Report to the Eighteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.) on the Work of the Central Committee

J.V. Stalin's assessment of the international situation in March, 1939.

Excerpt from
Report to the Eighteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.) on the Work of the Central Committee

Introduction by the editors: The Soviet Union, uniquely among all the forces in motion during the 1930s, recognised from the outset the real nature of the forces arrayed against it, and the consequences for the future of human civilisation. They set their plans accordingly to defeat all the enemies. They knew early on that the Nazis and their stooges would have to be politically and physically eliminated, while the conciliatory Anglo-Americans would have to be kept at arm's length, even if available for temporary alliance in the process of physically extirpating fascism.

It is a terrible irony that, in the long term, the Hitlerite Nazis were successful in playing the fascist, anti-communist card later adopted by the United States and Britain. As our dossier on war criminals elaborates, the Nazis secured, even in conditions of seeking ways out for themselves as rats deserting a sinking ship, the support and complicity of the US monopoly capitalists for a global anti-communist, anti-peace and counter-revolutionary program that was not even initiated by Washington. When then West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was asked in early 1955 if there should be an official event marking the 10th anniversary of the liberation from the Nazis, he answered: "You don't celebrate your defeats."

Nevertheless, Soviet foreign policy and diplomacy, and especially its integration with the progress toward the various military objectives undertaken by the Soviets at each stage of the war after Hitler's invasion ("Operation Barbarossa"), paralysed the best efforts and very considerable skills of the Third Reich. The approaches of Joseph Stalin, widely acknowledged during the Second World War, repeatedly stymied the Hitlerites' general tactic of hurling overwhelming force at carefully delimited target countries and rumps-of-countries after such countries had been shorn of allies or any other serious prospect of assistance from outside. Thus did the Nazis manage to lose a war for which they had been uniquely prepared in terms of men and materiel -- far more than any of their adversaries, until as late as 1944 -- to win.

To acquaint our readers with the actual Soviet policy in the face of the ominous developments of the late 1930s, we are reproducing an excerpt on the international situation from the report delivered to the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) by Joseph Stalin, its First Secretary.

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J. V. Stalin, March 10, 1939

AS NAZI PANZER divisions were moving into Czechoslovakia, and just five months after Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy had signed the Munich Pact on 29-30 September, 1938, which provided Germany with the division of Czechoslovakia, Joseph Stalin warned the appeasement politicians of England and France that their anti-Soviet policy would end in a disaster for themselves. Stalin spoke in Moscow on March 10, 1939, before the Eighteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Uniquely among all the forces in motion recognised from the outset the forces arrayed against it and the future of human civilisation, and set their plans accordingly to defeat all the enemies. They knew early on that the Nazis and their stooges would have to be physically eliminated, while the Anglo-Americans would have to be kept at arm's length even if available for temporary alliance in the process of physically extirpating fascism.

The undeclared war, said Stalin, which the Axis powers were already waging in Europe and Asia, under the mask of the Anti-Comintern Pact, was directed not only against Soviet Russia but also, and now in fact primarily, against the interests of England, France and the United States. Stalin's warning was ignored.

I. The International Position of the Soviet Union

1. New Economic Crisis in the Capitalist Countries.

2. Intensification of the Struggle for Markets and Sources of Raw Material, and for a New Redivision of the World Increasing Acuteness of the International Political Situation.

3. Collapse of the Post-War System of Peace Treaties. Beginning of a New Imperialist War

The Soviet Union and the Capitalist Countries

Comrades, five years have elapsed since the Seventeenth Party Congress. No small period, as you see. During this period the world has undergone considerable changes. States and countries, and their mutual relations, are now in many respects totally altered.

What changes exactly have taken place in this period in the international situation? In what way exactly has the external and internal position of our country changed?

For the capitalist countries this period was one of very profound perturbations in both the economic and political spheres. In the economic sphere these were years of depression, followed, from the beginning of the latter half of 1937, by a period of new economic crisis, of a new decline of industry in the United States, Britain and France consequently, these were years of new economic complications. In the political sphere they were years of serious political conflicts and perturbations. A new imperialist war is already in its second year, a war waged over a huge territory stretching from Shanghai to Gibraltar, and involving over 500 million people. The map of Europe, Africa and Asia is being forcibly redrawn. The entire post-war system, the so-called peace regime, has been shaken to its foundations.

For the Soviet Union, on the contrary, these were years of growth and prosperity, of further economic and cultural progress, of further growth of political and military might, of struggle for the preservation of peace throughout the world.

Such is the general picture.

Let us now examine the concrete data illustrating the changes in the international situation.


