Stalinism in the Postwar World

This pamphlet, Stalinism in the Post-War World, once again describes the strengthening of Stalinism in Europe as a result of the war. Despite the temporary political stabilisation in Western Europe, it was not possible at that time to anticipate a prolonged economic upswing and for that reason, it was believed that the incipient social discontent in Spain, for example, would lead to a new outbreak of revolutionary struggle. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that it can be seen that the post-war boom unexpectedly underpinned the Franco regime for a whole period, although it was decidedly shaky in the first years after the war.

With the perspective for political upheaval in Western Europe, and given the mass support of the Communist Parties at that time, the document put forward the prognosis of growth in these parties, followed by left splits at a later stage. As it has turned out, the long post-war boom has led to such a degeneration of the Western European Communist Parties, in a liberal-reformist direction, that many of them have split into several different parts. A number of them are now unlikely to develop at all, especially alongside tendencies of genuine Marxism.

Another theme once again developed in this document is the method by which the Russian bureaucracy was able to transform social relations in Eastern Europe, establishing regimes of proletarian Bonapartism in the image of Moscow. But in a new departure, a significant part of it also provides a bridge to the issues dealt with in more detail in the next chapter: the Stalin-Tito split and the Chinese revolution.

In June 1948, the rivalry between the Moscow bureaucracy and the Yugoslavian state bureaucracy erupted into open conflict. The Yugoslav leader, Tito, was denounced by the Cominform and he in turn denounced the Kremlin. Yet again, the 'leadership' of the Fourth International were at sixes and sevens. Up to this point, they still held the view that Russia was a deformed workers' state, but Eastern Europe - Yugoslavia included - was still capitalist. Now, without any explanation, they ditched the view that Yugoslavia was capitalist and suddenly discovered instead that not only was it a workers' state, but a relatively healthy one at that! Because of his split with Stalin, the IS took the completely impressionistic view that Tito was some kind of 'unconscious Trotskyist' and gave their wholehearted support to Belgrade in its struggle with Moscow. 'Long live the Yugoslav Socialist Revolution', crowed the IS, as they appealed for fraternal links between the Fourth International and the Yugoslav 'communist movement.'

Once again it was left to Ted Grant, alone among all the international theoreticians of Trotskyism, to explain these events. Using the analysis of Eastern Europe already worked out, it was now possible to describe in consistent Marxian terms, the nature and the origin of the split between Stalin and Tito. The document correctly described Tito as a 'Yugoslav Stalin' who was not prepared to be subjugated by Moscow, and, having a relatively independent base in the partisan movement which had brought him to power, was able to free himself from the political control of the Russian bureaucracy.

Furthermore, not only was Grant's analysis of the Eastern European states able to explain the Tito-Stalin split, it could also anticipate - and this is the test of the correctness of theory, in politics as in science - other splits, along national lines, within the Eastern European monolith. 'To this day the national question remains a key question in the struggle against the bureaucracy…Stalin's tendency to convert Eastern Europe into a fief for the benefit of the Russian bureaucracy…was bound to awaken opposition among the masses, which had to arouse an echo even in the dominant Stalinist parties.'

More prophetically still, the document not only anticipated in advance the establishment of a Stalinist state in China after the revolution, but it predicted the inevitability of a split between the Chinese and the Russian bureaucracy, on the same basis, although on a far larger scale, as in the case of Yugoslavia. This issue is considered more fully in the next chapter.

– From Introduction to Eastern Europe

World War Two ended in a complex and entirely unforeseen relationship of forces between the nations and between the classes. It ended in the victory of two continental powers on the world arena, US imperialism and the Russian bureaucracy. That became the dominant factor on a world scale: the division of the world between two competing blocs. For the first time in history the great powers of Europe were reduced to secondary positions; France, Germany, Italy, were defeated and England became a second rate power. Japan was reduced to the status of an occupied territory stripped of all her colonies and spheres of influence. The struggle between the classes can only be understood against a background of this decisive conflict of the era.

The decay of capitalism was reflected above all in the weakening of imperialism and the upsurge of the masses in Asia, with the revolutionary wave in Western and Eastern Europe. The upsurge of the masses in Asia in the struggle for national liberation was such as to compel the British to withdraw from India, Burma and Ceylon (Sri Lanka - Ed) and enter into a different relationship with the national bourgeoisie of these countries.

Dutch imperialism has been compelled to withdraw from Indonesia and arrive at a compromise with the native ruling class. In Indo-China French imperialism has been bogged down ever since the war in its desperate effort to hold down the national liberation struggle. In Malaya, British imperialism with all the resources at its disposal has not been enabled to defeat the Malayan peoples' fight for independence. In China American imperialism has sustained an unparalleled reverse. Despite the lavish pouring of munitions and supplies to the aid of the decrepit Chiang Kai Shek regime, the forces of Chinese landlordism-capitalism-imperialism, as represented by the corrupt Kuomintang[1] clique, have been pushed into the sea and retain but a shaky foot-hold on the island of Formosa (Taiwan - Ed), protected only by the sea and now the American navy.

Korea divided into Russian and American spheres of influence, reveals the weakness of imperialism in the whole of the Far East. Without the direct intervention of American imperialism the Korean Chiang Kai Shek would have collapsed as ignominiously as the Chiang regime itself. At best American imperialism will be enabled to retain a foothold after a lengthy struggle and American forces will be pinned down like those of the French in Indo-China and the British in Malaya, even in the event of a complete victory in the South. This is the measure of the decay of the old relations of capitalism and imperialism of the past. Capitalism rots at its weakest point.

In Europe, the victory of Russia in the war and the upsurge of the masses following the defeat of German-Italian fascism also developed a tremendous revolutionary wave which threatened to sweep capitalism away over the entire continent. However, the victory of Russia in the war had complex and contradictory consequences. Temporarily, but nevertheless for an entire historical period, Stalinism has been enormously strengthened. Despite the destruction and blood letting to which Russia had been subjected, which left her in an exhausted and weak state (while Anglo-American imperialism had hardly been touched during the war and suffered negligible losses in resources and manpower - America had reached the apex of her power militarily and economically), because of the mood of the peoples and the relationship of class forces on a world scale, the imperialists were impotent to intervene against Russia.

Intervention even on a scale following that of World War I was impossible. On the contrary, the allies were forced to swallow the Russian hegemony of Eastern Europe and parts of Asia which they would never have agreed to concede even to reactionary Czarism. The Russian bureaucracy had achieved the domination of the region beyond the wildest dreams of Russia under the Czars.

The process whereby capitalism was overthrown in Eastern Europe and Stalinism extended, took place in a peculiar way. The vacuum in the state power in Eastern Europe, following the defeat of the Nazis and their Quislings, was filled by the forces of the conquering Red Army. The weak bourgeoisie of these areas had been largely exterminated, absorbed as Quislings to German imperialism or reduced to minor partners of the Nazis during the years of the war. They had been relatively weak in Eastern Europe even before the war, as the states of this region were largely semi-colonies of the great powers on the lines of the South American states. The pre-war regimes suffered from a chronic crisis due to the Balkanisation[2] of the area and the incapacity of the ruling class to solve the problems of even the bourgeois democratic revolution. They were nearly all military police dictatorships of a weak character without any real roots among the masses.

