Soviet Plans for Worldwide Socialist Revolution 1917-1939

Soviet propaganda poster showing the unification of the world under the Red Flag

Soviet propaganda poster showing the unification of the world under the Red Flag

Already after the Bolshevik coup in October 1917 the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin made clear that this is the only the beginning and the Soviet fight will only end when the World Soviet Socialist Republic will be established. Everything needed to be done to lighten up the proletarian revolution in other countries. The Bolsheviks hoped for postwar troubles in and revolutionary sentiments in western countries. Moscow supported the revolution attempts in Bavaria, Germany and in Hungary in 1919. These bloody revolutions were crushed and the one in Munich was witnessed by Adolf Hitler then a discharged soldier who saw the need for his own revolution. In March 1919 in Moscow the Communist Internationale (Comintern) was established with goal to weaken the social democratic movements in Europe and to take complete control over all communist movements outside Russia. The beginning of the Comintern was very prudent as only 34 delegates took part in the founding congress with only 4 of them from abroad. However, the organization became immensely powerful over the next two decades and Lenin was sure that soon the Worldwide Soviet Federate Republic will be established.

The Comintern was an international communist party that used its sections based on iron discipline to bring down the capitalist order in a violent way. The sections were financed mainly by Moscow. In the twenties Moscow gave large sums of money to Czechoslovakian, Hungarian, German, US, British, Sweden and Finland sections. The money was raised by selling the Czarist time valuables and robing the churches. Only French section of the Comintern was able to finance itself.

To transfer the money Soviets used illegal means mainly supported by the Soviet intelligence agencies. The Baltic states were used as the window to Europe to transit these sums of money. Tallinn and Riga were used as the main gateways. In short time Soviets sent 451 million golden rubles trough Tallinn. In 1921 Soviets already spent 2/3 of their gold reserves to finance the worldwide socialist revolution.

In 1920 the Red Army started the offensive against Poland. It was clearly seen in the propaganda at that time that the Poland was not the sole enemy in this offensive. After the fall of Warsaw the Soviets would take Berlin and move to the west. However, at the river of Vistula the Red Army was crushed and the ideas for world takeover had to canceled. In next decades Soviets viewed Poland as a grave enemy and the defeat at 1920 made the next Soviet leader Stalin hate the Polish country. Also the independent Baltic States and Finland were seen as  a great dissatisfaction. The Russian Empire was fallen but its imperialism remained now in the clothes of idea of the world socialist revolution.

Despite the calls for revolutions, the Soviet Union made agreements with the Western powers that was seen as a temporary coexistence until the final fight and the victory of the communism. In 1922 the Soviet Union made Rapallo agreement with Germany that brought many means for two state cooperation especially the military. The Western powers had delusive assumptions that the Soviet Union is just as the other countries and can normally cooperate with them. By that from 1924 to 1933 the Soviet Union was recognized by most democratic countries in the world.

While western countries no longer viewed the Soviet Union as a bridgehead for revolution the idea of worldwide revolution was an integral part in the Soviet ideology. In first Soviet Constitution accepted in 1924 the Soviet Union was called as the Fatherland of the World proletariat from which the Worldwide Socialist Republic would arise. From 1918 to 1936 in Soviet calendars the anniversary of the October coup was not mentioned, instead the 7 – 8 November was celebrated as the beginning of the worldwide proletarian revolution. In the documents of the Comintern it was undoubtedly written that the proletarian revolution cannot rise in one state only it was possible only in the international level. The anthem of the Soviet Union was Internationale until it was changed by more nationalistic anthem in 1943. The first state radio program was called the Comintern Radio.

The ideas of worldwide socialist revolution was deeply affected by the Hitler’s rise to power. This was also partially “success” by the Comintern because Moscow ordered to weaken the German social democrats that made Nazis much easier to defeat them. The rise of national socialism was direct answer to the growing influence of communism in Europe caused by the Great Depression and the actions of the Comintern.

By that Moscow has got itself in unusual situation while the all plans of the world revolution backfired they caused the rise of Nazism and Fascism and rise of Authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. All of them were hostile to communism. National socialism was common to communism in many ways – use of terms of revolution and socialism, single obligatory ideology, state wide terror, single party rule, the centralization of the economy and the cult of personality. The main difference  that the Soviets were internationalists while Nazis- nationalists.

Before Hitler Soviets had a few attempts of lighting up the communist revolutions in Europe the Hamburg Uprising in 1923 and the communist coup attempt in Estonia 1924. Now Stalin changed the state ideology from Soviet internationalism to the Soviet Nationalism or Patriotism as it was called. The Soviet Union was now called Motherland and the last Comintern congress in 1935 now forbid to scare the world about the worldwide socialist revolution and called to make peoples front in the fight against the fascism.

After 1933 the main goal to reach the worldwide socialist revolution trough military power of the Red Army.

After 1933 the main goal to reach the worldwide socialist revolution trough the military power of the Red Army.

