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New International, April 1949


Capitalism, Stalinism, and the War

The 1949 International Resolution of the Independent Socialist League


From The New International, Vol. XV No. 4, April 1949, pp. 116–128.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The world of capitalist imperialism headed by the United States and the new totalitarian despotism of Stalinism headed by Russia face each other over the whole world as imperialist rivals and as antagonistic systems of class exploitation vying for the privilege of oppressing the peoples of the earth. Their “cold war” is the dominant fact, and the threat of the Third World War is the overshadowing issue of all current politics.

There has been no interlude of peaceful illusions. The two big powers openly jockey for positions and allies, through a series of warlike crises. Their diplomats and statesmen hurl defies and denunciations at each other in language seldom used between states not at war or preparing for imminent war. Between the two contenders lies a Europe still suffering hunger, want and disease from the unprecedented devastation of the Second World War, and deathly afraid of the universally expected destructiveness of a foreseeable war of atom bombs, long-range guided missiles, bacteriological weapons and radioactive dust.

In this situation a paradox exists: Never before has there been such universal revulsion and horror in the face of the gathering storm of civilization on the part of the peoples of the world, and a concomitant will to stop the man-made course to destruction; and at the same time never before has there been such widespread fear that the holocaust is inevitable. Not only the people but also the socialist and working-class movements stand with divided mind, unable to orient themselves in the midst of new, unclearly grasped and unanticipated phenomena.

The working classes of Europe, of America and of the Colonial world have displayed no lack of fighting spirit and will to struggle since the end of the Second World War. The contrary is true, manifested by a scarcely interrupted series of class battles, from the Labor-Party-led political overturn in England, to the Stalinist-led general and political strikes on the Continent, to the nationalist-led struggles for independence in the colonial countries. The danger of war and the driving need for economic security ensures that the working class will continue to fight.

But this irrepressible class struggle is confused and its effectiveness partially nullified by the rise of a new factor, Russian bureaucratic collectivism, to the role of a first-class contender for world domination, and by the development of new trends in the capitalist world which amount to a new stage of the old system. In most of Europe and in most of the world, the struggle for socialism is no longer merely the classic duel – proletariat versus bourgeoisie – but a three-cornered fight for power, with the working class ranged against not one class enemy but two; a degenerating capitalism which is anti-Stalinist and a totalitarian Stalinism which is anti-capitalist.

The basis for the disorientation of the proletarian forces consists in this: that these rival exploiting systems are not clearly recognized as enemies on an equal footing; that, since they are in mutual antagonism, one or the other is regarded by sections of the working class as a possible ally – as an ally as well against the threatening war.

The first task of Marxists in the face of this new constellation of world forces is a thorough reorientation of socialism in the light of the new phenomena in the capitalist and Stalinist sectors of the world. This means the adaptation of Marxism to the problems of our day in at least as sweeping a fashion as the adaptation accomplished by Leninism in its time on the basis of a recognition of the new stage of imperialism. It is on an analysis of the new conditions that the politics of Independent Socialism is founded – “Neither Washington nor Moscow!” – and it is on this that the socialist struggle against the war is based.


I. Changes in Capitalist Imperialism

II. Stalinism and the Rise of the New Russian Empire

III. Marxists and the Third World War

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