The Russian revolution of October 19I7 gave birth to the first State which claimed that it was putting into practice the precepts of Marx and Engels. It also called into existence a plethora of Communist or Workers' Parties modelled on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. These parties, tied closely to the U.S.S.R. in the Third International or Comintern, were overtly and covertly to pursue policies which enhanced the position of the first Workers' and Peasants' State and promoted the cause of revolutionary Socialism at home. Several attempts, some successful as in Hungary and Bavaria, were made to emulate the victory of Lenin in the Soviet Union. Their success, however, was short-lived. Germany held out hopes for revolutionary change, in the aftermath of war and defeat. The unsuccessful uprising of October 1923 marked the end of the dream of a Socialist Germany becoming the fulcrum of European and then world revolution. The rise of National Socialism set the adrenalin flowing once again in Moscow. Stalin misread the theory and practice of Fascism and indirectly aided Hitler's accession to power in Germany in January 1933. The Soviet Union realised her mistake a short time later, and at the VIIth Congress of the Comintern in August 1935 launched the popular front strategy. Fascism was regarded as a very dangerous phenomenon. Consequently Communists were to offer their hand to all political forces willing to take part in the struggle to contain the new and most dangerous threat to the Soviet Union since the end of Allied intervention in 1920. Germany and Italy found many imitators in Europe, and the risk was increasing daily that they might find common cause and attack the Soviet Union. The Soviets had read and taken note of Mein Kampf even if others had not.
Stalin's policy, given the military might of Germany and the uncertain quality of the Red Army, especially after the purges, was to hold the National Socialist threat at arm's length. The Soviet Union was suspicious of British and French efforts to entangle her in an anti-German alliance. What if Britain and France refused to fight when the moment of truth arrived? Stalin reasoned that the Soviet Union's interests would be better served by coming to an agreement with Fascist Germany. That way the Wehrmacht could become embroiled in a general European war, round two of the 1914-18 struggle, the only difference being that this time the U.S.S.R. would be on the sidelines, able to intervene when she thought it most advantageous to do so. By taking this decision Stalin made war in Europe inevitable in late 1939. He must have considered the prospects of the Wehrmacht routing all opposition very slim indeed, since he must have . . .