatively tranquil period of world history was followed by an epoch that was“much more violent, spasmodic, disastrous, and conflicting” (ibid., vol. 27, p. 94). The worsening of imperialist contradictions was evident in the Moroccan crises of 1905–06 and 1911, the Bosnian crisis of 1908–09, the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, and the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. In December 1913, Germany provoked a major international conflict by sending a military mission under the command of General O. Liman von Sanders to Turkey to reorganize and train the Turkish Army.

In preparation for a world war the ruling circles of the imperialist states established powerful war industries, based on large state plants: armaments, explosives, and ammunition plants, as well as shipyards. Private enterprises were drawn into the production of military goods: Krupp in Germany, Skoda in Austria-Hungary, Schneider-Creusot and St. Chamond in France, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth in Great Britain, and the Putilov Works and other plants in Russia.

The imperialists of the two hostile coalitions put a great deal of effort into building up their armed forces. The achievements of science and technology were placed in the service of war. More sophisticated armaments were developed, including rapid-fire magazine rifles and machine guns, which greatly increased the firepower of the infantry. In the artillery the number of rifled guns of the latest design increased sharply. Of great strategic importance was the development of the railroads, which made it possible to significantly speed up the concentration and deployment of large masses of troops in the theaters of operations and to provide an uninterrupted supply of personnel replacements and matériel to the armies in the field. Motor vehicle transport began to play an increasingly important role, and military aviation began to develop. The use of new means of communication in military affairs, including the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio,facilitated the organization of troop control. The size of armies and trained reserves grew rapidly. (See Table 2 for the composition of the ground forces of the principal warring powers.)

Germany and Great Britain were engaged in a stiff competition in naval armaments. The dreadnought, a new type of ship, was first built in 1905. By 1914 the German Navy was firmly established as the world’s second most powerful navy(after the British). Other countries endeavored to strengthen their navies, but it was not financially and economically possible for them to carry out the shipbuilding programs they had adopted. (See Table 3 for the composition of the naval forces of the principal warring powers.) The costly arms race demanded enormous financial means and placed a heavy burden on the toiling people.

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There was extensive ideological preparation for war. The imperialists attempted to instill in the people the idea that armed conflicts are inevitable, and they tried their hardest to inculcate militarism in the people and incite chauvinism among them. To achieve these aims, all means of propaganda were used—the press, literature, the arts, and the church. Taking advantage of the patriotic feelings of the people, the bourgeoisie in every country justified the arms race and camouflaged aggressive objectives with false arguments on the need to defend the native land against foreign enemies.

The international working class (more than 150 million persons) was a real force capable of significantly restraining the imperialist governments. At the international level, the working-class movement was headed by the Second International,which united 41 Social Democratic parties from 27 countries, with 3.4 million members. However, the opportunist leaders of the European Social Democratic parties did nothing to implement the antiwar decisions of the prewar congresses of the Second International. When the war began, the leaders of the Social Democratic parties of the Western countries came to the support of their governments and voted for military credits in parliament. The socialist leaders of Great Britain (A. Henderson), France (J. Guesde, M. Sembat, and A. Thomas), and Belgium (E. Vandervelde) joined the bourgeois military governments. Ideologically and politically, the Second International collapsed and ceased to exist, breaking up into social chauvinist parties.

Only the left wing of the Second International, with the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin in the vanguard, continued to fight consistently against militarism, chauvinism, and war. The basic principles defining the attitude of revolutionary Marxists toward war were set forth by Lenin in the Manifesto of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, “War and Russian Social Democracy.” Firmly opposed to the war, the Bolsheviks explained its imperialist character to the popular masses. The Bolshevik faction of the Fourth State Duma refused to support the tsarist government and vote for war credits. The Bolshevik Party called on the toiling people of all countries to work for the defeat of their governments in the war, the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war, and the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. A revolutionary, antiwar stance was adopted by the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists), headed by D. Blagoev, G. Dimitrov, and V. Kolarov, and by the Serbian and Rumanian Social Democratic parties. Active opposition to the imperialist war was also shown by a small group of left-wing Social Democrats in Germany, led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, C. Zetkin, and F. Mehring; by a few socialists in France, led by J. Jaurès; and by some socialists in other countries.

War plans and strategic deployment. Long before the war began, the general staffs had worked out war plans. All strategic calculations were oriented toward a short, fast-moving war. The German strategic plan provided for rapid, decisive actions against France and Russia. It assumed that France would be crushed in six to eight weeks, after which all German forces would descend on Russia and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. The bulk of German troops (four-fifths) were deployed on the western border of Germany and were designated for the invasion of France. It was their mission to deliver the main attack with the right wing through Belgium and Luxembourg, turning the left flank of the French Army west of Paris and, throwing it back toward the German border, forcing it to surrender. A covering force (one army) was stationed in East Prussia to oppose Russia. The German military command figured that it would be able to crush France and transfer troops to the east before the Russian Army went over to the offensive. The main forces of the German Navy (the High Seas Fleet) were to be stationed at bases in the North Sea. Their mission was to weaken the British Navy with actions using light forces and submarines and then destroy the main British naval forces in a decisive battle. A few cruisers were detailed for operations in the British sea-lanes. In the Baltic Sea the German Navy’s mission was to prevent vigorous actions by the Russian Navy.

The Austro-Hungarian command planned military operations on two fronts: against Russia in Galicia and against Serbia and Montenegro in the Balkans. They did not exclude the possibility of forming a front against Italy, an unreliable member of the Triple Alliance that might go over to the Entente. Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian command drew up three variations of a war plan and divided their ground forces into three operational echelons (groups): group A (nine corps), which was designated for actions against Russia; the “minimum Balkan” group (three corps), which was directed against Serbia and Montenegro; and group B (four corps), the reserve of the supreme command, which could be used either to reinforce the other groups or to form a new front if Italy became an enemy.

The general staffs of Austria-Hungary and Germany maintained close contact with each other and coordinated their strategic plans. The Austro-Hungarian plan for the war against Russia provided for delivering the main attack from Galicia between the Vistula and Bug rivers and moving northeast to meet German forces, which were supposed to develop an offensive at the same time moving southeast from East Prussia toward Siedlce, with the objectives of surrounding and destroying the grouping of Russian troops in Poland. The mission of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which was stationed in the Adriatic Sea, was to defend the coast.

The Russian General Staff worked out two variations of the war plan, both of which were offensive. Under Variation A, the main forces of the Russian Army would be deployed against Austria-Hungary. Variation G was directed against Germany, should it deliver the main attack on the Eastern Front. Variation A, which was actually carried out, planned converging attacks in Galicia and East Prussia, with the aim of destroying the enemy groupings. This phase of the plan would be followed by a general offensive into Germany and Austria-Hungary. Two detached armies were assigned to cover Petrograd and southern Russia. In addition, the Army of the Caucasus was formed in case Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. It was the mission of the Baltic Fleet to defend the sea approaches to Petrograd and prevent the German fleet from breaking through into the Gulf of Finland. The Black Sea Fleet did not have a ratified plan ofaction.

The French plan for the war against Germany (Plan XVII) envisioned going over to the offensive with the forces of the right wing of the armies in Lorraine and with the forces of the left wing against Metz. At first, the possibility of an invasion byGerman forces through Belgium was not taken into account, because Belgian neutrality had been guaranteed by the great powers, including Germany. However, a variation of Plan XVII ratified on Aug. 2, 1914, specified that in case of an offensive by German troops through Belgium, combat operations were to be developed on the left wing up to the line of the Meuse (Maas) River from Namur to Givet. The French plan reflected the lack of confidence of the French command,confronted with a struggle against a more powerful Germany. In fact, the plan made the actions of the French Army dependent on the actions of the German forces. The mission of the French fleet in the Mediterranean Sea was to ensure themovement of colonial troops from North Africa to France by blockading the Austro-Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic Sea. Part of the French fleet was assigned to defend the approaches to the English Channel.

Expecting that military operations on land would be waged by the armies of its allies, Russia and France, Great Britain did not draw up plans for operations by ground forces. It promised only to send an expeditionary corps to the continentto help the French. The navy was assigned active missions: to set up a long-range blockade of Germany on the North Sea, to ensure the security of sea-lanes, and to destroy the German fleet in a decisive battle.

The great powers carried out the strategic deployment of their armed forces in conformity with these plans. Germany moved seven armies (the First through Seventh, consisting of 86 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.6million men and about 5,000 guns) to the border with Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, along a 380-km front from Krefeld to Mulhouse. The main grouping of these forces (five armies) was located north of Metz on a 160-km front. The defense of the northern coast of Germany was assigned to the Northern Army (one reserve corps and four Landwehr brigades). The commander in chief was Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the chief of staff was General H. von Moltke the younger(from Sept. 14, 1914, E. Falkenhayn, and from Aug. 29, 1916, until the end of the war, Field Marshal General P. von Hindenburg).

The French armies (the First through Fifth, consisting of 76 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.73 million men and more than 4,000 guns), which were under the command of General J. J. C. Joffre, were deployed on front of approximately 345 km from Belfort to Hirson. (From December 1916, General R. Nivelle was commander in chief of the French armies, and from May 17, 1917, until the end of the war, General H. Pétain. On May 14, 1918, Marshal F. Foch became supreme commander of Allied forces.) The Belgian Army under the command of King Albert I (six infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 117,000 men and 312 guns) occupied a line east of Brussels. The British Expeditionary Force under the command of Field Marshal J. French (four infantry divisions and 1.5 cavalry divisions, with a total of 87,000 men and 328 guns) was concentrated in the Maubeuge region next to the left flank of the grouping of French armies. (From December 1915 until the end of the war, the British Expeditionary Force was under the command of General D. Haig.) The main grouping of Allied forces was northwest of Verdun.

Against Russia, Germany placed the Eighth Army (14.5 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of more than 200,000 men and 1,044 guns), under the command of General M. von Prittwitz und Gaffron, in East Prussia andGeneral R. von Woyrsch’s Landwehr corps in Silesia (two Landwehr divisions and 72 guns). Austria-Hungary had three armies (the First, Third, and Fourth) on a front from Czernowitz (now Chernovtsy) to Sandomierz. H. Kövess vonKövessháza’s army group (from August 23, the Second Army) was on the right flank, and Kummer’s army group was in the Kraków region (35.5 infantry divisions and 11 cavalry divisions, with about 850,000 men and 1,848 guns). Thesupreme commander in chief was Archduke Frederick. (Emperor Charles I became supreme commander in chief in November 1916.) The Austro-Hungarian chief of staff was Field Marshal General F. Conrad von Hötzendorf (from Feb. 28,1917, General Arz von Straussenburg).

Russia had six armies on its Western border (52 infantry divisions and 21 cavalry divisions, with a total of more than 1 million men and 3,203 guns). Two fronts were formed: the Northwestern Front (First and Second armies) and theSouthwestern Front (Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth armies). The Sixth Army was to defend the Baltic coast and cover Petrograd; the Seventh Army was to defend the northwest coast of the Black Sea and the boundary with Rumania. The divisions of the second strategic echelon and the Siberian divisions arrived at the front later, at the end of August and during September. On July 20 (August 2), Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was appointed supreme commander in chief.(For a list of his successors, see SUPREME COMMANDER IN CHIEF.) The chiefs of staff of the supreme commander in chief were General N. N. Ianushkevich (July 19 [Aug. 1], 1914, to Aug. 18 [31], 1915) and General M. V. Alekseev (Aug. 18 [31],1915, to Nov. 10 [23], 1916; Feb. 17 [Mar. 2] to Mar. 11 [24], 1917; and Aug. 30 [Sept. 12] to Sept. 9 [22], 1917). At the end of 1916 and during 1917 the duties of chief of staff were temporarily carried out by Generals V. I. Romeiko-Gurko,V. N. Klembovskii, A. I. Denikin, A. S. Lukomskii, and N. N. Dukhonin. From Nov. 20 (Dec. 3), 1917, to Feb. 21, 1918, the chief of staff was M. D. Bonch-Bruevich, whose successors were S I. Kuleshin and M. M. Zagiu.

In the Balkans, Austria-Hungary set two armies against Serbia: the Fifth and Sixth armies, under the command of General O. Potiorek (13 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 140,000 men and 546 guns). Serbiadeployed four armies under the command of Voevoda R. Putnik (the First, Second, Third, and Fourth armies, consisting of 11 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 250,000 men and 550 guns). Montenegro had six infantrydivisions (35,000 men and 60 guns).

The strategic deployment of the armed forces of both sides was basically completed by August 4–6 (17–19). Military operations took place in Europe, Asia, and Africa, on all the oceans, and on many seas. The principal operations tookplace in five theaters of ground operations: Western Europe (from 1914), Eastern Europe (from 1914), Italy (from 1915), the Balkans (from 1914), and the Middle East (from 1914). In addition, military operations were carried out in East Asia (Tsingtao, 1914), on the Pacific islands (Oceania), and in the German colonies in Africa, including German East Africa (until the end of the war), German Southwest Africa (until 1915), Togo (1914), and the Cameroons (until 1916).Throughout the war the chief theaters of ground operations were the Western European (French) and the Eastern European (Russian). Particularly important theaters of naval operations were the North, Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black seas and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.

Campaign of 1914. In the Western European theater, military operations began with the invasion by German troops of Luxembourg (August 2) and Belgium (August 4), the latter having rejected a German ultimatum regarding the passage of German troops through its territory. Relying on the fortified areas of Liège and Namur, the Belgian Army offered the enemy stubborn resistance on the Meuse River line. Abandoning Liège after bitter fighting (August 16), the Belgian Army retreated toward Antwerp. Dispatching about two corps (80,000 men and 300 guns) against the Belgian Army, the German command directed the main grouping of its armies to the southwest, toward the Franco-Belgian border. The French armies of the left flank (the Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies) and the British Army were moved forward to meet the German forces. The Battle of the Frontiers took place on Aug. 21–25, 1914.

In view of the danger of the enemy turning the left flank of the Allied forces, the French command withdrew its armies deeper into the country to gain time to regroup its forces and prepare a counteroffensive. From August 7 to 14 the Frencharmies of the right flank (the First and Second armies) conducted an offensive in Alsace and Lorraine. But with the invasion by German forces of France through Belgium, the French offensive was brought to a halt, and both armies were drawn back to their initial positions. The main grouping of German armies continued its offensive along a southwest axis of advance toward Paris and, winning a series of local victories over the Entente armies at Le Cateau (August 26),Nesle and Proyart (August 28–29), and St. Quentin and Guise (August 29–30), reached the Marne River between Paris and Verdun by September 5. The French command completed the regrouping of its forces and, having formed two newarmies (the Sixth and the Ninth) from reserves, created a superiority of forces in this axis. In the battle of the Marne (Sept. 5–12, 1914), the German troops were defeated and forced to withdraw to the Aisne and Oise rivers, where they dug in and stopped the allied counteroffensive by September 16.

From September 16 to October 15, three operations by maneuver known as the Race to the Sea developed out of the attempts of each side to seize the “free space” west of the Oise and extending to the Pas-de-Calais, by enveloping the enemy’s open flanks on the north. The forces of both sides reached the coast west of Ostend. The Belgian Army, which had been forced to withdraw from Antwerp on October 8, occupied a sector on the left flank of the Allied armies. The battle in Flanders on the Yser and Ypres river (October 15 to November 20) did not change the overall situation. Attempts by the Germans to break through the Allied defense and take the ports on the Pas-de-Calais were unsuccessful.Having suffered considerable losses, both sides stopped active combat actions and dug in on the established lines. A static front was established from the Swiss border to the North Sea. In December 1914 it was 720 km long, with 650 km assigned to the French Army, 50 km to the British, and 20 km to the Belgians.

Military operations in the Eastern European theater began on August 4–7 (17–20), with the invasion of East Prussia by the inadequately prepared troops of the Russian Northwestern Front (commanded by General la. G. Zhilinskii; chief ofstaff, General V. A. Oranovskii). During the East Prussian Operation of 1914 the First Russian Army (General P. K. Rennenkampf, commander), advancing from the east, smashed units of the German I Corps near Stallüponen on August 4(17) and inflicted a defeat on the main forces of the German Eighth Army on August 7 (20) in the battle of Gumbinnen-Goldap. On August 7 (20) the Russian Second Army (commanded by General A. V. Samsonov) invaded East Prussia, delivering an attack on the flank and rear of the German Eighth Army. The commander of the Eighth Army decided to begin a withdrawal of forces from East Prussia beyond the Vistula, but the German supreme command, dissatisfied with this decision, ordered a change in command on August 10 (23), appointing General P. von Hindenburg commander and General E. Ludendorff chief of staff.

The offensive by Russian troops in East Prussia forced the German command to take two corps and one cavalry division from the Western Front and send them to the Eastern Front on August 13 (26). This was one of the causes of the defeat of German forces in the battle of the Marne. Taking advantage of the lack of cooperation between the First and Second armies and the mistakes of the Russian command, the enemy was able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian Second Army and then on the First Army and drive them out of East Prussia.

In the battle of Galicia (1914), which took place at the same time as the East Prussian Operation, the troops of the Russian Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General N. I. Ivanov; chief of staff, General M. V. Alekseev) inflicted amajor defeat on the Austro-Hungarian forces. They took L’vov on August 21 (September 3), laid seige to the Przemyśl fortress on September 8 (21), and, pursuing the enemy, reached the Wisłoka River and the foothills of the Carpathians by September 13 (26). A danger arose that Russian forces would invade the German province of Silesia. The German supreme command hurriedly transferred major forces from East Prussia to the region of Częstochowa and Kraków and formed a new army (the Ninth). The objective was to deliver a counter strike against Ivangorod (Dęblin) in the flank and rear of the troops of the Southwestern Front and thus to thwart the attack on Silesia that the Russian forces were preparing. Owing to a timely regrouping of forces carried out by Russian General Headquarters, in the Warsaw-Ivangorod Operation of 1914 the Russian armies stopped the advance of the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army on Ivangorod by September 26 (October 9) and then repulsed the German attack on Warsaw. On October 5 (18), Russian forces went over to the counteroffensive and threw the enemy back to the initial line.

The Russian armies resumed preparations for an invasion of Germany. The German command moved the Ninth Army from the Częstochowa region to the north, having decided to deliver a blow at the right flank and rear of the Russian offensive grouping. In the Łódź Operation of 1914, which began on October 29 (November 11), the enemy succeeded in thwarting the Russian plan, but an attempt to surround the Russian Second and Fifth armies in the Łódź region failed, and German troops were forced to withdraw, suffering heavy losses. At the same time, Russian troops of the Southwestern Front inflicted a defeat on Austro-Hungarian forces in the Częstochowa-Kraków Operation and reached the approaches to Kraków and Częstochowa. Having exhausted their capabilities, both sides went over to the defensive. The Russian armies, which had experienced a critical shortage of ammunition, dug in on the line of the Bzura, Rawka, and Nida rivers.

