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From “Class against Class” to the Hitler-Stalin Pact: Some Reflections on the Unwavering Line


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1. 1939-41: It’s probably all right really

1And No Man’s Wit, Rose Macaulay’s 1940 novel set in the post-Civil War confusion of Franco’s Spain in late 1939, depicts a middle-class English family searching for a son who has disappeared after serving with the International Brigade. On a precisely dated 24 August 1939, the family and their Spanish host, a right-wing aristocrat who despises Franco as an upstart, hear the first incredible news of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The family’s younger son, Hugh, a well-meaning “University communist”, tries to dismiss it as “obvious nonsense” and Fascist propaganda, and then to rationalise it as an astute move on Stalin’s part because the western democracies have let him down. Stalin, he says, “‘had to turn to Germany instead’”, and “‘you can’t well blame him. Besides, he probably has some scheme of getting Hitler on a string; it’s probably all right really.’”

2Their Spanish host finds some entertainment in the discomfiture this “‘alliance of our gallant saviours with the Red Devil’” will afford his fellow-countrymen. Hugh, “red with surprise and dismay”, has turned “moody and disagreeable”, he opines, because the coming war will not now be “‘the anti-Fascist war, but the imperialist, capitalist war against democracy.’” When asked how he makes that out, he is brutally to the point: “‘M. Stalin has just told him so… by siding with your intended foes’” (314-6).

3For Hugh ‘“It’s the wrong war”’ because it overturns all his generation’s ideological narratives. His missing brother Guy, who makes an unexpected appearance at the end of the novel, observes that Hugh has always been “‘Russia-mad…. He’s been shouting for the anti-Nazi war ever since he could shout for anything but his bottle, and now it’s come he’s ratted because his dear Joe Stalin’s on the wrong side.’” By contrast, this former combatant parallels the Spanish aristocrat’s amusement, thinking it interesting to watch British Tories “‘arranging with their patriotism to hate Hitler and his gang. It’s the wrong war for them too; they’d have liked it to be against Russia’” (372-4). Claud Cockburn, in his memoirs, Crossing the Line, recalled of this time that, while “that ‘hammer’ Molotov and champagne merchant Ribbentrop were together in Moscow, arranging to be friends for evermore”, in London, “Witty, encouraging and inaccurate to the last”, a British Foreign Office spokesman had observed  that now, “‘All the Isms are Wasms’” (39).

4The Communist Party of Great Britain found itself in a similar dilemma in September 1939. For a month it continued to campaign for “Peace Blocs” to defend democracy against fascism. “How to win the War”, a pamphlet written by Harry Pollitt, the Party’s General Secretary, published two weeks after Chamberlain’s declaration of war, described it as “a just war which will be supported by the whole working class and all friends of democracy.” (On this, see King & Matthews, and the trenchant review of their book by Fryer.) Pollitt was shortly obliged to resign. Thereafter the Party propagated the orthodox line that this was an inter-imperialist war, in which “the struggle of the British people against the Chamberlains and the Churchills” was “the best help to the struggle of the Germans against Hitler”. (It continued however to call in Popular Front terms for a “People’s Government” and a “People’s Peace”.) On 24 August 1940, the Daily Worker even celebrated the anniversary of the Pact by reproducing an article from Izvestia that translated opportunism into the new historical orthodoxy:

For a number of months before the Pact Britain and France made persistent attempts to harness the Soviet Union in their chariot, to use the Soviet Union for their imperialist aims. Above all they strove to provoke armed conflict between the USSR and Germany... The good neighbourly and friendly relations between the Soviet Union and Germany was not based on fortuitous considerations of a transient nature, but on the fundamental State interests of both the USSR and Germany. This truth has long been understood in the USSR and Germany.

  • 1 See on all this Bornstein & Richardson. There is a lucid scholarly summary of Left responses to the (...)

5Proletarian patriotism only returned to the British Communist Party after Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 and the signing, on July 12, of an Anglo-Soviet Mutual Aid Pact. Pollitt was now reinstated as General Secretary, and the “imperialist war” reverted to being a war to defend democracy, requiring a “fight for a united national front” to give “the most whole-hearted support to the Churchill government in every measure it adopts”. In a variation on a familiar formula, opponents of the war were now dubbed “fascists in disguise.”1

6Harold Laski’s explanation of Stalin’s motives in Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time in 1942-3 demonstrates how sections of the British intellectual Left were able to recuperate their position once the Soviet Union was safely in the “democratic” camp, courtesy of Operation Barbarossa. Chamberlain’s appeasement policy, Laski wrote,

convinced the Soviet Union that Great Britain no longer had the will to resist aggression. The outcome… was the conclusion of a non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The one thing that might have deterred Hitler from risking a war for European domination was the fear of being attacked on two fronts; the agreement with the Soviet Union removed this fear (20-1).

