Stalin’s Speech to the Members of the Politbureau
August 19, 1939
As published in Albert L. Weeks: Stalin`s Other War. Soviet Grand Strategy, 1939-1941 Rowman & Littlefield, USA 2002
The question of war or peace has entered a critical phase for us. If we conclude a mutual assistance treaty with France and Great Britain, Germany will back off of Poland and seek a modus vivendi with the Western Powers. War would thus be prevented but future events could take a serious turn for the USSR.
If we accept Germany’s proposal to conclude with it a non-aggression pact, Germany will then attack Poland and Europe will be thrown into serious acts of unrest and disorder. Under these circumstances we will have many chances of remaining out of the conflict while being able to hope for our own timely entrance into war.
The experience of the past 20 years shows that in peacetime it is impossible to maintain a Communist movement throughout Europe that would be strong enough so that a Bolshevik party could seize power. A dictatorship by this party becomes possible only as a result of a big war. We are making our choice and it is clear. We must accept the German proposal and politely send the Anglo-French delegations back home. The first advantage we will get will be the destruction of Poland up to the very approaches to Warsaw, including Ukrainian Galicia.
Germany has given us full leeway in the Baltic countries and has no objection to returning Bessarabia to the USSR. Germany is also prepared to yield on giving us a sphere of influence in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The question of Yugoslavia still remains open.
At the same time we must anticipate what will ensue from the destruction of Germany in war as well as from a German victory. If it is destroyed, the sovietization of Germany follows inevitably and a Communist government will be established. We must not forget that a sovietized Germany would face great danger if such sovietization occurred after the defeat of Germany in a short war. England and France would be powerful enough to seize Berlin and destroy a Soviet Germany. We would not be able to come to the aid of our Bolshevik comrades in Germany.
Therefore, our task consists in helping Germany wage war for as long as possible with the aim in view that England and France would be in no condition to defeat a sovietized Germany. While hewing to a policy of neutrality and while waiting for its hour to come, the USSR will lend aid to today’s Germany and supply it with raw materials and foodstuff. Of course, it follows that we will not allow such shipments to jeopardize our economy or weaken our armed might.
At the same time we must conduct active Communist propaganda especially as directed at the Anglo-French bloc and primarily in France. We must be prepared for the fact that in France in wartime the Communist Party there must abandon legal activities and go underground. We realize that such work will require an enormous sacrifice in lives. However, we have no doubts about our French comrades. Above all, their task will be to break up and demoralize the French army and police. If this preparatory work is completed in a satisfactory way, the security of Soviet Germany is assured. This will likewise ensure the sovietization of France.
To realize these plans it is necessary that war last as long as possible and that all efforts should be made, whether in Western Europe or the Balkans, to see that this happens.
Let us look now at the second possibility – namely, that Germany becomes the victor. Some propose that this turn of events would present us with a serious danger. There is some truth in this notion. But it would be erroneous to believe that such a danger is as near and as great as they assume. If Germany achieves victory in the war, it will emerge from it in such a depleted state that to start a conflict with the USSR will take at least 10 years.
Germany’s main task would be then to keep watch on the defeated England and France to prevent their restoration. On the other hand, a victorious Germany would have at its disposal a large territory. Over the course of many years, Germany would be preoccupied with the exploitation of these territories and establishing in them the German order. Obviously, Germany would be too preoccupied to move against us.
There is still another factor that enhances our security. In the defeated France, the French Communist Party would be very strong. A Communist revolution would follow inevitably. We would exploit this in order to come to the aid of France and to win it over as an ally. Later these peoples who fell under the “protection” of a victorious Germany likewise would become our allies. We would have a large arena in which to develop the world revolution.
Comrades! It is in the interests of the USSR, the Land of the Toilers, that war breaks out between the Reich and the capitalist Anglo-French bloc. Everything must be done so that the war lasts as long as possible in order that both sides become exhausted. Namely for this reason we must agree to the pact proposed by Germany and use it so that once this war is declared, it will last for a maximum amount of time. We must step up our propaganda within the combatant countries so that they are prepared for that time when the war ends.
From the central collection of Historic Documents of the former “Special Archive of the USSR”, Folder 7, Set 1, Doc. 1223. It is also reproduced from Dimitrov`s diary in T.S. Bushuyev`s “Proklinaya – Probuite Ponyat” (“Curse It but Try to Understand”), “Novyi Mir”, no. 12, 1994; pp. 232-233.