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Fourth International, November-December 1947


The Russian Question Today

(Stalinism and the Fourth International)

Draft Theses Adopted by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International [1*]

2. Stalinism Outside Russia


From Fourth International, November-December 1947, Vol.8 No.9, pp.264-270.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The Nature of the “Buffer-Zone” Countries

In the countries occupied by the USSR, the contradictory nature of the. bureaucracy is most clearly shown, and the overwhelming preponderance of its reactionary policy over its historic connection with the production relations inherited from the October Revolution can be grasped most clearly.

The countries of Eastern Europe which the Stalinist bureaucracy occupied militarily since 1944 were, with the exception of Finland, countries where the bourgeoisie, already very weak and dependent on foreign capital, had during the war suffered mortal blows from German imperialism on the one side, and the masses in revolt on the other. The Polish bourgeoisie was largely decimated by the Nazis. In Yugoslavia, the bourgeoisie was completely uprooted by the civil war. In Czechoslovakia, it lost most of its positions in heavy industry owing to German imperialist expansion and, in May 1945, witnessed the seizure of its factories by the workers. In Bulgaria, it faced a revolutionary tide which threatened all its positions. In Hungary, Rumania and Finland, its economic structure was shattered by the war and the defeat. All these countries were ripe for the socialist revolution.

In the face of this mortal danger, the bourgeoisie in these countries sought and readily accepted a compromise with the Soviet bureaucracy, which was imposed upon it by the international balance of forces. This was a “lesser evil” compared to a revolutionary overthrow. In Finland, Rumania and Hungary, it succeeded in effecting a poor transfer of power from one bourgeois combination to another, more acceptable to the bureaucracy. The bourgeoisie had to pay the following price for the maintenance of its essential social privileges:

  1. Armistice terms and peace treaties, allowing the bureaucracy to seize German property in these countries, and imposing onerous, long-term reparation payments.
  2. The establishment of mixed companies for the exploitation of the sources of raw material of vital importance, etc.
  3. A purge of its state apparatus of all elements hostile to the USSR, as well as the handing over to native Stalinist agents of the Moscow bureaucracy of a series of key positions in the army, repressive apparatus, administration, etc.

The bourgeoisie of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, or rather, what remained of it at the time of the Russian occupation, had to give in to the combined pressure of the revolutionary tide and of the Soviet occupation, and accepted, without resistance, a series of economic reforms. In part, these corresponded to the needs of capitalist economy (necessity of making good the capital shortage; necessity of replacing the German owners, etc.) In part, they were due to the pressure of the Soviet bureaucracy. This acceptance assumed the form of a conscious compromise (Czechoslovakia) or an outright imposition (Yugoslavia), depending on the relative strength left to the bourgeoisie at that moment. Based on the same factor as well as on the degree of independence of the mass movement, the Stalinists were able to occupy more or less rapidly all the key positions of the bourgeois state apparatus.

During the whole of this first stage, Stalinist politics were dominated by their counter-revolutionary character. The latter was essentially shown in two ways:

  1. By the policies of nationalism and “national unity” carried out by the Stalinist parties, endeavoring to prevent, brake or stop any independent mass actions. They concluded alliances with the most reactionary forces (Rumanian Court, Finnish big bourgeoisie, semi-fascist Bulgarian Zveno, Grabski’s National Democrats in Poland). They broke all the nuclei of dual power built up by the workers. They tried to repress more and more any manifestation of working-class opposition; of organizational independence, etc.
  2. By the regime of terror and military dictatorship with which the Russian army broke revolutionary initiative, especially in Germany, Austria and Hungary.
  3. By the pillage which constitutes the economic policy of the Soviet bureaucracy vis-a-vis these countries (reparations, mixed societies, trade agreements, etc.) and by the national and police oppression which it established in different degrees in several of these countries.

This whole stage was characterized as an effort to exploit the resources of the “buffer zone” and to ensure its strategic control, while at the same time maintaining capitalist production relations and a bourgeois state structure.