7According to Laski, the reason Britain “deliberately cold-shouldered the Soviet Union” in the five years from 1934 lay in the psychology of Chamberlain’s class:

Their whole outlook on life was built upon hatred of its philosophy. They may well have regretted the more brutal habits of Hitler and Mussolini. But the Fascist dictators had left untouched the class-structure of their societies. To risk their overthrow… was to risk revolutionary upheaval, perhaps Communist upheaval, in Italy and Germany. If peace was a major objective of Mr Chamberlain, so, also, was the avoidance of any policy which might further the coming of socialism. (22-3)

  • 2 For the attempt to confirm this reading of Stalin’s foreign policy from Soviet archives, see Robert (...)

8Certainly, as late as April 1939, the Soviet Union had suggested a mutual defence pact with Britain. But the co-founder of the Left Book Club and future General Secretary of the Labour Party in 1945-46 is being somewhat disingenuous. If Chamberlain’s foreign policy aimed to set the totalitarians of Left and Right against each other, Stalin’s strategy equally was that of fomenting inter-imperialist conflict, as Laski himself acknowledges, observing that fear of “attack from some alliance of capitalist states” meant that Soviet policy “was built upon the assumption that its safety lay in the division of its enemies” (26-7). The argument that Stalin “made terms with Hitler which assured it, at least temporarily, of neutrality from that quarter” (27) would be more convincing had Stalin not greeted the German Blitzkrieg in 1941 with total disbelief and unpreparedness. The fear of “some patched-up peace in western Europe”, Laski argued, “drove Stalin and his associates into exactly that cynical policy of brute force they had, for long years, been foremost in denouncing”(29). “[T]he policy of Stalin, between the Finnish attack and Hitler’s assault on Russia, went a long way towards dividing and confusing working class opinion in the democracies”, he wrote, a policy not “defensible to any save those for whom all Soviet action has the character of a religious dogma it is unnecessary to defend”, “accompanied by a vituperative hypocrisy which… before the Russo-German treaty… Stalin would have been the first to condemn in phrases that would have been obediently echoed by Communist parties all over the world” (29).2

9When I was young, exponents of that “religious dogma” still deployed the formula of “the unwavering line” to assert the consistency and continuity of Communist policy in the first half of the twentieth century. Yet, when I recently typed in the phrase on Google, with a variety of link words such as “Communism” or “Stalin”, I could find only one precise instance of this specific usage. The phrase appears to have been airbrushed from (at least electronic) history. The exception occurs, not unexpectedly, in an article on the website of “The Istitutes [sic] Of Marxist-Leninist Studes [sic], at the CC Of  The PLA, Tirana 1980”. The article is the “memoir” of an Albanian delegation to Moscow at the time of Krushchev’s denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in February 1956. It reports on “The struggle of the delegates of the Party of Labour of Albania, the representatives of the Communist Party of China and of some other party” (charmingly, they don’t appear to have made note of which) against “the revisionist theses” of the Khrushchevites, proclaiming that “In Moscow we were to expound the unwavering line of our Party, and display the ideological and political maturity and the rare revolutionary courage which has characterized our Party throughout its whole heroic existence”.

  • 3  Cognate formulae appeared in an electronic version of the book Thirty Years – 1922-1952: The Story (...)

10There was one other half-apposite instance of the formula, in what is clearly a nostalgic and possibly ironic harking back to earlier days. This was in a Moscow Times report about the re-election to office, in 2003, of “A controversial former chief judge of the Constitutional Court, who quit in 1993 after unsuccessfully opposing President Boris Yeltsin in his violent stand-off with rebellious lawmakers”. “The mild-mannered but fiery-eyed Zorkin”, we are told, affirmed the court’s resolution to keep its nose out of politics, as it had been since 1994: “This will be the court’s unwavering line. Nobody should bother hoping that we can be pulled to the left or the right or to the political center. We are in the legal center… ‘History never repeats itself.’”3

11Steering an unwavering line between Left and Right deviations in the name of History was an essential part of Comintern rhetoric during the interwar years, through all its policy contortions. John Lehmann, editor of New Writing and a dedicated fellow-traveller with strong Moscow connections in the 1930s, writing on “The Influence of Spain” in a 1939 pamphlet originally published in Moscow, preserves a faint trace of this rhetoric when he speaks of those who discovered in Spain, for all their “original enthusiasm”, that ad Uniing to e websitealitocSeithe r>

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2. 1929-33: Someone near the border of sanity

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3. 1933-36: Talking excitedly

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7<31span>When I e sapoem i saitintRnthmintern rhlicy chi salutionlend unprctainly,h thensieocSlyitween Leis rd Piod">nd dspular Front teiltegy s. ToByhe time ofm>CrLk obuSateng r!em> inpeared in an4136foe Parular Front tegionalisnod been sirmerly to anopationor a nrly a xwo ars fThe issplanas a, I suggestedfoe Pa mbigty of Coa st, awch ha Mclud,sntler-Shessolini. ,hurchill gok RigeosermlaInWh yos/ndsht awe are g,klothe delaeP inxwo ne oss lt ouridof caferateLemocracieyand the rore th dew ssary tolntagost Pin the Parst to woIn a e whTs rd Piod">netoric wwhwever t,yty had, een sispsil as Gepngeciftes yrcist oThe feiting on foAufeus stpoem isspltly thntorporarilyith tthr alexample,epan style="color:#000000;">CeFeered Brkquways stbk <,span>Cem>CrWl goem>AnRoosermlagScessed?oem>Cem>CrAtylud/f fomcists nded nci,sn MoAm oal em>Ce (33-4 The arpoemhteas a fstes thprclr thecisely daw atoincyonc anldmplexn ofiorve an the Cerh yobu shngndn. l pan>CeV pan>


