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The New International, September 1945


Notes of the Month

Balance Sheet of the War


From New International, Vol. XI No. 6, September 1945, pp. 163–170.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The war has come to an end on the same note on which it began – sudden, terroristic mass destruction. Hitler’s blitzkrieg in Poland and later in the Low Countries and France stupefied and horrified the world. The ruins of Warsaw, Rotterdam, Stalingrad and Coventry became the symbols of fascism’s New Order. A few years later, the Allies (imperialist democracy plus imperialist democracy plus totalitarian despotism) showed their vast technical and moral superiority over Hitlerism: they began with the repeated holocausts in Hamburg, which made the bombing of Rotterdam look like a Sunday duck-hunt, and ended with the extermination of a whole city by means of a single atomic bomb. Neither German fascism nor Japanese militarism could withstand these subtle proddings by Democratic Humanism. They succumbed, and victory fell to the Peace-Loving Nations and Prostituted Science.

The war, if we date its beginning with the attack on Poland, lasted six years. It was fought – both sides gave the solemn assurance – to make humanity a head taller. On the one side, there was the promise of the New Order. On the other, the promise to regain, preserve and extend democracy and freedom. The New Order was a reactionary imposture and is now a shambles – one head dangling at the other end of its heels, the other lost in oblivion, the third blithering for mercy. What has been gained by the victory of the Allies?

Item: Millions of dead, maimed, wounded, millions driven mad or half-mad, millions making up the most important productive force in society; millions – if a “sentimental” note may be introduced into a cool business calculation – of human beings. But do not sacrifices have to be made in the interests of progress? Very well, a few millions sacrificed to progress.

Item: Millions of fertile acres destroyed for years during the, war and for years to follow, by the torch in Russia, by frenzied abuse in Germany. by brine in Holland, by bomb and flame-thrower in a dozen countries. Let that be written off in the name of progress and in consideration of the fact that anyway there are fewer mouths to feed-the dead feel no hunger.

Item: Tens of billions of dollars’ worth of machinery, buildings, raw materials, plus military and naval products of all kinds destroyed on a global, scientific, systematic, planned, organized scale, exceeding in dimensions and social significance the destruction of all the previous wars of mankind put together.

Item: Tens of billions of dollars in war debts saddled upon the peoples all over the world for generations to come, at least until they rise to throw off the saddle and the rider.

Item: The fall of the fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany and the liberation of all the countries they dominated. But liberation only from their rule. Everyone of these countries is poorer now than it was before the war; many of them poorer than they were during the war. Everyone of these countries is less free and more enslaved than it was before the war; many of them not more free than they were under Mussolini or Hitler; some of them are even less free today than they were under the Axis.

Item: For every person liberated from Axis rule by the Allies the Allies have enslaved not less than two or three persons. What has changed are the names and addresses of the slaves, but not the slavery.

Item: The old pre-war colonies are no nearer freedom and independence today, with the victory of democracy, than they were on the eve of the war which brought the temporary victory of the Axis. The former Italian colonies now have the right to speak English to their overseer instead of Italian. The former Japanese colonies now have the right to eschew Japanese and to speak instead in such democratic tongues as American, Dutch, English and – language forgotten by them since the last day of the Czars – Russian. The Indians still have the right to bow to the white sahibs from London and Glasgow until they are replaced by the white sahibs from Washington.

Item: The threat of world rule of the German-Japanese duumvirate, with Italy assisting, has been dispelled. The world is now ruled by the American-Russian duumvirate, with England assisting.

Item: In general, all over the world, the people are less free, have fewer rights, more restrictions on these fewer rights, than before the war; the people are poorer, hungrier, sicker, more exhausted than before the war.

Item: Our greatest progress – the atomic bomb! At one time even the artillery of capitalism opened the road to human progress by shattering the walls of feudal reaction. Now its weapons, from trench dagger and pistol to .88’s and .90’s and atomic bombs merely destroy human life and social wealth. The atomic bomb is said to contain only about one pound of the deadly disintegrator in its war-head. There is no ground for disappointment in this. Capitalism is still capable of grandiose exploits. It started in this war with aerial bombs weighing only a few hundred pounds. After only a few years it had ten and twelve-ton blockbusters, breath-taking, life-taking, property-taking rockets with bigger ones already on the drawing-boards, suicide planes and other testimonials to progress. At the war’s end, the atomic bomb had the destructive power of a couple of thousand block-busters. That was the first atomic bomb, and it could only destroy one city at a time. The Third World War, which everybody expects, will surely be ushered in by a far more highly developed, refined, cultured, civilized and democratic atomic bomb. On that score, capitalism has the greatest conceivable confidence.

There is the balance sheet of only the more outstanding items of the war and the victory.

