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New International, April 1947


National Convention of the Workers Party

Resolution on the International Scene

(June 1946)


From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 4, April 1947, p. 114–123.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Editors, after much deliberation, have given over a large part of this issue to the publication of the Resolution on the International Situation adopted by the last National Convention of the Workers Party in June 1946. It was originally planned to issue the resolution as a separate brochure in mimeographed form, along with other key documents of the convention. However, paper shortages and the considerable technical work involved have caused successive delays in this project. The continued crisis in international affairs, with its continuous unfolding of new turns in the 8ituation, makes it imperative that the comprehensive analysis of the Workers Party be given wider circulation than its availability in a party bulletin. A note of urgency is added to thi8 need by the current discussion in the ranks of the Fourth International movement, both here and abroad, of the questions covered in the resolution. The value of the document is not diminished by the year that has intervened since it was written. On the contrary, nothing so adds to its validity as the possibility to publish it a year later without the need of retractions, “explanations,” suggested revisions or proposed modifications in a futile effort to bridge the gap between prognosis and unfolding reality. We commend it to our reading public with full confidence that it will in time be widely accepted as the programmatic summary of six years development of the position of the Workers Party on the key theoretical and international political questions facing revolutionary Marxists in our period of history. As such it is a brilliant example of the analytical power of Marxism when used, not as dogma, but as a scientific method. – The Editors.

The Outcome of the War

The end of the war brought about the collapse of the Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan and the empires they established in the course of the war. This collapse underlined the important fact that this is not the epoch for the establishment and consolidation of new world empires but rather the epoch of disintegration of imperialism. Monopoly capitalism is imperialist capitalism. With the world already divided among a few imperialist powers and, given the fact that the living space of capitalism becomes more and more contracted, imperialism takes on a new or, rather, an added form. Each imperialist power is driven not only to the domination of the old colonial world but also to the domination and even the subjugation of modern and equally imperialist states. It is this new phenomenon which is only the logical development of monopoly capitalism that enormously accentuates the contradictions and instability of imperialism itself. The attempt to dominate the modern and advanced states and people and to reduce them to a level approaching that of the old colonial countries produces a more violent and systematic and politically more advanced form of resistance than was ever shown in the classical colonial countries or by the more backward peoples. This was demonstrated during the Second World War in the new phenomena of popular national revolutionary movements in the most modern countries of Europe, that is, in countries which, prior to their subjugation by Hitlerite imperialism, were themselves subjugating and oppressive imperialist powers.

On the basis of our analysis of the war, we predicted that it would be of long duration and that it would be brought to an end by a proletarian revolution before an imperialist military decision was reached. This prediction proved incorrect. It was based primarily upon an arbitrary analogy with the First World War which ended in a series of proletarian revolutions, one of which, the Russian, was successful. It was based, furthermore, upon our failure to bring the views we had developed on the national question in Europe into coincidence with the war itself. Although the war was not, to be sure, a short one, its duration was cut down decisively precisely by “revolution,” even though not by the revolution in the traditional form in which it occurred at the end of the First World War. It is clear that a simple duel between Axis imperialism and Allied imperialism would have meant a war of much longer duration. What intervened to cut it short was the almost all-European national revolutionary movement directed against the existing imperialist state power, the Axis. Had Hitlerism succeeded in consolidating its European empire, in establishing imperialist “order” in Europe, the war would in all likelihood still be fought today. The revolutionary movement in Europe, embracing all the popular masses, made such a consolidation and “order” impossible. In the First World War, the national revolutionary element played virtually no role, and, as exemplified by Serbia, was of no social or political importance. In the Second World War the national revolutionary movements in Europe, from Poland to France and from Norway to Greece played the decisive role. This contrast is of fundamental importance for the elaboration of the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary Marxists.

However, the national revolutionary movements in Europe, the most widespread and comprehensive in the 20th Century, were not transformed into a triumphant proletarian revolution. Capitalism was not overthrown in a single country. This cannot be explained by the “inherent strength” of European capitalism, for it is weaker today than it has ever been. It can be explained only by the exceptional weakness of the proletarian and revolutionary movements in Europe, corroded, demoralized and disoriented by decades of the leadership ,of the social democracy and Stalinism. The national revolutionary movements possessed a tremendous social strength, in that they embraced all the lower classes, including them to a far greater extent than had even been accomplished by any proletarian revolutionary movement except the Russian Bolsheviks. However, in the absence of an authoritative revolutionary leadership, this social strength proved to be the political weakness of the national revolutionary movements. The social democrats, as agents of bourgeois democracy, in the form of Anglo-American imperialism, and the Stalinists, as agents of Russian imperialism, monopolized the leadership of the revolutionary movements and were a brake upon their political and social development. The sections of the Fourth International which follow its official leadership, despite the heroism and sacrifice they manifested, proved to be politically sterile in face of this situation. They failed to become the most ardent and consistent champion of. national liberation, of the central aim of these revolutionary democratic movements, and wasted their exceptional opportunities by sectarian abstentionism (or by inconsistent participation) and by inexcusable ultimatism.

The war brought about the most terrible devastation in all history. Europe is a shambles for the most part. The old world and, consequently, the whole world, have been driven many steps closer to barbarism, thus spelling out in the horribly graphic ruins the inescapable choice before the peoples of the world: socialism or barbarism. The devastation of Europe and the bankruptcy of the ruling classes did not, however, produce the proletarian revolution. The objective situation is rotten ripe for the socialist revolution and the socialist reconstruction of society in the sense that capitalism can no longer assure any serious measure of stability, order and progress. Any real rise in the development of the productive forces is confined to a feverish development of the forces of destruction, which means a frightful economic and human waste which is accompanied by an equally frightful social and political reaction.

But the decay of capitalism has manifested itself not only in the rise of fascism but also in the policies of the social democracy and the reformist trade unions, and in Stalinism. Together, for the past twenty-five years, they have helped to batter in the ideological skull of the proletariat and to distort and falsify its consciousness almost completely. It is difficult to grasp the extent to which the independent proletarian movement has been hurled back in Europe. At the end of the First World War proletarian soviets appeared almost everywhere in Europe, and mass communist parties developed almost overnight. At the end of the Second World War soviets appeared only as isolated, ephemeral phenomena; the revolutionary vanguard has not succeeded in breaking out of its isolation.

If the proletariat did not succeed in taking socialist power, it does not follow that the ruling classes have succeeded in restoring the world to stability, order and progress, or that they have overcome any of the basic contradictions of capitalist or Stalinist society. Europe is at present still in a state of chaos; Asia not less so. There has never been such a destruction of the productive forces, on the one hand, and the development of the destructive forces on the other. The only important country which experienced a tremendous development of the productive forces was the United States, the land of the biggest war victor. It was precisely this development, however, that assured the devastation of Europe.

The destruction of the economic machinery of Europe makes it impossible for the ruling classes to fulfill the elementary economic requirements of the masses, namely, work or unemployment relief and a subsistence level of life. The destruction of the world market makes it impossible for the ruling class of the United States to fulfill the requirements of its economic machinery which was at one and the same time vastly expanded but undisturbed by the war. That is the situation today. Moreover, the inability of the principal imperialist victors to work out the peace terms, to divide the spoils of war in a manner satisfactory or at least tolerable to the decisive victors, is equivalent to a failure to establish the political prerequisites for a minimum of economic stability. Whole countries remain unaware of the fate in store for them (Italy, Balkans, Germany, France, Spain, etc.) Economic order is impossible under such circumstances. However, continuation of this chaos is likewise impossible for it would signify the immediate extension of chaos and of barbarism to the rest of the world, including the victors in the war and especially the strongest victor, the United States; for it is impossible to have any substantial measure of order and stability in the important sections of the world if there is chaos in Europe. The creation of some sort of stabilization, however precarious, is dependent in the next period and dependent primarily on the development of the main imperialist antagonism.

