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Henry Judd

World Politics

Is a Russian Offensive Due?
Western Europe Faces Critical Period

(24 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 43, 24 October 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Since the moment when the world learned that Stalin possessed the atomic bomb it is possible to note the beginnings of a shift in general Russian policy. While this shift has not yet blossomed forth into a new, major Russian political and diplomatic offensive – comparable to the period after the end of the war – it definitely marks a change in the steady retreat noticeable for some time in Russian policy. One might say that the ponderous machine of Russian imperialism is now grinding to a halt, so far as retreat is concerned, and beginning to resume offensive action.

At the same time, and obviously related to it, we find a definite slowing up of American activity, penetration and influence over the Old World continent. The reason for this is not hard to find. It lies primarily in the fact that the early effects of the Marshall Plan loans, which might be compared to large injections of blood plasma into a dying man, have now begun to wear off.

It was because of the great stimulus provided to production and economic life that America was able, last year, to exert such an influ’ence in the affairs of Western Europe. But, on the one hand, European economic life is now running into new types of difficulties over which the Marshall Plan can exert no influence, and, at the same- time, counter-tendencies which insist upon reassertion of Europe’s independence from American influence are now running stronger than ever.

In the cat-and-mouse game played by America and Russia over Europe, the role of chaser and chased change constantly. Are we in for a new and mighty Russian offensive, leading to an American retreat and further Russian advances? While this would not seem to be the case (primarily because Europe itself has entered the fray as an independent factor), it is certain that the advantages now lean toward Russia and we may expect a continuation of this.

A quick survey of Europe at this moment indicates a whole series of new political and social crises are now being prepared and will burst out into the open before long. At this moment, these problems are limited by national boundaries but we know from the Russian technique that efforts will be made to raise them to an all-Europe plane and give them as wide a scope as possible.


The action of the Russian-dominated SED [Stalinist] Party in proclaiming the establishment of a “German Republic’’ has completed the formal splitting of Germany. This monstrous split is the result of three years’ activity on the part of the Western powers and the Russians, and obviously has no support from the Germans themselves. The particular way in which the Russians organized their “government” stinks even more unpleasantly than the Western powers’ technique in forcing the Bonn Constitution down the throats of the West Germans.

The Russian-SED clique simply proclaimed a “Republic,” brought in prepared lists of cabinet members and functionaries – strangely enough, almost all of them were Stalinist leaders, with the particularly obnoxious GPU assassin Gerhard Eisler as minister of propaganda (information) – and then postponed scheduled elections for one year.

This cynical act deceived no one, of course, but it has wider implications. For example, the Stalinists claim their “government” to represent all of Germany, whereas the more modest Bonn Constitutionalists speak only of the West. A whole set of demagogic demands was drafted as the program for this “government,” including withdrawal of all troops, ending of reparations (with the significant catch phrase used to exclude “war industries”), etc.

The Russians have even followed up with the magnanimous gesture of withdrawing their Berlin troops a few miles out of the city, about 15 minutes distance by car! It is easy enough to ridicule all this, but there is more involved.

Allied policy in Germany is totally bankrupt, and the Bonn Constitution is starting to flounder badly. The Russians are aware of this, and know that all tendencies within Western Germany – including the most conservative – will lead to more and sharper conflicts with the Allied High Commissioners. Their demagogic program is bait set out to spur this on and to entrap the unwise. It would appear that the Russians, now using a totally quisling German government of Stalinist hacks and assassins, are launching a new phase in their struggle for mastery of all of Germany. That is the stake, nothing less.

If they succeed in confusing independence movements within Germany, and if the Allies continue their present policy of arrogant interference, blundering and antagonism towards the German people, they have a more than comfortable chance of succeeding. As the Allies liquidate whatever good will remains on their side of the ledger, the Russians begin a clever game of gathering in anti-Allied sentiment. The struggle for Germany, on a new plane, goes on at full speed.


France, with its new governmental crisis, well illustrates the economic and social problems of the Western European nations which have achieved a definite measure of recovery as a result of Marshall Plan loans. The limits of this recovery would now appear to have been reached, and economists indicate not only a slowing’ up in the rate of this recovery, but a definite tendency for stagnation of economic life, particularly so far as European trade and foreign commerce are concerned.

The great problem in France is the everlasting race between wages and prices, with its accompanying problems of inflation, unemployment, etc. There is absolutely no sign of any solution to this; in fact, the resignation of the Queuille government (which achieved the remarkable durability of one whole year) is based upon this fact.

After the sudden devaluation of the English pound, the French franc quickly was devalued to the unprecedented rate of 350 francs for one dollar. (Many people still alive recall when it was 7, 8 or 10 for a dollar.) This led to a spurt forward in prices, and the French labor unions, now divided into three rival unions, were obliged to renew their demand for wage increases and a raising of the minimum monthly wage rate. The Socialists within the coalition government, representing France’s most thoroughly discredited party, saw an opportunity to regain some working-class support and caused the cabinet’s overthrow by demanding wage increases. Daniel Meyer, labor minister, presented these demands and Queuille quickly resigned.

France is still without a formal government, although this will quickly be remedied. But whether the new minister is Jules Moch (notorious Socialist who gained the enmity of the French miners by his action in breaking their last year’s strike), or another liberal politician, it makes little difference to developments in France. The important thing is that the labor movement again gives some signs of a restirring and awakening, although it must be recognized that the Stalinists, still firmly in control of the CGT and the industrial workers of the nation, stand most to benefit.

The reason? The dim failure of their rivals – the Catholic unions, the Socialists, etc. – to offer anything satisfactory or inspiring to the workers of France, and the people as a whole. It is a matter of a revival of Stalinist influence largely through default.

Austria and England

To one or another degree, the same pattern of instability and coming crisis is exhibited in Austria and England. The results of last Sunday’s general Austrian elections signify more than a blow at Stalinism, which was expected, There was a general shifting to the right, as shown by the factor of the conservative Catholic People’ Party, together with a still greater shift to the right in the form of 12 per cent of the total vote going to a revived, reactionary Nazistic party (Independent League).

The Austrian Social-Democracy, which has now become one of the most conservative and die-hard sections of the social-democratic movement as contrasted with its pre-war “left” position in the International, suffered a greater setback than had the German Social-Democrats. They will remain on, however, as very reduced junior partners in a pathetic coalition government. Their defeat, however, may well lead to a stirring of left-wing sentiment within the Austrian Social-Democracy, whose members see all the pre-war blunders being committed again, only in even less favorable circumstances.

As for England, the pressure is rapidly increasing for general elections, and the actual launching of the campaign will surely introduce what promises to be the most exciting and significant election since the end of the war, with the Labor Party staking its fate against the Tory party of Churchill.

Throughout Europe, the same pattern of internal dissatisfaction and economic crisis is once more stirring people into activity, thought and weighing of proposed solutions. The offensive-defensive action of the two great, overbearing powers remains as before (and will remain indefinitely), but its influence has considerably died down for the moment. It would appear that neither can act decisively now, short of military action – i.e., war.

Their tendency is thus to cancel one another out as hostile forces; hostile, we mean, to the resurrection of a free and independent Europe. The sooner this is grasped by socialists and democrats in Europe, the bolder and more courageous will become their activities.

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