Why Hitler Lost the War

The war lasted six years, the war in Europe something less than that. Almost from the beginning we said that this would be a long war, that it could last ten or even twice ten years, that it could end not with a military victory but with a revolution. So far as the toll of destruction in life and wealth is concerned, the war was long enough, by any standard. However, the actual course and outcome of the war require a corrective that it is instructive to introduce even at the present time.

It can be said that in making an approximate judgment of the duration of the war, insufficient weight was attached to the strength of Russia under Stalinism, a strength which all underestimated – we less than others – and to the profligacy with which the bureaucracy poured its most abundant commodity, human life, into the tireless maw of the battlefield. More important even than this factor was the insufficient weight attached to the stunning economic potential of the United States which, productive enough to be the envy of the world in peaceful and “normal” times, proved to be even more productive, vastly more productive, in the preparation of modern engines of destruction and their dispatch to ever} war front of the world.

Yet even these correctives do not, in our view, make the picture or the prediction much more accurate. They do not even account decisively for the comparatively speedy defeat of the apparently impregnable Axis in Europe. Not even the atomic bomb would necessarily have accounted for it. In the frenetic race for superior means of destruction, the United States came in first, for a change, with the atomic bomb. But how far behind in the race was Germany? We do not know, and those who are in a position to have the facts are not divulging them. In any case, speculation on this point cannot very well replace a judgment of the events that occurred, that are known, that can be weighed.

Hitler broke his neck primarily on the basis of the failure of the fascist “New Order” in conquered Europe. If German imperialism had really been able to establish order in Europe; if it had really been able to unite Europe into a more or less harmonious and smoothly functioning whole; if it had really been able freely to coordinate and utilize the massive resources, natural and human, economic and cultural of the old continent; if it had really been able to subordinate Europe to a single, freely united will – there is little doubt that it could have survived the joint efforts of the Allies. To put it more simply: It could have done this if it had not been imperialist Germany. The impregnability of a freely united Europe, having at its command all the resources of the continent the ability of such a Europe not only to resist the assault of any enemy but more than that, to revolutionize the rest of the world is precisely what gives such power to the fundamental idea of a Socialist United States of Europe.

Fascism attempted to do what the proletariat (more accurately, the proletarian leadership) failed to do: unite Europe. But because it was fascism that made the attempt, it was doomed in advance to failure. Hitlerism could unite the continent only by converting it into a prison of the peoples and nations – rebelling peoples and nations. The rebellion, which continued to grow in scope and intensity, prevented the Hitlerite unificatlon of Europe and, accordingly, prevented that thorough utilization of the continent’s resources by which alone Germany could hope to win the war.

Almost from the beginning – that is, as soon as the conquered peoples began to stir again from the stupor into which their sudden defeat had hurled them – Hitler was compelled to carry on a war on two fronts, war in the literal sense. The two-front war that ruined Hitler was not the war with Russia and the Western Allies, but the war against the rival imperialisms, on the one side, and the war against the revolutionary peoples of the occupied countries, on the other. In paying tribute to the latter in his Paris speech, General Eisenhower may have conceived his words as a graceful diplomatic gesture and nothing more. But that fact is that in stating that Germany could not have been defeated without these warring peoples, Eisenhower was making a political declaration of first-rate political importance.

Our Workers Party was among the first to analyze and establish the political significance of the national revolutionary underground movements in occupied Europe, and to do this with increasing clarity in a series of documents culminating in our resolution on the national question in Europe published in these pages a few years ago. The course of events has not required us to introduce a single serious amendment in our analysis or position. It may be admitted here, however, that the far-reaching effects of these national revolutionary movements upon the duration of the war were not given the consideration they deserved and needed. It was these movements that proved to be the force that made the decisive contribution to the ending of the war. We originally allotted this role, in a general way, to the “proletarian revolution” which we had forecast long before the war began but which did not come to pass. As may be seen, even in the case of Marxists, the adoption of a new analysis and a new prognosis does not always or immediately signify that the old analysis, valid on the basis of conditions that once obtained but are now out- lived, is abandoned as thoroughly as the conditions demand. Objectivity further required adding in our own behalf that we were far. from the last to understand this. As for the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party, it simply does not understand that there is anything that requires understanding.

Because of its importance for today and especially for tomorrow, it is worth while repeating: Hitlerism broke its neck on the “national question.”