The victory of Russia during the war undoubtedly provoked an upsurge among the masses either rapidly or in some countries delayed for a time. The socialist revolution was on the order of the day. This was dangerous not only for the bourgeoisie but also the Stalinist bureaucracy. The bureaucracy achieved their aims by skilfully veering between and manipulating the classes in typical Bonapartist fashion. The trick was to form a 'popular front' between the classes and to organise a government of 'national concentration'. However this 'popular front' had a different base and different aims in view than the 'popular fronts' of the past.

In Spain the aim of the 'popular front' was to destroy the powers of the workers and the embryonic workers' state, by destroying the workers' revolution. This was achieved by making an alliance with the bourgeoisie, or rather the shadow of the bourgeoisie, strangling the control which the workers had established in the factories and the armed workers' militia and re-establishing the capitalist state under the control of the bourgeoisie. As a consequence of this policy towards the end of the war there was a military police dictatorship on both sides of the lines.

The aim of the coalition with the broken bourgeoisie or its shadow in Eastern Europe had different objectives than that of handing control back to the capitalist class. In previous 'popular fronts' the real power of a state - armed bodies of men, police and the state apparatus - was firmly in the hands of the bourgeoisie with the workers' parties as appendages. In Eastern Europe, with one important variation or another, the real power ie control of the armed bodies of men and the state apparatus, was in the hands of the Stalinists. The bourgeoisie occupied the position of appendage without the real power. Why then the coalition? It served as a cover under which a firm state machine on the model of that of Moscow could be constructed and consolidated.

The bourgeoisie was utilised by the bureaucracy in order to prevent the workers, awakened by the victory of the Red Army and the events of the war, from achieving the socialist revolution on the lines of October. The bureaucracy played off the bourgeoisie in the name of unity against the working class. They manipulated with Bonapartist manoeuvres the groping aspirations of the workers to establish control of the factories.

By introducing land reform and expropriating the landlord class, they secured for the time being the support or acquiescence of the peasants. Having consolidated and built up a strong state under their control they then proceeded to the next stage. Mobilising the workers, they turned on the bourgeoisie, whom they no longer required, to balance against the workers and peasants, and step by step they proceeded to their expropriation. The bourgeoisie without the support of outside imperialism was incapable of decisive resistance. A totalitarian regime approximating more and more to the Moscow model has been gradually introduced. After the elimination of the bourgeoisie, and the beginning of a large scale industrialisation the bureaucracy has turned against the peasants and started on the road of the collectivisation of agriculture.

The Case of Yugoslavia

In Yugoslavia and China the pattern of events was somewhat different, although not fundamentally so, from developments in Eastern Europe. After the subjugating of Yugoslavia by the forces of German imperialism a struggle for national liberation against the foreign oppressor began to develop. This had a wide base due to the traditions of Yugoslavia and the struggles of its peoples against Turkish domination and that of Austria-Hungary before the First World War.

This resulted in a peasant war and a guerrilla struggle in the mountains. Under 'normal' conditions such a struggle could only have ended in the victory of the bourgeoisie and the possibility of land reform, even if carried to a successful conclusion. But the dominating factors of our epoch lie in the victory of 'October' and the distortion of the revolution by the bureaucracy. On the one hand the background of a strong 'workers' state' (even though in a degenerated form) and on the other the frightful decay of capitalism-imperialism on a world scale and the incapacity of the local bourgeoisie to solve a single one of the national or democratic problems facing the country, served to push the masses in the direction of the socialist revolution. Again, the distortion of the revolution results in a curious deformation of the struggle on the part of the local agencies of Stalinism.

The peasants cannot play an independent role. They must follow one or another of the basic classes in modern society. In contradistinction to the classical Marxist theory of the past, the struggle began with small sections of the workers and Stalinist leadership taking to the hills and organising the peasants in a war for national liberation. The overwhelming majority of the rank and file of the partisan army of liberation was composed of peasants. Its nature revealed itself in the civil war, which began even under the occupation, with Mihailovitch[3] representing the capitalist and upper middle class (or rather those remnants who had not sold out completely to German imperialism). The Bonapartist bureaucracy, basing itself on the peasants, led the struggle under the guise of a national 'popular front' similar to those later established in Eastern Europe. Apart from the big cities large areas were under the control of Tito towards the end of the war, though the assistance of the Red Army was necessary for the conquest of Belgrade.

However events in Yugoslavia developed on a different pattern to those in Eastern Europe. In the other countries of Eastern Europe the partisan struggles were in most cases either weak, almost non-existent or in an embryonic stage when the Red Army arrived. In those where a mass of resistance did occur, there were special circumstances which did not exist in Yugoslavia.

The important difference between Yugoslavia (as with China) and the rest of Eastern Europe lies in the fact that Tito and the Yugoslav Stalinists had established an independent state base before the arrival of the Red Army. They had the support of the big majority of the masses in the revolutionary struggle which they had undertaken. Thus the attempt of the Russian bureaucracy to establish firm control could be met with successful resistance on the part of the Yugoslavs. They were not so dependent on Moscow as were the other satellite parties.

In the Soviet Union itself conflicts inevitably arose between the national republics and the Stalinist bureaucracy because of the Great Russian tendencies of centralisation and bureaucratic oppression in the interests of the Moscow clique. In the Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, German-Volga Republic, opposition against the national oppression developed in all the republics of Russia against this stifling economic and cultural oppression. In the Ukraine, particularly, oppression developed to such an extent that Trotsky raised the slogan of an independent Socialist Soviet Ukraine. The opposition of the masses of the republic was such that the hand-picked Stalinist leadership had to be purged and killed in order to consolidate the rule of the bureaucracy.

To this day the national question remains a key question in the struggle against the bureaucracy. Thus Stalin's tendency to convert Eastern Europe into a fief for the benefit of the Russian bureaucracy through privileged and extortionate agreements and the subordination of the interests of the economy in these countries to the economic needs of the Moscow bureaucracy was bound to awaken opposition amongst the masses, which had to arouse an echo even in the dominant Stalinist parties. It was in this soil that the break between the Moscow Stalinist regime and the Yugoslav Stalinist regime had to take place. It was on this issue that the Yugoslav bureaucracy, because of its independent state base and its mass support, could successfully defy the Kremlin.

Even against the cruel Cominform blockade, paradoxically because of the tension between East and West, they could succeed in maintaining a precarious balance. It is the national question which explains the basis of the Yugoslav resistance. The Yugoslav bureaucracy wished to preserve the position of a smaller partner rather than be a puppet state of Moscow. Where the Ukrainian and Georgian bureaucrats could not succeed, they had the possibility.

In the other states of Eastern Europe the opposition was dealt with on similar lines to that of the opposition in the national states within the Soviet Union. The leading elements such as Gomulka[4], Rajk, Kostov were executed or jailed and the state machine purged from top to bottom to bring it into line as an obedient tool of Moscow. The attempt in Yugoslavia, however, ended with the arrest and imprisonment of the Moscow Stalinist agents Zujobic and Hebrang.

Does the break of Tito with Stalin mean that the Yugoslav regime ceases to be Stalinist? The regime remains that of a Yugoslav variant of Russian Stalinism. Stalinism means a totalitarian regime with a privileged bureaucratic caste superimposed on the economic base of the workers' state. With this or that difference, with this or that modification, nevertheless the regime in Yugoslavia resembles that of Russia, just as the Dollfus regime in little Austria resembled that of Hitler and Mussolini.