In the Balkan theater of operations, Austro-Hungarian forces invaded Serbia on August 12. Defeated in a meeting engagement that began on August 16 in the region of Cer Mountain, by August 24 the Austro-Hungarian forces had been thrown back to their initial position beyond the Drina and Sava rivers. On September 7 they renewed the offensive. A shortage of artillery and ammunition forced the Serbs to withdraw on November 7 to the east of the Kolubara River, but after receiving supplies from Russia and France, they went over to the counteroffensive on December 3. By mid-December they had liberated their country from enemy forces. The two sides took up defensive positions on the river boundary lines.

At the end of 1914 hostilities began in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. On July 21 (August 3), Turkey declared its neutrality, waiting and preparing for a convenient moment to come out on the side of the Central Powers. Encouraging Turkey’s aggressive aspirations in the Caucasus, Germany sent the battle cruiser Göben and the light cruiser Breslau to the Black Sea at the war’s beginning (August 10), to support the Turkish Navy. On October 16 (29),Turkish and German ships unexpectedly shelled Odessa, Sevastopol’, Feodosia, and Novorossiisk. On October 20 (November 2), Russia declared war on Turkey, followed by Great Britain (November 5) and France (November 6). Turkey declared a “holy war” against the Entente powers on November 12.

Turkish ground forces consisted of about 800,000 men. The Turkish First, Second, and Fifth armies were deployed in the Straits region; the Third Army, in Turkish Armenia; the Fourth Army, in Syria and Palestine; and the Sixth Army, in Mesopotamia. Sultan Mehmed V was nominally the supreme commander in chief, but in fact the duties of this position were carried out by Enver Pasha, the minister of war. The chief of staff was a German general, W. Bronsart von Schellendorf. Russia moved its Army of the Caucasus to the Turkish border (commander in chief, General I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov; deputy commander in chief, General A. Z. Myshlaevskii; 170,000 men and 350 guns). In the second half of October (early November) clashes took place in the Erzurum axis. On October 25 (November 7) the Russians seized fortified positions near Köprüköy (50 km north of Erzurum). However, under pressure from the superior forces of the enemy, the Russians withdrew to their initial positions by November 26 (December 9). The Turkish Third Army went over to the offensive on December 9 (22), but during the Sankamuş Operation of 1914–15 it was routed. On November 10 British expeditionary corps landed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, forming the Mesopotamian Front. On November 22 the British took Basra, which had been abandoned by the Turks. The British captured al-Qurnah on December 9 and established a firm position in southern Mesopotamia.

Germany was unsuccessful in combat operations in Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific Ocean, losing most of its colonies during a single military campaign. In 1914, Japan seized the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean as well as Tsingtao, a German naval base in China. The Australians seized the German part of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand captured the Samoan Islands. Anglo-French forces occupied the German colonies in Africa: Togo in August 1914, the Cameroons in January 1916, Southwest Africa by July 1915, and East Africa by late 1917. (Until the end of the war, German forces continued to conduct partisan actions in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique and the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.)

Naval operations were of a limited character in 1914. On August 28 there was a battle between light forces of the British and German fleets in the North Sea near the island of Helgoland. On November 5 (18) a Russian squadron waged battle against the German ships Göben and Breslau near Cape Sarych in the Black Sea (50 km southeast of Sevastopol’). Damaged, the German ships retreated. The German command attempted to step up the actions of its fleet in British sea-lanes in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. In the battle of Coronel (Nov. 1, 1914), Admiral M. von Spee’s German squadron (five cruisers) defeated Rear Admiral C. Cradock’s British squadron, but on December 8, Admiral von Spee’s squadron was destroyed by Admiral F. Sturdee’s British squadron near the Falkland Islands. By the beginning of November, three additional German cruisers operating in the Atlantic and Pacific had been sunk.

The campaign of 1914 did not produce decisive results for either side. In France both sides went over to a static defense. Elements of trench warfare also emerged in the Eastern European theater of operations. Military operations demonstrated that the general staffs had been mistaken in their prewar predictions that the war would be short. Stockpiles of armaments and ammunition were used up during the very first operations. At the same time, it became clear that the war would be long and that emergency measures must be taken to mobilize industry and to develop the production of arms and ammunition.

Campaign of 1915. The Anglo-French command decided to go over to a strategic defensive in the Western European theater of operations, in order to gain time to stockpile matériel and train reserves. In the campaign of 1915 the main burden of armed struggle was shifted onto Russia. At the demand of the Allies the Russian command planned simultaneous offensives against Germany (in East Prussia) and Austria-Hungary (in the Carpathians). The prospect of protracted war did not please the German high command, which knew that Germany and its allies could not withstand a lengthy struggle with the Entente powers, who possessed superiority in manpower reserves and material resources.Therefore, the German plan for the campaign of 1915 was an offensive plan that counted on rapidly achieving victory. Lacking sufficient forces to conduct offensives simultaneously in the East and the West, the German command decided to concentrate its main efforts on the Eastern Front, with the objectives of crushing Russia and forcing it to leave the war. A defensive posture was planned for the Western Front.

Russia had 104 divisions against the 74 divisions of the Central Powers (36 German and 38 Austro-Hungarian divisions). Attempting to forestall the offensive prepared by the Russians, between January 25 (February 7) and February 13 (26) the German command undertook the Augustów Operation of 1915 in East Prussia. However, they did not attain their objective of surrounding the Tenth Army of the Russian Northwestern Front. In February and March Russian command used the forces of the Tenth, Twelfth, and First armies to carry out the Przasnysz Operation, during which the enemy was thrown back to the borders of East Prussia. On the southern wing of the Eastern Front, the command of the Russian Southwestern Front carried out the Carpathian Operation of 1915. Beseiged by Russian troops, the 120,000-strong Przemyśl garrison surrendered on March 9 (22). Heavy but indecisive fighting continued in the Carpathians until April 20.Experiencing a critical shortage of weapons and ammunition, the Russian forces brought a halt to their active operations in April 1915.

By the summer of 1915 the German command had formed the Eleventh Army with troops transferred from the Western Front to Galicia. The German Eleventh Army and the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army, under the overall command of the German general A. von Mackensen, went over to the offensive on April 19 (May 2). With an enormous superiority in forces and means (especially in artillery), the enemy broke through the defense of the Russian Third Army near Görlitz. The Görlitz breakthrough of 1915 led to a deep withdrawal of the forces of the Southwestern Front, which left Galicia in May and June.

At the same time, German troops were advancing in the Baltic region. On April 24 (May 7) they took Libau (Liepāja) and reached Shavli (Ŝiauliai) and Kovno (Kaunas). In July the German command attempted to break through the defense of the Russian First Army with an attack of the newly formed Twelfth Army in the Przasnysz region. The Twelfth Army, in cooperation with the Austro-Hungarian Fourth and German Eleventh armies, which were advancing from Galicia toward the northeast, was to surround the main groupings of the Russian forces, which were in Poland. The German plan was unsuccessful, but the Russian troops were forced to withdraw from Poland.

In the Vil’na Operation of August 1915 the Germans attempted to surround the Russian Tenth Army in the Vil’na (Vilnius) region. On August 27 (September 9) the enemy managed to break through the Russian defense and gain the rear of the Tenth Army. However, the Russian command stopped the enemy breakthrough. In October 1915 the front stabilized on the line of Riga, the Zapadnaia Dvina River, Dvinsk, Smorgon’, Baranovichi, Dubno, and the Strypa River. The German command had failed in its plan to force Russia to leave the war in 1915.

At the beginning of 1915 there were 75 French, 11 British, and six Belgian divisions opposing 82 German divisions in the Western European theater of operations. The number of British divisions increased to 31 in September and 37 in December. Planning no major operations, both sides conducted only local battles in this theater of military operations during the campaign of 1915. On April 22 at Ypres the German command became the first to use chemical weapons(chlorine gas) on the Western Front: 15,000 persons were poisoned. The German troops advanced 6 km. In May and June the Allies launched an offensive in Artois. Carried out with insufficient forces, it did not influence the course of combat operations on the Russian Front.

On July 7 the Interallied War Council was formed in Chantilly, to coordinate the strategic efforts of the Entente powers. To assist Russia, the council decided to undertake an offensive on the Western Front, with the objective of drawing considerable German forces away from the Eastern Front. However, offensive operations were carried out only from September 25 to October 6 in Champagne and Artois. At this time active military operations had in fact ceased on the Russian Front. Moreover, the Allied forces were unable to break through the strong enemy defense.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations Russian forces conducted the most active military operations. In the Alashgerd Operation they cleared the enemy from the area around Lakes Van and Urmia. The increasing activity of German and Turkish agents in Iran forced the Russian command to send troops into the northern part of that country. General N. N. Baratov’s Caucasus Expeditionary Corps (about 8,000 men and 20 guns) was transferred from Tiflis to Baku and transported over the Caspian Sea to the Iranian port of Enzeli (Bandar-e Pahlavi), where it landed on October 17 (30). In November the corps occupied the city of Qazvin, and on December 3 (16) it took the city of Hamadan. Attempts by Germany and Turkey to strengthen their influence in Iran and draw it into the war against Russia were thwarted. The Caucasian Front (commander in chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich), which united all the Russian forces operating in the Middle Eastern theater, was formed in October 1915.

On the Mesopotamian Front, British troops under the command of General C. Townshend moved slowly toward Baghdad in September 1915, but on November 22 they were attacked and routed by the Turks, 35 km from the city, and on December 7 they were beseiged in Kut al-Amarah. The Russian command offered to organize coordinated actions between the British forces and the forces of the Caucasian Front, but the British command refused the offer, because it did not want Russian forces to enter the oil-rich Mosul region. At the end of 1915 the British corps in Mesopotamia was replenished and converted into an expeditionary army. On the Syrian Front the Turkish Fourth Army attempted to take the Suez Canal, by attacking Egypt from Palestine, but the Turks were driven back by two Anglo-Indian divisions. The Turks took up a defensive position in the al-Arish region.

In 1915 the Entente succeeded in drawing Italy into the war on its side. The vacillation of the Italian government was ended by the promises of the Entente powers to give greater satisfaction to Italy’s territorial claims than had been offered by Germany. On Apr. 26, 1915, the Treaty of London was signed. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, but it did not declare war against Germany until Aug. 28, 1916. The Italian Army (commander in chief, King Victor Emmanuel III; chief of staff, General L. Cadorna) had 35 divisions, with a total of about 870,000 men and 1,700 guns. On May 24, Italian forces began military operations on two axes: against Trent and simultaneously toward the Isonzo River with the mission of reaching Trieste. The Italians failed on both axes. By June 1915 military operations in the Italian theater had already assumed a static character. Four attacks by Italian forces on the Isonzo River ended in collapse.

In the Balkan theater of operations the position of the Allies became more complicated in October 1915, when Bulgaria entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (the Bulgarian-German Treaty of 1915 and the Bulgarian-Turkish Treaty of 1915). On September 8 (21), Bulgaria proclaimed a mobilization of its army (12 divisions, about 500,000 men). In late September (early October), 14 German and Austro-Hungarian divisions and six Bulgarian divisions under the overall command of Field Marshal General von Mackensen were deployed against Serbia. The Serbs had 12 divisions. To assist Serbia, Great Britain and France, under an agreement with Greece, began on September 22 (October 5) to land an expeditionary corps at Salonika (Thessaloniki) and move it toward the border between Greece and Serbia. On September 24 (October 7) the Austro-German and Bulgarian forces launched a converging offensive against Serbia from the north, west, and east. For two months the Serbian Army courageously repulsed the onslaught of the superior forces of the enemy, but it was compelled to withdraw through the mountains to Albania. Approximately 140,000 men were transported by the Entente fleet from Durrës (Durazzo) to the Greek island of Corfu (Kerkira). The Anglo-French expeditionary corps retreated to the Salonika region, where the Salonika Front was formed in late 1915. The occupation of Serbia secured for the Central Powers the opportunity to establish direct rail communication with Turkey, making it possible to provide Turkey with military assistance.

During 1915 the German Navy continued its attempts to weaken the fleets of its enemies and to undermine the supply of Great Britain by sea. On January 24 a battle took place between British and German squadrons at Dogger Bank (North Sea). Neither side attained success. On Feb. 18, 1915, Germany declared that it was initiating “unrestricted submarine warfare.” The sinking of the passenger steamers Lusitania (May 7) and Arabic (August 19) evoked protests from the USA and other neutral countries, forcing the German government to limit its submarine warfare to actions against warships.

In February 1915 the Anglo-French command began to carry out a naval operation, the Gallipoli Expedition (the Dardanelles Operation of 1915), attempting to use naval forces to cross the Dardanelles, break through to Constantinople, and put Turkey out of the war. The breakthrough failed. In April 1915 a major landing party was set down on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but Turkish forces offered stiff resistance. In December 1915 and January 1916 the Allied command was forced to evacuate the landing forces, which were transferred to the Salonika Front. During the preparation for and execution of the Gallipoli Expedition, there was a bitter diplomatic struggle among the Allies. The expedition was undertaken under the pretext of assisting Russia. In March-April 1915, Great Britain and France had reached an agreement with Russia, under which Constantinople and the Straits would be handed over to Russia after the war, on the condition that the latter did not interfere in the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey. In reality, the Allies intended to capture the Straits and deny Russia access to them. Anglo-French talks on the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey concluded with the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. In August the German Navy undertook the Moonsund Operation of 1915, which was a failure. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued to operate in Turkish sea-lanes. On April 21 (May 2), during the Gallipoli Expedition, it shelled the fortifications on the Bosporus.

The campaign of 1915 did not fulfill the hopes of either of the hostile coalitions, but its outcome was more favorable for the Entente. The German command, again failing to solve the problem of crushing its enemies one by one, faced the necessity of continuing a long war on two fronts. The chief burden of the struggle in 1915 was borne by Russia, giving France and Great Britain time to mobilize their economies to meet war needs. Russia also began to mobilize its industry. In 1915 the Russian Front grew more important: in the summer, 107 Austro-German divisions, or 54 percent of all the forces of the Central Powers, were stationed there, as compared to 52 divisions (33 percent) at the beginning of the war.

The war placed a heavy burden on the toiling people. Gradually freeing themselves of the chauvinistic attitudes that had been widespread at the beginning of the war, the popular masses became more and more resolutely opposed to the imperialist slaughter. Antiwar demonstrations took place in 1915, and the strike movement in the warring countries began to grow. This process developed with particular speed and violence in Russia, where conditions were greatly exacerbated by military defeats, and a revolutionary situation developed in the autumn of 1915. At the fronts, there were cases of fraternization among soldiers from hostile armies. The propaganda of the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, and the left groups of European socialists and Social Democratic parties helped arouse the masses to revolutionary activity. In Germany the International Group was formed in the spring of 1915 under the leadership of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. (From 1916 the group was known as the Spartacus League.) The Zimmerwald Conference (Sept. 5–8, 1915), an international socialist conference of great importance for the consolidation of revolutionary antiwar forces, adopted a manifesto that signified “a step toward an ideological and practical break with opportunism and social chauvinism” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 38).

Campaign of 1916. By the beginning of 1916 the Central Powers, having expended enormous efforts in the first two campaigns, had considerably depleted their resources but had been unable to force France or Russia to leave the war. The Entente raised the number of its divisions to 365, as against the 286 divisions of the German bloc.

The 1916 operations by the armies of the Central Powers were based on General von Falkenhayn’s plan, according to which the main efforts were again to be directed against France. The main attack was to be delivered in the Verdun region, which was of great operational importance. A breakthrough on this axis would threaten the entire northern wing of the Allied armies. The German plan called for active operations at the same time in the Italian theater, using the forces of the Austro-Hungarian armies. In the Eastern European theater of operations, the Germans decided to limit operations to a strategic defensive. The fundamentals of the Entente’s plan for the 1916 campaign were adopted at a conference in Chantilly (France) on Dec. 6–9, 1915. Offensives were planned for the Eastern European, Western European, and Italian theaters of operations. The Russian Army was to be the first to launch offensive operations, followed by the Anglo-French and Italian forces. The Allies’ strategic plan was the first attempt to coordinate troop operations on different fronts.

The Entente plan did not provide for going over to a general offensive until the summer of 1916. This ensured that the German command would keep the strategic initiative, a factor which it decided to use to its advantage. The Germans had 105 divisions on a front 680 km long in the Western European theater of operations. They were opposed by 139 Allied divisions (95 French, 38 British, and six Belgian divisions). On February 21 the German command began the Verdun Operation of 1916, without an overall superiority in forces. Bitter combat, during which both sides suffered heavy losses, continued until December. The Germans expended enormous efforts but were unable to break through the defense.

In the Italian theater of operations the command of the Italian Army launched its fifth unsuccessful offensive on the Isonzo River in March 1916. On May 15, Austro-Hungarian forces (18 divisions and 2,000 guns) delivered a counter blow in the Trentino region. The Italian First Army (16 divisions and 623 guns), unable to hold back the enemy onslaught, began to withdraw to the south. Italy requested emergency assistance from its allies.

Operations in the Eastern European theater, where 128 Russian divisions were deployed against 87 Austro-German divisions along a front 1,200 km long, were particularly important in the campaign of 1916. The Naroch (Narocz) Operation,which was carried out on March 5–17 (18–30), forced the Germans temporarily to weaken their attacks on Verdun. The Russian offensive on the Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General A. A. Brusilov), which began on May 22 (June 4), was of great importance. The Russians broke through the defense of the Austro-German forces to a depth of 80–120 km. The enemy suffered heavy losses (more than 1 million killed and wounded and more than 400,000 taken prisoner). The command of the Central Powers were forced to move 11 German divisions from France and six Austro-Hungarian divisions from Italy to the Russian Front.

The Russian offensive saved the Italian Army from destruction, eased the situation of the French at Verdun, and hastened Rumania’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente. Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 14(27), on Germany on August 15 (28), on Turkey on August 17 (30), and on Bulgaria on August 19 (September 1). The Rumanian armed forces consisted of four armies (23 infantry and two cavalry divisions; 250,000 men). The Russian 47th Army Corps was moved across the Danube to the Dobruja region to assist the Rumanian forces. With Russian support, Rumanian forces launched an offensive in Transylvania on August 20 (September 2) and later in the Dobruja region, but they did not attain success. The Austro-German command concentrated General von Falkenhayn’s army group in Transylvania (the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army, with a total of 26 infantry and seven cavalry divisions) and Field Marshal General von Mackensen’s German Danube Army in Bulgaria (nine infantry and two cavalry divisions). On September 13 (26) both groups, under the overall command of General von Falkenhayn, went over to the offensive at the same time. The Rumanian Army was routed.

