Mark Jones archive

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jul 16 13:50:45 MDT 2003

(I have finally begun putting together an archive for our dear, departed
comrade. These two pieces are the kind of thing we remember him well
for. Brilliant writing, superior erudition and analysis, and a
willingness to stick out his neck on the Stalin question.)

Mark Jones

Stalin, appeasement, and the Second World War

The issues raised by the revisionist histories of the past 20 years will
not go away and have not been settled by the revisionist histories of
the past decade. The complicity of the Western Powers in Hitler's
criminal adventurism is a theme argued out in my book "Moscow in World
War 2" (Chatto and Windus, 1987, with Cathy Porter).

It is not as if the opening of certain archives has changed the story,
only fleshed it out a little. Nor can there by an doubts about Stalin's
own views and role. Stalin's position was not just a matter of public
record, his priorities were insistently clarified in his own words
andactions: thus for example Stalin began his report to the 18th Party
Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), convened in
Moscow in March 1939, not witha description of the 3rd Five Year Plan
then reaching its climacteric, but with a tour d'horizon of the gloomy
and threatening international scene.

According to Stalin, a new imperialist war was already in its second
year, 'a war waged over a huge territory stretching from Shanghai to
Gibraltar, and involving over five hundred million people'.

Linking the Great Depression beginning in 1931 with the 'conflicts and
perturbations' which had led to war Stalin made the point that while the
Western Powers were still in the grip of economic crisis, the
'aggressive countries' such as Germany, Japan and Italy were not- but
only because their economies were already on a war footing. If peace
were preserved, these countries would soon find themselves in a far more
serious crisis as a result of the burden of arms spending. 'Unless
something unforeseen occurs', those countries would soon be on a
'downward path'. The implication was clear: the new economic crisis 'was
bound to lead, and is actually leading, to a further sharpening of the
imperialist struggle'.

It was no longer a question of competition in the markets, of commercial
war, but of "a new redivision of the world, of spheres of influence and
colonies, by military action". And Stalin listed the seats of conflict:
"In 1935 Italy attacked and seized Abyssinia. In the summer of 1936
Germany and Italy organised military intervention in Spain and in
Spanish Morocco, and Italy in the south of Spain and the Balearic
Islands. In 1937, having seized Manchuria, Japan invaded North and
Central China, occupied Peking, Tientsin and Shanghai and began to oust
her foreign competitors from the occupied zone. In the beginning of 1938
Germany seized Austria and in the autumn of 1938 the Sudeten region of
Czechoslovakia. At the end of 1938 Japan seized Canton..."    ,

The territorial aggrandisement of the Axis Powers attacked the
foundations of the international settlement following the 1914-18 war,
and which had primarily benefited the victors in that war- France,
Britain and the USA. It was their global interests which were now



Dear David Johnson

Perhaps you think I wrote a turgid convoluted apology for Stalin and
that makes me a loonie toon not worth an email, but the truth is that I
am an honorary Sovok and I am traumatised by what happened, like
millions of other Sovki (I lived through it all, I still have family in
Russia, and I was not some cosseted ex-pat either). Probably that
explains why I have trouble formulating my thoughts.
Post-traumatic-shock syndrome. Ask any Russian not driving a foreign
car. It makes you feel timid, confused, apologetic, easy prey for
overconfident Washington professors toting quack nostrums and iron
verities. If I now overcompensate with irascibility, forgive.

When I first went to Russia (1985) I was a self-confessed socialist.
Three weeks of Moscow life morphed me into a Thatcherite. But ten years
later I see it differently. There never was socialism in Russia (there
never was socialism in Britain either, or anywhere else -- yet -- so
Blank, when he says there was, is tilting at the wrong windmills, and
his anticommunism is just the usual all-American all-white chauvinism
and paranoia, and obviously not based on any reading of actual history
or socialist literature (Oh! Those tedious patristics! But of course,
none of you have actually read Marx or Lenin or any of them, have you?
People like Orlando Figes and Richard Pipes openly brag about not
reading them, and it doesn't stop their lousy fiction-histories from
being acclaimed -- so why should Blank or any other minor luminary bother?).

Yes, there was no socialist Russia, but no trade union or agri-co-op or
woman's group is ever socialist, either. What they all have in common is
they are attempts by ordinary people to take matters into their own
hands, a process which inevitably sooner or later brings them not to
socialism but into conflict with banks and commodity-exchange, followed
by US marines, body-bags, covert operations, disappearances, then USAID,
professors from Washington to help reconstruct -- well, we know the
rest. I am a historian and I have just finished a book about 13th
century Mongol invasions of China. It took Genghis-khan a year to break
Beijing in a siege. By that time, the inhabitants were eating each
other. The city fell without a fight in the end, and after the required
massacre and looting, Genghis-khan sent in food parcels and other forms
of aid. Nothing changes. After the seventy-year siege of Russia, the
citizens turned to cannibalism. The reasons bear thinking about, since
hunger was not among them. And now that the victor powers have completed
the looting of the place and imposed their quisling peace, they also
send certain kinds of aid. They also are sufficiently confident of their
mission for the strut-your-stuff intellectual Rambos like Blank to find
common debating ground, and announce shared feelings of pity, with
handwringing Quakers and angst-ridden well-intentioned American
liberals, (I'm not sure who is the more odious). (Genghis-khan enjoyed
long earnest talks with a Chinese sage, as a result of which he did not
after all turn north China into pasture, so perhaps there is some point
to JRL).Evidently my idea that there are positive things to be said
about Soviet Russia is too outlandish to contemplate (unless you are BN
wanting reconcilaition, it seems).

But the argument is simple enough. It hasn't changed. It goes like this:

Capitalism is one, single, world system. Poles of plenty (you live in
one) plunder zones of poverty. The rich get richer. Russia will now be
like Africa, no longer of inrterest since already plundered. Nothing can
stop this process- except struggle. The idea that Germany or Japan are
counter-instances, and that alternative devleopment strategies are
viable, is wishy-washy utopian nonsense whose only purpose is to get
more of your subscribers onto grant-aided thinktank gravy trains, and
incidentally allow them to make more of those colourful visits gathering
imprressions of misery and squalor in aforesaid hinterlands.

Postwar miracles happened only because of the existence of the USSR.
Read the history! (You have no time for history, I see, but I have no
time now to go into the reasons, either, especiually as I am more than
half certain you have already deleted this file without reading even
this far).Since the USSR no longer exists as a threat or (from the point
of view of ordinary people in 1945) a valid alternative, there is no
reason not to just plunder Russia. There will be no earnest young US
Marshall Aid experts helping Russians get heavy industry back on its
feet. None of those fireside chats Ike made to the Germans explaining to
them the benefits of trade unions (yes really) and constitutions and the
like. Just hectoring Chicago boys...



The Marxism list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list