The Main Imperialist Antagonism in the World

Only two real victors emerged from the war: United States and Russia. All talk of a “Big Five” or a “Big Four” or even a “Big Three” is a fraud. Only two powers rule today and all others are dependent upon one or another of them to one degree or another. In anyone capitalist country the inexorable trend of monopoly is revealed in the rule by fewer and fewer over more and more. This trend does not halt at national frontiers. On a world scale it is revealed in a similar way, by the reduction of the number of independent nations, even of independent ruling imperialist powers, and by the corresponding increase in the number of dependent or semi-dependent powers, nations and peoples who are ruled over. This trend has been clearly manifested for a quarter of a century. It was manifested heavily during the war. It has reached its peak with the rule of the world by Russia and America. Japan is a conquered vassal; so are Italy and Germany. Holland cannot even think of reconquering her colonies by herself. France is now a tenth rate power with very little more than pretensions to an independent imperialist existence. England, her empire falling apart, her homeland bankrupt, at the mercies of Russia and the United States, her position in Europe shattered, is literally fighting for her life. She cannot hope to play the role of more than a junior partner of the United States which is at once her protector, ally and master. If the United States has not at all times sided with England against Russia, it was primarily for the purpose of emphasizing to the once proud British imperialists that without the aid of the United States, England cannot stand up against a power as important as Russia. The British empire is not dead, to be sure, but it is in its agony. The main antagonism in the imperialist world today is between the United States and Russia. The stakes of the conflict between these two giant imperialist powers are nothing less than the domination of the entire world. It is this antagonism that will give the basic coloration to the development of world politics in the next period. If the socialist revolution does not intervene, the antagonism cannot fail to break out into a third World War. Consequently, this antagonism will have an equally profound influence on the course of the working class movement.

In the struggle between these two imperialist powers, they are revealed as different historically, socially, and in their methods. Russia is a bureaucratic collectivist state; the United States is a capitalist monopolistic state. Russia was economically ravished by the war, not only in war dead but in the devastation of her agriculture and her economic plant; the United States was enormously developed both agriculturally and industrially and even from the standpoint of the increase in its working forces. Russia is a totalitarian state; the United States is a bourgeois democratic, or democratic imperialistic state. Russia has a native mass movement at her disposal in every important country of the world, a movement which is automatically synchronized to her every political move. The United States has no such movement at her disposal except in the form of the undependable social democracy. Russia destroys or seeks to destroy completely the bourgeoisie of the countries she conquers or dominates; the United States subjects this bourgeoisie or reduces it to an agency or vassal of American imperialism. Russia pillages the machinery of the conquered countries in order to restore her own dilapidated plant, plunders the food in order to supply herself; the United States is compelled to feed the peoples of the countries in her orbit, at least to the extent of preventing starvation and revolution, and to invest capital in the reconstruction of their industry.

The continuation of the antagonism between American and Russian imperialism cannot but lead to war to determine which power shall dominate and exploit and oppress the entire world. However, such a war is a matter of years of preparation, and cannot break out tomorrow except as the result of a combination of unforeseeable accidents. The Stalinist regime, characteristically Bonapartist and imperialist, keeps shouting demagogically about an imminent war threat, first, in order to silence the growing restlessness and discontentment at home; second, in order to enlist the sympathies of the peoples in other countries; and third, in order to justify or screen the typically imperialist atrocities which it is committing. The self-styled Trotskyists who repeat the cry about the war-danger in the Stalinist sense are unwittingly doing the political dirty work of Stalinist imperialism. The war between the two big imperialist powers is inevitable in the end. But for the next period, neither the economic nor political prerequisites for this war exist. They must first be created and developed. An indispensable part of this is the establishment of outposts, the conquests of preliminary positions, the ideological preparations for another war between “democracy” and “totalitarianism,” the jockeying for positions, etc., etc. This is at present and for the next period the stage in which the “war” will develop.

In this preparatory period, the struggle is already on – it started in the very midst of the Second World War itself – for the division of the world into .two camps, that of Russian and that of American imperialism. The principal fronts for this struggle are Europe and Asia. In the struggle, some of the differences between the salient traits of the two imperialisms are already revealed. Stalinist imperialism, totalitarian by its very nature, and urgently in need of raw materials, machinery and labor power, utilizes its advantageous geographical position for annexing, directly or indirectly, all adjacent territories and peoples possible. Its principal instruments are the army, the GPU and the CPs of the annexed lands. By means of its terroristic regime, it creates as rapidly as possible the conditions without which it cannot maintain its imperial rule: crushing and expropriating the bourgeoisie, “giving” land to the peasants under bureaucratic police management, wiping out all traces of the labor and revolutionary movements, as well as all institutions and rights of democracy and reducing all workers to the level of forced labor. There is hardly a measure adopted by the fascists in their struggle for power – and their methods were taken over largely from Stalinism and uniquely developed – that Stalinism does not employ in its own behalf. The stripping of the economic plant of the conquered countries and the drafting of millions of slave laborers for work in Russia are a peculiar requirement of Stalinist Bonapartism.

For a number of economic and political reasons, American imperialism cannot or does not have to proceed in the same way. Stalinist autarchy is far less dependent upon the world market than American capitalism, or rather is dependent upon it in a radically different way. Russia is not a capital-exporting country; the U.S. is. The U.S. does not have the political possibility of maintaining the armed force in peacetime that totalitarian Russia has; moreover, the speed with which the U.S. can create a big armed force, out of practically nothing, does not necessitate its maintenance of the same kind of armed force that Russia must maintain. Finally, to come to grips with Russia requires that America have armed forces, and an economic basis for them, in lands closer to Russia than the United States is itself. Russia cannot give anything to the conquered territories or the vassal states; given her own poverty, it can only take from them. Hence her control over these states must be of a police character, even more so than was the case with Nazi domination of other lands.

The United States can give something to the conquered countries or to vassal states. Her vast economic power which, for all external suavity, she employs with brutality and blackmailing cynicism, is the basis for her pious pacifism.

To have armies in Europe and – more important – the economic basis for such armies, the U.S. is compelled to engage in the reconstruction of Europe. These armies, agents of American imperialism at bottom, the ones that are expected to initiate the war against Russia so that America can come in toward the end to snatch the fruits of victory, must be paid for by the only power capable of paying – American imperialism. To get people to fight for it, the U.S. must feed them.

The reconstruction of Europe is mandatory upon American imperialism for another reason. Unless there is some economic stability established, these countries will fall, one after the other, into the orbit of Stalinism. Or what is worse from the standpoint of U.S. imperialism, they will be conquered by the socialist proletariat. Another reason: After the last war, U.S. sought to put Europe on rations in the world market, i.e., on reduced rations. The world market today is utterly shattered. There is starvation everywhere; war debts everywhere; mass unemployment and wandering everywhere. Previously, America had to try to reduce the rations of Europe. Today, capitalist society has decayed to the point where America has to try (in the course of restoring the world market to some level) to raise the rations of Europe from the level of “no rations” at all.

The immediate economic requirements of the swollen economic apparatus of America, and the long-term imperialist requirements for the domination of the world – coincide at this point, and manifest themselves in the appearance of America as the provider of food, capital, and “democracy” for Europe and for the reconstruction of Europe. The U.S. has neither the political possibility nor the need FOR THE NEXT STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT of establishing its domination over other lands with the same outwardly brutal methods as Nazism or Stalinism. It is still wealthy enough to afford the mask of democracy, even in its dealings with other countries.

This is manifest not only in Europe, but also in Asia. There the U.S. appears as the bold heir of the decaying British and Dutch and French empires. Partly under pressure of the masses, but also under the pressure of U.S. imperialism, Britain finds itself compelled to offer additional concessions to India. The U.S. holds as firmly as possible to the line of keeping China out of the Russian sphere of influence or domination, with Russia fighting just as aggressively to conquer at least the northern section of China. In Japan, the United States takes all the measures necessary to prevent that country from playing an INDEPENDENT economic, military or imperialist role, but at the same time plays the demagogical game of “democratizing” the country so as (1) to impress all the Asiatic peoples with its political superiority as patron of the continent over totalitarian Russia, (2) so as to enlist the greatest amount of popular support for itself in Japan for the eventual war with Russia, and (3) by depriving Japan of warmaking power, to take over the war-making functions for itself in a future eventuality, and thus have an almost continental base for attack upon Russia.

All the post-war institutions initiated by the U.S. come under this heading: UNRRA, World Bank, UNO, etc., etc.