On November 22 (December 6), German forces entered Bucharest, which the Rumanians abandoned without a fight. The Russian command moved in 35 infantry and 13 cavalry divisions to assist Rumania. Russia had to form a new Rumanian front. By the end of 1916, its forces had stopped the advance of the Austro-German armies on the line between Focşani and the mouth of the Danube. The formation of the Rumanian Front increased the total length of the front line by 500 km and diverted about a fourth of Russia’s armed forces, thereby worsening the strategic position of the Russian Army.

After lengthy preparation, Anglo-French forces opened a major offensive on the Somme River on July 1, but it developed very slowly. Tanks were used for the first time on September 15 by the British. The Allies continued the offensive until mid-November, but despite enormous losses, they advanced only 5–15 km and failed to break through the German static front.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations the forces of the Russian Caucasian Front successfully carried out the Erzurum Operation of 1916, the Trabzon Operation of 1916, and the Erzincan and Oğnut operations, taking the cities ofErzurum, Trabzon, and Erzincan. General N. N. Baratov’s I Caucasus Cavalry Corps launched an offensive on the Mosul and Baghdad axes, with the objective of assisting the British, who were beseiged at Kut al-Amarah. In February the corps took Kermanshah, and in May it reached the Turkish-Iranian border. With the surrender of the garrison at Kut al-Amarah on Apr. 28, 1916, the Russian corps brought a halt to its advance and took up a defensive position east of Kermanshah.

In naval operations, the British fleet continued its long-range blockade of Germany. German submarines were active on the sea-lanes. The system of minefields was improved. The battle of Jutland (1916) was the war’s only major naval battle between the main forces of the British Navy (Admiral J. Jellicoe) and the German Navy (Admiral R. Scheer). The battle involved 250 surface ships, including 58 capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers). As a result of its superiority in forces, the British fleet was victorious, even though it suffered greater losses than the German fleet. The defeat shattered the German command’s belief that it was possible to break through the British blockade. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued its actions on enemy sea-lanes, blockading the Bosporus from August 1916.

The campaign of 1916 did not result in the achievement of the objectives set at the beginning by either coalition, but the superiority of the Entente over the Central Powers became evident. The strategic initiative passed fully to the Entente, and Germany was forced to go over to the defensive on all fronts.

The bloody battles of 1916, which involved enormous human sacrifices and great expenditures of matériel, were depleting the resources of the belligerent powers. The situation of the working people continued to worsen, but the revolutionary movement also continued to grow stronger in 1916. The Kienthal Conference of internationalists (Apr. 24–30, 1916) played an important role in increasing solidarity among revolutionary forces. The revolutionary movement developed with particular speed and turbulence in Russia, where the war had finally revealed to the popular masses the complete decadence of tsarism. A powerful wave of strikes swept over the country, led by the Bolsheviks under the slogans of struggle against the war and the autocracy. The Middle Asian Uprising, a national liberation movement, took place from July to October 1916. In the autumn a revolutionary situation took shape in Russia. The inability of tsarism to win the war aroused discontent among the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, who began to prepare a palace revolution. The revolutionary movement grew stronger in other countries. The Irish Rebellion, or Easter Rising (Apr. 24–30, 1916), was harshly suppressed by British troops. On May 1, K. Liebknecht led a massive antiwar demonstration in Berlin. The growing revolutionary crisis forced the imperialists to direct their efforts toward quickly ending the war. In 1916, Germany and tsarist Russia attempted to open separate peace negotiations.

Campaign of 1917. As the campaign of 1917 was prepared and carried out, the revolutionary movement grew considerably stronger in every country. Protest against the war with its enormous losses, against the sharp decline in the standard of living, and against the increasing exploitation of the working people became stronger among the popular masses at the front and in the rear. The revolutionary events in Russia had a tremendous effect on the subsequent course of the war.

By the beginning of the campaign of 1917, the Entente had 425 divisions (21 million men), and the Central Powers, 331 divisions (10 million men). In April 1917 the USA entered the war on the side of the Entente. The fundamental principles of the plan for the campaign of 1917 were adopted by the Allies at the third conference in Chantilly on Nov. 15–16, 1916, and were made more specific in February 1917 at a conference in Petrograd. The plan provided for limited operations on all fronts early in the year, to hold the strategic initiative. In the summer the Allies were to go over to a general offensive in the Western European and Eastern European theaters of operations, with the objective of finally crushing Germany and Austria-Hungary. The German command rejected offensive operations on land and decided to focus its attention on waging “unrestricted submarine warfare,” believing that it could disrupt the British economy in six months and force Great Britain out of the war. On Feb. 1, 1917, Germany declared “unrestricted submarine warfare” on Great Britain for the second time. Between February and April 1917, German submarines destroyed more than 1,000 merchant ships of the Allied and neutral countries (a total of 1,752,000 tons). By mid-1917, Great Britain, which had lost merchant ships amounting to approximately 3 million tons, found itself in a difficult situation. It could only make up for 15 percent of the losses, and this was not enough to sustain the export and import traffic essential to the country. By the end of 1917, however, after the organization of a reinforced defense of the sea-lanes and the development of various means of antisubmarine defense, the Entente managed to reduce its merchant ship losses. “Unrestricted submarine warfare” did not fulfill the hopes of the German command. Meanwhile, the continuing British blockade was starving Germany.

In executing the general plan for the campaign, the Russian command carried out the Mitau Operation on Dec. 23–29, 1916 (Jan. 5–11, 1917), with the objective of diverting part of the enemy forces from the Western European theater of operations. On February 27 (March 12) a bourgeois democratic revolution took place in Russia (the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of 1917). Under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat, demanding peace, bread, and freedom, led the majority of the army, which was made up of workers and peasants, in the overthrow of the autocracy. However, the bourgeois Provisional Government came to power. Expressing the interests of Russian imperialism, it continued the war. Deceiving the masses of soldiers with false promises of peace, it opened an offensive operation with the troops of the Southwestern Front. The operation ended in failure (the June Operation of 1917).

By the summer of 1917 the combat capability of the Rumanian Army had been restored with Russian assistance, and in the battle of Mărăşeşti (July-August) Russian and Rumanian forces repulsed the German forces, which were attempting to break through to the Ukraine. On August 19–24 (September 1–6), during the Riga defensive operation, Russian troops surrendered Riga. The revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet heroically defended the Moonsund Archipelago in the Moonsund Operation of Sept. 29 (Oct. 12)-Oct. 6 (19), 1917. These were the last operations on the Russian Front.

The Great October Socialist Revolution took place on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917. The proletariat, in alliance with the poorest peasants and under the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords and opened the era of socialism. Carrying out the will of the people, the Soviet government addressed a proposal to all the warring powers, calling for the conclusion of a just democratic peace without annexations and reparations (the decree on peace). When the Entente powers and the USA refused to accept the proposal, the Soviet government was forced to conclude an armistice with the German coalition on December 2(15) and begin peace negotiations without the participation of Russia’s former allies. On November 26 (December 9), Rumania concluded the Focşani armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

In the Italian theater of operations there were 57 Italian divisions opposing 27 Austro-Hungarian divisions in April 1917. Despite the numerical superiority of the Italian forces, the Italian command was unable to attain success. Three more offensives against the Isonzo River failed. On October 24, Austro-Hungarian troops went over to the offensive in the Caporetto region, broke through the Italians’ defense, and inflicted a major defeat on them. Without the assistance of 11 British and French divisions transferred to the Italian theater of operations, it would not have been possible to stop the advance of the Austro-Hungarian forces at the Piave River in late November. In the Middle Eastern theater of operations British troops advanced successfully in Mesopotamia and Syria. They took Baghdad on March 11 and Be’er Sheva’ (Beersheba), Gaza, Jaffa, and Jerusalem in late 1917.

The Entente plan of operations in France, which was developed by General Nivelle, called for delivering the main attack on the Aisne River between Reims and Soissons, in order to break through the enemy defense and surround the German forces in the Noyon salient. Learning of the French plan, by March 17 the German command withdrew its forces 30 km to a previously prepared line known as the Siegfried Line. Subsequently, the French command decided to begin the offensive on a broad front, committing to action major forces and means: six French and three British armies (90 infantry and ten cavalry divisions), more than 11,000 guns and mortars, 200 tanks, and about 1,000 airplanes.

The Allied offensive began on April 9 in the Arras region, on April 12 near St. Quentin, and on April 16 in the Reims region and continued until April 20–28 and May 5 on some axes. The April offensive (the “Nivelle slaughter”) ended incomplete failure. Although about 200,000 men had been lost, the Allied forces had not been able to break through the front. Mutinies broke out in the French Army, but they were cruelly suppressed. A Russian brigade that had been in France since 1916 took part in the offensive on the Aisne River. In the second half of 1917, Anglo-French forces carried out a number of local operations: Messines (June 7-August 30), Ypres (July 31-November 6), Verdun (August 20–27),and Malmaison (October 23–26). At Cambrai (November 20-December 6) massed tanks were used for the first time.

The campaign of 1917 did not produce the results anticipated by either side. The revolution in Russia and the lack of coordinated action by the Allies thwarted the Entente’s strategic plan, which had been intended to crush the Austro-Hungarian bloc. Germany succeeded in repulsing the enemy attacks, but its hope of attaining victory by means of “unrestricted submarine warfare” proved vain, and the troops of the coalition of Central Powers were forced to go over to the defensive.

Campaign of 1918. By early 1918 the military and political situation had changed fundamentally. After the October Revolution Soviet Russia quit the war. Under the influence of the Russian Revolution, a revolutionary crisis was ripening in the other warring powers. The Entente countries (excluding Russia) had 274 divisions at the beginning of 1918—that is, forces approximately equal to those of the German bloc, which had 275 divisions (not counting 86 divisions in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region and nine divisions in the Caucasus). The military and economic situation of the Entente was stronger than that of the German bloc. However, the Allied command believed that even more powerful human and material resources would have to be prepared, with the assistance of the USA, in order to finally crush Germany.

Strategic defensives were planned for all theaters of military operations in the campaign of 1918. The decisive offensive against Germany was postponed until 1919. Their resources running out, the Central Powers were eager to end the war as quickly as possible. Having concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Soviet Russia on Mar. 3, 1918, the German command decided in March to go over to the offensive on the Western Front to crush the Entente armies. At the same time, German and Austro-Hungarian forces, in violation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, began occupying the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region. Rumania was drawn into the anti-Soviet intervention after May 7, when it signed the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1918, the terms of which were dictated by the Central Powers.

On March 21 the German command began a major offensive operation on the Western Front (the March Offensive in Picardy). Their intention was to cut off the British forces from the French forces by means of an attack on Amiens, then crush them and reach the sea. The Germans made sure that they would have superiority in forces and means (62 divisions, 6,824 guns, and about 1,000 airplanes against 32 divisions, about 3,000 guns, and about 500 airplanes for the British). The German forces broke through the Allied defense to a depth of 60 km. The Allied command eliminated the breakthrough by bringing reserves into the battle. The German forces suffered heavy losses (about 230,000 men) but did not achieve their assigned objective. Going over to the offensive again on April 9 in Flanders on the Lys River, the German forces advanced 18 km, but by April 14 the Allies stopped them.

On May 27 the German armies delivered an attack north of Reims (the battle of the Chemin des Dames). They managed to cross the Aisne River and penetrate the Allied defense to a depth of about 60 km, reaching the Marne in the Château-Thierry region by May 30. Having arrived within 70 km of Paris, the German forces were unable to overcome French resistance, and on June 4 they went over to the defensive. The attempt of German troops from June 9 to 13 to advance between Montdidier and Noyon was equally unsuccessful.

On July 15 the German command made a final attempt to defeat the Allied armies by opening a major offensive on the Marne. The battle of the Marne of 1918 (the second battle of the Marne) did not fulfill the Germans’ hopes. After crossing the Marne, they were unable to advance more than 6 km. On July 18, Allied forces delivered a counterattack; by August 4 they had driven the enemy back to the Aisne and the Vesle. In four months of offensive operations the German command had completely exhausted its reserves but had been unable to crush the Entente armies.

The Allies took firm control of the strategic initiative. On August 8–13 the Anglo-French armies inflicted a major defeat on the German forces in the Amiens Operation of 1918, making them withdraw to the line from which their March offensive had begun. Ludendorff referred to August 8 as “the black day of the German Army.” On September 12–15 the American First Army, commanded by General J. Pershing, won a victory over German forces at St. Mihiel (the St. Mihiel Operation). On September 26, Allied forces (202 divisions against 187 weakened German divisions) began a general offensive along the entire 420-km front from Verdun to the sea and broke through the German defense.

In the other theaters of military operations the campaign of 1918 ended with the defeat of Germany’s allies. The Entente had 56 divisions, including 50 Italian divisions, in the Italian theater of operations, as well as more than 7,040 guns and more than 670 airplanes. Austria-Hungary had 60 divisions, 7,500 guns, and 580 airplanes. On June 15 the Austro-Hungarian forces, going over to the offensive south of Trent, broke through the enemy defense and advanced 3–4 km, but on June 20–26 they were thrown back to the starting line by counterattack by Allied forces. On October 24 the Italian Army went over to the offensive against the Piave River, but it made only an insignificant advance. On October 28 units of the Austro-Hungarian Fifth and Sixth armies, refusing to fight, began to abandon their positions. They were soon joined by troops of other armies, and a disorderly retreat of all the Austro-Hungarian forces began on November 2. On November 3,Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Entente at Villa Giusti (near Padua).

In the Balkan theater of operations, the Allied forces consisted of 29 infantry divisions (eight French, four British, six Serbian, one Italian, and ten Greek divisions and one French cavalry group, a total of about 670,000 men; and 2,070 guns).Facing them along a 350-km front from the Aegean to the Adriatic were the forces of the Central Powers—the German Eleventh Army; the Bulgarian First, Second, and Fourth armies; an Austro-Hungarian corps (a total of about 400,000 men); and 1,138 guns. On September 15 the Allies began an offensive; by September 29 they had advanced to a depth of 150 km along a front of 250 km. Surrounded, the German Eleventh Army surrendered on September 30. The Bulgarian armies were smashed. On September 29, Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Entente in Salonika.

The British army of General E. H. Allenby and the Arab army commanded by Emir Faisal and the British intelligence officer Colonel T. E. Lawrence (a total of 105,000 men and 546 guns) were operating on the Syrian Front, where Turkey had three armies—the Fourth, the Seventh, and the Eighth (a total of 34,000 men and about 330 guns). The Allied offensive began on September 19. Breaking through the enemy defense and pushing forward cavalry units to the enemy rear, Allied troops forced the Turkish Eighth and Seventh armies to surrender; the Turkish Fourth Army retreated. Between September 28 and October 27 the Allies captured Akko (Acre), Damascus, Tripoli, and Aleppo. A French landing party went ashore at Beirut on October 7.

On the Mesopotamian Front the British expeditionary army of General W. Marshall (five divisions) went on the offensive against the Turkish Sixth Army (four divisions). The British captured Kirkuk on October 24 and Mosul on October 31.The Entente powers and Turkey signed the Moudhros Armistice on Oct. 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon in Moudhros Bay (the island of Limnos).

In early October, Germany’s position became hopeless. On October 5 the German government asked the US government for an armistice. The Allies demanded the withdrawal of German forces from all occupied territory in the west. The military defeats and economic exhaustion of Germany had accelerated the development of a revolutionary crisis. The victory and progress of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia strongly influenced the growth of the revolutionary movement of the German people. On Oct. 30, 1918, an uprising broke out among the sailors in Wilhelmshaven. The Kiel Mutiny of sailors in the German fleet took place on Nov. 3, 1918; on November 6 the uprising spread to Hamburg, Lübeck, and other cities. On November 9 the revolutionary German workers and soldiers overthrew the monarchy. Fearing further development of the revolution in Germany, the Entente hurried to conclude the Armistice of Compiègne with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Germany, admitting that it had been defeated, obligated itself to remove its forces immediately from all occupied territories and turn over to the Allies a large quantity of armaments and military equipment.

Results of the war. World War I ended in the defeat of Germany and its allies. After the conclusion of the Armistice of Compiègne the victorious powers began developing plans for a postwar “settlement.” Treaties with the defeated countries were prepared at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20. A number of separate treaties were signed: the Peace Treaty of Versailles with Germany (June 28, 1919), the Treaty of St.-Germain with Austria (Sept. 10, 1919), the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria (Nov. 27, 1919), the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary (June 4, 1920), and the Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey (Aug. 10, 1920). The Paris Peace Conference also adopted a resolution regarding the establishment of the League of Nations and approved its Covenant, which became part of the peace treaties. Germany and its former allies were deprived of considerable territories and compelled to pay heavy reparations and greatly reduce their armed forces.

The postwar peace “settlement” in the interests of the victorious imperialist powers was completed by the Washington Conference on Naval Limitations (1921–22). The treaties with Germany and its former allies and the agreements signed at the Washington Conference constituted the Versailles-Washington system of peace. The result of compromises and deals, it failed to eliminate the contradictions among the imperialist powers and in fact considerably exacerbated them. Lenin wrote: “Today, after this ‘peaceful’ period, we see a monstrous intensification of oppression, the reversion to a colonial and military oppression that is far worse than before” (ibid., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 217). The imperialist powers began to struggle for a repartition of the world, preparing for another world war.

In its scope and consequences World War I was unprecedented in the history of the human race. It lasted four years, three months, and ten days (from Aug. 1, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918), engulfing 38 countries with a combined population of more than 1.5 billion. The Entente countries mobilized about 45 million men, and the coalition of the Central Powers, 25 million —a total of 70 million men. The most able-bodied men on both sides were removed from material production and sent to exterminate each other, fighting for the interests of the imperialists. By the end of the war, the ground forces exceeded their peacetime counterparts by a factor of 8.5 in Russia, five in France, nine in Germany, and eight in Austria-Hungary. As much as 50 and even 59.4 percent (in France) of the able-bodied male population was mobilized. The Central Powers mobilized almost twice the percentage of the total population as the Entente (19.1 percent, as compared to 10.3 percent). About 16 million men—more than one-third of all those mobilized by the Entente and its allies— were mobilized for the Russian armed forces. In June 1917, 288 (55.3 percent) of the Entente’s 521 divisions were Russian. In Germany, 13.25 million men were mobilized, or more than half of all the soldiers mobilized by the Central Powers. In June 1918, 236 (63.4 percent) of the Central Powers’ 361 divisions were German. The large size of the armies resulted in the formation of vast fronts up to 3,000–4,000 km long.

