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A. Rudzienski

The Agony of European Reformism

Social Democrats in Russian Zone Form Bureau

(28 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 26, 28 June 1948, p. 4.
Translated by Abe Stein.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Despite many laborious international conferences, all attempts to revive the Second (Socialist) International have failed. The principal cause, perhaps, of this failure has been the division of the old European Social-Democracy into a “Western” wing under the leadership of the British Labor Party, and an “Eastern” wing in the countries dominated by the Russian invaders. Until a short time ago, the British Laborites were still trying to maintain relations with the Social-Democratic parties of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Rumania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, and not only invited delegations from the Russian Zone to the international congresses, but refused admission to the representatives of the Social-Democratic Parties in exile from these same countries. Thus, in the last international conference in Belgium, the delegates of the PPS (Polish Socialist Party) were refused admission. The PPS has a considerable organization among the Polish workers of France, Great Britain and Belgium, leaving aside the illegal workers’ organizations in Poland. It is the only organized working-class force which opposes the Stalinist government in Poland.

The Social-Democracy of the Russian Zone took the road of collaboration with the Stalinist invader, just as the Western Social-Democracy took the road of collaboration with its own and American capitalism. In the first period the Stalinist police permitted the collaborating Socialists a certain autonomy of organization, under the condition of collaboration. But the more the process of disillusionment advanced among the workers and peasants with regard to Stalinism, the wider the scope of political “totalization,” the greater grew the political pressure on the Socialists, and with it the danger of absorption by the Stalinist organizations.

Although in Rumania and Yugoslavia the Socialists did not play a major role, this process was clearly demonstrated in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In Hungary the Social-Democrats were “expropriated” and compelled to accept Stalinist orders. In Czechoslovakia the Socialists were the victims of an internal coup by means of which the anti-Stalinist leadership was deposed and a new leadership under Zdenek Fierlinger, Stalinist collaborator, was installed.

In Poland the old PPS, according to the words of A. Cliokosz, “was expropriated from its own organization, press, program and emblems.” While the authentic PPS fought heroically in the Warsaw revolution, the agents of the GPU organized a “congress” in Lublin of collaborating elements, who formed the pseudo-PPS, led by Russian agents. The real PPS was exposed to savage persecution, and every attempt to legalize an independent Socialist Party was roundly frustrated by the “popular government.” The “independence” of the pseudo-PPS was due to the opposition of Mikolajczyk’s Peasant Party. Now, after the liquidation of the peasant movement, the GPU has proclaimed the necessity of “fusion” between the “two workers parties.” In a word, the doom of the pseudo-PPS has been sealed.

Indict Collaborators with Stalinists

The destiny of the Stalinist-collaborating Social-Democracy is determined by the progress of Stalinist totalitarianism and reaction in Europe. The old workers’ organizations are being absorbed and subjected to a single command. The formal “independence” of the Social-Democratic organizations in Poland as well as in Czechoslovakia was the consequence of a Stalinist maneuver and their liquidation is only a matter of time. The elements in opposition to Stalinism must flee into exile, “submit” politically, or be assassinated, as was the case of the Polish Socialists, Zdanowsky, Pajdak and others.

Given these conditions, the Social-Democratic opposition of the Soviet Zone, threatened with physical “liquidation” by the GPU and rejected by their British colleagues, remained without any possibilities and international representation. To find away out of this blind alley, an international conference of representatives from the opposition Social-Democratic groups in the Russian Zone was recently held in Paris. Ciolkosz and Zaremba represented the Polish Socialists; Topalovic and Drazkovi, the Yugoslavs; Karol Peyer, the Hungarians; and Yancu Zissu, the Rumanians.

The political declaration of the conference attacks Russia’s economic policy in the occupied countries, accusing it of extracting goods without any sort of equivalent exchange through economic agreements dictated to the puppet regimes.

“In addition, the governments, with their policy directed toward a forced and accelerated industrialization, maintaining armies which are much too large, and fostering the incredible growth of a bureaucracy, exhaust the resources and productive forces of the worker and peasant masses.

