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10-08-2015, 17:01


From behind the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow, Joseph Stalin undoubtedly observed the effects of the Great De- pression with a measure of satisfaction. During the early 1920s, once it became clear that the capitalist states in Europe had managed to survive without socialist revolutions, Stalin decided to improve relations with the outside world as a means of obtaining capital and technological assistance in promoting economic growth in the Soviet Union. But Lenin had predicted that after a brief period of stability in Europe, a new crisis brought on by overproduction and intense competition was likely to occur in the capitalist world. That, he added, would mark the beginning of the next wave of revolution. In the meantime, he declared, “We will give the capitalists the shovels with which to bury themselves.” To Stalin, the onset of the Great Depression was a signal that the next era of turbulence in the capitalist world was at hand, and during the early 1930s, Soviet foreign policy returned to the themes of class struggle and social revolution. When the influence of the Nazi Party reached significant proportions in the early 1930s, Stalin viewed it as a pathological form of capitalism and ordered the Communist Party in Germany not to support the fragile Weimar Republic. Hitler would quickly fall, he reasoned, leading to a Communist takeover. By 1935, Stalin became uneasily aware that Hitler was not only securely in power in Berlin but also represented a serious threat to the Soviet Union. That summer, at a major meeting of the Communist International held in Moscow, Soviet officials announced a shift in policy. The Soviet Union would now seek to form a united front with capitalist democratic nations throughout the world against the common danger of Naziism and fascism. Communist parties in capitalist countries and in colonial areas were instructed to cooperate with “peace-loving democratic forces” in forming coalition governments called Popular Fronts. In most capitalist countries, Stalin’s move was greeted with suspicion, but in France, a coalition of leftist parties— Communists, Socialists, and Radicals—fearful that rightists intended to seize power, formed a Popular Front government in June 1936. The new government succeeded in launching a program for workers that some called the French New Deal. It included the right of collective bargaining, a forty-hour workweek, two-week paid vacations, and minimum wages. But such policies failed to solve the problems of the depression, and although it survived until 1938, the Front was for all intents and purposes dead before then. Moscow signed a defensive treaty with France and reached an agreement with three noncommunist states in eastern Europe (Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia), but talks with Great Britain achieved little result. The Soviet Union, rebuffed by London and disappointed by Paris, feared that it might be forced to face the might of Hitler’s Wehrmacht alone.