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Capitalism, Stalinism & War

New International, April 1949



Capitalism, Stalinism, and the War

* * *

II. Stalinism and the Rise of the New Russian Empire

A. The Nature of Stalinism

(32) The basic analysis of the Russian state and of Stalinism which has been developed by our movement, like every other theory on this subject, has been tested in the past two years by a series of events of world importance. We can ascertain that it has not only stood up under this test but that it has shown itself to be the only line along which these events can be understood.

(33) During the period since the end of the war, Russia has emerged not only as a major imperialist power but as one of the Big Two of the earth. Its imperialism has matured and expanded with a rapidity characteristic of change in our epoch. Beginning the war as Hitler’s junior partner in the Stalin-Nazi Pact, it is today capitalist America’s only rival for world domination – a rivalry not only between different imperialists but also between two different systems of class exploitation, which meet each other with different political, social and economic weapons in the struggle for the “right” to oppress the peoples.

Russia has not merely “expanded”; it has set out to build and has already acquired in part a far-flung empire on every side of its own borders, consisting of states which are not merely “satellites” but subject nations held in chains by the same totalitarian terror that operates within Russia itself. The euphemism of Russian “expansionism” as a substitute for “imperialism” can be used only if all reality is ignored.

(34) During the past two years the unfolding of Stalinist policy, in the satellite states especially, has helped to confirm and clarify the nature of Russia and Stalinism. First and foremost among these developments has been the clear fact that the Stalinist regimes have without exception pursued a policy of bureaucratic nationalization of the economy and destruction of the capitalist class. In all of the satellite zones, the major part of industry has been nationalized; whatever sector of the economy still remains in private hands is almost exclusively made up of small enterprises, and even these are rapidly on the way to complete nationalization or state control.

The socio-economic system, as well as the political system, has been made identical with that of Russia itself in every important respect. The bourgeoisie has been expropriated not only politically but economically. The event which marked this development most dramatically was the CP coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, this being the last country in the Russian empire in which the bourgeoisie had retained any vestige of political control.

(35) With this demonstration the last props have been knocked from under the two theories on the “Russian question” heretofore posed in the Marxist movement as alternatives to our own. The “orthodox” Fourth International theory that Russia is still a (degenerated) workers’ states, since “nationalized property equals workers’ state,” now requires the conclusion that the East European satellites are likewise “workers’ states.”

But this means that Stalinism – by no matter what unexpected or unpleasant means – has shown its ability to make the social revolution and overthrow capitalism in favor of a form of workers’ power. It means further, that while the working class and a revolutionary-socialist workers’ party is a good thing and perhaps even necessary for a further healthy development of the “revolution,” they are not necessary for the making of the socialist revolution. It means further that the only role to be played by the revolutionary party is as a democratic opposition in, or wing of, the Stalinist movement.

While formally only the British section of the Fourth International has actually openly acknowledged the conclusion that the satellite countries are workers’ states, the reaction of the Fourth International to the Tito-Stalin break demonstrates that it is actually tending to assume this character and role of a “left wing” or “democratic wing” of Stalinism. While tradition and pressure from within may slow up or zigzag this trend, it is unquestionably demanded by the theory to which they still cling.

(36) If the “workers’ state” position has been well-nigh taken out of the realm of theoretical dispute by its refutation in life, the same is even more true of the theory that Russia is essentially capitalist – whether capitalism heavily overladen by statification, or capitalism at its “highest” peak of development – or the theory that Russia is developing in the direction of capitalism. The destruction of capitalism and of the capitalist class, the refusal of the Stalinist rulers to compromise with it, politically or economically, in the satellite zones, leave no more room for doubt that we have here a social system different from and antagonistic to the capitalist system in any form.

Meanwhile, on the negative side, in Russia itself all predictions of internal Russian development based on either the “workers’ state” or “state capitalist” theory have utterly failed to show the slightest sign of being realized.