FoNoe g, epngdind cogtila ot an nfs stme o-ntasmore cohlale g that a e whalitozionDahat Stre alrsge, me otne ofich mil Geahms. ehnldowd hid a ay t a mutor obletaa anyr of . lt inkg and colivg thfryears, thmot snecisely danoe g, e any st why sp otme the lthlut thfiftn siars frung, hoe awap olf.ToIitssee we ayI coeportse,hth yoDimiover/p> Fo a e whblkedns of th41-3,teh Hitler wh oaumpha-1o hirmany. ,he S roic exrsge, f thDimioverokthe tiReh hflag Flrr tsi enrds wapnalel rkque thseemg, e anr-eche foykelhat Ste siblkedns ofd, et bater unl freoaumph withnl nd Aff evermr/ Hwaw e forst inmano deortweahehctators htat, whwever t bigoly hate t,s nmanoth yoaneolafuld fifll deeerste Styluffg on of poe rm.hDimiover,n fout wthsymbncyd out baly on hstruggle ofainst scist cat the imsuggle of the deatoh, illyrd diatencivigid outinst the Chpll ss g . ToMdiousnsa caosle ago hare now tommunist Pi,ddiousnsonermt,f Stahti-mmunist Pi,ws nf tspin a m Afrlianena thhim (Ckqubu s 145

1033span>ThPhaps CoAufeus stamessn was thiltegy sc,ince 19e Pa tuun to kee dearagi-cmutcnrsge, f thVceAuded Lbed ,re Rnnlthe time ofds wabuffo pa a madmas, class="footnotecall" href="#ftn2"6id="bodyftn3"63<6spa>ny st whixtvoc y alcarrt with suio mumlishngl cesociatesns.oth sue asroic exurunist patnnelothe lthTsi eThis wasld botsunsistency1ith the neliems strats of nhe whcescisnd Afduanitatyt thwtichnThle a, iwebsiugh alr ofprivatStyluffemt wawker /nH reblicatchpinid, e webaiormerr/he arprraphmmthe atf are g,klothm oat, and“a Crk < itldnved s an hreneybugh a uocancl. (I Peoroaphmmt, ander unl f re isahararg a wd hth and atelothviet UnFes yars oroaphmmtsa class="footnotecall" href="#ftn2"7id="bodyftn3"73<7spa>nt the Fawd hicld bowa, wave ahat Str tb webaiormer, hetisahe Fa oal lbusage, posite in the steato f a e poemin which he steness trd diatenvestrn til p nlf a-dphmionsg, ejoserfch other, /p>

1134span>Th res thDimioveroo quial33-5,h thneral S Stetara of the Lammunist Paternational B,uopagos a mths saSen c Congress o,n a simcie otdevntd ofTh href="#f /chivevelv>miover/wkers/33-5/itedy.htm">T 19Uteda hfhe raWking c ass against Clscist spa>Th,ne siprraphmmth Stahti-mcists itedyhsubiualcy1 alowlen thate Peoular Front t (OTs rhpoly chitateourtr hoe awald-loratoin wash the Shlder -shipf a e padsis. , prsil asa meclis fcist o stlties aToIitwlefiakelvedpcv-loratoin waacssa. ass Eeinth thicahas thmde ft ahelled ofe “melrrapsion o stur ogeoe heThe feae tst whners y c-isycle entxsssion pa the exobaaphmmth exobably alGeorge Lbká, , resoa ohngn o,t ths de1936tylud/fm>Thirstory le enNernlem>, reaohicahas thwlefe Rnnlthe avhective o puColrrapsion o stterwaesedion of Stlinry waiihe Chnernl f a e (subjtioe o p)our">a-nsisvinion maSirLeWnlr12Scott(ISh asaaissa.lass Enliance ofquirin a,h thrieyn the fuft anch thth t and Fr utsidofe Lammunist Paternational Brme noclr tthat ad rbrerstbevimssied,h the 19itrests of fowaahti-mcists , stoi, an a e whaacatele ion of Styking class Enpectedion os/nd Nn tde a,he nemmunist P-bked onrular Front tevernment iseectro in thance mad a Strn an4136lsout orratsnus. , seggpesenone siprrtarian past rentcon ws,hfafto of ccupeses ind Afld ditxssoprtions insch asscmpanieg byroC soviioors aToISpain, foatencss Enlompar>CrHome in(4138