The resistance of the bourgeoisie and the better-off layers of the petty-bourgeoisie of these countries to the policy of the Soviet bureaucracy, stiffened in direct proportion to the recession of the mass movement (resulting from the demoralization of the proletariat by the Stalinist policy and reactionary role of the Russian occupation), and in direct proportion to the growth of Soviet-US contradictions. The bourgeoisie of the “buffer zone” knows very well that without direct aid from American imperialism it will never succeed in getting rid of Russian overlordship.

The Soviet bureaucracy, on the other hand, cannot under any circumstances tie this bourgeoisie to itself from the economic point of view – in the same way as the imperialist bourgeoisie succeeded in allying to itself the colonial bourgeoisie. It cannot supply the “buffer-zone” countries either with capital or industrial equipment which these countries need to carry out their economic reconstruction. To the extent that these reconstruction needs make themselves felt more urgently, the bourgeoisie considers Russian exactions more and more odious. Its resistance to these exactions grows on the economic as well as the political field. At the same time, the growing difficulties of “nationalized” industry, the inflation and financial disorder, the rapid concentration of agricultural production in the hands of well-to-do peasants (in whose favor the agrarian reform has worked), the spread of speculation, the accumulation of foreign exchange by the commercial bourgeoisie, the famine, etc., multiply the difficulties facing the Soviet bureaucracy and its native Stalinist agents. They have no way of attaining, within the framework of capitalist production relations, the economic aims they are pursuing (reparation deliveries at fixed rates, increase of trade, increased production in the mixed companies, etc.).

In view of these difficulties, and in view of the fact that the bureaucracy can appeal to the masses only to a very limited extent (which is determined by the more. or less complete control it believes it possesses over their movement), there are only two means of struggle left:

  1. The elimination, step by step, through police terror, of all centers of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois opposition. This has so far been successful in Yugoslavia. In Bulgaria it has managed to eliminate the main centers, with the exception of the Church. In Poland, Rumania and in Hungary, it is driving toward the same objectives. In Czechoslovakia and Finland, where the position of the bourgeoisie is much more solid, the Stalinists have not yet seriously attacked the political power centers of the bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeoisie.
  2. Imposition on the bourgeoisie of control measures, by political and police pressure which, while keeping economy on a profit basis, deprive the capitalists of the possibility of disposing of the means of production and force the economy to orient itself along the road dictated by Moscow. These measures are comparable to those imposed by German imperialism, on the bourgeoisie of the countries occupied in Western Europe. But they differ from the latter insofar as the social nature of Russian economy is different from the capitalist economy of these countries and insofar as a total integration of these economies into Soviet economy necessitates their structural assimilation by the latter and the abolition of capitalism.

The tendency toward structural assimilation was at first manifested exclusively in the countries and areas annexed by the USSR (Karelia, Petsamo, Baltic countries, Eastern Poland, Bessarabia, etc.). To the extent that the bureaucracy repressed in these areas all revolutionary aspirations of the masses, the destruction of the old production relations could only take place by means of the physical destruction of the old owning classes (deportations to Siberia, mass expulsions, etc.). But it has also started to manifest itself in certain countries of the “buffer-zone” insofar as the bureaucracy is repeating, here, the experience of 1927, namely: That it is impossible to maintain and increase its resources by following a “course towards the kulak,” by benefiting from bourgeois production relations. While being capable of imposing on the bourgeoisie, through diplomatic and military pressure, certain measures contrary to its interests (the “Molotov plan,” unprofitable industrialization, etc.), the bureaucracy will, in the long run, prove incapable of successfully carrying out the veritable structural assimilation which demands the destruction of capitalism. This can be achieved on so large a scale only by the proletarian revolution.

The capitalist nature of the production relations in the “buffer-zone” countries and the fundamental difference between their economy and that of Russia, even at the time of the NEP, can be clearly seen from the following factors:

  1. Nowhere has there been any real large-scale expropriation of the bourgeoisie (a certain section of the capitalists were, however, placed in the category of “collaborators” and expropriated).
  2. Nowhere have the nationalizations affected more than 60% of the industrial capital, employing more than 40% of the wage-earners. The majority of the proletariat is still employed by private capitalists. (The parallel figure for Russia during the NEP is 90%!)
  3. The greater part of merchant capital remains in the hands of private capitalists.
  4. The nationalized enterprises retain their own individual management and accounting system. They are not managed in the same way as the Soviet trusts or “combines.”
  5. Nowhere were foreign debts cancelled.
  6. Foreign capital has nowhere been expropriated; where its property was nationalized, compensation is being paid.
  7. The land has not been nationalized.
  8. There is no foreign trade monopoly (although the Bulgarian and Yugoslav constitutions permit “complete State control” over trade).