Once the war in Europe was won by the Allies, the war in Asia and the Pacific could not be in doubt for a minute. In Europe, the war donned the tattered garments of a crusade for democracy and freedom; millions of the people looked to the Allies as liberators if they were already conquered or as protected from hated fascism if they were threatened by it, as in England. But the war in Asia was as nakedly imperialistic and chauvinistic – racially chauvinistic in the authentic Nazi style – as any in history. There it was openly a question of holding tightly to the colonies-in-possession and of regaining those taken by the Japanese rival. “I am not the First King’s Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire,” said Churchill, with approving nods from colleagues Sinclair, Attlee and Bevin. India and Ceylon – remain British. Burma – back to Britain. Singapore – back to Britain. The East Indies – back to Holland-cum-America. Hong Kong – back to Britain (with the consent of the Peerless Leader in the struggle for China’s national freedom, Generalissimo – he is also a Generalissimo! – Chiang). Indo-China – back to France-cum- England-cum-America (and in reverse order of real power). The Islands of the Pacific – to the United States, which, as the entire world knows, does not lust for an inch of foreign soil. Manchuria, its natural resources and its railroads – out of the hands of the base oppressor, Japan, and into the hands of the noble liberator, Russia. Dairen and Port Arthur – out of the hands of the foreign ruler, Japan, and into the hands not of Czar Nicholas this time but of Czar Joseph. Korea – part for Russia, part for the United States, with the Koreans themselves allowed to publish a modest bulletin in Washington. The Philippines – independence postponed indefinitely, inasmuch as they are to be fortified and super-fortified as a military and naval base (i.e., a vassal) of the United States (against whom? Utterly prostrated and completely controlled Japan? Or perhaps against so notorious an aggressor nation as Costa Rica? There is a mystery worthy of the era of guaranteed peace inaugurated at the San Francisco Conference!)

The Far East is the scene of an orgy of the imperialist swine. For this, Japanese peasant boys and American farm and factory lads fevered and hungered and died in jungles, on beaches and on mountain ledges from Port Moresby to Okinawa, from Myitkyina to Midway.

The Two War Victors

There were seven more or less “big powers” when the war began – with countries like Poland and Yugoslavia counting as “medium powers.” The war has ended with only two decisive big powers, only two victors, the United States and Russia. Of the rest of what is jokingly referred to as the “Big Five,” England limps piteously behind the Big Two; France is a wreck which the others simply forget, half the time, to inform of their conferences; and China is simply told to lie still while it is dismembered and consumed. The smaller members of the “United Nations” are here, in the words of Jan Masaryk at the San Francisco Conference, “to be seen and not heard.” Other members, like Poland, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Greece, Yugoslavia and Albania, to say nothing of former enemies like Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria, can neither be heard nor seen. Italy, Germany and Japan are simply in prison.

The war therefore only accelerated the fundamental tendency of modern imperialist society. On a national scale it manifests itself in the growth of large-scale industry at the expense of small-scale industry, or monopoly at the expense of competition, of the big bourgeoisie at the expense of the middle classes; in the concentration of wealth at one pole and of poverty, misery and degradation at the other; in the reduction of the size of the ruling class combined with an enormous increase in the economic and political power of the monopolistic few – and in the increase in the numbers of the ruled and ruined classes. On an international scale, it manifests itself in the growth of world-monopolistic control by fewer and fewer great powers, on the one side, and the growth of the number of nations that have lost (or have been prevented from acquiring) economic and political power, that are subordinated to the diminishing number of increasingly powerful nations, that lose their national independence to one degree or another, that are maintained as or converted into spheres of influence, protectorates, vassals, semi-colonies or outright colonies of the great powers that subjugate, oppress, disfranchise and exploit them.

At the end of six years of the war for the Atlantic Charter, national sovereignty and independence-only two powers have emerged that enjoy full independence and are able to play a decisively independent role in world politics. All the other nations of the earth are dependent upon one or the other of them, to one degree or another. If England appears to be an exception, it is more a case of appearance than of reality. The former workshop and banker of the world can no longer play an independent role. Throughout the war it depended on the United States for its defense – without the transatlantic cousin it would have perished. One flip of the pen in Washington – the cutting off of lend-lease – and all England is plunged into a panic amid heart-rending wailings and lamentations by Mr. Attlee and the late Mr. Churchill. Once it was England that moved pawns about on the European chessboard. Now it is the colossus across the sea that is determined to reduce and is reducing England to the role of its pawn on the European continent. Irony of ironies: England as the European agent (not equal, but agent) of the power that grew out of its old thirteen colonies! England standing hat in hand before the new banker of the world! England standing on the American breadline, its back bowed to the ground under the heaviest financial burden in its history! The spectacle, one would think, is enough to warm the heart of the editor of the Chicago Tribune.