In the same way as it is possible for there to be varying fascist regimes in different countries, so under given conditions there can be various Stalinist regimes, various democratic bourgeois states and various forms of workers' states conforming to the norm.

The decisive considerations in our characterisation of a regime are: firstly, the basic social characteristics…workers' state, capitalist state, feudal state, slave state, etc. Secondly, though still of vital importance, its political super-structure. In the case of capitalist states…fascist, democratic, imperialist, colonial etc in the case of a workers' state…bureaucratised or workers' democracy. On this basis Yugoslavia remains a deformed workers' state. [Marxists support the struggle of the Yugoslav masses against the] chauvinist national oppression of the Russian bureaucracy, just as we as we support the struggle of the Ukraine or of Poland for freedom from the domination of Moscow.

In Yugoslavia itself the Fourth International must fight for the overthrow of the Yugoslav bureaucracy by means of a political revolution. The demands of this political revolution will be for the control to be placed in the hands of the masses through a regime of workers' democracy, with as a minimum, the right to participate freely in all political life for all working class tendencies, elimination of the privileges of the bureaucracy, restoration of the right to strike, etc.

The Yugoslav regime in its outlook and methods remains more on the path of Stalinism than that of revolutionary Marxism. The pressure from Stalinism compels the Yugoslav bureaucracy to borrow extensively from the Marxist criticism of Stalin. Verbal gestures to the left no more transform the regime to that of a healthy workers' state than the sometimes correct Stalinist criticism of reformism and capitalism turns it (the Stalinist bureaucracy) into a genuine Marxist current. In a similar sense to that in which Stalinism remains a centrist current so also does the Yugoslav bureaucracy.

This bureaucracy is fresher than that of Moscow. It probably has a greater mass support among the toilers. The Five Year Plan, like that of Russia in its early stages, has evoked the enthusiastic support of the masses who believe that they are building socialism. Nevertheless, already the differentiation is as great as it was in Russia in the early years of the Five Year Plan. The basic physiognomy of the ruling clique is indicated by the fact that they have remained wedded to the theory of socialism in one country - albeit on a lower level, on the basis of tiny Yugoslavia, in comparison with the tremendous resources of Russia.

The Utopian position of the Yugoslavs, hemmed in by the hatred of the bureaucracy in the East and capitalism-imperialism in the West; precariously balancing on this antagonism in order to maintain themselves, is shown by the first skirmishes in the struggle between the USA and the USSR. The pathetic capitulation to Western imperialism involved in the demand for the mediation of the United Nations in Korea, is the best indication of the non-Marxist character of the Yugoslav bureaucracy.

Not basing themselves on internationalism, like other small nations, they can only scurry backwards and forwards between the mighty powers of Russia and America, without the possibility of an independent role. Only an internationalist position would save them from the ignominous role which Yugoslavia plays in the United Nations (UN).

Zig-zags to the left, like the Stalinist zig-zags to the left - in words - cannot alter the fundamental relationships in Yugoslavia. The economic base of Yugoslavia - a backward country not much more developed than Russia before its industrialisation - brings forth the inexorable consequences of the bureaucratisation which developed in Moscow.

With convulsive swings to the right and left, the economic tendency, given the same causes, would have the same effect. The Yugoslav regime will more and more approach that of Moscow.

Stalinism in China

The peculiar combination of forces which resulted in the victory of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, are working towards the same results in Asia. In China, we have an outstanding example of this result of the multiplicity of hisorical factors. The defeat of the revolution of 1925-7 (due to the mistakes of the Stalinists) which had had every promise of success, led the Stalinist leadership and the cadres they had managed to retain, to desert the cities and take to the mountains in order to base themselves on the peasant war - a war which had many precedents in China's long history.

The crumbling and decay of the capitalist-landlord military police regime was shown in its total incapacity to solve a single one of China's problems in the period 1924-45. Far more rotten than Czarist Russia, even at its worst, it succeeded in alienating almost the entire population apart from the tiny clique of Chiang Kai Shek at the top.

There were none really willing to strike a blow in defence at the hour of danger. In the same period the frightful decay of imperialism following the Second World War made the imperialists incapable of intervening. In 1925-7 British imperialism had replied to an 'insult to the Flag' by bombarding the main ports of China with their warships. This with the approval of the labour and trade union leaders. In 1949 such was the relationship of forces, the imperialists hailed with glee the sneaking away of the warship Amethyst from the waters of the Yangtze! So has the relationship of forces changed. The American imperialists intervened with huge supplies of arms, money and munitions, to aid the corrupt gang of Chiang Kai Shek, almost invariably the supplies falling into the hands of the Chinese Red Army.

These factors, together with the fact that they had mighty Russia as a neighbour, all had their impact on the development of the Situation in China. Under 'normal' conditions the peasant war in China would have ended as all such wars have ended in the past, or the leadership of the Chinese peasants would have fused with the capitalist elements in the cities and the peasant masses would have found themselves betrayed. The revolution would have assumed a capitalist character.

However, all the factors enumerated above had to have a different result than could have been foreseen in advance. Without Russia as a neighbour, without the degeneration of the Russian regime as a further factor, without the complete breakdown of the regime in China, where the old ruling class had so pitifully outlived itself, without the degeneration of the international Stalinist movement, without the extreme weakness of the genuine Marxist current, without the weakness of imperialism on a world scale, events in China as in all Asia would have taken a different turn: either in the direction of a proletarian revolution according to the norm (with all its international implications in the spreading of the revolution in Europe and the world) or the victory of capitalist counter-revolution. Those would have been the alternatives.

History, however, is full of inexhaustible variants which cannot be foreseen in advance. Theory is grey, but the tree of life is green…All these complicated factors in combination have resulted in the revolution being accomplished in a different way than theory had previously indicated. Using the same technique as in Yugoslavia, with the mass movement of the peasants as their base, Mao and the Chinese Red Army (with possibly an even more popular and greater mass base than Tito had)…waged a revolutionary war for the land. The armies of the Kuomintang clique melted away. Here was a peasant war in the classical revolutionary tradition. The Bonapartist clique of Stalinism based itself firmly on the longing of the peasantry for the land. Leading the peasant war they gained the powerful support of the masses. Here we have a peculiar variation of the permanent revolution [where a victorious peasant army was led by] ex-Marxists.

Due to the crisis of the regime and the paralysis of the movements in the cities by Stalinism, Mao Tse Tung and the other Stalinist leaders established an independent base in the peasant army; the classical instrument of Bonapartism. But in line with the epoch and the various factors already exhaustively dealt with it could not end as normally a peasant war independent of the mass movement in the cities would end. Having conquered the cities, with at least the passive acquiescence of the working class and urban petty bourgeois masses, Mao Tse Tung and his group could succeed in Bonapartist fashion in balancing between the classes.

Starting with the gradual elimination of the landlords throughout the territory which they had conquered (after the initial stages of the movement the bureaucracy was concerned not to have any independent movement of either the peasants or the workers which could not be directly harnessed and controlled by themselves), and immediately confiscating what they termed 'bureaucratic capitalism' ie the key centres of whatever heavy industry and finance existed, the Bonapartist bureaucracy could manoeuvre between the classes. For a temporary period and in order to help consolidate the rise and control of the bureaucratic caste, they have tolerated merchant and industrial capitalism in a neo-NEP[6].