Naturally, the export of “democracy” to Europe and Asia must be paid for by the other countries, if not in cash then in subtler and more insidious and sinister forms. England is being forced gradually into the position of vassal of America, and the British press is not far wrong in complaining that the relationships existing between the two lands in the 18th century are now being reversed. France, for all her attempts to establish a Western Bloc which she can dominate as a springboard for the restoration of her European imperialist glory, must come crawling to Washington for food, money, and even for permission to exploit her “just share” of the war booty, Western German coal. The price of American support for the reconstruction of Europe is not the abandonment of democracy by the European countries. The U.S. is careful not to make demands which would lead to further chaos, to civil war, for even if the proletariat of the European countries (especially the Western European countries) is not ready for the socialist revolution, it has given clear enough proof that it will fight bitterly against any attempt to establish a regime in any way similar to that of the Nazis against which they fought with such revolutionary courage. But the U.S. does make demands which mean increased restrictions upon democracy. It preferred Darlan to de Gaulle; it prefers de Gaulle to Blum-Herriot or Blum-Thorez. Above all, it prefers the Catholic Church to the social democracy or the petty bourgeois liberals. In the first place, the church is much more reliable politically than the social democracy, so far as unwavering support of capitalism is concerned. In the second place, it is more reliable than the social democracy so far as unwavering opposition to Stalinism is concerned. In the third place, the church is not inferior to the social democracy so far as mass support, which the U.S. seeks, is concerned. In the fourth place, the church has mass support in countries – particularly in eastern and southeastern countries – where the social democracy has none. Hence, the mutually improved relations between Washington and the Vatican.

American Imperialism and Social Democracy

Historically, the basis for the existence of the modern social democracy (as distinguished from the revolutionary social democracy of the 19th century) is provided by the organic upswing of capitalist economy, the amassing of super-profits from colonial exploitation, and the consequent development of a labor aristocracy and an equally conservative labor bureaucracy.

With the decay of capitalism, especially in Europe, with the decay of European imperialist powers, with the disappearance, apparently of the historic economic basis of the social democracy, some Marxists drew the arbitrary conclusion during the war that the social democracy had disappeared. This conclusion, attesting an ignorance both of theory and politics, has been sufficiently refuted by the first post-war period. The European social democracy has had a significant rebirth, as witness England, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium and even Germany. The social democracy, it is true, has degenerated further politically and socially. Its ranks as well as its leadership are increasingly petty bourgeoisie. But in all countries it is still a petty bourgeois workers’ party, and in some countries it still retains the allegiance of the bulk of the working class. The idea that because the economic basis of the social democracy in Europe has “disappeared,” it too has disappeared, has been proved to be preposterous. The corollary idea that the basis for bourgeois democracy has disappeared in Europe and that therefore there could be no “democratic interlude” between the fall of fascism and the establishment of the proletarian socialist power, has been proved to be equally preposterous, and, so far as the tactics of the revolutionary Marxists are concerned, downright pernicious and disorienting.

As analyzed by the National Resolution of the WP, the fall of fascism in Europe would in all likelihood be followed by a period of bourgeois democracy. The analysis pointed out that this democracy could not be expected to enjoy the same period of long and organic growth that it knew in the period before the First World War, or even the period between the two world wars; that it would not be even as democratic as it was in those two periods; that it would be heavily overladen with authoritarian, Bonapartist and dictatorial features of all kinds. But it would be a period that would be so radically different from that prevalent under fascism as to be unmistakably qualifiable as bourgeois democracy – Bonapartist, distorted, degenerated, restricted, etc., that is, the only kind of bourgeois democracy collapsing European capitalism is capable of yielding.

The sources of this democratic interlude are as follows:

The masses, strangled for years under the most rigid totalitarianism, want, in general, “freedom” – the right to speak, to write, to meet, to organize, to strike, to vote, to be democratically represented in a sovereign legislature, etc. The bourgeoisie, hopelessly compromised and extraordinarily weak, is unable at one blow to suppress the popular movement and the democracy for which it fought under Nazism. The masses resist, in one degree or another, moving directly from one dictatorship to “another” even if the “other” is the opposite of the Nazi dictatorship, namely, the socialist dictatorship of the proletariat. This is especially the case when in the eyes of the masses – many of them – the latter is associated with everything that is represented by Stalinist totalitarianism.

The masses want an opportunity to examine all political programs, which they did not have under the Nazis; they want to see the unfolding in practice of all political programs.

The masses are vastly fatigued. They can summon up strength for new assaults but only with difficulty and under exceptional circumstances. The war and the struggle against the Nazis was a terrible bloodletting for the peoples. They aim, therefore, to have representative institutions of “their own” which they were deprived of by fascism, their traditional organizations (unions and parties) and the parliament. This is understood by everybody in Europe (except the leadership of the Fourth International). Even the Stalinists are compelled to present themselves, at least in words, as the champions of representative parliaments, constituent assemblies, etc., etc.

The masses want a parliament of “their own,” one that will regulate the reconstruction of the nation, its economy, in such a way that there will be work for all and food for all. They are not interested in the least in preserving private property or the rule of the bourgeoisie, so badly compromised either by being fascist in the Axis countries or by being fascists or collaborators in the conquered countries. Hence, their support of nationalization.

The struggle for the masses therefore revolves around so-called “constitutional” or parliamentary questions. In these conditions, the social democracy could not only survive but even flourish.

The social democracy can flourish for another reason. The popular enthusiasm for the Stalinist parties, due to their skill in participating in the popular national revolutionary movements and to the glory reflected upon them by the spectacular successes of the Russian regime and its armies, as well as to the general and vague feeling among the masses that supporting the Communist Parties meant supporting the idea of a revolution in their own country like that of the Russians in 1917 – this enthusiasm is now waning. It is waning because of the repelling maneuvers of the CPs since the “heroic period” of the national revolutionary movements, and above all by what the European peoples are seeing with their own eyes about the robber role of Stalinist imperialism, its looting and ravishing of conquered lands, its imposition of national oppression no different in the eyes of the masses than that imposed by the Nazis. This waning of Stalinist popularity is visible in country after country: in the Austrian and Hungarian elections; in the breaking of the “unity” drive launched by the Stalinists in Italy for the purpose of absorbing and wiping out the SP; in the resistance to the same kind of “unity” drive in Germany; in the beginnings of a proletarian shift from the CP to the SP in France; in the virtual halt brought to the growth of the CP in England (and in the crisis of the CP in the U.S.A.).

The masses, finished with the bourgeois regime, wanting socialism or steps toward socialism (as they understand it), do not quit the CP in order to become politically indifferent or to join the outright bourgeois parties ... individuals do, not the masses. Instead, they rally once more to the social democracy.

Finally, there is another reason, the essentials of which were laid bare by Trotsky two decades ago. Left to itself, to its own resources, there is hardly a country in Europe that can reconstruct its economy and, by virtue of that fact, make possible the preservation of bourgeois democracy to any extent. European economy and the European bourgeoisie are utterly bankrupt on a continental basis. The social democracy does not think in terms of socialism except as a remote and at present unrealizable ideal; it does not think in terms of socialist power or the socialist reorganization of economy. Its own bourgeoisie – in Europe – cannot, however, provide it with the basis for its own existence, which is another way of saying with the basis for the existence of bourgeois democracy and a relatively free labor movement. However, there is a bourgeoisie left that can provide that basis, even if narrowed down and even if obtained on very high terms. That is the American bourgeoisie. It is upon this bourgeoisie that it relies more and more for salvation, at least “for the present.” It looks to it not only for food for the people and capital for reconstruction – but also as its guardian from the encroachments of Stalinism. It has no political and social program based upon the independent class interests and class action of the proletariat – the only way in which not only Stalinism but bourgeois chaos and barbarism can be defeated. It has no confidence in the social ability of the working class to reorganize society. It has lost its confidence in its own bourgeoisie. It can no longer rest upon the economic foundations once provided by its own capitalism – that is gone. It therefore seeks the substitute for these foundations which wealthy and powerful American imperialism can provide.

In one way or another, the social democracy (i.e., the leadership of what remains of the Second International in Europe), presents this conception of its role and perspective to the working class that follows it. To the extent that it corresponds to the truth, to the bitter reality, the masses accept this conception, even if reluctantly and without enthusiasm. The almost boundless illusions about American or Anglo-American imperialism – the “liberators of Europe” – which were entertained by the European masses during and immediately after the war, have since diminished and been dissipated. But many of the illusions remain. As is so often the case with the democratic illusions of the masses, in this case too they are based on a “kernel of truth,” namely, the idea that for its own good imperialist reasons, if for no other, the United States will find itself obliged to give some food to Europe, some capital for European reconstruction. The social democracy, by embellishing the “kernel of truth,” by its eulogies of “American democracy,” by presenting American imperialism as a beneficent friend, horribly distorts the “kernel of truth,” spreads and deepens the illusions of the people, and conceals from them the big and important truth that the generosity of Uncle Sam is a step, necessary for him, in the process of preparing Europe for a tighter yoke around its neck at a later stage; is the peculiarly American-imperialist way of strengthening reaction in Europe and frustrating the aspirations of the masses; is the indispensable prerequisite to the eventual mobilization of at least the western part of the continent for service as advance guard, shock troops, in the Third World War to eliminate the Russian rival who is the only power standing athwart America’s road to global domination – the only power except for the masses themselves.