(37) In noting the confirmation of our analysis of Russia and Stalinism by the events of the past two years, it must not be concluded that the Russian state and social system, or the international Stalinist movement, is already a finished social formation, about which a final set of formulas can be drawn up.

Stalinism itself is still meeting new problems as a result of its new role in the world and its characteristics are emerging – even to itself – only step by step as it grapples with its new problems. It is only in this sense that we can and do claim that the theory of bureaucratic collectivism has shown itself to be the indispensable key to understanding the Stalinist phenomena.

Nationalization Progressive?

(38) The sweeping character of Stalinist nationalization in Eastern Europe also reinforces another conclusion. It has been traditional in the Marxist analysis of capitalist phenomena to make or allow a distinction between the “progressive form” and “reactionary social content” of certain capitalist developments (like the growth of monopoly out of large-scale production). The sense in which the term “progressive in form” was applied to monopoly was contained in the thought that the concentration and centralization of large-scale industrial enterprise in the hands of a few capitalists prepared the way technologically for socialist collectivization, provided in fact the prerequisites for the latter. This was and is correct.

It is impossible, however, to apply the same distinction to the bureaucratic nationalization of industry under Stalinism. Stalinist nationalization is in no sense at all a prerequisite for the socialization of the means of production; nor does it “prepare the way” for the latter. Industrialization and centralization in the past represented the impact of what Engels metaphorically called “the invading socialist society” upon capitalism, developing capitalism to the point where socialism first became possible; Stalinist nationalization and industrialization represents not a necessary preparation for socialism but an abortion of this pre-socialist evolution, resulting in a social system which is the deadly enemy of socialism. The form of nationalized economy per se as opposed to capitalist property forms can be characterized only as “potentially more efficient” – an abstraction which permits a social characterization of actual phenomena only given a live historical context.

(39) Stalinist nationalization, therefore, is in no sense progressive, occurring as it does at a time when the problem before society on a world scale is no longer that of abolishing the domination of man by nature (sufficient at least for the realization of socialism) but when the problem is that of abolishing the domination of man by man.

This is the only basic criterion for the category of “progressiveness” in today’s world, and means: that is “progressive” which is a prerequisite for, or does in fact lead to, the establishment of socialist democracy.

B. Stalinist Road to Power in the Satellites

(40) The events of the past period have provided also the historical spectacle of new Stalinist states and bureaucracies in the process of formation. Up to the end of the war, bureaucratic collectivism, which was analyzed as a new social formation different from both capitalism and socialism (as well as from all pre-capitalist societies) was still a Russian phenomenon, limited to one country. An analysis of this new society through this one case was complicated by the fact that in this single specimen bureaucratic collectivism had arisen through the degeneration of a nationally-confined socialist revolution. In the early years of the war, this bureaucratic- collectivism-in-one-country already had expanded its own borders through purely military conquests, but had not yet spawned.

The bureaucratic-collectivist states set up by Stalinism in East Europe did not arise through the degeneration of a socialist revolution in power. Nor did they all arise in exactly the same way. In the case of Poland, Rumania and Bulgaria, for example, the Stalinist regimes were set up, from the beginning of the “liberation” (from the Nazis), on the bayonets of the Russian army as pure-and- simple quisling regimes, put into power by military ukase and maintained in power by terrorism. If any other road to power was possible in these cases, the Russians at any rate did not experiment with it, although individual bourgeois captives were temporarily utilized as figureheads to ease the transition. These satellites were and are nothing but formally independent satrapies of the Russian power.

(41) In Czechoslovakia, however, after five months of military occupation, the Russians left behind a mixed government, in which the Communist Party was handed control over the central institutions of state power (army, police) and of propaganda; but at the same time a certain measure of political power was shared with representatives of the shattered and weakened bourgeoisie who engaged themselves in return to follow the pro-Russian line in international relations. The difference between Czechoslovakia and the first type of satellite was determined essentially not by any greater power enjoyed by the Czech bourgeoisie as against the Polish, etc., but by the existence of a proletariat which was the most numerous and the best organized in Eastern Europe.