Manoeuvring between the classes, they will establish a firm and strong state machine. Basing themselves now on the peasants, now on the workers, then on the bourgeoisie, to serve different ends they will balance between them as 'arbiter' and regulator of the relations between the classes. Inevitably they will move on to the confiscation of private ownership in industry and then at a later stage, to the expropriation of the peasantry as well, on the model of Russia and Eastern Europe. Because of the weakness and impotence of the bourgeoisie, with no historical perspective and no historical mission to perform, it will be eliminated with comparative ease. Mao will base himself on the workers in order to strike blows at the bourgeoisie, as Stalin did at the time of the elimination of the Kulaks and the 'nepmen'.

A Stalinist bureaucracy cannot tolerate the sharing of power with the bourgeoisie because this would weaken it and reduce it to a subordinate puppet role, with the corresponding diminution of income, power and privileges. The peasants, incapable of finding a different road, will be mercilessly repressed. Gradually a totalitarian State, more and more approximating to that of Moscow, will be established. Having based themselves on the workers for a time in order to eliminate the capitalists and consolidate their rule, they must turn on the working class and smash any elements of workers' democracy which may exist or be developed in the process.

Before Stalinism in China is a long perspective of power despite the social convulsions and crises of growth and consolidation. It is relatively progressive because of the development of industry and the unification of China for the first time and on this basis giving a tremendous impulse to the development of the productive forces. Purely on the basis of Chinese conditions they can maintain their rule for a long time. They will consolidate themselves more and more firmly in control in the next period. Factors making for this have been the endless war and civil war in which China has been involved in the last two decades, the weariness of the people who demand peace, the relatively progressive role they play in China, and the lack of any alternative on the Chinese basis alone. All these factors strengthen powerfully the role of Chinese Stalinism.

Of course, events in China can be hastened or retarded by developments in Western Europe, America and Russia. These remain the decisive areas of the world. A successful proletarian revolution in the West producing a workers' state on the Marxist norm, would, of course, result in a revival of the revolution in China and open the road for a healthy development by hastening the political revolution. But taking Chinese forces as a basis it is clear that Mao, like Stalin, will develop the forces which will overthrow his machine in the future.

The relatively austere administration, without control from the masses, will become more and more corrupt. State power is a powerful source of infection and disease. Increasing their separation from the masses, the bureaucratic caste will raise themselves higher and higher above the people as a new aristocracy and will provoke the sharp hatred of the masses.

Because of the history of China, its traditions and its terrible backwardness, Chinese Stalinism with its own forces alone will inevitably develop an even more monstrous oppressive machine than that of Stalinism in Russia. The bureaucratic caste which is crystallising there will only be removed by force. The new political revolution will lead to the establishment of a healthy workers' democracy but on a higher industrial foundation. In the long run the fate of China, as of all the East will be determined by the fate of the revolution in Eastern Europe and America.

Having an independent base, the regime of Mao Tse Tung will most likely come into conflict with that of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia. Reluctantly, after the experience of Yugoslavia, the bureaucracy has been compelled to treat the People's Republic of China as a junior partner rather than an out and out satellite or a Moscow province. Despite the efforts to avoid this, at a later stage if favourable terms can be obtained from Britain and America, it is quite likely that Mao Tse Tung will break away and play an independent role. Thus, in that sense, once an independent basis is established, it is difficult if not impossible, for Moscow to maintain direct rule or domination.

Stalinism in Western Europe

The result of the war and the national liberation struggle, the general disgust of the masses, the rotting of the capitalist system which had provoked two world wars, the defeat of fascism, and the victory of Russia in the war…all led inevitably to a powerful revolutionary wave in all Western Europe. The tragic thing was that whereas the First World War had seen the revolutionary wave stemmed by reformism, after the Second World War it was Stalinism that saved Western European capitalism from destruction.

In France and Italy in particular, the Communist Parties became the dominant force within the working class and with their control of the unions and other mass organisations of the proletariat, with a powerful apparatus and machine, organisationally the Stalinist parties were far stronger than Bolshevism had ever been before the Russian revolution. The possibility of taking power peacefully, or almost peacefully, was rooted in the situation. But owing to the world diplomatic situation of Stalinism and its fear of the masses, they betrayed the first revolutionary wave in the coalition popular fronts which they formed. With this powerful aid from Stalinism and the usual role of social democracy, and thanks to the assistance of mighty American imperialism, decaying capitalism in Europe has managed to recover. With the assistance of Marshall Aid and the marvellous recuperative powers of modern production, ailing capitalism has managed to restore itself and the productive machine. In this situation, with the passing of the first revolutionary wave, the open struggle between American imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy, Stalinism, in the interests of the latter, has engaged in a series of irresponsible adventures without any real perspective except that of weakening Western Europe in the interests of the bureaucracy.

The wave of irresponsible strikes, without a clear perspective of a struggle for power, succeeded in exhausting and frustrating the proletariat. This policy assisted the bourgeoisie, after they had recovered from the first revolutionary shocks, in re-establishing their state machine, even though its firmness is only apparent rather than real. The crisis of the regimes in Western Europe is best shown in the situations in France and Italy.

In these countries the crisis of social democracy is the clearest reflection of this. Despite the failure of Stalinism to seize power the proletariat has produced a split in the Socialist Party in Italy[7] and a chronic crisis in the SFIO in France. There is a crumbling away of support from the workers and despite its crimes and losses in the last period with the despair of the workers, Stalinism remains the mass party of the working class. This is so precisely because of the lack of a mass revolutionary alternative.

However, while dents have been made in the armour of Stalinism with the experience of the workers, including the Tito movement, nevertheless, as yet, no decisive blow has been struck against the Stalinist forces. As elections have shown in France and Italy, they still retain the support of the basic strata of the working class. In the face of economic slump, Stalinism can recover and even gain support from further sections of the workers and petit bourgeoisie whom they have not affected in the past. The basic section of the workers in these countries still has many illusions in Stalinism as a revolutionary force; illusions which have been strengthened by the 'left' line of the Stalinists in the last few years. A long process of disillusionment will be necessary before the working class comes to understand the real nature of Stalinism.

It is theoretically possible under certain conditions that the Stalinists might even come to power in these countries. If they do so, they could not retain power for a lengthy period, and would be bound to come into conflict with the Moscow bureaucracy in any event. Whether they come into conflict with Moscow quickly or not, an immediate process of differentiation from top to bottom within the Communist Party would commence. Whatever the result of fissures in the CP which would be opened up, the Stalinists would be unlikely to maintain power for any protracted period.


The convulsive character of the present epoch and the impossibility of a lengthy stabilisation of capitalism is revealed not only by the weakness of imperialism and the national awakening of Asia but also by the shaky foundations of economic upswing and relative tranquillity in Western Europe. The Spanish problem once again is raising itself as a key question for Europe and the fate of the world labour movement.

It is twelve years since the Spanish workers were enmeshed in a terrible civil war, due to the mistakes and crimes of the labour movement, especially the Stalinists.

Now the decay and corruption of the regime have reached such a pitch that the awakening of the workers has already begun. The military-police fascist regime, far from solving any of the problems of the weak and backward Spanish economy, exacerbated them to an enormous degree. The regime in its inefficiency, futility and rottenness, basing itself on an alliance of Church, landowners, army and industrialists, bears more of a resemblance to the role of the Chiang clique than any European government. Like Czarism it has ceased to have any mass base within the population.

