Speech at the Session of the Politbureau of the CC of the AUCP(B)
(19th August 1939)
The question of peace and war has become critical for us. If we sign a treaty with France and Great Britain, Germany will give up Poland and will try to reach a ‘modus vivendi’ with the Western powers. War may be avoided, however in the future things would be dangerous for the Soviet Union. If we accept the German proposal to sign a treaty of non-aggression, naturally Germany will invade Poland and the intervention of France and England in this war will become a fact. Western Europe will suffer. Under these conditions the chances are that we will manage to stay away from this conflict and then we might enter the war under more advantageous circumstances.
The experience of the past twenty years shows that the communist movement in these countries is not strong enough to seize power in peacetime. The dictatorship of this party will become possible only as a result of a great war. We have made our choice and we are clear in this respect. We should accept the German proposal and politely send back home the Anglo-French mission. This will give us the advantage that Poland will be destroyed all the way down to Warsaw including the Ukrainian Galicia. Germany leaves us complete freedom of action in the Baltic Republics and does not object to the return of Bessarabia to the USSR. They are yielding Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary as our zone of influence. The question of Yugoslavia will still remain open…. At the same time we should be able to foresee the implications of a possible victory or defeat of Germany in this war. In case of its defeat Germany will be sovietised and a communist government will be formed. We should not forget that a Soviet Germany will find itself in great danger if the sovietization of Germany will happen as a result of a defeat in a short war. England and France will be still strong enough to take Berlin and destroy Soviet Germany. And we will not be in a position to assist our Bolshevik comrades in Germany.
Therefore our task consists of having Germany wage a longer war so that England and France would be tired enough so that the last would refuse to liquidate Soviet Germany. We would take a neutral position till the right moment when the Soviet Union would assist Soviet Germany with food and raw materials. It is clear that the amount of assistance granted to the Soviet Germany should not exceed certain limits so our economy and our army would not be weakened.
At the same time we should develop active communist propaganda, specially within the English-French bloc, mainly in France. We should be ready for the possibility that in this country the party will be forced out of legality and will have to work underground. We know this will cost many victims, but our French comrades will not falter. Their tasks in turn will be the decomposition and demoralisation of the army and the police. If we properly accomplish this preparatory work Soviet Germany will be safe and this will help the sovietization of France.
In order to accomplish these plans it is necessary that war last long enough, it should be here where we should focus all our forces in Western Europe and the Balkans.
Let us consider the second possibility, i.e. the victory of Germany. Some are of the opinion that this outcome would have serious consequences for us. These comrades are partially right, however it would be a mistake to believe the assurances of some comrades. If Germany wins the war it will be too exhausted to get engaged in an armed conflict with the Soviet Union at least for a period of 10 years.
Germany would be too worried about keeping an eye on a vanquished England and France in order to prevent their revival. On the other hand, victorious Germany will be too busy in the Germanization and exploitation of its enormous territories, something that will take entire decades. It is clear that Germany will be too busy elsewhere to seriously turn against us. In a defeated France the Communist Party of France will always be strong. The communist revolution would happen for sure and we could utilise this situation to help France and make her our ally. Subsequently all peoples under the domination of Germany would also become our allies. In this case we would be left with a large area of freedom of action to develop the world revolution.
Comrades! It is in the interests of the USSR, the homeland of workers that a war between the Reich and the capitalist Anglo-French bloc breaks out. We have to do everything possible so that this war lasts as long as possible so that both sides get exhausted. This is the reason we should accept the pact proposed by Germany and make everything possible for this war that has already been declared once lasts as long as possible. We should intensify our propaganda work within the belligerent nations so that we are better prepared when the war comes to an end.
A. N. Gordienko: ‘Iosif Stalin’, Minsk, 1998, pp. 274-78, from ‘Voina 1939-1945: dva podkhoda’, Moscow, 1995, Part I, and citing the Centre for the Conservation of Historical Documental Collections, former Special Archive of the USSR, f.7, op. 1, d. 1223. Translated from the Russian by ‘Inter’. Published in: https://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv6n2/stalin.htm