The economic crisis which broke out in the capitalist countries in the latter half of 1929 lasted until the end of 1933. After that the crisis passed into a depression, and was then followed by a certain revival, a certain upward trend of industry. But this upward trend of industry did not develop into a boom, as is usually the case in a period of revival. On the contrary, in the latter half of 1937 a new economic crisis began which seized first of all the United States and then Britain, France and a number of other countries.

The capitalist countries thus found themselves faced with a new economic crisis before they had even recovered from the ravages of the recent one.

This circumstance naturally led to an increase of unemployment. The number of unemployed in the capitalist countries, which had fallen from 30 million in 1933 to 14 million in 1937, has now again risen to 18 million as a result of the new crisis.

A distinguishing feature of the new crisis is that it differs in many respects from the preceding one, and, moreover, differs for the worse and not for the better.

Firstly, the new crisis did not begin after an industrial boom, as was the case in 1929, but after a depression and a certain revival, which, however, did not develop into a boom. This means that the present crisis will be more severe and more difficult to cope with than the previous crisis.

Further, the present crisis has broken out not in time of peace, but at a time when a second imperialist war has already begun; when Japan, already in the second year of its war with China, is disorganizing the immense Chinese market and rendering it almost inaccessible to the goods of other countries; when Italy and Germany have already placed their national economies on a war footing, squandering their reserves of raw material and foreign currency for this purpose; and when all the other big capitalist powers are beginning to reorganize themselves on a war footing. This means that capitalism will have far less resources at its disposal for a normal recovery from the present crisis than during the preceding one.

Lastly, as distinct from the preceding crisis, the present crisis is not universal, but as yet involves chiefly the economically powerful countries which have not yet placed themselves on a war economy basis. As regards the aggressive countries, such as Japan, Germany and Italy, which have already reorganized their economies on a war footing, they, because of the intense development of their war industry, are not yet experiencing a crisis of over-production, although they are approaching it. This means that by the time the economically powerful, non-aggressive countries begin to emerge from the phase of crisis the aggressive countries, having exhausted their reserves of gold and raw material in the course of the war fever, are bound to enter a phase of very severe crisis.

This is clearly illustrated, for example, by the figures for the visible gold reserves of the capitalist countries.


(In millions of former gold dollars )

End of 1936
September 1938

This table shows that the combined gold reserves of Germany, Italy and Japan amount to less than the reserves of Switzerland alone.

Here are a few figures illustrating the state of crisis of industry in the capitalist countries during the past five years and the trend of industrial progress in the U.S.S.R.



This table shows that the Soviet Union is the only country in the world where crises are unknown and where industry is continuously on the upgrade.

This table also shows that a serious economic crisis has already begun and is developing in the United States, Britain and France.

Further, this table shows that in Italy and Japan, who placed their national economies on a war footing earlier than Germany, the downward course of industry already began in 1938.

Lastly, this table shows that in Germany, which reorganized its economy on a war footing later than Italy and Japan, industry is still experiencing a certain upward trend -- although a small one, it is true -- as was the case in Japan and Italy until recently.

There can be no doubt that unless something unforeseen occurs, German industry must enter the same downward path as Japan and Italy have already taken. For what does placing the economy of a country on a war footing mean? It means giving industry a one-sided, war direction; developing to the utmost the production of goods necessary for war and not for consumption by the population; restricting to the utmost the production and, especially, the sale of articles of general consumption -- and, consequently, reducing consumption by the population and confronting the country with an economic crisis.

Such is the concrete picture of the trend of the new economic crisis in the capitalist countries.

Naturally, such an unfavourable turn of economic affairs could not but aggravate relations among the powers. The preceding crisis had already mixed the cards and sharpened the struggle for markets and sources of raw materials. The seizure of Manchuria and North China by Japan, the seizure of Abyssinia by Italy -- all this reflected the acuteness of the struggle among the powers. The new economic crisis was bound to lead, and is actually leading, to a further sharpening of the imperialist struggle. It is no longer a question of competition in the markets, of a commercial war, of dumping. These methods of struggle have long been recognized as inadequate. It is now a question of a new redivision of the world, of spheres of influence and colonies, by military action.

Japan tried to justify its aggressive actions with the argument that it had been cheated when the Nine-Power Pact was concluded and had not been allowed to extend its territory at the expense of China, whereas Britain and France possess vast colonies Italy recalled that it had been cheated during the division of the spoils after the first imperialist war and that it must recompense itself at the expense of the spheres of influence of Britain and France. Germany, who had suffered severely as a result of the first imperialist war and the Peace of Versailles, joined forces with Japan and Italy and demanded an extension of its territory in Europe and the return of the colonies of which the victors in the first imperialist war had deprived it.