WWIGraph5

The war demanded the mobilization of all material resources, demonstrating the decisive role of the economy in an armed struggle. World War I was characterized by the massive use of many types of matériel. “It is the first time in history that the most powerful achievements of technology have been applied on such a scale, so destructively and with such energy, for the annihilation of millions of human lives” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 36, p. 396). Industry in the warring countries supplied the fronts with millions of rifles, more than 1 million light and heavy machine guns, more than 150,000 artillery pieces, 47.7 billion cartridges, more than 1 billion shells, 9,200 tanks, and about 182,000 airplanes (see Table 4). During the war the number of heavy artillery pieces increased by a factor of eight, the number of machine guns by a factor of 20, and the number of airplanes by a factor of 24. The war created a demand for large quantities of various materials, such as lumber and cement. About 4 million tons of barbed wire were used. Armies of millions of men demanded an uninterrupted supply of food, clothing, and forage. For example, from 1914 to 1917 the Russian Army consumed (in round figures) 9.64 million tons of flour, 1.4 million tons of cereal, 8.74 million tons of meat, 510,000 tons of fats, 11.27 million tons of forage oats and barley, and 19.6 million tons of hay, with a total value of 2,473,700,000 rubles (at 1913 prices). The front was supplied with 5 million sheepskin coats and pea jackets, 38.4 million sweaters and padded vests, more than 75 million pairs of underwear, 86.1 million pairs of high boots and shoes, 6.6 million pairs of felt boots, and other clothing.

Military enterprises alone could not produce such enormous quantities of armaments and other supplies. Industry was mobilized by means of a large-scale conversion of consumer-goods plants and factories to the production of war goods. In Russia in 1917, 76 percent of the workers were engaged in meeting war needs; in France, 57 percent; in Great Britain, 46 percent; in Italy, 64 percent; in the USA, 31.6 percent; and in Germany, 58 percent. In most of the warring countries, however, industry was unable to supply the needs of the armies for armaments and equipment. Russia, for example, was forced to order armaments, ammunition, clothing, industrial equipment, steam locomotives, coal, and certain other types of strategic raw materials from the USA, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and other countries. During the war, however, these countries provided the Russian Army with only a small proportion of its total requirements for armaments and ammunition: 30 percent of the rifles, less than 1 percent of the rifle cartridges, 23 percent of the guns of different calibers, and 20 percent of the shells for these guns.

In all the major countries special state bodies were established to manage the war economies: in Germany the Department of War Raw Materials, in Great Britain the Ministry of Munitions, and in Russia the Special Conferences (for state defense, fuel, shipping, and food). These state bodies planned war production; distributed orders, equipment, and raw and processed materials; rationed food and consumer goods; and exercised control over foreign trade. The capitalists formed their own representative organizations to assist the state bodies: in Germany the Central War Industries Council and war industries committees for each sector, in Great Britain the supervisory committees, and in Russia the war industries committees and the Zemstvo and Municipal unions. As a result, an interlocking relationship developed between the state administrative apparatus and the monopolies. “The imperialist war has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 33, p. 3). Although the state bodies managing the war economy had strong assistance from the representative organizations of the capitalists, the very nature of the capitalist economy prevented them from achieving complete success.

The war made intensive demands on all types of transportation. Up to half of all railroad rolling stock was loaded with military shipments. Most motor vehicles were used for military needs. A large number of the merchant vessels of the warring and neutral countries were engaged in shipping cargoes for war industries and armies. During the war 6,700 vessels (excluding sailing ships) were sunk (total displacement, about 15 million tons, or 28 percent of the prewar world tonnage).

The increase in military production, which was achieved primarily at the expense of nonmilitary sectors, placed excessive strains on the national economies, resulting in the disruption of the proportion between different sectors of production and, ultimately, in economic disorder. In Russia, for example, two-thirds of all industrial output went for war needs and only one-third for consumer needs, giving rise to a scarcity of goods, as well as to high prices and speculation. As early as 1915 there were shortages of many types of industrial raw materials and fuel, and by 1916 there was a severe raw materials and fuel crisis in Russia. As a result of the war, the production of many types of industrial output declined in other countries. There was a significant decline in the smelting of pig iron, steel, and nonferrous metals; the extraction of coal and petroleum; and output from all branches of light industry. The war damaged society’s productive forces and undermined the economic life of the people of the world.

In agriculture the effects of the war were especially grave. Mobilization deprived the countryside of its most productive workers and draft animals. Sown areas were cut back, yields dropped, and the number of livestock decreased and their productivity declined. Severe shortages of food developed in the cities of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, which later experienced famine. The shortages spread to the army, resulting in cuts in food rations.

World War I demanded colossal financial expenditures, many times greater than the expenditures in all previous wars. There is no scientifically substantiated estimate of the total cost of World War I, but the one most commonly cited in the literature was calculated by the American economist E. Bogart, who set the total cost of the war at $359.9 billion in gold (699.4 billion rubles), including $208.3 billion (405 billion rubles) of direct (budgeted) expenditures and $151.6 billion (294.4 billion rubles) of indirect expenditures. Direct war expenditures included the cost of maintaining the army (40 percent) and the cost of the material and technological means for waging war (60 percent). The national income provided the economic base for covering war expenditures. Additional sources of financing the war were increases in existing (direct and indirect) taxes and the institution of new taxes, the sale of domestic and foreign bonds, and the issuing of paper money. The full weight of the financial burden of the war fell on the toiling classes of the population.

World War I was an important stage in the history of the art of war and in the building of armed forces. There were major changes in the organization and relationships of the various combat arms. The great length of the fronts and the deployment on them of vast armies of millions of soldiers led to the creation of new organizational units: fronts and army groups. The firepower of the infantry increased, but its proportionate role decreased somewhat as the result of the development of other combat arms: engineers, signal troops, and especially, the artillery. The number of artillery pieces rose sharply, technology improved, and new types of artillery were developed (antiaircraft, infantry support, and antitank artillery). The range of fire, destructive force of fire, and mobility of the artillery increased. The density of artillery reached 100 or more guns per kilometer of front. Infantry attacks were accompanied by rolling barrages.

Tanks, a powerful striking and mobile force, were used for the first time. Tank forces developed rapidly. By the war’s end there were 8,000 tanks in the Entente armies. In aviation, which also developed rapidly, several different branches emerged: fighter, reconnaissance, bombardment, and ground attack aviation. By the end of the war the belligerent powers had more than 10,000 combat aircraft. Antiaircraft defense developed in the air war. Chemical warfare troops appeared. The significance of the cavalry among the combat arms declined, and by the war’s end the number of cavalry troops had dropped sharply.

The war revealed the growing dependence of the art of war on economics and politics. The scale of operations, the extent of the front of attack, and the depth and rate of advance increased. With the establishment of continuous fronts,combat operations became static. The frontal blow, the success of which determined the outcome of an operation, became very important. During World War I the problem of the tactical breakthrough of a front was solved, but the problem of developing a breakthrough into an operational success remained unsolved. New means of fighting complicated the tactics of the combat arms. At the beginning of the war the infantry conducted offensives in skirmish lines and later, in waves of lines and combat teams (squads). Combined arms combat was based on cooperation between old and new combat arms—the infantry, the artillery, tanks, and aviation. Control of troops became more complex. The role of logistics and supplies increased significantly. Rail and motor-vehicle transport became very important.

The types and classes of naval ships were refined, and there was an increase in the proportion of light forces (cruisers, destroyers, patrol vessels and patrol boats, and submarines). Shipboard artillery, mines, torpedoes, and naval aviation were used extensively. The chief forms of military operations at sea were the blockade; cruiser, submarine, and mine warfare; landings and raids; and engagements and battles between line forces and light forces. The experience of World War I greatly influenced the development of military thinking and the organization and combat training of all combat arms (forces) until World War II (1939–45).

The war brought unprecedented deprivation and human suffering and widespread hunger and devastation. It brought mankind “to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilization, of brutalization” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 31, p.182). Valuables worth 58 billion rubles were destroyed during the war. Entire regions, especially in northern France, were turned into wastelands.

Casualties amounted to 9.5 million killed and dead of wounds and 20 million wounded, of whom 3.5 million were permanently crippled. The heaviest losses (66.6 percent of the total) were suffered by Germany, Russia, France, and Austria-Hungary. The USA sustained only 1.2 percent of the total losses. Many civilians were killed by the various means of combat. (There are no overall figures for combat-related civilian casualties.) Hunger and other privations caused by the war led to a rise in the mortality rate and a drop in the birthrate. The population loss from these factors was more than 20 million in the 12 belligerent states alone, including 5 million in Russia, 4.4 million in Austria-Hungary, and 4.2 million in Germany. Unemployment, inflation, tax increases, and rising prices worsened the poverty and extreme deprivation of the large majority of the population of the capitalist countries.

Only the capitalists gained any advantages from the war. By the beginning of 1918, the war profits of the German monopolies totaled at least 10 billion gold marks. The capital of the German finance magnate Stinnes increased by a factor of ten, and the net profits of the “cannon king” Krupp, by a factor of almost six. Monopolies in France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan made large profits, but the American monopolies made the most on the war—between 1914 and 1918, $3 billion in profits. “The American multimillionaires profited more than all the rest. They have converted all, even the richest, countries into their tributaries. And every dollar is stained with blood—from that ocean of blood that has been shed by the 10 million killed and 20 million maimed” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 37, p. 50). The profits of the monopolies continued to grow after the war.

The ruling classes placed the entire burden of the economic consequences of the war on the toiling people. World War I led to an aggravation of the class struggle and accelerated the ripening of the objective prerequisites for the Great October Socialist Revolution, which opened a new epoch in world history—the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. The example of Russia’s toiling people, who threw off the oppression of the capitalists and landlords, showed other peoples the way to liberation. A wave of revolutionary actions swept over many countries, shaking the foundations of the world capitalist system. The national liberation movement became active in the colonial and dependent countries. “World War I and the October Revolution marked the beginning of the general crisis of capitalism” (Programma KPSS, 1974, p. 25). Politically, this was the chief result of the war.

SOURCES

Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1870–1918 gg.: Sb. dokumentov. Moscow, 1940.
Mirovaia voina ν tsifrakh. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.
Brusilov, A. A. Moi vospominaniia. Moscow, 1963.
Lloyd George, D. Voennye memuary, vols. 1–6. Moscow, 1934–38. (Translated from English.)
Ludendorff, E. Moi vospominaniia o voine 1914–1918 gg, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1923–24. (Translated from German.)
Tirpitz, A. von. Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from German.)
Foch, F. Vospominaniia (Voina 1914–1918 gg). Moscow, 1939. (Translated from French.)
Die Grosse Politik der europäischen Kabinette 1871–1914: Sammlung der diplomatischen Akten des Auswärtigen Amtes, vols. 1–40. Berlin, 1922–37.
British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898–1914, vols. 1–11. London, 1926–28.
Documents diplomatiques français [1871–1914], series 1–3, vols. 1–41. Paris, 1929–59.
Der erste Weltkrieg in Bildern und Dokumenten, 2nd ed., vols. 1–3. Munich, 1969.
Conrad von Hôtzendorf, F. Aus meiner Dientzeit, 1906–1918, vols. 1–5. Vienna, 1921–25.
Churchill, W. L. S. The World Crisis, vols. 1–6. London, 1923–31.
Joffre, J. Mémoires (1910–1917,) vols. 1–2. Paris, 1932.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Reference Volume, part 1, pp. 177–87.)
Vsemirnaia istoriia, vols. 7–8. Moscow, 1960–61.
Istoriia SSSR s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, vols. 6–7. Moscow, 1967–68.
Istoriia diplomatii, 2nd ed., vols. 2–3. Moscow, 1963–65.
Istoriia KPSS, vols. 2–3 (book 1). Moscow, 1966–67.
Strategicheskii ocherk voiny 1914–1918, vols. 1–7. Moscow, 1920–23.
Strokov, A. A. Istoriia voennogo iskusstvo, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967.
Talenskii, N. A. Pervaia mirovaia voina (1914–1918): (Boevye deistviia na sushe i na more). Moscow, 1944.
Verzhkhovskii, D., and V. Liakhov. Pervaia mirovaia voina, 1914–1918. Moscow, 1964.
Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg., 3rd ed., vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1938–39.
Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Podgotovka Rossii k imperialisticheskoi voine: Ocherki voennoi podgotovki i pervonachal’nykh planov. Moscow, 1926.
Bovykin, V. I. Iz istorii vozniknoveniia pervoi mirovoi voiny: Otnosheniia Rossii i Frantsii ν 1912–1914. Moscow, 1961.
Ignat’ev, A. V. Russko-angliiskie otnosheniia nakanune pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1962.
Ignat’ev, A. V. Russko-angliiskie otnosheniia nakanune Okliabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1966.
Asta’ev, I. I. Russko-germanskie diplomaticheskie otnosheniia 1905–1911. Moscow, 1972.
Ganelin, R. Sh. Rossiia i SShA, 1914–1917. Leningrad, 1969.
Poletika, N. P. Vozniknovenie pervoi mirovoi voiny (iiul’skii krizis 1914). Moscow, 1964.
Fay, S. Proiskhozhdenie mirovoi voiny, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1934. (Translated from English.)
Falkenhayn, E. von. Verkhovnoe komandovanie 1914–1916 gg. ν ego vazhneishikh resheniiakh. Moscow, 1923. (Translated from German.)
Kolenkovskii, A. K. Manevrennyi period pervoi mirovoi imperialisticheskoi voiny 1914 g. Moscow, 1940.
Arutiunian, A. O. Kavkazskii front 1914–1917 gg. Yerevan, 1971.
Korsun, N. G. Balkanskii front mirovoi voiny 1914–1918 gg. Moscow, 1939.
Korsun, N. G. Pervaia mirovaia voina na Kavkazskom fronte. Moscow, 1946.
Bazarevskii, A. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg.: Kampaniia 1918 g. vo Frantsii i Bel’gii, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1927.
Novitskii, V. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg.: Kampaniia 1914 g. ν Bel’gii i Frantsii, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1938.
Villari, L. Voina na ital’ianskom fronte 1915–1918 gg. Moscow, 1936. (Translated from English.)
Flot ν pervoi mirovoi voine, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1964.
Petrov, M. Podgotovka Rossii k mirovoi voine na more. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926.
Corbett, J. S., and H. Newbolt. Operatsii angliiskogo flota ν mirovuiu voinu, 3rd ed., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1941. (Translated from English.)
Aleksandrov, A. P., I. S. Isakov, and V. A. Belli. Operatsii podvodnykh
lodok. Leningrad, 1933.
Scheer, R. Germanskii flot ν mirovuiu voinu. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940. (Translated from German.)
Sidorov, A. L. Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie Rossii ν gody pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1973.
Pisarev, Iu. A. Serbiia i Chernogoriia ν pervoi mirovoi voine. Moscow, 1968.
Vinogradov, V. N. Rumyniia ν gody pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1969.
Vinogradov, K. B. Burzhuaznaia istoriografiia pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1962.
Khmelevskii, G. Mirovaia imperialisticheskaia voina 1914–1918: Sistematicheskii ukazatel’ knizhnoi i stateinoi voenno-istoricheskoi literatury za 1914–1935. Moscow, 1936.
Rutman, R. E. Bibliografiia literatury, izdannoi ν 1953–1963 gg. po istorii Pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1964.
Otto, H., K. Schmiedel, and H. Schnitter. Der erste Weltkrieg, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1968.
History of the Great War: Series A–M. [vols. 1–49]. London, 1922–48.
Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918: Die militärischen operationen zu Lande, vols. 1–14. Berlin, 1925–44.
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I. I. ROSTUNOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE): Stalin

pcmle_00002

Excerpts from a talk held in the Dominican Republic on the 50th anniversary of the death of Comrade Stalin, at the invitation of the Communist Party of Labour.

During his lifetime Comrade Stalin won the admiration and affection of the working class and all the peoples of the vast Soviet Union, as well as the respect and friendship of the workers of the five continents, the fervour and enthusiasm of the communists of all countries. Of course, he elicited the hatred of the reactionaries, imperialists and bourgeois who felt deeply hurt by the colossal achievements of the Soviet Union, by the great economic, cultural, technological and scientific feats of the workers and socialist intelligentsia, by the great and resounding triumphs of the revolution and socialism, of the communists.

In this plot against Stalin by which they fought communism, the Nazi propaganda stood out for its slander and persistence, which did not let one day pass without launching its dire diatribes.

Of course, this counter-revolutionary and anti-communist hatred also characterized Trotsky and his followers.

Shortly after Stalin’s death, the voices of the “communists” who had assumed the leadership of the Soviet Party and the State were added to the chorus of the reactionaries and anti-communists of all countries who had always reviled Stalin.

From then until our day, anti-Stalinism has been the recurring voice of all the reactionaries, of the ideologues of the bourgeoisie, of the Trotskyists, revisionists and opportunists of all shades.

By attacking Stalin, they are trying to tear down the extraordinary achievements of socialism in the Soviet Union and in what had been the socialist camp; they want to minimize and even ignore the great contributions of the Red Army and the Soviet peoples in the decisive struggle against Nazism, to denigrate the Communist Party and the socialist system as totalitarian, as the negation of freedom and democracy. By attacking Stalin they are aiming at Lenin, Marx and socialism. To denigrate Stalin as bloodthirsty and a bureaucrat means to attack the dictatorship of the proletariat and thereby deny the freedom of the workers and peoples, socialist democracy. To slander Stalin as being ignorant and mediocre is to refuse to recognize his great contributions to revolutionary theory, to Marxism-Leninism. To attack Stalin means to deny the necessity of the existence and struggle of the communist party, to transform it into a movement of free thinkers and anarcho-syndicalists, to remove its Leninist essence, democratic centralism.

The height of anti-Stalinism is to call Stalinists those who betrayed the revolution and socialism in the name of doing away with the “crimes of Stalin” and of making the Soviet Union a “democratic country”. The folly of the reactionaries and opportunists does not allow them to recognize that the confessed anti-Stalinists, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, destroyed brick by brick the great work of the Soviet working class and peoples, of the communists, of Lenin and Stalin.

The attacks on Stalin are of such magnitude that even a significant number of social fighters, leftists and revolutionaries have fallen victim to these slanders. Basically, they are sincere people, interested in social and national liberation, who do not know the personality and work of Stalin and therefore join the chorus of these distortions. There are also some petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who attack Stalin from supposedly “humanist” positions.