1<35span>There wa aoningfsciy1hlitical ceruueP inlthe tiadirof pohn LeCornrd hs expow hllyrdia=toin waiale Comidsit the BrSniegsConivigrr cwhThFu heMo palthTierz:Bore the RuStmerg th fituesca, i(Gass="i 38-40)Laich han b,oIre g,k,rbpeecucidio in the phntorpxta the exblo">thmobio .thn LeCornrd hijnt: ofe mmunist Party of Mooambrie of hi33-5/ Hwaw kied of no mmrdablaonts; hiDecner"> 33-6InH repoemheaks of thStrnlthe avpla maoms nfUnt rempsog had tuengun,,u iThmpsog h, it baly on capmage wn the phfht orth yoicist at on fnlitical ceadselveToISediang Pl/what o Rd to seiakelveo interyrl Brre masuggle ofth suons Peur ogeoe alf.I ldnvn">inly ledaltto the asrty ofamidsitmesgivg tshlut thseleioly ieind coprtionceThe fedil mma isspleseno, n leaengih hia l o,egi,blg inlweP inCornrd hiwte, o thMargot Het: rieneom rie CoAragosaonts; hiich heeaks g th fit o nsof ths lidary ofth suThrmany.nldmrcdi of ths detoi,he saver re rls olteca hat cys ver ce poe rms left une 19rty offabause the cyogsnut: .ltwlf vn m.I. [mmunist Paternational B]ad tudited t e whallution o. InHewhwever t,yw thfastgnishngn thfh Fr uthwevijh asl asrty ofa the raIernational Brve bebpue alfls hrtndacld in sa eClE ahen heIen beputoo ards noegionalisemuednt,hIxfeelgat we decuappdriftnom rie Corty of the avstgnishngn fnlitical cesuy ide, i(Gass="i, 171-81;n le180

4<36span>ThIfhe rond suac lly waen siteisoubtswhwever t,ycuatg anddriftnrld hat bave becorestdth the out oaToCornrd hs exsuggle of thfnrgto ir ntlfn e asstdicated dnd unpralcsonalg arnddrevisnearlyesin eve Chprty inlthe tiadirof poe poemHoN, prth sumyarty i,nIeraced it iefang e. ,n cossoaimins,ralient-1 alunawa, f the Paranudoxal lbunn of Sts lidary ofa itssolionDahatisnimplges/p>

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7<37span> Aace tls olading ofmht agatasibio e proornrd hihself acatencsosg excirtlyaon to keThRaisthe Sovonaolagh oaumpha-1 al/or a mmunist mhd Aff evferattw. InB the imsugid : ofirmedoin waisn fout w age.esy c,uopajtio it thhim e assnnprctainlyarure Geen heThe Fawd k wss Alaeche foykel, sll begeer hn the Reenas h fituescao thnaisthe Sovonaolaghd a orSwr the cyr ofde surcut orw to lavr”, InT diat, nprctainlyateca oymporycThe arpoemh readle-cwith sudoubtbonbytellectual Lbonxie, anpaks g th fie “meCrk < i,troadhe atf armt waeatyd and a orfreemins decrk < itscaro, andnowledgesg the cyThFreeminn a lthiang nlkesmnawd h/nB thut windrasstubrdewae g, s, andllf warch ha sor cus a iI e sapoems strestcal ce asnyaon tolut thwast Ste siSen c Congress ofysi / Ifheru,nifamilsl,In a isspenaalCoWt wemmunist mhStas ofF">, i thm>Cromstocns y, reich mil Geblished in Mo33-5,roornrd hi, bephacaat Ste sipsentat atelishwebsiteepocithfhperialist, nr ys,f Str ysatween Lee ragatyop-te har whe whdiblrion of ite foykel, in which hwebch otccessfue ofrsy iit the deimrialist, nepocitiine stpadles o kestmo Gelesrate thykelhwa>, i(hmoh  242)For a,n consitg ua asThe Fawh lsupucture, f thnacalist stsun eecinatio fre sapoiblyl etto a e anppa mllyrnsialcson fnliw ha the whyking class=". Ifhe whyking class="vermrhoh fan theerstliw h,y ovmt waobarednor alnivigrwa>,  (25.n thPolar Front tepotics, ,elledg attacdevn of keThe feaatif the Padozenth capmnitutionalise‘viclist, eGernment ise 19inrrmany. ,hAuuatii,nAuuatisti,nGatyoitain a, Scda,ativti,nain, foetc.,it balyef warch has tuen siay to thierducinen astaom Alss=c haviclist,m waslecitiinThe Faaatif the Paviclist, ano hadrectiv enivigrwa>, ,nd contitg u hath yoan ack an the fulinof HiThe Paviclist, aLdigue,he lega of the Paglish fabour Party i, ir a misderstracedg “Une Fawh lsupucture, f thatencacalist stSi"ts,  (257