The Czech CP did not dare to move for complete control until in the intervening period it had succeeded in insuring its rear by subjugating and breaking possible resistance by the working class to complete totalitarianization through a regime of constantly stepped-up terror. In the end the Stalinist drive to gather all power into their own hands achieved success by counting on the passivity of the working class in the face of a coup from above by picked terror squads recruited from the proletariat and used against the proletariat.

(42) The passive reaction by the Czech proletariat to the coup was based on the following conditions:

  1. The essence of state power was already in the hands of the Stalinists as a result of the Russian conquest; the Stalinists were not overthrowing the state power but merely utilizing it to complete the totalitarianization of the country.
  2. Czechoslovakia’s geographical position and common border with Russia as well as its original military occupation by Russia had already put it in Moscow’s orbit from the beginning; and this objective fact was recognized by all. The coup represented no change in this respect but only blasted the illusions of the bourgeois politicians and their followers that their country could revolve in Russia’s orbit as a maverick planet.
  3. There was no alternative visible to the workers which did not involve dependence on the totally discredited bourgeoisie, which was clinging to its own economic power by a thread and to its political power by sufferance. Like the majority of European workers, the Czech proletariat in the mass looked with hope only to socialism, nor was there left a viable bourgeoisie which could appear even as a practical lesser evil to Stalinism.

In such an impasse, the immediate alternatives were only support of the Stalinist dictatorship for venal or illusory reasons, or passive toleration and immobilization.

(43) The fact, however, that the Stalinist road to total power in Czechoslovakia did not take place completely under Russian guns but was at least consummated after a semi-public struggle of political forces permits an insight into another aspect of the nature of Stalinism. The CP apparatus, which came riding in on the Russian army’s gun- carriages, sought to establish social roots of its own within the country. In the West (e.g., France and Italy) where the Stalinists place their anti-capitalist face out in front, it is well known that the Stalinist movement has displayed great attractive power for corailing militant and revolutionary elements in the working class who see no other mass party fighting the enemy in power, the capitalist class.

In most of Eastern Europe, where the CP leadership was plucked out of Moscow’s Hotel Metropole and placed on top, the consequences are different. Insofar and as long as the Czech CP was still able to use the remnants of the bourgeoisie as a bogyman, it exercised a gravitational pull on socialist workers. With the tightening of its own reins and the progressive enfeeblement of bourgeois control in the government, its influence over the illusions of the workers and its possession of their active support waned (e.g., victory of the anti-Stalinist wing of the SDP over Fierlinger before the coup). Throughout, in any case, the Stalinists sought, and found, points of support outside the circle of pro-Stalinist workers with revolutionary illusions, knowing that the latter were unreliable props.

Sources of Stalinist Bureaucracy

(44) The Stalinist bureaucracy-in-formation seeks to recruit not merely to the ranks of the party but also specifically to the bureaucracy. In the conditions of the satellite zone, the first recruiting group is the labor and social- democratic bureaucracy itself. Already noted in Part I is the extent of the ideological kinship between the bureaucracies of reformism and Stalinism, and, as the counterweight in the capitalist countries, the different social basis of the reformists and Stalinists. Where, however, capitalism has been well-nigh destroyed or at least seriously enfeebled and on the way out, as in Czechoslovakia, the reformist labor bureaucracy is left rootless and its habitual ways of thought and life push sections of it to absorption into the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Hence the common phenomenon in Eastern Europe today of an influx of social-democratic turncoats into the Stalinist apparatus, in some cases providing the tops with their only really native elements. A second fertile source of recruitment to the Stalinist bureaucracy under Eastern European conditions is the middle-class intellectual, socially rootless even under declining capitalism, repelled by the anarchy and inefficiency of capitalist society and its inability and unwillingness to give rein to his special talents even in its own behalf. The type is common, for example, in the leadership of the Yugoslav CP. Given the plethora of bureaucratic jobs opened up by Stalinist nationalization, to which must be added a large number of jobs not directly paid by the government but controlled by it, such elements – plus workers raised into an aristocracy of management – are absorbed into the new Stalinist regime.