“The incorporation of these countries into the political orbit of the USSR is an obstacle to peaceful relations and prepares a new war, and is a brake on the economic reconstruction of these countries ...

“Consequently we witness the fact that these countries, rich in the sphere of agricultural production, die of hunger, those having an abundance of coal die of cold, because exports to the East devastate the internal market.”

The declaration comes out in favor of American aid for Europe and European unity without “limiting the liberty of the peoples.”

“The current policies of our governments inevitably lead to a lowering of living standards to the Soviet level. The policy of low wages and Stakhanovism constitutes a pronounced expression of this tendency.

“We protest against this policy, which, being in the service of foreign interests, rejects the Marshall Plan, putting obstacles in the way of the reconstruction of Western Europe and destroying international collaboration.

“Europe is one unit from the economic point of view, and the reconstruction of Western Europe can only be carried out with a maximum of difficulty if Eastern Europe remains isolated,since its economy has a complementary character, if the products of Eastern Europe required by Western Europe, are by force directed toward the East instead of finding their traditional outlets in the West.”

The declaration asks for international pressure on the satellite governments of the Soviet, to force them to respect those obligations and international agreements according to which “democratic institutions and agreements” were guaranteed.

“Only firm and swift action directed toward wiping out police policies, the liberation of political prisoners, and the organization of free elections under international control can bring about the unification of Europe and free the world from the prevailing fear, saving it from ultimate disaster.”

The declaration cites the events in Czechoslovakia as an example of the abandonment of democratic policy in Central Europe and the tactic of appeasement followed by the “Communist” governments, and also indicts the Social-Democratic parties for having supported groups with are “Socialist” in name only, being in reality subordinated to the dictate of the “Communists.”

The conference ended by forming an international socialist bureau of the Social-Democratic parties which are in opposition to the Stalinist regimes, “whose main aim is the restoration of national independence and the realization of democracy and socialism, which does not mean a return to the pre-war regimes.” Zygmunt Zaremba, the PPS representative, was chosen as secretary-general of the bureau.


Tendencies Revealed in the Resolution

Analyzing the resolution of the Social-Democratic opposition parties, we can discern two tendencies: the old Social-Democratic tendency which defends a democracy that rises “above classes,” that is, bourgeois democracy; which gives complete support to the Marshall Plan, that is, to the imperialist policies of the United States; which calls for the realization of the Atlantic Charter, whose program was not taken seriously by its own authors, Roosevelt and Churchill; which desires that the UN be an effective force for intervention, that is, desires the revival of the defeated program of the League of Nations; a tendency which for all these reasons gives support to capitalist restoration and the penetration of American imperialism in Eastern Europe without setting into motion an independent revolutionary policy of the proletariat. This pro-capitalist tendency appears to us to be reactionary and harmful for the interests of international socialism.

But the resolution also presents another tendency, that of criticism of the economic policy of Stalinism, criticism of the exploitation of the peoples in the occupied countries, of the lowering of the living standards of the workers and peasants to the Russian level; criticism of the totalitarian persecution of the workers and peasants’ opposition, of the police regime, of the reactionary economic autarchy, and the division of Europe into two opposing blocs; criticism of economic imperialism and the existing threat to world peace.

This criticism of Stalinism, its economic policy and its totalitarian regime, contains elements that are undeniably new, almost “Trotskyist,” which are not subordinated to the pro-capitalist line of the other tendency. Since the Social-Democratic oppositionists are an important workers’ force in the Russian Zone of Europe, the Marxist movement, whether it wants to or not, must support them in the struggle against the Stalinist reaction, insofar as this struggle develops within the framework of the struggle of the workers against the bureaucratic regime. We, the revolutionary socialists, support the workers’ criticism of Stalinism. We support the workers’ struggle against Stalinism to the degree that this serves the interests of the working class, the interests of world socialism, and the socialist revolution; but we oppose the tendency which would subject this workers’ struggle to the interests of capitalism, to the tendencies of capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe, to American imperialist penetration.