4<38span>The Cook lom riPalme Duat e cymayill hetisahte 19adtion.o)It rxobably alesemio f,he Sw,he oSce,l formerar vn of Ste Corolar Front tepoti wThWt Ser ree Sotes ,otssumpon/rofermthmo Gealient-1o hie Pa icle “thft a? waslecitpeared in anm>Croambrie offt aem> in 19e Fawteryrf sa33-3--4,nslecitpstedo,n a stck ag baalepn h Spded r,he cyThtre wa noddle-c untion oatween Levolutionargd Afretion h, i(Gass="i 59),nd coac lly waote> snxwo use caraceza lom riAufeus sta Ammunist Pa deOer Gs stth the nempart in Tre wa no mbigty oflut the is wampart ng of hthfasctomo Gevirnlend unr="ifthvolutionary cormer, i(Gass="i 61).Cornrd hs expenaalCoe arSuggle ofr whPow ha hiWtern Europe”, Lablished in Mom>Croambrie offt aoem>

4<39span>ThItde a,hote>g tnD. Z.Maca ulskys denunprci vn of Ste CoSennedaIernational Br Ste si17 Congress of the LamPSUyr thceekg “Unviclist,met fith yo the Faprrtarian paallution o. ,hd Aff evaiming Roosermlas probaaphmmth it hs len inpcvmmlyith thssolini. ,h consiclud,sne cyThIuhouarp opuntion oa kee deahes/and coprtioncelothe delecraticaensieocSlyiom riCacalist ma praiclist,mestas ofe Lammunist Paternational BIt rxs tuplws. oadseles thputoo ards e 19slogaof Stcss against Clcss a, i(Gass="i 66-7).Cornrd hs exprivatStbtles rth sus dew es a,he Sw,hs onal, aasuggle of thnvince 19hself acatathwast Ste siSen c Congress ofysi ,as oneru,nw torilslIn a e whpoemh ovisnimdia="ts, r ow-tena the whiakec vn of StDimiover,nt batste siSen c Congress os snddkec vfor whe whPolar Front thet fitste sing enand coberrttd ofntlution oilyith,,he ueCoars frrly i h,h the sinairh fie “meLeipzighdragos. ,n aa orfcut orang eh/nd Ne caetd intled rhen he spwon (OIf,nlthe avpoemhadrted asThmmunist mhs onmynts g thtes , in hae the chmmunist mht balfte Corolar Front teb of poe raTs rd Piod">niltegy e,hwlefbnsid dnd our">a-ga o,sarioians re wse,hponsus a ly on thch as lleglylCoerotskyt o, nlthe avPOUMisisioniserohich haoornrd hiund itmself ackccid : p ndtck htdIte fena ealiemnCornrd hiwte, ,ta ALweP inom riAragos. ,nds ofth a e whykidsf Stahe nchivestoflow-trseldi h,huogg him keThdT-eche foykek wss Alglissid/his was an ho Frt balftr of . lms g t , n r a l their nuggle of thdrn. et oubjtioe oisoubtsh the simejective o stprraphmmth Staowaso d naonts;. ,nCornrd hs ex asnyaon ts rlectio aasympoihytth the nemsyclalcsn thPolar Front teiltegy efarnd itmse,camo soPOUM,hanchivestsad ths deaisdenottexpo-urunist paGeany.nldmrcdi,nanstatif thmindegnlar ditohat StOrll hentcds st thm>CrHome inonbyteie Pa icle “thSpiedg ate BrSniegsCoBot s (pan style="color:#000000;">Ce (span>ThOrll h, 302-4

104/span>Th ho terohremindeur fothe lthssoaimdoin wa the whrCFh Mo33-2,nd cotciclear F put fena ealanuaphie,ith suiosaiistencycag the fu lleglyljective etto a e anrty i,detoaralaengeay toancly iitothen c sthth the nest tency1iphraEei,imejective o crentncontition.os, “acjective o snyuaon o. ,hThme ari B,ujective o bastoormutr ofdevn thetionc. InT 19weaEelawd himejective o stlieindthe tiadirof poe tellectual Lbfence pa cae simeunwav hg lino. In tollyflsheir ne offunions nlthe aveolaf ite simeuraeres-i rty e o s:y ovmht aglk Thirnivigrr cn 19piaioem>, reblished in thViioor Gd-lonczs stft aoBk

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1041span>The Cooesy cicld bobasus to sesmayinoh eyemuedntor whe whfence pawch ha M tencda thlue Swcarubjtioe oimotivatn o:o sesmaaeeteith sue aspty i,detowav hg linohs onalws. omejective o thntaeres-ntlution oily. InT 19rmula ofs onus to oughout italin’s stortweasi e and th hima inseryrl BrinquieocSlyshth t ane astional Brlties ame otes < ldnvuer o . efftio.iArthurCoKoeser ws stnernlf thurunist pasmachan tnt,hm>ThDardns of cyNo paem>re(1940)Lamonstratesehow vi ovykek dIte feimssis o ofntlution oilyiRubasher,nbas in Mopirof n N. I. Bukrarmw,hetunin a thKGBne ug ,tadscovelsony ths dentitemo ofc-eche , whder unars fr a uwlf vg hadtoolf acaoetisahms nfUnaphmmacal cefncon o. ,hquirin a seggbmioadtooa muective o stp tctpon/rof see chmejective y o of thafshifti soPty inne. ,h cofll deh an astue Swcarf acich han b naalCoI. ,hd AfnaalCoNo, (231-54ipiingm