The characteristic feature of the maintenance of capitalism – and the fundamental difference with the Russia of the NEP – is the fact that the possessing classes as such had been completely destroyed by the October Revolution, whereas they still exist in the “buffer-zone” countries to the same extent as they did at the beginning of the Soviet occupation. Only the Stalinists, who have developed the theory of a “new democracy,” claim to be able to destroy capitalism “coldly,” gradually, simply by the radiation of the USSR upon the “buffer-zone” countries. To deny the “capitalist nature of these countries amounts to an acceptance, in one form or another, of this Stalinist revisionist theory. It means seriously to envisage the historic possibility of a destruction of capitalism by “terror from above” without the revolutionary intervention of the masses.

But the peculiarity of the “buffer-zone” countries consists in the fact that the Soviet bureaucracy has succeeded, for the time being, in orienting the capitalist State and capitalist economy in a sense corresponding, in the first place, to its own interests. This situation can only be transitional It must end either in the bureaucracy’s withdrawal from its position, under the pressure of imperialism and of the native capitalists in these countries, or in the real destruction of capitalism, which can take place only as a result of the revolutionary mobilization of the masses.

The Revolutionary Strategy in the “Buffer-Zone” Countries

The political situation in the “buffer-zone” countries for which the Fourth International must elaborate its revolutionary strategy, is determined by the following three factors:

  1. The existence, in different degrees, of a Stalinist police dictatorship in these countries (except for the present, in Finland and Czechoslovakia).
  2. The extraordinary weakening of capitalism at the end of the war, which has everywhere thrown the conservative elements back upon intermediary formations (peasant parties).
  3. The demoralization of the proletariat, as a result of the reactionary policy of Stalinism, which has brought about the retreat of the working class masses from the political arena. This has profoundly upset the social balance of forces, has again inspired the bourgeois layers, who had in 1944 lost confidence in their “historic task,” and has reoriented the petty-bourgeoisie toward organizations on the extreme right.

It follows that the real balance of forces is completely misrepresented in the field of parliamentarism or of legal parties. The main support of the present government coalitions is the power and influence of the Soviet bureaucracy. Only in Finland, Czechoslovakia and to a certain extent in Hungary, have the collaborationist sections of the bourgeoisie been able to stay in power under more favorable conditions. In the other countries, these sections – mostly represented by the peasant parties – have been fighting to restore the old regime.

The mood of the masses is dominated by two preoccupations which are, to a certain extent, contradictory:

  1. The mass of workers and poor peasants are deeply opposed to any return of the prewar situation. In general, they enthusiastically welcomed the reforms of 1945 and had great illusions about the possibility of rebuilding these countries on “socialist” bases as a result of these reforms. It is precisely the masses’ fear that a victory of the anti-Stalinist opposition would mean a return to the former situation, that largely paralyzes their efforts and enhances their passivity. Misery and concentration on purely economic problems are working in the same direction.
  2. The growing hostility toward the dictatorial tendencies of the pro-Stalinist governments and toward the reactionary role of the Soviet bureaucracy. The most active resentment has been expressed by the more advanced workers’ strata (in Poland, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria) against measures that forbid free expressions of the class struggle in private as well as nationalized industry. The absence of a revolutionary party to support these justified aspirations of the masses threatens to divert the most “activist” worker elements to the conservative camp of the national bourgeoisie.

The revolutionary vanguard must formulate a policy which corresponds to these two basic aspirations of the masses.