We understand the difficult situation of the Polish, Hungarian, Yugoslavian, Rumanian and Czech Social-Democrats. Every day the proletariat and poor peasantry of these countries increase their hatred of the Stalinist bureaucracy which exploits and oppresses them, reduces their living standards to barbarous levels. The Social-Democratic opposition to Stalinism sees no other real force, no other ally against the Stalinist bureaucracy than the capitalist ally, the United States.

Defeat of One Will Defeat the Other

But we, the heirs of the Russian Revolution, the exponents of Marxist revolutionary thought who have cast off the Stalinist chains, we know that capitalist restoration signifies a historical retrogression, that it also signifies exploitation and oppression;we know that the only solution for the countries of Eastern Europe and for all humanity is an integral world socialism, the permanent socialist revolution which will do away not only with Stalinism but with capitalism as well.

We know that the defeat of European socialism conditioned the historic existence of Stalinism as an expression of the post-revolutionary reaction; as the negation of an isolated, interrupted, and betrayed revolution. We know that the existence of capitalism in the rest of the world conditions the existence of the Stalinist reaction in the country of the buried October Revolution. We know that the existence of Stalinism, on the other hand, conditions the growth of capitalist reaction in its fascist and imperialist forms; and that in the last analysis the defeat of Stalinism will weaken capitalist reaction and unleash the revolutionary forces of the working class.

Nothing of this is understood by the Social-Democrats because they are not the products of the revolutionary socialist tendency. They reject the inheritance of the Russian Revolution and remain bound to traditional petty bourgeois reformism. For this reason the only salvation they can find is in alliance with Western capitalism.

We are against the alliance with capitalism and shall fight Stalinism under our own banner, the banner of the socialist revolution. We shall continue along the socialist road. We shall support the anti-Stalinist criticisms of the Social-Democrats from the point of view of the aims of revolutionary socialist policy, opposing collaboration with capitalism and forming our own third camp of the socialist revolution. And if today this camp is weak because of the supremacy of Stalinism in the working class, tomorrow it will be strong when this supremacy is destroyed.

Revolutionary Socialism Is the Only Way Out

The old Social-Democracy suffers the sclerosis of old age, loses its own physiognomy and is divided into two camps: the pro-capitalist camp of Attlee and Blum, and the pro-Stalinist camp of Nenni, Fierlinger and Cyrankiewicz. The pro-Stalinist Social-Democracy is doomed to absorption and irremediable political liquidation. The “Western” Social-Democracy is chained to the chariot of Wall Street, capitalist restoration and the new imperialist war. The Social-Democracy of the Russian Zone, opposed to Stalinism, tries to avoid the fate of both twin sisters; tries to give the new tendency its own expression, but its political declaration contains theoretical contradictions which undermined the political life of the Second International and what remains of it. If this criticism of Stalinism is subjected to a reformist, pro-capitalist policy, then our op- [a line of text was repeated here and a line was omitted – Note by ETOL] formed into bearers of capitalist restoration under the scepter of Wall Street.

The sad spectacle of the remains of the Second International divided between two bosses reminds us of those Roman gladiators who marched to their death shouting, “Ave Caesar, imperator, morituri te salutant.” (“Hail Caesar the emperor, in dying we salute you.”)

Marxist revolutionary thought does not play the part of gladiator to any emperor, but forges its own future, the glorious and victorious future of the world proletariat; it does not go toward death as do the sclerotic and outdated movements, but even in the gray days of defeat marches toward the green and triumphant life. The road to victory is the revolutionary independence of the workers’ movement.

No masters for the proletariat and the Marxist intellectuals. Against Moscow and against Wall Street. For the victory of world socialism built on the defeat of both reactionary camps, capitalist reaction and Stalinist cannibalism. For the third independent camp of the triumphant world socialist revolution!

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