Thus the bloc of three aggressive states came to be formed.

A new redivision of the world by means of war became imminent.


Here is a list of the most important events during the period under review which marked the beginning of a new imperialist war. In 1935 Italy attacked and seized Abyssinia. In the summer of 1936 Germany and Italy organized military intervention in Spain, Germany entrenching itself in the north of Spain and in Spanish Morocco, and Italy in the south of Spain and in the Balearic Islands. In 1937, having seized Manchuria, Japan invaded North and Central China, occupied Peking, Tientsin and Shanghai and began to oust its foreign competitors from the occupied zone. In the beginning of 1938 Germany seized Austria, and in the autumn of 1938 the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia. At the end of 1938 Japan seized Canton, and at the beginning of 1939 the Island of Hainan.

Thus the war, which has stolen so imperceptibly upon the nations, has drawn over 500 million people into its orbit and has extended its sphere of action over a vast territory, stretching from Tientsin, Shanghai and Canton, through Abyssinia, to Gibraltar.

After the first imperialist war the victor states, primarily Britain, France and the United States, set up a new regime in the relations between countries, the post-war peace regime. The main props of this regime were the Nine-Power Pact in the Far East, and the Versailles and a number of other treaties in Europe. The League of Nations was set up to regulate relations between countries within the framework of this regime, on the basis of a united front of states, of collective defence of the security of states. However, three aggressive states, and the new imperialist war launched by them, upset the entire system of this post-war peace regime. Japan tore up the Nine-Power Pact, and Germany and Italy the Versailles Treaty. In order to have their hands free, these three states withdrew from the League of Nations.

The new imperialist war became a fact.

It is not so easy in our day suddenly to break loose and plunge straight into war without regard for treaties of any kind or for public opinion. Bourgeois politicians know this quite well. So do the fascist rulers. That is why the fascist rulers decided, before plunging into war, to mould public opinion to suit their ends, that is, to mislead it, to deceive it.

A military bloc of Germany and Italy against the interests of Britain and France in Europe? Bless us, do you call that a bloc? "We" have no military bloc. All "we" have is an innocuous "Berlin-Rome axis"; that is, just a geometrical equation for an axis. (Laughter.)

A military bloc of Germany, Italy and Japan against the interests of the United States, Britain and France in the Far East? Nothing of the kind! "We" have no military bloc. All "we" have is an innocuous "Berlin-Rome-Tokyo triangle"; that is, a slight penchant for geometry. (General laughter.)

A war against the interests of Britain, France, the United States? Nonsense! "We" are waging war on the Comintern, not on these states. If you don't believe it, read the "anti-Comintern pact" concluded between Italy, Germany and Japan.

That is how Messieurs the aggressors thought to mould public opinion, although it was not hard to see how preposterous this clumsy game of camouflage was; for it is ridiculous to look for Comintern "hotbeds" in the deserts of Mongolia, in the mountains of Abyssinia, or in the wilds of Spanish Morocco. (Laughter.)

But war is inexorable. It cannot be hidden under any guise. For no "axes," "triangles" or "anti-Comintern pacts" can hide the fact that in this period Japan has seized a vast stretch of territory in China, that Italy has seized Abyssinia, that Germany has seized Austria and the Sudeten region, that Germany and Italy together have seized Spain -- and all this in defiance of the interests of the non-aggressive states. The war remains a war; the military bloc of aggressors remains a military bloc; and the aggressors remain aggressors.

It is a distinguishing feature of the new imperialist war that it has not yet become a universal, a world war. The war is being waged by aggressor states, who in every way infringe upon the interests of the non-aggressive states, primarily Britain, France and the U.S.A., while the latter draw back and retreat, making concession after concession to the aggressors.

Thus we are witnessing an open redivision of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states, without the least attempt at resistance, and even with a certain connivance, on their part.

Incredible, but true.

To what are we to attribute this one-sided and strange character of the new imperialist war?

How is it that the non-aggressive countries, which possess such vast opportunities, have so easily and without resistance abandoned their positions and their obligations to please the aggressors?

Is it to be attributed to the weakness of the non-aggressive states? Of course not! Combined, the non-aggressive, democratic states are unquestionably stronger than the fascist states, both economically and militarily.

To what then are we to attribute the systematic concessions made by these states to the aggressors?