1042span>ThIthdtoolfmNasncon oist edhmbeoirhlm 193477,hm>Cromstocoie Hid ths deKstcem>, reomstocoie H Ied rwd inote> snom riaeaiy co sa33-8te sisubjtioe oiason Bano yos generationocld bofh Fratasaive o scehacgbmisoniserohomst cidevis gh Hidue ory o/p>

Foe femo GeIre g,kflut thrylf.ane Soit GeIs mersisuad, hat c,nds wa<>relson, em>, reIeally.ldot apisten,tIocanuntftwlf vnithiyhn. lsld .yNoreIeamsahareutc anldmpnd t,ontition.o a thenvonicmentoa iteduuion oThMalCoararaiv 1, s onlp darelilsotoi, f thknit n a ri aa,hiyhnvinte ion ofrelilsotoi, f thkdapyaon ts a itechoea,hiyhllelg, sharehctator a thpury cophysnc a,lponcrl Brgtila i. (277)p>

7<43span>Thalepn h Spded rs sndutobioaphiey,hm>CrrkelnWh y hiWkelem>, replanas in Mo3351os gebetyfhnvinte niserohmmunist mh Mognlar ditms w/p>

3<10span>  CoAufeus stely efr whLouh  MacNeic ,ta irne be thMakg”(2,hs tuprd ciclart inDahatisnpn he on oThOnohl href="#ftn2"10(...) Thmmunist mho Rd to seofftrn ho yn of pomyedil mmaIn toggested itldnv e cyter unl frIis thwlo rylf.ToIis thonlp darepducinof pomyeur ogeoe anircumance o ToByhUnadg hadr si see chpletarian a and a coresg tnysctScentncoseof ponircumance o tIocld bobaue alln er Gtki of someclis opajtionHeIosld botsumej lt ouridof cahtory w. nd a wlo draljtio i stuinso.i(311) class="footnotecall" href="#ftn2"10(d="bodyftn3"10(.10sp

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1044span>Thhn Lehmhrienetoohenvose wdaldunments i see chSniegsCouse th hia metaphs thpseudo-mcidevnfncamotms ist mh Moich hasubjtiotuenn meapirof po betmoson, anr wcagked hCornrd hs exwaso d naonts;. ,n thmdiwte, oithm>CrireoWhtopesg tnGled ryem> in 194155“Thery me g, andllf ofrrs, th ofnflius tohopeind cotwlf f th oflf-aprmerar v a e sors and th ge.esg, s, veen a m Afnvintegcdo trds di ithapsog haa itseleopununioi, anked hed ecefnlg, shat cyslidofetrds di nmagnetoggdnot thputonr the e, (273

1045span>ThIthm>Cromstocoie Hid thH deKstcem>, reIed rwd inaimin, hat cyhiitd diAufeus stsmachan tnthth yoomunist mhecised to ritler w-alin PoPtio.iOEub,ds e 19m>Cromamplaioem>, rebnd thr whe whUSAn thhumby c1941-9,h coadrted ap>

FoAng ehth yoWyrace,fhwas onae theners yc, th segaks yhiitminde 19edeo towtg, shich mihond st apowlen ws nf t i,hetouilie Soitrt inDfnpaks g tThOnohmo shng,ten hety hate tas l g th lt oudeckreomstocoie Headira mself aco t“ThYoupowlein hajt wadoatt apmot h eye g, e an allnytmo Ge 19e whPolar Front thee chpty inne. ,he fu hti-mcists nuggle o. coeportseety ht , f k tot thme othg”(sfong wrth sumo. coenlp dananuntfswal dult er Gtm ohfd . (OTohich haWyrace anste td“ThNeier Gtn b I., (247-8)p>

7<46span>The Corpxtawever t adm ithat cye aswere tow tot C sosltlyhykids. ,hd Aftre wa lthilert inDfnlieageciftes yrncon oist aon oa kee dewh lsuppisodeap>

Fob o,tpsychogical a, th hae th thonlp enlthe atIte fhad, een siay tg, eparoi,tadptyg thslogaodecre v a r whe wmtuin er Gs.yNowety hatand itldnocoi.eomstocoie Hefmlaga st whually alsurssis it thhiPen. lstor mentoa it thWyraces sndeetenthth yoitIte flsurssis hs onmu llyIte firndeetenthme not rms ppy. (248)p>

1047span> Le arLawew darrrid th thNewhYorkfogufeuaokesmn ad rdieredt thnaisthreney r whSniegsCof="ugeeThe femcie os stocessfuaobav < itaiok of posf a-ntorportToAs mdiwte, o kestfrs Fraefmwhrenthsrne arLawaIoggdnot thund itIocld boally.ldo i,heis cyIicld bogerstafrit ohngndeme blv> class="fogo-coihref="#ft icle -2113v> v cl="bodiblioaphiey"lass="sidtion Biblioaphieie pan> Alba, Victor & Stephen Schwartz. Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism: A History of the POUM. NJ: Transaction Books, 1988.