Meanwhile, the social democracy has become, and is increasingly, the “State Department’s socialists” or the “Downing Street socialists.”

Russian Imperialism and Stalinism

At the very outset of the war, the founders of the Workers Party, in opposing the war as imperialist on both sides, set forth the position that Russia’s role in the war was imperialist too, and that in two senses: one, that she was participating as an integral part of the imperialist war, and two, that she was pursuing imperialist aims of her own. Hence, the slogan of “unconditional defense of the Soviet Union” was outlived, had become reactionary, and could only serve the ends of Stalinist imperialism. If this question could be seriously debated among Marxists in 1939–1940, it is no longer possible to do so today. The position of our party has been confirmed to the very hilt. The proponents of support of Russia in the war, prompted though they were by revolutionary proletarian considerations, nevertheless capitulated objectively to Stalinist imperialism and helped to cover its deception and enslavement of other nations and peoples with radical arguments.

Stalinist Russia today is a full-grown imperialist power. The sway of the reactionary ruling class in Russia extends over a dozen other lands and over tens of millions of other peoples. These peoples have been deprived of their elementary democratic right to national independence and self-government and reduced to the slavery imposed by bureaucratic-collectivism. Along with this right have disappeared all their other rights, for the first victim of the victory of Stalinism is the working class, its democratic organizations and rights (more accurately, the very first victim of Stalinism is the revolutionary vanguard of the working class). Revolutionary socialism does not recognize the right of any nation or people or class to deprive any other nation, people or class of these elementary rights except in the higher interests of democracy (as in the period of the great bourgeois revolutions) or in the higher interests of socialism (as in the period of the proletarian revolutions). In the case of bureaucratic-collectivist Russia, the peoples of the Baltic and the Balkans, of R.umania and Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, of Poland and East Prussia, of sections of Asia and the Middle East, have been thus disfranchised in the interests of Stalinist slavery and of the consolidation of the Stalinist bureaucracy. They have been enslaved as loot and booty of the struggle for the imperialist domination of the world. The revolutionist loses title to his name who does not protest and fight against this enslavement.

The claim that this “expansion” (i.e., imperialist aggression and annexation) is required “merely” for the “security” of Russia is a classical imperialist sophism. The defense of the frontiers of a nation (whether by purely defensive measures or by offensive measures is actually of no importance) is warranted only if it is fighting to acquire or maintain or extend democracy or socialism. “Security” by annexation to a nation which is itself ruled by a reactionary class which tramples democracy and socialism under foot more ruthlessly than anywhere else in the world, and enslaves every other people over whom it extends its dominion, is nothing but a euphemism and justification of imperialist oppression and exploitation. Every nation has the right to be ruled by its own people, even if they’ choose a reactionary regime, without unwarranted interference by another nation. On the other hand, every nation has the right to come to the aid of another people which is fighting to overturn its own tyrannical regime, provided this assistance is not aimed at replacing the old tyranny with another and thereby strengthening reaction as a whole. This basic socialist principle, observed by the revolutionary workers’ state of Lenin and Trotsky, and proclaimed by it, is applicable in judging the policy not only of the imperialism of capitalist states, but as well to the imperialism of the Stalinist state.

The social sources of Stalinist imperialism have already been examined scientifically by the revolutionary Marxists. It is necessary to continue this examination with the greatest scientific objectivity, without prejudices, and through to the very end. It is not necessary, however, to wait until the last word has been uttered on this question in the scientific sphere before arriving at a judgment of Stalinist imperialism as it has already, and sufficiently, manifested itself, or before adopting a political position toward it.

If bureaucratic collectivism survives in Russia until the next war, the Stalinist state will enter the war on the same basis as its principal rival: for the purpose of defending its imperialist conquests and its reactionary rule at home, for the purpose of extending these imperialist conquests and this rule, for the purpose of winning the struggle for the domination of the globe. Whatever the abstract or historically remote possibilities may be, all the present indications, the whole present trend, show that the Third World War, if it is allowed to come, will be a struggle between the two monster imperialisms for world mastery, and consequently, a struggle that would decide the fate of the world for an indefinite period of time. Under such circumstances, it is impossible for the revolutionary Marxists to speak in any way of “defense of the Soviet Union.” The resolution on the Russian question adopted by our party in 1941 deliberately “left the door open” with regard to the possibility of again raising the slogan of defense of Russia (not in the Second World War but in a conceivable later war). The party took the view that in examining a new social phenomenon that was still in the early process of formation, namely, bureauLINISM cratic collectivism, and without positive foreknowledge of the political face of the world in the post-war period, it did not have the right as a scientific Marxian organization to set forth its position categorically on all aspects of the question of Stalinism and for all time. Indeed, even now, the party does not lay claim to a position which applies forever and under all conceivable circumstances. But “all conceivable circumstances” is an abstraction which has its “rights” on the plane of abstraction. What is before us concretely is the development of Stalinist Russia as a full-fledged reactionary empire, oppressing and exploiting not only the Russian people, but a dozen other peoples and nations – and that in the most cruel and barbarous way. What is before us concretely is the overwhelming probability of the next world war being fought between two reactionary imperialist powers for the preservation and extension of their empires. In face of this reality, the Workers Party declares. flatly that all talk of defense of Russian imperialism (or of American imperialism) in that war, or in the period of preparation for that war which we are now living through, is reactionary talk and signifies an abandonment of the principles and interests of the proletariat and of socialism.

The concretization of our party’s position on the slogan of “defense of the Soviet Union” must be accompanied by an important correction in its resolution on Russia. The resolution, which has otherwise been confirmed so emphatically, contains an error. It declares that in the absence of a proletarian revolution, Stalinist Russia, after the war, “cannot, in all likelihood, escape integration into the capitalist system as a colony or a series of colonies of imperialism.” It adds that the stages of development that will be passed “before bureaucratic collectivism in Russia is destroyed either by the proletarian revolution or capitalist counterrevolution, cannot be established categorically in advance.” The end of the war has shown, however, that although capitalism has not been destroyed by the proletariat, bureaucratic collectivism in Russia has not only not been integrated into the capitalist system, has not only not been overturned, but has survived and expanded. This provisional forecast of the party’s resolution was in error exactly to the extent to which it represented a hangover of the theory rejected by the party, namely, the theory that Russia is a “degenerated workers’ state” which could not survive the war. Fortunately, this error was not seriously reflected in the current analyses of the party during the war, nor did it affect the political line of the party – its struggles against the war, against Stalinism, and Stalinist imperialism, for socialism, or its struggle on the theoretical and political planes against the theoreticians of the “workers’ state.”

The Nature of the Stalinist Parties

Stalinist imperialism is unique in that, among other things, it has at its disposal a “native” mass movement in all other countries, the “Communist parties” and their affiliates. If one major section of the labor movement – the social democracy – is more and more an agency of American imperialist democracy, the other major section – the Communist parties – is outrightly the agency of Stalinist imperialism. The theory that the Stalinist parties (like the traditional reformist organizations) are agents of the capitalist class, that they “capitulate to the bourgeoisie,” is fundamentally false. They are the agencies of Russian bureaucratic collectivism. To the extent that they serve the bourgeoisie of the capitalist countries, it is only as agents of the Kremlin who are temporarily hired out for service to the bourgeoisie of this or that country but only in the given interests of the Stalinist state, of its diplomatic maneuvers, of its imperialist objectives. The old Communist parties in the days of the opportunist leadership of the Comintern did tend to conciliate the bourgeoisie and to capitulate to it under stress. The present Stalinist movement has nothing but the name in common with these old parties. It serves, today, a strong imperialist master. In the interests of this master, it is capable of the most irreconcilable opposition to its “own” capitalist class and to its rule. It is imperative to understand this, for otherwise the whole struggle against Stalinism is falsified or nullified. If this is not understood, Stalinism stands to gain by being subjected only to attacks which are aimed at what Stalinism is not, instead of attacks aimed at what it is and at those points where it is really vulnerable. Stalinism is not, however, merely the servant of Russian imperialism, If this were the only role it played, the tenacity and “durability” of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the capitalist countries could not be adequately explained. This bureaucracy is not prompted exclusively or even primarily by such “idealistic” considerations as the preservation and consolidation of the Russian state bureaucracy. It has a material base of its own and its own social ambitions in every country. The Stalinist parties are fundamentally different from all the traditional working class parties, not only from those that are revolutionary socialist in character but also -from those that are reformist, centrist or anarchist. The Stalinist parties are the parties of bureaucratic collectivism. As Trotsky set it forth in his ultimate judgment of the Stalinist bureau~racy, it seeks to establish in every capitalist country in which it functions the same social and political regime as prevails in Russia today.