It is up to us communists to defend the revolutionary truth about Stalin, and it is our responsibility because we are his comrades, the ones who are continuing his work.

The Great October Socialist Revolution was one of the great events of humanity. The workers and peoples of the world’s largest country stood up, undertook a long revolutionary process, led by the Bolshevik Party, which led them to victory in October of 1917. This great feat of the workers and peasants, the soldiers and the intelligentsia was a complex process, full of twists and turns and advances and retreats.

The proletarian revolution that smashed the tsarist empire to pieces was inconceivable without the guidance of Marxism, which established itself as the emancipatory doctrine of the working class; without the efforts of Russian communists, mainly of Lenin by his creative application in the social, economic, cultural, historical and political conditions of old Russia; without the building, existence and struggle of the Bolshevik Party; without the decisive participation of the working class and the millions of poor peasants; without the social and political mobilization of the broad masses; without the existence and fighting of the Red Army; and without the important contribution of the international working class.

Several decades of strikes and street battles; the utilization of parliamentary struggle and the participation of the communists in the Duma; the ideological and political struggle against the bourgeoisie and the tsarist autocracy; the organization of the Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers; the great theoretical and political debate against opportunism within the party that led to the isolation of the Menshevik theses and proposals and to the formation of the Bolshevik Party governed by democratic centralism; the fierce battles against social chauvinism and social pacifism on an international scale; the profuse and fruitful propaganda activity of the communists; the fight to win ideological and political hegemony within the Soviets; the Revolution of 1905 and its lessons; the February Revolution of 1917, its results and consequences; the great armed insurrection of October; the Brest-Litovsk peace agreements; the revolutionary civil war; the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, these constitute the most salient features and characteristics of the struggle for power of the Russian communists, organized in the Bolshevik Party.

Stalin was born in Gori, a small town close to Tbilisi, in Georgia, on December 21, 1879. His father was a shoemaker, the son of serfs, and his mother, a servant, was also the daughter of serfs.

He joined into the ranks of the party in 1898, when he was 19 years old, and since that time his life, thoughts, dreams and his intellectual and physical effort were devoted to the cause of communism, to the fight for the revolution and socialism.

Until March of 1917 when he moved to Petrograd and joined the editorship of Pravda, Stalin had been and was a tireless organizer of trade unions and the party, of demonstrations and strikes, of newspapers and magazines, a student of Marxism and the author of various documents and proposals. He had been in prison and exile, at Party congresses and conferences. He was a fighter and leader of the revolution.

The revolutionary period that began with the February Revolution was the scene of great ideological and political confrontations against the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, but also against the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, and also within the Party. The whole process of winning the majority of the Soviets for the policy of the Bolsheviks had in Stalin a great leader and architect. The preparation of the insurrection, the technical and military contacts and preparations and also the debate within the leadership of the Bolshevik Party found in Stalin a protagonist of the highest order; he was a great comrade of Lenin in all aspects of political work.

Stalin was part of the first Soviet government as a People’s Commissar of Nationalities; he participated actively in the revolutionary civil war as a Commissar and Commander on various fronts and showed his military and political ability in forging and consolidating the young Soviet power and strengthening the Red Army. He was one of the most outstanding leaders of the party, the government and the army.

In 1921, by decision of the party and together with Lenin he participated actively in the foundation of the Third or Communist International, which would play a great role in the organization and leadership of the revolution on the international level.

A great task that the proletarian revolution took up was the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which meant concretely the application of the line of the Party with regard to the nationalities and peoples. The “prison-house of nations” that was the tsarist empire became a community of nations, nationalities and peoples, governed by socialism, which put forward the defence and development of the national cultures and their inclusion in the building of the new society.

Having taken up these responsibilities, his dedication and selflessness in their fulfilment and his theoretical ability made Stalin the General Secretary of the Party in 1922. When Lenin died in 1924, the Political Bureau of the Party designated Stalin as the main leader of the party.

The Communist Party (Bolshevik), under the leadership of Stalin, faithful to the Leninist legacy, pushed through the New Economic Policy (NEP) during the 1920s. Amidst great difficulties, relying on the mobilization of the working class and peasantry, defeating the blockade, sabotage and resistance of the defeated reactionary classes and the force of individual capitalism that emerged in the peasant economy, it succeeded in overcoming the disastrous material, economic and social situation that Russia had been in after the Civil War, with production reduced to 14% of the pre-war period, and which was seen in widespread famine and the profusion of diseases.

In this period a bitter ideological and political battle was being waged within the party between the Bolsheviks and the so-called “‘Left’ communists,” who wanted to “export the revolution” and place the weight of the economy on the peasantry, liquidating it as an ally of the proletariat.

In 1929, the NEP was concluded and the accelerated collectivization of the countryside was begun, the great battle against the kulaks who wanted to reverse the revolutionary process in the countryside.

In 1930, the process of large-scale industrialization was pushed forward with great material efforts and supported by the mobilization of the working class. It was a great feat that required large investments and therefore limited the possibilities for the well-being of the great masses of workers and peasants. Despite this, the revolutionary fervour and enthusiasm allowed for the fulfilment and even over-fulfilment of its goals.

In the West, this was the time of the Great Depression; in the country of the Soviets it was the time of the victorious construction of socialism. The Soviet Union became the second greatest economic and commercial power in the world, after the United States. For eleven years, between 1930 and 1940, the USSR had an average growth of industrial production of 16.5%.

A good part of socialist accumulation had to be invested in the defence and security of the Soviet Union, which had to deal with the arms race to which all the capitalist countries of Europe, the USA and Japan were committed.

For 1938-39, the danger of imperialist war hung over Europe and the world. The German Nazis, the Italian fascists and the Japanese reactionaries were moving quickly to form the Axis. The Western powers headed by the Anglo-French alliance worked feverishly to conclude a pact with Germany in order to encourage it to direct its attacks against the Soviet Union, in order to liquidate the communists, wear down the Germans and enter the war under better conditions. It was a devious and cunning diplomatic game that handed over the Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

The Soviet Union was a developing economic and military power, but its military capability was much weaker than that of Germany, France, England or the USA. It was surrounded by powerful enemies and needed material resources and time to prepare itself for the eventual war which was announced with cannons and aircraft.

The Soviet Union needed to combine international diplomacy and politics with its industrial development and military power. This circumstance forced the communists to devote a large quantity of material resources in this direction, but also to seek diplomatic alternatives that enabled its defence.

Several international meetings, endless proposals and projects were addressed to the chancelleries. The Soviet Union could not establish an alliance against Nazism since the main interest of the Western powers made the Soviet Union their target. In these circumstances and for its defence, in August 1939, the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact of “non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union” was signed.

This international treaty gave the Soviet Union precious time to push forward its military industry. Utilizing large material resources and the will of the peoples, in a short time it was able to build planes, tanks, cannons, weapons and ammunition in large quantities and simultaneously it could relocate its key industries located in European Russia to the East, behind the Urals.

World War II broke out in 1939. The Germans invaded Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, the Balkans, France, Belgium and Netherlands and utilizing “blitzkrieg” tactics, the lightening war, in few weeks they destroyed the armies of those countries and imposed puppet governments.

When it came to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans did not have the military capacity to carry out and win with the blitzkrieg; they ran into the resistance of the Red Army, the guerrillas and the great masses of workers and peasants who defended the socialist fatherland. The Red Army put up a fierce resistance and gave way to the Nazi troops, forcing them to penetrate into a vast territory, teeming with guerrillas who persistently harassed them. They could not take Leningrad much less Moscow. In Stalingrad a major battle was waged, street by street, house by house, man by man. The reds resisted and then took the initiative and defeated the German army. That was the beginning of the end of the fascist beast.

The Red Army launched the re-conquest of its territories occupied by the Nazis and advanced victoriously across the mountains and plains of Europe, contributing to the liberation of several of the countries of Eastern Europe, up to Berlin, which was taken on May 9, 1945.

This great victory of the Soviet Union was the fruit of the fortress of socialism, of the unity and will to action of the working class and peoples, of the valour of the Red Army, but it was also a consequence of the diplomatic, political and military genius of the General Staff and the leadership of the Soviet Party and Government, led by Stalin.

At the end of the war, the victory of the revolution took place in several countries of Europe, which established people’s democratic governments, and the victory of the revolution in other Asian countries. The Soviet Union emerged as a great economic and military power that won the affection and respect of workers and peoples of the world, of the patriots and democrats, of the revolutionaries and especially the communists. The Soviet Union, Stalin and the Communist Party were the great protagonists in the defeat of fascism.

The Great Patriotic War meant great human and material sacrifices for the Proletarian State. The victory achieved was built upon the great spiritual heritage of socialism that protected the workers and peoples of the USSR; it was made possible by the great patriotic sentiments with which the Communist Party was able to inspire the bodies and minds of the Soviet peoples, by the deep affection of the workers for Soviet power, by the brave and courageous contribution of the communists who put all their abilities and energy into the defence of socialism. The contribution of the Soviet Union in the Second World War was more than 20 million human beings, of which slightly more than 3 million were brave members of the Bolshevik Party. The Party gave over its best men to the war, it lost invaluable political and military cadres, but it also further tempered the Bolshevik steel, and at the end of the war it had gained more than 5 million new members.

At Yalta and Tehran, at the peace negotiations, the workers and peoples of the world had a great representative, Comrade Stalin, who knew, with wisdom, prudence and composure, how to restore the rights of the peoples and countries that had been victims of the war and fascism, how to contribute to the establishment of agreements and open the way to new levels of democracy and freedom in the world.

World War II was the prelude to the national liberation of dozens of countries on the five continents, who won their independence by breaking with the old colonial order. The Soviet Union led by Stalin was always the safe and reliable rear of this great liberation movement.

In the field of the revolution, the victories achieved in Albania and other countries of Eastern Europe, in China, Korea and Vietnam, gave rise to the formation of the powerful socialist camp. A quarter of the population living on a third of the Earth’s surface were building socialism and had in the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, an enlightening example and unreserved support. In the rest of the world, the working class, the peasantry, the youth and the progressive intelligentsia saw the socialist future of humanity with certainty and confidence.

On the other hand, the end of the Second World War established a new order within the capitalist sphere. The United States became the main world power and had hegemony over the capitalist countries.

There arose a new contradiction in the international sphere: one that opposed the old world of capital to the new world of socialism. The bourgeois ideologues and politicians called this the “cold war”, alluding to the antagonism of the dispute.

Once more the superiority of socialism became evident. In the Soviet Union, but also in the other countries of the socialist camp, the culture and well-being of the masses, science and technology, the social and material progress of the workers and peoples flourished. In 1949 the USSR was able to build the atomic bomb and in 1957 it launched the space race, taking the lead.

Neo-colonialism, a form of imperialist domination that emerged after the independence of the dependent nations and countries, always had a counterweight in the Soviet Union led by Stalin. The peoples of the former colonies always had a loyal friend.

Within a few years, from 1917 to the early years of the 1950s, the proletarians, led by the communists organized in the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin, built the dreams of a new world, the world of socialism. They built the essentials, many things were lacking, some failed, but humanity never knew a broader and truer democracy, never before were men in their multitudes able to have material and social well-being, equality among their peers. This was proletarian democracy.

It was an epic of the workers and peoples, the realization in life of the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism, the gigantic effort of the communists, the serene and bold work of the leaders, Lenin and Stalin.

When we speak of Stalin we are referring to the leader, the organizer, the head, the comrade and friend, who was really one of the great builders of the new man, of the new humanity.

This understanding of Stalin cannot be conceived without discovering and learning about his extraordinary theoretical work.

From the beginning of his communist activity he correctly evaluated the role of theory in the process of organizing and making the revolution. He studied the Marxist materials that he had at hand, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the works of Plekhanov, and soon he began to familiarize himself with Lenin, by his writings and directives, his valour as organizer and head of the communists, until he saw him in person at party events. From that time on they had a great friendship affirmed in militancy and the great commonality of opinions and concerns. Stalin was also a great reader of Russian literature. He was a man of vast culture, which grew daily throughout his life.

How can one not keep in mind in the training of communists in all countries his most outstanding works: Anarchism or Socialism?, Marxism and the National Question, On the Problem of Nationalities, The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists, The Foundations of Leninism, Concerning Questions of Leninism, Trotskyism or Leninism?, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Marxism and Linguistics, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, the Reports to the Congresses of the Communist Party.

Stalin was a theoretician of the revolution, a Marxist who recreated and developed revolutionary theory in order to provide answers to the problems put forward by the revolution. He was not a theoretician who speculated with knowledge to try to generate ideas and proposals. No, his theoretical work addressed burning issues that had to do with the development of the class struggle, with the problems that the party, the trade unions, the state and the revolution were facing on an international scale.

The depth of his writings is not at odds with the simple form of making them understood. Stalin is rigorous in his theoretical analysis, his positions are valid; they provide a real guide to action, as he himself pointed out referring to Marxism, but also they are simple and easy to understand.

Stalin’s detractors insist on some issues that we should analyze. All of them: the confessed reactionaries of anti-communism, the Trotskyists, the revisionists and opportunists of all shades agree principally on the following charges: intellectual mediocrity, Lenin’s testament that supposedly condemned him, the building of socialism in a single country, forced collectivization, the bureaucratization of the party and state, the liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard, the great purges, his tyrannical and bloodthirsty character, forced industrialization, his incompetence in the war, the cult of personality.

With regard to Stalin’s intellectual mediocrity, the facts, history and its vicissitudes speak emphatically. The October Revolution, the building of socialism in a large country and for the first time in the history of mankind, his skill in leading the party, the working class and the peoples of the USSR in the great feat of building a new world would not have been possible with a mediocre leader who was poor intellectually. These diatribes fall under their own weight. Trotsky, who claimed to be a great theoretician and man of culture and was one of his detractors in this area, was defeated precisely, in theory and practice, by one who, according to him, was a mediocrity.

In regard to the so-called “Lenin Testament,” a lot of nonsense has been written, such as that Trotsky was the one anointed by Lenin to replace him as head of the Party, as if those notes of Lenin had been hidden by the Central Committee. We say that Lenin’s health was very shaky in those days in which he is supposed to have written the famous “testament”, his sensitivity was weakened by the complaints of his companion. However, Lenin had the revolutionary culture, the Bolshevik training to understand that he could not have written a testament, a last will; he also knew that one leader, whatever his rank, can only give his opinions, not orders, in the collective. For these reasons one must understand these notes of Lenin as opinions; moreover, they were out of the context of the everyday life of the leadership of the Party and State and in no way were they orders to be complied with without question. On the other hand, it is completely false that these notes were hidden from the Central Committee; the latter knew about and discussed them. The results were known; Stalin was chosen the Main Leader of the Bolshevik Party and that was a correct and wise decision. History has shown these facts irrefutably. The one supposedly anointed by Lenin as leader of the Party, Trotsky, was placed by life and the revolutionary struggle in the dustbin of the counter-revolution.

The Leninist thesis of the building of socialism in one country takes into account the uneven development of capitalism and as a consequence the various stages of the class struggle. That situation made it possible to break the chain of imperialism at its weakest link, old Russia. Stalin was the one who continued this line. Relying on the workers and peasants, on the great spiritual and materials reserves of the Soviet peoples he carried out the great feat, defended the revolution and defeated the detractors of this thesis. Those who raised the impossibility of building socialism in the Soviet Union as long as the revolution did not succeed in the capitalist countries of Europe and labelled the peasants as reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries were proven to be wrong. The USSR developed and so far there has been no revolution in any of the capitalist countries in Europe.

On the forced collectivization of the countryside, Stalin’s detractors claim that “he violated the will of the peasants, destroyed the agrarian economy and eliminated the social base of the revolution made up by the medium and rich peasants, the kulaks”. The facts are diametrically opposite. The necessary carrying out of the NEP in the countryside developed the rural bourgeoisie in a natural way and stripped millions of poor farmers of the land, depriving the population of cereals. Basing itself on Marxism-Leninism and taking social reality into account, the Party proposed to bring socialism to the countryside. Relying on the millions of poor peasants, it pushed forward a great social and political movement for the formation of cooperatives, the kolkhozes; this meant the expropriation of the kulaks, in some cases people’s tribunals and drastic sanctions. International reaction spoke of repression and massacres. In reality there was a socialist revolution in the countryside, the work of millions of poor peasants who assumed their role as the protagonists in the life of the country of the Soviets. And, as we know, a revolution unleashes the initiative and achievements of the masses, but also the anger of its enemies. As a result, agriculture and livestock flourished, the Soviet Union became the largest producer of wheat, the mechanization and the modernization of agriculture reached unprecedented levels, at the forefront on the international scale.

Stalin is continually blamed for the bureaucratization that was in reality growing in the party and State. Stalin was never in his life a bureaucrat. Quite the contrary, his dynamism was always expressed in direct contact with the base of the party and with the masses; he was one of the leaders of the Soviets before the revolution. His whole life was in action.

Bureaucracy is a social phenomenon, a degeneration that arises in the bourgeois administration (remember that a good part of the Bolshevik administration had to resort to old tsarist functionaries) that penetrated into the revolutionary ranks, into the party and State. Bureaucracy was really present in the life of the Socialist State; it affected many activists and leaders. In some cases the responsibilities of power were transformed into small or large privileges that were creating a caste of bureaucrats who undermined the functioning of the party and the state administration, which separated the party from the masses.

Stalin did not promote the bureaucracy, but in reality he did not have either the ability or the experience to eliminate it. Several offensives of an ideological character aimed at eliminating it took place, precisely under Stalin’s initiative. The political education, ideological struggle, the validity of democracy in the party, the party elections were expressions of the struggle of the communists against bureaucracy. They cannot be dismissed having been useless. They achieved results; among other things they allowed for the continuation of the social and material achievements of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the ideological, political and organizational cleansing of the party and State, the isolation and expulsion of several groups of opportunists and traitors. However, in fact, they were not able to eradicate the bureaucracy and opportunism. Various opportunists and traitors evaded the ideological struggle and hid. They would return later, after the death of Stalin.

It is clear that bureaucracy is an ideological illness which is persistently reborn and which must be fought relentlessly to the end. Stalin did not promote bureaucracy; rather he was one of its victims.

The accusation made against Stalin that he was a bloody dictator and despot and refers to the ideological cleansing, to the revolutionary repression of the counter-revolutionary outbreaks in the city and countryside, to the alleged liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard.

