[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-War]: Rutherford on Moorhouse, 'The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact With Stalin, 1939-41'

Paul Flewers rfls12802 at blueyonder.co.uk
Mon Mar 12 10:21:30 MDT 2018

I did a fair bit of reading about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and especially how it was seen in Britain, when researching my PhD. The pact really took people by surprise, yet if one read Stalin's speech to the CPSU's Eighteenth Congress, there were hints that something was already afoot, as Stalin heavily implied that Germany was not a threat to the Soviet Union, and that the world's bourgeois democracies powers could no longer rely upon Moscow's good favours were they to find themselves at war with Germany.

One Trotskyist group in Britain, the Workers International League, considered that Stalin's speech showed that Soviet foreign policy was shifting, and saw this as a consequence of the uncertainties that had arisen after the Munich debacle and the collapse of Czechoslovakia. Its journal concluded: 'Stalin's speech of last month further emphasises the uncertainty of Soviet foreign policy and his readiness to strike a bargain with Hitler.' This, however, was rather the exception. The Communist Party was especially caught on the hop. It had reproduced Stalin's speech in its weekly paper without critical comment, and a fortnight before the pact was signed, one party leader, Johnny Campbell, insisted that there could 'be no rapprochement between the Soviet Union and the Fascist states' (Daily Worker, 9 August 1939).

Rather amusingly, after the pact was signed, the Communist Party called for another pact, between Britain and the Soviet Union, even though this was implicitly prohibited by the clause in the M-R Pact stating that neither of the contracting parties would 'participate in any grouping of powers' which was 'either directly or indirectly aimed against the other contracting party'. The party also declared that it would support a war against the fascist powers, although Berlin was now allied to Moscow, and it did support Britain's war against Germany when it broke out in September. This anomaly was subsequently ironed out when in October Moscow ordered the communist parties to oppose the war, not without some bother within the British party's Central Committee.

My book, which covers this episode, is still available < https://secure.francisboutle.co.uk/product_info.php?cPath=10&products_id=50 >.

Paul F

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