The material basis of the Stalinist bureaucracies is provided by the deepening disintegration and decay of capitalism. The social democrat, the reformist, the old trade union bureaucracy rose .and developed on the basis of the upswing of capitalist economy. In that period, a pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy was created. This reformist sector of the labor movement became tied to capitalist democracy. It was nurtured economically by the concessions which capitalism could still afford to give, and it received a satisfying political status from the prosperous bourgeoisie and its democracy. However, as capitalism decays and is wracked by agonizing crises, it can less and less afford economic or political concessions to the working class in general or to the reformist bureaucracy in particular. The material basis of reformism is narrowed both in the economic and the political spheres. Reformism does not break its ties with capitalist democracy; but decaying capitalism breaks its ties with reformism.

As capitalism decays and narrows the basis for existence of reformism, the bonds linking whole strata of the population to the foundations of capitalism – private property – are loosened. To maintain private property, which means nowadays to preserve the increasingly centralized and concentrated power of monopoly capitalism, requires the economic and political disfranchisement, the economic and political degradation not only of the proletariat but also of the middle and intermediate classes and social strata – peasants, small producers and manufacturers, small traders, professionals, civil servants, scientists, labor bureaucracies, industrial managers and supervisors, etc., etc. Fascism appeals to all these strata with a socially-demagogical program of “anti-capitalism” but with the social aim of maintaining precisely that form of capitalist ownership which is disfranchising, degrading and declassing the social strata to which fascism appeals. Stalinism, on the other hand, while appealing to the same strata, with a no less demagogical program of “socialism,” nevertheless aims at removing from power that class – the monopoly capitalists – which stands in the way of the acquisition of social power by the Stalinist bureaucracy. In this sense, too, fascism and Stalinism, while not identical, are “symmetrical phenomena.” Stalinism has a grip on the minds of the working class not only by virtue of its usurpation of the socialist traditions of the Bolshevik Revolution. It seeks, and often gains, support of the working classes because, while its anti-proletarian and anti-socialist nature is not immediately clear, its anti-capitalist nature is apparent. It cannot be considered an accident that the Stalinist bureaucracy attracts to its ranks, especially in countries where the decay of capitalism has reached an advanced stage, many of the former reformist bureaucrats whom capitalism no longer offers economic or political security. The expropriation of the bourgeoisie by the democratic proletariat means the beginning of the end of all bureaucratism and bureaucratic privilege. But the seizure of all social power by Stalinism means the legal and police sanctification of bureaucratic privilege and power. It is likewise no accident that Stalinism attracts to itself also such elements as the declassed worker, the disoriented and demoralized petty-bourgeois intellectuals and professionals whom capitalism allows an ever narrowing base for existence but whom the triumph of Stalinism offers exceptional privileges and social status.

The growth and triumph of the Stalinist bureaucracy means neither the victory nor the advancement of socialism and the proletariat. It means the establishment of the totalitarian tyranny known as bureaucratic collectivism. Such a tyranny is possible only in the absence of a socialist perspective. Inasmuch as the socialist perspective depends, in our period, on the ability of the revolutionary Marxists to establish a party able to place itself at the head of the working class and all other little people, the triumph of Stalinism is possible only under the condition of the absence of such a party. Conversely, it is impossible in the presence of such a party, since all the other conditions for the victory of the socialist proletariat have matured to the highest degree under capitalism.

The question of the perspective of Stalinism cannot, therefore, be resolved in a purely theoretical way. It can be resolved only in struggle. Every advance of Stalinism is not only a defeat for democracy but also a defeat for the proletariat and for socialism. Unlike reformism, Stalinism does not aim at the preservation of bourgeois democracy, let alone at the conquest of proletarian democracy. Stalinism is neither a democratic nor a socialist movement, but a bureaucratic totalitarian collectivist movement, which must be resisted by the organized proletariat at every turn.

The traditional policy of the revolutionary vanguard toward the labor-reformist movements (or bureaucracies) does not, therefore, apply to the Stalinist movements. Given its inability to lead the proletariat directly and in its own name, the revolutionary vanguard is prepared, as always, to give critical support to the reformist bureaucracies in their conflicts with the capitalist class. This makes possible, at least to some extent, the defense of the economic and political integrity of the working class and its movement, or even the defense of bourgeois democracy against fascism, i.e., the defense of the political conditions that are more favorable to the existence and development of the working class. The same policy cannot be applied to Stalinism, since it is neither a democratic nor a socialist movement and has neither democratic nor socialist aims. The revolutionary Marxists, therefore, maintain the general rule of no support of Stalinism of any kind and of irreconcilable opposition to any move calculated to strengthen its position.

Whether or not Stalinism can triumph in the capitalist world cannot be decided absolutely in advance. To repeat, it is a question of struggle. Up to now, it is established that Stalinism was able to triumph by overturning the rule of the proletariat (Russia). It was able to triumph in the Baltic countries annexed to Russia, but only by virtue of the military force of Russian imperialism. In Poland and Yugoslavia, the Stalinist bureaucracy has taken’ power. In clear refutation of the analysis that it represents a “capitalist” force, the bureaucracy has not only disfranchised and enslaved the proletariat and peasantry, but has systematically expropriated the bourgeoisie and the landlords and converted their property into state property. This phenomenon gives the final blow to the theory that Russia is a “workers’ state” because property is nationalized. But it does not establish the conclusion that Stalinist collectivism is guaranteed to replace capitalism in the world. Both in Poland and Yugoslavia, Stalinism came to power under exceptional circumstances, namely, in the absence of any organized bourgeoisie to speak of and by means of the direct and decisive aid of the armed forces of Russian imperialism. Nowhere has Stalinism shown its social ability to crush a free working class or, more important, its ability to overthrow the rule of the capitalist class. The countries in which it has triumphed are lands where the bourgeoisie was weak to begin with and where feudal remnants were thickly intertwined with capitalist relationships. Nowhere has Stalinism shown its social ability to overturn the rule of the capitalist class in a modern, advanced capitalist country. .lience, our aemal and rej ection of the theory of the “Stalinist epoch,” our reaffirmation of the theory that Stalinist bureaucratic collectivism represents a mongrel social formation, and our reaffirmation of the concept that this is the epoch of the proletarian socialist revolution which will sweep away capitalism and bureaucratic collectivism alike.

Perspectives and Tasks: Germany and Eastern Europe

Nowhere did the pre-war perspectives of the Fourth International stand in sharper contrast to the political reality produced by the war than in Germany. If there was still reason to assign to the German proletariat a pivotal role in the strategy of the European revolution up to Hitler’s triumph in 1933, the successful mobilization of the German nation in 1939 without internal disturbances, the paralysis of the German proletariat during the Nazi conquest and subjugation of the Continent, and the absence of any repercussions within Germany to the military set-backs beginning at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943, proved the need to re-examine the analysis that designated Germany the “key to the international situation.” A refusal to do the latter was only possible on the part of those who, as with the leadership of the SWP, stubbornly denied that the fascist conquest of Europe had hurled back the proletariat in terms of consciousness and organization. Those who insisted that fascism had taught the proletariat the lessons of revolutionary politics and that, consequently, it would emerge from the fascist oppression at a higher political level than before could not but assign to the German proletariat the vanguard role in the European revolution. The colossal blunder of continuing to view the German proletariat in terms of 1918–1933 was an inseparable part of the totally false position which rejected the slogan of national liberation, which led to abstention from participation in the resistance movements, which foresaw the overthrow of Hitler as the proletarian revolution and which posed as the main slogan “the United Socialist States of Europe.” Basing themselves upon this completely unreal analysis, its authors momentarily expected, with amazing credulity and increasing desperation, the outbreak of the proletarian revolution as an automatic result of Germany’s growing military catastrophes in 1944–1945. This gross misreading of the situation in Germany revealed that its perpetrators sadly lacked even an understanding of the mechanics of the proletarian revolution and conceived of it in terms of the sheerest automatism and spontaneity.