Auden, W. H. Poems. London: Faber and Faber, 1930; revised 1933.

——. The Orators: An English Study. London: Faber and Faber, 1932; revised 1934; second revision, London: Faber and Faber, 1966.

——. “A Communist to Others”. The Twentieth Century (September 1932); rpt Michael Roberts (ed.) New Country: Prose and Poetry by the authors of New Signatures. London: The Hogarth Press, 1933, 209-13; rpt Bucknell & Jenkins (eds.). Auden Studies 1, 173-7.

——. “The Protestant Mystics”, rpt in Forewords and Afterwords. London: Faber and Faber, 1974.

——. Collected Shorter Poems. London: Faber and Faber, 1966.

——. “The Cave of Making”. About the House. London: Faber and Faber, 1966, 18-23.

Blick, Robin. Review of Roberts, Unholy Alliance. Revolutionary History, 3:4 (Autumn 1991). Text available at – Updated by ETOL: 22.5.2004.

Bornstein, Sam & Al Richardson. Two Steps Back: Communists and the Wider Labour Movement, 1935- 1945. A study in the relations between vanguard & class. London: Socialist Platform, 1982.

Brockway, Fenner. Will Roosevelt Succeed? A study of fascist tendencies in America. London: Routledge, 1934.

Bucknell, Katherine & Nicholas Jenkins (eds.). Auden Studies, vol 1. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1990.

Cahiers du Bolchevisme, 7th year: 9 (May 1, 1932). Archive of the French Communist Party, translated by Mitch Abidor (CopyLeft: Creative Commons: Attribute & ShareAlike). Text available at 2005.

Carpenter, Humphrey. W. H. Auden: A Biography. London: Allen & Unwin, 1981.

Cockburn, Claud. Crossing the Line. London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1958.

Flewers, Paul. “Cornering the Chameleons: Stalinism and Trotskyism in Britain 1939-41”. Revolutionary History, 6: 2/3 (Summer 1996), 74-104.

Fryer, Peter. Review of King & Matthews. Revolutionary History, 3:4 (Autumn 1991). Text available at – Updated by ETOL: 22.5.2004.

Galassi, John (ed.). Understand the Weapon Understand the Wound: selected writings of John Cornford. Manchester: Carcanet New Press, 1976, 64.

Isherwood, Christopher. Mr Norris Changes Trains. London: The Hogarth Press, 1935.

——. Goodbye to Berlin. London: The Hogarth Press, 1939.

——. Christopher and his Kind 1929-1939. London: Methuen, 1977.

Jellinek, Frank. The Civil War in Spain. London: Gollancz, 1938.

King, Francis & George Matthews (eds.). About Turn: The British Communist Party and the Second World War: The Verbatim Record of the Central Committee Meetings of 25 September and 2-3 October 1939. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990.

Koestler, Arthur. Darkness at Noon. London: Jonathan Cape, 1940.

Laski, Harold. Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time. London: Allen and Unwin, 1943.

Lehmann, John. “The Influence of Spain”. New Writing in England. New York: Critics Group Press, 1939.

——. The Whispering Gallery. London: Longmans, Green, 1955.

Lewis, John, Karl Polyani & Donald R. Kitchin. Christianity and the Social Revolution. London: Victor Gollancz, 1935.

Macaulay, Rose. And No Man’s Wit. London: Collins, 1940.

MacNeice, Louis. The Strings Are False. London: Faber and Faber, 1965.

Nicolson, Harold. Diaries and Letters 1930-39 vol.1. London: Collins, 1966.

Orwell, George.“Spilling the Spanish Beans”. Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, vol 1. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970, 301-9.

Roberts, Geoffrey. Unholy Alliance: Stalin’s Pact With Hitler. London: IB Tauris, 1989.

Smith, Stan. “Auden’s Others”. Contribution to “‘A Communist to Others’: A Symposium”. Bucknell & Jenkins (eds.). Auden Studies, vol 1, 186-91.

——. “Set Still on the Spies’ Career: Auden, Isherwood & Co and the Hermeneutics of Paranoia”. University of Bucharest Review, VI:3, 2004, 166-80.

Spender, Stephen. Poems. London: Faber & Faber, 1933.

——. World Within World. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1951.

——. “Diary”. London Review of Books, 9 April 1992.

Stalin, J. V. Political Report of the Central Committee to the Sixteenth Congress of the CPSU(B), June 27, 1930; Pravda, No. 177, June 29 1930; rpt in J.V. Stalin, Works, vol. 12. Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1955, 242-385.

Symons, Julian. Contribution to “‘A Communist to Others’: A Symposium”. Bucknell & Jenkins (eds.). Auden Studies, vol 1, 178-81.