To them, in the case of Czechoslovakia, must be added the adaptable elements of the old bureaucracy. Far from requiring a clean sweep of the entire old bureaucracy when they take power, the Stalinists have a real need to try to integrate into their own regime as many of the old political figures and officeholders as possible.

Avoid Mass Initiative

(45) The Czech coup showed that the Stalinists’ aim is to avoid unleashing the mass action and revolutionary initiative of the workers in their road to power. While, as long as remnants of the bourgeoisie remain, they are willing to use gingerly the club of working-class action against them, the Stalinists do not themselves wish to arouse the masses to revolutionary self-activity even to make their own Stalinist coup.

It would be a mistake to consider that this is due in any concrete situation only to a calculated fear that the masses may get completely out of hand, though this operates as a strong deterrent where the CP itself has no independent power. In Czechoslovakia, where the CP was already in complete control of the state apparatus of coercion, the awakening of mass revolutionary activity was neither necessary nor desirable for them. In France and Italy, where the CP has several times now led the proletariat to the verge of insurrectionary action in battering-ram action against the capitalist government, it has each time drawn back before the danger of revolution could spill over.

The Stalinist bureaucracy tends to develop the same mental cast toward action-from-below that is developed by every reactionary and anti-popular force which is interested in defending its own privileges above all. Just as even in the most democratic capitalist countries, this inherent fear of the masses takes forms not strictly demanded by the actual relationship of forces but flowing from the nature of the class (e.g., the widespread fear of revolution in the American bourgeoisie in the depression years of the ’30s), so the Stalinists’ fear of the masses flows from their anti-working-class character. Like the bourgeoisie itself at times, they may be compelled to call on working-class action to take the stage to a greater or lesser extent, while seeking to keep it within limits. They can moreover do this all the more freely in proportion as there is no organized working-class opposition to crystallize the anti-Stalinist democratic revolutionary forces. In this they follow a course analogous to the bourgeoisie’s utilization of proletarian class struggle against feudal power in their time.

(46)The Stalinists do not seek their road to power through working-class revolution or revolutionary action. They seek to utilize class struggle only to support the foreign policy of the Russian state or hasten the process of the breakdown and disintegration of the capitalist framework, to create a chaotic vacuum into which they can step from above through their control of an apparatus. Their adventuristic sabotage strikes in France and Italy play the short-range game of pressure for a pro-Russian appeasement policy and serve the longer-range aim of creating the conditions under which Stalinism wishes to take power without the revolutionary intervention of the masses.

In France and Italy these conditions are not near; and neither, therefore, is Stalinist power on the Atlantic. The victory of Stalinism in Western Europe – which would mean the longest step toward world Stalinist domination – is abstractly a possibility; but it can be posed as a possibility only given an extreme stage of disintegration of Western capitalism such as was true in the East as a result of the Second World War and such as creates a near-vacuum of political and social power. But this abstract possibility has already been sufficiently expressed in the very enunciation of the historic alternatives of socialism or barbarism.

Not abstractly but in terms of the real world situation, long before such a stage can be expected, war between Russia and the Western capitalist world and the revival of the movement for proletarian revolution will first have settled the question of the fate of capitalism. The last word is still to be said by the working class. The outcome is not to be deduced from abstract analyses but will be determined by the struggle itself.

C. Tito and Russian Imperialist Contradictions

(47) After the satellites militarily conquered by Russia and after Czechoslovakia, a third case from which new light has been cast on the nature of Stalinism is represented by Yugoslavia. This is the only country in the Stalinist empire in which the Stalinist revolution was made by a native mass movement. This native mass movement, the Tito Partisan army, upon which the Yugoslav CP rode to power, was indeed not primarily a working-class movement but overwhelmingly a peasant force, recruited from the peoples of a multinational state which is the most agrarian in all Europe.