All strata of the population, all the social classes, feel the crisis of the regime and are beginning to search for a way out. Fascism, once established, can only maintain itself given the atomisation, inertia, despair, apathy and indifference of the masses. The recovery of working-class solidarity, initiative and action can spell the beginning of its doom. So the strikes in Barcelona and the Basque country, mark the beginning of the new Spanish revolution. The process of history of the revolution, interrupted in 1939 by the intervention of the brutal fascist heel, begins anew. The fascist regime is doomed. The only question is that of the tempo of events in which its destruction will take place.

The beginning of the end for Mussolini was marked by the strikes of the Italian workers - a few months later he fell. The events in Spain, like those of Italy, are an answer to the sceptics who saw only the monolithic strength of a totalitarian regime, and sagely preached the impossibility of its overthrow from the internal forces of the country itself. Italy was not a convincing example for them because of the defeats of the regime in wax, from which they deduced the causes of the collapse of the fascist system.

The peace-time crisis of the Franco regime provides a crushing refutation of this undialectical method of thinking. The same school of social 'philosophy' bows down in despair before the phenomenon of totalitarian Stalinism.

In the long run the intervention of the Russian workers will produce a paralysis of the Stalinist regime far more pitiful and helpless than the coming death agony of the Franco regime. The all powerful and almighty bureaucracy (which reveals its caste rule as one of permanent crisis in the never-ending purges and repressions of the regime) in its hour of trial will collapse into impotence under the hammer blows of the workers. Probably the hour of its collapse will begin with strikes on similar lines to those of Spain and Italy.

As has been determined by theory on the basis of historical experience, the conditions for revolution are now manifesting themselves under the blows of the awakening Spanish working class. The doomed ruling class is beginning to split at the top under the pressure of the rumblings of social discontent from below.

They wish some reforms and concessions to be granted to the workers and peasants, which will leave the basis of the social regime intact. So it was in the doomed Czarist regime. But any attempt to forestall the movement from below by restoration of the outlived monarchy or similar manoeuvres, will merely precipitate the movement which they so dread.

The unbearable social tension is reflected by this attempt on the part of its main beneficiaries, the landowners, Church, army and industrialists, to escape retribution, which they fear the overthrow of the regime will bring at the hands of the long suffering masses. But this plotting, percolating to the masses below, successful or not, can but add impetus to the gathering revolutionary [tide].

The ruling class is seeking a way of escape. The middle class, in most of its strata, from top to bottom, is vacillating or even manifesting open sympathy for the struggle of the workers. The regime cannot find a basis of support here.

Lastly, the magnificent strikes of the workers under such adverse conditions reveal once again the capacity for self-sacrifice, endurance and struggle which the heroic Spanish workers revealed in such large measure in the revolutionary struggles between 1931-7.

Yes! The conditions for revolution are present! In 1936, despite the sabotage of the workers' leadership, the Spanish workers revealed their aspirations for the socialist revolution by their deeds and activity. Without the unfavourable international environment and the intervention of Hitler and Mussolini, despite the criminal policies of their leaderships even in 1936, it would probably have been possible for the workers to defeat Franco. Without foreign aid, without the Moorish troops and the 'non-intervention' of Stalinist Russia and the capitalist 'democracies' in the early decisive stages it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Franco to triumph.

Now the degeneration of the Spanish ruling class has gone further under the Franco regime. The desire of the masses for a socialist change has been intensified. They will not be fobbed off for long by merely superficial change and reforms. Especially as only fundamental social revolution can even begin to solve the problems of the Spanish nation.

In the meantime Spanish Morocco, far from being a reservoir for Franco's shock troops, will most likely be affected by rebellion once a mass movement begins on the mainland. The international bourgeoisie would find it impossible to interfere by direct intervention. If Britain finds it difficult to carry out armed intervention against Persia (Iran), it would be impossible for Spain.

The intervention of American dollars would most likely have no more auspicious results than the ill-omened aid for the doomed Chinese clique in the Pacific.

The continuity of the revolution, broken in 1939, bids fair to return to the situation of a new 1936, under even more favourable conditions nationally and internationally. But 1936 means an upsurge towards power by the workers. An upsurge in which the workers will learn rapidly under favourable conditions and in which the bitter experience of the past will have hardened and strengthened the will of the workers. Only the Stalinist counter-revolution saved the day for Spanish capitalism. But they only succeeded in this role (leaving aside the policies of the POUM, Anarchist, and Socialist left) due to the influence of Russia and the supply of arms and other vital materials by Russia. The Stalinist and bourgeois counter-revolution, succeeded (despite the absence of a Marxist revolutionary party) only because of the conditions sketched above.

Today the conditions are far more unfavourable for them. The bourgeoisie in a new 1931-6 upsurge would become as much a cypher and plaything of events as in 1936. The Stalinists most likely, in the revolution, despite their unpardonable crimes and betrayals, would become once again a powerful force, but by no means a decisive one. All the left parties and organisations would spring forward again as mass forces: the CNT, UGT[8], the POUM and the Socialist Party.

Under these circumstances the possibility for the rapid creation of a mass revolutionary party would be present. But it is theoretically not excluded that the pressure of the Spanish workers, with the inevitably stormy initiative of the masses, might push the CNT, the POUM, and the Socialist left in the direction of taking Power into their own hands. Under these conditions a new version of the Paris Commune might ensue in Spain.

A Spanish Commune in its turn would be of decisive world significance. It could be the beginning of the regroupment of the world labour movement. Already in Western Europe the splintering away of Cucchi[9] and Magnani in Italy, a split off in France, and the creation of a Titoist Communist Party in Germany, are symptoms of a positive crisis within Stalinism. At present, because of the impotence and practical non-existence of a revolutionary Marxist current, they have been in the main of mixed progressive and reactionary elements. In France and Italy it has been the cold war and the blatant revelation of the CPs as tools of the Kremlin's foreign policy which have produced this result.

Because of the failure to draw clear internationalist and socialist conclusions - rather to stand on the position of the union sacree - they have been doomed to sterility and have left the Stalinist forces largely intact.

But a Commune in Spain would have entirely different results. It would split the CPs in Western Europe from top to bottom. It would produce a ferment and differentiation in social democracy in Western Germany and the Labour Party in Britain as well as other socialist parties in Western Europe.

It could mark a new chapter in the resurgence of the labour movement on new foundations. It would mark the beginning of the end of Stalinism in the Western labour movement. It would be the beginning of the end for Stalinism in Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia. It would begin the collapse of capitalism in the West. On this foundation, in a few years after initial confusion and muddle, it could result in the restoration of the world labour movement on Marxist foundations.

Britain and America

Both in Britain and America Stalinism remains as a weak force which has hardly penetrated the masses…as yet. In the case of Britain this is to a large extent dictated both by historical and moral factors. The tremendous wealth of British capitalism, coupled with the skill of the ruling class in deceit on the one hand and its ability to retreat and compromise on the other in moments of danger, have established a firm position for British capitalism in the past. Even though the dominant position of British imperialism has now passed into history and Britain has been pushed back into the ranks of second-rate powers, nevertheless sufficient wealth (together with the assistance from America) has been accumulated to enable British capitalists, to a certain extent, to live on their fat. At the same time the crisis of capitalism on a world scale; the onrush of Stalinism in Asia and Europe; the loss of confidence of the ruling class; in the old age tradition of rule; the need for a bold programme if Britain is to renovate herself; the radicalisation of the working class: all these have resulted in a position where in the first term of power the Labour government has largely carried out a radical programme of reforms and the nationalisation of those industries ruined by British capitalism. All this has drawn the decisive section of the workers in the labour movement, above all the organised working class, solidly behind the Labour government. The latter has been compelled to introduce a period of counter reforms, due to the exigencies of the cold war and the increasing burdens of armaments, the brunt of which has been placed on the shoulders of the working and middle classes. While support of sections of the middle class and backward workers may have edged away, nevertheless, at this stage the core of the working class remains for the time being behind the Labour leadership.