It might be attributed, for example, to the fear that a revolution might break out if the non-aggressive states were to go to war and the war were to assume world-wide proportions. The bourgeois politicians know, of course, that the first imperialist world war led to the victory of the revolution in one of the largest countries. They are afraid that a second imperialist world war may also lead to the victory of the revolution in one or several countries.

But at present this is not the sole or even the chief reason. The chief reason is that the majority of the non-aggressive countries, particularly Britain and France, have rejected the policy of collective security, the policy of collective resistance to aggressors, and have taken up a position of non-intervention, a position of "neutrality."

Formally speaking, the policy of non-intervention might be defined as follows: "Let each country defend itself against the aggressors as it likes and as best it can. That is not our affair We shall trade both with the aggressors and with their victims." But actually speaking, the policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war, and, consequently, transforming the war into a world war. The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder the aggressors in their nefarious work: not to hinder Japan, say, from embroiling itself in a war with China, or better still, with the Soviet Union; not to hinder Germany, say, from enmeshing itself in European affairs, from embroiling itself in a war with the Soviet Union; to allow all the belligerents to sink deeply into the mire of war, to encourage them surreptitiously in this; to allow them to weaken and exhaust one another; and then, when they have become weak enough, to appear on the scene with fresh strength, to appear, of course, "in the interests of peace," and to dictate conditions to the enfeebled belligerents.

Cheap and easy!

Take Japan, for instance. It is characteristic that before Japan invaded North China all the influential French and British newspapers shouted about China's weakness and its inability to offer resistance, and declared that Japan with its army could subjugate China in two or three months. Then the European and American politicians began to watch and wait. And then, when Japan commenced military operations, they let it have Shanghai, the vital centre of foreign capital in China; they let it have Canton, a centre of Britain's monopoly influence in South China; they let it have Hainan, and they allowed it to surround Hongkong. Does not this look very much like encouraging the aggressor? It is as though they were saying: "Embroil yourself deeper in war; then we shall see."

Or take Germany, for instance. They let it have Austria, despite the undertaking to defend its independence; they let it have the Sudeten region; they abandoned Czechoslovakia to her fate, thereby violating all their obligations; and then they began to lie vociferously in the press about "the weakness of the Russian army," "the demoralization of the Russian air force," and "riots" in the Soviet Union, egging on the Germans to march farther east, promising them easy pickings, and prompting them: "Just start war on the Bolsheviks, and everything will be all right." It must be admitted that this too looks very much like egging on and encouraging the aggressor.

The hullabaloo raised by the British, French and American press over the Soviet Ukraine is characteristic. The gentlemen of the press there shouted until they were hoarse that the Germans were marching on the Soviet Ukraine, that they now had what is called the Carpathian Ukraine, with a population of some 700,000 and that not later than this spring the Germans would annex the Soviet Ukraine, which has a population of over 30 million, to this so-called Carpathian Ukraine. It looks as if the object of this suspicious hullabaloo was to incense the Soviet Union against Germany, to poison the atmosphere and to provoke a conflict with Germany without any visible grounds.

It is quite possible, of course, that there are madmen in Germany who dream of annexing the elephant, that is, the Soviet Ukraine, to the gnat, namely, the so-called Carpathian Ukraine. If there really are such lunatics in Germany, rest assured that we shall find enough strait jackets for them in our country. (Thunderous applause.) But if we ignore the madmen and turn to normal people, is it not clearly absurd and foolish seriously to talk of annexing the Soviet Ukraine to this so-called Carpathian Ukraine? Imagine: the gnat comes to the elephant and says perkily: "Ah, brother, how sorry I am for you. . . . Here you are without any landlords, without any capitalists, with no national oppression, without any fascist bosses. Is that a way to live? . . . I look at you and I can't help thinking that there is no hope for you unless you annex yourself to me. . . . (General laughter.) Well, so be it: I allow you to annex your tiny domain to my vast territories.

. . ." (General laughter and applause.)

Even more characteristic is the fact that certain European and American politicians and pressmen, having lost patience waiting for "the march on the Soviet Ukraine," are themselves beginning to disclose what is really behind the policy of non-intervention. They are saying quite openly, putting it down in black on white, that the Germans have cruelly "disappointed" them; for instead of marching farther east, against the Soviet Union, they have turned, you see, to the west and are demanding colonies. One might think that the districts of Czechoslovakia were yielded to Germany as the price of an undertaking to launch war on the Soviet Union, but that now the Germans are refusing to meet their bills and are sending them to Hades.