The idea of exporting the worldwide socialist revolution  with arms was abandoned. Instead, Stalin now focused on Socialism in Sole State. That would be achieved by enforcing collectivization and industrialization. But, that would be achieved only by strengthening the state outer security by building the mighty Red army. The very goal of worldwide socialist revolution was not completely abandoned instead it was intended to be achieved by the Soviet military potential. Stalin was convinced that the World War II is imminent so his army should be ready to defend the Soviet Union and take offensive part in the world war when necessary.

By that a complete reorganization of Soviet military forces was underway.  The Great Purges in 1937 was made to get rid of all the military staff that Stalin distrusted and replace them with people that would carry his plan in every single way. The Red Army witnessed great modernization and in 1939 it was already one of the strongest armies in the wor by the means of the equipment and weapons. The military training and discipline however was much worse.

Stalin not just waited for the world war to begin he took an active part to instigate it. Lenin already stated that the main goal for the Soviet foreign policy is to use the disagreements of the capitalist states to drive them into war. Stalin too in 1925 said that Soviet Union must be the last one to join the conflict to say the conclusive word.

And Stalin put his words into actions in 1938 when he allowed Hitler to occupy Czechoslovakia and allow the Munich Agreement. The goal of Adolf Hitler was to unite all territories inhabited by ethnic Germans under Germany and so his next target was Danzig and Polish corridor. When at first Hitler intended to gain these lands by the means of talks with the Polish government he was turned down and by his disappointment he issued a plan for war with Poland. Allies this time choose to support Poland in case of war.

That put the Soviet Union in an important role to decide the fate of Poland. Stalin could do nothing and allow Hitler to attack that would bring German troops to Soviet borders and witness the war in the west. Or Stalin had a chance to unite with allies against Germany. Poland would be spared as Hitler would not fight a two front war and Germany would become isolated between two powers. But that was not according to expansionist plans of the Soviet Union. So Stalin had the third possibility to make an agreement with Germany. By that Soviet Union could take important parts in war affairs and make means for unexpected attack at the same time. So the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed on 1939 August 23. Stalin was convinced that the war between the west will be for a long time that will make the German hands tied until Soviet Union have a chance to join the war as the main force and take over the world.

The Comintern was no longer needed for this. Stalin did not bother to inform the leaders of the Comintern about his plans for changes in relations between the Soviet Union and Germany. The Comintern was confused and made statements that despite the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact Soviet Union is still able to cooperate with Great Britain and France. The main goal in an international communists scene was proclaimed as the fight against fascism.

Stalin was dissatisfied with this Comintern approach. It was also understood by the leader of Comintern Georgi Dimitrov who on 5 September sent a letter to secretary of the communist party Andrey Zdanov where he state that the formulation of the new goals of the communist movement has become extremely difficult within the new international situation. In 7 September 1939 he met Stalin together with Andrey Zdanov and Vyacheslav Molotov. Stalin described the new war as the fight between two groups of the capitalist states. He demanded to turn down for calls for people’s fronts and called the possible destruction of Poland as just disappearance of another capitalist country from the map. Moreover Stalin was convinced that the downfall of Poland must be used to conquer new territories and peoples.

At the end of the conversation Stalin proposed Dimitrov to make a short thesis with the new goals of the communist movement in the light of the new international situation. These theses were published in the September 9 and they made a complete change in the Comintern tactics. The document stated that the working class must never support the war, but must ready to fight against social democrats. The Comintern and its sections had to postpone all the anti-fascist propaganda and the classification of the capitalist states. The word fascism was gone from Comintern propaganda instead the fight was forwarded to France and Great Britain. The Comintern had to support new friendship with Germany.

The Comintern was now used for Stalin’s offensive plans towards the Baltic States and Finland. Comintern made an agreement of cooperation with the puppet government of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Finland. The leader of Finnish communists Avro Tuominen declined the offer the lead the government and resisted the orders of the new Comintern. Confusion was high in all Comintern sections and Georgi Dimitrov published a theoretical writing to promote the new policy. It was called “The War and the working class of the capitalist countries” that was completely based on a Stalinist view of the world events.

At the end of the 1939, Comintern became unnecessary for Stalin. Stalin was ready to please Hitler by firing the Comintern already in 1941. The German invasion changed this for a short time until Comintern was liquidated in 1943.

The Stalin’s plan of worldwide revolution by joining the World War II with an unexpected attack backfired. In 1940 Germany quickly defeated France and isolated Great Britain. Stalin was able to seize the Baltic States and steal land from Finland and Romania, but was unable to attack Germany when it was caught up with the allies. But still Stalin planned to attack Germany and was nearly ready for it before 22 June 1941. The victory over Germany in 1945 the  sovietization of the Eastern Europe was still a small success to Stalin, comparing to what he wished to achieve in 1939.

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One response to “Soviet Plans for Worldwide Socialist Revolution 1917-1939

  1. This is an Excellent and accurate well written, done historical article. Along with the documentary “The Soviet Story” This should be required study for school children and higher institutions throughout the world.