In addition, the working class traditions in Britain nurtured over a long period, together with the even more profound tradition of democracy within the ranks of the labour movement, due to the prolonged struggle for political and trade union rights in the last century, have been additional factors repelling the workers away from Stalinism. More and more publicity as to Stalinist methods in Eastern Europe and Russia, the barbaric excesses of the Stalinists, in the conduct of affairs, the lack of democratic rights, slave labour, the concentration camps, and the whole totalitarian set-up of Stalinism cynically rediscovered by the capitalists and the social-democratic press, on the background sketched above, have further weakened the mass appeal of the Stalinists. The tactics of Stalinism in the cold war, skilfully utilised by the ruling class and the Labour leaders, have further alienated the mass of the working class from the CP.

However, despite all these obstacles, Stalinism has succeeded in maintaining a formidable apparatus, which, though weakened, has still managed to penetrate the trade unions and capture some of the key positions, owing to the militant and self-sacrificing work of the rank and file.

Whether Stalinism will succeed in attracting an important part of the British working class to its banner will depend on a series of factors. The sweep of Stalinism over Europe would inevitably assist them in gaining support in Britain. Big scale struggles in France and Italy could push the masses in the direction of Stalinism. While under conditions of crisis and slump which will follow the re-armament boom - if it does not end in war - an important segment of the workers will be impelled in a Stalinist direction. Nevertheless, whether they become dominant tendencies will depend on the effect repercussions will have inside the labour movement.

Events at home and abroad will push big sections of the workers in the labour and trade union movement to the left. The most conscious section will look for a revolutionary road which is different to the repulsive totalitarianism of Stalinism. It is not excluded that the mass of the Labour Party, including an important section of its leadership, will be pushed far in a revolutionary direction. New currents will grow up inside the Labour Party; it is possible that the right wing will be isolated and a field for Marxist ideas to penetrate on a mass scale for the first time will be created by the wave of events.

In this situation the possibility will exist to win large sections, if not the dominant grouping within the Labour Party, to the banner of revolutionary socialist democracy. The democratic traditions in Britain constitute a precious heritage which can be utilised to prepare for the transformation from capitalist democracy to a soviet democracy, a transformation through revolutionary struggle. If revolutionary Marxism does not succeed in gaining the car of the masses then a turn towards Stalinism would be virtually inevitable, in lieu of any other alternative. However, possibilities of the revolutionary awakening of the British masses are enormous. Events will teach important lessons.

Stalinism today has less attractive power than it previously possessed. Before they fall victim to the wiles of Stalinism the masses will try again and again to find some alternative means of expression within the labour movement. The lag of events and the long delay in the development of a revolutionary mass movement in Britain, act as a fortunate historical accident in the given condition.

In America, the working class has not broken politically from the old capitalist parties. This backwardness is due to a variety of historical factors: the richness of America, its freshness historically, the gigantic productive economy, the high standard of living of the workers, etc. This historical backwardness can be transformed by a leap ahead in the next epoch. The combativeness of American workers, as reflected on the trade union field and in the strike struggles, presages a similar militancy on the political field, once the bankruptcy of American capitalism has been clearly demonstrated. The 1929-33 economic debacle was but a dress rehearsal for the economic blizzard which will overtake America in the coming epoch. The greatest capitalist power of all will reveal the most pitiful helplessness in the face of the collapse of its system. Under those conditions, radicalisation and the awakening of the American workers would take place at great speed. Like the movement of industrial organisation which followed the world slump, so would the turn towards independent politics proceed. The weakness of Stalinism as a fifth column for Russian totalitarianism is apparent at the present time.

However, under the conditions of crisis even in America it is possible that they will grow. But the mass of American workers will move in the direction of independent politics first. Possibilities will be there of creating a mass revolutionary tendency fighting against reformism, capitalist politics and Stalinism.

The creation of a mass revolutionary party in any important country in the world, even without the capture of power, can be the beginning of the end for Stalinism on a world scale: first in the countries where they do not have complete power, then in the countries under the totalitarian heel.

Western Germany

Western Germany too is a decisive area where Stalinism is comparatively weak. The experience of the German masses of the barbarised Stalinist army and the experience of Eastern Germany, have pushed the masses back to social democracy for lack of an alternative. The revulsion against Stalinism has been such that in contradistinction to Italy, discredited social democracy has emerged as the overwhelmingly dominant tendency among the masses. However, this can only be during the period of economic upswing, occasioned by Marshall Aid and the building up of the ruined economy following the war. The social democracy has been forced to adopt a radical posture even now. The bitter experience of the German workers with monopoly capital, which financed the Nazis and destroyed their movements and rights, has left a profound impression on the minds of the German toilers.

This experience is reflected in the militancy in the trade union movement which won equal rights on the board of management in the coal and steel industry in the Ruhr. It was reflected earlier in strikes against the attemps at nazi revival.

The German workers have supported social democracy because of their violent revulsion against the Stalinist reaction. However, in the event of a slump and mass unemployment (on a scale similar to that which preceded Hitler) in Western Germany on the one side, while in Eastern Germany full employment continued, this would undoubtedly create a tremendous effect amongst the German masses. Possibilities would be there for Stalinism to regain influence. Far more important, however, would be the radicalising effect that such a situation would have on the social democracy and the trade union movement already tending in a semi-centrist direction. Revolutionary currents would spring up within the ranks of social-democracy.

One way or the other centrist and other left groupings would be created within its ranks. Either a revolutionary tendency would gain a majority within the ranks of social democracy or it would fall to pieces. Possibilities would exist for revolutionising the German masses, against capitalist democracy on the one side and Stalinist totalitarianism on the other: for a socialist soviet democracy as promised by the Russian Revolution. Only thus could the masses be prevented from falling into the hands of Stalinism through sheer despair.

The Situation in Russia

The most remarkable phenomenon in attempting to re-evaluate the economic, political and social realities in Russia lies in the fact that basically the analysis which was made by Trotsky needs no fundamental modification.

The tremendous advantages of state ownership (as the economic transitional form of the future society) have revealed themselves once again in the reconstruction following the Second World War. Despite the fact that Russia was the most devastated country, her speed of re-equipment relative to her productive capacity has far outstripped that of the West. Thanks to the achievements of the five-year plans her recovery has been far faster than in 1920-9. Once again, apparently, the speed of recovery has exceeded what was anticipated by the bureaucrats.

