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I did a fair bit of reading about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and especially 
how it was seen in Britain, when researching my PhD. The pact really took 
people by surprise, yet if one read Stalin's speech to the CPSU's Eighteenth 
Congress, there were hints that something was already afoot, as Stalin heavily 
implied that Germany was not a threat to the Soviet Union, and that the world's 
bourgeois democracies powers could no longer rely upon Moscow's good favours 
were they to find themselves at war with Germany.

One Trotskyist group in Britain, the Workers International League, considered 
that Stalin's speech showed that Soviet foreign policy was shifting, and saw 
this as a consequence of the uncertainties that had arisen after the Munich 
debacle and the collapse of Czechoslovakia. Its journal concluded: 'Stalin's 
speech of last month further emphasises the uncertainty of Soviet foreign 
policy and his readiness to strike a bargain with Hitler.' This, however, was 
rather the exception. The Communist Party was especially caught on the hop. It 
had reproduced Stalin's speech in its weekly paper without critical comment, 
and a fortnight before the pact was signed, one party leader, Johnny Campbell, 
insisted that there could 'be no rapprochement between the Soviet Union and the 
Fascist states' (Daily Worker, 9 August 1939).

Rather amusingly, after the pact was signed, the Communist Party called for 
another pact, between Britain and the Soviet Union, even though this was 
implicitly prohibited by the clause in the M-R Pact stating that neither of the 
contracting parties would 'participate in any grouping of powers' which was 
'either directly or indirectly aimed against the other contracting party'. The 
party also declared that it would support a war against the fascist powers, 
although Berlin was now allied to Moscow, and it did support Britain's war 
against Germany when it broke out in September. This anomaly was subsequently 
ironed out when in October Moscow ordered the communist parties to oppose the 
war, not without some bother within the British party's Central Committee.

My book, which covers this episode, is still available < 
https://secure.francisboutle.co.uk/product_info.php?cPath=10&products_id=50 >.

Paul F
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