  1. The Bolshevik-Leninist militants must resolutely place themselves at the head of all mass actions in defense of living standards and democratic freedoms. They must be in the forefront of strikes, demonstrations, actions for the improvement of the workers’ living and working conditions, protests against any restriction of the freedom of organization, assembly, speech, press, etc. They must pose the necessity of a struggle for the evacuation of these countries by Russian troops, and place this struggle within the framework of the revolutionary program for the whole of Europe, making possible the rebuilding of these countries by means of the free cooperation between free Socialist Republics.
  2. The Bolshevik-Leninist militants must at the same time pronounce themselves as the firmest opponents of any return to the situation of the past. They must constantly warn the masses against the manifestation and growth of the reactionary forces and clearly point out Stalinist responsibility for this situation. In the case of any reactionary restorationist coups d’etat, led by imperialist agents, they must mobilize the proletariat in order to resort to action and crush the forces which can only establish a bloody fascist dictatorship in the country (as in Greece). In such a case, a proletariat victorious against its own bourgeoisie, through its own revolutionary mobilization, would easily eliminate what remains of the Stalinist apparatus. Only the abstention of the proletariat and the lack of a revolutionary party could strengthen the Stalinist dictatorship after the defeat of the reactionary bourgeois forces.

This position has nothing in common with that of the “third front,” since it is a position of active intervention. In the struggle between the workers and poor peasants on the one side, and the Stalinist apparatus on the other, it would actively intervene on the workers’ side, as in this struggle and sympathy and support of the bourgeoisie will be completely on the side of the regime. In the event of an armed attack of bourgeois reaction against the present regime, it will mobilize the working class against the bourgeoisie. This will be the surest way of liquidating both capitalism and the Stalinist dictatorship. It defends the historic interests of the masses and strives, here as everywhere else, to transform every partial fight into a struggle for the socialist revolution. This does not in any way contradict our analysis of the USSR. It only applies in practice

  1. the fact that the reactionary features of the Russian occupation by far outweigh its progressive features;
  2. the, subordination of the defense of the remnants of the October conquests to the interests of the world revolution.

However, these two combined political tasks cannot enter the field of action before the next stage. At the present time – that of retreat and disorientation of the masses in the “buffer zone” – the tasks of the vanguard are twofold: to prepare, by propaganda, and education, cadres for effective intervention in the coming tide, and to link these cadres more closely with the advanced strata of the proletariat by active intervention in all their struggles. The workers’ political life is today concentrated in these, countries in the Social Democratic parties. The differentiation which has taken place there, has up till now been distorted by the absence of a revolutionary tendency. The most active anti-Stalinist working class elements have thus been canalized by the right-wing Social Democrats, seeking an alliance with the bourgeois “left” and imperialism. It is the duty of the Bolshevik-Leninists in the “buffer-zone” countries to build up, inside the Social Democratic parties, a revolutionary tendency opposed both to the capitulators to the bourgeoisie and to Stalinism. Insofar as this tendency will retain its own physiognomy, as described above, it will become the pole of attraction for all advanced workers disgusted with Stalinism.

The advanced layers of the proletariat are at the present time concerned with the economic problems in the nationalized sector. The fundamental line of the Bolshevik-Leninists in these questions must consist of defending the immediate interests of the masses against the State-boss. But at the same time, it is necessary to advance, if only in a propagandist form, the historic perspectives bound up with a final solution of the problems posed by the present situation, that is, a program of transitional demands, mobilizing the masses for the proletarian revolution in these countries. The Bolshevik-Leninists will propose the following:

The question of the democratization of economic life and the national question arise in the “buffer-zone” countries in a definite social environment which is neither that of the “colonial countries” nor that of a bureaucratized Soviet society. The fact that capitalism still exists in these countries side by side with exploitation by the Stalinist bureaucracy must fundamentally determine our strategy. The capitalist nature of these countries imposes the necessity of the strictest revolutionary defeatism in war time. It also follows therefrom that we do not assign to the reactionary bourgeoisie of these countries any “progressive” mission, nor any possibility of independent action by petty-bourgeois peasant organizations. While unreservedly supporting every concrete step of the masses on the road of their struggle against the police regime, the pillaging, the suppression of workers’ liberties, the increased exploitation of the workers, we do not cease for one moment our uncompromising political opposition to all bourgeois or petty-bourgeois organizations, which constitute imperialist agencies and which are far from being an – even confused – “expression of this will to struggle of the masses.” They are in fact nothing but instruments to canalize and break up a fresh working-class rising.