The defeat in 1933, the twelve-year long rule of Nazi terror, the devastation of six years of war, the conquest and occupation by the victorious powers and the infamous partition of Germany by the four powers for purposes of scientifically bleeding it of its economic potency and political viability as a nation makes it necessary to begin the task of again collecting in class organizations the shattered and dispersed forces of the German proletariat at the most primitive level. Of all the obstacles this task must overcome, the first and the greatest is the military occupation of Germany. Until this condition is ended, the scene will be dominated by the national struggle for liberation. The main slogan around which the German Marxists must orient the struggle in the coming period is “For a unified and independent Germany!” This struggle begins as a struggle for democratic rights against the military authorities of the occupying powers and their quisling supporters. Freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of movement, of organization, of communication and the right to vote and the demand for a free national assembly will constitute the issues around which the political struggles will revolve and the masses will rally. Unless the German proletarian organizations take upon themselves the lead in this struggle and conduct it in the spirit of socialism and internationalism, this task will fall to the reactionary nationalists. They will utilize it for the reconstruction of the Nazi movement, regardless of the guise or the name under which it will appear. Neither the Social Democrats nor the Stalinists can give the proletariat a lead on this struggle. The former plays the role of adjutant to the AngloAmerican authorities and the latter is tho creature of the Russian oppressors. This struggle requires the speediest organization of a revolutionary Marxist party and, in turn, affords our German comrades a clear issue upon which to struggle for such a party.

The Marxists of the “victorious” nations have the special task of defending the democratic rights of the German people, by helping, in the first place, to free the land of the imperialist invaders. The reunification and liberation of Germany remains the first step toward the restoration of the truncated economy of the Continent. In this historical sense, Germany remains the key to Europe. The Marxists of Western Europe must link the struggle against American domination of their own countries with the struggle against the oppression of Germany by their own ruling classes. Such an international proletarian struggle in the defense of the German people will be one of the surest barriers to the reappearance of a Nazi movement in Germany. It will restore to the German proletariat the self-confidence and morale which has been its greatest deficiency since 1933. It will pose before the Stalinist-led workers of Western Europe the “German question” as a question of international proletarian solidarity and, thereby, pose before them the “Russian question” from the point of view of imperialist oppression. In this respect the effect of the struggle by the workers of the victorious powers upon the German proletariat is only an aspect of the whole mechanism by which the revolutionary impetus will be given to the German scene, i.e., via the revolutionary struggles of the international proletariat, above all those of Western Europe.

The conquest of virtually all of Eastern Europe by Stalinist imperialism has, as in the case of Hitler’s conquests, burdened the masses with a combination of class exploitation and national oppression. In these countries especially the slogan of the “defense of the Soviet Union” can be nothing but a cover for the rapacity of Stalinist imperialism. The revolutionary Marxists are no less firmly committed to support of the demand for national liberation from the yoke of Stalinism than from the yoke of Hitlerism or any other form of imperialist subjugation and violation of the right of self-determination and self-rule. The Fourth International must adopt and propagate the slogan of national liberation for the peoples and nations oppressed by Stalinist Russia as an elementary internationalist duty and as an indispensable part of the internationalist education of the whole working class. As in the case of the movements which arose against German imperialism, the Workers Party will support every socialist or genuinely popular democratic movement of resistance against the imperialist oppressor in Eastern Europe, without giving any aid or support to reactionary landlord or capitalist-fascist elements who seek to exploit the progressive national sentiments of the masses. However, we do not take the Stalinists’ word for it that all the partisans and partisan bands in Poland, for example, who are fighting against the invading oppressor or against the totalitarian “native” regime, are “Fascists.” We are only too well aware of the Stalinist practice of labelling all its opponents as “Fascists.” The struggle for national liberation is inseparably bound up in these countries with the fight for all democratic rights and liberties, including the right to free universal suffrage and a free Constituent Assembly. To attempt to substitute for this slogan the slogan of “Soviets” is false and preposterous. In countries like Poland, etc., there is no tradition whatsoever of the revolutionary Soviets established by the Bolshevik Revolution. What has appeared to these peoples in the name of “Sovietism” is the Stalinist reaction which they abhor and against which they are already striving with all their force. As in the case of Western Europe under the Nazi occupation, our support of the struggle for national freedom is not support for the return or restoration to power of the landlords and capitalists. Our demand for the Constituent Assembly is closely linked with the demand for the preservation of nationalized economy under democratic control, with the demand for the land to the peasants, but free from the police rule of the GPU satrapy.

The attempts of the Stalinist imperialists to consolidate their power and control in Eastern Europe cannot but lead to increased resistance of the masses. This resistance must inevitably take the form of struggle for ousting the invader and establishing the national sovereignty of the occupied lands. The masses of the conquered countries show, as they did during the war, both the organic need and organic capacity to oust the invader. Wherever the masses have had any opportunity to express themselves, they have manifested their hostility to the Stalinists: Austrian and Hungarian elections, mass demonstrations in Rumania, semi-civil war in Poland.

Failure to give staunch support to the movement for national freedom from Stalinist rule (both in the newly occupied countries as well as in those countries of the. “Soviet Union” long ago usurped by the Kremlin autocracy) can only serve, moreover, to delay the inevitable crisis of Stalinism in Russia itself. To preserve itself, to enhance its power and privilege, to maintain its exploitation and oppression of peoples and nations annexed to the Russian empire, the bureaucracy is compelled to saddle the Russian masses with an even vaster bureaucratic monster, with an even vaster police and spy force, with a huge standing army, all of which are directed against the Russian people as well. The bureaucracy is compelled, like the ruling class of the capitalist empires, to deprive the masses of homes and a decent standard of living by concentrating upon preparation for imperialist war and upon production of the means of destruction. The returning soldiers who have seen other lands under circumstances which puts the Stalinist regime in a truer, that is, a less advantageous light, can only add to the restlessness and dissatisfaction which Stalinism generates among the people. The rise of the most brutal chauvinism in the upper ranks of the bureaucracy, especially the military bureaucracy, must clash with the war-weariness and yearning for peace and security of the people. The crisis of Stalinism cannot be too long postponed. It can weather this crisis if the Russian people feel themselves isolated. Their true ally in the struggle for emancipation is not the Stalinist bureaucracy but the peoples of the oppressed nations who are fighting for national freedom against this bureaucracy_ The overturn of the Stalinist ruling class in Russia is now the common direct task of the Russian masses and the nations under the Russian heel.

Perspectives and Tasks: Western Europe

As was the case at the end of the First World War, a revolutionary situation was created in a number of countries at the end of the Second World War. In none of these countries, however, neither in the Axis countries nor in the Western European countries liberated from the rule of the Axis, did the situation develop to the point of a direct proletarian assault upon the bourgeoisie for the seizure of state power. In 1945, the working class did not have the solid bastion and inspiration constituted by Soviet Russia in 1918–1919. It did not have a revolutionary party to lead it in this assault, nor even the substantial nuclei of such parties which could be and were transformed into mass parties almost overnight at the end of the First W orId War. Instead, the revolutionary groups were either exterminated or completely isolated from the masses, not least of all because of the sterile sectarian or inconsistent course they pursued toward the national revolutionary movements and in the question of Russia and Stalinism during the war. Above all, the masses of Europe, the West included, were more terribly exhausted by the war than ever before and, under the pressure of fascist rule, were reimbued with democratic and parliamentary conceptions and illusions. As pointed out in the Workers Party resolution on the National Question in Europe during the war, the masses would not be prepared, once fascism was defeated, to replace one dictatorship with another dictatorship, even if the other was the proletarian dictatorship. The political and economic atrocities of fascist totalitarianism could only succeed, under the given circumstances, in evoking among the masses the strongest passion for political democracy, for democratic rights and institutions. Given the fact that decaying capitalism can satisfy this passion less and less, it was necessary for the revolutionary Marxists, as the champions of socialism, to become the champion of all the democratic yearnings of the masses, including their desire for national freedom and representative government, thus demonstrating in practice the inseparable link between the struggle for democracy and the struggle for socialism. This is precisely what the leadership of the 5’ourth International, faced with an exceptional historic opportunity, failed to do.

