MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)

C H A P T E R   T W E L V E

THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY IN THE STRUGGLE TO COMPLETE THE BUILDING OF THE SOCIALIST SOCIETY. INTRODUCTION OF THE NEW
CONSTITUTION (1935-1937)
 

INTERNATIONAL SITUATION IN 1935-37. TEMPORARY MITIGATION OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS. BEGINNING OF A NEW ECONOMIC CRISIS. SEIZURE OF ETHIOPIA BY ITALY. GERMAN AND ITALIAN INTERVENTION IN SPAIN. JAPANESE INVASION OF CENTRAL CHINA. BEGINNING OF SECOND IMPERIALIST WAR.

    The economic crisis that had broken out in the capitalist countries in the latter half of 1929 lasted until the end of 1933. After that industry ceased to decline, the crisis was succeeded by a period of stagnation, and was then followed by a certain revival, a certain upward trend. But this upward trend was not of the kind that ushers in an industrial boom on a new and higher basis. World capitalist industry was unable even to reach the level of 1929, attaining by the middle of 1937 only 95-96 per cent of that level. And already in the second half of 1937 a new economic crisis began, affecting first of all the United States. By the end of 1937 the number of unemployed in the U.S.A. had again risen to ten million. In Great Britain, too, unemployment was rapidly increasing.

    The capitalist countries thus found themselves faced with a new economic crisis before they had even recovered from the ravages of the preceding one.

    The result was that the contradictions between the imperialist countries, as likewise between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, grew still more acute. As a consequence, the aggressor states redoubled their efforts to recoup themselves for the losses caused by the economic crisis at home at the expense of other, poorly defended, countries. The two notorious aggressor states, Germany and Japan, were this time joined by a third -- Italy.

    In 1935, fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia and subjugated her. She did so without any reason or justification in "international law"; she attacked her like a robber, without declaring war, as is now the vogue with the fascists. This was a blow not only at Ethiopia, but also at Great Britain, at her sea routes from Europe to India and to Asia generally. Great Britain vainly attempted to prevent Italy from establishing herself in Ethiopia. Italy later withdrew from the League of Nations so as to leave her hands free, and began to arm on an intensive scale.

    Thus, on the shortest sea routes between Europe and Asia, a new war knot was tied.

    Fascist Germany tore up the Versailles Peace Treaty by a unilateral act, and adopted a scheme for the forcible revision of the map of Europe. The German fascists made no secret of the fact that they were seeking to subjugate the neighbouring states, or, at least, to seize such of their territories as were peopled by Germans. Accordingly, they planned first to seize Austria, then to strike at Czechoslovakia, then, maybe, at Poland -- which also has a compact territory peopled by Germans and bordering on Germany -- and then . . . well, then "we shall see."

    In the summer of 1936, Germany and Italy started military intervention against the Spanish Republic. Under the guise of supporting the Spanish fascists, they secured the opportunity of surreptitiously landing troops on Spanish territory, in the rear of France, and stationing their fleets in Spanish waters -- in the zones of the Balearic Islands and Gibraltar in the south, the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and the Bay of Biscay in the north. At the beginning of 1938 the German fascists seized Austria, thus establishing themselves in the middle reaches of the Danube and expanding in the south of Europe, towards the Adriatic Sea.

    The German and Italian fascists extended their intervention in Spain, at the same time assuring the world that they were fighting the Spanish "Reds" and harboured no other designs. But this was a crude and shallow camouflage designed to deceive simpletons. As a matter of fact, they were striking at Great Britain and France, by bestriding the sea communications of these countries with their vast African and Asiatic colonial possessions.

    As to the seizure of Austria, this at any rate could not be passed off as a struggle against the Versailles Treaty, as part of Germany's effort to protect her "national" interests by recovering territory lost in the first Imperialist War. Austria had not formed part of Germany, either before or after the war. The forcible annexation of Austria was a glaring imperialist seizure of foreign territory. It left no doubt as to fascist Germany's designs to gain a dominant position on the West European continent.

    This was above all a blow at the interests of France and Great Britain.

    Thus, in the south of Europe, in the zone of Austria and the Adriatic, and in the extreme west of Europe, in the zone of Spain and the waters washing her shores, new war knots were tied.

    In 1937, the Japanese fascist militarists seized Peiping, invaded Central China and occupied Shanghai. Like the Japanese invasion of Manchuria several years earlier, the invasion of Central China was effected by the customary Japanese method, in robber fashion, by the dishonest exploitation of various "local incidents" engineered by the Japanese themselves, and in violation of all "international standards," treaties, agreements, etc. The seizure of Tientsin and Shanghai placed the keys of the immense China market in the hands of Japan. As long as Japan holds Shanghai and Tientsin, she can at any moment oust Great Britain and the U.S.A. from Central China, where they have huge investments.