There is no room in this picture for indignation or commiseration. It is not “cruelty” that drives America, but necessity. Twenty years ago, Leon Trotsky started fashioning the key to an understanding of this irresistible development and of the problems it creates, in his brilliant and prophetic analysis of Europe and America. The United States, this continent-land, this land of vast resources and wealth and ingenuity, this land bursting with economic miracles, has become the first power in the world. But too late! It appears on the scene in an epoch of international capitalist decay. Nowhere is there durable peace in the world; poverty lasts longer than prosperity; the world market does not expand, it contracts. To maintain itself, the United States, like any other capitalist power, must expand. To expand, it must cut down the share of the world market of one country after another. In Trotsky’s winged phrase, the United States seeks to put declining Europe on rations, diminishing rations, in order that its own share, its own “ration,” may more closely correspond to its productive capacity and appetite. The greater the share of the United States, the smaller the share of all the others. The smaller their share, the more dependent they become upon the American titan. What is economic dependence upon another country? The forerunner of political dependence. What is political dependence? The surest guarantee of economic dependence. What is imperialist war? The endeavor to determine by armed force the question of who will be dependent upon whom.

America has come too late, however. The great empires of modern capitalism were established and consolidated in another epoch, the epoch of the organic ascension of capitalism itself. The very rise of American imperialism, its very power, generates the most violent disturbances and convulsions throughout the world. Putting Europe on rations did not result in converting the Old World into a docile milch-cow of Wall Street. It only plunged the continent into an agonizing crisis, with Germany suffering most acutely. Germany- all Europe - had to break the tightening grip of American domination or be reduced to paralysis. It failed to find a way out of the crisis along the road of the socialist revolution. Such a revolution would not only have restored the economic health of Germany on an unprecedented scale, but would have ended with the unification of the continent on a socialist foundation with more than enough economic and political power to smash any further encroachments upon its life and liberty by American imperialism. Failing in one way, it found another: Hitlerism, which deserves to bear the trade-mark “Made in America” as much as “Made in Germany.” Totalitarianized Germany thereupon proceeded to its own variety of unification of Europe, mobilizing as best it could the economic resources of the continent so that it could, eventually (that is, after the “coordination” subordination of England and, of course, the conquest of at least European Russia), come to direct grips with the super-rival, America. How and why this attempt failed has already been dealt with.

The victory of the United States in the war does not mean an end to the social convulsions which its very power generated in Europe (and not only Europe) before the war. On the contrary. After an interval, the United States, precisely because of its now greater power, will produce even more violent upheavals of all kinds in Europe, at least that part of Europe (the West) which is its particular field of dominion. Whether it does it directly, or indirectly through its European “agent” or the country it must convert more and more into its agent, England, is of secondary importance. (Its very power will stimulate and accelerate upheavals in England, too, for that matter. The first one, for which the power of American imperialism is far from the last cause, is the rise of the Labor Government.) One way or another, Europe will resist the pressure exerted by hypertrophied American imperialism, because resistance is the condition for life. And the ensuing upheavals, convulsions, collisions and social disturbances of all kinds will inevitably have their repercussions in the United States in the form of tremors and then earthquakes shaking its own social structure and shaping its own political future. To quote Trotsky again, the further American imperialism extends its power in the world, the more this power rests on powder-kegs. American imperialism has not learned the big lesson of our time: This, the epoch in which the old empires are crumbling, is not the epoch in which new ones can be created and consolidated. It has learned nothing from the disaster of Hitlerite imperialism. How could it? Imperialism is not something that “learns,” it is something that must be extirpated.

The Great Conqueror of the war – the Greatest Conqueror – is headed for what has so aptly been called the “gloom of victory.”

Russia Over Europe (Or the Death of a Theory)

With the necessary changes, the same prospect lies ahead for Stalinist Russia. The bureaucracy seems to have attained a power which nobody ever expected, not even the bureaucracy itself. It dominates an empire which only the more delirious of the old Czars ever dreamed of: in the West, along a line from Northern Finland south past the Baltic lands, through Stettin, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Ljubljana, probably including Albania, with everything eastward-Northern Iran included, British Asia and China excluded – all the way through Manchuria, at least part of Korea, the southern half of Sakhalin and a few of the Kuriles. As with capitalist imperialism so with Stalinist imperialism – some of these lands are “spheres of influence,” others “protectorates,” still others vassals and puppets, and the rest colonies and semi-colonies.

In the Western European countries which Russia does not rule, it nevertheless possesses utterly subservient police agencies, the so-called Communist parties – but police agencies with a tremendous political and physical power among the masses and in affairs of state. It is in this respect – it is extremely important to note and consider – that Stalinist imperialism has an instrument at its disposal which no other imperialist power has or ever had, not even the Nazis with their international network of Nazi groups and grouplets.