The masses quite correctly did not identify their desire for democracy with the restoration of the status quo ante bellum, of the power of the old bourgeoisie, either that section of it which fled or that which remained behind as Nazi collaborators. There is no democracy in the abstract, and democracy was not an abstraction in the minds of the masses. They wanted and want democracy – democratic rights, democratic institutions, political democracy in general – not for its sake as an abstract ideal, but as the only means, in their eyes, of organizing or reorganizing the economic and social life of the country in the interests of the masses and for their benefit. It is for this reason that the masses associate the demand for nationalization – which means to them the removal of capitalist control and ownership of the means of production and exchange – with the demand for abolition of the monarchy, where it exists, for the establishment of a sovereign representative national assembly and for the government in that assembly of “their own” parties, i.e., the Social-Democratic or Stalinist parties or both. To one extent or another, this is perfectly clear in such countries as France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, England, Greece and – presently – in Spain.

The instinctive urge of the masses to revolutionize the social foundations and life of their country, heightened by the terrible advancement of the decaying tendencies in capitalism, manifested itself, in the first postwar revolutionary wave, primarily in the struggle against the openly fascist sections of the bourgeoisie or the collaborators, on the one side, and in the struggles for the most democratic and radical parliamentary institutions, through which they aim to establish their domination over society, on the other. This is shown by the stupendous victory of the Labor Party in England, the mass movements and struggles against the monarchyin Belgium, Greece and Italy (and to an extent in Holland), the demand for a popular Constitutional Assembly in France and Italy, by the revival of the old and formerly so discredited social democracy throughout Europe and even by the fact that the Stalinists, whose ears are closely attuned to the masses in this respect, have become the most vociferous “champions” of the most radical representative democracy, in the same way in which they “championed” the national revolutionary movements during the war.

The “parliamentarism” of the masses today cannot, however, be identified with their parliamentarism following the First World War. The situations are not the same. After the first war, Europe was almost inundated by the revolutionary wave of proletarian Sovietism. Bourgeois democracy, classically represented by the Weimar Republic, was the last line of defense of capitalist society in the main countries outside of Soviet Russia. Following the second war, the struggle for democracy (bourgeois democracy) is directed not against the non-existent wave of Sovietism but against all the decaying and reactionary tendencies of capitalism, against fascism, totalitarianism, military and Bonapartist government, national oppression and humiliation, foreign military occupation, etc., etc.

The task of the revolutionists, therefore, is to approach the masses on the political level to which they have been thrust down since the First World War by the decay of capitalism and the decay of the workers’ parties, and to raise them once more to the level of independent class action with an independent class (socialist) aim. This task cannot be performed by counterposing the propagandist abstraction of the “United Socialist States of Europe” to the struggle for national liberation, or the propagandist abstraction of Soviets to the struggle for the most radical and most democratic Constituent Assemblv, for the most militant and consistent democratic demands. If the masses are to be led to where they should be – in socialist power – they must be taken where they are – in the field of parliamentary democracy. Therein lies the importance of the insistent stress laid by the Workers Party during the war on the prognosis that the fascist domination of Europe would be followed not by a direct struggle for socialist power but by a “democratic interlude” of greater or lesser duration in the course of which the proletariat, at the head of the nation, could once more be mobilized by means of democratic and transitional slogans, for the struggle for class power. Those who denied the “democratic interlude” or were indifferent to the question, were consequently unable to orient themselves or others in the actual class struggle.

The masses correctly tie their economic requirements and demands to political struggle. The political struggle they are actually carrying on centers, however, around parliamentary institutions – not only when they cast their ballots but when they appear in imposing mass demonstrations. Taking this as their point of departure, the revolutionary Marxists must work out, in every European country, a concrete program of action – i.e., an adaptation to their concrete national situation of the transitional program and not a ritualistic repetition of every word in it – aimed at deepening the radicalism of the masses, raising their class consciousness and acquiring in struggle the leadership of the masses without which all talk of “revolution” and “seizure of power” is dilettantism or adventurism. This means, in countries where the question of the Constituent Assembly or Parliament is paramount, a program for the most thorough and radical democratization of the constitution or parliament. It means a social and economic program of the most far-reaching significance, up to and including the nationalization of the means of production and exchange under democratic workers’ control, and above all, the most unreserved assurance of all democratic rights, not only for the people at home but also for the peoples in the nations ruled by the imperialists (India, Indo-China, Algeria, Congo, Indonesia, etc.). It means a continuous campaign of mobilizing the masses for independent action in demanding of the workers’ parties, when they are in office, the most thoroughgoing, unhesitating and consistent carrying out of their own programs, their own promises. It means, in those countries where a bourgeois-labor coalition exists, the demand for breaking the coalition and establishing in its stead a government of the workers’ parties (i.e., those that appear to the masses to be the workers’ parties).

In those countries where it is indicated by the political situation and the relationship of forces, the revolutionary Marxists must put forward the slogan of a Socialist-Communist Government (or government of the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the trade unions), as part of the work of breaking the workers away from ideological and political collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its political machines. To reject this slogan out of hand would mean to deprive the revolutionary vanguard, in given crises of bourgeois-labor coalition governments, of the central political slogan best calculated to advance the interests and class consciousness of the masses and to bring them in greater numbers under the leadership of the Marxists. To abstain absolutely from this slogan is as sectarian and unjustified – in practice as self-sterilizing – as was abstention from the national revolutionary movements during the war.

However, it is of the greatest importance to understand the limitations and dangers of this slogan. In the first place, it is not identical with the slogan put forward by the Bolsheviks in 1917 for the establishment of a Menshevik-Social Revolutionary government. Both these parties were democratic workers (or peasants) parties. In the present case, this holds only of the social democracy but by no means of the Stalinists, who represent a totalitarian party whose conquest of power means not an extension but the extinction of democracy. Therefore, the Marxists can put forward this slogan only after the most careful examination of the actual political situation has revealed that the establishment of such a workers’ coalition government would not signify the assumption of political power by the Stalinist totalitarian machine or be a decisive step in that direction. By the same token, the Marxists do not in any country put forward the slogan of a Stalinist (CP) government. If they advance the slogan of a CP-SP government, it is only under conditions that give adequate assurances that such a government would not be dominated (as in Poland, Yugoslavia, Eastern Germany, Bulgaria, Rumania, etc.) by the Stalinists. In the second place, such a slogan could be empty at best and treacherous at worst if it were put forward as a cure-all, as a permanent part of our propaganda and agitation (instead of as an exceptional slogan), or if presented by itself. It can have progressive meaning and value only if it is coupled with and subordinated to a practical political program of democratic, transitional demands, without which revolutionists take no responsibility either for the slogan or for the government established in its name.

Finally, in the present European situation, the national question continues to play a role of capital importance for the proletariat of the Western European countries, and that in three respects. First, it is the duty of the revolutionists to make clear to the working class and the middle classes their obligation to struggle against the imperialist oppression that their ruling classes carry on in their own colonies (Asia, Africa, Latin-America). Second, it is their duty to champion the right of national unity and independence of the countries their ruling classes and allies now oppress or occupy in Europe, starting with dismembered and occupied Germany. Third, it is their duty to point out that the small or weakened “independent” countries of Western Europe are themselves being reduced to vassal states, to pawns in the rivalry between Anglo-American and Russian imperialism, and that even the remaining independence of these lands is threatened by eventual domination by either one of these reactionary giants. A correct and active revolutionary position on the national question in the Western European countries is not only mandatory upon the Fourth International but is one of the most effective instruments in freeing the working class from the ideological and organizational control of the Russian Stalinists and the Anglo-American social-democrats.

Perspectives and Tasks: The Colonial World

World War II marks a monumental turning point in the struggle of the colonial peoples for freedom, above all in the populous countries of Asia. The war brought about a decisive weakening of the old colonial powers, including Great Britain, the ancient bulwark of the colonial system. The internal rottenness and general impotency of the British colonial regimes in Asia, revealed by the easy Japanese conquests, the military defeat and occupation of France and the Netherlands, the utter and obvious dependence of the old colonial powers upon American military and economic aid, added up to underscore the fact that these powers were no longer able to play their old role in this sphere. The weakening of the old colonial powers in terms of economic strength, military power, finances, independence and prestige was accompanied by a rising tide of national consciousness, aggressiveness and self-confidence on the part of the oppressed peoples, above all in Indonesia, India and Indo-China. The readiness of the colonial powers to offer extensive concessions to the colonies in terms of “self-rule” is an indication, not only of the severity of their plight, but that the traditional “democratic” colonial system of imperialist exploitation is coming to an end. Its place is being taken by the “American system” of reliance upon economic domination and the political manipulation of formally independent or semi-independent native political regimes. However, this system is possible only to a vastly wealthy power, which means, today, the United States. The displacement of the old colonial system is, therefore, simultaneously the displacement of the British Empire and its satellites (French, Dutch, Portuguese, Belgian empire) by American imperialism as the super-exploiter of the economically-backward peoples. The century-old technique of American domination of Latin America is being put to use on a world scale. It is the technique of economic penetration, of corrupting, bribing and subsidizing native bourgeois politicians, of American ideological infiltration (schools, missions, periodicals, radio, press) and of practical “charities” that pay long-term dividends (roads, hospitals, sanitation, etc.).