The idea that the collective farms would tend to break down and that on the basis of a weakened Soviet Union (in the war) this could be the starting point for the restoration of capitalism in Russia, has been revealed as false by the economic developments. It is true, that owing to the needs of the war for equipment such as tanks etc, the production of tractors and other agricultural machinery dropped catastrophically and thus, superficially at least, certain tendencies appeared which gave weight to this view. But as was predicted, on the basis of a more sober assessment, very rapidly this trend has been reversed. The wheels of progress cannot be so easily turned back. Agriculture following in the wake of the revival of industry, has seen new steps taken towards greater and greater centralisation and the further development from collectives to giant collectives. In a certain sense this marks the first beginnings of industrialisation of agriculture. As always with Stalinist measures, it has a contradictory content in that, on the one hand, it marks definite progress in the development of agriculture, eliminating as it does the scattered character of the peasantry, grouping them together in the 'agrotowns'; this measure having been carried out with typical bureaucratic brutality. On the other hand, the aim of the bureaucracy in carrying through this measure (aside from its economic aspect) lies in gaining better control and regimentation over the peasants by the familiar methods of the Stalinist apparatus.

The war and the post-war period revealed Russia as the major European industrial power with a dynamic economic base and through the four five-year plans technique has been vastly improved. The 20 years of industrial expansion in Russia would be equal in training and technique to a century of 'normal' capitalist development.

Thus Russian economy has been completely transformed. Even in the field of precision work, such as jet aeroplanes, the Russian products compare favourably with the best of Britain and America. During the war, Russian technique, as shown in the production of artillery and tanks, revealed itself as already equal to the West. With the completion of the new five-year plan, undoubtedly the Soviet Union appeared as the greatest industrial power that Europe has ever had, far exceeding the record of mighty industrial Germany. However it is not the enfeebled capitalism of Europe with which the Soviet Union is competing but the mighty colossus across the Atlantic; America dwarfs not only Russia but the combined economy of Europe.

The Russian economy, however, still develops in a contradictory way. The most modern technique still runs in harness with the most primitive forms of production (slave labour etc) This is reflected in the fact that on a per capita basis production in Russia is still extremely low, far lower than in Western Europe.

Thus even in the economic sphere Russian society evolves painfully and in contradictions.

In expanding their base into Eastern Europe the bureacracy proceeded blindly and empirically. As far as the bureaucracy is concerned the destruction of capitalism and the extension of state ownership is not dictated in any way by the needs of socialism or the interests of the working class. Like a ruling caste or class, the bureaucracy is only interested in the maintenance and extension of its own power, privileges, income and prestige. In the beginning, short-sightedly, they plundered and stripped Eastern Europe of machinery and raw materials for the immediate and pressing needs of the Russian economy. Now they are integrating Eastern Europe for the purpose of developing it in the interest of the Russian economy and the Russian bureaucracy. Thus the economic base has been extended beyond the bounds of the narrow horizon of the Russian state itself. This undoubtedly gives an impetus to the development of the Russian economy due to the division of labour and the industrial resources, manpower, etc, which Eastern Europe possesses. At the same time, it assists trade between Russia and her satellites and the Western world for the benefit of the bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, with all these added economic resources, Eastern Europe acts as an auxiliary - and not as a fundamental addition - both economically and politically, to the Russian economy. It still remains subsidiary to the Russian economy itself.

The bureaucracy is preoccupied with the fear of a new world clash. After the experience of the Second World War they look with foreboding to an attack from the citadel of world capitalism, at the same time taking advantage of the extreme weakness and uncertainty of the capitalist world in the last few years by grabbing at its extremeties - Korea, Indo-China etc. The American resistance having hardened, the bureaucracy will tend to effect a compromise. Both sides under present conditions are afraid of resorting to arms because of the catastrophic consequences that would ensue; briefly, the danger to civilisation, the inevitability of an endless military conflict and the struggle which would become one between the Eurasian land mass and the American land mass; the danger of political revolution in Russia and Europe and the social revolution in America.

As the economic base has been extended the new aristocracy has raised itself in ever greater measure above the level of the masses. The gulf between the toilers and the bureaucracy has reached fantastic levels. At the same time, the needs of the industrialisation and the higher level of skill and technique, tend to force a gradual if slow increase in the standard of living. Undoubtedly, there has been an improvement in the standard of living over the terrible level to which it had fallen by the end of the war. Nevertheless, the bureaucracy, haunted by the disproportion between Russian and American industry, still places the main emphasis on the development of heavy industry. The consumer goods industries, in proportion, are lagging far behind. In housing, food, clothing, Russia as a whole still more approaches the level of Asia than the Western World.

The mounting contradictions in Russia force the bureaucracy to utilise the world situation in order to still the possibilities of opposition in Russia. The evils in Russian society are explained away under cover of the threat of attack from Western imperialism and the fear of restoration of capitalism by external intervention. The White Guard[10] puppets of American imperialism (Kerensky and Co) with their programme and policy of restoration of private ownership in the event of a victory of the West in the war, play into the hands of the bureaucracy, and this threat acts as a powerful means by which the masses can be held down.

Nevertheless, the contradictions, despite all repressions, continue to manifest themselves in Russian society. Symptomatic of these are the recurrent purges, especially in Eastern Europe and in the national republics. The latest is the removal of the entire Central Committee of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijain and the widespread purge in the Ukraine. The national question remains a permanent ulcer of discontent in Russian society. At the same time the increase in the proletariat due to the economic successes and the industrialisation of agriculture increases the mighty force of the working class. [The bureaucracy can] temporarily succeed, with the aid of the MVD[11] in maintaining the proletariat in a state of forced disunity, in face of the ever increasing power of the monster state. But Bonapartism remains, just the same, a regime of permanent crisis. The unstable relationship of forces, the stifling of all initiative and culture within the framework of the police state, the complete regimentation and the lack of democracy, will all come more and more into conflict with the needs of the economy itself. Despite the economic successes, the inefficiency and parasitism of the bureaucracy act as a relative fetter on the development of the Russian economy. Freed from this incubus, on a far more harmonious basis, even greater economic gains would be possible.

How long the bureaucracy will last, however, can be determined only by events both at home and abroad. Revolution in the West would cause repercussions in the East. However, developments in Russia itself, even without revolution in the West, could cause the overthrow of the bureaucracy. The never-ending purges show the possibilities of a shake-up in the bureaucracy under the pressure of the masses. Any incident, such as the death of Stalin, might precipitate a struggle between different cliques within the bureaucracy (though, this seems unlikely at the present stage) and this could open the way for the entry of the masses onto the political scene.

In the long run the movement of the masses from below will have its effect on the hierarchical structure of the bureaucracy. Discontent at the base, in due time, produces splits at the top. The example of Spain, not withstanding its different social structure, shows how a totalitarian regime can be suddenly shaken by the movement of the masses. Once it begins it could acquire a greater sweep in Russia than in Spain.

The time scale is indeterminate, years, perhaps decades. This will be decided historically by the conjunction of the multiple factors involved.

The totalitarian state will inevitably land in an impasse. The final hour of the bureaucracy will come. Inexorably, the political revolution will develop. There will be a return to workers' democracy, but on a higher level. However, the developments will take place with a different situation nationally and internationally. The fate of the Russian revolution is bound up now more than ever with the fate of the world revolution. Revolution in Russia would immediately provoke revolution in the West and vice-versa. The possibilities are manifold in the next historical epoch. On the background of the world decay of capitalism, the return to private ownership in Russia, by internal means, is extremely unlikely if not impossible. External American intervention might facilitate such a restoration.