Therewith, Russia has become the dominant power on the European continent. Mr. Bevin and, now that he has acquired the courage that comes with loss of office, Mr. Churchill, have allowed themselves to bleat and whimper, in a most deferential and anonymous reference to Russia, about the substitution in Eastern Europe of one totalitarianism for another. Once the really big concessions, the big spoils, have fallen into Stalin’s hands, he is ready to make concessions pro forma to his “Allies” – but only tiny ones and not too many of them. Thus, after protest from Washington about the Bulgarian (not the Brazilian) elections, and another protest from London about the Bulgarian (but not the Greek) elections, in the best Stalino-Hitlerite manner, the Kremlin Khan has agreed, through his Sofia puppets, to postpone the vote. What will be changed? Nothing, except to give the G.P.U. more time in which to kill off all remnants of real and potential opposition to its rule in Bulgaria. Why should Stalin take seriously the protestations of British imperialism? What can it do to him? Refuse him loans and credits? It has none to refuse. Call him ugly names? Stalin’s retort would be “crushing.” Put him in a British prison? Ghandi [sic!], yes; Stalin, no. Send an expeditionary force against him? Against unarmed Indians, yes; against Stalin, no. The United States is in a far better position, of course, to exert pressure upon Stalin. But not as much as it would like to exert, not as much as it needs to exert to bring its now principal rival to his knees – far, far from it! Besides, Stalin is not without his own means of exerting pressure in the opposite direction, as he has amply demonstrated to all skeptics. He must pay respectful attention to the wishes of the United States; a timid, cowering attitude, necessary for France and even for England, is not necessary for Russia.

But the enslavement of Europe, even of Eastern Europe, does not mean the consolidation of the new Russian empire, the definitive triumph of Stalinist totalitarianism. The war is at an end, the masses are tired, exhausted, disoriented. As happened immediately after the spectacular victories of German imperialism, so now the masses are stunned by the Russian triumphs. But what Stalin looks upon as a garland of oak. leaves around his Caesarian brow will prove to be a noose around his criminal’s throat. The incapacity of the reactionaries to learn anything fundamental from the disasters of their predecessors and compeers, is positively astonishing – and encouraging. As with Hitler so with Stalin: the noose will come alive in time and strangle him and his regime as surely as it did the Nazis.

How long will the masses of the conquered, occupied, humiliated and traduced countries suffer the heel of Stalinist imperialism? How long will they remain silent in the face of the spoliation and plunder of their lands and industries? How long will they endure the monstrous police-dictatorship with which the G.P.U. replaces the Gestapo? Just how long, is hard to say. That they will rebel against it in much the same way they rebelled against Hitlerism, may be foretold with absolute confidence. If not tomorrow, then the next day, Stalin, his G.P.U., his “Communist” and “Workers’” parties and his Quislings will have to confront what Hitler, Himmler, Quisling and Petain confronted, and with the same outcome.

There is another aspect of the Stalinist triumph that has been referred to in these pages before. The net result of the “unconditional defense of the Soviet Union” is so dismal, not to say disastrous; that nobody in the Fourth International is very anxious today to press the matter, at least not with the vigor of 1939! This is highly understandable and, up to a certain point, gratifying. The question is nevertheless not eliminated. Above all there remains the question of the class character of the Soviet Union.

Officially, the Fourth International still stands on the theory that Russia is a “degenerated workers’ state” by virtue of the existence of nationalized property. For our part, we have dumped that monstrosity down the drain of history where it belongs. What has the rest of the International to say now? Is it content to repeat the old formulae as if nothing of importance has happened in the past six years to test this theory; or to require a reconsideration of it? It is encouraging to note, here too, that there have been no efforts made recently to defend the theory with the old intransigence, pugnacity and confidence. That is encouraging, but far from satisfactory for a Marxian movement which takes its theories seriously.

What we are witnessing, in the International, is the death of a theory. It is clear that nobody now defends the “workers’ state” theory, certainly not in the old way and with the old arguments; nobody can defend it. The theory is dying of lack of nourishment, dying in the vacuum which events have created around it and which prevents it from breathing, dying of lack of visible means of support. Mercy would dictate that it be allowed to die in this quiet, obscure, inanitive way. But theoretical clarity demands that it be deliberately killed and properly interred – en connaisance de cause, as the French say – with a knowledge as to the reason why – and that it be replaced with a carefully thought-out alternative theory in consonance with the realities of the living process and the principles of Marxian science.

The basic analysis of the Fourth International, which means in this case of its leader, Trotsky, has proved to be false and untenable in the matter of the class nature of Russia. The predictions based on this analysis have been proved false and untenable. Whoever fails to take this as his point of departure in the now mandatory reexamination lacks either theoretical understanding or theoretical honesty – less than that even politeness prevents us from saying. Whoever fails to adopt the political conclusions that follow logically from such a reexamination for a Marxist, is certainly lost.