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1 See on all this Bornstein & Richardson. There is a lucid scholarly summary of Left responses to the Hitler-Stalin Pact, albeit from a Trotskyist point of view, in Flewers. It took the British Right more than a decade to produce its own delayed literary reaction to Churchill’s alliance with the devil, in the classic denunciations of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, which cast a contemptuous eye on what Waugh regarded as Churchill’s class treachery.

2 For the attempt to confirm this reading of Stalin’s foreign policy from Soviet archives, see Roberts, and the devastating critique of his argument by Blick.

3  Cognate formulae appeared in an electronic version of the book Thirty Years – 1922-1952: The Story of the Communist Movement in Canada, describing “the rapid spread of the Communist movement throughout Canada during the 1920s”: “Many workers had been attracted by the practical work and unwavering devotion of the Communists,” while “Other workers were attracted to the movement by the party’s unwavering struggle against the class-collaboration.” “Unwavering devotion”, “unwavering struggle”: these were the key factors maintaining the Comintern’s “unwavering line” on the ground through all the exigencies of the 1930s.

4  I have explored the ideology of this poem more fully in my own contribution to the same symposium, “Auden’s Others” (Bucknell & Jenkins 186-91).

5  It is possible to reconstruct, from Nicolson’s somewhat garbled recollection, that the poem Auden recited is “In the year of my youth…” which remained unpublished in his lifetime. Lucy McDiarmid printed an annotated text in Review of English Studies, August 1978.

6 Van der Lubbe’s manic laughter left a strong impression on audiences who saw it broadcast widely in cinema newsreels. Stephen Spender’s poem “Van der Lubbe” depicts him whispering “Not to Goering, but [to] dear movietone” that “I laugh because my laughter / Is like justice, tested by a howitzer” (Spender Poems 39).

7  Cf. J. V. Stalin: “According to the five-year plan, by the end of the five-year period we were to have a gross grain output from the collective farms amounting to 190,500,000 centners. Actually, already this year we shall have a gross grain output from the collective farms amounting to 256,000,000 centners. This means that already in two years we shall have overfulfilled the five-year programme of collective-farm grain output by over 30 per cent. The five-year plan in two years! (Applause)” (299).

8  On the actual politics of POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista), and attacks on it by both Communists and Trotskyists, see Alba and Schwartz.

9  Koestler had been recruited to the Comintern by the charismatic Willi Muenzenberg, who met his own end, a premature ex-Communist, almost certainly murdered by Stalin’s agents in a French wood in June 1940, as he fled the approaching Nazis. He was admiringly fictionalised by Isherwood in Mr Norris Changes Trains as Ludwig Bayer, the wily and affable leader of the Berlin KPD, in which capacity Isherwood appears to have known him well. On this, see Smith 2004, 169-70.

10  Auden’s elegy for Louis MacNeice, “The Cave of Making”, has a dry comment on this phenomenon. One consequence of the 1930s, he records, was that “any faith if we had it, in immanent virtue died”, and “we shan’t, not since Stalin and Hitler, / trust ourselves ever again: we know that, subjectively, / all is possible” (19). MacNeice himself, that most sceptical of liberal fellow-travellers, recorded in his 1965 autobiography, The Strings Are False,that “The strongest appeal of the Communist Party was that it demanded sacrifice; you had to sink your ego… I had a certain hankering to sink my ego, but was repelled by the priggishness of the Comrades… I joined them however in their hatred of the status quo” (146).

11  “Our generation”, Stephen Spender recollected half a century later, “was conscripted into politics by Hitler”; young writers espoused Communism as the only way to fight fascism, innocently accepting “the Marxist interpretation of history” and believing that “Communism would lead to the freedom of oppressed people, to a world of social justice, and to a depoliticised egalitarian anarchist utopia” (“Diary” 25).

12  Auden knew his poetry could have a similar effect.  The self-loathing of the reformed sinner lies behind his expulsion of “September 1, 1939”, “A Communist to Others” and even the revised “Spain 1937” from his Collected Shorter Poems in 1966. A Foreword explained that such poems had been purged because they were “dishonest”, expressing feelings or beliefs he had never held, “simply because it sounded to me rhetorically effective”.

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Stan SMITH, « From “Class against Class” to the Hitler-Stalin Pact: Some Reflections on the Unwavering Line », E-rea [En ligne], 4.2 | 2006, document 1, mis en ligne le 15 octobre 2006, consulté le 15 décembre 2017. URL :

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Nottingham Trent University
Stan Smith holds the Research Chair in Literary Studies at Nottingham Trent University and is a member of the Executive of the English Association. He has published two books on W. H. Auden (1985, 1997) and was contributory editor of The Cambridge Companion to W. H. Auden (2005). Other books include Inviolable Voice: History and Twentieth-Century Poetry (1982), Edward Thomas (1986), W. B. Yeats: A Critical Introduction (1990), The Origins of Modernism: Eliot, Pound, Yeats and the Rhetorics of Renewal (1994), Irish Poetry and the Construction of Modern Identity (2005). Most recently he was contributory editor of the English Association's centenary volume, Globalisation and its Discontents (2006). He is currently completing a study of Contemporary Poetry and Displacement.

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