Tito’s bourgeois rival Mikhailovich was based on an exiguous bourgeoisie which was not only weak even before the war and exercised social power only through the monarchy, but which was further weakened by the Nazi occupation. At the same time, the emergence of Russia during the last years of the war as a major partner in the Allied camp and its domination over Eastern Europe exacted from the Western Allies the abandonment of Mikhailovich and the recognition of Tito’s Partisans by the United States and England.

While therefore it is true that Tito’s Partisan army was indeed a native mass movement, it is also true that it was able to come to power and squeeze out Mikhailovich with the toleration of the capitalist West only because of the background fact of Russia’s heightened military-diplomatic strength. Thus Tito’s apparatus came to power not as imported quislings but as leaders of a mass struggle with native roots independent of the Russian state; it is this fact which was decisive in hastening the emergence of centrifugal forces leading to the break with the Cominform (Moscow).

(48) Where the Czech events represented the last stages in the consolidation of Stalinist power in Eastern Europe and cast a sidelight on its road to power, the Yugoslavian events four months later represented the first major break in the Stalinist empire, forecast the beginning of the end of Stalinist power, and cast light on the inherent contradictions which will tear it apart. Russian imperialism is driven by its very nature to come into head-on conflict with the aspirations for national independence on the part of its newly acquired satellites.

The tempo with which this clash develops is determined by three factors:

  1. Russia’s totalitarian regime, which requires complete totalitarianization not only within Russia itself but also in its empire.
  2. The tenseness of the war situation in the world engendered by Russia’s rampant imperialism as well as America’s.
  3. The degree to which the Stalinist bureaucracy of the satellite countries is able to realize its inherent aspirations to exploit its country independently.

Russia’s policy in Eastern Europe is the coordination of its satellite states into an integrated war machine – economically and politically. It aims at the complete subordination of economic life in the satellites to the needs of Russian war economy. This takes no account of the independent economic needs and aspirations of the satellites but seeks to dictate their economic policy and place them under the tutelage of the Russian planners as if they were merely provinces.

(49) In Yugoslavia this led to a clash over the industrialization of the country, which in Russian eyes figures as an agrarian supplier of food and raw materials to an Eastern European economic unit. In Rumania the development of industry takes place under Russian ownership and control. In Czechoslovakia, whose economic ties have been traditionally with the West, Russia imposes an economic iron curtain, tying Czech economy to its own war machine. In all the satellites normal relations with the West are hindered and the economies artificially distorted in order to coordinate them with Russian war plans.

This overall aim of the “Russification of economy” in Eastern Europe stands in the way of a full and healthy development of countries which have suffered long because of their under-development and their predominantly agrarian character.

(50) The Stalinist bureaucracies in these countries, moreover, seek to transform themselves from merely agents (proconsuls, tax-farmers and policemen) for the foreign Russian power, into indigenously-rooted native ruling classes – to become a real class in the first place, a status they naturally do not possess through the mere fact of their importation.

The social roots for a bureaucratic-collectivist ruling class, however, require not a nation of small peasants but a modern nationalized – therefore an industrialized – economy. In the agrarian countries the independent interests of the Stalinist bureaucracies drive them to push the industrialization of their countries whether this does or does not accord with the over-all plan of Russian war economy. In the more industrialized states of East Europe, as Czechoslovakia and Poland, similar independent economic drives are at work. Economically and politically, the new Stalinist bureaucracies, even when imported by Russian military might, seek the same status as an independent native ruling class as is enjoyed by their Russian similars.

The Tito Split

(51) Russia cannot keep its subject states under control simply or primarily through the pressure and power of its economic forces, as capitalist United States is trying to do through the Marshall Plan. This is, first of all, not in the nature of its system, which operates through bureaucratic planning from above by the terroristic political apparatus. It is, secondly, not wealthy enough to do so. For both reasons it cannot even retain the forms of autonomy or permit even illusions of national autonomy to exist for long.