We, likewise, do not demand the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, the setting up of a real foreign trade monopoly, an effective struggle against speculation and the black market from the Russian occupation forces or from pro-Stalinist governments, which are completely reactionary. We count on revolutionary mass action to sweep away all that remains of the power of the capitalists, while at the same time sweeping away the forms and instruments of exploitation and oppression of the Soviet bureaucracy in these countries. This is why, while supporting every forward step by the working masses, who put forward their demands and enter the anti-capitalist road, we constantly warn them against the counter-revolutionary and anti-working class nature of the policy of the Stalinist organizations, and we unceasingly defend the necessity of building a new revolutionary party. Special stress must be laid on the international character of the Socialist Revolution.

To the capitalists and petty-bourgeois who count on American intervention, and to the Stalinists counting on Russian power, we oppose the independent strategy of defending the masses’ interests, whose essential support must lie in the world forces of the Socialist Revolution. The fundamental aim of our strategy thus remains the establishment of Independent Socialist Republics of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary etc., within the framework of the United Socialist States of Europe. But the tactical application of this strategic line will depend on concrete circumstances.

Stalinist policies in Eastern Germany and Austria are the clearest demonstration of the reactionary role of the bureaucracy in the “Buffer zone.” This reactionary role is likewise the best indication of the increasing neutralization of the remnants of the conquests of October by the parasitic nature of the bureaucracy. Of all the occupying powers, Stalinist Russia has been the most barbarous toward the German and Austrian populations. The pitiless deportation of industrial equipment and manpower, the pillage, rape and abductions of civilians, the cynical subordination of German and Austrian life to the interests of the bureaucracy, the arbitrary anti-democratic acts which are constantly taking place in Austria as well as the rapid establishment of a virtual dictatorship in the Eastern Zone of Germany have opened the eyes of the working masses to the real character of the bureaucracy and caused a rising tide of anti-Sovietism of unequaled proportions which affects not only the Stalinist movement but the very idea of Communism. The strictest delimitation of the Fourth International from Stalinism, an energetic and persistent campaign against the Stalinist crimes against the German and Austrian masses, an unequivocal statement of position for the immediate cessation of all dismantling operations, for the retention in Germany of total current production, for the abolition of all reparations agreements, for the transfer into the hands of the German workers of all “Soviet property” – these are the preconditions for the building of a revolutionary party which alone will be able to prevent US imperialism from thoroughly exploiting the mass anti-Stalinist feeling.

The Nature of the Stalinist Parties

The character of the Stalinist parties has been completely changed by the development of the bureaucracy in these parties, following the degeneration of the Comintern, by the suppression of the freedom of different currents within the movement, by the crushing of critical spirit and the elimination of the most educated, conscious and independent elements.

From revolutionary parties, following a more or less mistaken – “centrist” – line, reflecting the zigzags in the orientation of the Russian Bolshevik Party under Stalinist leadership, they have turned into organizations whose only function is to serve the diplomatic maneuvers of the Soviet bureaucracy. The Stalinist leadership is, by virtue of this fact, “counter-revolutionary” in the same sense as the reformist leadership of Social Democracy; it wishes to prevent by all means the outbreak of the victorious development of revolutionary mass movements. However, the Stalinist parties, in the same way as the Social Democratic parties, subjectively remain workers parties – profoundly degenerated. This becomes clear the moment one applies the following criteria:

  1. The workers belonging to these parties consider them as workers’ organizations and join them because they are aware of the necessity for a proletarian class organization.
  2. The bourgeoisie considers these parties as parties of the “class enemy” representing the proletariat, although it is aware of their subordination to the Kremlin.
  3. The bureaucracy of the Stalinist parties itself is aware that in order ‘to play its role efficaciously, it must rely on and keep the confidence of the working masses.