It is necessary to understand that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a wedding party in which everything is rosy. No, quite the contrary. A whole armed, economic campaign, a trade boycott, an ideological and political penetration by imperialism and the international bourgeoisie was orchestrated against the dictatorship of the proletariat. In opposition to the new power of the workers, from within society, the old ruling classes, overthrown by the revolution but not physically eliminated, repeatedly carried out acts of sabotage; they tried many times to organize rebellions and uprisings, using mercenaries and men and women of the people who were deceived; they based themselves on religion and the priests, on feudal traditions, on liberal elements in the administration and on some occasions they infiltrated their agents into the party and the Soviet State. Within the party itself, in the new State and in the Red Army, there appeared over and over again degenerate elements who made attacks on the dictatorship of the proletariat in theory and practice, who tried to divert the party, to assume its leadership, to organize coups d’état. Some of these elements had been, in the past, outstanding members and leaders of the party and the revolution and they tried, therefore, to take advantage of their positions to change the course of socialism.

The fight to preserve and defend the line of the Party, its ideological, political and organizational unity was bitter and persistent, because again and again, the counter-revolution grew stronger in its attacks and, during Stalin’s life, it was again and again defeated by the force of reason, by the firmness of the Bolsheviks, by the support of the base of the party and the army, by the support of the masses of workers and peasants.

In reality the Bolshevik old guard, those comrades who dreamt of and organized the Great October Revolution, were falling behind. Some fell in combat for the revolution, others were assassinated by the counterrevolution. Others paid the physical tribute of their lives. Some survived Stalin.

The old Bolsheviks, the veteran communists knew how to face their responsibilities, they learned how to solve problems and unknown issues as they arose, they were put at the head of the great feat of building socialism, and were called “old Bolsheviks” not because they were old, but because of their qualities, for their militant and permanent adherence to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, for their quality as communist cadres and fighters.

The fight against the opportunist factions within the Party and State were real battles that mobilized the party, all its members, they were a demonstration of the proletarian firmness of Stalin and his comrades in arms; they constituted one victory after another, that guaranteed the life of the Soviet State, the building of socialism and the continuation of the revolution.

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were the main chieftains of the counter-revolution, who were confronted and defeated, in theory and practice, with the material and political achievements by the political correctness of the party leadership, headed by Stalin.

The dark legend of the work camps, of the confinement, of psychiatric hospitals, of prisons overcrowded with workers and communists, of the mass executions and mass graves are nothing more than the infamous slander of the reactionaries and imperialism, of the Nazis and social democracy, of the Trotskyists and revisionists, of the opportunists. They cannot be proved by any records much less by the existence of concentration camps and mass graves. They fall under their own weight.

Much has been said about Stalin’s incompetence in leading the war. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality Stalin was not a soldier by training, he did not study in any academy nor could he claim mastery of the military arts, a thorough knowledge of weapons and military strategy and tactics. But it is clear that he was a proletarian revolutionary soldier who learned this art in the very course of the revolutionary civil war in the first years of Soviet power, that he was steeled as such in the difficult years of the building of socialism and that he played an outstanding role in the leadership of the Great Patriotic War, in the resistance against the Nazi invading hordes and in the great political and military offensive that drove the Red Army to take Berlin. No one has claimed that Stalin was a great Military Leader, all the revolutionaries recognize him as the leader of the Soviet proletariat and the peoples, as the political leader of the international proletariat, as a proletarian revolutionary, as a communist.

The accusations that Stalin promoted and used the whole gamut of praise and exaggerations that have been called the “cult of personality” for his prestige continue to be a part of the anti-communist arsenal.

In fact, Stalin daily received praise and recognition from his comrades and friends, from the workers and peasants who expressed them from their heart to express gratitude and recognition. There was also the praise of the opportunists who sought favours from him. The former demonstrations were sincere, a product of the generous spirit of the workers and people, the latter had a dual intention, based on facts; they tried to elevate Stalin above others, above the events and in this way to personally take advantage of this situation.

The cult of personality was in fact a defect of the first experience in the building of socialism. It began with good intentions, but finally it degenerated, it hurt Soviet power and Stalin himself. This is an incontestable fact. But to argue from there that Stalin himself encouraged these campaigns, that he became an egomaniac, a narcissist is a big lie.

Many pages and books can be written about Stalin. In fact there are thousands of publications about his life and work. There are those of his comrades and friends, but also those of his enemies and detractors. In fact the life of Stalin is the life of the first proletarian revolution itself. Stalin did not make the revolution to his measure; the revolution projected Stalin as one of its best sons and leaders.

Pablo Miranda
Ecuador, 2012

Source

The German Situation and the Question of Social-Fascism

Demonstrators in East Berlin carry portraits of both German socialist Karl Liebknecht and political activist Rosa Luxemburg in 1988, during a protest march against their assassination in 1919. (AP/Press Association Images)

Demonstrators in East Berlin carry portraits of both German socialist Karl Liebknecht and political activist Rosa Luxemburg in 1988, during a protest march against their assassination in 1919. (AP/Press Association Images)

The greatest factor in the stabilization of capitalism after the first round of wars and revolutions was Social-Democracy. In such countries as Germany and Austria the Social-Democratic leaders actually undertook to organize and maintain the capitalist State against the revolutionary onslaught of the workers. A German Social-Democrat, Noske, drowned in blood the workers’ revolution in Germany in 1918 and 1919. Social-Democratic ministers suppressed strikes, fired at workers’ demonstrations, declared martial law against the workers. A Socialist government in Great Britain sent armies to subdue the uprising of the colonial peoples. The Social- Democrats of France took the initiative in introducing the imperialist martial laws. In. short, everywhere the leaders of Social-Democracy became part and parcel of the bourgeois State apparatus. They advanced the idea that where there is a coalition government, i.e., a government of’ capitalist and Socialist ministers, there we have a transition from capitalism to socialism. The fact of the matter is that a coalition government remains a capitalist government since it does not shake the foundations of capitalism, private property and exploitation. On the contrary, it only serves to strengthen capitalism by deceiving the workers with the idea of peaceful transition to socialism.

In Germany and Austria Social-Democracy actually aided the growth of fascism. Fascist bands were being organized under the protection of Social-Democratic governments. Fascist demonstrations were unmolested by Social-Democratic police presidents while Communist demonstrations were being dispersed. Fascist bands were allowed to arm while the militant Red Front organization of the German workers was outlawed. Martial law and semi-martial law were repeatedly introduced to curb the movement of the workers who demanded an improvement of their intolerable conditions.

In the very same way as Lenin, after the betrayal of the proletariat by Social-Democracy at the beginning of the War, called the Social-Democratic leaders social-patriots and social-chauvinists, so the Communist International, after the new betrayals of Social-Democracy, called its leaders social-fascists –in the sense of paving the way for fascism.

It was disastrous for the proletariat of Germany and of the whole world that the Social-Democratic leaders made common cause with capitalism. It was disastrous that so many millions of workers were deceived by the socialist phrases of the Social-Democratic leaders and believed them to be true fighters for the interests of the working class. It was unfortunate that the Communist Party of Germany could swing only around six million votes and did not have the majority of the working class behind it. It would have been better for the workers of Germany and for the world revolution had the masses of German workers cherished fewer illusions about their Social-Democratic leaders. It would have been difficult for fascism to sweep into power in Germany had there been organized in Germany a powerful united front.

It cannot be denied that there were certain weaknesses in the work of the Communist Party of Germany, but opposition to the united front was not among them. The Communist Party did not succeed in bringing all its members into the reformist trade unions so as to have there a stronger revolutionary support. It did not work sufficiently in the reformist trade unions – and this was the most neglected sector of its activities, although it did build the red trade-union opposition with a membership – prior to the advent of fascism of over 300,000. It did not root itself sufficiently in the factories and plants. It was not flexible enough in approaching Social-Democratic rank-and-file workers. All these shortcomings were repeatedly pointed out by the Communist International, and the Party made strong efforts to improve its work. As a result its influence grew tremendously.

“During the last period before Hitler came to power, the Communist Party succeeded in penetrating the broad masses and even in obtaining influence among the social-democrats, the members of the reformist trade unions and also the members of the Republican Flag (Reichsbanner) organization, for the very reason that it was able to organize the struggle against this emergency decree. The authority of the Party was greatly enhanced, and members of reformist trade unions began to participate in the strikes led by the Red Trade Union Opposition and the Communists. Thus, besides Communists, members of reformist trade unions and even National Socialists participated in the Berlin transport strike committee.” (O. Piatnitsky, The Present Situation in Germany, p. 20.)

The Communist Party of Germany was ready to fight fascism. As a matter of fact, the Communists did fight the fascist bands in the streets on numerous occasions, meeting their attacks and the attacks of the police which, in Prussia for instance, was under Social-Democratic command and everywhere protected the Brown Shirts.

That the Communists were working for a united front with the Social-Democratic workers, if need be through an agreement with the Social-Democratic leaders, may be seen from the following:

In 1925 the Communist Party proposed to the Social-Democratic Party a united struggle against the monarchist danger. Later in the year, seeing that the Communists and the Social-Democrats had a majority of members in the Berlin municipality, the Communists proposed to the Social-Democrats a common program of action for the interests of the workers. In 1926 the Communists called upon the Social-Democratic leaders to join in a plebiscite against returning the property to the former German royal family. In the Spring of 1928 the C.P. proposed joint May-Day demonstrations. In October, 1928, it proposedjoint anti-militarist action against the building of a battle cruiser. In 1929-1932 it repeatedly proposed joint action against wage-cuts. In April, 1932, it proposed a joint struggle of all working-class organizations against an impending wage-cut.

All these proposals were turned down by Social-Democracy. Broad masses of workers responded to some of the Communist appeals for united action. Social-Democratic leaders preferred cooperation with the capitalist parties.

When Von Papen drove the Social-Democrats out of the Prussian government, the Communist Party proposed a joint general strike for the repeal of the emergency decrees and for the disbanding of the Storm Troops. On January 30, 1933, when Hitler came into power, the Communist Party again proposed a general strike to fight reaction. Again in March, 1933, after the burning of the Reichstag, the Communist Party called upon the Social-Democratic Party and the trade unions to declare a general strike against the attack on the workers. All these proposals were rejected by the Social-Democrats who preferred to believe that they could function and maintain a modicum of power under any capitalist régime.

Who is to be blamed?

Trotsky says: the Communists are to blame. Why? Because they called the Social-Democrats social-fascists. Trotsky cannot deny the fact that the Communists were trying to organize the united front. They organized the Anti-Fascist Action which was to unite workers of various parties. They tried to organize the united front in the factories and unions. The Social-Democratic leaders sowed mistrust toward the Communists and toward the united front, and this hampered the Communist action. Trotsky did his bit.

Now he is dissatisfied.

Here is his chief trump:

“Had the Comintern placed, from 1929, or even from 1930 or 1931, at the foundation of its policies the objective irreconcilability between Social-Democracy and fascism, or more exactly between fascism and Social-Democracy; if upon this it had built a systematic and persistent policy of the united front, Germany, within a few months, would have been covered with a network of mighty committees of proletarian defense, potential workers’ Soviets, that is.” (Leon Trotsky, The Militant, March 10, 1934.)

But, my dear Mr. Trotsky, there was no irreconcilability between Social-Democracy and fascism, or more exactly: between the Social-Democratic leaders and fascism. There was no irreconcilability as far as the Social-Democratic leaders were concerned. They certainly had not anticipated that they would be so ruthlessly driven out. They had formed a substantial part of the State apparatus under all regimes prior to that of Hitler and they were convinced that even under Hitler would they retain a certain share of power. No matter how much the Communists would have painted before them the dire results they were to expect from the ascendancy of fascism – they simply would not have believed it. They would have said they knew better.

Witness the conduct of the Austrian Social-Democratic leaders who were supposed to be much more radical than their German brethren and who had the experience of their German comrades. Listen to the testimony of the “Left” Marxist, Otto Bauer, in his interview with the New York Times correspondent, C, E. R. Gedye (published February 18, 1934) as to how the Social-Democrats of Austria were ready to cooperate with the fascist dictator Dollfuss at the expense of the Austrian constitution:

“Since the date of the Hitler triumph in Germany (March 5)when the Reichstag ‘elections’ gave the German Nazis control, our party has made the very greatest efforts to come to an agreement with the government…. In the first weeks of March our leaders were still in close personal contact with Dollfuss and frequently tried to get him to agree to a constitutional solution. At the end of March he promised our leader, Dr. Dennenberg, personally that at the beginning of April he would open negotiations with us for the reform of the Constitution [for the limiting of bourgeois democracy to suit fascism – M.J.O.]. This promise he never fulfilled, for at the beginning of April he passed over definitely to the fascist camp… and refused to speak to any of the socialists. When he said that he could not see the existing leaders we offered to send him other negotiators. He refused sharply. As we could not see him again, we tried to negotiate through other people. Honestly, we left no stone unturned. We approached President Miklas…. Then we tried the clerical politicians, whom we had known for a long time…. But everything was shattered on the stubborn resistance of Dollfuss who simply refused to hear of the socialists again. A group of religious socialists got together with a group of Catholic democrats and tried to induce the Church to intervene. This also failed.”

Suppose you offered them at that time a united front with the Communists to fight Dollfuss? They did not think of fighting fascism. They had no intention of defending bourgeois democracy. Listen to this precious admission by Bauer in the same interview:

“We offered to make the greatest concessions that a democratic and socialistic party ever made. We let Dollfuss know that if he would only pass a bill through Parliament we would accept a measure authorizing the Government to govern by decree without Parliament for two years [our emphasis – M.J.O.], on two conditions, that a small parliamentary committee, in which the government had a majority, should be able to criticize decrees and that a constitutional court, the only protection against breaches of the Constitution, should be restored.”

They certainly were prepared to go far enough. The “Left” Social-Democrats were ready to agree to the abolition of Parliament provided the abolition is passed by Parliament (a procedure actually practiced in Germany under Hitler). They were ready, they say, to agree to a government without Parliament “for two years”, but it is quite obvious that it would not have been over-difficult to induce them to accept an extension of the time. They were interested in maintaining their positions in the trade unions, in the municipalities, in the police power, in the judicial system – knowing very well that those positions would be curtailed under fascism. They clung to a shadow of power at the time when, according to their own testimony, “the dissatisfaction and agitation of the workers against the conservative policy of our Party committee grew as the government provocations increased…. Excitement rose to a fever pitch during the last weeks.” (Ibid.)

It is for not having induced such leaders to organize a united front that Trotsky blames the Communists.

Be it remembered that he does not blame the Communists for not approaching the workers because he knows very well that they did approach the workers and did make every effort to induce them to join the united front. His chief stock in trade is the accusation that the Communist leaders did not make peace with the Social-Democratic top leaders.

Trotsky s argument in support of the possibility of a united front with the Social-Democratic leaders holds no water.

“Social-Democracy [he says] can neither live nor breathe without leaning upon the political and trade union organizations of the working class. Concurrently it is precisely along this line that the irreconcilable contradiction between Social-Democracy and fascism takes place; precisely along this line does there open up the necessity and unbridgeable stage of the policies of the united front with the Social-Democracy.” (The Militant, March 10, 1934.)

This argument is just as incorrect as the English translation of the sentences is rotten. Events have proven that the bourgeoisie resorts to fascism when it finds that Social-Democracy is no longer able to keep in check the revolutionary movement of the masses. For this reason all the mass organizations of the working class, even if dominated by Social-Democratic leaders, are suppressed. But prior to the advent of Hitler the Social-Democratic leaders did not believe this.

They relied on capitalist democracy, on the Weimar Constitution, on the German respect for law and order and – last but not least – on their record in the service of the bourgeoisie. They invented the policy of supporting the “lesser evil” just to have an excuse for collaborating with the bourgeoisie. Their Berlin Chief of Police Zoergiebel opened machine-gun fire on workers participating in a May-Day parade (1929) without a permit. The number of victims was over 30. Their leaders approved of semi-martial law introduced to quell the workers’ revolts. Their leaders supported wage-cuts and armaments. Social-Democracy supported the governments of Bruening, Von Papen and Schleicher. It was ready to support Hitler. Did it not give its recognition to the Hitler government after the elections of March 5, 1933, declaring that Hitler had been legally appointed by Hindenburg and given a clear mandate by a majority of the people? Was it not ready to cooperate with the Hitler government if offered a chance? Was it not assuming the role of a loyal opposition even after being kicked in the face by the Nazi boots? Did not the Social-Democratic parliamentary group, on May 17, 1933, vote unanimously in the Reichstag in favor of Hitler’s policy? Did not Carl Severing remain a supporter of Hitler in spite of all? Did not the same veteran Social-Democratic leader appeal to the population of the Saar to vote for the Nazis? Did not the Social- Democratic union leaders make overtures to Hitler?

When their collapse came, when they were ignominiously driven out without resistance, then the process of revaluation of values began not only among the Social-Democratic workers but also among some of the leaders. One section (Severing & Co.) are just waiting for an opportunity to be “taken in” by the fascists. The center is vacillating. The Left Wing is for a united front with the Communists. The united front is making headway, notably in France, in Spain and also in the United States – under the initiative and leadership of the Communists. But to expect that the leaders of German Social- Democracy would have agreed to the united front with the Communists before January, 1933, is to be a Trotsky.

At the bottom of all this preachment is Trotsky’s Menshevik attitude to Social-Democracy. The old Menshevik asserts himself in the leader of the “Left opposition”. He does not believe that Social-Democracy is “as bad as that”. He is sincere when he says that the Communists should not have called the Social-Democratic leaders social-fascists. He believes they are not. He believes they are also fighters, at least for bourgeois democracy and for the interests of the workers as far as they can be defended under bourgeois democracy. The Social-Democrats to him are “also” socialists. Now it is perfectly true that if the Communists had abandoned their Communist position and made peace with the German Social-Democratic leaders on the terms of these leaders, then there would have been a united front. The trouble is, it wouldn’t have been a united front against fascism.

The travesty of the whole barrage is evident from the experiences of. France. When the united front was established in France, when huge mass movements against fascism began to develop on a united-front basis, the Trotsky group joined the Socialist Party, fused with it, and is fighting within the Socialist Party against the united front.

Here you have the Trotskyites in action.

But why did not the Communist Party attempt an armed uprising in Germany in the early part of 1933 with its own forces? This question is often asked by Trotskyites.

The answer is given by Lenin who explains “the fundamental law of revolution”.