(52) In the present international situation, moreover, the integration of Eastern Europe into its war economy means that it is the satellites which are doomed to bear the first brunt of the war with the West, because of their geographical position. While the social bases of the new Stalinist bureaucracies are the same as the Russian and a community of interest prevails as against the capitalist world, their own self-preservation requires them to seek a more independent status than that of frontier guards for the Russian ruling class.

(53) These factors, operative in different forms and to different degrees in all the satellites, reached their greatest strength of expression in Yugoslavia first of all because the Yugoslav Stalinist regime is the only one which started with indigenous social roots on the basis of a native mass movement and secondly because the need for independent economic development is most pressing here. In other satellites (including Poland and Albania), however, sympathy with Titoism reached the point where even leaders of the CP had to be purged; and there is no doubt that everywhere else (particularly Bulgaria) the same inherent contradiction between totalitarian war planning and national independence, powered by the strivings for independent ruling class status on the part of the new Stalinist bureaucracies, is shaking the structure of Russian imperialism.

(54) Although the clash between Russia and Yugoslavia did not – as appeared possible at first – lead to an, armed attack by Russia (directly or through a neighboring satellite) upon Yugoslavia for the purpose of bringing Tito into line, it can be stated that in this event the position of the anti-Stalinist workers should be to wish for the victory of Yugoslavia in its war against the invader; such support would have been determined by the nature of the war itself, limited to a duel between the two states, in which Tito’s regime would be fighting for the national independence of the country as truly as this was the politics behind the Ethiopian side of its war with Italy.

The independent class support and aims of the Marxists in such case would not differ, with respect to Tito, from the attitude taken by revolutionists toward the bourgeois government of the Spanish loyalists or the semi-feudal regime of Haile Selassie. While, however, the conflict between the two totalitarian regimes remains propagandistic and diplomatic and on the bureaucratic level, the Marxists give no support whatsoever to the Tito-Stalinist regime in Yugoslavia but expose its reactionary character and identity with the Moscow regime, and seek to mobilize all popular support against it.

(55) The irrepressible conflict in the Stalinist empire is indeed the reflection of the basic inherent contradiction of bureaucratic collectivism itself – the contradiction between totalitarianism and social planning. The “potentially more efficient” form of nationalized economy requires, under bureaucratic collectivism, a terroristic police regime which is warp and woof of the social system and which leads to its own contradictions while it eliminates those peculiar to capitalism.

The break between the Yugoslav and Russian Stalinists, therefore, is symptomatic of the instability of the Russian empire. The latter has barely had time to reach its post-war peak before significant cracks and fissures have begun to appear. It is such breaks in the previously closed ranks of the tops which open the door to the independent movement of the masses from below; thus the apparently seamless iron hoop of totalitarianism is broken. It is such breaks in the Stalinist superstructure which point the way, under totalitarianism, for the masses’ yearning for real freedom and peace and security to express themselves in revolutionary action.

D. The Line of Struggle Against Stalinism

(56) If the masses behind the Iron Curtain are not yet ready for such action today, it is because the first steps required are the beginnings of mass struggle for the simplest economic demands – on wages, vacations, working day, police regime in the factories, etc. The flowering of Russian imperialism and the consequent necessity of shaping the whole economy toward a permanent war footing, added to the enormous waste inherent in a bureaucratic collectivist economy, makes it impossible for the regime to allow an improvement in the standard of living of the masses.

But under bureaucratic collectivism, there are not and cannot be any purely economic struggles. The struggle for the simplest economic demand is by definition from the beginning a struggle against the totalitarian state – a political struggle. Similarly, every struggle against the “excesses” of the police regime is a struggle for workers’ democracy, for control of the nationalized economy by the people. But under bureaucratic collectivism the struggle for control of the nationalized economy by the people, the struggle for workers’ democracy, is necessarily the struggle for socialism. Where the state already owns and controls the economy, every struggle over the state power becomes a struggle for the democratic rule of the working class as against the bureaucracy.