The war is over. The proletarian revolution did not come and did not triumph in Europe – an unhappy statement, but one that must be made. Imperialism continues to dominate the world. Stalinist Russia remains in existence – certainly not weaker in world politics than before the war! No fundamental or even serious social change has occurred there; no change in the economic foundations or social structure – at least none that anyone has yet been able to point to and name and weigh. Property remains nationalized; the monopoly of foreign trade is more or less intact. In addition, in conquered Poland the means of production have been nationalized, including even medium-sized enterprises. The same process was completed years ago in the Baltic states. A similar process is now going on in Yugoslavia (in the form of bureaucratic police measures, it is true, but going on nonetheless). If capitalist private property has been or is being restored by the bureaucracy, it is not visible to the naked eye or under any kind of microscope. Nobody, we repeat, has been able to adduce concrete data to indicate even a trend in this direction.

Trotsky predicted, nine years ago (he stated it before then and repeated it afterward), that Stalinist Russia would not survive the coming war. He predicted, just as emphatically, that an imperialist outcome of the war – that is, an end of the war without a successful proletarian revolution – would see the end of the “workers’ state” in any form, “degenerated” or otherwise, and this regardless of a military defeat or a military victory by Russia. In The Revolution Betrayed (1936) this is repeated over and again:

If the war should remain only a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union would be inevitable ... If it [imperialism] is not paralyzed by revolution in the West, imperialism will sweep away the regime which issued from the October Revolution. (p. 227)

Has this been confirmed?

... imperialist antagonisms will always find a compromise in order to block the military victory of the Soviet Union. (p. 228)

Has this been confirmed?

Without the interference of revolution, the social bases of the Soviet Union must be crushed, not only in the case of defeat, but also in the case of victory. (p. 229. “Social bases” equal nationalized property.)

Has this been confirmed?

In other words, in the case of a long war, if the world proletariat is passive, the inner social contradictions of the Soviet Union not only might, but must, lead to a bourgeois Bonapartist counter-revolution. (p. 229. Trotsky is here quoting approvingly from. one of his own works of two years before, i.e., 1934.)

Has this been confirmed?

... no military victory can save the inheritance of the October Revolution, if imperialism holds out in the rest of the world. (p. 232. By the “inheritance” Trotsky of course meant primarily the nationalized property.)

Has this been confirmed? It has been flatly refuted by events. Refuted also, in our opinion, is the entire theory on which it was based. But even if this “extreme” opinion is not shared as yet by the International, what serious and responsible militant can deny that the events demand not less than a reconsideration of the theory that Russia is a workers’ state? To be sure, it can be denied by those who need consolation in difficult times, who feel that by calling Russia a “workers’ state” we still “have” a “revolution” to “cling to,” who feel that Marxism is a rosary of dogma-beads which must be told devoutly four times a day to guarantee against visa troubles at the Heavenly Gate. Such people are inoculated against Marxian science; they’ve got religion; and religion is the opium of the revolutionary movement, too.

Our Perspective in Europe and America

The question of our perspectives cannot be dealt with here, or on this occasion, with the detail they deserve. That must be left for another, but very early date. Here, they need only be summarily sketched.

The United States, following the “reconversion” agony, will, it appears, be moving toward a pseudo-prosperity, with the inevitably ensuing crisis. A long-term upswing, to say nothing of an international upswing; is, from our standpoint, out of the question. On the contrary, the further decay of dying world capitalism cannot but have the most upsetting reactive influence on the United States, aggravating its own internal contradictions. But even the temporary upswing of American economy will not reach the heights attained during the period of war production. There will be millions of unemployed even in the coming prosperity. The millions at work will enjoy not a higher living standard than during the war but a lower one. The question of security which already concerns the minds of all will dominate them increasingly, almost like a social obsession. Security is precisely what capitalism, nowhere and at no time, and certainly not in our time, cannot provide.

The coming political shifts in the United States, the changes in the thinking of the masses, the inevitable social conflicts between labor and capital, will undoubtedly revolve around the question of security. That is the meaning of the growing movement for the guarantee of a year-around job and a minimum annual wage. The bourgeois economists and statesmen can talk themselves blue in the face, but they cannot explain away why it was possible for everyone to have a job in wartime, why every ounce of economic strength and every economic unit and every government institution could be mobilized and “organized” and centrally directed for the purpose of waging destruction throughout the world-but it is impossible, in peacetime, to assure everyone a job by the full, organized, centralized, planned utilization of the magnificent economic resources and machinery of the country. That is, they cannot explain it without ceasing to be apologists for the capitalist social order.