The extraordinary upswing experienced by the Stalinist parties at the end of the war cannot be understood unless one considers this phenomenon with the general flow of the workers’ movement. For the greater majority of the proletariat and small peasants in most countries of the world, their passing from Social Democracy, petty-bourgeois organization or political passivity into the Stalinist parties, was the expression of their first stage of radicalization:

  1. The Stalinist parties still appear in their eyes as representatives of a revolutionary tradition.
  2. The masses had experienced for two decades the devotion and the courage of the lower ranks of the Stalinist cadres with whom they were in constant contact during all class struggles.
  3. The masses had not yet passed through their own experiences with the class treachery of the Stalinist leaders (long government experience).
  4. The dominant role played by Stalinist militants in the mass Resistance movements – which was above all due to the solid power and dynamism of their apparatus – as well as the victorious resistance of the USSR to imperialist aggression, had created new illusions among the masses concerning ‘the possibilities of a social upheaval under the leadership of the Communist parties.

Nevertheless, the outbreak of the German-Russian war constituted for all Stalinist parties in the world a fundamental and definitive political turning point. From that moment, these parties became the most ardent proponents of “class truce” and of the “war effort.” Their propaganda lost all outward signs of a class language. The most abject chauvinism constituted the “line.” In the colonies (India, etc.), the Communist parties became the most energetic agents of imperialism. In the Eastern European countries, they became completely conservative government organs, whose function consisted both in throttling the impulse to independent proletarian action and in maintaining the bourgeoisie within the framework of its “modus vivendi” with the bureaucracy. In the countries of Western Europe and several Latin-American countries, the Communist parties became the main grave-diggers of the rising proletarian revolution and repeated, on a world scale, the role of Super.Noske which they had filled in the Spanish Revolution.

From the point of view of the bourgeoisie, CP participation in the government expressed the clear recognition of the fact that Stalinism had become the most powerful counter-revolutionary factor in the workers’ movement. For the Stalinists; this participation reflected the fundamental needs of the Soviet bureaucracy, i.e.,

  1. to prevent the outbreak of the proletarian revolution;
  2. to use the role of “savior of capitalism” in order to force upon the bourgeoisie economic and especially diplomatic concessions advantageous to the Kremlin;
  3. to penetrate the bourgeois state apparatus and thus prepare “strategic” positions for its neutralization in the event of an anti-Soviet imperialist war, etc.

This turn is the logical outcome of the political evolution of Stalinism. From that moment, the aim pursued by the Communist parties has consisted more and more exclusively in blackmailing the bourgeoisie so as to obtain its neutral or favorable orientation toward the Kremlin and so as to preserve the Stalinist positions “conquered” in the bourgeois state apparatus. The Stalinist parties have become neo-reformist parties which are distinct from the reformist parties by their connection with the Soviet bureaucracy. Owing to fluctuations in the situation, temporary turns may be carried out to the right or to the left, within the framework of this fundamental orientation. A real return to a pseudo-revolutionary orientation comparable to that of 1939-41 is no longer possible, except in the case of the outbreak of the US-Soviet war and the crushing of the mass movement. The Stalinists can take up again “revolutionary language” only insofar as this language does not actually incur the risk of starting the proletarian revolution.

This fundamental transformation of the Stalinist parties, as a factor in the new foreign policy of the Soviet bureaucracy, is also explained by the change in the social composition and the new membership recruitment of the Stalinist parties and finds its expression in an entirely new ideological basis of these parties:

  1. Beginning with 1944, the Stalinist parties for the first time penetrated the bourgeois state apparatus; at the same time, bourgeois ideology penetrated for the first time organically into their ranks. To the extent that the Stalinist bureaucracy starts having “private” interests to defend in each capitalist country, the reformist character of its policy must inevitably become more pronounced. While the Stalinist apparatus remained almost completely faithful to the Kremlin in 1939-40 because all its interests bound it to the Soviet bureaucracy, at present it is certainly more independent than at that time. Nevertheless, one should not expect large cracks in the apparatus in the eventuality of war, because all the leading strata of the Communist parties are entirely aware that only their link with the USSR allows them to play a political role “independent” of other reformist currents inside the labor movement.
  2. Starting in 1941, and up till 1945, the Communist parties recruited a great many petty-bourgeois, intellectual, peasant elements. They endeavored – as soon as they had the majority of the working class behind them, to concentrate their recruiting efforts on these layers (course” toward well-to-do peasants in the “buffer-zone,” “defense of property against the trusts” in France, and so on). Inevitably, a change in the relation of forces resulting from a flow-back of the petty-bourgeoisie to the right will weaken the Communist parties in their petty-bourgeois wing and will bring about the typically reformist tendency to “win back” these lost strata by placing stress on rightist propaganda (chauvinism, defense of national sovereignty, defense of the middle classes, etc.).
  3. The sum total of these transformations in the composition and policy of the Communist parties finds its expression in their new ideological basis. They now start out from the conception that the class struggle has been transferred to the field of struggle between the world powers, or essentially between the USSR and the “new democracies” on the one side, and the Anglo-Saxon bloc, m the other. It suffices for a country to come into the Soviet sphere of influence for it to begin marching on a progressive, peaceful road to Socialism. The proletarian revolution is, therefore, “outmoded” as the best way of destroying capitalism. In the countries belonging to the zone under American influence, the proletarian revolution is, furthermore, “impracticable “ in view of the international relation of forces. The Communist parties there must endeavor to strengthen the independence movements of these countries against American imperialism, a movement which must embrace all classes and must, logically, end in their neutralization and then in their inclusion in the Soviet sphere of influence. This new reformist ideology of Stalinism is the most self-evident and cynical confession of the abandonment of the revolutionary class struggle by these parties and of their complete submission to the aims of the Kremlin’s foreign politics.

The Struggle Against Stalinism

Leon Trotsky correctly described Hitler and Stalin as “twin stars.” The main power of Stalinism and the essential chance of survival of world imperialism, lie precisely in their interaction, their mutual relationship in the consciousness of the masses. To the extent that US imperialism shows increased hostility toward the Soviet bureaucracy and the national bourgeoisie intensify their campaign against the respective “national” Stalinist parties, the masses will inevitably tend to consider the Soviet bureaucracy and the Stalinist parties as anti-imperialist and revolutionary forces; and the masses will continue to give them more or less passive support, even in cases where they have already had their first experience with the treacherous class collaborationist policy of the Stalinist leaders.

On the other hand, to the extent that the masses – especially in Central and Eastern Europe and the USSR – will tend to consider the imperialist “democratic” camp as the only real alternative to the hated Stalinist dictatorship, they will flow back to the “democratic” and Social-Democratic organizations in the service of imperialism and will provide them with a new mass base in countries where they had been completely deprived of popular support, by the end of the war.

But Hitler and Stalin were “twin stars” only because the historic epoch of their appearance was an epoch of retreat and stagnation of the working-class movement. The period of upswing we are now experiencing, possesses, by its own logic of development, the mechanism for the abolition of the vicious circle wherein humanity runs the risk of losing all chances for survival. In the course of their struggles, their amplification and generalization, the masses will at the same time gain the necessary experience and revolutionary dynamism to free themselves from Stalinist influence, while clarifying their anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist orientation. Our whole perspective is based on this consideration: THAT THE CLASS STRUGGLE WILL FINALLY TRIUMPH OVER STALINISM.

But already today it is clear that the subjective factor, the existence of a revolutionary party anchored in the masses and taken seriously by them, plays a decisive role in this process of emancipation of the working class movement from Stalinism, the necessary condition for the revolutionary emancipation of the proletariat from decadent capitalism.

Recent examples, in the colonial countries as well as in France, have clearly shown the possibility of a limited breakthrough of the Stalinist apparatus by the struggling workers at the present stage. However, this process is still necessarily limited by the following factors:

  1. The Stalinist parties have not yet been sufficiently “used up” by their participation in the government.
  2. They have a larger field for maneuvers as a result of the increased hostility of the bourgeoisie toward them.
  3. They have managed to “rejuvenate” reformism by combining it with a series of slogans of the post-revolutionary period in Russia.
  4. There is, as yet, no revolutionary party considered by the masses as sufficiently capable and active to represent a real alternative to the Communist party.
  5. The advanced layers of the proletariat have felt Stalinist betrayal only in the economic field (wage ceilings, “production first,” strikebreaking, etc.).