(57) In the Stalinist states, the ruling class – and therefore the main enemy – is the bureaucracy. There is no big bourgeoisie at all, this class having been completely destroyed in all of the Russian satellites. There are remnants of the small and middle bourgeoisie in some sectors of the economy, shorn of all political power, and tightly controlled by the Stalinist state; even those socially powerless remnants are progressively being cut down by advancing statification and control. All responsibility for both economic and political life is centered in the hands of the Stalinist state, which necessarily is the focal point on which all movements of discontent and opposition converge.

The aim of all opposition in such a state inevitably centers around the demands of democracy. Not only is this demand the essence of the socialist struggle under the bureaucratic-collectivist regime it is at the same time the program around which the widest strata of the population can be effectively mobilized. Even in the case of the peasants – the only important social force remaining in the Stalinist satellites still based on private property – the socialist program,. which advocates truly voluntary collectivization founded on education, supports the struggle of the small peasants against the despotism that deprives them of the land on the basis of a “collectivization” which scarcely conceals the fact that the peasants are reduced to state serfs on the land, exploited and lorded over by the government police. Such a program is a powerful weapon capable of drawing the peasantry around the anti-Stalinist workers in opposition to the agrarian policies of a totalitarian state based on terrorism and enslavement to the state.

The task of the Marxists, therefore, is to enter into battle against the main enemy alongside every genuinely popular movement of resistance to the despotism of the state. They will seek to organize the class forces of the working class independently in such a struggle, raise their own class banners and achieve working-class hegemony over this democratic struggle, along with whatever bourgeois elements are involved in the fight or are even-temporarily at its head.

Attitude Toward Mikolajczyk

(58) In Poland, before the complete coordination of the country by the Stalinists, this anti-Stalinist camp of national resistance to Russian domination was headed by Mikolajczyk and included a remnant of reactionary-bourgeois elements as well as socialist working-class and peasant force. Without giving one iota of political support to Mikolajczyk but indeed fighting his influence over the anti-Stalinist opposition, the task of the Marxists in this situation was to give unequivocal support to the struggle of the movement on which he temporarily rested.

The struggle of the Marxists and of the working class in such a popular democratic camp is in no sense a struggle for “bourgeois restoration” but on the contrary the only way in which bourgeois restoration can be fought as an alternative to Stalinism and the broad masses led in a socialist direction. Even the leadership of Mikolajczyk over the movement in Poland was only the temporary expression of a transitional period during which the Stalinists openly took over all power.

Civil War and the Bourgeoisie

(59) In Czechoslovakia, on the other band, the advance of the Stalinists to open and complete control did not even meet with such resistance from the old bourgeois leaders, who capitulated completely, their own social basis having been destroyed through the progressive expropriation of the Czech bourgeoisie. Those signs of resistance and opposition which appeared during and soon after the CP coup arose, it would appear, from the student population and from the Sokol movement. Despite the appearance of pro-American or pro-British slogans in the manifestation of these elements of resistance, it is the task of the Marxists to give unequivocal support to all such popular elements of opposition to the regime while seeking to infuse it with their own class leadership and class program.

If the bourgeois politicians of the Benes camp had – as they did not – either the will or the ability to resist, and if a civil war based on a genuine popular movement had resulted from this hypothetical situation, we emphasize that it would have been the duty of all socialist workers to fight along with this camp against the Stalinist camp, supporting it in the same manner in which the Marxists supported the bourgeois-democratic Loyalist regime in the Spanish civil war: by their own (i.e., revolutionary) methods, by building a proletarian wing in the democratic camp and fighting behind the banner of that proletarian power.

(60) The threat of a bourgeois-restorationist movement in Eastern Europe looms, however, in proportion as disillusionment with the Stalinist regime finds no revolutionary alternative through which it can be channelized and in proportion to pressure by Western capitalism.