Despite the encrustation of Stalinist reaction over the conquests of October, whereby only the basic economic structure remains, the viability of state ownership and planning provides the skeleton on which the flesh of socialism will be built. On this basis Stalinism is doomed as a parasitic growth which will be swept away and socialism will prevail in the long run.

General Conclusions and Perspectives

Thus the possibilities on a world scale with a continuing decay and collapse of world capitalism-imperialism are manifold. The cold war between West and East is an expression in reality of the impasse of world capitalism and the impossibility of the bourgeoisie finding a way out. A long period opens out of struggle between Stalinism and capitalism and of the working class against both. The skirmishes in Korea and at other extremities of the world mark, on the one hand, the decline of imperialism, but on the other, the unlikelihood, for a long term of years ahead, of American and world imperialism attempting to solve their problems by force of arms. Despite the build-up against Stalinist 'aggression' and 'enslavement', as against the so-called 'free world', nevertheless the political prerequisites for war do not exist as yet.

The working class in Western Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world has not been defeated or regimented. War would almost inevitably mean the collapse of Western Europe and the seizure of possibly all Asia and all Europe unified under the domination of the Kremlin. An endless war between the continents would be in prospect a war which neither side could hope to win. A war which would mean the ruination of the entire world economy and the possible collapse of civilisation. It would mean a war of attrition which would have the possibility of continuing for decades from a purely military standpoint, a war in which there could be no winners and which would provoke revolutionary convulsions against the futile and senseless slaughter which it would involve. Only the defeat of the labour movement in Western Europe, Britain and America and the consolidation of reaction on its bones could prepare a firm foundation for imperialism to wage war. Far more likely, the re-armament boom will end in financial and economic catastrophe, though, of course, war is not excluded. The Western world still remains the decisive arena which will decide the fate of the planet.

For Marxism neither pessimism nor spurious optimism can play a role in determining the analysis of events. The first necessity is to understand the meaning of the conjuncture of historical forces leading to the present world situation.

The overthrow of Stalinism in the areas in which it holds sway will most likely be a long term process. It is true that Stalinism remains a regime of permanent crisis. In it, the element of socialism in the state economy is in permanent contradiction to the Bonapartist state apparatus and the privileged caste whose interests it serves. Thus, the regime of Stalinism in Russia itself bears a striking resemblance, even more than the Bonapartism of bourgeois origin, to the Caesarism of Ancient Rome in the epoch of the decay of the Empire. In that it bears a close resemblance to fascism. In the long run, the regime of Bonapartist autocracy is incompatible with the economic base set in being by the October Revolution. That is the source of the permanent convulsions, and the endless removal of officials by the insatiable moloch in the Kremlin. The victories of Stalinism can only be a preparation for its downfall. But this is only so from. a long-term point of view. Undoubtedly, Stalinism has been strengthened for a temporary period.

History has shown nuances of development in the transition from one economy to another. Before our eyes we have another rich lesson in the fact that even the greatest historical geniuses cannot lay down a blueprint for the change from one society to another. Only the general laws can be worked out in advance. The transition from slavery to feudalism was preceded by a long epoch of Caesarism in Ancient Rome; the transition from feudalism to capitalism also saw the regime of absolute nonarchy. In the early period of bourgeois dominance a long Historical epoch of military-police dictatorship ensued. However, before the full potential of capitalist production could be realised, new revolutions for political democracy took place. These were an absolute necessity for a full flowering of the productive forces even on a capitalist basis. Without democracy the development of modern civilisation would have been hampered and restricted.

Owing to the rise of Stalinism the revolution in the West has been delayed. Due to the development of the revolution in a backward country and the failure of its extension to advanced countries in the West, a period of Bonapartism was historically inevitable. This in its turn unleashes new historical forces.

The bureaucracy, which grew out of the backwardness and the defeats of the proletariat, once having established its hegemony, is not prepared to give up its position, even once its temporary role has been fulfilled.

Thus in part of Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia, the transition from capitalism to socialism is taking place in the forms which could not be anticipated by either Marx or Lenin. However, the task of the emancipation of the working class can only be consciously completed by the working class itself. The bureaucracy has aims, intentions, and interests (in particular a vested interest in state dominance) of its own and like the Bonapartist cliques in the period of the bourgeois assent, cannot be removed except by force. At the same time, for the full development of the productive forces and for a transition to socialism, the abolition of the state and all forms of bureaucracy are essential. For a full flowering of productive forces, far more than capitalism (which is regulated to a certain extent through the medium of the market and thus automatically checked and developed), socialism, and just as much the transition to socialism, requires direct participation and democratic checking of planning in the process of production, by the masses themselves.

Without democracy, bureaucratic excesses clog and fetter the full harmonious development of the productive forces. Inevitably, as bureaucratic autocracy was overthrown and gave way to a higher political form of bourgeois domination, so proletarian Bonapartism - Stalinism - will have to give way to proletarian democracy. In those areas where Stalinism has extended itself in the form of proletarian Bonapartism, the proletariat will have to pay with the new political revolution, before the ascent to socialism can really be begun. Stalinism for a longer or shorter period can only remain a temporary check, in the evolution of the working class in the direction of socialism.

'All roads lead to Communism' is the confident battle cry of Stalinism at the present time. They are more right than they think. Either through a healthy proletarian revolution in a major country of the West, or if Stalinism extends its sway, inevitably political revolution against Stalinism, will prepare the way for the sounding of its death knell.

Go back to contents page or go on to next section, Introduction to Section Four


[1] The Kuomintang (KMT) was a bourgeois nationalist party in China, founded by Sun Yat-sen in 1912. In 1927 the KMT, led by Chiang Kai Shek, bloodily suppressed the workers government of Shanghai and headed a weak and unstable military government, until its defeat in the revolution of 1946-9. After this the remnants of the KMT fled to Formosa (Taiwan), where they still hold power.

[2] From the Balkans, this refers to the division of an area into small states with conflicting national interests.

[3] Draha Mihailovitch was the leader of the Chetnik guerillas who collaborated with the nazis in actions against Tito's partisans.

[4] Wadyslaw Gomulka was general secretary of the Polish Workers' Party from 1945-8. He was removed and jailed 1951-4. He was released in 1956 and became first secretary of the Party until the uprising in 1970. Traicho Kostov, a Hungarian CP member for 30 years, and acting Prime Minister in 1948, was executed in 1948 as a 'police agent'. Laslo Rajk, a lifelong Hungarian CP member, was executed in 1948 as a 'fascist spy'.

[5] Mao Tse Tung (in the articles the old style transliteration is used, the modern is Mao Zedong) attended the founding conference of the CCP in 1921. After the defeat of 1927 Mao led the flight of the CCP to the countryside, organising the 'long March'. Became CCP chairman in 1935, and headed the People's Republic of China from 1949 until his death in 1976.

[6] The New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced by the Bolshevik government in Russia in 1921 to replace War Communism. It was a temporary measure allowing limited concessions to small business in an effort to regenerate the economy which had been devastated by war followed by civil war. It was overtaken by the first Five Year Plan. Nepmen became a term for speculators.

[7] In 1947 the right wing minority of the Italian Socialist Party split to form the PSDI, in protest at the Socialist Party's close relations with the CP. The SFIO was the French socialist party.

[8] The Spanish syndicalist and socialist trade union federations respectively.

[9] Cucchi and Magnani were prominent CP members in Italy.

[10] The White Guards were counter revolutionary forces in Russia after the revolution.

[11] Russian secret police.

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