Under these conditions, a large-scale movement breaking away from the Stalinist organizations will be a long and painful process which is essentially simultaneous with that of building a revolutionary party. By constant, intelligent and patient intervention in all workers’ struggles, in all mass movements of dissatisfaction and revolt, the revolutionary militants must gradually gain the confidence of the most advanced workers’ strata in order to constitute a real alternative leadership for the next revolutionary wave. They will only be able to play this role to the extent that they appear under their true colors, which the masses will in no way be able to confuse with “left Stalinism.”

Outside the “buffer-zone” countries, the struggle against Stalinism will thus, in the main, have to go through the following stages:

  1. Against Stalinism as an ideological current poisoning the working class, we must wage an unceasing struggle, tearing down all the illusions of the masses about the “non-capitalist” nature of the “buffer-zone” countries. At the same time, patient reiteration, educational and. non-doctrinaire, understandable to the masses, of the essentials of Marxism (class struggle, class character of the State, necessity for the proletarian revolution, principles of workers’ democracy, internationalism, etc.) is one of the most essential means of combatting Stalinism.
  2. Against Stalinism as the predominant organization of the working class – the gradual penetration of the revolutionary party into all the mass organizations and above all, into the factories and the trade unions. The struggle against Stalinism is essentially a struggle to wrest from the Stalinists their predominant influence over the working masses.
  3. Against Stalinism as a political party claiming to represent the working class – constant exposure – not doctrinaire, but educational and understandable to the masses – of the anti-working class policy of the Stalinist leaders; revolutionary propaganda enabling the masses to go through their own experience with the treacherous character of the Stalinist leadership; untiring agitation for proletarian unity of action for all class objectives; propaganda for a united front under appropriate circumstances, and provided that a certain relationship of forces exists.
  4. Against the GPU, the Stalinist murder machine, the Trotskyist wage unceasing warfare by all the means at their disposal. The Stalinists have taken advantage of every social upheaval to kill off numerous Trotskyist and other anti-Stalinist militants in order to eliminate physically all cadres who could give revolutionary leadership to the working class (Spain, Greece, Indo-China). The whole criminal record of the GPU must be constantly exposed. The greatest alertness must be shown to all new GPU crimes in preparation. The broadest sections of public opinion must be mobilized against them. The fullest and most careful measures of self-defense must be undertaken. Against the calculated cold-blooded murder methods of the GPU, we must utilize every means at our command. [2*]

Historically, the fate of the world proletariat depends on its capacity to throw off in time Stalinist leadership and to prevent the crushing of the working class together with the Soviet bureaucracy by imperialism. The consciousness of this inevitable historic necessity is embodied in the Fourth International. Its analysis is based on the understanding of the parallel decomposition of the capitalist world and of Soviet Russia in the absence of a victorious Socialist Revolution.

Its course, which is that towards world revolution, cannot, at the present stage of development of the mass struggles, contain any trace of favoring either the Anglo-American camp or the camp of the Soviet bureaucracy. On both sides of the “iron curtain,” our political line, determined by the immediate and historic interests of the oppressed masses, is that of their independent class struggle, oriented towards its transformation into the proletarian revolution. This is why, essentially, the struggle between the Greek partisans and the Sophoulis-Tsaldaris Government does not constitute, in our eyes, a struggle between the “two blocs” but a battle between workers and bourgeois. This is in the “buffer-zone” why we are on the side of the working masses – against the Stalinist regimes and against possible reactionary conspiracies of the imperialists. Everywhere, we take as our starting point the preponderance of this class struggle as the decisive factor in the political development.

3. The Discussion of the Russian Question

Notes by ETOL

1*. These theses were considered at the the Second World Congress of the Fourth International in Paris in April 1948. The resolution adopted, entitled The USSR and Stalinism, was published in Fourth International, Vol.9 No.4, June 1948, pp.110-128.

2*. In the version originally printed thes demand read: “Fight against the GPU by all means.” [See Editorial Corrections, Fourth International, Vol.9 No.1, January-February 1948, p.27.

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Last updated on 11 April 2009