Accordingly, the fighting program of the revolutionary movement must also revolve around the demand for jobs and a guaranteed, decent living for all. To make this the fighting program of the organized labor movement, of the working class as a whole; to imbue it with an understanding of how to realize this urgently needed goal; to break it away from bourgeois ideological and political domination, and launch it on the path of class-conscious, independent political action; to set it in motion against capitalism and its beneficiaries with the aim of establishing a workers’ government – these are the immediate tasks of the revolutionary party in this country.

A growing response from the working class is absolutely guaranteed! However hesitantly and confusedly at first, the American proletariat must and will strike out on the path of independent political action. What the war period showed, the post-war period will show even more clearly: “pure and simple” trade union activities and efforts are not only inadequate, but grow less and less effectual. Monopoly capital, interwoven at every seam with the government power, cannot be dealt with by mere “collective bargaining,” even by mere “economic strikes.” Everything depends on who has the state power, for that also decides the question of who owns and controls and organizes and does what with the monopolies.

A fight for security, for jobs and a decent living for all, which is not carried on inseparably with the propaganda, agitation and practical work of forming an independent Labor Party and a workers’ government – is no fight at all. Rather, it is a fight doomed to defeat from the very outset. First, last and always, this thought must be made the most important part of the growing consciousness of the American working class. If the revolutionary Marxists do not succeed in this, they are lost and so are the workers as a whole.

The political education of the American working class also requires their being made aware of their internationalist obligations to their brothers all over the world and to themselves. Here we are back to the ineluctable “national question.” The American workers are not part of an oppressed nation, but of an oppressor nation. American exploitation and oppression of millions throughout the world is a weight on our shoulders, too, in the form of standing armies that must be maintained, of a rising national debt, of wars which must be fought and died in, tomorrow or the next day, to maintain this oppression. The American workers have the elementary obligation to help every people, every nation, which is oppressed by their imperialism to wrench itself free of such oppression. A great principle not only of socialism but of democracy declares that resistance to tyranny by any and all means is a sacred right and duty of any oppressed people. Active solidarity with such resistance is an equally sacred obligation. The rise of American imperialism makes such solidarity a task of the hour for the working class of this country.

Europe, now that Hitler has been crushed, finds itself compelled ... to resume the struggle for democracy which it launched against Nazi rule! Half of Europe has been deprived of national independence and all other democratic rights by the new conquerors. Germany, economically despoiled, physically dismembered, politically disfranchised, cannot attain real freedom and prosperity without a struggle against the foreign imperialist powers who occupy, rule and strangle it, which means a struggle for national reunification and national independence on the basis of which the people can freely decide their social regime. The same holds true for every country east of Germany which is now under the bloody heel of the Russian neo-Czars.

Almost every other country of Europe faces the urgent question of the fight for democratic rights and institutions. In Greece, Italy, Belgium and Holland the fight for the democratic republic, against the monarchy and the capitalist reaction and foreign imperialism which are linked to it, is an immediate and revolutionary task. France is a battleground of the fight for a democratic, representative, sovereign National Assembly.

These are signs of the time. They must be clearly understood in all their political and social consequences. Modern imperialism has become more reactionary, riot more progressive; more authoritarian and totalitarian, not more democratic. It has assembled around itself all that is historically outlived, outworn, reactionary, up to and including the residues of that feudal order which capitalism once crushed. Capitalism no longer establishes or sets free the modern national states; it wipes out more and, more of them, reducing them to vassals or outright colonies – reduces to this status even those countries that were once independent and sovereign, even those countries that were once themselves imperialist oppressors of other countries! The existence of imperialism becomes increasingly incompatible with the maintenance of those institutions and rights that were characteristic of bourgeois democracy.

What holds for capitalism and the bourgeoisie is true only in lesser degree and in a different form of the social-democracy, anachronistic parasite on the working class movement. It has proved to be so thoroughly wedded to decaying bourgeois society that it is not only incapable of fighting for socialism but even of fighting consistently for democracy!

As for Stalinism, it is in no sense a democratic movement, but a movement of totalitarian police-rule.

The masses of Europe want democracy, democratic rights, democratic institutions. Life and freedom require them! They fight for democracy with a falsified consciousness, without the necessary clarity and consistency, and under a perfidious leadership. They do not associate the struggle for democracy with the struggle for the socialist revolution. The task of the revolutionary Marxists is precisely this: to participate more actively than all others in this fight; to become the most outspoken and aggressive champions of the fight for democratic demands and democracy; to provide the consciousness that is missing, the clarity and consistency that are missing; to teach the masses – not from books alone and not from books primarily (above all, not by sermons!) but in the course of the fight itself, on the basis of concrete experiences – that democracy can be realized most fully and protected most surely only in the form of a workers’ democracy, that the democratic republic which is a million times more real than the best bourgeois republic, that really represents the interests and the future of the people, that really assures smooth progress toward the utmost social freedom and peace, is the democratic workers’ republic.