Given the largely agrarian character of many of the Russian satellites and the presently atomized state of its working class, the revitalization of working-class revolt against Stalinism – the seeds of which revolt are sown by Stalinism itself – may require first a series of demonstrations in the West. Insofar as the Western proletariat shows that the power of Stalinism can be broken in their own countries; insofar as they prove that Stalinist power is not fated to roll over Europe’s working class; insofar as they exhibit in struggle a non-capitalist alternative to Stalinist totalitarianism – to this extent the revolt of the East European peoples will be speeded, their self-confidence raised, and the situation created whereby they can take advantage of the cracks in the Stalinist structure and push through these fissures in a wave of assaults upon the Stalinist power.

(61) This demonstration, however, cannot be made as long as the working class of the West channelizes the fight against Stalinism through support of capitalism. The overthrow of Stalinism in the East requires the revolutionary struggle to overthrow capitalism in the West.

No Support to Either Camp!

(62) This basic political approach to the problem of fighting Stalinism is even more important in the West, where the Stalinist movements are still followed by large sections of the working class. During the past two years there has been a marked decline in Stalinist influence from the post-war high point in almost every country of Europe. This decline is due partly to the masses’ experience with Stalinist policy both in the West and in the East, and partly to the Marshall Plan offensive of American capitalism. Neither the Marshall Plan nor the prospect of temporary economic improvement has, however, convinced the Western European workers that the restabilization of capitalism under American domination offers an alternative worth fighting for enthusiastically as against Stalinism.

The chief reason why the Stalinists still remain the strongest parties supported by the working class – in spite of their own crimes and progressive disillusionment with them – is the fact that they appear as fighters against capitalism and for peace. Any movement which follows the policy of supporting capitalism as against Stalinism, or of supporting American imperialism as against Russian, deprives itself of the possibility of winning these masses away from the Stalinists and for a progressive movement. At the best, given sufficient self-exposure by the latter, the masses will be left without any alternative for which they are ready to fight devotedly and actively. The sine qua non for breaking the workers away from Stalinist leadership is the regroupment of the scattered forces with a revolutionary third-camp position and the making of a new beginning in forging a new instrument for the mobilization of the proletariat against both capitalism and Stalinism.

(63) The only mass party of the working class in existence in Western Europe is the social-democracy, which bases itself on the “lesser-evil” policy. While it is the only movement which appears before militant workers as an alternative to following the Stalinists, the reformist pro-American and pro-bourgeois-democratic character of its line and leadership is an insuperable obstacle to its effectively playing the role of bulwark against Stalinism within the working class.

Nevertheless, in most places, given the feeble state of the independent Marxist movement, the rise of a Marxist third- camp wing within the social-democratic movements offers the best opportunity for setting up a pole of attraction for the disillusioned Stalinist workers as well as for leftward-moving socialists; and thus contributing toward the regroupment of forces from the existing working-class movement.

(64) Such a new beginning is the first task in Europe and America today. In most of the world, and above all in Europe, it is no longer enough for working- class revolutionists to chart the lines of class struggle against capitalism in the assurance that every blow struck against capitalism is a blow for the socialist future. They face two enemies: a capitalism which is anti-Stalinist and a Stalinism which is anti-capitalist. This three-cornered struggle for power was implicit in the Czech events; and it is this utterly new constellation of social forces which disorients and confuses the working-class movement.

It is the recognition of this new stage which is the basis of the politics of the third camp. Without the working-class struggle, no socialism: this is truer than ever before. What is not true is that mere anti-capitalist struggle automatically equals socialist struggle. The conscious planned intervention and leadership of a revolutionary Marxist vanguard, anti-capitalist and anti-Stalinist, which has not been poisoned at its source by a false conception of the relation between socialism and workers’ democracy, is more than ever the key to socialist victory.

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Last updated on 29 September 2018