“It is not sufficient for revolution that the exploited and oppressed masses understand the impossibility of living in the old way and demand changes; for revolution, it is necessary that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule as of old. Only when the ‘lower classes’ do not want the old regime,and when the ‘upper classes’ are unable to govern as of old, then only can revolution succeed. This truth may be expressed in other words: Revolution is impossible without an all-national crisis, affecting both the exploited and the exploiters. [Our emphasis – M.J.O.] It follows that for revolution it is essential, first, that a majority of the workers (or at least a majority of the conscious, thinking, politically active workers) should fully understand the necessity for revolution, and be ready to sacrifice their lives for it; secondly, that the ruling class be in a state of governmental crisis, which attracts even the most backward masses into politics… weakens the government and facilitates its rapid overthrow by the revolutionaries.” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Russian Edition, Vol. XXV, p. 222.)

In discussing the German situation of the time when Hitler came to power, O. Piatnitsky, a leader of the Communist International, quotes the above Leninist definition of a revolutionary situation and draws the inevitable conclusion. He says:

“Had all these conditions matured in Germany in January 1933? No. The entire bourgeoisie, in the face of the menace of a proletarian revolution, in spite of the existence of discords among them, stood united against the revolutionary proletariat. The overwhelming majority of the petty bourgeoisie followed the bourgeoisie as represented by Hitler, who promised them the return of the ‘grand’ old Germany in which the petty bourgeoisie had lived in more or less tolerable conditions. The proletariat was split by the Social-Democratic Party which was still followed by the majority of the workers. So the exploiters were still able to live and administer, were still able to exploit the working class as of old, although by new, fascist methods.” (O. Piatnitsky, The Present Situation in Germany, p. 27.)

The Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, evaluating the German situation, came to the only conclusion which a responsible leadership could draw from the existing relationship of the social forces in Germany.

“Under these circumstances [says the Presidium resolution] the proletariat was in a position in which it could not organize and in fact failed to organize an immediate and decisive blow against the state apparatus, which, for the purpose of fighting against the proletariat, absorbed the fighting organizations of the fascist bourgeoisie: the Storm Troops, the Steel Helmets and the Reichswehr. The bourgeoisie was able without serious resistance to hand over the power of government in the country to the National-Socialists, who act against the working class by means of provocations, bloody terror and political banditry.

“In analyzing the conditions for a victorious uprising of the proletariat, Lenin said that a decisive battle can be considered as fully mature,

“ ‘…if all the class forces which were hostile to us have become sufficiently entangled, have sufficiently come to blows, have sufficiently weakened themselves by the struggle which is beyond their strength. If all the vacillating, hesitating, unstable, intermediate elements, i.e., the petty bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeois democracy as distinguished from the bourgeoisie, have sufficiently exposed themselves to the people, have sufficiently disgraced themselves by their practical bankruptcy. If among the proletariat mass sentiment has begun, and is rising strongly in favor of supporting the most decisive, supremely bold and revolutionary action against the bourgeoisie. Then the revolution has matured, and if we have properly taken into account all of the conditions mentioned above… and have properly selected the moment, our victory is assured.’

“The characteristic feature of the circumstances at the time of the Hitler coup was that these conditions for a victorious rising had not yet managed to mature at that moment. They only existed in an embryonic state.

“As for the vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist Party, not wishing to slip into adventurism, it, of course, could not compensate for this missing factor by its own actions.”

Trotsky’s criticism of the Comintern is the expression of the despair of a petty bourgeois frightened by fascism and disbelieving in the revolutionary forces of the proletariat. Trotsky’s proposed policies, therefore, are policies of a frightened petty-bourgeois reformist.

“Democratic slogans and illusions [he says] cannot be abolished by decree. It is necessary that the masses go through them and outlive them in the experience of battle…. It is necessary to find the dynamic elements in the present defensive position of the working class; we must make the masses draw conclusions from their democratic logic; we must widen and deepen the channels of the struggle.” (Leon Trotsky, “Our Present Tasks,” The Militant, December 9, 1933.)

In these words is contained a whole program. It presupposes a general political situation where black reaction is destined to reign supreme for a very long period and where there can be no thought of a determined proletarian fight for power. It presupposes a stable capitalist system. It assumes that the struggle of the workers for the improvement of their immediate conditions must necessarily proceed in parliamentary channels. It therefore advances the struggle for democratic reforms as the prime task of the workers.

Like all such Social-Democratic creations it is both reactionary and utopian.

It is reactionary because it gives up the proletarian struggle for power at a time when conditions are rapidly maturing for such a struggle. It is utopian because it is not possible for the workers at any time to confine themselves to “democratic slogans” alone if they are to defend their right to live.

The workers are hungry. They are oppressed. They must fight for higher wages, social insurance, against police brutality, against lynch laws. Whenever they undertake a real fight they inevitably reach out beyond the limits of bourgeois democracy. They clash with the police. They defy the courts. They break injunctions. They forcibly annul evictions. They “riot”. When capitalism is shaken and undermined as at present the seizure of power becomes a task for the near future. Every fight is a step nearer to the seizure of power. Every battle gives the working class new experience, teaches it the lessons of unity and concerted advance against the bourgeoisie. Only such an advance can yield immediate improvement of the workers’ lives today, can secure for them elementary rights and better economic conditions.

It is the class struggle against capitalism that the Communists are inscribing on the banner of the working class – the class struggle which in its sharpest form is armed uprising, the final battles for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

It is class collaboration on which Trotsky is building the flimsy structure of his “fourth international” program.

Listen to a Trotskyite “Bolshevik” exhorting the world in the following piece of sonorous declamation:

“We, Bolsheviks, consider that the real salvation from fascism and war lies in the revolutionary conquest of power and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship. [But our ‘belief’ is just a shadow, bloodless, lifeless. – M.J.O.] You, Socialist workers [Read: Social-Democratic bureaucrats – M.J.O.] do not agree to this road. You hope not only to save what has been gained but also to move forward along the road of democracy. [In collaboration with Roosevelt, Richberg and Perkins. – M.J.O.] Good! As long as we have not convinced you and attracted you to our side we are ready to follow this road with you to the end. [It is easier to follow you than bother with rank-and-file workers who may not agree to submit to ‘democratic’ edicts of chiefs of police – M.J.O.] But we demand that you carry on the struggle for democracy not in words but in deeds [For instance, let Norman Thomas pay a new visit to the ‘First Lady’ of the land. – MJ.O.]…. Make your Party open up a real struggle for a strong democratic movement. [Which is to be even more misleading than the Epic or LaFollette movements which contain economic planks in their programs. – M.J.O.] For this it is necessary first of all to sweep away all the remnants of the feudal state. It is necessary to give the suffrage to all men and women who reached their 18th birthday, also to the soldiers in the army [Forget about the hunger of the boys and girls. Give them the happiness of suffrage that will be a balm to their wound. Incidentally it costs the bosses less than social insurance. – M.J.O.] Full concentration of legislative and executive power in the hands of one chamber! Let your Party open up a serious campaign under these slogans! Let it arouse millions of workers, let it conquer power through the drive of the masses. [Hurrah for a new Ebert-Noske-Scheidemann-Ramsay McDonald government. – M.J.O.] This at any rate would be a serious attempt of struggle against fascism and war. [In the same way as Severing, Otto Bauer and Julius Deutsch fought against fascism and war. – M.J.O.] We, Bolsheviks, would retain the right to explain to the workers the insufficiency of democratic slogans; we could not take upon ourselves the political responsibility for the Social-Democratic government; but we would honestly help you in the struggle for such a. government [We would help you to deceive the masses. – M.J.O.] Together with you we would repel all attacks of bourgeois reaction. [And help shoot down workers and farmers who infringe on ‘democratic’ laws in their fight for bread – M.J.O.] More than that, we would bind ourselves before you not to undertake any revolutionary actions which go beyond the limits of democracy (real democracy) so long as the majority of the workers has not consciously placed itself on the side of revolutionary dictatorship. [It will be our democratic duty to break ‘unlawful’ strikes and to disperse ‘unlawful’ assembly. How dare they go beyond the limits of real bourgeois democracy! – M.J.O.]” (Trotsky, “Our Present Tasks,” The Militant, December 9, 1933.)

It must be made clear at the outset that when Trotsky addresses himself to the “Socialist workers”, he means the Socialist leaders – those who prevent the Socialist workers from engaging in the real class struggle. It must be noted, secondly, that the program which he proposes is purely reformist. He would help Social-Democracy to become the government in a capitalist State (“honestly” help it); he would help Social-Democracy improve the machinery of the capitalist State; he would bind himself to undertake no actions that go beyond bourgeois democracy (when he says “real democracy” he ought to know that such democracy exists only as the dictatorship of the proletariat – and that every bourgeois democracy, no matter how embellished, is a sham democracy designed as a weapon of the exploiters against the exploited); in other words he undertakes to help fasten upon the workers the rule of the capitalists operating through the instrumentality of bourgeois fake democracy. It must be noted, third, that not in vain did Trotsky omit such vital demands as higher wages, a shorter labor day, unemployment insurance, the right of the oppressed nationalities. For, the moment the workers undertake the fight for such demands, bourgeois legality goes smash. The limits of bourgeois democracy are overstepped. Trotsky implicitly promises the Social-Democratic leaders not to undertake such actions, not to countenance them. Moreover, he knows well that when the Social-Democrats are in power they will use the State armed forces against the workers if they undertake such actions. When he appeals to the Social-Democrats to join with him, he is forced to confine himself to such innocuous demands as one chamber and the lowering of the voting age. It is only here that the Social-Democrats can meet him half way. And it is on such a program that he is willing to bind up the fate of the Trotskyites with the fate of the Social-Democratic leaders.

Once more we have before us the petty bourgeois who is panic-stricken. He has seen the advent of fascism. He believes that fascism has come to stay. He believes that the working class is crushed. He calumniates the Communist Party of Germany, saying that it is dead when in reality it lives and fights. He does not wish to see the forces making for a social revolution. He does not wish to understand that once the masses rise – and wherever they rise – they must fight for their lives, against hunger, against annihilation at the hands of finance capital – and that means fight against the capitalist State whether in its fascist or in its democratic form. He does not wish to realize that the workers – the masses of the workers, the majority of the workers – will join the banner of struggle against the capitalists, which is always a struggle undermining the capitalist State. He wants to keep the masses of workers from engaging in the struggle against capitalism under Communist leadership. He appeals to the Social-Democratic leaders for a united front on this program. No wonder he is against the united front as built by the Communist Parties. Such united front is directed against capitalism, it does not build fortresses for capitalism. It comes to destroy them.

Source

American Party of Labor: Who Started the War?

SovietWorldWarII

Anti-Communist Hysteria on the Rise

It seems that once again a specter is haunting Europe, if not the world. Yes, the specter of communism, which was supposedly totally discredited, debunked and rendered wholly irrelevant since 1989. The ruling classes of Europe and the industrialized imperialist world are again putting all their efforts into exorcising this demon; whereas ten years ago they scoffed at Marxism and communism as the profits of the internet boom, outsourcing and neo-liberalism rolled in, they are now in a total panic. That “discredited” theory has got them so terrified that they have, in the past few years, began not only to dredge up all the standard anti-communist propaganda of the Cold War years, but have even resorted to re-writing and re-interpreting history so as to invent new myths.

In Ukraine, the push for international recognition of the 1932-33 famine as genocide was successful under the aegis of Viktor Yushenko. A museum dedicated to the “victims of communism” was opened in Washington D.C. The Katyn massacre is bandied about endlessly while the millions of Polish civilians who died at the hands of the Germans are virtually ignored and the victories Polish People’s Army, which participated in the liberation of Warsaw and the capture of Berlin, is utterly forgotten on the world stage. The 60,000-100,000 Bolshevik prisoners of war who died in Polish captivity after the Russo-Polish war, a war started by Poland, are completely forgotten as well—they don’t count. The history of the Second World War is being actively re-written so as to totally omit the pivotal role played by the USSR and the world’s communist parties in the victory over fascism. Worse still, in 2009 there has been a trend to equate communism and Nazism, to proclaim them allies, and to actually blame Stalin for starting WWII. The praise for Hitler, allowing him to circumvent the Treaty of Versailles and re-arm, the hypocritical Non-Intervention in Spain and the betrayal of Munich are all to be forgotten. We are supposed to believe that it was the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which gave Hitler a green light to go to war, while ignoring years of collaboration and encouragement for Hitler from the Western powers.

How far has the hysteria gone? In July of 2009, an OSCE parliamentary resolution drafted by Lithuanian Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene called for the 23rd of August to be made a day of remembrance for the “victims of Nazism and Stalinism.” This resolution attributes blame for WWII equally upon both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; Munich and the years of Western support and collaboration with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy are ignored entirely. Possibly as a result of this decision, a new wave of articles hit the newspapers and internet around August to the 1st of September 2009, practically if not literally proclaiming Stalin guilty for starting WWII. This demonstrates that the hysteria has reached such a pitch that the ruling classes of Europe are more than willing to re-write even the most basic historical facts. It is absurd beyond all explanation that the Western powers could spend years trying to downplay if not totally ignore the Soviet Union’s role in destroying fascism in the Second World War, yet they are willing to make a most idiotic leap of logic to blame the whole war on the Soviet Union. One might ask whether or not such people would prefer the masses to believe that Stalin alone rather than Hitler started the war; I am inclined to believe yes. The ruling classes of Europe do not fear Nazism resurgent, but communism is a real threat. It is that fact which serves as a principle reason for the rise of anti-communist hysteria, which we will explore in detail later in this text. For the moment, let us focus on the allegation itself.

Addressing the Allegation

Anyone familiar with history has heard the term “Big Lie.” The term was coined by none other than Adolf Hitler, who explained that people would more likely believe a big lie simply because they would not expect anyone to tell such preposterous lies. Of course that theory is rather absurd; I could tell a big lie by claiming to have a pet dinosaur, and most would simply laugh at the claim. “Big Lies” do exist however, and those which are effective are those which are on one hand often repeated, and on the other so multi-layered that most people simply do not have the requisite knowledge to challenge them. A claim with one or two falsehoods or logical fallacies is easy to spot, but the lies surrounding this new mythology of the Second World War and the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact contain so many distortions and omissions that they are difficult to answer in detail without filling entire books. The best way to challenge these lies is to break down the claim into various parts and address each one in concise fashion. Thus let us begin to do just that.

Claim: Nazi Germany & the Soviet Union, by way of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement, were Allies.

Firstly, a non-aggression pact is not an alliance. This might seem like legalistic quibbling, until one considers that Poland signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR in 1932, and later concluded a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1935. One would be hard pressed to find any mainstream source of historical literature referring to Poland and the USSR or Poland and Germany as “allies,” despite the fact that Poland took advantage of Germany’s dismantling of Czechoslovakia to invade and seize part of the newly independent fascist Slovakia. It is worth noting that the territory seized from Czechoslovakia by Poland had a minority Polish population, a fact the reader should keep in mind for later.

One might claim that the pact was an alliance because of the transfer of raw materials to Germany. This fails for several reasons; first among them is the fact that again, Poland signed a trade agreement with Nazi Germany after signing the non-aggression pact with the latter. Again, nobody speaks of the “allies” Germany and Poland “carving up” Czechoslovakia. Furthermore, the US was still shipping vital scrap metal and oil to Japan despite the latter’s conquest of Manchuria and invasion of China. Japan received 80% of its oil from the US, which only cut off oil exports in 1940 when Japan invaded French Indochina. Again, who claims that the US and Japan were allies?

Much has also been said about the collaboration of American corporations with Nazi Germany, IBM most likely being the most notorious due to the role their products had in the Holocaust. Does anyone blame America for the Holocaust? While much is said today about the resources gained from the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, not a word is mentioned about the key role played by German subsidiaries of GM and Ford in arming the Wehrmacht. The switch-over from civilian to military production in these plants was not only known, but encouraged by the US-based corporate HQs of these companies. Perhaps far more importantly, the US corporations Standard Oil and Texaco provided Germany with vital supplies even after the war began. Standard Oil even assisted the Germans in creating synthetic fuel, which proved crucial to Germany’s war effort.

When considering whether the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, even taking into account the resource transfers to Germany, was the catalyst for the Second World War, it helps to realize that Albert Speer, armaments minister of Germany and a close confident of Hitler, once remarked that Hitler would not have gone to war had it not been for the capability to synthesize fuel.

Why did the USSR sign the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany? Western Conciliation and Collaboration sets the Stage

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out what he saw as a plan for the salvation and preservation of Germany and its people. Hitler understood that Germany could not possibly rely on a maritime empire with far-flung colonies like those of Britain or France. As such he envisioned a European, contiguous land empire expanding eastward. Unlike the fallen Austro-Hungarian Empire, which Hitler despised for its multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan nature, Germany’s new empire would expand into Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia, but the population would either be killed, deported, or sterilized and used as slaves. Upon invading the USSR in 1941, this process of ethnic cleansing, enslavement and extermination began from the first days of the invasion and would continue until the Germans were finally pushed out of Soviet territory. Incidentally the plan for the whole campaign was to take all the land up to what was called the Archangel-Astrakhan line, running from the north all the way to the Caspian Sea in the south. With chilling sobriety, German planners estimated that countless millions would die from starvation alone. This was the threat hanging over the USSR since Hitler came to power.

Speaking in the 18th Congress of the VKP (b) in March of 1939, Stalin put forth the line that the outside world could be divided into two camps. On one hand there were the “democracies” consisting of the United Kingdom, France and the US, all of which had an interest in maintaining the status quo. In the other camp were Germany, Japan and Italy. Having turned to fascism and nationalism in response to their economic predicaments, they had a natural inclination to seek out new markets via military means. Germany had no colonies and based on Hitler’s ideas, a genetic imperative to expand eastward. Italy had few colonial possessions but its eyes were focused on what seemed like easy targets such as Albania and Abyssinia. Japan held some colonial possessions for some time and had already began to expand starting with its conquest of Manchuria in 1931, and by 1939 it had already been engaged in a war against China for almost two years. While the “army faction” of the military junta ruling Japan wished to expand the China war into a war against the USSR, the navy faction sought new sources of oil and rubber in the colonial possessions of France, England, America and the Netherlands.

Given the situation at the time, it was clear that though England, France and the United States were imperialist states, they represented a far lesser evil than the rising Axis powers. Moreover, these states had a desire for peace, on one hand because their populations were not keen on going to war, on the other hand because they had large markets under their control and no reason to buck the status quo. The Soviet Union had an even greater interest in preserving peace; having barely completed its industrialization, it was imperative to equip and modernize its armed forces. Based on this disposition, the policy of the USSR was to seek collective security with England and France against Germany and Italy. There was only one problem with this strategy: the English and French had to be willing.