If this task is performed militantly, consciously and consistently, the revolutionary Marxists have their only real opportunity to become a significant, and eventually, decisive political force in Europe. If not, they are lost, the people of Europe are lost and so is Europe itself. This may be difficult for those people to understand who are under the absurd impression that the struggle for socialism consists in repeating every day, “On to socialism! On to the dictatorship of the proletariat!” It may be difficult for those people to understand who are of the truly lamentable opinion (three generations of Marxist teaching have been in vain for them) that when revolutionary socialists carry on the fight for democracy, on the basis of their own socialist principles, with. their own socialist objective, in their own internationalist manner, they are, somehow or other, fighting to “establish” the power of the bourgeoisie. Such people are more to be pitied than censured. Radically inverted democrats themselves – that’s what they are – they seem to think that the bourgeoisie (the modern imperialist bourgeoisie at that!) is congenitally democratic. is inseparably associated with democracy, the preservation of democratic rights and institutions. Such flattery of the bourgeoisie and of bourgeois society will get these “radicals” nowhere!

The clarification of these questions, the clarification of the question of our perspectives, these are tasks of the Fourth International which cannot long be postponed.

The Task Before the Fourth International

During the war, the Fourth International simply ceased to exist as any kind of real movement. It is amazing, but a fact, that for five or six years the International had nothing to say (or was prevented from saying anything) on a dozen of the most important problems of world politics. There was no international leadership; and that which arrogated this role to itself was far worse than bad: it was arrogantly bureaucratic, theoretically sterile or psittacotic, politically a thousand times wrong or impotent. In a word: the International failed completely during the war, failed in every respect, failed inexcusably. If we do not start by establishing this fact, we will not make the progress that must be made.

Now that the war is over and international connections are more easily established and maintained, there is a much brighter prospect of restoring our shattered internationalism and of doing it on the soundest and healthiest foundation. It is possible, we think, to overcome the terrible theoretical confusion and political disorientation of the various sections, provided the problem is tackled correctly.

In England, France, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Greece, the Trotskyist movement has survived, and that in itself is a great achievement. In these countries, it is a growing movement, and what is more, it is beginning to find what we consider the right road. In Italy, our section has adopted a good fighting program of democratic demands suitable, despite important shortcomings, to the Italian situation. In Belgium, in connection with the monarchical crisis, our section, it is good to report, has issued and popularized the slogan: “Abdication? Non! La Republique!” The English section, despite a truly dreadful confusion on the question of the European revolution and of Russia, is vigorous and thriving. In France, there is a beginning of the indispensable reorientation.

But each section is isolated, theoretically, politically, organizationally. An international congress is absolutely essential. It is necessary to review the six years of the war, the six years of theoretical and political problems, the six years of our political practice. It is necessary to deal with the greatest freedom and objectivity with such questions as these:

These are some of the questions that must be dealt with and resolved internationally – the most important questions. Only an international congress can do this. But an international congress bureaucratically prepared and conducted would be the worst thing imaginable: it would give the International a deathblow. The congress must be preceded by a well prepared, honestly prepared, democratically arranged, thoroughgoing international discussion in every section.

No such discussion is possible if the sections and the congress have before them only the “official” views or views that are mere nuances of the “official” ones. To put it plainly, only such a congress will have value which is preceded by a discussion in which the German section, for its part, and the Workers Party, for its part, have ample opportunity to present and defend their views on a whole series of disputed questions. These groups have distinctive, elaborated views that differ from the “official” views and therefore merit and demand discussion on an equal plane with all others. The Workers Party insists upon an honest and objective discussion (no matter how vigorous) of the theoretical position put forward by the German section in its Three Theses and Capitalist Barbarism or Socialism in spite of the fact that our party has not endorsed the German thesis on capitalist retrogression (we have, as is known, a common standpoint with our German comrades on the “national question” and the main political tasks in Europe). Our party must insist no less emphatically on the presentation and discussion of its theory of Russia as a bureaucratic collectivist state, on its position on the “national question” in Europe and Asia as embodied in its resolution and corollary documents, on its position toward the Stalinist movement, on its conception of the character and regime of a democratically-centralized Bolshevik Party and International. It would insist on the same rights being accorded – and ungrudgingly! – to the views of any other comrades or groups in the International.

That the international Trotskyist movement must be restored and consolidated, we take for granted. That the precondition for this advance is a properly organized and properly conducted discussion, leading up to a world congress which would reorient and rearm the movement, must be understood in short order by all the comrades. Now, in any case, there is no longer a reason or an excuse for delay.

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Last updated on 16 November 2016