    Of course, the heroic struggle of the Chinese people and their army against the Japanese invaders, the tremendous national revival in China, her huge resources of man-power and territory, and, lastly, the determination of the Chinese National Government to fight the struggle for emancipation to a finish, until the invaders are completely driven out from Chinese territory, all go to show beyond a doubt that there is no future for the Japanese imperialists in China, and never will be.

    But it is nevertheless true that for the time being Japan holds the keys of China's trade, and that her war on China is in effect a most serious blow at the interests of Great Britain and the U.S.A.

    Thus, in the Pacific, in the zone of China, one more war knot was tied.

    All these facts show that a second imperialist war has actually begun. It began stealthily, without any declaration of war. States and nations have, almost imperceptibly, slipped into the orbit of a second imperialist war. It was the three aggressor states, the fascist ruling circles of Germany, Italy and Japan, that began the war in various parts of the world. It is being waged over a huge expanse of territory, stretching from Gibraltar to Shanghai. It has already drawn over five hundred million people into its orbit. In the final analysis, it is being waged against the capitalist interests of Great Britain, France and the U.S.A., since its object is a redivision of the world and of the spheres of influence in favour of the aggressor countries and at the expense of the so-called democratic states.

    A distinguishing feature of the second imperialist war is that so far it is being waged and extended by the aggressor powers, while the other powers, the "democratic" powers, against whom in fact the war is directed, pretend that it does not concern them, wash their hands of it, draw back, boast of their love of peace, scold the fascist aggressors, and . . . surrender their positions to the aggressors bit by bit, at the same time asserting that they are preparing to resist.

    This war, it will be seen, is of a rather strange and one-sided character. But that does not prevent it from being a brutal war of unmitigated conquest waged at the expense of the poorly defended peoples of Ethiopia, Spain and China.

    It would be wrong to attribute this one-sided character of the war to the military or economic weakness of the "democratic" states. The "democratic" states are, of course, stronger than the fascist states. The one-sided character of the developing world war is due to the absence of a united front of the "democratic" states against the fascist powers. The so-called democratic states, of course, do not approve of the "excesses" of the fascist states and fear any accession of strength to the latter. But they fear even more the working-class movement in Europe .J, and the movement of national emancipation in Asia, and regard fascism as an "excellent antidote" to these "dangerous" movements. For this reason the ruling circles of the "democratic" states, especially the ruling Conservative circles of Great Britain, confine themselves to a policy of pleading with the overweening fascist rulers "not to go to extremes," at the same time giving them to understand that they "fully comprehend" and on the whole sympathize with their reactionary police policy towards the working-class movement and the national emancipation movement. In this respect, the ruling circles of Britain are roughly pursuing the same policy as was pursued under tsardom by the Russian liberal-monarchist bourgeois, who, while fearing the "excesses" of tsarist policy, feared the people even more, and therefore resorted to a policy of pleading with the tsar and, consequently, of conspiring with the tsar against the people. As we know, the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie of Russia paid dearly for this dual policy. It may be presumed that history will exact retribution also from the ruling circles of Britain, and of their friends in France and the U.S.A.

    Clearly, the U.S.S.R. could not shut its eyes to such a turn in the international situation and ignore the ominous events. Any war, however small, started by the aggressors, constitutes a menace to the peaceable countries. The second imperialist war, which has so "imperceptibly" stolen upon the nations and has involved over five hundred million people, is bound all the more to represent a most serious danger to all nations, and to the U.S.S.R in the first place. This is eloquently borne out by the formation of the "Anti-Communist Bloc" by Germany, Italy and Japan. Therefore, our country, while pursuing its policy of peace, set to work to further strengthen its frontier defences and the fighting efficiency of its Red Army and Navy. Towards the end of 1934 the U.S.S.R. joined the League of Nations. It did so in the knowledge that the League in spite of its weakness, might nevertheless serve as a place where aggressors can be exposed, and as a certain instrument of peace, however feeble, that might hinder the outbreak of war. The Soviet Union considered that in times like these even so weak an international organization as the League of Nations should not be ignored. In May 1935 a treaty of mutual assistance against possible attack by aggressors was signed between France and the U.S.S.R. A similar treaty was simultaneously concluded between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. In March 1936 the U.S.S.R. signed a treaty of mutual assistance with the Mongolian People's Republic, and in August 1937 a pact of non-aggression with the Republic of China.