Far be it from me to moralize on the policy of non-intervention, to talk of treason, treachery and so on. It would be naive to preach morals to people who recognize no human morality. Politics are politics, as the old, case-hardened bourgeois diplomats say. It must be remarked, however, that the big and dangerous political game started by the supporters of the policy of non-intervention may end in serious fiasco for them. Such is the true face of the now prevailing policy of non-intervention.

Such is the political situation in the capitalist countries.


The war has created a new situation with regard to the relations between countries. It has enveloped them in an atmosphere of alarm and uncertainty. By undermining the basis of the post-war peace regime and overriding the elementary principles of international law, it has cast doubt on the value of international treaties and obligations. Pacifism and disarmament schemes are dead and buried. Feverish arming has taken their place. Everybody is arming, small states and big states, including primarily those which practise the policy of non-intervention. Nobody believes any longer in the unctuous speeches which claim that the Munich concessions to the aggressors and the Munich agreement opened a new era of "appeasement." They are disbelieved even by the signatories to the Munich agreement, Britain and France, who are increasing their armaments no less than other countries.

Naturally, the U.S.S.R. could not ignore these ominous developments. There is no doubt that any war, however small, started by the aggressors in any remote corner of the world constitutes a danger to the peace-loving countries. All the more serious then is the danger arising from the new imperialist war, which has already drawn into its orbit over 500 million people in Asia, Africa and Europe. In view of this, while our country is unswervingly pursuing a policy of maintaining peace, it is at the same time working very seriously to increase the preparedness of our Red Army and our Red Navy.

At the same time, in order to strengthen its international position, the Soviet Union decided to take certain other steps. At the end of 1934 our country joined the League of Nations, considering that despite its weakness the League might nevertheless serve as a place where aggressors could be exposed, and as a certain instrument of peace, however feeble, that might hinder the outbreak of war. The Soviet Union considers that in alarming times like these even so weak an international organization as the League of Nations should not be ignored. In May 1935 a treaty of mutual assistance against possible attack by aggressors was signed between France and the Soviet Union. A similar treaty was simultaneously concluded with Czechoslovakia. In March 1936 the Soviet Union concluded a treaty of mutual assistance with the Mongolian People's Republic. In August 1937 the Soviet Union concluded a pact of non-aggression with the Chinese Republic.

It was in such difficult international conditions that the Soviet Union pursued its foreign policy of upholding the cause of peace.

The foreign policy of the Soviet Union is clear and explicit.

1. We stand for peace and the strengthening of business relations with all countries. That is our position; and we shall adhere to this position as long as these countries maintain like relations with the Soviet Union, and as long as they make no attempt to trespass on the interests of our country.

2. We stand for peaceful, close and friendly relations with all the neighbouring countries which have common frontiers with the U.S.S.R. That is our position; and we shall adhere to this position as long as these countries maintain like relations with the Soviet Union, and as long as they make no attempt to trespass, directly or indirectly, on the integrity and inviolability of the frontiers of the Soviet state.

3. We stand for the support of nations which are the victims of aggression and are fighting for the independence of their country.

4. We are not afraid of the threats of aggressors, and are ready to return two blows for every one delivered by warmongers who attempt to violate our Soviet frontiers.

Such is the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. (Loud and prolonged applause.)

In its foreign policy the Soviet Union relies upon:

1) Its growing economic, political and cultural might.

2) The moral and political unity of our Soviet society.

3) The mutual friendship of the peoples of our country.

4) Its Red Army and Red Navy.

5) Its policy of peace.

6) The moral support of the working people of all countries, who are vitally concerned in the preservation of peace.

7) The good sense of the countries which for one reason or another have no interest in the violation of peace.

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The tasks of the Party in the sphere of foreign policy are:

1) To continue the policy of peace and of strengthening business relations with all countries.

2) To be cautious and not allow our country to be drawn into conflicts by warmongers who are accustomed to have others pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them.

3) To strengthen the might of our Red Army and Red Navy to the utmost.

4) To strengthen the international bonds of friendship with the working people of all countries, who are interested in peace and friendship among nations.

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From J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Foreign Languages
Press, Peking, 1976 pp. 874-942.
Prepared for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, (March 1998)


The present English edition of J. V. Stalin's Problems of Leninism corresponds to the eleventh Russian edition of 1952. The English translation up to page 766 (including the relevant notes at the end of the book) is taken from Stalin's Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953-55, Vol. 6 and Vols. 8-13, while the rest is taken from the same publishers' 1953 edition of Problems of Leninism. Minor changes have been made in the translation and the notes.

Volume and page references to Lenin's Works made in the text are to the third Russian edition. References to English translations are added, as footnotes, by the present publisher.

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