During the Russian Civil War, numerous imperial powers invaded the dying Russian Empire, hoping to strangle Bolshevism in the cradle and hopefully snatch their own piece of territory. Among the armies of intervention were the French and the British. When the Whites and their allies failed, the British and French attempted to create a “cordon sanitare” around the Soviet Union in hopes of stopping the spread of communism. The success of the fascists in defeating the communists of Germany and Italy suggested that they may become a bulwark against the USSR and communism. As such, though it was against their own objective interests, the Western powers became increasingly friendly to both Hitler and Mussolini.

From the time Hitler came to power in 1933, Britain and France began to cow to Germany at every opportunity. Britain made the first move, signing a naval treaty with Germany in 1935 which was vital to its rearmament. Nothing was done to prevent the Germany’s reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Probably the most egregious act of Britain and France in terms of appeasement prior to Munich was the “Non-Intervention Agreement” concluded with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. This agreement prevented the Spanish Republic, the legally elected government of Spain, from having the right to buy weapons for its own defense. While the Republic was isolated by its neighbors, Germany and Italy sent thousands of men, along with planes and tanks for the nationalist rebels. The rebels were provided with oil on credit by Texaco. Upon seeing that Non-Intervention actually meant allowing the nationalists to destroy the Republic with ease, the Soviet Union quickly withdrew from the embargo and began to supply the Republic with high-tech arms. Thousands of pilots and other military advisors were sent to Spain while the Comintern organized volunteers from around the world to fight in the International Brigades. German and Italian U-Boats torpedoed Soviet merchant ships sailing to Spain, while on one occasion a Royal Navy vessel watched as the German Kriegsmarine shelled the Spanish coast in support of a nationalist attack. Spain was sacrificed in the hopes that Germany would look east and only east. Next on the chopping block would be Austria and Czechoslovakia.

The Germans managed to pull off their crooked “Anschluss” with Austria without any opposition from abroad. In the case of Czechoslovakia, the last democracy in Central Europe, the fate of this small country would be decided without its presence at the negotiating table. Also excluded was the Soviet Union, which later attempted to send weapons to Czechoslovakia (which sadly ended up in German hands). The annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia meant that the country’s border defenses ended up in the hands of the Germans, leaving the last democracy in Central Europe to be picked clean by Germany, Hungary and Poland. Slovakia became a German client state under the fascist regime of Josef Tiso. Hitler was not satisfied with Munich though; he felt that he had been swindled, and “denied” the war he desired.

Soviet attempts to create an Alliance with Britain and France; the Ultimate Betrayal at Munich

Recognizing the threat posed by Nazi Germany, and with an understanding that their capability for war was at the time insufficient, the Soviets strove to create a collective security pact with Britain and France. When the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact was signed, the Soviets had been embroiled in negotiations with the British and French for six months. Negotiations stalled when the Soviets demanded transit rights through Poland and Romania should war with Germany break out. Both Poland and Romania were at the time anti-communist states with fascist or quasi-fascist regimes; both were embroiled in territorial disputes with the USSR as well. The British and French seemed willing to conclude a political agreement, but the Soviets quite rightly judged this to be useless without a military agreement. Stalin believed that there was the possibility the English would conclude a pact with the USSR and then not come to aid militarily if war broke out. Considering the Anglo-French reaction to the invasion of Poland, this fear might have been right in hindsight.

As negotiations broke down, it was the Germans who began to suggest an agreement to the Soviets. At first the Soviets did nothing; it was clear this was a ploy to spoil the negotiations with the French and English. At the same time however, it was becoming clear that the English and French were deliberately dragging out the negotiations, particularly on the military aspect of a pact. This idea was supported by the fact that the Anglo-French military delegation headed to Moscow not by plane but by a slow ship to Leningrad. With the English and French clearly sabotaging the negotiations in a vain hope of deterring Hitler by the mere threat of an alliance, the Soviets began to talk to the Germans.

In his book Stalin’s Wars, author Geoffery Roberts points out that aside from the lack of a provision condemning aggression against a third country by a party to the agreement, this Non-Aggression Pact was not much different than any other non-aggression pact the Soviets had signed in the 20s and 30s. Roberts characterized the pact as a pledge of Soviet neutrality in the event of a German war against Poland. It is also worth noting that prior to the beginning of negotiations with the Germans, Soviet intelligence as well as Stalin himself were convinced that a German attack on Poland was inevitable. All that mattered is where Germany would stop, an issue we will explore in detail later.

Roberts goes on to point out that in August 1939, it was not clear that Poland would fold so easily against the German war machine, which had yet to debut in combat save for limited action in the Spanish Civil War. While the English and French had guaranteed Poland’s independence, there was still the possibility of a Munich-style betrayal, which would have handed to the Germans either a part of Poland’s territory if not the whole country itself. This was a critical threat for the USSR because Poland in 1939 included the territories of Western Belarus and the Halychyna (Galicia)/Volhynia (Volyn) regions of Ukraine. Were Germany to occupy, by whatever means, all of 1939-era Poland, it would have brought their armies far closer to Kiev, Leningrad and Moscow. From East Prussia the Germans could also easily move up through the Baltic countries. To prevent this from happening, the Soviets agreed to “spheres of interest” in Eastern Europe that would theoretically keep the Germans at bay. Thus the pact not only bought the USSR time to reorganize and arm its forces, but also helped push the border westward. Of course the Soviets were aware that the Germans might not honor their part of the deal, and they were not pleased when the Soviets retook Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina from Romania, a move which brought them dangerously close to Germany’s vital oil supply from the fields of Ploesti.

After the war had already broken out, Stalin gave his opinion on the pact and the fall of Poland to Germany in a meeting with Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Comintern, who noted it down in his diary. “A war is on between two groups of capitalist countries…for the redivision of the world, for the domination of the world! We see nothing wrong in their having a good hard fight and weakening each other. It would be fine if at the hands of Germany the position of the richest capitalist countries (especially England) were shaken. Hitler, without understanding it or desiring it, is shaking and undermining the capitalist system…We can maneuver, pit one side against the other to set them fighting with each other as fiercely as possible. The non-aggression pact is to a certain degree helping Germany. Next time we’ll urge on the other side…Formerly…the Polish state was a national state. Therefore, revolutionaries defended it against partition and enslavement. Now (Poland) is a fascist state, oppressing the Ukrainians, Belorussians, and so forth. The annihilation of that state under current conditions would mean one fewer bourgeois fascist state to contend with! What would be the harm if as a result of the rout of Poland we were to extend the socialist system onto new territories and populations?”

After 1945, that vision came true.

The Partition of “Poland”

Part of the “big lie” surrounding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is the claim that “Germany and the Soviet Union attacked and divided up Poland.” At face value this seems true, until one actually looks at the details. While the Germans attempted to get the Soviets to invade as soon as possible, Molotov rejected premature intervention. The Soviets never crossed the Polish border until 17 September, after the Polish government had fled the country and the Germans had declared that they no longer recognized the existence of a state named “Poland.” This declaration gave the Germans “legal” grounds to drive right up to the Soviet frontier. In fact on several occasions German forces did attempt to just that, in hopes that the Soviets would not contest any ground they managed to grab. Thus, Red Army troops were sent into Galicia and Volyn under the orders to prevent the Germans from seizing these territories.

Did this invasion constitute an aggressive attack? Does this prove that the USSR was attacking Poland as an “ally” of Germany? Hardly—as noted before, Poland had a non-aggression pact with Germany when it seized a non-Polish territory of Czechoslovakia. Nowhere today in the mainstream media do we hear about dastardly Poland’s “alliance” with Germany and how the Nazis and Poles “carved up Czechoslovakia.”

There are some other facts worth considering as well. Most important of all are the facts surrounding the lie that the USSR invaded “Eastern Poland.” The territory of “Eastern Poland” at the time consisted of Ukrainian and Belorussian territories seized by Poland in a war of aggression back in 1921. With the Bolsheviks tied down in the Civil War, Poland rejected the borders it had been granted and attempted to take Belarus and Ukraine. The Poles managed to defeat Ukrainian nationalist forces and were poised to take Kiev when they were pushed all the way back to Warsaw by the Red Army. Despite this success, the Bolsheviks still had to contend not only with the White Guards but also the armies of the imperialist intervention. They signed the Treaty of Riga with Poland, ceding the disputed territories of Volyn and Galicia in Western Ukraine and territory in Western Belarus. Polish rule was unpopular; in fact a Ukrainian nationalist insurgency broke out in the late 20s, and the Germans even used supporters of this nationalist movement in their war against Poland in 1939. Had the Germans been allowed to take all of 1939 Poland, they would have been dangerously close to the USSR’s most vital territory.

It is also worth noting the reaction of the world to the Soviet invasion, particularly in contrast to the reaction to the German invasion. Honoring their pledge to Poland in word though not in deed, the English and French declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September 1939. Neither declared war on the USSR however. England, France and Romania had military alliances with Poland, and none of these countries declared war on the USSR. The League of Nations did not declare the Soviet invasion an act of aggression, nor did any other country. In fact not even Poland declared war on the USSR. Poland’s supreme commander even ordered the army not to resist the Red Army, while still urging continued resistance to the Germans. Here is the text of his order of 17 September 1939:

“The Soviets have invaded. My orders are to carry out the retirement into Rumania and Hungary by the shortest routes. Do not engage the Soviets in military actions, only in the event of disarming our units by them. The task for Warsaw and Modlin, which must defend themselves against the Germans, remain unchanged. Units towards whose formations the Soviets have approached should negotiate with them with the aim of the exit of the garrisons into Rumania or Hungary.

            Supreme Commander

            Marshal of Poland E. Rydz-Smigly”

It is also interesting to note that Winston Churchill himself, a die-hard anti-communist and a beloved icon of anti-communist authors today, was in favor of the Soviet action in Poland. Again, author Geoffery Roberts provides us with Churchill’s words from a radio broadcast of the 1st of October 1939:

“Russia had pursued a cold policy of self-interest. We could have wished that the Russian armies should be standing on their present line as the friends and allies of Poland instead of invaders. But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace…I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest or the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan states and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south-eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.”

The idea of an innocent Poland, beset upon by two predatory “totalitarian” “allies” has long stood as a useful myth not only to the anti-communists of Poland but also to the English, who have long maintained this myth to paint their involvement in the Second World War as being a selfless act in defense of a weaker nation. As laughable as this is, many still believe today that the USSR’s invasion of Galicia, Volyn and Belarus can be equated with Germany’s invasion, which not only occupied Polish land but also ethnically cleansed Poles from the Wartheland as they resettled the area with German colonists. Then again, most people have never heard of Galicia or Volyn.

Why Are They Rewriting History?

The history of the Second World War is complex beyond words. Thousands upon thousands of books have been written on the subject. Every major battle has produced its own collection of books, and in some cases documentaries and feature films. The history of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is itself incredibly complex. Here we have discussed only a bare minimum of facts, specifically key facts necessary for the refutation of this modern attempt to rewrite history. Exposing the facts about Western collaboration with fascism can only do so much good. The key issue is that in the past few years, fear of communism among the elite has risen to a level not seen since the McCarthy era. Why, if communism is supposedly dead and buried, do they need to go to such great lengths as to actually re-write history to a degree not even seen during the Cold War?

It is not entirely coincidental that as capitalism descends once more into crisis and as the leading imperialist countries find themselves embroiled in two losing wars, the drive to push communism beyond the pale of political discourse has led to the rewriting of history’s most basic facts. 1991 was supposed to mark the triumph of capitalism and the free market. It was called “the end of history.” Capitalism brings prosperity, the free market conquers all. Reality brought something much different however.

Within a few years, people who never had to worry about paying the rent, making ends meet or getting quality medical care suddenly found themselves helpless at the hands of rapacious thugs, gangsters and oligarchs. Millions were displaced as nations broke apart. Stability gave way to chaos, hopelessness, violence, sex slavery and human trafficking. Nationalism reached a fever pitch and tens of thousands of people were ethnically cleansed. Europe experienced its bloodiest conflict since the WWII. At first, many in Eastern Europe accepted the excuse that they had dismantled their old economies “too fast,” as though this was carried out according to their will as opposed to that of their respective ruling classes advised by and in collusion with businessmen and investors from around the globe. Things would get better after joining NATO and the EU, or a strong leader like Vladimir Putin would solve everything. It is now nearly 20 years since the fall of the Eastern Bloc, and the leaders who promised prosperous societies with respect for “human rights” have failed. They have failed and the people know it.

Now in the throes of an economic crisis, one which now threatens the imperialist European Union, the specter of communism is again haunting Europe. With the US still suffering from massive unemployment, that specter is haunting the US as well. All over the world, even people who were once mainstream liberals are now starting to question capitalism itself. Many are no longer just questioning “unregulated capitalism” but capitalism itself. When we look at the riots in Greece unfolding before our eyes, or the struggle of the TEKEL workers in Turkey, when we see an increasing number of Eastern Europeans admitting that they had a better life under their revisionist regimes than their incompetent politicians today, we easily understand why it is necessary for the European elite to equate communism with Nazism, the latter being a monster fed and raised by capitalism itself. No wonder the American elite pays Glenn Beck to scare the politically and historically illiterate with the same idiotic conflation. After 1991 they could proclaim capitalism triumphant and Marx discredited. Today Marx has been vindicated; economic crisis, unemployment and poverty are all inherent and eternal in capitalism and always will be.

There is no lie too great for the international ruling class when it comes to scaring the proletariat away from the path of liberation and emancipation. A few years ago they tried to erase the Soviet Union’s massive contribution to the defeat of fascism, the bastard child of capitalism. Today they are trying to tell us that Stalin was just as responsible for starting the Second World War. We can be certain they will continue raising the mythical body counts of communism to absurd levels as well. Try as they may, however, they will never exorcise this spirit from the mind of the working class, the one class of society that has the power to both provide for society’s needs and run society itself.

As Enver Hoxha once said: “No force, no torture, no intrigue, no deception can eradicate Marxism-Leninism from the minds and hearts of men.”

Sources

Furr, Grover. “Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland in 1939?.” Cyrano’s Journal (2009): n. pag. Web.

Pauwels, Jacques. “Profits über Alles! American Corporations and Hitler.” Labour/La Travail 51. (2003): n. pag. Web.

Roberts, Geoffery. Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953. 1st. Yale University Press, 2007. Print.

Source

Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey (TDKP): On the hidden inter-imperialist war and the imperialist plan for Yugoslavia

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Article originally printed in 1999

The Nato operation on Yugoslavia has in fact proved once again to be a concealed and indirect inter-imperialist war. It seems that all imperialists were united behind this operation which was claimed to be for humanitarian reasons. However, different plans set for the solution of the problem continue to show the conflicts between Russia, European Union and the US.

In this process, old conflicts between the EU and the US have emerged with new appearances. Especially after the disintegration of the USSR, Germany, planning to be more influential in Central Asia and the Caucasus and to get its share from the oil and natural gas resources, tried to control the conflict in the Balkans to open the path for its own interests. This led to a confrontation with the US which has similar objectives in mind. While the US has won the support of Britain, Germany received the occasional support of Italy, Austria and France, in accordance with the changing balance of power. While the US tried to use Nato as an instrument for achieving its plans, the EU tried to keep Nato under its control via the UN. Faced with this complicated and changing combination of allies Russia supported Yugoslavia in order to strengthen its influence in the Balkans, and to create the ground for an alliance against Nato. Based on the fact that this problem was not a regional one but a problem related to imperialist plans on the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia, Russia’s aim was to stop the attack at its beginning and to spoil the US and EU plans on Yugoslavia.

Obviously, the US and Britain, its closest ally, are more concerned about the new status of Kosova vis-a-vis Yugoslavia, than the sufferings of the Kosovar people.

A divided Kosova with a lose connection with Albania is the most desired result for the US. In terms of the “post-war status-quo”, the KLA will be the most suitable base for the US, playing the role as a military and political power tied to the US. This puppet organisation, which is as racist and nationalist as Serbian aggressors, is a suitable instrument for provoking new conflicts and wars in the region.

The US is planning to create a strong base in Albania and Montenegro to control the Adriatic with Kosova in the east and Macedonia in the south.

In terms of this “ultimate goal”, the “solution” of the problem in Kosova will actually be the beginning of new problems. Because it is very likely that, after Kosova, the US will spread its expansionist policies towards Montenegro, resulting in internal problems there to break its weak link with Serbia. However, attempts in this direction will obviously encounter the resistance of Europe and especially Greece. That is why the European powers were opposing the US, and stressing the idea of restricting the Nato operation and stopping it as soon as the minimum objectives were achieved.

The aims of the Nato operation had different meanings for its members, and there was no agreement on how it should be conducted. For example, Germany and France suggested that the operation should be conducted under the auspices of the UN, and it should aim to stop the Serbian attack and to secure the return of the Kosovar people to their homeland. They wanted civilian observation groups of the UN in the region, not the Nato military forces. This policy is obviously in line with France’s old plan to diminish Nato’s role of “world gendarme”. France is trying to put Nato under the control of the UN, while the US and Britain want to give Nato a more active role. This conflict of ideas appeared once again in late April at the Washington Summit where Chirac’s definition of the UN Security Council as the authority to give official permission to Nato operations taking place outside the territories of its member states was immediately opposed by Solana, the Nato General Secretary.

Another important outcome of the Summit was that it showed that the US plans were not restricted with Kosova and Yugoslavia. In the meetings with the leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Slovenia and Romania, Clinton discussed the “restructuring of the region”, and an agreement was reached. When this new plan, agreed at least as a concept, is joined together with the status that is planned for Kosova-Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, an effective pressure will be put on Greece in the north of the peninsula. For this reason, Greece, is trying to take measures to counter this possible pressure by trying to form alliances against the Middle East policies of the US, and signing nonaggression treaties with Syria, Armenia and Iran.

The post-war plans, on the other hand, remind us the imperialist “aid” packages, classic examples of which were the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine implemented after the Second Imperialist War. Obviously, it is one of imperialism’s oldest methods to destroy and control the war-experiencing countries with wide scale economic, political and military programmes in order to make these countries more dependent. It seems that the EU is trying to take measures in order not to let the US get the biggest share in this area. Without doubt, Yugoslavia will be included in this “aid package” as the country suffering most from the destruction of the war. However, this will be with the condition of a change of the regime in this country, which will be used as another means of pressure and which will lead to a new conflict in determining which imperialist power will be the most influential on Yugoslavia.

These two consequences, in fact, contain a lot of contradicting elements, and show that in the forthcoming period the contradictions between the US and the EU will emerge in new forms, not only in the Adriatic region but also in the Balkans and the Middle East, including Turkey and Greece. This means that the Balkans will continue to be a region of new conflicts and wars, meaning more oppression and massacres for peoples.

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