An aspect of this “American approach” is revealed in the occupation of Japan. Unhurried by economic pressures which force less wealthy imperialist powers to an immediate policy of plunder and enslavement (Germany, Russia), the United States sets about the reorganization of Japan with a deliberateness that aims to constitute it as the bastion of American power in Asia. The American policy in Japan is designed to achieve the following ends:

  1. To undermine and discredit the old ruling cliques in order to eliminate them as rallying points of national resistance.

  2. To utilize the extreme political backwardness of the Japanese masses to secure a mass base for American rule (specifically, for the rule of the new strata of quislings which it is developing) by identifying American occupation with democracy and liberalism.

  3. To appear before the oppressed masses of the rest of Asia as a liberating force in contrast to the old colonial powers and therefore secure mass favor for itself as against the latter.

  4. To secure a base for itself in Japan and through it in Asia from which to oppose the growing pressure of Russia upon the Far East and prepare its strategical positions for the eventual conflict with Russia.

However, the continued economic crises, the tremendous and disruptive political convulsions, and the violent class and national collisions which will keynote the world scene in .the coming period will not permit American imperialism the stability necessary to consolidate its world empire. The American latecomers in this field face not the prospects of the British Empire of a century ago but of the sorely pressed British Empire of today. The prospects for Asia, with its billion oppressed people, is for a rising tide of national feeling and increasing struggles for national freedom. The attempts of American imperialism to utilize its favored economic position to secure support for its “benevolent” domination of the colonials has only a short term chance of success.

During the war, the revolutionists found it impossible to support any of the bourgeois national movements in the East. The proletariat was not prepared to lead the national revolutionary movement in its own name and with its own program. The bourgeoisie of the colonial countries, in accordance with its inner nature and social-historical position, was unable to lead a serious struggle for national independence against imperialism and could use the slogan of national independence only for the purpose of hiding the fact of its service to one of the two big imperialist camps or the other. The analysis and prognosis of the Workers Party was confirmed in fact. To give support to any of the colonial countries “fighting imperialism” during the war could only mean giving objective support to one imperialist coalition against the other, in violation of the basic principles of revolutionary internationalism. This has now been demonstrated with sufficient clarity and conclusiveness by the outcome of the war in China. The revolutionary Marxists who supported China, even under the Chiang Kai-shek bourgeoisie, against Japan before the world war broke out in the East, could not support China during the war without becoming in fact supporters of American imperialism; any more than they could support the Indonesian bourgeoisie or petty bourgeoisie which, for “strategical” reasons, found it “necessary” to cooperate with the Japanese imperialists and to take political responsibilities under the occupation of the Japanese. At the end of the war, China finds itself not independent (except of Japanese rule!) but a pawn in the growing conflict between American and Russian imperialism, and, even as a pawn, still deprived of the crown colonies of the British Empire in China.

It is our task to help the national revolutionary movements in the colonies understand the real role of American imperialism, just as it is the task of the Fourth International as a whole to make clear the role of all the imperialist powers in the colonies, Stalinist imperialism included. The colonial movements, now that the war is over, are entirely justified in seeking to playoff American imperialism against its rivals and to maneuver among them in the interests of national liberation. That is why the revolutionary Marxists, for all their class criticism, support the nationalist movement in Indonesia and similar movements in other colonies. At the same time we must constantly warn these movements against permitting themselves to become mere pawns in the hands of the “less harsh” imperialism against a rival imperialism.

In this sense, the Marxists support all genuinely popular national movements in the colonies. This does not hold for such struggles as are now taking place in the Chinese “civil war” where one side, while representing the national bourgeoisie, is now merely the outpost of American imperialism, while the other side, in spite of its peasant composition, is a tool of Stalinist imperialism which aims at dismembering China in order to annex its wealthiest section, the North, to the Russian Stalinist Empire. The reactionary character of modern Stalinism is once again underscored by its work in converting a genuinely plebeian, democratic, national movement into a tool of totalitarian imperialism aimed at the very heart of the democratic and national interests of China. Support of this movement today can have no other effect than to extend the Stalinist empire and bring under its subjugation a large portion of the land and people of China.

The Workers Party and the Fourth International

The Fourth International was established to bring to an end the crisis in leadership which alone has stood in the way of the victory of the socialist proletariat in our epoch. During the war, the Fourth International ceased to exist as an effective, organized, centralized International. A number of objective reasons, including the greatest difficulties under which the revolutionary movement ever had to operate in all its long history, may be adduced to explain this collapse. These are reasons which were beyond the control of anyone or any group in the International. However, insofar as the collapse was due to reasons which were under the control of the International, the responsibility for the failure of the International, marked at one and the same time by its silence on the most important political problems of the time and by its unofficial tolerance or encouragement of the grossest political mistakes, lies primarily upon the shoulders of the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party.

The sections of the International survived the great trial of the war, even without international guidance and leadership. They did not, like the Stalinists, social-democrats, anarchists, centrists and syndicalists, capitulate to the wave of chauvinism and social-patriotism, and in that respect they held up the banner of socialist internationalism in the great tradition of Marx, Engels, Liebknecht, Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky. They survived a terror, above all in Europe, which both the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists mercilessly directed against them and which martyrized the best of our cadres and our militants.

However, in the main political analysis and line which distinguished the International’s official leadership and made its imprint upon the course of virtually all the sections, the most catastrophic errors were made.

By its insistent repetition of the slogan of “unconditional defense of the Soviet Union” the International capitulated objectively to Stalinist imperialism and contributed its share to the disorientation of the vanguard of the proletariat. The reconstruction and future of the International depend upon the firmest and most clearly-grasped repudiation of this slogan. They require also the abandonment of the now utterly reactionary theory that Russia is a “workers’ state” because property is still nationalized. The Workers Party categorically rejects this theory. While propagating its own theory throughout the International and the working class, the theory that Russia represents a reactionary social order, bureaucratic collectivism, the Workers Party is prepared to cooperate most closely with those groups and sections of the International which, while not sharing the full views of the Workers Party; have nevertheless abandoned the reactionary theory of the “workers’ state” and the equally reactionary slogan of “unconditional defense.” Therefore without relinquishing its theoretical position or abandoning the theoretical discussion, the Workers Party will make a political bloc with all groups who now reject the theory of the “workers’ state” and the slogan of “unconditional defense.”

By its position on the national revolutionary movements in Europe, which was tantamount to sectarian abstentionism at worst and inconsistency and failure to understand the revolutionary tasks of the time, the leadership of the International failed to help the European sections seize the exceptional opportunity to emerge from their isolation and into the leadership of wide sections of the revolutionary peoples.

By its tacit support of and failure to condemn the opportunism and the bureaucratism in the SWP, and by its adoption of similar bureaucratic practices against minorities in the International, the present leadership has promoted the evil of monolithism in the movement and placed in danger the entire future of the International. It has failed to intervene firmly, and fraternally, against the bureaucratic opposition of the SWP leadership to the unification of the movement in the United States, and failed correspondingly to give support to the wholly progressive struggle for unity conducted by the SWP Minority. It has permitted the most disloyal and ignorant campaign to be directed against the German section of the International, whose revolutionary and political integrity is beyond question, and has now itself climaxed this campaign by the most bureaucratic act in the history of the Trotskyist movement, namely, reading the German section out of the International because of its theoretical position without previous notification to the German section, without previous discussion of its position in the International, and without affording the German section the elementary opportunity to defend itself before its accusers.

Nothing less than a complete reorganization of the leadership of the International can give the slightest assurance of a progressive and fruitful future. Nothing less than a loyally prepared and democratically conducted discussion throughout the International of all the questions in controversy, with full opportunity for every member to study the documents available, is required to put the International back on revolutionary rails. This means a discussion, in particular, of the theories and views put for” ward by the Workers Party, the German section and the Minorities in the SWP and the French party.

(Adopted by National Convention of the Workers Party of the United States, June 1946)

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Last updated on 6 June 2017